My hope is that this may be as healing and
enlightening to those of you who choose to read it,
as it was for me to relive and write it.
> Beverly D.'s Testimony, Part 1
> When I joined the Forever Family in October 1975, I was fourteen
> years old. Bobby and Pat Whipple ‘led me to Jesus’, and I was
> overwhelmed by the spirit, charisma and love between the two of
> them. This was something I wanted for myself, as well as a ‘close,
> personal relationship with Jesus.’
> My father let me move into the new York, Pennsylvania fellowship on
> King Street, paying the fellowship some nominal amount of money
> for my room and board, as my stepmother didn’t want me around
>(my mother had died of cancer when I was ten.) I didn’t miss them
> at all - I was too busy learning my 12 verses of John to get my
> ‘Get Smart Get Saved’ button, determined to
> do it in record time, and forming bonds with my new spiritual sisters.
> Ann Burkhardt was my guardian - I think she was about 19, but I
> thought at the time she was so mature and wise! I loved living in the
> fellowship, although, of course, we never had any money and
> sometimes we were SO hungry. I remember how there were days
> we lived on cinnamon toast - then after the butter ran out, on toast
> with cinnamon and sugar sprinkled on dry toast, then on plain
> dry toast. I remember eating oddball things that were donated
> to us, like whole wheat spaghetti, and whole wheat pancake
> mix, that sat in your stomach like a bowling ball.
> After Tim McAndrews came in as fellowship leader, with his
> then-fiancee, Linda Haas, things got a lot better, food wise
> and I think spiritually too, though I was too young and
> oblivious then to notice much discord among the ‘older’
> brothers and sisters, if there was any. In those days,
> brothers and sisters came every week from Harrisburg,
> Lancaster & Reading for the weekly ‘Center Meetings’,
> because York had the biggest living room/area,
> a long, cold, narrow barn of a room, with a splintery wooden floor
> (Careful of your knees when you pray!) I remember my first ‘Big
> Meeting’, in an airplane hanger in New York?, something like that,
> and there was some to-do about how we couldn’t meet where
> we had wanted to, because Stewart’s evil estranged wife could
> have him arrested if he went into that state (Ohio? New Jersey?),
> and how he had to divorce her for adultery, because the
> Bible said a man could only remarry if he divorced
> his wife for adultery. I slept through most of Stewart’s
> teaching/preaching during that meeting, but for all the
> ones that followed, I was wide awake and spellbound by
> his eloquence. I thought he was truly inspired by God.
> The next Big Meeting, I believe, was in January ‘76, in a big
> warehouse, when we voted to adopt the name Church of we
> Bible Understanding, so we would sound less like a cult, and
> began talking about the Colored Bible.
> In the spring of ‘76, the York fellowship moved from King
> Street to a storefront with apartments above it on
> Philadelphia & Newberry Streets - a much smaller
> living room area, but a prime location for all the teenagers who
> cruised Philly & Market Streets in their cars (there not being
> much else to do in York.) Tim put up a big wooden sign in
> the display window facing Philadelphia Street,
> “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord...” (Isaiah 1:18).
> We met in Lancaster now for the Center Meetings, often
> driving in the big surplus delivery trucks we had picked
> up from somewhere.
> In the spring of ‘76 my father also decided to divorce my
> stepmother and told me I had to move back in with him.
> I didn’t want to go, but really had no choice, being 15.
> He did let me continue to live in the fellowship for the
> summer. In June, I went to Harrisburg for a month, living in that
> wonderful, trippy house that had belonged to a mortuary and
> then some other cult before we got it, painted with Alice in
> Wonderland in the upstairs hall, the ‘space corner’ in the
> downstairs living room, and the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine
> in the basement. Sheila had had the attic as her room,
> but was embarrassed by the murals of topless native women
> carrying woven baskets of food? on their heads, so she’d painted
> bras on them. This was the time that the New York Training
> Center was just beginning to form, so Harrisburg was closing
> down, some going to New York, some being disbursed
> to other fellowships. Sheila went to Reading, as did Tim Aument
> & I. I don’t remember who the fellowship leader was in
> Reading then - all I remember is that since I brought my cat,
> Charcoal, and they made me feed her in the basement, but the
> brothers were too busy (lazy?) to repair/replace the broken
> windows there, strays were coming in for the cat food, and the
> fellowship became invested with fleas. You had to jump into
> bed and brush them off your ankles, it got so bad at one point.
> In the fall of ‘76 I returned to York, and now had to live with my
> dad. I would get up in the morning and go to school, come
> home from school & do my homework, then immediately
> walk down to the fellowship, live in for the weekends and go
> with them to the Center Meetings, etc. The one good thing
> was the place my dad chose to move to was only a few blocks
> away. Of course, we went witnessing almost every
> night - sometimes we’d go to high school basketball or
> football games, sometimes we’d go to the malls. We
> could only show up at the malls so often, because sometimes
> Security would get ticked off and throw us out
> immediately, even if we didn’t wear our buttons.
> Sometimes we’d go ‘downtown’, but in the winter months in
> York, NOBODY was on the streets excepts winos and
> crazies. I think we all hated to go witnessing (more than
> usual!) when it was so cold outside, especially when
> it was not just freezing cold but windy, but hey, one had
> to mortify the flesh and please Jesus and all that
> stuff, right? I probably wasn’t the only one who much
> preferred the (few) winter nights when we stayed in
> the fellowship, warm and cozy, doing Bible studies.
> To be continued...