|Dear Jon Letter|
(Click page image above for entire text.)
During Spring Break 1973 my dad was leaving the house and invited me to go with him. On this venture we went to a bank where he met a man from "the group" named Doug. Doug was a Viet Nam veteran who had been severely injured during a surgery gone awry years before. As a result of the botched surgery he had received a sizable settlement from the VA. On several occasions dad sought funds from Doug to keep things going and Doug made frequent “special offerings” for the requested need. On this particular day we were at the bank to pick up a check from Doug intended to purchase an old school bus. It was my dad's intention to use the bus as a traveling home while he ministered from state to state. The school bus had been previously converted to a camper and when he picked it up he felt it was livable. That plan was immediately vetoed by Yvonne after she took one look inside. The bus would have been great for camping, but full time living would definitely have been primitive. My dad set to work gutting the bus with the intent to rebuild.
After a few days had gone by a man in "the group", Jim, visited the farm to let his Irish Setters run in the pastures. While he was there, my dad showed him the bus, discussed his plan and talked about its deficiencies. Jim walked around the bus, examined all of its details then simply stated with a smile; "I know how to fix that". By the end of that day the two had cut the bottom of the front door off, cut a new door hole near the back and fitted a new door. It then took a couple of months and my dad and Jim had a master bedroom area constructed in the back, a kitchen ahead of that and a tiny bath situated in the middle. Front of that were two bunks behind the drivers area for my step-siblings Jon and Lavonne. Later, as Jon and LaVonne became older, two “humps” (as shown in the picture above) were added to the top of bus as loft bedrooms. On the bus a painted sword tip was initially added to symbolize the “sword of the Lord going out into the land.” This was painted over years later and not added back on.
For me, that spring and final semester of high school went fast. That summer, in July, I would turn eighteen and finally be free. I had only two classes remaining to obtain my high school diploma so my school days were abbreviated and I had a bit more spare time. I filled this time mending fences and caring for the herd of cows behind our house. As graduation approached, the pace of life at the farm became busy as my dad and Yvonne made final preparations for moving into the the bus. It was a lengthy process deciding what they could take into the bus and what needed to be left behind. The remainders were either packed and stored or given away. In May we began the process of cleaning up the house for moving out and I was spared the last few weeks of clean up since I contracted chicken pox and nearly missed commencement.
After commencement there was a small party for me at a restaurant and the next morning my dad drove me to my oldest brothers place in Everett, said a quick goodbye as he dropped me off, then left instructions with my brother he was teach me how to drive and give me a place to stay. Then he was gone. That same day he and Yvonne and step-siblings finished moving the last things into the bus and hit the road for Grants Pass Oregon. I have many times joked that I never left home, it just moved away from me, but in reality that is exactly what happened.
The Monroe farm brought about the end of an era for me as I was no longer privy to the inner workings of my dads life. The years of hearing about all the behind the scenes turmoil ended and life seemed much more peaceful now. I was no longer under Yvonne's constant put downs, name calling and domineering as well. It was great. Many complained about Yvonne’s dominant ways but it is much worse to have lived in the same house. Where previously I was at three or four meetings per week, sometimes even more, I now just attended the usual Thursday Foundation and Saturday Communion meeting.
It felt good to be free but there were issues. My oldest brother had just returned from Viet Nam and, after just a few months living in his apartment, it became clear my staying there was not a good idea. I was counseled by my dad and Yvonne that I should move to Grants Pass Oregon and find work there. I used my final paycheck, and a small amount of savings, to fund my way. I stayed in Grants Pass less than a month as I was unable to find a job. A man in "the group", named Harvey, called and told me he had a job for me in Klamath Falls Oregon at the Winema Hotel. He said I could stay with he, and his new wife, until I got settled and found my own place to live. So, I moved to K-Falls.
My dad, during this time, had moved on to Santa Cruz California from Grants Pass in the bus. There he had started three meetings in three homes in three cities. He also had a fourth meeting, monthly, in Paradise CA at the home of a woman named Vivian. Vivian would be responsible for re-introducing one of the stranger doctrines into "the group"; which then persisted for a number of years...even though it was not actually accepted by most. This doctrine alleged that persons of color were not human but were instead "beasts of the field". In other words they were the same as animals and therefore could not find salvation. This doctrine had shown up in Mountlake Terrace briefly but Vivian was voraciously vocal on the subject and my dad bought in big time. She based this doctrine on the scripture in Genesis which reads:
And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. Genesis 3:14-15Her take on this scripture was that Satan; the chief "beast of the field"; was a black man, and he had conned "white" Adam and Eve into sinning and... well, it was a very weird teaching but to my, and other peoples, embarrassment dad picked up the ball and ran with it for quite a number of years after that. Vivian had been born and raised in the deep south and was a white supremacist who belonged to a fringe Pentecostal group. How my dad could adopt this teaching was as much beyond me then as it is now.
My dad later changed his mind on this subject when a black man named Aubrey; a friend of someone in "the group"; came to him and asked to be baptized. He held a meeting of a few of the men to determine if this was even possible scripturally to baptize Aubrey. I was at that meeting and the overwhelming consensus was that Aubrey was a man and so it was possible. This caused a reversal in his thinking and so Aubrey was baptized.
I had lived in K-Falls for about six months when my dad called to counsel me that God wanted me to move to Santa Cruz CA to help with his new work. Harvey, and his wife Kathy,were also counseled that "since God was not blessing K-Falls" they should also move to Santa Cruz which they did. Harvey was appointed as an elder there. I moved to Santa Cruz as instructed pulling the travel trailer I was living in. My dad promised if I moved it to the park where they were staying in the bus he would help me get settled and on my feet financially. After several months a major problem developed in the groups, in all three cities, which ended all three meetings overnight. I never did learn of the exact details; I have my suspicions: but within a week my dad left California completely, drove the bus back up to the Seattle area and parked it at Apex Airpark.
Apex airpark was a private airstrip / housing community in Silverdale WA owned by a woman named Roberta Walker. Roberta had opened her home and property to 'the group" and held meetings in her home. I remained in Santa Cruz but, a short time later, Harvey and his wife also moved away and I was left alone there, with little money, working part time as a dishwasher, unable to buy food. One of my neighbors in the RV park, as well as the assistant manager of the restaurant where I worked, helped me out with food while I applied for food stamps but it became evident I could not stay in Santa Cruz. I called my dad to see what I should do. Move to Silverdale, he counseled, but more on that in a later post.
In my next post I will cover the origins of a major doctrine of control used by the ABC as the introduction of the "disciplining / shepherding"movement brings about the doctrine of "body council".