In February 1970, after nearly a year on the road caravanning and camping out, the first Children of God community was set up at the Texas Soul Clinic (TSC), a west Texas ranch belonging to David’s former boss, Fred Jordan. By this time there were 120 members, many of whom had joined within the last few months. Traveling in a group had become increasingly difficult in winter, and the new members needed Bible classes and training, which the rigors of frequent moving did not allow for. At TSC, David set out to establish an independent society where they could live like Jesus’ disciples and the early disciples as described in the book of Acts, having all things in common and being separate from the world. There, COG disciples devoted themselves to Bible classes, daily chores, and preparations for witnessing forays to Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin and other cities in their vicinity. Visitors flocked to see this curious sight, and a few joined as a result.
Soon the Lord inspired David with the vision of colonization; organized teams would be sent to pioneer major cities, to establish more COG colonies and spread the message there. In a discussion with leaders at TSC, David said:
God has given us a plan whereby we’re going to set up, by the grace of God, bases, strongholds, fortresses of God, colonies, whole communities. We’re going to divide, not like some kind of atomic explosion, going out into nowhere … but we are going to divide like the amoeba and then each half divide again; and then when it’s grown strong enough, divide again. So that we can ship a whole colony of maybe a hundred people to start a new colony (Acts 13:2, 5, 13), where everything will be there that is needed. … It is not a matter of cloistering and simply holing up some place and letting the rest of the world go by. But what we are talking about is something in the nature of colonizing missionary bases from which we will send out the individuals and the teams to invade the hostile territory, and to win young bottles for the Lord.
We are not just going out, infiltrating and getting lost in the shuffle. … We are literally going to colonize this world with successful units that are going to survive and they’re going to get the job done.
The second COG colony was established at Fred Jordan’s six-story skid-row mission in Los Angeles, California, in March 1970, where over the next two years about 800 more joined. Several smaller “outposts” were set up in the eastern U.S.
News media from across the country became interested in this new phenomenon; dozens of TV and radio interviews, and hundreds of news articles followed. The COG was featured nationwide on NBC’s First Tuesday program, broadcast in January 1971. Fifty disciples joined as a result of that program alone. Within a year, the COG had grown to over 500 full-time members in five colonies.
The year 1971 marked the beginning of a massive expansion. After trying and failing to usurp control of the movement, Jordan expelled the COG from his properties in Texas, Los Angeles, and Coachella, causing the COG to rapidly spread out across the nation, establishing small colonies wherever they could. By the end of 1971 the number of COG members had nearly tripled to 1,475, living in 69 colonies. The disciples’ days were spent in studying the Bible and preaching to young people in parks and hippie or youth hang-outs.
The disciples lived off of castoffs and donations from individuals and businesses, and the funds and goods donated by new disciples. Much of the food needed by the early colonies was obtained by teams of “provisioners” who would obtain donations of everything from day-old bread and donuts to leftover Kentucky Fried Chicken and catering-service sandwiches, to truckloads of dented cans donated by stock warehouses. In the back of many of the more affluent supermarket chains, provisioning teams picked up crates of fruit, vegetables, and other produce, too ripe to market, yet suitable for immediate consumption.
The COG expansion caused no small stir, and while many parents were enthusiastic about their mission, a number of parents were very alarmed at their kids’ decision to leave everything behind to follow Jesus. Negative media coverage soon followed, featuring exaggerated accounts and inaccurate information.
Some parents joined forces with deprogrammer “Ted” Patrick to form FreeCOG (Free Our Sons and Daughters from the Children of God), the predecessor of the Cult Awareness Network (CAN). This marked the beginning of the “anticult” movement that eventually campaigned against new religious movements worldwide. In these early years, illegal kidnappings and deprogrammings were a common threat to newly converted young adult members.
Notwithstanding these new challenges, the Children of God continued to grow and expand and prepare to launch into all the world to preach the Gospel.