Jeannie Zerby Deyo Speaks Out!
(Sister to Karen Zerby a.k.a. Maria David, aunt to Ricky Rodriguez)
I met Angela Joy about six years ago. We called her Joy. Such an appropriate name for her. She was a joy to be around. She was undoubtedly one of the most unique people I had ever met. She was a ray of sunshine in our lives. When we had little hope, Joy gave us hope. When we had little faith, Joy gave us faith. With her optimism, and her sweet spirit, anything seemed possible. When she came to visit, the whole atmosphere became charged with her love. With her hugs and “I love you” and her willingness to do whatever was in her power to help and comfort, she transformed our home into a haven of peace and goodwill. The change was so remarkable that we commented on it time and time again. When she would leave, it was like a spark had burned out and only rekindled again when she returned.
I will give you a little background on myself, so you can understand why it is so important that you know why I feel as strongly as I do.
I was raised in a Christian home with three children. My folks were very godly people, and still are, and I have enormous respect for them. As the middle of three girls, I felt I was ganged up on by the other two. We certainly had our battles, and must have made life quite miserable for our parents. At times I was sure I hated my folks for the life they had brought me into, and if I had been able to, I would most assuredly have posted my dissatisfaction on the web. I felt that I couldn’t be like other kids, since I was expected to always set a good example. So I rebelled by doing anything I could to let them know how unhappy I was with my lot. My parents of course really loved us, and only wanted the best for us; they didn’t have any intention of hurting me. But because they were very religious, and they wanted to do their best to raise me in a protective environment, they were more strict than other parents, and so my natural tendency was to just rebel, as do many children against their parents.
When my sister joined the Children of God in the late 60’s I was very bitter toward her. She was my parents’ pride and joy. She had so much going for her. She had a good job, a college scholarship, and brains. Everything I didn’t have, and I was envious. And at the same time, I knew she was breaking my parents’ hearts. My mother cried for days. At the time I don’t think I was really aware of how much it affected them. I was actually happy I didn’t have to put up with her anymore.
Now I realize why she did what she did. She went to church every Sunday and to prayer meeting every Wednesday, but she wanted to do so much more. She wanted to spread the Gospel to people who would not go to a church building to worship.
It was thirty years until I would see my sister again. She had sent her two children to visit their grandparents about 3 years earlier. I will never forget how they called their mother a “saint”. You could tell that they both loved her dearly. I couldn’t quite imagine her to be a saint, but when I met her again after 30 years, all the bitterness I had against her when I was a teenager suddenly vanished and I understood why her children felt the way they did.
I didn’t know Ricky well, I just saw him for a few minutes, three or four times. But I liked him. He seemed sweet and generous. The people that knew him said he was a warm, kind, loving person. Where did that come from? Are we just born that way, or is it a result of our upbringing? Ricky had to get his gentle nature from somewhere. I know it came from his Family teachings. I have to wonder what happened to Ricky in those years after he first came to visit us. He would have been about 20 at the time. Why then 9 years later did he hate his mother so much? He didn’t leave the Family for another 5 years. That would have made him around 24 or 25.
I remember that, when I saw him a couple years after he left the Family and came to visit his grandparents, he was angry he hadn’t gotten the education that he wanted. From what I’ve seen and heard from Family members, I feel that if I had the opportunities that their children had, my own life would have been quite different. Home schooling in the Family doesn’t mean just giving them reading material then go off to work and hope they study while you’re gone. They work hands on with the children; and from what I’ve seen they have some of the smartest kids you’ll ever find.
For example, second generation Family members Darren and Clair and their children (third generation) came to visit and put on a program for our residents. They were amazingly talented, and so well behaved. One resident said that she had never seen such smart children, and she has a couple great grandchildren. So I have a hard time believing kids in the Family don’t get a proper education. I doubt very much that most of the children in the “real world” get anything to compare to it.
I am still in shock and disbelief how this happened. How could anyone in their right mind viciously wipe out such a beautiful life? But we know that Ricky was not in his right mind. His mind was filled with anger and hate. Hate which was applauded, encouraged and fed by other hateful people. He renounced the Lord and started associating himself with people who were bent on destroying the Family. Hate breeds hate. This wasn’t a crime of passion, this was a premeditated murder. Ricky had a choice. Ricky is not a victim, he is not a hero. Ricky is a murderer. I do not hate Ricky for what he did. I feel very, very sad that he was so angry and filled with hate. Those last hours in his life must have been hell. I cry for him. He was part of my family.
I am not disputing the fact that the Family made some mistakes early on. They are the first to admit it and change it. Haven’t we all made mistakes in our lives? I know I have, The Family has done so much good around the world, doing charity work and bringing millions of people to Jesus. Joy was involved in many of those very worthy causes. "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone" (John 8:7).
Joy made us better people just by knowing her. We are grateful and blessed that we were able to have her with us if only for a short time. We grieve for her. But we know that she is happy and still hugging and saying "I love you" to everyone.
Jeannie Zerby Deyo