Ellenville’s Children of God
All That Believed Were Together
By Steve Rago, The Union-Gazette
August 2, 1972, North America
ELLENVILLE – The light after noon rain flittered down to the floor of the forest in little drips. As the droplets gently touched down on a bed of browned pine needles, a Child of God opened her Bible to read from the Book of Acts.
“And all that believed were together and had all things in common…” (Acts 44). This simple statement from the Bible, is the basis for an organization called the Children of God. It is part of a religiously oriented drug rehabilitation “family” in Ellenville with members throughout America and parts of Europe.
But it is more than that. It offers spiritual sanctuary and solace to those in desperation, be it from drug abuse or personal dissatisfaction with the world and its hypocrisy.
The family feeds the hungry. Those who hunger for love and brotherhood find it here by basing their lives on the Bible.
“We are a new nation,” Ecclesiastes, a one time LSD user, says: “We have dropped out of the world and are laying our lives down as testimony or as example for others to follow.”
The “children” use the Bible as a blueprint for their lives. And everyone of the community replaces his given name with one out of the scriptures.
“This family began 41/2 years ago in California with 12 people,” Johab, a tall blue-eyed man who lives here with his wife and two children, explains.
Johab was one of the original members of the community. He continues, “They saw the hypocrisy in the church, and thought there was a better way – a way of getting down to the people – so they dropped out and traveled the country.”
In two years the family had grown to 150. Going on excursions in Gypsy Jesus Caravan, a group of fixed up school buses, the community members reached out to many in cities across the country.
“They were attempting to warn the nation of impending judgment for throwing the Bible’s lesions out,” Johab noted while picking up his little blond-haired boy.
Now the network of Children of God “colonies” stretches far and wide and representatives of each colony travel among them “keeping the lines of communication open.” One member thought it important to assert. “We don’t have any formal bureaucracy here like the church does.”
Back at the renovated motel, which serves as the meeting rooms and living quarters of the family, singing greets the passerby. “I’m so glad that I’ve found Jesus” is chanted to guitar chords, with members clapping hands in time.
James and his wife Charity walk by to give their testimony of how Jesus changed their lives. James says “I started taking drugs because I was searching for something. I guess I was trying to find a pill which would keep me up forever.”
“The Lord Jesus found me. And the Bible is Jesus on pages. Now we feel the word coming alive in our hearts.”
Consuelo offered similar testimony. “I was on drugs, but I got scared. I reached out for god and then I knew He was real. When I found the Children of god, I said yeah that’s where I want to be.”
But the Children of God explain they can’t introduce someone to Jesus. That has to come from the individual. “It’s like being color blind. If I was to point out a few colors and you couldn’t see them you would think I was crazy. But if by some miracle you could see colors then all I’d have to do is tell you which one is which. That’s what we do here.” Johab explains.
“Jesus is waiting at the door of your heart. All you have to do is open the door and ask him in.” Other members of the family add, you can only “experience Jesus by tasting him, you can’t just think in your mind you’ve got to feel Him in your heart.”
But you have to be hungry. Alienation, certain callousness obvious in big cities, a searching for answers to: Who am I? How should I live? draws many middle class children to the deeply sincere community.
“The answer to your problems is Jesus brother. The answer is within you but it is not you.”
Asaph was a heroin user who contacted hepatitis but like his sister he patterned his life on the Bible and became a member of the Children of God.
“I was fed up with life. I had an empty spot within. I guess I was like the lost sheep that strayed away. Then I joined the family in Dallas, Texas and the hardness of their love turned me away from junk and toward the love of Jesus,” he explains.
Asaph continued, “I saw the change in my life. Every day it is getting better.” Asaph and Ecclesiastes are on their way to a colony in London where they will help out kids who have trouble making it in a personally world of quiet desperation.
“We are doers of the word of Jesus, not hearers,” Asaph adds. “The Bible is our rock foundation. Jesus started a revolution and we will finish it,” he explains of the way love is felt in the community.
“Love never wants itself. Because of it we want to help other people who want to find another way to live.”