East Texas ministry Teen Mania, often the center of religious debate and controversy over the past two years, decided today to end its controversial "ESOAL" program as part of its Honor Academy. The decision, first reported by the Tyler Morning Telegraph, comes after Ron Luce's ministry gave the program a change last year after extensive media attention.

ESOAL, an acronym for Emotionally Stretching Opportunity of a Lifetime, was changed to PEARL -- or Physical, Emotional, and Relational Learning -- after KLTV 7 in Tyler did an exposé on Teen Mania and its controversial program.

ESOAL, or PEARL, would take members of Teen Mania's Honor Academy -- recent high school graduates or young adults who paid to attend the academy as interns and work in different ministries -- through a testing period (often multiple days) of grueling physical exercise, military-style instruction and designed to "stretch" the interns.

Many cases arose of interns who were seriously injured, exhausted and said they were abused.

Teen Mania, based in Garden Valley, Texas, near Lindale, released a letter to its staff, interns and alumni about the decision. Here is the letter, obtained by the Tyler Paper:

While we are sad to have to take this step, we are confident that the creativity and passion embodied by the HA leadership and staff will mean those lessons learned through ESOAL and PEARL will still be taught. “e don’t know what shape that will take, but we are confident that with this change will come great new opportunities to seek the Lord and His will.”

Teen Mania Ministries have become a focal point of controversy over the past several years, starting with KLTV's report and a documentary done last year by MSNBC. Multiple websites have popped up on the Internet, too, started by alumni of the Honor Academy who call themselves "recovering" from the time they spent there.

Here are videos of some of the "activities" interns went through during the ESOAL in 2003, in which Teen Mania staff would often use interns' fears against them to help them "grow" spiritually.


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