The KIT Newsletter, an Activity of the KIT
Service, a Project of The Peregrine Foundation
P.O. Box 460141 / San Francisco, CA
telephone: (415) 821-2090 / (415) 282-2369
KIT Staff U.S.: Ramon Sender, Charles Lamar,
Bernard, Vince Lagano, Dave Ostrom;
U.K. : Susan Johnson Suleski, Ben Cavanna, Leonard
Pavitt, Joanie Pavitt Taylor, Brother Witless
(in an advisory capacity)
The KIT Newsletter is an open forum for fact and
encourages the expression of all views, both from within
outside the Bruderhof. The opinions expressed in the
publish are those of the correspondents and do not
reflects those of KIT editors or staff.
April 1995 Volume VII #4
-------------- "Keep In Touch" --------------
The pressure of news has made this a DOUBLE issue. Please
keep in mind our climbing costs with higher U.S. postage, and put a
donation in the mail to us if you have not done so for a while. We
would remind everyone that our foreign mailing costs are even
higher. The XRoads Fund also could use some help. Thank you.
----- The Whole Kit And Caboodle -----
HAPPY 60th Birthday to Bette Bohlken-Zumpe! Also a big
welcome to her new granddaughter!
Nadine Moonje Pleil, 3/6/95: August and I are the very
proud grandparents of a new grandson! Kerry and Andrea have a
son, 10 lbs and 21-1/2 inches long, with lots of brown hair. His name
is Paul Joseph. He came by way of Caesarean, but everything went
well. We now have 10 grandchildren. We are very grateful for the
safe arrival of this new little person!
KIT: We were very sorry to hear that both Bronwen Bazeley
and Richard Whitty are seriously ill. Our very best wishes to them
both and to their families. Also Kathleen Joyce Hazelton is fighting
emphysema. We extend our best wishes to her, Donald and their
"State Hutterites Split from Eastern Colonies for Differing
Reasons," by Carson Walker
© by "The Argus Leader," Sioux Falls, South Dakota
South Dakota Hutterites have split from their brother colonies in
New England, and each side has different reasons for the schism. The
minister of the South Dakota colonies, the Rev. Michael Waldner of
Mitchell, said the separation started last year.
"There was something between us. Nothing drastic that can't be
solved down the road sometime, we hope," Waldner said. "Like any
other church, they get things between them."
Hutterites, who have German ancestry, live a structured life-
style and are guided by a deep Christian faith. Most live in communal
colonies of about 100 members. About 5,000 live in South Dakota.
Waldner said the Western Hutterites, which include South Dakota,
other states and Canadian provinces, stopped communicating with
the Eastern colonies because of a colony in Nigeria, Africa, called
Palmgrove. The dispute arose when the Palmgrove Hutterites took
control of the assets that the Americans helped them establish, said
Martin Johnson with the Hutterian Brethren Service Committee in
Hutterites from the Dakotas and other parts of the West still
support the Nigerians, but the Easterners believe the actions amount
to a breach of relationship and it is not right to continue supporting
them, Johnson said. Waldner said the Eastern Hutterites made
accusations against the Westerners without asking them about it.
"The East just took the word from one person as truth. The
Hutterite way of life through the centuries was to ask first before
you accuse a person. They have not asked the second party if it's so,"
Johnson said the Eastern Hutterites have tried to settle
differences with the Westerners, but it has been to no avail.
"From our point of view, we tried to settle these things, and now
they do not accept our feelings on these things."
The West also shuns the East because of a book, said the head of
the Eastern Hutterites, the Rev. Johann Christoph Arnold of Rifton,
"We have published a book called "Discipleship," which the elders
of Western Hutterites forbid them to read because it's a challenge to
us as Christians," he said. "They see it as a threat because it means
for them they have to change... They are furious that we published
this book and are telling outside people not to buy it."
Waldner said the book is not banned. "We never opposed the
book," he said. "I've got the book and have read it. There's nothing in
there we didn't know. It's a nice book, and I don't know of anybody
who's been forbidden to read it. Where he got that I don't know."
KIT: The schismatic faction of ex-Schmiedleut colonies
known as the "Oilers" are being asked to stop identifying themselves
as Schmiedleut and Hutterian Brethren. Quoting from a letter signed
by Rev. Mike Hofer and Leonard Kleinsasser, Schmiedleut Conference,
to Mike Wollmann, Sam Kleinsasser, Jacob Waldner, Jacob Hofer and
Sam Hofer: "Again, we hope that you will act in an honourable way
and discontinue use of the name "The Hutterian Brethren Church"
and "the Schmiedleut Conference," as to do so is misleading." Another
letter from Wolschock & Company, Barristers and Attorneys-at-Law,
addressed to Bill Murray and Michael Radcliffe of the law firm,
Baker, Radcliffe and Co., also made the same request.
KIT: The Bruderhof has filed two lawsuits in Nigeria
attempting, first and foremost, to freeze the assets of the Palmgrove
community. The Petitioner named is "Hutterian Brethren in New
York, Inc. (for and on behalf of Hutterian Brethren Communities in
the United States, Great Britain, Germany and Canada"). They accuse
the Nigerian leadership of various infractions of their relationship,
and request the court to:
a) Declare null and void any sale or transaction... respecting the
assets (of Palmgrove).
b) Declare that all assets now in the name of the Nigerian
trustees and member be held in trust for Palmgrove.
c) Declare that all trust properties be returned to Palmgrove.
d) Declare that any Palmgrove assets "that have been disposed of
without the requisite approval" be returned.
e) Restrain Palmgrove's trustees, via a "perpetual injunction,"
from dealing with the assets... in such a manner that jeopardizes
Palmgrove's title to same.
f) Direct Palmgrove to amend its Constitution to conform to the
Bruderhof's Articles of Faith and appoint Bruderhof representatives
as additional trustees...
As an alternative to the above, they request "an order winding
up the Respondent in accordance with the Companies and Allied
Matters Act." [We assume this would mean closing down the
Palmgrove Corporation and disposing of its assets - ed].
Meanwhile the Hutterian Church of Canada has responded with
two letters. One states that they oppose the lawsuit and have not
authorized it, and that "the Americans left Palmgrove voluntarily
against the wishes of the Palmgrove people and against the wishes of
the Elders of the Canadian Hutterites, leaving everything in the
hands of the Palmgrove people and Canadians, and we will therefore
continue to help Palmgrove."
The second letter points out that "the Americans calling
themselves Hutterian Brethren of New York Inc. have no right to
request authorization to participate, control or administrate
Palmgrove on a daily basis. Since Palmgrove was a joint venture and
was built up by contributing colonies from Manitoba, Canada, USA,
charities, churches and other organizations, the Americans have no
more right to ask or demand a wind-up than anybody else...
"The Americans left Palmgrove voluntarily. After the pull-out,
they contributed nothing to the upkeep of Palmgrove... There is no
reason why they should claim or demand ownership now. From the
beginning, Palmgrove was a mission field and joint venture for the
benefit of the African people, and no foreign contributor should
reclaim ownership or control of any of the property now."
KIT: The Bruderhof claims expenses "approximating U.S.
$2,354,487" and alleges that the Nigerian leaders misrepresented the
possibility of electing foreign directors to a Nigerian charitable
organization and filed a constitution that "only makes scant reference
to the Articles of Faith" of the Hutterian Church. Since Palmgrove did
not yet exist as a legal entity when the property and various assets
were purchased, they were transferred to Rev. Innocent Idiong to
"hold in trust," with the understanding that once Palmgrove had been
registered, Rev. Idiong would transfer the assets. These included five
deeds of conveyance (presumably for real property) in Rev. Innocent
Idiong's name. Once Palmgrove was registered, three additional
foreign directors were appointed, including Jake Kleinsasser and
Johann Christoph Arnold.
However with the ongoing Canadian Hutterite support for
Palmgrove, the possibility of the Bruderhof reacquiring control or
'cashing out' (winding up) their investment seems very unlikely.
Inasmuch as Jake Kleinsasser was elected Palmgrove's "chief of
chiefs," it seems probable that his view will prevail. The sight of an
established U.S. church bringing a lawsuit against the very people
they set themselves up to assist, including a well-publicized fund-
raising campaign, is unusual. Palmgrove's neighboring churches are
outraged, as is evidenced by the following letter.
Bishop-in-Charge, C.A.C. Church of Nigeria, plus five pastors,
to Christoph Arnold, undated: Dear Christoph Vetter and All Servants
of the Word from the East:
We, the concerned Christians from other denominations, have
heard the sad stories involving your group in Nigeria. Regardless of
whatever may have been your reasons for disagreement with the
Palmgrove people, you shouldn't have gone to a law court to seek for
your right. It's only God that gives 'right,' not law courts.
We challenge you as fellow Christians to really state where your
strength to do this comes from. Where is your first love? Where are
your promises? Where is your humility and ability to give out of
love, and unconditionally? It seems you are now counting costs
without regrets. Where is your true mission (Mat 28: 18-20)? Where
does your obedience to this commission lie? Is it in your action(s)?
You've made a negative impact as far as the Gospel of Christ, which
means love and life, is concerned.
What is the difference between your unbiblical lawsuit and the
tax collector whom Christ warned true believers to be careful with,
else he gives them to the world judges. Judging from your actions,
you have nailed Christ again and again to the cross for representing
Him with constant and fleshly demands, seeking utopian uniformity
only to achieve half-truth by means of coercion, instead of using
persuasive love to come to peace and dedication.
As it now appears, you have sadly made "Hutterites faith" a
laughing stock, not only to ignorant Africans but also to the well-
informed Western world. How can you now defend the "no lawsuit"
belief of the Hutterites and then turn around and defy it? You are
just like a dog who vomits and eats same again. How can you uphold
your Peter Riedemann's "Confession of Faith" (page 112) as well as
the teachings of our beloved Jesus Christ, especially when He
commanded us to love our enemies.
If Palmgrove is now your enemy, why not love them? Enemies
don't listen to threats, lawsuits or unloving actions, but they will
return same, even worse. The only language they will listen to is
"love." Do you use love? For how long? If you don't love well enough,
then "shame on you all!"
How do you feel blowing your top against the poor people of
Africa? You should please repent of this. What do you think you are
missing in terms of property in Palmgrove? You will be told some
day that billions of U.S. dollars, given out of love to Africa through
the building of schools, hospitals, farms -- name it, by the various
missionary societies, never came without struggles in various
capacities. But none of these societies/churches had ever taken the
poor people to disgrace them in the worldly court.
You have given yourself another name in Africa: "hypocrites,
thieves, and liar." Shame on you again! How do you feel now when
you look back to the very beginning of Palmgrove? You first taught
the people about love and how to love. You never wait patiently
enough to allow it to grow. You hastily uprooted love and planted
bitterness. What a hasty turn-around? Christ would have a question
for you as far as love talked about in I Corinthians 13: 3-5, is
You have stirred the poor souls to anger, which is not good
either. But what can the poor people do? They have to resist all your
attempts to break and tear them down. It's their identity they will
struggle to keep. You will finally go in great shame and gain nothing
at all. You have to repent first. It takes two to struggle. Remember,
you must lead them to repentance by being the first to repent.
Your weapon of destruction (lawsuit) against Palmgrove shall
never prosper. Palmgrove shall grow taller above obstacles and the
good Lord shall be a shield unto them. Only love shall break the
barrier for you to reach them. Why not use it?
Finally, brethren, how quick and best a way are you going to
redeem your name already dragged by your greed, shaky faith and
self-righteousness into these muddy waters? Please back up before
your doom. Do something because your actions have betrayed and
exposed your group as ocultic [sic] in practice and quite different
from the known loving, sharing and humble Christian group from
New York we first heard of. Where is your first love? We ask you
again. Your fruits now have maggots in them. As King David puts it in
Psalms 51: 3, "Your sins are ever before you."
Please, brethren, examine yourselves, ask again, test your
conscience and judge your deeds now in accordance with the
scripture. Repent today, for tomorrow may be too late. Yours
faithfully, Fellow Christians,
ITEM: "The New York Times" of 3/2/95, Metropolitan
Section, ran an article on the Woodcrest Bruderhof, titled 'Thou Shalt
Not Traffic in Demon Gossip.' It focused primarily on the non-gossip
rule, with photos of various grim-faced and dour adults obviously
trying very hard to keep their lips buttoned. Some quotes:
"But it is the fight against unneighborly jealousies and social
hypocrisies, the childlike urge to tattle and connive, that members
smilingly admit to as the true daily cross.
"'That's the problem wherever there's human flesh,' Christoph
Arnold, the lean, bearded elder insisted, smiling gently at his group's
near-satirical contrast with so much of surrounding America.
"Hardly withdrawn, they like outsiders to visit... The dedication
to family is obvious among the 350 residents here, but they spare
visitors lectures on family values. Far from proselytizing, they go to
protest marches against war, the death penalty, urban violence and
racial injustice, but carefully distance themselves from the self-
righteousness that they find in the political agenda of some other
modern Christian fundamentalists.
"'That's where we part company with the religious right,' Mr.
Wiser said. 'We are concerned when somebody takes us into politics
and tries to push other people around. That's coercion, force.'
Ruben Ayala, who was "impressed by brethren at the Bowery
Mission in Manhattan where he worked as a recovering drug addict
and ex-convict," was quoted as saying, "'There's no grudges here.'"
Judith Sender, 3/7/95, to 'The New York Times:' Dear Editor:
Francis X. Clines' "Thou Shalt Not Traffic in Demon Gossip" (Thursday,
March 2, Metro Section) put an interesting spin on the "Rifton
Hutterites," a group whose values are totally the opposite of the talk
show, let-it-all-hang-out slice-of-life that permeates the TV 24 hours
Unfortunately, in citing this group, Mr. Clines selected an
oxymoronic example of a non-gossipy society. On the surface, this
group seems a benign, Amish-like community grafted on one branch
of the Anabaptist movement of the Reformation. Unfortunately I
must inform your readers that over one thousand ex-members,
members' children, survivors and graduates live outside the
community in varying degrees of ostracism because they did not
The "Rifton Hutterites" live in a closed community where gossip
is not only considered a sin, but also is banned because it keeps the
leadership safe from criticism from the rank-and-file. Too much
gossip is unfortunately the by-product of a fortunately open, free-
When Clines' article alludes to the anti-homosexuality, anti-
choice stance of a group that also is pacifist and anti-capital
punishment, he was beginning to pierce the Rifton group's PR bubble.
Sadly, I know at first hand the dark side of the "Bruderhof," as the
Rifton Hutterites are more commonly known. Neither my husband
nor I are allowed to visit our grandchildren in the Rifton community,
and we are not the only ones suffering this ostracism. We have tried
appealing to the group through the local County Mediation Center, we
have tried conflict resolution training. We hold yearly conferences to
work through the traumas of those Bruderhof survivors and
graduates who want to dialogue and not just passively allow
themselves to be cut off from their loved ones.
Personally, although I don't like "gossip" because it can be
vicious, at least it emanates from an open, democratic, free-speech
society. I want you to know that writing this letter breaks my heart.
As a progressive woman who has spent much of her life working
with the underprivileged and disenfranchised in the capacity of
teacher and social worker, somehow my peacemaking, negotiating
skills are useless tools in confronting the hegemony of the Bruderhof.
I eagerly await the day when the Bruderhof will open their doors to
us and to conflict resolution. Sincerely,
ITEM: Cadmon Whitty from Albuquerque has requested to
be removed from the mailing list and to have that request published.
We suspect that he has done so in order to retain his visiting
privileges with his family on the Bruderhof.
Maeve Whitty 3/7/96: If my name exists on any of your
address or mailing lists, please remove it. Please print this request in
your next publication.
KIT: The following excerpts and quotes, translated from the
German press by Elizabeth Bohlken-Zumpe (thank you, Bette!),
address the closing of the Michaels-hof in Birnbach, Germany.
Joerg Barth, Michaelshof, to Bruderhof friends, 1/26/95:
"...During the past weeks it became clear to us that our Bruderhoefe
will have to move closer together. We need each other's help and
support. Therefore we want to give up our community the Michael-
shof in Birnbach and wish to move to our brothers and sisters in
England. You might find this difficult to understand now that we
actually have managed to receive permission to build our community
house. If we want to survive, though, we are forced to take this
"Rheinische Zeitung," 1/21/95: HUTTERITES LEAVE
MICHAELSHOF: NEWS STRUCK LIKE A BOMB. The article basically
states that the decision was made at a joint Bruderhof conference in
England and America, and that it was unfortunate that it came just as
the Bruderhof had been given permission to build a community
house, a children's house and a workshop, at an estimated 7 million
D.M. in improvements (about $5 million U.S.).
"Rheinische Zeitung,"1/25/95: INTERVIEW WITH JOERG
Joerg: "Our communities need to move closer together in order to
build a strong nucleus so that we will have the strength to meet our
tasks in America, England, Germany, Hungary, Korea, Japan, Nigeria
and Russia... No, we have no economical reasons for this... we never
were able to start a real Bruderhof here. At the moment we have
some 100 people here, and we should at least have 175 members
Since 1988 we have done our utmost to build a real community.
We had to struggle with great opposition to all our plans, and I would
like to mention the "Citizens Union" here. This union has been active
since 1990 and has done everything in their power to frustrate our
building plans. Although now we realize that they did not succeed in
their plans to hinder us, it did cause a long delay. For four years we
have taken all our meals in a big tent on the lawn and have held all
our festivities and prayer meetings in this tent. We have no teachers
for our children because we are unable to offer them
In our search for a place where we can truly concentrate all our
abilities and strength, Hastings seemed a much better choice. If you
recall, we really should have had a building permit as promised us
by the local authorities to go ahead with our plans. In the meeting of
Dec. 15th 1994, the chairman of the Citizens Union announced that he
would take legal steps to prevent any and every building plan, after
which we had to have reason to count on a further delay.
RZ: What advantages do you expect in England?
Joerg: We are planning to build another community there and are
sure that we can work together closely with the community there.
There we have enough space both practical and spiritual for the
work of building our life. We can offer space to some of the 300
members in our community there and are convinced that we will not
find a "Citizen Union" to obstruct our plans. We never have we met
anything like this before in our life together.
RZ: Do you see a difference between the local citizens and the
Joerg: Very much so! With most of the citizens of Birnbach we
have a warm contact. We not only feel accepted by the neighbors,
but even welcome. The local management and the Mayor have
always supported all our plans. No, we never felt that our plans were
not handled correctly.
RZ: Is your leaving Germany definite, then?
Joerg: By no means! We feel that we have a big task here and we
will fulfill this. We have experienced much goodness and look
forward to welcome our Birnbach friends in England.
2/6/95: Article by Barbara A. Cepielik: "Religious Community
Can No longer Live In Peace in Their Own Village in The Westerwald
-- Local Villagers 'Citizens Union' Wants To Chase Away This Strange
Group. Protest Marches And Demonstrations Will Follow In An
Attempt To Ask These Christian People To Stay."
To sum up: No one would have thought that 800 to 900 people
would have taken the initiative to demonstrate of the Hutterian
Brothers in an attempt to ask them to stay in the Westerwald. With
the Mayor walking ahead of the group, they marched up to the
Two weeks ago Joerg Barth, the leader of the group, told the press
that they could not remain in Germany any longer but would move
to England. He said that they had had enough of the intimidation
through the years from the people of Birnbach. "We the community
in Michaelshof have had enough of your intimidation and your
enmity. We cannot bear it any longer! Six years we have done our
utmost to get a building permit for our community's children and
workshop buildings -- all to no avail. For years we have held our
prayer meetings in a tent where we also eat. We have invested
millions here, but we are not getting any further. We do not want to
go on any more! We are going to England where we can live in
These surely are hard words for a peace-loving man whose
religion forbids him to speak evil of his neighbors. But the only
Hutterian Community in Germany is fed up -- they feel persecuted by
the German people -- and this for the second time in this century.
The first time was 1937 when the Gestapo chased them out of
Germany away from their home in the Roehn-Bruderhof.
Almost 60 years since then, a 'Citizens Union' in Birnbach
pursues the same goal, that is to get rid of this community of faith by
every means possible. Their words betray their feelings: "We want to
prevent our village from losing its identity and character to people
from a different culture and a different life-style." Now
demonstrators march through Birnbach with the protection of the
police to try to get these people to stay. You can see people's heads
peeking out from behind their curtains, but the enemies of the
Hutterites don't dare to come outside. That's how it was from the
beginning --Ęthey never challenged the Hutterites directly nor did
they answer phone calls during these last few days. No, they fought
the Hutterites with a war of red tape and now they have now won
the battle, so to speak.
Joerg Barth and the people from the Michaelshof are touched by
the large number of people demonstrating for them to stay. Also
they were much moved by the number of signatures from the
villagers. On this wet and rainy day and Joerg thanks the people for
"The first and best friend of the Hutterites"
Whether the community will listen to the the people is uncertain.
The seven worldwide Bruderhoefe held a communal conference
between Christmas and the New Year and decided to give up
Birnbach. Is this the end of a long story??
"Rheinische Zeitung," Nr. 26 2/12/95
"GREAT REGRET" DECISION SHOULD BE RECONSIDERED --
County Council: In a letter, Senator Eda Jahns has conveyed her
deep regret about the departure of the Hutterites from Birnbach. Her
With deep sorrow I read in the newspaper that you want to close
the Bruderhof house here in Germany and move to England. This
decision has caught me by surprise, especially at this moment when
everything seemed to go well with your building plans. Regrettably
German law cannot prevent malcontents from using the statutes for
their own purposes. But I still hope that the solidarity shown
towards you by a great number of the villagers and neighbors will
make you change your plans.
I hope that, in the light of all the sympathy shown you, you
might reconsider your decision. Birnbach and the county of
Altkirchen would miss you and would be the poorer without you!"
"Rhein. Zeitung," 2/14/95 THE HUTTERITES ARE LEAVING
The Birnbach Hutterites... have decided to leave Germany.
Saturday some 800 sympathizers organized a march to the
Bruderhof-haus and begged the Hutterites to stay. Their wish was
supported by the local authorities. But housefather Joerg Barth said
that the religious community sees "persecution of their witness of
faith, peace and unity" in the constant harrassment of the Citizens
Union. This Union has had as its objective in the past to hinder the
expansion plans of the community. Last month, this situation reached
a boiling point. The Birnbacher Bruderhofers will now join their
communities in England and the States and will sell the Michaels-hof
with its 24 hectars of land.
"Rhein. Zeitung," 2/14/95
SYMPATHY FOR THE HUTTERITES: PLEASE STAY!!
More than 800 people took part in a sympathy demonstration
for the religious community of the Hutter-ites... Because of the
harassments by the local Citizens Union who have done their utmost
to prevent their plans for new buildings, the same people who were
persecuted by the Nazis in 1937 and were forced to leave their
homes in the Rhoen-Bruderhof have now definitely decided to leave
Germany. The Governor Herbert B. Blank read a resolution from the
official government to beg the Hutterites to stay. "Please stay with us
as our fellow citizens!" Housefather Joerg Barth said, "We are listening
and will take your words to our hearts!"
"Rhein. Zeitung," 2/14/95 STRUGGLING FOR THE RIGHT
ANSWERS -- "WHERE WERE ALL THE FRIENDS?"
Readers' response for the Bruderhof and against the Citizens
Union. It is said that the Mayor has done his very best to help the
Nazi victims resettle in Germany, but found too much opposition
from the people of Birnbach.
"It means a lot to us that so many of you have come to stand
with us in this difficult hour. We want to set our "sign" as an example
in Germany, that the German people might awaken and fight against
the falsehood of those with a negative attitude. It is a difficult hour,
but also a happy one to see you all here with us. I have no answer to
your request as yet, but what we have seen and experienced today is
something we will take with us in our hearts and treasure!"...
Andreas Meier, one of the preachers of the Hutterites:
"Seven long years we have tried and done our very best to build
our workshop and life here in Germany, but our workshop is still a
small room in the attic and we have had to eat our meals in a tent.
This is not really an organic community and we are unable to earn
our living in a decent way! This is the reason for our leaving..."
"City Newspaper of Koeln," 2/24/95. "HUTTERITES SIT ONCE
MORE ON THEIR PACKED SUITCASES"
Pressure of neighbors forces religious community to leave -- by K.
Altkirchen: Now the 100 Hutterites from the States and England
that settled in Birnbach on land they had purchased to reestablish
their life in Germany will have to leave once more. Soon enough
these words will become the bitter truth: "Even the most faithful
cannot live in peace if evil neighbors do not like him!" ...After their
arrival at the Michaels Bruderhof, the neighbors initiated a union to
oppose them. 70-year-old Gerhard Schwalm fought against "foreign
domination" in the village. He protested against the increasing traffic
on their village roads due to their business, and against more
Hutterites coming to the Westerwald. With the help of attorneys, the
Union prevented the Hutterites from building on their property. In
doing so, they hit the economic nerve of the community that already
had invested some 5 million D.M. But without permission to build a
workshop, living accommodations and a community building, all their
efforts were in vain. They had to eat their meals in a large tent and
their economic future looked grim.
The dispute amongst the people of Birnbach for and against the
Hutterites undermined everyone's lives. Even the elections were
The devout Protestants have given up -- just at the time when
the Building Commission had agreed to make their dreams come true.
Now the Hutterites have received a lot of sympathy and compassion,
but it comes too late. Their suitcases are packed to move to Hastings,
England. Even a demonstration of 1000 participants (500 from
Birnbach) was in vain. The leader of the Rhein-ische church, Prasis
Peter Beier, called all Germany to pray for the Hutterites, but this
prayer now will be only a blessing on the journey of these
disappointed men, women and children in their old-fashioned dress.
The Westerwald Hutterites are thankful, as Joerg Bath has said,
"that in all those years of difficult negotiations it never came to a
confrontation! But who can give us any guarantees that this will not
happen in the future? Since 1988 we have waited in vain for any
signs of solidarity, which you give us now, when it is too late."
The people in the Westerwald are ashamed -- ashamed that even
a religiously faithful community who live by strict rules do not find
it possible to live a practical Christian life of peace and unity
together. "The Open Door" was not open. People were convinced that
the Hutterites were nothing but a sect or cult that would not fit into
our modern way of life. Now the Michaels-hof is for sale again.
Ironically, it used to be the property of a rich Jewish industrialist
who was executed by the Nazis.
Political Forum in the "Elsivier" monthly, 2/24/95)
THE HUTTERITES LEAVE GERMANY AND STAND BEFORE A INNER
DIVISION AMONGST THEMSELVES.
...It seems that even today, Germany is not a hospitable country.
This is what happened: a Citizens Union in Birnbach decided to
prevent the community from enlarging and expanding, building new
houses. The leader of the community, Joerg Barth, said: "In no country
have we been treated in this way. Never have we encountered so
much resistance and opposition. That is why it was impossible for us
to make a real bruderhof on the Michaelshof. True, the Mayor, the
politicians of the country as well as the County Governor helped us
get a variance in the "green belt" around Birnbach so that we would
have been able to build a children's home, meetinghouse and
workshop, and in the long run, the Citizens Union could not have
However a deeper reason for the Hutterites giving up of the
Michaelshof in Germany and moving to Darvell in England is to be
found in a controversy within their own movement. There is a split
between the "New Hutterites" with 2500 members who now face
exclusion by the "Old Hutterites" who number some 30,000 souls. In
the future, the Bruderhof will not be allowed to call themselves
Within the "Old Hutterite Order," there are three groups, the
Lehrerleut, Dariusleut and the Schmiede-leut. They live more or less
excluded from the world in Canada and the United States. They farm
the land, wear the old costumes and speak the old Austrian dialect of
their forefathers. They are successful farmers and manual workers.
The "New Hutterites" came out of the German Youth Movement and
their leader was the theologian Dr. Eberhard Arnold. Arnold founded
the Rhoen Bruderhof in the 1920s, and united with the Hutterites to
become their fourth branch, "The Arnold-leut." But not until 1974
were they officially recognized by the other three groups. Now the
Dariusleut and Lehrerleut no longer accept them as their brothers in
the faith, and the Schmiedleut are divided on the question.
Johann Christoph Arnold, who is the leader and Elder of the
Arnoldleut, speaks in strong terms when it comes to the old order
Hutterites. He lives in Woodcrest (USA) and is a grandson of
Eberhard Arnold. He has said, "They are lukewarm, superficial and
indifferent. Material things mean more to them than the spiritual
beliefs." He is very direct in accusation about their use of alcohol --
"even the leaders have fallen into this sin." Also sexual relations
before marriage -- that they even have illegitimate children. In short,
the "New Hutterites" reproach the "Old Hutterites" as traitors to the
spirit of Jacob Hutter. The Old Hutterites therefore feel they have no
option but to exclude their Arnoldleut brothers. Because they will
now be excluded from the Hutterite faith, the "Arnold-leut" want to
move together more closely and a Bruderhof house in Germany
seems a luxury for them, at least in this situation. Some observers
say that there is some basis for the "New Hutterite" vision.
On the other hand, many feel that the "New Hutterites" carry
their fight against sin to an unnatural extreme. Their battle against
alcohol is an inheritance from the Youth Movement, but their
criticism of Old Hutterite sexual morals are exaggerated. It seems
that the son of E.A., Heinrich Arnold, started a social control system
that has nothing to do with free choice for Christians. It seems to lead
to unbearable pressure amongst members.
Due to their rigorous attitude, a difficult situation has come
about. Because the Hutterites put so much value on community and a
secluded, closed life together, there is now a "schism" in which both
sides forbid each other to be called "Hutterites." There is reason to
believe that due to their relentless self-righteousness, a split in
Hutterite ideology cannot be prevented. If this happens, the new
Hutterite Bruderhof will have to engage in a dialogue with the "evil"
world, as they will no longer be able to hide behind old Hutterite
"Die Stern", 2/25/95 OPPOSITION TO FOREIGN DOMINATION
-- A SECOND EXPULSION
Six years ago, Hutterites settled in the Westerwald, but conflicts
with their neighbors who were afraid of "foreign domination" caused
this religious group to leave as they had to do under the Nazis!
"We have to be honest," the words of the white-bearded head of
the Hutterite community in the Westerwald, "No one has burned our
houses, no child has been insulted, and none of our brother or sisters
have been attacked! But before something like that happens, we'd
rather leave of our own free will!" After 6 years of hard work, the
Hutterites are giving up their community in Germany, and this for
the second time.
In 1927 the Nazis forced the Christian community to leave their
homes in the Rhoen. At that time, Joerg Barth was only a little boy. This
time a neighbor from among the 500 villagers of Birnbach forced the
women in their long dresses and polka-dotted kerchiefs, the little
girls with their braided pigtails and caps and the men with their
beards and their old-fashioned suspenders to leave their homes.
"If we are not wanted here, then we would much rather go to
England or America," decided the religious people. "This is closer to
the Gospel than to force ourselves on the people here." Now the 24-
hectar land parcel with houses and workshops is for sale again, and
the people of Birnbach are ashamed because once again intolerance
against strangers is the cause of a minority group leaving.
When the first families arrived in Birnbach 6 years ago, we
reported about this "God-fearing People" in our magazine Die Stern
and about their first wedding here in Germany. Even then, it was
known that a group of neighbors felt very aggressive towards these
people, and under the leadership of the 70-year-old Gerhard
Schwalm, they founded a Citizens Union against a "center for a sect"
and against the workshops and against the "foreign domination" and
heavy traffic that would have to pass through the village to their
During those six years, Gerhard Schwalm filmed all the activities
of these hated neighbors and documented all their activities. Every
truck arriving from England to bring in the wood for their workshop
was documented. The treehouse the children had made to play in
was, in Schwalm's words, a watchtower to frighten the people of
Birnbach. Three old oak trees were, in his words, a danger during a
storm. But when the Hutterites actually cut them down, Schwalm
reported them to the forester and called them "tree killers." The
community has invited him several times for "open house" or an
evening meal, but he never came to the Michaelshof. "During those
six years, we have not been able to speak with him once," said Joerg
Elizabeth Bohlken-Zumpe to the Mayor of Birnbach, 2/23/95:
With interest and amazement I have followed the newspaper articles
and TV Programs about the "Forced Exodus of the Bruderhof
Community at the Michaelshof". I feel that a little correction is
important here and in order. My grandfather, Dr. Eberhard Arnold,
founded the Bruderhof Communities in the 1920s in Sannerz. Later
they bought the Sparhof in the Rhoen to live a life of Christian
community. (This is where I was born.)
In 1937 the Bruderhof community was forced to leave Germany
as suspected Communists, but a few years earlier my grandfather
had united with the Hutterian Brethren Church in the States and in
Canada -- this was in 1931. He had hoped, because of the growing
difficulties in Germany, that they would find refuge in America. But
it was difficult for his group of modern young people to become real
Hutterites, which is a community founded in 1600. This is also the
reason that the Bruderhofers never became real Hutterites.
After living in various countries -- Switzerland -- England --
Paraguay -- they finally returned to Germany in 1955. First they had
a community in Hohenstein -- Frankish Alps -- and later the Sinntal-
Bruderhof near Bruckenau. In 1962, they left Germany again of their
own free will because they had difficulties amongst themselves.
1974 they reunited with the old Hutterites and accepted their
Now the Hutterites no longer accept them as their brothers in
faith and have actually forbidden them to call themselves
"Hutterites." In the eyes of the Hutterites, they are not truthful and
too worldly. As the Michaels-hof was bought as a joint venture with
the Hutterite communities, they will have to sell the Michaelshof and
leave for elsewhere. As a question of guilt has been brought up
regarding the people of Birnbach, I feel it is important to set the
The way the Bruderhofers live today, they will never do
anything to adapt to their surroundings but will always demand to
be accepted. They will never admit their own mistakes, but will
blame others for their misfortune. That is the reason I left the
community in 1961. I am a sister of Ben Zumpe and a cousin to Joerg
Barth. Yours sincerely,
KIT: Bette Bohlken-Zumpe's letter was distributed widely in
Birnbach with the result that two German TV stations have decided
not to document the Bruderhof's 'second exodus from Nazi Germany.'
"If the reality is [what now has been reported,] then we also want to
apologize for all our reports on the Citizens Union in Birnbach and
most certainly will not bother them any more in the future." A
source writes: "The [German] media has no idea how much upheaval
they have caused by covering such a one-sided story, and especially
by labeling the Birnbachers as Nazis."
Gerhard Schwalm, Citizens Union, Birnbach, "The Lies of Mr.
Joerg Barth, Leader of the Bruderhof-Community Michaelshof:"
From the very beginning after his arrival Germany, Mr. Joerg
Barth not only lied to the villagers of Birnbach, but told untruths and
half-truths to the Media, and omitted important information. With
this, Mr. Barth has not only put the name of the Hutterites to shame,
but forfeited the expectation of the local people that he will handle
his affairs in a decent and honest manner.
Lie #1: When Mr. Barth bought the Michaelshof, he declared that
the intention was to build a Bruderhof house in Germany for at least
thirty to a maximum of fifty people. In a press interview in July,
1988, he made an explicit distinction between a "Bruderhof house"
and a "real Bruderhof."
--The truth: Soon after this declaration, he applied for a building
Lie #2: In a second interview, he declared that their growth
would be very slow and that within ten years they might reach a
population of one hundred members.
--The truth: When this statement was made, more than 100
people were already living on the Michaelshof.
Lie #3: In order not to arouse fears among the people of
Birnbach about the Community, he declared that the Bruderhof did
not intend to build their own school but would send their children to
the schools in Weyersbusch and Alternkirchen, and their older
students to Bonn.
--The truth: This, like almost every else he said, is a lie again, as
in their new plans they have a large school building for nine grades
as well as hobby and art classes.
Lie #4: During one of many press interviews, Mr. Barth declared
that the Bruderhof people are non-political and therefore would
refrain from voting during elections.
--The truth: Mr. Barth did, together with all those members
eligible to vote in Germany go to vote last summer in order to
strengthen those in the village administration who were willing to
help the Community with their plans. By doing this, he managed to
get a large majority of votes in Birnbach, but lost the last remnants
of trust or any reputation for honesty among the people.
Lie #5: When there was unrest in Birnbach because the
Bruderhof was buying houses around the Michaels-hof, he declared
that the villagers should not be afraid because the Bruderhof would
not buy any more houses.
--The truth: At the very same time, a contract was already signed
for another house. After that, he bought two more houses.
Lie #6: Mr. Barth made a point of saying that he wants to be a
friend to each and every one.
--The truth: That is the biggest lie of all! How can you call your
neighbors Nazis and "enemies of their peaceful life?"
Lie #7: During all his interviews Joerg Barth repeatedly said,
"Since our forced evacuation from Germany in 1937, we are now
back in our homeland for the first time."
--The truth: That also is a lie! In 1947, the Bruder-hof people tried
to purchase the Rhoen Bruderhof because they wanted to rebuild
what Dr. Arnold had begun. But they were unable to get the Rhoen
Bruderhof back because the new owner had legal to it, bought from
the German government. In 1955, a Bruderhof was founded in the
Frankishe Alpes, "Hohenstein." From 1956 to 1962 they had a regular
Bruderhof in Bruck-enau, "Sinntal Bruderhof," which, due to some
legal inaccuracy, had to be given back to the Putz family who were
the legal heirs.
Lie #8: Mr. Barth has told at every possible opportunity that in
1937 the Community was forced to leave Germany due to the Nazis.
The truth: As early as 1935 all the young and military-age
Bruderhof men left Germany of their own free will because of a war
duty obligation [military draft - ed] and the Bruderhof people are
against all military service. The families then left of their own free
will because they did not want to send their children to the German
Lie #9: "Our Bruderhof was closed by the Gestapo and illegally
taken from us!"
The truth: The Bruderhof was not taken from them, but
"auctioned off." In 1947 they did try to buy back the former
Bruderhof, but this was not possible because the new owner
rightfully had purchased the place. So they requested money from
the German State, and the German authorities paid them their
These are the lies that have caused so much difficulty and
disquiet in Birnbach. We could say more, but it would be repetitious.
Hans Zimmermann, 2/7/95: It is interesting to note that the
articles in the German newsletters are in no way critical about the
community, and if anything, give a genuine feeling of regret for the
impending departure. The main and really the only reason given was
the enormous difficulty in obtaining building permits, and the
general frustration of the Bruderhof at the chronic procrastinations.
The decision to leave was made in spite of promises that these
permits were imminent.
Nowhere in the article is there a mention of real friction and
animosity towards the Hutterians by the surrounding community-at-
large, and they seemed to have developed an acceptable coexistence
with them, even some good friendships. My sister, who was there
this past summer, expressed amazement to me because her
impression of the relationship between the 'hof and the outside was
I'm afraid to "say it again," but the decision seems to have come
from America. It is absolutely frightful to see how people seem to be
used like pawns on a chessboard in the never-ending power struggle
and desire by elements in America to maintain control. My opinion is
that the SOB is doing itself an immense disservice leaving Germany
under fabricated conditions. This will make a third -- or actually
fourth -- return to Germany all the more difficult. Their credibility
has received a major blow. Best regards,
August Pleil, 2/7/95: In response to a quotation from Milton
Zimmerman in an article by Kendra Kenny in "The Pittsburgh Post-
Gazette," I would like to make the following observations:
Milton says, "The doors were never closed on the Pleils." The
doors were closed and a Berlin Wall was erected.
Steve Wiser says, "Separation is always painful." It seems as if
the Commune only realizes now after "Free from Bondage" has been
published how painful separation is!
Milton says "The Pleils want a different life style. They do not
want a life of complete submission and surrender to Jesus." However
my wife and I had to give up life with the Commune in order to live
a life of surrender to Jesus!
When read carefully, the article shows that the Commune
unwittingly has admitted several things which were done to us while
living with them. Milton says, "Our only attitude is 'Poor Nadine'!" He
furthermore states, "We are conscientious objectors to the military.
We love God, man and our enemies. We prefer not to discuss
criticisms without the presence of the other person and say, 'If you
have a problem, come and discuss it face-to-face!'"
We cannot discuss things face-to-face because the Commune has
built a high wall between us and them! The Commune has to realize
that if they kick innocent children out, then they kick Jesus out too.
Tarrel R. Miller to Rich Preheim, "Mennonite Weekly Review": Dear
Mr. Preheim, you asked for my opinion of Christoph Arnold's "Open
Letter from the Bruderhof", printed in the Winter 1995 issue of "The
The Bruderhof made a serious blunder in chastising the
Hutterian Brethren Church publicly, accusing both the leadership and
brotherhood of spiritual and moral failure. Surely the Arnoldleut
hierarchy knew this action would likely cut any remaining ties
between them and the Hutterian Church, including those colonies
allied with Jake Kleinsasser.
By washing Hutterite laundry in public, the Arnold-leut appear to
have violated their own teaching, not to mention long-established
Anabaptist and biblical precepts. Those issues on which they can not
"remain silent", should have been addressed in private consultation
with the Elders of the Hutterian Church and lovingly dealt with in
that forum, not printed up for the whole world to see. The wider
Christian community and Anabaptist believers, in particular, will
likely share in this concern. As it now stands, wittingly or
unwittingly, the Arnold letter simply provides more fuel for the
"anti-Hutterites", that motley collection of malcontents and religious
zealots who find no good thing in present-day Hutterianism.
The Hutterian Church certainly doesn't need me, a non-member,
to defend it. Although researchers usually try not to get involved in a
personal way, I did write to Christoph expressing both my personal
sadness and general disappointment in their public letter. I told
Christoph although it may not be their intent, the letter comes across
as unloving, somewhat rude and terribly judgmental, almost
Pharisaical. Generalizations such as there is a "general acceptance of
sin in the church" is an overstatement, to say the least. Many of the
allegations are similarly exaggerated. Some are simply not true.
Others are based in fact, but even many of these seem magnified. To
paint nearly thirty-five thousand men, women and children with
such a wide brush is ludicrous. No sensible Hutterite condones
alcoholism, premarital sex, illegitimacy or unfaithfulness in marriage,
Almost thirty years ago, when I was only nineteen, I became a
novice or "trial" member of the Schmiede-leut. Although I was young
and somewhat foolish, I was sincere in my desire to know the living
Christ and be a part of the people of God. I remember Prediger David
Decker telling me, "We are trying, merely, with God's guiding hand, to
fulfill Christ's command to 'love one another'". "Tarrel", he said, "you
will not find us perfect, and please, do not expect to". That was sound
advice and real spiritual wisdom. Of course, I didn't find them
perfect, but then neither am I, nor is any other Christian group I've
encountered since. Although I never became a "full" member of the
Hutterian Church, I shall be eternally grateful to God for kindling in
me, because of their life and witness, a fire that keeps on
The Arnold letter tells us the Hutterian Church is "lifeless" and
their "witness has been almost completely lost". They say there's a
"general acceptance of sin in the church". I'm not sure what's really
behind all this sudden Hutterite-bashing, but in my experience, of
the several hundred Hutterites I've known personally over the last
thirty years, the vast majority take their Christianity very seriously.
They are sincere in their faith experience and try to live and walk in
a Christian way. Any Hutterite will tell you there is always room for
improvement, but the faithful should not be judged by the misdeeds
and unfaithfulness of some. As in every group, the Bruderhof
probably included, there are those who do not behave according to
the accepted norm. Those poor unregenerate souls who persist in a
non-Christian life-style are a constant embarrassment. (God alone
knows how many tears are cried and prayers are prayed on their
The Arnoldleut say there is "little or no spiritual leadership" in
the Hutterian Church and the young people "no longer receive clear
guidance and direction from their ministers, teachers and parents".
This simply is not true. It's like a slap in the face to hundreds of
loving fathers and mothers who do all in their power to prayerfully
raise their children and young people "in the fear of the Lord". Not to
be overlooked are the sincere efforts of countless grandparents, the
kindergarten mothers, German and Sunday School teachers, and the
The preachers seem to be special targets of the Arnold letter. It
is said for the whole world to hear: the ministers are "no longer true
servants of their flocks but lord it over them". (Perhaps these are the
kind of "idle words" for which an account must be given in the Final
Judgment.) I told Christoph, "methinks you doth protest too much"!
The misbehavior of a few does not justify any condemnation of
the faithful servants of the living Christ and His church. Although I
know many of the ministers personally, I certainly don't know them
all. Several have been very influential in my life, and some still are.
Most of those I've known over the years are very serious about their
Christian service and have the cares of the brotherhood on their
heart night and day. I have great respect for the many who have
grown old and grey in the faith as they keep the Light burning, ever-
watchful over the flock.
Contrary to what the Arnold letter declares, for many thousands
of the faithful, the Hutterite way of the 1990s is not a "lifeless
form". The nearly 468-year witness of the Hutterian Church cannot
be dismissed that easily. Like other Christians, the Hutterite faithful
also pray for spiritual renewal, yet they are still a viable alternative
and God has not written them off. Sincere Christian everywhere, the
Arnoldleut included, may yet learn something from the Hutterites.
Tarrel R. Miller - Hutterite Studies Centre
Box 150 - Austin, Manitoba, R0H 0C0 - CANADA
Christrose Johnson Sumner 2/26/95: I just found this letter
on my computer after some technical problems got sorted out. It is
one of many I compose each month, either in my head or late into
the night on the keyboard, -- you'll probably be glad by the end that
they never get sent! But tonight I'm in the mood for communicating,
but not for recomposing, so here comes my lengthy contribution, the
first paragraph written earlier last year, but thereafter my thoughts
of October 16th 1994... I wrote them to reassure myself that I exist,
after Charlie left his visit to me out of his UK summer report!
It seemed for a while that no one met in KIT circles remembers
the incidents of my childhood as I do, and childhood was all I had in
the Community. I have shared a few memories with former school
pals met again in Darvell, but for them the familiar world didn't stop
in 1961, as it did for me: Oak Lake and Community in a time warp.
Who remembers the Great Collapse of the snow caves on the side of
Bear Mountain? Who else knew Fairyland? The Witch in the Woods
near Park Lake Hotel? My blindness? The secret hiding places for
forbidden personal treasures in the upper boughs of the evergreens
across the lake? And Phewy, the skunk... Ah, Joel, you were younger
than I, but you wrote and immortalised Phewy; thank you! (Any one
of us would have sacrificed our shirt! I remember finding Phewy so
vividly, and I loved Jim "Hersheybar" so much for being the kind of
teacher who would let us do that, and allow us to play April Fool and
disappear from classes across the mud banks, and who taught us
such good basketball skills, and gymnastics -- no accounting for the
way things were later to develop).
Recently, I found Margot Purcell shares some of my memories;
any one else out there?? Charlie Lamar placed a surprise
transatlantic call to me to apologise for missing the St. Albans bit of
his U.K. trip out of his KIT report. And quite right, too, Charlie,
because I might have sunk into great despondency to think it was so
utterly forgettable. Or perhaps it was a Freudian slip to protect me
from the taint of acknowledged KIT association -- it's OK., Charlie, I'm
out already! So I'll add the missing link: It all started with my offer
of a lift to help one lovely new acquaintance made at KIT, Andover,
to travel halfway up to her Arnold cousin, a friend who hadn't made
it to the get-together. We persuaded him to travel down to my place,
which also gave my brothers Tim and Barnabas, and sister Elfie (once
Jane) the chance to meet up with him after many years, and so began
my mini- KIT. Everyone had missed this absentee, with his warm
smile and twinkling eyes (and one of the best with whom to sing old
community songs) so by the following weekend others gathered,
including Charlie, Vince, Ramon and Judy; (various theories abound
as to how Charlie came to block out the experience! French wine,
perhaps, or the shock of getting his fix at last of Californian coffee?)
thus prolonging the keeping in touch business by many days.
Wonderfully hectic. Good job my house is elastic, and the weather
was fine. The kids loved it, the dog coped, the rabbit dug out and left
home! (Back now.)
I enjoyed an evening stroll with Ramon and Ben Cavanna,
walking out across the Hertfordshire fields, in conversation about
children and contact issues. We have different personal and
professional perspectives, and Ben and I had previously found it
helpful to look at things from each other's viewpoint. I was intrigued
to see Ramon gathering oat straws, carefully selecting the best. Back
home, we were all fascinated to watch and learn as this man of so
many talents swiftly whittled pipes from them, leaving a legacy we
have yet to perfect! This year, Guy and Eleanor Johnson's offspring,
of which I am number seven, have had two historic family
gatherings, one bearing out the immeasurable value of the wider
family. This was by way of a belated celebration of the eightieth
anniversary of my mother and her twin sister's birth, and involved
all of her siblings, many of their children (our cousins), partners and
their children. We held it at Bulstrode, where Guy and Eleanor's
earthly remains are buried, and all brought picnics to share. We
brought out old photos, some showing Johnsons and Jeffries at
Wheathill, with maternal relations visiting, a particularly good one
just before our family's departure for the U.S. in 1955. Others went
back further, scenes with Mummy before she joined the Bruderhof,
and still others showed how quickly we were taken back into the
bosom of her loving family after our return to England following
expulsion from Oak Lake.
Some of my brothers and sisters, too widely scattered
geographically to make the May gathering, were there only in
thought, but the weekend before the KIT European conference we
Johnsons all got together for the first time since 1959. Momentous
occasion! We finally made it. Don't think we don't know how lucky
we are that we were not divided by the Bruderhof; we do, but even
though we had all been out since 1961, and had all seen each other
quite a bit over the years, the best we had managed was seven out of
eight (plus parents) in 1977. Always at least one missing, until July
1994. And then it happened again, at Andover, for a few hours on
Saturday: there were eight Johnsons at KIT. How Daddy and Mummy
would have loved this year's European KIT, enjoyed meeting their
contemporaries, the children of others (who bear spitting
resemblance, even down to their dry humour), seen how well nearly
everyone is doing, what an advert for the core values instilled, many
Bruderhof born, now really contributing to world peace, children's
welfare, or the relief of society's disadvantaged and deprived.
I wish the Bruderhof would open their eyes and hearts to what
KIT is. They can accuse and name-call, but I still believe the people
(as different from organisa-tion) could not mind us individuals
keeping in touch, many of us relatives and friends who have kept in
touch for years without anyone minding, so why fear the greater
numbers now keeping in touch with greater ease through this facility
of open letters, conferences and other gatherings? Why pick on
Ramon as the arch enemy, accused somehow of orchestrating this?
No amount of theorising helps me to understand why the people I
know, who are in the community, would fear this, or worry about it,
much less hate it and ostracise us for it. The occasionally expressed
views with which I don't agree aren't "KIT" any more than the
hidden agendas that some individuals might or might not have, or
the views with which I personally feel much empathy. Neither is KIT
the selected antagonising remarks or actions that members of the
Bruderhof find difficult. How much more clearly can we say that KIT
is a process, a medium, a facilitator?
How frustrating that ears are blocked to this: hear no good, see
no good, speak no good. But the way the B'hof chooses to read us
doesn't make us bad or evil; -- not now, not any more. After I last
(and first) wrote to KIT, I found I had unwittingly upset two beloved
people in Darvell. I do care about this. My letter had been written in
an attempt at bridge-building and this adverse reaction disappointed
and saddened me. Together with my sister Susan we visited and
discussed the whole matter, and seemed to reach an understanding
and more positive footing for their appreciation of the KIT process.
But we've not been invited back, and the overall relationship
between the B'hof and KIT has not improved, nor the requested
opportunity to discuss things with Christoph Arnold face-to-face
materialised. I hope that sharing my thoughts again does not have
the same adverse effect with loved ones; I have tried not to mention
names of people who might mind, although I find when I read other
people's letters, they are more interesting when they include names.
It is a bit stilted without, especially as all those in Hummingbird,
telephone, or postal contact with each other do use names.
Postscript to above, written today: How rivetting I found the
Chip Wilson correspondence! KITfolk did their best, but the passion
was upon him. Reminds me of someone I knew whose family and
friends presented all the cerebral arguments against marriage to a
particular man in her late teens, but the heart won. Several years
and lots of love and two priceless kids later, his economic ineptitude,
mounting abuse and violence took their toll; they're divorced, but
she'll never be free of the distress of him. So who was right? Luckily,
she never cut herself off from her family (try though he did), nor
they from her. Poor Chip, but he may know terrific happiness and all
sorts of envelopingly wondrous things for a while. And he knows
we're here -- but then, they know he knows and that's not so good
for him because that's hard to forgive and they don't forget. Much
Bette Bohlken-Zumpe, 2/10/95: Dear Muschi, thank you for
your letter in the last KIT. I also remember the dream of your father
and how shattered he himself was about this, and how he used this
to make it clear to us children that God had sent his Son Jesus Christ
for the humble in Spirit, the lonely, the poor, the ones that hunger
and thirst for love. This story made me think about my three uncles
and aunts who all gave every ounce of their lives to the vision of
their father. They all have since died and left their message with
their children, some of whom use a misinterpretation or their own
interpretation and have led the Bruderhof so completely astray.
So I think I will write something about my uncles today as I
remember them and their wives [see p. 10. -- ed]. Another reason for
this is that I have had some strange reactions to my book from some
of my nephews that live away from the Bruderhof. One of them
wrote to me, and sent a copy of the letter to the Bruderhof:
"What are you doing, Bette ? Why are you trying to discredit our
grandfather? Are you trying to discredit all Arnolds inside and
outside the Bruderhof. It seems to me that by attempting to blacken
E.A. you are trying to dress up the public image of your own father,
who was an adulterer. To me this seems very dishonest and self-
destructive. It is true, that the Ex-Bruderhofers have much in
common, but to speak of unity is a total falsehood. I am very sorry
that your father and a few others resented some of Opa's actions. The
Nazis used this weakness to discredit the Bruderhof. Dear Bette, it
seems to me that much of your life is determined by Nazi
Propaganda." (written 12/31/93)
On 1/29/94 he wrote "...it seems to be one of your trademarks to
talk bad about others, but doing so, you will only blacken your own
name... Your father hated all the Arnolds -- even his own wife.
Therefore all of you are even worse than the Nazis, but still you
hypocritically pretend to be Christians. I have no adoration for you..."
Letters like that prove only the complete lack of love "between
brothers" -- between men and fellow Christians.
I believe there is nothing at all in my book that discredits my
grandfather. As for the love between my parents, I know that it was
there even in the last breath of my father who also had only respect
and love for my grandfather. His personal sin -- as the sin of all
humans -- we should really leave for God to judge. He knows.
Andy Harries, 2/21/95: Hallo, everybody, it's me again! I
have been learning more about our past and my past. How is that,
you may ask? Answer: through the KIT organisation. Where would
we be without it? Through meeting with people, corresponding with
people, reading and writing, I am learning more and more all the
time. I am sure that information helps us sort out our past and helps
us work through things in our minds, and that helps us get over
An experience I had recently confirmed this for me. I had to go
into hospital for an operation. On the first day, I just had many
different people coming round and interviewing me, but nobody
seemed to have time to tell me or another chap who was in for the
same what was going to happen and what to expect. But two other
patients had already had the op, and told us all about it --with plenty
of the unwanted details! Enough to put anybody off. But actually,
both of us felt much happier and relaxed after that.
Many of us were abused on the Bruderhof and we didn't know
why or what was behind it. We were small children at the time and
didn't understand things. It seems that all who were born there or
joined as children did not have a choice. Therefore we had to be
educated, brainwashed, persuaded, forced, indoctrinated, coerced,
whatever, into their way of thinking. If we thought or acted
differently, that was wrong. Also it seems the men actually run the
show. The women have to go along with whatever the men decide.
The leaders use and manipulate the Bible to their own advantage to
force through rules so they can dominate the women and get their
own way. So the children are afraid of the adults, the mothers of the
men and their husbands, the "plain people" of the higher class, the
higher class of the Stewards, the Stewards of the Witness Brothers,
the Witness Brothers of the Servants, and the Servants of the Elder.
The whole structure is based on fear, with the threat of punishment
or exclusion, etc., Aussprachen, husband or wife taken away, or
a child or any individual who dares to think for himself or speak his
mind. Now for those who joined as adults of their own free will, they
know if things get tough they cannot blame anybody else for being
there, because it was their own decision, and if things went wrong,
they had another life to go back to. But we who were born there or
joined as children had no such choice.
I have just been reading a book where two people discuss
relationships between people and values. In this part of the book,
they are talking about Japan's culture and values, and why they are
so different from ours. Why are the people or followers totally
obedient to their leader? Basically, loyalty always has been an ethic
of submission. The leader doesn't have to do anything to earn it. This
sounds so much like the Bruderhof. This is because Japan has been so
long cut off from other cultures and other models.
"One way to explain the Japanese view of hierarchy is by
saying that it's a bit like the power of the parent in a very
isolated one-parent family where the children don't ever see
another adult. Even if the parent wanted to be democratic, and
to help the children to be liberated, it would be extremely
difficult for the children to achieve it because they would not
have any other model they could use for comparing and
criticising the single parent's values and ways of doing things.
You see, most of us become independent by witnessing
independence in others."
I found this very interesting, and it helps understand how the
Bruderhof manages to keep such control over people. To those who
feel angry about how they were treated, I say "Well done!" I feel
angry, and I am not ashamed of that. If we feel angry, we are feeling
some emotion, and that emotion will help to repair some of the
damage which is causing that anger. To those who say we should not
feel angry I say, "Hang on a minute. Were you in that person's shoes?
You did not suffer that person's punishment or abuse! Nobody should
say to another, 'You should not feel like that!'" (We cannot help the
way we feel). It is a fact that many of us were abused physically,
mentally or sexually, or various combinations of the same. These
things often are worse in a religious sect because of the strong belief
in the perfect way, the perfect life, for "love" and God, etc.
Any deviation is punished more severely than it would be
otherwise. Also on the Bruderhof there is so much secrecy! Children
were being abused, and only one or two knew about it. Fathers were
forced by the Servants to punish their children. Mother were not
supposed to love their children or show affection. Men would
demand subservience, and the women had to submit and obey.
I was just talking to a nice young man on the phone about if we
have had bad experiences that we need time to heal, to go through a
healing process. He said that in America, somebody had said just the
same at the KIT conference. I think it's so important to allow people
their own time to heal. We all go through this process at our own
pace, and that is the only way.
If people are seeking a new way or want to give their life to
something, then the Bruderhof has all the answers. When you join,
you must promise to give everything for the life. Everything
there means everything! The more you give, the better person you
will become. Well, we all want to be good, In some sects, they give
their bodies for sex. As far as I can see, if we give everything, we
have nothing, are nothing and are worth nothing. If we are worth
nothing, then we have no value. If we don't value ourselves, then we
have a low self-esteem or self-image. With a low self-image, it is
hard to cope with life and then we can have emotional problems or
mental breakdowns. If also it is a known fact that children do not
necessarily show the results of pain, suffering, abuse, trauma, etc.
when children, the symptoms and problems will usually show up
later in life. Children manage to block these things out, but they only
are buried and still there and will cause damage at some time.
It has hit me recently that we have been intentionally brought
up with the teaching that we should be meek, mild, submissive,
humble, lowly, etc. The more we were all these things, the better
person we were. They liked talking about the meek and mild baby
Jesus, how we should be so childlike. To think of only others. If we
did anything for -- or thought of -- ourselves, that was selfish and
wrong. That was egotistical. They liked talking about one's ego.
Egoism was morally wrong. I am sure that was their plan to get
everybody to be submissive. If the common people were submissive
enough, then the leaders had all the power. Then they could
manipulate all the people and mold them to their own wishes. Of
course we don't see that when we are there, but that is how I see it
now. The result is, of course, that many people leave the Bruderhof
with a very low self-image. We might not be aware of it ourselves at
the time, and other might not be aware of it either because we
always try to find ways to hide our weaknesses and things which
make our life harder, but this low self-image is still there and it can
cause us many problems.
I believe the Bruderhof ideal is good, but it doesn't work as it
should. Originally I am sure it worked well. People were full of
commitment and enthusiasm. It must have looked like an answer to
all their problems and questions, and I am sure it still does to many
new people. Unfortunately, as time went on, they had to bring in
rules and regulations, because if everybody was allowed to express
different opinions, it would eventually break up. Then they had to
bring in means of enforcing these rules, then ways of punishing those
who transgressed, and of course ways of persuading and
brainwashing people to stay and to follow 'The Way.'
Then, of course, there were the children. Ways had to be found
of making them stay as well, so mind-control was used. If people
were born and grew up there, they had no real contact with the
"Outside World," with other people or with other values. Everything
outside was portrayed as wrong or evil. So we had no choice. Why
choose the wicked outside world when we had the perfect life?
On a different subject, about the "Open Letter" from J. C. Arnold,
I don't want to go into that, but only the business about it being
written "On Behalf of All Its Members." Now, for people who have not
experienced how the systems works, all decisions in the Brotherhood
meetings, which are the meetings of the baptized members, are
supposed to be unanimous. So it makes it sound as if all those
hundreds of members who have been wholeheartedly supporting the
unity with the Hutterites have now all suddenly, miraculously,
changed their minds, all at the same time.
This just goes to show how everybody just foes along with
whatever they are told. It reminds me of the time at Wheathill
leading up to the "Big Crisis." We were told about certain things that
were happening, then we would be read excerpts or whole letters
written by so-and-so from America to Paraguay, Paraguay to
America and England. Whatever the Servant said, we just went along
with it. Whatever he said, we agreed with wholeheartedly. When the
Servants showed disgust, we did as well. When they showed
agreement, so did we. When they showed anger, so did we. When the
Servants wrote a letter in reply and read it out and explained why it
was necessary, we all agreed. We were and felt a very strong unity,
but of course we did not have all the facts. We only knew what the
leaders wanted us to know. So to me, this ideal of a united
brotherhood, or of a letter "on behalf of all its members," is just a
fallacy, a con.
I was glad for what you wrote in the February KIT, Hans Martin.
That is what the KIT newsletter and organisation is all about:
somewhere where we can express our views and experiences. That
does not mean that I agree with everything you say. I do not believe
that if we disagree with certain things on the Bruderhof that we
should join and then get them changed. Unfortunately, this does not
work. They will not change for a single person joining. They are right
and have got all the answers. I don't know of anyone who has joined
and then got them to change any of their fundamental beliefs.
Growing up with two languages can be an advantage, but it can also
have disadvantages. Working in certain environments we can be
treated as outsider or foreigners. We have a Bruderhof or a German
accent, and different values. This makes us stand out and we get
devalued. In England, Germany is still the old enemy or the 'baddy'
for many people. I do agree with you, though, that we should be very
careful how we talk about other people and what we say. I think we
should only mention names if we are quite sure that that person will
not mind. Greetings,
by Hannah Goodwin Johnson
O shadowy mother, from time to time in silence
You show your face: "Why?" I ask you.
"Why did you give birth to me?"
In our separations with grief I cry: "Why me!"
And the earth looks suddenly dazzling
In twilight gloom:
I see a tiny flower blue,
Forget-me-not small, blue bright,
Brighter than all the other day colors
Or even the dusky crimson hue
Where darkening purple and gold
Fade under deep blues of the sky by night,
The night sky that is forever unto the night,
Filled with the stars of eternity.
I cannot climb
the woodland trail today
for, if I were in the wood,
then I could not see
the silver-veined design in filigree
of winter-brightened twigs.
A light snow in late winter
brushed the hill
before me, motley
in contrast to the distant hue
where blue-grey dim
subdues my anguish.
This is a marvelous visual distraction,
full of the contrast
of black-wet tree trunks
against the snow that settled
on the tumble of leaves.
-- I love a wood,
the brown leaf smell and rustle.
But I shall restrict my steps
and not climb the trail
for this that is so magical.
-- to see the branches stand
against my eyes -- restrains my feet.
It is more than what I can believe.
beauty i see
when i look at you
you are poetry
and then i saw you
young and beautiful
the way you laugh
reminds me of when
i was young
i tried to jump through a breaker
my motions were badly timed
i was tumbled by the wave
then when i stood
with rushing foam over my feet
all bubbly and sweet
were the shining ripples
like your laughter
and everything about you is
where the tide line trails
along the beach
where the river flows to the sea
so my heart is saying
such beauty is too much
the poetry is in motion
and everything about you is
the shining ripples of your laughter
KIT: The following letter describes some of the suffering that
Hutterite families are experiencing because of infighting between the
"Gibb" and the "Oiler" factions.
Name Withheld: This is a detailed report of the events that
took place at Rock Lake Colony, on the 1st and 2nd of April 1994. It
should be noted that the purpose of this report is not to turn people
against each other, but to make people aware of the evil, destructive
force that is at work among us.
Peacefully at the Stonewall Hospital on April 1, 1994 Margaret
Gross (Nee Tschetter) wife of Rev. Michael Gross Rock Lake Colony,
passed away into eternity at the age of eighty-seven years. She had
12 children... and 71 great-grandchildren.
She lived on a Hutterite Colony all her life and was a sincere,
honest, and devoted follower of the Hutterian Brethren Church She
left behind a set of footprints of which her family should be proud.
She served the Hutterian Brethren Church sincerely and taught her
children to do the same. Unfortunately, all but four have turned their
backs on the church and on what they were taught while growing up
under her rule and discipline.
Hutterian Brethren religion boasts century-old traditions. For
instance, at the funeral of all devoted members a few ministers will
come to the family of the deceased and offer them words of comfort
and ask for the body to be taken to a place (usually the church)
where family, friends and relatives have gathered for an evening of
singing and prayers. However, it seems as though Grandmother was
so insignificant to Jake W (Blumengart) that she did not even deserve
an honorable wake. For at about 9-9:30 PM, Jake W. of Blumen-gart
(Gibb movement's so-called self-elected elder) sent Dave M. of
Blumengart (who is not even a witness brother) along with his
henchmen (most of them not even related to Grandmother) to bring
the body to where he and other Gibb preachers were waiting to
perform one of their many deceitful, scandalous ceremonies. When
Blumengart Dave and his henchmen entered Grandma's house, it
seemed as if a dark cloud of evilness rolled in with them. Some
people still remember Blumengart Dave's facial expressions and have
commented that they cannot get his appearance out of their mind.
They say he reminded them of an evil person possessed by some
kind of demonic force.
The entering of the henchmen marks the beginning of a time
that will never be forgotten by anyone who was present. Mike
(Grandmother's oldest son) was seen nodding in deceitful
acknowledgment to the henchmen that they should now come and
grab the body away from the children and grandchildren that were
gathered around the coffin. Margaret (Newdale), Marie and Christy
(Brightstone) who were seated at the right side of the coffin all broke
down in heartbroken crying. They couldn't be comforted, and
couldn't believe that their blood brothers and sisters would plot in
favor of such an evil deed. They pleaded with their brothers and
sisters not to go through with their plans of having Grandma taken to
a Gibb wake, but unsuccessfully. Their brothers Solomon, Mike and
Jonty were determined to have the body ripped away from their
sisters to be taken to the Gibb wake. Fortunately, however, Tom
Vetter and Dave (Brightstone) and Joe (Newdale) along with their
wives remained faithful and stood steadfast on their beliefs. The
women collapsed in hurt and pain onto the coffin and would not
move. Things got so ugly that Dave, Tom and Joe along with their
families were ready to leave. They said, "rather then participate in
such horrible deeds we'll pack up, take our wives and children and
meet at another colony and have a wake with or without the body, so
long as there is no Gibb present."
Realizing that they were defeated and that we would not take
part in such ghastly, shocking and horrifying ceremonies, the Gibbs
seemed to loose control of their deep-rooted and wicked hatred. The
church ministers present were called evil, drunk and crooked
culprits. Mary (Rock Lake) Grandma's daughter-in-law told Sam
(Springfield) to "go home, you've stolen enough from Rock Lake. We
don't want you here because you're nothing more than a culprit." She
went on to tell Dave Vetter (Rock Lake minister elected by the
Hutterian Brethren Church) that "You call yourself a prediger, you're
nothing but a thirteen-year-old boy. Besides that you're just a drunk.
You've stolen Rock Lake blind, you never gave a hoot for Grandma
and Grandpa or for anybody except yourself. Go back to Keystone
and leave us in peace, you're nothing but stealer anyway." She also
told Tom Vetter, and Dave (Brightstone), "You never did care about
your in-laws. The only time you visited Rock Lake was when you
could go drinking with Grandpa." I guess by saying this she's trying
to blame her husband's alcoholism on someone else). Now you're
trying to fool people that you actually cared for Grandma, but we
know better. Just leave us alone and go home, all of you. We don't
want you here." To some, Mary's (Mike's wife) attitude may come as
a surprise. However, those who are acquainted with her personally
know that she is impudent and the owner of an impolite mouth that
should be washed with soap and water.
Throughout this time, the henchmen tried to pull the coffin away
from Margaret, Christy (Grandma's daughters), who at this time had
already collapsed onto the coffin. Jonty (Sommerfield) was seen
trying to nudge his sisters' heads away from their mom. When one of
his sisters told him, "You know better than participating in such a
horrible deed," I'm sure she said, "Deep down in your heart you're
not acting as you really feel. You're acting simply out of fear." He
simply shoved her hand away from him. She told him that he was
raised and taught differently, and that he should know better than
this. However, this did not have any impact on him at all, for he
along with Solomon and Mike, didn't listen. They just kept on trying
to push their sisters and their children away from the coffin.
The pushing and shoving by the henchmen became so vicious,
that at one point Solomon (Rock Lake) grabbed Joe (Newdale) by the
scruff of his neck and tried to stop him from preventing the lid of the
coffin from being slammed down onto Margaret, Marie and Christy
(who were seated at the right side of the coffin). During this
commotion, more verbal abuse and assaults were thrown at the
Hutterian Brethren ministers by young Gibb followers who at this
time were standing on chairs. When someone in the crowd asked
Tom Vetter, Dave Vetter, and Sam Vetter to recite some songs from
the Lutrishes Gesangbuch, one of Jonty's (Sommerfield) married
daughters yelled at the ministers (while standing on a chair) "They
don't know any good songs! All they how is how to drink whiskey
and eat sausages!" It's hard to comment on how long this Commotion
went on. It seemed as if it lasted for about two hours, but really I
believe it lasted only half an hour to forty-five minutes.
After some of the commotion had settled down, Tom Vetter
(Brightstone) asked some of us to take the coffin's lid out of the
room. When we tried to take the lid out of the room, Sara (Solomon's
wife Rock Lake), put her feet on the lid and tried to hold it back with
both hands. When Joe (Newdale) tried to remove her hands from the
lid, she slapped him on his hand. In contrast to this true version of
the story, some Gibbs have already made up a different tale. A
couple of days later they said, "Joe (Newdale) had his foot in the
coffin." But in fact it was a Gibb woman who had her feet on the lid
of the coffin.
When most of the Gibbs had finally left the house at about 11
PM, Sam Vetter (Springfield), Sam Vetter (Decker), Tom Vetter
(Brightstone), and Dave Vetter (Rock Lake) along with everybody
else present started to sing a few songs from the Lutrishes
Gesangbuch. Sam Vetter (Decker) paused for a moment to leaf
through the pages of the Gesangbuch in search of other songs.
At this point Mike (Rock Lake, Grandma's son) passed by Sam Vetter
and intentionally ripped the songbook out of his hands, and by doing
this shred and tore a few pages of the songbook. I do not believe that
Mike wanted the songbook to sing along with the rest of us, because
when Sam Vetter asked him if he wanted the book, he simply waved
his arms and muttered something that was intangible and walked
away. We, the Hutterian Brethren Christian Church, were kind of
hoping against hope that the Gibbs would leave us in peace for the
funeral. But much to our chagrin, the Gibbs proved once again that
they are incapable of feeling shame or remorse.
The funeral was just as awful as the wake, if not worse. At about
10 AM the family had agreed (Gibbs and Hutterian Brethren) that
the faithful Hutterian Brethren ministers would be in charge of the
funeral.. However, Jake (Blumengart) refused to go along with the
family's wishes and asked for a compromise. John Hofer (James
Valley) was appointed by the Gibbs to be their puppet. He came to
the room where Grandma lay and called some family members into a
meeting. At the meeting it was again decided that the faithful
Hutterian Brethren ministers would be in charge of the funeral. John
left after the meeting had been adjourned and took his verdict to
Jake (Blumengart). Apparently, he was not happy with what he
heard for John came back a second time and called Mike, Jonty and
Solomon (Grand-ma's sons) to a meeting that was now held in the
church. The three brothers followed John just like three little puppies
would follow their master. What was decided at this 'cat-cheese'
meeting I do not know. But John came back a third time and again
asked some family members to another meeting. This meeting
Christy (Brightstone) refused to attend.
At this meeting John asked Margaret (Newdale) and Marie
(Brightstone) if they would not meet them (the Gibbs) halfway. His
plans were to have the Gibbs hold half of the sermon and the faithful
Hutterian Brethren ministers the other half. Margaret (Newdale) said,
"No way! To me there is a left and a right, but no in-between." Marie
(Brightstone) said, 'My religious beliefs do not allow me to go
halfway. It's either all left or all right. There is no in-between." He
replied by saying, "Religious belief has nothing to do with any of this
and it shouldn't come into play with what we're trying to do." This
statement makes a person wonder if John Hofer (James Valley) has
any religion at all. He was like a tempter coming to tempt them into
falling or going along with the Gibbs' Godless movement. This
attitude is certainly not a characteristic of the Hutterian Brethren
religion to which the Gibbs claim they belong.
John Hofer (James Valley) again came to tempt like a tempter in
the night, but this time he approached the faithful Hutterian
Brethren ministers who were sitting at Dave Vetter's house. Present
at this meeting were Sam Vetter (Springfield), Sam Vetter (Decker)
and Dave (Brightstone). The Gibbs' purpose for this meeting was to
try and compromise of who should be in charge of the funeral. In
other words, they wanted the Hutterian Brethren ministers to forget
that there is a split in the Church, and pretend that nothing is wrong.
After John (James Valley) had said his piece, Sam Vetter (Decker)
told him that the faithful Hutterian Brethren ministers would not
even enter the church unless, of course, the Gibb ministers would sit
right by the back door with a wall or chalk line dividing the two
sides. Then pray that God would forgive the faithful Hutterian
Brethren ministers and understand that the line is supposed to
represent a wall. The Gibbs did not accept this proposal and
continued to plot against the wishes of the family members who are
When it came time for the funeral (about 3:30 PM) the Gibbs
came once again for the body. The henchmen were sent the second
time (by whom we are not quite sure). They did not go through with
the traditional procedures, but rather sent Ike (who is a Gibb Farm
Boss in Rock Lake) as a leader to try and take the body by force.
After about fifteen or twenty minutes, the ministers decided that if
Margaret, Marie, Christy and their families decided to let the body
go, then we'll let the Gibbs take the body. They (the Gibbs) did not
carry the body out of the room in the respectable head-first fashion,
but rather they grabbed Grandmother feet-first and left. The hurt,
pain and anguish suffered by the children, and grandchildren cannot
be described. The children were not able to attend their own
mother's funeral just as the grandchildren could not attend their
grand-mother's funeral. But the Gibbs did not seem to care about how
many people they hurt or how deep the pain would go.
The Gibbs seem to be just as one author wrote, "Those that yield
themselves to sin, to serve, and to let such rule over them. These
people separate themselves from the Church of Christ and depart
from her, and leave her and go further into destruction." Just like the
Gibbs, they just keep on going as they still do to this day, living their
lives just as if there was no God in heaven. What hurt even more was
the fact that until now there was a flicker of hope left that some of
Grandmother's children would see the light and not take part in such
an evil deed. But as Grandmother was carried away, only four of her
ten children present stayed behind. Not participating in this ghastly
ordeal was: Margaret (Newdale), Marie and Christy (Brightstone), and
Joe (Fort St. John B.C.). The rest decided to follow the Gibb movement
probably long before that, but to us this was like proof to a fact that
we did not want to accept, the fact being that over half the children
of a devoted, sincere and true person such as Grandmother had
decided to give up what they were taught ,and adopt a new
movement. This new movement is nothing but a destructive force
ruining anything and everybody who might cross its path, and has
come to be known as the Gibb Movement.
It has been over a month now since this ordeal has taken place.
To everyone who was present, (especially the children and
grandchildren) this affair has haunted them ever since. The
memories of this horrible deed are still fresh in everyone's mind, and
probably will be for some time. The only comfort is knowing that
Grandmother was a true Hutterite in all sense of the word. The Gibbs
might think that they stole and ruined just another soul by taking
her to their so-called funeral, but we know that no one on earth can
take away what she had gathered while still living. It should be
noted that Grandmother was a true Hutterite, and that she by no
means ever agreed with the Gibb movement. It should be noted that
Sara (Decker) was not present at the funeral, and is not a Gibb. The
Gibbs might think that by forcefully taking Grandma to their funeral
they converted her into something which she was not. They don't
seem to realize that this is not possible, and never will be.
It should be mentioned that there were several older ministers
who were present at this ordeal. They have commented that never in
all their lives, as Servants of the Word or otherwise, in Winnipeg or
in any other city or town of the world, have they been witness to
such a horrible godlessness and sinful deed.
------ A Short Story ------
by Susanna Alves Levy (formerly Fischli)
I was twelve, living in the Paraguayan communities of the
Bruderhof sect, and I was in love. He was much older, a grown-up,
just into his twenties. Everyone liked his wit. His smile was charming.
When I realised that I was head-over-heels in love with him, no one
else existed for me but this young man. I will call him Daniel. It is
not his real name.
Whenever I crossed his path, my heart wanted to jump out of
my throat like a bird trying to escape. It was beautiful to be in love.
Then one day, the brotherhood decided that he should go away
to England, to join the Wheathill community. My heart stopped.
Mother was in hospital at that time. Twenty-two-year-old
Elisabeth was our foster mother. We were a handful of nine. My
oldest brother was fourteen, the youngest about ten months. It was
from Elisabeth, who was in the Jugend (youth group), that I had
heard that Daniel was going away.
On moonlit nights when the Jugend danced their folk
dances in the village centre, I would be terribly jealous. I wanted so
much to grow up quickly and belong to the Jugend so that I
could dance with Daniel... It was annoying and angering to be so plain
and small, to be just a very young girl.
For hours on end -- or so it seemed -- I stood in the small dark
hallway at home and stared through the night, straining to see the
dancing young men and women of whom I made out only vague
silhouettes. I would try to make out Daniel's shape, to pick out his
voice. And whenever they sang the love song "Feins-liebchen, du
sollst mir nicht barfuss gehn", tears tumbled and my throat ached
and the powerful feelings were quite confusing.
I was in anguish when I thought about his departure. One day, I
thought, one day he must be told about my love for him. He must not
leave without knowing. But how could I let him know? These kind of
feelings were taboo, no one spoke about them, one kept them as
secret as possible. One spoke with one's eyes only, one tried to be
near the beloved one, but it had to be inconspicuous, so no one would
notice or suspect anything.
My frustration and impatience increased when I was reminded
that Daniel was already a brotherhood member. I wasn't even taking
part in the Gemeindestunde, the meetings of communal prayer.
Community life didn't mean anything in particular to me. I was born
into community and thought nothing special of it. I belonged there
because that's where my parents were. I knew, though, that later, as
a grown-up, I would have to decide if I wanted to become a member
too. And I probably would, because only brotherhood members got
married, and I was intent on marrying Daniel.
So what should I do to let Daniel know that I was so much in
love with him? Did he actually notice me? I certainly saw only him. I
would go early for the communal meals to secure my place at the
girls' table. The "youth table", as it was called, was at the other far
end of the room. From my chosen seat I could usually see Daniel
quite well and I would watch him all the time, during the song,
during the silence after the song, during the whole meal. After meals,
if he stayed around chatting with people, I would linger nearby with
my little friends. But I had to be careful and watch it. I did not want
to be seen as wanting to be near Daniel.
I never spoke to him.
I had been watching his comings and goings closely for a long
time. He worked on the campo with the cattle. His daily routine
was irregular. Sometimes I didn't see him for a few days running. He
often rode away very early, when daylight hadn't even broken, and
returned only after dark. Keeping track of his movements was also
difficult because he lived at the eastern tip of Loma Hoby, whereas
the School Wood, where I spent most of my day, lay west, and our
house, the Wiesenhaus, north.
So here I was, sweetly fulfilled but sad, wonderfully happy with
the many feelings evoked by my love for Daniel. My naive adoration
introduced me to so many new sensations. My heart could beat
wildly, or hurt, and then again I could rejoice and jump, run and
dance -- it was beautiful to be in love, to love! But oh, Daniel was
going away to England! Would he come back eventually? Elisabeth
said no, he would stay in Wheathill. He had health problems, she
said, and he would be having extensive health checks because
something had to be done about it. Health problems! This too! A new
kind of ache was added to my kaleidoscope of feelings.
I continued thinking hard about a way of letting him know. He
ought to be told. I would then wait for him, and he for me...
Mother was recovering only slowly and was still very frail, so we
moved to a house closer to the hospital. This would enable her to
visit us daily for half an hour or so. My heart somersaulted with joy!
The new house was just opposite to where Daniel lived! I was
catapulted into bliss. At least now, during the last weeks of his stay, I
would see him more often. The path to his hut went right past the
front door of our new living quarters.
My heart quivered with anticipation each time I heard his horse
trot by on the soft sandy path. There was the gentle creaking of
leather against leather. From then on I would not go to bed at night
until I heard Daniel riding past. I stood in the shelter of darkness at
my open window, and it was here that I discovered those most
beautiful Paraguayan nights: the gentle warm north winds
whispering and rustling, heavy sweet scents drifting from night
blooms. And something very great, very huge and sweet began
moving my heart and I did not know what to do with it all. Countless
shooting stars did I see falling, and they all fell into my lap. The
silver shimmer of the moon's rays lay on the sand of the path, now
velvety white where it had been golden in the sunshine of the day.
And then the sound of hooves approaching, a saddle creaking softly
-- there, there he was! There was Daniel!
I stepped back into the safe darkness of the room, but my eyes
burnt through the layers of night and followed his shape until it
disappeared along the path underneath the branches of the orange
trees surrounding his hut. There was a brief shimmer of light down
there, but only after that too disappeared was I able to go to bed and
Little Lily, my two-year old sister, fell ill and had to stay at
home. I was asked to baby-sit her one afternoon. It was raining
heavily. Lily was asleep. I slipped out of the house into the rain. I
had an idea and wanted to find out if my plan was viable.
My hair was drenched immediately, dripping and heavy. The
dress clung to my back. Small water puddles splashed around my
bare feet, wet sand seeped between my toes. I loved rain, I loved
walking in it. The orange trees around Daniel's hut were heavy with
fruit. As I stood quietly beneath them, I listened to the humming and
rushing of the rain. Noisy drops trickled and splashed from the
leaves. The earth smelled good. There was not much undergrowth,
but branches hung low and each time I brushed against them, I was
showered with heavy drops. Drops trickled down my face.
I felt hot. I stretched and began pulling oranges from some lower
branches whilst slowly approaching the hut. I had noticed that
normally at this time of day no one was there. Anyhow, the whole
village seemed deserted. No human sounds could be heard, there was
only the drip-drip of the rain, softly, constantly, as if it would never
stop. I stole my way around the hut. The windows were boarded up,
but above one of them I saw a gap. I quickly climbed onto the sill,
peering into the gloom of the hut. Three beds. There, that must be
Daniel's bed! That is his faja, the broad waist band. I knew it well!
My heart was thumping by now, I thought it would explode. I
jumped down and ran. The soft ground made no noise.
I had just emerged from among the wet trees onto the path,
clutching my apron of oranges, when I saw a figure approach
through the grey sheets of rain, a grey outline in the greyness of that
day. My heart stopped: It was Daniel! He was coming right towards
I lowered my eyes, my cheeks burning. Like a lizard I slipped
past him and ran, hardly realising that he had greeted me. Once in
my own living room, I stood shaking. What a lucky escape! Still
clutching the oranges I stood for a while, quite still, listening out into
the rain and into myself, into my wildly beating heart.
It was still raining the next day, as if the rain had come to stay.
Lily was not much better so I volunteered to spend the afternoon
with her. I had an idea. I had made a decision, and I was going
through with my plan. If I stayed at home and the rain continued
and Lily was quiet like the day before, it should work out all right.
In a secret corner at the bottom of a drawer I had found a
postcard. It belonged to my seventeen-year-old sister Anna. The
card showed two beautiful, slightly open, rosebuds. On the back of
the card, Anna had written her name with a pencil in big childish
letters. But I rubbed and rubbed with the eraser, and in the end, I
was satisfied. Anna's name had disappeared. Only I knew how to
make out the impression of her name on the back of that card. What
did Anna want that card for anyhow? Red roses for a seven-year-
old? No! I was sure she wouldn't miss anything.
Then in my own hand I wrote: "For Daniel. From me." Just this.
No word of love, of adoration, of hope. No signature. Only "For Daniel
from me". Those four words said it all, contained everything that was
inside of me wanting to be told. They held the universe of my
Then came the great moment. I was already shivering and
trembling, thinking about the execution of my plan. But I had made
up my mind and nothing and no one would stop me now.
Again I had watched the path and knew that of the three young
men living in that hut. Nobody was around this afternoon. So there I
went once more, slipping out into the rain, along the narrow path
under the trees. Today I did not think of oranges. I wanted to do
everything very quickly and then run away immediately. Again the
constant dripping of raindrops around me. Everything was grey,
quiet, subdued. Daniel, as if he had sensed something, had left the
window slightly open above his bed. I bent in and slipped the
postcard between the two sheets just below the pillow. Then I turned
Before stepping out onto the sandy road, I stood quietly
listening. Nothing could be heard, nobody could be seen. Only my
heart was thumping. I sighed a sigh and slowly, in dignified manner,
I walked back to our house through the rain. I lay on my bed in my
wet dress. Lily was sleeping. There was nothing else to be done. I
had achieved what I had set out to do. My heart felt light in a kind of
dizzy drunkenness. It was done, finally, and I did not wish to undo it!
That same evening nothing happened, nor the next morning. I
forgot that I had actually done something quite out-of-the-ordinary,
and spent my time as usual: school in the morning, then luncheon
with the grown-ups, afterwards the daily siesta at home.
The bell rang to signal that siesta was over. Father went to the
kitchen to fetch "vesper", the afternoon snack. My two older brothers
were in front of the house, as was I with Anna. The weather had
changed overnight, a lovely sunny day. I felt lighthearted and
unconcerned. I hadn't seen Daniel so far, and assumed he had left for
work at dawn, to be back only late, after dark.
My brothers were playing a game of marbles while Anna and I
were skipping my rope. Suddenly my feet stopped, also my heart.
Two figures stepped out of the greenery. I froze. Daniel, instead of
continuing with Manuel along the sandy road as he would do at that
time of day, had turned toward our house and was coming toward
me. I couldn't take my eyes off his face and suddenly a boundless
fear took hold of me. My feet seemed nailed to the ground, only my
heart was beating frantically. An icy coldness slowly covered my
brow, my forehead, a sensation I had not known before.
Daniel's face approached, it came closer and closer. His eyes were
laughing, his mouth was smiling. He was so much a man, and so near
to me as he had never been before. He stopped in front of me and,
slipping his hand into his shirt pocket, pulled out the card.
"Do you know from whom this card comes?" he asked in a half-
His face was close to mine. I felt his eyes wander over my face. I
could not draw back, I could not turn my head, I could not disappear.
And I could not answer.
"Look here, Simone," he coaxed, "I found this card. Don't you
know from whom it is?"
He had spoken my name! My heart missed a beat.
His eyes were still laughing, but his mouth had become serious.
Suddenly that sparkle in his eyes hit me. He was laughing at me! And
instantly I found myself again, and a furious and urgent anger
mingled with my confusion and terror, a terrible burning anger, and
"I do not know that card," I managed to say defiantly.
He turned it over and showed me my own handwriting. But he
pointed not to my message, but to something else.
"See here," he continued, and his finger rested on the spot where
I had erased Anna's name. "Here," he said. "The name of your sister. I
can still read it. Are you quite sure it wasn't you?"
I had lost, and I knew it. A terrifying sensation of helplessness
surged and began spreading inside of me.
"I don't know anything about the card. I do not know the card! I
do not know at all what you are talking about," I managed to blurt
out vehemently, and suddenly I snatched the card out of his hand
from in front of my face, and instantly I ran, heading for my
bedroom. I dashed through the bedroom and through my parents'
room and, in terrified flight, out of the back window right into the
brambly underbrush that spread behind our house.
I knew nearly every square meter of this sizable piece of rough
growth. I had often slipped into its wilderness, watching the apereas,
those fat tail-less rats that made all those fascinating grass tunnels
and well-trodden tiny paths. In the centre was a small patch covered
with grass, like a miniature clearing in the middle of a big forest.
Here I had read many a book and spent countless hours, far away
from everything and everybody. No one knew my hiding place. It
was here that I sought solace and found solitude when I didn't know
what to do with myself, when life was too helter-skelter to
understand, too confusing, too difficult. From this spot I could still
overlook the road that led to the centre of the village, and sometimes
I saw Daniel walking along. From my hideaway, I could hear
everything I wanted to hear: The voices of people, the call of the bell.
If I wanted to see them, I needed only to roll over and peep through
the twigs of my shelter. There they were, walking to and fro like
busy insects. I saw them but they didn't see me. Here I felt safe. Not
even my ever-so-smart brothers had found my hiding place so far.
I threw myself down and buried my burning face in my arms. I
wanted to cry but the tears would not come. Only despair burned
inside and that terrible anger, the rage, the helplessness and shame
-- and love, this love for Daniel. I lay there, very quietly, and let
myself go and allowed the waves to close in and bury me.
After a while I lifted my head. I saw the card in my hand. I had
briefly forgotten it. It now seemed so shoddy. The two rose buds
looked artificial. It was a photograph, I knew, but the blue of the sky
was now too blue, and the dewdrops on the petals were just water,
sprayed on by a human hand. The red of the flowers was too red,
their stems too stiff and straight. They were more like tulips than
roses, I thought, and I had never found tulips very attractive!
Should I tear it up? But what would I do with the pieces? No,
that wasn't safe enough. I'd have to make it all as if it had never
happened. But how?
I saw someone walking along the road toward the village centre.
I stared. It was Daniel! What had he been doing all this time at our
house? Another heat wave engulfed me. I bet he waited for my
father and told him everything! I squirmed with embarrassment.
Before my inner eye, I repeated the encounter. Suddenly I
remembered registering how my brothers had stopped playing and
had stared at me. They had heard every word! And Anna had
listened too. I recalled her big unbelieving eyes and her whimper:
"But that is my card!" She wouldn't have grasped what was going on.
But those other two, they probably wouldn't leave me in peace
anymore, those two devils! They had enough imagination to put two-
I waited. The minutes went by. Slowly my heart began to calm
down. My forehead reverted to its normal sensation, the iciness
disappeared. What stayed behind was an acute sense of shame. He
had made fun of me! He didn't take me seriously! I should have
known! Why was I so foolish, so silly? Now I would have to avoid
him, I wouldn't be able to look at him anymore without
embarrassment, and that seeking of his face at mealtimes would
have to come to an end too. Who was I, after all, to have such ideas?
I was a nothing, a nobody, a little girl, a child! Not even my body
showed any signs of a womanly form. There was still so much
growing up to do! I felt terribly ashamed of myself and of my deed.
The humiliation! That sparkle in his eyes, and my bewilderment.
He made fun of you! I thought. He thinks it's a joke! He probably
showed the card to the two others who share the hut with him!
Hatred now crept in, toward Manuel who had been there when
Daniel came up to me. Had not Manuel grinned gleefully? I hated
him! I hated Daniel! I hated my brothers, my father, all of them!
No. I did not hate Daniel. Now I was afraid of him, afraid of a
chance meeting. I would have to avoid those paths he usually trod.
But as I knew his habits and routine, this should not be too hard.
And from now on, in the dining room, I would sit where I could not
see him and he would not see me.
The bell calling to departments or work places had sounded a
long time ago. It had grown quiet at home. The clatter of cups and
spoons had ceased. Surely they had all gone to where they had to go.
Slowly I crept out of my hiding place and sneaked farther away from
the house. I entered a small wood area where the nearest outhouse
stood. I slipped inside. I let the card fall into its dark stinking hole.
So, now it was gone. Now it had disappeared. It would rot, be eaten
by worms. Nobody would ever see it again. If anybody asked me
about it, I could now simply deny its existence.
I walked home very slowly. This time I showed myself. If
someone saw me, so be it.
At home everyone had gone. Lily had been taken back to the
toddlers' house. I was worried that father might still be at home
waiting for me, but he had also left. I remained in my room for the
rest of the afternoon. I slept a long time. When I awoke, it seemed as
if the card story had happened a long, long time ago.
Late that afternoon, mother came around for her daily half hour.
She entered my room. I was still on my bed. When I saw her face I
knew that someone had told her.
"Simone," she said. "Why did you do this, with the card?"
I kept a defiant silence. Who had told her? Father? Daniel? She
and Daniel got along. I had seen them recently, chatting away on that
"Don't you want to tell me about it?" she asked. "After all, I'm
I continued stubbornly silent. No, I would not talk about it with
her. With nobody.
"Well, Simone," she said, with disappointment in her voice, "as
you do not seem to want to tell me about it, let me at least say quite
clearly that a girl does not do this kind of thing, going into the
bedroom of a young man, putting things into his bed! It is just not
Her voice was stern. I remained silent, but shame and
embarrassment engulfed me again, and anger too. And feelings of
humiliation and helplessness. I stared at the ceiling. She watched me
quietly for a moment, then she left the room closing the door softly
So, well, that was that, then! I sighed with relief. Thank goodness
she hadn't blown it out of all proportion.
That evening Daniel wasn't at the communal meal. I didn't see
him during luncheon the next day either, but he did appear the
I had already settled into a sense of lightness and relief of not
having to confront him when he strode into the dining hall using the
door right next to our girls' table. Waves of heat and cold engulfed
me. He stopped and looked at us, one by one, and I knew he was up
to something. I huddled in the farthest corner and tried to make
myself even smaller, but it was useless. He had spotted me. He came
over and stood opposite. He seemed huge, towering, overpowering. A
giant! Again my forehead was icy cold and I could not tear my eyes
off his face. And -- he was smiling.
"I want my card," he said in a loud whisper.
"I don't have any card!" I hissed back.
"Oh yes, you have that card," he insisted. "It is mine, and I want
He sounded determined and suddenly his mouth didn't seem to
smile and an angry light flashed in his eyes.
"I have told you already," I whispered fiercely. "I do not have
any card! I don't know what you are talking about! Go away and
leave me in peace!"
The girls were watching in amazement. Some of them were
already nudging each other, giggling and whispering. I went into a
red hot rage.
"Shut up!" I snarled. Then I glared at Daniel. I was by now a
quivering bundle of fury. We stared at each other for a moment.
"Well," he said in a low voice and with a shrug. "That is a pity. I
wanted to keep it."
He bowed ever so slightly, the smile returned to his eyes and
was already playing around his mouth. He turned and went.
I had won this unequal fight. But I wanted to die! To run away,
hide, not show myself ever again. There it was, the anger, the shame,
but I had to stick it out. The giggling and whispering had stopped.
They knew me well enough to stop the nonsense.
After the meal, one of the girls asked softly, carefully, what that
was all about, this card that Daniel wanted so much?
"Oh, he is a fool," l answered disdainfully. "He only wants to
make me angry."
She left it at that. No one else dared ask. The matter was ended.
Finished with. It now can be forgotten, by everybody, including
* * *
It was as if the incident triggered Daniel's move to Isla
Margarita, where he was to some time prior to his departure to
England. But before he moved, he gave me another fright. It was
after "vesper". The rest of the family had already gone. I was
dawdling with the dishes in front of the house, pouring the washing-
up water onto the grass, when Daniel came walking up the path,
directly up to me. As he stood in front of me I was again nailed to
the ground. But this time I was determined I was going to fight! If he
insisted, he would get it...
He only wanted some ink! His pen had leaked and he had run out
of ink, could I get him some?
I was trembling. My hand shook when I gave him the ink pot. He
must have noticed but he didn't say a word. He smiled, but there
seemed to be a wall through which I couldn't see. It was probably
better that way, I thought. He is going away anyhow, for always and
ever. It was all in vain...
"Put it into the living room, please, when you have finished," I
said before he turned away. "I have to go now."
"Indeed, as you wish," he said. Adding a "thank you," he bowed
in his very own way, very elegantly. As if I were a lady, I thought,
and blushed. I turned and fled. Had he seen my blushing face? There
had been that twinkle, that mischievous lightning in his eyes... I left
the house, walking away briskly. I would not risk waiting for him to
return that ink pot, oh no!
I did not see Daniel for many weeks. But one day, as I was
walking to school, I heard the sound of horses approaching, and there
he was, sitting smoothly on his horse as if born onto that saddle.
With him was that other boy, Manuel, whom I had sworn to hate for
the rest of my life.
Daniel held back his horse to let me walk by. He was laughing,
and I blushed deeply. He lifted his straw hat, bowed and said:
"Guten Tag gnadiges Fraulein!" I glanced up. He is mocking me,
he finds it funny, I told myself as I proudly walked away. Take care!
Don't give him another opportunity!
Time went by. In a way I was glad that I could now forget
Daniel, without having foolishly walked into difficulties or having
made myself punishable by the adults. They punished so easily!
They always found so many good reasons for punishments. Happily
for me, this episode had not been selected as a punishable matter,
and I felt a huge sense of relief. Still, deep down, inside a tiny corner
of my heart, I felt a burning sadness. I had loved so much! Why had
it all turned out the way it did? Why had it to be this way?
* * *
It was a mid-week, mid-afternoon. I had kitchen duty. Some
kind of special meeting was to take place that evening in the
adjoining dining hall, and I had been asked to sweep the floor, dust
tables and benches, clean window sills and decorate the large room
with flowers. It was a hard task, the hall was enormous, the tables
and benches so long and never-ending, but now I was nearing the
end of the job. Only the flowers were missing. I would have to go and
pick them, but they were my treat. I decided to first sweep the
verandah around the dining hall before turning to my beloved
flowers. There was still plenty of time. There I was, sweeping away,
singing softly to myself. The dust whirled in front of my broom, the
broom itself seemed to dance, and I felt happy. In school that
morning everything had gone well, at home also.
All of a sudden there was a jingling sound behind me, very
softly, and before I had time to turn around, a well known voice said,
I whirled. Heat rose through my whole body. There stood Daniel,
right in front of me, laughing! It was his spurs that had jingled, and
only ten metres away stood his sweaty horse. He had ridden in,
dismounted, walked up to me, and I had never heard him! Here were
his blue-grey eyes in front of me, sparkling, on my face. The heat on
my cheeks grew deeper.
"What do you want! "I said defensively.
"Ach, only something to eat," he replied. "I have just come back
from work. You are on duty, are you not? Can you get me some
I dropped the broom and went into the kitchen. I was walking
on clouds. I could not feel the ground. My legs didn't seem to belong
to me. Somehow I found a plate of food, and outside there was
Daniel, sitting at the rough wooden table under the lime tree, next to
the old well. He smiled when I put the plate before him. Still, just
then, his smile could have been for anything in the world. Because in
the meantime, one of the men working in the kitchen had sat down
next to Daniel and they were chatting away in a lively fashion.
After Daniel finished the meal, he got up, disappeared into the
kitchen, then emerged again. He mounted his horse, rode past me,
and saluted, touching the rim of his hat. I dared look only very
quickly. He looked at me. He seemed serious.
Actually he doesn't see me, I thought. He sees only a foolish
school girl who has kitchen duty and is sweeping the verandah of the
I never saw him again.
When some years later I heard about his engagement to one of
the girls in Wheathill, a girl only about three years older than me, I
felt a strange choking pain.
That night, I stood for a long time at my bedroom window,
watching the shooting stars fall They did not fall into my lap
anymore. They were falling into the lap of another girl.
-------- Memories --------
Paraguay to Forest River to Oak Lake
by Margot Wegner Purcell
My family moved to Forest River in late
November of 1956. We
traveled from Isla Margarita, Primavera, to the Hutterite colony in
North Dakota. I was nine years old when we made this trip. When we
left, it was summer and our school had just let out for the summer
break. We arrived in the middle of winter -- the first one for all of us
children -- and right back into school. The decision for our family to
move to North America had been made at least a year before we
actually went. All of us children had been anxiously waiting for the
day to arrive. We did not know where in the United States we were
going until our move was ready. Several other families were also
preparing to move to the United States.
Many evenings my sister Gisela, my brother Adolf and I would
talk about our trip. Gisela was our storyteller, so she told us many
times of our trip. We would have a love meal for our family and all
of us would be able to attend (children did not usually attend
evening meals at that time). The next morning everyone would
gather around the wagon (sometimes we even got to go in the lorry )
and everyone would sing for us. The three of us would then sing the
songs we wanted them to sing for us. "Einen goldnen Wanderstab"
and "Kein Schoner Land in Dieser Zeit" were two of the
songs. We would then travel to Rosario and take the boat to
Asuncion. From there by plane to America. If Adolf and I were still
awake, we would hear about our arrival at Woodcrest and greeting
those we knew that lived there.
The story of our travels changed over the months we were
waiting to go. Gisela was not thrilled when we asked her to tell us the
story again each night, as most nights we would fall asleep well
before we departed. Sometimes we would argue about the songs that
would be sung. My parents spent a lot of time filling out papers and
getting all the right forms ready. I remember asking many times
where we would go. It seemed to take so very long. Since many
would be moving to the USA, we were learning English in the school
Finally we were ready. We had a family birthday for my
grandmother in October. I did not realize how long it would be before
we were able to see her again. My cousins (Leslie and Elfriede
Barron's family ) came from Loma Hoby. It must have been very
difficult for the adults to say good-bye, but for us children, we just
wanted to get on with our new adventure. Our farewell was not like
what it had been in Gisela's story. We did all leave Isla together -- I
don't recall the actual leave-taking. We went to Loma where our
family separated. Mama, Adolf and I went by plane to Asuncion
while Papa, Marlene, Helmut, Gisela and all our duffel bags and
suitcases went by wagon to Rosario and then on to the capitol. In
Loma, my father was asked to tell his life story at the farewell lunch.
I think we all have wonderful and varying memories of our
plane trip. We were all dressed alike. The girls had identical flower-
pattern summer dresses and the boys' shirts were made out of the
same material. We traveled by prop planes via Braniff Airlines and
stopped at every capital city on the way north to Miami, Florida.
Then via Delta to Chicago, IL, and Northwest Orient Airlines to Grand
Forks, ND. Most of the time we enjoyed our airplane ride except
when we flew in the clouds, had much turbulence and became
airsick. The entire trip took two days. Lots of fun for the children and
probably quite draining on our parents.
Miami airport was just as I had expected all of America to be.
Lots of toys in the shop windows. Airplane models hung from the
ceiling in several locations. More candy and chocolate than we had
ever dreamed of. We went through customs there. They unpacked all
the carefully packed bags and searched through them. Poor Papa had
trouble getting everything back in as well as he had packed them
Our first view of snow was at the Chicago Airport. When we
landed, Papa pointed to a pile of snow that had been plowed away
from the tarmac. It was very dirty but we did not care. We were
eager to get out to see it and to eat it. Papa told us that when we got
to Forest River there would be clean fresh snow that we could eat.
We did at least get to feel it.
We arrived in Grand Forks around 9:00 P.M. and were met by
Hardy and Sekunda (Martha) Arnold. This was one family we knew.
We got to Forest River at 11:00 and were greeted by so many in the
dining room. It was very cold and we were still in our lightweight
clothes with sweaters. (I think Hardy and Sekunda had brought coats
for us.) We were wearing our klepper (sandals) with socks as we had
done during the winters in Paraguay. We did meet others who had
once been in Paraguay, but most were Americans or Hutterites. The
Trumpi family came a few weeks before or after we did. We were
served supper while everyone watched us eat and sang some
It was a clear cold night. We were taken to our new house, a
small house that held just our family. A small entry way with a
bathroom, dining room with a coal stove to heat the whole house, and
four bedrooms. Two bedrooms were on the second floor and we
climbed a flight of stairs for the first time. On each of our beds was a
new doll or toy, as we had to leave most of our toys behind.
Gisela and I asked if we could possibly stay up to see it snow. (In
our story, it snowed the night we arrived). The adults must have
been quite puzzled because it was a clear night. I was under the
impression that it snowed every night in the winter and only at
night. After all, most of the stories we had heard about winter told of
the new snow that had fallen during the night. We soon were tucked
in under our down comforters,
In the next few days we learned about winter. It was so very
cold (according to my father's notes it was thirty degrees below zero
many days). I remember going to school with my socks and klepper
on my feet but no boots, We went for a walk and the teacher did not
notice that I was not dressed for the weather. It was not until I got
home that I noticed that I could not feel my toe. Boy, did they tingle
when they finally defrosted!
I was very sad that there were no leaves on any of the trees. I
was told that when spring came there would be leaves again, but
that was so hard to comprehend. In Paraguay some of the trees lost
their leaves but new ones replaced them within weeks. We went
skating on the river behind our house. That was a great river, I wish
that I could have learned how to skate there, but I did not learn until
we moved to Oak Lake. There were many uneven areas because the
river seemed to have frozen in great waves. Several areas remained
unfrozen due to the rushing water and there were some big cracks.
The school groups took walks on the ice. Sledding down the hill near
the schoolhouse was great! There were a few good sleds and it was a
wonderful, but dangerous, hill. I recall long afternoons of sledding.
For us children, that winter was such a new experience in many
ways. Being so very cold was a new sensation, seeing the snow, ice
and bare trees. We saw the aurora borealis on several occasions
which was a treat. Using a coal furnace and smelling the coal dust
every morning when our father had to restart the fire, being
surrounded by English-speaking people, and having to learn a new
language. The pipes froze almost daily.
The river that looped around the 'hof was a wonderful source of
learning for me. There were beavers who had a house that we could
walk to and look into when the ice was thick. We could see their dam
and the effect it had on the river. Many an evening we would stand
quietly on the small bridge waiting for the beavers to come out so we
could watch them work on their dam or gather food.
Springtime was the best. It came so fast and was very much like
what my parents had told us it was like in Germany. The snow
melted rapidly and small rushing streams were everywhere. The
river ice melted quickly with huge sheets breaking up and rushing
down to the next pile-up. Buds appeared on the trees and soon tiny
leaves appeared everywhere. It was also very muddy all over the
'hof. Since it was my first spring, it remains very memorable for me,
A few days after we arrived, we were taken to the school. My
oldest sister had to go to the local school at Inkster. The rest of us
went to the community school. They did not know which grade to
place us in because our education had been so different and our
knowledge of English was so limited. I was first taken to the
Johnsons' living room where Eleanor taught the first and second
grades. I only stayed there for a few days and then was moved up to
the third grade.
My teachers were Doug and Ruby Moody. In Social Studies they
were talking about Christopher Columbus and Lief Erikkson. That is
all I can recall. I did learn English pretty quickly and was able to
write long letters to friends in Woodcrest. We went to the local
library and toured several factories as part of our schooling. The
country side was very much like Paraguay in its flatness and
openness. In spring we made kites and flew them on the hill
overlooking the 'hof. We took walks to the "40-acre" field and played
in the hayloft.
Forest River was different in several ways. The unity between
the Bruderhof members was not there. There was quite a separation
between the Hutterites and the Bruderhofers, Everyone worked
together, but there was "their" way and "our" way of doing things.
The Hutterites spoke with quite a different accent than the
Americans. I found it difficult to know who belonged to which family
because there were only three or four surnames for all the
Hutterites, but many more families. The common names were Hofer,
Waldner and Maendel. The food was quite different and many foods
we did not acquire a taste for. There was a limited repertoire of
songs known to all. We had two little songbooks, one for Christmas
songs and the other had a mixture of international songs,
I was not aware of the conflict between the Bruder-hof and the
Hutterites regarding Forest River. I remember the decision to move
to Oak Lake and the planning of the move. Every family that was to
move had a planned way to get to our temporary hotel, Park Terrace,
near Lake Huntington, New York. They had figured a way to
transport everybody and every vehicle. Our family traveled by
Greyhound Bus to New York City, then by local bus to Park Terrace.
My mother and several others flew out earlier to get the place
ready, so my father had the responsibility of taking the five of us on
the bus. We had a hamper full of sandwiches to eat over the two
days of travel. We had a great time. The double-decker buses were
wonderful. We tested each new driver for their tolerance of children.
I recall seeing so many lakes as we passed through Minnesota and I
was so very thirsty. It was a great time to learn about the states. In
Isla our family had a puzzle of the states. We learned all the names,
locations and much about each state. Now we were traveling through
so many of them!
Somewhere in Ohio or Pennsylvania our bus was involved in an
accident. This delayed our trip quite a bit and we missed our
connection from New York City. We were then rerouted to Woodcrest.
We spent a short time in Woodcrest with our best friends, the
Stevensons, next to whom we had lived in Isla. But all too soon we
were off to Park Terrace in a small car that had a flat tire just
outside Woodcrest. Eventually we did get to Park Terrace, where
Mama was anxiously awaiting our arrival. Park Terrace was located
about one hour from Woodcrest, and functioned as a two-month
holding area between Forest River and the availability of Gorley's
Lake Hotel in Farmington, PA. Our move to Oak Lake started a new
phase in my life.
-------- In Fond Remembrance ------
My Uncles Hardy, Heini & Hans-Hermann Arnold
by Bette Bohlken-Zumpe
It is sad that all the brothers of my mother and their wives have
died, and amazing that my mother Emi-Margret and aunt Monika
have outlived their brothers, even though their health seemed so
much poorer than that of the Arnold "boys". My very first memories
are of very happy, jolly, full-of-fun uncles who loved us, the children
of their sister, deeply. It is not true what the Bruderhof proclaims,
that Heini was my grandfather's "special" son who understood his
father's faith, hopes and beliefs the best. No, my grandparents, like
all parents on this earth, saw the strong and the weak points of their
children and tried to help them develop the good and the strong
points in that way. All their children were very special to them!
My Grandparents had little time for their children as they were
building a community of goods and spent their energy very often in
talking to people, giving official talks, writing books and compiling
songbooks, talking with guests and people that felt close to their
ideas. Therefore my great-aunt Else von Hollander was a true
blessing for the Arnold children Each one had the feeling, that "Tata's
special love" was for them personally. She was there for them and
there for both my grandparents, and her loving and complete
surrender to Jesus Christ made her an inestimable and invaluable
member to the family. In her quiet love, she embraced each and
My mother, the oldest, was ten years old when the community
was really started in 1921. She was expected to understand and pull
her part of the weight. My grandfather wanted her to work with the
children of the community and that is why she was sent to Thale for
a Kindergarten training. The witness she gave there brought
Annemarie (Heini's wife), Gretel Gneiting and Margarethe Boening to
join the Bruderhof. One of them told me: "There was such a deep
understanding between father and daughter, that we just admired
this in their relationship. E.A. would come as often as he could. He
usually wore a corduroy blue suit and we would see father and
daughter walk together for several hours in the nearby meadows
and woods. He would have his arm around her shoulder, and for us it
seemed a completely loving relationship."
Hardy, the oldest son, was his parents' joy. He was intelligent,
extroverted, lovable and always joyful. At a young age he went to
the marketplaces in Sannerz and Fulda "to preach" to the people.
Wherever he went he brought back some interesting story and a
interesting encounter with someone. His joy and enthusiasm were
infectious and gave a special addition to a sometimes difficult life in
a starting community. Edith his wife had a quiet nature, was
extremely well-read and had a quiet, serene outlook on life as well
as a deep faith in the ultimate leading of her life, by Jesus Himself.
My grandfather had hopes that together they would lead the
Bruderhof school into unity amongst all the children.
My own memories: as a small child, I played a lot in their home
because Eberhard Claus was my age and we got on well with each
other. When my mother had to be isolated from the community due
to her Open Tuberculosis, the three uncles decided each to take the
responsibility for one Zumpe girl. My brother Ben was very sick at
that time and in special care of Margot Savoldelly (later Davies).
Heidi, my oldest sister, was assigned to Hardy and Edith, me to Heini
and Anne-marie and Burgel to Hans-Hermann and Gertrud. I
remember the eagerness with which Heidi and Burgel would pack
their little rucksacks in Primavera when they went to their uncles in
Isla Margarita with the Fleischwagen (meat wagon) for the
weekends. Hardy and Edith's home I remember as feeling warm and
very secure. In the Cotswolds, they would have a big jigsaw puzzle
on the table and while discussing serious matters, would try and find
a place for the small pieces.
The discussion was often about "how to bring the message of
unity to people" without trying to be self-righteous -- to bring the
message in simple words. That is also how he tried to tell us about
the Bible, and I have many memories of how he and Edith tried to
make us children understand. For example, he told us about how
after the death of Jesus, Peter had returned to fishing and was
fishing day after day and catching absolutely nothing. Then Jesus
appeared on the shore and said :"Throw your nets on that side and
you will find plenty of fish!" Peter did that and the nets were so
heavy, that he was almost unable to pull them up. To demonstrate
this, Hardy asked Claus and me to stand on their bed while he rolled
himself in a blanket. He then asked us to pull the blanket with him in
it into the bed. It was too heavy for us, so Edith came to help, but she
laughed so much that she lost all her strength. Finally we pulled
Hardy onto the bed, our faces red from the effort. This made a deep
impression on me.
Hardy could laugh at his own mistakes. I remember him telling
us that he had to go into Kembly (the nearest town) to buy material
for making baby diapers. He asked the shopkeeper for 30 meters of
"swaddling cloth" and the man just looked at him in pure amazement.
After Edith's death, Hardy experienced a time of deep depression and
I believe was not helped by his brothers and sisters and the whole
community in the really warm and loving way his father would have
done. He was sent on "begging trips" and then admonished because
his children were not in line. As the community rolled from one crisis
to another, Hardy was a lonesome man. We children loved him,
though. His imagination was wonderful and his surrender to the life
in discipleship for Jesus and His community complete. When he
married for the second time, Sekunda managed to awaken much of
the happiness and jolliness we had known so well in our early
childhood. He wanted to give his children and the children of
Sekunda and Fritz Kleiner (Sekunda's first husband who died
tragically) a real home. He wanted to make up to his children for all
the "bad" years they had had, being in community care with no real
family of their own. I remember how they moved into the Kleiner
house in Isla Margarita and how they wanted their children to be
integrated, giving each two of the same age a room to share. But
again Hardy was sent on mission to the States (away for a year or so
from wife and children) which caused difficulties and troubles.
I met him and Sekunda again at Bulstrode in the U.K. and his
clarity and enthusiasm for the life in community impressed me a lot.
My mother was radiant too because she had always had a warm
relationship with her brother Hardy . They laughed so much together
that tears would run down their faces!
While I was excluded on the Sinntal Bruderhof in 1959, Hardy
and Sekunda came and really wanted to help me find my way back
into the Brotherhood. They took me out to a restaurant and bought
me the biggest ice cream cup I had ever seen.
"You know, Bette, all of us are misunderstood many times in our
lives," Hardy said. "People will be people, and they are not always
moved by the spirit in their actions. Listen to the advice from your
old uncle -- we are all carved out of the same wood. If you want to
find your way back, forget trying to be understood, but repent for all
the sins and faults all of us make daily! Have you never been
haughty, envious, proud or conceited? Repent for that! Have you
never been loveless in thought or deed? Repent for that. In true
brotherhood you will have to learn that what you yourself feel is
not important. What is important is that your life is lived in the
image of God and repentance is the first step to acceptance by God.
What does it matter if you are sometimes falsely accused? Just
repent for the things you know you have failed in!"
He was most loving and understanding. I met him for the last
time in 1985 on a visit to Woodcrest. He talked about his children
mostly and how he wished to be close to them. Hardy in short was a
special uncle to me due to his honesty, love and complete conviction
that the way of brotherhood was meant to reach all men on this
globe and give them all a chance to live and work, worship and pray
together for a better future!
Heini was my uncle -- the one I was assigned to in childhood.
Much has been written about him. He evokes feelings of both love
and hatred, warmth and coldness. There always was both, which is
and was very confusing. I wrote about him in my book, and people
have asked how it was possible that I loved him so much after all
that he had done to me personally. Well, he was a lovable man! He
was the complete opposite of his brother Hardy, who as a young man
was spontaneous, extroverted, intelligent and very warmhearted.
Heini never liked school at all and therefore just was not
interested in learning. He had an inferiority complex toward my
mother and Hardy, was very sensitive to people's reactions to him
personally, insecure, easily thrown off balance and very drawn to
spiritual miracles such as hearing voices, seeing lights, experiencing
the "evil" or "good" atmosphere of a person.
To lead his life into acceptable channels and to give him a feeling
of self-assurance and self-confidence, his father used his weakness to
build it into strength. He was baptized at age 12 to give him the rope
of faith to cling to when times got bad. I remember many good things
about him, but also a sense of absent-mindedness while talking to
him. He would see you and not see you at the same time, because his
mind was often very preoccupied with other things. Later in life, he
would use my grandfather's words to serve his own ends.
Annemarie was -- at least I thought so in my early childhood -- a
wonderful person. Very cool-minded and straightforward, loving and
motherly, with the stability that Heini needed to function properly.
In later years, they would fight for their own vision of community
life -- their own interpretation of what E.A. wanted, their own idea of
leadership and the place of a Servant in the Brotherhood. Everyone
who held a different thought or idea was trampled on and excluded,
as though God had given them the power to do His job on earth. It
was a changed Heini and Annemarie when I left the community in
My other uncle, Hans-Hermann, was like a candle burning from
the inside. He was very modest in every way. Being the fourth child,
he and Monika often were seen as the "two little ones", but like the
others he was convinced of the rightness of the brotherly life. He
only spoke when really necessary because he felt that "the big ones"
could put it into words better than he could. He was especially loved
by his father for his complete trust, his unassuming manner, his
intelligent mind that tried to work things out alone before bothering
others. He went about his duties conscientiously, quietly and
lovingly, and therefore was a living example of brotherliness.
My grandfather had hoped that he would read, study and
translate all the Hutterite writings, that he would be the brother to
lead the Bruderhof back to the origins of the Hutterite Church, and to
strengthen the brothers and sisters to be loyal to God and Christ's
message until death. My grandfather felt that Hans-Hermann had all
the qualities within him to study and understand, believe and
convey his faith founded in the Bible and the Old Hutterian writings,
to guide the Bruderhof to the deepest essence of our human
existence in the view of the big cosmos around us. In Gertrud
Loeffler he found a wife who stood behind him 100% at all times.
Gertrud was a matter-of-fact, down-to-earth, straight-forward
person, ready to give love and therefore easy to receive trust and
love. She had a lot of energy, a good singing voice and was
completely devoted to Hans-Hermann as well as the community life.
Often I marvel at what all these people did. The great poverty in
Primavera, the hard work in the heat with so many children in the
children's departments, and then pregnant almost every year! I have
a great admiration for all the adult members of that time. We
Arnolds tend to exaggerate certain vents to make a story more
interesting, and Gertrud would quietly call Hans-Hermann back to
the facts. She always did this in a wonderful and loving way that
made us all laugh instead of holding malice. Hans-Hermann was my
teacher in Isla Margarita in the seventh grade. On Wednesdays I
would stay over tea time as we had lessons in the afternoon as well.
They lived in one of the large buildings for several families that
looked out onto the Beinenwaldchen over the campo to
Oktavian. The family was well organised, and everyone had a task.
Gertrud was the heart of the family around whom everything
I remember once the Paraguayans burglarized the house. It was
during a meeting, and Gertrud was
pregnant -- I think with Johann --
and had all the baby layette ready as the baby was due any time. All
the children were asleep and the Evening Watch had just done her
rounds and settled in the other building for a little reading. The
Paraguayans, who always thought that we were rich, came in
through the low, open windows. We never had any glass in the
windows, just openings to let the cool evening air into the hot houses.
They came in barefoot and took absolutely everything, the blankets
from the sleeping children's beds, the baby crib with all the baby
clothes ready for the little newcomer, the children's potties, shoes,
clothes, cups, plates! They wrapped everything up in sheets and
blankets and went running over the campo towards their village in
Vaca-Hu. Gertrud, who must have been absolutely petrified on
returning home from the meeting, had only one thing in her mind.
The children were OK. One of them was awake and fearful, and Hans-
Hermann was in an absolute panic. She comforted everyone and
made them all be thankful that the children were safe -- so God once
again had worked the miracle of His presence.
While I was on Nurse's Training in London, Hans-Hermann and
Gertrud visited me. They wanted to see me in uniform, and together
we went to pastor Eberhard Bethge who was leading the German
Evangelical Church in London at that time. My father was there too,
and we had some wonderful days together. I loved both Hans-
Hermann and Gertrud, and always feel saddened at all they had to
suffer in the 1960s and 70s. They had a strong vision of what the
B'hof should represent, and this vision was not always their brother
Heini's. This caused unmendable pain to their family and children. I
will always remember them as clear, simple, faithful and honest, and
that is what really matters in our lives.
To put it in a nutshell: all the children of Eberhard Arnold shared
his vision of brotherhood and peace. If they had listened to each
other and if they had been open to God's spirit amongst all the
brothers and sisters, if not one of them had felt that he was special
and knew better than the rest -- well, then God might have used each
one for his own special gifts and character. The hazard came when
one of them felt he was the only vessel for God's spirit on earth. With
this I want to close and give you all each one my special love and
------ An Autobiographical Narrative ------
KIT: John Stewart was a Woodcrest Bruderhof member from
1988-1990. The following transcript was recorded in San Francisco,
and edited by Charlie Lamar and the author. Some of the names have
John Stewart, 11/16/94: I first discovered the Old Order
Hutterites in the encyclopedia in 1987 when I was twenty-one years
old. I had been doing some studying, very intentionally looking
towards finding a group movement or church that was consistent
with what I saw revealed in the Scriptures. A few months after
discovering the Hutterites, on Easter Sunday, there was an article in
our local paper about the Bruderhof communities, Woodcrest and
Pleasant View. It was really amazing. I had never even heard of the
Hutterites before discovering them in the encyclopedia and here was
this article in the paper reporting on a bruderhof in my home state.
It seemed at the time orchestrated by the Hand of God.
The information I had collected about the Old Order colonies was
a little off-putting. They seemed almost Amish in a cultural sense, a
closed society that certainly was not responding to the needs of the
world or playing a vital and relevant spiritual role as the Body of
Christ. But in the newspaper article they actually included a number
of quotes from members that had recently come from the "world"
into the community. They testified to having discovered the truth of
the Gospels there. It was a powerful, well-written little piece.
Shortly after this, I decided to visit. I didn't even phone ahead or
anything. I think I wanted to go there so badly I was almost fearful
that if I talked to them first they would say that I couldn't visit. I
had no idea how open they were to visitors. So I just drove down one
weekend, stayed in a motel Friday night, and then Saturday went to
The first brother I spoke with there was Ogden Glumm, because
the Servants were away somewhere and he was the responsible
Witness Brother. He came up and talked to me in the Carriage House
for quite a while. I think he was taken by what I had to say about
seeking them out in a desire to enter into true baptism and a life of
obedience to the teachings of Jesus. He invited me to stay the whole
weekend, which surprised me. I didn't expect that. Through him I
had my first introduction to some of the other brothers, and to some
of the young people there.
I attended that Sunday's meeting. They passed the microphone
around, and one of the young guys whom I had gotten to know said,
"John, I'm going to get you the mike! I want you to say something!"
I was kind of nervous, but I did say something. I really spoke
from my heart about what I had seen there and how I really felt
drawn to the life. I talked about having given up a lot of things in the
course of my search to that point, but seeing in Woodcrest a call to a
more complete renunciation amongst brother and sisters.
A lot of people came up to me after the meeting and embraced
me, telling me how much they appreciated my sharing. It was very
overwhelming. I left there Sunday with tears in my eyes. I felt like I
had finally come home. It was very powerful.
A month later I took a week off work and came back for a longer
stay. By the end of that week I had decided to move there, although
I had some concerns. One of them involved what I saw in the young
people. I longed to come into relationship with the young people at
Woodcrest, because by this time I had become so alienated from my
peer group because of my faith. I longed to meet young people like
myself who wanted to completely lose their lives for the sake of
God's Kingdom. I expected it would be like meeting a twenty-one-
year-old in Jerusalem in 40 AD.
I roomed at the community with a young man about my age who
had been baptized recently, was going to college and getting ready to
marry a young sister. He became a dear friend of mine until I was
I gradually realized that he was actually more impressed with
my participation in the world than with my desire to join his
Bruderhof. His eyes lit up when I said that I had played in a rock
band and done other things. He wanted to hear all about them. He
was really struggling, as most of the young people there were, quite
intoxicated with what he was experiencing in college, seeing young
people with freedom and cars and stuff. In fact he himself had been
outside for a very short time. He had left the community and
essentially came back for economic reasons. He wasn't making it, and
he realized that in the community he wouldn't have to pay the gas
bill and such. It was a sad excuse for returning, but he wasn't the
only one who came back for that sort of reason.
He was almost flabbergasted that I, as a young man, would have
CHOSEN the community. He was struggling in a sense to find freedom
from it, and here was this young guy coming in. I tried to explain it
to him. I quoted the Scripture where Jesus said, "No one of you can
be my disciple who does not renounce all that he has." And other
"Jesus SAID that?" he exclaimed. He repeated that question two
or three times on other occasions.
"Yeah," I replied, somewhat puzzled.
I had assumed that here was a guy who probably had read the
Bible cover-to-cover ten thousand times. He would be filled with
wisdom and knowledge having learned the way of holiness by
actually being raised in it. But he was completely ignorant of
Scripture. He admitted that he seldom if ever read the Bible while
growing up. I talked later with other young people who said that
their parents never even prayed with them, and the only
information they had about Jesus came through the Christmas and
That was a real blow, a real shock to me, but maybe with the
exception of two or three young single people, it was the rule. The
young people were devoid of any kind of spiritual zeal, and certainly
devoid of any real hunger for the word of God. They even lacked the
feeling that somehow their life was vital and alive and worthy of
sharing with all mankind because it filled them with such joy. It was
no different than my experience in the Methodist Church or with
Roman Catholic friends. The young people had been brought up in it,
they sat in the seats every Sunday, and that was their life. Except
that in this case, it was a life separated from the world, a more
Despite my having some questions, after that week's visit I
definitely made the decision that the Bruderhof was the place for me.
I went home, put my affairs in order, and within about a month-and-
a-half, I had come back to stay. Throughout that time I had concerns,
not only on an individual level but even about directions in which
the church was going. I really struggled with the fact that they sent
their children to the public school systems. I saw that as inconsistent.
It shocked me, particularly because they kept the young people in an
insulated environment until the hormones were raging, and at that
point sent them out to high school. But the Bruderhof was not exactly
going to change their system for me, and that was something that I
had to submit to.
The Bruderhof understanding of what community is supposed to
look like, what I call "compound communalism," also concerned me.
The idea that true brotherhood must take place in an isolated, self-
sufficient little "village" or compound is a wrong one. It is clearly not
the type of community practiced by the early church. It defeats the
point of the church, which is to be a living corporate testimony of
righteousness in the midst of an unregenerate mankind.
I came very, very close to leaving the Bruderhof four or five
months into my stay. I talked to the brothers about leaving and
made some plans about where I was going to go. I felt completely
settled in my mind. I had so many questions, so many deep-seated
concerns about the community, I realized that I couldn't be there. I
just wasn't at peace with it. I went to bed that night and I prayed.
And out of the prayer there came a vision of this incredible, almost
blinding, whiteness before it went away. I was at that point
completely overcome with a sense of absolute peace, and the
absolute rightness of remaining. This experience was profoundly
moving to me, especially because of the way I'm wired. I'm a pretty
cerebral person, and I think things through. I never in a million
years could have anticipated complete unpeace, no qualitative
answers to my concerns, not seeing myself in the Bruderhof -- and
then, like a snap of my fingers -- poof! It was almost a supernatural
change in my heart.
I awoke the next morning feeling my questions and doubts were
no longer stumbling blocks, that their resolution lay securely in the
hands of God. This continued for a time, through my asking for the
novitiate, until blatant realities allowed the earlier tensions to creep
Once I had asked for the novitiate, I was invited to attend
brotherhood meetings. I can remember some things brought up
during these meetings really shocked me. I do respect the fact that I
think they wanted me to hear those things, brothers who were
struggling with sins no less ugly than the sins of men and women
within the world system. I'm glad that they didn't try to conceal
these matters, and I don't think that they ever do. I certainly didn't
find that what was happening in the community in the way of sin or
failure was ever hidden. There was a real desire to be open about it,
because this openness definitely brings with it a deep trust. When
you see someone really willing not only to preach to you but to be
incredibly vulnerable, it shows a humility that is very trustworthy.
However, I found a real difference between how the brotherhood
acknowledged a sin or a difficulty after it had been acknowledged by
the authority of the church, and how they completely silenced
someone coming forward with concerns about a sin or a problem
BEFORE it had been acknowledged by the authority. I experienced
that really clearly, even in the sense of a real openness to be able
say, "We all struggle, we all sin, we've all been in church discipline,
and we deal with it because we have such good authority, Servants
who see it and want to bring us to clarity." A couple of times I even
experienced the community repenting as a whole once the authority
had concluded that the direction in which we were moving was a
wrong one. But I also experienced a complete lack of honesty
regarding people who had left the community and whatever issues
those people may have had with the church. I had been told about
members who had left and was led to believe -- and believed -- that
the reality essentially was, "These are people who of their own
volition more or less woke up one day and said, 'I don't want to go
the way of the Cross! I'm not willing to be a brother. I'm not willing
to stand by my brothers and sisters in times of struggle, I'm bailing
out.' And we almost begged them, 'Don't bail out! Don't bail out!' But
they bailed out. Then they gave themselves over to Satan and
attacked the community."
I certainly never, ever, was told that one day someone came to
some of these people in their room and said, "It's time for you to go."
That's what happened to me, and when it happened, it was an
incredible shock. I was really, really misled in terms of how people
were treated who had left the Bruderhof, and certainly the circle had
no desire to say to me, "Hey, we feel good enough about how we've
dealt with ex-members here that we want you to go talk to some of
them. These are people who have left..." If that had been the case,
there might have been a different outcome for me. The KIT
Newsletter started while I was a member and we had brotherhood
meetings about it.
When I look back at some of the things that won me to the life,
they involved a few individuals with whom I became very close,
mostly older members who had come out of the world in the early
days. I've heard echoes of this experience from other folks also. After
a meeting or after supper, I would go and talk with them into the
evening, and the love and the humility that they projected
overwhelmed me. It wasn't even as if they had answers. I can't say
how many times I heard the words, "John, we are not perfect, and we
know that, and we long to change, and even in the things you are
saying -- that's the way we want to change! But unless you throw
yourself in with us -- you have to become a brother before you can
have any ability to speak to these issues! But if you can join our
fight, we'll go forward together. And if we stumble, we'll stumble
together. It's all of our longing that this would take place!"
These words were not just coming out of the mouths of some kid
who had been born there. These were people who had sacrificed far
more than I had in coming. Some had come during the war years and
given their lives to suffer through the time in the jungles of South
America and had stuck with it. It was such a powerful draw! I saw in
them a living faith in God.
Sometimes it would be just one night with a truly dedicated
older couple that would get me through two weeks, and then there
would be another. Those experiences gave me the ability to get over
the hump and be taken in as a Novice and turn over what I had to
them. My novitiate period was very brief, and during it I was
allowed to sit in on a baptism preparation group. During the summer
of 1989 I went home to visit my father who was dying of cancer. I
stayed there for about two months, and as soon as I returned to
Woodcrest, I asked for baptism. I remember my own baptism
preparation less clearly than the previous one because my father
died during it and I was gone for two days to attend his funeral.
The Servants who led my baptism preparation group with
Christoph were, curiously enough, Chris Winter and Danny Moody. I
was baptized by Jake Kleinsasser. All three of these men are now cut
off and reviled by the Community. It is an evidence to me of the
mockery that is the Bruderhof's belief in their possession of, and
ability to confer, the Holy Spirit. I met Christoph Arnold, the
Bruderhof Elder, for the first time one day when the Shalom Group
went on a hike. The first brother I had met, my young friend, said,
"John, you've got to talk to Christoph! Everyone should talk to
Christoph! You really need to get to know him!" We held back from
the group and waited for Christoph, but when he came up, he seemed
really detached. He didn't even look at me. I said a few things to him
and he just responded in monosyllables. Essentially he just walked
on by. I was a little surprised, but also I realized that the guy had
been walking a long way. My friend said to me almost apologetically,
"Christoph! He gives so much! He just wants to clear his head! He's
not always like this. I'm sure if the situation was different he'd love
to sit down with you."
Later Christoph did sit down with me and we were able to have
some discussions and went on a few walks together. Because
Christoph was the Elder, I recognized that if the Bruderhof was going
to change, the changes were going to have to come through him. That
was apparent because of the respect, reverence and authority he was
given by the membership. This was not especially disconcerting to
me at the time. I do believe that there has to be authority within the
church. Not in a sole eldership (which is unscriptural) but a defined,
decentralized bishopric like that revealed in the church's first two
centuries. This is a truth rejected by evangelical christianity which
believes in a freedom and fulfillment of grace within each individual
that is contrary to God's revelation regarding the Body of Christ.
Authority comes with a risk, but it is a risk without which one cannot
enter into true communion with the Father.
In talking to Christoph I had longed, with a certain idealism or
romanticism, to find the Bruderhof Elder the most apostolic,
prophetic, wise, knowledgeable, spiritual man in the whole
community. I don't know if this sounds arrogant, but after just
talking to him a few times, it became clear to me that he lacked even
the depth of understanding of the Scriptures and Anabaptist
theology that I felt I had. This may sound very strange, but it's
definitely true as I look back -- I made an almost subconscious
decision that went, "I don't even want to get to know this man any
more because it's going to deflate my bubble. If I talk to him at too
great a length, I'm going to lose so much respect for him that I won't
even want to recognize him as an Elder. So I'm going to pretend that
he's something else. I'll watch him walk around and such, but I don't
want to have too much personal interaction."
Later I wrote him about directions the community was moving
in, expressing some concerns I had, at least a couple of fairly
extensive letters. From his responses, it was obvious to me that he
didn't even understand what I had said. His mind couldn't process all
that information. Believe me, I'm not saying that the shepherd of the
flock has to be a great intellectual, but certainly you look at men like
Paul, or early Christians like Justin or Tertullian, and they had a
command of the Scriptures and an ability, a divinely inspired way, to
relate with other human beings and convict them regarding the truth
of the Gospels.
This kind of gifting was something I clearly didn't see Christoph
as having. I think any of us who had grown up 'outside' would have
realized that this man was born into his role. He was the son of the
son of the founder of a community. Why was he the leader? Was his
eldership just a coincidence?
When asked that question, brothers would try to say, "Certainly
he is the grandson of Eberhard, we can't deny it. But it's almost like a
coincidence. He happens to be the grandson, and the son of Heini, but
he is also the most likely man to assume the mantle, the most gifted
man in this community. It's just a coincidence that he happens to be
in a direct line from the founder." Others would explain, "It's not
because he is the son in the blood sense, but because he was raised
up under his father, who was Heini, and who had these great
spiritual gifts. How could the son not help but see the way a man
should interact with his brothers?"
Unfortunately, I never experienced that in Christoph. I became
accustomed to his behavior after a time, but even in his tone, in the
way that he would share things, usually it was just reading
something that his father or grandfather had written, and then
making some rather simplistic comments.
"We all need to take this more to heart," or "This is what we need
to listen to," or "Let me read that again." He was not able to speak
extemporaneously out of his head or out of his heart with very much
I definitely, over time, became more intimidated by Christoph. I
don't think "fear" is too strong a word. I remember confessing it to
him after a dialogue with his son in which I had been strongly
critical of the son's desire to join the high school football team. The
son informed me that his dad had been very supportive and thought
it would be good for him. I remember feeling a real agitation at the
thought that my critical comments would get back to Christoph.
There was a growing sense in me, real or imagined, that this man
was capable of giving you the back of his hand. Literally.
A couple of times I experienced his losing his temper with me a
little bit. He sometimes had a way of doing it that struck me as fairly
manipulative. Perhaps there had been some ongoing issue and you
had sent him a letter to respond to something. He would wait until
the end of a meal for example, and while everyone was clearing the
tables or walking out, he would come up to you and start saying very
intimidating things in a very loud voice. You would realize that
everyone was listening and cringe inside. I had seen him do it with
other people, and felt like, "Whoa! I'm glad I'm not that brother!" It
seemed really out of place, and a contrived way of admonishing
someone. It happened to me once. Its acceptance as appropriate
behavior demonstrated very clearly the kind of free rein that was
given to Christoph.
Once we were waiting to start a brotherhood meeting, and I was
sitting there while people were arriving. I had had some
correspondence with Christoph, and he came over to me. He stood
over me and began talking. We were just conversing, and I was
responding to him from my chair. He walked away and the meeting
started. Afterwards, when I walked out of the meeting, a young
sister came up to me all trembling and emotional.
"John, I don't believe what happened in there!" she said. "What
do you mean?" I asked.
"I saw Christoph come over to you, and he was talking to you,
and you just SAT THERE! Why didn't you STAND UP!?"
"Well, I was taught to stand up when a woman enters the room,"
I said. "But I didn't think of it!"
I'm also a tall guy, and one of my friends once said that I was
one of the few guys who could look Christoph in the eye. He said, "I
wish I could look him in the eye just once!" It had been out of a
certain humility that I thought, 'I'm going to remain seated.' He was
towering over me, and this seemed a humble way, at least in my
mind at the time. But to this young sister, the way that I addressed
Christoph was important, and because I didn't stand, I had
'dishonored' him. She was really emotional about it, although she was
a person with whom at that point I had not even had much
interaction. This was one of the things that started me wondering to
what degree there was a human worship going on, something beyond
a respect for Christoph's authority and for his place in God's plan for
I had observed this heavy emotionality a lot in the community,
particularly in the women where it was almost as if a veil would
come down over their faces. They would change from being
composed to having water just pour from their eyes, coming
unhinged in really frightening ways. Usually this was triggered at a
point when something had been said about the authority of the
church or a question was raised about the integrity of a respected
brother or sister.
Returning to the chronology of my time at the Bruderhof, I was
eventually nominated to take on the male leadership of the Shalom
Group because the young brother who had been doing it was going to
be married. There was a female counterpart to that position. I
already had a pretty strong rapport with most of the young people
there. I spent a lot of time with them, and was trying to talk through
some things. Also I had some ideas about the group and what I felt
could really help it, because it was struggling in various ways. I
actually presented the idea of starting a magazine that the Shalom
Groups on all the communities would publish and print. I was so
disillusioned with The Plough and virtually everything that I
read in it. I had read excerpts from early Ploughs that Eberhard
had published, and something even before that, Das Neu Werk.
Those early publications proclaimed that the sole solution to the
earth's ills lay in a regeneration of the individual heart through the
Cross and entrance into the new society of the church, that
manifestation of God's Kingdom amongst men. All other efforts at
charity or human betterment, no matter how sincere or merciful, do
not strike at the root of injustice which is man's selfish and fallen
nature. Where man is truly reconciled to his created purpose, love,
peace and divine justice shall reign, just as they did within the heart
and life of the reconciled man Jesus.
The Plough of today has become more a kind of catchall,
printing the experiences of different social organizations and little
stories about the Bruderhof. I was very disillusioned with that, but it
wasn't something I was going to be able to change. But I thought,
'Maybe the young people can get excited about publishing a
magazine directed specifically towards the youth culture of the
society.' Of course that was very naive of me. I had to admit that the
majority of the young people who had grown up in the Bruderhof did
not have the first clue about the experiences of people outside. I
didn't know what their contributions would look like, but I wanted to
try it. I wrote a proposition outlining my vision, what I wanted this
magazine to be, and it was read in all the Shalom Groups on the
communities. The response was really incredible. All the young
people thought it was pretty profound, maybe even thought it was
more than they could take on, but still expressed a willingness to do
it. Of course I had to run the proposal through Jack Gmorning, who
oversaw the Shalom Group at the time, and Christoph. They gave me
the go-ahead, 'Throw it out there and let's see what happens." So I
wrote the first article. I had finished it before I was sent away, but
the whole concept was scrapped along with me.
During my time in the Bruderhof I had opportunity to come
together often with various young people. This many times came
from a desire on my part to see them actively dialoguing about our
life together, directions the church was moving in, or the meaning of
a particular message shared in Gemeindestunde. We might read
from the Word or discuss Hutterian history. A lot of the young people
took to these discussions, and for the first time I saw in some of
them a zeal for God and the common life, and a burgeoning
recognition of this faith's implications.
One young man had come recently from the outside to
Woodcrest, Brian Bachman. He had come out of prison and I really
tried to befriend him. He was just a little older than I was. We shared
some similar past experiences with the world and drugs and such. He
definitely was a troubled guy, and I tried to spend time with him.
One Sunday the Shalom Group went on an outing, a canoe trip,
and stopped to eat lunch in a meadow. The female leader and I had
decided beforehand that we would use this time to talk about
problems in the Shalom Group and how we wanted to deal with
them. She kind of represented the 'old school,' it was very clear,
especially in struggles with some of the young guys . There were
some in the group who were not showing up on time for work
projects, or became abusive in volleyball games. Of course in talking
about these things, she and the old school types wanted to say, "Well,
it's time to pull up your bootstraps, guys! If you care about this
community and all that this community has done for you, you're
going to show up on time, and you're going to respect people when
you play volley ball."
I knew these so-called troublemakers intimately. Their problem
was not behavioral. It was born of inner dryness, never having truly
known something greater than themselves. They had never
perceived the Master who is worthy of their daily living sacrifice. If
He were alive in them, they would find strength, meekness and an
eagerness to love. I knew that if they could find faith, their actions
would take care of themselves. They would respond out of that. My
ability to function in the community was born out of my daily desire
to serve God and to be obedient to Christ, not out of a fear of men or
a desire to be a 'good community kid.'
When the concerns were brought up at this lunchtime meeting,
Brian spoke first, and then some other young guys with whom I'd
been talking said some things. I know this sounds pretty risque, but
I actually suggested that the Shalom Group could read something
from Eberhard Arnold or Andreas Ehrenpreis. I did not realize what
a radical step that would be. I thought we might even share
something from the Scriptures, something that had been meaningful
to one of us and might have a bearing on the daily life of people who
claimed to be following God. We talked about it, and the meeting
ended amicably. Some people even came up and thanked me for
what I had shared. No real problems. We got our things and finished
The next evening before supper, Christoph called a meeting of
the Shalom Group. We all came together in the brotherhood room
with him. Essentially he said that he had heard some stories about
the outing and wanted to know what had happened. I learned that
some of the sisters who had participated in our meeting in the
meadow had felt a bit disturbed. When we returned to the
community, they had told their parents and Christoph. So the whole
story was recounted, and Christoph made it real clear that the
Shalom Group should be about young people coming together in a
natural way to enjoy themselves. It should not be about 'theology,' or
heavy spiritual things. That was not what the group was for, and that
was not what it was going to be like.
I had kind of anticipated something like this when I heard that
he wanted to have a meeting with us. But Brian Bachman became
enraged. He stood up and expressed himself very strongly to
"I can't be a part of this! I can't be a part of rejecting Jesus!" he
shouted. "I feel what you're doing is rejecting Christ! You are trying
to separate faith from daily reality, and to me that's impossible!"
Brian then stormed out of the meeting, and slammed the door,
which you don't see too many people doing to the Elder. Of course he
didn't realize that was the case because he hadn't been there that
long. When Brian started to walk out, one of the young brothers
whom I knew well stood up. "We don't WANT your kind here, Brian!"
he shouted, shaking his fist and almost crying. "Get out! Get out!"
Whoa! Not exactly a Christlike response towards his "brother," but
certainly an action that could win Brownie Points with his affronted
Earlier, when Brian had started speaking, I had glanced over at
some sisters sitting together, and obviously they were shaken by
what was happening. When I looked at them after Brian had shouted
at Christoph, they all had begun to heave and bawl and cry, almost as
if someone had snapped their fingers. They were really frightened --
shaking and shuddering. The whole atmosphere of the place just
Brian took off, we weren't sure where. I remained fairly quiet
throughout the ordeal, because I did not see any point in trying to
argue. Christoph had spoken, and even at that point I thought, 'Well,
he's the Elder. If I want to remain in the Bruderhof, I have to
recognize this man as Elder.' I did not see any point in having
dialogue. The group filed out, and I stayed behind to talk to a couple
of the sisters. I said some things to them that came back to haunt me.
I had wanted to go look for Brian, because I felt badly about
what had happened. Christoph's wife Verena was there and assured
me that other brothers had gone after him. "Just come to dinner," she
urged me. I was in no mood to eat. I was pretty upset, so I went
down to my room that night.
The next day I was down in the shop working, just a normal day
-- or so I thought. We went to Shop snack time, and Johnson Rufus
showed up. Both of his daughters had gone on the outing with us, and
had reported it to him. He was one of the people who had asked
Christoph to talk to us. Also I feel that Johnson ultimately, and
almost single-handedly, was responsible for ousting me, or at least
getting enough of a current going amongst the leadership to do so.
"I want to talk to you," he said.
We went over and sat down somewhere by ourselves. "I heard
about your Shalom outing," he said. "I heard about some of the things
you said, and what happened with Brian. I want to know if you feel
responsible for what Brian did."
"Well, in a sense, Johnson, I feel responsible for the sins of all
men," I replied. I quoted something that a Christian writer had said
about how if our neighbor or brother sins, it's a reflection on us. I
thought that was true. "But do I hold myself personally accountable
for Brian's behavior? No, and I can't really understand why I should."
Johnson made it clear that he felt that I was personally
responsible. "I think you've been getting together with Brian, and
filling his head with things," he said. "I think you need to take
personal responsibility for the things that Brian said to Christoph."
"Well, Johnson, I would really take issue with that," I replied.
"Brian is his own man, and a pretty strong man at that. He made the
decision to say what he said, and if I had completely wanted to echo
what Brian had said, I would have said it myself."
Another thing happened during that conversation that I feel was
very telling. Johnson began to talk about what I had been saying in
the Shalom Group and how he thought my remarks were filled with
religious language. The Shalom Group was for having fun, for being
natural, and he mentioned some of the difficulties some of the young
men were having.
"Well, you know, Johnson," I said. "We are not just called to some
moralistic, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps human betterment.
We're called as believers to die on a cross with Christ, to give up our
own lives so that His Life can fill us."
"DIE on a CROSS with CHRIST," Johnson replied, very sarcastically.
"Don't talk like that to me!" He patted the ground. "We're on earth
here, John! We're not up in the clouds!"
"But it wasn't too long ago that Heini Vetter used to say that all
the time in meetings!" I said. "That we were to die on the cross with
"You let Heini Vetter say what Heini Vetter needs to say," he
replied. "But I'm telling you, this is what YOU need to say."
I thought, 'Whoa!' It was a real, real strong condemnation. I
always had felt with Johnson that it was difficult to call him a
Christian. Any time that I had tried to talk with him about
spirituality he had displayed a very humanistic bent. He was big on
Albert Schweitzer, and seemed to see him as an epitome of human
I had talked to Johnson a few times in the past, and it never had
gone really well. Once we got on the topic of nonviolence. The
community at that time had been dialoguing about what it would
mean to call in the police, and would that ever be legitimate. This
was the same year that the brotherhood decided to vote.
"I want you to know something, John," Johnson said. "If someone
broke into my house and tried to harm my family, I would kick
them, I would punch them, I would do anything I could to disable
them, because my family is that important to me."
I couldn't believe that he was saying this! "Johnson," I said. "Do
you realize that in the early Hutterian Church, communities were
pillaged by marauders and not a hand would be raised against them
by the brothers, even as they were savagely beaten and tortured and
their sisters raped?"
They felt this is what Christ calls his disciples to do in the face of
violence, letting God the Father ultimately avenge. The world views
that kind of response as cowardly and insane, yet we in the
Bruderhof were supposed to be the "fools for Christ" who imitated it!
"I don't believe it's true," Johnson said. "I don't believe the
Hutterites ever would have done that."
"Have you ever read The Great Chronicle, Johnson?" I
"Well, I'll look into it," he said. "But I don't believe they ever
would have allowed something like that to happen."
I had once earlier quoted a Scripture to Johnson and he had
denied that it existed in the Bible. "He who hates his life in this world
will keep it for eternal life." John 12: 25
"I don't believe it. You'd have to show it to me," he said.
That same day I found it, wrote it down and slipped it to him at
a mealtime. He read it and at the end of the meal he just grumbled
something to me about "Maybe I have to take back what I said, but
I'm going to have to read it in context." Of course, he never discussed
So here was this other thing with our Hutterian history, and I
just couldn't believe that he had said that. He said it with real venom.
"I would KICK and PUNCH and DAMAGE any attacker! I would do
anything I could to protect my family."
One of the other earlier conversations that I clearly remember
occurred when Johnson and I were eating early because I was on
austeiler (waiter) duty. Videos were real big on the community
at that time, and people were always watching various ones. I really
struggled with that. I couldn't understand why anyone would be so
moved. Johnson started talking about a Danny Kaye movie that he
had enjoyed. I made some comment questioning the significance of
Danny Kaye for the community, and Johnson Rufus took real offense.
"What's wrong with Danny Kaye?" he asked me.
"Well, there's nothing wrong, but what does it have to do with
the Kingdom of God?" I said. "Does Danny Kaye's life represent the
life that we're seeking?"
I just didn't see any connection, and therefore I saw it as
meaningless. Johnson however really felt that there was nothing
wrong with Danny Kaye movies.
"I think that's absolutely ludicrous," he said. "There's nothing
wrong with Danny Kaye."
It sounds crazy, but I remember the conversation and I think
that he was offended because I had judged Mr. Kaye in that manner.
But to go back to our shop conversation, Johnson began to say
some things that very clearly had come from his son, Mathias, with
whom I had talked at length many times and for whom I had a
certain amount of respect. We really bumped heads, but we always
ended up as friends and as brothers, and I always appreciated that.
However Johnson was repeating things that I had said to Mathias and
that I had never said to Johnson. Obviously he had been talking to
his son about me, so I believe that even before the time of that
Shalom outing he had been gathering information.
"You know, Johnson, it's clear to me from what you're saying that
you've been talking to Mathias about me," I told him. "Isn't that
contrary to the First Law of Sannerz that states that we won't talk
about brothers behind their backs, even amongst members of our
"I've done no such thing," he replied. "You and I really seem to
have reached an impasse."
"Well, I'm sure we'll have time to talk again," I said. "It will come
"Yeah," he said, and walked off.
I thought that was the end of it, I really did. I went back to the
Shop and he walked up the hill. Fifteen minutes later, while I was at
work, he came back down.
"Some of the brothers want to meet with you in the Woodcrest
House," he said to me. "Come on."
We walked up. Johnson walked ahead of me, not saying a word. I
had no idea what was going on. In fact, all the Servants were off 'hof
on Servants Call, so these were Witness Brothers who were waiting
Tim Pans, Dick Cough and also Saul Snap, my host family father
and principal of the school, and Johnson met with me. Johnson began.
"I've gone to John and I've expressed to him my concerns, and he
doesn't seem to be listening," he said.
"Well, John, what were you saying to Johnson?"
I started to share a little bit about what I had said and what I
was feeling. I reiterated some of my previous conversation.
"You know, I also want to say this," I finished. "I don't want to
hide it. Johnson said some things about me that I know we have
never talked about. These are things that I talked about with his son
Mathias, and it's really clear to me that he has been talking to
Mathias about me. I know that's not something that we want to have
as a part of our lives here. I just want to get that out in the open so
at least at some point maybe we can discuss it and clear it up,
because it's of concern to me."
I spoke in all innocence, believing it would be responded to. I
didn't want to hide it, and wasn't ashamed of feeling that way. But as
soon as I got that out of my mouth, Dick Cough stood up almost in a
"I'm just SHOCKED!" he said. "John, I can't BELIEVE you would
even SAY such a thing about a brother like Johnson Rufus! You have
no IDEA what he has meant to our life. You have no IDEA what he
has gone through to serve this community! I won't even listen to
Everybody else just nodded their heads, and he sat back down.
From that point on, I thought, 'This is frightening! I can't believe
it!' I really couldn't believe it. I thought they would at least open the
floor and Johnson would be given a chance to respond. I knew that if
Johnson had been given a chance to respond, there was no way, short
of claiming he was psychic, that he could have proven that he had
not been talking about me behind my back. But that was the end of
that topic, and then they just got into me.
"Now John, there's something really wrong here," they told me.
"And you're not seeing it."
Tim Pans pulled out a letter. "John, I'd like to read you
something," he said. "This is a letter that was sent this morning to
Christoph. It was written by a sister who talked to you, and she
wrote some things that you had said. I would like you to tell me if
you really said these things."
I had been reading about the early Hutterian Church's teaching
on rearing children. One text I read said, "We put the words of the
Scriptures into a child's mouth from the time that they can speak." Of
course, that is something completely unheard of in the Bruderhof. It
was almost seen as damaging. This sister had responded to what I
had suggested about reading Scriptures in the Shalom Group by
saying to me, "We don't think religious language should be a part of
our life together in the Shalom Group. We just want to have joyful
fun together in a pure way and leave that for the brotherhood."
"You know," I replied to her. "I bet if I said to you that we should
put the words of the Scriptures in our children's mouths from the
time that they can actually speak, you'd say that that was the most
evil and vile and Pharisaic thing you could imagine. But do you know,
that's exactly what the early Hutterian forefathers practiced and
taught as an important part of rearing their children in the spirit of
That's all that I said to her, and it was in her letter.
"Yes, I did say that," I said. "And that's true."
Tim Pan just shook his head. "Do you realize what saying
something like that means?" he asked. "The fact that you would even
SAY something like that -- do you realize what that means about
what's going on inside of you?"
"Well, yes," I said. "It means that I'm struggling with some
things, and there seems to be a real ignorance amongst people here
about what the teachings of the Hutterian Church really are."
We went around and around about a few more things. A couple
of times, Johnson Rufus got up, left the room to talk on the phone to
somebody, and then came back. The one thing that Johnson finally
kept saying to me was, "John, you're not listening."
And I thought, 'Okay.'
The others would then say, "He's not listening"
It finally became clear to me. "You say I'm not listening, and I
am clearly hearing everything that you're saying and I'm responding
to it -- " And I was. I was responding to everything that they sad.
"You're defending yourself," they said.
I thought, 'Well, I'm responding honestly to whatever you're
"I'm trying to explain what my motives were in the things that I
said," I replied. "I'm trying to explain what is behind the things that I
said. When you say, 'You are not listening,' what you mean is that I'm
not agreeing with you."
And that, really -- I should not have said that. Johnson Rufus got
up again, left the room to talk on the phone to somebody, and came
"John, during the course of this meeting I've been in contact with
Christoph, who is in Connecticut" he said. "I've been telling him what
you've been saying. He said that this needs to come to an end, and
that we're going to bring it before the brotherhood tonight."
All the information that Christoph had received about what was
happening was coming through Johnson Rufus, and who knows what
Johnson Rufus was telling him! That was that.
Johnson Rufus and I walked back down to the Shop together, and
I really appealed to him.
"Johnson, I don't understand what's happening," I said. "I'm
trying my best to respond honestly to the brothers. I don't know
what else I can do, what else I can say!"
He wouldn't look at me or really talk to me. When we walked
into my room there -- I had a room down at the Shop, he said
something to me like, "John, you're going to face the brotherhood on
this one. I think you know exactly what you did, and I think you
know exactly why you are in the position you're in, and I don't think
I need to tell you."
I can't describe the kind of nightmarish reality that his words
evoked. I almost broke down at that point.
"Johnson, I love you!" I pleaded. "You're my brother! I'm
appealing to you for help!"
He looked right at me with these cold, cold eyes. "John," he said.
"You don't love me. You still love yourself too much." And he walked
I was pacing around the room. I didn't know what to do! Finally
I walked back up the hill and tried to talk to Dick Cough.
"Dick, I don't know what's happening!" I said to him. "I don't
He seemed have some sense of what I was saying.
"What do the brothers see?" I asked. "What do the brothers feel?
What have I done? What do I -- ?"
"Well, I could TELL you, John," Dick said. "But I think it's
something you need to figure out for yourself. And I think that
somewhere deep inside you, you know. You just need to find it in
"You know, it's like -- it's like -- " I groped for an example. "What
if someone was accused of stealing money from the Steward's office
or something?" I asked. "And it turned out they had done it but they
were sleepwalking. And maybe they had really done it, but they
weren't aware of it and they needed someone to point it out to them.
Maybe just someone to say, 'Well, this isn't something you were
doing consciously, but we all saw it and found the money down in
your room. Here's how you went about it...'"
"No, no, I don't think that's what's happening here," he replied. "I
think you need to come forward with it."
Again I asked, "What is it? What do I need to come forward
"Uh, I think you know," he said.
We just went around and around, so I went on a long walk.
Finally the Servants returned, and Christoph said that he wanted to
talk to me before the big joint brotherhood meeting. I sat with him in
his yard, and he seemed fairly reasonable.
"John, you know, I know what's been going on," he said. "And
we're going to have this brotherhood meeting. And if you'll just come
out and admit that you said things that you should not have said,
that you were not acting out of love for your brothers, you were
acting in a spirit of pride, this will be put behind us. I'll make sure of
that. We'll just say that all is forgiven, the brotherhood will agree,
and that will be it."
"But Christoph, I don't FEEL that!" I said. "And that had nothing
to do with -- I mean, I said what I said because I LOVE my brothers
and sisters! I said what I said because I wanted to be faithful to my
"Well, John, I think it's clear that there's more to it than that," he
said. "You really need to see that, and if you don't see it now, it's only
going to get worse."
We went around and around with it, until finally I gave up.
"Okay," I said. "I'll say that at the meeting tonight and that will be
the end of it."
"Good!" he said. "I'm glad! We've won a brother here!"
I found out later that Christoph had called some of the young
Shalom boys up to his office prior to our conversation to question
them about me.
"I want you to tell me what you feel about John Stewart," he had
said. "What do you know about him? What has he been saying to
you? What has he been doing?"
I found out later from a close friend of mine who had
participated that Christoph especially was questioning Milton, the
brother with whom I shared my room. No one actually said anything
until Milton first spoke.
"You know, all I can say is that John has been a really strong
influence in my life," Milton said. "And he has never said or done
anything that I think is out of step with what he should be as a
brother. I really respect him a great deal."
And I have been told that Christoph got up from his chair and
shouted, "Don't you SEE how you've been DECEIVED by this person?
Don't you REALIZE that John Stewart is in a completely WRONG spirit,
and that by defending him you are a part of the wrong spirit?"
Finally Milton came out with this thing that he ended up
repeating in the brotherhood meeting. But first they set the stage.
"There's been a struggle in the Shalom Group..." was announced
very solemnly, and then my roommate got up and said, "John
Stewart said..." And I did say what he reported! I didn't think it was
a big secret. My host family, the Snaps where I had my meals and
spent my free time, had some children. I felt that the discipline was
weak, and I had talked to the parents about it. I had talked a little
about child-rearing and such with Milton, this brother. So Milton got
up at the microphone.
"What has John Stewart been saying to you?" Christoph urged.
"Well, he did say that he wasn't too impressed with the way the
Snaps were raising their children."
The whole circle gasped -- "Ohhhh!" I just felt so bad for the
Snaps. I loved them dearly, and to hear something like that -- just
the way it was said in this offhanded manner -- I never said
anything like that. I never criticized them in any spirit of ridicule,
but talked seriously about what it meant to raise children. In just
being honest, I felt that the Snaps' kids were occasionally out of
control. Oh man, I just felt so horrible!
Another young guy had been involved whom they had seen as
part of this 'schism' that I was trying to form, a Shalom Group of Holy
Shalomers or something. This was how they eventually tried to paint
it. A bunch of stuff came out about this young guy, and I remember
how horrible he felt. Things that he had said all came out publicly.
Finally I got up.
"Listen, I'm so sorry!" I said. "I think I have acted in a wrong
spirit, and obviously -- " The only way that I could justify this in my
own conscience was to say, 'Listen, John, obviously it hasn't born
good fruit, because look where you are! And by your own definition,
if it's born bad fruit, maybe you're in the wrong spirit. You must
have acted wrongly.' And that is what I said. "It's obviously born
very bad fruit. I just want to ask the brotherhood's forgiveness. I
want to change."
I had learned THAT line, but I meant it, or at least I half-meant
it. I felt like it was being pulled out of me. Even at the time I felt that
I was acting insincerely. I really did. But I said it, and then Brian got
up. That surprised me.
"I've completely failed the brotherhood," he said. "I know people
have been accusing John of having led me on, but I know completely
and utterly that this was my own doing. John never influenced me --"
which was true to a certain degree. "I just want to say that I
completely failed, and I was so wrong to speak to Christoph in the
way that I did.' He went on and on and on and on. I was surprised by
The meeting ended, and Christoph announced, as he said he
would, "I think this is the end. I think we can bring it to a close. I
think all is forgiven, and if the brotherhood is in agreement, we'll put
this behind us and go forward."
"YES!" everybody responded.
They all agreed, and that was the end of it. Thankfully I was able
to walk out with the Snaps and we had a good cry together. I was
really sorry, and they were sorry.
"We should have seen more of this coming, John!" "We shouldn't
have been with you in the way that we were. And even what you did
say about our children is probably true." It felt good.
Brothers and sisters came up to me and said, "John, we've all
been where you were. Don't feel bad about this. I'm sure it's really
hard, but -- "
I felt appreciative, and thought, 'It's okay.' But I didn't feel good
deep inside. I felt as if I had not been honest with where I was at. I
had allowed the thumb screws to push me into a position where I
shouldn't have been.
Shocking news came over the phone while I was with the Snaps
in their apartment. It turned out that Brian had taken off after the
meeting. He had run out, stolen a bottle of whisky from one of the
brothers and gone to the pond. He drank the whole bottle and was
going crazy out there, saying things. Two young brothers went out to
find him and he was threatening that he was going to kill them. I had
no idea the degree to which he was a damaged individual, and
certainly being put under pressure in the Bruderhof didn't help. Even
before he had come to Woodcrest, he had lapsed once or twice.
Actually at one point they went after him and found him fifty
miles away trying to get home and brought him back. He'd been
through it, and I didn't even know all that at the time. He was
threatening to kill himself, threatening to kill these brothers. Finally
the brothers got him under control. They got him back in the house,
and that's when I said, "Let me go talk to him. I want to be with
Brian. Let me try to help him, Let me see what I can do."
"No, no," I was told. "There are brothers who are taking care of
It turned out that he stayed up almost all night ranting and
raving and swearing at people, saying things against Christoph, and
these brothers were like holding him down, getting him through it.
The next day I found out right away that everything was fine.
Brian was resting peacefully, and the worst was past. I went down to
the Shop to start another day. I worked for the morning before going
into my room for snack time, which I occasionally did. I probably felt
a little ashamed to go up and sit with the brothers, but also I
sometimes went into my room because I was trying to do some
writing. Anyway, I felt that snack time was limited to talking about
the weather and the new shop machinery. Any attempt I had ever
made to talk about issues of the brotherhood or issues of faith had
been pretty much rebuffed. There was clearly little interest.
Suddenly into my room walked Campbell Twister and Jerry
Sitklose. I greeted them, and they said, "John we want to talk to you."
They sat down on the other bed. "John," Campbell said. "The
brothers have decided that you need to take a distance."
I remember that my jaw just absolutely dropped! I couldn't
believe it, especially those words, because I had heard those words
before, 'take a distance,' and I knew when you 'took a distance,' what
'to come back' meant. "Take a distance!" I said. "I was just in the
meeting last night and Christoph himself said -- and the brotherhood
agreed -- that all was forgiven and that we were going to go
"Well, the brothers have had to rethink things," Campbell said.
But 'the brothers' had not even been there to think anything!
Very clearly this was coming from just the inner circle. If ever there
was a perfect example of the fact that 'the brothers' meant Christoph
and the inner circle, this was it, because I had gone to work that
morning with 'the brothers' saying, "John, don't feel too bad. We've
all been through it."
Now here were Campbell and Jerry saying, "The brothers have
rethought things and you need to take a distance." And get this --
they said, "So we've made arrangements to send you to your
I thought, 'Send me to my MOTHER?!'
"I've given my life here!" I said. "I left my mother to do this, and
now you're going to throw a twenty-three-year-old guy on her?"
"Well, we think it probably would be best that you go back and
be with your mother," they said.
They assumed that somehow my mom was just going to be 'okay'
with that. Of course my mom would have been, but it was their
assumption. It was not even stated as, "We'll pay to put you up
somewhere." It was, "You're going to go be with your mother."
I was just floored, and tried to talk it through.
"I can't understand this," I said. "What have I done? Can you give
me a greater sense of what I've done?"
"John, what you've done or what you haven't done isn't
important," Campbell said. "What's important is that you PROVE to
the brothers that you're willing to listen and trust them and accept
what they have for you."
"Well, I can understand that," I replied. "But I don't really think
that sending me away is going to be best right now. If anything, I'd
like to dialogue some more and try to understand, so that even if I
was sent away, I'd have a sense of what to dwell on, what to think
"You know John," Campbell replied. "The fact that you're sitting
here right now and not just accepting this PROVES that you're in a
totally wrong spirit. You've completely given yourself over to a spirit
that is against the brothers, and this is proof of it. And the longer you
sit here and don't accept the fact that you're going to be sent away is
just proof! It is!"
This was what Campbell said to me, and it was SURREAL! It was
like that fear of being in the insane asylum and then suddenly all the
insane people think they are sane. It was funny, because even as a
kid I had always had weird premonitions about how that would be
one of the most fearful things in the world, being in a society where
everyone was insane and they thought you were because you were
sane. That's what I was feeling!
So I gave up. "I guess that's going to be it," I said. "If I must be
sent away and the brothers think that's best, that's what I'm willing
"Okay," they said. "After lunch today, the brotherhood is going to
meet, and we want you to be there."
"But we've essentially decided that I'm going to be sent away," I
replied. "Is there any chance that they're going to decide
"No," they said. "Don't feel that. But it's important that you be
I thought, 'Why don't we just get this over with?'
"Why don't you just send me away, if that's what needs to be
done?" I asked.
"No, it's very important that the brotherhood meets and that you
be there. After that, we'll make arrangements to send you back to
I didn't know what all that meant, but sure enough, after lunch
they called a special brotherhood meeting and I was there, and
Christoph made the opening statement.
"Well, John, is there anything you'd like to say to the
brotherhood?" he asked me.
Again this was on a conference call hookup, so all the other
communities also were holding a special brotherhood meeting and
listening. I stood up.
"Well, the brothers have asked me to take a distance," I said. "I
really struggle with that. I don't completely understand why, but I'm
willing to do it."
I expressed my inability to comprehend their decision to send
me away, and I was glad that I did. Even though I was unsure, I said
things like "I hope that I can be led back in unity with the brothers,
but I also wonder if -- " I don't remember exactly how I said it -- "if
the Spirit is really even present here, and if this is really a place
where a man can lead a faithful life."
When I said that about 'the Spirit,' the whole circle reacted with
gasps and people started saying things in whispers. (I got a letter
about a week later from a brother who wrote that when I said what
I did about questioning the work of the Spirit in the community, he
could clearly feel that Satan was inside of me. He explained that
many years before, Satan had entered him when he questioned the
validity of the Bruderhof, but his dear brothers had saved him by
helping him find true humility.)
"I'm sorry," I said. "I hope you can all forgive me, but this is
where things are at, and I want to do what I need to do at the behest
of the brothers." And with that I sat down.
At that point the floor was open, even for people on other
communities, who then stood up and said things about me. It was
strange, because if three days before that meeting you had said to
me, "John, write down a list of the people about whom you've always
had a feeling that they really have a problem with you but never
have come forward and told you that." Virtually every one of the
people whose names I would have put on that list were the people
that stood up and said things. It was nothing like, "I caught John out
in the back with one of the sisters," or "I saw John treat a brother
unjustly." It was "I had a talk with John and I sensed that he was in
the wrong spirit," that whole kind of amorphous description. One of
the brothers, Calvin, stood up -- he was right there in our
brotherhood room -- and he became quite emotional. He was the shop
"John has been struggling for some time," he said. "There have
been a number of incidents where we've had to shut down Shipping
for hours just to work through problems with John!"
I'm standing there -- he had my mike, and he wouldn't even look
at me while he was speaking. "Calvin!" I said when he put down the
mike. "Those are absolute lies!"
He looked at me and then looked away and sat down.
"There's been one incident at work where a brother overheard
me say something," I said into the mike, because it was the truth. "He
said, 'John, I want to talk to you about this,' and we went off and
probably it took an hour to talk it through. But it happened once, and
it was at this brother's request!"
Calvin got up and made it sound like on numerous occasions John
had shut down the shop for hours with his troubles. I insisted that it
was an absolute exaggeration, but the response was "There it is
again, John! You are just defending yourself. If you were really
humble, none of this would even matter to you," and on and on and
Other people got up and said things. At this point I had just
become numb. I felt as if I was in a dream, and in fact looking back
at the event it almost feels dreamlike to me. I could no longer take it,
so I turned around and walked to the back of the room and stood
just looking out the window at this sunny day outdoors. I had no idea
what motivated me to do that, but perhaps a combination of fear and
shame. It wasn't like 'I am turning my back on these people.'
One of the sisters stood up and screamed, "Look at him! Look at
him! He disregards the brotherhood and turns his back on us! Look at
how highly he regards himself!"
I turned around and said -- I think I was even crying at that
time -- "I'm ashamed! Don't you understand? Don't you realize what
I'm feeling right now?"
I looked around at all these people, and some of them were also
crying. It was really an emotionally draining experience for them.
The Servants wanted to continue the meeting and asked me to come
back to the microphone
"No, I'm leaving," I said, and walked towards the door. I put my
hand on the handle, and then one sister whom I had known well, and
considered a sweet person, spoke.
"John!" she called. I looked at her and she had tears in her eyes.
"Please don't go! Please don't go!"
It was such an incredibly emotional moment. Then things kind of
backed off and people were calling out, "We love you, John!" "We love
you, John!" I can laugh now as I look back, but believe me it wasn't
funny at the time. Recalling all this is cathartic for me, but I could
not laugh for many years afterwards.
I would like to comment on two things regarding that
brotherhood meeting. One was an issue about which all were aware
because we had talked about it often in the brotherhood during my
days in good standing. When a brother or sister were 'on the outs'
with the brotherhood, suddenly this welling-up of unresolved
feelings would burst forth from all the brothers and sisters, things
that had never been brought out to the individual prior to this. The
person's 'fall' was almost seen as the 'Big Okay' to bring out
everything that one held against them. It felt like cannibalism. This
issue had been talked about, and people had been warned against it.
I had experienced instances of it in the brotherhood when someone
stood up and confessed to something. If they were clearly in sin,
other brothers would then stand up and make accusatory comments
in the same vein as the confession -- and maybe be challenged by
Christoph or a Servant who would say, "Don't bring this out now. You
should've brought this out before." But it still happened, and in
certain instances was obviously acceptable.
I think because of the nature of their community life, a real
inability exists for the individual to conduct himself daily in a state
of emotional or psychic freedom. There is a kind of ongoing masked
experience so that when a little crack in the dam is seen, the
floodgates open and it's a cathartic release for the whole body.
Individuals use these moments to vent many of the feelings that a
person living in the wider society has the opportunity to release on a
daily basis in other ways. But there's such an unchristlike shutting-
down of the Bruderhof individual and the personality that in these
times of crises, these times when brotherhood members fall, a door is
opened for the kind of rage and chaos that is normally so powerfully
repressed. And then the group changes from the beloved
brotherhood to an entity that views the fallen individual as an
enemy, and an effigy of all that is bad, thus creating a target for
purposes of their own emotional projecting. It's indeed like a
wounded hen in a flock of chickens. She is pecked to death by the
You can see this dysfunction's long-term ramifications in the
attitude of the Bruderhof towards KITfolk and ex-members. What is
supposed to be this incredible spirit of love and forgiveness, even
towards one's enemies, turns into its opposite. When the individual --
even a beloved brotherhood member -- turns that corner, she is seen
as someone who has become almost inhuman, and the brotherhood
circle displays an amazing ability to lash out. Because the person has
come out of unity with the brotherhood, they can be dealt with in a
way that is completely contrary to the very essence of what the
brotherhood and the Bruderhof claim to represent. I find it amazing.
The brotherhood exhibits a real, almost frightening ability to
maintain a deep-seated animosity towards someone in my position
who has been out for a period of time -- and certainly anyone who
would continue to be critical of the community. Yet at the same time,
they claim that whenever they come to prayer, they are at peace
with all men, having nothing in their hearts against anyone. They
claim, in the spirit of the Gospel, that if someone came up and tried
to defraud them or insult them or slander them, they would receive
them with love. They would look at that person and still be able to
embrace them and say, as Christ did, "They know not what they do."
But that Spirit of Christ, that transcendent Power, is not in their
midst, because the Bruderhof has proven itself incapable of that
witness again and again. KIT's very existence stands in many ways as
a testimony to this.
The second issue regards fear of men. Only lip service was paid
to the idea that we, as members of the Bruderhof, should never fear
men, but God alone. This was really emphasized, and was similar to
the scapegoat issue in that it often was discussed in brotherhood
meetings. I heard brothers confess to this fear. Again it was such an
insidious thing, because the ability existed within the circle to
recognize this fear of men as something very wrong. They warned
against it, yet they suffered from a total lack of ability to discern it
when it occurred, and therefore it ran rampant. In some way, either
consciously or unconsciously, it was winked at because it served the
purposes of the inner circle.
"You should fear God," we were told. "Anyone who is working out
of a fear of Man shouldn't even be here.".
Occasionally I heard people confess, "I did this out of a fear of
Man," or "I wanted to please men." Almost confessing, "My
relationship with God is so removed from my personal experience
that it can't even play a role. My fear of, and desire to serve, this
distant, fabled Being is meaningless compared to the fear of a
Servant of the Word, or Elder, who are in the immediacy of my life. I
may thank God for my 'daily bread' because I was taught to do so,
but who really holds the purse strings?"
I think the circle truthfully struggled with this issue, but a
vested interest on the part of some to see that its defining remained
muddied could serve a diabolical purpose within a closed community
like the Bruderhof. If one truly didn't fear Man, and only
feared God, one would act out of a love and obedience to God rather
than a love and obedience to men. However, that would create the
possibility for the individual to maintain a life-giving relationship
with God outside of the circle of authority and power within the
community. The individual could then truly say, since this was
supposed to be an essential part of the baptism vow, "My faith in
God, my relationship to God and what God is saying, means that I
must stand against men. I must stand up to an authority which is a
bad authority." Obviously such behavior would create anarchy within
a community that was not truly directed by the reigns of the Holy
Spirit. Therefore, men must be feared in the Bruderhof if that
humanly driven system is to survive, and I'm concerned that the
Bruderhof won't be rightfully "slitting their own throat" on this issue
any time soon. If they did, God might truly be able to give them a
repentance that could lead to rebirth and newness of life.
In a talk I had with some Servants when I was trying to find my
way back, I mentioned the difference between 'submission' and
'recantation.' I used the early Anabaptists as an example. Jacob
Hutter had stood against the whole force of the Roman Catholic
Church and all the Jesuits that tried to get him to recant. He stood
firm against them, he stood against torture for the sake of divine
truth and his faith in God. Bruderhof history calls this man a hero of
God, but if an individual tries to stand up within the Bruderhof today
and say "I love you! You are my brothers! But it's so CLEAR that the
direction in which you are going is counter to the Spirit of God! And
not just counter to MY interpretation of the Scripture, but clearly
counter to the very interpretations of the Scripture which YOU claim
are the foundations of this life." At what point is this standing firm
courageous, and at what point does it become satanic? I was
considered satanic and devilish because of the strength that I had to
remain "unrepentant" in the face of Servants' arguments and
admonishments. That same strength in the face of a Jesuit four
hundred years earlier was what these Servants would call
The true Body of Christ will always foster in its members a
powerful, individual zeal and desire for obedience to God above all
other things. You foster this zeal, or as a community you either peter
out and become irrelevant, or you open the door to strong-arm
authoritarianism. If the individual's fire exists, you will raise up
children who will not submit to bad authority, but will have a true
righteousness and a transcendent understanding of truth that no
man can control.
After I had walked out of the brotherhood meeting, I went back
down to my room. Some brothers came down later and said that I
should get my things together. They would give me the bus fare and
send me back to Buffalo. A couple of the young guys showed up
while I was packing, and I was very touched by their real desire to
see this thing heal. But also it was very clear that some of the young
Shalomers had quickly turned tail.
"John, we were wrong and you need to see it," they told me. "Just
humble yourself. Just admit it and get this over with so we can go
back to being brothers and sisters."
I received that, but I knew what my conscience was saying.
Shortly after their visit, an older Hutterite brother, a really dear,
sweet person in the manner of the Old Order Hutterites, came down
and poured his heart out.
"John, don't go back! You know how the world is!" he begged me.
The Hutterites almost feel that if you are geographically located on a
colony you are safe from evil, no matter what's going on inside of
you. "Don't go back into the world, John! You'll be lost! The devil will
have his way with you there! You need to stay here!"
"I want to stay here and work this thing out," I explained. "I
don't know why the brothers are forcing me to leave!"
"Oh, I don't think the brothers would ever ask you to leave the
colony if you really wanted to stay," he said. "They know what's out
there too! This is the garden where God's true flowers can grow, and
out there are just the killing weeds! You need to be here!"
"Well, you can talk to somebody and tell them," I replied. "But
they've got the bus ticket ready and they're going to send me out of
"Well, I will," he said. "I'll go talk to Christoph and tell him you
want to remain in Woodcrest."
Sure enough, he must have gone and spoken with Christoph,
because they gave me another option.
"Okay, we won't send you to Buffalo," they said. "We want to
send you to a house in Kingston that we have, and you can work
things out there."
I was glad. At that point I especially did not want to leave. I
wanted to try to work this thing out. I certainly did not want to go
back and show up on my mother's doorstep! It would have been
pathetic. So I got my things together and one of the brothers drove
me to this house. It was strange, because I knew there were a couple
of houses on the outskirts of Woodcrest that the community owned --
for example some families lived in some homes down the driveway --
but I had no idea that they had any holdings in Kingston, or
anywhere else for that matter.
We drove into this beautiful area of town, with a lot of land and
woods. The house itself was a pretty little cottage with a swimming
pool. It was made of stone -- I think they may even have called it
'The Stone House.' It was set back off the road, very picturesque, and
I was told there were hiking trails in back.
"Where did this house come from?" I asked, because I certainly
had never heard about it.
"Oh, this is the house that Christoph and his family use," the
brother said. "They go away on weekends here."
By then I had heard things about Christoph and his family, and
how they went out to dinner quite often. They were well-known in
the finest of the local restaurants..
"Oh, yes, it's hard for Christoph with all that's after him, and
sometimes they just need to get away."
I thought, 'Well, it's nice that Christoph gets to use the house, but
it's not like any other brothers get to take vacations here.'
Almost as if he had read my mind, the brother spoke up.
"As you are an example, John, we also will use this place for the
sake of other brothers and sisters."
'Yeah, you use it for me when I'm being humiliated and
ostracized.' I thought sarcastically. 'This is a great place for plain
brothers to come and experience their inner hell.'
He gave me a very quick tour of the place and drove off. I think
he found the whole thing unsettling. I found a real unwillingness in
people to tell me what was coming next -- and this continued
throughout this whole time. No word about when anyone would come
by again, how long my stay might last, what I could do while I was
there. It was just a cold and removed good-bye from the guy.
Here I was in a strange place. I knew nothing about what was
coming, nothing. I thought, 'Am I just going to be here for days and
no one will even talk to me?' I had no idea.
I experienced my time in that house as violent despondency. I
never have experienced, before or since, that same kind of complete
inner desolation. I felt like I had lost a part of myself, because my
identity had been submerged in the brothers, in the body. I had tried
so much to give myself to the life, because I knew that was the
calling. My presence in that house seemed proof positive that I was
not in unity with my brothers, although I still kept wondering, 'Have
I really come against God? Have I done the thing that I so longed
never to do in my life, be disobedient to God's will?'
I went through 'The Dark Night of the Soul,' as someone called it,
weeping uncontrollably, just really being broken. It was interesting
how I would ride this roller coaster between feeling like I had done
the right thing and then total despair and self-condemnation. I had
listened to the voice of God, I had stood against something very
wrong, and this persecution, this was what a Christian had to endure.
I recalled the words of Christ, 'You'll be hated and persecuted, and
men even in the name of God will kill you and think they are doing a
service to God.' But then I would go through a period of feeling like I
was the most evil man that had ever lived, that I was a child of
Satan, that I was completely and utterly dark and without virtue,
and without God in the world.