This is the history of how the Children of God got started in America, and how we have grown and spread around the world. We began in America as just a small little family of Dad, Mom, and four children witnessing for Jesus. We were just trying to obey Jesus’ commandment of “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15), and we believed in following the example of the early apostles and how they forsook their former lives and devoted their full time to witnessing to others of the love of Jesus and telling people how they could be saved, as well as challenging them to follow their example of also forsaking all and devoting their lives to winning souls.
As we became teenagers, we concentrated on witnessing to other teenagers and became known as “Teens for Christ.” We also used opportunities to speak in churches and challenge other Christians in getting out in personal witnessing. But we found that most of the people in the churches were not willing to follow the Apostles’ example in the book of Acts.
From 1955, Dad was preaching that if just one church would forsake all, and all of the members were to move in together and live communally and sell everything that they had and preach the Gospel, it would be a phenomenon that would attract the attention of the national and international media and newspapers; radio and television would come down to report on what these Christians were doing, and it would grow and spread like it did in the book of Acts.—But no one ever took up the challenge.
So we travelled around the United States as a little family, witnessing in schools and parks and fairs and everywhere we could find young people. We arrived in California in 1967 when the hippie movement and “flower children” were really going strong, and many young people were turning to drugs and the anti-establishment ideas of the late ’60s. In a little coffeehouse called “The Light Club”, we began to witness to these young people about the love of Jesus and to challenge those who had rejected the lives of their parents in a materialistic system, and who were looking for something more meaningful and more fulfilling, a real spiritual side of life. We challenged them with following Jesus’ example of giving their lives for others, and following the example of the Apostles in working together to spread God’s love.
At this little coffeehouse, we began to teach and train these young people in the simple principles of the Bible. Dad began teaching them the revolutionary doctrines of the New Testament, the book of Acts and Bible prophecy, and these young people were challenged to follow the simple truths of the Bible and put them into practice themselves. And as these young people left their drugs and their hippie ways to follow Jesus, immediately our family began to grow as more and more of these young people asked to come and live with us and give their lives full-time to living and preaching about Jesus.
What was happening soon began to be noised abroad amongst the churches in our area, many of them wondering what we were, if we were really Christians or not, since we weren’t part of any denomination. We decided to begin visiting different churches every Sunday, so they would have a chance to meet us and see that we were really Bible-believing and following the teachings of Jesus. In some of these visits we were received, but we began to be rejected by others, because they felt we were too radical or too hippie-like. They cast us out of their churches and called the police on us! Also, when witnessing on the college campuses, some of our young people were arrested and taken to jail for preaching the Gospel, so we began to become more and more radical and revolutionary in our ideas and methods of preaching the Gospel like the early apostles did. We began to demonstrate against these injustices.
Then we became known as the “revolutionaries for Jesus” and our church visits and school witnessing were reaping more and more young people who wanted to live the example of Jesus and His apostles in the New Testament. As we had saturated that area of California where we began with our message and our witness, we began to send out teams to other parts of California, and finally to neighboring states. We sent a team to witness in Arizona, and they were received by a former missionary who had a little church and invited them to work together with him to reach the young people, and at this church, more young people joined full-time.
Our work began to grow in Arizona, and finally because of opposition in California and direction from the Lord to leave, we moved our family to Arizona, and from there we began sending teams eastward by different routes to cover the major cities of the United States with our witness, seeking to reach young people who were the same as ourselves, looking for something to do with their lives and to give their lives to.
This was in the summer of 1969, and along the way eastward more joined. We then arrived at a camp in Canada that we had been given the use of for the summer as a training base, called Camp Laurentide, where we regrouped, and Dad taught daily classes on Bible prophecy and witnessing.
Dad began receiving prophecies from the Lord and specific direction concerning our future, and began writing them down in a “Book of Remembrance” as the Lord commanded, and passing these instructions on to us about warning America of God’s coming judgments. He gave Dad revelations about wearing sackcloth as prophets of warning, and writing our message upon scrolls that we could hold out to show to the people, and gave us specific warning scriptures to write on these scrolls, such as, “O daughter of my people, gird thee with sackcloth and wallow thyself in ashes, for the spoiler shall suddenly come upon us,” and many others (Jeremiah 6:26).
Then in the fall of ’69, we headed south from Montreal to Washington, D.C., to begin our first vigils as the red sackcloth-clothed prophets to warn America of God’s coming judgments because of her sins. Our first demonstration was to mourn the death of both the nation and Senator Everett Dirksen, whose death was symbolic of the nation’s!—As with his death ended the drive for legislation to return the Bible and prayer to America’s educational system. From there we travelled to Philadelphia for a vigil at Independence Hall, and on to New York City in another vigil in Times Square. The message of God’s warning to America was noised abroad in the media through television and newspaper articles!
We carried on with our caravan convoy to Philadelphia with vigils there, and along the way more young people joined us and the media became more interested in us in each city where we stopped. In Camden, New Jersey, a reporter came out to visit our camp, where we were camped out in tents and caravans and buses and little vans, and interviewed us and asked us who we were and what we were doing, and we told them we weren’t part of any group or church; we were just children of God. So they ran headlines in the newspapers about the “Children of God.” Dad was first called “Moses” in prophecies at Laurentide, and the two names stuck with us, and we became known as “Moses and the Children of God!”
We continued on to Pittsburgh and to Chicago, where we did vigils during the trial of the Chicago Seven, the leaders of the radical revolutionaries of the ’60s. We then began to move southward with the coming of winter weather, down along the Mississippi to near St. Louis, where we camped out for some weeks and began to organize ourselves more efficiently into smaller units called “tribes,” with each unit having a leader or shepherd to teach and train and organize the work of those within it.
We continued growing as a group to almost 100 people and 35 vehicles of campers and buses and trailers, and continued on south to Texas, camping out in the many parks around Houston. We found the young people there to be very receptive to our message, many of them from affluent families, dissatisfied with the materialism of their parents and wanting to leave all that behind to follow Jesus. Our style of life and witness was noised abroad in the media, the TV and newspapers there, causing many people to come out to visit us and to hear our message, with several joining.
As the possibility of continuing to camp out in the parks around Houston began to come to an end, we knew that we needed some place where we could more permanently base, so the Lord showed Dad to visit a former associate, Fred Jordan, whom he had worked with for many years, who had a ranch near Ft. Worth, Texas, that was formerly used as a missionary training camp, and which had not been used for some years. He asked for the use of this ranch as a base to bring our group of young people to, where we could teach and train them. So we were given the use of the Texas Soul Clinic, which we called TSC Ranch, arriving there in February of 1970, with about 125 people.
The Lord showed Dad to begin to restore this waste place, like Nehemiah rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem, and that we should make it a sample that our way of life really worked, and that this could then be the base from which we could branch out to establish “colonies” in other parts of America just as the early pioneers of America did. So we began to build up this old ranch as a place that we could use for this purpose.
From this ranch in Texas, we then began branching out. We sent off our first busload to California in March 1970, most of them new recruits from Houston, along with some veterans like Josh and Faith and Miguel and others, a team of 29 people. In California they were given the use of an old mission in the Skid Row area of Los Angeles, a big empty building they could base out of. They began to witness in the local areas, Hollywood Boulevard, Sunset Strip, and the beaches of Southern California, with new recruits joining daily to accept the challenge to follow Jesus and live full-time as His disciples.
Music became a major means of spreading the message, with many new songs being written by Aaron, Miguel, Singing Sam, Esther, and Jeremiah. Jeremy Spencer dropped out of a popular band called “Fleetwood Mac” and brought his talents and family to serve Jesus. He and his family, being English, increased our vision to look toward England to establish an outreach to the lost youth there.
The L.A. colony then began to send a busload of their new recruits back to Texas each month for training in the Word and how to witness, and at the ranch Dad began teaching them the important lessons from the Bible and the example of the apostles—how to evangelize the world. The team in Los Angeles then began to branch out into other parts of Southern California, to Santa Barbara and San Diego. An article on the ranch in Texas by the Associated Press went out on the nationwide wire services to newspapers across the country, describing this group which was endeavoring to follow the example of the early apostles and who had forsaken all to live together to preach the Gospel.
We were then offered the use of other places in America to establish branches, and the Lord began to speak to Dad about branching out into other countries as well. He and Maria left in the fall of 1970, and I and a small team went with them to set up our first eastern base in a little farm we had been given the use of in Kentucky.
Dad and Maria went on to New York, where they made preparations to go to Europe, getting tickets on a cheap student flight and Eurail passes to travel around Europe by train. In September 1970 they left America for their exploratory European trip.
Meanwhile the first base established in Kentucky branched out after a month with a new outpost in Cincinnati, where a houseful of young people who were endeavoring to live communally and follow Jesus welcomed them with open arms and asked them to teach them the Bible and train them. Some of these young people then returned to Texas for further training. We began to carry our witness eastward as others from Texas came east to pioneer outposts in Detroit and further north to New York.
In the winter of 1970, NBC-TV came to the Texas ranch to film a documentary of our commune and way of life. They spent a few weeks filming “The Ultimate Trip” in Texas and Cincinnati, which was released on nationwide TV in January 1971, and brought a wave of favorable nationwide publicity by the media, and with this publicity came many new disciples and opportunities.
Dad and Maria, now in Europe, began to write back letters of their experiences and things that the Lord began to show Dad, what were to become known as the “MO Letters”—Letters from MO in Europe to the COG who were pioneering across America with their revolutionary message and methods.
Dad and Maria checked out places where they wanted us to establish outposts: London, Paris, Rome, and on finally to Israel. Dad’s idea was to bring the Children of God to Israel to establish an outpost there amongst what he thought were God’s chosen people. But he discovered that it was not God’s plan for us to establish an outpost in Israel and move our whole work there, God wanted us to carry His message of love to all people all over the world. This revelation was quite an experience for Dad, who had been looking towards Israel as the place he wanted to live and be till the end of his days, to see prophecy being fulfilled.
Dad and Maria left Israel for Cyprus, where the Lord began to show Dad what he wanted us to do, and he began to write us frequent letters of instruction and direction regarding our pioneering efforts in America, with the vision to spread out into more parts of the world.
In April of 1971, Dad and Maria returned to America to help with the organization of the work there and the directing of pioneer teams to far countries. From a secluded place in Oklahoma, he began to direct the work through his letters from behind the scenes.
In the spring of 1971, the wave of publicity about the Jesus People revolution as a whole began to spread across America from California. Many churches tried to jump on the bandwagon and steer the Jesus People into their churches. Some of these new groups chose to join forces with us, such as the “House of Judah” in the south and the “Jesus People Army” in the northwest, adding to our ranks young people ready to “go into all the world to preach the Gospel.”