Zion Pilgrim had spent all his life living at Gloriavale on the South Island's West Coast.
It was the only life he knew growing up.
But in 2020 he left Gloriavale after questioning the leadership, a decision he doesn't regret.
It was, according to Pilgrim, listening to audiobooks that first made him think the community he grew up in was not as it seemed.
Pilgrim has spoken with Hope Project NZ, talking in detail about what it was like to live at Gloriavale.
He said growing up in the isolated community was great and it "hummed along" like a well-oiled machine.
"All the residents that live there, they share everything. They have a common purse which means their finances are managed by people who manage finance and there are people that do all of the cooking.
"Everything is provided, kind of like a big family unit but with 600 people all working together to build something bigger than ourselves," Pilgrim said.
He married his wife at age 21 and started a family.
Pilgrim was busy, first working on the farm and later doing a variety of different tasks. His wife was a teacher and artist.
"At Gloriavale the people in charge identify the needs and try to find the right people for the job.
"What the leaders ask you to do, that's how you know what God wants so you always say yes."
While he was working through an accounting degree, an opportunity came up for him to become a pilot.
He went away to train for a year, came back and flew commercially for four years.
"That was quite hard on the family because I'd be away from 4.30 in the morning to 8.30 at night. It was pretty brutal.
"It was quite hard to juggle and balance that because there's always so much demand for work and so much need. You're not just supporting your family, you're supporting 600 people."
Pilgrim said being a young man, he thought it was the price he had to pay.
"You just listen to the preaching, listen to what you're told your whole life so you just don't really question that. You take that it is correct and it is true and right because that's all you've ever known.
"You think this big bad place called the world starts at the gates of Gloriavale and it's out there and not in here."
He said even in your own mind, you think Gloriavale is "special" and the people there are superior.
"Then it's almost like the lifestyle, the community becomes the most important thing.
"More important than faith and more important than family. That's just something to recognise in our own nature and to work against it, fight against it."
Pilgrim began to listen to audiobooks which he could access on Youtube through his work. He then went on to share them with his family.
He said together they read a book called Shepherding a Child's Heart by Tedd Trip which became a real blessing for the family.
"We thought this isn't bad, this is a good thing and it's really helping our family.
"That was the journey and at the same time, my wife saw that change in me, some of the things she was battling with around me had been taken care of."
Pilgrim's wife is the granddaughter of Gloriavale founder Neville Cooper, known to his followers as Hopeful Christian.
Christian, an Australian-born evangelical preacher who died in 2018 aged 92, spent 11 months in prison on sexual abuse charges in the mid-1990s.
"The thing I recognised was the way he treated people that didn't agree.
"When people disagreed there was the shouting, the put-downs, the personal abuse and it just became very rule-based, very regimented."
Pilgrim and his brother-in-law John grew up as best friends. John went on to marry Pilgrim's younger sister Purity.
"John had some books by other writers and pastors that weren't sanctioned by Gloriavale and somebody was rummaging through his vehicle and found them.
"He got harangued, knowing he would be put out if he did not repent but he said there's nothing wrong with it, it's great, it's life-changing."
At that point, Pilgrim was still on the other side and tried to convince John it was not a good idea.
"I was saying don't do this. It was tearing me apart having to defend the other side against my best friend, but I did it.
"To my shame, I defended the Gloriavale thinking against my own family."
He said he talked his sister out of leaving the community multiple times.
"Watching that whole process, we knew the cost of speaking up.
"The process of shunning and putting people out, cutting them off is really fundamental at Gloriavale, they're still doing it today."
Pilgrim said that after the first lockdown there was an "explosion" after allegations of sexual assault came out.
"We were really surprised and shocked at how widespread it was.
"It was really worrying me. I was saying we had to go to the police but what was coming from the other side was that we couldn't go to police.
He said because they wore the uniform, members of the community were branded as "sickos" by the public.
"I was thinking, I'm a parent, I'm a dad, when am I going to be a man and do something about this?"
He penned a letter to the leadership with suggestions to improve the community.
"The response from the leadership was we don't accept the letter, we reject it completely and if you're going to think that way, you can't stay here.
"It was a very crushing moment, the ultimatums that were given to us made it very clear if you're going to be here, you have to completely put aside you're own thinking, your own mind, your own thoughts on every issue in life and just accept what the leaders say."
The family went home to discuss it and decided they could not stay.
"So we started packing."
Pilgrim said what came next was disciplinary meetings and character assassination.
"Even after hours and hours of just getting ground down, I was at peace, knowing that we'd done the right thing."
That marked the start of their journey, which was a lot easier for Pilgrim than his family.
"I was used to interacting with people and wearing different clothes a lot more.
"These were new things for the family, just getting a bank account and the use of money. It's been so much to learn and so much to adjust to but we went into it knowing it would be that way."
He said they have just celebrated the anniversary of what they have dubbed "family freedom day", when they left the community.
"We have just been blown away with the help and support from the general public."