Gospel Gypsy Caravan

Leaving Huntington Beach in contingents by night, the young Christian militants made their first rendezvous at Tucson, Arizona, where Hosea and Faith along with Becky and others had gone a month previously at the invitation of Rev. Ted and Millie Ware, returned missionaries from Cuba and Spain. The couple wanted them to start a spiritual revolution in Tucson, using their church building as their base.

Always wanting to help fellow Christians and reach the youth, Ho and Faith quickly obliged. First they removed the pews and other furniture, leaving only a wooden cross at the front of Brother Ware’s church. In came the pillows, since kids prefer to sit on the floor, and the bongo drums and guitars. Changing the name of the church from the Fellowship Church to the Light House and setting up a free food kitchen for the hippies, they were ready for services.

Soon some of the members of Rev. Ware’s small congregation were raising eyebrows, and a few felt the need to look for a church where hippies were not allowed. But still, most of the members took the whole thing in stride. Even when the original band of six Teens for Christ was joined by forty or so others from California, and local college students, high schoolers, and hippies from the hills were joining until there were nearly 70 of them sleeping in bedrolls all over the church floor, in bunk beds in the vestibule, and spilling out into two or three neighbors’ houses—even then some of Rev. Ware’s congregation were able to stand it.

Even when these “crazy nuts” began to visit schools and churches as they had back in Huntington Beach, bringing the church into disfavor and raising the ire of city officials—even then a few of Rev. Ware’s braver members stood it.

But the straw that finally broke the camel’s back was the night when Ho spotted David at the back of the church, almost lost among the crowd, and, much to David’s reluctance, finally persuaded him to come up to give a “little talk.”

Most of the few remaining members of Rev. Ware’s congregation were there that night, and David tried to explode them out of their religious rut and into orbit for the Lord, telling them their service for God didn’t begin on Sunday morning, but on Monday morning when they should start serving God instead of Mammon. He told them how God looked on their churchy, self-righteous traditions. Instead of exploding them into orbit for the Lord, this little sermon helped to explode the kids out of Tucson, and the Teens for Christ, Revolutionaries for Jesus, were without a place to lay their heads and on the road again, only a few short weeks after their arrival there.

“In some ways”, David said, “maybe the Lord considers the Revolution didn’t really get started until we left Tucson (mid-May 1969), because until that time we hadn’t really forsaken all; we still had a certain dwelling place.” But after Tucson they ran out of places to stay. God kicked them out of the nest, to the total reckless abandonment of trusting God entirely by faith!

With nearly 70 people travelling in a dozen cars and buses, God was now going to have to supply places for them to stay, money for their gas, and food for their bellies. They had a little money from kids joining and forsaking it to the community pot, but none of them were now working for money. They were in the same predicament as the birds of the air, of whom Jesus said, “They sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?” (Matthew 6:26)

From there they scattered across the nation in several different teams in odds and ends of jalopies, junkers, trucks, trailers, and campers, flying on the wings of the Spirit, and not one of their little “birdies” ever lacked: God miraculously supplied all their needs.

Faith and a few others went to join Josh, Caleb and Lydia in Miami, where they pioneered a revolutionary coffeehouse. Before they had to leave, they managed to win ten or twelve new disciples and to attract the attention of Dr. Martin, a Canadian who offered them the use of his campgrounds in the Laurentian Mountains near Montreal, should the team need it. And did they need it!

Benjamin and Ruth were heading up a little team in Kentucky, which they soon had to depart, due to their zealous witnessing activities. Joab and his wife Vashti headed up a road team later dubbed the Suicide Squad for their frequent forays into churches, which landed several of their members in jail in Akron, Ohio.

Ho and his new wife Esther led a bus team complete with roof-top band and P.A. system. With Ho’s experience, knowing where to go and when to leave, they managed to spend many hours on many campuses winning a few disciples. But having no permanent base, they soon headed for Montreal, as did all the other teams.

Jethro and Deborah had managed to establish the only semi-permanent base in Fort Worth, Texas, co-operating with local churches and churchmen in an effort to reach the youth, winning several disciples. After later provoking the churches with Sunday “visitations”, some local cowboys blew out one of their storefront windows with a shotgun, giving some of the sleeping revolutionaries inside a shower of glass! Taking it as a sign from the Lord, they soon closed up shop and joined the team on the road.

Meanwhile, David, Mother Eve, Aaron, Maria, and others were heading south to Miami, recruiting Amos, a revolutionary young Baptist lay minister, along the way. They picketed the National Baptist Convention in New Orleans, then travelled throughout the Gulf States area, revisiting churches where they had given the message two years before, and found them harder and more resistant than ever. Some who had received them hospitably before, now even ordered them off their grounds! One said they would rather have no young people at all than 100 hippie soul winners.

In Miami, after only a couple of weeks, they had to leave in a hurry, as the wife of their new disciple, a $100,000-a-year corporate lawyer, was trying to serve him with a mental warrant [involuntary confinement in a sanitarium]! So they too headed for Camp Laurentide via Washington, D.C., where they picked up a little more publicity:

Washington Post, 10/7/69

Two men yesterday disrupted the Senate ABM debate by shouting Bible verses. (Aaron) and Anthony Barone (the lawyer) told Senators, “America has forsaken God—God will forsake America!” and “If they will not obey I will pluck up and utterly destroy that nation, saith the Lord!” The men were arrested by Capitol police in the Senate visitors’ gallery.

By the time they got Aaron out of jail and arrived in Montreal, there were already 60 or so people operating from Dr. Martin’s campgrounds in the Laurentians and a three-story contact base in the city, where several new French Canadian disciples were won. From there they also performed at the Expo site of the 1968 World’s Fair; with the favor of the Director of Amateur Programming, who even attended their Bible studies, they were able to do dozens of shows with music and testimonies.

From the time the Children of God left Huntington Beach, the different scattered road teams had been working more or less independently of each other. Some of the little teams had suffered so much persecution that they were driven out of towns before they had hardly accomplished anything, while others had compromised in order to survive!

Though all the teams had done some good, they hadn’t done as well as they could have done if there had been a definite structure and plan on which to build as they went. Of course, there was the Bible, but an interpretation and plan to apply it practically to the new revolutionary outfit the Lord was raising up just didn’t exist. The Lord was creating something totally new through the Teens for Christ team, and as yet most of them didn’t really know what He was doing or where He was leading, much less how to get there.

But Laurentide was the place where David, like Moses of old, began to get the plan on that mountain. “I want to tell you, that from the time we got down to business with God at Laurentide and began to get God’s plan and God’s direction directly from the Lord, … what He wanted us to do and how He wanted us to work, from that moment we started obeying God and doing what God told us to do … and doing it God’s way and travelling and working together as a unit, as an organization, as a society, as a culture, as a new nation, as a group, as a body, as a church—since that time we have been mightily blessed.”

He said it was like his “80 days on the mount” where, like Moses, he began to get the law, the principles by which the Children of God has operated ever since. The Lord began to show him how the Children of God was going to have to learn to successfully work together first before they could successfully work separately. So it was there in Laurentide that the Children of God first began to organize itself as a new nation, ordaining bishops, elders, deacons, and deaconesses to lead the work of reaching the youth of the world with the love of Jesus.

It was there, too, in August, that David received the revelation “Old Love, New Love” (no. A), with revelations about the Old Church and the New Church. The Lord showed David that He was continually drawing out a New Church, calling her to follow in obedience to His Spirit, and leaving the Old behind. It was also at Laurentide that David and Mother Eve’s marriage ended, and David got together with Maria.

The Laurentide campground’s summer cabins were nearly all unfit for habitation in the bitterly cold Canadian winter. Dr. Martin, a refined, cultured Protestant minister who had been mightily used of the Lord in evangelistic work as a young man, had been hinting at offering the COG the use of his mansion on the outskirts of Montreal. But after he and his two sons attended a sermon similar to David’s departing sermon at Tucson, David and some of the leaders were again seeking the Lord about where to go next. After much prayer and consultation, the Lord began to show him what to do and to give the COG their marching orders.

As early as 1961, when the Lord gave David the message of Jeremiah, this scripture had again and again been impressed upon him: “Gird thee with sackcloth and wallow thyself in ashes, make thee mourning ... most bitter lamentation, for the spoiler (the enemy) shall suddenly come upon us.” (Jeremiah 6:26)

David had always interpreted this verse symbolically: Yes, of course, we’re to be mourning, just as if we had sackcloth on and just as if we were covered in ashes. But in Laurentide, the Lord again impressed upon him this verse, and this time showed him that He meant it literally. The Lord told him that they were to go forth wearing the red sackcloth symbolic of mourning, and yokes, symbolic of the coming bondage, and to carry wooden rods as a symbol of His righteous judgments upon a wicked nation that had forgotten and forsaken her God—America.

And the Lord chose Washington, D.C., as the site of the COG’s first sackcloth vigil. They reassembled there nearly a hundred strong to mourn the death of both the nation and Senator Everett Dirkson. The Senator’s body was lying in state in the Capitol during a time of national mourning. David felt his death was symbolic of the nation’s death because he had tried to pass legislation to allow a return of prayer and the Bible to America’s schools. With his death, his legislation also perished.

An honor guard of red-robed prophets stood about his bier as his body lay in state in the Rotunda of the National Capitol Building, while others stood about the grounds and on the streets of D.C. and demonstrated in front of the White House for peace.

This first demonstration of their unity and spirit caused such an impact on those who witnessed it that David knew God wanted the COG not only to demonstrate, but also to travel together as a group in order to get His message out, something the Lord had told him to do in Laurentide.

In fact, it was something the Lord had been trying to get him to do for some time: to travel in one united caravan. He had seen it in vision as far back as 1967. Then when they left Huntington Beach, he said, “I knew we should have travelled this way, but frankly, I just wasn’t willing to obey it then, because I was scared stiff and didn’t know what, for God’s sake, would happen. When you think of it, all the problems with finding campsites, vehicles breaking down, finding food—I just wasn’t willing to pay the price!”

Remember, this was at a time when America was in a violent war with her hippie children. They had just elected Nixon and his right-wing government was cracking down on the student revolt with intimidation and even brutality at the hands of the police and the National Guard. Kids were being cruelly beaten, maimed, and shot on their own campuses and in their own streets, and sometimes in the jails, by those who should have protected them and helped them to change the world!

So it isn’t hard to imagine the reservations David had about leading a roving band of the hippie generation on the road by faith, facing innumerable enemies, obstacles and hardships—but he decided to obey God and do it, no matter what happened.

They left Washington, D.C., for Philadelphia, travelling in their first united gypsy caravan of about ten vans and cars. But soon they would total over 30 vehicles of every size, shape, and description, from an army truck to a motorcycle, stretched out in one long, crazy-looking procession, sometimes taking up a mile of highway from beginning to end!

A policeman who saw what he thought was all this traffic held up on a tiny two-lane highway pulled the lead vehicle over to the side of the road because it was going too slow. Pulling up in front of it, he got the shock of his traffic citation career when every car, trailer and truck for nearly a mile down the road, following the lead’s example, pulled over to the side of the road. The thought of investigating this gigantic caravan must have boggled his brain, because he excitedly waved them on without ticketing anyone—which certainly worked out for the best, since some of the vehicles couldn’t have passed an inspection by a blind man! Imagine driving a genuine army-green troop transport army truck all over the U.S. without license plates. The plates were supposed to be on their way but never came, so they drove thousands of miles by faith without them.

Arriving in Philadelphia, they demonstrated in mourning for the death of freedom at Independence Hall, historic site of the signing of the American Declaration of Independence by those famous freedom lovers of 200 years ago.

From Philadelphia, they went on to demonstrate again for peace and freedom and in mourning for the coming death of the nation in Times Square in New York City, and in front of the U.N. Building, where no one had ever before been allowed to demonstrate!

After New York, they journeyed back to Pennsylvania to demonstrate in Pittsburgh, and finally to Chicago, Illinois, where they demonstrated throughout the Loop in downtown Chicago for peace and against the Vietnam War—on a march and vigil during the notorious Chicago Seven conspiracy trial of Abbey Hoffman, Jerry Rubin and others:

50 Prophets March On Plaza, and All Is Quiet

Chicago Sun Times, 10/10/69

Fifty persons marched on the Civic Center and other places in the Loop Thursday—peacefully and somewhat mysteriously.

They wore red robes, pounded staffs on the sidewalk, passed out literature, and prayed. Their spokesman talked about the death of America and quoted Jeremiah.

Some wore gold or silver earrings in their left ears. Others walked through the Loop with wooden yokes around their necks...

They came to Chicago, their spokesman said, because “God told us to follow the cloud—where the action is.”

At the Civic Center, they stood wordlessly for about 10 minutes (and) opened scrolls with Biblical inscriptions.

On one of the scrolls, the words of the prophet Jeremiah were inscribed:

“O daughter of my people, gird thee with sackcloth, and wallow thyself in ashes; make thee mourning, as for an only son, most bitter lamentation; for the spoiler shall suddenly come upon us.”

Another scroll read, “He that abideth in this city shall die by the sword, and by the famine and by the pestilence.”

Many of the 50 bore ash marks upon their foreheads.

Only the spokesman spoke. He said they came because of “the mourning and warning of the death of this nation, which has forsaken God and worships the works of its own hands.”

By the end of their trek through the Loop, the prophets had attracted 5 disciples who silently joined the march.

In Chicago, the Students for a Democratic Society and the police were facing down, and Mayor Daley had just that day said that anyone (except police, of course) seen with clubs would be arrested, so the Teens for Christ team were prepared to be beaten or jailed! Sometimes it really seemed as if it would happen, but God with His miraculous protection never let anyone touch them. In fact, if antagonists got too out of hand, sometimes God touched them, which is what happened to some hecklers on the march back to Grant Park.

A flashy car full of well-heeled scoffers slowly followed the ragged marchers as they filed toward the park, jeering, laughing, calling them names, and really having a good time at what they thought was foolishness. The marchers came to a halt, sitting on the grass to await their buses, and the hecklers stopped to jeer on the opposite side of the four-lane one-way street. But as they laughed and jeered a strong wind came up, sending a tree crashing down onto the roof of their car, crushing it and putting a swift end to their taunts!

The eerie mysteriousness of the prophets’ appearances served to focus the media’s attention on the message. It was in the long tradition of God’s guerrilla theatre, which has included such luminaries as the afore-mentioned Isaiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, and others who by anti-system showstoppers shocked their generation into hearing God’s message, whether they wanted to hear it or not. And, like them, their modern-day counterparts always made news, which helped to get out God’s message of warning to the world!