EVJ banner
"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 Revolution Part 17

Our Decision
- Their Agenda

Returning to Atlanta I shared my experience and impressions with our young leaders.  After talking it through, our consensus was that we would invite a small group of the Children of God for a worship celebration, and let them tour our ministry. Our hope was to receive practical input on what we could do to strengthen our ministries administrative and financial needs. 

Shortly after this decision we began receiving phone calls from Christian friends on the west coast warning us about the Children of God. We asked what they knew, but they were hazy on specifics. We didn’t know what to think.  

One close friend was mad and disappointed with us for even considering inviting any of them to visit for a worship celebration.  He said, “They're bad news, radical, on the border of being a cult from all I’ve heard. The Los Angeles Children of God group has done 'sack cloth' marches and demonstrations in L.A. with yokes around their necks and huge staffs in the style of Old Testament prophets. They're flat out weird!”

I listened, kept thinking about my visit to Texas and what I'd seen for myself. I had never seen a sackcloth vigil, but didn’t doubt they conducted them. I told my old buddy we’d consider his comments and pray about it. Up to this point old friends had been unable to give us tangible administrative advice, and they all lived far away. 

LA COG in Sackcloth

We continued to pray and stay open – keeping in mind this group’s success and our organizational needs that needed a solution.  I wished we’d have stayed in closer fellowship with the church that originally hosted us into the area and helped us secure the ‘House of Judah’. In the final analysis, we didn’t call off the arranged visit from the Children of God without any hard evidence of them being a cult.     

As the date for the ‘Children of God's’ visit approached, most of our young leaders were looking forward to it and hopeful it might help us – but what occurred was beyond anything we'd anticipated. We had around sixty live-in disciples in our community, and in our original talks with COG, it sounded like they might bring a team of seven to ten with them, with some of this group being musicians and singers.

An Overwhelming Convergence of COG

But to our surprise, a worship team was flown in from L.A. with several top leaders, two buses arrived from Cincinnati full of disciples, and another group of leaders arrived from the main colony in Thurber, Texas.  This large number of COG members left all of us feeling overwhelmed and uneasy. Why weren't we told about this in advance?  COG leaders tried to assure us everything was all right, but it was a hard-sell and we were all nervous and leery. As their band was setting up, a number of our Atlanta leaders gathered in a back room of our main house trying to sort out what we should do. Before we could come to any conclusion, a messenger told us our Atlanta team was scared and intimidated by the high-powered aggressive COG colony disciples from Cincinnati. To try to lessen the fear we rejoined the swarm and mix of the two groups and tried to bring calm to as many of our Atlanta group as possible.  Some of our team was so freaked out they left, but the majority of our group was hopeful things would calm down once worship began.   

Zealous COG disciples

As the band was ready, I made a few introductions, and let COG leaders introduce their worship team and band.  The band featured a prize COG convert, Jeremy Spencer from Fleetwood Mac, playing lead guitar.  There was no doubt about it, their band was tight, and the worship songs were strong and easy to learn.  I was seated in the back of our worship area when I received a message that the police were outside and wanted to talk to someone in charge from our house.  I excused myself and went outside with several of our Atlanta leaders and several COG leaders joined us.

The police explained the complaints they had received came from different sources.  Some complaints came from neighbors regarding the amount of vehicles parked everywhere and loud shouting and music they'd heard. Other complaints came from our people who had left earlier, that had notified the police conveying something was wrong and they were afraid. One officer asked point blank, “Is everything alright?”

Quickly a COG leader responded, “Everything is alright. We just came to visit, and we'll be happy to move our vehicles, and turn down the volume of our worship band. We're sorry about the problems we've caused.”  The officer nodded saying, “OK, but I don't want to have to come back.”

As the police car left and we turned to walk back to the house, several of our Atlanta team arrived in a car calling out to me. I walked over toward them and a COG leader followed.   They were frantic; “Don't you see what's happening?   This group is nothing like us. There's something wrong. They’re like zombies and Bible memory robots! David, please ask them to leave!”  

With Hosea a COG leader standing at my side, it was an awkward moment. I told them that nothing had occurred that was as bad as they feared, but they continued pleading with me to do something. Hosea leaned over to those in the car and said, “We just came for a music and worship celebration and I'm sorry some of our people scared you. I know some of our younger disciples are over- zealous and too intense. We're sorry. Why don't you try joining us for worship?”

The Atlanta brothers flatly refused and warned me again that something was wrong.

Hosea sent word to have the COG bus and van drivers move some of their vehicles to lessen the congestion around the temple.  After giving them directions of where they could park, we headed back inside. Looking over my shoulder I saw several cars now parked on the street with Atlanta team members inside, looking frightened and desperate.  Walking back to the house I noticed the volume on the music had already been turned down considerably.

It was a strange night and I was uncertain what to think or do and I just hoped things would get better.  I still couldn't believe we weren't told in advance about the large number of COG they’d invited. So, I turned to Hosea and queried, “Why did you bring all of your Cincinnati people down here?”

“We thought your people would like to see how these young disciples were being trained. But, you don't have to worry about feeding them, we have food and stoves on our buses and we're all going to witness at a Rock Festival in Louisiana after our visit here. All of our group are going except for a few who will fly back to L.A.”

Joab instructing protestors

It all seemed to make sense now – what Hosea was saying seemed reasonable. For the first time since they'd arrived I felt a small amount of relief. Worship and singing was still going strong when we came back in.  We continued being lead by our guests and when they'd finished their set, Hosea stood up and explained why the Cincinnati colony had rendezvoused with them in Atlanta to caravan to the Louisiana Rock Festival together. I hoped this calmed some of the concerns of our people as much as it did mine. Our worship team led the second phase of our celebration and though we were not at the professional level of the L.A. COG band our songs were strong in their own way.

Having agreed there would be no teaching in this worship celebration we moved to a short fifteen minute film the COG brought along. It showed various ministry sites, demonstrations they'd led and outreach activities. This concluded our worship gathering. Afterwards we served drinks and sandwiches.

Hosea was eager to tell me about Joel, one of their main Bible teachers who they wanted me to meet.  They explained that he'd helped develop the discipleship curriculum and he was an expert in end time prophecy. As we were talking, an Atlanta leader came and whispered to me, “The police are here again because more complaints have been called in and they want to talk to somebody.” 

Overhearing this, Hosea leaned over to me and said, “Why don't you let me take care of it, it's probably about one of our vehicles. You shouldn't have to be bothered with this, I'll handle this.” 

COG leadership

“OK, I replied, “but if it's about something else let me know.” 

He disappeared with an Atlanta leader and came back in ten minutes saying it was just about moving one of their buses again. 

By now the crowd at our headquarters was beginning to thin down. And Hosea continued to encourage me to meet Joel, saying he was nearby. He reiterated that he thought Joel might be able to give me some specific insights into how to strengthen the training of disciples and our organization as a whole. I finally said, OK, and Hosea and Joab, another COG leader, set out by car to the location where Joel was staying. In route I learned that ‘nearby’ was about 35 miles outside of Atlanta in a trailer park. When we arrived it was about 9:30 PM and introductions were made with Joel. He had dark hair and a calm presence about him. We had some refreshments and visited for an hour or so, sharing recent things that we were learning and how God was working.

Hosea said, “I'd like for you to spend a day or two with Joel and ask him anything you want. You can pick his brains. He's the one who developed most of the curriculum we're using in our colonies, and I think the teaching he's developed is the reason why the level of commitment in our group is so high, why people are willing to give so much financially, even properties to further our cause. He’s also excellent at helping fine tune organizational matters that could help you.”

“We have a short wave and can be in touch with you if you want to leave for any reason. What do you say?” Hosea continued, "Our plan is, Joab and I will return to Atlanta to keep an eye on our group and make sure no more problems arise with the police."   

It sounded good and I nodded saying, “OK.”

After some more light conversation with Joel, I decided to turn in for the night. The trailer was set up nicely, adequate for 3-4 sleeping comfortably, so I settled into a bunk and tried to fall asleep. Unable to fall asleep my mind kept reviewing the events of the day wondering and asking hard questions that I hadn't been able to put into words. Finally about 2 AM I dozed off to sleep.

After sharing breakfast with Joel in the morning, I sensed he was a laid back individual, not as intense as most of the COG I'd met to date. But in dialogue I could see why he was the group’s resident theologian and scholar, specializing in prophecy and end-time events. His knowledge of the Bible was superior to anyone I'd ever met, but he didn't seem proud or arrogant about it. In the course of the first day with Joel we talked about lots of subjects, and he explained some of the reasons behind the COG curriculum and why the group’s emphasis on memory work was so effective.

Toward the end of the first day, after dinner, he began getting into end time prophecy, and I soon learned he had mastered it.  I took in a lot of new concepts but reserved judgment on all I was hearing until I could process it in private.  Joel was also knowledgeable in organization survival and how the COG had built a financial base for their ministry endeavors. I liked Joel, and the more I was around him, the more I began squeezing in tougher personal questions, like “What are Mo letters? Is there anything about the Children of God that you disagree with and don't like? How long have you been in the group and have you encountered any doubts about the direction of the group?”   

One by one he answered these questions and confided in me about various problems he'd encountered.  Apparently, he'd been disciplined for some of his independent thinking, beliefs, or questioning and was taken out of circulation for a season by David Berg who he said was the main leader. He went on to explain that David Berg authored the ‘Mo letters’ and called the shots in the COG.  And his kids, Hosea, Faith, Aaron, and Deborah were next in command. Something involving Eve, David Berg’s wife, was another area of concern to him, but he didn't go into details.  

COG face

Our time together flew with lots of good discussion, but my mind kept drifting to Atlanta wondering how everything was going and feeling I should be there.  Thankfully Joel wasn't seeking to indoctrinate me as much as Hosea hoped, and that made our time more of a mutual learning experience.   An hour or so later Hosea arrived excited, “Guess what? Your Atlanta leaders and group wants to join us witnessing at the Festival in Louisiana. It's going to be an incredible time and I told them I'd talk with you and radio back what you think.   Philip said he'd bring extra clothes for you and our plan was to meet up with them down there. They will be leaving in several hours and we were planning on leaving this evening when Faith and a few others join us to ride in this vehicle.”

I felt like I didn't have much of a choice, without time to think– it sounded reasonable but I didn't know what to say. Hosea seemed to read my mind, saying, “You can talk to Philip if you're not sure, to get his feeling about things.  I'll get on the radio now and I'm sure we can track him down.”

Feeling under pressure to at least do this I said, “OK.”  In about ten minutes Philip was on the radio but our connection was not the best, and COG leaders were listening to every word on both ends of the short wave.

“Philip, what do you think?  Is everyone in agreement about going to the festival?”  How is my wife and the rest of the team with us doing this?”    

In a static response “Yea, most of our group wants to go and it could be a good training time for our newer team members who've never done anything like this. I’ve talked with Victoria and other team members who will be staying behind, and they’re Ok with us going.” 

COG at Louisiana Pop Festival

“So you're saying it sounds good?” 

“Yea, I'll bring a couple changes of clothes for you and see you there.” His voice trailed off and that was it. 

I handed the radio back to Hosea, “Well I guess it's a go.” 

“Great! You'll be glad.  The L.A band will be playing, and we're going to reach lots of people for Christ,” Hosea said with excitement.  Hosea was thin and small in stature, but his voice was deep and loud and didn't seem to fit his stature. I would have thought he'd be six feet tall and several hundred pounds if I heard his voice alone. I had enjoyed the quiet of the trailer park, but by evening the rest of the COG leaders arrived. Gear was loaded and soon we were on our way in caravan with several other vehicles. It was about dusk, and the plan was to drive through the night. The recreational vehicle was older but in good shape and comfortable. It was interesting being in the company of other top COG leaders.  They all knew each other well, and my only real connection was with Joel as far as knowing him more personally.  Hosea was hyper and Faith was a born extravert, joyful and full of energy.

Earlier I had asked Hosea about my wife and daughter Rebekah and other families in our ministry. He said they were all fine and in Atlanta. In route I tried to put unspoken concerns out of my mind, to no avail. I was at a disadvantage without a vehicle, or access to a phone – dependant on the COG orchestrated choices with mine being slowly stripped away.  This warning was one I’d come to understand better as the days unfolded.  Traveling with COG leaders gave me an insight into some of their personalities. Hosea and Faith were at ease, Joel was now more subdued and I too felt less inclined to open up at this point.

Meeting as we'd planned at the rock festival, I was reunited with a number of our Atlanta people and some of our leadership. But the main COG leaders seemed to keep a close eye on me and asked to talk to me every time I was engaged in any kind of conversation with anyone from our Atlanta ministry.  They kept Philip so busy we hardly had any time to talk. When we finally had a few minutes, he said, “Some from our ministry wanted to visit the COG training center in Texas, Victoria included, because there were a number of midwives there who deliver babies all the time, at no cost.  She felt like she was getting close to her delivery time and asked if you could meet her in Texas after the festival.  She would be bringing Rebekah and would be in good hands.”  I tried to ask more questions, but we were interrupted.

Jeremy Spencer of Fleetwood Mac

This new twist seemed like one more calculated plan of the COG to keep moving us where they wanted us to go.  I had no money, no vehicle, and no ability to make decisions and act on them.  It was as if I'd opened ‘Pandora's Box’ and couldn't close it!  My family was now in another state and I didn't exactly know what was happening in Atlanta.

While at the festival, I tried to find out more about what had happened in Atlanta, but news was fuzzy.  A few had left, but most of our group seemed ‘caught up in the COG spirit,’ in awe of the dedication and Bible knowledge of the COG and Jeremy Spencer the lead guitarist from ‘Fleetwood Mac.’  Many in our group were so recently out of the street scene that they were smitten by Jeremy and the LA band.  This festival experience was very different from what I remembered in the past. I felt held captive on a short leash and there seemed little I could do about it other than run. At times a sick feeling sunk to the pit of my belly, like what happens when you really blow it, or someone dies abruptly.

From the dirt and mud of the rock festival, new seekers joined both our groups. Instead of our Atlanta people heading home, everyone had been invited to the main colony.  All I knew was my family was there and I assumed our Atlanta team visit would only be for a few days.  So, we all packed into buses, vans, trucks, and cars, and headed back to the Children of God headquarters in Thurber, Texas with radical songs and slogans ringing in our ears in route.

It was unnerving to standby watching things unravel and being unable to do anything about it. I would replay events and see how I could have done things differently, but it was too late.  Life at Texas Soul Clinic was very different from our ministry in Atlanta.  A non-stop schedule ran from 8 a.m. – 10 p.m. at night with very little free time.

Those of us who had children were not allowed to see them regularly, as they were isolated in a Jewish-style kids- kibbutz.  Mothers were allowed to visit their kids daily, dad’s on occasion. Married men from Atlanta felt frustrated about this rule. I wanted to see Rebekah more often, but COG leaders remained unmovable on this and other rules. COG female leaders were keeping my spouse occupied, giving her lots of special attention along with the wives of other Atlanta leaders.  Intensive indoctrination of all of our Atlanta team was a focus alongside new converts from the Louisiana Pop festival. On a few rare occasions I connected with Philip, Mark, and Larry, and they each wanted to leave – but didn’t know how to get their wives out because their loyalty was turning away from them to the COG group. I too wanted to leave, but with my spouse expecting any day – she was not interested in going anywhere. A week later my wife gave birth with the assistance of COG mid-wives to a healthy baby girl we named Elizabeth. 

Living at the Children of God compound in Thurber, Texas was emotionally unsettling because we were trapped. Stronger COG women had succeeded in gaining our wives' loyalty to the life-style and doctrines of the group in such a short period of time. I was assigned to working in a leather shop making sandals and yoke symbols that disciples wore around their necks.  

There was a driving momentum in the COG at this time.  Among the movers and shakers, Hosea Berg was near the top. In the past we’d talked about other ministries our Atlanta ministry had helped start up and he remembered the 23rd Psalm ministry in Nashville and queried about it. He said, “I’m planning a trip near Nashville and wanted to know if you’d like to join me?  Maybe we could visit the ministry there and I could help them in how we disciple our new followers.  Just think about it.” 

Bud Poston of House of Judah

Several days later he approached me saying, “David, I plan to leave for Nashville this weekend and wanted to know if you wanted to come along.”  Reading my frustration level he continued, “I think this trip could be good for you. You’d see some of your old friends – and get a break from thinking about your concerns here. I know this whole thing has been hard on you. We’ll have some relaxed times on the road and you won’t be expected to do anything.  All I want to do is offer help to the 23rd Psalm Ministry in different approaches to discipleship. What do you say?”

Mentally and physically exhausted, I agreed – anything to get away from the non-stop schedule of the Texas Soul Clinic. “O God, what is going on? I sighed in exasperation.” On the trip north I felt in a deep fog – like I’d been drugged. I kept thinking about Atlanta – wondering what had become of our ministry there. Every time I asked Hosea he’s say, “Everything’s fine in Atlanta. The ministry houses and the restaurant are doing well. We’ve put some of our people in to fill the gaps. You don’t have to worry about anything!” Well, I did worry. When we finally arrived in Nashville, I was thankful for fresh air and familiar soil.  

I quickly learned this was not a casual friendly visit to the 23rd Psalm Christian House, but a high-powered sales pitch. Hosea had arranged to meet with all the leaders of the 23rd Psalm ministry including a group of businessmen who were the financial backers of this work. I felt like a puppet on a string without movement unless Hosea was wiggling the strings.  Bud Poston put his hand on my shoulder, seeing my dazed look and asked, “Are you ok David?”   I was so numb, I couldn’t answer.  Whatever desired results had been hoped for by the COG were not realized as the business leaders and my friend Bud Poston, Ken Pitts, Ron Klenk, Paul Campbell, and other 23rd Psalm team leaders told Hosea, “Thanks, but no thanks!”  I later learned that Bud Poston, John Shugar had made a scouting trip to Atlanta and found the COG very unfriendly prior to Hosea’s attempt to recruit in Nashville.     

I’m thankful Bud and others decided to take a different approach to how they would conduct their ministry in Nashville!  The time away was Ok, but it didn’t change the distress I felt in my soul.  On returning to Texas, things hadn’t changed much, except my wife seemed more committed than ever to the Children of God.

Despite Hosea’s failure to win over the 23rd Psalm House Ministry – the ambitions of the ‘Berg Family’ were set on conquest when I learned they had their sights on other Jesus People ministries.  In an emotional spin my thoughts and emotions were in upheaval.

Doubt unacceptable
Slogans scream at my being
Right or wrong, my family – my family! 
The COG control, manipulation and hidden agenda’s rule
Deep concerns filter into my every waking hour

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

Part 16: Crossroads

Bookmark and Share

Last Update: 2017-07-24 18:58