John and Amelia’s story
NO LONGER CHILDREN
” It was all so subtle”. John explained. “In 1973 I had quite recently become a committed Christian when I went with a group from our church to a rock festival at Birkenshaw. There I met a group of young people who seemed to be really zealous Christians. They were actively telling everyone about their faith, and I had been feeling that the Christians in our church were a bit lethargic. This was a real challenge to me, so I just sent my father a note to say I was going with a group and never returned home again”.
The following day John went with the young people to Bournemouth, which as he had not been more than sixty miles form home, was a great adventure for the young teenager. Promises of being “a missionary”, and suggestions of a far away countries lured him on.
Johns childhood had been a bit rocky. His parents had lived with his grandfather until he remarried. Then they struggled to make their own home, but the marriage was always full of tension until his mother left home when John was just a teenager. After leaving school he took an apprenticeship at a local engineering firm, but recession meant he had to go on to a four-day week. One Friday a Jehovahs Whitens had called which called to regular visits to his home as John became more and more interested. His early church involvement had ceased when he was eleven years old but his deep desire to find God was renewed by his visits. The J.Ws teaching challenged him, but left him with no assurance of peace with God.
Soon after this John met some young people from Operation Mobilisation, who encouraged him to go to a mission at the local Brethren church. There he heard how he could find forgiveness of sins and peace with God. He made his commitment and started witnessing about his faith immediately. It was not long after this that he had his encounter with The Children of God, which led him at a dead end for over six years, nearly wrecked his life.
At first, in the commune at Bournemouth, he learned some important discipline, which he had been lacking. He also started studying the bible and getting out onto the streets “witnessing”. It all seemed so wonderful! After a few months in Ireland he found himself in a commune in Barcelona, and then moving onto other communes in Spain and Portugal. He was taught that the children of God were the only true Christians, and that all the others were hypocrites like the Scribes and Pharisees of the Bible days. The travel, linked to the elitism all appealed to his ego, and he really felt good.
As time went by he was told about David Berg, God’s end-time prophet, who was the leader of the organisation. He would send literature for the group to use. Some would be for public distribution; some would be for leaders only, while some would be for the committed members. Gradually John was introduced to literature, which advocated freedom of sexual relationships. It was not long before this was being practised openly, and the girls were being taught that it was alright to use sex to entice people into the group, or to gain favours from people in high positions, who were being asked to clamp down on their activities by unhappy parents.
Like all Children of God, John was out on the streets much of the time trying to distribute literature for “Donation to their missionary work”. About 12% was sent to David berg, 38% to the Head Office to produce the literature. The other 50% was used to maintain the meagre existence of the group.
While in Portugal, John was introduced to a young lady, who he managed to woo into the group, and although they did not have marriages, she was considered to be his wife. They both admitted to feeling very humiliated at having to go out virtually begging for their food. Times were hard for the group, and a few of them was sent out to look after themselves. The young lady recalls sleeping in fields while seven months pregnant. She also recalls with pain the horrors of being told to sleep with other men in the community which resulted in her having syphilis. She became very unhappy, and the leaders were talking about sending her away. She knew her parents would not want her back with a child so she felt trapped.
Eventually, they found themselves on their own, awaiting the birth of their child, struggling to live by selling the literature. After one particularly cold day John became very ill and neither of them were able to give out literature for about a week, so they had to live on the small reserve of money from the previous week which should have been sent for more literature. When there was no more to sell they were penniless. She decided to approach a local social worker that suggested that they should marry and move to England.
They were so destitute and disillusioned that they decided to take this root. Amazingly Portuguese and British authorities sorted out the paper work and paid their fares. The British club in Oporto also gave them some help from their emergency fund. After arriving back in Britain they managed to find some poor accommodation and within two months John had found a job. They were so worn out by their experiences that they found it very difficult to adjust to normal life. John, particularly, found it hard to accept the responsibilities of family life. “I was in an emotional mess.” John said, “I just did not know how to cope with everything.” Just before leaving Portugal they had met an evangelical Christian who had helped them rethink their position about their real Christian faith and once back in Britain they had found an Independent Methodist Church to go to on their estate. After a couple of years John came to a crisis point in his life. He could not cope with work and would frequently lose his temper at home. Things were very difficult. The doctor prescribed tablets, but John knew that his problem was spiritual. They found a lot of help and support from a local Charismatic Church and gradually they have felt God healing their wounds.
John was able to get a job as a gardener at the local university. He also studied in the evenings gaining good results in 4 0levels, 3 Alevels, an intermediate diploma in Spanish and a full diploma in Portuguese!
They now have three grown up sons, and are very active in their present church, and in their local community. They have been able to overcome their problems; she is coming to terms with the anger she felt at being used by the “Children of God”. They are concerned for all those who are still trapped where they were. They still feel concerned for people like Celeste, the daughter of another ex-member, and many others that are still locked into the system of abuse. “It looked so attractive at the start.” Their advice to young people is to be on their guard if they meet any such people with their attractive offers. Their prayer for people like Celeste is that they find their way out to freedom and a real experience of Jesus Christ.
Since this story was published Celste has since left the cult with her daughter.