Lonnie Davis (Marc): My Jumbo Story
— By Jules
Note: Lonnie Davis (Uncle Marc) and the exciting life in the PI Jumbo; originally posted online on exCOGnet.com, 1998-07-12.
Regarding the mistreatment of young people in the Family, for me personally, it was not just one isolated individual, but repeated, continual violation, abuse and neglect from the time I was 11 and my parents went to the "Mission Field" of India, until I left at the age of 20. There are some incidents that were more traumatic than others, but as I learn more and more about self-respect and my rights as a free individual, I see more and more how I was almost continually exploited and used. (This is not to say that I don't have any happy memories or fond feelings towards people in the group, I do. Which is what makes it all so confusing emotionally and difficult to sort out.)
[In answer to a specific question that was asked of me by a poster on excognet.com] perhaps I can highlight one specific person in my life, and the process I recently went through with him:
Marc, (Lonnie Davis) the media spokesperson for the group in North America now, was the teen shepherd "Department Head" in the Jumbo, (one of the 3 first training centres for teens--located in the Philippines). When I was 13, I was sent to this centre with my younger sister who was 11. The rest of our family went to Holland. We were told we would probably never see them again.
When I arrived at the Jumbo there were about 50 other "teenagers" (11-16), 50 adults and about 100 other children there. It was kept under armed guard at night. The schedule was very tight. Each morning we had a two hour class from one of the leaders from the group’s teachings. The rest of the day we worked cleaning, cooking and taking care of the children. Discipline was strict, and was given for everything from leaving a book out of place to “not receiving correction with a smile”. All correspondence was censored, and we were not even supposed to speak to each other without supervision. We were under constant 24-hour supervision, and though this was difficult at first, it would become a way of life for the next few years. Detailed personal questionnaires and daily reports were required about every aspect of our thoughts and lives. It soon became apparent that I had numerous “doubts” about many things in the group.
One of my friends became quite sick and was quarantined from the rest of the children. I had been quarantined for a month before, taking care of my little brother who had chicken-pox, and so I knew how hard it was to be all alone by yourself. I used to go see her, and make sure she had food and was okay. I would fill her in on the news. We had a new teen “shepherdess” whose name was Joan at that time (her legal surname is Thatcher, aka Malaysian Mary). She was exceptionally strict with demerits, and so I mentioned to my friend one day to watch out for her, Joan had “demerit fever”. The next day there was a serious class on the “fear of the Lord”. Marc came down to teach it to us. He mentioned that there was someone they were going to talk to that day on their lack of “fear of the Lord”. Some one had been talking about their leaders behind their backs, he told us this was “sowing discord, one of the 7 abominations to God”. We all wondered who it could be, and I felt a bit sorry for the person, but at least it was not me in trouble for once.
Later that day I was called into a meeting with 3 or 4 of the women sitting around. It was me. My friend had reported my “divisive comment” about Joan. Since I was in serious trouble already I thought this might be a good time to tell them about my other doubts. We had been told over and over again that we were not allowed to have any secrets or keep anything back from our overseers. I had written a letter confessing that I did not believe that Berg was the “Endtime Prophet,” his letters seemed just strange, and I did not know if I believed in Jesus, and I figured (okay so I may not be the brightest bulb in the box) that this was a good time to show it to them.
I was immediately put into isolation, where I was read “Letters” while awake and listened to them on headphones when asleep. I remembered what had happened to Mene, (written about in The Last State) and was quite scared of what might happen to me. I wanted to do the right thing, so I decided to accept whatever I was told.
A publication called How to Go on the Attack was read to me several times. It explained that when a “negative thought” or “doubt” comes to your mind it was like a little devil in your mind, and to think it through was to “entertain” the Devil in your heart. What I was to do was to quote a scripture or quote sing a song over and over again in my mind and even out loud until the thought went away on it’s own. Anna, Joan, Joanna and Marc told me that my biggest problem was a critical, analytical mind. This was very, very evil and an “open door for the Devil to come in.” They told me that these thoughts would make me crazy if I didn’t confess and get rid of each of them, just like they did to Mene. I prayed again and again for “child-like faith”, to just yield and accept things, without having to understand. I learned that whenever I thought anything that was negative or critical in any way, what I was to do was to grab the closest leader (they were never far away) and ask them to pray with me to “rebuke” the thought. It was really hard to do this at first, as I had so many thoughts about things.
One night, I was left alone while everyone went to a party that was being held. I was given a tape of Berg singing to listen to. I listened to it over and over and cried and cried. I felt so hopeless and completely alone and overwhelmed. His voice began to comfort me, and I felt as though he was singing to me. I felt a deep bond with him and felt myself decide to commit to the “Family”. I later heard Gary (Grant Montgomery, now the "president" of FCFhttp://www.familycare.org">FCF>), a top leader from Berg’s house who was visiting, talk about experiences like this. He called them anchors. “When things get rough and difficult for you”, he said, “and you think of giving up your place here, anchors can keep you in. Remember those times you really felt close to ‘Dad’ [Berg] and the Family. That’s why you’re here.”
The leaders suggested that I fast in order to “show God that I meant business”, for 3 days I had nothing but water, and milk on the last day. After this, Marc and the other top leaders came and exorcised me from all the “demons” that I allowed into my heart and mind. When they were convinced that I was “delivered”, I was allowed back out with the other children.
This exorcism was to be the first of many. I seemed to be always in trouble for something and would have to confess, apologise and be publicly exorcised time and time again. As time went on, it was easier and easier to not think unacceptable thoughts, I learned to memorise Bible verses that would help me and would repeat them over and over until I felt okay again.
I was not the only one to be singled out, a male friend of mine who had stolen some ear plugs from another boy was beaten in front of all of us by Marc with a large wooden paddle until he cried and begged for mercy.
After I somehow incurred the wrath of the "shepherds" yet again, I was put on Silence Restriction, with a large cardboard sign I had to wear around my neck. It all became too much one day and I wrote a note saying that I wished to leave, and could they please send me to my grandparents as I could not take any more. Marc himself came down with the wooden paddle and told me "we will not let the Enemy win here. I am not going to accept a defeat" and proceeded to "beat the fear of God into me" with the paddle. I finally realised that there was nowhere I could go, and no way that I could get out from where I was. There was no way to contact my parents, except for censored letters forwarded on to them, as I was not sure exactly where they were. The grounds of the compound were patrolled until dawn by Filipino guards with machine guns. All I could do was try to submit completely to everything. I learned to shut down the part of myself that felt anything, so that I could take “rebukes” cheerfully and with a smile, no matter what I was really feeling inside. I learned that I could not trust my “evil” self, my “shepherds” knew what was best for me and what I was really needing.
When things got to be just too much, I learned to do something that I would do for the rest of my time in the group. I would go into a bathroom, (the only private place usually in a home,) lock the door, and cry silently. If it was really too much I would scream into a towel. I felt so very alone and I would pray earnestly and desperately for God to help me get through this day.
It was still very hard for me to give up my own feelings and opinions without any outward sign of disagreement at all. Even a look or flinch or lack of cheerfulness was a sign of inner rebellion. I was first put on Silence Restriction for talking to a friend of mine who had been put on this. At first she had to wear a mask over her mouth with a scripture pinned to the front, as well as tape over her mouth. They finally settled on a large sign around her neck, which was instituted as the Silence Restriction policy. When I was given a sign to wear, I was sitting in the back of the room one day waiting for our "Devotional" class to start. It was a little late, and some of the girls were telling me about something that had happened the day before. Joanna, (a teen overseer) saw this and pulled me out of the room and into the large "closet" next door. She slapped my face and yelled at me for allowing them to talk to me while I was on Silence Restriction. I hung my head and tried really hard to accept what she was saying.
After they caught me praying aloud with another girl, Anna, Mary and Joanna (the teen girls overseers) were not convinced that I was really submitting fully. I was now not allowed to sit by any other teenagers. When they thought that was not enough I was put on a daily callisthenics program until they felt that I had really broken. I did not know if I would ever be allowed to talk to other children again, or what was waiting for me every day when I woke up. I learned to live in very small time segments and to block off anything past or anything ahead. A month went by, and I had given up all hope of ever being back with the other children. One day Anna came to me and told me I had “passed the test”. The sign was taken off my neck and I was allowed to be part of the regular program again.
The “callisthenics program” was normally the result of three demerits in one day. Although I was extremely fit and weighed about 95lbs, it was really hard to do, and every joint and muscle would ache for days afterwards. When it was first instituted, one of the boys could not keep up and had a heart attack. They took him to the hospital while the other boys finished the program.
Some of the punishments did not make a lot of sense. A older teen named Nehemiah, who was one of Berg’s grandsons, was promoted to a “teen shepherd”. One of the boys was not very cheerful, and did not like to smile. (We were taught that this was important as a Christian.) Nehemiah gave him a “smiling machine” to wear for the day if he was caught not smiling. It was a rubber band on the end of 2 paper clips that went around his head and held up the corners of his mouth. In the girls room, Anna would hand out punishments like a demerit for every toe that touched a mattress on the floor, or would shove the faces of girls right over the toilet if they forgot to flush it. Still I tried hard not to be critical and to yield as I was taught to do.
One “class” that I remember vividly was with Anna and Tiago, two “teen shepherds”. They both sat up front, Anna fully clothed up to the neck and ankles. Tiago began to read from “Revolutionary Sex”, a group publication. As he read, Anna began to take off her clothes. She kept stripping slowly until she was down to her panties. Tiago finished the reading and explained that this was a new phase in our training. We would now be allowed to change and shower together. Anna then hugged all the boys.
Although we were not allowed to have sex, (the girls and boys were completely separate for most of the time) as Marc said they “didn’t want any pregnant teenagers on [their] hands”, (I knew nothing about birth control,) nudity and “affection” were a large part of our life. The girls there were not allowed to wear bras, except for exercising, and most clothing was out, (we wore communal “sarongs”). Anna and Mary would come from mat to mat and check that we were not wearing underwear at night. We were taught to give full body to body embraces, shown by the women how to masturbate, covering ourselves if an adult man or teen boy came in when we were naked was a demeritable offence, the shower by the pool was an large open air one, and we had to strip naked and shower outside. My developing body was new to me, and I remember how difficult it was for me at first to have to strip as all the passing men would just stand and stare. A man was added to the teen girl overseers team, Chris. He would tell us graphic sex stories at bed time. KY Jelly was provided to the teen rooms to help us to masturbate.
Although physical intimacy was promoted, we were taught that as “Bible Women”, we should not have personal feelings towards any particular man, but should act the same with everyone, “as unto God”. I was told off time and time again for my “Women’s Libber” attitude. I had to memorise many things on being a Bible Woman and submission. A quote from the “Letter” You Are Your Own Worst Enemy (which was on my assigned memorization list) went something like: “According to God’s Word we are a male chauvinistic society. The woman is there to satisfy the man and not to be so greatly concerned whether she is satisfied herself”. I tried hard to learn to be this way, and began to understand my role as a woman in the Family was to provide pleasure and to make things easier for the men.
To be fair, although Marc was the one responsible for this whole Mickey-Mouse operation, it was certainly not just him who was abusive here. In fact, every single thing that went on was reported directly to Berg and Zerby and often disciplinary acts were handed down directly from them. Which is what made me so upset when Zerby in the second version of "Back on Track", the Europe series, said something to the effect of, "where did this idea of Silence Restriction come from? This sort of inhumane punishment should never be allowed in our homes". She knew exactly where it came from.
Anyway, back to Marc. When I was a 13 year-old child alone in the Philippines, Marc terrified me, as he did all of us. I saw him once briefly about three years after leaving and I felt like someone hit me in the gut. I couldn't breathe and started to shake. Since leaving, I have worked hard to reinvent myself, and I am a completely different person. Somewhere inside though, that little girl that I used to be was still terrified by Marc, even though logically I knew there was no reason to be.
[In 1998] I attended a AFF conference in Philadelphia. The topic was "Children in Cults", (it was awful and I would never go attend any other of their conferences, but that's a whole other story.) Marc and Claire were also at this conference, (with, interestingly enough, their equivalents in Scientology). As I saw them slip in the back of the room, I felt the same feeling again. I decided that I had to talk to Marc. What I would say, I didn't know, but I wanted to tell myself that it was okay, I am not that vulnerable, scared little girl any more, I am now an adult in control of my life, and no one will ever hurt me again like that.
I went over to them and we sat and talked for about 2 hours. I don't know if they understood or even heard what I was saying, but as they were leaving, Marc looked at me and said, "I'm really sorry, Sharon" (my Family name). I can't be sure exactly what he meant, but to me, it was beginning to put "Sharon" to rest. I felt it was sincere. Does it fix what he did? No. Does it make it hurt less? No. Does it offer any practical help to me now? No. But I do feel it is a start.
Excuse me here, (old habits die hard) but the verse that comes to mind is James 3:1, "Do not seek to be teachers, for unto you is the greater condemnation". Leaders in the cult made decisions regarding other people's lives--they now will have to live with the consequences. I believe in Karma, as the natural law of reaping the consequences of what you have sowed. Having been in childcare and a Teen/JETT (children aged 11-16) caretaker myself for much of the time in the group, I know what it is like to have to make decisions that affect others.
However, I also know that it is possible to take a stand for what is right, even in the Family. I remember being told by my supervisor that children in the Family need to go through "breakings". What he said was "breakings are what keep you humble and close to God. Children in the Family don't really go through that much, so sometimes we have to make breakings happen to them if they get a bit 'lifted up'". Excuse me? Making their lives deliberately difficult for no good reason? I flat out refused to do it.
I certainly did not stand up for the other children in my life nearly as much as I should I have, and am not claiming to have come out of this cult with no regrets, I think we all do, especially those of us with responsibility for others. No one is perfect, no parent or caregiver anywhere. But I believe that no matter what the reason, or what happened, somewhere, somehow, it will come back to you, and eventually your own evil will catch up to you--I guarantee, one day you will have to "give account", and for once, sticking your head in the sand and your butt in the air won't do you much good.