David Berg's grand-daughter was born into the Children of God, and suffered severe abuses as a young teenager. Today she is happy and healthy in her new life. What was the key to her miraculous recovery? Merry tells her story and her plans for the future:
From Merry ("Mene Mene"); California, USA:
My name is Merry Berg. I was born and raised in the Children of God until I left almost two years ago when I was 18. My mother and father were known as Aaron and Shulamite in the group. Aaron (Paul Brandt Berg) was David Berg's son. Therefore, David Berg is my grandfather. When I was still just a baby, my father died. The most critical time in my life began when I was invited to come to my grandfather's house. I was 11 - 1/2 at the time. At first I was totally awed by him and greatly respected him as "the prophet of God for the Endtime"; and I loved him as "my dear Grandpa".
However, as time went on, I became very disillusioned with him as I began to see what he was really like, especially his uncontrolled drinking and alcoholism, and his perverted sexual desires and practices. I also felt that he was very much a hypocrite, making rules for others that he did not keep himself.
For instance, there was a strict rule that members were allowed to drink only four ounces of wine each week, but my grandfather was always drinking sherry. I began to wonder: Why does he drink to make himself happy? Why doesn't he rely on God? I saw him as being a weak person. The leaders would explain, "Moses is an exception; he can do anything." But I wasn't satisfied with that. Also, my grandfather told members in the COG that they must not become jealous of others, yet he was not only jealous of his women but also of other believers.
In addition, of course, he gave many prophecies which never came true. This really confused me and made me begin to wonder if God's Word was true, because Grandpa's word was classified on a level with God's Word.
This all began to really disturb me, so I decided to "confess" my doubts to the leadership—By this time I was 14. At first they acted merciful and understanding towards me and prompted me to confess more and more. But when I was not able to eradicate these thoughts from my mind, they began to use many different tactics on me to get me to "repent". These included public humiliations and spankings, and major exorcisms which scared me and caused me to become more irrational, making matters worse.
When Grandpa found out, he gave me a verbal tongue lashing and made me really believe I was going the way of the Devil. He also gave the leadership license to beat me with a rod whenever needed, slap me around and tie me to the bed at night. I tried desperately to change but could not because it would mean denying the truth of the matter. I knew quite a bit of Bible, and different verses would bother me when I saw that what Grandpa did contradicted them. They finally told me that I was demon-possessed and had gone crazy.
Six weeks after the first tongue lashing, Grandpa gave me an even worse one. He said, "You little devil ... are you happy about all the trouble you've caused us? I wouldn't doubt if you were possessed by Satan himself." Later these two lengthy rebukes were published for the whole Family. The first one was called, "The Last State", and the second was "It's Up To You".
He kicked me out of his house, said he disowned me as his granddaughter and sent me to Macau where my uncle Hosea was living. He warned me that if I didn't straighten up, they'd send me straight to a mental institution. I was given one week to change. Change was impossible, so during this time I simply kept my thoughts to myself.
In Macau I was put under various people's "care". They locked me in a room for about six months. During this time I felt very hopeless and oppressed by bad spirits. I cried out to God in all sincerity and desperation for His help and for Jesus Christ to truly save me. No one was sure about my salvation. The thought of going to hell really distressed me. I felt like the worst sinner on the entire earth, although I had it turned around as to what my true sins really were. Looking back on it, I see that one sin I had to repent of at the time was an interest in the occult and the works of darkness. I felt that my grandfather is also very fascinated by these things; he has dabbled in a lot of it, and I seemed to pick up on this sin.
Feeling lost and alone, I had a major vacuum in my heart for God and longed to know Him, to be assured that I was His child. After seeking God desperately during this period of isolation, I began to feel a love so great from Jesus Christ—almost tangible—and a "joy unspeakable and full of glory" (described in 1 Peter 1:8), and tremendous comfort (John 14:26). The demonic oppression began to fade. I was more in control of my thoughts, as well.
When I was finally allowed out of confinement, they began to bring other teenagers to the same house with me that were also "having problems". Most of these teenagers had questioned or criticized the leadership so they were considered "rebellious, proud, self-righteous, having a critical spirit and in need of major deliverance".
Many of the same tactics began to be used on them as they used on me: Fear, restrictions (i.e. absolute silence), severe paddlings, and solitary confinement for "serious cases". They added hard labor to the list. There were also long, exhausting exorcisms over many of these kids.
We had to write reports every night confessing all our thoughts and telling on the others, as well. We were in constant fear of leadership's reaction to these reports. This home was called "Delinquent Teen Home" or "Teen Detention Home" because we were under "house arrest". The leadership decided that this was all very effective and have since set up similar homes in other countries,, called "victor homes".
After three years in Macau, something just snapped. For 13 nights in a row I couldn't sleep, I developed a high fever and couldn't get out of bed. They gave me some kind of drug that caused me to blank out. While sleeping, even though my mind was asleep, my body would be upright and continue talking.
They put me into that long talked about mental hospital where I was subjected to strong drugs. After six weeks of treatment I finally came to my senses. From there the COG decided to send me to my grandmother Jane Berg (Mother Eve) in the U.S.A. who was no longer living communally with the group. I was 18 when my Uncle Hosea flew me there.
In the States, the doctor took me off the drugs suddenly which was very hard on me. Grandma helped me get better physically. I lived with her for nearly a year. Then I decided I wanted to come to California to be with my aunt, Deborah Davis, and see my cousins, which is where I've been living since then. It's been a wonderful experience learning to live in the real world and see how normal people behave. I have been reading books, studying and going to adult education classes to learn word processing. I plan to go to college soon and major in French and Russian. I now can do so many, many things that I was restricted from doing in the COG, such as simply riding a bike. I also have many new friends from church. We've done fun things together. It was quite a dramatic experience for me to meet for the first time in my life two half-brothers and a half-sister that I never even knew I had!
At present, I'm looking for my mother whom I haven't seen in 11 years when I was separated from her. About seven years ago I was strongly advised not to write to her any more because she was considered a "problem case". Since then, I haven't heard from her and I don't know where she is. Apparently, she has been only an associate or fringe member of the COG for the last several years.
If anyone has heard from her or knows where she might be, please let me know. Her maiden name was Judy Arlene Helmstetler. She may now have the last name Irwin. I would greatly appreciate any information.
Merry (right) enjoys a day out with a friend, Petra Schieberl
In conclusion, I have been greatly abused in many ways. Many times I was tempted to get bitter and blame God for it because I thought it was coming from His hand. There were times I also doubted His existence. But when it came down it it, in the times of deepest crisis I had no other refuge to flee to but Him. He was the One Who worked things out. The scripture came alive to me at that time, "There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother" (Proverbs 18:24). So I prayed earnestly many times, "Lord, help me not to get bitter against You or harden my heart. Give me a solid, strong faith that cannot be shaken no matter what."
I rejoice to tell you that He did just that. It is obvious that only His supernatural grace could have brought me through these horrendous experiences and turning out "normal" and without being super-cynical. My faith is stronger than ever, and no one can tell me that God isn't real and just and still working today. The sovereignty of God is displayed clearly in the supernatural way in which He delivered me out of each bad situation. I now look towards the future with excitement and anticipation.
I have told many people that the following passage describes my testimony: "I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. He hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord." (Psalm 40:1-3)
I want to encourage everyone to dedicate their lives fully to Jesus Christ and to always put their trust in God.