This is the story of The Trees Community, a semi monastic Christian group that left NYC on a bus in 1971 on a journey of faith. When most of our money burned up the first night, we relied on God for all our needs and he provided! We traveled the United States growing in our new faith, finding a ministry in music and eventually becoming artists in residence at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Seven years, seven "stories" are woven into this amazing journey.

Hutterites: There shall be Showers of Blessings - Community Farm of the Brethren

There shall be showers of blessings
This is the promise of love
There shall be seasons refreshing
Sent from the savio
r above
Showers of blessings this is the promise we need
Mercy drops round us are falling
But for the showers we plead.
(from a Hutterite hymn)

Working in the Noodle Factory at the Community Farm of the Brethren

It was 3:00 in the afternoon of May 28, 1971, when we pulled into the Community Farm of the Brethren, a sprawling Hutterite farming complex in Bright, Ontario. As we drove up the long gravel road off Highway 61, small groups of women were walking through the fields wearing long full-length skirts, their hair pinned up underneath headscarves. Several bearded men dressed in long sleeved shirts were leaning against the front porch of an old stone house. As we stepped off the bus, they walked up to greet us. It was teatime on the farm so they invited us to come in for tea.

It was not until later we discovered the Hutterites wouldn't even have invited us in except that they’d received a vision from the Lord shortly before our arrival. They were praying about a recent division in their community (more on this later) and asked the Lord how they could get the harvest in with only half a workforce. The Lord told them through prophecy: "Do not despise strangers because they may be angels unawares." We arrived the very next day – an answer to their prayers.

As Stephanie recently recalls: We gained so much from being loved by the Hutterites...I liken it to their "Fresh Air" program, you know, where you take kids out of the city for the summer and clean them up, love them, and show them a different way to live. Here we were hippies who left the city but the city hadn't left us till we left the farm.

With our long hair and bus painted with admonitions from scripture, we must have looked as strange to the Hutterites as they did to us. As had become our tradition, we gave the farm community a loaf of homemade bread but they topped that by giving us two loaves of their homemade bread, three packages of homemade noodles, and two-dozen fresh eggs! While the men were hustled off to meet with the Hutterite elders, we women were given a whirlwind tour of the farm complex. It was very impressive! There was an egg noodle factory, a massive barn with hundreds of egg laying chickens in wire cages, apple and cherry orchards, a wide fenced area with hundreds of honking geese, hay and grain fields, large plots of vegetables and strawberries, and a chicken processing building. Wow!

Hutterite family housing units

Next, we were shown their living quarters. Each family had a room in a row of motel-like housing units that looked neat but rather austere. The old stone farmhouse stood in the middle like an ancient sentinel guarding over the rest of the farm. The Hutterites looked so much like the Amish that it was surprising to see gasoline tractors and mechanized farm equipment. Seeing our puzzled faces, they explained they were different from the Amish and gave us a full history of their community.

The Community Farm of the Brethren was started in 1931 by three different men: Alexander, Fred Kemp and the late Julius Kubasek. They founded the community with a vision to live as the original Christians did. They started with several families that came over from Germany and grew to over 100 people and 16 families by the time we arrived. Originally, they farmed only 375 acres but by 1971, their land stretched to over 1,200 acres. My first impression was that they were kind, simple, salt-of-the-earth people who welcomed us with wide smiles and a refreshing openness.

After tours and introductions, we parked our bus in their apple orchard and joined the brethren for dinner in the dining hall and then for the evening worship service. As I sat in the chapel that first evening, it seemed refreshingly quaint to listen to the nasally women’s voices mixed in with the men singing the lovely old-fashioned hymns that resonated straight to my heart like Bringing in the Sheaves and Blessed Quietness:

Joy is flowing like a river since the Comforter has come,
He abides with us forever, makes the trusting heart his home
Blessed quietness, holy quietness, what assurance in my soul
On the stormy seas he speaks peace to me
While the billows cease to roll
. [From a Hutterite hymn]

The very next morning Naomi, Sarah, Claudia and I were given blouses and plain skirts to replace our Indian madras hippie style skirts. It seems the elders had agreed to allowing us to work with the brethren over the summer. And what an experience it was to be! I was introduced to a work ethic that was so strong I am still influenced by it today. In their Hutterite community, everyone had a job to do and each member worked very, very hard at everything they did. In fact, it was to become a source of frustration to the some of the Hutterite women that the women of our group were too “lazy” as we struggled to match the intensity of the work these women put forth every day.

I have a vivid memory of one hot summer afternoon when Stephanie, Claudia, Naomi, Sarah and I helped clean the dining hall. I can still picture lines of women dressed in full skirts down on that hard floor on their hands and knees scrubbing the vast dining hall totally by hand. It was so hot that sweat kept dripping into my eyes as I scrubbed the never-ending length of floor that seemed stretch to the horizon. I can still feel my aching knees and back as I worked my way slowly along, wringing out the steaming water from my rag as I dragged a sudsy bucket along beside me. I worked beside lines of other Hutterite women who chattered on happily, oblivious to my sullen discomfort. Wiping away the sweat tickling my nose, I noticed I was way behind the Hutterite women who efficiently worked circles around me!

There were some clear divisions between women’s chores and men’s chores. Some jobs were shared by all (such as working in the noodle factory) while others were not. The women worked in the kitchen canning, baking and preparing meals or afternoon tea. Women cleaned the houses and communal kitchen and dining room, sewed clothing and took care of the children. Men plowed the fields, baled hay or drove the tractors.

A Hutterite woman sorting baby chics

We parked the bus, pitched our tents in the apple orchard and settled in to our new life.
Over the next months, I worked with the brethren learning all kinds of new skills: packing noodles in the noodle factory, processing chickens, helping stuff pillows with goose feather down, weeding and harvesting crops from the gardens, fields and orchards. The men either worked in the factories, farmed, rotated planting or harvesting, or did other farming activities. Often they sang hymns while they worked which seemed to lighten the load.

Farming took some adjusting for us city folks and there were some humorous surprises along the way. David Lynch describes one disasterous situation that occurred when the men were collecting eggs in the chicken barn:

"One morning the brethren announced that the busmen would be given charge of the chicken house. Wowie! This huge barn like structure had three floors, full to the rafters with chicken “machines”! Rows and rows of wire cages with four chickens crammed and squawking in each little cubicle. Running the length of the floor under the cages was a long outer trough, which "magically" collected their eggs.
There was a huge heavy wagon-like cart that carried the feed for the birds and also a big sorting cart/collector wagon for the eggs. We'd start off on the top floor and run up and down the aisles collecting all the eggs on the floor. At the far end of the barn there was a large flat platform elevator cage with wires that you pulled to stop and go - like in an old New York loft only bigger. We'd steer our cart of eggs into the thing and yank the wire and very slowly descend to the next floor and repeat the process and then to the first floor and do the same thing.

The routines of feeding and collecting had become fairly established, and we Busfolk had begun to lobby on behalf of the chickens against what to our citified sensibilities was extreme overcrowding in the cages. The stressed out birds were literally eating each other in the frustration of such confinement. The farm geese and ducks on the other hand had palatial open barns to roam in and large fields surrounding the barns. But the chickens were literally cooped up in prison-like cells. This resulted in the cannibalistic behavior and inevitably to not infrequent ex-chickens.

The brethren maintained that it was economics that dictated four birds to a cage but we agitated for change and eventually through attrition and natural selection/death we were able to decrease the population to two chickens per cage. And it seemed evident to us that production and overall quality of the eggs increased and the health of the birds improved substantially.

One morning after Ship had done a feeding with the big heavy feeder cart, Ariel and I were also making our egg collection at the same time. Usually Ship would have finished the top and be down on the other floors ahead of us. So, we had all finished the top floor together, the feeding, and the gathering and a bumper egg crop too! We entered the elevator together and it creaked loudly as the feed wagon joined us aboard!

Ship closed the bars and pulled the wire for the second floor. Nothing happened. There was no motion. Then suddenly there was a weird sound and the gears groaned and began to slip. They screeched and the elevator car seemed to lurch and then began a somewhat rapid decent! We could not stop it on the second floor and it was obvious there was a fairly serious problem! It wasn't hurtling down like in a movie, but definitely moving much faster than it usually did! The egg cart was itself very heavy and this day we were very full of eggs and we had the monster feed machine! Yikes! We were approaching the first floor very quickly - the elevator gears fairly screaming! It seemed inevitable there would be a bad accident.

As we approached the bottom, I remember leaping into the air as high as I could. There was a gigantic thunk and shudder and a huge cloud of dust and feathers as the egg cart lurched over - eggs flying! and then the impact shattering most all of the rest! We all were in some sort of shock, but quickly assessed that none of us was seriously hurt. Ariel and Ship said they had whiplashy sorts of feelings but were OK. I was sort of stunned. And then we could hardly believe what had just happened. The ensuing silence was followed by heartfelt prayer and then laughter!"

After false starts and many lessons learned, we settled in to farm life. From the day we arrived, one man, Julius Kubasek, stood out from all the others, befriending us and easing our transition into this farm community. He was a quiet, friendly man whose warm handshake and kind smile set me at ease immediately. Dressed in a plain shirt, work pants, a straw hat and sporting a full beard, he reminded me of a young Paul Bunyan. He soon became a stalwart friend - always there to give advice and ready to lend a hand.

Julius Kubasek

Julius had a way of connecting people and seeing the broader picture. He drove us to visit other Christian communities, invited us to tea with his wife and children, prayed with us, and often joined in our discussions and meetings. He became a good friend who counseled us and acted as a liaison between the Hutterite brethren and us. I recall one time when he invited Sarah and me to drive to the Kitchener farmer’s market with him. It was pitch black outside when I awoke at 3:00 a.m. that Saturday morning. Groggy and half asleep Sarah and I loaded up the truck with cartons of fresh eggs, vegetables, bread, egg noodles, jars of pickles and jam, and goose down pillows. Then we drove through the dark night to the market and set up in one of the booths. After everything was arranged neatly the market opened and we were free to go look around.

I was thrilled to wander around the market, enjoying the wonderful smells, sights and sounds: listening to the cadence of an auctioneer selling dairy cows, eating home-baked cookies and muffins, the smell of straw, horses and livestock, looking at all the different booths filled with colorful homemade quilts, produce, honey or baked goods. So much more exciting than shopping at Wal-Mart! After a successful day at the market, we returned to the farm. I remember thinking, I love this farm life! Good friends, honest work, good food, animals, the simple life – this is the life! (Keep Manhattan just gimmee that countryside!)

Sadly, things were not perfect on this idyllic farm. We quickly realized that within the farm complex there lived another community of Hutterites who were completely estranged from the main group. An elder named Fred Kemp led the community that we knew while the other group was led by John Entz. Either because of philosophical disagreements between elders or factional differences, when we came on the scene neither group was speaking to the other.

This division ran deep. Almost immediately, we felt called to pray and do whatever we could to intercede and try to bring healing and unity to these people. Every evening after worship there was a curious event called the “faith march.” At the end of the daily service in the chapel, everyone would stand up and process out of the chapel. Imagine all the Hutterites, men, women and children marching slowly around the other group’s building while singing hymns. We were told this strange march was done as both a form of intercession for God to “bring the others back into the fold” but I saw it as a means of trying to pressure the renegade group into compliance.

Concerned, we took a different tactic. We prayed for God to heal the division and reunite both factions. We tried to encourage both sides to, at least, start talking again. Throughout our stay, children and adults from the splinter group would clamber onto our bus to visit and we used those opportunities to discuss forgiveness, loving your neighbor, and the need for healing. At other times, Naomi and Shipen would go meet with the other group, trying to help break the impasse.

On our third day at the farm a peculiar thing happened that would set into motion a chain of events that would have serious ramifications for us later on. Eight hippies approached the brethren and asked the Hutterites if they could camp on their property by the river. The brethren said yes so the hippies set up a camp. We met and talked with the hippies and even sang a song that moved one young woman to tears, but then had nothing more to do with them. We were surprised when several weeks later the police raided their camp, and arrested them for growing marijuana and possession of a variety of drugs. Alarmed and worried for their impressionable children, the brethren closed down the remnants of their encampment.
There was a beautiful naïve and gentle quality about the Hutterite children. I was touched by their delightfully sweet nature and refreshing innocence. Sometimes they brought us gifts such as fresh picked flowers or they scampered aboard the bus with little kittens draped in their arms.

Hutterite children

Naomi seemed especially drawn to these little ones and she often spent time playing and talking with them. Whenever she was around them, I noticed it was like a weight was lifted from her. Immediately her eyes would sparkle and her whole countenance would brighten up. She seemed to have a natural rapport with children and they loved doing things with her.

As we settled into farm life, the question of John and Lucille's joining our community remained unanswered. It was time to visit them at the House of Emmaus back in Toronto so Julius kindly offered to drive us down. We arrived laden down with 12 boxes each of cake mix, pancake mix, coffee cake mix and 12 cartons of eggs. Wow! It was surprising how many changes had occurred within such a short time! The community was strong and growing. We met our friends John and Lucille and were surprised to learn that they had been called to a powerful ministry in the House of Emmaus community. Praise God! This answered our prayers and solved the previous dilemma about their joining our group. We returned to the farm relieved and renewed.

I loved life on the farm!  I could wake up in the morning and snack on fresh apples from the orchard.  I We learned how to tell one type of apple from another and that if you put a little salt on the tarter apples that are normally just for baking, it made for some delicious eating.  We learned how to shuck peas and thin out the young carrots.  I discovered the delicious taste of raw asparagus and learned how to snap the slender young shoots off just above the ground.  I also learned the hard way that there’s a limit to how many fresh cherries you should eat, no matter how tempting they are as you pick them when picking them, especially when at the top of a tall ladder leaning against a cherry tree.  (It takes too long to climb all the way down and rush to the bathroom!).  I can still recall a young Hutterite girl with long light blond hair who proudly showed me how to crack open raw eggs right into her open mouth.  “Delicious!” she insisted, “Try it!”  “Ah, no thanks, maybe some other time,” I declined. 

One thing I didn't like about the farm almost turned me into a vegetarian. I hated the “processing” of chickens for meat. The Hutterites raised geese and chickens, both for eggs and feathers and for food. Jobs were rotated so eventually it was our turn to work in the slaughter house. Ugh! Everyone pitched in and was given a different task. The chickens were moved through a sort of assembly line. First they had their throats cut in an area that was, thankfully, blocked from my view. Sometimes the brother who did this horrible job would come out, and my eyes were inevitably drawn to stare at his apron, covered in dried layers of bright red blood. When the chickens arrived at my station, my job was to break their legs by bending them back and forth and then cut them off at the knees. Yuck! Once they left my station, they proceeded to be dipped into vats of hot wax which made it easier to strip off and remove the feathers. It was grisly, gruesome work and I hated the sounds and smells in the killing room. Sometimes I had to help pluck out the remaining feathers and the smell of heated flesh was overwhelming. I much preferred working outside in the fields picking strawberries, cherries or vegetables or working in the egg noodle factory filling bags with freshly cooked and dried egg noodles.

After the day’s work, everyone gathered for evening prayers in the chapel.  The women sat on one side of the room and the men sat on the other.  Often Elder Fred would read long passages from the Bible in a kind of monotone.  Exhausted, it was often very difficult for me to keep from nodding off.  There was always the singing of old style hymns, many of them in German “Eich bein ein pilger nacht Zion’s hern” (I am a pilgrim in Zion’s Land) and others in English such as "Standing on the Promises of God my King" and "There Shall be Showers of Blessings.” After a scripture reading, those who were so moved would share a teaching, a prayer or prophecy.  This was not an unusual occurrence for us as many Christians we also visited regularly had visions or prophesies.  

One typical revelation shared by sister Margaret was of a string of chiming bells ringing in perfect harmony.  Was this a reference to future unity between their two factions or was it referring to the divisions in our own group?  Sometimes these visions were interpreted, sometimes they were not – in this case it was left open-ended.  Other visions were more mundane such as one Sister Violet shared with us one evening in which she abruptly informed us that all the “bus men” should get their hair cut short!  Wary of false prophets (and probably a little vain) it took several days of prayer and soul searching before we finally relented.  It was a major event when all Shipen, David Lynch and Roger finally got their long hair cut off and their beards neatly trimmed!  We were starting to look like real Hutterites (minus the suspenders and straw hats).  The women in our group covered their long hair with scarves and wore Hutterite skirts or dresses.  Roger and Shipen kept their beards neatly trimmed.  These were the outward manifestations of inner changes that were beginning in our group as we learned to trust these brethren and accept their wisdom and guidance.

Meals were incredible and I began to put on weight. A loud whistle would sound the call for mealtime and afternoon tea, which we ate with the brethren in the communal dining hall. The women on the farm prepared tasty home cooked meals that included delicious homemade bakery bread and jam, egg noodles, cookies, pies, roasted chicken or goose dinners, fresh vegetables and fruit, most of which came right from the farm.

Brethren’s Goose Recipes

One day we took a side trip to Daniel’s Den at 2 Elm Street, in Paris, Ontario to help them build and fix up the inside of their new Christian home. As usual, the brethren gave us two-dozen eggs, bread, and homemade jam to take as gifts for the community.

When we arrived, the head of the community Jerry met us out front. He outlined what needed to be done and we offered to help build bunk beds and the coffee bar area. However, as we entered the building, our first impression was that something didn’t seem right. There were psychedelic paintings on the walls and it looked like a hippie crash pad with B’hai people and others milling around creating confusion and disarray. Things were too loose and there was very little structure. This was all the more apparent to us since we had been facing issues of identity and lifestyle ourselves with the Hutterites. They had helped us realize how much of the “old man” we still retained and how important it was to live a clean, healthy Christian lifestyle. Having recently shed some of our hippy vestiges, we felt a burden to help other counter cultural Christians do the same.

Shipen, Ariel and David met with Jerry, their leader, asking him to clarify his purpose for this place. Was it going to be merely a social gathering place and crash pad or was it going to really be the Lord’s house? If it was going to be a House of God, then the psychedelic paintings would have to go along with the lack of structure. They stressed the importance of building on strong Christian foundations such as daily worship, prayer and advised the clearing out any physical remnants of the hippy lifestyle. Jerry agreed and we helped paint over the psychedelic murals, cleaned and did other carpentry work.

After working all day, we returned to the farm and Julius, Old Fred, and Margaret waved to us as we drove in. It felt good to be welcomed “home” and I felt a growing fondness and affection for our new friends. Margaret had become almost as close a friend to us as Julius was, and often had a kind word, helpful prayer or just was someone to talk to.

As the early summer days passed, tensions mounted again in our group. There was bickering and complaining, unease and frustration as each of us struggled with our own needs, feelings and different desires. Our struggles seemed to mirror the frustrations, misunderstandings and divisions going on between the two Hutterite camps that summer. Tensions would grow and then would dissipate for a time, especially after discussions to try to work things out between us. Then things would heat up again. Something as innocent as Claudia fainting during a service would lead to prayers to cast out a “spirit of mesmerism”, scriptural admonitions and long meetings with the Hutterite elders.

Meanwhile, Then a new problem developed when one of Julius’ daughters Johanna and David Lynch were attracted to one another, which led to further tensions and misunderstandings. Though nothing actually occurred between them, it was the appearance of impropriety that created a problem.

It began one evening as we were sitting in the bus talking with Julius. It was getting dark out and he happened to glance out the bus window at David’s tent and noticed a reflection of two people embracing, their black silhouettes surrounded by golden light leaving little to the imagination. Julius was even more surprised when shortly thereafter David and his daughter Johanna stepped out! What was going on here? Ariel attempted to pacify Julius saying, “We have no desires any more.” (Yeah, right). We immediately brought both of them into the bus and tried to hash things out. Eventually, they admitted their romantic attraction to one another and it took some time and several days of discussions to eventually nip it in the bud. My biggest worry at the time was that word would get out about their “love affair” and the whole farm would be up in arms. And we said we’ve come in the name of the Lord. Oh boy.

About mid summer, our relationship with the brethren grew strained. Possibly this was because Shipen and Naomi were meeting with members of the splinter group of Hutterites or possibley it was the fact that our bus was a magnet for their vulnerable children. I suspect that the elders were wary of our influence on their young minds (and bodies) as well. We had the potential to create rebellion among their young people since we were outsiders with worldly ways and influences, disrupting the normalcy of their lives. This was confirmed when the elders finally convened a meeting with the men in our group and delivered what amounted to an ultimatum: we should stop meddling in their affairs and that we could either “shape up or ship out.” What did that mean? It was disheartening We were hearing a similar message to what we had been told at Love-Inn: “Be quiet and don’t minister.” This was especially hard since we had come with the best intentions in the world and were entertaining ideas for a long-term involvement with the brethren.

Just after this confrontation, our men were out running an errand when they ran across a nearby farm that was for sale. Shipen was immediately reminded of Rodney Kirk’s original idea about our starting up a farm to which people could come on retreat for healing and work. It was something we had talked about before we left New York City, but had long since forgotten. Was this God’s way of pointing us toward our new mission? Was the Lord calling us to start a farm retreat ministry? We talked it over amongst ourselves and then our men met with the Hutterite elders to discuss this new possibility. Together, they drove off to look at the farm while we women remained to pray and ask God for a clear vision and confirmation that this was His ministry for us. God, what do you want of us? Are we meant to continue traveling? Are we to stay? Lord, what is your will?

The Children of God

Just when we were trying to sort all this out, things took another dramatic turn. It began innocently enough when Sarah took a short vacation to visit her family. After a few weeks, she called to say she was in Detroit visiting a group called The Children of God. She was uncertain why she was being drawn there and asked for our prayers.

Right after we hung up the phone with Sarah, we happened to meet a farm visitor named Randy. He overheard us talking about Sarah’s call and immediately shared an alarming experience he’d had with the Children of God. He warned us that they were a dangerous cult that totally overpowered and brainwashed anyone who joined. His words immediately filled us with dread. Over the next few days, we attempted to call Sarah, but were always told she was unavailable. Growing increasingly concerned, five of us decided to leave to make sure she was all right.

Determined yet apprehensive, we drove down with Julius to the Children of God headquarters. David Lynch wrote about our disturbing incident in his follow up letter to the President and Founder, Rev. F. Jordan.

After a three and a half hour journey, we arrived at Myrtle Street. We parked our van and walked over. Finding the door barred shut with a “visitors welcome” sign upon it, we were stopped. Waiting in prayer, we were accosted by a man asking in a less than friendly manner, “Who are you? Why are you here? What do you want?”

We inquired if he were a member of the Children of God? He gave a veiled reply. We asked, “Can we come in and share fellowship? In a sharp tone, he replied, “We’re closed!” He then proceeded to get into a waiting car. Whereupon Brother Julius asked in discernment, “Are not the Children of the light in the light? When there was no answer we asked if Sarah were with them, to which we were told, “I can’t give out that kind of information.” However, he was persuaded to wait and he went around the back of the building to “make a phone call.”

His manner was not Christian nor godly, neither the spirit of truth nor righteousness. While he was gone, another man slipped out from the driver’s side of the car. Seeming to ignore our obvious presence and concern, he began fiddling about the with trunk key. Sister Shishawny was moved to inquire gently whether he knew of Sarah or her whereabouts. He glanced at her then mumbled in reply, “Never heard of her.” Another man was in the back seat of the car staring at a Bible in his lap the whole time.

The first man came back and said he could find out nothing more. No Christian greeting, no other word. He wheeled around, got into the car, slammed the door and spun off, leaving us mystified, confused and in deep prayer…And yet the Lord, in our hearts, said, “Wait.” So in silent prayer on that street, we waited.

A few minutes after the car pulled away, a young black man walked past us and tried the door to the building. Then we inquired of him after the same fashion, whether he was a member who we could possibly speak to in a civil manner (without secrecy, fear and hypocrisy). He too offered weak excuses and indirect answers. Brother Shipen asked his name and he said, “Hebrew.” I had heard one was renamed upon entering your organization. Though he said he knew Sarah, he didn’t know where she was. “I think she might be out witnessing” was his reply. “Where?” we inquired, thinking we might go and meet her and share in testimony and witness of the joy of the Lord. Again, we were informed, “that information is classified.” “Well, do you know when she will be back?” we asked. Turning away he responded, “No.” But after a few moments, he seemed to trust our intentions enough to tell us, “Come back tonight after 7:30.”

We went to eat and discussed amongst ourselves all that had transpired and the Spirit confirmed there was something very wrong.

It was dark when we returned to Myrtle Street and we parked opposite the main front door. We stood and prayed that the Lord Jesus would guide and protect us in all Truth. Then we proceeded through the alley to the back door. It was open so we knocked and cautiously entered. Inside the doorway, we were immediately confronted by four blank staring faces, including Hebrew who had invited us back. There was no greeting, not one word spoken.

We waited, then simply asked if the witnessing team had come back and if Sarah was with them. Someone called Mark said abruptly, “No” and walked away. Then brother Shipen, with mounting concern asked, “Do you know when they’ll return?” To this Mark replied in a machine like tone, with the beautiful words of the Lord to Nicodemus which were spoken concerning being reborn and filled with the Spirit of God, “The wind bloweth where it listeth and thou hearest the sound thereof but canst not tell whence it cometh and wither it goeth.” Then he added, “I don’t know where she is.”

Then brother Shipen admonished him as an elder in Christ that he was misusing scripture and that we came in the name of the Lord (Mathew 10:12), that our peace might come upon the house but if the house be not worthy, the peace should return to us and that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the Day of Judgment, than for that house. “We come in the name of Jesus,” he said to them again.

Whereupon, as if on signal, Hebrew, Mark and the one named Hasayed, began to revile us, calling us devils and possessed. We stood silently…

Hebrew then approached me and said, “You guys haven’t said any scripture. You can’t even prove you’re saved! You say you’re Christians, prove it! Prove it! Prove you’re saved,” he shouted, stabbing a finger in my face.

We were somewhat shaken by this and the Lord quickened my heart to refer to Galatians 5:22. As I was about to speak Hebrew said, “What is it?” His voice raised in anger, he shouted, “What is it man?” I said, “The fruits of the spirit are love, longsuffer– “You guys ain’t got no fruits!” he interrupted. “Bible say no fellowship with unfruitful, no fellowship with devils! You want to be saved?! Bible say they have everything in common. I could quote you scripture all night. Say I’m saved!” Hebrew cried, his spirit in anguish.

Quietly we responded asking, “Do you know whether Sarah will be back tonight?” No reply.

I called back to the man in the rear, “Do you live here?” No reply. Then he walked across to Mark and showed him something in the Bible. Mark then walked slowly toward us, “Time’s up! We’re closed!” he said and glared darkly toward us. Hebrew then picked up a large iron bar and held it against his chest, tapping on it and said, “You can’t do nothing without the Master’s power. You better leave less you want to be saved!” As he spoke, the Lord gave me to see what was happening, with the eyes of His Spirit.

“You guys don’t even know the destruction prophesies. America is going to be destroyed,” he said as we turned and left. Then they closed the door firmly behind us.

Clearly these people were not about to give us any information about Sarah or her whereabouts! Empty handed and completely frustrated, we drove to my parent’s home to rest. As I lay in bed unable to sleep, I pictured Sarah being kidnapped, hustled into the back seat of car and a hand held over her mouth so she couldn’t call out. Hang in there Sarah, pretend to agree and do whatever they say but don’t let them get your mind. Stay strong! Keep praying! We’ll figure out some way to rescue you!

The following morning, we spoke with Sarah’s anxious parents on the phone and Sarah’s father agreed to meet us in Detroit. Relieved, we ate lunch and then drove back down to Detroit. When we arrived, we were surprised to see a police car parked out front of Myrtle Street. A policeman and Mr. Perlman walked with us to the door. We knocked loudly several times until finally a man came out and snapped, “When I told you to come back, I meant don’t come back at all!” and then he slammed the door in our faces. Oh!

Stunned, we turned to Mr. Perlman who told us Sarah had managed to call home but she wasn’t allowed to say where she was. She explained that as soon as we had arrived yesterday, she was whisked out of the building, hustled into a car and driven to a “ Bible study” in Ohio. Deeply worried, Mr. Perlman had called the police who agreed to accompany him to the Children of God headquarters.

As we talked, it seemed there was nothing further we could do. As the others exchanged addresses and information, I was determined to make one final attempt at communication. I sat in the grass and wrote a quick letter to Sarah. Folding it carefully, I slipped it under the door, knowing full well it would probably never reach her. Still, I had to try. This was my best friend Sarah after all! Though I no longer have it, the essence of the letter would have been something like this:

Dear Sarah,

I hope you are o.k.? We are really worried about you! I’m writing you this letter because I just wanted to make sure that you are safe and nothing is wrong. Please remember that I love you and so do all the others. You are like a sister to me. I know sometimes I don’t show it and sometimes we don’t always agree, but you are really special to me and to God. I hope you will think and pray about what God wants you to do at this point in your life. Listen to Him and hear His word. Please pray about your calling as we feel a great dis-ease and loss in our community now that you are gone. I hope you will think about our long months together, our lives as disciples of Christ, but especially seek God’s will for you. No matter what anyone else tells you, listen to your heart! I am praying for you daily. I am hoping that you are okay and that you will find a way to call me soon. I miss you Sarah.
Lovingly In Christ,

We returned to the farm empty handed. Our encounter with the Children of God left me feeling upset and hyper-vigilant. I could not accept that Sarah had gone willingly and I perceived this as an abduction and a spiritual attack on our family. Over the following weeks, I kept Sarah foremost in my prayers, asking God to protect her. I missed her a lot and hoped she would find her own way back…