The KIT Newsletter, an Activity of the KIT Information Service, a Project of The Peregrine Foundation

P.O. Box 460141 / San Francisco, CA 94146-0141 / telephone: (415) 821-2090 / fax (415) 282-2369
KIT Staff U.S.: Ramon Sender, Charles Lamar, Christina Bernard, Vince Lagano, Dave Ostrom;
U.K. : Joy Johnson MacDonald, Susan Johnson Suleski, Carol Beels Beck, Ben Cavanna, Leonard Pavitt, Joanie Pavitt Taylor, Brother Witless (in an advisory capacity); Europe: Elizabeth Bohlken-Zumpe.
The KIT Newsletter is an open forum for fact and opinion. It encourages the expression of all views, both from within and from outside the Bruderhof. The opinions expressed in the letters we publish are those of the correspondents and do not necessarily reflects those of KIT editors or staff.

October 1996 Volume VIII #10

-------------- "Keep In Touch" --------------

As of this issue, the KIT newsletter is now offered on a subscription basis. Because of rising costs and our need to keep KIT on a pay-as-you-go basis, USA and Canada readers will now pay an annual subcription in the same manner that the British and European readers have been doing for some years. The rates are:
$25 annually for USA subscribers.
$30 annually for Canadian subscribers.
$35 annually for International subscribers.
Look at the mailing label on your issue. The date to the right of your name is the expiration date of your subscription. So be careful! Keep an eye on it, because your next issue won't arrive until you pay for it.
For those of you who access the newsletter on the InterNet, we expect you to be willing to continue on a honor system and mail in your subscription regularly. Please give more or less as you can afford.

-----The Whole KIT and Kaboodle-----

-------- Table of Contents --------
Charlie Lamar
Sam Arnold
Naim Misspelled
Precluding Sarcasm
Hilarion Braun
Staughton Lynd to J Keiderling / C Domer
Blair Purcell to J Keiderling
Inno Idiong to the Bruderhof
Hans Joerg Meier
Hannah Goodwin Johnson
Ruth Baer Lambach
Susanna M. Alves Levy 'Love Story'
Joanie Pavitt Taylor - 'A Trip to India'
CONFABS Petition
Charlie Lamar, 9/29/96: I received a call today from Joe Keiderling telling me that my mother Lois passed away yesterday morning at the age of 90. Apparently she died basically of old age, having been up and active just a few days prior. I will write more about my mother in the next KIT issue.
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ITEM: An elderly ex-member who has very little Social Security income because of being in and out of the Bruderhof needs an estimated $600 to have false teeth fitted at a local dental college. It's a life-or-death matter because he has more or less quit eating (and lost a lot of weight) because of the pain involved. He desperately needs his rotted teeth extracted and dentures made to replace them. The XRoads Fund can meet some of this need, but we are making a special appeal to our readers. Please mail your donation check marked 'teeth' so that we will know what it's for.
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Sam Arnold, 7/1/96: It is difficult not to respond to both interesting and troubling stories in KIT. During the school year I can hardly find the time to read KIT, much less write letters, so I am making up for my silence now. Esther Peters Landymore's letter [KIT June VIII #6 p. 3] certainly caught my attention. Thank you for writing Esther, as difficult as it must have been. It has become quite clear to me that for the most part the females are victimized and damaged more severely than the males are on the Bruderhof. Writing is one way to help the healing process. Your father certainly was overbearing, as you put it. For him to pretend to be living on the Hof when you were not is unreal! My father's (Hans Hermann Arnold) efforts to toe the party line while living off the Hof were lame compared to yours. We did not live near a Hof, and were allowed to do a lot of fun things, and certainly did not try to be like Bruderhofers. It was only after our family returned to the community that he did an about-face and broke off relations with our relatives on my mother's side, the Loefflers, with whom we had enjoyed a wonderful relationship while on the outside.

It was most unfortunate that your family had to live so close to the community and that you had to attend Kingston High School as well. That was a real kicker! The Bruderhof knows how to keep control, even of those who are off the Hof, and they don't mind rubbing salt into the wounds of those who are down and out! That is the way they practice Christianity. You might be interested to know that my own family lived in your father's home town, Saint John, N.B., for three years, where I got my start in teaching. Karen and I were not too fond of the city. It has a stinky pulp-mill, another polluting oil refinery, and is frequently shrouded by fog coming in from the very cold Bay of Fundy. Still, I cannot imagine why your father preferred the Bruderhof to Saint John!

Another interesting letter was written by Hans Zimmermann [KIT June VIII #6 p. 6], retelling Wilhelm Fischer's fascinating wilderness stories. Such stories bring back memories of my own. I was only 8 when my family left Primavera, yet I recall quite vividly an adventure that took place at the same place as the second jaguar story, when I was 5 or 6 years old:

There were a number of my family staying at the River House, except for the three oldest. I believe that Hardy Arnold's family was also with us, as well as a bachelor, Heinz Bolck, who often visited our family. (Heinz had a thing for my mother going back to the Rhoen Bruderhof days, but he was not allowed to marry because he was considered to be a few cards shy of a deck.) Some of us kids decided to take a rowboat down the river to Liverpool, which included my brothers Ernst and Lukas, my sister Anneliese and Heidi Kleiner (Strickland). Heinz was protective of us, and decided to be the accompanying adult, but said that he would swim behind the boat. He was a bit of a show-off.

We started down the river, which was absolutely spectacular! The lush flora on both sides, with trees leaning over the river and lily pads riding on the water, created a beautiful picture. We paddled along for quite a long time, or so it seemed, as I was only a passenger in the boat. Heinz was swimming behind, and when he fell too far back, we would have to stop and wait for him. Finally we came within sight of Liverpool. Naturally, being all kids in the boat, we sped up as we approached the shore. As our boat went by the lagoon on the right, the talk was about the crocodiles that live there, which I found both exciting and frightening. We nervously pulled the boat up on the bank, temporarily forgetting about poor old Heinz. He was getting quite tired by now, but we could still see his head bobbing slowly on the water toward us.

Suddenly Heinz began shouting "Hilfe, Hilfe!" and his arms were flailing. Thinking that he was being attacked by a crocodile, Ernst and Heidi quickly launched the boat to go to his aid as fast as they could. But as they drew near him he shouted that he was all right now. His foot had become snagged on an underwater branch, and being tired, he panicked. Or maybe he faked getting stuck because he didn't want to swim past the crocodile lagoon. Either way, he gratefully clambered into the boat for the last few yards to shore at Liverpool. As we began walking along the trail back to the River House I noticed the remains of a large snake. Heinz told us that it was the guts of a Boa Constrictor, the apparent victim of a skin hunter.

Returning to the River House, a delicious aroma greeted us. Huge Pfannekuchen were being cooked in a large skillet on the open hearth. What a treat! There was even some sugar, which we sprinkled on top, and then rolled up our large pancakes and ate them!

Wilhelm also mentioned the Inga tree, which I always associate with the Tapiracuay River. The Inga had drooping branches, which made it look similar to the Weeping Willow, and beautiful to look at in its damp surroundings. What made the Inga special, however, was the edible fruit that it produced in the springtime. We would pick and eat the tasty insides of the fruit. They were thin, long and green, and looked very much like pole beans. I would love to taste them again for old-times sake.

Another story that I wish to tell concerning Heinz Bolck happened about the same time as the previous one. Heinz was at our home in Loma Hoby one Sunday for Tea. I believe it was during the time that my father was once again in Ausschluss in der Waldhutte, as he was not present. Being a hot day, Heinz suggested that we all go to the Represa for a swim. I was the youngest at the time and unable to swim yet. I rather liked Heinz because he doted on us kids and seemed to really care for my mother. He told me not to worry, that if I went under water he would come to my rescue, fully dressed as he was.

The Represa, which was a man-made pond, had a shallow end for children, and deeper section for swimmers. They were in the process of digging post-holes to put up a boundary for the shallow end, but as yet there was no way to tell where the ground began to slope to the deep part. I was splashing about quite happily when all of a sudden my footing simply disappeared, and I found myself under water and in a panic. It was a terrifying moment, and I was sure that this was the end. I had stepped into one of the post holes, and could not struggle to the surface, try as I might. After what seemed like an eternity, I felt someone grab hold of me and pull me up to the surface. I sputtered and gasped for air. Someone else came along to help me to shore. My rescuer was not Heinz, but a female lifeguard who saw me disappear and probably reached me in only several seconds. The funny thing was, that while Heinz and my mother were busy chatting on the shore, they had not seen me go down in the water. But once he realized what all the commotion was about, he heroically charged into the water to my rescue! No damage was done, however, and my older siblings joked about the incident afterward. I am sorry to say that I do not know what became of Heinz Bolck. I did learn to swim eventually, but I never felt comfortable diving or swimming underwater. Cheers,

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Naim Misspelled, 9/14/96: I write this seriously doubting that my words will ever see the light of day. Yet I can remain silent in this prison no longer. I thank the Universal Cosmic Consciousness and Her great mercy for Joe Keiderling and Christian Domer's stinging indictment of the KIT hierarchy.

How quickly the eyes of an outside observer were able to see through the hypocrisy and totalitarianism that those of us on the inside, the KIT membership, have been in deep self-denial over for so many years!

"If your mission is to destroy and hurt, then you are well led. If you hold a more commendable goal... then perhaps your support of certain KIT leaders is misguided." These words from Joe and Christian cut like a knife. Let me be the first to stand up and say I'm tired of being led around by the nose! Ramon Sender, Blair Purcell, I rebuke you and your manipulative, power-mad control over my life and the lives of my KIT brothers and sisters!

Yes, I'm sure many of my brethren are compulsively 'oooh'-ing in shock right now, stunned by my insolent outburst. But even as they genuflect in a pathetic display of loyalty before you two devils, they recognize that I am stating what many of them voice silently and know to be true. Brothers, I beg you, rise up! It is time to crack whips, overturn the tables and clean house!

Why do we, the Mailing List Brotherhood, continue to sign over our paychecks to our leaders, Ramon and Blair, only to have the funds 'equitably distributed' by them and some fractional portion returned to us, often as much as two weeks later!? And usually included with our distribution is a letter conveying something like, "You need to examine your life's consumption. The lavish size of your stipend bespeaks a wishy-washy spirit. Your bread bill alone is a concern to the brothers. It seems you are losing your first loaf!"

Why must we continue to submit our career choices to the will of Ramon and Blair? I recently had an incredible job opportunity come my way (airline pilot) but when I tried to share my heart on the matter with our leaders over the phone, I was told, "Your gifts are in food service. Remember, the one who ladles the wieners and beans will be the greatest in their next life's incarnation." When I meekly asked Ramon why, if that were true, he didn't seek to ladle, he almost wistfully replied, "How I would love to return to the simple life of the ladler. But the Cosmic She-Force has called me to the hard path of self-denial as a servant of my exhaustively needy people." Unfortunately, before I could respond, our connection broke up. It seems Ramon and Blair were en route to a "time of prayer and contemplation" in the Bahamas and their cell-phone was pulled out of carrier range. Needless to say, I obediently returned to my ongoing seven-year grind in the Roosevelt Elementary school cafeteria.

Brothers, aren't we also sick and tired of these two- and three-hour Compuserve interrogations at our leader's hands? Yes, I happened to be at Green Meadow farm when that bull mounted that cow, but I wasn't "mentally living out my dark desires through the bull." I was not "constantly repositioning to get a better look at their hindquarters," Blair's incessant accusations to the contrary. I was there to buy eggs, dammit! But until I finally cracked (no pun intended) and falsely confessed that I had sinfully, in my heart, wanted to "know" (in the Biblical sense) both the cow and the bull, I was unable to receive forgiveness and was denied my monthly newsletter. How many other stories like this one are out there?!

How many of us were secretly shocked when we found out that KIT funds had been used to purchase a remote control Gulfstream model airplane? Did it come as any surprise that the plane is kept at our leader Ramon's house and that he has already taken it, with his wife Judy, to Golden Gate park for numerous flights? Yes, he says he is "renting usage out to the public in ten minute blocks at $20 a block, all the proceeds then going to toner cartridges," and that when he personally flies the plane "it is only when I am out on Mission Street, not for pleasure," but who amongst us doesn't see something far less altruistic going on here? And when do we "plain readers" ever get to fly it?! (By the way, I for one was never really comfortable with the fact that when the Rev. Sun Yung Moon was in town, Ramon offered to give him a ten minute rental, free of charge.)

Who wasn't absolutely appalled when the lid got blown off the Blair Purcell hand-gun permit? Does anyone really buy our leader's excuse that it was purchased as an "ornamental paperweight"? And didn't his statement later, that "paperweights are an American right, aren't they?" just cap the hypocrisy?

And when we found out that our leaders, Ramon and Blair, had filed a lawsuit in KIT's name, totally unbeknownst to us, the KIT membership, some of us began to ask questions. This lawsuit was in total opposition to the KIT vision we had given our lives to. But what were we told? "That wasn't a lawsuit it was a conjunction. You know, "and", "but", "or". This legal stuff is all very technical and confusing to the layman, however. But we will always make time to field the simple questions of our simple brethren. Lets leave this one in the hands of the professionals, O.K? "By the way, don't you have some blocks to sand?" I buy this lame rationale no longer!

So let the Chip Wilsons fall where they may. I no longer desire to have my life and thoughts controlled by a corrupt KIT leadership. I hereby renounce my subscription vows and am walking away from the KIT Community, the Mailing List Brotherhood and their whole deranged agenda. I go with nothing but the shirt on my back, knowing that my finally freed conscience will keep me plenty warm on the long walk to freedom. Kill the fatted calf, Papa Christoph, your wayward son is comin' home! (Please have the German Shepherds chained as I will probably be entering Woodcrest on foot. I understand they're not trained to be friendly towards prodigal strangers. Thanks.)

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P.S. (Precluding Sarcasm)

Dear Joe and Christian,

It is easy to see that because your entire emotional development took place within the confines of the closed and hierarchical system of the Bruderhof, you necessarily have to project a leader-follower dynamic on any other group interaction that you encounter. This was amply proven in the ridiculous premise of your letter to KIT, but like many other aspects of your makeup, I know you are blind to it. You are absolutely convinced there is no validity to the charge that: being on the inside of a totalistic group, and being a product of that group's conditioning process, significantly impairs one's ability to objectively view the conduct of that group, not to mention the behavior of outsiders towards the group. Your position on this point is to contemporary sociology what the belief in a flat earth is to 20th century geography.

Again and again, based on your comments, it seems impossible for you to understand that the KIT newsletter/network is not and has never been a structured organization with a controlling leadership. Every month the newsletter is nothing more than the sum of its parts. If next issue the ten or fifteen letters that are received for submission all carried a strong pro-Bruderhof, pro-reconciliation tone, that tone would represent the entire content of that month's issue. Now, the fact that the majority of contributors every month are not sympathetic to the Bruderhof and its practices should have become obvious a long time ago to any regular reader of the newsletter. This is not the product of some hidden agenda by "the leadership" that just got sprung on an unwitting readership. In fact I've seen a few letters over the years from people who do indeed dislike the overall anti-Bruderhof tone and have been asked to be taken off the mailing list. It seems like the people you hoped to target with your recent input got off the train a long time ago without any prodding from anyone. And they certainly weren't then punished or harassed by those who remained on board.

Level of involvement in KIT runs from the woman who gets the newsletter once a month, scans it for anything of interest and throws it away, to the guy who reads the raw submissions, edits them, types them, prints them, all the while on the side keeping his eyes and ears open for ways to get information about the Bruderhof into a wider public forum. How do the latter fellow's frenetic activities make him my leader? Why does Ramon's desire to involve himself in a radio call-in program have to be a reflection on any other reader of KIT? Mike Boller got up one morning and decided to roller-blade into the Deerspring open house with a video camera on his shoulder. Does that make him part of the KIT leadership?

I am not billed for Ramon's or Blair's long-distance phone calls, be they to radio stations or the King of Siam. I was not ordered down to Philadelphia by my "leaders" to march around in a circle holding a sign that condemned the Bruderhof as a cult. I was not commanded to dish my personal dirt before the cameras of a Boston TV station. In fact, the only thing I would consider disreputable in any of this would be an attempt on the part of these individuals to keep their anti-Bruderhof activities a secret. This might reveal some hidden motive on their part.

But as you yourselves point out, they are only too eager to share their exploits in the newsletter. So Joe and Christian, let us henceforth do away with this nonsensical "leader" language when discussing KIT, reserving it for contexts where it is actually applicable. For instance, your Bruderhof.

Speaking of your Bruderhof, I was amazed to see your comments on the lawsuit issue. It seems that Christ's words in the Sermon on the Mount, that the man of God should willingly allow himself to be defrauded (which the Bruderhof preaches), and Eberhard Arnold's declaration, that any action taken by the Church in the world's courts would be an act of aggression totally inconsistent with the call to nonviolence (which the Bruderhof preaches), both exist with some heretofore unknown clauses.

Do you actually believe that when legal action is "recommended by counsel" Christ's condemnation of self-serving defensiveness no longer applies? And don't a number of real-life examples from Eberhard's own life clearly demonstrate that his teaching on this issue applied all the more when "all other attempts to resolve... have failed"? The Bruderhof's convictions on this and many other issues of true discipleship long, long ago gave way to economic self-preservation and political expediency.

You are impressively carrying on the tradition of the inspired movement's rapid metamorphosis into a compromised and corrupted religious institution that your new friends the Roman Catholics established seventeen-hundred years ago. Speaking of which...

You two have the unmerited audacity to level a charge of having "strange bedfellows" at someone else? And in line with something like the death-penalty issue no less. You went to great lengths to get your new book, A Plea For Purity, endorsed and recommended by key figures and leaders within the Roman Catholic Church.

Do you understand that the official Church doctrine that has always existed within that institution makes clear that all governments have the God-given right and duty to execute criminals who violate specific laws when those crimes are proved through "fair" and "honest" adjudication? It is simply the logical extension of the "just war" philosophy articulated by Augustine. And I believe you Bruderhofers claim to be pacifists too, right? So for the sake of support and legitimacy on issues of sexual morality, you gladly embrace, befriend and pander to a pro-war, pro-death penalty monolith. Strange bedfellows indeed.

Well, we've seen how you are willing to trade pro-purity positions for pro-death penalty ones. Let's see what you will trade someone for their anti-death penalty convictions... In the Bruderhof's Summer '96 issue of The Plough, you published an article by Marian Wright Edelman entitled, "It's Time To Stand Up." Edelman is the founder and president of the Children's Defense Fund. The C.D.F. and Edelman are clearly on record as being zealous supporters of abortion rights for women around the world. How can you justify this hypocrisy? You make the Philadelphia chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police out to be little more than bloodthirsty thugs, but encourage your magazine's readership to sit at the feet of an individual and an organization which passionately fights for the "right" to daily execute innocent unborn children. Will the deceived and carnally minded leaders of the Bruderhof ever understand that Jesus did not proclaim a single issue, mix-and-match gospel?

He spoke to the harmony and completeness of God's righteous Way when he said that a good tree cannot bear bad fruit nor a bad tree good. Figs are not gathered from thistles. You are the diligent sowers and reapers in the vast thistle tree orchard that is the Bruderhof. So, we have seen you trade on capital punishment and abortion, but how about your strong stand against the moral decline of sexuality in American culture? Your convictions in this area appear commendably granite-like. Unless, of course, we add big business and Mammon to the equation...

I remember a time when the Bruderhof was vehemently in opposition to rock music. It published articles in The Plough that called rock a satanically inspired musical form that, through its rhythms and lyrics, seduced young people into sexual sin and rebellion against authority. The Bruderhof's own young people had to confess and repent for their involvement with this music, on many occasions publicly turning over their tapes and cd's to the brotherhood. Now, a national newspaper reports that the Bruderhof's multi-million-dollar jet aircraft charters the group Van Halen, currently one of the biggest rock bands in the world, to gigs oversees. And your charter company spokesman shares this with the reporter like it is a badge of honor, a highlight in the company's history. You fly these "messengers of Satan" (your own member's words) across the world in the hedonistic luxury and comfort that their lucrative rock'n'roll lifestyle affords them (and your Gulfstream jet so amply provides), so that they may sell out arenas and increase their record sales with the help of eager young fans around the globe. Is the Bruderhof not interested in protecting the fragile souls of the children outside of its compounds as well as those within the community? Or do you think that a business venture can't be expected to play by the same rules as a concerned individual or religious group might? Or are you just a pathetic mockery? (You know, Van Halen has a great song on their first album that the Bruderhof communities might really be able to identify with. It's called "Runnin' With The Devil". )

Speaking of the Gulfstream and speaking of the Bruderhof's strongly held attitudes regarding sexual purity, let's turn to Hollywood and a movie that came out a few years ago called Basic Instinct. I have never seen this film but know it stands as one of the most explicitly pornographic mainstream, generally released movies ever made. It deals with subject matter like bondage and lesbianism, and contains a segment which has become known as "the interrogation scene" because it is so widely referred to as the most prominent display of the female genitalia ever offered in a mainstream Hollywood film. This is exactly the kind of movie that the Bruderhof would utterly condemn, be repulsed by, and consider an abominable evil. But if the price is right, the Bruderhof's jet will fly Sharon Stone, the film's star, off to begin work on her next artistic endeavor. And the charter company's spokesman will again, gleefully and with pride, drop her name to a newspaper reporter in hopes of drumming up more business with this world's wealthy and elite.

Yet the saddest part is that Johann Christoph Arnold's own son, Christoph Andreas, knowing full well the reputation and product of Ms. Stone, would seek out her autograph, then giddily present it to this same reporter as if acquiring it was one of the high points of his life. The signature written on the back of his pilot's license no less. Joe. Christian. What does this say about the true level and depth of your community life and its ability to bring even your elder's own child into a Life-giving covenant with the Son of God, to turn his face in a passion of fire towards Christ, and away from the death and dross of the things of this world?

In the end, I'm afraid the Bruderhof is like the ant farm on my nephew's dresser. Those poor ants go so seriously and determinedly about their ever-so-important work, having no idea that their 12 x 8 inch Plexiglass parody of the real underground is on display for all to see. My nephew, and anyone who walks into his room, becomes instantly aware of something that those ants on the inside can't recognize, and probably never will.

The Creator of the Universe also sees you. He sees all. Fear Him,

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Hilarion Braun, 9/12/96: As always, I find the KIT news fascinating, in spite of the contributions from the SOB that make me yawn with boredom. I'm still from the old socialist school that does not measure the worth of a person in $'s, but rather in terms of devotion, and think that those of us who can contribute more money to KIT should do so, so that those who can't really afford the $20 subscription don't have to feel that they need to apologize. It should not be a big deal for quite a few of us to contribute $200 or more a year to KIT to help out. I'm no millionaire, but it irks me that so many who earn good money still contribute only minimally. Sorry if this pisses off my more Republican friends, who think that conservatism is a panacea, when in fact it is nothing other than that which glorifies money and wealth, and assumes intellectualism is a sexually transmitted disease.

My business venture is a miserable disaster. Thanks to all of you who have written and called with encouraging words. In this public medium I can't go into details. I am still not sure I'm wise enough to know when to quit, but maybe the bank will do it for me in a few weeks.

Domer's contributions continue to claim that KIT has leaders, a prevarication he loves dearly. For those of you who feel the need to write lengthy explanations of why you want nothing to do with KIT, know that I and quite a few others don't really care, and you are wasting space. It makes me laugh to see such letters, as it does when I see them in other publications. It reminds me of childhood experiences in which we threatened each other with withdrawal of favors in hope that such infliction of self-righteous indignation would hurt others and make us feel important. A simple note to KIT to discontinue your subscription is all that is needed.

Bette, thanks for taking on the Wiedergutmachung issue. And thanks, Konrad, for those weird poguazœ letters. Maybe 'insanity' is too generous? KIT ought to publish a whole collection of these gems of wisdom. It might shed light on what is happening now. Konrad, do you have more of that correspondence? Does anyone else?

Belinda, thanks for your book!!! Love to all,

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Staughton Lynd to Joe Keiderling & Christian Domer, 9/10/96:

I am writing in response to the letter from Joe Keiderling and Christian Domer that appeared in the August-September issue of the KIT Newsletter. I believe the letter from Joe and Christian creates an important opportunity. It sets forth a list of matters that have distressed the Bruderhof during the past year. It states: "If we are to be criticized, let's focus on facts. We can handle reasoned, responsible criticism." It also states at the end: "The two of us have elected to continue trying to communicate with anyone involved in 'the KIT process' as long as there is a sincere desire to understand the Bruderhof and accept that it chooses a different path. Is there anyone left among you who will want to work toward reconciliation?"

Yes, Alice and I do. I have a suggestion about how the two groups might pursue that goal.

The letter from Joe and Christian lists matters of concern to the Bruderhof. Of course, KIT staff and readers will have additional concerns. I suggest that an effort be made to see which of these matters the persons immediately involved might be willing to submit to a mediation process.

The mediation process I have in mind is the following: Suppose the Bruderhof and (to simplify decision making) KIT staff were each to choose one person in whose impartiality and wisdom they felt they could rely. Suppose the two persons thus selected were to choose a third. This group of three would then invite the participants in the various controversies to speak with them in person, and to bring forward witnesses and documents that were thought to be helpful. At the end of their deliberations, the three would issue a report. The report would be wholly advisory in nature. In the report, the three would indicate what they had been able to ascertain and discern about each of the matters at issue.

Why do I recommend this? Because I am passionately convinced that it will be found that neither group possesses the whole truth, and that each group has tended to demonize and caricature the position of the other. As to one or another controversy, of course, the three might find that the Bruderhof or KIT had the better of it. But over the whole range of matters at issue, I think the upshot of the process would be appropriately humbling for us all.

Are there any persons sufficiently cognizant of what is at stake, but sufficiently uninvolved to render a dispassionate opinion? I think there are. John Howard Yoder and Hector "Duffy" Black are two that come to mind.

So I am requesting a response to my proposal from each of the groups receiving this letter. Each group may have difficulty responding, the Bruderhof because it is so tightly-knit a community, and KIT because it is such a loose community. Nevertheless, I believe that if there is the will to reconciliation of which Joe and Christian speak at the end of their letter, logistical obstacles can be overcome.

A word about myself: I am willing to play any role that would be helpful, including no role.

I believe that the present conflicts between the Bruderhof and KIT will never be resolved so long as each group clings to the idea that it has "the Truth." What other possibility of reconciliation can there be except to consider each specific controversy, to "focus on facts" as Joe and Christian put it, and be guided by what is shown to be true? It having been amply demonstrated that too much ill will exists between the groups for them to attempt this unaided, I am proposing that third parties be selected to assist in the manner I have described.

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Blair Purcell, 9/26/96: I read with interest the letter written by Joe Keiderling and Christian Domer published in the September issue of KIT [p. 4 - ed].

Early in their note they question whether I received death threats from National Airport -- as I reported to the airport police. Obviously, since the calls were not recorded by me (and I have never claimed they were), it would be in their interest to suggest that I lied about receiving the death threats so that I could further sully the reputation of the Bruderhof. Of course, they fail to even address the issue of whether an intentional telephone harassment campaign was orchestrated by the Bruderhof. Let me say that I have considerable evidence that this is the case, which I will be pleased to furnish to any who ask -- including them -- in a public forum.

Further, they fail to mention the pink stickers placed in public phone booths inviting people to call our 800 number twenty-four hours a day for 'sweet talk.' The stickers clearly implied the caller would have the opportunity to enjoy conversations of a sexual nature. Of all the things I believe they have done, this is the most evil, the most repugnant. Whoever conceived this idea is truly a sick person.

In answer, I repeat my previous offer to undergo a polygraph test paid for by the Bruderhof to determine the accuracy of ANY of my statements -- if both Joe and Christian volunteer to do the same at ömy expense to determine the accuracy of their statements. This offer has been transmitted to Joe Keiderling via e-mail and by certified mail. Joe responded in a letter dated September 26th by stating "What kind of questions could we possibly ask (you) that a polygraph test would clarify?"

Well, the questions they raised in their letter addressed to KIT come to mind:

Did I receive death threats? Did I miss an invitation from the Bruderhof to Andy Bazeley to attend his mother's funeral? Was it really my intent to destroy the Bruderhof? Do I know who brought electronic gear into the Wurz Methodist Church in an apparent effort to record conversations there?

They asked the questions and these are the kinds of questions they should ask me during my polygraph test. I am always interested in establishing the truth of anyone's statements in a situation where veracity is questioned. I volunteered; they ignored my invitation.

While the response indicates they see no particular use in testing me, I remain quite interested in testing both of them. Since they did not say "no" to my proposal to test them, I assume Joe and Christian are willing to be tested.

Joe and Christian further complain that I have refused to reveal the identity of the persons I have been told (as a result of my investigations) are responsible for the alleged attempt to bring electronic equipment into the Methodist church in Kingston (about) a week prior to the former Children of the Bruderhof press conference held there a year-and-a-half ago. Forgive me for failing to understand why I must assist them in such an inquiry. Joe and Christian are simply 'fishing' to find out what I know. They already know.

Rather, I have suggested they furnish photos of ten Bruderhofers (five each, men and women) which I will present in the company of impartial witnesses to the minister of the church in question in sort of a photo 'line-up.' It would be my choice as to whose photos they would provide. Then we can determine whether Rev. Arlene Dawber and/or Linda Breithaupt can pick out the ones they saw with the equipment at the church. I believe they can.

I have suggested this impartial means of investigation to Joe Keiderling both by e-mail and by certified mail. Neither he nor the Bruderhof has responded in any way. Their silence is revealing; They have no interest in establishing whether I am lying or not -- because they know I am not. And to have Arlene Dawber and Linda Breithaupt identify a Bruderhofer on what can only be described as a felonious mission is certainly not in their interest.

Finally, they repeat my words (accurately, I am afraid) from the WCVB tape indicating it is my goal to "destroy the Bruderhof. For those who have not heard me apologize previously for a very poor choice of words during an hour-long interview, I will repeat it here: I apologize for saying what I did, I spoke for no one except myself and for myself badly. I have apologized to my Bruderhof relatives by letter and in that letter asked them to convey to any Bruderhofer offended by what they saw and heard on that tape my sincere regrets for expressing myself as I did. I really doubt if many of them saw the whole tape.

None of my relatives have responded to the letter -- but Joe Keiderling did in a conversation between us a month or so after I sent the letter in November of 1995. It makes me wonder if any of the Wegners actually saw my apology. Joe, by the way, did not accept my regrets nor does he acknowledge, in his recent letter to KIT, that the apology was offered. Joe, what would you have me do to prove my sincerity? Stop telling the truth?

Finally, as to someone setting out to destroy the Bruderhof, I firmly believe those who organized a telephone harassment campaign involving over 2,000 calls in thirty days, those who blame (what courage and integrity!!) their very own children for making the calls (see the WCVB tape), those who placed pink stickers inviting obscene calls into the home of one of their own children (Joel Clement) and those who seem to justify wiretaps by stating "Wouldn't you want to know what people are saying about your family?" (see the WCVB tape) are truly the ones who have embarked on an unwitting mission to bring about the downfall of what is left of the Bruderhof.

These activities are but the tip of a very large iceberg -- as many of you know from very personal experience.

While my family and I remain ready to re-open our attempts at reconciliation (there is considerable correspondence to this effect between myself and Joe Keiderling), I can tell you right now that we will not accept, condone or ignore the behavior of those who have undertaken such actions as a precondition. Those responsible for these misdeeds are not even very good at it; they've been caught with their hands in the cookie jar all too often!

It is truly my recitation of misdeeds that offends Joe and Christian, and I say if they didn't want these deeds known, they should not have carried them out. They cannot get away with what they have done in the past, at least not with us. If reconciliation with respect is offered, we stand ready to be firm friends of the Bruderhof in every way.

To resolve the claims and innuendos of Joe and Christian, I suggest we go forward with the polygraph testing on both sides as well as the photo line-up to establish the identity of the persons responsible for attempting to bug the Methodist church. I have also spoken to Susanna Zumpe in regard to her allegations of sexual molestation. She is willing to undergo a polygraph test. Andy Bazeley makes the same offer in regard to his 'missed invitation' to attend his mother's funeral. No such invitation was issued.

Just so you don't 'miss' my invitation, Joe and Christian, I invite you here and now to join me in being tested by polygraph. And, if you have time, call me about the photos for the Methodist Church line-up. I'll give you my list of names.

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Inno Idiong, Palmgrove Community Hutterian Brethren Church of Nigeria, Inc., to the Bruderhof, with a copy to KIT, 8/30/96: Dear Christopher and all the Ministers of the seven Bruderhofs, we greet you in the name of God. Two painful years have gone by since Christopher, successfully, willed you all to brace up and side the immediate disengagement of your missionary dream in Africa. Nevertheless, our attention has been drawn to Mumia Abu-Jamal Death Roll crisis. We also pray for Mumia too. But we are very much surprised that you, of all the people, can stand out against the death sentence in the United States. We are wondering how sincere is your stand? It is indeed very questionable that you could care less about Mumia (sins) which is punishable in the world by death sentence. Instead, some of you are offering your life for him. Sad, but true that same good brothers, two years ago, found it very difficult to preach love and live by it in Palmgrove. God condemns this particular show of love in Ezekiel 33:31 and in John 3:18.

How can you truly justify this swap of life for death with your attitude of love to others? Listen, charity they say should begin at home. Love must begin with the fear of God, because love is of God (1 John 4:7). Otherwise it's a ruse. We don't believe that you guys have such great love to want To Die for anybody who is only a man, and black for that matter.

On June 14th, 1994, you suddenly pulled out of Palmgrove leaving about 150 souls in tears and in total state of panic. It was unprecedented, the pleading voices of the women and men, nor could you see the tears that flowed or see the sad looks on the children's faces. Imagine, the children you gathered with such tenderness and great care, teaching them about Christ, love and sharing, but yet you abandoned, rejected and subjected these same weak children you often kissed and said "We love you" to face such terrible slander, hunger, spiritual and legal persecution. Still nobody, none of your perfect ministers, not even one, stood up for these poor people that were once you best bet, love and pride, in Palmgrove. Now even a voice was heard among you, not even for the sake of Christ, justice, fair play and love, not to mention any of you offering your life for the spread of the Gospel in Palmgrove and Africa. Rather, regrets and constant mournful cries about loss of money, money, kept echoing across the world. The six points in the law of law are very demanding and compulsory for all Christians (Matthew 5:43-48). As Bruderhof Christians, are you exempt?

How come that you love Mumia so much? You exceptional show of support to Mumia is without nothing. It's a game we had watched you play before in Nigeria. We doubt your true intentions in regards to Mumia's struggles to live on. We do not believe you could even offer to die for your own children, not to mention a black man. It's all for your self-glory, selfish ends and unhealthy publicity.

Please, make yet peace with the wounded families as well as the Hutterites before dying for anybody. To die is gain for Christ (Phil. 1:21) but, under what intention? Remain Challenged, Inno Idiong, Your most unwanted brother

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Hans Joerg Meier, 9/1/96: I just went through KIT, April '96, again -- all very interesting! -- until I came to the last article by Hilarion Braun, p. 10. Amongst other things: "The fact that quite a few don't even bother a nominal $20 per year is pathetic!" OK, I commit myself to the "quite a few." On the other hand, I accept kicks in my backside only if justified! This time, Hilarion, your kick missed its target! At any rate, talking about my own person. Let me explain to you, KIT (not to Hilarion)_ for not paying, so far, the minimum $20 a year: I learned one thing in my life, ever since earning my own money, to spend money, even if it was $1.99, only for items you really want!

To explain: if I write a letter, I want an answer -- obvious! Now if I write any letter to anywhere in the world, I can expect an answer within 20 days or so. If I write to KIT, the best time I can expect a response to my writing would be three months. Now, I write to KIT, maybe already for six months (indirectly to the Bruderhof) and no response. So that would make KIT, and even if I would pay a minimum of $20/year towards it, a "supeflow" article of it for me -- a thing I don't really need, I pay.

Hilarion talks about $20 as if it was some bullcrap -- OK for him. On the other hand, he tries to put himself as the big sponsor for KIT and that may be a fact. That is his problem. He needs KIT, he's got to pay for it!

So far I write to KIT considering it to be like a magazine, a magazine that needs news items. Now to maybe help KIT out of financial problems, here's an idea of mine: why don't you put in an advertisement or two of good-paying sponsors? This is an accepted practice of any newspaper or magazine. Just listen to this possibility: a Bruderhof advert: "Fly J.C.A.'s Gulfstream Jet. You may meet most famous rock-members on flight. By the way, a free bar service on board!"

Any royalties springing from this idea may be deducted from my KIT debt! Dear KIT, I don't criticize you. I appreciate your efforts, have no doubt about it!

May I put a little message to the Bruderhof? I'd like to thank you for putting me on your V.I.P. list 'Right Honorable Member of KIT.' With your now-absolute silence towards me, you are telling me this fact in loud words! And within the next 30 years, I probably will sign a document with my attorney prohibiting any Bruderhof member from attending my funeral! What is good for you, is OK for me! Greetings to all,

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Hannah Goodwin Johnson, 9/19/96: Dear Anthony. From my insecure childhood of parents being whisked away on mission or in secluded disgrace, I refused to make any statement of trust in the Arnold hof business. We could argue forever about who is the biggest cop-out, either you after you took the vows or someone dismissed as unwanted. What is looking back or forward, having been raised in an environment to an intended best? That implied 'we' (the KITfolk) have not put a hand to the plow and looked back. I was fully intended and intending to stay in the business I was trained for.

Still, I think there is a need for changes in communes that are intentional communities. So there has been some looking back and the offensive eye was plucked out and thrown as far as possible. If it is better to be maimed and keep going, I wish them well in their ears to help their hindered perspective -- it cannot be a new, improved vision. They choose that way to deliberately maim themselves, and so they are maimed... You may not agree with my ideas for communes or my suggestions for hofnicks. You have the right to say that your own personal failures to your vows are vows you are able to renew "as long as we abide." But please stop with the royal "we" in "no one can take any of this from us..."

The instability of my life without my group support has been far more confusing to people trying to convince me to get excited about individual survival than it is for me, who couldn't care less about my existential survival. I hope my childhood friends manage to stay together and, in the word of God, are given healing. I think you only mean to stay true to your words as did my folks. No one can prove this to autonomous leadership, and they are wrong to try and test that.

Trying to establish a proof of faith is a cult tendency that leads tote scapegoat treatment of individuals. KIT doesn't promise me a rose garden. I have already promised to stop and smell the roses along my weary way -- taste and see.

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Ruth Baer Lambach, 9/2/96: I'm writing about Paul Goodman, whose name you can take off the KIT mailing list. A few days before his 78th birthday he took his own life. He lived alone in Rockville, North Carolina, where I visited him when I did the interview with Ann Button. He'd spent time at Forest River and Koinonia where he first landed in 1958 as a widower with two children looking for a Christian mother for his two little children. I had just turned 16 and found myself reading stories to his little ones and tucking them into bed every evening. We've been exchanging letters over the past three or four years, and Paul was the kind of a person who did not fit into 'normal' society. During the Second World War he became a pacifist while on duty in Europe. The military refused to accept his position and subjected him to all kinds of torture, including electric shock treatment. Paul refused to eat and was reduced to having to be fed intravenously. Ultimately they discharged him as mentally incompetent and this has been the situation all of his life. However, Paul also refused to accept the monthly checks sent to him and so it is that his children now are inheriting the nest egg which Paul's family rescued and invested but which Paul refused to have anything to do with. Ironically both of Paul's children, the daughter Paulette as well as the son, chose the military as a career.

It was shocking to hear that Paul, probably out of pride, had taken his own life. Paul had cared for his second wife who died of cancer, a slow and torturous death over a long period of time. He had sent me an obituary indicating that his sister also had taken three years of slow and steady decline before she died. Paul did not want to be a burden to anyone. He was utterly determined to do his own thing and was a successful gardener with lots of fruit trees, vegetables and flowers gracing his otherwise completely cluttered yard. Both his freezers out in the shanty house were filled with frozen vegetables and fruits. Each frozen packet was enough for two people.

Paul lived with an intense hatred and mistrust of the military industrial complex. He was, however, a keen observer of what transpired in the world and amassed evidence of the evil inherent in the system he so utterly despised. One day I sent him a booklet about forgiveness. After reading it, he returned it and indicated that he would continue to be unrepentant in his mistrust and hatred of the military. He rigorously defended his independence and found ways to be self reliant. His manner of dying is a testimonial to his way of sticking to his principles of 'give me liberty or give me death.' Evidently he needed to have a pacemaker installed, but the doctor in this rural town indicated that he might not survive the operation and therefore would not recommend it. So Paul was making progress in cleaning up his cluttered yard but also having to take nitroglycerin pills whenever his heart stopped for a moment. On Monday, August 26, Paul would have turned 78 and according to his son he was probably worried that he might not pass the driver's test and would therefore have to rely on others to drive him. This was unacceptable to Paul. There was no suicide note. Re: The KIT Conference, lots has happened since then. Two of my friends died, I drove to Ottawa by myself to see my son Karl and I am back in town with my life, picking up the pieces where I left them. That's what happens when you're on the run, nothing disappears and you have to pick up where you left off, like knitting a sweater. You put it down, but the fairies don't finish it.

Uppermost in my mind when I left the conference was the relevance of Madeleine L'Engle's novels to those with relatives still in the Bruderhof. As a child or young person I never read A Wrinkle in Time , so reading it made a great impression on me and the relevance to those of us having been in the Bruderhof is this: in the last chapter entitled 'The Foolish and the Weak,' Meg is given three gifts before she has to enter the dangerous zone to retrieve her little brother Charles who in his brashness thought he was strong enough to withstand the powerful forces of "IT". (I think anyone thinking of going to visit the Bruderhof on their own ought to read this book first.) The first gift from Mrs. Whatsit is love. The second gift from Mrs. Who is a lot of complicated sentences from the Bible which she will not understand word-by-word but in a flash. The essence of which is that she must love and accept herself as she is with her weaknesses and faults. The third gift from Mrs. Which is for me the most significant and this is: "You have something that IT does not have. This something is your only weapon. But you must find it for yourself."

Meg, when she faces the dangerous and all-consuming forces of IT, discovers that what she has that IT does not have is LOVE. This is her only weapon. She has the love of her family and she loves her brother Charles whom she needs to get from the evil clutches of IT.

When I think about those at the KIT conference with family in the Bruderhof, I remember the short letter my sister Miriam wrote to me reporting that I had yet another little baby brother. In the few simple sentences, I glimpsed a whole big world that was not controlled or influenced by an all-pervasive force under which I was examining and re-examining my motives, my thoughts and my feelings. There was a natural world out there someplace where people were not afraid to make simple statements of facts about life, about what they ate for dinner and how high the corn was in the garden. I recommend Madeleine L'Engle's books as valuable reading for those who have been deeply involved in a high-demand religion.

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Love Story by Susanna M. Alves Levy

I met Michael Levy in the Summer of 1984 during a business trip in London. We both worked in the film industry. I was based in Zurich at the time. By December of that year, after some months of whirlwind wooing, we began a new life in the UK.

It became a life of magic, of love, sharing, caring, friendship and joint interests. We were made for each other and were having the best time of our lives. Michael was charming, a gentle man, patient and quick-witted, fun-loving and, like myself, interested in a wide range of subjects. The days, weeks and months were never long enough to accommodate everything we wanted to say, hear, do, discover and investigate.

Michael used to joke about his bad memory. He had an excellent recall for faces, but often had trouble matching a name. As he held a high-profile job in marketing and sales and constantly travelled worldwide to meet new and old clients, it was paramount to remember names. But with his inborn charm and humour he usually got away with it.

Then came those occasions when Michael lost the thread while he spoke. But who doesn't experience this now and then? The problem was that it sometimes occurred during his company's board meetings. When even notes didn't help, he began to get anxious. Pressures at work were mounting. The relationship with his MD deteriorated. Fear of losing his job now added to his nightmares.

In August, 1987, we happened upon a television documentary, the story of an American woman, poet and teacher, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease while in her forties. We watched in fearful silence. Then we looked at each other. Could it... ? But no! Who wants to believe the worst! Surely it must be stress?

Time passed. I helped Michael wherever possible. Somehow he muddled through. Those nasty suspicions drifted away again, although work looked as disagreeable as ever: tough, stressful, anxiety-ridden and difficult, strenuous and time-consuming, tiring and quite unpleasant. These were times when, in the City, many yuppies were burning out and breaking down. It was a wonder that at his age Michael managed to continue.

In spite of it all, the two of us grew ever closer. The magic of our life continued. Never once did we regret anything. Financially there was much hardship for a while, but we managed somehow. We fed on optimism. Happy people have ways of solving problems somehow or other. Occasionally we spoke of getting married, of making it all tidy and conventional, thus telling the world that we truly belonged together in every way and aspect, meaning and intention, for always and for ever. Eventually we were ready for this too, and tied the knot. It was right and good, it was what we both wanted, and could only add to our contentment and togetherness. It was now December 1989.

By April, 1990, Michael's performance at work had worsened badly. Tensions and pressures became unbearable. As mistakes increased in seriousness, his bouts of anxiety mushroomed. Michael's despair became so acute that he decided to resign. He couldn't bear another six years till retirement. He was then 59 years old.

We saw a lawyer. The situation was tough, financial implications were enormous. Still, Michael was adamant. But a day before Michael was to sign his letter of resignation, his MD talked to him. He was for once friendly and kind and suggested that Michael's problems should be investigated medically. He hinted that his bad performance could be linked to a health problem. While Michael felt relief at the MD's friendliness, he rejected the idea that something was wrong with his health. Nonetheless, listening to my and the lawyers urgings, he gave in and accepted a health check.

In no time the Consultant established that Michael wasn't suffering from stress and depression but from something far worse: Alzheimer's Disease, also known as pre-senile dementia. What a cruel name!

Then began the hurt, the mourning. The secret tears, railings against fate and God. Despair and fear, and the pain of immense loss. Michael quietly and gently refused to discuss it with me. He would not be drawn. He had always been very protective and I sensed that he believed he was protecting me by not talking about his disease. I respected it but in many ways this was worse for me. Then Michael forbade me to tell anyone -- even his own two grown-up sons -- that he had this illness. Because of the stigma. It was bad enough to have the illness, he wouldn't want to become ostracised on top of it.

I searched for help and emotional support. I thought I'd find relief in talking to a counsellor. But no, it sucked me further into the fears and the dark despair. I couldn't see anything else that might bring me comfort. Gentle enquiries among my acquaintances hadn't been successful either. So I decided to 'go home,' so to say, to assist Michael in everything I could, and ease this long and difficult path, this seemingly endless torture of slow dying, by giving all I could summon: love, tenderness, beauty of life and nature, joy and laughs, whatever I managed to invoke to make his life as sweet as possible. And I discovered that I could do it. It amazed me then, it amazes me now. Of course I wasn't always sweet and caring! There came times when I felt I was breaking, falling to pieces. I had moments of deadly anger and cruel, cold hatred. But Michael would hold me and cry with me when in the aftermath of such fury I broke down sobbing. The surges of intensive shame and guilt I need not describe.

But at last I did discover help and relief.

It was one o'clock one night, Michael was already asleep but I couldn't go upstairs. I was crying and couldn't stop. It just cried and cried out of me. I wanted to talk to someone, but who? My family lives abroad, at that time of night I couldn't call them. Those in the UK whom I supposed to be our friends had long ago disappeared. Then I remembered the Samaritans. And I was lucky. Not only did my outpourings help me find myself again, but I was given the name and telephone number of a Social Services Home Care Organiser. And then a whole new world emerged. Respite care and day centres existed, financial disability benefits and allowances could be had! What wonders! I was amazed at the network of support groups and initiatives alike.

By now Michael's family members also knew. He had gathered courage and told his sons. It helped me to ease him into accepting these 'strangers' who suddenly appeared all over the place in our formerly quiet little life. I also discovered with pleasure that I actually was 'something' now, not just a so-called housewife. I had been a working woman all my life and gave up my career to look after Michael. Now I discovered that I was a 'Carer' -- what a beautiful name for that which I had become!

It still took months till Michael agreed to attend day care centres, and even longer until a place for respite care was found. But it all happened, and he began to accept and even like the places and the people there.

By now it was 1995. We were really enjoying the new routine when, in November, Michael suffered a severe epileptic attack. Three weeks in hospital destroyed much of the few abilities he still had. He came home just before Christmas, having learned to use his legs again even to the extent of being able to use the stairs, albeit supported by two persons. It was the unhappiest, loneliest, the most desperate and aching Christmas and New Year. Not a minute, day or night, was my own anymore. But my dedication bore fruit and by mid-January, 1996, I saw with pride that Michael had regained his physical capabilities, picking up where he had left off.

Four days later he had another convulsion! This time the fall shattered his right shoulder. An operation with general anaesthetic was inevitable. The rest is obvious. Michael lost what little there still was. He couldn't walk, talk, eat on his own or bring the cup to his lips. Incontinence set in, not because he couldn't control things but because he couldn't communicate. It was heartbreaking to watch him now. As before, I spent my days at his bedside, morning till night, seven days a week. He needed me more than ever as a translator, interpreter. I wanted to ease the hospital staff's task too. Alas, it was too often taken as an offence. It hurt doubly.

When weeks went by with hardly any improvement I knew I needed to accept the obvious and inevitable: Michael was never going to come home again. It was the hardest decision I had yet to take. To let go of this treasure of mine, to be cared for and looked after in a Nursing Home where I would become merely a visitor, was heartbreaking and frightening.

I did find a good Home though, and I am happy and satisfied with it. Michael settled in well, and it is pleasing to go there and spend time with him. I have made friends there, not only with the staff but, more importantly, with other Residents. I cherish them all and enjoy precious moments with them.

And I have rediscovered Life. Life with a Capital L. I had forgotten what it was like to have time; to sleep; to make and accept invitations; to arrange life around my own needs, whims, wishes and desires. It is good. My enthusiasm and appetite for life are back. I have made peace with God, at last. There is hope. Life is good again.

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KIT: Some time has passed since Joanie sent in the following marvelous report on her trip. We have no excuse for not having printed it earlier, except the press of news of various sorts. Here it is, at last!!!

A Trip To India.

by Joan Pavitt Taylor


At last I have got around to writing this, thanks to the encouragement from KIT friends who wanted to hear all about it!! I guess a good place to start is the why, who and how of it. Well, when I was manager of a Youth and Community Centre, one of the many users of the building was a lovely lady who was running a group for children that dealt with 'Education in Human Values.' This group helped children find out more about getting along with each other through stories, games and group activities, looking at quotations and practicing 'silent sitting,' the beginning of meditation skills done while listening to music or having someone describe a safe beautiful place.

I knew what the group's aims were, but as a busy manager I had little time to do more than lend my support. Then I became ill and 'retired' just at the same time that the group leader's husband died. When well enough, I called on her (her name is Pat) and before long we were firm friends! The next bit of this story is when a friend of Pat's moved into the area and asked me to read through a manual in Education in Human Values that she had written. Although the words were different, it was the same thing that I had been trying to do for some of the young people in the youth club. From there I then got involved and joined a working party. To cut the story shorter..., this meant that I then found out more about the inspiration behind all this work. Yep, you've guessed it, it's from the teachings of someone in India called Sathya Sai Baba.

At this point it might be worth pointing out that I have a real 'thing' about anything that looks even vaguely like an organised religion. I do have a set of beliefs and have always been interested in how other people 'are,' but no way was I ever going to give up my right to decide for my self what constitutes right and wrong. So it was a somewhat cynical Joanie that listened to the stories from India.

It turned out that Pat had been promising herself a trip to see this 'Baba.' One attempt had failed because her friend who had wanted her to travel with her had become too ill. At the age of 72, Pat was beginning to wonder if she would ever find a like-minded person to travel with . Then I came along, and anyone who knows me knows how much I love going places and meeting people, and -- surprise, surprise! -- Pat actually liked the fact that I was not looking to be 'shown the way' and was more interested in just travelling with an open mind. So after jabs and passport renewals, I found myself, on my birthday, flying off to India.

The Trip: we travelled as part of a large group, and guess who turned out to be one of the group leaders -- the lady whose work I had read through! We were to room together.

We arrived at Bombay international airport in the heat of the day. I thought I'd know what to expect and indeed it did look just like the old textbook I used when teaching, but books and even TV screens can't tell you how it feels and tastes. It was hot and steamy, the air thick with a taste all its own. Dust, spices, flower perfumes, traffic fumes in all that heat had me gasping for breath (or maybe it was just from excitement!). We transferred to the local airport by bus and my Indian experience had truly begun.

The little bus hurtled out into the main flow of traffic, three-wheeled motorised 'rickshaws' swerving in and out, women sitting side-saddle on the pillion seat of motorbikes while the children hung on to the petrol tank between Dad's arms! We passed shanty towns along the roadside, their squalor made temporarily beautiful by the garlands of marigolds and leaves left over from a festival the day before. I was amazed at seeing traffic on a busy dual carriage way swerving around a cow that was quite calmly strolling face-on to the modern 20th century. We reached the airport before I could adjust.

I found myself looking out of an airport window at the most beautiful sunset I have ever witnessed. The tall anvil-headed clouds rose from a bed of blue-grey valleys with silver ribbons of water laced between. Then, as we climbed into the sky, a base of blue-grey and almost midnight-blue clouds cut the land from view, and the anvil-headed storm clouds became pillars that became fantastic shapes, like the landscape in the Badlands of Arizona. All of this had a backdrop of the most stunning sunset. As I watched, it changed from golds and soft peach to flame-red and orange and then to the most amazing purple-red against navy-blue clouds. It was all worth it just for that, and we hadn't even gotten to the ashram yet!

We arrived in Bangalore very tired, and were ushered onto the most amazing privately owned bus I have ever seen and whisked off to our hotel for the night. Unfinished roads bore testament to the fact that it was very new, but all the facilities worked. All I remember was a group of people singing 'Happy Birthday' to me (yet again!!) as we consumed the last of our free drinks from the flights, as we would not be allowed to take alcohol onto the ashram. What a day, what a birthday! I slept well that night!

The next day is just a kaleidoscope of images in my mind; the first ride in a motor rickshaw, the colourful sari-clad women looking like butterflies flitting along the pavements, the cows and even horses wandering freely on the streets and the beggars. I found the latter really hard. We were told not to be tempted to give them money because it created all sorts of problems. I found the only way I could cope was to have no money on me, not a very good way to do souvenir shopping! "Bit of a cop-out," as my daughters would say, but I didn't have much to shop with anyhow!

Slowly getting used to the heat and that wonderful light, beginning to identify plants and birds, and being so stunned at the sight of ten or twelve kites circling in the sky, and all the while getting to know my fellow travellers. Aren't people fascinating!

The next day dawned and we were off to the ashram in another wonderful privately owned coach, (the air conditioning consisted of a few demented egg whisks suspended from the ceiling.) It was truly strange to find myself looking at scenes I knew I had never seen before, but nonetheless seemed familiar and then I realised that it was because some of the scenes before me matched the images I had had in my head when I had listened to the many tales I have heard of Paraguay. (I was only six months old when my family left Paraguay for the States, so have no memories of my own.) Now before me were the cattle with the hump on their backs, the flash of brightly coloured wings disappearing into exotically flowering shrubs, the dust, the heat, the sight of tall, thin palms silhouetted against bright blue sky, large watering holes with white egrets standing by, or small groups of cattle and buffalo coming down for water; all seen as the coach seemed to be hurtling at breakneck speed. Maybe it was just the bad road surface that gave that impression, but I couldn't quite get used to the game of 'chicken' that our driver took great delight in playing with the other road users. I'm still not certain which side of the road they officially favour! And yes, I was enjoying every minute, all the while holding a beautiful deep red rose that reminded me of one of my Mum's favourites. I had been given it just as we left the hotel.

The landscape changed from flat, low land to undulating plateau with distant blue hills with a faint smudge of a skyline that indicated where the mountains were. We rattled and rolled, villages creating medieval scenes flashed by. Herds of goats looking like something from the Bible wandered across the road. All the while I felt like I had really stepped out of time, out of my time anyhow! It certainly helped put a whole new perspective on life.

Suddenly we had arrived. It was then that I realised that I must have had preconceived ideas, because it wasn't what I had expected. It was the heat of the day, so we passed the hour or two it took to sort out accommodation-searching searching out what little shade we could find and consuming coconut milk and meat. Now, the preparation is an art form. I watched as the young man chose the right coconut -- i.e. if you wanted just milk or milk plus soft or hard meat. Then he wielded a great machete and deftly sliced just enough off the top. As we waited, the whole world seemed to stroll by. There were Germans, then a few Indians, then some Malaysians, Canadians, and so the list went on. I think that is one of the things that impressed me most -- while I was there I personally sat next to and -- or talked to -- the representatives of 22 different nations!!! That really meant a great deal to me because not only were they from different countries, they were also practising different religions, so maybe this really was a place where you were just the best 'you' you could be, and that meant leaving people the space to be who they were! (Mmmmm... maybe I was really going to enjoy this; maybe I didn't have to feel so defensive!)

It is quite hard to put everything into words and phrases, especially as I know I am still sorting through the whole experience. I could start with a typical day (not that we really had one ) . It usually started at 4 A.M. in order to attend the main "blessing" of the day which took place just after dawn, then back to the canteen for breakfast. As all is done by volunteering, we could do all manner of things, from dishes to food preparation to taking peanuts off their root systems, all of which was done while people sang. And yes, I did enjoy all that because it was such a good way to meet people. As I was part of a group, there were also group meetings and 'outings.' The outings consisted of walking to various local places of interest (thereby hangs a tale, but I'll get back to that). We also had chances to go to lectures. Then as the day drew to a close, there was another blessing sometimes followed by another small meeting and then we 'turned in' about 9:30 P.M. But really that doesn't tell you much, so maybe I should just go for the images like the soft change of light as we waited in the mornings, stars fading, pink-blue sky with fine white clouds drifting by, the sound of countless birds awakening, and looking round to find that this morning I was sitting next to a black South African and her white friend, or next to the most beautiful ancient Indian woman in her threadbare cloth... smiles, greetings spoken without the need for a common language.

Sitting under the 'meditation tree' enjoying the shade and the glorious view out across the fertile valley, watching the kites fly by, sometimes dark against the light, looking like the buzzards back home, other times looking truly stunning in their rust-red colour with white head visible.

Talking about life and death with a young teenager with only a few months to live, watching people struggle to make sense of this thing called 'life.' Walking the streets of the small village with a lad of fourteen as my guide, getting to know some of the local characters of the village. Sorting out how to cope with the beggars. This had not been easy, but we had been informed that it really was a false kindness to give money as this only encouraged 'professional begging' and all the abuse that went with it. If we had to give something, we were to give food, so armed with sliced bread or bananas but no money I was able to cope. I soon realised that the kids were fine and that to them the art of begging was like a sport. They soon realised that I was not giving money and, as the food I had was only for the old people, they called a truce and just practised their English on me. In fact, once we had got that straight,I found them to be very warm and generous, giving me little keepsakes of local river shells, flowers or just a great big smile!

Watching my fellow travellers all sorting through their own learnings, sharing ideas and insights. Realising that when I got up before the dawn I really had to learn to switch on my brain too! I can't tell you how many times I managed to carefully put insect repellent under my arms and then smear sticky deodorant all over me (well, they were both in green roll-on bottles!!)

Someone asked me what my strongest memories were. Well, there was the day I had felt really sad and a butterfly sat on my hand for over 20 minutes. (proving to me that even butterflies can heal because I forgot to be sad.) Or there is the day I felt I had put huge bits of my understanding of "life and all that stuff" together while watching a sun set.

All of this and I still haven't said anything about the reason that the ashram is there, i.e. Sathya Sai Baba. But maybe that's the whole point, for me one of the very best things was the fact that I felt I was free to be me, the fact that this kind and enlightened person had created a place where people could come together in trust and only ask that you be the best Jew, Christian, Moslem, Hindu, Sikh, etc... that you could be, and as I saw it, that meant tolerance! But that is the interesting thing as so often happens if you take 20 people to see a tree, you will most probably get 20 different versions on what that tree was like.

So I guess I could say that it was moments like handing an old Jewish lady a tissue as she cried quietly while two young German students sang her a song of peace, (and no, they had not known she was Jewish or that she had lost most of her family in a concentration camp. She told me that later when she also said that now she knew why she had come here. She wouldn't have missed that for the world).

I too am glad I didn't miss such a chance, such an adventure of travelling through time, space and experience. I guess the next chapter would have to be about Sathya Sai Baba himself, but it really would make this a long story as my little group had an interview with him. If anyone is interested, I would gladly add a bit more. But for now I guess all I really wanted to say was how refreshing I found it to be in a group of people who were just trying to be better "whatevers" rather than dismiss other peoples' religions.

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Concerned Outside Neighbors, Families And Friends Of The Brothers and Sisters, 9/23/96:

The following petition is being submitted to the Bruderhof Elder and the Brother-Sisterhoods of its communities. The reason for it is explained in the text of the document. We are soliciting signatures from anyone who is concerned about reconciliation and peace, not only regarding this particular unfortunate situation, but also anywhere across the world. Please copy and pass it around to friends, neighbors, family, your minister or legislator or others.

You may sign this document and mail it to the address below, or you may e-mail your permission to have your name, city of residence and state attached to the document.

We will mail the gathered signatures and document to: J. Christoph Arnold, Woodcrest Bruderhof, Rifton, NY 12471-0903. If he does not respond within a reasonable length of time, CONFABS intends to publish the petition and the gathered names in the national media, probably in The New York Times.

If you wish to sign the personal petition to the Bruderhof but do NOT wish your name used publicly, please so indicate, either by an asterisk after your information or some other indicator.

If you would like more information about us before you sign, please request an information sheet from the address below.

Thank you for you consideration,

Concerned Outside Neighbors, Family And Friends Of The Brothers and Sisters
332 Bleeker Street #K 69
New York City, NY 10014
e-mail: 75222.11@CompuServe.COM

Petition To The Elder and Members of The Bruderhof Communities

We, the undersigned, are former members of the Bruderhof communities, children of current members, concerned relatives, friends or neighbors, as well as others who hold positions of public trust and responsibility. All of us wish to express our deep concern about two closely related matters:

1. The lack of regular visiting opportunities, particularly with young children and elderly members currently residing in the Bruderhof communities.

2. The lack of timely information about even the most vital aspects of current members' lives and health.

We request that this unfortunate lack of communication be addressed. Our concern is that members may be feeling pressure not to have contact with non-members, even if these non-members are closely related to them. They may have been discouraged from contacting -- or cut off from -- relatives, such as their own children. We are especially concerned for children under age 18 and adults who, through sickness, old age or other problems, may have lost the ability to make free and unencumbered personal decisions. This impasse also has affected the ability of those outside the communities to know the state of health of loved ones. At times it has been impossible to learn even if a specific person is still living or has died.

The Bruderhof acknowledges in their own literature, such as in their book Torches Rekindled, that in previous years peer pressure has crept into community decision-making and that it may do so again. Also, as they have acknowledged, sometimes it does not become clear to those living within any tight-knit group when an unwholesome trait has entered their lives, at least until a considerable time has passed. Feedback to any community from those 'outside' can provide important information to those 'inside.'

We are concerned that this may be one of those times when peer pressure has caused individuals to go against their God-given spirit of compassion and natural desire to be in contact with family and loved ones. This will be regretted in the future because it causes intense pain and suffering to those on both sides and does not further greater love and understanding.

We are asking you, the Bruderhof Elder and the Brother-Sisterhood, for your cooperation in working out a policy to deal with the issues of visitation and better inter-family communications. We would urge that both sides sit down in good-faith negotiations and discuss possible solutions to what has become, for many relatives, an unbearable situation that has lasted several years. We also would suggest that a neutral third party be present to help mediate any differences that might arise.

It is our hope that you will accept this petition and give serious consideration to these requests. We understand the deep longing that family members, both inside and outside the Bruderhof, have to be at peace with their families, and to express to them in person how much they love and care for them. We want reassurance that family members are in touch with each other, and that loved ones are freely following the dictates of their own consciences without undue pressure to do otherwise. Again, we suggest that both groups meet and discuss proposals for dealing with these concerns. Please understand, however, that these concerns are too urgent to be dismissed out of hand. We look forward to a positive response that suggests a process by which we can together address the above concerns in a mutually respectful manner.


Concerned Outside Neighbors, Family And Friends Of The Brothers & Sisters


State /Province

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Books/Articles Currently Available:
Through Streets Broad & Narrow, by Belinda Manley
Torches Extinguished, by Bette Bohlken-Zumpe
Free from Bondage, by Nadine Moonje Pleil
The Joyful Community, by Benjamin Zablocki
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KIT Annuals: 1989-1990 @ $17 $20 Overseas
1992 1993 1994 1995 each $25 / $30
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"Our Broken Relationship With The Society of Brothers," by S. Kleinsasser, 16 pps $1/$3
"My Years In Woodcrest 1988-1990," by John Stewart (reprinted from KIT April 1995) $3/$5
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