The time has come for me to publicly share about my time and experience with the Christian Sect known as the 'Jesus Christians'. I've always wondered about how I would write about my experience. I didn't want to be overly emotional when talking about them, but I also didn't want too much time to pass so that I will forget certain events. The experience changed my life is more ways than one, both for good and for bad, so I want to give an honest account.
A lot of time has passed now, and my memory isn't as sharp as before to give a detailed telling of what transpired between me and the group (JCs). Because of that, instead of trying to tell it chronologically, I'm telling my story in the form of an interview...addressing the issues topically. Hopefully, this question and answer approach will help me to address everything that needs addressing in a sensitive and thorough way. So I'll begin...
WHEN AND HOW DID YOU FIRST MEET THE JESUS CHRISTIANS?
I first met one of the Jesus Christians (his name was James...and was later changed to Alfie after a grievance with the leader of the group, David McKay (DM)) while I was shopping at Stratford Shopping Mall in the UK. It was around April of 2002, and I was just doing my second year examinations at the Queen Mary and Westfield University in London. I had the zeal of a new convert, as I finally gave my all to Christ in February of that year, and it had dramatically changed my life.
I was reading a lot, fasting and praying often, evangelising and changing a lot of my behaviours through the things I was learning. My boyfriend was one of the first things I gave up, as I threw myself into the faith 100%. Channeling all my love to God was how I was able to get over that break up.
So when I met James, and he asked me if I would spare a few pennies for a copy of a Christian book he was handing out on the streets, I was more than happy to support. I think I even gave him a hug. I was really buzzed and loving nature and everything at that point. I took the book home, and read it in the fastest time. I wasn't much of a reader, but I couldn't put it down. The book was called 'SURVIVORS', and it was about the End-times from the perspective of DM.
I was so challenged by what he revealed in the book, that I had to write to them to thank them with a donation of what I thought the book was really worth. In less than a week, they sent me a collection of their pamphlets and other books. After reading their material, it was clear to me what they were teaching, and I believed that they truly had the truth, and that the Churches were not following Jesus, but were merely practicing modernised Judaism or Churchianity (as they called it). I called them and got speaking with Susan, one of the leaders of the UK Base of the JCs, who then invited me for a trial week.
WHAT IS A TRIAL WEEK?
A trial week is a seven-day period that you spend with the group, living the way they live, doing what they do, and forsaking your worldly wealth and connections (temporarily). It gives you a chance to experience their lifestyle and decide for yourself if you agree with their teachings and are willing to live like them.
HOW DO THEY LIVE?
The Jesus Christians believe that all Christians are supposed to live in community and share all their possessions equally. That means that they literally forsake personal ownership of everything, but their own bodies, and live out of a common purse (following the practice of the Early Christians in the Book of Acts). Everyone who joins their group is expected to sell all their possessions and give to the poor (which they agree includes them or their charitable projects), and live by faith (which means not working in a job for money, but serving others in love, and living from the gifts and charity of others). These three teachings (of community living, forsaking all and not working for money) are fundamental to their way of life and sets them apart from the general Christian population.
HOW DO THEY SURVIVE?
The founder of the group, DM, writes books and other articles that they print cheaply in India, and ship to their various communities in the UK, US and Australia (they had set up a new base in Kenya before my exit from the group). Other select members of the group also write and illustrate comics and books. These books are used for proselytizing on the streets and asking people to contribute 'change' (the common expressions they use are 'a couple of pennies', 'a few pennies', 'spare any change' etc).
Some people throw the literature back to them in disgust, others literally give a couple of pennies or just the one! And still others are more generous, giving pound coins, dollar notes or bigger notes (depending on the conversation they had with the JC and how they are feeling). On average, the JCs get close to a pound average for the books they 'distribute' (they will never say they sell them, because they don't charge a price, and sometimes they give the books free to children or people who are aggressive walk away without giving anything).
Those who get a better average are hailed as great distributors, witnesses, and even claim to have been inspired that day. While those who do not are often accused of laziness or being 'out of the Spirit'. The difference between the cost of printing and shipping these books is substantial for the JCs to live on, rent an apartment or house (that they share), buy and maintain camper vans, travel to various locations (by air and road) and set up new bases, as well as reprint and ship more books.
They are also very frugal and live off the wastefulness of rich societies. They are known for dumpster diving (taking food and other provisions from Supermarket bins), taking clothes donated to the poor from clothing bins, taking in discarded furniture and other things, and growing their own fruits and vegetables where possible. At Christmas time (in particular), when even very good things are discarded due to very small damage on packaging, the JCs take in a lot of provisions from bins, not limited to expensive wines and chocolates. After such escapades, it is common to hear them say "God provides!"
WHAT OTHER THINGS DO THEY BELIEVE IN AND PRACTICE?
I can't list everything they believe about everything... It is also quite likely that they have changed some of those beliefs and practices. But in general:
- They believe that the Christian Church has forsaken Christ and do not actually follow Him or obey Him, so they are very critical about other Churches and approach everyone who is not a part of their fellowship as an unbeliever. In fact, they are kinder to those who have never professed to be Christian, because they believe they are more open to the truth, where as those who claim to be born again would not listen to them when they talk about obeying God. The fundamental reasons for this rejection is that mainstream Christians do not literally apply Jesus' teachings by not selling their possessions, not living in community and continuing to work for money rather than living by faith (the way they do). Their emphasis on obeying Jesus by taking His teachings on certain (they are not literal on all things, e.g. they do not give to all who ask (Luke 6:30)) things literally is why they have chosen to add the name Jesus in front of 'Christians';
- They do not believe that the Christian Bible is the inerrant Word of God as most Christians do. They believe that Jesus is the Word of God and the Bible is a collection of inspired writings, which is good for teaching and pointing us to Jesus. As such, they only accept the words of Jesus as recorded in the Bible as the Word of God, and discriminate between the Old and New Testament scriptures. They believe that 'all scripture' (2 Tim 3:16) is not limited to the canonised scriptures, but that other writings by Christians can qualify as scripture (if they are inspired by God). For this reason, the JCs qualify the writings of DM as scripture, and often read it in place of the Bible, when they have personal Bible Studies, and sometimes quote his teachings to each other. However, they also have a strong Bible study culture and memorize lots of scriptures, which are good for them when they are preaching to other Christians who challenge their chosen lifestyle;
- Though they uphold the doctrine of the Trinity (being God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit) and believe in speaking in tongues, they do not subscribe to other Christian practices of Holy Communion, Water Baptism, Sabbath or First Day observance, Tithing, calling leaders with titles such as Pastor, Reverend etc, swearing oaths (including in marriage ceremonies) or the practice of saying a sinner's prayer. CLICK TO READ MORE ON THEIR TEACHINGS AND PRACTICES
WHAT HAPPENS TO THOSE WHO ARE KICKED OUT OF THE GROUP?
I can only speak from my own experience, because I don't really know what others went through. I imagine there would be some common points. If you were new to the group, and you had just sold everything you had and given it away to the group, only to be kicked out with nothing but the clothes on your back, you can feel seriously cheated! Especially if you believe that you were not actually in the wrong, or that the grievance process was manipulated against you (as can be the case when the grievance is with a leader who the other followers quickly side with).
Often, grievances come to a head in the evenings and at night, and being kicked out of the group at such a time can be terrifying! Especially if you're not in your own country, and have your family or friends around to turn to, like many members were. Even if you did have family and friends to turn to, most often the bridges have been cut, because of your decision to sell off joint possessions, or even your decision not to call them Mother or Father, or your accusation that they are not Christian nor obedient to Jesus.
It is very hard in such situations to go back to them and admit what has happened to you and ask them to help you. Another problem, which was one that I had each time I was kicked out (I was kicked out about three times), was the residual but powerful belief that they were right, and they had the truth, and that to run to your family and friends for support was to run away from God. So, whatever you do while you are kicked out, if that is your mindset, all you want to do is make things right again, and find a way to apologise and get back in good terms with the group.
So, often, people who are kicked out still believe the teachings of the group and identify with the group and desire to be reconciled with the group, because they cannot see any other place where they can belong. They are usually told upon exit to fast and pray and live by faith, with the belief that if they are sincere, they will come back. They also have at the back of their minds the teaching by DM that those who leave their fellowship will become evil and depraved (even though they appear wise to the world, because of all the 'wisdom' they gained from his teachings).
Often, the leadership of the group controls them through email communications, where the grievance continues as the person sends letter after letter of apology, which is thrown back in their faces, as each word is examined for a dual or diabolical meaning, and the person is broken until they do not even know if they are the devil incarnate or not!
I imagine that some people quickly recovered from leaving the group, as some do when they break up from a short relationship. These might have had few possessions and maintained contact with family and friends, and probably not have believed everything they were taught in the group. For others like me, recovery takes years. In fact, I'm probably not altogether recovered from the impact of joining and breaking away from the group. I actually still hold to a lot of their beliefs today, and I still have never been able to join another Church because of this, though I continue to attend Church.
What also makes mine harder, I suspect, is the fact that I got married within the group to a member of the group. Being married made it harder to disentangle from the group, even after being kicked out. Since I was married, even though I was able to leave the group and still claim to be Christian, I didn't have the same liberty to leave my marriage. My passport was held by the community, as I was told it belonged to my husband, and so I couldn't leave the country, and I didn't have any other valid identification to move forward with my life.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR MARRIAGE
My marriage within the group was very much tied to my commitment to remain with the group. It was a marriage of convenience orchestrated for the purpose of granting me residency rights in the UK, where I joined the group. At the time I joined the group, I was on a student visa, and since I had dropped out of university (after my second year), I could not renew my visa. It was to expire in October of 2003. I had joined the group in May/June 2002 (if I recall correctly), and was quickly taken to the US for refuge, for fear that my family would forcefully remove me from the group and take me back to Nigeria, where I am from.
I agreed to going to the US, and I still had a valid visa. I didn't think much about what I would do if it expired. I was 'living by faith', and to worry was to lack faith in God's provision. I was indeed very naive.
After three months in the US, I returned to the UK in September 2002, and still had more than a year on my visa. During this time, I was continuing to battle with the idea of being single for God. I had developed a crush for a brother, Fran, while in the States, and it appeared to be a mutual attraction. However, Fran continued to boast a high '144k vision' (which is the vision of being among the 144,000 virgins that were not defiled by women (in Revelation 14:1-4)).
When we returned to the UK, Fran developed an interest in another lady, Kim (who he married much later, 2004). At the time, I was heartbroken by his rejection, and had to deal with my strong feelings for wanting to be married. Eventually, in June 2003, I forsook the whole idea and accepted the 144k vision, when I read Jesus' teaching with new eyes "let him that is able to accept it, accept it" (Matt 19:12). I decided that I was able, and God was able to make me able.
So I wrote a letter to the group saying that I had finally forsaken the idea of getting married, and would be single for God! It was then that DM raised an idea, he had been discussing with the other leaders, to the whole group about how he felt we could resolve my visa problem. He presented it as God's will and His gift to me for finally forsaking the idolatry that was my love for marriage. He put it out there for anyone, who had a low 144k vision, being 50% or less, to pray about it and come forward to marry me.
You can imagine what this felt like. In a way, I was thrilled that God had given back to me what I had forsaken, but then again, since it was His gift and will for me, I didn't want to presume on His choice. It felt like the choice of who I married was out of my control. Rather than approaching it romantically, it was more like an arranged marriage.
Two people came forward. The first to come forward was a man who had always held a low vision between 40 to 50%. Paul was, at the time, twice my age at about 40-42 years old! He was very unattractive to me, not only in looks but in personality. He had a hot temper, and a callous mouth that you would not expect a Christian to own. The idea of marrying him horrified me, but not enough for me to see that this was totally a bad idea, and not at all inspired of God.
Instead of saying "no" to the proposal, I felt compelled to entertain a courtship, which was supervised by Susan and Roland, one of three married couples in the community at the time. They counseled me about his good qualities, and about how arranged marriages are better than emotional unions, and about God's provision. I prayed for God to help, but I wasn't sure how He would.
So when the second person eventually came forward with his intention to marry me, it was like a life saver, which I grabbed unto with both hands. The second person was a nice gentleman, JM, who I had met while I was in the US. He was the opposite of Paul, being my age mate, very good looking and also very easy going.
He said that he had had a dream about a Nigerian flag in the Cayman Islands, and felt that God was saying that I was his wife. We looked up the Cayman Islands, and found that it was one of a few countries that Nigerians could visit without visas. After that realisation, my engagement to Paul was swiftly broken to be replaced by an engagement to JM. Paul later married Ulrike, who was also in the group.
There was no courtship to be supervised, since JM lived in the US, and I was in the UK. While I was in the US, we had been friendly, but there was no attraction between us, because I was interested in Fran then. We started communicating online, and sent hand written letters to each other, as evidence that we had a long-distance relationship before marriage. But it was all a farce.
We met in the Cayman Islands, and had to be married the same day, so that we could legally sleep in the same room. We obtained the marriage license and met with the Minister, who gave us a short 15 to 30 minutes marriage counselling session before proceeding. All the while, I was just starting to think about the impact of the decision I was about to make.
Though another idea about setting up a new base in Nigeria had been briefly discussed previously, it was rejected as it was felt that it would be too risky, given my family background and the problem of corruption in the country. I admit that I was also against this idea, being afraid of the challenges of setting up a new base in Africa. I had also been driven by my own fear and paranoia not to tell my family before hand of the wedding.
The only two witnesses were David and Cherry McKay, the founders of the group, who came from Australia to support us. A lot of expense had been made for the marriage to go ahead, and even though I wasn't 100% convinced that it was right, and I felt rushed, pressured, coerced and desperate (having in mind no other solution to my visa dilemma), I felt that I could not change my mind (as it would be highly inconsiderate and selfish, wasteful and ultimately result in me being kicked out).
All through the ceremony, I was thinking, wondering if I had the strength to say "no", if the Minister asked if anyone knew any reason for us not to marry. Those words were never said. I followed the ceremony to completion, until the Minister pronounced us married. It was the weirdest thing. I was looking for an out that never came. After that, I just thought, "it's done now", and I decided to abide by my new role as JM's wife.
JM and I got married in August 2003, three days after I turned 21, and was legally able to marry without parental consent. We informed my parents afterwards of the marriage, and their response was more of resignation and sadness than the anger we had feared. After the marriage, we me felt bolder about establishing communication with my family, as the threat of my being forcefully separated from the group was diminished. JM's family had expressed support of his decision and the group from the beginning, and did not evoke any anxiety as mine had.
WHAT ABOUT THE TIMES YOU WERE KICKED OUT?
I can't remember exactly when, but I believe the first time I was kicked out of the group was before my marriage. I remember that the grievance started because someone was waiting to use the toilet, and I was taking too long. I told them to wait, and when I came out, I had a grievance on my hands.
It dragged out the whole day, and it actually went straight to second stage, because someone who was not actually the person waiting, witnessed it and found an issue with it. It was not long before the accusation of pride was thrown in to muddy the waters. I couldn't understand what the whole grievance was about. They were trying to prove that I didn't need the bathroom as urgently as the person waiting, and I could have come out, so they could relieve themselves, and then continue.
Anyway, the grievance was taken to third stage, which meant the whole UK base (of about 10-13 people, not sure the exact number at the time) were involved. I was given time to cool off (pray and fast) out of the community, and was not completely kicked out. However, I had to find somewhere to sleep for the night until we reconvened in the morning.
I remember that I spent the night at an Accident and Emergency Hospital near Hither Green, South-East London, as they were the only place that was opened all night. They were not close by, so it was a long walk. I had no money. I can't remember how the first one was eventually resolved. No doubt, I would have accepted all charges against me. I remember spending another night on the streets, before I was finally able to rejoin the group on good terms.
The second time I was kicked out was the beginning of the end, around mid 2005. We were on an outreach (as they were called) up North, and were at Liverpool at the time it happened. I had the responsibility of keeping track of our income and spending via expense sheets on Excel. Each person submitted an expense sheet every week, which I compiled to give weekly reports back to the team. I gave a negative report of our spending, as I focused more on how much we spent, rather than how much was brought in. Compared to how much we had brought in, the report should have been positive (even if we spent more than we usually did), because the group felt that we deserved the splurges along the way, which had encouraged people to perform better.
The grievance climaxed quickly, because it wasn't a first stage, second stage or third stage issue. All the team were together when I read the report, and everyone had an issue with me. It took me a while to see what they were saying, but I eventually did. But not before they had flung accusations of me being greedy and proud, which I did not agree with. I was kicked out, without my passport, money or anything but the clothes on my back and a sleeping bag. I was escorted to the bank to withdraw all the money in my bank account, as we had kept my account active, before I was given my cards back.
Because of my husband (who was in the US about to donate a kidney, another one of the controversial issues the JCs are known for), I had to keep communication lines open with the group. I also wanted to resolve the issue, because my faith was tied closely to the community. I believed strongly that if I left the group and went back to my family, then I would be turning my back on God.
The JCs continued on their outreach and left Liverpool, but I remained, having no means to travel or even to feed. I used local Libraries to communicate with the group via email. I raided bins to survive and ate leftovers from people's plates in small eateries. I begged for money in the night in the city centre. I also printed small pamphlets to tell people about Jesus, and asked them for "a penny or two".
I fasted and prayed the first few days (as expected of me). I stopped fasting when I woke up to find that I had fainted in a Library, after reading a disturbing email from the leader of the JCs, in response to another one of my apology letters. I guess I realised then that my time on the streets would not be short!
I spent nights at different homeless shelters, and even went door to door asking people to accommodate me as a missionary. One couple helped me and took me to a bed and breakfast motel, and paid for me to spend a night there. I was very grateful. I tried sleeping in a park once, but I thank God that I opened my eyes in time to see a predator watching me. I wised up and packed my things and left the park, but he kept following me.
I eventually picked a public place to sleep, where it was well lit and had a high traffic from the clubbers enjoying a night out. That night, a drunk person kicked my head in viciously and repeatedly for no good reason. I cried myself back to sleep, and couldn't believe what my life had turned into. However, I still didn't contact my family.
The next night, I slept at a police station. I moved around a lot because people got tired of poor people lingering, and their charity soon wore off. I eventually got enough money from distributing my pamphlets in the day and begging at night to catch a bus to Birmingham.
I continued this street life in Birmingham and spent a few days at the Coach Station, amongst other places. Other homeless people clued me in on places to receive food and shelter, so that street life became bearable. I even managed to save enough money to send hundreds of pounds to the UK Team, living on next to nothing myself.
From Birmingham, I went to Manchester, where I met with the team. JM had returned to the country, and they met me. The UK team agreed that I had repented of my sin and decided to take me back. I had spent about 8 weeks on the streets at that point.
When we rejoined the team in London, DM had a grievance with the UK team, particularly with JM, who he accused of using his loins to make a decision about me rejoining the group. He then forced the UK team to kick JM out of the group, while I stayed in, unless I wanted to join him on the streets.
I didn't understand or support the decision to kick JM out. It seemed like a mind game and an ego trip that DM was on, so I decided to follow JM. That makes for the third time out of the community.
JM and I didn't last long together out of the community. We had a grievance on our first night, and went our separate ways the next morning. It was at that point that I thought about suicide. Even at this lowest point, I couldn't call my family.
I prayed through my feelings and decided that something was seriously wrong with my life if I thought killing myself was an option. I decided that I owed myself a fresh start, and that God's grace was enough to help me through this time of trial. I didn't think about suicide anymore. I just changed my approach and took each day as it came.
I was taken in by Sisters of Charity for a few days, and found a way to maintain myself with distributing tracts (witnessing) and using donations for food and shelter. JM and I kept communication lines open to the group. I can't remember how it came about, but we were eventually called to meet with the group again, and were taken back in about a month later.
SO HOW DID YOU FINALLY LEAVE THE GROUP?
It wasn't long before DM had another international grievance with the leader of the US Base (DM is based in Australia). It was this grievance that led to the splitting up of the group (which JM and I later learned was one of DM's strategies to control and manipulate the fellowship, as it was something he had done years ago, before either of us joined the group).
He lamented that the reason the group was never growing beyond 30 people was because we were not mature or responsible enough to care for the sheep that God wanted to send. He decided that we will be stronger in small micro-managed units of three-four people, and we can each continue to preach the gospel and live by faith in these small autonomous communities.
His initial suggestion was that our joint funds would be split between all the members. However, he changed this in favour of giving each person £2000, while the rest of the money and assets belonged to him and his wife, and his daughter and her husband (Christine and Rob), who ran the Kenya Base, where they were just starting a small community and doing a charity project.
Even while breaking up the group, he tried to control the composition of each group (another manipulative tactic, which JM saw right through). He tried to get Alf (formerly James, the young man I had first met) to team up with JM and me. This was a good strategy to control us and our joint resources, as he had a strong control over Alf, who changed his name after his spirit was broken over a grievance with DM early in the year. James (Alfie) said it was a revelation from God.
Also, JM and I were not a strong couple, as we had hardly had any alone time together (apart from a week's honeymoon, alone in a Camper-Van parked in Hither Green, London, after we got back from the Cayman Islands). We had often worked with Alf on outreaches, and JM and I were never united. We often had grievances where JM and Alf would side against me, or Alf and I against JM. JM and I had never sided in a grievance against Alf, strangely.
To avoid this conflict, JM adamantly refused to be paired with Alf, or anyone else for that matter, and insisted that we go out alone together. I agreed to this, once I saw the sense of it, but I didn't realise that his plan was to leave the group altogether. I still naively thought we would try to live up to the standards of the group and maintain communication (which was still encouraged).
In October 2005, we left the disbanded fellowship with our £2000 each (in part books and in part cash) to start a new life, community or whatever. The challenge was 'SINK OR SWIM'!
WHAT HAPPENED AFTER YOU LEFT THE GROUP?
We found somewhere to settle in Manchester, which was affordable. Given the continued use of my cards (for the community), I still had good enough credit to rent a semi-detached house in Gorton. The UK JCs used our new place to store their books, as well as the books that belonged to us. The plan was to distribute the books, and use the proceeds to live on as well as print a new shipment.
I agreed to handle the shipment for the different autonomous communities in the UK, as we were the only ones renting a place. However, this later caused an issue, when boxes of books were misplaced, and we (JM and I) were accused and blamed for it. I believe they were later found and it wasn't our fault, but there was no apology for the horrible things that were said.
Also, even though we agreed to act autonomously, we noticed that the other UK communities, particularly Roland, Sue and Danny (RSD), were seeking to pry into our lives. It seemed they were still communicating with DM daily, and that they were reporting back to him things they learned about us. It wasn't long before the false autonomy became obvious, and they were blatantly talking about regrouping and doing more things jointly. However, JM and I didn't entertain that idea. We appreciated our freedom and independence, and we were finally getting to know ourselves as friends, so that we could be united on things.
JM wasn't a strong distributor. He didn't get a lot of books out and he didn't get a good average. I, in comparison, was a better distributor, and seemed to be carrying us. Sue and Roland tried to use this as a wedge between us, accusing JM of being lazy and out of the Spirit, and saying that I better jump ship before it crashes (or something to that effect).
I found this counsel particularly alarming because they are supposed to believe in the sanctity of marriage and seek to preserve unions, rather than be a cause of division. And besides, what was the better option, to leave my husband and follow them back into the community, where I would no doubt spend the rest of my life being a hook for JM, and being berated and suffer worse than I already did at their hands???
'Divide and Conquer' is a strategy they know well and often accuse their opposition of, and it was strange to see them try to apply it on us. Rather than heed their warning concerning the destination of my marriage, I took note of the contradiction and the wickedness behind those sentiments.
The fact is that distributing literature had never been JM's strong suit and he resented agreeing to get books instead of collecting cash, and furthermore committing us to a new shipment of literature, which would take us months to get through. I also regretted agreeing to getting the new shipment with them, as it prolonged our communication/relationship needlessly, and the grievance over the missing boxes was really upsetting. We eventually sold off our remaining books to Roland and Sue, who were eager to have them.
After the grievance over the shipment, we were happy to shut/slam the door permanently on the idea of returning into fellowship with the JCs in any form. We did not pursue or continue a dialog with them, and concentrated on getting to know each other, building a new life together and most importantly, making our own decisions!
WHAT ABOUT YOUR FAMILY? HOW DID THEY DEAL WITH ALL OF THIS?
My family were long-suffering. Though we were afraid that they would take me away from the group forcefully, we needn't have been so anxious. The UK JCs had previously had a bad public outcry about their activities, when they took in a 16 year old boy, Bobby Kelly, in 2001. I believe this is why they quickly sent me to the US. I told my parents of my decision to join the group when I was safely out of their reach - over email.
My name was changed to Ruth (which I personally chose), as the group was paranoid that our emails would be tapped to locate my whereabouts. They continue to change names of their members, when they are paranoid and want to confuse the people they imagine are snooping on their conversations.
My parents were heart-broken to say the least. They were also particularly offended by my decision to no longer call them Dad or Mom, but by their first names (which is unheard of in Nigeria). They didn't like to communicate with me by email, and when they responded, it was often short.
I visited them after I returned from the US, when they were also visiting the UK. My visits were supervised, as the group were still on edge about them. But by the time I got married, they were resigned to the fact that that was the life I had chosen, and they tried to still be there for me. Eventually, I was allowed to visit on my own.
My parents never did anything to evoke the fear they did. I believe it was more of paranoia and residual anxiety about previous members who had been abducted and reprogrammed by Graham Baldwin, an anti-cultist. I was swept away by that, and now I wish I hadn't been so afraid. Maybe if we had communicated honestly, I might have seen through the Jesus Christians sooner, and certainly had considered other options to marriage.
When I eventually told them about our break from the group, and that we were living in Manchester, they were happy and ready to support. We visited them in London, and my Dad visited our home and saw how we lived, still in a 'poor-is-better' (JCs' translation of 'poor in spirit') mentality, and offered to help us get a better place. I didn't like that idea. I didn't want to stop depending on God day by day, and I really didn't want my family to take care of me and my husband. However, I accepted his offer to help us keep up the rent, so that we could sort out other things.
JM's family were also supportive of the change, and visited us from Canada. They were genuine, happy and hopeful people. So refreshing from what we had become used to.
Our parents also encouraged us to consider continuing our education, which we had both abruptly given up. Because of our lifestyle, and our persuasion to serve and live a humble life, we both decided that we would prefer to study Social Work. JM started by doing a diploma, while I was able to get into university directly, as I already had two years of study in Computer Engineering (which was considered as a diploma). So, that is how we slowly picked up the pieces of our lives, our minds, our hearts and our spirits.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE GROUP NOW?
It wasn't until I started studying Social Work that I was able to understand the horrible mind games that went on in that community. They taught that the first rule is that there are NO RULES. But guess what...a long list of rules followed that first rule. They taught that "you do not need anyone to teach you the truth" (1 John 2:27), when you have the Holy Spirit, but they required that every convert study all their literature and learn their teaching.
They accused other Christians of not being able to think for themselves, and encouraged us to think for ourselves...only to the point that we agreed with them unquestionably - or get the boot. There was even a time I was forced to stop reading a book by Rick Joyner entitled 'The Call', because they thought I was falling for his 'lies'. If you read any literature apart from theirs or their approved lists of authours (e.g CS Lewis, Leo Tolstoy and a few others), you were sure to have a debriefing session afterwards, where they will make sure you know why you should not trust those authours!
I saw that they were the kind of people they despised; hypocritical, self-righteous, judgmental, religious, dishonest, cunning and ungracious. I eventually found the word to describe them. ETHNOCENTRIC. I went to their forum and wrote a post on how they were ethnocentric, as a way to get out some of the things I had not been able to say while in the group. I don't believe I got a response to that. In fact, I'm quite sure it was deleted.
But I didn't care. My mind was breaking free, and what was more... I still had JESUS.
I held on to Jesus tight, because He is all I know as absolute. When I joined the group, I prayed that just as He took me in, He would bring me out (if it was not His will). In a strange way, I think He used JM to get me out. If JM hadn't insisted on leaving by ourselves, we would probably still be entrenched in the group, or suffered a more awful fate. If I hadn't married JM, I may have married someone else (like Paul), and that's just unthinkable.
But even though I will never regret joining the group (because I learnt a lot about Jesus and His teachings, and standing up for my faith among other things), I do regret that I stayed as long as I did, and that I married in a less than genuine circumstance.
It became harder for me to hear God in the group. I had a lot of paranoid dreams, which I mistook as warnings from God. We used to spend time 'listening' to God (in prayer sessions called 'Listening Time'), but it was so hard to hear God say anything contrary to the beliefs that were already upheld and promoted in the group. If you did hear God, certainly, someone will tell you that the devil also whispers into our ears!
I doubted myself a lot in the group. I doubted my own relationship with God. I doubted my sincerity. I often doubted words I had uttered moments later, when accused that I said something else entirely. The group, through their effective ways of minimising the individual's own relationship with God, became the absolute reference point. The most important link, which should have been preserved at the expense of all else, was the one that was attacked the most, so that ultimately, the leader of the group (DM) could retain control over his members.
But the JCs, if it is a Church at all, is not DM's Church. They are members of Christ's Body and belong to Him, and need to get nourishment by abiding in Him and Him only, so they can bear fruit.
Dave, that is why your group has refused to grow beyond 30. You do not groom leaders, you mould people into your likeness, but we are only to imitate Christ - or imitate you in as much as you imitate Christ (1 Cor 11:1)! However, those, who show that they are growing in their ability to hear from God, often find that link attacked, criticized and broken, like they are traitors staging a revolt!
The truth is supposed to set you free, but it is not the whole truth if you cast out grace. When you have only 'truth' and no grace, you are just like the hypocritical Pharisees, religious and judgmental, lacking love and lacking Christ. I pray that you may truly grow and bear fruit, by pruning and preserving each person's link to Christ. I pray that your lives will bring glory to God, as you extend love and grace to others, while building up each other in truth. Amen.
ARE YOU AND JM STILL TOGETHER?
The short answer is "No". I'm not sure I'm ready to give the long answer. I may never be. Moving on from that marriage was one of the hardest things I've had to do, and required me coming repeatedly to God's Throne of Grace to know that I have been forgiven. That He still loves me. That I can still walk in the light of His fellowship.
The marriage was not built on a solid foundation. It wasn't supported by a loving community. We were also young and naive and unfamiliar with ourselves. Our break-up did not break me. What broke me was knowing that I had disobeyed God's commandment, not only in entering my marriage lightly, but by refusing to be faithful to it, for better or for worse.
HAVE YOU HAD ANY COMMUNICATION WITH THE JCS SINCE?
Yes, actually. For years, I kept them out of my mind, and refused to follow up on their activities, lest I get roped into their ethnocentric world. However, I had a couple of dreams about Roland and Sue in July 2014. After the second dream, I decided to look up on them.
I learnt from their website that they had been kicked out of the group (which came back together after the 'disbandment' that led to our successful exit) in 2010. According to them, the JCs went underground (pretending to be broken up) a few months after their departure. As they still consider themselves to be Jesus Christians (after 25 years in the community), they now refer to the other JCs as "the JCs led by Dave McKay".
I felt more comfortable about reaching out to them, after learning of their separation. We exchanged letters for almost two months, as we got re-acquainted and swapped stories and pictures. However, our brief fellowship wasn't to continue.
After I invited them to visit my blog, and shared a couple of my posts with them, I quickly learnt that their mindsets hadn't changed much at all. They dissected my posts (the way the JCs had done to grievance emails), missing obvious lessons, and picking at statements to get me to break it down for them (or find hidden meanings). They concluded that I was now 'Churchy', a derogatory term they used to describe Christians that attend Church, but do not live like them.
I was surprised, but not greatly. After a couple of responses, I sent them a final response, which they took as the end of the conversation, and we have never communicated since.
It was disappointing, but not unexpected. It has taken me so long to regain a means of personal expression (even though I was only in the group for about three and a half years). I expect, it will take their whole lives to move on from the mindset and practices of the JCs. Even now, it appears that they are still seeking resolution from the other JCs on their disagreement, but are being shunned.
I wish them all the best, as I do every believer in Christ. May God help us all to abide in Him and endure til the end!
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, for Thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8: 35- 39)
I want to thank God for giving me the grace and the strength and the clarity of mind to share this very personal experience with you all. I do not do this with any agenda against the Jesus Christians, but as a final step in my healing over the experience I had with them. I didn't realise how traumatic an experience it was until I left the group, and found that I had lost many memories of things that had happened in my past, and even in the group, as my memory isn't all there (as it should for someone my age).
I did have many pleasant times in the group. I enjoyed our outreaches, and witnessing on the streets, and simple days without a care. I enjoyed the music, the Bible studies and the fellowship times, and the games too. I took away a new found love for Chess and skill in Microsoft Excel. And yes, I even enjoyed bin raiding (when there were provisions to be found) and cooking meals for the group, which I often did!
However, there was something that prevented me from maturing in Christ, and prevented others too, and if that is the only purpose of my revelation today, I hope someone takes that lesson home. I hope DM reconsiders the way he runs the community, and genuinely hands over control to others - if not for his own sanity, for that of his followers.
I hope my friends and family, who have often wondered about my experience and my decisions come to a new understanding of it, and forgive me (should there be any residual hurt) for shutting them out the way I did. I especially love my family for helping me through that experience, for not forsaking me or rubbing my failure or losses in my face. Thank you for loving me.
I also want to thank my husband, Toju, for supporting me, for allowing me free expression of my faith via this blog, for proof-reading this long epistle, and for understanding how very important it was for me to speak! For years, I've felt like I've been keeping a secret. A dirty secret. I wanted to speak, but I didn't know how or who I might hurt.
Blogging has been my release and allowed me to heal from so many things as I searched and communicated my heart, and learnt from others who did the same. Their courage has given me courage to speak today. Thanks to all my blogging friends and online Christian community!
I am not ashamed of my past. I am free. I am, always have been, and always will be, Christ's!
PLEASE ASK FOR PERMISSION TO REPUBLISH! THANK YOU.