I remember coming home a couple of times and panicking because the house was empty. Frantically running from room to room in search of my parents or my sister, Tammy Sue, or anyone else, I would think that Jesus had taken them all away and left me behind because of something I'd done or neglected to do.
Despite the theological discrepancies and lack of overt teachings from my parents, I basically took for granted the fact that I loved Jesus, just as I took for granted the fact that my parents were just about the biggest pastors in the country.
That alone shaped my life in ways that I'm still not completely aware of.
Growing up in the religious limelight and having over one hundred death threats every year meant full-time bodyguards almost from the moment I was born — we even bad a guardhouse at the entry to our Charlotte home that was manned twenty-four hours a day — plus a housekeeper and a maid who were like family, groundskeepers, and people at PTL who gave me anything I wanted.
Ironically, though we were held up by many as the Christian family ideal, I didn't always experience that firsthand. Though my parents loved my sister and me, like so many other parents these days their busy lives tended to get in the way of how much time we could spend together as a family. In addition to the television show they did together, my mom taped a second PTL show called Tammy's House Party. Dad not only functioned as the pastor and managed PTL's multiple ministries, he basically turned himself into an urban planner. (The has scope of what he accomplished still amazes me.) By the time I was two, Heritage USA, the sprawling Christian retreat my dad created, which would become the nation's third most popular attraction, was already being built. I was five when it opened to the public.
During the next six years, my whole life would revolve around that magical Christian retreat and entertainment facility, which included a state-of-the-art TV studio, various ministry buildings, hotels and motels, campgrounds, a residential subdivision of vacation and retirement homes, shops, restaurants, tennis courts, a pool, and a roller skating rink. I even attended school on the grounds. And our house — Tega Cay — was about fifteen minutes away, Heritage USA served as my backyard, my playground. My friends and I rode motorbikes around its twenty-two hundred woodsy acres, and we ran around the Grand Hotel playing the Miami Vice version of cops and robbers, the gospel according to Sonny Crockett, brought to you courtesy of PTL!