I was approached by an SCJ member (I'll call her Asha) at Westfield Mall, Parammatta in the second half of 2019 just before my final high school exams. She offered me a free ticket to a Christian concert, which I declined, but I was interested in joining a Christian group once i got into university so she told me about a "coffee meetup event" held by PICS (People in Christ Sydney) at a nearby cafe "to share all our activities for the rest of the year".
When I arrived at the cafe later that day, I met two people, a student, and a missionary- Asha was not there. We had the typical icebreaker. When the student left, I shared my problems with the teacher and she also shared her testimony but left out Shincheonji. She offered me individual Bible classes but I couldn't make them due to my schedule. During this time, nothing was mentioned about PICS which made me suspicious but didn't think much of it.
The next week, I was contacted by Asha and eventually scheduled 2 classes per week. Another student and I had individual classes with Asha for two months and grew quite close. Eventually, I had two study-buddies who I assumed were also students at my level.
I was transferred to the bigger class in late January 2020. Asha did not tell me to lie to my parents, so I told my Mum about the classes, however, other teachers told me to lie because "Satan works through people." Other class rules we had to keep were no pictures (apparently because a former student used it to make his own class to make girlfriends *facepalm*), not to tell pastors about the class and not interact with other students other than just knowing their names. We also had to fill in an information sheet, where we recorded things like our addresses, workplaces and contact info. In hindsight, these are big red flags but I thought none of it at the time.
I stayed in the class because I felt a good sense of community and I really felt like I was learning the "truth"; I couldn't wait to finish the course so I could also teach my family and friends about this "truth".
The physical group classes were canceled because of COVID-19 around March, my homeroom teacher (Una) told me that because the teachers in the classes were from Chinese and Japanese backgrounds, authorities did not allow us to gather (i didn't buy this excuse but, again, didn't think much of it). During this conversation, I briefly mentioned about "the cult in South Korea" (SCJ) that caused the outbreak there. Una was surprised I knew about it and we quickly moved on from that topic. Because of the cancelation, I instead had revisions with Una via phonecall. We resumed the classes online around April.
During my final classes, the main teacher consistently warned us that we must not believe anyone online or in-person that calls them a "cult or heresy". Because they kept warning us not to do research, I got curious and had a gut feeling that somehow they were the cult from Korea I kept reading about in the news. Honestly, I really did not want it to be so (I decided that if it was the South Korean sect, I'd leave), I felt like I knew something that no one in my family or my church have heard of before. After searching up "Mt. Zion South Korea" on Google, Shincheonji and Lee Manhui popped up... I was extremely disappointed and stopped attending the classes (mid-June). I texted Una and a couple of other students that I was no longer attending the classes. I received two calls from Una trying to convince me to have a "final meeting" but I declined and ignored her afterward. One of my study buddies (I guess, he wasn't who I thought he was) also tried to convince me to stay and meet the teacher a "final" time.
Now that I no longer attend the classes, I no longer feel depressed by the thought of none of my family 'real' Christians because they don't know "the covenant" and no longer suspicious of my pastor, my parents, and others from my church. I now realize that God has been trying to get me out of the cult's teachings through my mum who constantly told me to "discern the spirits" and my pastor's sermons which contradicted much of the SCJ teachings; I was too blinded to realize this earlier because I thought Satan was just working through them.
Now, I'm praying for God to guide me to a greater understanding of Him through His Word and with the encouragement of people around me.