Growing up in Lubbock in the super-conservative Church of Christ, Larry and Marion heard little about the supernatural. “Golly, there was none of that,” Larry says. “With my background, Baptists would seem liberal.” Sure, Jesus cast out demons—in fact, demons take up a surprisingly large part of the four gospel narratives—but no one expected to find any of them in West Texas, and certainly not in the Church of Christ. Here, the Pollards married young and eventually moved to the Dallas area, where they lived the best they knew how, working hard, going to church, and raising four kids. Larry earned master licenses in plumbing and HVAC, Marion sold real estate, and together they pulled in a six-figure income.
At the churches they attended over the years, Larry always gravitated to some kind of leadership role. He is a strong, no-nonsense guy; he exudes stability. Their spiritual path led them to a Messianic Jewish synagogue. Larry says he got a revelation from God that he is a Jew by heritage, so he identified with the relatively small number of Jews who believe the Messiah has already come in the form of Jesus. And so it was that he ended up mentoring a 21-year-old Fort Worth man, a landscaper whom he’d met while keeping the grounds at this North Dallas synagogue.
The man came from a rough background—drugs, abuse, witchcraft—but he welcomed Larry’s fatherly influence and decided to make a commitment to Jesus. Over the next year or so, he broke away from the streets, married his girlfriend, and fathered a child. By everyone’s account, he was doing great. Larry, who still worked full time, concluded his mentorship and turned him over to an assistant pastor.
In a scant three months, the young man’s life unraveled. He returned to drugs. His wife divorced him.
Larry was in disbelief. He found one of the young man’s journals in his truck. “Page after page, you could just feel his tears, his emotion as he’s going through this,” Larry says. “There is no question he was doing everything he could to stay with the Lord. And he still failed.”
The contractor marched in to the assistant pastor’s office one day. He had a question: “Did we do everything we could for this young man?”
The assistant pastor seemed nonchalant. “That’s a hard question.”
“I reject that answer,” Larry said. And he walked out.
Days of soul searching ensued. Within a few months, Larry concluded that deliverance was the answer—the expulsion of oppressive spiritual forces through commanding prayer. Demons, after all, were agents of Satan tasked with doing his dirty work until Jesus returned. If God had a good plan for that young man’s life, didn’t it stand to reason that the devil had an evil scheme to counter it?
After perusing the meager offerings on deliverance in a Christian bookstore, Larry dug into the Scriptures for guidance, particularly the deep recesses of the Old Testament. What he found upended his tidy theology: numerous curses for sinful acts, including a 10-generation curse when a child is conceived out of wedlock. Certain sins, Larry found, gave demons the right to oppress their victim, whether that sin was committed by the individual or his or her ancestors.
These discoveries gradually opened up a new way of looking at the gospels. Jesus became a curse for us when he died on the cross, Christianity teaches. Then what happened? Larry’s conclusion was simple: like every benefit of the cross offered to believers in Jesus Christ—salvation, healing, joy, and peace—the breaking of curses had to be accessed and appropriated through faith, repentance, and prayer. A different kind of prayer.
“These prayers we pray have authority,” Larry explains. “Did Jesus pray about deliverance? No, he commanded. Most Christian prayers are asking God to do something he’s given us to do.”
Larry began trying out his newfound theory. One of his early subjects showed up at the Messianic synagogue one day fresh out of the psych ward of a Louisiana prison. He claimed he’d killed three men with his bare hands. (Supernatural strength is a manifestation of demonic powers, Larry notes.) He couldn’t stop the voices. They tormented him day and night.
“Do you want me to shut them up?” Larry asked.
He then prayed—or, more accurately, commanded—and the voices stopped. “His eyes got as big as they could get,” Larry recalls, “and for the first time, this young man had hope his life could change.” Hours of prayer that day transformed even the young man’s hard-set, angry face. Turns out, Larry says, the man’s great-great-grandmother was Marie Laveau, New Orleans’ famed voodoo priestess. He had been bred into demons. For the next 24 hours, the man couldn’t sleep as spirits left him. He’d yawn and feel a release. In other instances, with other people, eyes water, ears pop, hands tingle. A burp might signal an exiting spirit.
Demons need to get out, Larry explains. They’re not floating around; they inhabit bodies. When you give a part of your body for sin, the demon has a “legal right” to occupy that territory.
Although Larry lost touch with the man a few months later, he knew he was on to something. In every church he’d find buckets of believers with persistent problems for which the usual pious prescriptions of humble prayer and Bible-reading brought little relief. These were the people Larry and Marion felt they were called to help. Within a few years, Larry had stepped away from his contracting business and gone into deliverance ministry full time. Setting aside their retirement plans, Marion would join him in a support role. They say they’ve ministered to well over 1,000 people to date. Clients give a suggested donation based on a sliding scale. A four-hour session could run from $225 to $350, though many clients receive full or partial “scholarships.”
“Can’t you just be like normal grandparents?” their kids sometimes protest. But then they’d have to walk away from the “miracles we see daily.”
• • •
Larry knew he had to dig deeper: when did demons intrude into the ancestral line, bringing “severe judgment” on this man’s family? Larry asked the Holy Spirit to show the man anything they needed to know. “Try to keep your conscious mind out of it,” Larry tells his clients, “and just try to be a good reporter. Speak out what God shows you.”
The Holy Spirit searches the fractured areas of soul and spirit, Larry says, revealing places that require repentance or a healing touch from God. Suddenly, the man broke out bawling. In his mind’s eye were horrifying images: apparent family members tied up three black women, stripped them naked, and raped them. “But that wasn’t the worst thing,” Larry says. “They tied the men up, and kind of rolled them over a log, and then castrated the husbands in front of their wives and killed them.”
At this point, the Pollards’ teachings mess with anything you ever learned in Sunday school or catechism. Like Ruth, the man had no knowledge of these events. The Pollards’ best guess is they occurred in the Civil War era. But what he’d seen was so real, so devastating, that he didn’t question its veracity.
Larry led him through repentance for his forefathers’ deeds. Why? Because this man in Dallas, in the year 2014, was present in his fathers’ loins when this evil took place, Larry says. Check out the concept in the New Testament book of Hebrews, in one of those passages that never made any sense to you.
While he tells me this story, I observe that it isn’t fair. How can you be held accountable for something you didn’t even know about?
“Sorry,” Larry says.
The man confessed these sins, erasing the bloodguilt that dogged his family line, and eliminating the demons’ right to torment him. And away they went. He is doing well today, Larry says, experiencing light and peace and all of the stuff that’s supposed to go along with Jesus.
Sensing my discomfort with the whole episode—so I’m on the hook not only for my sins but also the sins of generations of untold ancestors as well, potentially all the way back to an apple in Eden?—Larry explains further. If there is murder or rape in the family line, he says, you never find just one case. “It’s no different from the doctor looking at you and asking, ‘Did your father have cancer? Did your mother have cancer?’ ”
Because these generational curses are so common, the Pollards ask clients to fill out detailed questionnaires that resemble a medical history—based on spiritual, emotional, and physical afflictions evident in the family line. They are grouped together in categories: fear and rejection, for example. Beneath that heading, one can check abandonment, loneliness, withdrawal, competitiveness, possessiveness, and many others; checking numerous boxes indicates a spiritual “stronghold” of fear and rejection. Other categories include lust/sex/idolatry, unforgiveness, and occult/divination. Larry scores the different categories, and a road map emerges for demonic intrusions in that individual and his family.
“So that stuff is carried on down the line,” Larry says, “and now it’s your turn to get born, and you’re handed this welcome package.”
Many of the Pollards’ clients are Christians who got “stuck” in their faith. That “welcome package” has come back to bite them, and the energy and optimism of youth no longer outweigh the pile of spiritual and emotional crud they’ve acquired over the years.
Noella Rowe, 44, a native of France, had experienced demonic attacks when she was a little girl growing up in a turbulent, alcoholic family. Now they were back. A cold, creepy presence would appear at her left side while she was in bed. “My skin would crawl, I would shake—I would be terrorized,” says Rowe, who lives in North Dallas with her husband. She met the Pollards at the Messianic synagogue and began seeing them for prayer every week. The demonic attacks stopped completely, she says.
Larry’s expertise has even been exported to Nepal through Gary Shepherd, 72, a retired missionary with the highly respected Wycliffe Bible Translators. Shepherd had served in Nepal for more than four decades and tells of an environment rife with demons and generations of witches, the most powerful of whom practice human sacrifice. Shepherd says Larry’s teachings on deliverance forever changed these communities.
The Nepalese pastors were accustomed to deliverance prayer; demonization was practically a given in this group of first-generation Christians. Exorcisms could take up to 10 hours, and departing spirits were frequently replaced by a new, more vicious batch. One day in 2011, Larry found himself seated on the floor, crammed into a makeshift church with local villagers. They set before him a scrawny 12-year-old boy.
As soon as the meeting began, the boy got riled up and started jumping around—common demonic manifestations, Larry says. Then, Shepherd turned his head for a moment and missed what Larry and others saw: unseen forces flung the boy some dozen feet over the heads of seated villagers. He landed on his belly. “I thought maybe Larry had met his match,” Shepherd says.
The boy was brought back, and Larry held him in place while he continued praying. Within 30 minutes, the demons came up in spasms of retching.
Shepherd tells many such stories of Larry’s visits to Nepal, including his own. Although he didn’t experience anything dramatic when he received prayer back in the states, he noticed a change. “You feel better—lighter,” Shepherd says. “It’s like you were carrying around a 15-pound backpack. It doesn’t debilitate you, but it’s always there.”
And then it isn’t.
• • •
At the end of my first interview with the Pollards, I switched off my recorder and told Marion about a personal situation that had caused me much anguish. It had to do with two broken friendships, both very different, and I can’t say much more than that. I don’t want to defame or embarrass anyone (not least of all myself). My confession was wholly unplanned, tacked on at the end of a long conversation.
“Oh,” Marion concluded, “we need to break those soul ties.”
Now, I’d heard this term tossed around in Christian circles, but no one had ever defined it. Marion explained the concept: we form righteous soul ties in certain relationships, such as the bond between a husband and wife, or a parent and child, or dear friends. Yet sometimes, because of the broken spaces in our souls, we form ties that veer into the demonic—say, in a sinful sexual relationship, or in a friendship that becomes controlling.
Marion offered to pray right then and there; I accepted. She prayed to break those bonds that weren’t right, at one point brandishing a Bible and tapping me on the wrists and upper chest, symbolizing the hands and heart. At the end of her prayer, she began singing in a high-pitched voice. I heard no discernible words; she called it “singing in the Spirit.”
I didn’t fly across a room, though I might have shed a tear or two. I went on home. Honestly, I’d had enough of demon talk for that day. Each time I interviewed the Pollards, I’d find myself thinking afterward, Can I just go home and be happy now?
The next morning, I gingerly stepped out of bed. I have plantar fasciitis in one foot, and for six months I’d walked with a pronounced limp and considerable pain. I noticed something. It didn’t hurt anymore. Okay, there was a little tenderness if I hit just the right place, but the pain was about 80 percent gone.
I waited to see if this would hold, and three weeks later, it has. I think I get it. I’m not limping anymore. The severing of those soul ties eliminated a sort of spiritual stagger. I told Larry and Marion, and they weren’t the least bit surprised. Healings happen as unintended consequences of deliverance all the time, they say. They claim to have seen instances in which epilepsy and cancer have disappeared, among other conditions of body and soul.
Like so many of the Pollards’ clients, I’m just glad it’s gone.