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Getting Through : Dealing

My Life, an abbreviated version

from conan - Thursday, November 02, 2006
accessed 1195 times

So I recently was asked by my counseler to submit an essay about my life and keep it to within 1200 words. I wrote the following and am posting it here to see if this is something that you think could be understood and related to by someone who has no prior knowledge about TFI. I've edited names and dates here for obvious reasons.

My name is ____ ______. This is my story.

My early childhood memories are hazy. However, my childhood as I remember it, was difficult and unhappy. This is the abbreviated story of my life as I remember it. A man named David Brandt Berg (1919-1994), a former Christian Missionary Alliance pastor, founded the COG in California in 1968. He, along with his children, recruited followers from the young hippy community to spread his ideas on the end of the world derived from his interpretation of the scriptures found in the Bible. These members of the COG founded communes around the world to further spread Berg’s message of impending doom to the rest of the world. (For a more detailed look at Berg’s teachings and Family practices, see

I was born at home on April __, 19__, in the foothills outside Caracas, Venezuela. I was the fifth child born to ______ and _____ ______. My parents, to this day, belong to TFI. Before I was a year old, I’d spent time in Brazil, Peru, Costa Rica, Miami FL, and New York before going to England shortly after my first birthday. My parents traveled to these countries with all five of their children where we were indoctrinated to the beliefs of TFI along the way and taught to proselytize to further the groups growth in both following and membership numbers. My family and I then moved to India where my parents had another baby, number six. After four years in India, TFI heard from David Berg that he wanted them to pool their resources to raise their children together so as to lessen the burden of parents who’s skills would better serve the Family’s greater good if they were free from the burden of caring for their children personally. So my parents took us, with number seven on the way, to neighboring Pakistan where us kids were split up into different centers for different age groups of children with no communication allowed between each other or our parents. For the next six years, I was kept in a ‘home’ with children between the ages of 0-12, with our caregivers doubling as our teachers. My class was 22 children strong, 13 boys and 9 girls. We had a strict, regimented schedule, which we adhered to out of fear of punishment if we deviated from its planned course. Our ‘teachers’ found numerous ways to punish children like me who found it difficult to cope with the sudden loss of flesh and blood family. We were taught that Grandpa (the way we children were instructed to refer to Berg) wanted all of us to be a family and that mother, father, brother, or sister should be determined by Jesus, not by flesh and blood.

The Family also believed strongly in sexual freedom. They believed, as Berg taught, that once a child hit puberty, the Lord had designed them to be able to have kids, and so by default, to have sex. There was no one for me to speak to about my issues on these and other topics of confusion, as one did not question Berg or the Family in any way.

It was for a violation of these principles that my caregivers regularly beat me. I was of course supposed to see them as extended family, calling them ‘uncle’ and ‘aunt’. Being beaten till I was bruised was an event hardly out of the ordinary for me. I became hardened to the beatings, forcing them to become more violent so as to make me react in an acceptable manner and eventually, forced to find other ways to punish me. Not that the beatings stopped, but they were no longer considered sufficient to my need of punishment.

So, I would start to miss portions of the scholastic curriculum that we followed. Not by choice, but the Family believed that an analytical mind was dangerous to them and they hoped to shut mine down. I would spend class time memorizing chapters out of the Bible, or helping prepare dinner for the 80 plus members of our center or other mundane tasks they could find to fill my study time.

Due to several court cases around the world involving Family members and abuse charges, the Family changed several of its doctrines including the ones regarding sex with minors. Us kids were taught very specifically how to lie to authorities if questioned on any of these matters.

The Family reorganized their doctrine and redefined their outlook on childcare. It was then that I was reunited with my parents and, now ten of us siblings and we left Pakistan for Turkey. I lived in Turkey for the next five years where our focus was on bettering the community, and using our selflessness as a doorway to encourage questions about our way of life and to continue to recruit members to the group. TFI still believed that education was unnecessary when it came to their way of life, so as I got into my middle teen years (14-17) I was involved more and more in the Family’s acts outside the four walls of my home. My knowledge of the Turkish language made me an integral part in my commune’s search for charitable causes to help as well as for the sponsorship needed to make a difference. As such, I often organized the distribution of food, clothes, books, and computers to orphanages, street children rehabilitation centers, and other such needy causes.

In 1999, a devastating earthquake hit Turkey, leveling two cities and killing almost 40,000 people. I went to the town of Golcuk, and lived in a tent for the next three months while helping to coordinate the flow of supplies that our home was helping to raise, working as a translator for the Turkish Army and Belgian Red Cross as well as other volunteer groups. It was during this time that I lost my faith in Christianity. My four older siblings had left the group and were pursuing education and careers on their own. I had already decided to leave TFI some years earlier but was far too young to venture out on my own. This time, there would be no stopping me.

I begged, borrowed, and stole to get enough money together to but a one-way plane ticket to Ft. Lauderdale, Fl. I wanted a college education, and I wanted to be free to choose to do what I wanted and believe in what I chose to believe in. I was ineligible for college, as I had no education to speak of, so I applied for and took my GED exam. I applied for financial aid and went to a community college. I had no idea what to expect from society at large having been sheltered from it my entire life except in the capacities mentioned above. I struggled to get by. I moved to NY to try to better my chances of success, but found that I was still ill prepared for life when having to juggle work and school while still learning the finer points about society as a whole. Having had all my decisions made for me and learning not to question them was something I had to learn to forget. I dropped out of college, as my life seemed to spiral out of control. I was in over my head and had no idea how to cope.

In the last few years, I’ve done everything in my power to put my life in order. I went part time to a vocational school and got a degree from the ___ ____ __ _______ while working full time. College has always been on my mind as my ultimate goal. So now, at the age of __, I’m ready to tackle it anew. It has been five years since I left TFI and I’m ready to move on. I’ve applied to your university because I believe that you provide me with the best opportunity for success. I look forward to tackling a new semester and hope that it will be on your campus.

Reader's comments on this article

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from Phoenixkidd
Saturday, November 04, 2006 - 07:26

Wow Conan--What did your instructor remark on this paper? I remember I wrote a short biography when I started college but left all that out--I wanted to forget all about my time in the cult.
(reply to this comment)
from Rain Child
Saturday, November 04, 2006 - 03:01


I used to hear the worst stories from my friends who had lived in India when they were little. About getting hit with canes, sometimes on the bottoms of their feet for not wearing shoes outside...and then they couldn't walk properly for a week. Or that sometimes they couldn't go swimming because people would see the marks on their legs. Man, what were those parents thinking? Obviously if you can't show your children to people something is seriously wrong. But I've never heard about these special homes just for certain age groups of children! It really explains how a lot of this stuff happened, if the parents weren't around. I used to hate being separated from my little brothers & sisters because I knew that their teachers didn't really love them. but unlike my little siblings, at least I was lucky enough not to have lived in 'groups' until about age 8 or 9. we didn't have our parents around a whole lot, because they would be off visiting other places. But to be in another house and not get to see them at all! You poor kids. What on Earth were these parents thinking? I just can't imagine taking my kids to India and leaving them in those groups while I served The Lord. How did this mess happen? Now that I'm a parent myself, it just amazes me that human parents can be this stupid.
(reply to this comment)
From conan
Saturday, November 04, 2006, 12:56

I actually edited a lot out of my original paper because it was too long, and I was worried that my school may think I was just too fucked up to be allowed on campus if I left some of the stuff in there that happened to me. I'd see my dad once every six weeks or so but my mom was often out of the country for months at a time. I only saw my dad that often cuz he was an AS so would have to come visit my home to make sure everything was happening by the rules.

But the stories you heard are true. I remember I was 'spanked' on my open palm with a bamboo cane until I couldn't ball my hand into a fist because I'd had my elbows on the table. And I was bruised from the buttocks down almost permanantly for years because they'd use anything they could get their hands on to beat us; baseball bats, cricket bats, rulers, slippers, flyswatters, brushes, switches, specially designed paddles with holes drilled in them to make them name it, they used it on me (us).

I wanted to write the letter and focus more on the lack of education and blatant deprevation of the same in the hopes to elicit some help towards a scolarship and from what I've been told, the school board is discussing me in their next meeting so I'm keeping my fingers crossed(reply to this comment
From Samuel
Saturday, November 04, 2006, 04:58


I know. It must have been just as hard on the parents, but they were brainwashed into thinking that it was good for you.(reply to this comment

Saturday, November 04, 2006, 18:02



Joined: 10 Sep 2006
Posts: 59

Posted: 11-04-2006 12:15 AM Post subject: Re: concerned mother

a mother wrote:

I hope you can overcome your prejudices of my pseudonym. I know that ‘mother’ has negative connotations in the community. However, I choose to represent myself this way because that is what I am – a female and a mother. I am also an ex-member and have recently discovered these posts. I am disappointed by the childishness of some of the comments from both sides, really.

The reasons I left the community were simple- I saw with my own eyes the poor way that women and children were treated in the community.

* The lifestyle meant that women did the lion-share of the menial work. Women were expected to do the washing, cleaning, shopping, and cooking for up to twenty men, on top of home-schooling and maintaining leaflet distribution quotas.
* Children needed to be quiet for extended periods of time. If they made too much noise in meetings they were smacked forcefully and repeatedly.
* Parents were forced by Dave to discipline their children (if for example Dave thought the one to three year old was talking or laughing too much).
* Children were made to eat the cheaper food items while Dave asked for the nicer cuts of meat on his sandwiches (Kids growing bodies need the better nutrition)
* I saw Dave’s example of a very unhappy marriage. I don’t need to go into detail here Dave, but let’s say force and domination is not a way to show love. To Cherry my heart bleeds for you – there are counselors and people who could help you overcome your emotional pain-it’s never too late.
* Women and children were often put in their place through verbal insults. Some women in the group have been made too feel too dumb, mentally unstable or weak.

On a whole I think the Jesus Christians is a small group of people who need one another. I know that a lot of people have come from abusive backgrounds. I learned that my reason for joining was the same. However I wish you could see that Dave continues the abusive pattern in your life. He was abused as a child, he abuses you. He mostly abuses women and children, but also weak males like Ross, Martin and Roland.

As a concerned mother my heart is full of grief at the lives you’ve lost. You replaced the abuse and neglect from your childhoods to abuse from Dave. Deep down you know I’m right.

Guys, there is a loving God free from abuse and put-downs, manipulation and control. A loving God who doesn’t need your works to love you. A God that is happy if you walk hand in hand with your children, a God happy for you to have two kidneys and a penis that fires fertile bullets. A loving God who doesn’t need you to whip others for him to believe you love him. Truly.

God loves you…
Jesus was a pacifist…
Let the children come to him…

I have also posted this on the forum

I agree with what you say here concerned mother. The community was not designed for families. Children were considered liabilities within the Jesus Christians. Their apocalyptic world view causes this to be.

I am happy for you that you are out now.

Wipping a cult leaders ass over at Rick Ross's site !!!-the thread is about the lack of interest in childrearing and violence used on children born into cults.

This guy Dave Mackay was once a member of the chilfren of God who set up his own cult called the Jesus Christians.(reply to this comment

From pics of cult leader's whiping
Monday, November 06, 2006, 17:34


(cause the bible tells me so...) (reply to this comment

From the link
Saturday, November 04, 2006, 18:04


.(reply to this comment

From afflick
Saturday, November 04, 2006, 14:01

Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5(Agree/Disagree?)

I never got the impression that "it was just as hard" on parents I knew within TF. When caring for a group of children (I usually had younger ones--two through five year old) many times I came up against problems (kids getting the flu, kids that were bedwetters.) I don't remember the parents of these very young children ever coming up to me to discuss the issue, other than to confirm their view that the kids should be spanked (bedwetters) or prayed over (flu sufferers). There were many instances when I would be up and down all night with sick kids and their parents, sleeping in the next room or on the next floor, would never even make an apperance to check on their child.

If one is "brainwashed into thinking" the abuse their children suffer is good for them, then it couldn't be very hard for them to accept it. In my personal experience (with my parents and the parents of my best friend who was also raised in The Family), parents were not very interested or involved in the detailed aspects of their children's lives, other than how they (the children) reflected upon them (the parents). The emphasis was on "being a good sample" so the parents look good, being careful about what is said in front of "systemite" relatives (so that they don't get the right idea) and taking spiritual responsibility for any illness or accident so the heat is off them.

I know this is a small sample to make an inference from and my thesis could be wrong. But my experience tells me that in many instances where parents had a lot of children, it was because this was the doctrine of The Family and not because of any deep-rooted love of children. (reply to this comment

From AnnaH
Saturday, November 04, 2006, 15:22

I agree. Any "loving" parent that can look at bruises on their child, inflicted by an adult other than themselves, and think that is okay doesn't deserve to have children. I don't believe that whatever brainwashing The Family did to those parents could reach that far to ignore the natural response mothers, and fathers, feel when they see their child suffer. Especially to such an extent. I can accept ignorance, but that is just too much. (reply to this comment
From Samuel
Saturday, November 04, 2006, 16:11

Average visitor agreement is 3 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 3 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 3 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 3 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 3 out of 5(Agree/Disagree?)

Okay, I don't know waht happened. Conan and I must have been writing at the same time. Anyway, my comment was a response to Rainchild, and I was referring to parents sending their kids away to go to the Family's schools. The Family told them this was the best thing for them. In some cases I think they may have even been ordered to.

I still believe any parent wants the best for thei children, but they don't always know what the best is. Yes, I know Zerby is a bitch who used and abused her kids and never loved them unconditionally, and she didn't deserve to have kids, but she's not a typical Mother either. (Thank God!)

(reply to this comment

From AnnaH
Sunday, November 05, 2006, 12:37

I understand where you're coming from and I know a lot of parents might have thought that sending their kids to the Family's schools was a good thing, but I'm really talking about those parents who were there and saw that abuse taking place. Even if they didn't see it happen, they must have seen the evidence. For example what Oddman said about his stepfather lying to the doctor about his stress, knowing the bruises were there and still defending the Family. Maybe I'm just completely out of bounds here but I can't fathom any person looking at their child covered in bruises and thinking it's okay. I cannot defend them. I think there is a certain level of personal responsibility that needs to be taken, you can't blame all your parenting issues on the Family. That doesn't mean they're not worthy of forgiveness. But that's up to their children. (reply to this comment
From or, as the case may be
Sunday, November 05, 2006, 13:06

if they helped smear and scar the abused children of others, it might be up to the children of others.(reply to this comment
From Samuel
Sunday, November 05, 2006, 12:57


I can understand where you're coming from, also.

I cannot understand how a parent who knows about that kind of abuse would allow something like that to happen and not do anything. I just can't. I can't understand how a parent could see that and still defend The Family, and still keep their children in The Family.

But I agree with you, it doesn't mean they're not worthy of forgiveness. But before they can be forgiven, they have to admit that they did something wrong.

See, Anna? We can agree on a few things.

I'm still thinking of that video you mentioned where you were the girl playing in the sand, and how I'm sure they still use that video. And they could probably come on here and find out that you're pro-choice now, and it wouldn't matter anything to them. Disgusting. All they want to do is use people. It is rather ironic though, how it turned out in your particular case.

(reply to this comment

From conan
Sunday, November 05, 2006, 14:54

Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5(Agree/Disagree?)
In my situation, my parents are still under the illusion that no abuses happened and that there is no blood on their hands. They truly believe that my memories are fabricated or the byproduct of stories I heard from ex-members and translated to myself, even though I'd spoken to them about it years before I ever left TF.

It's for that reason that it's difficult for me to honestly forgive my parents. They weren't the ones who abused me but it was because of their choices and subsequent lack of action that the abuses occured and continued. However, I do love my parents and their continued denial of any wrong doing by them, or TF for that matter, is a little hard to swallow.

As I'm sure any of you who have folks still in will agree, it's impossible to convince them of your point of view as they're truly brainwashed into thinking that there has never been wrongdoing advocated by cult leadership and that any 'unfortunate incidents' that occured were adequately handled and apologized for. My parents have often said that stories of abuse are just the only way bitter ex-members can prolong their bitterness against TF and find some cause to trump charges up against TF. There is no arguing against ignorance and stupidity, and especially not against chosen blindness.(reply to this comment
From Oddman
Sunday, November 05, 2006, 14:12


Apologies are simple. Forgiveness is simple. We just complicate things.

I had a strange experience yesterday, which got me thinking on the subject of forgiveness. I was assaulted by the manager of an internet cafe, when I complained about something. I don't know what kind of day the man had, but he just snapped and grabbed my shirt. I told him I'd sue him if he laid a finger on me. To him that must've meant "hit me". I ended up with a bad bruise and a sprained left wrist. The whole time I was conciously thinking "I'm not going to hit this asshole.". For one, the guy was larger but pathetically weak, and I didn't feel the least bit endangered. Secondly, if I hit him back it would be considered a fight. Japanese cops don't understand the concept of self defense. If I was going to sue his ass, I wanted to be the poor victim.

The funny part was after the cops came. They told me the assailant wanted to apologize. I agreed to hear his apology. I heard it. And I asked if I had to go to the police station and give a statement. The cops said I didn't have to. Statements were only needed if I wanted to press charges. Duh, of course I wanted to press charges. Both the cops and the assailant could not believe it. They had somehow assumed in their Japanese way that an apology meant forgiveness. Japanese cops hate paperwork. They spent an hour trying to persuade me to not press charges. Much to their chagrin, I did not withdraw my complaint.

But the whole episode got me thinking about apologies and forgiveness.

If one truly regrets his actions, he will apologize. Not because it's the social norm. Not in exchange for lenience or clemency. An apology is not a baseball card. You might trade off an autographed barry bonds for a rookie year Ichiro, but you can't trade an apology for forgiveness. If one is truly repentant, he would want to apologize. A truly repentant person wants to make things right. A true apology should say "I was wrong. I am guilty as charged. I would have no complaint against whatever punishment you seem fit".Everybody has a right to ask for mercy. Nobody has a right to ask for forgiveness. Nobody deserves forgiveness. Only a victim can decide whether to forgive or not. And so, a victim can choose to forgive an unrepenting person also.

I chose not to forgive this man. He acted irresponsibly, and did not accept the opportunity I gave him to avoid being punished. I'm not craving vengeance, but it is my firm belief that if one is not punished, one is likely to repeat the mistake.(reply to this comment

From Phoenixkidd
Monday, November 06, 2006, 11:44

Very interesting, Perhaps this cafe is a cover for the Yakuza?? Given the way he acted which is very un-Japanese unless you live on the fringe of society. There are many things that go on in Japan that you don't see on the outside, it's not as brazen as it is in the States. Anyway good luck with your charges, I have had to threaten to press charges on one occassion or other, if you do your research and sound knowledgeable they usually give you what is rightfully yours. (reply to this comment
From Oddman
Monday, November 06, 2006, 17:54


I agree, very rare for the Japanese "ryman" to react like that. But I doubt the place has anything to do with 893. I think just a nerdy deskhugger having a bad day. Probably didn't think too well of me always having a different "gaijin" girl with me either... ;)(reply to this comment

From mia1
Saturday, November 04, 2006, 20:21

just a question, how long have u been out of the fam samuel??(reply to this comment
From Samuel
Sunday, November 05, 2006, 10:13


Since March of 2003. My parents and I stayed for several years becasue we thought The Family was good even though their writings were a bit off the wall.

I'm so glad I left. After we left, we found the anti-Family material. I started with James Penn's writings, and moved on from there to realise how bad The Family really was.

(reply to this comment

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