Strange Fire: Inside the Camp

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Excerpt from Strange Fire, unpublished manuscript by Mick Bysshe. Copyrighted ©1977-2005 by Mcke-Nord and Associates. Used by permission.

CHAPTER SEVEN: Inside the Camp

First Contact

My first contact with the COG took place in the summer of 1971. I was a counselor at a Salvation Army camp in northern New Jersey, One day I phoned home to see what became of my older sister Rita. She had finished college in the spring, and we expected her to come home in the summer after a visit with friends in Atlanta. My mother told me that Rita had joined a group called Children of God and that she was in Texas. At first I thought it was something like the Bible Club Movement, which was geared to school age children. My mother explained that the Children of God went witnessing at Rock Concerts.

A few weeks later I received a letter from Rita saying she was coming up to the Catskill Mountains. She was on her way to Europe. She also told me a little bit about the COG in her letter and cited three scriptures from the New Testament that described their lifestyle and philosophy: Acts 2: 44, 45 --"And all that believed were together and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods and parted them to all men as every man had need. " Mark 16: 15--"Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, " Luke 14:33--"So likewise, whosoever he be of you that. forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple. " My conception of the COG began to shape up into a picture of dedicated kids living together, forsaking all their individual trips and possessions to preach the gospel. I did not have long to see that this was a fairly accurate picture of what the COG purported to be.

The third two-week session at the Salvation Army camp had just finished, and I was getting ready for a weekend in New York City I jammed a few personal items, a change of clothes, and a book or two into a tote bag and started walking towards the camp bus. As I passed the camp office, the telephone rang inside. It was my sister. I took out my small telephone amplifier, which I just happened to have in my bag. My sister told me to meet her at the airport at six p. m. She was on her way to Europe and wanted to say goodbye.

A Phone Call

I felt somewhat excited by this turn of events. I just happened to be at the camp office when the phone rang. I just happened to have my phone amplifier handy. Without it, I would not have been able to here Rita, as I am partially deaf. My weekend was pretty much open to anything, so I hoped that I would be able to have a nice visit with Rita and maybe get to know a little bit about the COG.

To kill time until six o'clock, I rode the Staten Island ferry with some other counselors. Then Andy, a fellow counselor and brother in the Lord, and I walked through Greenwich Village for a while browsing in second hand shops. At six, the two of us went out to the North Passenger Terminal Building to wait for my sister. Our wait was long, as Rita and the other Coggies didn't arrive until quarter to nine, just as I was about to give up for the night and look for a place to sleep.

Rita was wearing a miniskirt and patent leather boots, quite a switch from the knee-length styles she wore at a conservative Baptist college. She informed me that "We don't usually dress like this: we are being underground tonight. " Rita tried to be real cool like she had to project a certain image to make sure she would get her passport and visa cleared. Her demeanor and that of her companions proved to be unsettling to me. These people are into something heavy, I thought. Rita's partner looked a little incongruous in a plaid suit and a green sleeping bag under his arm. Rita wouldn't say too much to me; her reticence only whetted my curiosity to learn more about the COG and their lifestyle.

The flight to London kept being postponed to a later hour, so I started phoning some of my friends in New York to see if I could find a place to spend the night. My friends in Brooklyn suggested I come there only as a last resort, so I didn't feel very welcome. I asked the Coggies for a ride into Manhattan for myself and Andy They consented, and we walked tout to the parking lot The Coggies had two cars there leaning against one of the cars was a tall man with black hair and a woman with long brown hair—quite an attractive couple These people must be big shots, I thought.

Andy and I hopped into the back of the beat up Fairlane with masonite in the window. The two COG brothers in the front introduced themselves as Israel and Giddel. As soon as they shut the doors and hopped in the car, Israel and Giddel started praising the Lord and speaking in tongues, apparently oblivious to their two startled passengers in the back. It was a complete mind-blower for me to see someone so unabashedly and loudly speak in tongues. I had been around Charismatics before and had received the gift of tongues and the complete infilling of the Holy Spirit only a few months previously, but these Coggies praised the Lord with such vigor that it made the rest of them look like bleating, beaten sheep.


On the way into Manhattan, we stopped to get directions at a gas station. We had missed a turn somewhere, Benjamin, the tall man with dark hair sauntered over to our car and introduced himself to Andy and myself. He then asked us a few pointed questions about our spiritual condition and what we were into at the present. When he learned that we were camp counselors working with underprivileged kids, he asked us if we would like to help spiritually underprivileged kids? Sounded good, but we didn't really know what he was driving at. Then he asked Andy, "How would you like to come visit the colony up in the mountains; your friend there wants to. How he knew I wanted to visit the colony I don't know

The Coggies stopped in Manhattan and looked at a few apartment buildings, mostly in the four and five story range, I didn't know what they were doing and felt reluctant to ask. Finally, while staring at one of the buildings, Benjamin announced, "God can give us this building. " This puzzled me, so I asked, "are the people there going to be moving out?" He replied, "if God wants us to have that building, those people are gonna move. " Apparently the Coggies had faith to move mountains. I was impressed.


It was a long drive up to the colony, a small two story cottage on the side of a mountain near Cragsmoor, New York. During the ride, Israel and Giddel told us how they met the "Family," how it was cheaper for Christians to live together, and how messed up and frustrated they were before they met the COG. I listened intently and wanted to know more.

We finally arrived at the colony at five in the morning. I was handed a green flannel blanket to sleep in. About half a dozen of us slept on the floor. I woke around nine, noticed a girl lying on a cot in the corner, and proceeded to get up and take a look outside. The cool morning air hit my head, and I wandered back in, realizing how tired I still was.

Around noon everyone was up and we had a simple breakfast of oatmeal and toast The tableware was somewhat unusual, being an odd assortment of plastic bowls and food storage containers. Apparently the Coggies didn't care for or couldn't afford decent tableware. After the meal Benjamin gave a short devotional. I don't remember what he said, but I did learn a new word: systemite, one who lives in the system. The Coggies didn't care too much for systemites.

Israel and Giddel gave us a sample Bible Class after breakfast. It was called, "Are We Living in the Time of the End?" It cited modern inventions such as the automobile and the telephone as signs of the end time predicted in the Bible, also the restoration of Israel as a sign that the Lord was coming back soon.

After the class Andy and I were split up. A brother named Gideon took me aside to talk with me some more. He asked me some probing questions about my life and my plans for the future. I told him I had two more weeks to go as a camp counselor, two weeks planned for a visit to a writer's colony, and then, hopefully, I would be going to Philadelphia to study at a seminary. Gideon listened intently.

"Are they charging you money to study the Bible at the seminary?"

"Yes, they are. " Not that much though. It was a modestly priced Reformed Episcopal seminary.

"Do you think Jesus ever charged money for the truth he taught to his disciples?"

I felt defenseless. Here Gideon was challenging me to defend the validity of what I was into. He used the example of Jesus to make me feel that what the was doing seminary wasn't scriptural, and, therefore, "not where it's at.”

The next ploy was an appeal to the conscience in another way. Someday I would stand before God. My treasure would be all the souls I led to the Lord. If I only witnessed part time, I could not win many people to the Lord. If I chose to be a full time disciple, I would win so many more to the Lord. The Lord would hold me accountable for those who never heard about him, their blood would be on my hands. He compared the difference between winning a thousand people to the Lord in a lifetime of full-time discipleship and winning, say, only one hundred people to the Lord in my spare time

I felt trapped by this challenge to make an immediate decision for full-time discipleship I had been made a dare, a proposition that would mean a whole new lifestyle for me, I was impressed with everyone's sincerity and seemingly genuine concern for me. I didn't really want to go back to my Salvation Army job, I couldn't see going to the seminary, now that it had been shown to me that it was wrong to charge money for God's Truth.

Decision To Join

It did not take me long to decide to join the COG. I was the ideal convert "the individual who stands alone, who has no collective body he can blend with and lose himself in." (The True Believer, Eric Hoffer, p. 39) The Children of God seemed like the organization I belonged in.

I was trying to grow in my faith and be led of the Lord in whatever I did. One thing I needed to learn more about was how to communicate my faith to others. I had been somewhat frustrated at the Salvation Army camp in trying to effectively present Jesus to the campers and to the other counselors, most of whom were turned off to what I had to say because of their preconceived ideas and the hypocrisy of the traditional church. In joining the COG I hoped to do away with the liabilities of the church system that hindered young people from finding the kingdom of God. The Coggies were young people and they had a communal lifestyle, and these two traits seemed to be a good drawing card to get people turned on to Jesus. I felt like I was on a ship, a few miles out of the harbor, the open sea of God's future ahead of me and the world behind me. I was exhilarated to be aboard.

While Gideon was talking to me, another brother, Israel, was talking to my friend Andy about joining the COG. I could see that Israel was putting Andy under considerable pressure. Andy looked worked up, and he had tears in his eyes. He did not want to join. I told him to tell the staff at the camp that I would not be coming back.

With my mind all made up to join the COG, I went out on the porch and sat down to relax, I had bought a book of short stories by John Cheever and decided I would do a little reading. Before I could sink my eyes in a story, a brother appeared and began expounding on the vanity of reading the words of man. How much better to read the Bible. A few minutes later I found myself exploring a little trail that went around the side of the mountain from the cottage. When I returned, I was reprimanded for wandering off by myself. "Woe to him that is alone when he falls, for he hath not another to lift him up," I was admonished from the scripture.


I could see that I had a lot to learn. In both of these instances, I had a feeling ahead of time that I was going to be reprimanded for my behavior, I realized that any expression of individuality outside the lines of the COG cause were not going to be tolerated. I cheerfully accepted their admonitions. The rewards for belonging to the COG were great enough, I hoped, that I wasn't going to pass them up for my individual whims.

As the afternoon wore on, I acquired a headache from lack of sleep. I wanted to try to sleep the headache off, but I didn't need any more sleep, Gideon instructed. He had me lie down on a cot and sent a plump Jewish girl over to read me some chapters out of the gospels. I enjoyed hearing the scriptures and Rosie's testimony of how she was an atheist before she met "the team" in Los Angeles.

Not much happened that first day, but I distinctly remember that a verse kept popping in my head that day: Romans 8: 16—"The Spirit beareth witness with our spirit that we are the Children of God." I knew that I belonged with the Children of God.

Those first few weeks in the COG, I listened to Bible classes, memorized the set card verses, washed dishes, and shared (verb: to fellowship) with the other brothers and sisters. There wasn't that much physical work to do, I remember pushing the van to get it started, clearing some brush below the cottage, and digging a ditch to lay some pipe. We would hold hands in a circle and desperately seek God's help each time we had a new undertaking.


A brother named Janoah gave us classes. He impressed me with his testimony of wanting to become a Lutheran minister, staring at candles, and doing yoga to gain enlightenment. Finally he met the family. Gideon's testimony was interesting too. He had been saved before he met the family and lived with some Jesus People on the West Coast. They read the Bible all day. One day he ran into a COG sister named Ruth who asked him simply, "Are you one of us?" He was.

I do remember being impressed with the fact that the Coggies had most of their food donated to them. What miracles What other group could boast of so many miracles of loaves and fishes? We didn't eat like kings, but our food was adequate and nourishing. Breakfast was usually oatmeal, fruit salad, and toast. Some days we had pancakes. Supper was usually a rice or potato dish with a smattering of meat thrown in.. Snack time we would have kool-aid and donuts, 95% of the food was donated.

Since I was considered a "new babe, " I stayed at the Cragsmoor colony while the older brothers went out to witness in New York City. They were looking for more disciples and also for a place in New York, so they could be closer to the action..

Disciples and Supporters

I was the first disciple to join the COG in the New York: area. Shortly after I joined, Gideon came home with another new disciple. His Bible name was Samos, he was a nineteen year old vagabond from Britain who had currently been spending his sleeping hours in Central Park with a knife under his belt. Gideon had wooed him to the Lord, himself, and the family. Later Samos told me that it was the first time in his life that anyone showed real love and concern for him, and that was why he decided to join the COG.

One week after I had been in the COG, I was busy washing dishes when someone handed me a green card with my new name on it: Eliadah. It took me a while to learn it.

A divorcee in her thirties began befriending the COG in Cragsmoor. She had first heard about us from the "First Tuesday" TV special. Finally she opened her small home to us in Patchogue, Long Island. About half of the Cragsmoor colony moved down there, but we must have worn out her nerves as we were only there a few days. We did get one disciple there, a girl named Victory who left her fiance to join up. He later came to Cragsmoor to talk to her and try to get her back. She told him to his face that she wanted to be with the COG, so he left dejectedly to try to put his life together again, puzzled about the COG and the sudden alienation of affection.

The COG began making other contacts in the Greater New York area in September 1971. Israel ran into an old buddy named Ithiel, who had an apartment near Sixth Avenue. Giddel's grandfather lent us the use of his cottage in Mastic Beach, Long Island, for about a month and a half.


While in Mastic Beach, I learned the art of provisioning. Dressed in nice looking sports clothes, a brother and I would make the rounds of all the food merchants. The COG had PR sheets printed up to impress potential donors. We simply befriended the business people, told them how we helped young people get off drugs and explained that we needed food to help feed these kids. At one open air market, we actually culled through the discarded crates, I was amazed at all the food that was thrown out simply because there was a small bruise or rotten spot.

Teaching classes on Daniel and Revelation was the job of [[Samson Warner]], a towering, curly-haired redheaded fellow with a face of a lion and a snarling contempt of the Establishment to match.

The cottage in Mastic Beach was pretty small, but it had a full basement. The single bedroom was used by the elders; the men slept on the living room floor and in the basement. The girls slept outside in a camper bus. We had to be pretty careful how often we flushed the toilet, as that many people put quite a strain on the septic system.


One day while at the Mastic Beach colony, I got two letters from my sister Ruthie. They were mailed to the Cragsmoor colony; a couple of brothers brought them down Ruth had just finished high school and was now attending Jack Wyrtzen's Word of Life Bible College in Schroon Lake, New York. She had been there less than a month, and from the tone of her letters I could tell that she was tossed between staying at Schroon Lake and joining the COG. I had written a letter to her previously describing my own feelings- about being involved with a sold out communal band of disciples. She was hooked, too.

I told one of the brothers about the letters from my sister and asked him to pray with me about her. Half an hour later my sister comes to the door with three other girls from Maryland. All of them were joining the COG. Needless to say, I flipped over how quickly my prayers were answered.

We were in Mastic Beach for about a month and a half.


The people in Cragsmoor had acquired the use of a former drug rehabilitation center in Ellenville, Hew York, There were several buildings in Ellenville, so the Coggies began sending some people to Ellenville from the West Coast,

Since Ellenville was only an hour and a half from New York and JFK airport, it became a "Border Base," an embarkation point for disciples heading overseas. By December 1971, Ellenville had grown into a monstrous colony of over 100 disciples living in two dormitory buildings, plus one main activity building. Many of these disciples came in from the Fred Jordan properties, which were no longer usable, since Fred Jordan had ordered everyone to get out of his buildings back in the fall. I was able to meet some of the current bigwigs in the COG in Ellenville, including Nahum and Jael, Simon and Naraah, Antipas, Jonathan Archer, Barnabus and Hasadiah, Amasa and Rose, Amplias Singer, Jesse Huntington, David Hoyt, and Big Josh Dietrich. Life seemed exciting here, filled with and Bible Classes, singing and dancing, fellowship with the brethren. It reminded me of the spiritual intensity of Bible Memory Association summer camp up in the Adirondacks, but I didn't have to go home after one week.


Right before Thanksgiving 1971 Mo issued the Homegoing Letter. I enjoyed my visit home, but I was so estranged from mainstream America by this time that I spent most of my time reading my Bible and trying to sell my younger brothers and sisters on what I was doing. I couldn't even read the newspaper it drained me too much spiritually.

Those who feed on the Bible exclusively find it difficult to make that trek back into the system where they are confronted with the pollutions of the world, the allurements of the flesh, and the wiles of the devil. Many of them fall apart spiritually, stay in "Egypt," and try to pick up the pieces. Some rush back to their"real family" in the Children of God like sheep returning to the fold, thankful that they didn't get sucked into any of the "weird trips out there."

When I returned by bus to Ellenville shortly after Thanksgiving, I was greeted by my brothers and sisters with warm embraces and the news that not all of our brethren were returning to the fold. Some of them were backsliding from God's Will. Others were staying in Egypt for reasons of their own. Some were even opening up colonies in their own hometown. I had a hard time understanding why anyone would want to leave the COG, but I knew that what we were doing wasn't for everybody. I was not even tempted to leave the COG; I was happy, felt fulfilled, and felt closer to Jesus than anytime I had ever been before.

Next thing I knew I was put in the Ellenville office, where I pecked away at a typewriter. I helped with reports and typed up a daily log of COG activities. Occasionally I rode in the prophet bus to New York City. The buses were cold, so we took along extra blankets for the ride and quoted scriptures to each other. Later we would be spouting them out to pedestrians in Greenwich Village. I remember leading one brother to the family, and I was so excited to see him change and become happy with his new life in the C0G.

For Christmas I stayed in Ellenville instead of going home. I got some Mo letters, a fine-point Bic pen to use for marking my Bible, some candy, and some fruit. Some of the elders put on skits for our entertainment. Most of the skits parodied the hangups and the evils of the Establishment. One institution that received quite a few barbs was the American family, complete with football wars fought on Sunday afternoon between Ardent Viewer and Harassing Wife.

We also had something interesting to watch on TV: ourselves, videotapes of our brethren over in Europe. My sister Rita, now called Jochabed, was in one of the tapes, and I was thrilled to see her clap her hands, dance, and smile at the onlookers of their "Holy Ghost Sample" in Hyde Park.

Manhattan Invaded

In January 1972, the Coggies finally found a place on the Lower East Side of Manhattan to call home. We had finally invaded the biggest Babylon of all. Soon we were getting new disciples in New York, but our numbers soon became unbearable in those cramped quarters.

The push at the time was expansion into all new territories possible in as many directions as possible. I was asked if I wanted to go with two other brothers to open up a colony in Syracuse. At the same time two other road teams were sent out, one to Atlantic City and the other to Hartford, Connecticut.

I was real excited about pioneering a new town with a couple of brothers. I was tired of the ponder-some bigness of the colonies and looked forward to a smaller operation such as what Cragsmoor was when I first joined. I had one treat in New York that I wouldn't forget for long. One night while returning from witnessing I saw a diminutive blond-haired fellow talking with a sister named Ruth. The Lord whispered in my ear, "that's Hosea," I totally flipped. Benjamin had told us a lot about this eighth grade dropout who could talk circles around Phds. I liked Ho's gentle affable spirit, and literally felt like I was in heaven when he visited the colony. Ho is not in the limelight that much, but he is the COG's top administrator, outside of Moses, his father.

Eliakim was to be the leader of our three man team. He was a short, stocky New England fellow of French extraction. His favorite getups included green corduroy pants, a green beret, leather jacket, leather wine pouch, and a harmonica. That with his red hair and mustache made for an exciting travel companion. I was to write the logs for our adventure, as well as provision the food. Aaron, a slight fellow from Boston was the youngest in the Lord. We nicknamed him Lightfoot.


The three of us hitched out of Manhattan on February 12th, 1972. We stopped off at my folks for three days. We got some interesting revelations from Acts 28 where some disciples were waylaid on their way to Syracuse by inclement weather. The parallel was perfect. My folks received us everyone, because of the present rain, (although in this case it was snow) and because of the cold. And when we departed, they laded us with such things as were necessary.

When we got to Syracuse, we followed Jesus' instructions for finding a place to stay when he sent his disciples out two by two. We "inquired who was worthy," and were referred to the youth hostel. We stayed there a couple of weeks, went witnessing at Syracuse University and provisioned our meals. The weather was cold, and the snow was deep, so we did most of our witnessing inside the University buildings.

Benjamin came into town in March with a couple more brothers and we began looking for more permanent quarters. We finally found what we were looking for on Gifford Street. It was a two family house, we rented the upstairs, a black family lived under us, a Chinese laundry was next door, and a Spanish grocery store was at the corner. We got our first month's rent by wiring our folks for about $25 to $50 each.

Since I was the head provisioner, I spent a good deal of my time out looking for food contacts. We made friends with the wholesalers at the northside Farmer's Market, We also got day old bread and pastries; from a couple of bakeries, dented canned goods from a salvage merchant and dairy goods from a large dairy plant.

Our main witnessing spots became downtown Salina Street and Syracuse University. Near the end of March we got our first disciple, a brother named Levi. He had been going to school at Onondaga Community College and had been led to a salvation experience by a Jesus Freak. When he met us, he had been contemplating dropping out of school and going to live with some Jesus People.

I came home from provisioning errands one afternoon. Levi had come to visit the colony for the first time, and when he saw me walk in the door he said, "there's the guy I talked to. He told me about the colony." I didn't remember him very well, but it seems like I had asked him for a dime to make a phone call and had then started a conversation. He had expressed his dissatisfaction with college to me and I replied that college had bored me too, I told him that I was living in a commune with some other kids that believed in Jesus, He was apparently attracted to this lifestyle because he was now at the colony with a couple of brothers. We didn't get many lasting disciples in Syracuse, but he was one of them.

Provisioning items the colony needed was a big job, I remember provisioning a step van from a Christian man. We spent hours fixing it up and getting it to run. Finally it was ready for a big trip. Some brothers drove it to Ellenville and last I heard the grass was growing around the tires. It could be frustrating to see all your hard work going down the road never to return.

Rock Bands

The Coggies had a rock band called the "New York Band," and they were doing a road tour of the different colonies—we lined up an engagement for them at "The Scene," a single's disco on the east side of town. After the presentation lots of kids came up to talk with the band and got saved. Even the bouncers prayed with one of the brothers and asked Jesus to come into his heart.

Another big event in 1972 was the State Fair in Syracuse. We lined up an engagement for another COG band, this one was called "Jeremiah's band. " They performed to lackluster crowds at least three different times. Disciples came in from the Rochester and the Ellenville colonies to distribute literature and to witness. We slept overnight on the fairgrounds anywhere we could find sleeping space. One night I slept in the horse barn as guest of the self-acclaimed grandson of J. Paul Getty, He was a homosexual and if he had kept that fact to himself I would have slept better that night. Oh, well, at least he didn't bother me.

I did some provisioning at the State Fair. One man was going to donate a horse to our refuge farm, but by the time arrangements were finally made several months later, he decided that he wasn't so good hearted after all.

Refuge farms

Refuge farms were basically rural colonies to which all Coggies would flee when God's Judgments started falling on the cities. For two months in the summer of 1972 I was at a refuge farm near Cortland, NY. We had a sympathizer in an older Christian man. He was divorced and full of frustrated spiritual ambition. He had been saved while a young man and had done some witnessing work in New York City and had attended a Bible Seminary in Binghamton. Things didn't work out well with him and us. He tried to lead us his way, and we were busy following our leadership and Mo. We spent too much time jawboning and working with his lumber business, to get anything else accomplished. I felt fulfilled in one sense that summer. We were able to lead a divorcee named Evelyn to a salvation experience and I have seen her become a happy Christian woman from what was done that summer.

In the late fall we went witnessing at the Grand Prix race in Watkins Glen. Somehow we got in free and had a good time witnessing and watching the races. My dad decided to give his old Rambler to the Children of God, so I drove it back to Syracuse after the races were over.

A New Shepherd

Shortly after the Grand Prix weekend, we had a new colony shepherd come to take over the Syracuse colony. His name was Ozem and I had a hard time getting along with him. He had a militaristic spirit and cracked the whip so hard that some of us were beginning to get into a fear trip. Things came to a head one night when we went to bed one night leaving one of the rooms messy. Ozem and his wife hounded us out of bed and rebuked us sternly for our slothfulness and sloppiness. With tears streaming down her face, Tilon told us that if we didn't repent of our sins, God might strike one of us down dead, even as He did to Ananias and Sapphira. By this time most of us were really freaking out and trying our best to appease the wrath of our elders and our God. I couldn't handle the situation, I went into the back bedroom and prayed. I just couldn't go on in such an uptight atmosphere. Maybe my heart was hard, so hard that not even God could shine the light of His face on me. I had to take a sabbatical leave, or something like that. Just get alone away from everyone and hear from the Lord myself.

"Lord, I need to find your love. I'm gonna run away from all this. If being a disciple of the COG is what you really want for me, I'm going to turn away from it. John wrote that we love you because you first loved us. In other words, you show your love first, I've never felt very far from you, but I think I need to do something to test your love for me. I'm going to leave."

A Bad Apple

I walked out of the bedroom. The rest of the colony had gathered around Ozem. He had calmly explained to them that I was the bad apple, the Judas. With a guitar in hand, he sang a song about backsliders to the tune of Red River Valley: "From this mountain, you say you are going. Do not hasten to bid us adieu. But remember you're leaving your brethren and the work God has called you to do." I now can see how smug and self-righteous Ozem was that night. Then I couldn't.

They drove me to the bus station at about three in the morning, I was miserable, confused, paranoid, and tired. In the bus station I sat around for several hours, waiting for the bus to Geneva. I tried to collect my thoughts and pray. I would be really freaked out for awhile. Then I would feel God's hand upon me and be overcome with a tremendous sense of peace and rest. I saw an old chum from high school in the bus station. I talked with him for awhile. I laid a pretty heavy rap on him. When he left his jaw was hanging about three inches. What did he think? Was I gone mad or a prophet from heaven? I don't know.

Finally the bus came that was going to Geneva. I boarded the bus and buried my nose in my Bible. But the Bible wasn't friendly toward me. Instead of finding comfort and inspiration in the scriptures, I saw a finger pointing out at me, accusing me, threatening me with judgment for my sins and iniquities. The commandments which were ordained to life, I found to be unto death. "Sin taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it, slew me." I didn't understand what was happening at the time. I stood accused before the law and felt that even Jesus had turned his back on me. I compared myself to the backslider in Hebrews who had tasted the good word of God and was a partaker of the Holy Ghost, yet now I had fallen away, and it was impossible to renew myself, repent, and find closeness to God, seeing I had crucified the Son of God afresh.

I got off the bus at Geneva, and started hitchhiking south on Route l4. I only got a few short rides. I was getting pretty despondent, hungry, and cold in the chill October wind. I remember lying down with my face on the ground, praying, seeking affinity with the earth, wishing I could find such rest as inanimate stones and cinders had.

"He putteth his mouth in the dust; if so be there may be hope." Lamentations 3: 29.

I was getting hungry and had no money, so I went into a grocery store and asked the clerk if she could give me a sandwich or something. She refused, so I trudged out. Five minutes: later she comes, running out with a baloney sandwich. I couldn't thank the Lord enough for changing her heart.

It was getting darker and starting to rain. I came upon this yellow building with "Harold's Used Auto Parts" written in black and red letters on the top. I went inside, seeking refuge from the rain. A man was working on a car and I asked him if I could use his phone. I tried to call home and got a busy signal.

The rain didn't seem to let up. I was nervous and paced back and forth in the garage. I was still full of fear, wondering if God would ever turn his face toward me again. I went into the garage office and tried to read; again all those scriptures rose out from the page condemning me, accusing, me, taunting me. I couldn't handle it, so I tried to shut the scriptures out of my mind. I went to talk to the man who was working on a car. The car had been damaged in the Southern Tier and Northern Pennsylvania flood of June 1972. I thought of Noah's flood. The slightest things reminded me of judgment. Final, incontrovertible, devastating judgment.

I asked the man if I could sleep on the floor in his office. He said I could. Thankfully, I went back into the office and started to spread some newspapers on the floor. Before I could roll out my sleeping bag, I could sense a suffocating odor. The office was heated by a small gas heater. The room was stuffy, I envisioned myself calmly sleeping while the carbon monoxide fumes took me into eternity. I couldn't sleep in there.

Suicidal Thoughts

I tried phoning home once again. Still busy. Must be the Lord didn't want me to get through to my folks. I wasn't sure what I would say anyway. Maybe I should write a note. I was fully convinced that my life would soon be over. That is how full of fear I was. That evening the cry of Jesus on a dark cross to a darkened sky became real to me. My God, why hast thou forsaken me.

I would write a note. A suicide note? No, for I was going to die for my sins. Somehow I knew death was stalking, and somehow I wasn't ready. A Christian who wasn't ready trusting in his own righteousness, and not yet aware of the tender mercies of God. I couldn't think how to start the note, so I prayed a little prayer, "Lord, if my life was a big mistake, at least let my death mean something, to warn people not to run away from you and to stay close to you. Please help me write this note. Help me find those verses that terrified me before. "

With that prayer, I opened my Bible to look for appropriate scriptures to use in the note. Instead of finding verses that struck terror to my heart, I found scriptures that gave me hope once again, verses that comforted my trembling soul,

"For a small moment I have forsaken thee, but in great mercies I will gather thee. "

"Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. "

"He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters. "

The small spark of hope flared up into a flame. Gradually I began to realize that God did care. I was being resurrected from the burning emotional hell of condemnation.

Since I did not want to sleep in the garage office, I asked the man If I could sleep outside in one of his station wagons. He consented. I slept fitfully, my sleep troubled by a dream I was having. It was about the Coggies in Syracuse. We were racing around the dark, rainy streets in these little minicars pulling small trailers behind us. In the trailers were piles of jewelry and gold. They had taken all the gold and jewelry out of my trailer and were laughing at me because I had no valuables, no good works to show for myself. Somehow I didn't care about it, I had no gold, silver, and precious stones, but I had Jesus.

Faith Trips

I woke, got a ride back to Geneva, and then caught a bus to Watkins Glen. I was still somewhat nervous and paranoid, but I was starting to get over it. I informed my folks that I was leaving the COG for awhile to do some traveling. I spent two weeks at home, trying to rebuild myself spiritually, reading, and memorizing scriptures.

After two weeks at home, I grew restless, so I decided to hitch-hike to Cleveland. It was a rainy fall day when I left home and I didn't get many rides. By nightfall I had only reached Batavia, near Buffalo. I was wondering where to sleep when I found a 24-hour laundromat. I really did not want to stay there, so I went to a nearby motel and asked the guy at the desk if he could turn me on to a room free of charge. He thought about it for awhile, and finally decided to break a few rules and help the helpless itinerant missionary.

A free room! What a miracle! God must still love me. I couldn't thank the Lord enough for caring about me enough to get me a good place to sleep.

The next day I made it to Cleveland. I went to see a cousin and then called my aunt and uncle in Burton. They were charismatic Christians and had paid a visit to the COG a couple of years previously in Cincinnati. They tried to tell me that the COG was just another denomination, which I could not accept. After all, the COG was God's End Time Movement.

I read some of Dietrich Bonhoffer's writings while at my relatives. I liked his ideas on discipleship. I wanted to go somewhere else, so soon found myself on the road going towards Greene, N. Y. to see Evelyn, the girl we had led to the Lord on the refuge farm.

Fifteen minutes after I got in the door, she gave me two twenty dollar bills and insisted that I keep them. I was really surprised to have someone wave money in my face. God was trying to reassure me that He still cared and loved me, and He was using these gestures of concern to build up my faith in His providence. We had a pretty good visit, I told her I was leaving the Syracuse colony for a while to travel and be alone and hear from God myself.

The weather was getting colder, so I decided to hitch-hike to Tennessee. I would visit my sister and her husband in Chattanooga and Tennessee Temple College, where I had spent a year.

The first day on the road, I got as far as Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. I couldn't get any freebie motel rooms, so I ended up sleeping near a huge tree at the edge of a cemetery. In the morning a groundskeeper sauntered over after I got up and asked me how I escaped detection from the nightly police rounds. "They come down here every night and shine their lights all around to make sure no one is in here that isn't supposed to be here." Again I thanked the Lord for making seeing eyes blind and showing me a good place to sleep. Someone upstairs cared about me, I was learning that fast.

I was trying to locate some friends near Kingsport, Tennessee. I walked up to a house to ask for directions. The people invited me in, fed me supper, and let me take a shower. It was a nice example of Southern Hospitality. Later that day I caught a ride with a Boston truck driver who was driving a rig to Murphy, North Carolina. I helped him unload cosmetics at a new shopping center. Then we went towards Chattanooga, where he dropped me off.

This time of being on my own away from the COG and traveling by faith, not knowing where I was going or where I would be getting my next meal from was a real learning experience for me. It seemed easier to hear God's voice and follow His leading when I was alone. There was an intimate closeness with the Lord that I didn't enjoy while in a crowded colony with other disciples. My conception of God was improving. I learned that He loved me. He was providing all my needs, and I even had a few dollars in my pocket. I had asked Him to show me His love when I had left the colony, and He had certainly come through.

I visited some former classmates at Tennessee Temple. One of them, Harold Brunn, was quite interested in the COG. He had met other Coggies before. We had a good time of fellowship; he photocopied Mo's "Survival" booklet and gave me thirty dollars for my trip back up North. I couldn't understand people giving me money, but interpreted it as God showing his love toward me.

I bought a steel-stringed guitar at a pawnshop in Chattanooga and started singing some of the songs in the Revolutionary Songbook.

One day I took, I took an honest look.

I tried everything, I played every game in the book.

And I saw there, was nothing to live for anymore.

Then one day, one day I heard about

A certain man, a man who could work things out;

So I came to Jesus, you know He came in

And He showed me the way.


Now all I want to do is serve Him

That others may know Him

And the power of His love.

I hitched back up to my folk's place near Watkins Glen, N.Y. I wasn't quite sure what I would be doing next.

One evening we were eating roast beef for supper. I noticed that all of us were eating rather rapidly. A phrase from the Bible popped into my head, "ye shall eat it in haste, it is the Lord's Passover." After supper I looked up the Passover story in Exodus 12.

Tormented by a Demon

Anyone who is growing in the Lord and endeavors to follow Him finds that he or she will go through experiences similar to what Jesus experienced. From the passover story, I saw similarities between what I was going through and the passover lamb. The lamb had to be without blemish. It had to be taken out from among the flock for fourteen days and then be killed. I excitedly looked at the calender. I had joined the COG August eighth last year. Fourteen months and fourteen days later I had "been killed" by the other Coggies. I had left with a destroyed ego. I knew I wasn't the bad apple Ozem painted me up to be. I hadn't fostered any rebellion against leadership.

I felt like I was the innocent passover lamb. The 14 days-14-months numerology intrigued me. The experiences of the month alone out of the camp were like a crucifixion, a period of dying to my old concepts, and being reborn a humbler, more appreciative Christian. I had suffered quite a bit. emotionally, but the sufferings made me feel closer to Jesus. Peter wrote in his epistle that we should be prepared to suffer as Jesus did. (I Peter 4: l).

Several days after Thanksgiving, a verse kept coming to my mind: Jeremiah 31: 21— "Set thine heart toward the highway, even the way that thou wentest: turn again to these thy cities." The Lord seemed to be indicating that he wanted me to hit the road and go back to the Syracuse colony. I felt reluctant about going back to Syracuse. I didn't know how they would receive me. I had an unusual experience one Saturday evening that finally made me decide to go. I couldn't sleep. I felt like someone was exerting pressure on my chest, pinning me to the bed. It wasn't an illness, the pain seemed like some outward force. Concluding that a demon was trying to torment me, I kept rebuking it in Jesus name, but it would not leave. "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you," the apostle James wrote, and the demon finally left by morning time.

This was the only time I had ever experienced direct physical torment from a demon. It had been a royal battle. The Lord was letting the devil do a little stabbing with his pitchfork to make me get off my behind and get going. I packed my bags and hitched to Syracuse.

Returning to the fold

With my tail between my legs, I knocked on the door at the Syracuse colony, hoping that if I acted like humble pie the brethren would treat me as a comrade. I wasn't received with open arms, but first was counseled with by one of the brothers, who informed that God was purging the ranks of half-hearted disciples. Ozem and Tilon, the couple in charge of the colony, told me that eight or nine other people left the colony after I did. (Looking back now, considering how he liked to crack, the whip, it's a wonder they didn't all leave.) They decided to put me on a probationary trial period. They laid hands on me, prayed over me, tried to determine if I was really penitent, and gave me a new Bible name, Magbish.

A New Name

I didn't like the sound of Magbish, sounded feminine, like Maggie, sounded like Magpie, a bird. But it was a necessary part of my catharsis, to accept the new name Magbish was a man of a family that came out of exile to help rebuild Jerusalem,, so it seemed appropriate for me.

Shortly after I rejoined the COG, we got a letter from Moses David called"802 South." In this letter he urged that half of his followers should start moving South for the winter. We started some fund-raising so we would have traveling money. We sold our "New Improved Truth" newspapers on the streets and in the suburbs.

A brother named Ishmael and I hitched to New York City and started selling our leaflets there. We stayed in the basement of a street mission and spent most of our time out on the streets. There was a wall hanging in the basement that we felt the Lord put there for our encouragement. It said, "Called Children of God and truly we are" After we wore out our welcome at the mission, we slept in some rather unlikely places including the back porch of a Quaker Church in Flashing, a subway station in Queens, and the lobby at Sheraton-La Guardia.

Lost guitar

One day while waiting for the subway train to come, a midget girl came over to me and started asking me about my guitar. She was ranting and raving about my guitar. It was just like the one she was going to get when she saved up enough money. She told me playing a guitar would really make her life exciting and put her in heaven. I warned her not to have too great expectations from a guitar, or expect it to provide supreme happiness, as all her happiness would wither away if she lost the guitar or had it stolen or broken.

I boarded the train, got busy talking to some kids, and absent-mindedly exited at my stop. Fifteen minutes later I noticed that my guitar was missing, I was pretty upset about it at first, but I knew God often tests us with the advice we give to others, and judges us out of our own mouths. I must have left the guitar on the train.

Escape from Manhattan

Ishmael and I kept trying to leave Manhattan, we were getting sick of it. On December 19 I happened to be reading Judges 19. We were in the YMCA lobby in Flushing. The story was about a man who went to a strange town to retrieve his wife, who had gone home to daddy. He kept trying to leave town with his wife, but everyday the father-in-law persuaded him to stay one more day. This reminded us of how we kept trying to leave New York, but kept getting delayed. Finally the man gets away from his father-in-law and is traveling back home with his wife. They are looking for a place to stay one evening, and they are not too keen on staying in a place where they would be treated as second-class foreigners. Finally an old man comes out on the street, befriends them, and proves to be an able host.

I am really into numerology and that day provided a good example of it. Judges 19 fit the day December 19th perfectly. The old man came into the picture in verse 16. Our old man came into the picture at the sixteenth hour of the day. We were sitting in the YMCA, just wondering where to go on a cold wintry day. He sauntered over and asked about our welfare and bought us a meal.

A couple days later Ishmael and I were sitting in the lobby at the New York Port Authority. We had been witnessing to some of the passer-byes in the station, I had lost my toothbrush, so I decided to walk down the lobby and buy another one at a drug store. In the hallway I saw a kid with a "Warning Tract" in his hand. Looking up, I saw another COG brother. He told me his name was Apollos, he had just come down from the Boston colony and was going to spend the Christmas holidays out at his folks place near Hicksville, Long Island. He invited us out there and told us we could probably stay with his uncle. I had been wanting to go out to Long Island, and this was our open door. We promised Apollos that we would be out in a day or two.

We hitched out to his place and stayed with his uncle. We sold our "New Improved Truths" in the local area, raised a few dollars, spent our Christmas with Apollos, and hitched back to Syracuse on a cold, January day. We never did make it to South America like we had hoped to.

In the spring of 73 the overseers were thinking of making me and another single brother the leaders of the Syracuse colony, so they could go elsewhere. On a trial week of leadership, while the main shepherd was out of town, I took charge too much instead of working on an equal basis with the other brother. They were upset about it, even though it was just a misunderstanding on my part as to how they wanted us to work together. They demoted me for not obeying leadership properly.


I had been in Syracuse for a long time, so the shepherds started looking around for another place for me to go. There was an opening in Knoxville, Tennessee, so I made a short trip home and went witnessing with a brother to Elmira, N.Y., where we solicited the newspapers to do a scoop on us. Anything to get our message out.

Two days of hitch-hiking an Interstate 81 brought me to Knoxville, Tennessee. Here I bumped into Apollos, the brother from Long Island who had been so hospitable. We became good friends.

Meeting Beth

At the end of May, a girl named Bethlehem Fountain came to Knoxville from the Kentucky farm. I didn't get the chance to know her very well, being so busy with my provisioning work, but I thought she looked like a beetle, with her eyes made bigger by her thick-lensed glasses. She also had sexy legs and a nice personality, so I decided to ask the shepherd if I could use her to help with provisioning and phone work. They consented.

One morning while relaxing, Beth came to see me and share some verses with me that she had been memorizing, I had my Bible on the table and casually opened it. My eyes fell on a verse in Psalms 128, "Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house thy children like olive plants round about thy table." The verse didn't sink in immediately, but later that day the Lord seemed to say, "what do you think I showed you that verse for?" Beth went with me on some of my provisioning errands. We communicated well, as though there was a bond between us that we hadn't built ourselves.

One evening I was praying about our situation. I was getting desperate for some revelation from the Lord. He told me to read Proverbs 18. The verse that stood out said "whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing and obtaineth favor of the Lord." He also showed me that I was 21 years and 21 days old when I met Beth. Since 21 is divisible by 7, God's number, I felt this was another confirmation that great things were amaking.

Eventually, I got around to talking to Beth about my feelings. I explained that I believed God wanted us to be together. She could sense the same thing, but the fact that we hadn't known each other very long made her apprehensive. The shepherds decided to separate us for awhile to help us sort out our true feelings for each other. Beth was sent to one of the COG refuge farms about an hour's drive east of Knoxville. We wrote letters to each other and were able to discover that we really missed each other. Eventually we were put on a trial period, meaning a time of approximately six weeks in which we spent most of our waking hours together. The trial period enabled us to determine how well we were suited to each other in our day-to-day life.

Beth's Story

Beth had joined the COG a year before, in August 1972. Born and raised in a Presbyterian family near Cleveland, Ohio, she was the youngest of four children. Her mother had wanted three children, and her third child was born only a few minutes before Beth. Beth had a rough childhood, she had trouble making friends, was a little slow at school, and had emotional problems. As a young girl, she liked going to church, but when she became a teenager, it was quite a chore for her parents to get their kids interested in getting up on Sunday mornings.

Beth went to Kent State after high school to study art. One weekend she took a trip to Canada with some friends. When she returned to campus, she was alarmed to see the National Guard and Army tanks all over the place. This was the historic Kent State shootings.

Beth got into drugs at Kent State, and her grades suffered. She finally dropped out of school and went to Colorado with her boyfriend. They rented an apartment in Boulder, but it proved to be under heated, so Beth caught pneumonia. She flew back home, recovered, and then went to New York. She stayed with her sister and got sick with hepatitis. This tied her up in bed for eight months. After she recovered, she enrolled at Cuyahoga Community College and continued to study art. Her folks weren't too happy that she had a black boyfriend, so she finally was faced with a choice of getting rid of him or moving out. She opted for the latter, and stayed with different people.

Eventually things became unbearable. Beth's health wasn't good; she had few friends, little money, no job, problems at home, and a burdensome dependency on drugs, cigarettes and the charity of others.

The Legend of the Sleeping Apple

One night she wrote a little story called "The Legend of the Sleeping Apple." Fourscore and seven seeds ago the apple got its start in the world. Seemed like things weren't going to good on "Planet Apple," it was a place, of chaos, confusion, and hate. People were trying to wake the apple up and warn it about the sad state of its existence, but the apple slept on. Finally someone sends a message out from the apple to another planet called Hope. Hope sends a spaceship down, the apple falls from the tree, rots, and all the evil disappears. The last two words of the story are "The Beginning."

Beth was like that apple that night, only hope remained. She was at the end of her rope, only hope kept her going. She asked God to do something.

The next day she went to the mall on Public Square in downtown Cleveland, She was approached by some COG disciples who expressed concern for her, and asked her how she was doing. With tears in her eyes, she told them how messed up her life was. After saying a prayer for salvation, she followed the Coggies home to their colony. She was amazed by the smiles, hugs, kisses and general harmony at the COG colony. She thought she had walked into heaven and asked someone to pinch her to make sure what she was seeing wasn't a dream. She had found the people from the planet of Hope.


Beth was a pretty sick girl when she first walked into the COG colony. She had lost her glasses and someone had to lead her around by the hand. She had diarrhea, her period, and was throwing up everything she ate. Finally the elders of the colony gathered around her bed and prayed that God would heal her, Beth was getting pretty uptight about being sick, and she got so mad at God that she screamed out "Damn it God, heal me!" Suddenly she felt a wave of warm heat pass through her whole body and heal her sicknesses. Everyone in the room could feel the presence of God's Spirit, and started praising God.

Up until this time, meeting the Coggies was the best thing that ever happened to Beth. She listened eagerly as the Coggies read her scriptures, Mo letters, and Bible classes. She learned how to go witnessing and live for the Lord, She went home to see her folks, and they listened to her testimony and were so glad that their prayers were answered. She was the prodigal daughter returning to the Christian faith from which she had fled, albeit a somewhat different faith than traditional Presbyterianism.

The Mod Squad Incident

One of Beth's most interesting experiences in the COG was when a member of the Cleveland Police's Mod Squad approached her on the street and asked her what she was doing with "that group." One of the brothers wouldn't let the officer talk to her alone, but he kept reaching out trying to tug her by the arm and get her away from her fellow Coggies. Beth is smiling and trying to explain to the COG brother that she knows the officer and no harm would come if she talked to him alone. The officer keeps reaching out, trying to grab Beth, but something keeps him from his purpose. Suddenly Beth notices a guy dressed in white off to her left, everything was white, shirt, suit coat, pants, and necktie. He was smiling at Beth, had dark hair and a medium build, and looked Oriental. The cop started freaking out, apparently getting some pretty heavy vibes. Frustrated in his purpose, he leaves the scene.

Beth asked the COG brother if he had seen the guy in white. He had. By this time the guy in white had vanished, so they excitedly concluded he must have been an angel, perhaps a guardian angel.

After a time in Columbus, Beth was transferred to Cincinnati, where she helped take care of babies. One day while in Cincy, she was on an all-day witnessing excursion with three other disciples. They were instructed to provision their own supper. They had no luck trying to get a free meal for four people at several restaurants, so they decided to try a bar and ask for some money. A prostitute got pretty mad at them for asking for a handout and didn't hesitate to show them to the door and pointed to a bar down the street, "Go down there. There's a lady in there that might help you; she thinks she's God."

Mary Magdalene and the Coggies

Mary Magdalene was a Christian woman who quoted the Bible, spoke in tongues, and performed sexual favors for money. She wasn't too happy about her profession, but tried to make the best of it. She gave the Coggies thirty dollars and said "The Lord told me to take thirty dollars out of my wallet this morning. He told me that I was going to meet someone that needed it." Beth gave her some tracts and Truth newspapers, which she jokingly promised to pass out under the covers. Mary Magdalene was sad because she found few Christians to fellowship with, most of them being the goody-goody type. As I said before, she wasn't too happy about her profession, but felt that that was what God wanted her to do. God has all types of people who call Him father, and some of these down and outers seem so much humbler and nearer to their Father's house that those who are proud of their righteousness and make their boast in their ability to keep the Mosaic law.

Waiting to Get Married

Beth went to the Kentucky farm for a while. In May 1973 she was transferred to Knoxville, where she and I met. After we decided to get married, we were put on a trial period for about six weeks. We were put on a road team with our home base in Atlanta. We traveled throughout Alabama and Tennessee, passing out our Mountain Maids, Green Paper Pigs, Mo Views the News, Sacrificial Lambton on the Altar of Watergate, Brother Sun, Gadaffe's Third World, and the "New Nation News."

It was rough living on the road. There were eight or nine of us living on one red bus. I longed for a smaller operation free from the ponderous bulk of trying to coordinate all of us into an efficient team of missionaries. I had always been happiest when I was with only one or two other disciples. We could spend so much more of our time witnessing, instead of planning meals, driving around town, and dropping off two disciples here, two disciples there, and then going back two hours later to pick them up. Plus it was difficult and time consuming to try to provision a free meal for eight people. I could see that Beth was not growing too well spiritually, so I was determined that we were going to be striking out on our own, just the two of us. This would help us to learn to listen to God for ourselves and give us the responsibility of making our own decisions.

By this time Moses David was saying the same thing. One letter OLD BOTTLES, showed how much of the COG leadership were resting on their laurels, getting so set in their ways that the new people couldn't really infuse any new ideas or tactics into the Revolution. NEW BOTTLES was a sequel, stressing the fact that we all need to change. COLONIES, CONFERENCES, BANDS, AND BUSES, pointed out that the COG was involved in some things that created nothing more than trouble, hot air, and endless expenses for useless vehicles. (How I hated to continue riding that Red Bus after that. I felt like such a hypocrite being a hearer of the Word and not a doer.) I was getting to the point where I didn't want any new Mo letters when we weren't obeying the ones we already had.

One of the answers to the ineffectiveness of such a large organization was for individual disciples to launch out on their own, witnessing as they went, send in weekly reports, and get their literature from the colonies. Very few disciples were actually taking the initiative to do this. The local leadership did not encourage it either. If all the underlings decided to hit the road, there would be no one to wash the dishes, kiss the elders' feet, or jump when they snapped their fingers.

With the encouragement I needed found in Mo's letters Old Bottles, New Bottles, Let My People Go, and the "Declaration of Independence." I knew we would be leaving the nest as soon as the Lord gave the signal.

Leaving the camp

Our signal came on September 8th, 1973. This was the day before Beth's birthday. We were living in tents at Lake Lanier, about an hour's drive north of Atlanta, at the time. We had been there for about a month and a half; the weather was getting colder. That evening Beth and I had a vision of a book, something like a diary. It was a large book, the pages were turning, finally stopping at a place about half way through the book where the pages were blank. Our past had been written in, now it was time for us to take the pen in hand, write our own ticket, and launch out by faith. The Lord gave us a verse from Hebrews 13. "Let us go therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his; reproach." God wanted us to leave the COG camp and carry our cross alone.

We had a burden to go up north to Ohio or New York, so we told the local shepherds about our burden. Only the district shepherd seemed to understand what we were doing. One of the under-shepherds thought we were backsliding, as did some others of the rank and file. A few of the other malcontents praised us, knowing that we were leaving in God's will and that we were leaving because of the increasing stratification and institutionalization of the COG. We didn't have that much say so about where we would work, or what kind of ministry we could have, but we were herded around like cattle according to the personal whims of the overseers

I also had a burden to write a book about my experiences in the COG and I knew I would never get a chance to write the book if I stayed in the organization.

Around October 1st, we left the Atlanta colony. The shepherds did not take our Mo letters away from us; they knew we cherished them and would read them. We promised to send in reports, keep passing out COG literature, and follow God wherever He led. We were now outside the camp, the multitudes were behind us, ahead of us was a whole new life of challenges and opportunities. Now we were going to climb mountains, and no one was going to stop us.