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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.
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Yearly subscription rates (11 issues): $25 USA; $30 Canada; $35 International mailed f/ USA; £20 mailed f/ EuroKIT to UK & Europe
KEEP IN TOUCH
It seems as if everyone who attended the summer gatherings had an absolutely marvelous time! It's so good that we have one another and that, diverse as we are in our viewpoints and life paths, we nevertheless can understand each and every one, and find ways to share our deepest feelings and thoughts. Maybe the light that our network has created will shine brightly enough to penetrate the shutters that have been slammed shut between us and our family members and friends within the Bruderhof communities! Love real love, not just empty words about love will find a way!
Meanwhile, despite some trying aspects to the current situation, let's not give in to hopelessness, but instead beam out positive energy and good will, and keep ourselves open to receiving them from others!
T h e W h o l e K i t A n d C a b o o d l e
Toll-Free Phone for former Bruderhofers in need of advice and referrals: 1 888 6 KINDER
use "alt f" on keyboard to search by name for the following
SEE KIT X #10 PART II FOR THE FOLLOWING
ITEM: Lethbridge Herald
--- alt.support.bruderhof: the Nigerian fathers ---
B Purcell, W Chesley, B Chesley, P Forde, M Purcell,
W Chesley, B Chesley, T Domer, B Purcell
--- alt.support.bruderhof: Bruderhof Bullyings ---
T Domer, B Purcell, M Purcell, P Fox, M Fros
Hannah Goodwin Johnson
Bette Bohlken Zumpe - CESNUR report
Tim Domer MD re Bette's report
Name Withheld - 'Elephant Story'
Mel Fros - 'Kinderfest In Primavera'
Hans Zimmermann - 'Kinderfest & Waldi'
Barnabas D. Johnson - 'Which Waldi?
--- alt.support.bruderhof ---
Mike LeBlanc- John Stewart's questionnaire
Peter Forde re John Stewart's 'Four Points'
Matt Ellison - 'Bleeping Sooty' Fairy Tale
Address and phone changes should be sent in now for the corrected 1998 address book.
Bette Bohlken-Zumpe, 8/20/98: I had a phone call from dear old Paula Thijssen (92 years old) who was a member at Wheathill and Bulstrode, and came from the Mennonites. She wants her name and address put in the September KIT issue because she wants to support KIT and all of us, even though it might just be for a short time:
Zuster Paula Thijssen · Bachtensteene 1, kamer 019
4331 AB Middleburg · Netherlands tel: 0119-628716
ITEM: The Bruderhof Air Flotilla has acquired its third jet, a Cessna Citation. The second Gulfstream they purchased cost $20+ million and allegedly paid for it in cash. In the words of one KIT reader, "One wonders why they are amassing such a fleet of jets!"
Jay Ortiz MD, 8/26/98: Some of you may remember me and my young friend Chip Wilson, who agonized with KITfolk for so long about joining the Bruderhof until he finally met Christoph and, to quote Chip, "left the meeting a changed man" [KIT VII #2 Feb 1995]. I think you should know that our dear, dear Chip finally has come to his senses and has been liberated. Hallelujah!
"I'm not a real person, Jay!" he told me over the phone. "All of a sudden, in the midst of a Love Meal to celebrate my becoming an Honorary Cardinal, the veil dropped from my eyes with a terrible thud! I realized that I'm just a figment of a certain Christian's imagination! Please, come and rescue me before he writes my biography as his autobiography and totally absorbs me!"
"Now, now, Chip," I said, trying to sound soothing. "When you confess all your sins, you lose your ego and imprint the personality of your confessor. You just think you're a certain Christian, but you're really not-not-not."
"But you don't get it, Jay!" Chip howled. "I don't think I ever was for real or even really real! I was made up I don't really know what for I guess to snuggle up to KIT people and gain their confidence and get them to say nasty things that they could be sued for. You remember the 'Erie group' that I was supposed to be part of who supposedly were joining the Bruderhof? They were all fake too!"
"Eerie is as eerie does, Chip, I replied. "It's all fine and good for you to complain to me, son, but there's a problem. I too am just a fictional character floating about the leadership's plausibly deniable frontal lobes. If you're an Ornery Cardinal, then I'm an Ornery Jay, I guess, heh-heh-heh." I tried to laugh, but all I could hear was a crow cawing somewhere. Or was it Woody Woodcrestpecker tap-tapping in on our line? Somehow it evoked the face of one of Chip's peers, a peerer-inner or pecker-onner or putter-abouter or bugger-upper... who could it be? It was just on the edge of my or my host's mind, but the vision sort of petered out.
"What?" Chip exclaimed. "You're not real either, Jay? But you're my mentor! You're my surrogate daddykins who tried so hard to save me from joining the Bruderhof! You must be real! All those pages and pages of e-mail we wrote, all those phony phone conversations with KIT people. Why, we've even spoken to each other on the phone!"
"That wasn't really me, Chip," I said soothingly. "It was just a certain Christian person pretending to be me. Who was it pretending to be you?"
"But but that's that's the one! You know the one pretending to be me that certain Christian person!" A stunned silence followed.
Chip and I had realized that we were both made-up people talking to each other through two halves of a certain Christian person's brain! Even now he must have been talking into two separate telephones out of each corner of his mouth, first as me and then as Chip, using an electronic voice-changing box!
Now that we understood that we both were unreal, we also knew that our destinies were linked forever, for better or worse, like peas in a pod, like Siamese twins. So we have run off to join the French Foreign Legion.
"Maybe we can, like Pinocchio, shrink this terribly long mutual nose of ours when we stop lying," Chip said to me. We were boarding the Bruderjet III where it stood ready for its monthly run to the Transvaal diamond mines. "Maybe now we can become, well, real men and you know, do something I mean, just anything real anything really Christian for mankind!"
We will write again, dear KIT readers whenever we get there wherever 'there' is. Meanwhile sincere apologies for all the meaningless efforts we put you through. It wasn't really our eerie fault, since we really very eerily don't exist. Greetings,
Chip Wilson (quoted from KIT Vol VII #2: ...I want to mention his (Christoph's) response to the question of illegal activities among his henchmen. I asked him what he felt about tapping the phones of ex-members without their consent or knowledge. He said he had heard about this allegation, and that all he could say was that if it had indeed been done, he had never authorized such activity and never would. He told me that as long as he lived, the Bruderhof would never condone such activity. Wiretapping, he said, besides being illegal, is wrong, pure and simple. He even told me that should they ever discover such activity being done or supported by someone from within the membership, it would be a matter of great concern and would be dealt with very seriously.
Johann Christoph Arnold, responding to a question on the TV program 'Chronicle' (10/11/95) regarding the tapping of Chris and Else Winter's telephone: "No, I had nothing to do with it. But you would like to know what's happening, wouldn't you, if people get together about your family and so on? So we're also human beings, who make mistakes."
Joanie Pavitt Cavanna, 8/14/98: Dear Everyone. It's so hard to know where to start ...so much to tell... but first to all who sent good wishes and presents a very big and heart-felt thanks. Please excuse this mass answer for now but it feels like the only way... individual cards and photos are on the way, I just hope I get done before Christmas... O.K. here goes.
Life as it has been for the last few weeks:
KIT Conference: Wonderful venue, fantastic atmosphere already waiting to welcome us. Andrea , Matt, Rosa, Anna and Jake, thank you so much for "being" there. Singing round the campfire, relaxed, happy conversations based in the here and now and not all focused on sad pasts. Just watching all the lovely faces making contact and noticing what a long way we have come since that first Ridgeway KIT... lovely, lovely... it does my heart good. But one thing from recent hummer chat I would like to flag up very clearly, that it is not Matt and Andrea's job to clear up Lower Shaw after us any more than it is the coordinators of F Xways' job. It worries me that just because Matt and Andrea are "family" we may get their role muddled. This is not only an excellent venue, but it is also their home and their way of making a living; as such we should "guard" them and tread lightly. (that includes booking and not just assuming all will be well and food will be found... and having booked, then paying in full for all the services rendered... and then because we had such a good time not just assuming that it will not be a problem if we don't clear up and out on time... it just so happened that our wedding followed KIT and that some people had arranged to stay on... not everyone asked or indeed paid for that extra).
The Wedding... To be surrounded by so much love... to have so many willing hands helping to make it all happen and to have such a perfect venue ...my cup runneth over (and my eyes leak a lot.)
I will just string a lot of words together in the hope that it portrays a little of that very magical day.
To wake up and hear Matt whistling "Morning has broken" one of my Mum's favorite songs. Children waking and laughing. Granddaughter "cooing" as only 9-mth-olds can. Breakfast with all the friends who have been helping decorate the "wedding barn". Smiles, laughter and lots of time for hugs. Looking across the court yard and watching our friends become friends as they share the last minute tasks. Time to miss those who can't be with us and yet know they are thinking of us. Past, present and future swimming in and out of focus... so rich to have so many parts of our lives come together in this very special place. Ex-community, and "out-siders" finding common ground. Friends from childhood, early parenthood, work, neighbours...
Excitement mounting as the time slips by. The place for the ceremony so beautifully finished, my headdress made by loving friends. Place names on the tables. People from the U.S.A., Brazil, Ireland, Germany and all over England.
Getting changed, the last-minute pressing of different bits of clothing... daughters giggling... Tara, Tanya, Cathy and Joanne all drift in and out of our room. Sounds of gathering people. Flower petal and confetti baskets being organised..
Downstairs now and family and friends line up ready to process round to the gazebo where the ceremony is to be. Walking between my dad and Ben, and for the first time realising what it is to walk on air... Rounding the corner and seeing 100 people gathered there on the front lawn, all smiling, making eye contact with friends I have not seen for a while and I know I am going to cry a little, but also notice that that is just fine.
A heartfelt welcome to one and all from Matt Holland our host and master of ceremony and the Wedding begins. Tessa singing such a beautiful and touching song, a vision of peace and hope. I cry. My heart is so full, I had not heard the song before, and the calm dignity with which Tessa, aged seven, opens our wedding is awe-inspiring.
Exchanging vows; having the space to say just exactly what it is that we want to say. I share with everyone some symbols of my life and our relationship. Rosebuds to symbolise growth and renewal, a pebble for journeys and earth and endurance, a leaf and a shared understanding, a little crystal dolphin to symbolise tribe family and the fun we have sharing our families, a feather for flight and being who you were truly meant to be and symbolising a connection with heaven and earth.
Ben responding and being so brave and sharing with all those gathered his sense of family and relationships and how we support each other. Just as we exchange rings the sun breaks through in all its full August strength. Photos, hugs, more happy tears and then the welcome by the wedding barn door as people file in ready to eat. Its only then that I really begin to notice just how many well-wishers have gathered to share this day.
Eating my meal while grinning from ear to ear. Then a beautiful speech from my Dad about true companionship and describing how the Cavanna and Pavitt family were linked even before the Long Journey to Paraguay. The toast and champagne corks popping and laughter bursts too. The magical appearance of that str... cooken (sorry no idea how to spell it and Ben isn't here to ask) due to late night baking by Andrea and Sue. Touching speeches and readings from friends and family, songs, juggling, music played by the younger generation, a very special dance that eventually linked lots of us as new and old friends join in. Then I have a chance to tell the story of how my family got back to England through the eyes of the six year old that I was then and to thank Alfred Ames, the man who had sponsored our family and made it all possible. Ben's were the last words, thanking everyone who had helped make this such a special day, remembering those who could not be with us, particularly his Mum and Dad; with a heart felt thank-you to his father's sister Aunty Mary for being there for us.
But no, that was not the end of it all! Still to come was the rope swing with both Ben and I launching ourselves from the very top level. (Taking turns I hasten to add!) And yes, I was still in my wedding dress... that will teach them to dare me!!! There was also the flight of two very special white dove kites, a present from a friend of mine we have been friends since we were 12. Then there was the arrival of the Ecuadorian band that Ben and I had seen playing in a shopping center a few weeks previously. It was so good to hear the Paraguayan-born people able to address them in Spanish, and I could see them relax; indeed they later thanked us for the warm welcome and for including them in our family for the evening. There was the pig roast (thanks to the Holland Tribe... and thank you for all the other help too) and then there were hours of chat laughter and dancing to the wonderful music. I kept wondering when I would feel tired, but the whole day was so lovely I just seemed to float through it all . In fact if it were not for the photos that are beginning to arrive, and the wonderful video taken by Anne and Peter, I would be tempted to think it had all been a dream.
I would like my last bit of this account to be a huge thank-you to all who came and to all who sent their love and best wishes. It would not have been the same without you; but most of all I would like to thank my Dad, Len Pavitt for all his love and support and "being there." With lots of love,
Belinda Manley, 8/28/98: Our gathering, as I look back, was really something special. Apart from the obvious things, such as where people slept or pitched their tent, and the preparation of the food we ate, there were no set plans for meetings. This made for a very relaxed atmosphere were, over endless mugs of tea/coffee, people sat around in small groups just enjoying each other's company.
If anyone did want to sort out a question (such as the format of KIT nowadays), people who wished for such a discussion were simply invited, and we sat in a circle at a suggested time, outside, in the beautiful weather, and held our discussion together.
On Sunday some wished to gather and pray together, which happened. Others walked together, short or long distances. It seemed so harmoniously and spontaneously worked out talk and laughter could be heard continuously a really lovely gathering.
Matt and Andrea and their children were superb host and hostesses, and everyone was ready to help out in the kitchen, 'waiting on the oldies,' etc. At the end of the room next to the kitchen were three big, comfy sofas. Here the dozen or so children sat. When they were bored by 'adult chat,' they politely crept out to play football or chase around. When curiosity overcame them, they crept back to see what the thirty-six adults sitting in a circle round the room were talking about. Or else, more likely they heard the table being set up and laid for a meal "food, lovely food" brought them back. The food was vegetarian. Not only were the soups delicious, making second helpings very popular, but so were the salads, vegetables and fresh fruit also most popular.
Outside the 'central converted cowstalls building' was a large Dutch barn with a corrugated tin roof and large posts. Under this was a huge Wendy House, ropes to swing on, some having tyres tied on at the end. It made a sheltered place for outdoor play had it rained but we had only sunshine. Next to the Dutch barn was a 'storage-barn building.' We soon learned that this was to be 'the banquet hall' for the betrothal of Ben and Joanie the following weekend. Help was asked for, and received, in the shifting of stuff inside and getting it basically arranged for the Wedding Feast. There were many hands to make the work light for the coming festival next weekend. I hear on the phone that 'the Betrothal' took place on the lawn in front of Lower Shaw Farmhouse, but others who took part will tell that story in full.
'The Oldies' were so kindly catered for by 'The Youngies'. An excellent Bed & Breakfast place had been found nearby for those whose camping or shared dormitory days were over. In my case, Joy McDonald came to pick me up at 10 AM on Friday. After a cup of coffee, we sped off to fetch Norah Allain from her daughter's house in the Kingston/Surbiton area. Joy gained full marks from me in her quick decisions of finding the right turn-off to find Norah, packed up and 'at the ready.' It was lovely to meet her over here from Brazil and full of her adventures that 'had been' and 'were to come'. We sped on to Joy's home in Foxglen at Camberley, arrived in time for a midday snack lunch. There we met Bob and Fiona, home for the lunch break from their gift shop. Simon was also home in the midst of his exams. After lunch, Norah and I rested. This was to be my overnight stay room on Sunday when we left Lower Shaw Farm after lunch.
It all proved to be a most enjoyable weekend. On Saturday, many more guests than the 36 of Friday evening turned up for some hours together. I guess we must have had maybe 100 altogether, 'passing through.' Anneliese Trümpi was over for a family wedding as well, and came with Charlie Lamar and Johanna (Patrick) Homann by air. Stephen Marchant came early and went home at midnight, so Anne, his wife, told me. The 'oldies' were Migg Fischli and Leonard Pavitt and Norah Allain, who were on the first floor rooms at the Guest House. I had an ensuite ground floor room in the bungalow nearby. Joy and Elizabeth were nearby in the bungalow in a twin bedded room. Rosie and Susan were in the house, and also Jennie, Elizabeth's 'teeny' daughter. At Shaw's Farm were Sina, her daughter Rebecca, and Ben's sister Sue, with her little girl. Renatus Klüver was a splendid 'uncle' to the children and spent time in exciting Hide and Seek chases.
The Hasenberg sisters were also over from Germany and it was really good to see them both, so lively and full of chat. Ludwig Fischer went everywhere with his version of a bombillio from which he sucked his maté drink non-stop. Lini had a birthday celebration, so they stayed near to her for that reason. There were masses of Hollands, needless to say! Gertie and Leslie came for the whole of Saturday. Leslie, now 91 years old, spent his time drawing portraits, and Gertie always seemed surrounded by grandchildren, and very often with Ruthie's new baby son in her arms (until he wriggled free!).
Charlie Lamar called his "KIT format" meeting. Maybe a dozen or so of us sat together and discussed the effects of e-mail and computer input, etc., which has opened up the field to many others, many unknown in Bruderhof circles.
I felt Joy really summed it all up for me when she simply said, "I just read KIT nowadays as one reads a newspaper you select your favorite writers and read that part thoroughly. You pop in and out of what also interests you, but no so specially. Some parts you simply 'skip,' but life goes on. The past fades away in parts and many hard tracks have now been walked through anyway, etc." I found that was just how I read KIT. Thanks to all the KIT team! You do a great job for us all.
Finally, our thanks must go to Matt and Andrea and family for sharing their home so completely with us all at Lower Shaw Farm. I believe a lot of others feel as I do that is that Lower Shaw Farm offers a future annual meeting place, if Matt and Andrea can do that again. Thanks, Matt and Andrea, and your family for giving us such a wonderful time! Do I really look like the Queen Mother, Matt? Anyway, I forgave you publicly, didn't I? Love to you all,
Charlie Lamar, 8/27/98: I had 300 vacation hours saved up, so this year I took 140 of them to make Ben and Joanie's wedding, the English KIT and Friendly Crossways.
This was the first EuroKIT at Lower Shaw Farm, a beautiful place, 150 years old, with a stone farm house, rustic accommodations, good home cooking, and Matt and Andrea Holland right in their element as conference hosts, which is what they do for a living. Originally it wasn't going to be called KIT, so people who felt they had something to lose could say they hadn't actually attended "KIT", (the same sort of legalism as President Clinton saying he didn't have "sex" with Monica Lewinsky, I suppose) but by the time I got there that potential gambit had fallen by the wayside and the weekend get-together was unabashedly called KIT.
The whole gathering was relaxed, unprogrammed and highly enjoyable, except, of course, for the very first meeting when I was ambushed by one Ben Cavanna, who said that since they had me cornered, now was the chance for everyone to weigh in on the editorial policies again.
There was talk of "Why does there have to be so much Internet stuff?", Why don't you print shorter issues?", This that or the other topic "is boring," etc., but sitting right there were Joerg and Christine Mathis illustrating the benefit of diverse subject matter in KIT by saying how much they loved the Internet stuff because it was Christian and asking me to convey their particular thanks to Wayne and Betty, the Foxes, Mel and Mike LeBlanc for what they post. Someone said, "No one ever reads every word of any other publication, so why read every word of KIT?"
It occurs to me that one of the things that might typically happen with KITfolk is that, in true Bruderhof fashion, they feel duty bound to read every word that's printed even on the Hummer for that matter. Maybe the first issues were so exciting that people soaked up every single word, but for most of us those times have long since come and gone. Next year will be our tenth anniversary. Notwithstanding the common connection, we're a diverse bunch, with diverse interests reflected in our publications horse operas in the Chaco for some, long theological diatribes for others. Speaking of diversity, one thing I hope to see in future issues is a few pithy, idiomatic things in German. Perhaps Renatus, if he would be so kind, could undertake to choose and edit the selections. Migg's memoirs, maybe. German speakers are one group we haven't heard from very much, certainly not in their own tongue.
Friendly Crossways was notable for the unexpected absence of Ramón and Judy. They had decided not to go as much as two weeks before, but I didn't think it would be a good idea to make a general announcement until the last minute because other people might cancel then as well. As it was we had a nice KIT anyway, except for the absence of a certain comedian named Julius and the fact that many things Ramón always takes care of fell to others unaccustomed to the tasks. Actually I'm sure the way it worked out was all good in the long run.
We learned many things. For example, we could have used better notice of cancellations, etc.; we bought too much food; it would be a good idea to negotiate more vigorously with the proprietors in advance about the terms and conditions of our stay; there were several key absences among the regulars who usually accomplish the cleanup of the whole place Monday morning so there was a bit of a flap about it subsequently; at least one other local person besides Muschi ought to be around to liaise everything. Previously the Steve Hassan brouhaha on the Hummer showed that if there is going to be such a thing as a guest speaker at KIT, the people who are planning to attend the conference should actually be interested, the program balanced, or a plan made to balance out the program on a subsequent occasion, the fees or other arrangements for the speaker widely discussed and agreed upon, and the whole deal, whatever it is, squared up with both Peregrine and KIT considerations. I'm sure leadership and communication will improve all these things next year.
I had a very good time at both KITs. One choice moment at Lower Shaw Farm was hearing how Joy Johnson MacDonald wickedly tricked Christine Rimes Mathis into getting on a roller coaster at an amusement park. "First it goes through a sort of fun house and then it goes up and down a bit." (Word is that Christine, who doesn't have time to go to the bathroom or room to swing a cat, has had her first taste of e-mail and she likes it.) Another choice moment was hearing about Matt Holland's sole contribution to animal husbandry, made in the very same Lower Shaw Farm cowshed 23 years ago. To facilitate cleaning up the barn, the teenaged Matt got all 30 cows in the shed to move their bowels at the exact same moment while still lined up in their stanchions, by standing at the head of the class and clapping his hands in a fashion onomatopoetic to the sound of cow pie impact on the concrete floor. All this was charmingly narrated in the ancient, monosyllabic vernacular, setting a wholesome tone for the entire occasion.
I've heard it said that a marriage joins families together as much as it does the individuals. Seldom could this be so much the case as it is with Ben and Joanie, where two ongoing family situations are very much at play, one involving two grown daughters and a little grandchild and the other, several children who have been living in problematic circumstances to say the very least. All that would be their story. Someday I hope they tell it. But as to the wedding, the week following KIT, Matt Holland's selfsame cowshed became the venue for the wedding luncheon and for dancing in the evening. There were catering, special parking arrangements and seating plans for 98 guests. The cowshed was disguised with drop cloths and shiny paper ivy, cedar boughs, balloons and silver stars all over in the likeness of an exotic pavilion, with a grand, baroque balloon and bed sheet valance at the door. The wedding itself took place under a special canopy in front of the farmhouse with the audience grouped around on the lawn.
The ceremony had four parts to it. First Ben's seven-year-old niece, Tessa, sang a solo beautifully. Next, the Bridesmaids presented little boxes with small symbolic gifts in them emblematic of Joanie's considerations and sentiments regarding her marriage to Ben. Joanie spoke about each token and Benedict responded. Then Ben and Joanie gave each other rings. Last was signing of the witness tablecloth.
Everything went well, and the weather was perfect. There were clouds for the photography. One hot beam of sunshine pierced through the cloud cover just as the couple exchanged their rings. There were just enough raindrops to chase the stragglers through the receiving line; lightning, rain and thunder all during the wedding luncheon, but no more thereafter. During lunchtime there were music, dancing, poetry, games and tricks. Joanie's daughter, Jo, sang a capella. There were beautiful speeches, and a story from Joanie about the magic Alfred Ames worked on behalf of the Pavitt family at a crucial moment once upon a time. At tea time there was a whole pig roasted on the premises. Live music and dancing followed on at 8:00 o'clock.
The band was from Ecuador. The music was exactly right. People danced with the band. They liked it so much they played extra. A member of the film crew dragged me onto the dance floor. There are no pictures.
Ben and Joanie's honeymoon was on a chartered river boat going up and down the Thames. There were quite a few people on the boat and a cell phone handy in case it should turn out that more of Ben's children needed to come on board. As it was, there were two each of Ben's and Joanie's children. There were Ben's sister Sue and her daughter, Tessa. There was also little Ellie, Joanie's granddaughter.
Thinking about Ben and Joanie; thinking about the people who did and who did not show up for their wedding; thinking about the KIT gatherings on both sides of the Atlantic; thinking about the people who did and who did not show up for those, it occurs to me that, besides the constraints of health and money, in some cases the reason people do come, or the reason people stay away, (and this is not necessarily true of Ramón, by the way) is that the ones who do show up are the ones who have not been afraid to ask for help from other people in a direct, above board, personal way, right out of the front part of their mouths. Some people are afraid to come to KIT because the folks who actually hurt them will also be attending, and they don't dare take the chance of bringing it up. Some people stay away under the influence of blackmail. Some people stuff their feelings. Another factor in why people come or stay away is that it has become less and less comfortable for people at KIT gatherings who unjustly confuse KITfolk with the Bruderhof or other abusers and tend to put the blame where it does not belong.
I am not happy that the more troubled people often don't show up. My point in bringing all this up is simply that I wonder what we can do about it. I do realize, however, that the biologic baseline, including the potential for sanity, is not flat, but varies enormously from person to person. But if the Bruderhof ever erupts en masse, we'll all be back at square one as far as the "KIT process" is concerned, won't we, with the new arrivals. In a the aftermath of a Bruderhof Götterdammerung we'll see the whole psychological spectrum emerging once again. If there is to be such a traumatic final chapter, I hope we'll all be ready when it comes. I see no more hopeful sign that we will be than I see in the lives of Ben and Joanie who are doing all they can to mop up the aftereffects of Bruderhof and non-bruderhof past events in their newly entwined families. I hope they can tell the story someday. Of course they couldn't tell it all properly right now. It's still happening.
After Friendly Crossways I left several days unscheduled to relax. I spent those days at the home of Roger Strickland. I found myself doing something I have always wanted to do. I spent hours gazing directly upward through a clean, flat, optically perfect skylight window in the slanted ceiling just above my bed. I watched the leaves of the larch tree straight above me moving gently in the wind. Occasionally, raindrops morphed the window momentarily into little water lenses. To my perspective the lenses advanced and briefly magnified the leaves, then restored them to their places on the larch tree as the drops effaced invisibly across the surface of the glass.
A poetic confluence of the natural and artificial comforts me. It reminds me that our living has a purpose in the cosmos. The places of ascenders are secure. There will be other leaves with other lenses just as envisioned in my minds eye before I saw the ones at Roger's house.
Tanya Cavanna: Hi, I'm Tanya. (Ben's middle daughter and Joanie's stepdaughter) It was nice to have met some of the people Joanie and Dad have been talking about, and put faces to names. I hope you enjoyed the wedding, I know I did. Best wishes to everyone, :o)
Hanna Patrick Homann, 8/22/98:
Report on the KIT Conference in England
Friday, July 24th. I was staying at my brother Bart's house, which is right next to the Garden Care Center that he owns. Ben is a manager for some of his landscape gardening crews and he and Joanie lived about 10 minutes away. Ben and his daughters Tanya and Tara picked me up around 11 am and took me to their home, where 2 cars were being packed for the trip to Lower Shaw farms. Ben and Joanie live at 117 Longwalk, a 2 bedroom row house with a beautiful back garden full of flowers. Charlie had been staying with them, bunking down on an air mattress and all of us, plus gear, were going to squeeze into 2 small cars for our trip to Swindon. After some excellent packing, which included a huge 1/2 barrel grill strapped to the top of the car, we were off. Joanie, Charlie and I would try to meet the train in Swindon to pick up her dad Leonard Pavitt, so we were a little concerned when the traffic on the motorway bogged down.
Matt's directions were excellent, but we decided to stop off at the Farm first to unload our gear, as there was no room for Leonard. We were the second group to arrive, after Jörg and Christine Mathis and their 3 kids and were welcomed into Holland family's huge warm, wonderful family kitchen by Andrea Holland. As Joanie and Charlie left to pick up Leonard at the station I had a chance to really soak up the ambiance of this wonderful room. Dark wooden beams hung low out of the ceiling and were decorated with drying bunches of straw flowers and herbs, some mobiles and wind chimes. The whitewashed brick walls were covered with handmade artwork and shelves bearing various kitchen utensils, old crockery and cookbooks. Two large windows gave the room its light. The one over the sink was surrounded by cascading English ivy and other greenery, while the other one displayed a huge bowl of fruit. In the center of the old flagstone floor stood a long solid wooden table, covered with homegrown foods, salads, jams and jellies and homemade whole-wheat bread.
We were welcomed by tall, willowy Andrea, who was wearing a green checkered apron and was at one of the two huge deep sinks, washing what must sometimes feel like a perpetual mound of dishes. She put on the kettle for a cup of tea, invited us to help ourselves to a slice of the homemade bread (just like we used to have in Primavera) and some of the homegrown salad, freshly harvested from her organic garden.
I chatted with Christine and Andrea and was told that this house was 200 years old and protected by being listed on the Historic Register. There were various other buildings that we would explore later, one having been used as a cow shed and another as a carport (I think... Charlie may have more accurate details about these structures). On the left, behind the main house, the low one-story carport structure had been converted into bedrooms, each with their own window and door and usually full of bunk beds and single beds. At the end of this building we had a large dining room with an attached kitchen, which was used for guests.
Throughout the weekend Andrea would cook her delicious organic vegetarian dishes in her own family kitchen and then bring them down to this kitchen, where lunches and suppers were served. Otherwise, we were free to use the guest kitchen to fix our perpetual cups of tea, or coffee and whatever we felt like for breakfast. We had a constant supply of homemade bread, milk, various cereals and could even walk over to the free-range chicken coop to find freshly laid eggs.
A huge open-sided former hay barn stood across from the dining room and accommodated various playground equipment that was always popular with the children. In one corner a rope swing hung from the rafters, while a homemade play house nestled in another. The chicken enclosure was situated in the third corner (they had to be penned up at night because of the nocturnal visits of a marauding fox) and the fourth corner was wide open. A large hammock hung from the center rafters, which were also the home of some beautiful white doves. They would constantly take off, circle and return and were fascinating to watch.
Most of the walls of buildings across from the bedrooms were colorfully painted with landscapes, flowers, tropical birds and animals and added a wonderful backdrop to the ever changing groups of people who would gather in this communal open space. The large milking shed was used to house various stations of craft activities available for other retreat weekends. A ping-pong table sat in the center of the concrete floor and I enjoyed a few games with some of the kids. It was hard to believe that this would later be converted into a beautiful, fancy dining hall the following weekend for about 100 people who attended Ben and Joanie's betrothal.
Around the corner of the milk shed sat a row of tiny green 'bubble' trailers that were also available for accommodations. Some larger trailers were situated at the back of the milk shed and another storage shed was situated across from the trailers. The whole compound was surrounded by a thick border of tall trees and shrubs which completely screened out the surrounding town of Swindon. Matt gave us a tour of the grounds on Saturday morning, which also included their large organic garden and greenhouse. Located behind the dining room building was a permanent bonfire site surrounded by a circle of benches, which could be reached form two directions by walking through two arches of vining plants.
People continued to arrived all afternoon, and by supper time we had about thirty-nine. Jean and Brenda Hasenberg who had been in England for a while arrived and I was grateful to Jean for helping to identify many unknown faces of people from Primavera in a collection of photos I had found in my mother's belongings. I was amazed at Jean's phenomenal memory! Belinda arrived with the Johnson girls and many of us commented about how well she looked. She is now 89 years old and her eyesight is failing.
Others who arrived were Susan Cavanna and daughter Tess, Doris (Boller) Wyder, and Migg Fischli, Anneliese, Renatus and Hartmuth Klüver, Joy, Rosie and Susan Johnson, Phil, Matt and son Hugh Ellison, Nora Allain, Carol Beels Beck, Nancy Ostrom (visiting with Ellisons) Sina and daughter Rebecca Holz (formerly married to Klaus Holz) and Peter Forde, who had visited Darvell and told us that the B'hof fit all the eight qualifications of a cult.
Supper was served at 7:30 PM and was delicious!! I must confess that I didn't realize that our meals were always vegetarian fare (except for the BBQ Saturday night) until someone pointed it out to me. The food was absolutely delicious and much of it came from their own garden. I'm sure that by now many of you have realized that I was quite smitten by Lower Shaw Farm and I think that this is an ideal location for future UK Kit Conferences.
After supper some of us visited while doing the dishes and then Matt called for a "welcome" meeting. He seems to have a real knack for speaking to groups and spinning fantastic stories and got our attention initially by asking all of us to close our eyes and then listen for the sound of a soft object falling to the ground. We were to signal with our hands if we heard it. He changed the object and its height for the other meetings and we all seemed to enjoy the tricks he pulled out of his hat. We all introduced ourselves and told a little about ourselves and after the meeting people continued to visit casually in small groups and turned in when they were tired.
Saturday, July 25th.
I woke to the crowing of the rooster and enjoyed the quiet of a beautiful sunrise. I grabbed a quick shower before the bathroom cues developed and then made some tea and had a bowl of cereal. Carol B. joined me later and we had a nice chat while catching up with some dishwashing from the night before. Others drifted in, some had bread and jam and soft-boiled eggs while others cooked up some porridge. Pots of tea and coffee quickly disappeared as new people arrived. Many of us sat in the dining room, as it was still chilly outside, but as the sun's rays reached the common area between the buildings, the outside tables soon filled up.
New arrivals included Irene and Ludwig Fischer, Christine (Friedemann) and husband Detlev Diepenbrock, Elizabeth Johnson and daughter, Andreas and Reg Lacy, Pauline Ellison, Lillian Marchant and husband, Stephen Marchant, Linda Lord and husband Gordon, Dieter Holz, Leslie and Gertie Holland, Peter and Janette Holland and daughter Roz, John and Penny Cavanna, Ema (Kleinsasser) and husband Richard Ferrari (a young couple who met on the B'hof, but married outside) and Sepple Headland.
We had to have a beer and wine run for the BBQ (I think Ben supplied the meat for this) and Matt found a large wheelbarrow which his son, Jake, pushed. Rosie and I supervised and we were joined by several other kids. We must have looked quite a sight as we trudged out of the compound, across the road and along a public footpath that wound between the homes of Swindon residents to a quick shop. We left the wheel barrow outside with the dogs, who sat patiently waiting for their owners to emerge from the store.
The place was really busy with lines of people waiting to pay for their snacks and other purchases and we got lots of funny looks as we began stacking up the cases of beer and wine. We then pushed the wheelbarrow inside to load it up, but, because of the weight, all of us had to help carry some of the purchases and our procession solicited lots of stares again, as we wound our way back to the farm.
Another delicious meal was served for lunch and then Rosie rallied some of the troupes together for a hike on the Ridgeway trail. We took three cars and enjoyed visiting with various people as we walked the sometimes rough and uneven trail for two hours. The views were fantastic and we were gone for most of the afternoon, chatting with other hikers on the trail and eventually turning back to where we had parked the cars.
The BBQ was well underway when we got back. Ben and John Cavanna were chief cooks and were assisted by Detlev B. We had tasty side dishes prepared by Andrea, but the constant run on the BBQ'd meats (chicken, hamburgers and sausages) kept the cooks busy. Eventually, everyone had their fill and Ben and Detlev could finally sit down to eat. We all sat around the bonfire enjoying our meal and later Matt got our attention again to announce that Belinda was leaving soon. He then delivered a marvelous story of "Queen Belinda and the Magic Purple Fabric", which had us all in stitches.
As dusk descended on us we were suddenly surrounded by the flickering glow of candles strung up everywhere in little jars and floating on saucers in the pond. Someone started singing one of our well known and beloved song and others joined in. When that was done, another song was suggested and then another and another and this continued until about 11:30 PM. Irene Fischer brought out her accordion, Anneliese, her "Flote" and Richard Ferrari, his guitar and as Matt continued to stoke the bonfire, we relived the camaraderie of our childhood years while bathed in the glow of the flickering firelight. What a wonderful way to end a wonderful day!
Sunday dawned bright and beautiful and we again mingled over breakfast and soaked up the warm rays outside. Most of us were leaving today and we lingered over breakfast in small groups, trying to make the most of the remaining hours before everyone departed. There were many hugs and goodbye's as dear friends left, but some of us were looking forward to meeting again the following weekend at Ben and Joanie's betrothal. To be continued...
World KIT Kup
by Miguel Frostenzo, Colonia News Service Staff
I was covering the World Cup in France, when I received an e-mail from the US. I was invited to come to a Youth Hostel East of Boston, to cover a rather unusual sporting event. According to the message, a close-knit group of internationals were going to play a futbol match on Saturday, Aug. 8th.
I arrived to find a group of young and middle-aged people putting on cleats and pads. There were no goals in sight. The gently rolling playing field was surrounded by woods on three sides. On the rear terrace of the hostel, fans gathered to observe the momentous occasion. A keg of beer stood nearby.
I tried to interview the players as they warned up. They were eager to tell me where they came from and what they did, but non of them would give me their names. There was a fellow from Nigeria, dressed in long pants and long-sleeved, black shirt. It was obvious that he possessed futbol talent, but his choice of clothing puzzled me. He came barefoot, but was able to find an old pair of Nikes. I seemed to recognized a lady of Dutch-English descent from the US Mid-West. She was known to me for her fearless, attacking style of play, and even a knee injury did not seem to concern her. Other players included a tall, slender Canadian teacher/musician/composer, an architect from NY. State, an ambulance driver, his energetic social-worker-wife and their three lively children, and a Dutch-German builder from Illinois. This fellow either did not hear me or else totally ignored my repeated requests for an interview. I heard that a prized player, known only as "Buffalorunner" (of 1958 Primavera vs. Brazil fame) had declined the invitation to play in order to run the Pikes Peak Marathon! Another European player had undergone recent hip-replacement surgery. He was seen "scouting" the match with a camcorder. A US Government employee from Atlanta had indicated he might be available as a reserve, but he was nowhere to be found. A referee from San Francisco had "volunteered" to officiate the match, handing our yellow "dish-washing-duty" and red "meal-cooking" cards. Wisely, he chose not to come!
The match began tentatively, with both teams testing each other's style of play. It was a give and take game, until the fifth minute, when the diminutive School Girl took a perfect pass from the Architect and threaded a shot through the open legs of the Ambulance Driver. Minutes later, Team West scored again, this one on a lovely cross pass from the School Boy to the Canadian Musician, who dribbled the ball skillfully (or was it luckily?) around the Nigerian defender and into the unguarded goal. By the fifteenth minute, Team West was comfortably ahead 3-0 and coasting.
Suddenly, with stunning swiftness, the Nigerian brought the ball up- field, and deftly kicked a soft 'rainbow" pass to the Dutch Woman, who took the ball deep into the opponent's field, wove around the Social Worker, and selflessly passed off to a wide-open School Boy. The East trailed 3-1, with momentum on its side. By the end of the thirty-fifth minute, the score was tied. At this point, Team East lofted an errant pass into the poison. The Dutch Builder carefully extracted the ball from the offending plant. Strangely, no "injury time" was added despite the ivy's reputation.
In the forty-fourth minute, the defending Social Worker inadvertently "handed" the ball and a penalty kick was awarded Team East. Successfully kicking into an empty goal from mid-field, the teams were tied! Spectators cheered with gusto! In the closing minutes of the first half, an intense rivalry developed between the Nigerian and the Dutchman. Both of them turned up the intensity of play and went at each other. The African demonstrated speed and foot work, while the Illini had endurance, strength and skilled team mates on his side. Significantly, there were no fouls and the atmosphere remained friendly through the closing action-filled minutes of the first half.
For some strange reason, none of the players returned for the second half (They were later seen playing volleyball!). They all seemed rather pooped by the humid, hot weather, indicating that their Paraguayan toughness had worn off over the years. It was unclear to this writer who had won. The Canadian, who had settled down near the beer keg, maintained that the final score was 8-8. It is uncertain how many beers he had downed at that point, but it must have been more than one.
George Maendel, 8/9/98: A report from George Maendel, typing on a laptop computer in the main, (and the only air-conditioned) room at Friendly Crossways Youth Hostel, Harvard, Massachusetts. Kerri, Charlie, Renatus Klüver, Nadine, Blair, Mel Fros, Janice, Margot, and various passers-through are engaging in conversation and looking at pictures. There are dozens of photo albums around from past KIT gatherings and from Euro-KIT gatherings. There is also a set of cards that were made at a Bruderhof in Paraguay. On the cards are hand-drawn pictures of some of the birds found in the woods and fields around Paraguay. Kerri and I looked at them in the dining room this morning when Phil Hazelton was there. He was able to tell us stories about many of the birds, the kinds of nests they build, how often they have young and most of all he mimicked the sounds of some of them. It sounded like tropical birds had invaded the dining room, especially when he did the "sounding the alarm" call that is common to one species of large bird. I nearly fell off the dining table bench! Phil said that when this bird is among a group of animals or among a herd of cattle, the animals don't have to worry about watching out for predators because if anything comes near this particular bird goes "haaCraa! haaCraw!" and, judging by the sound Phil made, I can imagine that every animal within a thousand yards was warned.
Last night we heard from Joseph Idiong, a Nigerian who met Bruderhof people when the Bruderhof was active in that country establishing the Palm Grove community. With his permission I can report here that he told us how he first heard about the Bruderhof and how he came to Palm Grove and how he eventually traveled to Woodcrest on their Gulfstream jet. He told about his early relationship with his wife and about their happy marriage in the Bruderhof and how his relationship with various Bruderhof leadership people started to fall apart when he asked questions about where decisions where made and by whom. According to Joseph, as a result of his questions, he was sent from one American Bruderhof to another, usually without his wife and child, and eventually he was sent away to "think things over" as the much-used Bruderhof refrain goes. We all found Joseph to be very clear and honest about his experience with the Bruderhof. He feels a genuine brotherhood with the Manitoba Hutterites, and he feels that he cannot say enough good things about Jake Kleinsasser of Crystal Springs Colony. He mentioned the sacrifice made by the Hutterite people as they helped to pick up the pieces at Palm Grove after the devastation and hardship caused by the Bruderhof during and after their abrupt departure from Palm Grove.
He mentioned Zack Waldner who was hurt at Palm Grove and is now back in Manitoba confined to a wheelchair. He would like to meet Zack again to thank him personally for all that he has done and to invite him back to Palm Grove. He praised the continued Hutterite involvement with Palm Grove and said it clearly shows the difference between the Hutterites and the Bruderhof. It is Joseph's dream to return to Palm Grove someday, together with his wife and child who live at the Bruderhof and whom he has not seen since July, 1997, despite many phone calls and requests made to the Bruderhof asking to be allowed to come see them. His requests have been denied and he doesn't even know on which Bruderhof property his wife and child are presently living. He has thought about hiring a lawyer (which he cannot afford) and trying to claim his right to see his child, but he doesn't even know where they are and he knows the Bruderhof could easily move them to another country if he was granted visitation rights by a U.S. court. Joseph wants visitation rights that are the result of concern and love, not as a result of a court order. He still hopes for reconciliation with his wife.
The dinner bell has just sounded... bye,
Bette Bohlken-Zumpe, 8/17/98: Thursday, August 6th, I felt very privileged to land at Boston airport and be met by a family member who took me to his home in Boston. It was lovely to be at their house and meet the boys and their mother, who took me to Friendly Crossways the following day. We talked a lot on the way and I always feel happy and amazed how quickly we find a close relationship through our communal background. This is something that we have the Bruderhof to thank for, I think! At Friendly Crossways I met my cousin Muschi and we had lots of fun! I stayed at her home for four nights!
Sadly, it was a small group that gathered for this get-together, as the "big conference" had been in England followed by the wedding of Ben Cavanna and Joanie Pavitt. But on the other hand, it was very special this way. We had lots of time for each other, as all of us were "Children of the Bruderhof." For those who do not know Friendly Crossways, it really is in the most lovely setting and you can enjoy the walks into nature around as well, quite close by the hostel.
Similar to every time I go to a KIT gathering, this time also it was just wonderful to see the cars arrive and meet each other, sometimes after forty years, and still feel close! This is very special! We did not have an agenda or a program, although we sat together every evening talking and singing. Everyone was very relaxed, so sharing each others' thoughts came very naturally.
We also talked about the future of KIT, as it seems that what we had wanted to achieve from the very beginning, "to find a better relationship with the Bruderhof," has had an opposite effect! They have demonized us as a group and are scared of us. They seriously believe that we are out to destroy them! It seems that they need an enemy on the outside, like the USA needed Russia at the time of the Cold War. The people on the inside do not know what KIT means, simply "Keep In Touch." They really think we are serving some wicked and evil "KIT spirit." Sad, but true. As our letters and phone calls will not reach our families on the inside, we can do just one thing, I think: stick together, have fun, enjoy each other's friendships, and hope the Bruderhof will see the light one day.
Friday, when I arrived, Muschi and two others had just returned from doing the shopping. It was really hot, and hard work to get all the foodstuffs for the whole weekend! After a lovely spaghetti meal, we went to talk and sing in the meeting room. I really enjoyed that.
Saturday more people arrived, some whom I had only known as babies in the Babyroom, so this was really special! Also my two cousins Ernst and Sam arrived from Canada, so it was truly a joy to meet them! Sunday we had the traditional barbecue out under the big trees, and it gave us another chance to catch up on each other's lives.
This is really what I like best, to see and hear how others have coped with the struggles in and out of the Bruderhof, and what they feel can be done to find a new entrance into those people's hearts. The Bruderhof has built a wall around themselves which is becoming higher and less transparent with the years. I feel that all we can do is pray for our families on the inside, like the community people did when they left Nazi Germany and had to leave their family members behind.. This comparison I find comforting.
All in all we had a wonderful get-together, and I am sure all of us went home feeling happy and joyful or having seen each other. I did feel a bit guilty when I left and saw how hard people worked to get the place spic and span! Also, I want to thank all those who did the shopping, cooked the meals and did everything to make this KIT gathering a happy and successful one. I am looking forward to next year's feast of the tenth anniversary of KIT! Much love to all,
Mel Fros, 8/15/98: Some background information on Joseph Idiong, told here with his permission: Joseph is a brother of the Palm Grove leader, Ino Idiong. There are three brothers. They came from a well-to-do (by Nigerian standards) family and, as Joseph states, life was good for him and he had access to most of the material goods and education that are available to those of social/economic standing.
Joseph joined the Nigerian Hutterian Brethren during his second year in college. Meanwhile his brother, Ino, left the Catholic Church in search of a communal life based on Acts. I do not know how the connection with the B'hof was initiated, but Joseph was a part of the early building-up of "the life" at Palm Grove. He remembers the enthusiasm of those early days and, if I am not mistaken, the leadership of Don Alexander, who was there the longest of any of the American Servants.
At some point, Joseph was asked ("forced") to terminate his teacher-training and sent to the American hofs along with three other young men. He was reluctant to leave his native Nigeria but agreed to go on condition that he be allowed to become an American citizen. A "green card" alone would not have made him leave, so papers for his citizenship were prepared by the B'hof. He had been told that in order to fully join in "the life" he would have to become a member of the B'hof and a good husband. In Nigeria he was baptized into the Bruderhof and met his future wife, Andrea, Lotte and Roland Keiderling's daughter. Once he arrived at Woodcrest, he began to assimilate into a culture foreign to him. Before long a daughter was born.
Joseph describes life in the American communities as a process of acclimatization, with the Nigerians often "allowed" to do things or make comments that would ordinarily not have been permitted to B'hof-reared young men. One time, he laughed in a Brotherhood meeting in reaction to a particularly "serious" matter and strangely, no one took him to task because it was felt the culture factor had to be considered. Sometimes, Joseph got so irritated with the daily dose of mealtime readings and "reports" that he asked to take his meals in his room. His requests were granted.
One day, Joseph found himself in the office of one of the leading brothers. It so happened that a KIT book lay on the desk in the office. Joseph slipped the book into his shirt and left the office. In the quiet of his room, he copied down Ramón's address, then slipped back into the brother's office and returned the book. Feeling a slight pang of guilt over this apparent "theft," he mentioned to the brother that he had "borrowed" a book of his. The brother shrugged it off casually because the books in his office were many. Joseph told his wife about the address, and she "dutifully" reported it to the Servants.
The dismissal of Joseph from the community came about because he refused to give what he considered to be false testimony about his brother and church leader Ino Idiong. Joseph had been asked to sign a document branding Ino a thief. I believe he stated that in Nigerian culture one does not make a charge against a (blood) brother out of the brother's earshot. In Nigerian culture, charges made are serious because a whole village can rise up against a "bad person" based on the testimony of one other person. The concept of "innocent until proven guilty" does not operate in their culture the way it does here in the U.S.
Apparently, the charge of "thief" leveled against Joseph's brother, Ino, stemmed from a convoluted story of financial arrangements. Simply put, it appears that Ino's father had bestowed land upon his son, on which the son hoped to build a community. Thus the land deed and subsequent money arrangements were in the hands of an all-Nigerian board of directors prior to the coming of the B'hofers. The B'hof folks put their money into this account in the early days. Apparently this arrangement did not sit well with Christoph, and he subsequently went to the bank and legal authorities attempting to replace the natives on the board of directors with B'hof "brothers". The bank notified Christoph that it was illegal to do this and that it looked like "slavery" all over again. The suggestion was to have at least mixed representation.
Ino was alerted to the danger and quickly froze the account so that the B'hof could not withdraw funds any more. However, before Ino did that, the B'hof managed to withdraw a large amount of its own money. At this point a relationship of mutual trust and work broke down and charges and accusations were thrown about. Joseph was asked to denounce his brother as an enemy of the church (my choice of words). He declined.
Thereupon he was asked to leave Woodcrest, given $50 and put out on a Manhattan street. He was stunned! He was so overcome with grief and spiritual numbness that he refused to eat. He paid for a room and with what little cash he had left, he bought a few beers and cigarettes and tried to block out the recent past. Some kindhearted soul showed him how to make money collecting pop cans for recycling. Joe Keiderling had mockingly indicated that soon Joseph would come back to the B'hof on his hands and knees, begging for mercy. Joe K. informed him that he would never see his wife and child again.
At this writing, Joseph has reason to believe that both wife and child have been moved to England where they are beyond his reach. This raises a legal issue because the father of the child was not notified of the move. The other wives of the Nigerian men are believed to be there too. Joseph is accused of having influenced the other Nigerian men to turn against the B'hof.
Joseph describes himself as a Christian, perhaps not as fervent as his brother Ino, and is now attending a Catholic Church. He feels grateful to be in the U.S. and realizes that this is the first time in his life that he has had to fight for his life. He desires to make something of his circumstances. He asked what advice we had to offer regarding visitation. Several of us urged him to write to his wife/daughter on a regular basis, keeping a copy of each letter mailed, so that a court of law could establish that he had made attempts to make contact with his daughter should the need for documentation arise. Joseph noted that one of the other young men had taken legal steps but that the other young man's funds were now exhausted.
At this writing, Joseph has committed himself to raising funds for the Nigerian Community and he passed out business cards to that effect. He appealed to us not to forget his people, to come visit Palm Grove any time and see for ourselves what his people have done since then.
While telling this story to us, Joseph repeatedly fought back his tears. He did not ask for pity, he only asked for understanding. I will never forget a parting comment he made to the rest of us one evening: "Most people smile only with their mouths, but you folks smile with your eyes." Joseph has found new support amongst us. Let us not forget him.
KIT: Anyone wishing to donate to the Palm Grove Community can send their check to the KIT address on the masthead, p 1. Please make it out to 'The Peregrine Foundation' and mark it 'Palm Grove Fund' in the lower left corner. All contributions are tax-deductible.
Linda (Lord) Jackson, 7/4/98: At last I have gotten around to writing again. I have enjoyed reading many of the letters in KIT, and often want to comment, but don't get to it. It is of great value to so many of us to have this support and to be able to renew old friendships with people we find we are still very close to in spite of the many years of being apart. Greetings to you all. After reading Andy's letter in the May KIT I felt I needed to write down some of my own experiences. What he said is so true we were, and those who are sent out now surely still are, so naive and innocent. (I am sending the file here, let me know if it arrives OK, if I don't hear from you I will try again, or mail it).
Andy's letter (KIT May '98) brought back so many emotions to me. He is so right that there are many similarities in the situation of a child of the Bruderhof being ousted into the unknown real world and those young girls in Ireland. He makes no mention of rape, yet I think in many cases of the young girls who were sent out by the Bruderhof will have been, as I was. My mind knows it was rape, but I still feel that guilt. It was my fault. In the 50s/60s the people at the 'houses for wayward girls' as they were called (we nicknamed it The Virgin's Retreat) this was the general attitude towards you. You were bad, and they made you feel you had no right to escape from their clutches even after they had got your baby off you. You should not be let loose in Society again. Added to the Bruderhof's brainwashing, one really hadn't much going for one.
Many girls ended up getting pregnant again, (birth control was not available to single girls then, even if one knew about such things) the second time because they were so desperate for affection and acceptance by anyone, that a man only had to show a little warmth and love towards them and the results were almost inevitable. This at a time when you were full of love you wanted to give to a baby no longer there, and having to cope with what had happened to you over the past year, rape, rejection, birth and adoption. Counselling was an unknown word in those days. If you then ended up back at the 'refuge' you were really the lowest of the low, as they reminded you frequently.
The Bruderhof's institutional-type experience probably helped me cope it was not that different. Even the first timers earned themselves 'goody' points by making it known how much they despised you. You had double work to do to make sure there was no time to even think about going out for a walk you might pollute society. Then if you had the audacity to suggest that you didn't think you wanted to sign adoption papers this time, you were given 24 hours to leave (the day was the day I came out of hospital, my baby 6 days old). They found a foster home for your baby until you could come up with somewhere to live, which was acceptable to social services. Then you had to prove that you had enough income to care for the baby, and if you intended to work, you had to prove that you could make acceptable arrangements for day care and pay for it. You had to pay for the foster home place as well of course. (I was just starting my final year at college at the time, on a grant and had already missed about 5 months supposedly with a nervous breakdown not actually far from the truth I suppose).
The foster parents were quite nice, and let me move in with them for a price of course. I could sleep on the living room couch, (so I couldn't get to bed until TV finished) then I was there for my baby during the night, and could get him up in the morning, bath him, dress him and feed him. I rarely got to bed before about 1.30, because he usually woke up about 12.30, just as the foster parents went to bed, and wanted a feed. Then he would be up again about 5.00 in the morning. I really enjoyed the time I could spend with him, but rarely got as much as four hours sleep each night. The social workers continued with the constant pressure that I should face facts, I was being so cruel not allowing my child to have a proper home. They kept pointing out that there was no way I could do it. I tried. I worked 12 hours each Saturday and Sunday as a nursing aide, and four hours most evenings in a bingo hall. I tried to save up, but by the time I had paid the foster home for myself and my baby, had bought him clothes and food, paid my fares to work and college, there didn't seem to be anything left.
After about 4 months, Social Services gave me a deadline. 'We need the foster home place for someone else; we cannot subsidise you any longer. If you cannot offer a home and care to your baby yourself, and prove that it is satisfactory to us, then your baby will be taken into care, to a children's home.'
There was nothing I could do. Even if I left college and took any job, I couldn't earn enough to pay for a flat, a nursery and care for him properly. There was not even child allowance for the first child in those days, and certainly no such thing as one parent family support. Also the nurseries were over-full, and gave preference to children from 'normal' families. They didn't want the stigma of an illegitimate child; it could give them a bad name. I was so tired, I knew I could not go on as things were much longer. Could I accept my son being shunted around from children's home to foster homes and back, on the off chance that one day I could manage to satisfy Social Services that I could support him? I could not see how I could ever get to that point, and in the meantime, what sort of a life would he have?
I gave in and signed the papers. A while ago my son found me, and contacted me. It was so wonderful talking to him on the phone. I was so thrilled; I could hardly believe it. I wanted to meet as soon as possible, and have him back again. This was the most wonderful thing that had ever happened to me. We exchanged photographs and arranged to meet. He wasn't the baby I gave away. He was a man over 30 years old. I wanted to hug him and cuddle him and give him all the love that I had bottled up for him over the years. But when I saw him it was like suddenly reality hit me in the face.
This was not my baby. Of course I had known that he was grown up, but until that moment, I don't think it had registered properly to me that although he was coming back to me, I was not going to be able to go back to having my baby, to be mine to bring up and love and help grow into an adult. That had already been done by someone else. I hoped he wouldn't want to call me Mum, it didn't feel like he was my son, he wasn't the baby I had in my heart for all those years. His Mum was the woman who had been with him and guided him through his childhood. For the first time it really registered properly to me that on that day when I had to hand him over to the adoptive parents I had lost forever the chance of being his Mum. Oh I had known he had gone, I had many sleepless nights wanting him back and wondering what he was doing, if he was OK, but I always hoped and believed that one day we would find each other again, and everything would be OK, I was his Mum and would look after him again. Until we actually met I hadn't realised how it would be. It had been so wonderful talking on the phone for the first time, and arranging to meet. It was all so different.
He was like a stranger, I had to start to get to know him get to know my own son all over again; it was suddenly all so unreal. We talked for a long time. He wanted to know all about his roots, and I wanted to know all about his life. We met again and talked freely about many things, and generally got to know each other better. It was good being able to do this. But there was something else. I have thought about it for a long time, and tried to work it out. I think I only began to understand when a friend told me that she had been adopted, and her natural mother had just got in touch, and we talked together about how my friend felt about this, and one of the main things she said was that she felt she was being 'smothered' with affection.
Yet to her this woman was a stranger, someone she had never been emotionally close to although she recognised that there were close ties, that she did not want to break, but she found it difficult coping with the way the relationship was going at that time. She didn't want to hurt her natural mum, or lose her altogether. I began to understand some of my feelings. I don't know quite how to put it into words, but deep down, my subconscious or something, still wanted to smother my son with all that stored up love and affection, hugs and kisses that I had wanted to give to my baby over the years. I began to realise that that opportunity had gone forever when my baby was taken away.
This was a new thought, and something I felt I needed time to come to terms with. I began to understand that for him I was someone he had always known existed, but with whom he had no remembered emotional attachments. I was just some stranger who happened to have given birth to him no more than that really. For me he still was in spite of his age that baby with whom I had a deep and, at the time very close and satisfactory emotional attachment. Over the absent years, there was no outlet for this love I felt for the baby I remembered so well. These feelings of emotional attachment had been stored and maybe even grew.
I, (and my subconscious emotions), have to come to terms with the fact that it is too late for some things. The time has past; it is not possible to put the clock back. I need to forget the past, accept that we each have built a life over the years that has not included the other. If we are going to have a relationship, it must start from there. We may not fit in to each other's 'world' on a permanent basis. It is natural that an adult child has his own life. We have actually already come quite a long way in getting to know each other.
I think beginning to accept that, as with my other children, we may only keep in touch or see each other occasionally, but those occasions are enough to maintain our relationship. (any letters, suggestions etc. on coming to terms with these, in many ways conflicting feelings, either personally or in KIT, would be welcome).
Joseph Idiong, 8/10/98: This is to thank you for making it possible for me to attend the just concluded KIT conference near Boston. Thank you very much for that chance. It was a very rewarding event. I was able to meet people who actually accepted me the way I am and allowed me to express my feelings and treated me like a human being. It was also very moving to see people who are in my own kind of position, and that I was not the only one the Bruderhof treated like a criminal. All the while I was thinking that I was alone in my problems with the Bruderhof! Now I know that I am not alone and that I have people who will be there for me anytime. Once again, thank you for that opportunity.
Ramón, please keep up with your good work because you have been able to put smiles on a lot of faces. Meg Greenfield in Newsweek said that "There is nothing so dangerous for manipulators as people who think for themselves." The Bruderhof sees you as dangerous because you think for yourself and, in doing so, you help others see the need to think for themselves too. God bless you for that.
Please keep up, because you stand for the truth which they say is indestructible. Truth has a way of accumulating against pride and arrogance and then always sweeps them from its path. Christoph is arrogant and proud, so continue in your truthful path and we will one day see the end of Christoph and Company.
Please say 'hi' to everybody for me, and if anyone asks you for my address, give it to them. I told about Palmgrove and the brothers and sisters there were very touched. I even got a donation for Palmgrove from George Maendel. Greetings from friends over here. Take care and God bless you and the KIT movement,
7/12/98 to J. Christoph Arnold: Dear Uncle Christoph, greetings in the name of God to you and all in the Community. I have decided to write to you after a careful study of the situation. I do not know how to write this letter without sounding insulting and challenging. Please do not take this personal, and I ask for your forgiveness in advance.
The reason for my writing this is the recent development in New Meadow Run and Spring Valley with Ebong Ebong. As I heard, Ebong went to visit his family and was refused the chance to see them, which forced him to go to the law for assistance.
Whatever the reason was, I do not think it was fair before God and Man for his not seeing them. If we must remember how each of the Nigerian men left the Community, none of them ran away from you, but each was sent away. Aniekan's dad died. He asked to go for the funeral, the brothers asked him to go outside and find a job that would enable him to go bury his dead father, but this was a young man who devoted more than four years of his life to working faithfully for the Church.
Basil, after living in the Church for more than three years, his father had a fatal accident. He asked the brothers to send help to his father, but was told that in serving the Lord you must forget your father and your mother and they refused. He was asked to leave to where he can make enough money to help his father.
Ebong went to Nigeria as an eye for the brothers in the company of his father-in-law to see his mother who has had a stroke for more than five years now. When he came back to his new home, it was a hotel room in Uniontown. He never got to see his family again whom he left behind in Spring Valley.
As for me, Joseph, I was considered the rebel of the group from the beginning. Again, like the others, I begged the brothers for a solution. I even came to see you and present my case in February of '95. What you told me was that I should go back to New Meadow Run and be a good brother, a good husband, and a good father instead of finding a solution to my request. The brothers finally sent me away to Staten Island in New York in the company of Klaus Meier to go look for a job where I can support my people in Nigeria.
With the above happenings, one cannot honestly say that we abandoned our families and neglected them. We all know how hard it is out here. The only way we can show love to our families in the community is to visit them once in a while with whatever gift we can afford.
When we joined the Church in Nigeria, we did not understand the full workings of the Church, and no one told us that we would have to forget our father and mother before we could be good community members.
Dear Uncle, our endurance of the outside world should not be seen as a challenge to the Community. See, somebody like me, I was told by Joe Keiderling, my in-law, that I will come back begging on my knees, but he was only proposing, like man is fond of doing, forgetting that God disposes what man proposes.
Uncle Christoph, life out here is tough, and sometimes it is so tough that I have to go to friends for help, whereas it is you I should come to whenever I or we are in need out here. Knowing that you are a busy man, I will not write very much, but I am begging you to look into this matter of our visit to our kids without allowing it to go to the Court. Why should we wash our dirty linen in public and why would you allow the world to judge you as a Christian?
Please, Uncle, do not forget that whatever Joe Keiderling and the rest of them do will reflect on your image as the leader of the Church.
My daughter's birthday was on the 11th of July, and when I called to say that I would come, I was told that I should not come and that I will not see her again unless I came back to the Community as a repentant brother. Please, do something about this issue, in God's name! Truly yours,
Guillermo Fischer, 7/29/98: Ploughing through the July KIT letter, court cases, newspaper reports and all the biblical terminology, I could not help but think of the scientists in the lab stripping a beautiful rose down to the last molecule, then putting it back together just to find it was dead.
Thank you, Hans, for your "Mercedes" story. It made the reading of the letter worthwhile. Apart from waking old memories, it also made it so clear how far we have moved away from all these natural facts and truths. Life is surely in the doing and not in the talking about it.
There is nothing like a moonlit night, an open campo, the rhythmic squeaking of leather and man's silence to help you understand that you are not in charge.
All we humans really need is clean air, natural food and the affection and understanding of a fellow being yes, even a horse, to give us contentment.
We should try to organise a get-together on an estancia here before we get too old to get into a saddle. I greet you all,
David D. Cook, A Letter to Ramón, 8/16/98: I have thought of writing you many times over the past couple of years but always held back for one reason or another. Today I am thinking about you again as I reflect on our first extended visit to the Bruderhof ten years ago. My wife, Kathy, and I and our five children arrived at Woodcrest on August 2, 1988 and were settled into Sunnyside House. One of the first people we met was your daughter, Xavie, our upstairs neighbor, and her brand new baby. Thus, when I think back on our Bruderhof experience I often think of Xavie and then of you.
I want to thank you for your work in putting together the KIT newsletter and for your part in coordinating the exchange of information and experiences that KIT allows. I can't begin to tell you (but I know you understand) how important this has been for us to understand and begin to come to terms with our own "hof experience". We found KIT on the Internet a couple of years ago and very soon afterwards ordered all the back issues and devoured them immediately, a very draining experience, filled with horror and dismay as we discovered the hidden side of the hofs and yet filled, at the same time, with great relief and thanks as we came to understand that our "problems" with the hof were not just "us" and that we had been able to depart from (or had been graciously delivered from) the hof with our family and faith still intact. When we think of those who have not been so fortunate, and as we continue to read of many others (through KIT and alt.support. bruderhof) who have been wounded and who have lost family members to the hof system, we are filled with anger and pain and sorrow, and a great longing that somehow, someday, all of this suffering produced by blind and hardhearted men will come to an end.
I will share with you what memories I have of Xavie. They are pretty limited, as she became sick very soon after our arrival. I do remember sitting out in front of Sunnyside one afternoon shortly after we arrived and chatting with Xavie about her new baby. My memory of this conversation may be a bit off with the passage of time, but I will give you the gist of it as best I can recall. She was upset because someone in the community had received a call from her father. She said her father had once been a part of the community but had left it (and her mother and her) many years ago. It seemed to me that she was upset because her father had not visited in a long time and, from her perspective, had not shown much interest in her over the years, and now all of a sudden he wanted to just "pop in". She may have told me that you learned of the new grandchild when you called and now wanted to visit to see the grandchild.
I have a vague memory of being surprised that she hadn't told you about the new baby. My recollection is that she was thinking that her father should not be allowed to just visit like this in view of his general lack of interest over the years. I specifically remember her asking me whether, if I was in her situation, I would want to keep the father from visiting the grandchild.
I don't recall exactly what I said to Xavie at the time, but it was something to the effect that a visit might be an opportunity for her to renew her relationship with her father. I recall thinking that it was strange that she would not want to use this new interest by her father in the new grandchild as an "opening" to try to begin a new relationship with him. It seemed to me that she was filled with a great deal of bitterness and confusion about the whole situation. Shortly after, when she was diagnosed with cancer, I recall wondering if such inner turmoil and confusion could be having a role in her illness.
A couple of letters that Kathy and I wrote to friends back in Wisconsin at that time also mention something about Xavie. In a letter of August 21, Kathy wrote:
"The whole community is experiencing a very hard thing right now. The woman who lived right up the steps from us has been found to have cancer. She just had her second child, two (?) weeks before we came, and had been recovering from that when she started feeling unwell. A series of tests last week revealed spreading cancer, and over the course of this past week she's gotten very sick very fast. She went to a hospital in Poughkeepsie yesterday to begin intensive treatment. You might want to pray for her and for her family, husband and two young children. Her mother is also a member here. We have been able to see how the community here has been a tremendous support for them all spiritually as well as in very practical ways. The baby is being cared for so lovingly by some of the women here, and they moved the family to a more accessible apartment."
On August 26th, I wrote:
"Our neighbors upstairs, George and Vonnie Burleson, stopped in last night, as I was writing, to tell us that Xavie, the young woman with cancer, had died. At supper last night, we were reading together Rev. 21 the description of the New Jerusalem. In the middle of that passage, Christoph was called to be with Xavie as she was really having a hard time. After supper, the whole community went up to her bedroom window and stood outside singing. We had done this in the afternoon also, during break, and also the night before. The night before, Xavie had come home from the hospital. A meeting was called and many of the people from Pleasant View also came over. Xavie was brought in on her hospital bed the doctors had said there was nothing more that could be done to help her the cancer was continuing to spread.
The whole community prayed for her as it says in James, with anointing with oil and with laying-on of hands. It's really hard to describe the experiences of the last day. Since her death, the community has taken turns keeping a vigil in Xavie's bedroom with her Kathy and I went down tonight and sat with her for about 45 minutes. I spoke briefly with her husband this morning he is feeling tremendous support from the community it's really a wonderful thing to have that kind of support. The experience has mainly drawn us closer to Jesus and to a realization of how close we all are to eternity. Also, a feeling or sense of God's presence and comfort and even though Xavie died, a stronger faith that Jesus has overcome all the powers of darkness. The burial is tomorrow afternoon. The baptism will be Sunday morning.
I also have a memory of the burial service for Xavie. I just recall that it was very moving, that it made quite an impression on us, seeing how the community cared for their members, even in death. I remember helping to throw a couple of shovelfuls of dirt over the casket as the men took turns with the burial, followed by the women covering the grave with flowers.
Knowing now, Ramón, that you had not even been told of her illness and death at the time of the burial, I am filled with sadness that you missed the opportunity to have any contact with Xavie in these last weeks of her life. It seems so unfair that I, a perfect stranger, was able to be a part of these events while you, her father, were not even informed.
It was only a couple of weeks after this that Kathy and I were asked to leave the community, a "request" that came out of the blue and set us on a long course of comings and goings over the next 6 years before we were finally able to walk away from the hofs for good. We had extended visits in 1990 (Pleasant View), and 1993 and 1994 (New Meadow Run). Now we know that our experience was really not so unusual in fact, it was the norm, perhaps only unusual in that we managed to come through it all relatively unscathed and with our family still together. In the course of our hof trips, we went through a baptism preparation group, asked for the novitiate, and came within a couple of hours of being "taken in". Thankfully, we hesitated at the last moment, and were spared the burden that so many ex-hofers seem to carry of being bound to novice vows.
Ramón, we pray for you, and for all who have been injured by and for all who continue to labor under the deceptive system of spiritual enslavement that the Bruderhof has become. Thank you again for your work in KIT. It is an invaluable service you provide for those who have suffered from Bruderhof control and manipulation, and for those seeking Christians who are drawn to the surface image that the hofs try to project. We think of you especially on this ten-year anniversary of Xavie's passing, and pray that the work you began in response to her death will continue to bear fruit in healing, restoration, and freedom for many others. Sincerely,
Ramón Sender, 8/21/98: Judy and I read the reports from the various gatherings and the Cavanna wedding, and much enjoyed the many photos that Charlie brought home. We felt very nostalgic and sorry not to have participated in such wonderful summer events! It seems that the U.K. get-togethers have found a permanent site at Lower Shaw Farm in the same way that the U.S. KIT conferences continue at Friendly Crossways.
Our summer news is much more prosaic: nursing our ever-more-elderly dog Cassie, Judy attending many meetings dealing with the school district's attempts to close her school. We both have had minor reasons to deal with the medical establishment, Judy having had a small skin graft to repair a basal cell removal, and I have an upcoming repair on a little finger that insists on curling up and not sticking out politely when I drink my tea.
On the positive side, our weather has been just glorious all summer long air conditioned by the evening and morning fog, and providing us with what I call 'noontime sun sandwiches.'
Continued in KIT X #8-9 Part II