Colony Comes to Town
The Manly Daily/1973-03-24
By Olga Masters
A young man in jeans and sandals and with an open, handsome face said this yesterday, sitting on the floor of a former dry cleaner’s shop in Pittwater Road, Manly.
Eight other young people sitting around the room laughed, not with triumph- just with joy that more people were becoming Children of God.
Part of the much publicised American Jesus Movement, the "children" came to Manly recently.They have set themselves up in the rented shop and flat and don’t like to use the word "commune." "We would rather say colony," said Abarim, who also asked me not to call him the leader. "A shepherd is a better term," he suggested.
Abarim is the biblical name adopted by this 23-year-old, who came from America last year to help establish The Children of God in Australia.
Colonies are now in Kings Cross, in Melbourne, on the Gold Coast of Queensland and for the past few weeks, in Manly. Formed four years ago in Dallas, Texas the movement has 2400 members in 124 colonies in 40 countries. The path they follow is a simple one, and the message they have is equally simple.
"We work as disciples of Jesus." Abarim and the other eight members of the Manly colony take their guitars to Manly wharf and along the beaches singing, and talking to people, or as they call it "witnessing." "We just sing and talk," he said. "When people tell us they are worried and troubled, we understand because, without love in your heart, and with a desire for a lot of material things, life can be pretty troublesome."
The colony members do not have outside jobs, and they virtually live by their faith in God. "We say that the Lord provides, because we believe this and we are the example of this," said Abarim. If you look at the front room of their colony, which opens onto Pittwater Road you will immediately think that God has done a good job.
The floor is covered with a thick beige wool carpet, and there is little other furniture except large wooden spools stained a deep brown. On the walls are removable charts, signs of the day’s bible class. A glance into the rear of the shop where the flat provides for the eight- only Abarim and Merisha are married and they are the only Americans in the colony- shows the same neat and spotless condition of the premises.
"The wall to wall carpet?" said Abarim, smoothing it out. “Well, one of the people we met agreed to come and help us fix the room up. "He passed on the word about the need for floor covering. You wouldn’t believe, but this carpet is all in pieces which we sewed together, given by a man with a carpet shop."
"And the seats are by courtesy of the PMG!" They are used cable spools and the staining was done by the young people. Food and clothing come to the colony the same way. "A butcher once emptied into a bag for us the meat at the bottom of the freezer he was clearing out. God provided for us through the butcher."
Abarim agreed that people do express curiosity quite often at the fact that the members of the colony "work" full time, don’t look for a pay envelope at the end of the week, and manage to get by without it. He said that the time was fully occupied with study of the Bible, going out among people, not only in Manly, but to places where young people gather, like universities and colleges.
The members believe that young people won’t accept the established church and look for God elsewhere. "We have to give our time to do the job properly," said Abarim.
Solomon (they never use any other but their biblical names) aged 20 considers himself a pretty good example of the kind of young people who have achieved a purpose with the Children of God. Like almost all the others in the colony, he was hung up on drugs and had social problems after he left school.
"My parents got me a job, and I didn’t like it. I wasn’t happy and I tried to please them by keeping at at, and got my diversion with drugs."
"I didn’t really like that either. I went to church and Sunday school until I was 12, and used to think about this odd method of spending an hour with God a week, and just wanting to get away. But all the time I believed in Jesus, and what the church was teaching. I was going for a game of pool in Manly a couple of months ago when I met Nathan. He talked to me and here I am."
Solomon’s parents are happy with the new Solomon. They live on the northside and visit the colony and obviously give the movement their support. "I’m working. I’m happy, and I have given the drug scene away," said Solomon.
Crystal, who came from the country town of Griffith and started nursing was also on drugs. In the Domain one day she heard the singing of the Children of God. "I joined the singing, and later talked to the members. That was four months ago. With a lot of love, you don’t need drugs. In fact, you need very little if you have God in your heart."
Crystal didn’t sound pious or embarrassed, and in her long crepe dress and with her long fair hair and unmade up face, was fresh, innocent and charming. Like others joining the colony, she brought her clothes, packed them in a communal cupboard- and they are there for everyone to share. "When I need something new, I can get some cheap cloth and make it up," she said.
A man called David Berg in California is credited with starting the Children of God movement at a resort called Huntington Beach. David Berg formed his colony from the outcasts of society.