Re: All Grapevines, plus many other Family pubs now available
In fact, it was my passing them out and asking for a donation from GI's in Hawaii in 71 that prompted Berg to write a letter and start asking for donations after my shepherd wrote in and told him we got a lot of money that month from asking for money.Hence," Shiners or Shamers". That's when "litnessing" turned from witnessing to a daily grind for cash,
So THAT was how it all started! To tell you guys the truth, I was always a lousy litnesser - I could hardly ever "get the victory" over trying to get people to give me money for those letters. I joined in Rome in November 1975 and the first words I learned were "Puoi dare un offerta?" and "Leggilo!" and "Dio ti benedica!" I can still recall those first times before I started to become self-conscious about it.
To tell you the truth, it was because of litnessing that I left in August 1977. This was when the "flirty fishing" was starting to be practiced at regular colony level (after we had been reading the Mo letters about it for about 8 months I think), but it was only being done very sparingly and tentatively at that point. There was at that stage absolutely no open sex - we all lived like brothers and sisters for the vast majority of us, but things were just starting to change (part of the reason, I suppose, was that since the sisters were starting to have sex with certain "sheep" it was hard to make the case that the brothers couldn't get any). After I left, I found out that things had completely changed on the sexual front - but before that, we were all pretty chaste and sex was still a big "no no" for most of the brothers and sisters.
For the record, while I was a member there was absolutely no underage sexual activity countenanced or even imagined by me and the brothers and sisters that I was around. I understand that there are many hundreds of allegations of child sexual abuse - but none of it happened in the early days, at least not among the "rank and file" that I was involved with.
I had never read the Bible much before I joined the COG. After I got saved, and started "Babe" classes, I discovered the Bible and really got into it - I only read the Bible and Mo letters for almost two years. As for the Mo letters, I never really felt they were on the same level as the Bible, although alot of the higher ups in the group seemed to be trying to sell us on the idea that they were. I only memorized the Bible, and I never got into memorizing "Mo quotes" like some of the members did.
One more thing . . . I have read a lot of messages where there appears to be much hard feelings about what happened later on in the COG. I was not there during that period, but I feel for those poor kids whose parents either abused them or allowed them to be abused. I send you all my heatfelt commiserations and I pray that you all will claim healing and be fantastically strengthened in your spirit so that you can experience life the way it is meant to be lived, with joy, openness and excitement.
As for myself, I consider that those 21 months that I stayed in the Family to be some of the happiest time that I have spent so far in my life (if you exclude the litnessing, which was always a bummer for me). I am married now, have grown children, have had my ups and downs in my career - the regular stuff. I recall that when I left the family, I did so in August 1977, in Verona, Italy, with 5000 lire in my pocket and about 100 letters. I called my Mom, with whom I had not spoken for almost two years (!) and asked her to send a plane ticket to Luxembourg. I litnessed for a day around the Lago di Garda, took the money and bought some food (cheese, salami, bread and wine) and started hitching to Luxembourg. I can tell you this: that I had never felt so free in all my life as when I left that colony in Verona and got out from under that "litnessing" anvil that was always hanging over my head. When I got back to Wisconsin, I was in a daze for about 3 months until I went back to work on the riverboats on the Mississippi River system (I was back in the system, and I had to adjust to it - ha ha ha).
However, I had shown up in the family at 19 years old not knowing how to play the guitar. When I left at age 21, I could play guitar and sing, and was quite good at it. Now, that was probably one of the greatest gifts that I got from the family - and those fantastic songs (I have always loved them: "Listening to you," "Diamonds of Dust," "I can't pay you back," "How Long You Been Waiting," "Petshop," "St Francis's Prayer," "Amore Grande," "Shine like the Sunlight" . . . the list goes on, and those fabulous tracks by the Brazilian band in the late 70's - I would love to get those recordings if anyone can send me a link).
That's all for now. I was there at the end of the golden age, it seems, before things got really weird.
Love to all