Excerpt from Strange Fire, unpublished manuscript by Mick Bysshe. Copyrighted ©1977-2005 by Mcke-Nord and Associates. Used by permission.
SECTION TWO: PERSONAL EXPERIENCES WITH THE COG
CHAPTER SEVEN: Inside the Camp
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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 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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.