I list here just a few of the anomalies that developed during the "Mexican Ministry" period. I list these things because they are examples of the things that caused me to be pushed out of the ABC the first time having been charged with being "rebellious". One of the most prominent changes was that my dad decided, since we were dealing with Mexican citizens who were predominantly Catholic, we should assume their customs and begin to wear clerical collars whenever we went into Mexico. He also then began wearing one in the U.S. as well. Prior to this, I had always considered we, the ABC, were different than the other churches. We were the exception to "Mystery Babylon" (which was considered by the ABC to be the Catholic church and all her denominational daughters). We all knew, or thought we knew anyhow, that we were different than the rest because we met in homes, "had no name" (even though we really did have a name), did not "ride on the back of the government" (even though we had incorporated and shared in the same tax breaks all the other denominational churches did) and it was for certain we did not do things like the Catholics (even though we were now expected to wear clerical collars). This sudden abandonment of theological position, to such a large degree, was very disillusioning for me and it caused me to take a close look at what we were actually building. It made me realize we were really not that much different from any of the other denominational churches. This did not sit well with me. It ended forever the illusion I had of the ABC as being "different" and not a denomination. True, we met in homes instead of church buildings but everything else was mostly the same as any other denominational church. In fact...we were just a new denomination and a very aberrant, even cultish, one at that.
I refused to buy one of the clerical shirts, even though I had been commanded to do so by my "father in the Lord". Eventually a shirt was purchased for me anyhow and I came home from work to find it hanging on my front door. There was a note ordering me to wear it. There was a teaching in the ABC that we were to be "experimental believers" so I did wear it one time to Mexico; to experiment; but when the people began to kiss my ring, as if I were a priest, I was not comfortable. When I expressed this opinion later I was told I should just allow it as their way of showing respect for our position. It still bothered me immensely and I decided I would just stay away from Mexico rather than wear it again.
The "Mexican Ministry" was beginning to consume more money than was currently coming in through tithe and offering. Any alms that came in were secret so no one had any idea how much money was actually coing in earmarked as “alms”. The tithe money was paying for the "Casa Grande" (a huge house in Chula Vista California), a trailer in the mountains, a condo at the beach, a fleet of vehicles, lots and lots of new furniture and lots and lots of other stuff. This was all very very expensive stuff and very little money was actually making its way to helping Mexican families in their poverty. The theory was, as my dad explained on the Luis tape, tithes and offerings could not be used to help someone in need...only alms could be used for that, so, the tithes and offerings ended up paying for lots of things that "supported" bringing teachings to Mexico. Very very little was used to feed the poor or help them in their poverty. If an alm came in, that money was usually used to buy bibles and this did not sit well with many people and began to create quite a rift not just in San Diego but among people everywhere. This eventually caused two more major splits in the church.
In an effort to raise additional money to keep "the corporation" afloat bake sales were initiated in front of various supermarkets. We, the members of the ABC in San Diego, were expected to bake goodies for these sales then help staff the tables on weekends. Knowing the money was not flowing to Mexico to help those in poverty I participated in none of them. Another method was to have members of the ABC sit during the middle of the night at highway rest stops to give out "free" coffee and ask for donations for the "Mexican Ministry" from travelers. Many in the ABC did not participate in these endeavors since they were not comfortable giving the impression the money raised was being used to feed or clothe Mexicans. It was not. It just bought stuff for the Casa Grande and supported an ever more lavish lifestyle.
One of the more unusual ways the Mexican Ministry "ministered" to the shopkeepers was by hauling goods for them across the border in the trunks of cars; as if the goods were souvenirs. These goods would then be packaged for shipment on the U.S. side and sent to stores in Los Angeles. By doing this, the shopkeepers avoided paying duty on their goods as they passed across the border and could then undercut their competitor's price and make more sales. This allowed them to grow their businesses more quickly. It was also very illegal. If the shopkeeper was discovered participating they would lose their merchandise and be fined however if a U.S. citizen was discovered assisting in this plan they would have had their car seized at the border for smuggling, could possibly be arrested and charged. Many, including me, chose not to participate for this reason. The shopkeepers made more sales and were told the prayers prayed in their shops were the reason.
I arrived at the Casa Grande one weekday morning and was told, by my dad, I was being made the new treasurer. About an hour after arriving everyone left to go to Mexico to visit the shopkeepers and I remained behind. During my day at the Casa Grande I received a phone call from the Internal Revenue Service. Since I had been made treasurer that very morning I knew nothing about what was going on and could not answer any of their questions knowledgeably. When everyone returned from Mexico that afternoon I inquired, as "the new treasurer", what was going on with the IRS. I wanted to know why they were investigating. The only reply I got was "maybe it's not a good idea to have you as treasurer." That was that. I was treasurer for just that one day. I never did discover what the IRS trouble was all about.
Many in the San Diego group who chose not to participate in these and other things were labeled as "rebellious". I was among those who chose not to participate as many of the things happening seemed not quite right. I have mentioned only a few things here to illustrate life in San Diego during the Mexican Ministry days/ There were many many other incidents, some much worse, as well as things that should not be put into print. The general theme was that if you did not do what you were told you were labeled "rebellious" and would then be humiliated or put out. There was a great absence of free will which is a distinctive mark of a cult.
There was a group of three families that were put out in one day at a "body counsel" due to these "rebellions". All of us men who were put out were considered as "elders" at the time. One of these families moved away to Washington, another remained in San Diego for a short period then moved away to Arizona and I stayed behind for about a year before moving away to the northwest again. One of these men, Robin Hesley, eventually divorced, returned to the ABC and married again. When I got away from the hustle-bustle of the "Mexican Ministry" and the constant commands from my dad to go do this, do that it would once again be a time of peace. This would last for a number of years but I would unfortunately return to the ABC and soon after be acknowledged as an "elder" again. This time however I would be "eternally judged" and ousted once again. This time however not for “rebellion” but for "blasphemy".
I have put this narrative forward as a "history" of the Assembly of the Body of Christ" but in reality it is a history from a mostly singular perspective...mine. I have relied some on letters, teachings and documents that show the rise of this church out of the "Latter Rain Revival" movement and show how it progressed through various stages to get to where it is today. Much is based on my own observations and things I have been told or shown over the years. I have tried to avoid the "pointing of the finger" and undoubtedly failed at times in that regard. Some of these issues still hold pent up emotion for me. I'm human. I am perfectly willing to accept that anytime I have pointed the finger I have three fingers pointing back at me. If someone were to write a history of my life it would also include a good share of pitfalls, foibles, errors and things I would not be proud of. We all make mistakes. I certainly do not write this to place myself above any other.
The majority of my purpose in writing this narrative is to illuminate the actual path followed by the ABC is not as has been charted and portrayed to its members and followers. The true path it followed and still follows is quite far from the map shown to newcomers. In other words there are a great many falsehoods told to make the ABC look different than it really is and entering its doors is not wise.
While it is true my dad was not very good at the family thing I too failed in many ways in that regard. I was much too hard on my kids as they grew up, did not give them the space they needed to grow, was overbearing and as a result am not as close to them as I would like. I parented the best I could, given the information I had at hand, but that information was highly deficient. I had no good model to follow in my life and this, more than anything else, brings me the most pain. If one examined the outcome of the children of those in the ABC there is a consistent pattern of kids rejecting the path their parents followed since it was full of abuses.
Some have expressed sympathy that I have been through so many things. I do not need sympathy because most, if not all of us, go through similar storms in our lives. The storms that passed through my life were more visible than most because my dad was a bit of a minor celebrity in his own right; having started a new denomination. He was respected for his position as the founder and leader of that new denomination, but that only leads to the formation of myths and utter falsehoods about his character. Even today, long after his death, his teachings are the "ordained" teachings of the ABC and anything outside of that is suspect. My dad's teachings stemmed directly from the other men I have written about (Watt, Prince....) and they undoubtedly had those they drew them from and so it goes back through history.
I have been mostly a willing, even if ignorant, participant in my own life and have made my own decisions based on the information I had at hand. Many times it was clearly the wrong decision. I think nearly every person looks back on their life and wishes they could go back and do it all over again, make the right decisions this time. It is not possible and so we are left to live in the life we construct.
I fear that in my ramblings I may have written things that could be construed as bitterness towards my father. There was a day I was bitter against him but I have years ago resolved that. It has not ended the sadness I feel when I see our broken family but I am no longer angry with him.
I believe my dad meant well when he began the ABC but unfortunately he made the error of translating his abusive family practices into the building of the abusive aberrant denomination he started. This carryover into church doctrine has caused, I believe, the many episodes of abandonment that have occurred in the church over the years. My father abandoned his entire family and it is not expected that the institution he began would behave much different.
This journey I have taken through a very small part of my own history has brought me through many ups and downs emotionally; and, like Solomon in Ecclesiastes, I too have thrown up my hands at times and stated it is all just vanity and not worth it. In the end, it has actually been a worthwhile journey to write this down and has helped me understand where I sprang from. It has helped me burn a great deal of wood, hay and stubble in my thoughts in the process as well and for that reason I am a much better person. I am much more tolerant and kind. The Pharisaical ego I once had is mostly gone. The fires have burned large at times in my life and when they died down I had not much left to call my own so I, like Solomon, now reach the end of the matter.