(January 8-10, 1999)
Two weeks prior to my visit, I wrote my wife and asked her if it would be okay to come down on Friday evening so we could talk. On my previous visit in December she had said they were going to do a Bible study on covenants. So I thought this time when I went down on Friday night we could talk about what she was learning about covenants. She wrote me back the week before I went down and said Friday night was good, but to arrive after 6:00 because she didn't want me to be there while she was watching children.
By the time I got near Philadelphia the roads were pretty bad and I thought I would call my dad to see if he was home. If he wasn't at home, then I would just go straight to Ellen's. Even though I was a little early, I thought it might take me a little while to get there. It was 4:30 and she had told me not to get there until 6:00. I called my dad's and he was home. I told him since he was there I would come over and he said he would cook some leftover spaghetti for us. I got to his house and I noticed all the snow (he is 70 years old) and thought I would shovel the pavement for him so he wouldn't have to do it.
I called and my wife answered the phone and I told her I had just arrived after being on the road all day and that the roads were pretty bad and I was tired and would rather stay there and just came down on Saturday. Her voice kind of dropped as if she was really disappointed to hear I didn't want to come Friday night. She started trying to talk me into coming. She said, "Oh, can't you come? I sent the children to my sisters and I'm the only one here. Even if you're an hour late it's okay. Besides it's supposed to rain tonight and the roads are supposed to get really bad. So why don't you just plan on coming tonight and you can sleep over. Oh, don't worry, I'm not going to do anything."
I said, "I want to shovel my dad's pavement. I guess you prepared something for dinner." She said, "Yes, but that's all right. Even if you're an hour late it's all right."
I ate dinner at my dad's, shoveled the pavement, which took longer than I thought, and it was almost 8:00 when I arrived at my wife's. I showed up and it was really quiet. My wife said, "What do you want to talk about?" I said, "I was thinking about talking about covenants because you said you were going to do a Bible study about covenants a month ago and I want to hear what you're learning." So she went on to say that the Bible study teacher was sick and because of the holidays they didn't have a Bible study in the last three weeks. Then she looked at me and said, "You know how I've wanted you to talk to somebody for the last five years? Well, I was thinking, would you talk to somebody tonight? Would you do it for me?"
I said, "Why, are they here?" And she said, "Yes, they're at Nancy's house." So I said, "Okay." She made a phone call and about five minutes later Nancy came, and also Hank (a man who faithfully writes to me every other week). Then another man and woman came in, and I thought he said his name was Tom. He introduced the woman as Judy. He didn't give her last name, so all I remember is Tom and Judy.
He said he was from Massachusetts, and that he had known the Community for a long time. He said he knew Hakam, Racham, Ehud (he mentioned a lot of people in the Community), and he seemed to know them and said they knew him. He told me he really admired my stand, giving up my wife, children, and home for the Gospel. After showing a short film about a strange group, he went on and on about these groups and the way they were and how they see people. I remember stopping him in the middle of his conversation and telling him he might as well be speaking Spanish because I couldn't relate to anything he was saying. I said, "It's not that way in the Community. I can't relate to anything you're saying. I don't want to waste your time or ours."
He said, "Oh, I appreciate you speaking up." It was about 10:30. I ended up staying over and sleeping downstairs. At 8:00 Saturday morning we were just finishing up breakfast and my wife asked me if I would talk to an ex-member of the Community. I said, "Here in town?" She said, "Yes, he flew in." She said he came from somewhere in Tennessee. So I said, "Sure, I'd be glad to talk to him." I didn't know who she was talking about. She made a phone call and this woman Nancy shows up again with Hank and a man named Roger Griffin.
So we sat down and Roger started talking. He went way back to when the Community first started and he said, "Most of us were Christians and we belonged to a couple of fellowship groups." He said at one point Yoneq had cut this one fellowship group off. Roger said, "I had a lot of Christian friends in that fellowship and Yoneq just cut them off and didn't want anything to do with them anymore. But he didn't say why." He told me how Yoneq had all these plans for Tennessee -- building cafes, raising up apostles, and lots of things. But Roger said it never came about. It never happened and we ended up leaving Tennessee and moving to Island Pond. I remember stopping him at that point and saying, "Roger, even though he had vision for Tennessee, these things still could happen. We're not even born as a nation yet. It could still happen. We're still small right now."
Then he went on again about how Yoneq said he was going to raise up apostles, but it never happened -- just Yoneq. He was the only one. Everything came through Yoneq. I stopped him again and said, "Even though we don't see many apostles in the Community, they are being raised up. There are many of them functioning in their gifts. They're there in the Body."
Roger kept saying how Yoneq makes all the decisions in the Community. "No one can think on their own. We all have to agree with Yoneq." He asked me many times, "Where did Yoneq get his authority?" After he kept saying it so many times, I said, "It's amazing, but in Yahshua's time the Pharisees asked Yahshua where His authority came from." And I asked Tom, "Are you a Pharisee?"
Tom kept bringing up this verse in Acts 17:11 about the Bereans and how they searched the Scriptures daily to see whether these things that Paul was saying were true. He sort of associated himself with the Bereans; they were more noble and would search the Scriptures, and that was what he was doing. He was going to search the Scriptures and see if Yoneq was teaching according to them.
I remember Tom saying to me that he knew the teaching came from the anointing and it seemed he understood that unless he was under the anointing he wouldn't be able to understand the teachings. He also said he had many teachings from the Community. I remember Tom pulling out a teaching and we started to read it. I forget what it was, but it made me think about what the cost of being a disciple was. He said, "Oh, I'm glad you mentioned it; let's turn to that in Luke 14:26. Let's look at that." He said, "Ok, Yahshua meant it literally, 'If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.' Then down a little further it says, 'You cannot be My disciple unless you give up all your possessions.' And the third one was, 'Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.' So if you take the first two literally, then you have to take the third one literally. He's saying to die, but of course He doesn't want us to kill ourselves."
He was reasoning it away so I said, "No, He means you need to die -- not take your life, but give up your life." I tried to explain to him that you can't come to know God by reading your Bible. I said, "You can read it and read it and read it, but you'll never come to know God. You may come to know a little about Him, but you'll never really come into a personal relationship with God. The only way you can come to know our Father is through receiving a disciple and receiving his message."
I remember telling him that the Bible was written to believers, not to just anyone. If you don't have the Holy Spirit, all the Bible can do is make you more confused. (I wanted to have compassion on this man. I didn't really know him and he seemed to be sincere at first, but the more he talked I could tell he didn't understand. I tried to explain it to him as simple as I could.) I remember telling him that faith comes by hearing, not by reading. It comes by hearing from a sent one. It's one thing to read about the cost of being a disciple, but it's another thing when our Father sends a disciple to you and he preaches the good news to you in person. Then you're confronted with the truth and you have to decide what you're going to do with it.
I told him how the very example of this is in Acts 13:42 where it says, "When the Jews went out of the synagogue, the Gentiles begged that these words be preached to them at the next Sabbath. And when the congregation had broken up, many of the Jews and devout proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God. On the next Sabbath almost the whole city came together to hear the Word of God. But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and contradicting and blaspheming, they opposed the things spoken by Paul. And Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, 'It was necessary for the Word of God should be spoken to you first, but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles.'" I told him that it was a serious thing to not receive the message from the sent one, from a disciple. It has grave consequences.
Again, Tom would say, "No, the Bereans were more noble and they searched the Scriptures to see if these things were true." He said more than once, "If this were the truth, I'd be the first one to join the Community." I remember Tom saying that some things were already understood among the believers so they weren't written down. Then he started having a hard time again with living in community. He said, "You don't have to live in community to be saved."
I said, "That was one of the things that was understood by the believers. If a person believed in the Gospel from the sent one, and he obeyed the Gospel and gave up everything, he would find himself living with other believers with the same heart and the same mind. He would find himself living in community with other believers."
I remember telling him that Yahshua's prayer in John 17 was that the believers would be one even as He and the Father were one. "The covenant we make with one another as believers is greater than a marriage covenant in the world. I wouldn't know what it meant to be one if I hadn't been married to my wife, Ellen. I knew what it meant to be one, so when I read that in John 17 where Yahshua said, 'Let them be one just as the Father and Son are one,' I knew that this oneness had to be greater than a marriage covenant in the world."
I gave him another example in 1 Ths 2:8 where Paul says, "So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the Gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us." And then I told him in 2 Cor 7:3 that Paul said, "I do not say this to condemn; for I have said before that you are in our hearts, to die together and to live together."
I remember him saying, "Oh, God wants us to read the Bible and live by the principles of the Bible." I told him that the Gospels and the Epistles weren't self-help books. They weren't written so you could better your life or make the world a better place or help improve self. But the Gospels, when believed, will help you end your life (terminate it). I just wanted to make it really simple for him, but he just kept making it more complicated by his reasoning. I told him, "If Paul were here today you'd have a hard time him, too."
We took a break for awhile and around lunch time a couple of my sisters showed up. I asked them what they were doing here. Then my father showed up from Philadelphia, and I was really surprised to see him. I said, "Dad, what are you doing here?" He didn't say anything. After lunch time there were about eleven people (some church friends of my wife dropped in, too) besides myself.
Tom wanted to share a video that he said was short. He said it was a true story where a teacher in his classroom did an experiment. Later he lost his job because of this experiment. So we all went downstairs and he put in his video and it starts out where the teacher is showing a film on the Holocaust. It showed the picture of Hitler. At the end of the film you see a lot of dead bodies and a lot of Jews are skinny and starving. It really affects the students in the class. One girl says, "Wow, how can one man have so much power? How could he get all these soldiers to carry out his will and kill all these Jews?"
So over the next few days the teacher puts the students through an experiment of becoming slavishly obedient to authority, first his and then whoever in the class draws the right card that day. One girl goes home and starts telling her mother about the experiment and the mother doesn't like the idea and tells her daughter she doesn't want her to be a part of it. So she goes in to class the next day and her boyfriend is in the same class. She confronts him and tells him she doesn't want to participate in this experiment and the boyfriend gets really mad at her and says, "You have to. You don't have any choice." And she says, "Yes I do. I'm not going to do it." The boyfriend tells her she just needs to find herself another boyfriend. She goes to her locker room and someone writes on her locker, "enemy" and she's really scared. During the week, even fights break out in the school and the classroom is chanting this chant and it really gets out of hand.
The next day there was a flag that was called the "wave" with a code on it that the students couldn't make out, but the teacher translated it and said, "The wave is upon us." He tells his class that they weren't the only ones who were experimenting, but it was a nation-wide experiment with a lot of other schools. He said there was a leader and at noontime they were going to go down to the auditorium and find out who this leader was. So at noontime the whole classroom went down to the auditorium and the teacher turned on two movie screens and there was a lot of static. The class sits there for about a half an hour and nothing is happening and they start getting fidgety and looking around. Someone says, "Mr. Smith, there's no leader. This is just a hoax." And the teacher says, "There is a leader," and he turns on the big screen and it's Adolf Hitler. He says, "This is the leader."
So Tom turns the TV set off and says, "History is going to repeat itself." And I said, "That's right, history is going to repeat itself. One thing this film failed to mention was that Adolf Hitler was a Christian and the 'wave' is Christianity. We're headed for a one-world government and a one-world religion. History is going to repeat itself; when Christianity and the State are married there will be bloodshed. That's what we're coming into."
When he turned off the film I noticed that my wife was crying and it had upset my two sisters and a couple of the women. We talked some more and I remember that Roger was sitting next to me and he looked right at me and started talking to me. We looked at each other right in the eyes and he said in front of everybody (I won't use the exact words he did) that the Community had castrated me. He said, "You're not even a man. You can't even think for yourself. You can't even provide for your wife and children."
I said, "I've heard enough, I've seen enough, and as far as I'm concerned this meeting is over and I'm through talking." I said to my wife, "I want you to bring the children home tomorrow because I'd like to spend some time with them before I go back to Boston." So she said she would; that she'd make sure they were there. Then they started trying to talk me into staying. My father had left about a half hour before that and I told him, "Dad, I'll be along right behind you. Leave the light on." I remember my wife saying, "Oh, stay. Your sisters took off from work today to see you. Please stay." I said, "No, I don't want to stay."
I said goodbye and went outside and there were some cars in the driveway and I didn't know if I was going to be able to get out or not. I sensed that they didn't want me to leave. I really didn't want to go back into the house. I thought I could turn around although it was real close to the house. At one point I knew I was going to have to go up on the lawn and I was hoping there was enough room between my car and a tree so I could get out. I was going to go for it because I could sense they weren't going to move the cars for me and they were hoping I couldn't get out. Somehow I managed to turn around and I zigzagged around a few cars and up on the lawn and I just made it. I was so thankful my car just fit through this little spot and I didn't have to go back into the house.
I went to my dad's and it was about midnight when I got there. I remember waking up three or four times and it was still dark. After the fourth time I got up and got dressed; it was 6:30 in the morning. I wanted to go see my brother in a correctional facility on the way to see my wife. I got there about 7:30 and visiting hours were at 8:00. While I was waiting I was hoping that Tom, Roger and Judy would still be at my wife's when I got there because I had something on my heart to tell them. That film had bothered me a little and how it had affected some of the other people in the room.
It was 9:30 when the guards told me I couldn't see him without a letter from the warden, so I left. On the way to my wife's house I was praying that our Father would give me boldness to speak what was on my heart, what I had thought about the whole weekend. I was praying that I would put a little fear into this man, Tom, because I knew that film put some fear into some of the people who were there watching it the night before.
When I arrived at my wife's house it was about 10:15 and my children were there and I greeted them. Then I went right to my wife and said, "Ellen, I want to talk to you and Tom and Judy right now. Go down and tell them." So they came up and to my surprise Roger was there, too. We all sat down and Tom asked me, "What did you think about the video?" And I said, "It bothered me, and that's why I want to talk to you. The purpose of that video was to say that living in community was evil, and not only that, but that the community I live in is evil." I told him that he didn't have the Holy Spirit, and I said, "The Holy Spirit would never use a worldly video like that. All that video communicated was fear. Tom, you think you're doing God's will, but your motives are evil." I said, "If I were you, I'd burn that video."
Then I looked at Roger and said, "Roger, you don't have the Holy Spirit either because that was pretty low what you said last night about the Community castrating me. The Holy Spirit wouldn't say that." I looked at him and said, "My wife's been wanting me to talk to somebody for almost five years and I told her I would agree to talk to someone for a day. The way this was done this weekend was very sneaky. I was coming down here and I wasn't even aware of this meeting until I arrived at my wife's house. Neither she nor my father let on that this meeting was going to take place this weekend."
Tom said, "Oh, it had to be that way because if we had told you, you wouldn't have come, because your Community wouldn't have let you speak to us."
My wife said, "Oh, it won't happen again." She promised a couple of times that it wouldn't happen again.
On Saturday Tom had said that he had tried to talk to Yoneq and he had been given the run-around and no one knows where he is. I said, "But after listening to you Friday and Saturday, I'm not surprised if Yoneq doesn't want to talk to you." I told him, "I'm going to pray that our Father will have mercy on you because you're in a bad place." Not much more was said after that. I went outside with my children and we spent the last three hours together. We were out in the woods and when we came back Tom and Judy were gone, but Roger was still there. I left around 2:30.
About a week later I called my wife and asked her, "Could you give me Tom's last name because I want to write to him." She said, "His name is Bob Pardon." I said, "Wait a minute, I thought he said his name was Tom." She said, "No, he introduced himself as Bob." I said, "Tom and Bob -- that's not even close." She said, "Well, when you were saying his name I was going to correct you, but I didn't."
I said, "If I had known that was Bob Pardon, that meeting probably wouldn't have gone as long as it did."
And she said, "Oh, that was God that allowed that."