· P.O. Box 460141 · San Francisco, CA 94146-0141 · telephone: (415) 821-2090 · FAX (415) 282-2369 · http://www.matisse.net/~peregrin/· e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
KIT Staff U.S.: Ramón Sender, Charles Lamar, Vince Lagano, Dave Ostrom, Brother Witless (in an advisory capacity)
EuroKIT: Joy Johnson MacDonald, Susan Johnson Suleski, Carol Beels Beck, Elizabeth Bohlken-Zumpe, Ben Cavanna, Joan Pavitt Taylor
The KIT Newsletter is an open forum for fact and opinion. It encourages the expression of all views, both from inside and from outside the Bruderhof. We reserve the right to edit submissions according to guidelines discussed at numerous KIT conferences. Obviously, it's seldom easy to know exactly how best to carry out KIT's mission of allowing many voices and various points of view to be heard. We do not, and cannot, vouch for the validity of any opinion or assertion appearing in the KIT Newsletter. The opinions expressed in the letters that we publish must remain those of the correspondents and do not necessarily reflect those of KIT editors or staff.
Yearly subscription rates (11 issues): $25 USA; $30 Canada; $35 International mailed f/ USA; £20 mailed f/ EuroKIT to UK & Europe
Yearly subscription rates (11 issues): $25 USA; $30 Canada; $35 International mailed f/ USA; £20 mailed f/ EuroKIT to UK & Europe
KEEP IN TOUCH
The Whole Kit And Caboodle
Toll-Free Phone for former Bruderhofers in need of advice and referrals: 1 888 6 KINDER
For ongoing discussions between ex-members, members and other interested parties, access the newsgroup alt.support.bruderhof
We should also point out that Matisse Enzer and Internet Literary Consultants allowed us a free guest account at their web server for many years. Thank you, Matisse!
Is your subscription expiring, about to expire or has it expired? Check the date on your address label to make sure, and please think about resubscribing.
The Rocky Gap Rendezvous and Reunion 1998, on May 16-17. Call 1-800 672 9089 for further information.
The U.K. get-together at Lower Shaw Farm on July 24-26 (see the March KIT for details), and the Taylor-Cavanna wedding, also at Lower Shaw Farm the following weekend, August 1-2.
The Friendly Crossways Conference in Massachusetts, August 7th-10th, featuring a workshop by exit counselor Steve Hassan on Saturday afternoon.
It is not easy to talk about this disease and what it does to people, No one really wants to know because it is such a frightening illness. It is even harder to watch a loved one suffer for years, to see the relentless advance of this illness, to notice how the mental faculties are not the only ones that are lost as time goes by.
What many people seemingly don't realise, though, is that people who suffer this illness and who are even in a very advanced stage of it, do still have frequent "windows of awareness," as I call them. They observe what goes on around them, they respond with a smile, with an occasional answer, even. They might suddenly say "Good morning!" clearly and loudly, to your greeting, or answer "Yes" or "No" to a simple, straightforward question. And, most delightfully, one can make them laugh and find things funny.
I knew whom of the staff at the nursing home Michael liked, and those he disliked. Last August, when one male care attendant helped another female carer to sit him up in his chair, as he was slipping off the seat Michael turned towards the man and said, under his breath, "Bastard!"
Over the last eight years, since diagnosis, I spent every single day with Michael -- apart from the occasional brief visit in Switzerland with my family -- and lately I went to the nursing home three times per day to make sure he was comfortable. Three weeks before Michael passed away he managed to whisper, "Susie." It's what he used to call me. He could laugh a deep, guttural laugh when I whispered passionately into his ear, "I love you!" And although lately he had problems with his vision, it became obvious just by the change of his expression that he knew whenever it was I who was arriving in the room.
All this shows that persons with Alzheimer's continue to be human beings, with a soul and personality, to the end. And I so wish that all the people who think otherwise might accept that this is so. Sufferers do not become "vegetables." They are responsive and appreciative of warmth, caring, smiles and laughter. And I am not alone in this knowledge and experience. It is just so desperately sad that there aren't more people who know this. But then, Alzheimer's is a scary illness, as all dementing illnesses are. And I understand that fear too.
I have received precious messages from many people, for which I am grateful. I just wish to let everybody know that Michael and I were never lost to each other because of his disease. We were as close as ever, maybe even closer through it. Despite the anguish, what we had was truly a treasure.
He knew me to the end. When he died, I was with him. He went quietly and peacefully. For him, thankfully, the suffering is over. For me, a new life begins. Warmest Regards,
Now, speaking for myself, I need to express my continued outrage that Christoph Arnold and his goons have broken off all contact between Monika and her 87-year-old sister Emi-Ma. I have tried to appeal to the last shred of decency they -- Christoph et al. -- might still have, begging them to allow these two old sisters to visit and write to each other. But I was rebuffed. This tells me there is no shred of decency left in Christoph and his hit men. And while I'm at it, what about poor Bette having to go through a life-threatening illness without hearing from her dear mother?
Shame on you, Christoph!! You hobnob with the likes of Louis Farrakhan, a man who was expressed admiration for Hitler, but you don't allow these sisters who feel nothing but love for each other to communicate. You bring shame on our grandfather Eberhard Arnold's name. You parade around the world spouting off about love and forgiveness in order to sell books that you didn't even write! (My humble opinion). All you are interested in is worldly fame and fortune, while trampling on the souls of these dear old sisters! Go ahead and sue me for saying this. I would love to have this exposed in a public court of law so the whole world will know your true colors!
My love goes out to all KIT readers and to all the dear souls on the Bruderhof who are not allowed to read KIT,
We had to laugh at Professor Schweigegebot's contribution, good as always, and I do want to thank both Thomas Kluver and Stanley Vowles for their reaction to Chris Zimmerman's book review.
Regarding Hans-Jurg's date of death, I got mixed up and wrote down that it was February 28th. However it was the 27th. I promised some excerpts from H-J's correspondence, so here they are:
Hans-Jurg, 9/4/95: You know how I feel about KIT, but it is the same feeling that I have about The Plough -- it just does not help. The sad thing about the Bruderhof is that my brother-in-law, your cousin JCA, has officially armed himself with a pistol and takes holiday vacations with his wife Vreneli in the Bahamas (of all places!). I always understood that people fly to the Bahamas if they want to smuggle away excess dollars! Then the best thing of all, they fly home in their own plane! Incredible!
I have written to JCA several times but never get any replies. Like you, I have my whole family on the Bruderhof and the sad thing, really, is that they do not realize that I am really worried about them. Life is not going well on the Bruderhof.
Hans-Jurg, 10/11/96: Yes, you are right. I am so proud to ask for help whatsoever because the Bible tells us that we should never be proud, but even the leader of the Bruderhof said, "I am proud of my jet plane!" Therefore I feel that in all humility I have a right to be proud in some matters. You might have seen that I also have contributed to KIT lately, but as we get little or no response and, if so, negative, the joy is over to write for KIT. I feel writing to KIT is actually writing to the Bruderhof. For us it is useless and boring as it takes too long from one KIT to the next to reach us, and then the urgency is over. The Bible tells us to love our enemies. Well, I try to! If it is true that the simple-minded will find a place in heaven, then we should all meet again some time!
Hans-Jurg, 3/31/97: Thank you for remembering my birthday. Yes, you are right, we are of the same youthful age! I think we are always as old as we feel. I think we feel old when we start reading books written by our communal relatives! I have the feeling you are giving JCA too much credit when you say that he is conceited (Eingebildet). Just take the two great works he has accomplished in his life: a book about death and a book about sex. Does he really think that he can change the world with these old topics? No one has returned after death, so this remains a mystery!
Sex, on the other hand, is something very personal, and right in any form for the person involved. No one can write a new ABC for grown and mature people on this subject. If JCA proclaims proudly how many copies he has sold, then you have to realize that his books are good for financial reasons, and every literature on sex that is produced for financial reasons is, in my eyes, nothing but pornography, no matter if it is called "holy sex." Then it should not be sold, but just given away to help mankind! The only thing we humans should revere as "holy" is our right "to live and let each other live our lives in our own way and manner!" Often I am worried about the future of the Bruderhof, as in Jonestown and a few days ago in the States. Yes, I worry to what extent the Bruderhof leaders will eventually go to get what they want -- complete control!
For the time being I have stopped again contributing to KIT. Probably I expected too much and hoped for reactions and letters, but all I got after two months is my own letter in KIT. So I will just read the newsletter and respond personally if I think it's worthwhile. Also I stopped writing to the Bruderhof. They have their own "human rights law": everything is forbidden and most things strictly forbidden.
Hans-Jurg, 9/17/97: Thank you for responding to my serious operation. You are quite right, I should have consulted a doctor about three years ago. Medical care in Paraguay is bad, so I just did not want to get into the grinder of hospital tests and so forth. I only went for help when I could no longer stand the pain. I was admitted at once and operated on the next morning at 11 A.M. All went well, but what really got me was that I had to be operated on again five days later. Now I am home and very weak -- I look like my own skeleton!
Someone phoned the Bruderhof about my situation while I was still in hospital. My brother phoned and said, "We share your need and think of you with love but why did you have to write such a nasty letter to KIT?" Okay, maybe my letter was a little "nasty," but am I not right, after all, that forgiveness is not a science for the Bruderhof? He could have asked how I was feeling and that would have been a first step for forgiveness on both sides!
This whole situation with the Bruderhof has so many strange aspects. A time ago my brother Andreas wrote, "I never read any KIT letters, the same as I never read porno!" Maybe they sit in front of the Internet and read everything that comes in. They must do so, because I had this reaction from Andreas even before I had my copy of the KIT newsletter. I think the KIT editors also did not really understand what I meant by "extortion." What I wanted to say was that if forgiveness can be bought with money (i.e. books) then this is nothing but extortion, and I still feel that way.
Hans-Jurg, 11/30/97: For the time being I will not write for KIT, but once I feel better, I will come back and maybe be able to say more clearly what it is I want to say. Also I have had some contact with my family on the Bruderhof and think it only fair to wait a while with any further KIT contributions. Everything I thought so important has lost its urgency, but I am amazed how the Bruderhof always manages to point to us as evildoers. E.g., my brother Andreas asked me on the phone, "What do you have against JCA?" I said nothing, and during the talk we realized that JCA has something against me! I wrote to him personally when he bought his killing weapon, but never had a reply. Doesn't matter any more!
Actually I'm not feeling too bad at the moment, and I had a talk with the specialist about chemotherapy and he said that this would give me about a sixty percent chance to live. Now I have also had a phone call from KITfolks in England that there is an alternative medication which is much less destructive, and this also gives me a sixty percent chance. So I chose the alternative medication, which was brought to me here in Paraguay with so much love that I feel it just must be the thing I need.
I had to laugh about your remark in KIT that "Hans-Jurg is so terribly honest." This honesty has brought me into much trouble also in my work situation. My boss said, "Really, John, you need not be that honest." My only answer could be, "if I want a place in this business, I have to earn it with work and honesty. Any other way would make me lose whatever it is I've got!"
Now this illness has made me weak and dependent! As we were taught as children, the Great Creator made all things, and also knows best why He puts such a plight on us. I believe in God as the ultimate energy, and all of us have a little of this energy. Should I die, I would, therefore like to be cremated so that all my energy will be reunited with the ultimate energy! Then all I am will be face-to-face with the Great Creator, and that will be the beginning of something new! All my love,
Well, here we go again. Save the weekend of May 16th and 17th, 1998. We think, this year, we'll personally plan to arrive fairly early on Saturday morning rather than Friday evening, although the campground will be available Friday for those who wish to make it a long weekend.
The location is Rocky Gap State Park, about six miles east of Cumberland, MD. As always, there will be no schedule and no agenda. Lots of talk, some singing, long walks, fishing for "thems-that-fishes," cooking out, canoes and wading in the lake (pretty chilly for swimming in May). There are a couple of motels nearby for those that don't enjoy sleeping on the ground!
Of course, you may choose to attend the picnic only, scheduled for Sunday. We will set the time on Sunday for the big picnic. Let's target that for 1:00 PM so that we have enough time to eat well and talk while allowing enough time to return home whatever distance is required. As some of you know, we've had campers from as far away as New Jersey, Georgia, New York and Connecticut. This year we anticipate a special family from the western colonies!
Be ready for wet or chilly weather but, if past reunions count for anything, anticipate a wonderful spring weekend. More details as the date gets closer. In the meantime, for those who want more information in advance, give us a call at 301-854-2099 during the week between 10 AM and 5 PM ET.
All former Bruderhofers, their families and friends are welcome. We look forward to the day we can invite families from the Bruderhof as well; that will be a joyous day!
The article described Darvell and interviewed Bruderhof members David and Fiona Hibbs as the couple "as close as any in Robertsbridge to the family shown in Heaven On Earth, but there are many differences between this life and its fictional portrayal. The most crucial is that the real-life Bruderhof community is run by mutual consent with even the most minor matters thrashed out in committee, and there are built-in safeguards to prevent any one member gaining control."
The Hibbses were enthusiastic visitors and, "ignoring the Bruderhof's council, they sold their home, thinking it was sufficient proof of commitment." Two months or so later, they were asked to leave because they were seen as "too concerned with materialism and worldly power. Eventually they were allowed back."
Fiona Hibbs explained that they do not live "in total harmony," not because of religious disputes "but the same silly annoyances that flare up in any close-knit group." Even small decisions are made by consensus. "Most seem to defer cheerfully to the will of the majority."
KITfolk were represented by Ben Cavanna. "He said, 'My earliest memory is of crying after being separated from my parents. They had been sent to start another community in Uruguay, where I was born. They had questioned the leadership. I was taken to see them once and couldn't understand why they wouldn't allow me to stay with them. I was only four and missed them terribly. Other members looked after me and my brothers and sisters in rotation. That became the pattern of my life. You had to do what was best for the community, not just the family.'"
He described his Ausschluss at 13 for peeping at a girl undressing: "'I wasn't allowed to talk to my family. I could ask for things, but that was it. I suffered for four months. They wouldn't tell me when my life would become normal again; it seemed neverending. I had to do my school work alone. In the afternoons, instead of doing crafts or games, I'd be put to work in the workshop or in the gardens with adults. A lot of them didn't know I had a no-speaking clause. Occasionally I'd answer out of politeness and someone would report to the minister, so I'd get in trouble for acting frivolously. People were screamed at in public by the elders. You can be accused of being selfish or faithless. I saw my sister shouted at in front of everyone after she was accused of being proud. It was frightening to watch and happened regularly. After the Ausschluss I thought I was bad and if only I could stop being bad I could become one of them.' Ben doubts whether he will see his parents again."
The reporter summed up by saying, "Radio Times described 'Heaven On Earth' as 'Witness meets Waco.' But the likelihood of a character such as David Koresh -- the self-styled Messiah whose Branch Davidian sect went up in flames after the siege in Waco, Texas, in 1993 -- staging a similar outrage in sunny Sussex is mercifully remote. As remote as the Bruderhof family is from reality."
I was and am hard-put to answer that question. But it must surely have something to do with the fact that the readership of KIT and attendees of the EuroKIT and Friendly Crossways reunions have reported and heard reports of repression, suppression, aggression, intimidation, false accusations, kangaroo courts, abuse, isolation, greed, deception and other forms of mistreatment and dishonorable acts committed and condoned by the SOB/Bruderhof or whatever leadership.
In many ways I am lucky. Before we ever went to the Bruderhof, my parents provided me and my family with a sense of "being" and "belonging." Additionally, Dad emphasized that a person is no better than their word. Further, a person, good -- bad -- whatever -- is known by the sum of the person's identifying characteristics. That is to say, any person is to some extent good, bad, greedy, compassionate and so on. The choices a person makes and the cost of those choices define that person.
It is my assertion the Society of Brothers/Hutterian Brethren East/Bruderhof/Bruderhof Communities of New York Inc. robbed my family and me of our birthright of "being" and "belonging." My association with KIT people has led me to contemplate and evaluate the nature and extent of both the good and bad effects of the SOB experience on my family.
Listing the positive effects first:
1) I would not know or be in contact with many of you people out there: Johnsons, Kluvers, Ellisons, Hollands, Le Blancs, Purcells, Peters, Baers, and the massive Arnold tribe, Mushi, Heidi, Sam, Gerhard, Johannes, Bette, Baltz and Monica, and the many others I have not listed but who are important to me.
2) One possible overall benefit of my SOB experience is that many of my compadres from youthful, pre-SOB days are either dead as a result of criminal activities or serving extended prison sentences.
3) My family and I were exposed to a wide range of experiences not found in normal American lower class society. One of the hard- learned lessons from the SOB is that of Class.
The negative column:
4) My sisters and I are denied the association with one sister who has died. I am very sensitive to you who point to the pain and sorrow of not being able to visit with friends and family in the BCofNY Inc. However, you still have the hope of seeing them sometime; my sister and I do not!
1)My parents died in abject poverty. The BCofNY Inc. flies around in a corporate jet, tending their multi-million dollar, multi-national shenanigans paid for in part by my parents!
2) Closer to my heart and concern, the SOB, for more than thirty years, denied our existence and ignored our welfare -- voiding and nullifying our parent's training that we had valued and belonged!
3) The SOB/BCofNY Inc. continues to manipulate and exert control where they have no right, authority or business being involved!
After the devastating SOB experience, my primary concern has been to reestablish a sense of being and belonging, a sense of my personal worth, the credibility of my word and a basic respect for other people. The sense of belonging also includes the fact that my family, while at the SOB, did contribute in many ways.
Many of you may or may not be aware that Martha, my sister and I, after long, careful thought, brought suit in 1970 against the then-SOB for Fraud and Breach of Contract. In part we brought the suit because the organization had failed to respond to any of our attempts at communication. Additionally, many of the friends who we had here in California and who had relatives in the SOB refused to associate with me, and called me a liar and worse. The grounds for their claim that I lied was my assertion that Heini did not in fact live as a devoted early Anabaptist as was claimed by the SOB. When I attempted to state my case, I was told I was untruthful, spiteful and unChristian. The deciding factor in our decision to sue was when Konrad Kluver visited my parents and unknowingly substantiated many things I had tried to relate to my parents.
The result of Konrad's visit was a family meeting where each of us told our story of what happened from our own perspective. From the information exchanged, it would seem that we had been five different people living in five different worlds. The only commonalty was that all our accusers and their "witnesses" were the same, or of the same families. What became increasingly clear, as the family meeting progressed, was the fact that we had, as a family and individually, as Virginia phrased it, "Been screwed by the best of the Machiavellian bastards!"
Marty and I discussed the situation, wrote to people we knew, stated our case and asked if there was any interest in working with us. The responses ranged from a very guarded "Go-to-it" to "Leave me out of it!" When the suit was formally filed, Martha and I told our attorney, "If any Brother or Sister contacts you to ask 'Why?' or 'What's their problem?' put it all on hold and we will talk." The SOB response was to hire Pillsbury, Madison and Sutro, the biggest, most expensive law firm on the West Coast. Pillsbury, Madison and Sutro responded for the SOB claiming the suit should be dismissed because:
A) The Society of Brothers no longer existed!
B) The defendants Heini Arnold, Dick Domer and Doug Moody had no knowledge of Martha and/or David Ostrom or their family!
Bottom line: between January 1973 and April 1973, our first son David died, Virginia died and my wife and I were under severe strain. PM&S made an offer extended by the SOB to settle out of court on the very morning that the case was set to begin trial! Our attorney, Mr. Willett, recommended accepting the settlement even though it took away our most basic legal rights! Mr. Willett's opinion was that if we could actually get it to trial, (there was another SOB delay in process to be heard that morning) we would win hands down, it was open and shut. However, the SOB had sufficient money, power and clout that in his, Mr. Willett's, candid opinion, we could never get it to trial.
I filed this away as a lesson learned. The family and some of our friends now saw, but would not admit to me, that the SOB leadership was a fake and a sham!
Fast forward fifteen years and I got a call from Ramon. We met, talked, and a few weeks later, after some talk with Charlie, Ramon, Vince and Christina, KIT was born, followed a few months later with the organization of The Peregrine Foundation.
As reported in some of the first issues of KIT, some years earlier I had taken my family on a vacation through the East, going by Oak Lake, Woodcrest and visiting Forest River. I reported in KIT on the difference of reception at the various locations. This was in response to the BCofNY Inc.'s claim that things had changed. To prove it, Torches Rekindled was published, as the BCof NY Inc. claimed, showing "warts and all." One of the first responses I had to my rebuttal of their claims was a three-paragraph note from JCA in which he questioned my credibility. He then went on to apologize using the word 'if' twenty-seven times in one paragraph!
Cutting to the chase, after a year's correspondence with various people at different hofs I had the occasion to be going to New Jersey. I related the same to JCA, and he and others at Woodcrest extended an invitation to come and talk with them. I did so in November of 1990.
After a lengthy meeting with Dave Maendel, Maria's (nee Annlisa's) husband, Andreas Meier, Dick Thompson, Dick Domer and some others, JCA asked that I attend a Brotherhood meeting! One of the key issues discussed at the morning meeting with Dick, Dick, Andreas and Dave was the existence and authenticity of a letter that I had reason to believe was contained in the Woodcrest archives. This letter contained false accusations against members of my family and me, plus several other children at Forest River. I have in my possession a letter from Dick Domer stating unequivocally that such a letter did not exist and never had existed!
After some pressure from me, JCA sent Ellen Keiderling out and she returned with a copy of that very letter! I read the letter and addressed JCA and Dick Domer, "Dick you told me this did not exist. Why?" JCA did the classic James Stewart "geeze and shuckins and golly-darn" shuffle and did not say anything. Dick very breezily said, "Why, we acted on our attorney's advice!" The following morning I attended the Brotherhood meeting.
For you who had the experience of the military, have you ever been to a Courts Martial? It was the same feeling!! The Brotherhood, upon orders from Christoph, extended joint and individual requests for forgiveness. I stated then to the Brotherhood, forgiveness was not easily or lightly given or stated. I conditionally accepted their apology, but stipulated that time would indicate whether there was a real change and new beginning here. Even before the second Friendly Crossways conference, my family and I visited Woodcrest where quiet, subtle pressure was brought to try and get me to commit to the shutting down of KIT.
For the following year, the BCofNY Inc. maintained contact with me, exerting pressure on me to use my position (whatever they perceived it to be) to stop the dissemination of KIT. The last such communication I had was a call initiated by JCA in which he lamented how the community "could not allow association with all of us perverts, sinners and in general bad people." When I would not buy that, Dick Domer came on line and, in what I have to take as a veiled threat, suggested I comply with their, the BCofNY Inc.'s, wishes or 'bad things could happen.' Dick then went on to quote a private e-mail message that I had sent to another KIT reader.
Dick stated that his son Joe worked for Prodigy and had developed a program to monitor any communications, private or otherwise, that contained the words "Bruderhof", "Society of Brothers", "Hutterian Society of Brothers", "Woodcrest", "New Meadow Run" or any of the other BCofNY Inc. sites. Dick's quotation of my message was an attempt to prove to me that he, Dick, had access to my and other's private e-mail correspondence. He and others at Woodcrest were prepared to use this information in such a way as to inflict maximum damage to us! End of communications with the SOB/BCofNY Inc.
I contacted my internet provider at that time and they indirectly acknowledged a problem with security. There was sufficient data to merit a criminal investigation into this notice of breach of security by the Woodcrest leadership. This incident with Dick occurred just before the first EuroKIT at Ridgeway. I called several people here in the States to seek advice, as I had and have a reputation as "a loose cannon." The response was unanimously guarded: "Don't do anything." I also explained the circumstances and events to people at Ridgeway and again sought advice. Again the responses were "Don't do anything!" Some even went as far as to make veiled threats of action against me if I continued to pursue criminal action against Woodcrest and the now BCofNY Inc.
History has shown, evidenced by the tapping of the Winters' phone, the campaign against the 800 number, the events at the church in Kingston, the suits against COBI, KIT, Peregrine and named individuals, that the BCofNY apparently has little or no respect for people other than their "chosen few." Had we vigorously pursued a criminal investigation of the BCofNY Inc.'s assertions of their breaching private communications, the leadership at BCofNY Inc. would have had a far different experience than they have to date and, maybe, just maybe, we would have a different relationship.
Back full circle: why am I with Peregrine? I am very concerned for all the people out there who are trying to recover from their experiences. I am very concerned and bothered that I and my family cannot be of better assistance to Dot and her family for example. I am concerned for the Hans-Jurg Meiers and others, such as Dave Waldner and Mike Caine.
There is a limit to how much one person or family can positively impact a situation. What I can do is try and provide mental space, a haven or respite, for people through Peregrine/KIT. By this I mean a validation of the person, their feelings, emotions and needs, and where possible provide material support in whatever way is feasible and realistic.
In return, I seek the same validation, credibility and respect. This quest also extends to the BCofNY Inc. Just as I am presently working to see if I might be of assistance to the Hutterites and Palmgrove, I would like to be able to work with people of the Bruderhof. As Joe Maendel so plainly put it, "We are walking parallel paths, not head-on, but maybe converging." I had the real sense that Joe and the Hutterites accepted me and my family as we are -- no condemnation and no judgment. We can work together!
One of the first evenings at a KIT session, I made an observation that if KIT/Peregrine continued to expose and pressure the group now known as BCofNYInc., the leadership of that group, through their "dirty tricks department" or "hit squad", would take action including but not limited to harassment, intimidation and ultimately, if they deemed necessary for their well-being, maiming and murder. I stipulated specifically that the BCofNYInc. is not a religious organization in the sense of a church. It is more comparable to a zealous group of people, banded together by common fears, operating a very materialistic business motivated by greed and the lust for money and the power it brings. The leadership of this group will use any means it deems feasible, to stop or remove the opposition. The problem here is that there are many people outside of the BCofNYInc. who are related to those inside, and so find it difficult if not impossible to accept the fact the people inside (members of the BCofNYInc.) support a dictatorial and, as it is becoming more and more obvious, illegal organization.
One reason I say illegal is that the State of New York Charter for the group states in part, "we are founded on the early Anabaptist teachings and specifically those of Riedeman." Riedeman was against using the courts to resolve disputes. Furthermore, the early Anabaptists shunned the use and display of worldly wealth and materialistic achievements. The charter, as worded, is fraudulent in that the BCofNY Inc. does not practice what it claims in its charter.
Contrary to the BCofNYInc.'s contention that Martha and I were the first people to be involved in litigation with the then-Society of Brothers, Heini Arnold himself some twenty years previous had initiated litigation against Marvin Crites here in California for something in which, in my opinion, Heini had no right or business being involved! There was an intentional community here in California at Gridley where some of the members went to the SoB and some elected to stay. In one case, one spouse went to the SOB while the other did not. Marvin Crites had a financial agreement with the spouse who remained here in California. Heini brought suit against Marvin to collect money for the spouse in the SOB. This was in 1952-1953. There are two or three more examples of where the BCofNY Inc., or any one of its aliases, has been involved in disputes concerning inheritances.
The BCofNYInc., under the name of The Society of Brothers (the alias being used at that time, and I use BCofNY Inc. to include the Society of Brothers, Bruderhof, Hutterian Brethren East and all the other aliases used by the organization) did in fact lure my parents and others to the SoB's communities,. Then, after receiving the last little amount of monetary worth from them, the SoB leadership ejected them from the communities with nothing! According to my father, he carried back the "paper" for our property in California. When the last payment was received by the BCofNY in July of 1960, a Tuesday, the following night there was a Brotherhood meeting where Dad, Marty and Virginia were ejected from the community! Further, in The Plough and other BCofNY Inc. publications (then known as the "Plough Publishing House") the public was informed that the organization had an open-door policy and nothing was expected other than to share the work load. That's not the way we were treated.
First, we had to "call in and request permission to enter Woodcrest." Then we had to wait like tradesmen at the back door while our request was considered. Second, when we had been at Woodcrest less than three months, (Mom and Dad had not yet even asked for the Novitiate) Heini requested that Dad turn over the money and car to the community, "...as it was costing them for us to be there." This is while Dad and I were working full shift in the factory, pulling kitchen duty along with the rest, Mom and Virginia were in the work force full time! We were costing them money? False advertising!
I have three years of letters that document Dick Domer's Machiavellian morality. This entire experience permeates my reactions. The BCofNY Inc. has, since it's inception, had free rein as to how it conducts business inside the community. The leadership has grown up under this lack of outside restraint, and now they think they are invincible! We on the outside have neighbors, city or town, community, church, social and other influences that subtly or not so subtly tell us that we live in a community of people and must respect the rights of others. In the BCofNY Inc. everyone below the rank of Witness Brother or its present equivalent, bows and scrapes to the demands of the "leadership." The leadership has come to believe that they are infallible. This cavalier attitude is expressed in very real and threatening actions!
When I challenged the accuracy of M. Mow's book, Torches Rekindled, the BCofNY Inc. first threatened a smear campaign. When I invited them to try, the next step was 'negotiation.' The really sad part of this is that many of the rank and file, I believe, were and are sincere in the hope of reconciliation or negotiation. However, it soon became apparent that only a 'selected few' were allowed in on the entire story, past and present. The result was my 1992 trip to Woodcrest and the command appearance before the Brotherhood.
For the former brotherhood members that get this, yes, it was a command performance. I was directed to the Domers and other 'safe' people. Anytime that I was 'in public,' it was very controlled. But because of a sense of relief on my part, a naive sense of relief at the 'reconciliation,' I was slow to become fully aware of the BCofNY Inc. leadership's duplicity. This was the time they also visited Ramon in the early days of KIT. Dick and Lois Ann Domer stayed at my home (bohemian as it is) at our invitation.
Dick brought a $500 check to "help" with my Dad's medical expenses of $2800 per month or more! I drew the conclusion the reconciliation was insincere. I told Dick and Lois Ann that I didn't want their money. Dad had a dire need of physical therapy. The brotherhood had several physical therapists. Why didn't they send out a therapist for a few weeks or months and I would provide food and shelter and they could help Dad. Sounds good, right? No Way!!!
Shortly after this I started getting calls from JCA and D. Domer, first asking for my support, then demanding my support against KIT. I would get 3 AM phone calls from Dick Domer in a very demanding tone, demanding that I "stop this malicious slander by KIT!" When this failed, I received a letter from a brother and sister, for whom I had great respect, pleading that, as they had admitted their error, couldn't I find it in my heart to stand against KIT? The last direct communication was from JCA initiating a call to me. When he failed to gain my support in shutting down KIT, Dick Domer came on with his, for me, now-famous statement regarding his and his son Joe's breaching the security of my and other KIT reader's e-mail. Further, if I didn't see my way to assisting them, "bad things could happen to me and my family! Now this quote is not verbatim, but it is close enough that I will swear under oath in court that this was the conversation!
The entire abuse issue is a very volatile subject. There is a fine line between the kangaroo courts of fraternal organizations and "taking the law into one's own hands," which the BCofNY Inc. did and does on a regular and routine basis. Any time there is dissension in the organization, individuals are singled out and harassed and intimidated until a "confession" is obtained. The confession is then filed and recorded, and at any time can be used against the individual. This is in direct violation of the U.S. Constitution and a person's right to a fair trial and to no double jeopardy. The Brotherhood, by remaining silent, is condoning and supporting the illegal activities of the leadership. The intense, 24-hour and 48-hour and longer interrogation of minors without family or representation is illegal in most civilized countries. Many of the children from Forest River circa 1956 can relate horror stories regarding their treatment by Servants and Witness Brothers and their wives! This type of treatment continues today, as evidenced by Susie Zumpe and Mary Clare.
After thirty years of cynicism regarding anyone or any group claiming to be Christian, I have recently become involved and baptized in a local Baptist Church. At Fair Oaks, there was no one at the door making me wait while they checked my credentials. I just walked in and attended a Sunday service. The sermon sounded as if directed at me! After a few weeks, I joined a church group. When I asked them about baptism and "the requirements," it was simple: "Do you believe in God and that Christ Son of God came and died for our sins? Have you confessed your sins to God in prayer?" There was no deacon's board or board of elders gathered round "panting with their tongues hanging out" as I "confessed my sins." There was no extended period of isolation where "public confessions" were extracted and catalogued.
This last Christmas was the most enlightening. My daughter Nancy (17) has been friends with a boy whose father is a street minister in Oakland. At Christmas, Nancy and I were invited by the boy and his family to help them serve Christmas dinner to the street people. We accepted and spent most of the day cooking and serving people on the streets of Oakland. There was Rev. Martinez and two other ministers in our group. We were serving people on 23rd and E. 14th Streets in Oakland. There were maybe 20 homeless people there. Having been served, they were eating. The ministers were moving among them, just talking with the people, not preaching, just listening to the homeless' concerns and cares. This young lady came to be served, very attractive in a brittle sort of way.
Her clothing was obviously a sexual invitation. No one said anything. We on the serving line greeted and welcomed her. She got her food and was seated. One of the minister's wives sat with her and they chatted. The lady finished and left. Mrs. Martinez, our hostess came by where I was working and related that the lady was a 'hooker.' No one appeared distressed or worried. Our hostess went on to relate that many of the girls that had eaten and were eating there were "ladies of the street." They came and ate between tricks!
The year before, in talking to the girls, one or two had indicated an interest in getting out and away from that kind of life. The ministers had followed up, and the girls were now in other, more healthy, better jobs and life-styles. As she related this, I was struck by the words of JCA, Dick Domer, Chris Winter, Andreas Meier and others of the BCofNY Inc.: "I cannot let you associate with my family and contaminate them with your evilness!" Regardless of one's religious belief or lack thereof, this comparison makes it obvious as to who is truly following God and Christ's commands.
So to answer the question: 'Why am I on the Peregrine Board?' It is simply to assist in whatever way I can to provide a safe haven for people who need help recovering from their association with 'high demand' groups. Further, to provide a forum or venue where all sides of an issue can be presented and heard. I don't know how much more threatening and potentially illegal one can get than the way the 'hood interacted with me. Not until the BCofNY Inc. makes real, concrete, positive moves, will I believe in the sincerity of their motives. When my help is no longer needed, I, me, Yosemite Sam, Oakie and the Redneck, will mount our respective conveyances and make off into the western sunset.
I find it very interesting, and it helps me understand a lot about the differences and why they are actually so different. For example, the Hutterians believe that it is better for each community to be financially independent of each other. The Bruderhof of course does not function in this way because the money is shared around between the different communities regardless of where it comes from. So there is a basic difference already.
Another area where there is a major difference, is that the two groups have evolved from entirely different backgrounds. The Hutterites rely on on-the-job practical training, whereas the B'hof places a higher value on education. Also members of the B'hof come from many different backgrounds and cultures and religions, whereas Hutterites come from more orthodox traditions. These are just two examples. It is really no wonder that the two groups cannot get on. In this article he says that they have come to this conclusion because of several bad experiences.
One such example was given: at first there was a keen interchange of values and intermarriages were encouraged, but unfortunately it backfired. A few sisters from the B'hof married Hutterite men and moved to the western colonies. Eventually they had to return back east because they could not adjust and survive the different culture. This of course caused many problems and much heartache. Then everybody blames everybody else for the breakdown and it causes nothing but trouble and pain.
Reading this article makes me realise a lot better something of what has been going on. I myself could never understand why the B'hof, in which I had grown up, should keep on wanting to go back to the Hutterites and be so desperate to unite with them. If they are so different, why not just acknowledge that fact and stay friends? I have nothing against the Hutterite Churches: the fact that they have managed to keep going and survive for all these years says that there must be something good there. I do believe that the B'hof always thinks that they are the only right church. I was brought up with this belief myself, so whenever they come across another religious group or church, they believe that they are right in every way they live their lives and the others are then obviously wrong, so they have to go about changing the other group or person. This does seem rather conceited.
I must say also that the Hutterites write in a much more friendly way. That famous letter for example, written by the B'hof to the Hutterites, which was then later printed in KIT and which caused so much trouble, was just so critical, judgmental, nasty and fault-finding that I was really quite shocked. I am not surprised that the B'hof were not too happy later to see it printed in KIT. Of course as we have also found out over the years, they will treat any people in that sort of way who happen to speak out against them or disagree with them in any way. This is the case whether one is a member there, whether one has been sent away and is in some sort of trouble with them, whether one is an ex-member with an axe to grind or whether one is just anybody who happens to have an interest in that way of life for whatever reason.
In the article, Samuel Kleinsasser also says .... "They saw us as a ready made mission field, and set about recruiting converts with missionary zeal and enthusiasm, sparing neither means, expense nor time for this cause". This quote says a lot.
The article quotes a letter from the B'hof to the Hutterites, about the Lords supper at Easter. It says that "The Bruderhof is devious and manipulative to try and split others by devious means. They talk typically about 'love' and solidarity and repenting. The Bruderhof singles out a minor point or adds one, according to a passing fancy of the then-presiding leadership" Looking from the outside, it all sounds so familiar to see how they control people. These are all the same methods which are used against members on the Bruderhof to control them. The article says that the Bruderhof even managed to disrupt the Hutterite Churches and bring a lot of conflict into their community's.
The Bruderhof says that the holy spirit is the word of God. Well, we know that the holy spirit speaks through the Servant who is the leader, so that makes him all powerful over his flock.
Maybe the Bruderhof has now regretted sending so many of us away. We can now write and say what we want. We can praise or criticize as much as we want. It makes me think of Russia as it was. If they had dissidents with whom they could not cope, they would try to silence them by various means of intimidation. Some were too strong for this and would not cave in to pressure and, if the Western world got behind them, then sometimes they would be released. Of course then, when they were in the west, they could tell about what the regime was really like. We are a bit like that for the Bruderhof. We are a thorn in their side. Only we exes can do that effectively because we have lived the life, we have experienced it ourselves.
We write from reality, what we have seen, experienced, heard from friends and, above all, what we have felt. We have felt the pain of being hurt, of being 'sent to Coventry' which meant being cut off from everybody we knew, we have felt the pain when suddenly nobody was allowed to talk with us. Our friends were then actually frightened into carrying out this punishment for fear that otherwise they might get into trouble themselves. People who have not experienced this will not understand what it feels like, when you meet the people you know (on the B'hof perhaps 200 or more people whom we met regularly at work or mealtimes or whatever) so well constantly, and you do not know how to relate to them because you do not know how they will treat you or whether they will just ignore you (you are treated as a non-person) and you do not want to make life difficult for them by being too friendly. Of course you can sense immediately that you are not valued at all so any value people might otherwise have shown you has disappeared. Now if you express an opinion about anything, it is ignored. You do not count any more. This includes work. Suddenly you are treated as worthless there as well.
The Bruderhof is also a repressive regime. There is no freedom of expression or thought or in writing. Of course this is achieved in many ways, mainly by repression; there is no freedom to have access to news or other media or free information. When I lived there the only papers available were The Times or The Manchester Guardian, and that was only in the common room. The only other news to which we had access was when once a week someone would read out excerpts from newspapers. People there never feel free to say or write what they think or feel because they are always afraid that they might get into trouble. Members of my family who were or are on the Bruderhof have never really written anything proper because of this; they have just written about the flowers or such like.
To get back to where I was, only we can criticize the Bruderhof in a way which really hurts them, because only we can talk about the real life there and how that life affects people. Theologians and sociologists and others can discuss religion and theory about community, etc. as much as they like, but that will never hurt the Bruderhof in the same way, because they have an answer to every opinion and theory anybody can throw at them. That is why they hate KIT people so much. Bruderhof people can say whatever they like, but they cannot deny or take away the pain and hurt that many of us have actually experienced. If I say that I feel pain, sadness, despair, depressed, joy, anger or whatever, no person can deny me those feelings, because they are there.
Reading the latest February KIT, there is a lot of forgiveness discussion quoted from different people on the Internet in connection with the Bruderhof. I find it interesting to a certain degree, but also I feel that whatever theories we have or whatever the true meaning of forgiveness is, in the end what matters is action. If someone, e.g. the Bruderhof or their representatives, are sorry about how they have treated people, then they will show this by their actions. Actions speak louder than words! When they finally allow free access for outsiders to family members or friends inside, when they encourage their members to communicate and meet up with family members outside for example, then I will believe that they have changed, not just when they say they have changed.
All my four brothers and sisters who live outside have been 'cut off' from our sister, Jenny, who is still on the Bruderhof. This has been the case since the day that I helped rescue my sister Ruthie two years ago. No contact, no letters. I have written about 9 or 10 letters, but not one reply or acknowledgment that Jenny is even alive. If that is brotherly love, then I don't know.
Another thing we need to be aware of: I am sure that in their cunning they would love to split us, not that we are a group or united in any way. If the Bruderhof can split us and get some on their side so to speak, or to sympathise with them, that will give them extra strength and more power against the rest, (the rest of "the enemy"). Let's not forget, to them we are the enemy, we are evil. If they can weaken the enemy, that gives them more power. I will only ever believe that they want to make things up with me when they tell me that they want to meet up and discuss things openly and honestly. Also when they say that they will never again threaten exes with lawsuits and stop threatening and harassing people.
I like what Charlie Lamar wrote in the February KIT and I agree with most of what he says. Thank you for what you wrote, Charlie, and for the way you have explained various points. Greetings,
The article reports that the book "disappeared from the shelves after the Bruderhof... threatened to sue. The book claims the Bruderhof is a repressive regime where dissenters face ostracism, women's aspirations are denied, leaders are obsessed with sexual inquiries and members are haunted by fear of demonic attack."
Inquiries to the publisher are being met with a statement that the book is now 'out of print' or 'out of stock and being reprinted.' Meanwhile, "sources told The Observer that, while 2500 copies of the £14.99 book were printed, it was withdrawn from the shops and 'the entire print run was bought by the Bruderhof.'"
One of the book's other authors stated that SPCK "decided the book was not worth going to court over. The Bruderhof had no case at all, no apology has been offered and the book has not been formally withdrawn... but it has quietly disappeared. It looks as though it will come back on the shelves without that chapter."
Meanwhile, the Bruderhof has not commented, and the publishing director of SPCK "admitted that the Bruderhof had bought up copies but refused to say how many. He said he understood many Bruderhof supporters had also been buying the book from the shops. 'They didn't like the book, it is now out of print, and we need to update it before reprinting.'"
I asked about the other authors: did they know the book was no longer available, as you hadn't been informed by SPCK but had heard through the Bruderhof's pressure tactics on Oxford University Press. He said it was hoped to reprint the book in some form or other, so I said, "You mean without Julius Rubin's chapter?" He left that remark 'hanging in the air.'
It was a pretty awkward conversation. I was aware of his discomfort. I was left feeling very angry -- the Bruderhof have been given everything they want without adverse publicity, plus they can use the SPCK capitulation as ammunition to put pressure on Oxford University Press. I talked to INFORM (Information Network for New Religious Movements) who had publicized the book at a recent conference on NMR's and the media which I had attended. They did not know, but promised to investigate and get back to me. I was also contacted by a journalist who wanted information about a review they were doing about a play which has some uncanny similarities to the Bruderhof. I also talked to Cult Information Exchange and another journalist so we'll see what emerges. That's all for now but I'll write again at the weekend,
P.S. I am able to send EuroKIT folk a photocopy of the offending chapter, if any want it.
I have not experienced forgiveness as a one-time episode in regards to TSOB, but rather as an ongoing life process. I have tried to face each painful trespass from the past, work through the grief process and relinquish the outcome to Him. I have had to do this in the present and will have to in the future. I am sensitive and even though I have "worked through" a great deal, I continue at times, especially around the holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, etc., to feel the terrible losses, very much as deaths, to TSOB of my parents and three of my siblings and their families even though they are still very much alive. They have chosen to cut off all contact for almost three years now.
I grieve the years of limited relationships because of their misguided beliefs. I grieve the wasted years of no communication. Their eight beautiful grandchildren (nieces and nephews) have almost all grown up. I miss not having parents who I could share all the trials and triumphs of life with, like so many of my friends have here. I grieve the reality of what never was. Even though my parents did the best they could with the tools they had at the time, their addiction to TSOB did not allow for the kind of unconditional, nurturing parental love that says, "I will always cherish you and be there for you no matter what happens. You are a girl from God therefore my first responsibility." Every child needs and deserves that precious assurance of truly being loved. I was left an orphan in a pseudo family "the community" that in reality never existed. I grieve what never will be.
I feel the deep pain at knowing of the on going lies, subversive activities, hypocrisy, control and abuses that continue within TSOB. It was especially hard to hear of the numerous suicide attempts there. That comes pretty close to home as that was the condition I was in at TSOB 16 years ago. I fear for my loved ones lives as they appear to be following the same route as so many totalitarian groups before them. I have to once again dump the load at His feet.
Sadly in the case of TSOB leadership that have asked our forgiveness, I really felt that they came with their own "need" and "guilt." Their emphasis was on assuaging their own feelings, not really wanting to truly know the great pain they had inflicted on and caused us. If there is remorse at all, one feels it's for themselves, not for us. To me this is a perversion and cheapens the whole reason for asking for forgiveness in the first place. We are victimized again because we are left holding the bag and are always seen as the "bad guy" if their view of forgiveness is not forth coming. In our case we felt so sorry for them that our hearts couldn't do anything else but verbally forgive. The "working through" between us and God came with time as we recognized that there was not a thing we could do about the other person's beliefs, attitudes or actions. One hears "I don't remember" or "Yes, but you..."
When I tell my husband or children I'm sorry for something I've done I recognize and feel the pain of hurting them and our relationship. I'm truly sorry and make every effort at change. I don't want to repeat that offense again. Through my 42 years of growing up in and being affiliated with TSOB I have witnessed no change in this regards. The abuses continue. I don't anticipate any change as that's all part and parcel of their institutional "by-laws". The methods may change, but never the intent to control. The whole foundation of their distorted belief system and way of life would crumble if they would ever admit to their long history of abuses and why they need to control through those abuses. They could never afford that.
To admit that your whole life has been based on a lie (the false idolatry of worshipping at the altar of the institution of the Bruderhof), that has nothing to do with Jesus, is too devastating for most people to live with. (My mind still reels and numbs at the enormity of the deception and pain of this reality. All that I had been taught was "truth" and '"the only way" was in fact not. The whole foundation of my life was wiped out from beneath me and I had to start from ground zero with the help of my Heavenly Father to totally rebuild my life.) I think especially of the elderly, our parents who gave many years of their blood, sweat and tears into the perpetuation of the lie, many of whom I believe don't know it because they can't see beyond "the system" they are caught in. My heart aches. These members include my parents, my sister and two brothers and their families and all the many people we learned to love while we were there. The future for them scares me. Once again I take that fear and give them back to God.
Just a note because it's been brought up several times as to why there has been a drop in the "younger" or "sometimes" subscribers contributions. Most of us at great cost spiritually, emotionally, physically and economically have had to rebuild our lives from the ashes. It's taken many years to even begin to heal from the ravages of our experience with TSOB. Those of us who have children have not only had to deal with our myriad of issues but of those of the children. On top of this we have had to make some semblance of order in our daily lives supporting our families as we have made the tremendous adjustment out of a distorted subculture into the society at large. I also felt a responsibility for my children in regards to the faith issue. I couldn't "throw the baby out with the bath water". I had to heal and work through each false teaching of TSOB as it came to light so I could finally really know God and be able to pass the knowledge of His love on to them.
We (all us survivors) have different personalities, are at different points in our recoveries, have different responsibilities and lifestyles now. Some of us can emotionally handle the constant "news" of what's going on with TSOB, thriving on getting involved with other survivors and trying to bring about change. For others of us it's just too painful and exacerbates our very struggle for survival. Others of us just want to get on with our lives believing one doesn't keep "hitting oneself by continuing to walk back into the brick wall" and revisiting the past sites of abuse. Some have made a conscious decision not to recognize TSOB as an entity therefore not allowing the infringement into their lives. Some of us don't want to jeopardize even the limited contact with loved ones at TSOB. Let's celebrate and respect our diversity!
The issue of the vows that were made for the novitiate or baptism comes up repeatedly as a club of false guilt held over our heads another game and attempt at control even many years after expulsion. Only we can allow those insidious tentacles of TSOB to affect our well being today. I can't let their legalism impede my full relationship with God ever again. As a novice I made my vow to God to be faithful to Him with the intention and hope to spend my life at TSOB as part of the vow. At that time I did not see the manipulative control (laying on of false guilt) that was used by the institution to keep one in spiritual bondage and hostage to their group (not God) alone. If you think about it their attitude is really very arrogant before the Maker of the Universe. That they dare to abuse and try to control peoples' hearts, minds and souls in His name in such a way smacks right in the face of everything He truly is. Their hearts are so small and closed. In a way one has to feel sorry for them because their vision is so narrow and they can't and don't begin to know His awesome real empowering, engulfing and freeing love.
I'm so thankful He rescued me (us) out of there! After letting go of that suffocating false guilt I have enjoyed very much discovering the many other forms of worship that other denominations and faiths share. I have been a member of several churches and have chosen to transfer membership for various reasons, i.e. too far to travel, dissolving of a church planting and not wanting to be a part of legalism ever again. I (We) will always bear the scars of our pasts but the wounds can heal. This is also true for the present and future if I (we) just remember to continue to turn to Him. I am free! He gives me the freedom to love and be loved, to forgive and be forgiven and to continue to grow and flourish right where I am. Yes!! I can fly!
KIT: The alt.support.bruderhof newsgroup has been very active, with a number of young Bruderhof-born-and-bred young men showing up. Here are some responses, both from the newsgroup and from e-mail. Inasmuch as names are not essential to the comprehension of this dialogue, KIT will identify them as "A," "B," and "C."
Mel Fros in alt.support.bruderhof, 2/20/98: Welcome to our discussion group, Wes. I hope you will find a trusting and helpful environment here. As you may have noticed, my bringing up the issue of church discipline is directly related to critical issues several of us are dealing with. You can not fully appreciate how much this group means to me unless you know that I am totally deaf since age 17. To have this group and the electronic means to allow me to participate is indeed a huge gift for me! I trust the people I know in this group and feel very comfortable in their midst. I know that if I should step out of bounds, they will gently point me back to Christ. Here I can express my doubts ("the ants-in-your-pants of faith") without fearing church discipline. Here, I can "work out (my) salvation with fear and trembling" (Romans 2:12-13).
Wes, you felt that Jesus' association with pagans and tax collectors is an issue distinct from that of church discipline as we have it recorded in Matt. 18:17. While it is true that Jesus' association with these folks must be seen in light of His greater mission, is it not also true to say that we have no clear-cut example of exactly Jesus meant in vs. 17? And is it not also true that whatever He meant, it must be in keeping with the spirit of His other teachings (particularly those recorded in the "Sermon on the Mount")?
If this is so, then I would venture to practice Matt. 18:17 in the following manner: My brother is unrepentant of obvious sin to which "two or three witnesses" have testified. Therefore I can no longer worship with him and enjoy the brotherly relationship we once shared. However, in keeping with Jesus' other teachings, I will treat my wayward brother respectfully, with dignity and in a civil manner. I will go out of my way to ensure that my conduct is such that it does not further aggravate the situation.
Wes, fleshing out Matt. 18:15-18 is where the Bruderhof is found wanting, in my opinion. Wayne pointed out that the authority given to the Church to discipline is a very serious matter and can only be undertaken by the gathered Body of Christ, with due consideration for all parties involved. And Mike reminds us of the need for compassion for the sinning brother/sister. Testimony based on witnesses (Numbers 35:30) has a long tradition!
Let's look at some specific examples of how the Bruderhof practices the words of Matt. 18.
1) A 14-year-old, very hard-of-hearing boy is found to be a peeping tom. He is brought into a meeting to face the full wrath of at least four ministers who angrily shout accusations that he can barely understand. The boy is in tears. He begs for mercy. He admits to his wrong conduct and asks for a chance to repent. But no! In complete violation of the spirit of Matt. 18 he, his father and his mother are asked to leave the community, while sisters remain behind. No further action is ever taken to bring the matter to a close! In the mean time, the boy looses his hearing altogether. He pleads with God to heal himÉ he vows to return and behave if only God will restore his hearing.
The ensuing silence is truly deafening! The boy grows into manhood, and only much, much later does he manage to find peace with his principal accuser by writing to him. He learns that the accuser has totally forgotten the incident! Still, the two manage to come to forgiveness and reconciliation.
2) A brother stands up in a Brotherhood meeting to protest what he considers to be non-loving conduct toward perceived 'enemies' of the Bruderhof (harassing phone calls). For that, he and his family are expelled. As this brother (who is participating in our news group) put it, he could not hate the enemies of the Bruderhof enough!
3) A young woman seeks earnestly and over many years to become a member. She faces numerous church exclusions. She contemplate suicide. In the end, she says she cannot find the Christ of her yearnings within the Bruderhof. To this day, she has forsaken all acquisition of property, security, marriage, children, home and hearth in order to serve God in the hinterlands of Africa. There, in Mozambique, she searches for orphaned children at a large municipal dump, brings them back to a "children's village" and ministers to their temporal and spiritual needs. Of her, the Bruderhof has said, "she broke her novice vows". To this day, she cannot visit her mother freely and unconditionally. She is rebuked for kissing her dying father gently on the forehead!
That, Wes, is but a small example of the way the Bruderhof chooses to practice the words of Jesus. Is this what Jesus meant when He said, "treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector?"
Given the attention paid to its public relations and its protectiveness of its reputation (as evidenced by recent lawsuits and the attempted and possibly successful suppression of a recent English Publication, "Harmful Religion"), this feels more like an orchestrated publicity effort. "Say it ain't so!" Better yet, the Bruderhof could prove that this is not so and truly demonstrate a life of witness to the Gospel of Christ.
If members of the Bruderhof are truly willing to risk their lives, there should certainly be a humble willingness to risk their reputation and work to resolve the ongoing grievances of children and former members of the communities.
There are allegations of sexual and emotional abuse, wiretaps, harassing phone calls to a help-line number, and many people are literally prohibited from contacting their family members within the community itself. These issues need to be addressed honestly and fairly by the Bruderhof. Recently there were some hopeful gestures from the elder, Christoph Arnold, and some family members were able to have parental visits. Two of those visits were very controlled and no issues of significance were "allowed" to be discussed. Some people outside of the community have their e-mail access to the elder and the community itself blocked and can only deal with the community's paralegals. A proposed mediation effort through the highly respected Mennonite Conciliation Services requested by various "outsiders" was turned down by the Bruderhof. Where is the witness of living the Gospel of Christ in all of this?
For all of the recent talk of reconciliation and forgiveness coming from the elder, there seems to have been no real heart change, no attempt at true reconciliation and restoration with these people that the Bruderhof blatantly labels its "enemies". Instead, there has simply been an increased attempt to quiet its critics. Is this to make good copy for selling books on forgiveness?
"B"'s obscene letter to Ramon was posted. The language used was colorful in the extreme, lobbing insults at various KITfolk.
I wonder if these guys haven't been put up to this by someone else? (I won't mention names).
You speak of examining both sides before spewing, certainly a good idea, but I wonder if you have done the same. You have obviously been given and unhealthy dose of one side of the issues, if you would like to communicate with me, I would be happy to try to fill you in on another point of view. You know, many of us have families and loved ones still on the hof's and it is attitudes like yours (there have been others too) that worry us the most. Think about this, I will be away from my computer for the next week or so but I would be happy to take up correspondence with you after March 9, or so. Take care, "B." Let me know what you are doing, ie. school or work, I'm interested in being your friend if you feel you can do this in an adult and civil fashion. Life is way too short to carry around all that anger, hate and obscenity. Take care, To "B", 3/10/98: My beefs with the Bruderhof are quite general. but in a nutshell they involve the treatment of my family over the years. As you may know, my father was the youngest son of Eberhard Arnold, and I have never fully understood why he and his brother, Hardi, received the royal shaft all their lives. My dad was excluded for the last 10 years or so of his life, and was only reinstated into the brotherhood while on his deathbed. What's with that? If you have ever been to the Woodcrest cemetery, you will see a great big stone for Heini,(some are "more equal" than others), while everyone else has the usual small stones. Heini's brother Hardi's grave is totally overgrown. What's with that? When my mother died a few years ago, we were told we could not attend the funeral. What's with that? It's called manipulation, and the Bruderhof leaders are masters at it. What they cannot stand about KIT is that they cannot control it.
Have you ever heard anything good said about anyone who has left the hof? Have you ever had a question answered honestly about a person who left the hof? It's always some story about "He's not with us anymore," or "We don't know where they are." This was already the case before KIT came into existence; they did not want us talking to each other, because they could not control what we did or said. Then, when KIT started and people started comparing experiences, we realized that things just were not right. Now the only way the leaders can try to control us is by painting us all black inside the hofs while running a bully campaign on the outside. I believe they like to tell people how tough and bad life on the outside is, even hoping that they will fail, and come running back. It puts holes in their story when those out here prove that there is life after the Bruderhof.
Anyway, I left the hof because I wanted to make a life of my own, to be in control of my own destiny. I don't take well to being manipulated now by people that say if I talk to my friends that left the hof I cannot see or talk to my family, or even go to my mother's funeral. Anyway, "B", you wrote that you found little truth in the KIT newsletter. Give me a couple of examples of the most outrageous stories you have read there. I want to understand better where you are coming from. I'm glad you have not turned your back on your parents. By all means keep in touch if you can. They are good people. There are many, if not most, that are very good people there. It must have been difficult for you to leave, and it sounds like you miss your folks. How are things going for you work-wise? How are you living? Do I believe everything that I read in KIT? Of course not, KIT is made up of many diverse people, many of whom I don't even know. Anyone with a little sense learns to pick and choose what seems true and logical.
I don't believe everything I read in The New York Times either. And I certainly don't believe everything that I hear, or read from the Bruderhof, especially what comes to us via certain supposed spokespersons. Their job is to spin and manipulate, cloud issues, not clear them up. They are the ones who, by whatever means available, try to divert us while running a continuous campaign inside the hof, telling our families how terrible we are. When you are told something often enough, you begin to believe it whether it is true or not. This is called 'brainwashing.' I don't want to believe it any more than you do, "B", but I'm afraid it is true. I wish it were possible to go on and remember only the good things about when we were growing up, but it is not that simple. There are many wrongs in the world, and I cannot right them all, but I if cannot even speak out about what I believe to be wrong when it affects my family, what good is it living in this great country of ours, that gives us more freedoms than any other country in the world, most importantly the freedom of speech?
It is for this reason, that I believe that as long as the issues of concern being brought forward in KIT are not being addressed, KIT will continue to print. There are too many people, with too many concerns, to silence their freedom. Do I want to convert you? Convert you to what "B", the truth? That is a freedom that you have a right to also. No, I cannot convert you, and if the Bruderhof is your way, more power to you, I am only trying to understand what prompted you to write that letter to Ramon, because I am sure there are others that feel the same way. I'm glad to hear that you apologized for your language in that letter. Was it Ramon you apologized to? Take care, and be in touch,
You have seen the films where Christoph admitted to the wiretap and said "we just want our piece of the American pie", when asked about the jet. If people like the Foxes and us think these attitudes and activities are against the teachings of Jesus, why do you curse us? Defend them if you think they are right, name calling is not a good defense.
Since you guys have a clue, and the rest of us are clueless, fill us in on what these activities are all about. You and "A" are pretty good at cursing and venting your hatred (where did you learn that?) and claiming to be so in the know, but neither of you have answered any real questions, or discussed any of the issues brought up here. Is it because you really are clueless? Give us a clue, you can answer the same questions we asked "A", then maybe you can tell us how it is that a Christian Community could do these things...
Are you just going to flame this newsgroup with hate mail or are you going to act like adults out in the real world and join in a discussion. Are you going to speak for yourselves or are you mouthpieces for CD and JK and Christoph? Do you think you'll be heroes back at home for telling off Paul and Blair and Ramon?
You know, the back-and-forth between Reuben and "C" didn't seem to be going anywhere. ("B" has become much more civil and maybe has a more open mind.) I wonder if it is even worth continuing, because really no questions are answered and they don't seem to want to hear anything remotely criticizing of the Bruderhof. I was always told that constructive criticism was good for the soul ( I learned that from Margaret Meier and Spring Valley ) but their attitude now seems to be "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't talk" which seems to me to be a bit childish and silly. If you were only allowed to say good things about people, can you imagine how much worse off we would be? Just a thought.
We heard a lot of criticism for the idea of trying to "do what's right" before we left the Bruderhof. The idea seems to be in the Bruderhof to be in unity and to do "something" and to do it "from the heart". Thus the phrase: "It doesn't matter if what we do is right or wrong, as long as we do it together." That's a rather poor and rather unChristian reason for doing something, nicht? In fact what it really says is that they are not concerned with trying to "do what's right", but really about doing what's "in their best interest".
"A", we have heard far more filth from Bruderhofers (and kids from the Bruderhof) than from the Bruderhof's critics. Some posted to us even in response to our web page (http:\\www.ime.net\ ~wchesley). You may have been told that KIT has "spewed filth," but believe us, a lot of things you have been told about KIT and people who write for it are not always true. We have never heard Blair "spew filth".
This is true, and this does not upset me. If I repent I would be welcomed back to the Bruderhof. But what "sins" must I repent of? Telling the world the truth about the Bruderhof? Pointing out that Christoph lied? Telling about this "pacifist" community's lawsuits? Loving my enemies? I cannot stand on the street side and admire the Emperor's new clothes. I cannot repent of telling the truth. I cannot turn away from following Jesus.
In many ways, the Bruderhof communities remind me of the Venus fly-trap plant that offers an irresistible 'bait' to the unwary insect before it snaps shut around them. I am not sure the Bruderhof members realize how much they create this very seductive first impression. Once the guest is drawn into 'giving their all' to help create a 'heaven on earth,' it's very hard to withdraw -- despite Christoph's assertion that "We are the hardest church to join." The life sort of creeps up on you, bit by bit, and you find yourself wanting to be like the others, to think like the others, to speak the same way and be a part of whatever that elusive, mysterious 'something' is that seems to permeate the people there. It's very seductive, the aroma of mystery around those secretive brotherhood meetings, those closed-door sessions in the Servants' offices. We all want to be "in," don't we?
When I left the Bruderhof after approximately two years, I experienced serious withdrawal symptoms. First there was the singing. I just had to sing to feel good, to get that 'rush' in my chest, that nice tingle going. So I signed up for a choral singing group that met a few times a week. That helped a lot.
Then there was the incredible guilt, and the distinct feeling of impending doom because I had 'gone against the Church,' that I had "given myself to another power." This took a lot of time to overcome, a lot of study and reading. In 1960 there were no exit counselors, and most of the people I tried to talk about this had no clue what I was talking about! What helped me the most was first reading the existentialist Christian philosopher Nicolai Berdyayev (sp?), who helped me to understand that I was an individual who could approach God for a personal relationship, and that the creative act, the writing of a musical composition, was also a kind of prayer and acceptable to God. From Berdyayev's books I moved on to Jung's writings, which also were very helpful.
Another very seductive aspect of the Bruderhof was that "everything was taken care of." I had no financial worries, no checkbook to balance, no bills to pay, no clothes to buy. Some summer nights I dragged my mattress out onto the roof of the Carriage House (I was sleeping upstairs to answer late night phone calls) and just lay there, looking up at the stars, experiencing total peace and harmony with God's creation. Not a worry in the world! Just back to babyhood!
Of course there are other high-control groups that offer this also. This is a major lure of most cults, the feeling of "meaning" they impart, and of security. I suppose that serving in the military might be one, and of course monastic groups, and prisons. I think convicts get hooked on the security that prison offers, and that's why recidivism is so high.
A friend of mine once said, "There's no feeling greater than feeling you are part of a cosmic myth-in-the-making, one of the Chosen Few." Certainly the call to become one of the Inner Circle around The Annointed One beats the boring anonymity many people face in their daily lives! Also, we humans are designed to be tribal creatures, something that modern living in our nuclear families or 'monads' tends to ignore, although a lot of 'community' really does exist within the fabric of modern life, if you look for it.
Freedom can be terrifying. Freedom takes work. It takes a daily commitment to keep oneself, one's home, one's family, block, neighborhood, city, whatever as a viable medium for democracy to grow and flourish.
Bottom line for me: Democracy, even our poor, messed-up U.S. version of it, offers the closest example of what God wants for us here on the planet. Not a kingdom, not a dictatorship, not socialism, not an oligarchy, but a society of equals ruled by mutual respect, if not that almost unattainable goal of Love. For me, Love is not the counterfeit, judging, measuring 'sharp and cutting' version that is practiced on the Bruderhof. It does not involve ratting on your neighbor, hiding listening devices in living quarters, or breaking down a young person's will by keeping them in isolation.
C'mon, let's get real! A close look at the Bruderhof today reveals an authoritarian mini-society that demands total obedience to the leadership as an absolutely necessity to remain a member in good standing. It enforces this by keeping the members equity-less. If I was the father of eight kids, twenty years in the brotherhood, I would be terrified of disagreeing with the Elder and being asked to leave the community with my family, forced to go on public assistance, with no health insurance, in a world I either had no knowledge of or had left long ago. That terror is the glue that holds the Bruderhof together, in my humble opinion. That terror leads to Bruderhof statements such as:
"It doesn't matter whether we are right or wrong, as long as we do it together, as long as we remain in unity!"
That statement is a formula for failure because, as Mike LeBlanc stated earlier, there's no feedback loop to correct for wrong direction, nothing to say, "Yoo hoo! Wake up, little Suzy! You're going the wrong way!" Yours for an equitable, positive and loving solution,
Instead, I was invited to come and experience the life, with an open heart, as an earnest seeker -- a form of religious quest. Since that was not my purpose, I declined, and I have never been able to work out a research contract with the commune.
John Hostetler asked me at this time, "Why do they refuse trained observers -- social scientists, journalists, lawyers?" "What do they have to hide or to fear?" Mennonites, Church of the Brethren, Friends, and other Anabaptist or small Christian groups are openly self-critical. Witness the conference sponsored by the Young Center at Elizabethtown College in 1992, by the Church of the Brethren and Mennonites on the use and abuse of power in Anabaptist groups. They invited Ramon and me to present a paper. So, John Hostetler's questions about the Bruderhof still haunt me. Peace,
I left after completing high school, was sent to nursing school, could not visit too often, but continued to visit every possible weekend. I had not expressed interest in becoming a member, I was much too shy to speak up. I had my share of difficulties growing up on the Bruderhof. For years after leaving I would skirt around the issue of my background as I felt unfit to discuss the bruderhof life. When I did talk about the Bruderhof, it was with great respect and joy. How could I say anything negative to outsiders? (I was afraid anything I said would get back to the brotherhood). Anything negative that had occurred in my eyes was due to my error or failure. The Bruderhof was a good place, a God-sanctioned place, so how could they do anything wrong? How could they be anything but a wonderful example of the way mankind should live?
I would have written much the same as the young men are doing here. Yes, they do believe they are thinking for themselves, but sad to say they do not have all the information necessary to speak clearly. This is why I think they find it difficult to be specific. None have said they were brotherhood members, and therefore have not been present in those meetings. I feel they also need to defend their families and their home.
After graduating from nursing school (which I paid for), my visits became less frequent due to many factors. I had contact with my siblings on the outside, but it was "understood" that contact with other former bruderhofers was not good. (When families or individuals left, it was usually quickly and quietly, because they had done something bad or were not fit to live in this utopia.) Even among my siblings we did not talk about the negative aspects of our life in the community. For 20 years I did not have contact with ex-bruderhofers.
In 1990 I received several issues of the KIT (Keep In Touch) newsletter from one of my cousins. The first chance I had to read these was on a family trip to Nashville, TN. I started reading when we had settled into the motel and read late into the night. I was overwhelmed with sadness when I read the letters from people I had known. As a child I had sensed some of the unfair treatment reflected in these letters. My husband woke up when he heard me crying. We talked, and I was able to express some of my anger.
This was the start of a wonderful renewal of contact. What a joy to find old classmates and friends and to find they were wonderful people. I had the chance to meet a former servant and his wife. I had been very much intimidated by them as a child, so I was very happy to get to know them as friends. At KIT conferences the understanding is instant, the sharing sometimes painful, but healing.
The Bruderhof has told their members that KIT people are out to destroy their life, take their kids, and do the work of the devil. Far from it. We are a world-wide self-help group with a newsletter in which we can share our thoughts with others. Many of us have carried our childhood-taught values into our adult lives. We care about our fellow humans and especially for those who have shared our community experience. For this reason, several of us set up the toll free line so that those who were in need could call for unconditional help and guidance. This is the toll free number the Bruderhof harassed and sued us for. Young folk leaving now are apprehensive of any contact with former bruderhof folk, because of the "KIT spirit". I would very much like to know what having the "KIT spirit" means. Maybe Joe K could define this term for us?
I treasure my KIT friends and contact. It was long overdue and will not be shut off or shut up now. The only way to keep us quiet is for the bruderhof to hear us with their hearts and be open to what we are saying. My greatest wish is that all brotherhood members could hear us. I believe that so far only a few on the hof have access to any of our resources. The general membership does not have the chance to hear both sides and form independent opinions. (I have met many bruderhof raised people who have expressed how difficult it was to learn independent thinking and decision making). All the Best,
Y'all were hoping some of these kids would show up. Well, here they are! don't get too picky and pompous about how they present themselves, actually they are not that far out of bounds from the average kid today. Ask your teenagers, or somebody else's teenagers.
Y'all may find out that if you ignore the offensive language it will probably subside to a tolerable level. Meanwhile, another mission has been accomplished. There are at least three "new" outsiders who have been lurking and finally surfaced. Whether or not these kids were "sent" by the Bruderhof is not all that important. They should be welcome in any light. You might find it profitable to approach one issue at a time with them and follow it to either some conclusion or an impasse. I think there is one main imperative. Don't run them off!
1. We would not retaliate in kind.
2. We would remain calm and listen, and even encourage young people to really get it all off their chests. (This was obviously within safety limits of us not being physically threatened).
We respected their attempts to make their space safe by agreeing not to cross a particular boundary (in this case not going in to the recreation ground they met in) and just steadfastly were there for them. After hanging around within view for some time, and always responding as positively as possible, curiosity eventually got the better of them. Some wanted to know why we were there (we had been careful to have an answer to this that was positive, short, and left them knowing that we would try to be allies.)
What worked best was to encourage them to get all the negativity and lack of trust for the adult world off their chests. Just listen, that's easier said than done, especially as they were deliberately bombing us with a lot of stuff that was just there to goad us to start with. But this was a very important stage in which they were working out just how safe we were.
I also later noticed with hindsight that for some of the young people, the hurt and anger was very real because later when we got to hear some of their stories; their sense of betrayal and fear was truly justified. We were the first adults that would stop and truly listen to their rage and pain.
Listening did several very positive things; it gave us a few clues as to what were the issues for the young people, what misinformation they had about their rights etc., but also gave them a chance to notice that we were not going to get cross with them or judge them (or were spies for the police or welfare).
We tried to always respect them, believe them (even if we knew that they had wrong information, we could still see that it was their truth at this moment in time. The challenge then is to slowly give them the info, and tools to start making better judgements about their world.) Work at their pace. Try not to superimpose our agendas without negotiation.
Well, I guess there was a whole lot more, but what I'm trying to say is that for whatever reasons, it takes a lot of courage for a young person to challenge the adult world. If their challenge seems inappropriate, it usually only highlights the degree of distress and/or misinformation and lack of skills to deal with the task in hand. I would always work from this premise until proven otherwise. (After all, look at the role model they have had! How else could they challenge us? What other means are available to them???)
If we can respond positively to these young people, I can guarantee that it will be the first time that they will have been treated so well. That alone can work great healing magic. Surely we are whole enough and strong enough to go along the lines of: Thanks for communicating with us. Can't agree with all that you say, but then we do live very different lives. Is there anything else you would like to tell us, think that its important for us to know? Not going to get mad with you, just want to understand where you are coming from. Life must seem very tough -- how are you doing? How would you like it to be (the situation, life..) What is important to you ....to be heard, to have your say ?
Having listened, then and only then are we in a position to move forward and if there is one thing I have learned, it's not always in the direction we assumed made sense. Again sometimes we just have to trust and go the way the young people feel is right, it's their journey too and more often than not, they come up with some very elegant problem solving. It just might take a while, but after all we have all the time in the world.... desperate, ill-considered, knee-jerk reactions is more someone else's style. Love,
"It seems to me that this question reveals a singular and profound insecurity that appears to afflict many of those who have gravitated to the KIT network.
"The answer to the question, of course, is no.... However, it appears that there is a small group of people... who are continually preoccupied with this question. How do we explain this preoccupation? To those people who are secure in their chosen way of life -- their calling -- this question never occurs. It only seems to be a problem to those who have never reconciled with the choices they made in life, those who are unhappy with decisions made, those who are insecure.
"This insecurity is expressed in many different ways. But those who have the patience (and the stomach) to read through the postings in this newsgroup I believe, will readily detect this common thread."...
This pattern of distortion, with brief glimpses of the underlying focused picture, made me think of the situation that we children and former members of the Bruderhof are facing. Just as the hope begins to grow that some degree of clarity might come to this confusing situation, it becomes distorted again.
Lawsuits brought by the Bruderhof against its own children are dropped. Hope of movement toward reconciliation is raised when the Elder of the Bruderhof writes a Christmas letter indicating a change of heart. These hopes are dashed as communication with the Bruderhof is blocked, more people are cut off from their parents, questions about specific concerns and abuses go unanswered. Open, unrestricted communication between loved ones inside and outside the Bruderhof is not forthcoming.
Words such as "forgiveness" and "reconciliation" become so distorted that they cease to have any deep meaning. The Elder writes a letter to one of the targets of the suits asking for "forgiveness" without being specific. When the recipient of the letter asks the Elder for clarification, outlining specific abuses and hurts, a reply comes from a "corporate officer" who states "you will not be receiving a letter" from the Elder. Numerous other children of the Bruderhof raise issues and concerns about hurtful, immoral and sometimes possibly illegal behavior on the part of members of the Bruderhof leadership. These questions are ignored or sidestepped. Bruderhof representatives play word games rather than enter into a genuine, honest discussion.
Meanwhile, the Elder, the author of books on forgiveness, death and dying, etc., goes on a "Forgiveness Pilgrimage," speaking about forgiveness to congregations of people he does not know. Meanwhile he ignores his role in, and responsibility for, the hurt caused to many children and former members by actions and policies of the Bruderhof -- actions and policies for which he must take a large responsibility. Distortion.
If one cannot find forgiveness and reconciliation with people one knows and has hurt, where does one gain the moral authority to speak to others about forgiveness and reconciliation? Distortion.
A group of young men, who apparently recently left the Bruderhof to "find themselves," write superficial, uninformed, juvenile postings, laced with profanity and personal insults. These are written in "support" of the Bruderhof. Instead of being appalled at what the Bruderhof is producing the Elder writes that the postings are "tremendous." Distortion.
When asked if allegations of unchristian, immoral and illegal deeds, done by members of the Bruderhof against Bruderhof "enemies" are true, a member in "authority" states that "the important issue is not what is true or not true, it's much deeper than that. We are dealing with unfaithful members." Distortion. The end does not justify the means. An organization that calls itself Christian cannot use unchristian means against its "enemies." Jesus did not say "sue your enemies." He did not tell his disciples to use illegal and immoral means against those who opposed them.
The whole issue of "enemies" in this situation is distorted. Who has been the aggressor? Who has tried to destroy people? One does not sue a private citizen for $15 million without trying to destroy that person.
The efforts to reach a genuine, truthful, Christian solution have come from the "enemy," not from the Bruderhof leadership.
When members of the Bruderhof, especially the Leadership, speak of "hatred", "out to destroy", "KIT spirit" (i.e. the spirit of evil), "unforgiveness" etc., they are projecting their own feelings. When an "anonymous"(spineless?) Bruderhof member wrote of "insecurity" on the part of KITfolk [see following item], it was projection.
Where will the clarity come from in this distorted situation? So far the Bruderhof leadership has not seemed to listen or respond to the many eloquent postings: e-mail and letters by Wayne Chesley, Mel Fros, Ramon Sender, Mike LeBlanc, Paul Fox, the Purcells and others. All these individuals have tried painstakingly to show how the deeds and actions of the Bruderhof do not square with the example of Life that Christ gave us. They don't even square with the Bruderhof's own books and teachings.
Merrill Mow once said that one of the reasons he left the Brethren church was because the deeds did not fit the words. "The words in the sermons and teachings are beautiful," he said. The church, however, did not live by them.
The answer to how clarity might be brought to the distortion may lie in something the Elder wrote in a letter last November. I had asked about a comment that a member of the Bruderhof had made. The member had said "I am Christoph's (the Elder) hitman." I asked the Elder if he was creating a climate where members would feel that it was acceptable for a Christian to be a hitman.
The Elder wrote: "By saying I have a "hitman," you are calling me....a coward".
First of all, I did not make the comment. A member of the Bruderhof made it. Second, the issue of cowardice and courage is quite central to this distortion, in my opinion. Much of the activity on the part of the Elder and his representatives has been quite cowardly. Cutting people off from the Bruderhof when they raise questions or concerns about abuse of power or the direction of the leadership, is cowardly. Cutting off people's e-mail access rather than answering specific questions or well-founded allegations is cowardly. Hiding behind a book rather than "putting your money where your mouth is," is cowardly. Having a "front man" answer a letter written in order to seek clarity on a request for "forgiveness," rather than answering for one's self, is cowardice. Asking people to keep discussions "private" when the issues are quite global, lacks courage.
Lying to the membership, stirring people's emotions against "enemies who are out to destroy us," twisting facts, keeping secrets and carrying out covert activities are all cowardly. They are also against what the Bruderhof claims to represent. I have heard the Elder say that sin likes to work in the dark and must be exposed. He, and other ministers can be, and have been , ruthless when it comes to exposing other people's sins. To practice a double standard is cowardly.
If clarity is to come to the present distorted and painful situation, it will take courage on many people's part. It will take courage to speak the truth. It will take courage on the part of the Elder and others in leadership positions to look at the facts, admit that things have gone far off course, acknowledge the pain that has been caused to so many, both inside and outside the Bruderhof. It will take courage to admit that power has been abused, that power has corrupted. More than once, while growing up in the Bruderhof, I heard Brotherhood members say something along the lines, "The Arnolds are given a special gift. The admiration and position they hold does not go to their heads."
No human, not Christoph Arnold, not Heini, not Eberhard, not me, no one is immune from the corruption that power can bring. To think that one is above corruption is corruption in itself.
The courageous thing would be for the Bruderhof leadership, including the Elder, to meet face-to-face with "KITfolk," in a spirit of humility on both sides, to begin the process of healing. If the leading of God is truly and humbly sought, and the example of Christ's life is followed, something worthwhile could be achieved.
I understand that the Bruderhof has gotten itself into a bind: they have turned to earthly courts for "help." They have sued and fear they will be sued in return. "They who live by the suit may perish by the suit."
What the Bruderhof would find I think, however, is that KITfolk are an honest, honorable, forgiving lot -- if they are treated honestly, justly and fairly.
They are also seasoned to the distortion they have experienced, however, and will not be easily fooled.
The cowardly thing would be to continue to play games, try to "divide and conquer," dance around the issues, lie, bear false witness and continue to fan the flames of hatred against "KIT."
Life is too short and precious to waste more time. Let's work together.
[This ends the alt.support.bruderhof selections]
by Wendy (Alexander) Dorsey
These thoughts were written in my journal on retreat recently. Although I agree, Ramon, that forgiveness can be a "spontaneous feeling" response to another's true contrition, I believe it's bigger than that. As another respondent said, "forgiveness is a decision," a stance taken regardless of the other's contrition or lack of it. It comes from a belief that no one, not I or the other, knows all... and from the human imperative to let go of that which rancors and rusts in the soul and causes all kinds of trouble in body, mind and emotion.
I don't believe in the old advice to "forgive and forget" -- which means to me, "turn a blind eye toward evil." Rather, forgiveness is a decision to not let the evil corrode my relationship with God or humankind. The specific other (who has done the wrong) must also reach out if there is to be a relationship between me and the other, but my forgiveness does not need to depend on this action by the other. Only actual reconciliation between the one wronged and the perpetuator is dependent upon both parties reaching out.
When I met with my parents a year and a half ago, and in other times past, they always wanted me to admit that I harbored anger at them (and/or the Bruderhof) for past wrongs. That was their way of trying to explain current difficulties or differences in how we saw things. They have a fundamental belief that if I just "gave up my anger" we would all see eye to eye and there would be no conflict. I always tried to get them to see that I held no anger, no bitterness toward them. I do have differences with some of the beliefs and practices of the Bruderhof. I do think it's wrong of them to forbid visits from relatives and to coerce people into one way of thinking. I guess all this is to say, that I believe I can be "forgiving" in a general sense of "they know not what they do" and free myself from the bondage of bitterness... but still "speak truth to power" in clear and certain terms. I think our witness will be the most effective if we speak our truth without rancor or bitterness -- not because we want to "get" the power holders in the Bruderhof, but because we care passionately about truth and justice, that victims will find compassion in us and a voice which speaks for them and wants to right the wrongs of past and present. We must speak knowing that in the end truth and justice will prevail. We must speak not having all the truth, but only seeing partial truths, "through a glass darkly."
More power to those both in and out of the Bruderhof who dare to speak the truth as they know it. And more power to KIT and editors who are determined to print "all the truth that's fit to print" (Just kidding! I know some of your stuff is pure nonsense -- but hey! -- we all need a good laugh once in awhile in our pursuit of Truth and Righteousness!)
More on reconciliation: for reconciliation to take place, both parties must want it and must be able to put themselves in the other's shoes -- i.e. to want to fully understand and respond to (though not necessarily to agree with) the other's point of view. This means, I think, that both parties must be willing to give up something of their own righteousness -- i.e. to be willing to be "less right," perhaps, about some things. I don't believe the Bruderhof is anywhere near this point of view. Reconciliation on their terms, I guess, would mean the other side coming round fully to their point of view. I would hope that some of us in KIT, on the other hand, would be able to give a little on our views of how things are -- at least to the point of being able to listen objectively.
On another note: the current elation over Christoph's recent overtures reminds me of the typical ups and downs of emotional religious life in the Bruderhof and also of the "on again, off again" nature of my relationship with my family throughout the past 25 some odd years (always at their bidding). I am very wary of any magnanimous overtures from the Bruderhof. They prove most often to be fleeting, often manipulative and possibly even sinister -- disappearing (or even backfiring) when one takes them seriously. It's another way of jerking people around and keeping them hostage to the whims of the Bruderhof leadership -- another way of keeping the power in their hands by manipulating the peons. You (and they) may call me cynical, but I speak from bitter and long experience. Anyone who knows me well calls me a hopelessly naive and unrealistic optimist (even at 51 years of age). But even my optimism wears thin in dealing with the Bruderhof -- they have been so relentlessly consistent in their inconsistency over the last 44 years of my lifetime! (Remember, "be innocent as doves and wise as serpents"?) (Later, after a walk in the rain.)
On individual versus institutional forgiveness: I need to go back a step to individual versus institutional responsibility/guilt for wrongs committed. Many in KIT have divided the "common people" from the "leadership" of the Bruderhof. I think there is a danger here. Many atrocities, historically, have been carried out by the lower echelon "just following orders" given by the leader. Even more have been allowed to go on with the "common people" turning their faces away from hints of disaster. How many German citizens smelled burning flesh and noted the trains going to ...where? -- but did not question what was happening? How many American citizens ignored the fact that a huge boat of fleeing Jews was turned away from our shores and later all went to their deaths?
Each of us is responsible for addressing even dimly perceived injustices, for searching our consciences and responding with compassion to the victims of injustice. I hold my parents and family members responsible for not allowing me contact with them. Yes, they are in the sway of a coercive power that they do not understand fully, but they are choosing that at some level.
Perhaps they are not as fully responsible for their choices as the leaders at the top, but I believe every human being has a right and responsibility to choose, to exercise the God-given fundamental freedom of choice and conscience. That is an inalienable right which comes with an inalienable responsibility. We cannot totally give up our freedom to choose without becoming less than human, even evil. I think every adult person in the Bruderhof supposedly chose that life at some point, at some level in their life. Therefore, every person who is a member is responsible for the fruits of the life.
Any group we are a part of is part of us, too. If we claim membership, we claim responsibility. Part of the responsibility is to question. If we don't, then we are guilty of the atrocities, the evil that group produces. As a country, the U.S. is responsible and guilty for the institution of slavery. As individual members of the society, we are also responsible and guilty. As individual citizens of the U.S., we have a responsibility to choose to eradicate racism, the effects of slavery- or we are fully as guilty as our ancestors for perpetuating evil.
I agree that you can't forgive an institution, nor can an institution forgive (although perhaps a spokesperson or person in leadership can speak for an institution's guilt/responsibility and need to change). But as members of institutions, we must be able to see both the positive and negative fruits of our efforts and reach out to those our institution or system has wronged. No institution can itself take the guilt for the individuals who perpetuate it. (Although I do believe that those who exercise power over others must take a greater share of the blame than those who are the manipulated.)
The problem with the Bruderhof is that it continually seeks to reconcile with individuals without seeing the institutional wrongs being perpetrated. Reconciling with individuals is all well and good for them, if both individuals feel the air has been cleared and there is not ill will between them. But individualized forgiveness and reconciliation do not necessarily lead to institutional repentance and change. If individuals are focused on as the "cause" for evil, then simply getting rid of the "goat" or coercing the individual into conformity will solve the problem of evil for the institution -- and nothing in the structure of authority, power and manipulation needs to change.
I believe that KIT is particularly threatening to the Bruderhof because individuals in KIT are not content with individual apologies. We want change in some of the structures and real dialogue about issues, and that's frightening. We are in some way demanding institutional admission of guilt, responsibility -- and ultimately repentance and change. This is a tall order and not easily obtained. I think we need to recognize this. Recently, the Catholic church finally acknowledged publicly that Galileo was wrongly accused of blasphemy because he maintained that the sun did not circle the earth! Institutional change can happen, but usually very slowly. This doesn't, of course, mean we should be more patient or less vocal. 0nly that we realize the enormity of our desires and demands.
More power to those who persist in voicing the call to repentance. More power to those who persist in raising the consciousness of Bruderhofers and KITfolk alike. Let us listen to one another, examine our collective and individual consciences, and continue to pursue truth and justice for all.
This is a problem that we have to deal with. I personally realize that the Servants feel they do not remember what they have done to others, and how they have hurt them, but children and adults who have been hurt do remember, and remember well. Now if a Servant, even when prompted, does not remember, what happens to the apology and what happens to forgiveness? This is a rather difficult question which is not easily solved. Sometimes a Servant will say, "If I have hurt you, I apologize." What does one do with that kind of an apology?
The only thing I was able to tell the young person who came to me with the above-mentioned question/problem was the following: "Can you in your heart forgive what the Servant has done to you personally? If so, can you then, on the basis of forgiveness, talk to the Servant and tell him about your hurt, and hope that you can appeal to him in such a way that he would be able to respond in a positive way? I think it is hard to be able to do that. However I have no other solution."
After having read parts of the book Seventy Times Seven, I feel that the Commune should be more open to talk about previous inflicted hurts. Are they willing to do that? Maybe if there is an openness to talk, then maybe the great wall could possibly come down/fall down!
Life is very short. Could we not come to a peaceful solution? Why do loved ones have to be separated from one another just because there are differences between ex-people and the leaders of the Commune? I would like to hear what people in the Commune think about all this. Or is that perhaps asking too much? Or would JCA be willing to answer this question and offer a solution? 2/18/98: Young Christoph Andreas apologizes to Ramon for the indecent "Eyebrows" letter, but we hear that Servants and Witness Brothers chuckled and slapped their knees when this letter was read to them. Then do not they too have to apologize? What kind of apology is that? Also, should that young Christoph Andreas not also apologize for some very indecent messages left on answering machines" One of those answering machines happened to be Ramon's. What kind of role model does a young man in the Commune have if he is permitted to write indecent letters and leave indecent messages on answering machines? I personally feel it is outrageous! How can we ever respect each other if such things are allowed?
I have always felt that it is of vital importance to bring up young people to be decent, respectful individuals. Was that not also the aim of the Commune? I do believe that if a child used a swear word, he/she was severely taken to task and put in Ausschluss. Now the leaders are condoning indecent language and swear words! I believe that we, as parents, have a lot to answer for if children are permitted to use bad language and write indecent stuff and leave indecent messages! The Commune must have changed radically if such things are promoted!
I would like to know why Chris Winter and Dan Moody were mentioned in connection with the lawsuits in the Christmas card that Arnold wrote to Ramon and the other KITfolk. Were they rather suddenly included in the list of the KIT defendants? Or was Arnold asking for their forgiveness? Many things are rather puzzling, and I would like some clarification. A lot has been said about forgiveness. Arnold seems very open to forgive people who have no connections with the Commune, but when it comes closer to home, it is not quite so easy! Should Arnold not be asking for forgiveness from the ex-folk?
I seem to remember having read something from a letter Arnold wrote in which he states, "We would be doing ex-members a disservice to apologize to them." I wonder why it would be a disservice. Should an apology not lead to a solution of problems?
If I had an impasse with my students, where they would block my attempts to teach something from a given curriculum subject matter, I would give them the free choice of coming up with alternatives. What they did not realise was that I would steer them in the direction of the subject-matter which had to be tackled at the end of the day by seemingly letting them go off at a tangent. This usually worked quite well and only later, when I pointed out to them du he requirements of the course, would they realise that they had been, manipulated. I wonder if JCA is being given advise on matters of control, since I don't think that he, by mere chance, hits the right button and gets the required results. The control he exerts over the adult population of the SoB is, in my view, achieved through fear. Fear is instilled in each and everyone of them, by using group-speak and group pressure to stamp on deviant behaviour, which might surface by individuals actually letting their conscience urge them to raise questions and anxieties they might have concerning the direction the group is going. Or, even worse, to question what one of the power-brokers is doing. If everything is swallowed, hook, line and sinker, then the critical faculties will gradually die away or be numbed. If this happens, and it seems to have, then you will have a compliant mass which can be moulded in any way the person in charge may wish, knowing that there will be no legitimate checks and no need to account for actions taken in the name of 'the brotherhood', literally getting away with murder.
It seems that Christoph is trying the tactic of isolate and divide, by trying to become chummy with individuals who until recently were his enemies. But, probably, this is better than stone-walling, which I experience at the moment. I also find it very interesting, yes even funny, that JCA will not free you of your novice vows. First of all: the vows are given as a novice to give the individual the chance to find out more about the lifelong commitment which will be required when making those vows at baptism, from which there is no turning back. In my experience a novice never was held to his promises after leaving The reason for me to state that I find this intransigence on Christoph's part funny is the following.
I have recently heard, from a very reliable source, what Heini broadcast on my baptism in his divinely unctuous way. His judgement on my baptism was that it was null and void, since I had come that it was Gwynn Evans who baptised me. Heini never wrote to me explaining to me, why he did not hold me to my baptismal vows and why he thought that they were not valid. At any rate the whole idea that he had the key to loose and to bind; to enter into the ledger of life or to strike a name out of the ledger of life, is preposterous. He actually believed that he had that authority of what he bound here on earth would be bound in heaven and visa versa. I had always wondered why my baptismal vows were not put to me as a challenge to come back into the fold.
My parents re-joined the Baptists in Hamburg, Germany, after their expulsion from the SoB and Heini told the brotherhood, that they had gone back into the shallow and make-belief hypocritical church and that they were acting pietisitically. The attack on my parents was probably due to the fact that my mother wrote Heini numerous letters, challenging him to return to an honest open-hearted belief in the Bible and the values of true discipleship and Christian values. Needless to say, he never ever wrote a letter to my mother. But enough on that score.
My birthday falls on Valentine's day, so I invariably receive some Valentine's cards. This year I attained the grand age of six decades. I had nothing special, or otherwise, planned, when Phil, my brother Hartmuth's eldest son and my nephew, rang me up to ask if I would like to have dinner with him on Sunday, since all the restaurants which we would normally frequent, were booked out on the fourteenth. Since we had been inviting each other for the two previous years, his birthday being three weeks earlier than mine, I accepted the invitation at face value. He and his fiance then collected me on Sunday afternoon at one thirty. When I commented that they were early, he said that they managed to get away from the service rather sharpish, but that I would have to rush, since they had booked a table for two o'clock. As we were driving away from home I asked where was the restaurant. He informed me, that I should be blindfolded. We ended up in Eton, where the most expensive and exclusive boys boarding school in England is, where you have to register your son, if you are one of the upper-crust, before he is even born, to stand a chance to get him in. Well, I might hasten to add, Phil was not planning to enroll me, but to dine out with me and his fiancee.
Windsor is notoriously bad for parking, so he dropped me and Joy off at the restaurant. We went inside and were greeted by my Portuguese neighbour, who works in that restaurant. Joy said that a table had been booked for Kluver and that Phil was just parking the car. Well. We ordered drinks and waited and waited.
All of a sudden the door of the restaurant burst open. I could not believe my eyes. Into the foyer streamed my sister Reinhild, her husband David, their two daughters Gwynneth and Christina, my brother Hartmuth and his wife Jean (coming all the way from Bournemouth) and Phil. There was a very loud and hearty welcome, with hugs and laughter, which made the other customers turn around to check what on earth was going on here. After the greetings and handing over of various presents, we were shown to our table. This restaurant is at the end of the bridge which spans the Thames connecting Eaton to Windsor and alongside the river. We had one of the best tables at windows overlooking the Thames with Windsor castle as a back-drop. The beauty in it all was that it also was a marvellous day, with sunshine and no wind. The temperature outside was nearly sixteen degrees Celsius. Swans and Canada geese were serenely floating up and down the river near the bridge, waiting for someone to throw down a piece of bread or something else edible.
The food was absolutely gorgeous and plentiful, where we were even given second helpings, all inclusive in the Sunday-special menu. We really enjoyed the meal and each other and spent from two fifteen to five o'clock PM, tackling the five course meal. Afterwards we went for a stroll over the bridge and into Win the cars, which were parked a fair distance away on a country lane. So I celebrated my sixty first birthday, not year, in a most memorable way. I am ever so thankful that I have so many friends and family close by, or further away, who have no constraints put on them by third parties blocking their accessibility. Those who could not come rang me up and I was informed that I would have to stay clear of the Internet, so people could get through to me, which I managed to do, with difficulty, but in the expectation of receiving an interesting call. I always read what is posted, but quite often find that others have already said what I wanted to say. Sometimes I think it might be a good idea if people were to say what connection they have with the SoB, whether through marriage, or from what family. But then, I presume, you all have already done this. Gradually I find out who is who, but only by reference to someone responding to what is being posted. Well. This is all for today. Greetings to all and keep the interesting discussion going. 2/12/98: Dear Ramon, the following is a photocopy of a letter written by the SoB to Mike Caine's MP [not printed in this issue] who wrote on Mike's behalf to the SoB. The main complaint which Mike raised with his MP (Member of Parliament) concerned the advantage he was taken of by the SoB, where Mike claims that he lost his formal education because of having to work, at a very early age, instead of being sent to school. He also claims traumatisation due to lack of a stable family relationship, where he was constantly shifted from pillar-to-post, of being called "a bastard" and being physically abused.
He would like you to print the letter to his MP to show what a lot of crooks they are and how the SoB manages to twist everything and keep everything written, etc., on file. You no doubt have had long and many talks with Mike, so you will be aware of his background and interpretation of events. He has a story to tell and is doing his utmost to be heard. "Threat to life and limb," as claimed in the SoB letter of the 9th of December 1997, is a lie. As far as I understood, Mike he wrote them saying that if they did not respond to his demands then there were other ways of getting their attention.
In my mind there is no doubt that the power-brokers are cooking a new brew and are biding their time, for the moment, by contacting individuals, but only on their conditions. Nothing has changed, which has become quite evident in the way they still tell lies and block normal communication with ordinary members.
Incidentally, do you know who Kim Comer is, who signed the Bruderhof letter? That letter is written by a skilled lawyer, the way I see it -- that rubbish with which they try to explain away their responsibility with "we are painfully aware of Mr. Caine's history and his numerous complaints about the Bruderhof and his childhood," etc., etc., is so self-evident. My contention is that if they are so 'painfully aware,' then why have they done nothing to alleviate the situation and really tried to make amends with Mike? Well, I leave it up to you. Take care. Greetings,
In the context of a discussion about taking (individual/corporate) ownership for past misdeeds, a brother writes that when we ask "why is it like this, or why is it like that," there appears to be a hidden motive and even an accusation in the question. A better way of looking at it, according to this brother, is to ask "what for?". He concludes that when asked in this manner, the (logical) answer is "so that I can love more, help more, have greater compassion and forgiveness, and take more care". (Note: in my mind he is saying all the right things while ignoring the one crucial one, namely that of taking ownership for wrong-doing). He then illustrates his point by using the Holocaust as an example. " Why did (it) happen? If I ask like that, I will end up with all kinds of accusations, even if they are facts, against all kinds of people. But it does not lead to anything in the sense of healing what was wrong (italics mine. Note: CD and JK have expressed similar thoughts re a mediated settlement with KIT folk). The brother concludes that the Holocaust happened to show us "how bad I and we can get as we have feelings, then anger, then hate which Jesus says leads to murder.." For him the Holocaust happened to point him to the need for change. "The past is a strange thing. We cannot change it, we could wish it would not have happened, but when we dwell on it, we can only do so when it helps (us) to change. When I ask "for what," it urges me on to do something to improve or even start anew".
I'd like to hear what others might have to say. For me, one of the most helpful, humbling, hopeful experiences is that of hearing another acknowledge past wrong-doing and seeking forgiveness. How much better off the KIT/B'hof relationship would be if the Brotherhood could do that, rather than constantly working at "damage control." To my thinking, anyone who wishes to enhance his/her credibility ought to be ready to acknowledge misdeeds. This is where words of Jesus hold so much power and potential, and where the human heart is overwhelmingly receptive to healing. As past misdeeds are acknowledged, our "whys" can be quieted and we find ourselves in a better position to ask "what for." With love to all,
We crashed through the dense undergrowth going in an easterly direction. On and on went the chase after that elusive troupe, the sound of the howler giving us the direction, but we did not seem to come any nearer to them. We crossed the wagon trail, which connected Ibate and Loma, but still we did not seem to be any closer. That we would be late for school did not enter our minds; all our endeavour was directed towards getting a glimpse of those howlers.
Finally we spotted them on a huge curupay, and sure enough, there was the male, blowing out his throat under his chin like a balloon, sitting on his paunches on a big branch, with about four females in the same tree, some of which carrying babies on their backs. We kept a very low profile and watched them with fascination for quite a time. These animals can sense when the weather will change and the male would then make these incredible sounds, which could be heard for miles. We used to use these signs of the howlers as a sure prediction, that it would rain, or a thunderstorm would erupt within a few hours and they were, in that sense, our free-roaming barometers .
We were very late when we finally remembered that we were supposed to be at school, learning some dreadfully boring and mundane facts. Fritz Freiburghaus was our teacher, so when Konrad and myself arrived, he kept us in during the next brake and wanted an explanation from us as to why we had been nearly an hour late for class. We told him of our chase through the jungle and eventual encounter with the howler monkeys. He listened intently and then made known to us his decision as to what our 'punishment' should be. He first made sure that we understood that we had broken a rule, namely not to go off into the jungle, off the beaten track, without letting someone else know, in case we should get lost. Then he reprimanded us for being irresponsible but then, with a twinkle in his eye, he told us to find out as much as we could about the howlers, their habits, diet, life expectancy and if they were territorial.
Boy, were we glad, that nothing worse was to happen! But this relief was short-lived when we began our research, because there was very little data on these creatures and neither the Loma school library nor the communal one in Ibate had much information about our subjects. After a week we had to submit our findings to Fritz, who let us off with the little we had found, telling us that we had got off lightly, but that we had, in his opinion, given him a valid reason for being late to school that day.
At the center of the paltry controversy that transported me to the unemployment office was an attitude of confrontation. I was confronted with an "either this or that" choice, and my attitude charged that the "challenge" instituted a no-win situation for me. I do believe that beyond that choice there resided nothing but the attitude of confrontation. I could always be made to vacate my place of awaiting the "challenge" to find a lesser place in the hofnick mind... "Our Unity" must be the goal of the servant of challenges to task. To make a choice with no way the challenged individual can win -- controversy leaves no unity. My squirming amuses the silly bastards. How can I think the Servants and unite with them for decreasing me so efficiently? Thanks for making me so uncomfortable. To say it is a service for Jesus to stress me out -- how can I be glad?
You see, my opinions in this newsletter get more defensive and therefore of less import in the hof challenge to unite. What irony in the stretched-out hands (where their circle is open, you know) "to you all (all at KIT)" could be made more spankingly plain in Arnold's very next totally sarcastic sentence? That is no tiding of good will. I hear nothing of joy in that -- where is the Truth for true unity?
So I'm a plain person and their complicated unity leaves me less than a novice. I'm even restricted from working for a proletarian supper. It is of none effect to write more elegantly. There is no course to study to combat such "love" for my soul. Without "choosing" to join their closed mind meetings, there is in that one mind no helping them. If they can somehow make time for some of the excommunicated ex-members to try recommunicating reconciliation, give them rules.
Anyone using an accusatory second or third person statement must leave at that time the place of meeting, and no one can follow into such self-exclusion. Try to keep comments in first person beliefs and/or feelings; Without expecting or requiring any sort of unified close, absolutes cannot achieve any sense: The "I always..." and "I never..." phrases produce chaos that invites the restrictive nonsense. Certain declarations leave one open to affronts that one cannot confront without both being left at a loss. Find a non-controversial mediator -- as if children need a daycare worker. With regards,
3/22/98: Dear Nameless ['Name Witheld' from March KIT, p 4], "Sweet Joy" I call you. Your age of fifteen is very young to be so resolved about your sexual identity. Slow down. A vow to abstain from sex until marriage is good enough, but if you "want to get to know the opposite," your resolve is married to an impossible definition already. You will find greater joy in common values with others. This will tend to help sort out the feelings of being "pulled between what I think is right and trying not to offend."
1) Homosexuality: your prenuptial vow implies hetersex, I presume. That is, when "getting caught" becomes a female hang-up, quite a catch for the horns of the male dilemma. You will have more than enough time with your own rules. Since Jesus befriended a woman who had been boldly promiscuous, how can churches shut anyone out? Sexual activity often is its own worst enemy.
2) Head coverings for women: there are cultural definitions that run far deeper than any good or new idea. You are somewhat traumatized by cultural shock. The main idea is to indicate your submission to your parents, and so to your possible future spouse. Wait until you're at least eighteen to start discussing "that idea" of dependency. It would be best to keep your name out of KIT until then also.
3. Dating: experience in "all sorts of scurrilous stuff" is certainly self-destructive. Don't be so quick to judge the changing values of adolescents. Some may be checking how you suck up their exaggerated stories. It's all well and fine to believe you have absolute values; you must encourage others to believe in values of their own, or freedom is of now value. Remember "when some Kadima guy or girl got up and confessed..."
Please, Brother Witless, help me out here. I'm at my wit's end! I don't even want the latest hofkadet jargon translated!
by Wendy (Alexander) Dorsey
O ye, behind shuttered windows of the mind
Behind prison bars of the soul
In deep dungeons of the spirit
I call your name
And there is no answer
I cry "danger!"
And you turn your head
not wanting to know.
I sing of love
You reply, "We do not know you, The Enemy."
I begin to build bridges;
You burn them
when we are halfway across.
"There is no negotiating
with the Enemy!"
I go out on a limb;
you cut it off.
"We will have nothing to do
with The Enemy."
I knock on your door with hope;
You close the door
In my face.
"There is no hospitality
for The Enemy."
I say, What happened
to loving your enemy?
to turning the other cheek?
to peaceful conflict resolution?"
I am at a loss
for words of hope,
For deeds of reconciliation,
For tools to open a way
Out of dark tunnels
and vast dungeons.
"There is no light at the end of the tunnel," I cry...
"we all have tunnel vision ....
due to lack of vision,
the light at the end of the
tunnel has been temporarily turned off!"
(Will it be permanently disconnected?)
Come, O Lord
Save us from our lack of vision
from certain destruction
Rend the heavens
save us from ourselves
Bring the lost souls
out of the dungeons
Break the prison bars
Open the shuttered windows of minds and hearts
Let your fierce holy light
Pierce through our dark stagnant caverns
And show us an utterly new way.
Rend the heavens
And come down
Come, Redeemer of All!
by Mike Caine
I was a small boy, in the early part of 1945, who had just run away from Kindergarten in Isla Margarita. My teacher was Gertrud Wegner, an easygoing, friendly person whom I had taken advantage of, thinking that I could find excitement somewhere else. And I did.
Animals had always fascinated me and my favourite place at that time was the cow stall, which was quite a distance away from the Hof. To get there, one had to pass what was known as the Coffee Wood. A little further along was the STICA, where Phillip Britts was working. STICA stands for: Servicio Technico Internacional Co-operacion Agricola, which was sponsored by the USA through a programme known as Point Five. Phillip was from Somerset, England. He had joined he Bruderhof, moved with them to Paraguay and was working for STICA, often away on investigative field trips, travelling extensively in Paraguay and also Brazil.
The rest of the world was still entangled in the Second World War, but here Paraguay was at peace, as Paraguay not long before had finished a most bloody war with Bolivia in the Chaco region, which covers the northern part of Argentina, the southwest of Paraguay and the southeast of Bolivia. The Bruderhof was living a life of peace in comparison with the rest of the world and, although very poor, we children were oblivious of any hardships the adults had to face only because we did not know any better.
At the STICA, Phillip was working amongst all his various plants, sowing trials of various types of grasses, some from East Africa, some from Hurley, England, and some from Aberythwyth, Wales. Phillip was an agronomist and with a profession like that, the work must have been very important and interesting as well, when thinking of grasses with names like, Pangola, Yaragua, Kikiyu, Sataria, Rhodes-grass, Elephant-grass, Paspulum-Mochassi, Jesuit-grass, Bermuda-grass, Colonial-grass. Grass was the most important plant species in the history of man. Many old trade routes that man followed were tracts of grass, since the herds which they had with them could graze as they went along. The silk route, the trails of different Indians in North America, las conquadistas of Cortez; why even the Vera Cruz, takes its name from the green grass. Alexander The Great, the Roman conquests, Richard the Lionheart on his crusades, all depended on grass more than anything else, just as did our survival in Paraguay.
Philip never said or did anything without a good reason. Soon he had me helping him with the artificial pollination of Rhodes-grass, which we children always called palm-grass because it grew like miniature palm trees. Originally it was developed by the British in East Africa from an English variety of grass called Timothy, but for Timothy-Pescue, Paraguay was much too hot a climate.
The sun was starting to go down, so we started busying ourselves with watering some small plants. The water had to be pulled up out of something like a well, a hole just in front of the STICA house that was four or five metres deep. The water was a murky yellow-grey-looking liquid. Into the water went palm trunks which acted as a kind of ladder, as this well was used by the men who worked on the land to take a bath and draw the water for the cattle to drink. Under one of these palm trunks we could see a peculiar kind of head with a beady amber eye staring at the world above, keeping absolutely still, without flinching.
Over the well there were two planks of wood on which Phillip stood to pull up the heavy containers of water. These containers were old twenty-litre latas, with the tops cut out of them, that once had held oil or some other item. Holes were punched near the top rim and wire passed through and fixed acting as a handle to make them into buckets,. In these early years in Paraguay, the Bruderhof was much too poor to pay for proper buckets. At my young age Phillip gave me the job of carrying one bucket half-filled and always made sure that I had something to do to keep me out of mischief. All this time, this head with its amber eye just stayed put as though it was something dead.
For a while we carried the water up to the various plants that needed it the most, because to water all of them by this method was impossible. Then, nothing at that time was achieved without a lot of effort, because the biggest obstacle the Bruderhof faced was its dire poverty, so that no materials -- water pipes and pumps -- could be bought to make life a little bit easier.
Returning once again to the well with our empty buckets we, especially I, had a big shock. Out of the well came this truly enormous snake, it's colour matching that of the palm trunks in the well. The snake completely ignored us, so we could just stand there and stare, as it moved ever so slow, but it posed no threat to us whatsoever. Most of us on the Bruderhof were conditioned to immediately kill any snake we met up with. Phillip, however, never liked killing anything because he had a tremendous fascination and respect for life. I was terrified, and clutched Phillip's hand as he stood absolutely still, with the snake passing by us about half a metre away. Phillip then knelt down to touch the snake as it moved past us, and encouraged me to do the same. He commented how beautiful its texture was, the feeling of the smooth, cool skin and the rippling movement of the muscles that held this tremendous crushing power, being a boa-constrictor. When we touched it, all the snake did was to turn its head and taste the air with its forked tongue.
The boa moved up to the STIKA house (or rather a big hut with closed rooms at either end and an open passage going through the middle, 'rancho' style), and went right through this open passage into a field of mandioca on the other side. We followed it, and all the time Phillip talked to me, making me aware of all sorts of things to look out for: how to estimate the boa's length by placing markers by the mandioca plants that were planted one meter apart. In this way we would be able to determine how long the boa was.
Eventually the snake decided to go to the Coffee Wood, which provided a dense undergrowth around its perimeter of Caracuata, a type of wild pineapple native to Paraguay. This huge snake simply disappeared into this mass of thorns without hurting itself. Philip kept on pointing these things out to me and explaining the beauty of nature. He was most sensitive in all his observations.
The most common snake at this time in Isla Margarita was a rattler known as the Western Diamondback, (Crotalus-Scutulatus). About eighty percent of snakes killed were rattlers, but the snake out of the well was a boa. Paraguay has one of the largest varieties of boas in the world and they are amazingly similar to pythons, the big difference being that pythons lay eggs and boas give birth to their young. As far as I know, there are over forty different kinds of boas in the world.
After the snake had disappeared, we went to the house and found a length of rope and bits of string to measure how long the snake was by using the various marker points we had made by the Mandioca field and it turned out to be over five and a half metres, possibly six. Its colour was a pale grey with black markings, but nothing as pretty as those of a rattler. After so much excitement we had to return to the plants that needed watering. Some men had come to the well for their bath and Phillip told them about the snake, where it had been and where it went, so they were having their doubts about going into the well. To show them that there was no danger Philip went down and also told me to do the same.
By now it was getting dark so, after the cooling off in the well, the men helped us water the rest of the plants. In the tropics it gets dark very quickly once the sun has gone down, and by the time we started to walk home to the village, some of the stars had become visible. Soon we heard the steam engine and saw some of the lights in the houses. I was completely worn out and to this day I can't remember going to bed or having supper. All that hard work and the excitement with the snake had completely worn me out.
by Hans Zimmermann, 11/97
It was 1960 and I was working for Manuel Fereira on a large cattle ranch, 'Loma Linda' in the southeastern part of Paraguay, near the town of Yegros. The ranch was situated in the middle of a vast open expanse of grassland. As far as the eye could see, nothing but grass, except when looking north where one could see the mountains of Caaguazu breaking up the otherwise monotonous horizon. On this ranch we were breeding purebred Zebu Nelore, a strain of Brahman cattle, beautiful large white animals. My main function was to keep the records on the cows and their calves, which were tagged and numbered (tattooed) on the inside of their lips. The respective sire was also recorded.
Our leading bull was The Grand Hercules, who was bought at an auction in Brazil at which Manuel Fereira outbid the Kleebergs of the famous King Ranch in Texas, USA. Manuel Fereira was considered to be the richest man in Paraguay and besides owning several ranches, he was also the representative for General Electric in Paraguay, importing all their appliances in addition to being involved with the export of various other commodities. By now Hercules, once a beautiful and imposing specimen, was mostly skin and bones and only a shadow of his youth. However, he still moved in a dignified and imposing manner, considering he was already more than 17 years old. To keep him going and breeding, he was brought into his stall every evening, where we fed him special food and I had to inject him with a large dose of vitamins intramuscularly every second day. Even at this ripe old age he still could sire beautiful calves. In addition to keeping track of the purebred herd, I was in charge of all the innoculations of the beef and breeding cattle which needed shots against anthrax, brucelosis and aftosa (foot and mouth disease).
For the first 5 to 6 months the work was interesting and we had plenty of excitement. However, I wasn't learning anything new. There was no one on the ranch who could teach me new things or how to do things better or differently. The majordomo was nice, but old and not up-to-speed on modern cattle breeding. The son of the owner came for only short and infrequent visits, the old man not at all. It was nothing like the Estancia Gallileo in the Chaco where I spent about 18 months. There the old man, Enrique Zabala, was still actively involved and spent weeks at a time on the estancia. Two of the owners' sons were actively involved, one a veterinarian, educated in Argentina and the other a graduate of Texas A&M, who also spent 6 months working on King Ranch, Texas, with the Kleebergs. These fellows were personable, very knowledgeable and, did not mind me picking their brains. With this stimulus lacking on Manuel Fereira's ranch, it became just a job. Also, the number of people employed on the ranch in the Chaco was close to 50, plus their immediate families, which created the possibilities for many social activities.
Estancia Galileo was probably one of the best equipped in the country, with an impressive array of buildings and large sheds for agricultural implements and the sheltering of the cattle plus a modern laboratory, extensive corrals with covered shoots and scales to weigh the animals on a weekly basis. Besides the owner's mansion, there were separate living quarters for the majordomo, two separate buildings for the cowhands and another building with several living quarters with the latest plumbing for the occasional guests. There were many shade trees and a citrus orchard and to add color, a flock of about 30 peacocks, who at times made an awful racket. However, at the ranch Loma Linda, there were no more than 15 people, all cowboys, and two female cooks. The facility at best was underutilized and very little in the form of social activity took place. On weekends the place was deserted. For excitement we would ride two and three-year-old bulls when we made the final selection as to which would be kept for breeding. The rejected ones would be castrated.
After roping them, they were castrated and the horns blunted. We then put a short braided leather rope (cabresto-i) around the neck, held that with one hand while with the other hand we grabbed the tail, stood over the animal, let it stand up and applied the spurs. Off went the bull snorting and bucking, twisting and turning until it saw the open gate and made a dash for the open campo. Most of the time one was thrown off before it found the open gate and the bull was likely to turn on you, this meant a mad scramble for the corral fence. If you managed to stay on until he found the open gate, then one could just jump off as the bull tried to make his getaway. We challenged each other to ride the bulls and the Paraguayans wanted to see me ride as well. I was most eager to do so and took my turn riding the bulls, being thrown off most of the time but getting better with each ride. On the evenings of those days, we would dine on 'Rocky Mountain Oysters.'
In my free time and on days off, I would visit a German community in the town of Yegros about 15 miles away, making new acquaintances and friends with young people my age, attending their dances which were a mixture of German and Paraguayan. Both German and Spanish music was played as most of these people were second generation but still spoke German fluently. It was a long ride, especially when returning alone late Sunday nights on horseback. They always wanted to know if I wasn't afraid of travelling alone in the dark. The locals had their share of superstitions learned from the Paraguayans: the ghosts of murdered people, the Luison (werewolf) and others, but I felt quite at ease riding through the beautiful Paraguayan nights. It was my impression that the Paraguayans had a special respect for those who dared to ride alone at night. They thought you had to be a little wild, "salvaje" as they liked to say. At other times I would go hunting around the ranch for duck, quail or swamp deer with a shotgun or rifle. both of which I had at my disposal. Once I had to shoot all the stray dogs that roamed the area because they had spread rabies. Three of our young bulls were bitten when one of the dogs got into the enclosed cattle pen and we lost the bulls.
Much of my free time and evenings I spent reading. My mother supplied me with a stack of books from the Primavera library. These I would pick up in Asuncion on my occasional visits to the Bruderhof house. These visits were always enjoyable as I was welcomed by all as one of them and not as an outcast. I joined in any and all activities that might be going on. I had left Primavera because after returning from the Chaco with the expectation of working with the cattle, they wanted to stick me in the sawmill or the vegetable garden, to which I objected. That was not the purpose of my stay on one of the most modern ranches in Paraguay. I was told, "If you don't like it and are that obsessed of pursuing your interests, you can do so somewhere else." It was under these circumstances that I had left Primavera, somewhat confused as to what was expected of me. So when I received a letter from my parents informing me that our whole family would be transferred to Germany, I did not know what to think. However, they did ask me to come and stay in Primavera until their departure.
I gave notice, packed my few belongings and hitched a ride on our jeep, which had to make a trip to the town of Caazapai. From there I took a VW combi to Asuncion. The road winds through some of the prettiest areas of the mountains of central Paraguay. Here the army had set up several roadblocks and our bus was searched twice and IDs (cedulas) had to be presented. I have no idea what or whom they were looking for, or if it was just an exercise. A short stopover in Villa Rica, the second largest city in Paraguay and from there to Asuncion. From Asuncion it was by river boat to Puerto Rosario. I cannot remember if it was the Aurora or the Guarani -- they were very similar. Coming or going, the trips were always at night and there was little to see and less to do on these small crowded buckets. One would strike a casual conversation with another passenger, Paraguayan, Mennonite or other German on the boat. After one or two Pilsner beers, drowsiness took over and the steady, muffled putt-putt-putt of the diesel motor and the light swaying of the boat rocked you to sleep, be it in a cabin or curled up on your luggage. In the morning, one hoped the truck from Primavera would be waiting on the high bank of Puerto Rosario. I was in luck -- the MAN truck was waiting to pick up some cargo from Asuncion. After loading we stopped at our house where Johannes Wirtz had coffee and breakfast ready. It always amazed me how cheerful that single old man was. We could not have a nicer and better guardian for our house in Puerto Rosario.
After being away from Primavera for over a year, a certain excitement overcame me and I eagerly awaited every turn in the road. I studied every tree and palm -- was it still the same? What had changed? I hated to see more and more of our forests cut down. Whom would I meet on my arrival, what would they say? Primavera was home. During my absence my family had been moved to Ibate from Loma Hoby. The hospital was going to be closed, Loma Hoby was being sold to the Mennonites, including most of the cattle on that part of our property. What was going on? I decided to grab a horse and ride to Ibate through the woods, because the truck first had to stop at Isla Margarita. In the middle of the wood, I scared up a turkey vulture, a telltale sign of a small dead animal. The common vulture did not bother with small animals when deep in the forest. I got off the horse to investigate and found one of my dogs shot dead, one, or at the most two days earlier. He was part of a litter that we had raised to train for work with cattle. When I left, they had been just one year old and started to go on the range with us.
Later I was told that apparently these young dogs had more of an interest in hunting and became a nuisance. Rather than herding cattle the dogs went after wild game such as wild pigs, agoutis, or deer, when passing through the woods and could not be controlled. This was unfortunate because I believe it was poor training, not disobedience. The other dog of the litter was given to a local Paraguayan who wanted him as a hunting dog. It was with great anticipation that I met my family again. What would my future be? Would I go with them to Germany or stay behind in Primavera?
It was my impression that my father would have preferred to stay in Primavera. He had grown very fond and attached to the life we had carved out of the jungle. He loved the wild nature and especially the forest, something he imparted to us kids at a very early age. I did not dare discuss this subject with him, knowing only too well that expressing one's own preferences was asking for trouble and would make it more difficult for him. It did not take long to find out that I was not going with my family. Two of my older sisters, Mathilde and Emmy, were staying in Primavera, with only my six younger siblings going to Germany. My brother Kurt was in Brazil and no plans had been made for him. I was told, "You may stay in Primavera for a while and see if you can adjust to community life."
By now I had become used to the fact that one's immediate family was secondary to the wishes of the Bruderschaft, or the powers-that-be. Separating family members occurred at the whim of the servants of the word. I resigned myself to staying in Primavera. After all, I could not visualize myself being in Germany and, do what? give up my freedom? Roger Allain was in charge of assigning work duties. Having just returned from Uruguay he was on a kick to just speak Spanish with everyone, which was fine with me. He put me in charge of the horse stable i.e. all the draught horses, of which we had five teams and a few extras, to go with the five wagons.
Many of you might still remember the father son combination of Stripe and Prince a creation of Albert Wohlfahrt in Loma Hoby, (Prince being the son of the beautiful mare, Reina). This was my lead team. I had worked with Albert for ten months in Loma Hoby, after graduating from our school. Among the horses in Ibate was a six-year-old mare, a carimbo quatro, i.e. she was branded with the number 4 on the left cheek. Her name was "Mercedes." In Primavera we tried to breed our own horses, with a small herd of wild mares roaming our open campos and a succession of stallions, which were changed about every 5 years to keep new blood coming in and to improve our stock. The year the foal was born was branded on the cheek, this way we could tell their age and also had a good idea of who the sire was.
Our first stallion was mostly Arabian and his offspring proved to be rather small and light. We needed taller and stronger horses to work with the cattle and wagons. He was retired and replaced with a dark alazan (sorrel). The last group of foals from the alazan where the carimbo 3 and 4 of which we had close to twenty, coming in various colors; sorrels, brown, tordillos (whitish with small dark spots) and rosillos (slightly reddish blue with dark spots). The spots were more like freckles and covered the whole body. The offspring of the alazan although not much stronger or taller than those of the first stallion, were more spirited. So he was replaced with another stallion, again half Arabian but with a much stronger build. His offspring proved to be taller and stronger and a great improvement. But we kept him for only two years after which he was replaced with a big heavy percheron stallion which we bought from the Mennonites. His offspring finally were developing into what we had been looking for.
In Primavera we only started to break in horses for riding, or for wagons, after they attained four or five years of age. Growing up wild on the range took longer for the horses to mature. So all of the carimbo 4's were broken in during my 2 years absence from Primavera. Some of these turned out to be good horses, others proved to be high spirited and very difficult to train. The mare Mercedes fell in that category. When I inquired with which other horse Mercedes was teamed up, the answer was with none, she is useless and has never been broken in. Mercedes was a rosilla and it appears that most horses of this color tend to be high-spirited and difficult to train. She was of medium height, some what delicate, really too light to make a good draught horse, however, well proportioned and in my opinion more suited for riding than pulling a heavy wagon. No one could give me a good explanation as to what her problems were, except that she just would not move once harnessed up. All of this seemed rather strange and I had no idea as to what had happened in the past and how the horse had been treated. My idea, give it another try and find out.
Mercedes was a nervous and scared 'Nellie.' To begin with, it was difficult to put a halter over her head. When in the corral she would always turn her back side to you and was only too eager to kick with her hind legs. When you got past that, she quickly slipped away and the dance was repeated. All wild horses and many so-called tame ones, employ that same method to avoid being haltered. As there were a few other horses in the group which did the same thing I resorted to a method we used in the Chaco where we lined up the horses against the corral fence or, if on the open range, the horses had to line up against a lasso drawn up between to riders. On the command "forme"! the horses had to line up with their backs against the corral fence or, the lasso. The horses now pushed close together facing you, so close that they could not turn around when you walked up to them to put on the halter. Any horse which lined up turning the back side to you got lashed over the hind legs with a bull whip until it turned around facing you.
The animals learned very quickly and it was an easy and quick method to pick the horse you wanted, especially when you had more than a dozen men selecting their animal. No one moved out of the formation until everyone had his horse haltered. Mercedes learned as fast as all the other horses, being whipped over her hind legs didn't seem to be her idea of fun. But this was just the first step, throwing the cabresto-i over her neck, then trying to slip the halter over her head was another charade. She whipped her ears back and forward, moving her head up and down, side to side, ducking and weaving. When the halter was finally fitted she virtually froze in position, only her eyes darting nervous glances in all directions, ears still moving, her whole body started to tremble. I was getting an idea as to what might happen. She was used to feeding with the other horses so I first let her relax and eat a little corn, after that we would try and hitch her to a wagon.
I gingerly walked her over to the wagon with one of the Vigar boys. Another tame horse was already hitched to the wagon. We backed Mercedes into position, put a collar around her neck and then pulled the harness over her which she tried to avoid not by moving her feet but just twisting and moving her body, all the time trembling. Once hitched up, I jumped onto the wagon and drivers seat thinking she might make a run for it as soon as the person holding her by the halter would let go. No such thing happened, she just stood there. When I made the usual sounds to get a team of horses going and flicking the reins, the other horse started moving but Mercedes dug in her front feet and would not budge. So I gave her a little tap with the whip to get her moving. The response was quick and dramatic, she jumped straight up into the air and just threw herself to the ground where she stayed, refusing to get up. This was a rather unusual response for a horse and most puzzling to me. I removed part of the harness and coaxed Mercedes to stand up again. She just stood there, trembling, eyes and ears still moving fearfully.
We gave it another try, but the result was the same. I could not imagine or, figure out what was done to this horse if anything, to elicit this strange reaction. One thing was immediately clear to me, she could never be trusted and make a reliable draught horse, there would be no telling when she would pull a stunt like that again. With a horse like that it is not a question of if, just when and, how often. I led her back to the corral thinking maybe we could make a riding horse of her, and if that proved unworkable, she could be let out on to the range for breeding purposes.
One thing was clear, Mercedes needed more attention and, getting used to human touch on a daily basis. With five to ten minutes daily attention I might gain her confidence and rid her of this paralyzing fear she exhibited when being handled by a person. This meant I had to be extra early, as Roger Allain wanted everyone ready to roll by 7 A.M. Roger loved to work and was not afraid to get his hands dirty, he reveled in it. Doing something constructive was his idea of having fun. I had no problem with that and hoped his enthusiasm would be more contagious.
Breaking in a horse for riding or pulling a wagon is not everyone's business. Only a few seem to have the patience, talent, touch or understanding to achieve the maximum result from an animal to become a good riding or draught horse. This is true anywhere, not every Paraguayan cowboy had that talent, same could be observed among the Argentinean gauchos or among the US cowboys. In Argentina and parts of Paraguay were professional horsemen called "Domadori" who traveled from one estancia to another offering their services, breaking in and training young horses for work with cattle. This demanding task wasnit just left to anybody. I remember well Christoph Mathis lamenting the fact that we lacked good horsemen. Albert Wohlfahrt had this special touch for horses used on wagons. He loved his horses and the work he was doing. The results showed that. The same could be said when working with oxen, which we also used on our wagons in Loma Hoby. Walter Bennett was dedicated and capable, getting the best out of our ox teams for which he showed a lot of pride. One day he explained and, to the delight of Michael Caine, he said "wow!" as he looked at his oxen and, in German with his English accent, "Nicht dick aber schoene runde Baeusche" (not fat. but nice round bellies) giving a facial expression as if he had made a profound statement. It was something we loved to quote for many years.
Among those who broke in riding horses I can think of only two from the Bruderhof who could train a horse to perform at its best, without the animal having one or more irritating habits or performance deficiencies. One of the two was George Mercoucheff, he was the ultimate horseman. Not only could he train a new horse to perform at its best, he also could motivate an otherwise recalcitrant horse to do much more than the average rider could achieve. Working with cattle, speed and timing was what counted most. He took his time to train his horses, going step by step, not rushing and attempting to do things the animal was not yet ready to do. I remember the times in Loma Hoby, during the mid-fifties, when I spent many hours working together with him, training his horses.
The other person was Christoph Mathis with whom I worked for 2 years in the cattle department or, estancia as we used to call it. Christoph had the patience and the feel to train a good horse. He was able to get the maximum performance out of them. He was well known for training his horse "Petiso," a beautiful chestnut brown gelding with a long black mane and full tail. Petiso was a real show horse and by far the fastest horse in our stables. Soon every Paraguayan, from miles around wanted to buy this horse. They were so eager that they told Christoph, "If you won't sell the horse to us, we will steal it from you." Christoph's reply was, "You can't because at night he sleeps under my bed." He would proceed to show them how he made the horse lie down and stay put like an obedient dog. But it wasn't the tricks that impressed the Paraguayans, it was the speed of the horse. Their general assessment of gringos was that they were not good horsemen and would never be able to make a horse perform at its best. The Paraguayans loved to race their horses on weekends, one on one, down two straight hard dirt tracks about a quarter mile long. They honestly believed they could make a horse run faster then any of us gringos. Petiso was finally sold, but never reached the expectations the buyer had hoped for. He lost as may races as he won. As much as Christoph enjoyed training a horse, he said it was much too time consuming, he had to devote that extra time, which he either did not have or was not willing to commit any more, so he stopped breaking in horses. Intellectual pursuits were more important to him, so he was willing to leave the training of horses to other persons, myself included.
I loved to work with horses, take care of them and of course riding them. As of my 13th year I always had a horse in my special care, some of them work horses from the estancia which had become sick, had skin disease or needed other special attention. Those with skin disease needed to be rubbed with wild bitter oranges and get daily grooming in addition to receiving extra bran and corn mixture to fatten them up again. For this work I was allowed to ride them. There was nothing more thrilling to me than riding bare back on a healthy and spirited horse, tearing across the open campo at full gallop. There was also a sense of satisfaction to be trusted with the care of valuable work horses and to bring them back to full health.
At the age of 17, I started to work in the cattle department and had the opportunity to break in my own horses from scratch. Because I was small and light the smaller horses were assigned to me, it's kind of a proportional thing. I received plenty of help and advice from Christoph Mathis, Peter Keiderling and George Mercoucheff. I broke in or worked with two or three horses and had them to the point where one could with confidence use a lasso on the open range to rope cattle. It was then, at the suggestion of Christoph Mathis, that I left for the Chaco to train and work on the estancia (ranch) of Enrique Zabala. The year before we had bought a dozen Santa Gertrudis bulls (a new breed of beef cattle) from the Zabalas, at the annual cattle auction in Asuncion. At their ranch my main work was with artificial insemination and, being veterinarian assistant to the son Dr. Enriquito Zabala. We also had to take care of the breeding bulls and the two stallions. Then there was the special selection of young bulls and horses being prepared for the annual national auction in Asuncion. The animals had to be fed and groomed on a daily basis. We had plenty of workers, but I had to help and, get familiar with everything that needed to be done. I had received an excellent foundation in cattle and horse breeding, agriculture and soil composition on the Bruderhof. Over a two year period, Johnny Robinson taught a class to those who were interested in these subjects. This course was one among others which were offered as a continuation after we had graduated from our regular school. Now at the Zabalas it was hands on training.
Our foreman, Don Crecencio, was the chief inseminator and had a special talent with animals be they bulls, cows or horses. He had previously been the capataz of the gauchos and in charge of the range cattle, but felt his new position was much more interesting and challenging. He appreciated the interest I showed in all aspects of the work, not only the in lab but also in caring and training of animals. He became my mentor, my 'Don Segundo Sombra' (for those who are familiar with the book by Ricardo Guiraldo). He was a great horseman, knew every trick with the lasso, and had endless patience with animals. He derived a great deal of satisfaction teaching me about training horses and cattle. With his assistance I broke in a young stallion, an English thoroughbred which the Zabalas had just bought in Argentina, to bring new blood into their herd. We also trained two young geldings which the owners hoped to race competitively in the capital Asuncion. So I had the opportunity to train horses for speed and work with cattle. Two years later when I worked on the estancia of Manuel Fereira, I was just as fast on a horse like the other native gauchos, running down animals which broke from the herd and driving them back. They commented on my speed with a horse and had full confidence in my ability, I had the feeling of having arrived, earning their respect and recognition.
Back to Mercedes: she presented a special challenge and I was in no rush to do anything drastic. After a couple of weeks administering daily grooming, all the while talking soothingly, touching and rubbing her from head to tail on all body parts, she seemed to become much calmer. However, those darting eyes and twitching ears were just as active. It was time to put a saddle on her. Traditionally when braking in a horse, we would tie up a horse, shackle their front and back legs to saddle them up. Then, with a rope from the halter, which was fed through the ring on the saddle cinch of a tame horse ridden by your guide, or "padrino" as we called them, one would jump into the saddle and let the new horse buck and run until it was exhausted. Hopefully one was still in the saddle at the end of this exercise.
I had no intentions of going this route with Mercedes, it was unlikely to succeed. First, just get her used to having a saddle on top of her. When I started to saddle her up she went back into her patented freeze, she just stood there trembling. However, she did not avoid the saddle, so I had no difficulty cinching her up, attaching the tail piece, which prevents a saddle from slipping forward over the neck, and the breast attachment that serves the dual purpose of keeping the horses head low when riding as the reins are fed through the rope over the neck and holding the top cinch in place when working with a lasso. Once the saddle was securely in place, my intentions were just to walk the horse around. To no great surprise, she would not move or budge from her position. I was not going to force her and decided to just let her stand to see if she would at least get out of that frozen position and, let her get used to the saddle on her back. I walked away and observed from a distance. She stayed in her position for 15 or 20 minutes while I busied myself with other horses. But then I received some unexpected help.
The butus (horse flies) as big as small humming birds, were having a field day covering her legs and neck sucking blood. Anybody who got to know these monster flies quickly gained a great respect for them. These flies don't sting, they cut and inflict pain. If one bit you, it left a bleeding mark and severe pain. In early spring and summer they would drive the wild cattle out of the woods, in to the sun on to the open campo, where the animals would bunch together, seeking safety in numbers. Even the deer would seek refuge on the open campo during the day, hiding in the tall grass to escape the aggressive >butu. All of a sudden Mercedes could stand still no longer, stamping her legs, whipping her tail around, shaking her head and vibrating her skin as only horses can do, she chased off the flies. In the process she forgot all about that contraption on her back. I felt a sense of relief, finally something melted the ice lady. I left her standing there for another 3 hours to give her time to get rid of her fear about the saddle on her back. When I finally approached her, she remained relaxed but as always suspicious and alert. Now I tried to just walk her a little, leading her by the halter to the water trough which was a distance away. She willingly followed, seemingly forgetting about the saddle. After drinking, we walked back to the stable, I removed the saddle, brushed and fed her. Good news, she had not lost her appetite after going through that exercise.
The next time I saddled her up, she still acted very nervous but did not go in to her freeze position. I waited for about 15 minutes while I prepared another horse, which I mounted, and then led Mercedes out on to the adjacent six-acre piquete (paddock) which was covered with juicy Jesuit grass. Walking, we made a full circle to the right, then one to the left. After that we criss-crossed the field 2 or 3 times, Mercedes now willingly trotting along. Back at the stable she was groomed and fed again and, by now she seemed a happy camper. We went through this exercise two more times, mixing it up with trotting and short gallops, before I felt she was ready to be mounted. I had one of the young Vigar boys as my padrino, and told him what to do in case Mercedes tried to buck or bolt. However the first ride was calm and without problems. At first she was a little unsure with the additional weight on her back, but then she willingly followed the guide horse. We made our big circles, crisscrossed, then moving in smaller circles, all the while I gently used the reins giving her a feeling for "guidance from above." This was not an exercise of breaking in a horse, but one to gain her trust and confidence.
Against my expectations, she was responding surprisingly well. I did not want to push her too much that first day and reminded myself that patience was more important. This would be a slow process. The following day we went out again. This time without leading her, just following or riding besides the guide horse, moving around the paddock in a variety of patterns, using the reins gently each time we changed directions or varied the circles. With a horse as fickle as Mercedes I did not want to take any chances of going solo and, possibly get her spooked again.
The third time out, we varied the pace from fast walks to short gallops. It was enough for me to slacken the reins lightly , press my heels into her flanks, smack my lips and, Mercedes would jump start into a gallop. Initially her jump was a scared reflective response on the sound of me smacking my lips. However, this reaction stayed with her and later served me well when working with cattle. The fourth time out was a solo ride. Mercedes presented no problems. It was still within the familiar confines of the large paddock or horse piquete as we called it. The pace was either a quick walk or a gallop. On the straight away I'd get her in to a fast gallop and then bring her to a quick stop. On the wide circles I kept it to a slow controlled gallop, letting her feel the guidance of the reins. She responded well but still with a confused look in her eyes, as if asking "Am I doing it right?" After a 15 to 20-minute exercise, I would groom and feed her again to assure her things were OK. For the next few weeks we went through this routine every other day, time permitting. We also traced figure eights at a gallop, so that Mercedes would get used to turning once to the left and then back to the right. She responded beautifully to the lightest pressure of the reins. Initially the eights were quite large, but gradually I made them smaller to train her to make tight turns while still at a gallop.
Too many of our riding horses did not turn well to the right for lack of training them properly when first breaking them in. There are two reasons for this. First, tradition has it that one mounts a horse from the left. A new and nervous horse tends to move away when you are trying to mount it. In the process, one has the left hand on the reins or halter, with the right hand on the saddle, left foot in the stirrup and, if the horse does not hold still, one frequently turns in a circle to the left until ready to swing yourself into the saddle. The second reason is that most people are right-handed. This means that you hold the reins in your left hand, leaving the right hand free to use a rope, whip or any other tool. It is much easier to pull a horse to the left than pushing the reins across the neck to make it turn to the right. Also, when roping, one always keeps the animal to be roped on your right, turning the horse to the left once the animal has been roped. It is therefore very important to train a horse early, and before using it for work, so that it becomes responsive to the lightest pressure of the reins to either turn left or right. One hopes and tries to train a horse so that it remains soft in the mouth, i.e. it responds to light pulling on the reins to stop or turn. A horse with a hard mouth is much slower to respond, and valuable time is lost when working with cattle. It can also get very fatiguing on your left arm.
Mercedes was making good progress and I felt she was ready to go onto the open road or range away from the familiar paddock. So when the guys from the estancia invited me to go along on one of their weekly roundups on lower Campo Dolores, I believed Mercedes could tag along. Once saddled up, I walked her to the open road near the stables where the other vaqueros were waiting, amongst them Peter Keiderling and Peti Mathis. The number of people and the commotion seemed to frighten my horse as she started her nervous twitches again. I did not give it too much thought and hoisted myself into the saddle. Mercedes just froze and refused to move. I made the usual sounds to get her moving and lightly pressed my heels into her flanks when all of a sudden she reared straight up and threw herself backwards. My main concern was to move out of her way as we went crashing onto the hard ground. I managed to roll to one side banging my head quite hard, before she hit the ground. Mercedes lay there for a few seconds but, mission accomplished, she scrambled up again, looking around to ponder the results. I dusted myself off, head buzzing, while Peter Keiderling asked with concern if I had hurt myself. I assured him that I was OK and he just shook his head saying, "I've seen Hans fall or thrown so many times, and he never gets hurt. He must have bones of rubber!"
At this point I wasn't going to give up. I walked Mercedes around a little bit, but when I tried to mount her she froze again, then she slowly lowered her front body, dipping her head and pushing backward, rear end pointing to the sky, just like a cat stretching herself and then stayed in that position waiting for things to happen. 'This horse is weird,' I thought. 'Here it starts all over again. What to do?' I had never hit a horse except when lashing them over the hind legs with the bull whip to teach them how to line up. At this point it seemed to be more a reflex reaction than a calculated one. I swung my guacha (riding whip) and thrashed her over the hind legs yelling at her while doing so. She jumped out of that position, swung around to face me, staring with an expression of utter surprise as if to say, "What did you do that for?" I went up to her, gently patting her neck while talking soothingly, then mounted her. This time she was willing to move and off we went with the other riders as if nothing had happened.
Once on the open range, I stayed at a distance from the other riders, not getting involved in the actual round-up. Mercedes displayed fear and nervousness about anything moving or swinging in her vicinity. At the crack of the bull whips the cowboys were using she jumped, or a swinging lasso made her want to take off running. These things she would have to get used to, should I start using her for work with cattle, something I expected to do, sooner or later. With most horses this is not a major problem. Frequently one has to fight to hold a frightened horse back when first starting to use a lasso This requires excessive pulling back on the reins, risking possible damage to their gums and developing a hard mouth. This was not what I wanted to subject Mercedes to. In the Chaco, the cowboys frequently accustomed a horse to the use of a lasso by riding into areas where the plains were flooded with 2-3 feet of water, or swamps where the running would be very difficult and tiresome. They then swing the lasso and just let the horse run until it would tire, which would be quite fast, and then slow them to a walk, the rider still swinging the lasso. The animal would quickly get used to the lasso not doing them any harm and accept it. Mercedes was the type of horse where this method of training would be most appropriate without leaving an emotional scar.
In Primavera we had the perfect spot for such an exercise. About a week later, on a Sunday morning, I skipped the communal service, saddled up Mercedes and left for Campo Invernada which was mostly swamp. Campo Invernada started at the tip of Monte Abebo-i, between Monte Riveros and Monte Jaime, ending in the swamps of the river Tapiracuay. Cattle could only graze at the fringes along the woods and only during severe droughts, could the animals venture further out in to the swamp. From Ibate I rode down to Campo Carabi-y, down the length of it until reaching Campo Invernada. Because Campo Carabi-y was long and not very wide, it could also be called a "canyada." It was a beautiful, sunny summer day. Mercedes was well rested and full of vigor, walking at a brisk clip. It had not rained for a few weeks so the water level in the swamp was quite low and the fringes were nice and dry. However, deeper into the campo the water was still standing and Mercedes sank close to her knees into the soft ground, perfect conditions for our exercise.
We worked ourselves to the middle of the northern end -- the center and southern end were never passable. I loosened my lasso while Mercedes nervously watched out of the corners of her eyes. I formed a small loop and started swinging it over my head. The horse jumped into a frantic gallop and, I gave her free reign, just letting her run. It was hard galloping for the horse, with each stride she had to pull her legs out of the soft wet ground, making a sucking sound and throwing up the black mud, then when she landed with a big splash, more mud would fly. After about 50 meters, horse, saddle and I were covered with black wet mud. We splashed along in this fashion for no more than 200 meters. By that time Mercedes was going in slow motion, having tired quickly. I pulled up on the reins to bring her to a walk while still swinging the lasso. The going was so heavy that Mercedes seemed to forget about the lasso or did not perceive it as a threat anymore. I was able to direct her from one side to the other as she willingly turned to the left or the right. I turned her back to dry and higher ground still swinging my lasso and she did not mind anymore.
We were a total mess and needed to clean up. Both horse, saddle and myself needed a wash. A few years earlier, in 1957 or 1958 during a severe draught, we had hired a caterpillar tractor from our Mennonite neighbors to dig a new drainage canal from Campo Riveroscue, the length of Campo Dolores all the way down to Campo Invernada. The old Rutenberg canal had mostly silted up and now was the high ground in lower Dolores. It served as the main drainage canal for Vacahu, where it started as a deep gully up to 12 feet deep and 20 to 40 feet wide. During heavy rains it filled up and became a wild river of mud, tearing away the soft sandy soil. What was lost in Vacahu we gained in Campo Dolores, but as the canal silted up, the waters spilled over the side seeking new low ground, flooding the rest of the campo -- therefore, the need for a new drainage canal. While digging this new canal, we also dug two new tajamars (watering holes) for the cattle. One in lower Dolores and the other one at the northeast corner of Campo Invernada next to Monte Abebo. All the dug-up dirt was pushed to one side and leveled off to create some high ground where the cattle could find refuge during times of flooding. I headed for this tajamar.
By now the piled-up dirt was covered with a carpet of Bermuda grass which is spreads through horse droppings. Horses are notoriously poor at chewing. They gulp down their food and grass, which enables some of the tough Bermuda grass to survive the trip through a horse's stomach and intestinal tract. I dismounted, tied Mercedes to one of the guava bushes that already had grown on the high ground, and removed the saddle. That neck of the woods was very remote and only accessible by horseback. Being all alone, I stripped and led Mercedes into the water. As I washed the mud off her body I could literally see the relief in her eyes. Once completely washed, I led her out of the water and she contentedly shook the water off her body while I tied her to a guava bush. Then I washed the saddle, horse blanket, cinches, lasso and all the other paraphernalia that goes with a saddle, just submerging everything in the water, no worse than getting drenched in a thunderstorm. Of course, my clothes had to be washed as well.
I spread everything on to the grass or hung it over the guava bushes to dry for a while. Then, still in the buff, I stretched myself out on the Bermuda grass and watched the iribus (vultures) and the swamp eagles draw their circles high up in the sky. In the short grass I observed the lembus (dung beetles) rolling their balls of dung to their holes in the ground. With a small guava branch I fended off the gnats and mosquitoes, while Mercedes attracted the butus. It was nice and peaceful and I felt in no rush to ride home. From the nearby forest one could hear the occasional shrill call of the large redheaded woodpecker and the soft call of the suruqua, a beautiful red-and-blue bird that seems to use the hot noontime to sit still on a branch, calling to his mate. After a while my stomach reminded me that it was after 12, so I headed back. On the way home, I first dragged the wet lasso behind me through the grass for about a mile, to keep it nice and supple. Mercedes got used to that quickly and to my coiling it up again. I also swung it over my head, she did not mind that either and remained calm.
Shortly thereafter, I was asked to work on the estancia again. This meant some work horses had to be assigned to me. Peti Mathis felt I should take over some of the younger, partially trained horses with the intention of making them trustworthy and capable work animals. In one way I appreciated the confidence he showed in my ability, but on the other hand it becomes a frustrating task to rid an animal of acquired bad habits. Each rider has his own style and their horses develop certain idiosyncrasies that frequently do not transfer well to another person. The objective is to train a horse so that it will perform well for most any capable rider.
Among the horses assigned to me was a beautiful sorrel mare, same sire as Mercedes and same year. Her name was "Butzy," somewhat docile but very trainable. She and Mercedes would become my main work horses. Another was a young roan gelding, well build and strong, but wild, high-strung and downright vicious. I had high hopes for this one, but like Mercedes he would require an enormous amount of attention, for which I now had less time. Unfortunately he injured his hind leg and it was questionable if he would ever recover. I was also given a mule mare, but I don't like mules. They just are not suited for working with cattle. This cantankerous little ass would try to catch you off guard and start bucking on the open range when you least expected it. She probably thought this would be a good place to get rid of her unwanted load. Other horses were available to me, but the one I really had my eyes on and wanted to ride, was a young three-year-old stallion, son of the Percheron stallion we had bought from the Mennonites five years earlier. He was tall, strong, almond color with black mane and tail, with one odd feature: his eyes were a clear greenish-pink color, similar to an albino. He was still on the open range and wild as wild could be.
Unfortunately we made a big mistake: rather than first taming him we decided to castrate him first. In the struggle to put him down, during which he fought as if his life depended on it, he too was injured and got up with a bad limp. I hoped he would recover from that, but a year later he was still limping and our time in Primavera was running out.
Now that I was working on the range, Mercedes had to be trained as a work horse for cattle. She made excellent progress and soon became my favorite horse to use when roping cattle on the open range or in a corral. Her willingness to jump start and go to a full gallop, made things much easier for me and for her. The quicker one could catch up with an animal you needed to rope or return to the herd, the more economical it was, especially for the horse. I also trained my horses to jump over logs, as many of our rozadas (clearings) that had been planted with grass were still littered with felled tree trunks, left there to rot. Also, when chasing cattle out of the forests, all kind of obstacles had to be dealt with.
It had become my specialty to flush cattle out of the woods with a pack of dogs that I collected in the morning while riding across the hof. All I had to do was whistle and they came running. Of my previous group, only two were left: "Kassan" from the D'Hoedt's and "Aguarai" from Bill Bridgwater (Ingmar). "Sheik," a beautiful pitch-black animal that seemed mostly German Shepherd, I had brought from the Chaco as a puppy and left with Peter Keiderling. On my return, he gave him back to me. These three dogs would flush anything out of the woods, even stubborn bulls. After a day's work, the dogs would return to their homes, but the next morning were ready to go again. They seemed to love the chase.
Our cattle were as much at home in the forests as on the open range -- that is, where the forest had not yet been fenced off. They loved to spend the night in the forests, especially during the colder winter months when a cold south wind combined with a nasty drizzle. Many of these animals had become very wild and would head for the forests as soon as they saw a rider approaching. It became very difficult, if not impossible to flush them out. Monte Jaime, with its four potreros (open grass land), was our worst case scenario. Over the years the cattle would clear the forest of much underbrush on which they foraged. This made it possible to ride through the woods. However, many obstacles remained such as fallen trees, patches of caraguata or iviyra (types of broad-leafed cacti) and, more than anything, isypos (vines) hanging from trees coming from all angles frequently looking like a spaghetti bowl. These vines varied in size from a quarter of an inch to three or 4 inches in diameter. When trying to gallop through the forests, the horse would frequently get entangled in them and one had to cut the vines with the machete-i that we always carried on our saddle.
Monte Abebo-i and the Orange wood abutted onto Campo Dolores, where we kept our largest cattle herd. Both forests were about one-and-a-half miles across and deep, and a favorite night shelter for the cattle. However on round-up days, some of the cattle did not want to cross the wet and swampy campo and first sought refuge in the woods, which required going after them to drive them out. On one of these round-ups, Mercedes gave me a real surprise. We were driving the cattle from the far south end of Campo Dolores, between Monte Abebo and Monte Abebo-i, north to the main gathering spot on the banks of the old Rutenberg canal. Coming down from Ibate. some riders crossed the campo to the side of Monte Isla Guazu, while others went up the middle, the rest riding past or through Abebo and then through the Orange wood, then crossing the campo to Monte Octavian to complete the circle. We would not see each other for the next two hours until meeting at the main gathering spot, commonly referred to as 'the rodeo place.' There we had two large wooden troughs where we would place salt mixed with bone meal as feed for the cattle. On a daily basis close to fifty percent of the herd would gather there at noontime to drink, rest and, ruminate. To start the drive, we would crack our bull whips and at the hollering of the cowboys, the cattle would start moving north. Once set in motion they would keep going.
On this day a bunch of animals broke from the main herd and disappeared in to Monte Abebo, with me on Mercedes and the dogs in hot pursuit. We galloped through the wood as fast as feasible, following the sound of the barking dogs, jumping over fallen tree trunks, avoiding low branches, machete drawn to slash at the isypois. Rounding some bushes, I discovered two isypois hanging about three feet above the ground, obstructing my path. I did not want to stop short, and expected Mercedes to run right into them, at which moment I would cut them with my machete. To my amazement, Mercedes never broke stride but jumped right over them, smooth as a light-footed deer. I thought it was a fluke, but she did it several times more, seeming to know in an instant if she could clear an obstacle or not. I was so proud of her. I patted her neck and could have hugged her. She was the only horse that ever did this for me.
Some months later on a Sunday afternoon, I took a solo ride to Monte Jaime to survey how many cattle were hiding in the forest. Two years earlier, a fence had been built along the length of Monte Jaime to keep the cattle off the rice field on lower Campo Dolores. Unfortunately quite a lot of cattle were now left within Monte Jaime. The rice harvest was over, and cattle would be grazing there until the next planting. We hoped to drive the remaining cattle out of Monte Jaime, but they were just as wild and shy as deer and impossible to round up. Our only other option was to catch them in the open and try to rope them one at a time. The potreros within Monte Jaime were big enough to sustain hundreds of head of cattle. The largest potrero, at the western end on the level of Campo Invernada, had a natural drainage through the woods onto Campo Invernada, and therefore remained quite dry. Most of the cattle could be found there because it had the best grazing grasses.
It was already late afternoon and, as I rode east, I could see small groups emerging from the woods, but when they spotted me they beat a quick retreat into the forest. At the eastern end, one had to ride through a short stretch of wood before emerging again on the second but much smaller potrero. This one was shaped like a dog's leg with a small wooded island at the bend and opposite to that, to the south, an opening to the swamp of the river Tapiracuay. This way the potrero had good drainage and good grazing. Cattle could always be found here. As I rounded the little wooded island, about twelve cows with calves and a big novillo (steer) stood right in front of me. For a moment they stared at me, startled by my sudden appearance, then took off, tails flying in the air, for the nearest forest. More as a reflex reaction, (normally one does not chase cattle for no purpose) I decided to cut the novillo off from the herd and prevent him from entering the woods. Mercedes was ready to give chase. She exploded under me and in an instant was at a full gallop. It is a unique feeling when a horse gives everything it has. One senses through one's legs, thighs and into the buttocks, the measure and level of a horse's performance. It gives you a real rush when you know that a horse is giving its all.
In no time we caught up with the animals, separating the novillo from the rest and preventing him from heading into the woods. He turned left, then right, several times back and forth, all the time I was able to keep him away from the woods. Mercedes responded beautifully with each maneuver. The novillo got so frustrated that he stopped and squared off to defend himself. We looked at each other for over a minute, the steer totally confused, snorting and shaking his big horns, raking his front feet, but not attacking. There was nothing I wanted to do with the animal, so I bade him "adios," patted Mercedes on the neck for a job well done, turned and headed for the picada to the next potrero. The steer stood for another moment, then trotted, head held high, as if victorious, to the spot where the cows had disappeared into the woods.
The picada rose to a crest and higher ground. We surprised a doe standing in the middle of the path. She looked at us for a moment, but then with one big jump disappeared into the underbrush. At the top of the rise ran the road and the irrigation canal for the rice field on lower Campo Dolores. The canal crossed the width of Monte Jaime, from the Tapiracuay to the rice field. We jumped the canal and shortly thereafter dipped down to the third potrero. This potrero was shaped like a giant banana and covered with rough saw grass and reeds, because it lacked natural drainage, and the water just collected there. Only during a drought and after being burned would new grass grow and cattle graze with more frequency. Normally no cattle could be seen there, the grass 4 to 5 feet high. The fourth potrero was small and round, also covered with saw grass and standing water, so I did not bother to go there.
I returned to the road and the canal to follow the new road out to Campo Dolores opposite of Monte Isla Guazu By now it had turned dark as we crossed the Ihui and followed the road along the rice fields. In the east the moon was starting to peek over the horizon when I heard the hoarse call of the aguarazu (mane wolf) along the edge of Monte Jaime. The aguarazu tends to howl at the moonlight like all wild canines. We then skirted the edge of Isla Guazu and headed home for Ibate. As we approached Monte Abebo and the represa, a heavy white fog had risen from the moist campo along the edge of Abebo and over the represa. The moon, being past full, had just risen over Isla Guazu behind me, casting its light over the fog, which by now hid the forest. As I got closer one could see a perfect arc in the dense fog. It was distinctly visible as I was still in the clear. I could make out the faint and muted colors of the rainbow. It was the first time that I had seen a rainbow-like appearance in the fog formed by the moon. I have never seen this phenomena again. Unfortunately no one was there to share it with me.
During the next week we created a few openings in the fence along Monte Jaime on regularly used cow paths and build some funnels with wooden poles in the opening. The poles had sharpened tips at the narrow end of the funnel, just wide enough that the cattle could squeeze through but then could not return. We intended to drive the cattle to that side of Monte Jaime and trick them in to exiting on to Campo Dolores. For that purpose we camped out by the River Tapiracuay at the southern part of Monte Jaime. Each of us brought two horses as we were going to spend a whole week there and drive the cattle towards the Campo Dolores side of the forest. My two horses were Mercedes and Butzy. During the day we combed the forest on the south side of the potreros, and in the evening and night we rode sorties on the potreros, driving any cattle we could find to the north side.
One dark night with just starlight, we started our round on the large potrero in the west where we had encountered no cattle. We headed east to the second portrero. There were six of us, myself and five Paraguayan cowboys. We split up to cover both sides of the wooded island. Not having found any cattle on the first potrero we expected to find some here and prepared our lassos.
We were about halfway around the little wood when a call came from the other side, "Here they are!" and a small herd came thundering towards us in the dark in the wrong direction. We made a futile effort to head them off, but in the dark one could not see nor do much. At that moment Mercedes turned sharply to the right and I nearly flew out of the saddle. It was then that I realized the horse was following one of the animals. The animal was dark-skinned, so I could barely make out the shape in the darkness. There was no need to direct Mercedes -- she kept right after the animal. Within moments we were on top of the beast and I threw my lasso, but at that instance Mercedes swerved sharply to the left, pursuing the animal. I was barely able to stay in the saddle and knew I had missed my target. With a few more strides the cows were crashing into the underbrush and I had no intentions of following anymore. Mercedes gave me goose bumps. The way she worked was a pleasure and cowboy's dream of what a horse should be or do when working with cattle.
Over the next few months most of the cattle did exit onto Campo Dolores except for a small bunch that was extremely wild and still remained in Monte Jaime at the time I left Primavera. I gave Mercedes and Butzy special attention and, because they were always together, they became inseparable. Mercedes was more than just a work horse, more like a good friend and it seemed as if we had formed a special bond. My horse Mercedes began to attract a lot of attention. Both the Paraguayans and our Mennonite helpers wanted to buy her, but I would have none of that.
One day, while we were working with the cattle in the corral at Ibate, two Swiss reporters with cameras stopped by and took photos. They asked a few questions, but I did not spend much time talking to either of them. I was using Mercedes that day, wearing my heavy cloth sombrero, tirador (leather apron needed when working on foot with a lasso) and, a colorful flowing silk scarf around my neck that Irmi Keiderling had given to me as a present. Irmi liked me and we were good friends, if something like that could be possible at that time between a young man and woman on the Bruderhof, but I had my eyes on another young lady -- not that it mattered. At that time I could not entertain any serious thought of having a relationship with a girl on the Bruderhof. I was not a member of the brotherhood, but just attended the general meetings (Gemeindestunde) when I felt like it and had no idea as what the future would bring. No one pressured me in to making any hasty decisions.
My relationships with the older adults and the servant of the word, Karl Keiderling, were good. One thing was for sure: I would not pretend to become a member of the Bruderschaft for the sake of marrying. On the other hand, not becoming a member would mean that one would be essentially shut out of everything. One functioned on the fringes of society, with no special responsibilities or advancements. However, I was loathe to subordinate myself and with that, lose my personal freedom. Sooner or later I would have to make a decision, and I knew that should I leave again, it most likely be for good.
On my return to Primavera, I first lived with Elias Boller in a small house near the vegetable gardens and next to the school wood. The two of us got along very well. We cleaned up the house and put in a wood floor. I had become somewhat fussy and didn't like the mud floors anymore. My family had left for Germany, but my sister Mathilde was still in Ibate, living with Christine Rimes. The three of us had our breakfasts and, vespers together. Later, I can't recall anymore why, I moved into a hut between the gatehouse and the dairy buildings that Ludwig Fischer aptly called "Chacarita." Chacarita was the name for the large slum in Asuncion. This hut had no window shutters, dirt floor and the smell of the nearby silage pit was constantly present. I hated that place, but it was closer to the horse stables and the quarters for our Paraguayan farm and ranch employees. The only thing that made it bearable was that I was living with my good friends Bill Bridgewater (Ingmar) and Daniel Meier. Daniel called it, our cozy sand pit. We always seemed to be living on the same Hof, going to school together, first in Isla Margarita, then Loma Hoby and on my return they were in Ibate. Over the years the three of us were always close friends and hunting buddies.
We had a lot of fun during that time. The youth group in Ibate was rather young on average, with Thomas Kluver, in his late twenties, one of the oldest. We made outings to the river Tapiraguay, rehearsed and performed plays and had frequent dances. We also took a major trip to the city of Concepcion, which was north on the Paraguay river, close to the border with Brazil. We travelled first by lorry to Puerto Rosario, then a 12-hour boat ride up the river. In Concepcion we rented a large house for one week. We had a great time, touring the city, making side trips and swimming in the river. While there we saw the film "0815 ("Null-Act-Funfsehn") i.e. Forward Gunner Asch, based on the book by Helmut Kirst. At that time the movie was somewhat avant garde for us Bruderhof kids. We were away for more than a week, a welcome change from the community routine. However, we had one obligation to meet on our return. It was customary then that anyone, or any group, that went away on a trip had to give a detailed account at the communal meals. In this way the whole community could participate in reliving the trip, something everyone found most interesting, and it provided entertainment at mealtimes. This time Roger Allain insisted that we give the account in Spanish, a novel idea but not generally appreciated, because most people on the Bruderhof never learned much of the national language of Paraguay, not to mention Guarani.
During that year the Bruderhof hosted another international work camp. This was held in Isla Margarita, the project being, to build the beginning of a new hospital or treatment center. (The hospital was never build and the house became our cuckoo's nest.) Young people came from Uruguay and Brazil, working together with a selected few of the Bruderhof youth. Football (soccer) being the international sport, the Brazilian contingency brought along a complete set of shorts and jerseys to outfit two teams. So the young men from the work camp challenged the Bruderhof to a soccer match. We were afraid we would be totally outclassed and tried to muster our best talent. I recruited Eric Phillips, our gym teacher, Dr. Cyril Davis, Walter Bennett, who salivated at the idea of playing, another red-headed Brit, Gerald (I forgot his last name), my brother Kurt, Benjamin Keiderling, Montanus Mathis, one of the Cocksedge boys, myself and two others whose names I cannot recall. Some of the young fellows had gone to school in Asuncion including my brother Kurt where they had more exposure to soccer.
Cyril was our goalie, Eric and Walter played defense, Gerald took up the position as sweeper and we younger boys took the offensive positions with Kurt being our center forward or striker. The match was played in Ibate behind the school wood on a field planted with Rhodes grass that had recently been mowed for hay. We had a glorious match, close and hotly contested in ninety-degree temperatures or more. All the participants of the work camp came to watch and a large number of Bruderhof, people especially many of the kids. We were tied 2 - 2 going into the last few minutes, when Kurt was able to dribble the ball through the defense and beat the opposing goalie for the winning goal.
Regarding the sale and closing of Primavera, I cannot recall the sequence of events of what really was going on at that time. Not being a member of the Brotherhood made it worse, i.e. we on the outside never knew what was going on. In retrospect it appears that very few members of the brotherhood were clued in either. More persons visited from the USA for "pow-wows." Whole families were disappearing. Then a shift took place, with many families moving to Isla Margarita, others moving to Ibat. Talk started that the Primavera Bruderhfe might be abandoned and everyone moved to the USA and/or Europe. I was asked to move to Isla Margarita. Josua Dreher was put in charge of the cattle operation. When moving to Isla Margarita I took my horses and saddle with me. Mercedes and Butzy stayed together, along with some other of our riding horses, plus two or three wagons and their respective horse teams.
In Isla Margarita we slowly started to dismantle everything, selling machinery, our large stacks of dried lumber, household furnishings and any other small items, commonly referred to as catchi vatchi. We held sales down at the gatehouse in Isla Margarita, which resembled a large flea market, and our neighbors, Paraguayans as well as Mennonites descended on them like flocks of vultures. In Ibat the dairy cows were put on the block and our Mennonite neighbors snapped them up. It took many, many years of dedicated labor to build and breed our dairy herd of Holsteins, crossing them with the Brahmans to make them more adaptable to the heat of Paraguay. Johnny Robinson had been the main architect of our dairy farm. The whole episode and experience was very depressing for me.
Our Paraguayan neighbors soon realized that Primavera was coming apart at the seams and grew quite bold in helping themselves to many items. Horses would disappear. At night they made cattle rustling forays onto our property, slaughtering cows on the open campo. They broke into vacated houses and the laundry that was on the fringes of the hof, taking anything they could carry.
Our personal farewell to Paraguay is best expressed in the following song of the pampas by Ivo Pelay:
Adios pampa mia!... Adios pampa mia!
Good-bye, my pampa! Good-bye, my pampa!
Me voy... Me voy a tierras extranyas
I'm leaving... I'm leaving for strange lands
Adios, caminos que he recorrido
Adios, roads which I have traveled
rios, montes, y canyadas,
rivers, forests and canyons
tapera donde he nacido.
the cover under which I was born.
Si no volvemos a vernos, tierra querida,
If we do not see each other again, beloved land,
quiero que sepas
I would like you to know
que al irme dejo la vida
that when going I left the life
Al dejarte, pampa mia,
When leaving you, pampa mia,
ojos y alma se me llenan
eyes, and soul they filled me
con el verde de tus pastos
with the green of your pastures
y el temblor de las estrellas.
and the shiver of the stars
Con el canto de tus vientos
With the song of your winds
y el sollozar de vihuelas
and the sound of guitars
que me alegraron a veces
which at times made me happy
y otras me hicieron llorar.
and others made me cry.
Adios pampa mia!... Adios pampa mia!...
Me voy...pampa querida
I'm leaving...beloved pampa
[to be continued]
by Julius Rubin
Review of Chapter 5 of Harmless Religion
by Renatus Kluver
We have here a picture with broad firm brush strokes which paints a scene for the initiated and the uninitiated alike, that is at the same time a familiar as well as an unfamiliar landscape. Due to the bold brush strokes used, when standing back looking at this picture, one gets a good overall impression what the SoB now stands for. We glean a landscape that seems to be green and thriving in parts of the picture but in others there is a scene, hidden away, of plants which are not properly nourished and cared for but rather being smothered for the greater good of the total impact and saleability of the organisation.
Julius managed in very few words to depict the SoB in a critical nonpartisan way which, due to brevity, could not go into greater detail; or using the above metaphor, not making finer brush strokes for closer inspection. We have here a picture that traces in bold outline the history of the Bruderhof and its inevitable outcome, where religious doctrine tempering ideals and ideology are being enshrined in a structural form which has become the ultimate goal.
The transition from one charismatic leader-founder to a pluralistic democratic leadership floundered very early on, even though, for a time, it seemed to work. There are various crises which, later on, will be used by one Servant of the Word, Heini, to gain absolute power and by so doing, destroy the original movement, the new format then emerging under his dictatorship. It is interesting that Julius should notice that Heini used some of Bonnhoefer's writings. It is that Bonnhoefer's The Cost Of Discipleship suited Heini insofar as he was then able to pursue his ideology of the "perfect" person who is always looking for ways and means for self-perfection.
Hardi Arnold wrote an article in which he dismisses much that Bonnhoefer stood for with the statement "that Bonnhoefer did not go far enough with his theology of radical Christianity -- since he did not see "community of goods" as the absolute in "radical discipleship". In a way Hardi was dismissing Bonnhoefer as a true Christian for also encompassing in his belief structure the willingness to use force against force, even if it meant that it would save thousands of lives by being in agreement to assassinate Hitler. The Cost Of Discipleship was written on death-row and Bonnhoefer was executed when Germany was on its knees, only a few weeks before the end of the war.
"Suffering, then, is the true badge of discipleship", is what Bonnhoefer could state out of personal experience and commitment to his value-structure and that you have to be willing to be counted and have your belief put to the ultimate test even onto death. It is possible that Heini was prompted to endorse Bonnhoefer's "cost of discipleship", because Hardi had, in a way, dismissed Bonnhoefer. It would have been good if Heini could have stood up to his belief and himself have confronted the Nazis as Hans Zumpe definitely did, who faced the real danger of never again to be seen, when he visited the headquarters of that establishment in Fulda on behalf of the Bruderhof. In fact Heini, and the rest of the Arnold boys, were at that time in Switzerland, out of harm's way.
One quote which Julius uses, is credited to Merrill Mow in the book Torches Rekindled: "On this earth there is always a spiritual struggle going on; the two atmospheres are always in conflict. There is a spirit in this world that wants to destroy the brotherly life based on love to Jesus, and the spirit wants to destroy it right now." But this actually is Heini's and enshrines his philosophy in a nutshell, of "forces being arranged against the Bruderhof, evil forces of demonic power."
Heini's religious fervour and fanaticism is well stated by Julius, who traces in broad terms Heini's fascination with the spirit world. Heini had a morbid preoccupation with "the powers of darkness," which found expression in his "freeing individuals from their sinful, impure past" and exorcising impure spirits wherever appropriate or possible. The "Busskampf" was one of Heini's favourite tenets, the struggle against self, -- the whole world, -- cliquishness, -- intolerance, etc., etc. By concentrating on the "dark" side of our nature, Heini states that it is the thought -- the mother of all evil -- which matters because it ultimately bares fruit by becoming action. This is why he was so fascinated by the Blumhards, (after whom he named his own son JCA) father and son. Blumhard drove out evil spirits who plagued a young woman and he became well known for it, with many more "possessed" people coming for him to free them from the tyranny of darkness. His ministry, and his son's, is well documented in various biographies. Heini claims to have had an experience with dark forces as a teenager when, he claims, he saw the devil escaping from underneath Lotte Hense's dress and running away over the fields and into the woods.
This morbid interest in the unseen spirit world -- always evil and demonic -- finds its expression in his attempts to drive out evil spirits from a young woman (called "Miriam Way" in Torches Rekindled) who had asked to become a novice, in 1958. Maybe he was envisaging himself and later his own son, as second Blumhard's when he tried to exorcise Miriam Way from "evil spirits" in Woodcrest. At the time I was both fascinated and revolted by the intensity with which Heini pursued this exorcism, where he was caught acting in a trance-like frenzy around the bed where the writhing Miriam was being held down by four Witness Brothers. He always dug deeper and ever deeper into private thoughts of an individual, putting pressure on his victim and wanting to hear either imagined or real "sin." This form of interrogation was then copied by his lieutenants, who knew that there would be no repercussions regarding their actions against sanctioned victims, much as the communists did under Stalin. Suggestions were made about what the victim might have thought, let alone actually have done. The "sin" had already been more than committed by merely having been a fleeting thought, or admitted to under leading questions.
The case histories, which Julius cites, very well illustrate what was going on in the Commune under "the leadership" of Heini. It was especially the feelings of guilt and abject worthlessness instilled into the victims that made them so defenceless and prone to manipulation during their Aussprachen, and these were exploited to the full by the interrogators. There certainly was no redeeming holding-out of an olive branch to help the victim overcome their real or imagined problem, but a picture of the increasing stubbornness and vileness of the victim was broadcast to the brotherhood, where statements by innuendo and rather what was left unsaid painted a picture left mostly to the prurient, or otherwise, imagination of the listener.
Even though there are some slight historic inaccuracies in The Other Side Of Joy, it nevertheless paints a very good picture of what the SoB is all about and is written in a very readable style. It uses sociology as its frame of reference to try and make sense of what this organisation is all about and what consequences it has for the individual who is incapable or unwilling to conform within the confines of marked-out parameters. I would very much recommend the reading of The Other Side Of Joy as it is a serious attempt by a sociologist to measure values of mainstream society against an introverted, exclusive fringe group.
by Anthony Storr
Reviewed by Dave Ostrom
While visiting Leonard Pavitt last summer he introduced me to a book, Feet of Clay, by Anthony Storr, an English psychiatrist and author. Dr. Storr assesses six different leaders having a following that could be defined as a cult. The individuals Dr. Storr wrote about were Georgei I. Gurdjieff, Bhawgwan Shree Rajneesh, Rudolf Steiner, Carl J. Jung, Sigmund Freud and Ignatious of Loyola. As part of the presentation Dr. Storr compares these people to present day cultists Jim Jones, David Koresh. While briefly presenting a biography of these individuals, he compares the similarities of family life, personal traits and leadership qualities. Dr. Storr looks at each of the subjects for paranoia, sanity, insanity and how those factors influence or the lack of faith. One can see from the selection of subjects Dr. Storr considers the interest in and addiction to cult leaders a world wide matter. Part of my interest with the book is Dr. Storr's coverage of a considerable span of time from about 1866 to the present.
Dr. Storr takes the assessment one step further than most books about cults and cult leaders, he evaluates some of the traits and characteristics of the followers in those cults. While there has been a lot written about Eberhard, Heini and J. C. Arnold by both ex-hofers and professionals as J. Ruben and B. Zablocki, little has been written about the people who became interested and joined and stayed with the Arnold organization. After reading the book, I thought back of my parents, the Nobles, the Burlesons and others I had known pre and post 'Hood. Dr. Storr could have been writing about any one of these families!
I would strongly recommend reading this book if for no other reason than it helps understand what a guru is and how those qualities in a guru lead to a formation of a cult. One of the interesting observations Dr. Storr makes is that Dr. Freud and St. Ignatius were gurus with a corresponding following. This observation may offend some, but it is what supports the book's validity, the scope and depth of comparison.
The book opens with a quote from Euripides' Iphigenia in Tauris, and in the concluding chapter, Dr. Storr indicates clearly how the quote applies and what one can do to avoid becoming involved in cults and mind games. The publisher is Harper Collins 77-85 Fulham Place Road, Hammersmith, London W6 8JB. ISBN 0 00 638423 4