18-Grants Pass

I loved  Grants Pass. The town, the climate, the people, the river, Blind George's popcorn, and especially the peace and quiet of a small town. I've been back a few times, just passing through mostly, and the small town has now grown into a small city. It is not the same as in the 70's when it was a wonderful peaceful small town place to be and very friendly.

When we first arrived in Grants Pass from San Diego we had an apartment waiting for us. Gabriel, the guy with the figs in San Diego, had left the navy, moved there and was friends with the manager of the complex where he lived. As such, he had arranged to have an apartment ready and waiting for us when we arrived. We just showed up, moved our stuff in that night and the next morning signed the paperwork. It was the easiest move I had ever made.

We settled in quickly, I enrolled in school for my remaining two terms and before long I had earned all the credits I needed to graduate and receive my diploma from Southwestern College in Chula Vista CA. This I got in May of 1979...but without the transfer certificate. I contacted a few four-year schools and found that without that  transfer certificate many of my credits would not ever transfer, not even in California. It was very disappointing and since my school trust fund was scheduled to be broken soon; on my twenty-fifth birthday; to continue school would have meant making another move. I had two kids by this point and we decided we were not quite ready for that. For now, I planned to pursue full time work to pay the bills.

It was not a large group in Grants Pass. Altogether there was only about a dozen or so people, not counting children. Thursday foundation meetings were held at Rod's house and Saturday communion meeting was at Lowell's. Gilbert Larson still lived in town for part of the time I was there but then soon after moved to Denver.  He and Craig and I worked together one summer on a small surveying project in Northern California slope staking a new logging road. It was hard work pushing through fields of Manzanita  but on our very last day in the filed we managed to dig out an enormous boulder perched on a hillside and let it roll down a very large hill. It was such a great experience watching that boulder tumble and only later did we begin to wonder if there was perhaps a scout camp or a ranger station at the base of the hill. I saw no news reports of flattened cabins so I think we're probably ok.

A few families lived outside Grants Pass; in Cave junction and Merlin; so meetings were occasionally held at their houses as well. I taught a small foundation meeting in an unnamed community west of Grants Pass once per week on Tuesdays and every other week I traveled north up I-5 to teach at Mel's house in Merlin. On alternate weeks, on Saturdays, he and his wife would drive down to Grants Pass and attend the Saturday meeting there. I kept busy.

My dad was spending most of his time in San Diego now so the bus had been moved away from its place outside Lowell's house in Grants Pass and was now permanently parked at the San Ysidro RV park near the Mexican Border. This was the beginning of my dad’s forays into Tijuana and he had befriended a number of shopkeepers and was praying  for their businesses each time he would visit. This was the seed that would later become "The Mexican Ministry" and from it would be spun off a separate corporation.

My dad still made occasional trips up and down I-5 to teach at the Apex Airpark, Vancouver and Grants Pass, but always by car. The bus remained permanently planted in San Ysidro. Most times he would stop in Grants Pass for just a day or two and stay with Craig, Gilbert Larson's brother in law. Only once did he ever visit my house so I generally saw him only at the meetings.

At one Saturday meeting in Grants Pass my dad made comment he was having a difficult time keeping up with the request for his teaching tapes. He was using four cassette players with patch cords between them and copying tapes in real time. I told him, after the meeting, there were machines that copied tapes at high speed and, with one of these machines, he could duplicate a tape in about five minutes instead of the current hour.  He elected me then to the task of locating one of these machines and, after a couple trips to the library--the Internet did not yet exist--I found a mail order supply house called "Wholesale Tape and Supply" in Chattanooga Tennessee (a company I highly recommend if you have need for such things) that could supply him with the machine. They seemed very reputable and actually catered mostly to churches. My dad purchased the machine along with a case of blank tapes, had them delivered to my house then put me in charge of the tape duplication.

Tapes of my dad's teachings  had been available for quite some time. They had been built into a small informal library but this was the official beginning of what would be called "the tape ministry". The next edition of "The Communion" (the Assembly of the Body of Christ" newsletter); listed me as the direct contact for tapes. The going rate was just a buck to cover expenses. "The tape ministry" would remain in my control for about the next five years then was given to someone else to manage after  I was ex-communicated.  The individual who took it over did not understand the necessity of using "slave tapes" for high speed duplication and instead used the "master tape" on every run. The last I heard most of the masters had been destroyed from overuse so the tape library is now gone.

The group in Grants Pass was a cohesive group. Most were related in some way, by blood or by marriage, so kinship existed naturally and nearly all who were not kin had known each other through school and had been good friends most of their life. This kinship and friendship carried over into everyday life as well as in the meetings. A few were related directly to Gilbert Larson ; the Apostle; or were related by marriage. I was not related to anyone directly, but I had known most for years, felt  accepted as part of the "family" as soon as I moved there.

After I moved from San Diego my dad began making regular telephone calls to me in Grants Pass.  It was pure manipulation and not love. He would call and ask me to make suggestions to the elders or group about this hing  or that thing. Pleas for more money generally and he would want me to make sure everyone understood how great the financial needs were for his new ministry in San Diego. He would suggest ways to drop hints in the meetings that more money was needed. As time passed the phone calls became even more frequent, more desperate for money and it seemed he was becoming very frustrated with the people in Grants Pass. Felt they were not contributing their share. (I knew nothing at that time about the contentions many in Grants Pass had about the abuses they saw happening in San Diego with the tithe money.)  My dad began suggesting to me that perhaps there was "rebellion" brewing among the leaders in Grants Pass, although I had personally sensed nothing, and was quite insistent in his phone calls. He wanted me to let him know about anything I might see or hear that would indicate any sort of rebellion brewing. I felt as if I was becoming  a spy stuck in the middle of something I didn't really want to be stuck in the middle of and it was a very uncomfortable situation. I had learned not to question however and there was also the thought that perhaps he saw things I just didn't see. I kept my eyes and ears open and after a while it did seem as though a storm was brewing in the distance, like it had years earlier in Snohomish county, but I wasn't sure of the cause. I was a little concerned that perhaps the waters were about to get rough again and was not pleased I was in the thick of it.
When the storm finally did erupt and the waves finally rose and crested I was living in San Diego again on my father’s orders...but had also been ex-communicated. My family, and several other families in San Diego, were pushed out of the church in a mass ex-communication. This ex-communication took place after an impromptu "body counsel" session called by my dad. At the end of it, three whole families were ex-communicated and I was completely and publicly disowned by my father.  The meeting ended with my dad leaving the house angry to the point he drove his van across the front yard leaving deep furrows. Robin Hesley and his wife, were one of the families expelled at that time. Robin later divorced this wife then married his way back into the ABC.  After this meeting, I had very little contact with anyone on the inside of the ABC for roughly the next six years so I know only tidbits of what happened during that period. Most of what I know I have gleaned  from the details told by others who remained through the big turmoil. I can only speculate, based on my dads earlier complaints, and the little bits I have heard here and there, exactly why the Grants Pass group seceded from the ABC. It seems to me it was the same as in all previous turmoils...the secrecy over the money and autonomy.

There was one specific event during my Grants Pass days that is probably worth a mention since it hits at the heart of the ABC's attitude toward natural family. It may seem straight out of "Sound of Music", and somewhat comical now, but I think you might agree it was not one of my brighter moments.
The story is this. My natural mother; who my dad had instructed I was never to see again at age fourteen; discovered I had moved from San Diego and now lived much closer to her...in Grants Pass Oregon. She lived in Bellingham Washington still, near the Canadian Border, and how she discovered I  moved to Grants Pass is a story too long and convoluted to tell here but it involved an ex-communicated member who had also moved to Bellingham.  But this grapevine apparently worked in both directions as my dad also heard about my mother’s  plan to stop in Grants Pass to see me.  He knew of her intent to visit before I ever did. (Note: My brother and I had made just one trip up to Bellingham when I was seventeen, and he twenty, to see her. Other than this trip, I had had no other contact with mother. Not by mail, in -person or by phone. This trip when I was seventeen came off as rather tense since none of us knew how to approach our long estrangement from each other. My mother was also never informed I was to marry and she would have been forbidden to come to my "wedding" anyhow if she had somehow found out. There were many years she would completely lose contact with where I lived and had no idea I had even moved to San Diego until she found out I was moving back. This was mostly my doing but I had been led to believe, over the years, that I would be sinning if I ever contacted her. I was told that, at the least, I would become "oppressed" and would need to be prayed for and, at the worst, she might even cause me to fall away by encouraging me to leave “the body” which would then cause me to lose my salvation. I was gullible and bought into it.)

I received an urgent call from my dad a few days before my mom's impending visit. At this point, I had not even heard she was coming and was surprised that he knew about it before I did. Much later I pieced together how that all happened but it had to do with someone who used to be in the ABC but now attended my mom's church.  It’s a long convoluted story.

My dad, on this phone call, commanded me as my "father in the Lord" not to see her when she arrived. He told me she was coming to "entice me away from the body with her lies." He also told me; and looking back now I don't think it was actually true; that he was going to have the elders watch my house the day she was to arrive in order to prevent her from seeing me. It was I am certain a lie.

My mother had my phone number from information and waited until the day she arrived in Grants Pass before calling me. She telephoned me on a Sunday afternoon but, following my instructions, I turned her away rudely and told her not to come to my house. After the call my wife was quite upset about the way I had treated her and felt I was wrong. We had a rather heated discussion and I discovered she was right, I was wrong, and had a change of heart. I called my mom at the motel and said we would come over.

In order to avoid detection we waited until after dark, left out our back door, pushed the car down the alley without the lights or engine on and, once we figured no one could see or hear us, started the car, got in and  drove to her motel. Since it was late when we arrived, we didn't have much time to spend together but she didn't try to "entice me away from the body" on her visit. Although she did have some rather unkind words about not being able to find me all those years.  I do not recall becoming "oppressed" in any way from the visit and, looking back, I have been much more oppressed by the authoritarian abusive ways of the ABC than I could possibly have been by her visit. Perhaps if she had enticed me away it might have actually been a blessing.

That whole incident of pushing the car down the alley in the dark that night seems laughable now, but at the time I was only twenty-four and I was sincerely afraid of getting caught and suffering through another ABC "discipline".  I had been put through many "disciplines" for more than a decade at that point. some very humiliating.  I still wonder if anyone was really watching my house that day, or if it was just a ruse my dad used to prevent me from seeing her. I'll never really know but it would not have been the first or last time my dad lied to me to maintain control of me. My inclination is that the elders in Grants Pass probably would have not gotten involved in such a scheme. Most did not even know I had a natural mother and  assumed Yvonne was my natural mother. It was some very weird times.

My job at JC Penney was going very well for me, and I was in line for the next slot at managers training  to be held in Portland. I was to be trained as a buyer for the shoe department but, as it turned out,  I would not be afforded that opportunity. In March of 1980, I received a very distressing phone call from my dad. He called me work and was quite agitated. He began telling me one of the elders in Grants Pass was directly involved in some rather serious "evil" and; referencing the churches at the beginning of Revelation; said God was  going to remove his candlestick from its place in Grants Pass. I should get out of Grants Pass as quickly as possible, he told me, and when I did I should "wipe the dust from the bottoms of my feet" as a sign against them. His words sounded ominous and were a loose reference to the scripture in Luke 10:10-12 which reads:
But into whatsoever city you enter, and they receive you not, go your ways out into the streets of the same, and say, Even the very dust of your city, which cleaves on us, we do wipe off against you: nevertheless be sure of this, that the kingdom of God has come near unto you. But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city.
He recommended I return to San Diego instead of going north. Even though I didn't see all this "rebellion" and "sin" he warned against I thought perhaps he just saw something I didn't.  I began making plans to leave and head back to San Diego. I was still young, very impressionable (OK I'll admit it...ridiculously gullible), extremely immature and, despite the many times my dad had led me astray and outright lied to me I just always did what he said.  Over the years I have tried to figure out why I was so obedient to his commands but having read books on the subject I have found it is quite common among many. To be honest, as I write this post I realize how stupid I may seem to have been. I'll grant that as a fair assessment but I had also been raised in a household system, since I was a youth, that required I do exactly what I was told or else be disciplined severely or humiliated before all.  At this time in my life  I just did whatever I could to avoid conflict much as possible...so I obeyed even though I hated it and felt very trapped.

I was not thrilled with leaving my job at JC Penney's, since I would soon have the prospect of becoming a manager, but I still readied myself and my family to leave behind a really nice group of people and return to San Diego. Upon my return to San Diego I would find the atmosphere quite the opposite of the love and peace I knew before. In its place was a state of constant and extreme agitation, most caused by my dad and Yvonne. I still regret this move from Grants Pass and have no doubt had I not returned to San Diego my life would have gone much better. The move to San Diego would leave what remained of our family in utter ruins and my somewhat fragile marriage, which was going along mostly fine in Grants Pass, would end.  I would also end up being disowned forever by my dad and being labeled as "in rebellion" for refusing to participate in things that were  fraudulent or illegal. More on that subject later.

After my dad disowned me, I would never see him again. He died very soon afterward and when he died, no one from the ABC had the decency to call me and let me know. I heard days later from my oldest brother who had heard from David North. I was told by David North on the day of the funeral I was to be forbidden to attend. Apparently my dad had left these instructions. But, it seems I've jumped ahead of the story a bit here and I will elaborate more on that topic in a future post. I mention this here only as a focus point on where San Diego was headed during this period.

After moving to San Diego I discovered the "evil" thing the elder and his wife in Grants Pass had done was that he and his wife  had traveled to Portland Oregon to attend a Neil Diamond concert. Worse yet they had returned home with Neil Diamond tapes to play at  home. By doing so they had "invited demons" to "the body" in Grants Pass. They had been commanded to get rid of the tapes but passed it off as a silly request and kept them anyhow. Since they had not "repented of their actions", they were considered to have rebelled against my dads authority and God was therefore going to remove the candlestick from Grants Pass and the group would die. God’s presence would leave, I was told, and they would no longer have a "sanctioned" meeting if they continued.

Yvonne apparently had received "good information", and was of the belief, that Neil Diamond was a warlock and thus his music was meant to "call demons". I heard this part of the story of their "spiritual crime", and their "giving place to the devil", as part of a lecture my dad gave me about my own music "rebellion". He insinuated I was "advocating drug use" by the music I listened to. At issue was a song on a tape I owned, sung by John Denver, called "Rocky Mountain High". 

Much of this ultra-restrictive outlook about music was influenced by a teaching from Bob Larson called "Rock Music Uncovered" and this tape could be found in the ABC tape library. One need only Google Bob Larson to discover he is obsessed with demonology, exorcisms, oppression and the like. His message during this time completely flavored the environment in San Diego though and the only way I can really describe it is that things got very very weird.

Near the end of the  lecture about John Denver music, and my supposed "impending drug addiction" if I continued to listen, my dad loudly exclaimed that I was no better than the elder and his wife in Grants Pass who worshipped the warlock Neil Diamond. They, he said, were now fully caught up in rebellion and it was destroying the whole area. I, he said, must have learned their rebellion when I lived in Grants Pass and he commanded me as my “father in the Lord” not to listen to John Denver. My defending of John Denver's music as fairly docile; as compared to lets say Inna Gada da Vida by Iron Butterfly; he considered to be rebellion.  I still listened to his music but just did so in secret.

This incident was one of the things that started opening my eyes that something was really not quite right. I was an adult, married with children and I began to realize that all of these commands to go here, go there, do this, do that, were really an abuse of authority. I should be allowed to lead my own life and make my own decisions. Most go through this "rebellion" as a teen but I had missed that period either locked in my room or on some other sort of degrading discipline. My natural teenage rebellion had been pushed into my twenties and, to this point anyhow, I had never really ever rebelled against my father. I began to rebel now though and stopped just doing everything he told me to do. He did not like that attitude.

Teenage rebellion, I have learned, is a natural stage of growing up. I was slow in realizing that I need not obey his every command, even if he were my "father in the Lord" as he claimed. Unfortunately this would end up causing me major problems later. (Note: My dad began calling himself my "father in the Lord" after the first time I balked at one of his commands on the phone in Grants Pass. I had tried to reason with him that I was married, had kids, and had long ago had "home leave me". I had my own life I had told him and was not required to do what he ordered me to do any longer. After some back and forth on this, he laid out a compelling argument that it was different for him since he had baptized me and was therefore also my "father in the Lord" and not just my natural father.  I must still obey him or I would displease God. It seemed scriptural at the moment but then lost much of its air as time wore on. Eventually, in San Diego I began to not obey his "father in the lord" commands and this earned me the label of "rebellious son". It is a label I carried with me even long after his death. I don't deserve that label.)

Yvonne, as well as my dad, had adopted some other strange viewpoints in San Diego. One of them came from a book they discovered about symbols. After reading this book, they came to the belief that star symbols (as well as many other symbols) were witchcraft symbols and if one had them displayed anywhere on their belongings it would invite demons and cause oppression. An elder up north was considered to be "in rebellion" since he had been told to to sell his Chrysler car that had stars on the upholstery but refused. Even Miss Piggy of the Muppets was not off the hook as Yvonne began teaching that Miss Piggy represented a witch since she carried a wand and had symbols on her clothes. The instruction was that children should be forbidden to watch the Muppet Show as well as even other fairly innocuous kids shows like Sesame Street since there were symbols displayed. To turn these shows on was alleged to "invite demon oppression."  Having left peaceful Grants Pass, San Diego was a shock to my system. It had changed drastically from when I lived there prior and was not the peaceful place I remembered. I did not realize this until it was much too late.

About a year after returning to San Diego my dad started dropping hints to me that there was something major brewing with the money again. This time his focus was on several individuals in Grants Pass who were  pushing for the formation of a corporation. They, it seemed, from what he was telling me,were threatening to to start a corporation of their own then run all the tithe through it first before sending part of it along to him.

I do not know exactly who led the charge to form the first corporation in Grants Pass. I can only speculate based on hearsay, but the dispute or an issue that spawned from this dispute, would eventually cause an end to the relationship between the ABC and Grants Pass years later and that first corporation would be dissolved.

It would be a few years after I left Grants Pass before the ABC connection would be completely broken but I never did see "God's destruction" rain down on the area as my dad had told me would happen. He had also prophesied Northern California would be totally destroyed in a massive earthquake and this also did not hat happen. I am sad to say I followed his instructions and brushed the dirt off my feet as a sign against them when I drove out of town. I did it because he told me and did not really understand why. It would seem that the carpet in my car got an extra dusting from my ridiculous action that day and not much else happened. I probably owe them an apology now since I have told on myself. They did not deserve my, or anyone else's scorn.
I have covered a slight bit of the San Diego period here since there were a few links between San Diego and the Grants Pass stories. In the next post I will cover some more family history then follow up with an introduction to the newly forming "Mexican Ministry". 
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