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"For we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not of ourselves."
Jesus People on beach - Part 16


My wife and two other ladies, Sheila and Alanna from ‘Upper Streams’ – took on the growing need and responsibility of discipling young women who were coming to faith in Christ. Philip and I did the same with an expanding group of young men.

Change didn't come easily.  Many found it hard to believe that they were worthy of being forgiven or received by God. Emotional wounds, drug habits, fear, anger, and baggage from the past needed to be laid before God for healing. This came gradually. Living in Christian community exposed our flaws. Prayer and Bible study put a spotlight on areas that needed to be changed.  The Holy Spirit helped each of us face what we had previously ignored.  It became increasingly clear that God was the source of genuine inner change.  Having a prayer room set aside solely for this purpose provided a safe and quiet place to study the Bible, pray, and worship God privately.

As ministry leaders we had a role and function, but it was limited.  It was humbling and inspiring to see God perform a miraculous inner work of healing before our eyes as lives were transformed.  Each person who lived in one of our houses was given chores to be carried out for the common good. This was a turning point for some who had the habit of avoiding work at all costs.  Most who joined our ministries understood the reason for us sharing the workload as a community. We taught those joining our ministry to carefully give attention to the use of their time, work habits, hygiene, talents and gifts, and spiritual formation.  We provided structure with meal and bedtimes, chores, work, outreach, and gathering as a group for worship, Bible Study, and prayer.

Hippies in Piedmont Park, Atlanta, 1970

With our first house located just one block from the Atlanta strip, we connected with lots of people.  Going to the streets daily– sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, providing food, clothing, and shelter for those in need was our focus.  This brought attention to our mission, and the word spread quickly to street people. Visitors came for meals, clothes, to find out what we were doing, to dialogue, inquire about God, or attend evening Bible studies.

The House of Judah could accommodate about twenty residents and we reserved these spots for those who had expressed a commitment to grow in their spiritual faith.  With our first home full we found a second rental home that could accommodate seven ladies and turned the House of Judah into a guys' house.  This helped relieve some of the over-crowding – but we knew this was a temporary solution.  Finding outside work for our team was challenging.  Providentially, a restaurant owner heard about us and offered us employment.  It was perfect timing – putting many of our people to work enabled us to keep up with a growing monthly budget.  As I had hoped, our ministry employees earned an excellent reputation for reliability and hard work.  This resulted in us being given a restaurant to manage under the supervision of our original boss. With his permission we renamed it ‘Bread of Life’ and remodeled the basement into a nightspot with wall murals, a stage, tables, chairs, and a sound system.

These were creative days, and God was blessing the work of our hands and the prayers of our hearts.   People came to the restaurant to eat and to the nightspot to hang out, listen to music, and talk.  Some came to see the novelty of what we were doing, others because they were hungry spiritually and had questions to ask.  Many turned from casual inquirers and seekers to believers in God.    

Hoyt sharing his faith in Jesus

On one of my witnessing endeavors in Atlanta I knocked on the door of an expansive property near the strip that had been turned into apartments and was notorious for being a center of drug dealing.  As the door opened we saw two people in the hallway arguing over drugs, one was pointing a gun, the other held a long machete knife. In the next few minutes, one backed down and retreated into an apartment.  A couple of days later I learned that someone in this same building had been shot and killed over drugs.

With this information I set out to locate the owners of the building and began praying about securing this property for our ministry.  I learned this had previously been a French Embassy.   I met the owners and assured them we would restore this property to its original state in exchange for the provision of all materials and some rent reduction.  This arrangement was agreed on and our team went to work.  In time we named this location Temple of Still Waters.  When the facility was fully restored we turned it into our worship center, office building, and living quarters for married couples.

Bible  Camp Teachers

Our ministries had most often gravitated toward ‘full gospel’ or ‘charismatic’ teachers for inspiration.  The Full Gospel Businessmen had rendered a good service by bringing inspirational speakers to a given area and opening up the event to the public.  In Oakland a few years earlier I’d attended a Bible Conference where Bob Mumford was one of the main speakers.  He was humorous, in his prime, and good at teaching the Bible in a palatable manner.  As young Jesus People we gained insights and inspiration to dig deeper into our Bibles.

In the southern USA, bible camps were beginning to have a revival of sorts and most of our Atlanta house ministry team packed up and made the trek to a bible camp where Charles Simpson and Derek Prince were scheduled to be two of the speakers.  I had already met Charles Simpson, pastor of a Baptist church in Mobile, Alabama, that had hosted us on a brief visit.  By reputation Derek Prince was one of the top deliverance preachers of the day – and we needed immediate help with a serious problem that had occurred in our ministry.  

There are many things you don’t want to see in ministry.  At the top of my list is – demons inside residents in your ministry house!  

Two months earlier:  During an evening Bible Study while reading a passage of Scripture – a lady screamed out thrashing in the center of the floor, and a demon left her with a blood chilling loud sound. A terrible stench lingered in the room.  Now, lying limp was a thin girl age 23 amidst those gathered – their faces revealing unified shock.  What had just occurred?  We knew about demons and had made efforts to cast them out, but this deliverance was right in front of us all!  Hearing the Word of God had been enough to cause the demon to flee.  Surely, it is the Lord who sets the captives free! 

Demons in our Midst

One month earlier:  We had taken in a new female disciple who began to manifest unusual behavior after she had been with us several days.  She came to us on the referral of her boyfriend who was a resident in our house and growing nicely.  In the days that followed this lady became bedridden, stopped eating, and was screaming out, scratching herself. Demons were using her body to speak dark and vile things.  Her boyfriend said he knew she’d invited spirits to live within her in the past, but he thought that was over.  We concluded the demons were reacting to her being in a Christian environment.  This situation was very difficult on team members.  We secured a hospital bed with rails, posted a 24/7 prayer vigil around her bed, and had to wrap her wrists to prevent her from scratching herself raw. We were quite perplexed by the situation.  We fasted and had made attempts to drive the demons out, but this young woman didn’t want them to go and would invite them back.

To complicate matters, the boyfriend said he thought we should untie her wrists and that we were being too guarded with her.  Then Philip came running up the stairs calling, “David!  We have a new problem!”   Philip led me down the stairs in the House of Judah to the prayer room to witness what had occurred.

The boyfriend of the demonized woman resident was stripped to his shorts, had pulled out one of the prayer benches, removed the cushions from the top, and had positioned the bench so he could scrape fourteen inches down the center of his spinal column till it the bone was exposed. He was bloody and writhing up and down on the corner of the bench as the demons were present and speaking. 

The details are gruesome.  After 24 hours we managed to cast out all of the demons from this young man.  He admitted he’d allowed them to come in out of sympathy for his girlfriend who was still in terrible shape.  We urged him to close the door once and for all to entertaining any demons.  For the time being he agreed, with the promise we were going to get help for his girlfriend.  As we had been unable to drive the demons out of the girl we were bringing her to the Bible Camp Meeting to be assessed by Derek Prince. 

It was very awkward transporting her to the Bible Camp, watching over her until we could get an assessment by Derek Prince.  When we did meet with Derek he concluded she had invited in too many demons and was unwilling to renounce them.  He suggested we have her assessed by a mental facility for residential treatment.  This didn’t go over well with the boyfriend.  We knew the danger of her refusal to renounce everything evil:

 “When the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and not finding any, it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds it swept and put in order.  Then it goes and takes along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first.”  – Jesus (Luke 11:26 NASB)

For close to a month our Christian house had seemed like a hospital of sorts on demon alert.  After returning to Atlanta we secured a residential mental-health treatment center for her and she was admitted.  Her boyfriend left our ministry when she was transferred.  We were sad that the optimum results couldn’t have been reached with her full deliverance. It had been a difficult situation all the way around. 

Some may not believe in a literal heaven or hell, or angels and demons.  My argument for their existence is what I’ve seen in the trenches of Christian ministry.  Celestial beings exist (Jude 1:8-9) as does a place called heaven and hell.  

Man with the Cross - Arthur Blessitt

Arthur Blessit carrying a cross

Touring the southern USA was young evangelist named Arthur Blessitt who carried a large cross the breadth of our country as a statement.  We’d heard of his tour and wanted to be there to support him when he came through Georgia.  A handful of our team from the Atlanta ministry houses made the drive to a large country church on a hill.  I can remember wondering if our vehicle could handle the climb – it was so steep.

At the top of the hill stood a large southern church.  It was one of those buildings with huge columns in the entry and a sanctuary that was long and narrow. The church was packed to overflowing on a warm southern night, and the hand-fans were doing their work.   When Arthur got up to speak you could feel the intensity of his conviction and vision.  Arthur preached with the heart of a lion, and Jesus was at the center of it all.  He had clay feet that had walked a long way since starting out from Hollywood, CA.  Arthur was a friendly, likeable guy with a big heart shaped and tooled by the Lord Jesus.   It was a privilege to meet him and hear the Gospel message preached in simplicity and power.

Southern  Expansion

As the Atlanta ministries continued to blossom we received invitations to speak, sing, and help set up similar outreaches in Nashville, Knoxville, and Chattanooga, Tennessee and Gainesville, Florida.  In some of these cities a house or building had already been secured.  These requests were primarily for us to help with outreach and discipling through establishing a Christian house.  The plan was for us to provide complimentary leadership to assist the local core group in getting the ministry up and running.  Being open, we communicated these requests to our Atlanta team members, put the matter to prayer, and asked God for direction.  Over the course of several weeks various team members let us know they felt God nudging them to go to one of these cities.  Praying and sending them off was difficult.  Most of those leaving our ministry were providing the day-to-day leadership in one of our houses or in the restaurant / nightspot.  The expansion didn’t involve a financial commitment, as this was the responsibility of each of the local sponsor cities – but it did affect our stability as many key individuals left within a short period of time.  We were losing friends and reliable team members.  Two of these ventures were stable with Bud Poston in Nashville and Dan Matyi in Gainesville, Florida.

We knew transition and change were a part of ministry – but during these days it seemed to be unfolding too rapidly.  Those who had made commitments to Chattanooga and Knoxville were experiencing difficulties that weren’t easily solved. There were differences with sponsors on how ministry should be carried out, and there were inconsistent wages, lack of personal provision, inadequate funding for outreach projects, lack of sponsor involvement in providing friendship and support for our team representatives, discouragement over lack of response, and feeling isolated and homesick for fellowship with their Atlanta team member friends.  We addressed these concerns with both parties, offered support and normalized the distress as we could.   I’m still amazed we were doing these things at such a young age.

In the midst of these somewhat expected glitches, breakthroughs and good things were still happening throughout the Atlanta ministry.  Team members were growing to be more reliable, old habits were falling away, faith was being released through confession and prayer, and emotional and spiritual healing was occurring with those coming to faith in Christ. Artistically our team was alive with fresh projects, writing new songs and staying creative at the nightspot and restaurant, and thankfully no one had died at our restaurant because of our cooking - whew!  Most often they were expressing God’s love and grace through service, mercy, and compassion. Bbecause of this, my heart was full of thanksgiving to God.

Temple of Still Waters prayer meeting  

Taking the message of Jesus Christ that had opened our eyes and hearts back to the streets was natural and right.   We believed God could transform anyone!  We'd seen miracles in our own lives and knew this was not anything fake or humanly orchestrated.  On the streets, we’d listen, share our message, and invite people home for a meal.   Many came, stayed, and became followers of Jesus Christ.  It was inspiring, yet tiring work, as the needs of those we came into contact with were complex.  Regardless of near exhaustion, this part of the mission work was doable.

The Dilemma

No one in our ministry had a background in accounting, administration, business, or strategic planning.  This deficit came to center-stage when significant growth occurred.  With a smattering of gifts in a variety of areas we’d been able to do well with start-up ministries – but things had changed.  Lease agreements and utilities on a number of sizable properties, keeping a small fleet of vehicles up-and-running, and managing a growing budget that included feeding and housing fifty ministry team members was increasingly demanding.  Beyond these practical needs, all of our team members needed nurturing, encouragement, and appropriate spiritual guidance.

On a warm southern night in Atlanta, Georgia a twenty-five year old young man walked the streets wondering where the solutions would come from.  With the luxury of cash in his pockets he followed the sounds of Country / Rock to a large bar and slipped in.  It was a Saturday night, the crowd of several hundred was raucous, a Jefferson Airplane tune was blasting, and he’d come for a beer.  Walking to the far end of a huge bar he sought to blend-in inconspicuously – check out the night life and forget about ministry problems.  All was well, until some guy nearby said, “Aren’t you the street preacher?  Good to see you haven’t forgotten about all of us who sin at night!” and he walked away.   Taking another big swig of his beer he figured it was time to leave.  Strange how being somewhere you don’t belong turns sour so quickly. There were soul-searching, praying days ahead for this street preacher. This wouldn’t be the first or last beer or glass of wine the Holy Spirit put the brakes on when it offered nothing but escape.   A healthy diversion would have been a better alternative along with a crash course in business and ministry financing.  

What seemed insurmountable was the crunching of numbers – budgeting, hiring an accountant, and having a stable fiscal plan in place for the whole of our Atlanta ministry.  Our need was immediate, and we’d already postponed what should have been in place a year earlier.  Seeking out local help would have been ideal.  Instead we contacted ministry friends from California who either didn’t have the financial management skills, or couldn’t get away at the time.  I would have contacted our original sponsors from Piedmont Baptist but was too embarrassed, as we’d lost contact.  Discouraged but hopeful, I was determined to find help.

NBC logo for First Tuesday in 1970

National TV Coverage

Earlier in the year NBC had visited Atlanta to film a documentary they were doing on the Jesus Movement and spent a day visiting our ministry sites and restaurant and securing a few interviews from us. They said, “The country is trying to understand the growing phenomena of the Jesus People.  When the airing date arrived we gathered around a small TV in the House of Judah to watch.  Seeing our ministry on TV was exciting, but what caught my attention was a recently discovered group calling themselves ‘The Children of God’. 

I was intrigued, having never heard of this group, so I paid close attention to their numbers ranging in the hundreds and wondered how they kept their ministry afloat with food, housing, vehicles and the like. This was the hook that got me thinking about finding out what made this ministry tick.   I wanted to see their administrative and organizational operations.

A Visit into the Badlands of Texas

This was the backdrop for an unusual solo trip to Thurber, Texas, located 70 miles west of Ft. Worth. I was hoping to find some solutions to help guide our ministry through the murky waters of our financial crisis and rapid growth.   My plan was to visit this group as a guest who had heard about their ministry and wanted to learn more about them.   I would avoid sharing information about the ministry I represented unless I felt OK about it.  I flew into the area, took a bus, hitched-hiked, and finally walked up a long dusty unpaved road to the Children of God desert camp.   I felt apprehensive and nervous, but it was too late now to turn back.

Texas Badlands

Children of God plaque

Desert Training Camp

Texas Soul Clinic

I'm not sure what I thought the ranch would look like, but when I approached the front gates of the property, I was surprised to see armed guards at the entrance to the Texas Soul Clinic and a large sign that read, “The Wicked shall be turned into Hell and all the Nations that Forget God.”  Psalm 9:17  NOT MUCH TIME LEFT!  

I asked the gate guards, “What’s the reason for the guns?

With a hint of sarcasm one guard spit back, “You know, the occasional jack rabbit.”  The other guard piped in, in a more somber tone, “A deterrent.  We only shoot to scare and warn drunken ‘red necks’ who sometimes come near our camp shooting guns, or making threats from their pick-up trucks.”   I took this response at face value and temporarily put it out of my mind.

COG face

One of the guards led me down a hill toward the main camp where I was interviewed by an older COG member and then taken further into camp and assigned to a member to be my buddy.  He briefed me on the rules and let me know he'd stay with me, show me the ropes, and help me find a bunkhouse later.  Within an hour I was swept up into the rigorous schedule of a Spiritual Boot Camp.   Free time was for bathroom breaks in the outhouses, and other than that there was no let up in the schedule except during meal times and late at night.    My buddy was always with me, except when I went into the outhouse and he'd wait outside.   This took some getting used to, but I learned this was their customary practice with every new person or visitor.  

Four to five teaching sessions were given daily in an open-air covered pavilion, with several hundred young followers crammed closely together on benches, Bibles in hand.  Each instructor taught in a similar high-intensity fashion, weaving into the teaching sessions slogans that students would echo back, shouting loudly in unison. I'd never seen anything like this before and wasn't sure what to think.  The teachers seemed to enlist enthusiasm and instantly woke up anyone dozing or brought back someone whose mind had wandered. One slogan stood out.  It was, “My family, my family, right or wrong my family!”  The extreme implications of what these young followers were shouting left me less than comfortable, but the members' love for one another, their enthusiasm and commitment to Bible memory, and dedication to enduring long teaching sessions was impressive.   The only divergence from Bible teaching came when a letter was read from the top leader’s father.   These letters were called, ‘Mo Letters’.   I wasn't sure what that meant, but the content was usually practical advice on living and dedication within the Children of God community. 

The COG also incorporated a whole new range of driving worship songs and Jewish folk dances. Even the youngest converts seemed strong in their faith, sincere and loyal to God in ways beyond what I would have expected.   As the days passed, I watched and listened carefully, and gradually the positive dimensions of the COG outweighed some of my concerns.    At this point, I began asking questions about the financial structure of the group and how it could handle taking in so many new people.  I was told the group had an aggressive philosophy about securing donations from companies, store chains, and grocery stores.  They had purchased a refrigerated truck for transporting these donated perishable items to the ranch in Thurber, Texas in the heat of the summer.  They also strongly urged all new members to turn over all their possessions, savings, and other capital to the Children of God movement as a sign of their personal dedication to God.  This was a new twist.  In spite of this radical practice, the group's vision to reach out and do the work of making disciples were features that most Christian groups would aspire to.

As my allotted visit time was drawing to a close I decided to reveal my identity in hopes of securing more information on how the COG sustained themselves organizationally and financially with their growing numbers.   I told one of the leaders that I represented an outreach Jesus People ministry in Atlanta, Georgia.  This information was immediately relayed to top COG leaders who introduced themselves and made the extra effort to be better hosts and win my support for their cause and work.  Having shared the same TV special, they remembered our group.    I continued asking questions about how they handled expansion and financial crisis.  The answer that kept coming back was "procurement teams" and the call for new disciples to give all they owned in the way of savings, cars, lands, and trusts, i.e. to "forsake all" when they joined the group.  

I felt like there had to be other things we could incorporate in Atlanta other than the radical "forsake all."  Up to this point I was still only getting bits and pieces of their organizational structure and wanted to know more about how they handled dispersion of leaders to different locations without hurting the home base.   I also needed more information on how they went about making procurement contacts.  The leaders I spoke to had their agenda – just as I had mine.  As I fished for information they fished for more contact with our group.  At first take the COG leaders seemed genuinely interested in helping us and offered to visit Atlanta to get a better idea of what we were doing.   Their suggestion was for us to have a worship celebration together.  I told them I'd talk it over with our leaders and get back to them.

To Be Continued

Dave Hoyt

Dave Hoyt and his wife Ginny reside in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He grew up a troubled teen in Los Angeles. In 1966 he moved to San Francisco’s ‘Haight District’ seeking truth and God. Reaching a crisis of belief in Eastern Religions – he turned to prayer and came to a saving faith in Jesus Christ. He went on to be an early participant in the Jesus People Movement in the USA and Europe. He continues as a follower of Jesus Christ.

Read previous installments in David Hoyt's
"Jesus Revolution" Series:

Part 1: Jesus People Days

Part 2: A Cry Rushed Upward to a Place Called Heaven

Part 3: Ripe for Change and Heart Revolution

Part 4: Recollections of My Search for Truth

Part 5: My Search - A Prelude to Finding God

Part 6: A Search for God Unraveling

Part 7: An Appointment with God

Part 8: Launched into a New Life

Part 9: A Steep Learning Curve

Part 10: God - An Incredible Teacher

Part 11: Lancaster - A Desert Call

Part 12: Back in the City - San Francisco

Part 13: The SF Bay Area Jesus People Movement - Episode One

Part 14: The SF Bay Area Jesus People Movement - Episode Two

Part 15: Mission in Our Blood

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Last Update: 2017-07-24 18:58