Building a Communal Society

In February 1970, the Gypsy caravan of the Children of God pulled into the Texas Soul Clinic (TSC) near Thurber, Texas. Saul (Fred Jordan) had given the okay to use the Clinic, providing the COG would maintain and improve its property and buildings and be of no further obligation to him, scrounging for their own food, etc.—which they readily agreed to do.

TSC is 400 acres of rolling hills, lightly wooded with mesquite, fir trees, and cactus, and crawling with blister bugs, centipedes, rattlesnakes, and scorpions. It was the same country commonly referred to in cowboy movies as the “devil’s country,” taking its name from the poisonous vermin and desperadoes that inhabited this West Texas semi-desert region.

As sparsely foliaged as it was, TSC was like a mountain oasis set in the middle of thousands of acres of naked plains which had been stripped of trees and shrubs to grow grass for grazing herds of cattle. The neighboring ranchers would no doubt have liked to turn TSC into pasture land too, but Fred’s parents, who had willed the property to him, had wisely written a stipulation into the will that stated the property could be used only for Christian purposes.

Of course, it had been at one time, but had stood in almost complete disuse since the ‘50s when David was there and it had been used as a missionary boot camp to train many of the missionaries the Soul Clinic had sent to foreign fields. They figured anyone who could survive the freezing winters, blistering 100°F-plus summers, drinking water from a mud pond, being isolated from civilization, contending with scorpions, rattlesnakes, and centipedes, would be ready for the worst conditions any mission field had to offer! So for the 120 fledgling missionaries of the Children of God, the Texas Soul Clinic was just what Doctor Jesus had ordered.

When David had flown to California to see Fred again, it was nearly two and a half years after that fall of 1967, when he had received the vision for using the ranch as a training camp. David told Fred, “You owe it to us! You owe it to God!” What could Fred say to David’s years and years of faithful service, or to the testimonies of 120 young people now serving God full-time, or to the miracles God had done for them as they witnessed and got out His message across the nation? What could he say but yes?

When the COG arrived at TSC, they pulled in secretly by night, and it was three days before anyone really knew they were there. When the local people found out that a whole regiment of hippies had moved into cowboy country, all hell broke loose! Rumors began flying that the citizenry were drawing up indictments, forming vigilante committees, and generally just up in arms at this colonizing of their territory. They weren’t rumors to be put off lightly. If the team had not occupied TSC by night, en masse, in a very familiar area with nearby neighbors who knew David and his children personally and were fairly friendly, they might not have been able to occupy the property. As it was, it took miracles of God and their own God-inspired wisdom.

To secure the property, the first thing they did was throw up a rock and mesquite bush fence along the quarter mile of open road access to the ranch. They installed a heavy gate with a police dog behind it and 24-hour-a-day guards to watch the road. Still, cowboys would occasionally drop by to drunkenly scream at them and fire potshots, so it kept them on their toes. However, these Gospel Gypsies hadn’t come to TSC just to hide away from opposition and let the world go by. They had come to train and to organize their new society and to learn how to make it work, so that teams could go out from there to start similar communes everywhere.

On the road there had been a few classes and lectures, but there hadn’t been much time to spend really teaching and training, since most of the time was taken up with just trying to live. But at TSC, the new nation began to get down to organizing, both doctrinally, with six hours of daily Bible study, and practically, with on-the-job training in the various skills and ministries needed to feed, house, and guide their brand-new communal society. And at TSC the Lord began to take an even more direct hand in guiding His revolution by opening up a direct line into the fifth dimension, a hotline to the Lord’s heavenly headquarters.

It was also during those first few months at TSC that David was inspired to have the whole COG take Bible names. A few had already received new names while on the road, but in early spring of 1970, the whole team began to make the switch. One brother recalled, “For a while it was kind of hard adjusting. All of a sudden the brother you knew last week as Ralph or Dave was Uriah or Cephas, and Shirley was now Dorcas. For a couple of weeks we all had to wear name tags to tell who we were. But we made the change, thank God, and now we all know each other pretty well.”

The principles of the new nation that David had begun to get from the Lord in Laurentide started to develop more fully at TSC, as the guidelines were laid for its systems of education, government, and economy. Economy? Yes. They began going to local businessmen, whom the Lord touched to give them what they needed to do His work: food, washing machines, building materials, trucks, everything, even crazy things like a trailer full of sunflower seeds or watermelons. Of course, most of the things they received were used, or the food was dated and ready to be thrown out, but it was still good and it set them free to work entirely for God.

At TSC the COG also began to develop a program for the teaching and training of its children—both those born naturally and healthily at home within the community, and those who joined with their parents or with parental permission. Using as their basis the Montessori method of individual attention that helps the child teach himself at his own speed, they revised it to suit their own needs and unusual living conditions, and also to teach even younger children than the traditional Montessori system thought was possible.

Naturally, such a system-changing, mind-changing, spirit-changing, name-changing operation as they were performing there in the middle of the desert often led the parents and authorities in a common accusation against them: brainwashing all their disciples. And David said, “The only answer we can give to our accusers is: Of course we are. That’s why we’re in this work: to clean up their minds and hearts and their whole life, to cleanse them inside and out! That’s exactly what the Bible means when it says in Romans 12, ‘Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind’, ‘having your hearts sprinkled (minds washed) from an evil conscience’ (Hebrews 10:22), ‘with the washing of the water by the Word’ (Ephesians 5:26).”

In fact, all their teaching and training, David said, was actually nothing more or less than a “survival course”. They were literally giving their disciples a course in church survival—showing them what the church was going to have to do in order to survive in the future, how they were going to have to pull out of the system and expect the Lord to feed them with manna out of heaven and water out of a rock in the wilderness.

But some of them still weren’t getting the point of what God was trying to do out there in the wilderness, and some of them were getting itchy feet to take witnessing teams out for parts unknown. That’s when David sat them down for a class to set them straight, which he called “A Sample, Not a Sermon”:

I think we ourselves are in basic training here. God is trying to teach us all something. We’re doing something here that is just as important as witnessing. We are learning to be a living example, not just be out hither, thither and yon, screaming our heads off, but setting an example of how God wants His children to live, and it’s taking us time to organize it and get accustomed to it. We are pioneers. We are pioneering something here. This is like a great experiment and we’ve got to make it work.

We are organizing a society. We’re in the experimental stage of organizing a nation with every minor detail involved, from how to take care of babies in a communal program to ID cards. None of these little details is unimportant. We’re organizing a city, a whole new culture, a totally different society, and what we’re doing here is one of the greatest parts of our testimony.

The difference between us and former such societies, communes of other days and times, monastic societies and convents, etc., is that we’re not planning to be totally separated from the world and cut off, but we are trying to get organized here so we can go out of here and tell others how to do it. There needs to be something like this in Great Britain, Africa, South America, our East Coast.

There have been all kinds of communal groups before, but none with such a militant and active type of witness that we have and continue to have. I wonder how many other communes have had nearly 1,000 visitors in a little more than three months come to their gate to see what’s going on, have helicopter pilots (from nearby Mineral Wells Base) breaking rules, dropping out of the sky to see what’s happening—already over 100 of them, and frequent salvations, and people filled with the Spirit.

People don’t come out here to get sermons; they come out here to see a phenomenon that they never heard of before. The church in general says, “Yes, that’s what they did in the early church (lived communally). But it’s impossible today; it wouldn’t work now.” That’s the damned fool excuse the church has used for thousands of years.

We are proving that it can be done and we’ve got to make it work. And we are making it work, but we’ve got to work at it. Every day we’re learning to take care of this need, how to handle that situation. We’re a totally new society, a new people; we even have a new economy, even a new politics, as well as a new spiritual body.

I look at our financial reports and think, “My God, how do we manage to exist?” Our usual report says there is more going out than coming in, and I don’t know how we do it. It’s one constant miracle that we manage to survive, because there is no rhyme or reason to it at all, except that we live by a miracle. It’s a miracle. …

We have a nation born in a day that’s a mere baby yet, whose citizens don’t even know what they’re here for. They think they’re here just to learn how to witness and win souls. Don’t misunderstand me, I believe in witnessing, and I believe the time will come, and may soon be, when we will be scattered and go everywhere preaching this, but right now they need to learn how to organize such a society, how to make it work, and how to run it so they will be able to do it too.

This is the kingdom of God: We are learning how to run His kingdom. “Thy kingdom come,” right here, now: “Thy will be done,” on this earth, right here on this desolate piece of land in the middle of Texas wilderness—”as it is in Heaven.”

They had brought the offering (the Revolution for Jesus) out into the middle of the desert, and like Elijah, had laid it on the altar and put wood around it, poured water on it, and made it as impossible as they could, saying, “Now God, You send the fire.” And He did it! The news media came looking for them to publicize the sermon of their sample. And God saw to it that these things were not done in a corner!

Thurber Commune Only High On Jesus

The Abilene “Reporter News,” 24/7/70

by Jim Dublin

Thurber—One person who reads this might consider himself very religious. Another may think himself “groovy” to satisfy his religious yearning with highs on pot, speed or acid.

But no matter what his convictions, any person from any group could make a trip to a little settlement called the “Children of God” commune and learn more about himself and his beliefs in one afternoon than he could ever imagine.

The commune is easy to find: Just take a trip to Thurber, 16 miles east of Ranger, and ask the attendant at the Thurber service station how to get there.

Almost any term will do: hippies, freaks, religious nuts. He’s heard them all, even though none of those names is as close to being appropriate as the “Children of God”.

Very simply, the settlement is made up of about 175 young people, average age 20, who have tired of hypocrisy, materialism, and hate—mankind has an unfortunate abundance of all these qualities—and have retreated from it to find something else.

However, this is not one of the run-of-the-mill “tune in, turn on, drop out” hippie communes. This group has no intention of running away from the world. Instead, they intend to change it—for the better.

They attend classes 5 to 6 hours a day. They spend at least 3 hours in individual study, and another 3 hours in manual labor for the cause.

All this is in preparation for re-entering the everyday world and converting more followers. What’s the cause? The cause, says spiritual leader Hosea Levi, is Jesus Christ.

Levi emphasized that the young men and women living in the commune were not there just because they were seeking a new form of “high”.

“The kids who come to us are not looking for another kind of pill which would allow them to float along in the same rut they were in,” he said, “they come here because they want a whole new way of life.”

There is no personal property, but no one cares because it is not their aim to collect property or money. Everybody shares everything.

The group is divided into 12 tribes, just like Biblical Israel, with about 15 persons per tribe. Each tribe is responsible for different tasks—laundry, leather work, mechanics, woodwork, and so forth. It all works surprisingly well.

It’s truly an amazing place. In fact, it has an eerie atmosphere to it—they are all hard at work all day, but everyone I spoke to smiled and said in greeting, “Praise the Lord”. It’s hard to remember very many places where so many people lived together so closely and appeared so utterly happy with their work, their lives and each other.

They do some farming, but Levi said they are not self-sufficient yet. Almost everything—food, medical supplies—is donated by sympathetic businessmen and organizations.

As we walked through the area we came upon 2 old school buses that were being refitted with living quarters inside by 2 young carpenters.

“When they are through with the buses,” Hosea said, “we will send missionaries out in them all across the country. Each team will be equipped to set up another community in another place just like this one.

“Our vision,” he said, “is to establish other colonies like these throughout the country.”

He will probably do just that.

In fact, they had already begun to do just that, for it was only shortly after arriving at TSC that God began to give David the vision of His method of colonization, a plan for spreading such colonies throughout the whole world in order to reach the youth of the world with the message of God’s love. This was first put into practice only a few weeks after their arrival, when the first team of 29 was sent out to establish a new base in the old Soul Clinic Skid Row mission in downtown Los Angeles at Fred Jordan’s invitation.

The mission, a six-story hotel-like building, was another ramshackle relic of Fred’s former Soul Clinic work. Situated right in the middle of the poor warehouse district of L.A. and its putrid smog, the location was not exactly the most appealing to the young disciples. In fact, it was real battlefront conditions. The local gentry of the area [bums, homeless people and addicts], most of whom had been “saved” several times each at the many hear-a-sermon-to-get-a-meal missions, spent their leisure hours guzzling red wine and relieving themselves on Fred’s sidewalk prayer altar. The mission was probably the last place any of the Children of God would have chosen to live—but God had other plans, and they were willing to sacrifice to carry them out.

This was the spring of 1970, and Californian youth were still ripe and ready for the Revolution for Jesus. The young team lacked the experience, education and just about everything the church system says you need to be an effective minister of the Gospel, but they knew the Christ of the Gospel. These California pioneers knew that the Lord would have to do the job of reaching California’s youth; they would just be there for Him to use. And they figured that since the Lord was going to be doing it all anyway, why not ask Him for a miracle? And that’s just what they did. Under the leadership of Faith and Josh, they gathered together in the huge empty mission and asked the Lord to fill it by giving them a disciple a day. Their witnessing teams began converging on Hollywood Boulevard, Sunset Strip, Griffith Park, and other youth hangouts. They would hit the area as a group, then break up into two-man witnessing teams, giving their peers the Gospel like they had never heard it before!

Thousands of people weekly were stopped on the streets and witnessed to, and hundreds prayed with them, asking Jesus into their hearts and lives to receive God’s free gift of eternal life! Weekly, scores of those same people accepted invitations to come home, have dinner, and see their sample at work.

And each month, in answer to prayer, over 30 of those who saw the sample decided to take up Jesus’ challenge: “Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:33). While some forsook their lives of crime, hard drugs, prostitution, etc., others quit their jobs, dropped out of their colleges, and left their parents. They all did exactly what Jesus’ first disciples had done back in the first century: They “took up their cross daily to follow Him.” And within a few months, L.A. had won hundreds of disciples; God had answered prayer—a real modern miracle!

But they had greater visions than just California. As Josh and Faith told a Los Angeles Times reporter: “A lot of the people in this building are ex-black militants and S.D.S (Students for a Democratic Society) members, and most of them have been on drugs. … We’ve never reached so many kids as we have since we’ve been here. This is going to sweep the world.” (Los Angeles Times, 2/8/70)

In order to do that, a trained army was needed, and during this explosive pioneering period, L.A.’s new recruits were sent to TSC for training. Almost monthly for the first few months, new disciples would pile into the old number 9 yellow school bus, a faithful rattletrap of the road days, and travel nearly 1,200 miles over mountains, through deserts, across three and a half states, for training at TSC.

Later, after TSC was able to ship more leadership to California, the L.A. work had its own training center, and new disciples would get rewired with God-given, mind-changing, life-changing Scriptural training.

It was a process so effective that their parents would hardly recognize their offspring when they came around for a visit after a few weeks, or even a few days! Most of the parents were usually dumbfounded at their radically changed children, now “high” on the Holy Ghost, “freaked out” on the Father, and “crashed” on Christ. That their children would be involved in drugs, homosexuality, crime, violent politics, and hippyism was more understandable than that their children had absolutely flipped out on Jesus Christ and had become “religious fanatics”.

Even so, some accepted it as a welcome relief from the other, more detrimental binges that their children had been indulging in, and a few even welcomed it, becoming fervent friends and helpers of the Lord’s work which had helped their children.