Thomas Mestyanek

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Thomas J. Mestyanek (American; born 1947) is the Finance Manager of The Family International since the 1970s. His aliases include Shemariah Books, Elliot, and Bobby. His place of residence is a closely guarded secret (see: Category:Secrecy).

Mr. Mestyanek joined the Children of God in July 1970. Prior to joining the cult, we worked as an accountant in Los Angeles, California for over four years. He graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a degree in Accounting in 1968.

His story

My name is Elliot, formerly Shemariah Books, and I joined the Family in 1970. Before joining, I had graduated from university and was an accountant for a large C.P.A. firm in the U.S. known as Ernst and Ernst and now known as Ernst and Young, one of the largest C.P.A. firms in the United States. After joining the Family, I began keeping books in 1971 at TSC. I worked at the Office of the Americas in Texas in 1973, at the London International Office in 1974-75, for the Northern European and then Southern European Prime Ministry Offices in 1975-77, and for WS since 1978.

Ever since getting saved during my last year of college I wanted to serve the Lord, and after joining the Family and several years of witnessing and litnessing even while doing office work for the Family, the Lord called me to full-time service using my talents behind the scenes.

I know what it’s like to live under an oppressive leader. During the early years, I spent much time living under Jethro’s leadership, and I truly know what it is to be oppressed in the spirit by a carnal-minded “hireling,” so to speak. In 1976 I began living with Peter and his wife Damaris [now called Abi] and their family, and I lived with them with Peter as my shepherd until he went to Mama and Peter’s house in 1979. Peter has been the overseer of my ministry since that time, so I have had constant monthly communication with him since 1979. I’ve met Mama on several occasions and lived with her for a brief period of about one month in 1982, and have visited several times since then.

I also lived with James Penn (Phil) for about 10 years, roughly from about 1985 through 1994. I know the difference between Peter and James, and the kinds of people they are.

Never in my 24 years of close personal contact with Peter did he show himself to be any of what I’ve read James describe in his letter. There was only one time, in 1976, before Peter went to Dad and Mama’s house, that he yelled at me for getting in an argument with my wife while we were out witnessing and becoming a bad sample to the sheep. And through the years he has apologized to me for getting so upset and yelling and told me he was sorry. Peter is in no sense of the term oppressive, closed-minded, or a person who treats people badly. He is, in fact, the exact opposite of these terms, and in my 24 years of knowing Peter personally, I can’t think of a more loving, concerned shepherd who listens to people and not only listens, but changes his opinion and adjusts his attitude after listening.

Earlier this year I was at a meeting with Mama and Peter and several members and shepherds of WS Homes. At the beginning of that meeting, Peter outlined the four or five points he’d like to discuss during that important meeting, and asked if we could all try to stick to these points as our time was limited, the number of days we were meeting was limited, and we needed to try to cover as much as possible before it was time for us to return to our Homes.

Shortly after making this request, one person at the meeting raised his hand and brought up a point that he felt was important but which was not on the agenda. Peter tried to answer that point and move on. But the person was not satisfied and raised his hand and brought up the point again. Peter tried to consider what the person was saying, we all discussed it briefly, then we tried to move on to the main agenda points. This person raised his hand a 3rd, a 4th time, and then after about the 5th time of insisting that we cover his point in more depth, I myself was pretty frustrated that we couldn’t move on to our very important agenda points, so I raised my hand and requested that we shelve that topic and move on. Peter responded to me that, no, this was an important point and we needed to discuss it.

Peter listened to this person’s point in full and completely changed his mind and our agenda for the meeting to let this person air his point of view, and in fact, the point became a cornerstone of some of the changes in store for WS in the era of action. Rather than squelch the person, Peter in fact allowed his own mind to be changed as to what should be discussed during this important meeting, and dropped his own pre-prayed-about agenda to accommodate another person’s point of view. This is the Peter I know and the one who is the shepherd and king of our Family.

At another meeting I was at, there were representatives from NACRO, EURCRO and SACRO, and we were discussing administrational changes that would affect all the CRO areas of the world. At the beginning of this meeting Peter cautioned us all to be careful in our comments, suggestions, and ideas, because we didn’t have representatives from ASCRO and PACRO there, and that we needed to be sensitive to the concerns of these areas too.

By the end of that meeting we came to some tentative conclusions, and I remember Peter saying, “I dare say if CRO representatives from PACRO and ASCRO were here, we would have come to different conclusions.” The conclusions we came to were not final, this was a preliminary meeting and this meeting was going to be followed up by subsequent meetings covering the same point but including representatives from all areas of the world. But what Peter was trying to get through to us was that our conclusions were biased because they did not include points of view from these other areas.

That’s the way Peter is. He is anointed to be unselfish and to look at other people’s points of view, and he is keenly aware of the fact that in our own selfish, carnal minds we naturally represent ourselves, often not considering others’ points of view. He has isolated this as a pitfall of human nature and is keenly aware of its false leadings, and he tries his best to get the rest of us to see this so that we will be more open-minded representatives of all facets of our Family.

This is one thing I came to see very clearly during these meetings. Mama and Peter told us they wanted to turn more responsibility over to us and to others, but their biggest concern was whether we were mature enough to make decisions that didn’t represent what we wanted to do or the way we saw things, but rather were decisions that we prayed about and had gotten the Lord’s unbiased, unselfish mind about that included the needs of everyone.

He gave the examples of us shooting off the top of our heads “cheap ideas.” He told us that when he did the business for Dad, he could never shoot off cheap ideas. He had to pray about all of his business suggestions, write up a complete, prayed-about report to Dad, and then submit it to Dad. He cautioned us against making unprayed-about, biased decisions that didn’t include the points of view of all areas of the Family.

I remember his words. They were: “We are a government, and as such we have to consider the needs of our minorities!” His comment had nothing to do with nationality, but everything to do with remembering all the constituents in our government. He went on to explain that if we were going to propose something, that it was our responsibility to be sure that we considered how our idea would affect all aspects of the Family.

He said that, for example, let’s say we wanted to get out a new book, but we didn’t have enough funds from the tithes to produce it, and we shoot off the top of our head, “Hey, we can sell this book for $5 to each Home and they’d all be eager to get one and that would pay for it.” “Well,” he said, “I dare say that the Homes in Russia couldn’t afford it and just wouldn’t be able to get one.” He said this as an example of how we need to consider the Homes in Russia when coming up with ideas. We need to realize they are poor Homes, they usually have no support from their field, they live in dire situations, and when throwing out ideas we need to consider their particular situation. He said it didn’t mean we couldn’t do certain things just because they weren’t conducive for some minority or area or part of the Family, but that we needed to consider the minorities before throwing out ideas. Cheap, unprayed-about, biased ideas were just that: cheap, unprayed-about, and biased.

The same went for single parents, married couples, SGAs, FGAs, children, adults, teens, all the various facets and faces of the Family, the various strata shuffled a hundred different ways. If we were to be in responsible positions, it was our responsibility to consider all of this before making decisions. That was our responsibility as representatives of the Family. And this was his and Mama’s main concern in turning over responsibility and authority to others: Were those people really going to be open-minded, concerned individuals who took into serious consideration the needs of all strata of the Family?

From those meetings I left with this as the biggest challenge to my own personal spiritual growth: Am I really making unbiased decisions? Am I really considering the needs of others before my own? What kind of decisions am I making? Am I really making the kind of unbiased, thoroughly prayed-through decisions the Lord wants me to make?

This, my dear Family, is the Peter that is your king and the shepherd of the Family.-And Mama is the same, in fact more so. I do not know another person instead of Peter that I would rather entrust the business and administration and finances of the Family to. Peter is unselfish, open-minded, and has the concerns of the minorities as well as the overall vision of all the Family at heart. He has sacrificed his own personal concerns and laid his life on the altar in order to be what the Lord wants him to be. I am so desperately thankful to the Lord for giving us someone who was willing to sacrifice his desires for us. I have seen Peter change from those early days of 1976 and sacrifice to the Lord his own desires and needs and points of view, in order to grow and become the kind of person the Lord wanted him to be. I have always said to others I know that I do not know another person that has changed in his personal views as much as Peter.

On the other hand, I lived with James for approximately ten years without a break-ten consecutive years. It’s amazing to me that people like Priebe and James (James Penn) put themselves out to others as if they were top leaders and shepherds in WS. James was anything but a leader. He lived in my Home at that time, and while being an intelligent, thinking person, he was at the same time rather carnal-minded, never desiring or getting enough Word time, always having his head buried in the newspapers and worldly business, and constantly having to have his socks pulled up to get back on track with the Lord.

In fact, you can read about James yourself in “On Guard” (ML #1377), where Dad pinpointed his carnal nature years ago for the bad influence he was in dragging Peter away from the way the Lord wanted Peter to be.

James had a talent, and that was literature, history, and the adept manipulation of words to make a point. He perfected the use of metaphors, was able to explain something succinctly, and give word pictures to enhance his point. When James was turned towards the Pillar and doing his best to follow the Lord, the Lord used this talent and the Lord’s Spirit came through in his writings. But James has now turned away from the Pillar. He still has the same talents. He still has the ability to use metaphors and word pictures to enhance his speech. But in my opinion he no longer has the Lord’s Spirit.

He wields the words of his mind adeptly, but skill with words that don’t contain the truth is not skill at all, just folly. He is joined to his own mind. Let him alone.[1]


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