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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 Revolution Part 18

Over My Head

Despite the failure of Hosea to secure the loyalty of other southern USA Jesus people ministries, the driving ambition of the ‘Berg Family’ was not deterred.

The northwest USA held another strong pocket of Jesus People the COG had their sights on. Russ Griggs, Linda Meissner and the ministries of the Jesus People Army were soon to feel the strong lure and advance of COG leaders that would descend on Seattle, Washington and Vancouver B.C.

Hosea’s plan was to have COG leaders from L.A. join him for a meeting with Jesus People leaders in Seattle. Unaware of their full scheme, I was offered the opportunity to go to the northwest and meet with other Jesus People.  Seeing this as a potential doorway to escape, I agreed on the condition they allowed me to take my wife and two small children. Reluctantly Hosea accepted the condition.

Hosea knew I wanted to leave the Texas compound and hoped this would give me a sense of purpose in the group and perhaps closeness with other Jesus People I could relate to. My internal plan was to get my family together in one place and leave the COG.

I wasn’t a positive representative for the Children of God and they knew it.  Outwardly, I was neutral with my family trapped. When we arrived in Seattle, any hope of being reunited with my family was dashed.  They sent my wife and children to a remote campground in Bellingham, Washington, and I was angry about it.

Russ Griggs / Vancouver BC /Jesus People Leader

Russ Griggs began ministering at age 19 in the Canadian Assemblies of God and independent full Gospel churches.  Russ’ vision and heart was enlarged when God poured out His Spirit in the ‘Awakening’ God gave birth to in the late 1960’s through early 1970’s called the Jesus Revolution.

As part of the early Jesus movement Russ founded and provided leadership for four Christian house ministries, a bakery, a coffee house, and a storefront for sales of a variety of items to support the Vancouver ministry. Russ’ ministry was linked relationally with Linda Meissner’s Jesus People Army in Seattle but not organizationally.

Russ Griggs led Jim and Sue Palosarri to Christ in a northwest tent revival. Jim and Sue went back to Milwaukee to establish a notable Jesus People ministry ushered in by the Holy Spirit. It spawned Jesus People USA in Chicago and Christ is the Answer ministries in the US and Europe.

Jesus People, Seattle

Like me, Russ Griggs heard about the COG through the media and decided to go on an exploratory trip to see them in person. He visited the western counterpart for the Texas Soul Clinic at the COG headquarters in LA. As was their practice they showed him the best side of all they were doing. Organizationally, the COG seemed to have it all together. While there, he met some of the Berg family, Jethro and (Linda) Deborah Berg, Artie and Faith Berg. Russ’ visit to the Los Angeles COG colony sparked the interest and self-invite nature of COG leaders to pursue the Seattle Jesus People Army and the Vancouver Jesus People as a target in their ambitious conquest campaign.

Motive & Intentions

The COG had an aggressive mission to seize any opportunity that presented itself to further their cause.  The intentional goal was to absorb Jesus People ministries who were floundering. For most Jesus People leaders and ministries the expressed problem was coping with the overwhelming rapid growth and challenge of meeting all the practical needs of food, housing, rents and utilities while nurturing many young Christians at the same time.

The COG presented and portrayed themselves as a solution to many of these organizational nightmares. “Let us come for a visit and we’ll assist you with these problems.” What JP leaders didn’t know was that this translated into a premeditated take-over and shipping of all the local Jesus People to destinations unknown, never to be seen again. 

A meeting of northwest ministry leaders and the COG was set, and I was a small pawn in the plan. As Hosea promised, several days prior to this scheduled gathering my family and I were flown to Seattle. Without delay Hosea Berg, spouse Esther, and other COG leaders began wooing Russ Griggs, Linda Meisener, and others from the Seattle ‘Jesus People Army’.

Vancouver & Seattle Jesus People Join COG

Against my wishes, my wife and two daughters were sent off to Bellingham, Washington, to a training campsite with cabins. They left me behind to be introduced to northwest Jesus People. As usual, COG leaders carefully orchestrated everything. When they were confident of having influenced the Jesus People leaders sufficiently in a positive way, I was paraded into a large room before northwest JP leaders to say hello. I don’t remember saying anything before being escorted out five-minutes later. The COG knew I was disgruntled and only felt safe showing me off as another Jesus People person who’d joined. Over the next few days I learned the ‘Jesus People Army’ had united with the COG. I felt a tight knot in my belly on hearing the news.

To calm me down and appease my growing verbal frustration about my family being sent where I couldn’t have contact, I was invited to go to Canada with Russ Griggs to see the ministry there. Hosea hoped I’d bond and settle in with a new Jesus People friend. Russ was a man on the move, but was also gracious in his interaction with me. I like Russ; his heart was good and he didn’t get easily ruffled. I’m not sure what he thought of me, but I appreciated being able to talk to someone who didn’t act like a COG robot with canned phrases and dialogue. I liked Russ and witnessed the awkwardness of his people adjusting to the high-powered COG disciples interacting with the lower-key Canadian Jesus People. Still in a fog, I went about my days buddied up with Russ tagging along.

Russ ran a small bakery where he introduced me to rising very early and making bread. Patiently he taught me kneading and shaping dough prior to cooking in large ovens. Russ showed me around the ministry and we were able to talk about normal stuff. When he learned about my being separated from my family, he arranged a ride for me to get to Bellingham to see my family.

Around this same time, COG leaders initiated a plan to remove Russ from the area to complete their seizure of the Vancouver ministry. Russ was sent to Dallas, Texas, to help with the COG procurement program. During his absence almost all of the local Christians who were part of his ministry were shipped out of the area. This caused a huge stir of outrage in the Vancouver, BC, community.

In an attempt to put out the fires of protest in Vancouver to what the COG were doing and the spirit in which they were doing it, Russ was sent back to Vancouver to smooth things over with the locals. Russ later told me that what tipped him off that something was terribly wrong was the bitterness of the COG toward the church and their emphatic urging to sever ties from family members and former friends – unless, of course, there was money or inheritances to be had. The replacement COG sent to Vancouver had a different spirit.

It was a similar mismatch that our Atlanta brothers who had not joined the COG had seen. There was a different spirit emanating from the Children of God. There were three attributes of the COG that made me feel like I’d become a victim of deception: manipulation of circumstances to their advantage, keeping followers in constant state of uncertainty and imbalance by moving members from one location to the, and portraying themselves to the public in one way, while damning the system, parents, families, and the church behind closed doors

Russ Griggs Faces Criticism, Anger, and Blame

When the lights went on for Russ, the damage had been done. Almost all of his young leaders had been shipped to destinations unknown – disappearing into the cult – similar to what happened to us in Atlanta, GA. Russ’s loss was heartbreaking – a fiasco personally and within the Vancouver community at large. Integrity is facing the fires of criticism and admitting we’re wrong, though we’d love to run from it!

Russ Griggs, among all the Jesus People leaders who were briefly deceived by the COG, faced and endured the full force of criticism, anger and blame!  Parents, family members, and friends of those who were swooped up into the COG and had been taken away were irate! All who had any contact with the Jesus People, along with the public-at-large, who heard about it in the newspapers, were mad. Property owners of the Jesus People rentals were upset. The full scrutiny and criticism from a variety of sources in Seattle, WA, and Vancouver, BC, were out in force.

At the same time, a fledgling group called ‘Free COG’ or Anti-COG showed up too late – intending to do good, but instead, spewing out unwise critical comments to parents and the media, adding fuel to the fire of an already tragic series of events. The media lapped it up and had a field day!

Vancouver Sun headline

This media story wouldn’t go away but gained momentum, playing-out over a series of months. The onslaught and majority of criticism, blame, and character attacks fell on the young Vancouver Jesus People leader Russ Griggs. He faced the music and did his best to be honest and show integrity and understanding in the midst of fierce personal blows. 

Linda Meissner was sent to Europe and stayed in the COG as one of their ambassadors, glad to be free of her former ministry problems in Seattle. Day by day, Russ faced the hard work of apologies. He was stuck with working-out with landlords the penalties for breaking lease agreements on now-empty properties and just hoped the next day would be better than the last. Fortunately, Russ’ close friend, Mel Davis, who pastored Open Bible Chapel, helped him with housing and supportive healing and encouraged him to gradually get back into active ministry.

Bellingham Camp

COG leader Rachael

Russ told me I could catch a ride over the Canadian border to the US and to the camp with some of his team members who were headed that way.  On arrival I found it was a large campsite with many cabins, a large cafeteria, and lodge.  When I tried to find out where my wife was, I found out she’d been paired up with one of the COG women leaders named Rachael, and I was only allowed to see her in Rachael’s presence and not allowed to visit with my children. This ticked me off!

I’d encountered Rachael before in Texas at their headquarters. She was a big boned woman with dark hair; she reminded me of a man. She was well-suited to the COG female leadership and became a concubine to the leader.

I overheard one of the COG members telling Rachel that hepatitis had broken out at the camp, due to lack of showers and possible food contamination. This news was the last straw!

I demanded that I be able to take my family and leave. What followed was hours of negotiating with Hosea by phone reminding him that we had given over nine vehicles from the Atlanta ministries to the COG and they owed me a running vehicle to help get my family away from the possibility of catching the hepatitis that was spreading rapidly throughout the camp population. I remained insistent until Hosea finally gave in.

My wife was hesitant, as COG women were counseling her to stay. She finally agreed at my urging to take some time aside, get away from the contagious hepatitis environment at the camp for our children’s sake, and re-evaluate our involvement with the COG.

An  Unsettling  Escape  To . . .

Our drive from the Seattle area to California was full of confrontation and disagreement about the COG. She had found a home and felt a lot of support coming to her from the female network of leaders, who were showering her with VIP treatment, affirmation, and friendship. They wanted her loyalty, and for the most part, had it - while they realized my loyalty had slipped into the danger zone.  The foggy coastal route to California was similar to the spiritual condition we were both in and the tug-of-war that was being played out regarding how we each felt about the COG.  I felt disillusioned and fed up, sensing something was terribly wrong. She felt the group provided stability, plenty of female companionship, care for our children, and other positive benefits.

map of western USA

Amazingly, we both agreed to go to our former ministry house in Walnut Creek, CA, called Upper Streams, to inquire if we could stay for a short period of time. Even though we had founded this ministry, they’d heard we’d joined a cult and took us in cautiously.

By now, California Jesus People were suspicious of the COG and their motives, and rightly so. Every few days different Christian friends would show up at Upper Steams to ask questions and warn me away from the COG. I told them I didn’t accept most of what the COG taught and that we were trying to make a break. They, in turn, were concerned and fearful that the COG had sent us to take over Upper Streams and other Bay Area Jesus People ministries. It was a strange experience having my former friends view me with distrust.

A Safe-House – No Longer Safe!

Former ministry friends who lived at Upper Streams gave us the use of the master bedroom, but remained cautious. Then, out of the blue, the COG began calling us on the Upper Streams house line. I don’t know how they got the number and tracked us down, but this added to the stress our hosts at Upper Streams felt. The COG apologized for everything in the past and asked us to come back, which appealed to my wife.

Meanwhile, the residents of Upper Streams weren’t open to us as former leaders based on what they’d heard about the COG. We felt isolated. The COG persisted, offering us a chance to go to England and start off fresh with them on an outreach mission. They knew this was where my heart was at and baited the hook, emphasizing the wide-open mission possibilities in Europe and the need there.

The next day COG members arrived at Upper Streams, which freaked-out the Upper Streams team. They’d graciously allowed us to stay, but when the COG showed up on their doorstep, they became fearful and gravely concerned. On the first two invitations, I’d turned down the COG’s offer to go to England, but my wife wanted to go. Talking it out, I realized our former ministry friends no longer trusted us and wanted us to leave. We’d outstayed our welcome, and our options had narrowed. This dilemma and the ongoing invitation by the COG nudged us to accept their offer to move to England and start over. Ugg!

Leaving from San Francisco, we were flown to New York, where we stayed at a COG colony until flight arrangements could be made for us to go on to England. The NY COG house was over crowded, and the disciples were strange. The countryside was beautiful, but the intensity inside the colony was over-the-top with long teaching sessions, non-stop Scripture memorization, and robot-like residents. The combination left me wanting to get out of there as quickly as possible. I picked up some type of hepatitis jaundice that was going around at this location, and my complexion turned yellow.

Booked on a cheap charter-flight with a stopover in Iceland for refueling, we were finally heading to England. Images of this flight are still vivid. The plane was packed to capacity, and our family couldn’t sit together for the first phase of the flight. My wife, Rebekah, and Elizabeth were seated several isles in front of me, until someone graciously gave up their seat so we could sit together and I could help with the girls, who were now resting in both of our arms. It was a late night flight and most on board slept, with the exception of a few babies who whimpered until they could nurse or were given a bottle. 

Didn’t Want to Die in a Plane crash!

Below us were dark gray clouds and wing lights in view. All was calm until our peaceful flight was abruptly caught in the middle of a severe thunder and lightning storm as we approached Iceland. In a short space of time all passengers were awakened by the shaking of the plane and the steward turning on the cabin lights, urging everyone to buckle up. Waves of heavy turbulence pounded the plane as passenger concern rose with every turbulent shake and bolt of lightning. Finally, the captain’s voice came on the intercom explaining that we couldn’t land immediately because of a back up of other flights delayed by the same storm. In a holding pattern, we flew large laps over Iceland until cleared to land.

Twenty to thirty minutes later, knowing the purpose of landing in Iceland was for refueling, some passengers began voicing concern about running out of fuel. As this possible scenario was buzzing around the cabin, our left wing engine caught on fire! I took a deep breath and looked at my spouse as she started to wake. “What’s going on?” she whispered.

“An engine fire on the left wing”

“Are we going to be ok?” she continued, gripping Elizabeth more firmly.

“I hope so!”

We opened the sliding window next to her and could see the white and orange flames shooting sporadically from the engine. The rain and turbulence had increased, with loud claps of thunder and lightning illuminating the sky and the plane engine. We prayed and hoped others were, too. It was obvious that the passenger adrenalin level was high. It was like a bad airplane movie with all of us in it. “Would we die? What would the captain do?” These were the unspoken questions many of us were afraid to ask.

The flight-crew seemed to read the growing panic and made this announcement. “Because of our emergency status we have been bumped into first place and we are readying to land.” Whew! Decending to the runway caused an incredible sense of relief for passengers who clapped and cheered as we touched down.

airplane in sky

As we exited the plane the flight team told us we’d have at least a two-hour layover. This changed when we heard over the terminal PA that mechanics had taken the plane out of service for an engine replacement and all luggage was being sent to baggage claim to be picked up. This news was followed by information that a replacement plane would arrive in approximately four hours. The long layover didn’t seem to bother any of our fellow passengers who were glad just to be alive! An alternative plane arrived as promised, and soon we were boarded and on our way to London.

England

map of UK

When we finally set down in England, it felt good to be on solid ground, and I made a personal commitment never to fly on a cheap charter plane again. Being in a foreign country for the first time was a cross-cultural experience. The dialect of the British customs officers and international passengers coming and going from all over the world was fascinating. As I listened, I could hear a variety of languages being spoken in the background as we navigated Heathrow Airport. European cars and busses, road signs and borough names, and driving on the opposite side of the road were all different.

Unfortunately, our cultural education was cut short once we met up with COG leadership, who whisked us off to a large factory in a city called Bromley, in Kent County. Life in the COG commune was limiting, controlled, predictable, and suffocating for me. After the first few days I cringed when the slogans were yelled out, “Revolution for Jesus! My family, my family, right or wrong my family!” I hated the idea of blind loyalty in the COG chant! In my gut I knew things weren’t right. The only thing that had changed was our geographical location.

Over the next month my wife was paired with prominent COG female leaders. I saw her and the children only for brief time frames. It was unnerving. I was assigned work in the Bromley print shop, helping out wherever I was needed. I recall writing a prophetic letter warning American friends about a coming judgment on materialism, greed and idol worship. This attempt at personal expression didn’t change my internal battle and suspicion about what was at the core of the COG. Troubling characteristics kept coming to the surface.

I didn’t agree with the practice of separating spouses and permitting only very short visits with one’s own children, once a week, or every two weeks. I didn’t like the whole concept of COG leaders forcing all new disciples to cut all ties with former friends and family. I observed the ‘public relations policy’ in action – they portrayed themselves to the public as something they were not, while damning the system and the disciples’ families behind closed doors. The lack of balance in teaching was more noticeable as ‘Mo Letters’ from a secret source became more frequent. In a short span of time these letters seemed to be elevated to equal status with Scripture. Adding to this, there was a hidden agenda and levels of disclosure intentionally kept from new disciples. As these concerns converged, I received word that my wife and I had been given our own room in the factory. With this development, I turned my attention to reuniting with her and hopefully seeing our children.

My wife seemed different but was willing to reconcile and reconnect. After spending several days together, I got the impression that the COG wanted to use her to pull me back into a place of loyalty within the group. She’d arrived at a new level of dedication and was setting an example for me. Unfortunately, it was bad timing.

New COG Direction – David Berg Appoints Himself a Super-Prophet

David Berg aka Mo

Being reunited with my wife afforded me the privilege of visiting my two young daughters, Rebekah and Elizabeth, which was an emotional breakthrough for me. I couldn’t understand why children were kept in separate living quarters, but it was another policy employed by the COG to keep parents dependant on the group and off-balance.

Working in the print shop, I saw a new collection of ‘Mo Letters’ being printed for COG leaders in various colonies in the USA and Europe. When I left the shop, I slipped a few of these secret letters into my pocket to read privately. They were called ‘David,’ ‘Psalm of David,’ and the ‘Key of David.’ I read them carefully and realized they were all about David Berg revealing himself as the author of all ‘Mo Letters’ and presenting himself as God’s special end-time prophet. Self-glorification was woven throughout each letter. It was the hardest evidence I had to date and the most alarming. It confirmed my greatest fear, that the COG was becoming a cult and moving rapidly away from mainstream Christianity.

angry COG disciple

What was I to do? I decided to write directly to David Berg (AKA Moses) and voice my concerns. I hand-delivered this letter to a top leader at the Bromley, Kent, factory without disclosing the subject matter.  Several days later I was called before two leaders at the Bromley factory and told I should write a letter of apology to Moses. My explanation for writing and raising concerns about Berg elevating himself as God’s only spokesman was not what they wanted to hear. They were unmoved by my concern, saying they were loyal and in agreement with his writings. One agitated disciple yelled, “You’re the one in the wrong! You need to repent and send a letter of apology to God’s prophet!”

The Making of a Dangerous Cult

“I can’t.  It’s a matter of conscience!”

In that moment fear gripped me, as I thought about my wife, children, and all of the Atlanta ministry friends under the COG influence. My refusal to write an apology didn’t go over well. 

Who would have expected that one of the most dangerous cults in the last several hundred years was rapidly taking shape in an inconspicuous old factory in Bromley, S.E. London?

COG factory in UK

What had been abandoned was now jammed to capacity with new British Children of God converts and transplants from the USA.

When I returned to our tiny room in the factory, I shared with my wife what had just occurred. I knew this turn of events had pushed both of us into uncomfortable territory. She was not happy to hear that I’d sent a letter to David Berg and had refused to recant whatever I’d said to the COG leaders.  She liked the kibbutz type of care provided for the children and had made a lot of new friends. For her the COG was providing stability and a strong support system. She said she was aware of some things that were wrong with the COG, but was willing to overlook them, reminding me of all the good they were doing.

Our married life had been challenging, especially with the COG in the middle. For now it was stable, but not long enough for her. She was being groomed by female top COG leaders and wasn’t about to ruin her good standing, even after I told her about the new ‘Mo Letters,’ which glorified Moses as ‘The’ end time prophet. It was a sobering realization that regardless of what I might say, she was loyal to the COG.

Guards Posted at my Door

COG guard

The following afternoon when I returned to our room her belongings were gone. The inside dead bolt to our room was removed. I felt too disturbed to eat dinner, so I took a nap. When I awoke, I saw two guards standing outside my door, visible through a small panel of vertical glass. My concern was growing, and I wondered what would happen next. After several hours I fell into a light sleep until wakened by several COG leaders who were in my room. Sitting up I was startled, fearful of their intentions. They said they were giving me a last chance to recant the contents of my letter to David Berg. I listened to them, but said, “No.”

A Children of God Tribunal

Hearing this, they left and returned about an hour later and led me into a meeting room with eight COG leaders gathered. Several younger leaders harangued me about the nerve I had to send a letter full of doubts about David Berg to him. “You need to repent! You’re the one who screwed up!”

                        Don’t disagree, or question – it’s not allowed!
                        We’ll teach and guard you – we’ll take your family!
                        We’ll humiliate, accuse and break you!

Then a door opened and my wife was brought in and she took a seat. She spoke up with confidence, “You have no right to say anything bad about the Children of God! They’ve been trying to help us. You’re the one with problems, and our marriage has been falling apart for years. I believe them and not you!”

5 portraits of members of COG tribunal

One of the leaders motioned to her, and she got up and left. I was staggered by her demeanor change. I knew in my heart that the COG were using her, most likely to keep the Atlanta Jesus People loyal. They’d been working on her intensely since day one. No doubt they brought her into the meeting to humiliate, intimidate, and make sure everyone in that room heard – I was the one with problems.

After she left, Hosea pulled out a lengthy, railing letter from David Berg, full of rebukes and accusations of me being demonized. It took about fifteen minutes for them to read the entire letter entitled, ‘Beelzebub Lord of the Flies.’ When they were through, they asked if I had anything to say. It was clear I had no credibility by Moses’ declaration of my demonized condition.

I stammered, “My loyalty is to God and Jesus Christ. I’m obeying my conscience and the Word of God and cannot put anyone above or in the place of God or His Son Jesus Christ.”

The leaders shrugged off my answer, unimpressed.  They continued to mock me, and Hosea concluded the meeting by quoting from his father’s letter about me being demon-possessed. I was then escorted back to my tiny room with new guards posted outside my door. My mind was reeling from all that had just happened in this kangaroo court. “What would happen to my wife and children – what would they do with me?” I felt fear for my safety in COG hands. 

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

Part 17: Our Decision - Their Agenda

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Last Update: 2017-07-24 18:58