The Children of God
by Deborah (Linda Berg) Davis with Bill Davis, 1984
It doesn't matter if it kills Deborah, she'd be better off [dead]. . .
one way or the other, God's will be done.
You tell Rachel I sent her there with a message . . . the truth of
Rachel is the executioner and I sent her to be the hatchet man, and
she's either got to save them or kill them, one or the other! I know
this business . . . you run the risk of killing the victim.
You tell her to get busy and kill them! Kill them! The quicker the
better! I mean if they can't stand the truth they ought to die and be
dead! Let's hope maybe they'll go to Heaven and not to Hell!
My Lord, if people would only receive what I tell them and obey it and
do it! It doesn't matter if it kills people!
If the truth kills people, then they need to be killed! And if they
won't believe and receive and obey the truth, then God damn them! Let
them go to Hell as far as I'm concerned! 79
This message directed against me and my husband Bill, by my father on
February 21, 1978, marked the beginning of the end:
the end of a thirty-one-year relationship of father and daughter, and
the end of ten insane years in the Children of God.
Understanding this message and the details surrounding it, brings to
an end our adventure into the world of the bizarre, the unbelievable,
what I call the "insanity of sin." It all seems so vague, so remote,
like the fleeting memories of a distant nigh mare. Yet it was no
dream. It was all very, very real.
After my Coronation in London in September 1972, and my demotion six
weeks later, I stayed in England for about six months. Dad had
virtually excluded me from all leadership activities, so I lived in
seclusion in a large Colony outside London. However, my seclusion was
short-lived. The pressures of the situation, concern over the welfare
of my children, and Dad's promptings forced me back into the
mainstream of activities.
My brother Aaron had disappeared somewhere in France, and Dad ordered
Jethro and me to the Continent to find him. Aaron had been losing
touch with reality for some time. Circumstances brought his condition
to a point of extreme aggravation when British Immigrations refused to
allow his reentry into England. He had been on a short trip to
Scandinavia, and upon his return, was turned away because of his
association with the COG, and the fact that he was a Berg. We had been
receiving bad publicity at the time.
Aaron wanted to return to London to see Dad and resolve their
differences. That he couldn't see Dad devastated him. He was forced to
live in Paris, where he began to disappear for days at a time, taking
long train rides to unknown destinations. He would return from these
trips in a daze, as if he didn't know where he had been.
My father—though he will not admit it to himself—is keenly
responsible for the death of his son. Aaron could not understand why
he was experiencing many doubts, why he was suffering frustration and
spiritual torment. He told my mother shortly before his final
disappearance, that his doubts about Dad were driving him crazy. He
felt like a terrible sinner because he kept questioning his father's revelations concerning his role as the Endtime
Prophet. Aaron had memorized vast portions of the Bible, and his
knowledge of Scripture kept conflicting with the things his father did
and said. Aaron's own involvement in sin compounded the weight of
guilt and frustration. His self-condemnation weighed so heavily upon
him, that he could endure it no longer. Because of his intense love
and his deep loyalty to his father, Aaron's mind was being torn in
Aaron wanted to love and follow his father; but inwardly his
conscience was telling him 'No'. The psychological and spiritual
torment pushed him beyond the limits of rational thinking. His only
alternative: end it all. He found it impossible to turn against his
father, yet he could not rid himself of the negative thoughts.
The situation was compounded by my dad's attitude. Dad knew
instinctively that Aaron was having serious doubts, and this was an
affront to the Prophet. Dad put great pressure on Aaron to yield to
his authority and, unsuccessful in that, finally rejected him. And
Aaron knew his father didn't want him around. I believe that when
Immigrations barred him from the country, Aaron considered it an act
Some members of my family do not like to hear Aaron's death called a
suicide. I respect their right to hold that opinion. I was not there
with Aaron on that mountain in Switzerland. To my knowledge, no one
was. So I cannot say with absolute certainty that Aaron took his own
life. But I lived through the same hell he did; I know firsthand the
struggle that can push a person to the brink of self-destruction.
Aaron's body was found at the base of a large cliff by two mountain
climbers. According to the police report, he had been dead about two
weeks before his body was discovered. Dad wrote a Mo Letter glorifying
Aaron's death, a letter he called "Aaron on the Mountain". It
explained to all the disciples that the "Lord took Aaron while he was
mountain climbing." Dad tried to make it sound like the story of
Enoch: Aaron was so "spiritual" that God finally just took him home.
What a lie!
What makes Aaron's death all the more tragic, is that he was in a real
sense a spiritual catalyst from the early days of the movement. From
the time of "Teens for Christ" onward, music played
a vital role in our ministry; it was often the point of first contact
with potential converts. Aaron—Paul—was our leading lyricist-arranger-composer. Many of his songs became stock in trade for the
Jesus People, and have nurtured Christians who have no idea of the
music's origins. What a legacy!
The circumstances under which we learned of Aaron's mysterious death
were themselves unusual.
Jethro and I had searched Paris and Geneva for several weeks and never
found any indication of Aaron's whereabouts. We left his photo with
the police, and filed numerous missing person reports. Being
unsuccessful, we were instructed by Dad to continue south to Italy to
help prepare for the wedding of Rachel to a wealthy Italian. Emanuel
Canevaro, Duke of Zoagli, had taken an interest in the Family, and
specifically in Rachel. Dad was willing to give up one of his own
wives for the sake of such an important union. It was not every day
that an Italian duke married into the Children of God!
So in March
1973, I went to Italy.
Marrying a duke was no small affair. Emanuel and Rachel were married
on the steps of a public plaza in Rome on Easter Sunday, April 22.
On the wedding day, my mother, who had come to Italy for the ceremony,
received a phone call from the Swiss police. It was a notification
that a body had been discovered matching the description and photo on
our missing person report. Mother told no one, but went silently to
the wedding as if nothing had ever happened. Later she explained, "I
didn't want to spoil the wedding."
Dad had actually played a trick on Jethro and me. He fully intended
that we move permanently to Italy, and had lured us there with his
request that we go for just a few weeks to "help out with the
wedding." I spent ten months in Italy altogether, living with Rachel
and Emanuel on one of the duke's large fattorias outside Florence.
In December I returned to Bromley, England, to have Christmas with
Dad. When I arrived, I was in for a big shock. I knew my father was
changing and doing things that bothered me—many of which I could not
understand or relate to—but despite these changes, I still related to
him as my father, as the man I knew in
my childhood. But the change I saw in my father in December 1973 was
incredible. He was no longer "Dad." He was 100 percent "Moses David."
He was Maria's puppet.
It was my desire to have a happy Christmas, so I had set myself to
buying presents, fixing a Christmas tree, and so on. But when I
arrived at Dad's house, I found that access to the Prophet was now
screened through Maria. We were no longer permitted to see him
whenever we so desired. We had to clear it with Maria. I had come all
the way from Italy to celebrate Christmas with my father, only to
discover that he was "too busy" with more important matters, that he
was engaged in a secret mission! Dad and Maria were mysteriously going
out every night, and no one knew exactly what was going on. Later we
found out he was pioneering his new method of "evangelism" with Maria—involving a man named Arthur. Christmas Day came and Dad was gone. New
Year's Eve came and Dad was gone. Dad was gone . . . lost in the world
of Flirty Fishing.
Finally, I managed to corner Dad so that I could discuss my purpose
and future in the Family. My time in Italy had been a nightmare, so
Dad gave me permission to work in Paris. Going to Paris permanently
separated me from Jethro.
I arrived in Paris in January 1974, stunned over the drastic change in
my dad, and wondering what would now become of my life. It seemed that
things were far beyond my control, and even further beyond my
understanding. For all practical purposes, I was divorced, even though
Dad did not allow divorce, just indefinite separations. I wondered how
my children would respond to this new situation, and what would be the
end result of Dad's change in personality. He was steadily growing
more distant from his immediate family.
Paris became a place of dramatic change in my life. I had reached
another breaking point. Again I faced a crucial decision: Retrace the
footsteps of the past and face the truth, or cover it all up and go
on. I was a master at masquerading, at hiding my true feelings, at
putting up the front required of the Prophet's eldest
daughter. I chose to go on—but with a twist. This time I would slowly
and systematically starve myself to death. I guess I was an early
victim of what was then an uncommon and little-understood disease,
My efforts were nearly successful. At the end of six months, I weighed
eighty-five pounds, had an infectious blood disease, was hemorrhaging
internally, and on the verge of aborting a three-month-old baby.
During this time, I had been living with Bill Davis; and it was, in
fact, his child I was carrying. He was known in the Family as
"Isaiah." He was in charge of the COG's French Publications De-
partment and was one of the key leaders in France.
Bill joined the Children of God on January 1, 1972, in Dallas, Texas.
He was a young, idealistic youth—a product of the rebellious and
restless counterculture of the late sixties and early seventies.
Reared in a moderately wealthy suburb of Columbus, Ohio, Bill was
brought up to be a Roman Catholic; but he rejected all notions of
church and God when he began to study philosophy intensively at Ohio
University. Running the gauntlet of drugs, political protest,
existentialism, and depression, Bill experienced a spiritual
conversion late in his junior year of college. Ironically, it was a
witnessing team of the Children of God who had traveled from
Cincinnati to the university in Athens, Ohio, who "led him to the
Lord." He was a good student in college, despite his rebellion, and he
graduated with honors. However, his discontent led him into an
encounter with the COG in Dallas. Believing he had found the Truth, he
threw himself—mind, body, and soul—into the cause.
When I met Bill in Paris, I latched onto his youthfulness and zeal the
way a drowning man grabs a life preserver. Bill and I began living
together in January 1974. Yet even though I found great comfort in
Bill's presence, I remained determined to continue my methodical
starvation. Bill was oblivious to my state of health, and was totally
unaware of what I was doing. But by July, my condition had so
deteriorated, that during a gala performance of our Parisian Show
Group, "Les Enfants de Dieu," in Southern France, Bill felt it
necessary to drive me to Geneva to seek medical assistance.
I was too weak to walk when we arrived in Geneva, so Bill took me to
the doctor of a friend of ours. He took one look at me and said, "Has
she been in a concentration camp?"
The doctor refused to prescribe medical treatment unless I admitted
myself to a hospital. I refused. The same friend who had recommended
the doctor owned a large hotel and put me in one of the rooms and
said, "Please stay here until you are well." My hemorrhaging continued
until I began to lapse in and out of consciousness. Bill was at a loss
as to what should be done. One morning he was suddenly gripped with a
fear that I was on the verge of death. Without telling anyone (which
was not the thing to do where the daughter of Moses David was
concerned), he wrapped me in a blanket and drove me to the hospital.
In the hospital I was placed in Intensive Care. All night long,
according to reports, my life hung in the balance. My body simply did
not have the life force to sustain the baby I had been carrying for
four-and-a-half months. Between the condition of the blood disease,
the baby's drain on my system, my acute loss of blood, and my body's
state of malnutrition—something had to give. Apparently my body knew
that if the baby wasn't aborted, I would die.
I began to fear for the baby's life and realized the folly of my
self-starvation. My mental state was completely confused; having
drifted in and out of consciousness for nearly forty-eight hours, I
had no real sense of my condition. Doctors, needles, nurses, and
medical objects kept appearing and disappearing along with my
consciousness. I started to cry, pleading with God not to take the
baby. I was delirious all night. I remember that the nurses were very
kind; they kept trying to calm me down."Don't worry, everything will
be fine. Everything will be all right."
Early in the morning God took the baby. It would have been Bill's
firstborn. Again, things had not worked out the way I had planned.
Instead of my life ending, an innocent child died. Now I had to live
with this trauma instead of being rid of all my problems. In my
confusion I sobbed, "I didn't mean to do it. I didn't want it to
happen like this." The nurses didn't really understand my situation.
My condition stabilized after the miscarriage and several blood
transfusions. I was removed from Intensive Care, but stayed in the hospital for more than two weeks. It was another month
before I was able to get around without a wheelchair.
At the doctor's suggestion, my father ordered me into temporary
retirement; so in September 1974, I moved to Cannes on the French
Riviera. Bill and I lived in seclusion, with instructions that I was
to write booklets on childcare and education for the Family. We stayed
in Cannes for about five months, and then moved to Zoagli, Italy, to
live in one of Duke Emanuel's villas.
Zoagli is a very small, picturesque village near Chiavari on the
Mediterranean coast. Our villa overlooked the Gulf of Tigullio—perhaps the most beautiful place I have ever lived in. The peaceful
surroundings, exquisite Italian food, and rest from the mainstream of
COG activities had a wonderful healing effect on me. I think the
healthiest factor was that I was living away from Dad and the rest of
the Royal Family. Any contact with my immediate family would only
bring unspeakable tension and pressure. The Royal Family lived in a
world of competition and envy, and their disease infected anyone who
was nearby. I knew of several disciples who later told me they would
do all they could to leave town when they found out two or more
members of the Royal Family would be there together.
In Zoagli, Bill and I worked intensely on writing "Deborah Letters"
for the Family. We produced a lot of material for Dad to publish. The
disciples never knew it, but Bill wrote all the Deborah Letters.
I was beginning to enjoy life once again as I lived alone with Bill in
that beautiful villa. I was telling myself, "Perhaps the days of peace
have finally come. Perhaps the days of hell are passed."
But in June 1975, I received a disturbing phone call. It was my father
announcing that he was coming to live with me. He was returning from
his two-month visit with Colonel Moammar Gadahfi, and would arrive at
the Genova (Genoa) airport with Maria. Bill and I were instructed to
meet them alone at the airport. I couldn't believe my ears. Dad, the
Endtime Prophet, was coming to my little hideaway on the Côte d'Azur.
Bill was shaken. Very few disciples had the privilege of seeing the
Prophet face to face—this was Big Time!
Dad arrived and passed several uneventful months with us.
He kept to himself in the upper portion of the villa and left me very
much alone. He treated me like a landlord from whom he was renting.
The villa was built like a duplex, so that the upper portion could be
used as a separate dwelling. He had Rachel and Emanuel visit him on
numerous occasions for leadership meetings. Rachel was moving up in
importance in the family and would soon become the No. 1 leader apart
from Mo himself..
Dad finally left in August, on the day after I returned from the
hospital from delivering my seventh child—Bill's first—Alexander
Dad's leaving was filled with trauma for me. He had kept the fact that
he was leaving a secret from me, for some unknown reason. I met him
and Maria coming down the stairs and knew instantly that he was
leaving for good. I was carrying the new baby in my arms and walked
with Dad and Maria along the walkway leading to the iron fence that
encompassed our property. I was extremely upset that he was leaving
and that he hadn't talked with me. I was crying and asking him to let
me go with him to the train station. His secrecy hurt me deeply. I
felt betrayed—but most of all rejected. As with Aaron, Dad was
rejecting me, the worst form of punishment possible.
Maria kept interrupting, saying it wasn't necessary for me to see them
off. When we finally reached the iron gate, Dad stepped through and
Maria quickly closed it in my face and locked it. I tried to keep it
ajar, but with a baby on one arm and my other hand on the gate, I was
unable to win the tug of war.
I looked at Dad, the locked iron gate, and Maria proudly tugging on
Dad's arm—and I knew he was gone. Locked into his own world—a world
he had created by his own devices. Instinctively, I knew I would never
see him again.
Unknown to me, Dad was on his way back to Tenerife to continue his
full-time pursuit of the Flirty Fishing ministry. While in Zoagli, he
never made mention of it to me. Before coming to Zoagli, he had spent
about one year in the Canaries. He was returning now to shift FFing
into high gear.
In February 1976, Dad made a deal with Jethro and me. He requested
that we go to Latin America to be the leaders of the work on that
continent. Jethro had been living in Northern Europe following one of
his demotions by Dad, typical of my father's pattern of political
Ping-Pong. First a promotion, then a demotion, followed by another
promotion. Up, down. Up, down. It was like being on a roller coaster.
We were now on our way back to the top. Latin America was in a mess,
and Dad needed our talents. He could always count on Jethro to get
things rolling again. But he wanted a Berg along, because he never
really trusted Jethro. Dad was always afraid of one leader by himself
getting too powerful. My father is deathly afraid of male leadership,
consistently cutting them down and putting women (who are loyal only
to him) in their place.
Jethro and I agreed to call a truce and work together once again. We
both felt that, South America being a long way from Dad, perhaps we
could find some peace. Moreover, we could bring the children together
so they could be near both Mommy and Daddy. So off we went to South
America and settled in Lima, Peru—the new H.Q. of the COG south of
Dad wanted the movement and the public to think that Jethro and I were
still married; we kept our private lives hidden, and did not let on to
anyone that we had both been living with new spouses for several
Our time as leaders of South American operations lasted two-and-a-half
very long years. In that time, COG activities began flourishing, and
we were able to pull Latin America out of its tailspin.
But trouble was brewing once again. Dad was feverishly pushing Flirty
Fishing worldwide, and he was receiving reports that the leadership in
South America was dragging its heels in this "ministry."
Dad sent my sister Faithy to Lima to spy on us, and he also planted
spies among our personal staff who reported all our activities to him.
At the same time, the Mo Letters were getting progressively more
bizarre. The only theme of Dad's writings right then was sex, sex, and
more sex. It permeated every fiber of his being. Soon, despite our own
lethargic attitude, all of South
America was Flirty Fishing. Immorality soared to an all-time high as
the Mo Letters insisted that everyone "share" God's love. Things were
truly getting wild.
Then Dad began to write publicly in the Mo Letters against Jethro,
Isaiah, and me. Isaiah (Bill) had been in charge of publications for
Latin America and was editing the Mo Letters for street distribution.
Dad accused him of "tampering with the words of the Prophet"—one of
the gravest of all crimes. Then we were accused of having withstood
Dad by keeping disciples from FFing. My response was to try to regain
the Prophet's favor by plunging myself into total obedience to the Mo
Letters. To no avail. Dad wasn't the least bit impressed with my
outward obedience, and my FFing—or with any of the key political
figures I had on my "fishing line." The die had been cast. Heads would
soon roll. Dad was going to fire every leader in the Revolution, and
Jethro and I were first on the list. He had special plans for Bill.
On February 7, 1978, Moses David received a special revelation from
his faithful spirit guide, Abrahim, stating that Bill was an evil
magician leading me astray from "the Lord and his work", which is to
say—Moses David and the COG. The spirit spoke these words through my
May God damn him and give him what he deserves! He led so many
astray. This man hath bewitched her, and he re-interprets MY Letters.
He contradicts them and he defies them, and I want to get rid of him! 80
Rachel, who was now the top leader by virtue of earlier prophecies,
was given the job of personally delivering the special revelation
against Bill. It became Mo Letter 666, and was entitled "Alexander the
Evil Magician". Rachel's orders were to fly to Caracas, Venezuela, and
read the letter privately to me and then to Bill. She was also
instructed to demote Jethro and me from our leadership positions. Bill
was to be exiled to one part of the globe and I to another; yet by
this time, Bill and I had been together four years, and had two
children from the union.
It was the intent of this revelation that I be permanently separated
from Bill. He was the devil; he had led me astray. I was never to see
him again. It was imperative that he be gotten rid of.
He would be banished to Africa, and I would be consigned to Australia—far removed from established Colonies where my influence might not
poison the minds of disciples against the Pure Doctrine.
Thus, my relationship to the man I loved was to be terminated by order
of the Prophet. Once again my father had turned my world upside down.
But this time his insanity overreached itself. Ten years of living
under the influence of his madness had taken its toll. This would
prove to be my final breaking point.
The atmosphere in the COG at this time was weird and foreboding.
Everyone had a sense that a tidal wave was about to break over us.
Flirty Fishing was flourishing; sexual freedom was commonplace;
carnality ran rampant. The fabric of the order of things was coming
In this context, Dad fired every leader in the Family, destroying the
"chain of command" that had served as our governmental structure for
years. The sheep were left to fend for themselves. Within one week,
there was no leadership, organization, or semblance of order: only
utter chaos and anarchy, both moral and physical. There was a spirit
of "me first" among the disciples. People became like sharks, ravaging
one another to stay alive.
The trauma of that time can hardly be expressed in words. Even as
Rachel arrived with Mo's special Letter, she too was an emotional
wreck. She had spent the last two years on Dad's personal Flirty
Fishing team in the Canaries, and was experiencing her own breaking
points as a result.
Through the years, Rachel and I had grown very close. We loved each
other; and I trusted her as my most intimate friend—as much as was
possible under the circumstances. It was a very cruel thing for my
father to have Rachel deliver such a message to an intimate friend;
but that was his way of "proving one's loyalty to the Prophet."
Knowing how much I loved Bill, Rachel could not go through with it.
She just couldn't read the Letter to me. She felt that on top of all
else that I had suffered, it might be the last straw. She reported to
Mo by telephone that she had not yet delivered the message, saying,
"I'm afraid it might kill Deborah . . ." My father exploded. He was
furious! "How dare you withhold the words of the Prophet or question
my decisions!" For
thirty minutes he blasted away: "If the truth kills, let it kill her. . . ."
This phone call was transcribed and became Mo Letter 678, "If The
Truth Kills, Let It Kill!".
Shaken by the phone call, Rachel called me the next day, and I was
taken to a Colony to hear "Alexander the Evil Magician". Later it was
read to Bill. As these scenes were played out, I began to slip into a
state of mental shock. They were going to send Bill away! I couldn't
believe it! He was my life, my reason for living in an irrational
world. I was flooded with new doubt about Dad, the movement,
everything—all I could see was Bill. A deathly fear gripped me that
indeed they would take him away, and I would never see him again.
But Bill wanted to stay faithful, stand strong, and keep believing in
Mo. After my father had called him the devil, Bill still wanted to
stay faithful to him! It was really unbelievable. He was so dedicated,
so loyal, so determined to follow Moses David, that nothing would
deter him—even when Dad viciously denounced him, and took away his
wife and children, and ordered him banished alone to Africa.
Rachel did not have the heart to send Bill to Africa, but instead
arranged that he be sent to Martinique, a small French island in the
Caribbean, not far from Venezuela.
The trip to the airport was the longest ride of my life. I felt as if
I were accompanying Bill to his execution. When he was finally put on
the plane, my world caved in. I wept until the tears could no longer
flow, slipping ever deeper into mental shock; I was dangerously close
For four months I lived in a lost, isolated world. The daily activity
of caring for the children was the one thing that kept me in touch
with reality. Sometimes I would wake up and wonder if I were truly
alive, if this was all a dream. I simply lived to get the next letter
from Bill. Each one brought me back to a state of half-life. But in
spite of it all, I couldn't bring myself to believe the growing
perception that we were going to leave Dad and the movement. How
could we possibly do that?
Yet the pressures of despair, loneliness, and an indescribable state
of "lostness" continued to build. Bill's firstborn child, David, who
was three years old, kept asking me, "Mommy, where's my daddy?
I want my daddy. I want my daddy. . . ." He was little and innocent,
free from all the insanity and cruelty of my father and the wickedness
of life in the Children of God. His tender mind could not understand
why his father had suddenly disappeared, yet the pain of the madness
around me was reaching through and torturing his little world. Each
time he asked me about his daddy, I would begin to cry in despair. His
pitiful pleas for the return of his daddy were like burning irons that
pierced my soul, leaving scars I would carry for a lifetime.
My worst experience came one day while I was shopping. Little David
suddenly sat down in an aisle in the middle of the store and began to
cry his heart out."I want my daddy! I want my daddy!" He raised
questioning eyes, void of understanding, and asked, "Why doesn't my
daddy come home?".
A flood of pain and sorrow had been rising inside me for more than ten
years and I knew the dam would soon have to break. My pride was the
only thing holding back the flood; pride that had forbidden me to say,
"My father is wrong. He walks in darkness. I must forsake him." Pride
can bring a person to ruin, and mine brought me to the gates of hell.
It brought my three-year-old into a world of misery he could not
comprehend. How much longer would I go on?
While all this was happening, we made our way to the United States as
the first step in getting to Australia. As American citizens, we could
not go directly Down Under from South America. So we came to San
Francisco to apply for visas through the Australian consulate in that
Our group comprised all my children, their personal teacher and his
family, my former husband and his wife and their children, and me—five adults and twelve children.
Returning to the United States after a seven-year absence brought
tremendous culture shock. We had left the country when the
counterculture and notions of protest were still present though
fading; and we had left under the aegis of Mo's endtime warnings to a
doomed nation. How were we to survive, let alone "live," even for a
while, in a society we had so bitterly rejected?
The drastic change of climate was an additional complication. We had
left the warm, mild zephyrs of Caracas to encounter the cold and rain
of San Francisco in March. We didn't have proper warm clothing, and
the children immediately got sick. This complication affected another
part of the plans: in keeping with COG custom, we were expected by my
father to raise part of our travel fare, through litnessing and the
children's public singing.
Given the hardships of our situation, we considered the implications
of traveling so far away. We'd be quite stranded with many children to
care for once we arrived in Australia. Nevertheless, we endeavored to
raise the money necessary for the fare. But after six weeks we decided
not to go. We concluded it would be better to stay in the States for a
while and "dry out" before making such a drastic move. And I was not
resigned to going to Australia without Bill.
We traveled through California living from campground to campground.
We had purchased an old twenty-eight-foot motor home and a station
wagon. Living like nomads, we'd go from town to town, making a living
through the children's singing on the streets and collecting
donations. We eventually settled in a dusty, dirty campground in
Escondido, where we stayed for six months. I lived with my little year
and a half old daughter, Davida, in a two-man pup tent. Our physical
conditions seemed to match perfectly our mental trauma. It's amazing
what God has to allow before a person will wake up to reality.
My ex-husband, Jethro, had gone through his share of breaking points
and was no longer able to take any more of my father's rebukes,
chastisements, and purgings. There comes a time when an individual can
no longer submit himself to a man who wields totalitarian power, who
can instantaneously take away one's job, home, and family.
Dad had threatened me with excommunication if I contacted Bill—which
of course I had been doing. So the question was before me: should I
defy my father and ask Bill to come to the States? That would be the
final break: No more Dad, no more Moses David, no more Children of
God, no more "Family of Love." But the spiritual chains of deception
and thirty-two years of living under the influence of my domineering
father kept pulling me down, keeping me bound to an irrational loyalty I felt unable
Jethro finally said to me, "Well, Deborah, it's up to you. It's in
your hands now. I'm ready to get out if you are. I don't care any
more. If you have Bill come back, you know that means we're
I had been hanging on, hoping that Dad would change his mind, hoping
against hope that things would return to "normal." In the meantime, we
received a message from Rachel questioning the "progress you are
making on getting to Australia." She stated that Mo had heard a rumor
that I had been in contact with Bill, and she reminded me that such an
act was strictly forbidden.
At that point, I knew the end had come. I had to sever completely my
relationship with my father. In His mercy, God had allowed me to be
driven to a point of choice: either to continue to follow the insanity
of Moses David, or to break free to live a life rid of his evil grasp.
On the surface I did not see it that way, but rather as a choosing
between my father and Bill. Finally I said to myself, "I'm ready,
despite the consequences. I want Bill to come home."
For the first time in years I began to look up. I had made a willful
decision that I was willing to live with. That moment was the genesis
of freedom from a lifetime of bondage.
Throughout my lifetime, my father had controlled and manipulated my
every action. Any person or thing that had ever been around me, Dad
had somehow managed to control or do away with. Bill was the first
thing in my life to which Dad was unable to do either. Though Dad
tried very hard, he failed to control Bill or get rid of him. This is
the irony that surrounds my exodus from the COG movement: I cannot
boast that I left the COG voluntarily. In a backhanded way, God
delivered me: my father turned against us and virtually drove us out.
At the same time that God was opening my eyes to the truth, He was
working on Bill, to bring him to a position where he too
would begin thinking with clarity of mind. But Bill was a fiercely
proud person, and was determined to follow Moses David to the bitter
end. The best thing in the world for Bill was to have been stranded on
a tiny island with an abundance of time to think, agonize over the
loss of his wife and children, pray, and read his Bible. For four
months he clung to his faith in Mo, believing that God would change
Dad's mind. Bill could not let go of his belief that Mo was God's
Prophet; and since he believed that to be true, logic dictated that
all he needed to do was hold on until God revealed the truth to Mo.
Bill felt that for some unknown reason, God was testing him through
As the months rolled by, Bill faithfully continued to win disciples
for the kingdom of Moses David. Their little Colony on Martinique
regularly received the latest Mo Letters, and eventually the Letters
about Bill were published and received in the mail. The Mo Letter
declaring Bill to be an "Evil Magician" came, and the Colony read it—but still Bill believed in Moses David.
Then the Letter "If the 'Truth Kills, Let It Kill" arrived."But how,"
Bill thought, "could a father want his daughter dead? It's not
natural, it's not even human. I can understand him wanting to get rid
of me, but why his own daughter?"
That Letter left Bill deeply shaken, and through his tears, he
stumbled out into the night and walked to the top of a deserted hill.
Under the strain of it all, he broke and wept bitterly. Looking
heavenward, he was suddenly consumed by a marvelous peace, and the
profound realization that it was God who loved him, not Moses David.
It was Christ who had died for his sins, certainly not Moses David.
Yet he had been following the man Moses David, believing in and
obeying his teachings as if they were the direct voice of God. In a
sudden illumination, he became aware that in his zeal, he had
supplanted his faith in God with faith in a man. The madness he was
experiencing was not a testing from God, but the product of the
deviousness of a man—David Berg. Indeed, God loved him first and
The next day another Mo Letter arrived, "Prayer for the Poor". It
proclaimed that all the Israelis deserved to die—men, women, and
children—and that God should slaughter them all. That was it. The end
had come for Bill. Despite his confused
condition, he determined that no one who was a man of God could say
such a thing. Something was terribly wrong. He phoned his parents and
explained that he was stranded and needed a plane ticket to San Diego,
California. His dad simply asked how much and where the money should
Thus, through His incredible mercies, in spite of our sins and utter
foolishness, God delivered us. The end had finally come. But as one
era passes, so a new one begins—with its own new set of difficulties.
We were now to begin life as ex-cult members.
Coming out of a cult is more difficult by far than being in. While in,
it is a simple matter of keeping one's head in the sand and staying
blind to reality; but in emerging from a life of falsehood and sin, it
becomes a painfully excruciating experience to face life as it truly
is, accepting that you have been wrong, terribly wrong.
In coming out, moreover, we had no foundation of truth on which to
stand. We had been programmed to hate and condemn the churches, and to
stay away from established Christianity. My dad had destroyed faith in
the Bible through his perverted interpretations, so I couldn't turn to
it for guidance. Each time I tried to read it, I only became more
confused because it reminded me of all the twisted doctrines Dad
preached. Coming out was hell!
To come out also meant it was time to earn a living. In the movement,
my dad created a lifestyle that taught the disciples to be
professional beggars. He programmed his followers to believe that the
world owes them a living because they are "serving God" full-time and
no one else is. For men leaving the cult, earning a living can be
Many men enter a cult in their early twenties or late teens. In normal
life, this is the age when one begins the pursuit of a career. In ten
years time, he is usually well-founded in a profession, has bought a
house, and is on his way to having an established lifestyle and
financial security. But a former cult member emerges from the movement
in his early thirties with a wife and children, and absolutely no
profession or skill that can land him a job with a salary adequate for
supporting his family. Not only does he have to start over
spiritually, but he is forced to start over socially and financially.
It's impossible to support a family on minimum wage.
When a man faces this fact, it triggers deeper depression as he
realizes he has foolishly wasted ten of the most important years of
his life. He realizes that everything in the system is against him.
This is a time when family support can be very beneficial. If parents
can understand how difficult it is to readjust, and the despair and
discouragement a man or woman faces, they can give them the
encouragement and the helping hand that is vitally needed. It will be
a tough time for all concerned.
But God is ever faithful, and in His infinite mercy, He pulled us
through our situation. I believe the worst thing we experienced was
spiritual confusion: not knowing what was right or wrong. The effects
of the cult stick with you, like hands dipped in dye; the doctrines
become a part of your personality, tainting your mind and character.
It is at this point that we encounter once again the power and reality
of sin. The devastating effects of the cults are clearly seen to be
the consequences of sin. You can be out of a cult physically, but
still be very much "in" the cult, for the cult is part of you. To find
total freedom from a cult, you must find victory over sin. You must
come face to face with sin, see it in your own life, identify it, and
then seek divine forgiveness. Otherwise you remain a prisoner,
ensnared by guilt, fragmented, and forever alienated.
Our real deliverance came three years after we left the Children of
God. For those three years we wandered on the edges of reality,
drifting about in a fog of spiritual darkness. Those were dark years,
void of peace and clarity of mind. My oldest child, Joyanne, was
experiencing as much trauma as we were, and the effects of her life in
the cult began to emerge. I had no one to turn to for help, so in
desperation, I asked the help of a doctor and his wife, Dr. and Mrs.
Richard Price, casual acquaintances I had met through the school our
children were attending.
The Prices seemed so stable and successful. I hoped they might have
some answers on what to do with Joyanne, as they had a son exactly her
age—seventeen. We did not tell them who we were, or what we had come
out of, just that we were having probems with Joyanne. Several days later, they put 150 dollars in my hand
and sent us—Bill, Joyanne, and me—off to a Christian seminar in Long
Beach. We had no idea what it was all about, but they assured us it
would be perfect for Joyanne. The fact is, it was precisely what Bill
and I desperately needed. We will be eternally grateful to the Prices
for the sequence of events triggered by their act of concern and
We walked into a huge auditorium along with twelve thousand other
people. As we sat down, a man in a dark blue suit walked modestly on
stage and began talking in a quiet voice. He spoke so softly we
couldn't even hear him until the crowd stopped shuffling about. Behind
him was a towering fifty-foot screen; and as he talked, he placed
transparencies on an overhead projector. He began speaking on subjects
such as self-acceptance, purpose in life, self-image, peace and
harmony at home, moral impurity, responsibility, gaining a clear
conscience, moral freedom, incorporating past failures into your
life's message, and allowing Jesus Christ to be the center of your
For six days we sat in stunned silence. The format of the seminar was
very much like a college lecture, but the material went deeper than
the intellectual level—it held solutions to the problems of our
tormented souls. We felt as if someone had designed the seminar
specifically for us. The painful questions and gnawing doubts that had
plagued us since the day we had left the cult three years earlier,
were all being answered one by one.
The most critical day came on Friday when the concept of moral
impurity was discussed, and the Twelve Steps to Reprobation were
presented. At one point, Bill turned to me, his eyes wide with
astonishment, and said, "My God, that's us! That's the Children of
God. That's the story of your father's life in a twelve-point
The seminar is called the Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts, and the
man who delivered the lectures is Bill Gothard. Through the biblical
principles taught in the six-day seminar, we gained a complete and
lasting deliverance from the effects of the cult and the bondage of
sin. The Bible was given back to us as the inspired Word of God—something we could trust in, the Light of Truth by which to guide our
lives once again.
Victory did not come overnight; this was only the beginning of a long
process that involved putting the principles we learned into practice
in our daily living. But April 1981 marked a new beginning for us. We
were set on the road of truth, and the Cross of Christ was once again
ours to follow. We emerged from the seminar changed people. It was
there that Christ met me and showed me the pathway of truth.
When truth is compromised, error and destruction and misery will
consistently emerge in one's life. When I chose to follow my father, I
began compromising the truth. As I have re-examined my life, it has
become apparent that one compromise led to another, like the chain
reaction of falling dominoes. Freedom involves going back to the
beginning—to the sin of rebellion and the desire to be the boss of
one's own life, to the disposition of self realization: I am my own
god. Freedom lies in making Christ the boss of one's life—going back
to the original compromise and repenting, making it right with God.
That point of compromse is different for each person; but I can
guarantee that for someone who has been in a cult, compromising the
truth usually begins long before he actually gets involved with the
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