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Getting Out : Leaving

Growing Up and Leaving the Children of God

from Candide - Saturday, October 12, 2002
accessed 6493 times

I published this article this summer in an English newspaper called FAIR and was wondering what I would get out of it since there was no money involved. About a month later I got a reply from my old nanny who had been kidnapped and deprogrammed when I was seven. She was happy to be back in touch and we exchanged a few e-mails. It turns out she has footage from my childhood as well as pictures. Since most of my childhood pictures were destroyed by the Family back in the early 90's this was excellent news. It turned out to be quite worth it after all.

By Andrew McMillion

In 1976 David Berg, the founder of the controversial cult then called the Children of God, was in the middle of starting another one of his revolutions. He was in Tenerife when he wrote to his congregation about flirty fishing and becoming hookers for Christ. That was the year in which I came into the world adding another child to God's Army.
I always refer to the years of 1976 to 84 as the hippy years: for me they were more or less bliss. We never had much money but we were a big family who lived and traveled together all the time. “ Home” was falling asleep in our Volkswagen hippy van to the rhythm of its motion or waking up on the side of the autobahn in Germany. In 1984, my parents separated; this was the beginning of my depression. My father decided to move to India with me and two of my brothers. To raise the necessary money we began singing on the streets of Scandinavia. At first, India was exotic. The feeling of being in the center of Gods will--having forsaken family and friends for Him--nearly balanced out the feelings of longing for my mother who was still in Europe. I cried myself to sleep a lot.
The more familiar I grew with India the more I hated it. I was ill with Malaria, which was no small thing for a boy of eleven. The lepers, whom we were there to help, gave me nightmares. Surrounded by them in the market place begging me for some pica is a picture etched in my mind.
Further attacks of malaria continued after I left India with my older brother to go to a training school in the Philippines. Meanwhile, my father remarried in India and headed back to Europe with his new family. Going to that training school was one of, if not the most, important decisions I have made. I saw there the true nature of the core leaders in the Group. I eventually learned of things that would change my world view dramatically. We were being trained to become gods endtime teen soldiers: life was hard.
There were times when I would pray for malaria to return so that I would not have to follow the program. It did, again and again, and it almost killed me.
When I was twelve years old, my brother and I were sent back to Europe. For the next four years, I traveled to many places. I stayed in different communes, in Scandinavia, East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Hungary, and Slovenia working for the Group. During that time I went from believing in the Group's millenarian philosophy to not even being sure that there was a god at all. I had come to trust a friend whom I had known in the Philippines. He had lived in the same house as David Berg and told me all about the sick perversions that took place there. I wanted out.
From about the age of fourteen I had decided that this was not the life for me. However, due to the fear of being sent to a retraining home, I decided to postpone my exit until I was sixteen. At that age they could not forcibly send me anywhere. A few weeks after my sixteenth birthday I made an agreement with my brother to leave. We tried to leave the official way by going through the leadership and letting them know that we wanted to leave instead of just taking off without letting them know. We were sent to a campground near the commune where our father who lived in the same city met us. He could not believe that we really wanted to leave. He spent weeks trying to convince us to stay. We had long talks all day with him discussing the Group’s policies and rules: we let him know with what we disagreed. We made it clear what had to change for us to stay. He had written it all down and sent it on to his superiors. They, in turn sent these views “up the line” of leadership. After a few weeks the leaders of all Europe came to talk to us and tried to change our minds. They had a letter from "Queen Maria", the wife of David Berg and later his successor, stating that there were exciting changes expected for the teenagers and asked us to please wait and see.
What they did not know was that we had been in secret communication with the teens and young adults still in the commune and knew that there were a lot of them who also wanted to leave. The whole situation was unstable for the leadership. We had a link with one of the young leaders who was letting us know what was happening at the leadership meetings. In that way we were able to plan and be one step ahead of them the whole time. We decided that we wanted to give it all one more try and agreed, after spending a month in the caravan, to return. We were given a lot more freedom for a few months. However, the leaders could not accept the changes we were trying to push through and again ended up tightening their control. Our young leader warned us about this new “crackdown” and we made our plans accordingly.
Early in the morning on the first of April 1993 three friends of mine and I jumped over the wall of the compound with enough money to get downtown. Once there we contacted our grandparents and had them send money to us at a bank. We then purchased seven tickets to various destinations in the USA and UK. People in the commune were not sure if we were just pulling an April fool's day joke. We waltzed back in; packed our bags, gave tickets to the three other teenagers who also wanted to leave and left. I was off to the USA for the first time in my life. I had never been to “ passport” country before: I had never been to an English speaking country. Ironically, the first person I met was speaking Spanish.
I attended High School within five days of arriving in the US. This was quite a shock. I had not been to school since the third grade. I was lucky to be accepted. School was a hurdle I thought I would never clear. I had no idea what I was going to do out here in the big world. The first months living outside the Group and catching up with work to the tenth grade were a non-stop struggle.
The first year was one of the hardest. Not fitting into the new environment and lacking knowledge of American culture, I had to re-evaluate everything: I also missed my family and Europe. Crying myself to sleep became, almost, a ritual: it was so bad that I even did not want to let anyone know about it. I felt that America was not the place for me and that I had more in common with Europeans. I took an after school job and saved up money to visit my family during the summer. Once there I knew there was no way I could return to the States. I enrolled into a high school in Norway but had to re- sit eleventh grade.
Life for me was better on this side of the Atlantic and I felt I was headed toward normality for the first time. I had a girlfriend and I finished high school. Then came the ethical dilemmas and philosophical questions. I had put aside these since I had so many problems sorting out my emotions and normalizing with my environment. I looked inward and tried to sort out my paradigm.
I became totally broken down, lying horizontal in my room for days with no food, no sleep and no drive, in total depression. Finally I could not drink and stumbled the hundred odd meters to the nearest hospital. The doctors had no idea what the problem was and put me on IV fluid for a few days. When I had recuperated they sent me to the psychiatric department to talk things over. I spent days crying and trying to explain the problem.
One day, shortly after that, I went to the library and picked out a book called "The History of Western Philosophy". I could not stop reading this and other books: I loved Socrates' parable of the cave and the shadows on the wall: Plato's division of the State in likeness to the body. I felt I had to find my place in society: was I a brain cell destined to rule: a white blood cell designed to defend, or a muscle cell fit for work? With Plato in mind, and my time for mandatory military service, I joined the air force. It was there that I began talking to a psychiatrist on a weekly basis. With his help and my continued interest in philosophy I decided to do something for the future of others who were going to have to go through a similar experience to my own
I started studying philosophy at the University. I also sought the Government’s interest and help with the aim of setting up a Project to help kids who have left Isolated Religious Communities. Eventually, with the help of an influential freelance idealist, some other youths and I ended up at a meeting with the Minister of Education and Research. He decided to pledge his aid to our endeavor. Within a year the Project was up and running. The Project is called “Go-On” and is under the umbrella of Save the Children. It is funded by the Ministry of Education and Research. It has been a pleasure for me to see something good come out of all the hardship and chaos that has so ruled my past and that of others. It was not the project’s policy to involve itself in questions of New Religious Movements or Sects or Cults. Rather we wanted simply to dwell on the future and constructiveness. We want to help integrate the second generation who have left Isolated Religious Communities into as successful and content a position as we can. We feel that the need for such projects in the larger countries of the world and are willing to work together with any country or individual who has the best interest of these children in mind.
I still have days when the past creeps up on me; days when I'm depressed, days when I wish I did not have to repeat my story, days when I lose sight of the thread of continuity which we all need to make sense of our lives. Then come the days when the sun shines and I know that there are a lot of positive things in my life. I am a Third Culture Kid, a true child of the world. No longer a Child of God!

Reader's comments on this article

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from Kayte
Friday, November 19, 2004 - 16:25

Thanks for your article, Candide. I think it's great and definitely commendable that you are doing something for others who have also share your unfortunate background. Your helpful attitude is an example. Since reading your article, I've purchased "History of Western Philosophy" on Amazon (with money I made as a freelance graphics artist on the internet) and hope to begin finally exploring the world of philosophy which it seems so many of us find fascinating. Good luck!
(reply to this comment)
from jas
Monday, November 08, 2004 - 11:40

I just wanted to say that I think it's great how you've opened up this center to help other kids like us. I think everyone who has left has a story to tell and telling it is half of the healing process. Something to look into for anyone who is going to University or College, at my school there is a very interesting class called Cults and NRM's. You'd be surprised at how many people have been studying the COG/Family and have written a lot of material on it. I found that understanding the Cult has been helpful to making sense of my life experiences.
(reply to this comment)
from Auty
Monday, October 14, 2002 - 18:20

I made several escape attempts as a teen in TF, but the one in which I almost got away sticks in my head: HCS, quiet time, packed my little suitcase (actually, it was already packed & under the bunk bed), drug it down to the bus stop & waited patiently for the bus. If the bus had stopped at the very moment I arrived, I would of been on it, but fear stepped in & I realized I had enough money I had saved up over the last couple of months (about $15.00) to make it to the train station. The HCS was located in a very rural part of Japan, and to get anywhere would of been at least $50. SOOOOOOO realizing I didn't have enough money to take a train & had no clue how to make an international phone call (not that I knew where my mother lived or what her number was) I drug my suitcase back up the hill. It was a very sad day for me! I finally got the courage to pack it up and leave (at the HCS no doubt while the Watchman exorcisms were going on)! And I had to head back because I didn't have more than a couple bucks to my name.

I thought that if I could just somehow get back to the U.S. for some "missionary" reason, I could find my mom and have her take me away from the madness. This wish wasn't fulfilled for about 2 years later. But the flight home was probably one of the happiest days of my life.

There is a lot more involved in this story, silence restrictions, fasting and praying, etc., perhaps another day.
(reply to this comment)
From Candide
Monday, October 14, 2002, 19:48

Do write your story and post it! I would love to read it. It feels good to have written it and not have to tell people my story anymore. Now, when there is someone who wants to know about me, I can just give them a copy of it or tell them to download it from here. That makes it easier on me, because it is draining to have to tell it again and again. Get it done with. The nice thing about having it posted on movingon is that I don\t have to get into the whole story, as they can just surf around to get the picture themselves. I just have to talk about what is specific to myself. Your story sounds like a thriller.(reply to this comment
From Auty
Tuesday, October 15, 2002, 00:44

Eventually I will have to write my story, but it requires so much of my past that I have tried so hard to forget. Taking a bandage off a festering wound is not something I look forward to. You have courage to post your story for all to see & for that I admire you.

Peace.(reply to this comment
From Candide
Tuesday, October 15, 2002, 08:46

I agree. I took me nearly ten years to get around to finally writing it, and it was depressing not only while I wrote it but also afterwards. What has been helpful however has been not have to repeat it verbally afterwards.(reply to this comment
from thepersoniamnow
Sunday, October 13, 2002 - 16:53

The highlight of your letter was when you climbed over the wall and escaped!
I remember trying several times when I was younger, however there was no way to get my grandparents address.
I had to get permisson to see my mom when it wasn`t "parent time" and she would certainly ask for a reason.
Anyways, I`m sorry if it still is affecting you.
Leaving the fam is the best thing I ever did!
the only way it affects me now is with the deep desire to make sure it never happens again!
How do you do that? By doing all you can to fight maniacs like Karen Zerby!

(reply to this comment)
From Candide
Monday, October 14, 2002, 02:39

It was no easy task getting our passports or our grandparents addresses. My brother and I had agreed during Christmas months before to watch carefully as our father punched in the numbers to our grandparents. We divided it in two and then put it together afterwards. For others we had to make numerous long-distance phone calls to AT&T to find the numbers. The passports we stole the night before we jumped when the adults were having a meeting.(reply to this comment
From cassy
Saturday, January 10, 2004, 11:01

In reference to your article, the "Go-On" group you set up, is it still running? Is it your full time job and what does it do on a practical level? It sounds very interesting, especially how you got the backing for it. Are you still in Norway?(reply to this comment
from Bella
Sunday, October 13, 2002 - 14:18

Andrew - Plato's Allegory of the Cave (Republic VII) is what made me fall in love with Philosophy too. I read it for the first time in the "History of Western Philosophy" as well, I too could not put the book down. Small world. Best luck to you in your continued success, very admirable.
(reply to this comment)
From Candide
Monday, October 14, 2002, 02:38

Thank you! I've moved on from Platonism to neo-Aristotelian ethics. With a postmodern view of science (Kuhn and Feyerabend), and love the pragmatism of Richard Rorty.(reply to this comment
From Bella
Monday, October 14, 2002, 20:57

Oh wow, that sounds interesting. I know very little about pragmatism and have yet to read anything by Rorty. Do you know much on the topics of Metaethics? I'm currently taking a class on the topic and it is so abstract - I've never studied anything like it. I also love existentialism, but have only gotten my toes wet in the world of Continental Philosophy. Unfortunately it seems to be "dying on the vine" so to speak on this side of the world. Is it over there as well?
(reply to this comment
From Anthony
Sunday, November 03, 2002, 18:46

Darwinian metaethics?(reply to this comment
From Bella
Sunday, November 03, 2002, 19:45

What?? -- Anthony you are such a geek!!(reply to this comment
From Candide
Tuesday, October 15, 2002, 07:11

As far as I can remember metaethics is more-or-less what metaphysical, and epistemological foundations we have for the different ethical directions. I'm against foundations to begin with.
If I have to chose I would place myself under the categories of noncognitivism and moral subjectivism, however, in "Philosophy and Social Hope" Richard Rorty writes:
"Pragmatists think that the idea of something nonhuman luring us human beings on should be replaced with the idea of getting more and more human beings into our community — of taking the needs and interests and views of more and more diverse human beings into account. Justificatory ability is its own reward. There is no need to worry about whether we will also be rewarded with a sort of immaterial medal labelled 'Truth' or 'Moral Goodness'.
Once you drop the distinction between reason and passion, you no longer discriminate against a good idea because of its origins. You classify ideas according to their relative utility rather than by their sources.
To speak of humman rights is to explain our actions by identifying ourselves with a community of like-minded persons - those who find it natural to act in a certain way... In the subject of human rights, the pragmatist thinks that we should not debate whether human rights have been there all the time, even when nobody recognized them, or are just the social construction of civilization influenced by Christian doctrines of the brotherhood of man. Of course they are social constructions. So are atoms, and so is everything else... To debate the utility of the set of social constructs we call 'human rights' is to debate the question of whether inclusivist societies are better than exclusivist ones. That is to debate the question of whether communities which encourage tolerance of harmless deviance should be preferred to those communities whose social cohesion depends on conformity, on keeping outsiders at a distance and on eliminating people who try to corrupt the youth. The best single mark of our progress toward a fully fledged human rights culture may be the extent which we stop interfering with our children's marriage plans because if the national origin, religion, race, or wealth of the intended partner, or because the marriage will be homosexual rather than heterosexual.
This picture of moral progress makes us resist Kant's suggestion that morality is a matter of reason, and makes us sympathetic to Hume's suggestion that it is a matter of sentiment.
Pragmatists - both classical and 'neo-' - do not believe that there is a way things really are. So they want to replace the appearance reality distinction by that between descriptions of the world and of ourselves which are less useful and those which are more useful. When the question 'useful for what?' is pressed, they have nothing to say except 'useful to create a better future'. When they are asked, 'Better by what criterion?', they have no detailed answer, any more than the first mammals could specify in what respects they were better than the dying dinosaurs. Pragmatists can only say something as vague as: Better in the sense of containing more of what we consider good and less of what we consider bad.
This means denying that there is or could be an extra-cultural foundation for custom, and acknowledging openly that, 'In philosophy, "reality" is a term of value or choice.
...we should give up the idea that knowledge is an attempt to represent reality. Rather, we should view inquiry as a way of using reality. So the relation between our truth claims and the rest of the world is causal rather than representational. It causes us to hold beliefs, and we continue to hold the beliefs which prove to be reliable guides to getting what we want.
Pragmatists...think that the quest for an attempt to escape from the world. So they interpret the usual hostile reactions to their treatment of truth as an expression of resentment, resentment at being deprived of something which earlier philosophers had mistakenly promised.
To say that one should replace knowledge by hope is to say much the same thing: that one should stop worrying about whether what one believes is well grounded and start worrying about whether one has been imaginative enough to think up interesting alternatives to one's present beliefs.(reply to this comment
from Alf
Sunday, October 13, 2002 - 07:00

Any chance of a cash handout?
(reply to this comment)
From Candide
Tuesday, October 15, 2002, 07:17

Nothing's for free in this world, but there has been money involved.(reply to this comment
From Alf
Thursday, October 17, 2002, 21:03

So what hoops would i have to jump thru to claim my payout?(reply to this comment
From trial run
Friday, October 18, 2002, 02:55

start by taking your head out your ass!(reply to this comment
From Candide
Friday, October 18, 2002, 10:41

Thanks! I wasn't sure if I was supposed to take this guy seriously or not.
In case it wasn't clear in my article, the project I mentioned is for Norwegians, or ones living in Norway, who have grown up in and have had problems in (or during the transition phase from), new religious movements, isolated religious communities, sects or cults. It's not about handouts or retribution, but about becoming useful content members of Norwegian society.(reply to this comment
From EyesWideShut
Friday, October 18, 2002, 10:48

Alf doesn't know how to be serious.(reply to this comment
From Lanna
Friday, January 09, 2004, 22:18

Hey Everyone.
I am still in the family But I want 2 leave 4 u people out there who already have.. how should I do it? I am only 15. so I cannot officially leave. I'd like any expirience or advice that u might have on the subject... tx.
truely yours, Lanna(reply to this comment
From Candide
Saturday, January 10, 2004, 08:02

I can give you advice, but perhaps you should be in communication with ones like me, who've made the transition, outside of this publicly accessible forum. Maybe you could send me an e-mail that way everyone doesn't have to read what we're saying. Send it to In the mean time, make sure you are up to date on your rights. Take a look at:

Good Luck(reply to this comment

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