Forever Family…. became COBU…then turned to a cult..:(

Date: Fri, 20 Apr 2001 07:10:35 -0000 

When I met the Forever Family, it was through Barbara. She began to
work at my company and noticed I was reading a bible at lunch. She
offered to share bible study with me and invited me to her fellowship
near the Staten Island Ferry.
I was already saved but struggling to get my former fiancé saved, before our
upcoming, planned already marriage.
Once evening after work, I accompanied her to their meager
fellowship, was given a folding chair, [one of the only ones they had]
as they all sat around on the floor exchanging ‘nuggies’ and waiting
to go out witnessing for the evening. I was impressed by their fervor
and dedication to Jesus. They did not invite or persuade me to move
in. They were just into witnessing and bible studies. Everything else
was insignificant.

They spoke of ‘center meetings’ on weekends and that they had
a ‘center leader’ named Dave Rizetto, who knew allot of the bible.
They invited me to a meeting and I went.

At the center meeting, several groups of people arrived, notably
young and all got together to pray in the spirit and fellowship,
mostly in the word. This too impressed me and was sincere. Then they
got together and had some group bible study, still very good and
wholesome. When the fellowships were like this, they were GOOD…each
fellowship was independently ‘owned and operated’…

People were getting saved. They did not push you/me to move in, just
emphasized allot that I should come over more for bible studies and
to go out witnessing. This was great. I wanted to learn how to
witness better. I used to just give out tracts and bibles and invite
people to come to church. I wanted to get a ‘copy of a sinners
prayer’ and try to lead some one to Jesus.  I went over to the
fellowship more and more frequently.

Then one day, Barbara came to work with the bad news! Some one who
didn’t like the group of communers- set the fellowship on fire while
they were out witnessing! I was horrified and invited them to move
into my house.  My house was actually too small, but they told me
that they found a big house and since they had no furniture etc, that
perhaps I would consider moving in with them…  was supposed to be 
getting married the following month, so I thought why not. I wanted to
get my boyfriend saved and perhaps, by moving there, he would get

I moved in with them. My boyfriend came around daily. He did get
saved but wanted me to leave the fellowship. By that time I learned
that it still wouldn’t be right to just marry him as a newly saved. I
was told he needed to learn more about Jesus so that it would be
better to put off the wedding. He became angry with me and
threatened to beat up the fellowship leader, John Bevilaqua. This
didn’t happen but came close. I agreed to move to the Wilmington
Delaware fellowship to distance myself from my boyfriend. I was told
that if it were meant to be that Jesus would bring us together at the
right time.  I started to consider that perhaps it wasn’t meant to be,
so I focused on the Forever family and learning to please Jesus.

At about that time, Stewart had broken up with Shirley. Changes began
to take place. Each house still paid it’s own bills through full or
part-time jobs we each got and we gave a donation to the Center leader
who in turn gave it to Stewart.

We still handled our own money and gave in a donation for the house
bills, usually around $35- $50- per week
each. Each person paid for his or her own food. Sharing was discouraged as
some new people would join and not look for work. If you don’t work
you don’t eat, was the way it was. This bothered me, as I noticed that
if you were visiting a fellowship and had no money or food with you,
no one usually would even offer! When I asked about it, at a few
different fellowships, I was told that the physical food wasn’t the
big deal and that I should ‘get off my mother trip’. They made fun of
me frequently for worrying whether everyone ate or not.

This gradually changed, beginning in Wilmington. I would buy extra
food and I started making meals and offering to whom ever wanted it.
Others started to share too. Ernie Bencak was the leader and a truly
nice guy.

The food stinginess at early fellowships was the only fault I found
with the Forever Family! This changed though as when I began to
share, slowly others did too. After a while it became common to share
but I was still accused of being on a “Mother Trip”. I didn’t mind,
I just was a ‘literal Christian’ when I joined and felt the physical
was important too, as they were mostly into what they perceived to be
the spiritual, and ready to surrender all!

At this point in time, there were communes all over. The early FF’ers
were known to ‘rescue’ some from the COG’s and Moonies, and try to
rescue HareKrshna’s too, along with runaway kids and homeless. The
fellowships grew because many left their, then sinful lifestyles,
and moved right in.  Some were hippies or on the fringe of being
hippies. Others just wanted to opt-out of their sinful worldly
lifestyle into a pure sin free environment. And it was just that, for
a time.
Gradually as it grew, more elements were added, a biggy was, the
kiddies were growing up…urges..relationships developing…remaining
sin free…remaining celibate…co-ed sleeping in rooms, was heading
towards a problem, which didn’t occur!

I have never heard of a pregnancy started in the FF/Cobu out of wedlock. That made them
better than the Cog’s or Moonies! Frequently moving around from one
fellowship to another meant unemployment issues. Stewart was a vac
repairman and sold rebuilts at flee markets. He taught some of the
center leaders to do the same. They in turn taught some of the guys
to do it too. Girls often worked office jobs, waitresses, house
cleaners, baby sitters, and so on so we all just chipped in and paid
the bills.

As the fellowships got bigger. The centers grew. Stewart originally
was dragging his entire family around in the beginning to do bible
studies every so many weeks or month.

Then we started to rent larger
places and have Big Meetings. the bigger we got the further he had to

So, it was no surprise that we started giving Stewart more and
more money and then small plane to get around in and then his wife
would stay home with the kids.

Then after Debbie Tobias left,
different girls used to help with writing out the file cards. Stewart
was using a mini tape recorder to save all the ideas he was getting.

And then came along Gayle- no father and young, 18-19. She babysat for
the Traills sometimes and now got promoted to secretary for Stewart.
The rest of that is history. That is also where some think Stewart SOLD OUT TO
THE DEVIL! AND began the larger scale exploitation of the willing!
“Do it for Jesus!” [the death of a fellowship!] The taking into
captivity! Many left….God help those who remained!!!!

To realize the truth of the CobuCult, it took me 5 years to stop
defending it! We were programmed and the good was there to justify
the bad! The good was allowed there to cover up the bad! The good
were there as a front for the workings of Satan through Stewart and
his few henchmen! Stewart needed to lure and entice a certain amount
of True Believers to pull off his scam!!! We, who loved Jesus, were
being used to make Cobu look noble and worthwhile! We breathed the
life into that monster…

If that wasn’t bad enough, we were abused continually by Stewart and
his assigned henchmen and ‘punished’ for loving Jesus and
subconsciously Stewart was embedding the blame on Jesus in our
minds, so he could finish destroying us even after we left the cult!!!

Stewart had help from heavy hitting ‘demons’ to accomplish so
dastardly a deed! I hate watching WW2 movies about Hitler. Hitler
had demons too!

So did the late Saddam Hussein, and many who place little or
no value on human life as long as they could extract gain for
themselves and power! They all possess a ‘spirit of antichrist’.


He mixed the members according to the concept  of ‘sheep with the goats’ and started to bring all/us in small groups to the slaughterhouse.  Then he mixed in pigs and
horses and fed us all slops! Then he had different’ lords over us’-
little  loyal members who were ‘like lions’ to nip and bit and cull out the ‘unconverted ones’.

The ‘converts’ Stewart wanted were thosee mindless enough, who ate what he
offered them not knowing he is/was only poisoning the ones who were
bringing himdelf more  gain, planning on replacing as they/we/us wore out or

He only pretend/s/ed to be a Christian brothers fellowship! Although many of us  are physically free from being there- we still have little mental time bombs planted in side and/or around   us that need to be deactivated!   Those parting shots from Stewart / or those he delegated to deliver the messages of doom to anyone who leaves the cult.
Those parting  shots to give us to self destruct!
Those time bombs are demonic oppression that hits us each in similar /or different ways, some are; Spirits of:
depression, suicidal, anger, fatigue, confusion, mental disorders,
infirmities, bitterness, religious spirits, frustration, contempt,
hatred, pride, lying, stealing, homosexuality, promiscuity, Eve,
Jezebel, bitterness, envy, treachery, mocking, witchcraft
unforgiveness, jealousy, strife, self-mutilation,
self-gratification, even spirits of murder, if only in our hearts!

Stewart is still succeeding in robbing the joy of loving Jesus out of
our lives if any of these demonic forces have any victory in and
around our lives.

I urge you brethren, by the mercies of God, if any of you are suffering and search your hearts for any of the feelings associated with any of the above mentioned, do not be

Pray, get help both spiritual and mental health, to have some one pray with you!

Surrender it all to Jesus and remember again your creator as in the days of your

God is not mocked, but wants to heal and hold any and all of us that
have any bondage in any of those areas, he will deliver! All who call
upon the name of the Lord will be saved…
My indignation remains over the ones who left and could not attain a
right relationship with Jesus due to the distortion of the truth
injected into their minds by the cobu/via Stewarts teaching and the
way he had his henchmen apply those teachings to the receivers.
The pain he has caused, and the ones he has  turned away from God as
a result! I pray for those who haven’t found their way back to Jesus
yet and that Jesus carries them back into his sheepfold!
God bless you all!Ave


72 thoughts on “Forever Family…. became COBU…then turned to a cult..:(

  1. I was there at that time, and fed on what was given. What I personally discovered was that if you are serving Christ, then you have to let him feed you- I still had a mind of my own and could use it very well thank you. I was very close to Stewart’s children and often stayed in his house without his knowledge. God himself let me know when it was time to go and I did without ever looking back. I am a much better person today for what I learned there, but it was no thanks to Stewart. I stayed 5 or 6 years and during that time made some lifelong friends with whom I am still in contact today.

    • Hi Avis. Its good to hear you abide in Christ, and found good in that experience (COBU). I too am finding healing through Christ and His Church- a lifelong process. God bless- Bill Gall

  2. I would love to hear from anybody who knew me in the COBU in the late 70’s in Cleveland.I still suffer terrifying religious thoughts,daily,and I think it all goes back to the COBU! My e mail is Feel free to contact me,even if you didn’t personally know me.I was a shy,almost silent girl,with long,blond hair,back then.My name was Alease Brink,I was from Euclid.Hope to hear from you.Thank you,Ave,for your wonderful articles on COBU and Traill!

  3. Hi Alease~ I am glad that you are connecting with some of us former members.
    Although I have forgotten many names over the years, being in the online fellowships has helped alot.
    I feel I was one of the luckier ones in that I got out before being subjugated in the MTC, but it sometimes angers me to see how much so many have suffered because of their involvement with the Cobu and Stewart.
    It grieves me that so many were left doubting their own faith and suffered emotionally and spiritually for decades.
    It also gives me joy at time to see how some of the survivors have triumphed over their time in Cobu and have continued in ministry remaining faithful to Jesus despite Stewart’s predictions over any who left his control.]
    I struggled, too, for years with doubt and guilt but have found in the 90’s that those are ‘spirits of doubt’ which need to be resisted! [Resist the devil and he will flee]
    Since the enemy speaks to us each in our own language, that is still to cause us to come down off the ‘wall of our salvation’ and surrender to the enemy!… AS in the case with Hezekiah and the Rabshekah ~ we have to not listen to the voice of t he enemy and trust the Lord all the more…


  4. I would like to share a few of the things I experienced after leaving the COBU,things that resulted from being involved with it. 1.I experienced great confusion,because I really had found salvation thruogh the COBU.It was really hard to reconcile that,with the idea of it actually being a cult. 2.I found it hard to think that anything mattered,since the “world was about to end”For example,I was good at art,but after COBU,I would always look at things like they had no “eternal value”,so why bother.3.I have always missed,and never been able to recapture,the “family-like”sense of closeness to other Christians.People who have never been in a cult dont realize that there actually are GOOD things about it,too.Like the close bonds we had.4.I felt that I no longer “fit”anywhere.I couldn’t go back to the COBU,the people I knew who had left COBU were now not living as Christians,my old,non christian friends from before COBU didn’t understand.One of them said,”You must feel pretty stupid…when you think about running off with those “Jesus freaks!”5.Going to a regular,Baptist church,felt so strange.It was nothing like the COBU,and felt impersonal.I was used to COBU wanting to know about and be involved in every facet of my life.People all dressed up,singing hymns,sitting quietly then going home…seemed wierd to me.I missed the “intensity”,the “urgent mission”, the daily calls and contact we had in the COBU.I felt like a lost soul,very,very depressed and alone.6.This is the most serious one.I have ALWAYS struggled with being sure of my salvation after leaving COBU.This has been worse at times,and better at other times,but it is always there ,on some level.Ave has been giving me some really good advice on how to finally start overcoming these thoughts.I pray to the Holy Spirit every day,and ask Him to show me whether these thoughts are coming from Him.Then,I reject these thoughts of condemnation as tricks of Satan.I am 47 years old,and I’m trying to learn how to put my faith in Jesus’finished work,and not in something I could accomplish.Ave,I want you to know,that this is a real ministry that you are doing.These websites to help former,and current COBU members get free,are SO important!I have carried this pain around inside of me for 31 years.To hear from someone who actually understands it is wonderful. On one of my other posts,I talked about some painful things that happened in the COBU.I want to make it clear,I dont hold any unforgiveness towards any COBU brothers or sisters.I hurt other people in COBU,too.We were only doing what we truly believed Jesus wanted us to do.We didn’t know any better.To those of you currently in the COBU,I hope you will get out of it.It is a cult,and very destructive to your Christian walk.Stewart is a false prophet,a heretical teacher.He has wrecked and damaged many people’s lives.I dont know if he actually believes what he teaches,or not.He may be very mentally ill,but if he is “crazy”…he is “crazy like a fox!”I feel so bad for the former brothers and sisters who stayed inCOBU for decades.Many of them gave up their dreams for marriage,children of their own,careers,college…only to find out that they were in a cult,and had been “used” by Stewart,and abused. God Bless,Alease in Cleveland

    • Hi, i was thinking about the “colored Bible” and Stewart Trail in the last few days, as i was remembering how he really screwed with the heads of some of my friends that i went to church with. they became involved with him circa 1977.
      it was in NY. They knew Stewart Trail very well and would travel to places like Virginia Beach to be with him and his family.
      I remember my ex boyfriend at the time, went with his friend and i tagged along to see what it was all about. i remember going to a place in NY, maybe Brooklyn, I’m not sure now, but it was like an old garment district building. Everyone was living on one floor with one bathroom and there were like curtains up to separate people for some form of privacy. It was really i thought at the time weird. As a fairly new born again Christian, my inner self, said “this is nuts” i knew it was not for me. They like Ava said, had a way of verbally bashing a person.
      Anyway, all my friends that followed Stewart Trail no longer even believe in God. Its awful the damage he did. I remember this. That Stewart Trail had them doing some carpet cleaning business in New York and it was bringing in some really good cash. The people lived like pigs, but I’m sure Stewart didn’t. Then one day, my friend came back from a meeting or whatever and said, “it’s over, it was all a lie” I said, what do you mean? he said, “Stewart Trail said the colored Bibled was just something he made up, it wasn’t real and left the microphone” and i guess just basically left them all hanging.
      I always thought that was the end of the Stewart Trail story, but it seems here from me finding this page, that he is still alive and well and screwing with people.
      I saw your post and wondered, if people still are following Stewart’s teachings?
      These people were devastated as I think most of the people were and are, but I just want to say one quote from the Bible. “work out your OWN salvation with fear and trembling before GOD” .
      the Bible doesn’t say before a Pastor, or a leader. No it is you and God. You got the Holy Spirit in you. You know what is right and wrong. Your gonna do things wrong. But you know what is right and to go the right way. Don’t let this man control one more minute of YOU. the pain he has caused, well, its time to let it go. The grass withers, the flowers fade, but the words of God stand forever. Don’t fret, don’t beat yourself up. If you have children, you wouldn’t punish them for all their mistakes everyday, forever, would you? Forgive yourself and move on. This guy was a hack! no good and he will stand before God and be accountable. You have move on and love yourself. The person God made you. I hope you find yourself again and God’s Spirit takes away that lonely feeling of having friends so close you can share everything with. Your not alone. We have all been fools. Its only fools that will make fun of your mistakes. We all have been someones fool at one time or another. I wish you luck and happiness and real friends that will love you, just as you are. Debra

  5. Along time ago,I read a message that Jimmy Greiner wrote to ex COBU members.He was apologizing for hurt he felt he had caused people.Jimmy,if your out there,I completely forgive you.I thinkmost,if not all,of us realize that we were ALL decieved.You were only doing what you believed with all of your heart was “God’s will.”Dont be so hard on yourself,you suffered as much or more than the rest of us.Please try to forgive yourself.The same goes for others who may still be carrying the same sort of guilt.Jesus is all about forgiveness,remember that.

    • There was a bretheren by the name of Jimmy, you actually recruited myself and my best friend, Timothy Parker, into the fellowship when we were high school seniors in Washington, DC. Timothy eventually left school during our senior year and moved to the “lambs house” in Philadelphia. I was 17 years old at the time and recall when a Jimmy had picked up Timothy and came to my house to pick me up and relocate to Philadelphia to the “Lambs House.” I packed my things excited about Jesus and the fellowship, My dad came running out of the house and stopped my departure. Bags in my hand and on a mission to live exclusively for Jesus and with the fellowship, my father stopping that van from leaving the drive way I now realized saved me. My big red button that I wore on my jacket that said “get smart get saved” was my only reminder. I eventually went to Philadelphia as a 18 year High School and College Freshman to rescue my friend Timothy Parker. Timothy came back with me and graduated from high school the following year. I thank God that for my dad and for Timothy getting smart and getting out..

  6. I remember,for some insane reason,going to a COBU meeting,maybe 6 months or more,after leaving the group.My Mom was still involved with it,and maybe I was hoping that somehow,it would now be different.What I noticed about the meeting,was that all the teaching was being done out of a workbook written by Stewart,not the Bible.One of the brothers ,named Bob,drove me home afterwards.He was calling me a “backslider” and saying something about a dog returning to it’s vomit.I told him that I was still a Christian,just not part of the COBU.He said that if I waasn’t moving forward,spiritually,then I was dead.I told him that I was progressing,spiritually,and growing.He demanded to know HOW I was growing,and I felt intimidated.I didn’t know how to answer,and I already knew that NO answer was going to be good enough for him,anyway.He was being mean,disrespectful and judgemental.When we got to my house,I got out,said”Go to Hell”,slammed the door,and walked away.I heard the brother say”that’s real nice..just as I thought..”I know as a Christian that I shouldn’t have said that to him.I was just so fed up and angry and sick of being judged.I never went back again.My Mom had the COBU carpet cleaners clean our rug,no doubt in hopes that they would talk to me.They called me a backslider,but that was about it.I was so happy when they left…

  7. Just a memoryI’d like to share with you.I realize now,that the COBU used”love bombing”,to draw people in.Most cults use this technique.Like I said before,I was a highschool outcast.Even the “nerds” wouldn’t hang around with me.I had extreme social phobia,and the other kids thought I was wierd and unfriendly.So,when I met two “cool”students,and they showed such an intense interest in me,I was amazed.The girl was a pretty,very talented artist.The guy was good looking(he resembled singer Tom Jones)They were certainly not nerds,and I was pretty much the Queen of the Nerds.When you are 15,it is a big deal to have 17,18 year old people hang out with you.I went from eating lunch alone,to eating lunch with this handsome guy.I was pretty pleased to know that the other students were seeing that.When I told my new friends from the COBU,that I was unpopular,they told me that I should be glad,because that showed that I wasn’t a phony “sell out.”They told me that popular people were all fakes,who went along with the crowd-with no mind of their own.When I told them that I felt bad that I didn’t have a boyfriend,they said that showed that I was a deep person,who didn’t worry about getting a man.When I told them that I wished I would be asked to dances,they said dances were for artificial,phoy people,and really uncool,anyways. I was really eating this up,because my self esteem was so low to begin with.They told me I was “heavy”,meaning deep,or serious.I loved that.After feeling inferior for all those years,I was being told by some really”cool” people that I was actually “superior”,and had been the “right one” all along.I’m not saying that they were intentionally trying to decieve me,they probably meant it.Telling me what I was dying to hear,really drew me in.It all seemed too good to be true…….unfortunately,in the end,it was….

  8. Hi, Was the Bob in question Bob Muller? I would realy like to know if he left, and if anyone knows how to get in touch with him. I was in Cobu 1974- 1978. I led him to Jesus and as far as I know, he still may be there. Does anyone know?
    Chris Gauci

  9. Hi Chris~
    It wasnt the same Bob I referred to. I will ask around to see if anyone has been in contact with Bob Muller.
    I do recall his name however.
    Hopefully he is doing well.
    I will let you know if I find out anything.


  10. Hi Chris~!
    I made some inquiries and was told that last known, Bob Muller was IN the Cobu. Sorry 😦

    On the other hand, however, you can call the Cobu at
    1-800-223-2360 If you call, remember they are a bit paranoid and cautious about revealing anything about anyone. It is important to speak in a manner that they wont feel threatened with. If you simply tell them you are his friend and that you wish to get in contact with him, they may take your name and phone number and possibly allow him to call you back.


  11. Dear Ave,I have really enjoyed the articles you did for “Spiritual Pathways.I read their articles and leave comments all the time.I left a comment about being “spiritually raped” by a cult.Dave Norris read it,and decided to contact you.If it saves even one person from joining COBU,or helps someone escape COBU,it will be so worth it!I was a liitle upset,when a guy on that site said that the reason I am still affected by COBU,is that I have been “nursing and rehearsing” the wounds,instead of letting Christ give me a “new song.”I told him that if he had not been involved with a cult of this sort,he does not know first hand what itis like.I told him not to underestimate the lasting damage it causes.I have been practicing the things you told me to do,battling the thoughts that come,the programmed thoughts.I want to get my confidence in Christ,and the joy and assurance of my salvation,back.I think that is what all of us ex-cobu Christians really want.Alease

  12. Hi Alease~! I am glad that you are succeeding in your struggles spiritually. There is no discharge from the war, so we all need to press on. There is no turning back!

    As for those still ignorant of the devil’s devices who underestimate the seductive and controlling influences they have when we are vulnerable, I pray they never experience it first first hand as many of us have had to and endured.
    God doesnt allow us to be tempted beyond our ability to withstand and he upholds us with his glorious Right Hand[Jesus]…. so we are reminded to :
    Count it all joys brethren when you meet[withstand] various trials because that produces steadfastness!!!

    David once said that he learned obedience by the things , he had suffered…so do we!

    Paul prayed to be healed from his afflictions, but discovered that HIS grace is sufficient for me…. and us!!

    Job felt abandoned while losing all that he had, BUT remained faithful and was rewarded…He is an example of perseverance that we should follow , even when what is happening to us makes no sense humanly speaking..

    I remember once a man wrote a popular book with a title like …”When God doesnt make sense!” that really should have been titled , “When we cant make sense out of what God is doing~”…Since His ways are not our ways nor His thoughts our thoughts, we need to remind ourselves that he as our best interest at heart in an eternal sense and now we only know things in part, but THEN we shall know and fully understand, when he is reveale to us and we are with HIM in eternity….All our tears will be wiped away~!

    Those of us who are PRIVELEDGED to suffer with Christ, through what we endure on this earth, will shine like the stars in the firmament, as leaders of those to righteousness.IF we, who have suffered persecution and torments here on earth [as Joseph imprisoned wrongly so many years before being placed in charge of Egypt] in that we still love our Lord and praise Him for His grace and mercy in our lives, can then stand as examples to those such as the man who ignorantly told you those things
    […“nursing and rehearsing” the wounds,instead of letting Christ give me a “new song.”] CAN NOT begin to understand nor learn from your experiences…This man is to be pitied as he is one who will have to learn perhaps through his own imminent trials & troubles rather than by what the Holy Spirit has done through you as a result of what you[we] have survived so far~!

    Sure it is easy to praise and worship God while your life goes on peacefully and perfect and you prosper…As Job told his wife,” Shall we receive good at the hand of the Lord and not receive evil?”….We each are given a measure of faith and have different jobs to do on this earth that are commesurate with the positions we shall have in heaven…so if our struggles on earth are harder than someone elses, that is because God has already seen and ordained that we will survive these things for HIS glory and honor~!..think about it.. embrace it… and know that HE is God and that we are precious to Him as it is also written, ‘Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints..”

    Paul said we die daily [to sin] and we are to be dead to sin while alive in Christ. We choose daily whom we shall serve.We are not to judge by appearances, but with right judgement.

    That is to say when you see someone going through horrendous trials, that you can not assume that person is merely being punished by God, as so many would conclude on an earthly or worldly level, but that God is ‘removing the dross’ from the silver, fashioning a vessel [us] fit for honor[eternal life] and we are being transformed daily by the renewal of our MINDS into the persons God intended for us to be…

    Everything we do , is to the glory of God, even when we are beaten, bruised, neglected, rejected, tormented and despised by man.. Jesus was despised & rejected by man and aquainted with grief…so shall we be, as a servant is not greater than His master…

    It may be a bit peculiar for some to embrace or deal with, since some suffer for seemingly endless amounts of time, where their lives are reduced to poverty and suffering, like the beggar crippled on the matt that lived off the charity of passersby…that when Jesus comes along, in HIS timing, will be raised up to take their pallet and walk ~ to the amazement of all those self righteous, pompous religious elitists who can & do grow their phylacteries long and are held in great esteem in the marketplaces…thinking they are rich and wise and so blessed~ [Sure they are blessed but miss the point of God’s grace and mercy as they were not equipped to have to prove their faith]

    We on the otherhand ‘prove to be His disciples’ and so with that we are like those who are estranged from evil, made into ‘prey’ for testing and sifting by the devil, as Job was sifted and persevered, so shall we! His comfortors were fellow religious persons who wrongly assumed he must have sinned because of all the calamites he was experiencing.They were ignorant that God chose to use him[Job] as an example of a faithful servant [Read Job 1] and God was proud of Job throughout his ordeal.Job is a great example to us.

    Look also at others in the bible, Shadrach Meshach & Abedneggo ~ all thrown into the firey furnace..We have similar fires to pass through in our lives.. or Daniel in the Lion’s Den… we all have to face the devil at a time we feel trapped and alone… BUT God shut that lion’s mouth and He will shut satans mouth whe he seeks to devour us.
    God bless you and have a wonderful week!

  13. Hi Alease, BTW who is Dave Norris? The name sounds somewhat familiar but I am not sure if I have ever heard of least not among the earlier brethren to the group~ 🙂 Ave

  14. He is one of the guys who runs the Spiritual Pathways discernment site.I really do enjoy that site,but the guys who run it don’t seem to have much understanding when it comes to the far reaching effects of a cult like COBU.Today,another guy who runs the site,compared me to a “baby playing with dung!?!”I think he meant that I just needed to “grow up”,and stop talking about something that happened so long ago.I’m not sure…Does he seriously think that I would choose to suffer tormenting religious thoughts,since 1977?That I would “enjoy”always doubting my salvation?I am doing what you said to do:asking the Holy Spirit,everyday,to show me what is truly from Him and what is not.I am battling those thoughts now,instead of just accepting them as my own thoughts.Thank you so much for your answer,Ave,it means so much to me.Please pray for my husband to find a job,we have no income right now,and it’s scary.I saw some of your art,and I really like it.Especially,Jesus looking over Jerusalem.My daughter is an artist,too.Not professionally,but she could be.When I get some money,I am going to order some of your prints.Your writings have meant so much to me,I feel like I know you,even though we have never met.Love,Alease

  15. When damage is done to the soul, many times it takes years and years of recovery. COBU did/does deep damage. “More Jesus, Less Religion” is an excellent read.


  16. When damage is done to the soul, many times it takes years and years of recovery. COBU did/does deep damage. “More Jesus, Less Religion” is an excellent read.


  17. Hi Ave,

    Haven’t been online in almost a year. My now 6 y.o. son has been with me 24/7 since an incident my/ex suffered inwhich ACS seems determined to feel they need to protect him from her. I don’t know if she’s all that bad, but next court date for her to plead her seeing him again in any near normal way (if you can call life after divorce, which she mistakenly pursued starting back in 2002 and the gov’t granted her finally in 06, can be in anyway normal [NOT] 😉 is here in Dec 08. I thank our LORD Jesus always for any and everything… even my time in COBU, roughly 76-78, somewhere in there. Praise God!

    Seems I can’t avoid searching around a tiny bit about “cobu” any time I’ve been away from the .net world and then return for a short while, like tonight. HA!

    It’s so good to find you here having shared what you went through in cobu. I miss it, when it was good… even though I was found in 76 via Christian Brothers Carpet Cleaning flyer distribution/witnessing routine just after I graduated H.S. and beginning my working life… (as a cabinet-maker apprentice, which after I met cobu I continued with for about a year, and after I met cobu I really felt a closeness our Lord having been a carpenter, you see???

    I left (joined the USMC) before getting too, too deeply caught-up in the cultish activities FF/COBU degenerated into, but the fellowship I had while there was so, so refreshing to have experienced.

    I grown for His return. You know how I feel about that being very soon. I keep a countdown on my MS Vista side-bar. Today it says 923.

    Tomorrow is the birthday of USMC and with all the guys there I’ll be perplexing them alittle more with the phrase, “922 and a wake-up!”

    His mercy is our only hope. To God be the Glory.



  18. I am not an ex member. I am still trying to get all of the help I can for Justin Fair. Pat and Jerry Fair were and still are involved in COBU. I am Jonathan Fairs’ girlfriend. I have been trying for 2 years to help those who are in get out. Justin is now in Coral Springs, FL and we have not had contact with him for almost a year. I thank all of you who have read my previous messages and contacted me. I can be reached at :

    Thank you all and I will keep you in my prayers

  19. I vaguely recall Ave.

    I am still in fellowship with brethren like Dave & Jo Anne Rizzetto, Jerry Di Mateo, Jeff Bernstein and others. I live in England but the ministry The Lord gave us has an American branch although our mission work is mostly in Africa with AIDS babies and in Israel.

    I was saved through the COGS befdore coming to COBU (then still the FF, I was around at the transition and recall the episode of Shirley etc.) and I saw Stuart go off. Unlike some ex COBU / FF people I personally believe that like Mo Berg of COG, Pastor Stevans of Bible Speaks and others, Stuart Traill probably began right. I think although he lacked a knowledge of Greek & Hebrew and of academic theology he did actually have insight into God”s Word (although not monopoly on it his early followers claimed).

    For what it is worth, I did what Stuart Traill said all COBU brothers should do – ministry that is all over the world (our ministry Moriel has branches in Australia, South Africa, Ireland, Tanzania, New Zealand, Japan etc.). We pushed asking The Lord to illuminate the scriptures to us and take care of orphan babies with AIDS etc. in he Third World. By God”s grace I did these things, not because of COBU or Stuart Traill, but simply because Jesus so directed and enabled me and my friends to do so.

    As one who in some way fulfilled what COBU expected us all to do, it is my unfortunate testimony that Stuart Traill backslid due to spiritual pride , love of money, and predatory sexual activity well over 25 years ago. While I am only moderately charismatic/ Pentecostal – it is clear that he is not only demonically deceived , but to some degree he is demonically manipulated. He has the same spiritual and psychological profile as any dictator. He behaves as dictators do, surrounding himself with weak personalities that can be controlled into believing he is invincible and super spiritual and he clones their character in his own image and likeness. It is not as St. Paul wrote ‘be imitators of me as I am of Christ’, but the counterfeited pretense of that.

    He is secretly an insecure man and a consummate charlatan callous to the devastation he misused The Name of Jesus and the Gospel of Jesus to perpetrate against The Lord’s sheep. He is moreover rather delusional.

    Even in its heyday COBU was never as big as the other Jesus Freak groups who became cultic such as COG or Bible Speaks. My wife is a Romanian born Israeli Jew. We knew Richard Wurmbrand (to whom my wife spoke in Romanian during his frequent visits to Israel where our children were born). Richard Wurrmbrand came to know that something in COBU was wrong.

    Plainly there was a move of God among disillusioned hippies in the aftermath of the nineteen sixties. It was indeed true that the mainstream Evangelical church was primarily Laodicea. But in the process of not being Laodicea groups like COBU became something worse.

    Some of the Jesus Freaks who had leaders such as Chuck Smith and Moishe Rosen that combined the stability of the mainstream churches with the zeal of the Jesus Freaks saw the establishment of things like Calvary Chapel and Jews For Jesus. The others like COBU became stupid cults destructive to children, families, and marriages all to the indifference of their back- slidden leaders. Jim Jones might be the extreme example, but Stuart Traill is cut from the same piece of cloth. He defied the plain teaching of scripture on several points placing himself above its authority. This is the spirit of anti christ in Greek putting another in the authoratative place of Christ. He did that, but is too proud, emotionally deranged, spiritually blind, and personally insecure to come to terms with what he did. I am forced to regard him as an evil man.

    Like the Sanhedrin at the trial of Jesus, the papal curia against early Luther, or Zedekiah’s court against Jeremiah, Stuart Traill and COBU always took the ad hominem approach. Thery would attack the individual in order to avoid the issues reflecting their own guilt.

    Biblically and historically this has always been the unmistakable signature of a religious hypocrite. It is also the unmistakable signature of Stuart Traill & COBU.

    The sad saga of Stuart Traill and COBU to the best of my estimation (and I am most certainly not infallible) is three-fold.

    There is the tragedy of the people he hurt by misuse of God”s Word, gifting, and calling.

    Secondly there is the tragedy of the FF/ COBU itself. It could have and should have been something very different than the abusive and ultimately heretical disgrace it became.

    The third traedy however is that of Stuart Traill himself.
    I may be wrong, but a such a unique person was capable of doing much good. Instead, he did much bad.

    May The Lord in His mercy prevent me or indeed any of us from going the same way.

    God Bless to all Ex COBU / FF brethren.

    (visit our website if you like: )

    In Jesus,

    James Jacob Prasch

    Philippians 1:6

  20. I was active with FF in Columbus , Ohio in the mid 70’s before Columbus became a center and was there for the transformation to COBU and release of the Colored Bible. My center leader was Chris? I believe that Stewart was on the right path at first and then to coin one of his phrases, “got off on himself”. I helped start the first house on the East side of Columbus on Dundee. My house leader was Mike who was from Mansfield and Lois who was from PA. I remember many good brothers and sisters who laid down their lives daily, but Stewart started to become increasingly arrogant and hostile, passing out blame to us for those we had not reached going to hell. He never took any ownership of his role in these “failings” as it was all due to our lack of faith. It has taken years to get past the stigma that Stewart projected on us and all of us who were there at the time watched the change in Stewart as he manipulated his own word to make a space for his relationship with Gail. I knew it was time to leave because there was no room anymore for “Come, let us reason together” I think about and pray for those I witnessed with and lived with in fellowship!

  21. Hello to all, I’m here to find out if COBU ever operated near Spatanburg or Greenville, NC? Maybe it was Greensboro NC. My brother-in-law told me today – for the first time – the name of the “cult” which so effected his life – Church of Bible Understanding. Could this be the same? Sounds like it. He was there, we think, sometime before 1977 and after 1975. David Proskauer. Any information I can pass on to him I’m sure would be a help.

  22. Hi, I was in the FF at 12 years old in Scranton, Pennsylvania summer of 1974. I met Theresa Lavelle while I was swimming @ Weston field pool and she worked at the pool area. I thought it was cool to talk to an “older” girl and over the summer we became friends. She”introduced” me to members after a month or so. They came to the pool and talk to me about the bible and it was flattering to have older kids telling me how intelligent I was and insightful.
    I was told about my great leadership qualities and that someday I would be the youngest leader of the FF!!!
    Eric Fetterolf used to pick me up down the street from my house ( I would lied to my parents and say I was going up the street with my friends) and take me to meetings at a house in the hill section. I thought it was very interesting to see what these people did. They seemed harmless to me. Theresa was very nice and so was Eric.
    I remember Russel Maysiart ( incorrect spelling I’m sure) was “assigned” to me, to make sure I became a member.
    It was all very exciting and I thought I was really cool, until we went “witnessing” in Old Forge. A bunch of teenagers were hanging out on a street corner and we showed up with our pamplets and quoting John 3:3…….I felt embarrassed. I cute boy maybe 14 or 15 walked up to me and said: “You can’t be a Jesus freak! You’re not one of them, what are you doing?”
    I was so embarrassed and felt like a jerk. Nothing like teen peer pressure to put things in perspective! That was the end of it for me. I often wondered who that kid was on the street corner in Old Forge, that made me feel like I wanted to crawl into a hole.
    He probably saved my life or at least changed it before something bad happened to me. Kids do stupid things, I understand how I was manipulated now 36 years later, but then it was fun to be a grown up and feel important.
    When I stopped talking to them and going to their meetings Russell called my house ( actually a female called and asked for me and put Russell on the phone) he was VERY insistant that I return, he became threatening and I told him I would tell my parents and call the police and hung up on him. I never heard from them again. I remember Eric disappeared and his parents were on tv asking for help to find him. I was too scared to say anything to anyone because I was 12 years old.
    I often wondered what happened to him.
    25 years later Russell approached me in a public place and told me who he was and that he had been moved from state to state by the F.F. He had been starved and locked in a closet for days at a time. He finally escaped when they were out on the street in the town he was in. He hopped a freight train and went as far away as he could.
    He told me I was a very lucky girl. He said that “they” (F.F.) had plans for me and that my family probably would have never seen me again. It was very frightening and I had blocked it from my mind until I found this site.
    I wanted to tell someone. I have never told anyone what happened to me. thank you.

    • Eric is okay~! He is on some of our group sites and facebook too. I joined in 75 and while they never physically restrained me the mind games did have a hold on me. When I finally decided it was enough~ I had an apt in Phili that I paid for and had my own furniture in yet still attended meetings~ they called me to go to Camden to meet the new leader Bob Hillenbrant who told me I was going to NYC in the morning without any of my possessions and he was giving my apt to a couple that had 2 kids that needed the place. While it was not funded by them nor did they help me with moving or bills, they were stealing my apt and forcing me to go to their MTC which was a pit to break you down emotionally mentally and spiritually. Since I saw through what they were doing I refused, yet waited at that place to be taken away. In the middle of the night I was praying and realized they had no authority over me and what they were doing was wrong so I walked out and didnt look back. Police picked me up as I was walking through a bad neighborhood and after questioning me brought me to the train back to Phili and I got off in Center City and walked all the way to my apt in S.Phili only to be locked out by the so called ‘brother’ that took over my apt. I called police and they came and made him let me in and he called me names and told police I was a ‘backslider’ and that his leader Bob would come in the morning to sort it out. The police asked me if I wanted them to stay or go and Rick said they had no where to go so I told them to go to the leader, as they at least had a car and could easily go over the bridge back to Camden – alot easier than me walking alone in the middle of the night. Had he not locked me out and been so rude, I might have let them stay with me but they were obnoxious, overbearing and so I had to make them leave.
      New spread that I was a backslider, but I was not. I was merely seeing through their manipulations and switching my new lambs and converts to go to local churches instead of being fed into their ‘borg’~

      • Hi Ave,

        I have bad news regarding Eric, he passed away Saturday morning 8/28/2010 in his home from a heart attack.
        I found him on Fb after I posted on your site. We spoke quite a bit and it was wonderful to finally know that he was doing fine and everything had worked out alright.
        He spoke of The Forever Family in detail and what he went through and other members he had spoken to over the years. Eric was a kind and gentle soul. I know he is finaly with God and at peace.
        Thank you for your post Ave, your story is frightening and very true. I am glad you are alright and that you have created this site for people to come to and talk about what happened to them. It’s really remarkable what happened all those years ago.
        God Bless you, Ave

      • Thankyou for letting me know.
        It is sad news but at least he is no longer having to face the stresses of this life. He was a nice guy and I hope he finds peace now as all who have gone on before us. My husband was also in the Forever Family as was I, and my husband died last year.

        I haven’t seen Eric in many years but we had connected online through the Cobu groups & FB. I will let the others know~

        He was a brilliant man, well educated, had a masters degree in art and worked on beautifying Gloucester and helping others. He had been recently laid off [in June] from his city job where he had worked 12.5 yrs but there were unilateral cutbacks.Still he strove to help his community and had a good sense of humor and was well liked. He will certainly be missed.

        He leaves behind a wife Monica as well as nieces & nephews.To them I extend my deepest condolences as it is never easy to lose someone you love.

        Thankyou for the information.
        If there is anything I can do to help out in any way just let me know`


        🙂 Ave

  23. Hello. I’m doing a project on the Church of Bible understanding. Would you be able to tell me about the beliefs, hierarchy, isolation from the world and the morals behind the cult.

    thank you!

    • Hi Ashley~
      COBU started as the Forever Family ~ a bunch of newly saved kids that were on fire to go out and spread the Gospel and preach across America. Most were ‘hippies’ so cared less about material goods but it was kind of an unspoken response in which all of us who joined and had furnishings just brought our things with us and shared whatever we had.
      Of all the cults of the day, we did not consider ourselves to be a cult, although Stewart was slowly transforming it into one. We felt we were a commune- or community. Overall we were VERY highly moral and decent. WE kept ourselves above reproach. If someone ‘liked’ someone in an attractive manner, they were immediately separated and went to different states.Most budding relationships were halted this way. Some members still “IN’ have remained celebate and single all these years, devoting their lives to Christ [ as they see it] Of the many 1000’s that joined and since left, [40,000 was the estimate over all the years] only a small handful at best would have left to get married and then rejoin as married couples later on.
      The hierarchy was Stewart always on top~ then his inner circle of confidants that protected him and spoke for him when told.This inner circle changed frequently as Stewart trusted no one and never let anyone get too cozy or secure.High ups would be suddenly demoted and chastized and browbeat by younger members as soon as younger members were told to do so they did. New inner circle members would be chosen.
      Some of the inner circle comprised of ‘Center Leaders” who were placed over certain cities which included surrounding towns ans smaller nearby cities.
      Each Center had houses [ well in the early days and mid 70’s] Each house had a Leader, then Group Leaders. Group Leaders were Leaders in training and when they became proficient would go out and rent another house and perpetuate the growth of t he group. The were responsible to report to the Center Leaders who in turn reported tp Stewart.
      Leaders & Group Leaders would maintain fellowship ‘order’ and decide where to go witnessing at night and how long to stay our or how long to have bible studies after returning from witnessing. Members would go witnessing and lead others to Jesus and then attempt to befriend the newly saved and invite them to move into fellowship.
      AS it became more a cult, a group called ” OR’s” or “Official Reprovers” was formed to ‘police’ the group, especially as houses were replaced with warehouses, causing higher numbers of people to be living together in closer quarters. The membership was fed a steady diet of twisted bible studies, one that surfacely sounded good, but were geared towards reinforcing the manipulations by Stewart Trail so in effect he took on the undeclared position of the Holy Spirit so to oppose him was to rebel against God which caused many people to remain longer than they might have, out of fear of losing their salvation, yet later down the road, when things got too hard, they would then leave but felt backslidden for doing so.Many had to reach a point of not caring any more in order to numb themselves and run away from the group.
      Others claim they left without the guilt and managed to find their way into good churches and continue to serve God, but are a little wiser now about the tricks the devil used to bring them down to feeling condemned from God’s creation.
      Nowadays, Stewart has 1 inner circle member in charge of much of his financial kingdom~ Kevin Brown ~ who now handles much of the automated coming and goings of the members.It was estimated a while back they 40 still remain in Cobu but the number may be larger.

  24. Hi AshleyT~!

    Were you ever in the Cobu or have you had a family member who was in?

    What kind of project are you working on? What would you need to know and about what years and areas they operated in and currently operate in? You could probably get alot of info from browsing my blog here or going to : and reading the archives and also using the available links located there to find more information.

    Mike Montoya, a former member and owner of the yahoo group [xcobu] has been compiling archives and detailed info for years and I think he is working on a book~ You could probably contact him through the links on my website, or contact me there and I will see what I can do.


  25. I was in the Forever Family back in 1975 after some tragic events passed thru my life. I went to NYC because they considered me to be how shall we say a liability. I am glad I made it out alive. Recently finding out that is was nothing but a cult and Stewart had lived off of our labors was something I was not aware of.

    There is such a thing called Karma.

    • Hi Julie~! Glad you made it out of there~! I also joined in NYC in 1975, perhaps we met along the way~ I left in July 76, visited a few times over t he years to see what was left of any friends but have found many other survivors online since then. There are still about 40 old members there, Stewart ‘cleaned up’ his act to include outsiders after training those who remained in to speak very carefully as to protect him thinking they are protecting themselves from the evil world outside. Little do they know that they are his prisoners, a slave labor force, thinking they are doing God a service when they are being exploited by Stewarts enterprises~!! Unless he repents,he will have hell to pay for what he has done to so many. Praise God that most have made it out without losing faith in Jesus~ Jesus was never the problem with the FF/Cobu~ Stewart was the problem by cultyivating a detour of faith from God to himself. He too is deceived as he is deluded by his own greed & lusts which have caused him to continue on this path for so many years~!
      You’d be most welcome to join any of our post cobu groups for survivors. We try to make some sense of things as well as share about what has happened in our lives since leaving the Cobu and on occasion when possible we help any who are leaving that are still in there.GBU~! 🙂 Ave

    • Julie,

      Hi! My name is Karl. I lived in Columbus, Ohio from 1974 – 1976. I was approached by the FF inside “Northland Mall” (I think that was it’s name), which was on Morse Rd. on the north area of Columbus. I remember getting “saved” in the mall while the mall foot traffic was all around us. I felt a little conscious of the event, as I was being stared at by all the shoppers. I remember going on a road trip with the group in a small bunch of cars all the way to Wilmington, Delaware. I think we stayed there for the weekend.

      I was in the passenger seat of a members car, a nice gal, whose name I have been trying to remember for years. The only name that sounds like it might be the one happens to be your name, Julie. Sue is a close 2nd I think. I remember always looking at her, her face was so sweet and cute. I was 19 way back then, and new nothing about girls, except that I wanted one that was pretty to me, had a nice smile, and was very sweet. I was so shy back then. I never told her I liked her, I was so scared that if I told her that, that she might not like me, and that maybe she was so nice & sweet to me only because she was wanting me to officially join the group.

      I can still see her face in my mind. Such a nice smile & all. I remember she was a lot shorter than me, I was 5’11” back then.

      I sometimes think of her, wondering if I had not been so shy. Maybe she could have been the one? Who knows.

      I sometimes wish I could go back to those nervous times of my youth, when I was always so wanting to find an actual ‘Girlfriend’ for myself. If I knew the things I know now, but back then, I would have just told her I thought she was so very very cute, and that I really liked her.

      I guess with all the staring I did, with that shy, silly, and barely noticeable smile I could never completely wipe off my face while looking at her, I figure she knew how I felt about her.

      I found this wordpress blog, or whatever it’s called, by accident, as I was searching for home made helicopters and stuff, and one of the many pages Google grabbed for me had the phrase “Forever Family” in ti, which grabbed my attention. Once I start reminiscing those days of my youth, I decided to search for the FF group name, and her name too, as I can best seem to remember it… Julie, I think?


      (now living in Texas)

  26. Ave I do believe in KARMA. I seen so much in my life, it will go around to Stewart. We probably have met or crossed paths. I left in 1976 also. Maybe in the summer also and yes I was in NYC. I was first on Bleecker Str., then on Jay Str. I had enough of being brow beating I just left one day in Washington Park. Then when I made it back to my home state. I would occasionally go around them.

    I believe in a God of my understanding. I believe I am born again in different ways then you however, I do believe I am trully a miracle.

    GBY also Julie

    • Hi Julie,
      There is a lot to say for Karma, lol. well the principal of being made accountable for ones actions and the judgment given to be the one received and such~I hope, for his sake that Stewart repents before his days end as his open apology would ease the pain of many he had inflicted it upon~
      Still some just want him to get caught and go to jail for all the crimes he has committed yet he has been slick enough to keep under the radar and most things are not in his name although he as full access to any and all the wealth generated by the slave labor of the early members. I went to Washington Park several times months after I left COBU to see if anyone would witness to me but none ever did.

      I was already saved for 2 yrs and met Barbara Walden at my job and we began reading the bible together at lunch hour and she invited me to the then FF and to go out witnessing with them, which amazed me as I witnessed for 2 yrs before meeting them but always gave people the addy of my church so the pastor could lead them to Jesus. Up til I got involved with the FF I did’nt know people could lead other people to Jesus on a street corner~ So I was ‘hooked into the fold’ for 14 months but got turned off after they started taking over our paychcks and closing the little fellowship houses and funneling members to the warehouses . I was getting burned out so left in July 76.
      I suppose in most cases we all are saved differently but still we all are saved similarly as well.. Jesus came to save each of us by shedding his blood on the cross and His shed blood brings about the forgiveness we seek and need in life and gives us the promise of eternal life later.


  27. Hi Jack~!!
    Totally get it~!! Been there too~ Clove Lakes , Seneca Street~ the whole nine yards~ John Bevilacqua & Sue~her real name was Marie~ She was a runaway living in that group & they did eventually marry. John was arrogant and pushy and had a way about him, very manipulative! He was ‘following orders’ but seemed to enjoy it.He too however was one of their victims as he was brainwashed by them.Many were brainwashed to some degree, even those who didnt say long or think they werent~ Problem was there was a heavy demonic influence over them .They wanted to serve Jesus, well most of them did~ and as such they were targeted by evil. Then consider, they – you included – were young and dumb and of course it was after all the 70’s…hippies, free love, wild ways,Jesus freaks, young movie stars, hard rock, acid and too many directions to choose to go into so many become the directions of what appeared to be lesser evils.[only once bitten by Cobu the damage seems never ending!]

    The idea of the Forever Family was “charming”~ could it be possible that such a group could grow up in the midst of the chaos of the day?Youn people that actually became more ‘fervent’ than any met in a church? Kids that could learn and apply the bible to their lives far more dedicated than any you’d meet in church…learning more than in a bible college and not having to pay~ sort of… you paid, just by leaving all you had behind and becoming one of them… leaving father & mother, sister & brother, home , friends and job to be come a member of the Forever Family [if you joined before Jan 1 1976 when the name was changed to the Church of Bible Understanding [COBU] . by then the one who controlled the whole thing had seized control of enough people’s lives who turned over their paychecks to keep him rich & powerful over their lives and unfortunately, he still has 40 or more suckers doing his bidding and ripped off enough people and schemed enough to be set financially for life… but I sure wouldnt want to be him in the afterlife….still hope he one day realizes to what degree he has harmed so many of us and that he somehow finds his way to repent. Many of those he has seriously damaged would actually feel better if they got a genuine apology. Others want to see him in jail…varying degrees of distaste for Stewart Traill.
    Like you, I became involved on Staten Island. I was already a ‘Christian’ going to El Bethel Assembly of God on Jewett Ave but when I met Barb W at Universal Transcontinental Corp on 325 Spring St in NYC~ she saw my bible on my desk and befriended me, She knew alot about t he bible and I was impressed. Both of us were just clerical workers so we began to have lunch together and she would show me things she learned in the bible. I liked what she showed me so she invited me to come over after work. I was engaged at the time, preparing to be married in May. They had a fire on Westervelt Ave and needed a new house. I felt sorry for them and invited them to come to my house in Midland Beach to camp out til they got another place but John B told me he had a better idea… He found a house by Clove Lakes but didnt have enough for the bills since some members were not working and if I could move in for a while and pitch in towards the rent, that would be a real help. I was starting to have problems with my fiance over them and other matters. I wanted him to get us a new house and give up my house, so we would be starting our marriage off as equals and not him moving into my house….so I gave in to John B’s request and moved into t he Forever Family when t hey first rented the house at 44 Seneca Street off Broadway near the Staten Island Zoo~ I said it was only temporary… sure it was.
    They got me to postpone my wedding and eventually call it off and move away to Delaware leaving my fiance behind. He waited til I returned and then said they ruined me and brainwashed me, before marrying another girl we both knew. It took years to get over the damage that group had done. I still believe in God and I do believe there were genuine people who thought it was the way but as with many religions and cults t here is an alterior motive. Stewart Traill was out to control people’s lives and to profit by their labors to make himself rich and powerful. I hope you recovered and have been able to find what it is in life you are after and that God is still the main part of your life. 🙂 GBU~! Ave

  28. Hi Ave-
    Ok I found this!
    I’d like to say to Jack B & everyone, that I left around 1980 from NYC & went my own way till about 5yrs ago.

    Then I said one day what do I believe & where’s my hope?
    Jesus came to me & has since been restoring me,healing me & tho I struggle with my flesh, it is His spirit that gives life!

    His Word is True, stand on it – PS145-8&9 “The Lord is gracious,slow to anger & abounding in steafast love. The Lord is good to all & His compassion is over all that He has made..”

    Dave Pindell

  29. Jack~ Its true that Jesus is real and while the devil used Stewart Traill to mislead us, that doesnt negate the fact that we got saved and were seeking Jesus and even if some were burned off and turned away, when you make a heartfelt commitment to Jesus, He remains faithful even when we dont~! Jesus has been looking over us all our lives and the Holy Spirit has been available to help us. Unlike Stewart, Jesus doesnt force His way on us but He promised to never leave nor forsake us.So no matter how crazy life may have gotten at times, Jesus prevented us from going over the edge and has brought us through each day. Some have done exceedingly well, others have struggled just to make it through another day. Still we are alive here to talk about it and by God’s grace & mercy we still can place our hope & trust in Jesus, just not in man [who can and does always fail along the way]

    Not knowing what you have gone through the last 30-40 yrs but knowing many who have and what they have gone through, we have found that God does really care for us , Jesus did die for us and rise again & the Holy Spirit will lead and guide us if we remain open to His leading and obedient to the Word according to our best understanding. No one is perfect. Self righteousness wont do it for you nor will rejecting the Word.

    Jesus is the same yesterday today and forever & He is coming again for us all. He loves us, He loves YOU and no matter how badly the enemy may have trashed your life, Jesus is only a prayer away and the Holy Spirit can explain it to your heart better than anyone else.. 🙂

    Its not about religion, although religion can be okay. Its not about comparing one another. Its not about works or keeping up with the Joneses or being into self deprivation or self loathing and such. Its about love and loving the Lord Your God with your whole heart mind and soul.

    Our minds are the battleground. The enemy like a little birdie telling ya, can whisper thoughts into your mind that may seem like your own ideas that come from out of the blue. Remember each is lured by their own desires… Then if the idea is presented to your mind and you decide to dwell on it and accept it leading to acting on it that is what gives birth to sin which over time can lead to death, so as long as we are alive, we can turn to Jesus and He will heal all the hurts and still save us. GBU~!

  30. Hi Jack~

    Sorry to have put some doubts and to shock you. Its hard sometimes when first getting acquainted and to express where we each are at and how we arrived there.We all went through alot over the years.

    Let me explain about myself, Dave could explain himself.
    I was already saved at a church 2 yrs before joining the FF in April of 1975 on Staten Island. My interest in them initially was how they quoted scriptures as I wanted to go to a bible college but couldnt afford one and at t he time they ‘seemed’ like a good alternative as they seemed to know alot of it.
    I was ‘in’ for 14 months, moved from Staten Island to Wilmington De to another small house with several people living there that we lived like a commune and got along fine. After being there a few months I was invited to help open a new house in East Falls Pa and being adventurous, accepted feeling like I was growing spiritually and that it was sort of like missionary work being expanded. My aim at the time was to learn as much as possible about God and to be prepared to make general sacrifices to have that happen.

    Once at East Falls, I was doing okay but had difficulty finding a job which we each were self supporting at the time since Stewart hadnt yet taken over completely and we still had control over our own money and time. We could actually leave, go home to family & friends and come back again when we wanted to, so the restraints and manipulations weren’t as apparent or tight.

    After I had gone home to Staten Island to visit my family for the holidays, I came back and requested to move to the Center City house which was in the middle of Phili where it was easier to secure employment so I moved there and got a couple of part time jobs and again was content to stay there as the people in that commune weren’t bossy.

    I remember not particularly liking John Bevilacqua on Staten Island as he as snobbish and very pushy. Those in charge of Center City were laid back and not condescending as he was.

    Then around Feb announcements came out t hat Stewart was remarrying and Rem, the center leader of Phili, took all the rent and split. He left which was considered huge since he left his wife & kid behind and went to California to get as far away as possible.

    Unlike most members I also used to go out on Sunday mornings to local churches and had friends that were not living in fellowship so as the group gravitated towards everyone starting to give their paychecks in, I was then working with pay & tips giving them the paycheck but keeping the tips for travel & other expenses, part of which was to help the Rem’s wife & kid who became my roommates for a month or so. She was pregnant so a while later she had her family come get her and moved back to Allentown.

    When a new ‘leader’ was sent in named Bob Hillenbrandt, her was acting all sorts of militant and snotty and manipulative, so we didnt get along at all. When he closed the Center City house and all that warehose stuff commenced in both Phili & NYC, I left~!!!

    I doubted my sanity and salvation for about 5 yrs after that.It was an emotional roller coaster to say the least. I went out and back to bar tending and waitressing, then became a home health attendent for cancer patients.

    After I had my first child I wanted to get a foundation for her and began going to a local church again, but had no inclination towards any more communes turned cult or such places.

    I found that even in some churches there is manipulation, so I would always be a visitor and never actually join any.,That went on for the next decade and then I moved upstate NY and later across the border into Pa where my husband & I visited many churches over the years.

    Meanwhile we began reading the Bible on our own and not letting anyone manipulate us or sway us into their religious systems, so I can see your reluctance and concern here .

    Now we do not know each other and with your arrival here, we have no idea where you are at and while most who have come here are now in some sort of church somewhere there are some who are not.

    We even have some friends here who do speak agnostic and its because of the damage done to them while in the COBU. There are different reasons each joined the COBU and depending on what years you were in and who was over you, how much manipulation you endured, what kind of work they had you doing and for how long, that kind of defines who you were when ‘IN” and what that would have set you up for when you got ‘out’~

    While some filtered back into various churches and even went on to colleges and made names for themselves, like Jeff Seif~ he got into Zola Levitt Ministries and now doesnt like to remember any of his participation in the Cobu, although it was things he had told me back then that caused me the most emotional damage taking many years to get over! Now he is a TV minister in Texas~ go figure…

    Anyway from those who are friends with him, he seems sincere enough. Personally he set me on a path of self destruction that was hard to get off of and I found it ironic how he has requested that former members never say anything about him being one of t he big shots in Cobu back in the mid 70’s. But thats another story.

    I found my way to some inner peace by the mid 90’s while my life was a mess and I survived. For me I found some answers in the bible that made sense to me and have applied to my life.

    Like you however, those first 5 yrs I was out of the Cobu, I didn’t want to hear any scriptures quoted at me and didn’t believe anyone who was quoting them! I had become critical, suspicious, judgmental and very self protective not to allow anyone manipulate me again the way they did.

    Its very had to ever trust again after the emotional/ spiritual damage that has been done to you from being “IN” the Cobu. Most other x-boos get this to a degree, while ‘outsiders’ never quite understand the mechanisms of manipulation we each went through and how they were able to control our minds and thoughts in many cases.

    Since you have now made it clear where you are at or have been at, we can readily discuss whatever you wish to about your experiences there and how discussing them may benefit you as well as other readers who may feel the same way you do and have gone through similar turmoil as a result of their time in there.

    I am curious. What month & year/s were you ‘IN’? Were you part of the Christian Brothers Carpet Cleaning?? Many who were sucked into that were really worked to death and while I was lucky enough to get out before that { I was officially out by early July 76] I know many who were in longer periods of time that have worked t heir fingers to the bone and lived on warehouse floors for months or years~

    I also have met some who were able to go to Haiti and work in the orphanage, so their stories are not as bad. Haiti is the only thing that gives COBU any sort of ‘validation by association’ where they also scam the govt on faith based initiatives~!! The now integrate working with people from some churches and other outsiders as they have their system set up and going and have fooled alot of people. The orphanage is a front for them to collect donations and to filter donated antiquities to their ebay business “Olde Good Things” which is now a multimillion dollar business~!!!

    So what did the Cobu do to you specifically? How did you feel when you got out and how does it still affect you today? While you dont have to actually answer these it would be helpful maybe to both of us in getting better acquainted but of course only speak on topics you are comfortable discussing.

    I have another website that you could also write at if you would like that is a bit more for x members. that has links to various x member groups that may interest you. None are affiliated with Stewart nor are any into control or manipulating, just talking about all sorts of topics from the perspective of being an x member of cobu.

    You can find the links to all the others from my site link above.Some of the sites help members find those they considered friends and wondered about over the years. Some meet on Facebook, Yahoo, MySpace, Ning and so on.
    Some are there to try and reach out to any who are trying to leave COBU that are still trapped there. They have about 40 diehards still working the mechanisms to keep Stewart rolling in the money that began on the foundation of hard works by people like you and others who worked so tirelessly and gave in their paychecks.

    Stewart belongs in jail but has gotten away with it all, a very clever man, but I wouldnt want to be in his shoes, as I still do believe in God and do accept Jesus as my savior. While I times I feel numb perhaps or empty, I dont go by those feelings as I rather trust in His grace & mercy in my life and see that every success I have managed has to do with His help in some way so I prefer to give Him credit for every good thing. That however took some years to arrive at and I dont expect you to feel the same overnight, just want to let you know there is more out there and God is real. 🙂 Ave

  31. Hi Jack~

    Wow, this is the first time I heard of a reverse – that is an Xboo going Cog~!

    My husband had been a ‘Cog’ around 71-72 before meeting the ‘FF’ [ later the COBU & members called ‘boos’ and x members called ‘xboos’…] He left the ‘COGS’ due to their HIGHLY Uncontrolled Immorality and later met & joined the ‘FF’ because of their higher morality as many who joined during those days, since it was after all the 70’s where besides religious communes there were all sorts of communes starting all over the country/world.

    The 70’s was the sexual revolution going on and the ‘FF’ grew out of people that were rejecting the sexual revolution and wanting to live in purity. That made them stand out as different.

    The FF/COBU collectively felt that Jesus was coming soon so they felt an urgency to ‘preach’ salvation to all people that Jesus was coming since they felt the time was short…. at least til Stewart took complete control and turned it into a slave labor camp!

    Stewart pushed purity and celibacy, not because he was holy , but he didnt want people to be getting married or having children.

    He wanted all their efforts and money to build his own empire~

    Since primarily the Cobu was known for pushing celibacy and most of the older members knew more about the COGS as we used to try and ‘rescue’ them [ aint that a joke?] .. but there was a time early on in some of the houses were there wasnt as much of the manipulation as later on.

    Now since I happened to have joined in April 1975 at the Westervelt Ave address which was later burned down in April 75 and then helped them to get Seneca St by the SI Zoo which we got in April and moved out the end of June so by July 1st we were on Rockland Ave that was a short walk down to Richmond Ave by a Sunoco station across the street. I left Rockland at the Labor Day Big Meeting to go to Wilmington.

    Christian Bros Carpet Cleaning started around the end of 76 early 77~ Collecting the salaries of those who worked, anywhere didnt begin until Mar-April 1976~ and at that point they began pooling their money so it could be siphoned off to buy warehouses and other real estate holdings and then to buy carpet cleaning machines to create jobs for the brothers…

    We used to joke about the captive audience on the ferry and do skits as well as direct witnessing and while it was what you called humiliating, it wasnt the worst part of being in.

    Then there was also a sense of elitism as we made a point of never accepting donations from outsiders like the Moonies, Krishnas & Cogs did~ We made it important to be known that we were moral and not like the Cogs and I am surprised you were not made aware of the ‘flirty fishing’ as I heard about that early on. It was considered damnable and we were often comparing our pious behavior to that of the other commune/cults of the day.

    I had a roommate who had a twin. Her name was Jo Ann D and her sister [might have been Kathy,not sure] joined the Hare Krishna’s the same time Jo Ann joined the then “FF” [ it was the “FF” til Jan 1 76 when the official name change went through and we got a tax exempt number as a ‘real’ church [ actually part of Stewarts plans to build his empire!]

    Well my husband [ not at the time as we didnt get together for several years later after we both had left the COBU and went out separate ways, remained pen pals and eventually got together] and Rob M had gone to the Krishna temple to try and talk to JoAnn’s sister to get her to leave them but were unsuccessful.

    I met some Moonies in Brooklyn NY 2 years after leaving the Cobu but by then I would talk to any cult and try to reason them to leave them. A girl I met from there was looking to buy a baby carriage for another member who needed one and I had one for sale so we began our talks that way, but she was not going to leave as the Moonies also used sex but not as gross as the Cogs~ The Moonies had huge weddings and married members off to one another, so some say that was better.

    The Cogs are still in existence today and have evolved into all sorts of pollution. A few years ago the son of one of the higher up women, a guy who was sexually molested since infancy, had broken away as an adult but was so damaged, that he sought to assassinate the head but ended up shooting someone else & himself. There is a TV documentary about it and I think a YouTube too~ Sick stuff~!!

    I would venture to say you were more vulnerable to the Cogs from the mistreatment received in COBU especially being a young male who had been taught to be repressed and to suppress worldly desires as they taught in COBU- that by the time you met the COGs it would have been very seductive and enticing for you to join them.

    The Cogs & the Cobu both damaged whoever passed through there doors, however most form ‘boos’ would not want to be considered in class with Cogs since the Cogs were so highly immoral and the Cobu for the most part was extremely moral.

    Both messed with the minds of their victims and many have had messed up lives as a result. Marriages after the COBU tended to have issues with control and manipulation, no wonder…many abusive relationships came and went. Still some have had decent relationships and succeeded apart from Cobu.

    My marriage was very hard as a result of the conditioning we both received in FF/Cobu. My husband tended to be more harsh than he should have been and I tended to try and manipulate to fix everything…lol.. the only things we could agree on most of the time was scripture and not what COBU taught~ we read for ourselves, prayed for ourselves and lived the best we could in relation to what we thought we understood.

    WE are supposed to only be held responsible for what we know, right? I ditched the Cobu Bible Studies after I got out. I have read much of the bible repeatedly over the years. I tried to glean out the love I thought God was trying to shed on mankind and tried to appreciate what Jesus did for us. It wasnt easy to appreciate it or Him for years however. I was anti-religion for quite a while.

    As you say its personal and you have developed your own beliefs. I would imagine the damage by both COBU & thr Cogs has had to have intermingled into being a dark time in your life that now decades later with more trials and hardships endured t hat root back to those days have had to of kept the wounds festering to some degree. When there are no answers found, there is no closure and that makes the suffering seem relentless at times.

    You mentioned being into social work, so did you manage to go back to school or are you in a trained position? I went back to school briefly but had to leave during a difficult pregnancy and t hen didnt bother to go back.

    While the Cogs seriously physically sexually abused their members which also messed their minds up, the COBU was more into mentally * spiritually messing with heads and in some ways it could be considered worse , like spiritual fornication or mental rape~ very hard to put a label on or get a handle over.

    Can you remember how long you were actually in the COBU? I too had brought alot , a whole household of furniture when I moved in and John B had one of my beds. After I moved to Wilmington I got a few ‘brothers’ with an empty van and paid their gas to take me up there and get my stuff. John wasnt happy at all but I didnt care about what he liked or not as he didnt mind making others sleep on the floor, so I felt he could sleep on the floor too~!! Besides I never gave him my bed to use, he just took it. I also had a brand new refrigerator that I was still paying time payments on and they never bothered to defrost or clean it, so I took that too, since they broke some of the inner doors & drawers through carelessnes. By that time they already had another 2 refrigerators anyway, so taking mine was needed where I moved to. I later send it back so my dad could pick it up for my sister when she needed one.
    I did lose most of my furniture along the way however, moving each time leaving something behind… but by the time I left COBU I was luckier than most as I had already secured a small apt in S,Phili that I used as a mini fellowship but it was my own place so when Bob H and the others tried to steal it from me and kidnap me up to NYC I put my foot down and called Police and they forced t hem to leave my apt and me alone.

    Of course they told everyone else I backslid, but at that point I was not backslidden, just not being pushed around by their manipulations and lies.

    You said you were only 15-16 when you were in Cobu. Did you actually ever live in or just go there everyday? Now the COGs I understand you lived with because of what they did to you early on and did to many other young people to ensnare them. They worked on appealing to basic human desire and lusts to get their controls over you.

    While most x members would say Cogs were worse, both were bad and both were poison to young minds.

    Unfortunately they both used Jesus name to push their toxic theology. I hope you realize that it wasnt Jesus or His fault for what they did, using His name to do such horrible things to you.

    You said you try to be gentle and care for others, thats good.~ You have a gut instinct concerning right and wrong.. you also have been burned which can make you react differently to circumstances than those who had not experienced what you have.Still you are here today and can talk about it which shows some strength and soem character to be able to be forthright about your experiences.

    It makes it more understandable that you are shy of scriptures or rather people quoting them, however you might want to consider that maybe just maybe some have come out of the other end of the tunnel and can speak about what they found that helped and dont mistake what is being shared to what was used on you in the past as manipulations. The bible is real either way and then again like any book can be misread and misinterpreted and twisted by people. That doenst mean its wrong rather it been wrongly handled. There is a difference and you dont want to be tossing the baby out with the bathwater`, but I do see your reluctance to not want to get wet again..

    🙂 I have gone on to another level of peace and understanding that has satisfied my concerns and I do believe in Jesus and that He is the son of God and died for me. I dont blame Him for what Stewart did.

    I look forward to getting t o know you better and exchange ideas and stories that might help us understand one another more clearly.

    Have a good week 🙂 GBU

  32. Hi Jack~
    I didnt change anything you said, nor did I remove anytbing you said.
    What I emboldened was to separate the 2 cults as some reading this might mistake one for the other and mix the 2 up

    You started speaking of COBU [FF-FOREVER FAMILY that was renamed Jan 1976 to the COBU :Church of Bible Understanding}

    YOU then went into speaking about the COGS~[Children of God, a worldwide cult]

    I felt it important to spread your comment on this blog out to make it easier to read, as I have done with my own and to make it distinguishable that you are now speaking about 2 different cults.

    Now while all cults are not good, some are worse than others in different respects.

    The COGS have gotten alot of TV coverage and even had a movie made about them, and exposing all their sexual wackiness.

    The COBU is less known by the outside world, yet is more prevalent on slave labor and manipulations of how people remain devoted to serving Jesus, that the members are little more than enslaved people working their butts off and turning over all their money and later leave penniless and brainwashed.

    The COBU although not as well known as the COGS actually has been considered by deprogrammers to be more destructive to people’s minds and spiritual lives.

    The COGS are more notorious for their sexual activities and their twisting scriptures to justify their oversexed behaviors.which have never been condoned by any Christian churches or groups.

    Since both acronyms begin with CO– it would be easy for the casual reader of this blog when glancing through it to mix up all you said since it was all one paragraph and walk away thinking the COBU was the sex crazed cult but it wasnt.

    Why does this matter?
    Well for one thing, people who have left there have had to defend their behavior when in as they assured their families and outside world that there was no sexual immorality in COBU which over all there was not.

    You were vague about your time in COBU – your complaints of them paled with what you had to say about the COGS~

    For the sake of clarity and to keep it clear to those who are studying and searching out about the COBU, it is more relevant to discuss COBU and not other cults.

    HOWEVER, realizing that this is the first time another CULT has come into the overall conversation with such details, I felt it important to allow your posts as you are a victim of cults~ 2 cults.

    One may have prepared you for the second, which makes you a victim of both.

    I am a former member of the FF/ COBU.

    I give account of what I know. I share what others want to share about their experiences and try to help direct people seeking where they want to go. like. if they are looking for an old friend or if they are looking for a social group of x members or a religious group of x members or a non religious group of x members.

    WE are all friends and will point each other in the right direction if we can. No one is out to lord it over anyone else or to push anyone into anything.

    We all have our own lives to live and these blogs and forums are an outlet to let others like yourself know you are not alone~!!

    That doesnt mean we will see eye to eye or have the same beliefs now or later. It just means we shared a common experience that only an xboo could begin to understand.

    Did you know for example those who were in during the mid 70’s had it nothing like those in the mid 80’s who had nothing like those in the mid 90’s!

    Did you know that Stewart admitted in 1989 that he was wrong all along, yet no one was strong enough to boot him??

    You have been hurt, so were we.
    WE have found however that knowledge empowers and so much has happened there over the decades and truths have come out that have helped those who still felt ensnared, to finally be able to break free and make some sense of it all.

    Me, yes I believe and trust in Jesus. Do I go to church? Rarely… Do I go out and carry on like an unsaved? NO!
    Do I smoke or drink? Only if I want to~! Do I go out on the town? No~ Would I if I wanted to? Yes~ Point is , I am free from all the restraints I felt when in the COBU~ as well as the taboos I felt in a few of the churches I went to over the years.

    Do I impose my way on others? Certainly NOT~ but I will not let others impose their ways on me either~ nor will I walk on eggshells because you or someone else has deeper hangups or other agendas to talk about.

    If you want to talk in private thats another story, and anything said in private is held confidential. Anything public is public~

    Isnt it easier to read in short paragraphs compared to large dragged out ones? yes… Was it harder to read your whole huge paragraph before spreading it out like this format? None of your words were removed or taken out of sequence.

    A space and title was put above to distinguish one cult from the other for the sake of clarity.
    So how is that manipulative or untrustworthy?

    Did you want all your words to be smushed together into one long paragraph that could be misconstrued as being about one cult instead of 2?

    Or as thoughts are separated into topics sort of as it is spread out, do you see things you might want to edit yourself? You can do that from your own account here.

    Scroll around above the comment til you see the ‘x’ or the ‘edit’ and you can do as you wish, but I did not change any of your words or sentences.What I will do is html my edit into another color if that will make you feel better. Also I have removed the highlights over the change in topics and have just left them separated.

    Seeing these monitor screens I often now spread the paragraphs apart to make them easier to read.

    I dont get how some people write 1 paragraph 100 lines long.. Its hard to follow that way. Also its better to embolden key words so if a reader loses their place, they can readily find it again instead of having to re-scroll through it all.

    As to the ‘hours’ it took me today to think about and to respond to your comments, I am not removing anything.Those were hours I spent sincerely and I had to stop other things I was busy with in order to address you and your comments.

    I work online 18-20 hours a day and have more work to do than hours to do them in, so anything I do online I leave online.I have nothing to hide. You may want to talk privately instead of openly, thats okay. We can do that or you can go to the other xcobu sites.

    If your go to you can find links to other xboo groups and perhaps one that is to your likings or needs.


  33. Jack I quoted Psalms 145 to encourage you about The Lords kindness, those verses helped me when i was going thru a hard time, not meaning to push anything on you , also not knowing all the abuse you suffered ,unfortunately cobu became a very demeaning cult & thru the twisting of scripture a lot of people got a wrong view of God- myself included! I sincerely hope you find peace.

  34. Hi Jack~

    I am sorry but I have more than 18 hours work online per day and grandkids to look after, errands to run and things to do, so when I stopped to try and answer your posts, I didnt have enough time to finish last night, but from your post I could see you were upset, [although why spreading out your comments was so they could be more easily read would upset you, was never intentional].

    I did un-embolden the ones I re-read over that distinguished from being 2 cults so readers who skim posts would not mistake the Cogs for Cobu~ I added in red lettering to point out it was 2 cults so those who are recovering from Cobu would not have to contend or answer for what COGS do & did.

    I wanted to pay close attention to everything you had to say and didnt want to miss anything, nor wanted the readers to miss anything.

    Areas I felt I could respond to, I emboldened and planned on responding to today.

    It was also important to separate the COBU from the COGS~

    Anything you post to a public forum will be discussed.Why do you post things if you dont want them discussed?

    You were free to post here and you can delete your own posts anytime on WordPress.

    I dont delete people’s posts as we all have things to share that collectively can help us all find answers to how we were manipulated and deceived.

    While you are free to delete anything you write, to me it means you either are not ready to try and deal with it or that you arent looking for answers to what has bothered you for so many years~!

    I wouldnt have specific answers to the COGS issues but I can still empathize from the viewpoint of having been in a group that was manipulative and known for brainwashing.

    COBU brainwashed to raise up a workforce that made Stewart rich, while members thought they were serving God and letting him spiritually rape them and rob them.

    As they realized it was a scam, they left after varying amounts of time spent there.

    COBU never used sex to bring in new converts nor did COBU encourage any immorality.Understand that I am not defending COBU but trying to present it for what it was.

    They did encourage self deprivation and extreme self sacrifices and were down on any sort of self gratification. COBU stole our youth and haunted us with their harsh applications of scriptures, but never allowed any immorality, which is what set them apart from other communes & cults of the day, most that were into free love and sex stuff.

    I highlight or separate paragraphs grammatically to make them easier to read on the monitor.

    No one has ever complained as some are not good at typing and appreciate corrections or minor editing on their behalf. I never reworded anyone’s posts nor changed their intents, only responded to the best of my ability.

    This takes alot of time and consideration. My time is valuable to me as I have many things to do and to stop and address your issues, is not my main goal in life, but I do it to try an help.

    If you dont like my approach, perhaps you should not post here but write by email or join one of the x cobu groups where you can discuss matters privately instead of announcing it all to the world. This is a public blog which is why you were able to find it and post on it.

    It was very late last night when I received your email complaining about my editing, citing my use of embolding some points you made that stood out to me, that I was going to respond to today or for others who read and comment here to be able to comment on..

    So, if you want to speak with others who have been through COBU why are you now complaining?

    If you wrote these things you can delete them yourself,
    but are now attacking me and have become combative and judgmental erroneously towards me. How is that you being gentle as you claimed to be? I shared what I have been through so where is your compassion? You say you are a mental health care worker, why haven’t you been able to find answers after all these years and how do you think you are making me feel about you slamming me?

    What is your real problem? You came here and your words are exactly as you wrote them, except that some were emboldened for easier reference, simple as that!

    Once you complained, you are of course the first to ever complain like this,I stopped what I was working on and tried to start removing the emboldings which BTW dont show up well in html, so I may have missed some, but tried to go down the line removing the [strong ] bars until I got too tired and went to sleep, leaving some for today, which is so trivial it is really a waste of my time and not enabling us to get to the heart of the matter that caused you to spend so much time in COGS and the time you spend affiliated with COBU.

    Forgive me for going to sleep after all the hours your posts required yesterday. I have alot of other work to do online and this isn’t the only blog I have to take care of or site I work on.

    I wouldn’t delete anything, especially when it required several hours of my own time to have to address what you were saying and I am not going to simply delete what could lead to answers that may help you or other readers.

    You didn’t provide any good reason other than to attack me, to which the only thing I am seeing here is that you have some serious issues that do need to be addressed~!!

    Some I can try to help you with and others I will need to refer you to someone better qualified. Attacking me wont solve your problems!

    Seems to me that you might be the one being manipulative, even somewhat paranoid, by the way, and by you coming here demanding my time, freely writing what you did on my blog.

    It all deserves response.

    You are able to delete anything you write on WordPress, you don’t need me to do that.

    Those remaining areas emboldened are areas you expressed that you need help in. That is so readers tbat can identify with those and can then respond. Thats what we do here.

    While I dont know you I am willing to share some of my time and what I know with you and do not need you to be attacking me needlessly.

    Like I said I emboldened and broke up your paragraph to make your discourse easier to read. I was exhausted when trying to respond to your posts [after spending so many hours with your posts yesterday]. I can not answer you immediately as I have other things to do and am fitting this into my schedule between matters.

    For your sake, I am not taking offense at what you threw at me, but am willing to contend with you as long as you post here and are looking for answers to what has bothered you and that you can face yourself, hopefully, find answers and be relieved~

    This editing issue raised is so trivial and makes me wonder what your real purpose here is.

    It ‘seems’ to be becoming clearer that you may be here on some sort of witch hunt or to fight, or being insincere.

    I hope that isn’t the case and its just miscommunication that needs to be fixed

    Those are your words that you came here with and chose to post.
    his is a blog about the COBU and you made it about the COGS.
    Now that you may have re-read your own words, you started attacking me for what? I did you no harm!

    You are in control of your own words and whether or not to post or to delete them. I dont delete anything that is posted here, including your nutty accusations towards me.

    The more you speak the more you reveal about your own messed up condition. I am sorry for you but I am not about to let you or anyone else bully me.

    You give me pause and make me wonder about everything you said. Some things dont make sense.

    Seems to me that your dates dont jive so much with COBU as to the length of your involvement since you only mention going to 1 Big Meeting, without any month or year, which I could think being so many years ago, it might be hard yet not impossible to remember, not that it matters which one but the time line can help in addressing the way people were treated at different times and also if any online former members may remember you and possibly share with you so as to help you.

    Since you had encounters with John B & Sue K on Staten Island but haven’t mentioned which house it was I can not tell if we ever met or not, I dont remember you or anyone named Jack, but if you lived ‘out’ being 15-16 at the time that could explain why you didnt live “IN” or that you may have gone only to 1 Big Meeting, but if you lived in fellowship as they called it, you would have had to have gone to all the Big Meetings which averaged every 2 months..

    That msy be inmaterial to your issues since you were influenced strongly by your encounters with Cobu which may have set you up to be more vulnerable to the COGS advances.

    As to praying & praising God in any church or commune or personally, there is nothing wrong with saying “Praise God” or “Thankyou Jesus~!” It is a way of worship when words are lacking and shows reverence to God. If you werent saved it would seem wrong to you but up til mid 76 people has to be saved to live in fellowship. That is another reason I wonder when you actually were in COBU since you said approximately 2 yrs, is that mostly in COGS or was that a different time? It doesnt take long to be brainwashed and you can be damaged in less than a month if you were in during a real pushy time, like when they were trying to get new workers or during a time when they pushed gospel and repentance, whatever as it did get harder as time passed and they eventually let in all sorts of people I heard that even criminals were hiding out at some point in there!!
    During the 80’s they were said to have been really harsh on the brothers, so that is why I wanted to know when you were actually “IN” so as to try an get an understanding of how it began for you and led you in the direction you have been going in.

    Many have had hard times developing relationships and many have either never married or have divorced, some several times, Some became abusive themselves while others continued finding relationships that abused them.

    What I see that is so wrong is that after you claim to have been part of the Cobu that you felt humiliated to go witnessing or praying in public and for your father to see you with the Cobu at Clove Lakes praying, yet you had no problem getting involved with the COGS and doing their sexual bidding~! What were you thinking??

    What did they teach you when they met you? Weren’t they teaching salvation basics at least – like the Twelve John verses that were to start enlightening you to search scriptures on your own? Did you have any sort of prior religious upbringing? That sometimes factors in as well.

    I found it most curious how you expressed your contemot for anyone who would quote scriptures to you yet you said you believe your way and act the way you feel you should, yet within a couple of posts you were doing a rumplestiltskin on me and acting totally different than what you said earlier.

    Commune, cult, whatever you were still lured and enticed by your own desires and at such a young age really had some ideas that were ‘off’ regardless to your involvement with COBU~

    Many if not most people in the early 70’s to mid 76 joined COBU either as having come out of churches like I did or by having a salvation experience and becoming on fire for Jesus. That was real, although some later doubted their salvations citing it to be an emotional experience and that they felt no inner changes going on. Such would have to feel odd faking it when having to pray publicly and not have real words to pray but might chant praises like you mentioned. That is a shame if praying was hollow back then.
    I recall Thanksgiving 1975 in Wilmington De, we invited other fellowships to join us for TG dinner. Some came from Atlantic City and some from Camden and surrounding areas. Many went home to their real families on TG as the group was more loosely knit in 1975 than in 76 when it began to go on the fasttrack to being a cult. ANYWAY, WE ALL got together to pray before dinner and it turned into a 45 minute prayer fest including singing and praise and no one was forced or faking it~! WE had a great time and had to later reheat the food. About 40-45 people were in attendance. SO that is perhaps one of the good memories I have from then. I liked that newer fellowships like t hat one didnt have the harsh treatment that ones where Center Leaders lived since they had to give account directly to Stewart~

    To go into all the churches I went to since leaving in 76, would take alot of time and not necessarily help you .

    You were wounded deeply and have alot of bitternesses clogging your mind and affecting you. I am not a mind reader nor am I a shrink. I have however found Jesus to still be the answer to life and while you may not want to hear scriptures having not understood their message or been guided by the Holy Spirit, its that you have harbored things in your heart that have built a wall that is hard to penetrate, but not impossible.

    When you ask from God, guarding your heart to not let just any thoughts take control, but to instead control your thoughts so that you can receive what God has to offer you, so that you can place your trust not in what anyone says or does but be able to place your trust in God through Jesus, then you can begin to heal.

    If you continue to shut Him out and instead seek after other gods and give them the same place in your heart that He deserves, you can never find true peace or contentment in any circumstance you face.Jesus is the Word so it is alive. Try to start over again and ask Him to prove Himself to you in a way that is personal to you! Face your inner thoughts and reject all the bad ones and cling to the good ones~! You can wash your own mind with the help of the Holy Spirit who is real and will show you His Way His Truth His Life.

    Just because there are many phonies out there faking life and religion doesnt mean it is unattainable for you to meet and know God through Jesus.

    All others are fake too and wont provide the answers you seek. Religious spirits enter the thoughts of man’s mind and suggest detours from God and its when you take those detours and eventually fail, that you should instead turn to Jesus and ask Him to show you the way and His Holy Spirit will guide you.

    Reject the spirits of defeat, religion, elitism, self righteousness, bitterness, malice, doubt and any other negative spirits that readily supply excuses to not seek God His way and ask God to show you the difference when you pray to Him in Jesus name that you be granted a spirit of hope, sincerity, joy, peace, surety, security, salvation and good intentions and thoughts to empower you to hear that still small calm voice in your head that will tell you ” this is the way, walk in it~!’

    It can happen fast or slow, depending on your receptiveness to God and His will for your life. When you pray and ask for anything, never ask with a spirit of doubt as a doubleminded person receives nothing from God.

    Ask instead with great anticipation and joy that He will answer you and lead you in the way that you should go.Ask believing you have life in His name. It will be given you and you will find Him and be healed of the hurts.

    He answered my prayers back in the 90’s and I have had inner peace since then and at times have been granted the privilege to help others in many ways.

    I am sorry if this isnt what you thought you wanted to hear but I believe its what you need to hear
    God Bless You in seeking His will in Your life~!!


  35. Hey – I met Ernie in Wilm. DL – then got moved across state lines to Allentown. There was Diane Stout – we fell in love! Well I was considered a “Slug” and got sent off to to the gulag in Manhattan to live in squallor and clean carpets. Bobby Whipple was exercising and getting drunk. The Edellman bros were acting like Joan Rivers and being “heavy”. One night I had to take a huge bag -o- money and reciepts to Stewart and Gail and the funny blond chick with glasses to their place in Jersey. It was a Mansion. Two days later I kept all the money from my carpet cleaning jobs and got the hell out of Dodge.
    But after 5 years of that indoctrination ( staying up late at big meeting etc) it was hard to get rid of but I did it. Sometimes I wonder about Diane Stout – I thought she was great and she could really sing! The FF was a perverted organization in as much as any religion’s beliefs are. I have no fear of this past of mine. I talk about it freely. My name is Marc Cooper. Contact me at

    • Hi Marc~
      I knew Ernie & Dian and the Edelman brothers [ Jay & Charles 0 Jay joined first in Staten Island [where I joined too] and used to drive a white volvo which one time we squished 13 people into coming home from witnessing…I do recall your name~ Now wasnt Diane the one with curly black hair? [if it is the same Diane as i dont remember her last name, but the one I am thinking of used to be close to Peter Jaquay when we were staying in Wilmington during the autumn of 75~ I never heard of the Manhattan place referred to as a gulag, lol… but as ‘the Pit’ and the MTC and the Manhattan Training Center ~ all misnomers, the Pit was probably the closest to being accurate…
      I am glad you are free and that the evil spirits that followed and tormented so many who left, for decades in some cases, did not keep any grasp on you 🙂 GBU~! Ave

  36. Wow, I don’t know what prompted me to do a search for the FF tonight, but I have wondered off and on over the decades whatever became of Stewart and those who were in it. First let me thank you for your honest and frank comments, as I KNOW your words are ministering to others.

    My first contact with the FF, as it was then known, was in late 1975 or early 1976. I was a young bride and hubby and I lived in a small apartment building in Schenectady. Another tenant, a young man named Lee, started to talk to us about his interest in the Bible, so we invited him to our weekly study group with our Pastor. Since he came with us, we thought it only fair to also go with him to the group he was getting involved with.

    I remember going over to the FF house with him and my husband was carrying around an album by one of the popular Gospel artists of the day, but I forget now just who. Anyway, one of the other house members sighed and said something that sounded like he had been told to ‘give up’ listening to that sort of thing, which left us both confused.

    A few months later, Lee asked us if we wanted to go with him to Edison(?), New Jersey for a huge teaching weekend with Stewart. It was in March 1976 and it was Easter weekend.

    We prayed about it and decided to go and to bring a tape recorder. Our intention was to find out if it was a cult (we believed it was) and to get an idea what the actual teachings were. The tapes were supposed to be forwarded to Dr. Walter Martin of CRI in California, to add to his research into various cults. I had attended a week-long series of lectures Dr. Martin had done in the Albany area just a few years earlier (1973 or 74) so I was aware of his work documenting different cults and how to argue, from Scripture, about their false doctrines. To this day, I regret that I never did sent him those tapes.

    Anyway, we first stopped at a FF house on the way down to NJ. It might have been around Poughkeepsie, but I really don’t remember. The house leader was a guy named Primo (Archanese?) and he did a Bible study about sheep and goats (what else?) and kept talking in (what we thought was) ‘computer-speak’ – which was fairly new to us at that time. He would say things like he was going ‘to do an end run around’ some passage and stuff like that. We were never sure what that was supposed to mean.

    Then we went on to the big meeting – I think it was in an old warehouse ST had rented. We hung in the back with the tape recorder and got funny looks from some of the other people there. I got the idea that it wasn’t actually allowed to tape ST, but we did it anyway. After several hours, as it looked more and more like he would keep going till 3 AM (a sign of cult-dom), we decided we had enough ‘evidence’ and left. We stayed the rest of the night in a motel in NJ and drove back to Schenectady on Easter Sunday morning. I will never forget that day, because we got lost in Harlem driving back and it was 95 degrees by noon (in MARCH!).

    After we got back home, sadly Lee would never talk to us again. I’m guessing he was told we were goats and was forbidden to contact us again.

    Anyway, as I said, I regret to this day that we didn’t follow through and mail the tapes. Perhaps if I had, Dr. Martin could have given the Church the ammunition/information needed to answer kids just getting caught up in the FF, as Lee was.

    Sorry, didn’t set out to write a book…
    God Bless ~ Dottie

    • Hi Dottie,
      Thankyou for sharing your recollections and your memory is correct about Lee & Primo. I remember their names and positions.And yes also about the tapes, that perhaps they could have done some good in warning others to stay away.
      The times were idealistic. Sex, drug & rock & roll, being so popular yet leaving one so empty made it difficult for those seeking more out of life and even harder for young Christians seeking direction and purpose for their lives.

      If it was still ‘FF’ when you visited, it would have been 1975~ The name change went through to COBU on 1/1/76
      Talking about it for others to read helps some while some dont need help but just looking for old friends etc. I was not so damaged by my presence in FF/Cobu, however did suffer a ripple effect for years as it had overshadowed my life since leaving it.

      But I was there to learn about Jesus & witnessing and how better to serve Him, so once I became clear that Stewart was misrepresenting Jesus and manipulating others into working to make him rich & powerful, then I left with a bad taste in my mouth. I missed those I served with although my closest friends left around the time I did.

      I visited there occasionally through the mid 90’s but never stayed over again. My husband went back in the mid 90’s for 2 months to Woodruff in Brooklyn and was almost persuaded to bring our family back ‘in’ but I wouldnt go so he didnt go back.

      In 2000 we got our first computer and my husband found Mikes site and we joined and reconnected with many former members.Today we all just reach out to one another to help to better understand what we all went through and how it affected our lives afterwards.

      God bless you~!!! Share anytime~!!


  37. Ave,
    Thank you for your blog. I was in the FF => COBU from 1975 to 1977/78, out of Baltimore, MD and Washington DC. Burt DeFelice was the Big Brother of our Catonsville house after the Reisterstown Rd house closed… I have many remembrances, and questions, and would like to reconnect and share with those from that time. I might be remembered as the sister who did calligraphy bible verses and silk-screened T-shirts…
    I want to know whatever happened to Dan Cooper – I *think* he was sent to Haiti in 1978?* He came through the Clay St house in Baltimore.
    BTW my nomiker @justgotlayed is for eggs, I raise chickens :o)
    Thanks you – and healing is a lifelong journey!
    Laura Rohrer, from Catonsvile

    • Laura, I m from balto. also, ff/cobu 1974-1980, sure i can tell you i saw Dan coopre in florida some 30 trs ago, Bert Defilice is in northern balto county, there are some of us up here in york & lancaster county Pa. get together from time to time, I would to talk to you anytime youd like, looks like so far noone else responded to you. I hope you are doing well in youre faith, The Lord is good to all and His compassion is over all He has made- Dave Pindell

    • Hi Laura,
      I am sorry I missed this post a few months ago. i get lost in the dashboard with my wordpress as i also do art and have 4 other WP blogs and depending on which one I sign into, I sometimes dont find the posts needing approval right away and today found a bunch and approved them before responding and wasnt sure which ones they went to,
      Anyway, I am glad Dave saw this and responded and that he knows some of whom you were looking for,Dave’s a great brother and very trustworthy.I was in Wilmington for a while but never Balt as I was part of the Phili Center before I left in 1976.I knew who Dan Cooper was however and recall the name Burt DeFelice but never knew him.
      After I moved my family to Pa to raise my kids, we also had chickens a few times that they raised from eggs but we had cats that always managed to win 😦 so we stopped trying chickens and stuck to other animals.[guinea pigs, hamsters, cockatiels, parakeets & tropical fish] now we just have dogs, lol.
      The members around York-Balt area have had a few reunions over the passed several years. I missed the last one which Dave organized but it was a big success as more than 40 former members came with their families and shared stories and caught up on how their lives have been since being set free from Cobu. Many have gone through alot and some still are but many have relationships with Jesus today [no thanks to Stewart] but thanks for the grace of God and His Holy Spirit~!!
      I was preoccupied for the last 4+ months taking care of a teen family with handicapped babies that also cut my time down online, but now I am getting back into catching up everywhere, so please forgive me for not responding earlier and do keep in touch,.
      I have a site for x-members at that has links to all the other survivor groups for x-members of FF/Cobu that you might want to check out 🙂
      GBU~! Ave

    • H i Laura-seems you dont go on here much, but in case { I hope you get this!} I spoke with Bert De Filice & he siad he remembers you & would gladly talk to you…contact me……

  38. I am hoping to reconnect with a friend of mine from cobu n.y.c. 1976-79, Sharon E. if you come across this I sincerely hope youre ok, & I pray for you, we were friends, i worked in the garage if you remember , i still think of you, & please write me…Dave P.

  39. Hi Ave,

    Great article you have here!
    I’m currently an Undergraduate freshman at Sarah Lawrence College in New York and I’m writing a paper on cults and a life study of cult members and I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind giving me your email address so I could contact you about your experience in a cult and the people you met in that community, if you’re interested that is. My email is


  40. I joined the FF in NJ in 1974. I stayed w/ them till 1975. I lived in house on the South Side in Pittsburg which was cool. But when I got involved w/ a girl and they moved as punishment to a burnout house in the Oakland section of Pitt, that was a reality check about what the FF was really all about. I left soon after ward & never looked back.

    • Dear JP : Excellent for you that you left when you did. I joined in NYC in 1975 and left in 1976 – glad also to have gotten out less damage than those who were in later on. It is atrocious what happened to so many just because they wanted to have God in their lives and were willing to serve, that Stewart was able to harness that willingness and channel it into a slave labor force that made him very rich and powerful. Praise God for those who managed to leave and go on serving God afterwards. God have mercy on those still deluded that remain in his grasp all these decades, many never getting married nor having children, just because of the lies he tells that they believed.

  41. Hello Julie, I was at bleeker street also, i remember you very well, as they used to single you out & put you down, so far you couldnt see a glimmer of daylight. sadly that continues till this day, in cobu. I praise God He got me out a few years later, tho i drank for 25 yrs till i wanted to know what to believe in for real, He has & is still showing me His love & personal favor, & He wants to do that for you, too, just seek him in a real way

  42. I was very young when I got involved. A friend of mine and myself met a group of people in a mall who called themselves “The Forever Family”. There I got saved. I would attend bible meetings, prayer sessions. And made nice friends. These people I will say truly cared. They really did…. When I first met Stewart. I really was not crazy about him. There was just something about this guy, I never knew why, just something about him I did not like. My father knew I was involved in this and was very worried. He would always say:” Be careful, sounds like a cult to me. You have to have a mind of your own,” He would always say. I never really saw this as a cult. But what turned me against the group was when they wanted me to move in with them. They wanted my money. That was it for me. I left and never turned back. I felt bad because I made nice friends and they really cared.

    • Hopefully those nice friends got out before long as many stayed in for years before realizing it was actually a cult. I couldnt think of it as one for at least 5 yrs after leaving it. I left thinking only a few in charge were ruining it and while I never was enamoured with ST I had onluy begun to think he was not as bad as my initial impression when he began taking everyone’s money and funneling them into the MTC to brainwash and turn them into carpet cleaning slaves~! Good you never moved in~!! I had warned others not to move in for a few months before I left. I am glad I steered those new Christians to friendly church fellowships instead of towards what became a Borg of worker ants making ST rich and powerful. There were many nice people in it however and that is what kept many in longer than they might have stayed otherwise. Many are in contact with one another on our support and friend finder websites. You are welcome to come to mine and see the links to the others, if there is anyone in particular you wish to try and reconnect with.
      GBU~! Ave

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