Forever Family 1975, Church of Bible Understanding 1976, Ichabod!

j10thumb.jpgAfter seeing some of the other posts I felt prompted me to write this long winded account of my memories from 1975-76 with a little added hindsight and as it unfolded, I saw it needed to be in a post by itself as some of the information I think might be beneficial to the newer members who have joined recently. [Some of this I already shared previously], some I think may help clarify some sentiments of when the transition took place and the deception took over.Some is personal testimony, but it all ties together.

When I joined in April of 1975, I did not see Stewart as the Head but saw Jesus as the Head….I met many who seemed to almost idolize Stewart back then, but I didnt. I already had experienced manipulative con men in my life and didnt meet Stewart for over a month after moving in.

I was already saved for 2 yrs and engaged to be married when I moved in ‘temporarily’ since the Westervelt fellowship on Staten Island had a fire when they were out witnessing and needed help with affording and furnishing a new fellowship…

I offered my house in Midland Beach but it was too small, so I agreed to move in a while with my furniture and money since I had a job, so I meant to only stay a month or two till my wedding that was scheduled for 5/25… I was befriended at work by Barbara Walden.The leader was a bright young man named John Bevilaqua.

I met and liked the Center Leader Dave & his wife JoAnn Rizetto. I used to try to find out how old they were and they would never tell me their ages… Dave would ask me if he told me he wondered if I would listen to him still? I was older than my years even back then since I grew up in a large family [14 kids] and so I was accustomed to large family groups in a house…one of the reasons I liked the FF and moved in.

Jesus was the leader of the early fellowship not Stewart although he appeared to be the physical representation of a leader and worked the fellowship into asking him to be, when you went down the totem pole to the newer members like me that were not of the original 100, but like a next generation, I saw Stewart to be like a bishop or bible teacher.

When I first met him, he teased me about my unwillingness to use an RSV to memorize my 12 verses…I didnt trust any bible at the time but my ‘King Jimmy’ as he called it…that also put me off on him a little longer..

I liked the little ‘nuggies'[nick name for mini bible studies] in the fellowships which nourished me and helped me gain understanding in God’s word… Not in the big lengthy studies Stewart dictated to us.They were so heady and we were so rushed to write them down with little time to ingest and digest…

The witnessing techniques were what sold me on joining…

I had been saved 2 yrs like I said and my way of witnessing was to carry a shopping bag of New Testaments[ “the greatest is love” book form of the NT and a large bible. I would ride the public transportation in NYC and sit next to anyone without a newspaper and open it widely so their eyes would have to see it.

I always opened to 1Cor6:9-10 the verses that the Holy Spirit cut me in half with when I was 19…then I would give the person a NT with a chick tract and address of a church…that was it. I knew nothing more to do. I thought only a minister could lead someone to Jesus.

After visiting and going along with the Staten Island fellowship on evening witnessing excursions, I asked for a copy of a sinners prayer as I wanted my fiance to get saved but he hadnt yet. They told me not until I memorized my 12 heavies.. which I did in KJV…and was teased for using it like I said before.

I wasn’t humanly impressed by Stewart and that helped me and maybe many others who joined during that era. Jesus was Lord not Stewart.

Stewart’s power was still limited more to when he was actually in your presence, like at Big Meetings and later at special center meetings.

The group was growing rapidly and he had to get around more often to gain a stronger foothold in the fellowships. He paid some attention to me when he saw me. I was told by a very dedicated friend and sister,Sharon Sullivan that I trusted in her devotion to Jesus, that Stewart had the ‘gift of discernment’ and I was curious as I wanted to know what he saw in me so I began to pay more attention to what he said and listen more at the center meetings.

At the time we still also went to churches sometimes. I brought the fellowship with John Bevilaqua as leader to Gateway Cathedral on SI since I frequented it before joining the FF. in the middle of the meeting, John stood up and said “WHAT SPACE!!” and we all got up and walked out.

I was really embarrassed at his outburst as the Pastor was teaching. Still I wanted to learn how to boldly witness and get more nuggies so I stopped going to church and learned my 12 verses. I got my button. I was so proud and wanted my sinners prayer and got it.

Immediately I went to my family and tried to convert all of them. My parents said I was brainwashed and told my fiance that he better beat some sense into me…He started to come to the fellowship and contest the meetings.I was still seeing him and leaving fellowship to go for drives and talk.

He was getting increasingly agitated by my moving in and one night was driving very erradically around the island and the Holy Spirit showed me his heart!

The Holy Spirit began to speak through me!!….telling him that he was driving the old bus route that his father used to take him on when he was young. His father died when he was 9 yrs old.

I knew nothing about my fiance’s father, but the Holy Spirit did!

It was amazing and he got angrier. He sped up and went passed Clove Lakes and I looked at him and said, “he is buried over there!”

He stopped the car turned it around and said ” who’s been talking to you? How did you know that?” [there was a cemetary across the street from the park~ he then pulled up by it and got out.It was dark. He told me to shut up , but when the Spirit speaks you cant…I began to walk and went right to his father’s grave!! He was flipping out by this point and said “How do you know where he is buried?”

I said the Holy Spirit was showing me…He walked away from me , tears in his eyes….

I looked around and in the Spirit, I saw a little boy behind another gravesite, sitting, sobbing telling God to give him back and to take him instead…I walked over to him and told him.

He busted out crying.[now this was a 27 yr old Viet Nam vet.. they dont cry easy!] I told him what he told God back when he was 9.. and that he was angry at God ever since for watching his father get buried and him still living..That was it for him, he said “Get back in the car!”…… He said ” where is that prayer?”

We drove back to the Seneca St.Fellowship about a mile up the road. I told him that I needed to be sure that he knew what he was doing and felt I couldnt simply lead him to Jesus there.

He came into the fellowship and before everyone he knelt down and prayed for forgiveness and asked Jesus into his heart! He started coming over every night for a while. We were almost at the date for our wedding but now the Sharon and the others were telling me that since he was a ‘babe in Christ’ that I needed to wait to get married and let him ‘grow in the Lord’ first…

Because of my experience with the Holy Spirit, I listened to the older brethren. My fiance came over for more evening bible studies but he didnt like the idea of postponing the wedding but he relented and still came by.

I told him that he would have to move in but that was not going to happen. He said he did everything he was supposed to do as to getting saved but that they were in fact brain washing me.They told me that I needed to go away for a while and if he was the one God had for me that we would be reunited and he would be stronger in Jesus if I went away.

Well that is another story. I went away, he left fellowship and we broke up..Anyway I was starting to think Stewart might have the Holy Spirit and when we were out witnessing one night we found a billboard of Moon and that he was the ‘prophet to the nation” so I repainted Stewarts name into the sign and brought it to the Sept1st Big Meeting.
I thought it would impress Stewart.

My new zeal for the fellowship was growing. I was leading people to Jesus! I was however having problems with some of the people in the SI fellowship as they wanted me to move to another center to get me away from my fiance.

I gave him back his ring and moved at that meeting to Wilmington, later to Center City where I stayed most of the rest of my time in Cobu working hard to be one of the early sisters to become a group leader.

Stewart used to come there when they had Center Leader meetings in Rem’s apt on the top floor. I used to spend alot of time reading the bible downstairs late at night and he would talk to me a little here and there, asking me what I was reading and thought of what I was reading and also about my ‘mother trip’ that I was notorious for.I told him how many in the fellowship didnt have money and were out of work. He said that was a problem he was thinking about and trying to do something about.

I told him how when I moved to Wilmington under Ernie Benczak,that there were 8 of us that moved there after the Sept75 meeting and none of us had any money and that we went without food those first several days. We all earnestly looked for jobs and when I got one, I spent my first paycheck on groceries for everyone. He said that all I needed to do was to feed myself and that the others could simply get their own jobs and feed themselves!

I told him of a visit I took one weekend in Center City and saw verses all over everyone’s food stashes and how ungodly it was as well as the selfishness and lack of compassion there was for those without money or food. I said I came from a large family and no one ever went hungry when we all pitched in.He agreed that communal meals could be a good idea.

He asked me if anyone helped pay for them and I told him that those who had money chipped in for groceries and those who had no money ate free.I carried that practice over to Center City when I moved there.

I told him I’d rather make a large cheap meal and feed everyone than to just go over to Dey’s Deli and feed myself alone, knowing others were hungry.

Stewart took many ideas from the concerns of others, they werent all his ideas. He did that with nuggies people shared with him too. He could enlarge their nuggie into a bible study , using concordances and life experiences.

Many other men have done likewise and started religions without the Holy Spirit. He wasnt naiive like most in the fellowship. He was in his late 30’s and a shrewd intelligent man coming off very fatherly and cool. Most of the fellowship was under 21, naiive and easy to manipulate.Many didnt know how to use a concordance. Everyone hungered for God’s word.

Many of Stewart’s bible studies had long lists of references to look up later on and often the verses didnt match the theme of the study or made the study hard to digest. I remember trying to go through a study that had so many odd references that I thought I wasnt getting it.

I was beginning to lose confidence in my own reasoning and abilities to hear the Holy Spirit when I read the bible and we all were being encouraged to not think for ourselves but the consensus was to start to simply trust Stewart since he had a pipeline to the Holy Spirit and that we needed further empower him and the church to put our money together to start a bible school or training center.

Come now let us reason together was now come now and listen to Stewart. We needed to get centralized and organized. He convinced the center leaders as they were with him from the beginning.He dazzled with words, in the bible and publicly bold and unconventional, very appealling back in the day…He was to be emulated.

Brothers wanted to be like Stewart.Sisters wanted to please him and become eligible to get married. He set the standards as he was wise and disscerning by popular belief and legend. He promised to do a new ‘marriage bible study’ in the near future.

We were already a fellowship now turned church and got the tax exemption and new name, but had to learn how understand the bible and to use it right and that it was accepted by most that Stewart being so close to the Holy Spirit, had to be the head [replacing Jesus in actuality] since he was said to have had discernment and part of de-stressing Stewart, so he could focus on writing bible studies was to free him from the mundane which included the plane we got him almost a year earlier [so he could travel quickly between fellowships and personally teach], since alot of what he sent out got watered down,[looking back that watering down was really the Holy Spirit watering us so we were mostly thriving spiritually when we had our nightly bible studies].

Stewart may have given many of the initial bible studies to the center leaders, but we had the Holy Spirit and the word of God is alive and active, so many of us were doing well, better with his absence, yet trust in him grew out of proportion.

So that was also why it seemed so important to get his kids back from Shirley, so he could be a right ‘leader’. Then it was announced that we would pool all of our money and give to each according to our needs..

All our debts ‘would’ be paid off collectively and food would be bought wholesale and jobs would be created. Idealistically it sounded good. Rem saw through some of it and after the announcement that Stewart was going to crown Gayle as Queen Esther, Rem split![but that is another story]

Now with verses like “My thoughts are not your thoughts…”….. I spoke to some brethren about it and it seemed the more Stewart was being revered, the less anyone questioned his teachings…

This was the transition time 1975-76 and the core group was loyal…and it was important to get Rem back for solidarity..a collection was taken up at a Big Meeting shortly before we started handing over our paychecks.

I donated $100- specifically for that telling them if Stewart didnt go out to Cali to get Rem that I wanted it back… I tried for a while but never got it back.

Each ran their centers a little differently. I remember in 75 before leaving NYC to go to the PHILI center, Dave R in NYC was really on fire [always loved Jesus and it showed!]and fairly good St copycat [with his mannerisms, baby Z and nodding head as he taught].. as well as Vinny diPaulo..[adorable mini St!]All the bros were emulating St in NYC!

It seemed the way to go at the time.NYC was run very serious. Phili was more laid back and even allowed music and guitar playing and when I for one , wanted to go away to visit my family, Rem allowed it. I didnt feel imprisoned but free to serve Jesus as did many who have fond memories from that era, because the Holy Spirit was with the majority of us in our fellowships.

I saw Stewart more as a human figure and not a king but while he was separated from Shirley I felt sorry for him, so that led me trust him more for a while. I was getting sucked in further to his trip. He was always with Gayle and the rumors of Shirley having accused him ahead of their separation, of being involved with Gayle never left me.

That was a strong part of why Rem left. I knew Stewart’s type ‘in the world’ but wasnt sure how to process this ‘so called’ man of God doing such things, but I gave him the benefit of the doubt for a while going against my better judgement as I was learning daily to do more and more.

One time he mentioned that he had ‘so many bible studies’ waiting to be typed out that he could be backslid for 5 yrs and no one would catch on since they trusted him so much. He knew that I was a harder sell and so he seemed more human to me when he spoke to me privately.

I felt I shouldnt judge him for his seemingly wrong behavior since I had alot of sin in my past and Jesus forgave me so I let it go until he said that. I held that in and didnt leave the fellowship yet. It did make me start to wonder about his relationship with Jesus however since it seemed arrogant and negating the Holy Spirit’s power in the lives of those in the fellowship.

That told me that he was already backslid or just a con man.

Like I said I knew his type in the world and now I didnt like what I saw. Still at this point I was committed to staying in the fellowship and wanting it to get better.

Then When Bob Hillendbrant replaced Rem, the harshness was introduced rather quickly to the Phili center.That was around the end of May or early June 1976.He collected our paychecks , announced the purchase of a dirty run down warehouse in Camden and closed the Center City fellowship. We scattered to other fellowships, some to Upper Darby, Camden and elsewhere.

Although I had been a waitress and also worked cleaning houses and babysitting, I began working for a couple in S.Phili who had a store and became lambs. They were on a tight budget so part of my pay was a small apt in the back of the store.

I took it and used it for a mini fellowship since I was already a group leader and I could ‘follow-up’ on the lambs in Phili and boss was having a baby within a month and my hours increased, but it was a little grocery store with a pool table in the back and I was allowed to witness while I worked so it was great.

I told Bob how much I liked it and that it was such a great location. He allowed me to stay there but I financed it all on my own and had brought my own furniture there. I had a couple of sisters stay over a few times, but mostly I was alone.

I called Bob nightly and got instructions and names of particular lambs who needed to be follow upped. Then I would arrange for meeting places to pick them up for the Saturday night meetings. It was getting close to the 4thJuly Big Meeting which was going to be held in NYC.

I brought a lot of lambs to a center meeting when Bob announced the new deal..dont trust older fellowship and group leaders!! I was aghast. He was portraying older members as being into the flesh and that a new thing was happening that the lambs were the favored of Stewart and that the older ones had gotten away from his teachings and needed to go to NYC to be retrained….THIS  I BELIVE, WAS THE POINT OF DEPARTURE JUNE 1976!!

ICHABOD~!! THE GLORY OF THE LORD HAD DEPARTED…Stewart had gained total control of the multitude… the edge he needed to finally take over and the wolf in sheeps clothing was showing his fangs.. training up lambs to bite and devour one another~ demasculating the brothers, beating their flesh with the bible and brainwashing their minds…vconverting them into a work force that would establish his kingdom on earth.

By breaking down the older brethren, he threw them offguard as to who he really was as he got people to want to prove their faithfullness to Jesus by a new set of rules, his. Still MANY of those who loved Jesus remained, LONGER,  although many we smart enough to leave in the mid 70’s. . I was one of them.

Later I returned to NYC to my family and visited the COBU several times, because I missed my brethren…Each time I went they would offer apologetics that the place was getting better and that Stewart was going to make it right and that we all needed to come back and go through the training so we would be of one mind- sacrificing it all for Jesus to obtain that dream we all shared about preaching the gospel across the nation. Those who stayed or went back, did so wanting to be part of evangelizing the nation, but had to first submit to the new training… the brainwashing…the harshness… the degradation…so many went through it as their ‘reasonable sacrifice’ and many were later delivered out and continued serving Jesus… but the damage was done…

Our spirits were being raped by the spirits Stewart was controlled by and those who stayed remained captive to the whims of a devilish con man who replaced the Holy Spirit’s guidance with his own agenda, covering it with the form of religion, but removing the power of it from individual lives and spitting out those he couldnt break…

The Holy Spirit still spoke to many hearts so Stewart or those ‘like minded’ to him caused public confessions to find out what was going on in people’s heads and then beat them up with it as well…to cause deeper submission, compliance, obedience and alienation from the outside world.

Those who tried to make things right were battered spiritually and psychologically abused for years til they finally left, receiving ‘parting gifts’ of tormenting demons who followed many for years with spirits of despair,infirmity,hopelessness, depression,suicide,failure,delusion, confusion, religion, hate, anger, disbelief, unbelief and the rest of Legion!Many have sought deliverance over the years.

Many made it through, but how many didnt? How many souls have yet to recover?


146 thoughts on “Forever Family 1975, Church of Bible Understanding 1976, Ichabod!

      • Hi Fred~
        We have some social & support groups of former members and occasionally have reunions in York in the summertime.
        Many have come away from their with scars, some stronger some needing a hand but most still glorifying God 🙂
        While we learned some witnessing techniques and more about human nature, Stewart took terrible advantage of everyone and still does, to those who have remained behind with him.
        The damage he did to our souls is marked. The Holy Spirit drew us out from among them, while the devil followed behind to haunt many of us and continue placing obstacles before us, making it hard to ‘fit in’ with most churches, having imparted a critical spirit to us through his abuse.
        Yet, looking back, much as served in ways to make each of us stronger, as many of us are prepared for the days to come and while I never ‘got’ Stewarts bible studies as I never trusted him, being with the fellowship opened my eyes to read the bible in a way I hadnt prior to joining them. I was saved 2 years before meeting the “Forever Family” and was in while it was still an innocent and naiive fellowship of young people wanting to bring salvation to the world through Jesus.
        I was rescued from their clutches in July 1976, although it took me nearly 5 years to admit to myself that they were indeed a cult and not serving God in the Love He commanded of us, but instead, there was a fly in the ointment as Stewart’s twisted teachings were self serving for his own power and glory and continual wealth.
        I hope and pray that you have done well since leaving them and would be glad to talk with you anytime.
        I have a website that has links to the other x-boo sites and you are welcome to join there and follow whatever links you would like to explore and perhaps find some old friends along the way.


  1. Dave wrote,
    Dear sister I have never meet you as I was a victim of this damnation. Exactly as you have mentioned it. I joined in Roanoke, Va. In 1976, I was a victim of brother Vinney and his delusions by Stewart. At first I was trying to fallow Jesus but was instantly introduced to Stewart as the return of the Prophet Elijah. I was beat and backslide and came back and back and was convicted I thought and beat up and came back and I was told I could never belong to any other worldly church since by this time Stewart was preaching that almost all the Churches were backsliders and that if we joined one Jesus would not graft us in. It was just too hard being a servant of Stewart. Jesus was their and I spoke in tongues and received the gift of prophecy… At least I thought so… I was never sure and have never been able to be sure of any salvation in Christ since I left the teachings of Stewart and became absorbed by another more destructive cult. The Rainbow Family… the devil worshiping. and cults of the world including the Hare Krishnas , I began to worship Satan thinking I was damned anyway since I could not return to Jesus because only Stewart had the biblical way of salvation. I began and doubted and fell into unbelief and fell and fell further down the pipe line to hell. To the point where I wonder if I could ever be saved by Christ… but the Christ that I was present with would require me to stand up and admit as I did once that I had commited homosexuality… before a group so that my sins could be cleansed. I served Christ who did not forgive unless you followed him and Stewart. Big Jimmy was the last fellowship I endured briefly as always for six weeks living in gospel mission in D.C. because by this time since I had backslide I was marked and they would not let an old wolf like my self move back into fellowship since that was reserved for the high and the mighty. It got a lot worse even though people thought as I did that they were serving the Jesus of the Bible. The Holy Spirit was their but also the demonic spirits that Stewart had released on us. After giving up any hope in Jesus I got married and then the holy spirit started convicting me some. I would try to be good and do good and throw things out my house that I deem to be ungodly… and I would scream and yell at my child and my wife like a holy demi god and … and all the time the lying spirit would say to me … You are Elijah soon you will rise and tell this earth the truth that I found Stewart had lost on the internet… Since he was caught at a lamb house molesting young sisters asking them to become his half wives. Up until then I was plagued by my disbelief to a degree but it just got worse. So then I started watching Christian TV… that has become so filled with demons and witchcraft that it made me sick so I believed that the eternal security junkies must be right… So I began to believe that whatever I did was forgiven even if I followed other gods at the same time…. It was all O.K. … Where is Jesus…. Where is the Holy Spirit.. The end is coming dear God…. I see the end approaching and the familiar spirits that Stewart imbued his wolving lambs with even in their backslidden state would try to make one of us arise as the Anti Christ or as a another false prophet so that its evil purpose could be fulfilled. Then about ten months ago I started to think that I could be saved and that I could follow the real and loving saviour that lives. But the demon spirits continue to plague me and tell me that I have committed the sin of apostacy since I turned to the devil and I had prayed to become the beast… and then toned it down and told people that I was a witch or a Warlock then a new ager… and that Christ would never accept one such as I … I am still strugeling because I do not know what Christ I was saved by… I thought it was Jesus and I believe at the time he knew my heart. But it was soon destroyed by Stewart who forbid marriage and forbid having a girlfriend even if it was totally above board we were not to marry or even think of woman until we were santified by his spirit…. not the holy spirit. I need Jesus please don’t tell me I am damned which I believe is a lie from the devil.. Note Stewart never taught about apostacy… He told us that as long as we did not acept the mark of the beast that was coming soon we would be fine… I was so confused… and still remain confused even though I have returned to a Church that preaches Grace… I still do not know where to turn… Pray for me that I may find the true Jesus and serve him with all my might and spirit and soul….
    This was my intention before I joined this destructive and horrible cult of Stewart Trial… Who I thought was not like Moon and Jim Jones but now I realize he is as bad if not worse… Dear Jesus help us all… Many Churches are backslidden but I have faith that all of them are not… Note, I read an article that he is still in bussiness and that it is only eighty members now … God help us all…. The end is near…. Ezekial 38,,,

    • Dear Ezekiel, I am a former member of that cult. I attended there in the seventies up until the early nineties, I have been there. I have been to the point of what you are talking about, I can help you. I will give you my email address so that I can relate to you my experiences.

  2. I was very moved by what you said i think everyone felt the same way as you in the sad i to miss a lot of the old brother and sisters…

  3. miss…you all….
    Terri B, Terri Myers, Raymond Kirshner, Lou Palosi, Bernie Epp, Leah Gordone, Pam Moritz, Sharron , Sarah so many I cannot remember all their names , some of the older brothers from 515 All of us that lived together at the Philadelphia Lamb House, witnessing together and singing..

    May God bless all of you

  4. Hey. Nice story. I spent what I felt was a decent enough time with Stewart and the kids and fellowship back in the 70’s. I can’t remember stewart ever saying he was Jesus or the messiah or anything else. I do remember him saying things like “You guys have glazed looks in your eyes and why are staring at me?”. On the other hand, while we lived like street people, he did live it up. Now as in any business, I don’t find that odd. What I did find odd is that “Don’t question Stewart thing that went on” all the time.

    Best wishes to all the x’s.
    Scott Neuman
    New Brunswick, Hoboken, Scranton, AC, Reading. and then screw NY!!

  5. Wow, I have never met anyone else who was With the FF.
    I was at the Richmond house in VA. In 1973-74. I remember Stewart very well, only met him 5 or 6 times at the Big Meetings. I befriended a girl while I was there and they thought we were becoming to close and we would not be afraid of “the world”. So they seperated us and sent me to ????, VA, outside Washington DC. I can not remember the name of the town, but I was very close to a guy named James. I would love to talk to someone who went thru what i went thru. It is so funny to finally talk to people who don’t think i am making this up. LOL. My e-mail is Thank you

  6. Hi Linda~
    Lucky you were in and out 73-74…I was in 75-76 and visited on and off til 78…unbelievable the metamorphosis the group underwent! I got out when they started feeding people into the borg at the MTC and shutting down fellowships after taking control of everyone’s paychecks! It used to be that we all chipped in to pay the bills at our individual fellowships and we all had money left over and those who worked little or not at all could survive among us.I started food co-opping in Wilmington Delaware and Center City Phil and after being grilled by Stewart one night while he was staying at Pine St., he finally agreed it was a good idea… then used it as part of the package in taking over everyone’s paycheck… with the cobu food co-op, under pretext of buying wholesale to save everyone money, it instead went into Stewart’s pockets! and still is, fo those unfortunates that were too afraid to step out into the world and try to make it without the ‘great Oz’…

  7. I come from S. I . also, and had brief encounter at rockland ave in 76 to 77, we may have met, though I remember John and Sue, hope they are well. I had major problems before I chanced upon cobu and macro problems after I left. Now I am 50 and find myself searching for a life I lost 3 decades ago.
    Its not the destination but the journey that is important, what will I have have learned when it is over

  8. Yes, I remember Stewart Traill at the inception, in 1970-71. He would first hang out at the house opened for the young people Wednesday nights of a Presbyterian minister in Bethlehem, PA, in 1970. Then there was “The Message” coffeehouse on 9th and Tilghman, Allentown, PA, under the auspices of a Moravian minister Doug Norwood. I primarily went to the coffeehouse, not to Stewart’s things. One winter evening, he challenged Doug Norwood and took 90% of the youth that gathered there. Yes, Stewart was responsible for bringing the youth there but how awful for Stewart to do what he did to Doug’s fellowship. Stewart is a user. They started to meet in ratty houses nearly 7th St and Hamilton Blvd., Allentown. He also went to Chester Jenkin’s Calvary Temple, in Allentown, and disrupted his congregation calling Chester a homosexual after Chester kindly let Stewart use their gymnasium for a meeting place on Wednesday nights. Again, STEWART IS A USER. By January 1972, I started getting creepy feelings (thank goodness for the promptings of the Holy Spirit to warn me of this creep! He did particularly like me, calling me ‘Saint Sue’, Stewart did, and the whole stinking mess) and I got out of there, in Jan. 1972. Unfortunately, my best friend Alyn, succumbed to him and went on to live in Youngstown, OH. She is out of there now. She left in the mid to late 70’s. I remember the names: Rem, Tinker, Judy, Bobby Whipple, all Allentown kids. I wasn’t damaged like some were but it has given me the ability and discernment for me to keep my ears pricked for anything that remotely smacks of of a cult.

  9. Hi Sue~Thankyou for sharing what you have concerning Stewarr… If more people are out there and see these articles, hopefully some will be helped and also old friends can get in touch.
    It also would be nice to see Stewart held accountable for his actions and stopped from continuing to manipulate the people he currently has under his spell…

  10. This man Stewart Trail almost destroyed my twin brother. I knew he was a terrible satanic man when his henchmen would not let my sister nor I speak alone with my brother in Toledo, Ohio. It was only the prayers of my Catholic Parents that saved my brother from that awful cult — my mother always said it was a miracle that my brother did not get on that bus to return to New York & the Forever Family but, instead called my Father to pick him up at the bus station; he told our Father that he was leaving the cult—-on Holy Saturday Night! — the night before Easter Sunday! -the holiest day of the year. My brother has been through hell and back and Stewart Trail was part of that hell; and the hell my family went through — especially my parents hell —that Stewart Trail put them through —Stewart Trail will have to answer to when he stands before Jesus Christ who is the judge of us all —- my brother, thank God, is now doing very well, is a preacher and a peaceful, holy man. I thank God and my parents that we received my brother back from the “dead” life that Stewart Trail lives/lived.

  11. Hello Ave;
    You have written a very good report on Stewart Traill. My short experiences (May12th, 1976 to Dec. 27th, 1976) with COBU witnesses to the accuracy of your report. I moved to the N.Y. “Bible School,” which was, at the time, a bunch of us living in lofts, in the Fall of ’76 as a lamb. I was raised Catholic, complete with 12 years of Roman Catholic schooling, and the teachings of COBU were very helpful to me. While in New York my eyes were open to a lot of things very quickly and I remember getting access to a bunch of older Bible studies as we moved the personal belonging of the members who left(Backslid) out of the loft for “space.” I felt like I was reading the history of Stewart’s theology. I especially liked the “Animal” Bible Study. I remember the attacking of each other’s commitment us brother’s did in the name of truthful fellowship. Being a lamb I wasn’t subjected to it as much. I was basically a giant sponge, then God removed me for other reasons than any kind of abuse. (That’s another story.) I guess I am one of the few former members that didn’t really have any kind of bad experience there, other than “watching” the verbal abuse. … Motives being questioned, etc. Stewart’s teaching at that time was focused on having a “personal” relationship with Jesus. I can’t fault him in any way on this emphasis and still consider the relationship with Jesus Christ of utmost importance even now. This emphasis gave me the strength to leave the group rather quickly in my new found “Born-Again” faith. I do remember the warnings from the brothers that leaving would be tatamount to backsliding but I never was one to heed warnings that weren’t backed up with actual facts that I could see. In fact I pretty much saw right away that that was a probably bunch of hooey! I didn’t know it at the time but the very same thing that caused me so much trouble in school, – “I want to learn truth as opposed to indoctrination. Enlightenment as opposed to rote.” which caused me so much pain in school. (bad grades) actually helped me immeasurably with regard to my short experience with COBU. Stewart even quoted, “And if the steward says to himself, “My Master is delayed in coming,” and begins to beat his servants…” etc. during the small time I was there gives creedance to your timetable as to when Ichabod occured. I truly felt (If we said “felt” we were obviously in the flesh, remember) blessed by what you wrote. I saw some wrong things in the writings of others, but not what you wrote. Another thing that God gave me when I got saved on May 12, 1976 through the efforts of COBU members was the gift of discernment. This made things so easy for me to understand during my trek through many different churches. This was probably another reason I didn’t suffer due to my experiences there. Sincerely, Frederick Enck from Pittsburgh.

  12. dear ave,
    thank you so mutch for shareing your story.I am the son of a member of the origional group that was located on i believe Bleaker st. N.Y.C. My father initially met someone from the group in pa.i think allentown.when i was around 1 year old in 1974 75.i could really use some help finding the trueth about that year.see i was kidnapped by my dad while he resided with the group.i was gone for a year.cops and private investigaters could not find me.eventually my mother got me back no thanks to either cops investigaters or my dad.i fear that some may not want to tell me anything because what happened to me was wrong.i want to assure you that i do not wish for anything more than to know the trueth.i have read many testimonies but none speak of bleaker st,or leave an opportunity such as this to corespond.
    I realize you have been through alot as have most of these people and i am likely to open up a can of worms as well.part of me honestly feels selfish even asking you for help but i have gotten conflicting stories my whole life with
    reguards to that year and only the members who stayed on bleaker st. or traveled to washington during that time can answer some of the questions i need answered.a part of my life is tied to yours and everyone incvolved with stewart.! If there is any way you could find it in your heart to assist me with contact information or any personal information reguarding this matter I would be eternaly greatful.some of the testimonies lead me to wonder if there isn’t a part in this that you need from me as well.maybe some day we can really talk.please contact me at my email address or call me at 484 903 7930 any time after 8pm this sunday as i have not paid my cell bill yet.any correspondence will be greatly appreciated.

  13. Dear Jonah~I would be glad to help you~! I spoke with Chris Blaise and he was there around the time you were and at Bleeker St for a while.You are welcome to join us at x-cobu4Jesus on yahoo groups. I just sent you a link and invite, hope to see you there.
    We will try to answer your questions and find those who can answer what we can not.
    There was a lot of runaways hidden in the FF/Cobu and your story is not uncommon. It is great however that you were rescued out while young enough to not have been sucked into it as many children unfortunately grew up in it.I was only in from April 1975 to July 1976 but it had its effects on me through out my life.
    What the devil means for evil , God still can turn for good. Many people passed through the ranks there and survived to go on to become phenominal Christians and are well placed in many ministries, not to any thanks to Stewart, but because they really loved Jesus and withstood their time in the group and remained faithful or found faithfulness after leaving it.
    The important thing is finding your way to Jesus personally and remaining faithful to what you know, despite anyone else.We have a good God and Lord and he is merciful and knows we all make mistakes and at times fail, but at other times rise to the occasion and allow His Holy Spirit to work through us as willing vessels for honor as living epistles.
    Albeit it doesnt necessitate being a crazed bible thumper although there may be a time or two in our lives when we may be such~Jesus became all things to all people as did Paul in hopes of winning their souls to salvation and that is our mandate on earth- to witness in our daily lives, in how we live, love and learn and treat others.It is all about choices and choosing each day whom we will serve and how we do it.
    We have alot of troubles in this world whether we follow Jesus or not but with Him , knowing Him, we can make it through this world alive til the next. Remaining faithful to what we know and do.
    Join us at the xcobu4jesus site and we can talk more.

  14. A lot of how people feel about the Church Of Bible Understanding is sad…sure there have been disappointments and bad vibes….but that doesn’t excuse us to go back to a lukewarn life. We are all accountable for 1John 3:6.
    That’s the ticket home…if the demands of that verse is met…then all will go well. It’s the key to truly understand God’s word. If we do what this verse says..then what Jeremiah 31:33-34 say will be true for those that are really abiding 24/7……

  15. Thankyou for your comments. Although many have moved beyond the hurt and confusion of the brain washing and misapplications of scriptures in their lives due to Stewart,some are still left in a gulf full of doubts in how they continue on the way, wondering and questioning everything that happens. We do walk by faith and not sight but since the times in Cobu affected so many, in so many ways~ some became better Christians for it and others not.A brother wronged can be very unyielding~!Still there are those of us that despite the trials in and out of Cobu have grown and remained faithful to Jesus and we must reach out to one another and help one another as we are told to love one another as Christ loved the church…
    God bless you and thanks for participating. You are welcome to join us at xcobu4Jesus on yahoo groups~ Our list is open membership and readable otherwise~ no fear or secrets~ still following our prime directive in life as to serving our Lord and helping one another!

  16. Hi, Very interesting article. Back in 1975 I joind the “Forver Family” in Wilkes-Barre, PA. I was 13 y/o at the time. I recieved my big puple( I think) “Get Smart Get Saved” pin. But they changed my name to Kirk! They put a little sticker (the name making machine) on the back of my pin with my “new” name. I didn’t hear or find anyone else with a new name on the articles I have been loking up via the internet.
    I don’t remember a whole lot about them, but I do remember giving most of my paper route salary to the group house. I lived with my granparents only a block away from the home so it was a quick walk. My grandmother found out about the family by my witnessing to her and called the police on them.
    She siad, I was brainwashed” and “to stay away from them”
    I would go downtown with them and hand out flowes and tell about Jesus. Sound familiar??
    Anyway, just thought it was nice of you to share, and I thoguht I would put down my experience with them..Joanne

  17. What I found to be interesting about people and churches is they all have their own way of believing in a very “vague” way. So who is really right? Is God playing a cruel game with mankind? Wouldn’t there have to be one clear way for those that are really into Jesus to understand exactly how to go about it and really become one with Jesus?

    Yes, It is easy to just say ” God is love.”..or “Jesus loves us all “…but, just how true can that be? If we read the Bible more closely we can see it is really clear what God loves and doesn’t love. Why?, because even though John 3:16 says what it says..the majority of people are hell bound for what they are not doing according to what Jesus said…

    ” Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:
    Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. Matthew 7:13-14
    If I have learned anything from the years with cobu and other churches…it is this…a person that continues in sinning cannot know anything about how to get through the narrow gate.
    For example…Take the whole Catholic church for instance…now honestly, what do Catholics know about the Bible? ( mind you..I was a Catholic for 22 years and knew nothing about the Bible )
    It is sad to say that they are on the path of the wide gate…and they always have been since the day they started. That does sound very harsh it not true? Does anybody out their in this group believe Peter was the first Pope? Is it a lie or the truth? But to me, If Peter would have been the Pope sin would have been out the Catholic door..not in the church. Look at the history of the Catholic church. Could God have had a hand in this?

    So what do I know? Well lets start with something simple…It is said in the Bible that Jesus knew no sin.
    The only way a person could know no sin is to be dead to it.
    Jesus was born dead to sin and we were all born alive to it.
    To be part of Jesus’ body a person would have to be like Jesus…dead to sin and alive to righteousness.

    In Romans Paul said, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;.”…..but there is no verse in the whole Bible that says we are to stay in this state for all of our physical lives. If there was such a verse that made that claim then, Paul could not have said what he said in the very next verse, ” Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:”.

    The only way to receive this redemption that is in Christ Jesus is to repent…and stick to it. That’s His grace being justified freely for us as long as we are working through the things that keep us from repenting over and over which would prove we are not of God. ( Now that’s what Catholic church teaches…repent every week ) Now don’t confuse this with works of our own…that is speaking about the people who still sin. These works are the one James speaks of. Which are the works we can only do if we are dead to sin.

    Now to most, this probably sounds like an old Steward Traill thing…but it isn’t. Even though it is locked in to 1 John 3:6…it is remarkable how that one verse can explain a million other verses. It’s just like love covers a multitude of sins…love can also cover a multitude of understanding to teach us how to live with no sin……. I been working at this for years. I have found nothing that can explain the Bible better then this. If any one has questions I will answere them…emmanuel…God bless

  18. Hi Emmanuel~
    Wha you wrote is very inciteful and seems to be on track~Many who have left the Cobu have brought the good with them, in that the Holy Spirit is at work in us and through us despite where Stewart erred. What I have found very sad was how some were also very dissillusioned after leaving Cobu as they wrongly trusted and hoped in Stewart as their conduit to the Holy Spirit instead of knowing how or being willing to trust directly in Jesus and in the word. He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him and although the Way seems hard to many, it is easy if we follow the way Jesus showed us to.Sadly funny how many look right at many parts and miss the point through misguidance they received in the past rather that opening themselves up before God and seeking what is pleasing to the Father as Jesus did.Once you taste and see that the Lord is good and what he means by it, comprehending the written word is far more leading than confusing, as the way of the cross is foolishness to those that are perishing but a source of life and comfort to those of us who rely on it for our daily bread and guidance.
    Ave [Ave Maria] also formerly Catholic for 19 yrs…

  19. !973- Even when I was in cobu 21 Ave…I never seen Steward as being Jesus or a god. What I seen was a very frustrated person that was trapped in continuing in sin like all of us were at that time. It was very strange to me as the years went by for me in and out of cobu…I was getting better at sinning.

    1975- I had found a bunch of old Bible meetings studies in a closet that was in one of the fellowships before I left.
    I never read them until years later. One of the studies pointed out that sin increased with age. And my life was proving that long before I read that. So there were right things being said here and there back then but, not even Steward realized that we were suppose stop sinning back then. That why the church wound up the way it did.

    1976-77? At a meeting in the training center I was giving an answer to Steward saying we all took correction and turned it into condemnation. He preaching to us on how there is no condemnation for those in Christ. But that didn’t make sense to me because at the time I was still a heavy sinner. My mind thought so I can sin and not be condemned? So I stood up and added my two cents and said

    ” In proverbs it sez if we walk with the wise we become wise” Steward asked me how that apply’s. I said ” well if we hangout with people who are wise enough to not do wrong things maybe that will rub off on us”. Steward looked at me and said ” that’s a good approach any one else got an answer?. ”

    At the time I didn’t realize how close I was to actually understanding just what I said. This was in the Manhattan training center…which I soon left…but not because of Steward but because of the older brothers.

    1979- 82? Later I had moved into a house with some x members. We were all still into trying to understand the Bible. One night Bill Halphin and me were talking…we were smokin pot in his room. He said “hey man did you ever see this verse in John?” It was John 5:14. Bill said, “so how are we suppose to do that? Who can stop sinning?”

    2000- 08. It took 20 more years of my life sinking in the mire to finally answer and understand that. I was at the point of death so, at least I thought. And I was really worried about going to hell…I cried out to Jesus to forgive me and give me a chance to prove myself if He helped me understand.

    Well He answered my prayers…I am now gonna be 55 years old Aug first and My sins since then over many years have decreased into nothing. Sometimes the Devil works me over with sins in my pass saying God could never never forgive you for doing this or that…but The devil loves to cloud my mind with that stuff but I know better…it is better to stop sinning for good no matter what the devil says…….

    John 5: 14 is suppose to lead us into First John 3:6- which is the very reason why there is no condemnation for those in Christ. I hope the best for everyone. And I hope these posts of mine are helping.
    I am not trying to be the big teacher or lay an ego trip…I just like sharing what I came to understand….emmanuel….

  20. I was in the COBU in Cleveland,from late 1975 to early1977.Then,when I left,my MOTHER joined it,for about a year!Can you imagine having your Mother join the cult,just as you are trying to flee from it.It gave the COBU an excuse to continue coming to my house and calling on the phone.I was so frightened,that when the phone would ring,I would jump up,terrified,and run out to the garage and hide.I would be out there,trembling,scared to death that they would show up at the house(and they did!) To this day,I am tormented with all kinds of bizarre “religious fears”,that no one can understand.The COBU left deep spiritual scars in me.Even though I am a Christian,I daily fear going to Hell.Certain ministers,on TV,can activate all the old fears from the cult.This is because some of them teach doctrines similar to the COBU. There is a minister that my Mother adores,Ernest Angley.I think he is a sincere Christian,but he uses alot of fear to motivate his audience.He says that Christians can and must achieve a 100% sinless state,or they will go to Hell when they die.This reminds me alot of Stewart Traill’s doctrine of continuously working to keep your salvation,never being “good enough”,spiritually,being continuously accused of being a “backslider…on your way to Hell.I had a nervous breakdown when I left COBU.The stress caused most of my hair to fall out.I couldn’t remember what life had been like in the year or so before I joined COBU(temporary memory loss.I had very little will to live,and yet feared that I would be killed in some manner by Jesus(for leaving) The cult often told stories of former members being killed in car accidents,etc.I dont know if any of it was true or not. I have been to numerous psychiatrists,trying to get these obsessions out of my mind.I fear I have in some way committed the “unpardonable sin”(another idea that I picked up from watching Rev.Angley,unfortunately) I had no counseling when I left COBU.My parents took me to a Baptist church.I tried to talk to the minister there about the fact that I had just escaped a cult.He just kinda blew it off and said “Dont worry about it ,anymore,because you are in the right church now.”I wasn’t taken seriously.I kept everyone at arms length,and didn’t have a friend for 3 years after leaving COBU.People cant understand why I would be needing to talk about a cult that I left 30 years ago,even my husband.They dont realize how the false teachings and spiritual bondage stay with you,all those years.I would love to hear from other former COBU members,maybe you can tell me how you have coped with the aftereffects in your life.My E mail is My name is Alease Brink Davis

  21. Dear Ave,and others who wrote of their experiences,I am going to read your articles to my husband to help him better understand how this group permanently damaged my life…I have suffered with depression,fear,obsessive thoughts, I see that others have also had these after effects.

    • Do you -or anyone- remember a young girl named Wendy, about 15 years old, that may have joined in May of 1975? She would have come from near Philly. She was last seen in the Scranton area as part of the group in late 1975-early 1976. She could sing, and play the guitar and piano, and may have worn braces. She was a very tiny girl, around 5 feet or so, brown hair, brown eyes. If so, I am begging you, will you please contact 1 800 THE LOST ? Her family has been searching for her for over 40 years now. Even if you think she met her demise, please make the call. Thank you.

  22. I did not even know there WAS a stewart Traill when I joined the COBU.I was witnessed to at school by a “cool”girl in art class.I met a cool guy,who witnessed to me too,and started eating lunch with me.I was a shy,awkward girl,who was never spoken to by the cool kids,so this was amazing to me.I accepted Christ after talking to them for about 6 weeks. They invited me to a Bible study,a bunch of teenagers meeting at a house.I went,and it was great!The kids were so nice and accepting of me,I wasn’t used to that at all.It was so interesting to me.I remember,someone was reading “Foxes book of Martyrs.I loved the fact that we all sat on the floor,it all seemed so down to earth. I had attended meetings for several months,before I heard someone mention “Stewart.”Who is he”I asked.I got a little nervous when one of the sisters said”He’s our leader,but then she quickly assured me that he was not really our “leader”,but our “servant. She said he spent all of his time preparing Bible studies for the members,and he was so poor,that he only owned about two outfits.I figured he must be a kindly,devout old man,whose only wish was for the Christian young people to learn the Bible. When I finally saw stewart,months later at a Big Meeting,I was not impressed.He seemed arrogant,mocking and mean.When I wanted to go have lunch with a couple of friends,he ordered us not to go.Members had told me that he could read your mind,just by looking at you…that he could supernaturally know all about you.It made him even more intimidating!I had seen him single people out,for judgement and public humiliation,and I didn’t want to be next.I feared he might have personal info on me that I never intended him to have.My “guardian”told me that she had kept a file on all the personal things we had discussed,and that every so many weeks,these files were sent to Stewart.I had told her personal things that even my family or best friend never knew about! I foolishly told myself that it “didn’t matter”that I didn’t like Stewart.I figured that I would only see him at Big Meetings,and that he would have no influence on me the rest of the time.I loved the local fellowship here in Cleveland,the brothers and sisters were kind and loving and treated me like their “sister”.As an only child,with no siblings,it felt great to be a “sister”,part of a family,not just a church member… One night we were all praying down in this guy’s b…asement in Shaker Heights.I remember thinking to myself,”At last I know where I belong!The girl who never fit in,never was accepted,never was invited,never was included…Finally,I was loved,wanted,it all made sense nowIt was OK now that I had never fit in at school,because I was set apart for a higher calling,to belong to Jesus and his people.I remember thinking,”This seems too good to be true,and yet it is.I felt so happy inside,for the first time in my life. How I wish it could have stayed that way,instead of turning into a nightmare.How I wish I could get back that joy,that peace,that enthusiasm for Christ,that I had then…

  23. Some of us feel somewhat cynical after leaving Cobu and trying to fit in at various ministries. What he did to us was a spiritual rape! He managed with the help of his inner demons to intimidate and control the masses, divided and conquered individually, turned well meaning brethren on each other to gain his approval as though we were gaining God’s approval. He had that’ability to see through you’ that caused many to rely on what he said rather than seeking the Holy Spirit themselves. It was said that he was in constant communion with the Holy Spirit and that he was so ‘heavy’ that he had no one to fellowship who was equal to him. He as treated as a ‘holy man’ and thus we all would submit to hear what he had to say and accept it as truth and gospel, while it was all a satanic manipulation to shipwreck as many souls as possible.
    Stewart was and is a destroyer of souls. He sold out early on for the power he acquired through many trusting souls.
    Most of us, like you, were looking for acceptance, friends and a spiritual family.In the earlier days when he wasnt around as much, the fellowships were flourishing and witnessing and gathering together was great and the love and fervor for Jesus was real.
    He allowed the fellowships to grow like that til we hit 1000 membership, then he began like vampire to feed off us and gradually drain the life blood out of anyone who was ‘in’.
    By the time the MTC arose, he purposefully started to eliminate those who would know better, the older brethren who had gathered in the new lambs, the naiive and willing and he began causing anyone who would see through him or oppose him to be discredited much like he discredited Shirley, his wife , when she blew the whistle on his inappropriate relationship with then teenage Gayle.Gayle was their babysitter and like most of us wanted acceptance and love. He manipulated her and later seduced her.
    When Shirley tried to stop it all and put her foot down at the first 1000 Big Meeting, he instead was confident in his ability to fool everyone and discredited Shirley as impeding God’s will and made her out to be an adulterous when in fact he was!
    The group did split after he announced the impending marriage to Gayle after ‘we’ as a fellowship funded his legal expenses to take his children away from Shirley and announce his marriage plans. Does that make Shirley a prophet?hmmm…
    Anyway by that time the ‘pump was primed’ and ony the naiive diehards remained to help Stewart manage the ‘kiddies’… It was like feeding them into a ‘Borg’ and all were either assimilated into the ‘way’ or were spewed out!
    Stewart visciously passed judgements and false prophecies onto anyone leaving his control and would belittle and curse them.
    He would tell guys they’s turn ‘gay’ if they left. He told many that they would be apostate and commit suicide..Aweful, things, aweful man… demoniac~!
    He told me that I would commit suicide. I almost believed him and felt backslid for nearly 5 years after leaving, although I went to church I never drew near to anyone as I feared they would see that I didnt belong there as I was cursed by Stewart and could never fit into a church again.

    Stewart, like his father the devil, is a liar and a thief!!

    The haunting of guilt bothered me for many years, but I was finally delivered of it through prayer and reconciliation to Jesus. I trust Jesus with my whole heart now and although I may seem a bit cynical at times, it is because after Stewart, I can now spot them a mile a way~!
    There are many sincere believers out there, but there are also many wolves in sheeps clothing.

    I have to ignore the wolves as long as they arent biting, but I do keep up my guard to avoid getting seriously bit. I do allow some to nip once in a while but as soon as they start biting, I look for another fellowship!

    We bring our peace with us and leave it where we go. I try to fellowship with anyone who LOVES Jesus and not merely say it while trying to con or rip me off.Still I do get ripped off here and there, as some are weak in the faith and mean well but get caught up in their own failings. Jesus said to forgive them for they know not what they do.

    When you feel a bit cynical or jaded, remember ” a wise man looks where he is going~!”


  24. Spiritual rape is a very good way to describe it.I,too,can now spot wolves and “cultish churches.I try to warn others of people who are teaching heretical concepts in the name of Jesus.Some have told me that “we should all just love each other,and let Jesus decide on the Judgement Day who was right or wrong..”I cant accept that idea,because I have seen firsthand tha damage done by false prophets like Traill.I do believe we should love each other,but not warning others about spiritual wolves,is NOT loving them.I really apreciate tour articles,Ave,and I am going to join the Ex-COBU group you mentioned.God Bless You,Alease

  25. I’ll try and make this very brief.

    I was in COBU although not by choice. My parents met there and eventually married, They moved out and had kids. My mom continued to attend meetings but my dad didn’t. They eventually seperated but it had nothing to due with COBU. My mother and my siblings and I lived in “fellowship” for awhile. COBU paid for my private schooling, medical, dental, clothing, food, etc. I worked in the many business’s and learned many valuable skills. I made many close friendships with others my age and older. I was forced to go to meetings on sundays, but didn’t like going just like a lotta kids in my highschool who didn’t want to go to church. I figured that when I got to be 18 I would leave and do my own thing.

    Well when the time came I decided to give up my aspirations to go to college and live a life totally devoted to Christ and I saw that COBU was a good way to do it since I would be living with other people 24/7 that were into the same way of life. I ended up doing it for 4-5 years. It ended up being a great experience for me. I studied the bible everyday, helped homeless people with food and sometimes a place to stay. I went to Haiti and worked in COBU’s orpanages a few times(BTW almost noone ever mentions them here or on any
    other sites). I preached(witness, proselitize) to other people from scripture. I enjoyed my friendships within the fellowship and was sad when someone left. I was celibate. I didn’t do drugs, etc etc etc. I fealt like I was doing God’s will and loving one another.

    Now to address the cult/stuart issue….
    I always knew that there was something weird even before I fully dove in, but I always knew there was something weird with all churches and leaders of churches that I ever came across. It’s unfortunate, but that’s the way it is and that is why I pursued the truth in scripture and in Jesus versus a man. I always compared what Stuart or anyone said with Scripture and if it didn’t add up the I didn’t believe it. There was never anything that fealt cultish to me until right before I left. It was mostly because the meetings started turning into less of a Bible Study and more into judgement sessions and it got worse and worse and very discouraging. Things seemed to be going downhill in general and there seemed to be a lot of hyposcrisy which is so typical in every church I have ever been associated with. I thought COBU could be different but it proved to be like everyother church so I left.

    That was 10 years ago and I’ve told many people about my experience and it fascinates them. I have moved on and have no regrets about the experience. I learned many valuable lessons while I was there. I made so many friends of which many of them I keep in touch with and spend time with. I even have reconnected with many of them through MYSPACE. No one ever really talks negatively about it. They have all moved on and I encourage anyone else who has been there to take the good things that happened while you were in COBU with you and leave the bad in the past.

    It could have been a LOT WORSE if you wanna compare “cults”. COBU is nothing compared to some of the more sexually perverse and violent ones a la David Koresh.

    Just my 2 cents

  26. I been reading all this …let’s see? Spiritually raped?
    Well the Catholic church did that to me…..I say there was more damage done to me in my younger life by just being Catholic….We all should be thankful that we didn’t wind up in a really super evil cult…like Charley Manson church…or even the Children of God…boy…remember those guys
    Talk about weird and sex weirdness…that church had it all.
    You guys do know that David Moses was really perverse and really took off with all the money…He makes old stew look like an angel…….

    I cannot say CoBu was a bad experience…in was very amusing and enlighting. Now why do I say this? I was a foster child… I was kicked out of my foster home…so I had no place to go back to…no real family. I grew up in CoBu…moving in and out of fellowships. To me it was all about survival.
    Most of the brothers were weird…and I wasn’t no angel either…but life goes on. I don’t think that a lot of the things I was taught in cobu was all wrong. Some of it helped me in my adult life….they tried all that burn in hell stuff on me too each time I left…but that just didn’t make sense to me. What was the difference? To stay in cobu and still be evil or leave and still be evil? And yes some of the people died when they left…but people also died in fellowship too. Death come along when it wants to. It doesn’t matter where we are…..

    Well it took me along time to understand 1John 3:6….auuh the insurance policy verse for death….and if I have never got into cobu….I would have more then likely gone to the dark side of the force….do you know what I mean guys?

    Sure a lot of us feel hurt…but hey nobody twisted our arms to join up. We wanted to know Jesus…and we all do know something about Jesus more then the media type of churches will ever know. Can anybody here say going back to their former religion is the right move?

    I would never go back to the Catholic church…they know nothing about Jesus. We probably know more about Christ then the Pope….So hang on people….and trust me…quit blaming Stew and cobu…you out of it now….so find a way that keeps you serving Jesus…..

  27. I admit there were positive things about the COBU,that’s why it was so hard to leave it.I and my Mother did find Christ through their witnessing to me.That changed our lives forever,finding Him was the pivotal point in my life.I have many happy memories of the sweet and interesting people that I knew there.There were fun and exciting times.But you have to understand that not everyone was affected in the same ways,or to the same degree. I have obsession-compulsion disorder,which means I suffer from tormenting thoughts that I cannot stop.Perhaps the frightening teachings of COBU had a more powerful and long lasting affect on me because of that.I certainly moved on with my life after COBU,and mentally abandoned their false teachings long ago.As you said,not all their teachings were wrong.But there is some deep level at which it left me spiritually scarred,and I have never been able to get completely free of it.If you read the accounts of other former members,you will see that this is quite common.I do not blame all my problems on Stewart,that would be ridiculous.That his heretical teachings damaged my life,cannot however be denied.

  28. The biggest problem that I have had since leaving the COBU,is the same one mentioned above by “David…I have never been able to be SURE about my salvation.This is very crippling for a Christian,how do you have joy and proclaim the Good News,when deep down there is this nagging doubt? I am trying to learn to put my faith in Christ alone and His finished work of salvation(as opposed to putting my faith in my own “good”works or “personal holiness”)I want to overcome this,like you have,Ave.

  29. Go back and read david’s account,and then tell me that he was not “spiritually raped”.You can hear the terrible pain in his words,after all these years.You dont forget spiritual rape any more than you could forget physical rape.

  30. There is a man whose career is to work with former cult members,to help them overcome from it.He says that the COBU is in the top 5 cults,when it comes to causing lasting psychological damage.He said Stewart is better at getting people to “shut down critical thinking”than anyone else he has ever seen.Stewart is a very evil man.

  31. I was in the FF in Cleveland from 72 – 76. I have mostly fond memories but have spent a lot of time talking to Ave about what happened after FF became COBU. How sad…
    I found a fellowship out here on the West coast that is fantastic. Not judgmental at all, just loving. I live in Long Beach, Ca. now and go to fellowship on Tuesday nights in San Pedro. I actually teach children’s fellowship too which is cool. If anyone is looking for a great group of ppl to fellowship with go to They also send out free Bilbe Studies on CD every week. Let me know if I can help anyone, k? God Bless and Peace!

  32. Sunshine,I am so curious to who you really are!I joined COBU in January of 1976 and left in March 1977.My Mom joined,when I left…but quit a year later.She was obsessed with one of the sisters in the COBU,and wanted to be close friends with her.This seemed really weird to me,because Mom was 48 and the sister was 19!Around this time,Stewart had come up with a new rule,that no one was supposed to have any special,close relationships(like best friends.)The 19 year old sister began to distance herself from my mother,push her away…Mom became disillusioned and left COBU.Mom did not seem to suffer any damage from her time in the FF,probably because she was never that deeply involved,and perhaps the members went a little easier on her because she was the age of their parents.You must have left near to the time I joined.Ave has e-mailed me with some excellent advice,she has alot of wisdom.I am going to put her advice into action,I desperately want to get free of these thoughts that I have had all these years.God Bless You,Sunshine! Sister Alease

  33. Well it is true that a lot of people were affected by their stay in CoBu. And many still feel lost and hurt. So what heals quicker? A deep cut on your arm five inches long or a scared mind?
    Now I really do understand a lot of the anguish. Why it never affected me was probably because I was a real space cadet in the church. At the time I just never took things seriously. Remember I was still sinning in or out of the church…so did that protect me from being in slaved into the Stew’s madness of mind control that many speak of here?

    And why now for is it for me so many years later that Jesus is so important to me now? You would think I would just keep on sinning my merry way through life…but death knocked on my door…and I realized I wasn’t ready to die the way I was.
    Now that was a scary time for me. That woke me up. And all of a sudden all the good stuff that I learned in CoBu became my new reality.
    So deep arm cuts may heal..but they will always show evidence that they were there. But the mind has to start all over. If you are running around with a lot of bad feelings and condemning your self…you need to start over. One good way to start over is to play with your favorite toy’s you had as a kid. And put pictures up of good memories. And when you feel hurt or condemned…play with that favorite toy and look at your pictures..because they will remind you of a time when God did love you before you knew Him…and he still does…

  34. I have read people are affected to different degrees by cult involvement.It has alot to do with how you were before you joined,how involved you were,how seriously you took it,the length of time spent in it,and whether you recieved any counseling or help when you left.

  35. You sound like a very sweet person,Emanuel,thank you. I would like to share with you why I left the COBU.Towards the end of my time with thw COBU,the “higher ups” in our Cleveland fellowship began to put more and more pressure on me.I was just turning 16,but they were pressuring me to move into one of their COBU houses.I had no intention or desire to live in one of their communes,and my Dad would have never allowed it.There was a guy in the COBU who liked me alot,and I had a big crush on him.I made the mistake of telling my “guardian”.She threatened him and me,so that he wouldn’t even speak to me after that.That hurt,alot,I felt betrayed and resentful.It hurt so much when we would go on bus trips,and he would literally speak to everyone-but me-after that. My guardian was constantly pushing me to become a guardian,and I did not feel ready for that.I was a painfully shy,introverted girl.She gave me a girl’s name and phone number…and told me I was now this girl’s guardian.I called the girl twice,she sounded uninterested,so I never called again.For at least a year,I believed that this girl’s”blood”was on my hands! With each week that went by,it seemed that I was less able to please the COBU.I was with them,everyday(they went to my school),I spent Friday,Saturday and Sunday with them,I gave up all my old friends,went witnessing,prayed,studied the Bible….but somehow I was always made to believe that I was failing Jesus,and the COBU.They told me,the COBU is Jesus. I began to suffer more and more anxiety,fear,resentment,insecurity,condemnation.Nothing I did was good enough,I was always failing,”sinful”,wrong in some way… One night I was invited to stay overnight at one of the COBU houses on the West side of Cleveland.Stewart and Gayle stayed there that night too,as well as a number of the sisters who I condidered my closest friends. When I woke up in the morning,Stewart had left.Much to my surprise,the brothers and sisters insisted that I come into the livingroom,and sit down.They all started verbally attacking me,in what they sometimes referred to as a a’round and round” session.They tore me apart,saying I had “made a broad place for myself”,been involved in “under the counter agreements”,been lazy and “indulged the flesh”.One by one they all put me down.What really hurt,was when the girls that I considered close personal friends did this.I felt like a piece of garbage.I started to cry,and one of the brothers said”isn’t that typical,just like a woman…you point out their sins and they try to get attention..”I pleaded with the people there to stop,I told them I would change.I asked them to pray for me to be able to change.Someone said”That’s just a cop-out,to say that.What are you really going to do about all these faults and sin?”After about an hour,it ended and they took me home.(I would have fled,but we were in a terrible neighborhood and I was too afraid to) I remember going in my house,putting my pajamas on,and sitting on the floor,just feeling NUMB.Had all this just happened,and why? Around this time,I heard about a guy named Ted Patrick.Someone said he had “kidnapped” and deprogrammed a girl named Theodora from the COBU.I obtained a book that he had just written,on cults.My guardian ordered me not to read it,so of course I read it ,cover to cover.The COBU wasn’t mentioned in it,but I could see so many similarities in the other cults I was reading about.My Dad had made comments that the people in the COBU didn’t seem normal.I started watching Christian TV shows on occasion,and noticed that the attitudes seemed nothing like the attitudes in the COBU! I noticed that the “work for your righteousness’doctine,in the COBU,produced two kinds of Christians.There were those(like me)that constantly felt guilt,and then there were those who felt very self-righteous. The last day I spent in the COBU,I went downtown to witness,with a couple of sisters .For some reason,this one sister started in on me,criticizing,judging me,on and on and on…All of a sudden,it was like someone had flipped a switch inside my brain.I thought,I’m going to get through this evening,and then I am NEVER going to come back here again. I went home that night,and told my mother that I was quitting COBU.She pleaded with me to go back,saying”God doesn’t make mistakes,Alease.I said”You’re right Mom,but WE do!”I told her that if I did not get away from the COBU,I would lose my mind. I had seen many of my friends in the COBU leave in the preceding months.Even the girl who had witnessed to me and taken me to the COBU in the first place had quit.Others left shortly after I did, One of the saddest things for me,was when I tried to contact the others who had left.Virtually all of them had gone back to getting high,drinking,sinful sexual relationships and such.I felt so bad,because these were the same people who had been zealously serving Jesus just a few months earlier.The one guy I stayed friends with for a while was a Jewish guy.He now said he no longer believed in Jesus and seemed more interested in getting me as a girlfriend.I had nothing in common with these former cobu members,it seemed.I wanted to still be a Christian.I realize now that they probably did,too,but they just felt so hurt and confused.The sex,drugs and alcohol was most likely an attempt to stop the terrible emotional pain they were in.I felt so alone…I had lost all my friends and Jesus as well(or so I thought) I’m sure many of you can relate to my story,and probably went through very similar experiences.From the time I left COBU,until now,I have never been able to tell my story to anyone who would understand it.There were a few times,when I ran into ex-cobu people at stores.The conversation lasts only a few minutes,and attempts made by me to go see them were never successful.Maybe they wanted nothing that would remind them of the past,or something.To be taught a bunch of crazy stuff,when you are young and trusting,stays with you forever it seems…

  36. Dear alease Brink Davis…I read your post twice to really get a feel for it before I would reply. The last thing you would want to hear is you were wrong in leaving CoBu…but you were not wrong. It was the only right sane thing to do.
    The last thing Jesus would want is for you to lose your mind….Jesus wants to give you a mind that will make you at peace with God.

    God doesn’t run anybody’s church even if the Catholics and Orthodox and all these other fundamentalists and evangelists and various cults church people will tell you their in the one true church of God. God never even established any churches on earth. and least of all..He didn’t even have a hand in CoBu.

    The only thing God establish on earth was His will in people that would actually do it. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven…That’s who so ever…so there are people in every church and possibly in other religions that are really doing God’s will that is base on New Testament standards. That’s the one true church which is made up throughout all of time by the body of these kinds of people.

    Jesus said But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. JOHN 4:23.

    These are the only kind of people that God wants. And their not all included in one building or one organization. As Jesus pointed out by saying people are not gonna need mountains or temples or Cobu to go to for worship.

    This body is the body of Christ…which includes all the people that had in their life time to come to their right minds and sin no more. The K.J.V. uses the words; Awake to righteousness, ROMANS 15:34.
    That is you. You woke up along time ago. Your sins if any couldn’t even hold you back from loving Jesus. Even though You were dragged through the mud just like Job. You lost your worldly friends your Cobu friends and a whole lot more all just to get to this point in your life now.

    I have went out and sinned worst then before I was involved with Cobu…I had no conscience. I have no idea why I am the way I am now except by His Grace…I should have been dead and sent to hell because, at the time I loved feeding pigs and eating there food… But I got tired of feeding pigs and eating their food…… know the rest of this story….( ashamed )

    The devil has had a hand in every church man starts…even in Cobu. You stood your test…you are still here and love Jesus as much as the first day you wanted to believe in Him.
    That hasn’t changed one bit in you…just all the circumstances around your life did…but not your love for Jesus…even when your were sinking. You have nothing to be ashamed of. Because you are at the point wanting to understand perfect love casts out all fear.

    And that’s what you are doing now…getting over your fears. We may never forget the bad memories, and in my case bad things I choose to do. It’s just like a deep cut it will heal but will leave a scar….that is why Jesus gives us a spiritual white robe. To cover our scars and memories and bad things we did so we can move forward in our ever lasting life with Him to do God’s will on this earth and in heaven

    ……Find a bunch of them old toys… and look at those pictures of past friends and pray for them. You are not alone and I am only a stones throw away if you should ever need me….emmanuel

  37. Whats strange,is that I did not really totally make the connection between my “tormenting religious thoughts” and my involvement with the COBU,until pretty recently.Since so many years have passed,since COBU,I thought for a long time that it was not realistic to attribute these horrible thoughts to my cult invovlvement.A psychologist mentioned to me that there might be a connection,but I just dismissed it,at the time. But,something strange had been happening to me for a number of years.Every day,when I would go in to take a bath,the words”What are you into?”would go through my mind.It happened every day.for a long time,I didn’t really think anything about it.Finally,I told my husband and daughter about this strange daily thought.They both said”I dont even know what that means.”I explained that in the COBU we were always being asked this.It meant,what wrong thing are you into.What stands between you and Jesus?” I started to realize that if this question had been so ingrained into my mind that it has played every day for 31 years,why wouldn’t the rest of COBU’s teachings be still in there,playing over and over,like a skipping record?It can be embarrassing to admit that I am still being affected by something I did as a teenager.I thought that people would just think that I was making a ridiculous excuse for my problems.I thought,it’s so long ago,who wants to hear about it anymore,anyways?Hearing the testimonies of you,my brothers and sisters,has made me realize that this stuff is happening to many of you as well,I am not crazy.

  38. I was thinking about something today…how for a long time I could not picture Jesus as being loving,or truly caring about me.I kept imagining him to be like Stewart…cold,mean,sarcastic,cruel,judgemental.Stewart had put such a spin on the Scriptures,putting his own attitudes into the teachings.I remember being told that “Jesus is just waiting to cut you off,and He will replace you,just like that…”Well,that doesn’t exactly make you feel loved by Jesus.People in the COBU used to ask me if I loved Jesus.I would say,”No,I dont think so,but I fear Him.

  39. Sometimes alease…I would think Jesus could never for give me for my sins. A lot of sins I done if I think about them would make me cry. And I am a grown man. But His Grace says it all. Because were sin bounds Grace abounds all the more. For me that meant while I was still sinning Jesus still taught me and made me realize that He loved me. He loved me so much that He has chanced me to the new person I am now for these past 3 to 4 Years. And I don’t deserve it at all. But His Grace is what it is.

    There is no logical explanation for you to think He would not love you. Nobody can put a spin on real Grace. Let Jesus tell you how He saves you. Let His grace lead you from sin.
    Don’t burden yourself with thoughts that trap you.
    Start all over…that’s what nice about God’s Grace.
    Start all over with the real truth. Remember you love Jesus…because He loved you first…….and that what you are really into……

    did you find an old favorite toy?…I have an old G.I. Joe…boy does that bring back good memories before sin really got a hold of me………Boy Jesus has loved us for all our lives..before we knew Him…through all our sinful times…right up to our repentance…and forever….

  40. Sorry Alease & Emmanuel~ I was out of town and offline a while. In catching up, I have read your comments and wish to add some more of how I felt after Cobu..

    I was there in the Spring of 76 after Rem left and our center was left without a center leader for a while. I lived in the main house at Center City as a group leader and Jim Hurley , who had formerly been center leader of Reading, and an older brother, held things together til Stewart sent in Bob H to start his takeover and aid in transforming the fellowships into a cult.

    His intial harshness reflected Stewart but I thought he acted on his own, so I stayed in fellowship while Jim and others left.Next Bob decided to close the center city fellowship after convincing everyone to start turning in their paychecks. He promised we would receive 10% of our earnings back for private use and that all our needs and debts would be collectively dealt with. WE were told that our credit obligations would be taken care of and that our clothing would be on an allowance basis. This was not true as we were also taught that to ask for anything would be to indulge our flesh, so they got all our money. I never received 10% back or did they pick up my credit card bills as they promised!

    After a couple of months of this, I was luckier than most since I was working as a waitress and gave in my paychecks but began withholding my tip money for transportation and food as well as helping a pregnant sister whose husband left.Her family eventually came and took her home when the center city fellowship was closing.

    Bob told me to move into the Camden warehouse which was unihabitable but told me that we were going to renovate it for living spaces and for meetings. It was rat infested and filthy. I got a new job that included a small apt in the rear of the store in South Phili, so I told Bob that I would remain in Center City area to look after the lambs that didnt live in fellowship. We did go to the Camden warehouse meetings on Saturdays and I used the money I was making at my second job to call and visit the lambs.

    I began visiting churches again, as I was saved before meeting the FF/Cobu and recommended that my lambs join born again churches in their areas, as well as attending Cobu meetings.

    At one meeting in June, Bob told everyone not to trust any older group leaders[directing his assault at me] and my lambs were disturbed by his unbiblical attack. I thought he was out of control and decided that I was going to ‘tell Stewart on him’ [not realizing Stewart was behind this!]

    The July Big Meeting was approaching.One night Bob sent the former Atlantic City leader with his wife & children to my apt to pick me up and told me that Bob wanted to see me.I went with them to his apt in Camden.[he wasnt going to live in the warehouse, although he wanted me and others to!]

    I argued that I obtained my apt without any Cobu funds and that at my own expense ran it as a mini fellowship and wanted to continue doing so. He said he wanted Rick & his wife to live in my apt and that I was either going to ‘obey’ him and move to Camden or else I had to go to NYC to the “Pit”. I refused.

    He told Rick & his wife to go back to my apt and leave me with him.He decided t hat I had to go to NYC the next day.They left me there,tedhnically kidnapped!

    After Bob & the others there went to sleep, I was still awake and very upset by their manipulations and control tactics. I prayed and felt Jesus was telling me to get out, but also felt that strong ‘pull’ that to disobey my leader was tantamount to backsliding!

    I wrestled in my thoughts for over an hour and finally walked out the door and down the street. It was a very dangerous neighborhood and I had no money on me. Also it was in NJ across the bridge from Phili.

    The Police stopped me and picked me up for questioning.They wanted to arrest Bob and Rick, but I assured them that no one physically restrained me and that all I wanted to do was to get back to my apt in S Phili and I wanted not to press any charges.

    I was beginning however to feel really guilty and that I would be in trouble with Stewart. The Police provided transportation over the bridge and I had to walk from Center City down to S.Phili to my apt.Again it was very dangerous and late at night.

    When I arrived at my apt I was locked out. I knocked and Rick refused to open the door, telling me to go away!
    I had to call the police and my landlord to regain entry.
    Rick told the Police that I was ‘backsliding’ and no longer belonged there.

    The Police told me they could arrest him and that they had no interest in any of our religious beliefs , only that my landlord verified that it was MY apt.

    Had Rick not been so mean, I would have let him and his family stay with me, but realized that there was no reasoning with him. He told the police he didnt want to wake his children, and that he had no where to go at that hour… [yet was willing to leave me on the street!]

    The police asked me what I wanted to do. I told Janet that I was sorry that they would have to wake the kids, but that I couldnt trust Rick or let them stay.I told the Police that they could go to Camden, since they had a car, so they left.

    I felt horrible to have to do this but they left me no choice or compromise. Had I let them stay, I would be removed by Bob and sent to NYC.I had my lambs to consider as well as my boss, whose wife was pregnant and I couldnt let them down.

    I talked by phone to Bob still and still followed up with the lambs.I arranged pick up times for Phili lambs at different locations to go to the Big Meeting. Several lambs met at my apt and we waited all day for our pickup and I planned on telling Stewart how Center City fellowship had fallen because of Bob, but our ride never came. We were left behind!

    I called some former members who came over and wanted to go to the Big Meeting and would bring me and a few lambs, but when calling other fellowships for directions to the meeting, could not get any directions, so we were all stuck.

    A week later some of the lambs that had gone from other locations in town, came to me and told me that Bob told everyone that I rebelled and backslid! I was stunned since I didnt. I was shocked at the slander and lies.I then warned my lambs to get involved at local churches and I contacted my parents in NYC and went home.

    Once at home, I visited the NYC Cobu and tried to plead my case to Stewart and whoever would listen. After talking with Jeff Seif for nearly an hour one Saturday night, thinking he understood and would help, I felt betrayed when he gave me his advice!

    Jeff Seif said that despite my ‘reputation’ that I should return, submit to authority and be retrained ~ as though everything I told him meant nothing and I was allowed to come back in shame!His words cut me like a knife and I became so hurt and angry that I said I would never return unless I first did all the bad things they accused me of, since I was being judged for them anyway.

    I went to another meeting and saw Stewart across the room. He pointed me out to everyone and told me that I was a suicide waiting to happen and told others not to listen to whatever I had to say. I left defeated and rejected and being taunted by familiar spirits enticing me to commit suicide. I battled suicidal thoughts for years afterwards.

    Now I cant blame them for my decision to backslide 2 months after leaving, but felt so much condemnation and so betrayed by them that I felt rejected by God and ‘ignoble’.

    Within a few months, I began to drink alcohol and then to smoke cigarrettes and then to date unsaved and it was all downhill after that.

    I swallowed and believed the Cobu lie and accepted that God rejected me and that I was going to hell for leaving the Cobu as my cross to bear.

    5 months after leaving Cobu I became pregnant but miscarried my child. This further depressed me and made me feel like I must have committed apostacy and that I could never get right with God, that I went too far.

    I also blamed God for taking my baby away and declared I would rather go to hell then serve a God who only wanted me in Cobu.

    This led to heavier drinking and trying to fit back into the world. It also led to more suicide attempts and reckless living.Seems I went from religious ‘fanatic’ to bar room whore overnite.I hated it. I hated myself. I lived, wanting to die.I couldnt maintain a relationship. My former fiance, only went out with me to get even for leaving him for Cobu 2 yrs earlier. It was his baby I miscarried and then he left me.

    I met another man whom I became engaged to for several months and left me when I became pregnant the second time, wanting me to abort that baby, but I refused and carried her to term as a single parent. Seemed then, the Cobu predictions had come full circle and I was indeed now with a reputation!

    I contacted a Staten Island fellowship that opened a few blocks from where I was living and was going to go to a meeting, thinking since I was already pregnant that now I could return with that big scarlet letter, well deserved…

    Oddly I waited on their doorstep but they never returned and there was a big blackout on the east coast that day. I was afraid and thought it was the rapture as I watched cars driving down the road, blasting horns at each other since the traffic lights were out as well as all electricity.I began to think, what if everyone had been raptured and I was certainly left behind to go to hell???

    I was so tormented, that I stopped my bar tending job and went into nursing work and moved into a home as a health attendent for a terminal cancer patient.

    Although I still felt condemned, I decided t hat I hated the devil still and that I would witness even if I was going to hell and that I wanted to make a deal with God that my child could be saved and that I would serve him even if I was still going to hell.

    Imagine the guilt? Imagine the confusion and shame!

    Right after the birth of my daughter I was contacted by an former lamb of mine, living in NYC and visited her. She was still a minor and her parents were dead. I told her to come live with me as my boss said she could . She came but the Cobu camped outside my house and yelled non stop to send her out til she gave in and left with them.I warned her that they wouldnt allow her to see me again but they lied and told her she could visit. She didnt want to cause me any trouble. I didnt mind, but I couldnt stop her from leaving.

    Once they got her back they prevented her from calling me. She said to me that if they did that that she would run away to her sister’s in Phili and leave them. I tried to find out what happened to her but they accused me of harboring her since she did leave them too. Thank God!Her name was Terry Allen and I never heard from her again, but hope and pray she is okay and glad she got away from them.

    I took care of the cancer patient til her death. I read the bible to her and led her to Jesus before she died.She died in peace the following Spring, 3 months after my daughter was born. I tried witnessing to her son, but he was embittered against God and the Cobu members he had met. He had also promised to marry me and I was settling for that since I already had my baby girl.We lived together for a year and a half but broke up when I was pregnant with my first son.

    I became a single parent again, got an apt and a job at the WTC .Later I went to college, briefly, but was in contact with Jim Hurley and eventually we got together and had 3 more children. We were married for 16 of the 26 years we spent together. Jim adopted my older 2 children when they were little and we moved to the country to raise them.

    We were involved with many churches over the years and got deeply into the bible. We encountered Cobu a few more times over the years and visited the Phili compound. Jim even went to Woodruff back around 94 for a few months and we were considering rejoining as we never felt at home in any of the churches we attended and yet after his Woodruff stay, realized t hat there was no going back- Cobu was a done deal and no longer what we had remembered from the early days. It was Ichabod~ a cult, a slave labor force to make Stewart rich along with his corrupted cronies. The dream of going back and making a positive difference was only a fantasy never to be realized.

    Cobu is wrong. Stewart is evil. He imparts familar controlling spirits on all who will listen to his pied piper songs!I feel so sorry for those like Joy Irey and Megan Clark who remained all these years, losing their youth, hopes for marriage and ability to ever have children.

    After joining some online x-cobu support groups and hearing of all the additional horrors that other members have suffered, I realized that the Lord delivered us safely away from most of it, although I spent the first five years out of Cobu feeling condemned no matter what I did.

    In the mid 90’s the Holy Spirit showed me the difference and I was set free from the guilt and condemnation experienced by leaving Cobu.It wasnt without a price however as my marriage crumbled mostly because of the ingrained Cobu behaviors we were brainwashed into believing.

    Our home life was somewhat like a Cobu fellowship and my husband became more like Stewart to me in manipulating and control. Looking back this wasnt all his fault and he may even feel I was the same , rebelling against his Cobu given authority over women!…

    Both of us, always trying to ‘measure up’ and also being self righteous and not finding fellowship with any who could understand the deep seeded problems that arose out of our tenure in Cobu. Our children know alot about Cobu and while some go to church, the others wont and they have grown up with their eyes wide open against religious manipulators to the point they are cynical about religion, but claim to believe in Jesus and do ask for prayer at times.

    Jim is remarried now. I remain alone.3 of my 5 children are married. One regularly attends church with her family, but still has ‘issues’. My oldest boy shows little interest in the bible and equates it to his harsh father. My 2 younger boys will still talk about the bible and occasionally witness but live their lives doing their own thing… My youngest daughter acknowleges God and is happily married and a new mother.

    I still believe.. I trust in Jesus and yet live reclusive having most of my interactions with others, online. Occasionally the Lord places a job before me and I do it, but for the most part, he takes care of me and allows me to live in peace now.


  41. Blessings All,

    I was introduced to the YSH in 1982 by Noel Beauchamp. I did’nt stay long and was glad to leave. I have been searching for a friend who was in the Lamb house in brooklyn. His name is Jose Garcia. I have always wondered how he has been.

    Peace to all,

  42. Boy Ave…It was like I was watching a horror film what happen to you…good grief!…And you survived!

    I guess I really don’t know how bad some or many members really had it. My life in the world took me to some scary places…I got into a lot of sex perversions and even became a Biker with an out law club….It was like my life went from God to the devil….and then through almost dying…at 50 years old…I was brought back to my right mind to confess and get real with Jesus…I hate that term get real…but you know what I mean.

    But before I had my near death experience I was always a guitar player. And this was one of the things I was really great at. I was in a band named after me!. This was a very promising band and had a great chance of getting somewhere…so you could imagine what all my friends thought of me when I said it was of the devil….. Of course CoBu told me rock and blues music was of the devil…and as a kid this broke my friendship with my former band mates and friends on Staten Island and they hated me for this. They all thought I was crazy.

    John Bevulica and David Rosetta were the chiefs of this fellowship on Staten Island….

    ..that’s where also I was raised by a foster family that really didn’t like me…and that whole period of growing up as a kid in that family and neighborhood was very f -ed for me. That is a long story in it self. And when my sex problems began with other family members… that carry on a long time with me……

    But one of the high lights of my life was my wife that I believe to this day Jesus gave me.. We been married for 16 years and are still the best of friends. She heard me playing guitar at a big club in Maryland…that is where I moved to get away from my messed up life in NYC.

    She helped me by helping me not get ripped off anymore by the music managers and club owners. She was good at it…so I helped here go to law school…that was about 20 years ago. She has been a Attorney for 12 years now…and we still play in a band together. I teach guitar for free to anyone that wants to learn.

    I guess I had more damage done to me as a kid and teenager before I was ever in the forever family…I was just using them to get away from my foster home people I just didn’t like… but in the process got to know things about the man called Jesus. I am not sorry for that…knowing Jesus is the biggest plus in my life even though I had some heavy sins in my past…I just couldn’t forget Jesus..even when I was doing the most evil….
    Many times I am not sure of my self but all I get is time to the right things…my favorite verse…Love cover a multitude of sins.

    Well I am not that good at telling a story as well detailed as you Ave…you do have a talent for writing….you should consider writing a book…you are very descriptive and detailed at writing your thoughts….that commit I made about a horror film was suppose to me a complainant.
    It was written so I good I see you like I was watching it on film…and that’s what made it scary ….I am glad you are doing ok now…boy…not many people could have beared all that……God bless you Ave……

  43. I,too,never experiences anything on the level of what you went through,Ave.I never lived in the communes ,as I was too young to.Some of you went through 100x what I went through.The things that happened to you afterward,Ave,are not in the least bit surprising.I involved myself in many wrong things afterwards as well,pornography,drinking,violent behavior(I had so much pent up RAGE!!).I became an atheist for a while.I would “pretend” to be a good Christian,around my Mom.I had learned how to “talk the talk”,even if I felt empty and damned inside.I put on a good act for others.I was emotioally and physically abusive to my husband.I feel so ashamed now,thinking how I hurt and abused this dear gentle man,who has always treated me wonderful.I have begged him to forgive me a thousand times.He has,I just have a hard time forgiving myself.Carrying around all that hurt and rage inside makes you like a volcano.Everything looks peaceful on the surface,but inside the anger is surging,ready to blow up.We have survived,my dear brothers and sisters,we have survived.It gives me much joy,to know that you still love Jesus,you were not destroyed.I pray that all of our former COBU’ers will find their way to the TRUE Jesus,the one Stewart tried to keep us from really knowing and loving.Former COBU friends,YOU DIDN’T LEAVE JESUS<YOU LEFT A TERRIBLY ABUSIVE CULT!PRAY TO JESUS<TODAY<AND BE RESTORED!!!He understands why you left COBU,He wanted you to leave.Dont let Satan rob you of one more day of your lives.

  44. Hey,Emmanuel,I found an old doll ,that used to be my “best friend”when I was a little girl.She was just a cheap”knock off”Barbie -type doll.I had a couple real Barbies,but I loved this really cheap one the best.My best friend had the exact same doll,so we would pretend they were twin sisters.We called them”Denise and Alease Terako,the Terako Twins!”We gave our dolls the same names as us…they were our “alter egos.We could pretend to be grown up ladies,instead of little girls.We spent many a hot,summer afternoon making up adventures,for hours.Those were such happy,innocent times. Those dolls were called “Mary Makeup”dolls,and they probably cost about 3 bucks at Woolworths,but to me she was priceless.I truly do want to start all over with Jesus.It really encourages me to hear that you and others have found peace in Christ,at last.I’m so happy for you that Jesus gave you a wonderful wife.I,too,have been blessed with a Christian marriage.I talked about the COBU to him,until I know he was tired of hearing about it.It may have been hard to understand why something so long ago,still seemed so important to me.I didn’t even understand it. I am going to get my old doll out,tonight,and try hard to remember a time before COBU,and pray for Jesus to help me make a new start in Him. Love,Alease

  45. Hi Emmanuel~
    I am so glad that you have a good marriage. It is a special blessing indeed for any survivor of Cobu and also of one who experienced a childhood such as yours.

    Although I feel I had a good childhood, being 3rd oldest in a family of 14 children, I still had issues that mixed in with my Cobu experience, such as the commradery and willingness to submit and work within a group… Not bad character traits in themselves, but certainly preyed upon in Cobu.

    I am grateful for much of the time I was in it as well as for meeting my former husband and having the children I have today.I have 5 children and 10 grandchildren with another grandchild on the way soon.

    Although I was already a Christian prior to joining the Forever Family which later became the Church of Bible Understanding[COBU] I learned so much on how to approach the bible and to understand it while I was in the Cobu~ not by what Stewart taught, but by having communal bible studies with young people and being able to learn the basics and how to think out of the box when reading scripture….

    I recall prior to my Cobu experience, that I was very limited in my approach to the old testament and stayed mainly in the New Testament for my way to live. I had deeper issues with the God of Abraham than I could comprehend as I often thought God was a bit mean and that Jesus was Love.

    I have learned through the years what much of the bible means and that to the crooked he shows himself perverse is really a heavy saying and thought, since the devil uses life’s circumstances to cause us to want to blame God for our problems and thus see God as mean, which is ingrained in the perceptions of many through their lack of knowledge bringing t hem into spiritual exile in this land like their own…

    God is love and yet in this day and age , love has so many definitions usually relating to sex and or circumstances with conditional love being the most employed, which robs a person of finding the true meaning of God’s love in this life which is very sad. I used to think if God was love, why did he let his son die? and things like ‘why does God let little babies die” or why do so many die in war and such…

    I didnt realize til decades later that that was inadvertantly charging God with wrong and seeing him as crooked! God is pure and not crooked, but until I could see him as real love and pure I couldnt live with the peace I now have.

    I can see from his perspective as well as my own human perspective and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit it is easier as time passes to give up the worldly ways encountered and be satisfied with ideas like ‘give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses’…. as I know far too well that I am only human and cant do everything ‘right’ all the time. I still however can find peace in his grace and mercy in my life no matter what happens.

    Like that old adage, Christians arent perfect, just forgiven!~

    Knowing fully well that we still have to be ready to give account and to try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord~

    Jesus ‘ yoke is easy when you learn to rest in him. That pretty much sums up how I feel today and that even though I am alone, I am never really alone and my God supplies all my needs…

    I have learned to the difference between wants and needs and to not envy or be jealous of anything or anyone but to be glad when I see God’s goodness in the lives of others.


    Join us :

  46. It is so encouraging to know that COBU brothers and sisters have found their way back to Jesus.I dont think any of us ever wanted to leave Jesus,we just left Stewart.In our confusion,we believed we had lost our Lord,forever.But His hand has always been on our lives.Even when we thought we were atheists.Even when we threw ourselves into sin,in despair.Jesus never let go of us,we just didn’t realize it,at the time.I can hear the love in your words,my brothers and sisters,the same love we all had as idealistic young people.We wanted to serve Jesus,we loved Him with all our hearts.We still do.Jesus saw all that we went through back then,in Cobu,and in the years afterwards.He knows we loved Him,and He knows what happened to us.We must continue to pray for our former Cobu’ers who havent found peace with Christ since leaving,and for those still ensnared by Stewart.So many sweet,kind and loving people,free them,Lord Jesus,from the shackles that they never deserved,from the debt they do not owe,because You already paid it in full.Draw them to yourself,dear Jesus,and heal their broken hearts and lives.Open their eyes,that they may see through Satan’s deceptions,his plan to keep them in chains.Bring your children home ,Lord. Amen

  47. Well Ave and alease brink davis….a lot of memories whether they are good or bad are part of our minds until the end of our physical lives. Even the good and bad things that happened before CoBu…

    The reason we need a true understanding of starting over is because the torment of the bad experiences. It is one thing to remember bad things…but to let them torment us shows we haven’t changed yet. That’s Satan’s little way of reminding us..” ha I still got you “….So we really need to pray and work at becoming the child again.

    that whole toy thing I talked about has a lot to do with the understanding the verse in Matthew…

    And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:3. and this one too…

    For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.
    Matthew 5:20.

    Also ..that favorite toy produces the memories we need to be heal. It helps in our conversion to put away our tormented thoughts and except them as God’s Grace.
    Yes it is God’s grace because of what Paul said in Romans.

    Moreover the law entered, that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:
    Romans 5:20.

    So we learned more about Jesus from our sins. It is when we were caught up in the most sinfulness parts of our lives that Grace has abound..or we would not be here today sharing our experiences and valuable lessons we learned from Jesus at our most desperate times. This is what we are sharing with one another. We want to live the best life we can for Jesus so; we must first live in the child mind that God gave us.

    That is our starting point…of course we cannot carry on living deliberate and calculated sinful lives…that would prove we are not starting over. That just shows we are like the Pharisees.
    Children may sin but when you think about it children never deliberately sin or calculate it.
    That all comes with time as they grow into adults because, the sins of a child are always done in the light to be reproved and corrected. We can always tell when a little child lies…
    In the Christian world the same thing should apply as they are called children of light. Christians don’t sin by deliberated or calculated thoughts. They are dead to such thinking.
    But the sins of the evil ones are always done in the dark and are never reproved or corrected….. and they live for that!

    So we learned our lessons. And we will teach each other and carry each other. And we will share our burdens…I now understand what “share our burdens “…that what this site is also about …but 20 , 30 , years ago… I had no clue what sharing our burdens meant.

    The site for me is a site that I feel most will understand me.
    And I feel I can understand most of the people here. We all have that common denominator…CoBu….and not many other churches will understand us at all……so this site is my comfort as well….Thanks for taking the time to read my posts guys……

  48. Hi Family Members,

    I was a Christian for about 6 months before I met Randy Kertchmar ad Steve Evans in a Shopping mall in New Jersey.

    That was in 1974, I was 15. I got my button and became a guardian , fed lambs and led people to Jesus while I lived home and spent every free second with the fellowship: Plainfield, Middlesex, Rahway, New Brunswick. I went to as many NY center meetings as I could and did all the Big Meetings.

    Turned 18, moved in, became head of a fellowship but quickly backslide ( got drunk my first night as leader for the first time in my life) and so I was sent to the MTC, started “working for Pharoah: at “Export Messenger Service” with a bunch of other “dark” brothers, until I worked my way back into good graces and “The business” cleaning carpets. I actually preferred “working for pharaoh” because I kept hoping life could return to the old local fellowship feeling of the earlier days that I so loved. I began leaving and coming back throughout 1978, until I stopped coming back altogether.

    Looking back I can say that the FF might have saved my life. I was really depressed, lost,confused and alone when I joined. None of the Churches I checked out spoke to my needs, the FF (and later CoBU) did. I don’t really know, but life might have gotten much worse for me, drugs or suicide even, who knows?

    That said, While the FF was a stop-gap measure, it was no long term solution, it left me a mess. With lot’s of work to do to learn how to live, and very little in the way of internal resources. I was used and abused, no doubt about it.

    Over the years, after learning about psychological types I can now see clearly that Stewart is a rather sociopathic borderline personality and that were were indoctrinated into that frame of reference, despite whatever good there was there. I’ve dealt with a number of people with borderline personality disorder since then and despite the different people they all have certain talents that may be familiar to those of us who were in CoBU.

    Borderline Personalities have no respect, or even any sense of personal psychological space. They tread into other person’s personal “head space” ( hearts and minds, Thoughts and feelings) without any sense of personal boundaries. To someone not aware of what’s happening it can seem like mind reading or “knowing your soul”. Basically a B.L.P. can pick up on any weaknesses and insecurities, then amplify them and feed them back to you.

    They will pick up on any passing negative thought or feeling and talk to you as though that is “who you really are”. Everyone has feelings and thoughts that pass through them that they are ashamed of or uncomfortable with that they would rather not pay attention to. If a normal person senses them in you, they overlook them out of courtesy, like noticing a wart, but not bringing attention to it.

    A BLP will not only point them out , but they will tell you that that is “The real you” and that you are a phony for not presenting yourself that way ( leading with you worst foot forward). For those of us who are vulnerable to confusion, depression and loneliness ( the very ones looking for help n Cobu), that produces guilt which the BLP uses to manipulate the victim of this uneven exchange.

    I’ve seen it over and over, BLP have a “power” to tell you exactly what your hoping to hide from yourself and make you feel horrible for even having that passing thought.

    This power of BLP is not just confined to the sense of christian sin, anyone who is BLP can make anyone feel guilty and manipulate them, unless the would-be victim can see what is happening.

    We had it done to us and we learned to do it to others, in the name of “helping” them. It’s ruthless and it is a kind of psychic rape. We were young and taken advantage of.

    The behavior of a BLP looks like “real no holds barred honesty” ( “I am just telling the real truth abut your dirty little motive or secret…and you know it”) though it is actually a distortion of reality which picks out the faults ( splinter ) of others and magnifies them as though that’s all the person is.

    The behavior of a BLP also looks like “tough love” ( “I just want to set you straight about your error”) but it is exactly the opposite or love, it is rape.

    Love trusts the other person to see their own errors if they are in their own “space” with you, you don’t intrude into them. In fact if you don’t intrude, people who feel loved by you (accepted by you as they are, in their own space) will almost always ask for your input when they are feeling confused, that is the respectful time to tell them what you understand about their situation.

    Criticism before trust does not produce change in behavior, only guilt. If you want the person to actually change in a way that works, trust must be there. If you only want to produce guilt and manipulate the damaged person, then “get in their head” and talk to them as if you know them better than they could ever know themselves. We’re just human, we can’t do that. We can trust that God will speak to the person in a way that we can’t, ever.



    Thankyou for sharing this. I came to the conclusion that Stewart is a cerebral narcissist as well.
    He used religion to manipulate his followers.

  50. Thanks Ave,
    The article about Bob Muller makes me sad. Sometimes I wonder if he’s actually better off staying there. I know it sounds crazy, but I think it’s pretty much all he knows. I befriended him and led him to Jesus in High school, he was my lamb. I feel regret, but understand it’s his life…

  51. Hi~ Yeah it is hard to imagine anyone wanting to be in that captivity, however the remnant that remains there today has it ‘better’ than those who left years ago.They have some outside business interaction and have managed to believe the lie about Stewart.
    Joy Irey stayed in as did Megan Clark, a girl I never thought would have stayed.. I talked with Joy back in the early 90’s and we had some pleasant conversations but when she seemed almost persuaded to come for a visit, they suddenly stopped letting her communicate with me.Sometimes I think of contacting her again, but even when we were in Cobu we didnt really know each other.
    You on the other hand having led Bob to Jesus, may have a shot at being able to at least talk with him or maybe even see him, since he is in Scranton.
    I think if you call the 800 # of the compound in Phili, they would have him call you back.It may be worth a try, but who knows?

  52. After a discernment site called “Spiritual Pathways” ran two of Ave’s articles on COBU and Stewart,I left some comments.I thought they would find it interesting to hear ,firsthand,from a former member.What really shocked me,was that they sort of attacked me.I don’t know if they meant it that way,or if I am just oversensitive.They said that if I still suffered effects from my time with COBU,then it was my own fault for not letting the blood of Jesus heal all the wounds,or something.I tried to explain to them that I was just trying to show that deeply ingrained thoughts can stay in your mind ,at some level.Even though you have consciencely rejected them.I told them that I have suffered from tormenting religious thoughts since 1977.I recently began to think that the roots of these thoughts are in the time I spent with COBU. One of the guy who runs the discernment site compared me to a “baby playing with dung!”I think he meant that I should “grow up”,and stop dwelling on things(COBU)that happened years ago.I guess he meant that those of us still hurt or affected by it,have chosen to not move beyond it.It hurt my feelings quite a bit.I know that I have gone a little berserk,writing so much about my experiences on Ave’s sites.It’s because,all these years,I never had anyone to talk to,who understood COBU.I’m seriously questioning whether I have just dwelled on this,too long.I have had a tendency to nurse hurts,i admit.Have any of you former brothers and sisters been able to completely live free of the thoughts resulting from COBU?Should we quit dwelling on those times,or is it impossible? Alease

  53. Ave,I saw on one of your sites,that you offer help,even housing,to people who want to escape COBU.That’s wonderful!Is there a way for any of us former members to donate money,or anything,to be a part of this?To help pay for the material needs of the people who have left?It would make me happy to help anyone escape from Stewart. Alease

  54. Now I understand why we used to believe that Stewart could “read our minds.It’s all part of his deviant sociopathic nature.I never believed that he could actually read my thoughts,per say,but I believed at the time that he could discern “evil” intents in me.It gave him great power over us.Even now,if someone criticizes me unfairly,I feel myself wanting to say I am wrong,and beg their forgiveness,just to have them “like” me.In the COBU,admitting “guilt”,even when it didn’t exist,was the only way to please them,at least for a while.

  55. Alease,

    REF#61 Comment: I dont know about this “Spiritual Pathways” group or which articles they used. If it helps someone then I am glad it could help. As for what this man said to you about your experience in trying to come to terms with what Cobu did to you, he is wrong in what he said,however well intentioned he may have been, seems to me he came from frustration and ignorance since he never came to terms with his own experience or never had the same experience!.. Of course ut us covered by the blood of Jesus~!.. [sounds like he got a bit churchy to cover for his lack of understanding] …BUT for him to infer it to be your own fault – is only casting blame – and is an unwitting device of the devil! [ the accuser of the brethren!] The Holy Spirit comes to convict, which is to convince us of our sin so that we can be cleansed, he doesnt come to tell us it is our own fault!..We know that to some extent, already.While the devil wants us to ‘eat dung’, for this guy to infer or say it is like a child playing with dung was totally out of line.Giving him the benefit of the doubt, I would think he simply hasnt gone that deep within himself as to be able to begin to comprehend the spiritual warfare you have been enduring all these years. There is no discharge from the war, so the enemy will hang on to whatever foothold he has, no matter how large or small and will get ‘religious’ on you to maintain control and continue to feed you poison.. a little truth mixed with alot of lies!…Many have varying levels of faith and committment to Jesus, usually measured by their own comfort levels and what they are willing to sacrifice. Some are not as willing as others and settle for a surface Christian existence that reinforces to themselves and those around them that they got it together and therefore you should listen to them as though they are infallible, while they do make mistakes [as we all do] and can get a bit self righteous on you – as he seemed to be…I think t hat is one of the reasons Jesus said to forgive them as they know not what they do!

    COMMENT #62 Thankyou for your offer, but I have only actually helped one girl out once and she then returned back in the Spring of 78. Others I have helped were from other churches or backgrounds, mostly domestic violence victims or homeless people from shelters. Whenever that opportunity to help someone out happens, Jesus has always met the need without anyone having to donate anything. I had one couple stay with us about 9months last year and another single guy stayed with us on and off for about 3 yrs. Currently I am looking for a larger house as I already had my old big house foreclosed on after my divorce, so now am living in a one bedroom bungalow with my own 2 sons, although we made room for 3 others over the last 2 yrs, we are currently not housing anyone else.Once we find a larger house that we can afford we will be fine, but for now are okay as well.
    If the opportunity to help anyone get out of Cobu arises at any time on short notice, we can help them anyway and or find housing for them, as I am in contact with people from shelter groups and also advocates for financial assistance. should the actual need arise, I will let you know. God bless you for your generous offer however.

    Comment #63 Yes he is definitely a sociopath, more specifically a cerebral narcissist! [as was Hitler, Hussein, Jim Jones and others] Sam Vaknim, although he isnt a Christian, has the diagnosis’s and case studies on men like Stewart and runs a support group on yahoo for victims of domestic violence. The parallels to what Stewart did to us[Cobu members] and the dynamics within a dysfunctional family are very similar and educational to read about. He wrote a book called Malignant Self-Love that has many passages exposing men like Stewart and the dynamics of the victims as to how men like this can control other people.. It comes down to spiritual rape and unless you have beeen through it you cant fully understand or explain it to others as evidenced by the man in spiritual Pathways who was so abrupt with you.
    I remember how people would say Stewart has discernment and could look right through you ~ I never believed it and remember feeling guilty about thinking he was a con man!.. I felt I was too cynical with men in general at the time so I failed to see him as a true religious leader.. I never ooohed and ahhhed him and spoke to him like any other man, but had a degree of disdain for him and he knew it. He seemed to get ‘real’ with me when we had occasion to speak alone in the Center City house before it closed, but everything I had discussed with him about food and housing for all, seemed to be used later as justification to seize control of everyone’s paychecks and to turn out a slave labor force for his own profit…He took and twisted alot of other peoples ideas.. after all he was Stewart..


  56. Alease,

    REF#61 Comment: I dont know about this “Spiritual Pathways” group or which articles they used. If it helps someone then I am glad it could help. As for what this man said to you about your experience in trying to come to terms with what Cobu did to you, he is wrong in what he said,however well intentioned he may have been, seems to me he came from frustration and ignorance since he never came to terms with his own experience or never had the same experience!.. Of course ut us covered by the blood of Jesus~!.. [sounds like he got a bit churchy to cover for his lack of understanding] …BUT for him to infer it to be your own fault – is only casting blame – and is an unwitting device of the devil! [ the accuser of the brethren!] The Holy Spirit comes to convict, which is to convince us of our sin so that we can be cleansed, he doesnt come to tell us it is our own fault!..We know that to some extent, already.While the devil wants us to ‘eat dung’, for this guy to infer or say it is like a child playing with dung was totally out of line.Giving him the benefit of the doubt, I would think he simply hasnt gone that deep within himself as to be able to begin to comprehend the spiritual warfare you have been enduring all these years. There is no discharge from the war, so the enemy will hang on to whatever foothold he has, no matter how large or small and will get ‘religious’ on you to maintain control and continue to feed you poison.. a little truth mixed with alot of lies!…Many have varying levels of faith and committment to Jesus, usually measured by their own comfort levels and what they are willing to sacrifice. Some are not as willing as others and settle for a surface Christian existence that reinforces to themselves and those around them that they got it together and therefore you should listen to them as though they are infallible, while they do make mistakes [as we all do] and can get a bit self righteous on you – as he seemed to be…I think t hat is one of the reasons Jesus said to forgive them as they know not what they do!

    COMMENT #62 Thankyou for your offer, but I have only actually helped one girl out once and she then returned back in the Spring of 78. Others I have helped were from other churches or backgrounds, mostly domestic violence victims or homeless people from shelters. Whenever that opportunity to help someone out happens, Jesus has always met the need without anyone having to donate anything. I had one couple stay with us about 9months last year and another single guy stayed with us on and off for about 3 yrs. Currently I am looking for a larger house as I already had my old big house foreclosed on after my divorce, so now am living in a one bedroom bungalow with my own 2 sons, although we made room for 3 others over the last 2 yrs, we are currently not housing anyone else.Once we find a larger house that we can afford we will be fine, but for now are okay as well.
    If the opportunity to help anyone get out of Cobu arises at any time on short notice, we can help them anyway and or find housing for them, as I am in contact with people from shelter groups and also advocates for financial assistance. should the actual need arise, I will let you know. God bless you for your generous offer however.

    Comment #63 Yes he is definitely a sociopath, more specifically a cerebral narcissist! [as was Hitler, Hussein, Jim Jones and others] Sam Vaknim, although he isnt a Christian, has the diagnosis’s and case studies on men like Stewart and runs a support group on yahoo for victims of domestic violence. The parallels to what Stewart did to us[Cobu members] and the dynamics within a dysfunctional family are very similar and educational to read about. He wrote a book called Malignant Self-Love that has many passages exposing men like Stewart and the dynamics of the victims as to how men like this can control other people.. It comes down to spiritual rape and unless you have beeen through it you cant fully understand or explain it to others as evidenced by the man in spiritual Pathways who was so abrupt with you.
    I remember how people would say Stewart has discernment and could look right through you ~ I never believed it and remember feeling guilty about thinking he was a con man!.. I felt I was too cynical with men in general at the time so I failed to see him as a true religious leader.. I never ooohed and ahhhed him and spoke to him like any other man, but had a degree of disdain for him and he knew it. He seemed to get ‘real’ with me when we had occasion to speak alone in the Center City house before it closed, but everything I had discussed with him about food and housing for all, seemed to be used later as justification to seize control of everyone’s paychecks and to turn out a slave labor force for his own profit…He took and twisted alot of other peoples ideas.. after all he was Stewart..


    BTW could you send me a link to this Spiritual Pathways? All I find on line with that name are new agers , which naturally would have to attack you by the spirits that control them… just a thought.. and a curiosity here.Thanks!

    • Hey~ Well I am no longer a lost soul,lol
      but I do remember Steve Mandaro & vaguely a Sonny Vadi- Manuel is his first name. John Bethell? Do you mean John Bevilaqua? I dont recall anyone with the last name Bethell but I used to go to a church named El Bethel~
      Do you remember : Dave Rizetto, Jay Edelmen, Karen Stahara, Lee, Chico,Dave Chestnut,Sue Kyle,Charlie Edelman, Charles Walsh,Mary Mc Cann,Roger Norman…?

      • Hello:

        You mentioned Chico…I think this may be the young man that shared the gospel with me…do you know anything about him?

      • Of all the brethren I have spoken with in the last 9 yrs I have never heard and reference to Chico. When I met him back on Staten Island in 1975, he was medium build maybe 5’7ish had dark curley/frizzy afro kind of hair, squinty eyes, paler skin and was under 18. He blew me away with his bible knowledge for being so young & wise & dedicated to Christ. I don’t know his last name was but think it was with an M- maybe Marin{?}but that may have been a fake name, since some who where underage didnt give their real names and Chico may have been a nickname. I really liked him when he shared the first nuggie with me when I first visited the Westervelt Ave fellowship. It was about the verse ” Pure religion before God and our Father is this, to visit widows and orphans in their afflictions and to remain unstained by the world” His explanation that it spiritually included backsliders[represented by widows not negatively about real widows but as ones who lost their husbands, as backsliders lose their relationship with Christ] and orphans [ not only real orphans but spiritual orphans that dont have God as their Father and who need to get saved] He followed with the verse in John 1 that said ” But to all who received Him, whop believed in His name, He gave power to become ‘children of God’ – comparing being saved as being ‘adopted’ by the Spirit of God when getting saved. It opened my eyes to looking at the bible from a different angle than I was accustomed to in the bible. I can only hope that Chico made it out of Cobu and is still with Christ. Do you remember the year you met Chico? I last saw him either late 75 or early 76.

      • Oh my!!!! Do those names ring a bell. I left the fellowship in January 1977, after David Chestnut died. Sonny Vadi and I, along with several other members tried to visit with Dave’s family after he passed. When we returned later that night to the fellowship we were castigated by the members for having gone there. I moved to Greensboro, NC earlier with Steve Mandaro and a couple of other people. I just recently found a letter Dave had written me while I was in Greensboro. So strange!

  57. Alease
    I was in the Forever Family from 74 to 76
    I started in Youngstown.
    When I graduated in 75 I moved to Cleveland, where I lived until Early 76
    I am trying to remember You.
    I do remember alot about living there.If you read this Please write me. Or any one elese for that matter.

  58. So many strange memories have come back to me,since I first wrote on this site.I think I may have blocked many of the memories out,or something.Finding this site has been like opening a floodgate of thoughts…

    For so many years,there was absolutely no one that I could talk to,who could begin to understand what COBU had been like. I had no contact with any former members.I assumed that if I did look up any former members,they would not want to talk about it.That had been my experience,the few times that I tried.Maybe it was all too painful for them…

    A memory came back to me ,today,something I have never discussed with anyone.

    One night,a few sisters from COBU were having a sleepover in one girl’s backyard. My parents weren’t home that night,so I had no way to get there.One sister said that she would ride to my house,on a bicycle,and pick me up.She would let me ride on the back of the bike.She lived probably 3 miles away..

    She said that she would meet me at 8:30 pm. I stood outside and waited,till about 9:15. She didn’t show up,so I decided to walk.I figured I would meet up with her,partways.

    I was normally a very cautious person,but this night I did something very foolish.The road she was supposed to come down went through a completely isolated area,where the local “projects”had just been torn down.There was nothing for a mile.I headed down the road,in the dark,all alone,figuring the sister would appear at any moment.

    I was about a half mile down the road,when I looked back to see a jogger slowly approaching,behind me.I felt nervous,but figuered that I was being silly,so I dismissed it…

    A few seconds later,he grabbed me around the waist,and dragged me off the road.He told me he was going to rape me,and would kill me if I didn’t stop fighting.I kept fighting and screaming “Help me,Jesus”,as he tore my clothes off.He was hitting me,and dragging me around,and I thought”Today I am going to die,my poor parents,their only child is going to be murdered..”

    I kept screaming,and a car went down the road.The attacker must have become frightened,because he suddenly fled.I had not been raped,I ran as fast as I could,leaving my purse behind.It contained my name,address,house keys…

    I ran almost all the way to the house where the sleepover was taking place.Finally,the sister met up with me,and road me to her house. I was terrified,traumatized,cut,bruised,clothes torn…crying.The sisters tried to calm me down,and find out what had happened.

    Strangley,one of my main concerns was to make sure that the police were not called.I knew that if my father found out about the incident, he would use it as a reason to never let me be with the COBU again.He was already starting to notice things that were not quite right about it.

    I never ever told him,as long as he lived. I was so frightened that the attacker would come to my house,and use the key to break in.I figured he may have taken my purse,so he could have my name and address.

    The wierd thing about all of this,was the way I was treated when I woke up the next morning,at the sleepover. A sister accused me of just being “into attention”,the night before. I had just gone through the most terrifying event of my life,almost been raped and killed,and they were accusing me of selfishly manipulating the situation just to get attention!! What kind of warped thinking is that?I was so shocked by the sister’s attitude towards me,she knew I had not faked the incident.

    Then I called up a brother,from COBU,one who claimed he “loved” me,and told him.He acted so indifferent,like it was no big deal. I thought,what is the matter with these people.They were people I considered close friends. I think their minda had become so programmed that they were not really capable of normal reactions,emotions…

  59. I forgot to mention,that in the story of being attacked,the sister who accused me of “being into attention”,ironically,was the same sister who was supposed to pick me up with her bike,but never bothered to show up!!

  60. Hello Ave
    Hello Alease
    Thank you for responding.

    I had the same feelings about the Forever Family, or that is the people I knew.
    That they were all very sincere people and loved God.
    It got bad after I left, But, it took me years to shed the
    subtle guilt, doubt and shame.
    For the most part I try to remember the good things that happened.
    We had some very fun times in Cleveland and I enjoyed meeting other people at the Big Meetings.
    I am not down playing the bad, I do understand the emotional torture!
    What I am trying to sayis”It makes me happy to hear from people who shared a time in my life that was so and is important to me”.

    I have many stories to tell.

    If you are who I remember, I do rremember Alot.

    Thank You

  61. Ave

    I am really laughing at your memories of all the Slang.
    Which was a combo of 60’s hippie and Stewartisims.

    Into the Flesh

    Oh, I am Freaking Out Now!!


  62. Hi Susan

    I started in Yougstown and remember Alyn very well.
    She was married to Dave Penngalli, if that is how his name is spelled.
    I am sure she will rememeber me, my brother Bobby and my friend Frank. We were the core of that fellowship.
    One of my fondest or should I say funny memories was Dave’s green van( the one we used to go to the mall and the Mettings in Cleaveland with) had broken down just a block away from the house on Lincoln Avenue.
    Dave decided we should “Lay Hands on the engine”
    I’m sorry “Gods plan” was another van!!
    It was sweet but silly!!


    • Dave Suit, I remember you well and Bobby and Frank. Dave & I every so often have wondered how you all were. I don’t know if you will respond to this since I see it’s been almost a year since you wrote your last post but I’m hoping you will see this and contact me. Are you going to a church? I was saddened to read that it took years for a healing for you. And I would love to know how Bobby & Frank are. You were right–you guys were the core of the fellowship. I asked Dave about that story you wrote about laying on of hands with the van–he doesn’t remember it. The van ran well and lasted us till we were living at the Manhatten Training Center on Jay Street.

      I am also curious about Alynn. She was a witness to our wedding, so was Rem & Janet. I would love to know what happened with her.

      Ave, I don’t remember you at all, there were so many ppl from all over. I was in the Forever Family, then COBU from ’73 to ’76. I found a wonderful church that I go to, it is a Calvinistic (they preach the doctrines of grace) small church and I feel so at home. I am hearing REAL preaching and teaching of the word and am finally really learning about God my father and Jesus my savior. And we use the AV1611 King James Version. I have thought many times why Stewart pushed the RSV which is missing verses and takes away from Jesus’s divinity.

      Also, I can verify what you said about Bob Hillenbrand. He was extremely harsh and it didn’t surprise me one bit to read how he treated you at Philly. Between his treatment of my husband (abusive) and Jimmy Greiner who my husband worked with (so he would see him at work and mock him there plus when he saw him at the Cleveland fellowship for the weekly meetings they’d make mocking comments) my husband wanted nothing to do with COBU or church or God ever again. I pray and hope that will change.

      I really do not want to get involved with ex cobu’ers, so I will not join that Yahoo thingy but I do want to hear from the few that I was close to.


    • has links to other former FF/Cobu member groups.
      Rick and Janet as well as Primo ‘got out’. They come online occasionally.
      check the links to the sites and you can find them. I haven’t heard about Primo in a while but will check out.
      🙂 GBU~! Ave


  65. Hi!

    just a little hello from your ex-sister from Montreal,Quebec

    fellowship.For those who remember us “up north”,Pine ave

    fellowship,NDG,Darlington and many more houses in the

    Montreal region.Many American brothers and sisters came

    leaving with us the french ones.I was in C.O.B.U from oct 76

    to feb 79.What a nightmare it was,but I learn english.

    I moved to Manhattan,in the summer of 77.

  66. Hi,

    I was in the FF and then COBU from 1974 to 1976. Started in Hazletown, Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, Lehighton and Williamsport all in PA. Then on to Staten Island and then the Big Apple.

    I left when my dad was dying of cancer.

    I would love to hear from the ole gang. Eric, I am sure you remember me.

    Donna Rossi (Kapes)

    • Hi Donna~!
      We must have crossed paths back in the day~!
      Glad to hear from you~
      I hope and trust all is well with you. There are several sites where you can find some old timers like me at~
      🙂 I began in April 75 on Westervelt Av in Staten Island when it burned down & moved in to help with their rent at Seneca St and later Rockland Av on Staten Island, to leave at the Sept1 meeting to move to Wilmington De and eventually to Pine St Center City til it closed.

      You can find tabbed links to all the known former boo sites at my site: Not much happening there since my former husband Jim Hurley [CL of Reading in75] died last Jan., but I pop in there now and then and there are alot of good reads there and links to the newer former members and a few old timers at the other xcobu sites.

      I also run an art site that I keep busy with at that is a family friendly site[“G” rated] that I am trying to build now to keep busy with and sell my art at as well.

      You can contact me through either site anytime or even here ~!


  67. It’s nice to know that some of us have found each other again after all these years. Not sure if anyone remembers me. I got saved and joined FF in Lancaster, Pa. February ’74 and stayed til September ’77 I think??? Lived in Lancaster, Pa, Columbus, Oh for 2 years and then Manhatten for a year and a half. I stayed working at the World Trade Center when everyone else had to quit and join the “Cleaning Service”. That was my last day with the church. What an impression that group made on me!

    I remember the address…1204 E King St. Paul Galante was fellowship leader, his wife Ann, Chris and Ann Breneman, Dave Arnold… a lot of nice people. I think these people are long gone. Haven’t been in touch with anyone. I think Chris Cole called me maybe around ’92 or ’93.

    There is a lot of info here that I just haven’t had the chance to go through. Bobby Whipple…where is he these days…I saw that someone mentioned him. I always liked him.

    I welcome anyone to write if they like.

    God Bless,

    • Hi Tom~Glad to hear from you. I do recall your name, but dont think we knew one another. I left in July 76.We have a network of angelfire, yahoo & ning sites that former members get together at. You are welcome to join. Just go to http:/ and there are drop down menus on the tabs that give the urls to the other sites. There you can say who you are and also who you are looking for and any who read that know will respond.
      GBU~! Ave

    • Hi Tom,

      My mother and grandmother (Gail and Marilyn) were also part of COBU in Lancaster, PA. My mom joined in 75, I think. It was right before I was born. She got out 77 or 78. My mom would often talk of a wonderful couple who helped her out a lot after I born. I believe their names were Dave and Rosemary.

      • Hi Angela,
        I wish I could say that I remembered more. Gail and Marilyn doesn’t ring a bell. By the end of 1974, I was asked (probably pressured) to go to the Columbus fellowship…so maybe I didn’t have the chance to meet your mom. Dave and Rosemary kind of sounds familiar though. Was that Dave Arnold by chance?

  68. Ave:
    Thanks for your site here and for responding regarding the young man, Chico, who first shared the gospel with me. I am glad to share my story with you and with those who read this blog. My story is a happy one…it sounds like partly because I was never really involved with the “Forever Family”.

    Back in October of 1974, I was a freshman at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ. The date was October 18th and the next day was to be one year since my grandmother passed away after a difficult bout with cancer.

    Watching her suffer and eventually die had put into my heart the question, “What does happen to a person when they die?”

    So…that evening before…all of this was on my mind. I was lonely at the university, not having made many friends since I was shy by nature and a bit immature too. What does someone like me do on a Friday night? Alone, I went to the student center.

    Over thirty five years after it happened, I can still see the scenario. I was standing on a broad landing of a stairway, reading a bulletin board and eating a box of popcorn. To my left, out of the corner of my eye, I could see a young man standing a few feet away staring at me. Making me even more nervous, he walked up to me and the first words out of his mouth were, “You look like someone who knows the truth!”

    How wrong that was! Maybe he should have said, “You look like someone who needs to know the truth!” That would have been absolutely true.

    The young man’s name was Chico…your description of him is right on. In fact, a few years ago, I was trying to locate him and posted something on a blog and had a guy…I believe his name was Steve respond.

    He remembered “Chico” and sent me a picture of him…sure enough the image was him without a doubt (I will email you a copy of the picture later). Steve thought his name was really Carlos…and gave me a try on what he thought was his last name…but it led to a dead-ended search.

    Chico sat me down in the student center and for at least three hours…into the wee hours of the morning, he shared scriptures with me and tried as hard as he could to get me to see my need of being born again. I remember him sharing a lot from John chapter 3 about Nicodemus…and the fact that even he was told by the Lord Jesus that he needed a new birth.

    I must admit…I was offended that Chico said that I had wasted 18 years of my life…living it in an unsaved state. I did not like hearing that I was a sinner and not right with God. I always thought I was a pretty good person. And…I must admit that though a shy person, I was not easily talked into something that I did not understand. The only commitment that I made was to read the Bible (something that I had never done before).

    A Bible was available to me…about a month before my meeting with Chico, a Christian group on campus was handing out “Good News” New Testaments to all the new students. I obligatorily took one, tucked it under my arm and stuck it on my bookshelf back in my dorm room. There it sat unopened and unthought of until late that very night when now, after my conversation with Chico, I found it of great interest. In fact, for the next few days, I could hardly wait to get back to my dorm room to read it.

    It took only a few days of reading the scriptures in the Gospel of John that finally the Spirit of God gave me understanding of what Chico tried to get me to see…that I was not right with God and that I did need to be saved. I understood that this One…Jesus had done something for me that I could not do myself. He wanted to be my Saviour. Once again…all alone in my dorm room, I took Him at His word and was saved. Truly the best day of my life and the day that changed me forever.

    I saw Chico only one time after our first meeting…about one year or so later. I found out of a large meeting that was to be held by the FF on campus and went. I only remember a time of praying…where everyone was praying out loud all at once. It was strange to me, but my purpose for being there was to locate the one who shared the gospel with me and to tell him that I had indeed been saved and to simply say thanks for stepping out and speaking with me.

    He was there. I went up to him and told him that we had talked many months previous. He offered before I had chance to say it, “And you got saved, right?” “Yes, I said. I was now saved.” The encounter lasted about one minute but was a great encouragement to me…and I hope to him.

    Many times over these past years, I have wondered about him. I have had a very happy Christian life being the first one saved in my family, immediate and extended. A brother and sister are now saved with Christian spouses and I have a Christian wife and four young children now.

    Like I said, I was never involved with the group. The Lord sent others to help me in my young Christian life. If you ever hear anything about Chico, please let me know. I would love to once again say thank you. Amazing…the gospel triumphs despite our failures.


  69. Hey its me How is everyone. I was in FF 1973 1975 in Syracuse My last stop. You can find my picture under X COBU members Under Janet Feathers photos # 68 I am with Helen < I have the long black hair. I would love to talk . E mail me May God bless you And keep you in the palm of his Hand!!

    • Hi Linda~! I think thats when Primo was leader? I was in NYC on Staten Island from April 75 then moved to Phili Center in Sept 75 til July 76.
      If you got out in 75, Praise God~! I got out before it got too crazy too~Many xboos keep in contact through here and also where you can check the subtabs for the addys of the other groups. Janet Feathers has been around on the sites as well as others you would know. GBU~!Ave

  70. I goggled FOREVER FAMILY and found this site,my husband was in this “family” for 5 yrs. He met a youngster at Schells on 5th st highway in Reading that witnessed to him. He left that night to join. It was 1972.
    I was on the recieving end of his” LIFE “with the “FAMILY”.
    I GOT SAVED,but he was a STEWART with a T not a D.
    I read the comments and feel like I lived there also.
    His name is Bob Hasker,he lived in Va., NYC and other places as well.
    I believed he was a LEADER,for a long time he had a gun underneath the bed because he was afraid that someone would come to get him,he stated that he would go after people who would leave,when he was a LEADER.
    I need to know more because it truly affected my life.
    He said that he was on RIGHT HANDSIDE OF GOD.
    He is no longer practicing,he is into motorcycles and guns.
    Thank you for letting me vent,

    • Hi jO

      This cult has had lasting effects on everyone who walked through their doors~!!
      Surviving it is the most incredible thing for most. Unbelievably, it still exists, while carefully cloaked and camouflaged now, the diehard remnant seems to be thoroughly deluded and content. We reach out for any current members who have come to see how bogus Cobu is and leave, that there are other survivors who have gone on with their lives and still have been able to succeed in getting into a relationship with God through other ministries. Some however have been so severely burned by their experience that they are still seeking answers years later.
      Its okay to vent!

      WE all need to~

      Its part of the healing process and when you can find answers , they may provide a little closure.

      You are welcome to participate on any of our ‘list sites’ and ask any questions you may have and I can try to find those who may have some answers for you.

      On 8/22/2010 there is a reunion of survivors going to take place near Reading. If you are interested let me know~!

  71. Thank you for this forum, and to speak of these things, and remember where we have been.

    I was a member of the Forever Family, and signed the Incorporation papers with all the members back in 1975. But, by the grace of God, I did not begin my walk with the Lord in the Forever Family. It gave me some perspective and detachment from Stewart.

    I received the New Birth in 1972 by a Baptist Preacher, the mother of a good friend of mine. But, for the most part, I was alone. In my joy I spoke to many of my friends and family about my experience and the Lord, and the Good News. I don’t think they could take my words as truth. “A prophet has no honor in his own country”. I wasn’t discouraged, but confident of the truth of Jesus’ redemption.

    One day, in the early 70’s, I heard of the “jesus movement” from the cover of Time Magazine. This was in a period, the early ’70’s when the “burnt-out” homeless, wandering diaspora of hippies, like me, discouraged with the “age of Aquarius” found peace and understanding in Jesus, in California. I wanted to join up, but, was skeptical of finding such people in the harsh, gray and cynical world of NYC.

    I was graduating from High School now, and I prayed to the Lord to lead me to just such a circumstance, the “Jesus Movement” I had read about. After High School graduation ceremonies were done, I took myself to the Schaefer Beer Music Festival, in NYC’s Central Park. I was there to listen to “Mahavishnu, John Mclaughlin”, as I was drifting towards other voices, all under the general heading of “God”. Thankfully, there, I ran into members of the Forever Family. I was stricken. I was certain that my prayers had been answered (how could it be anything else?). I returned with these brother’s and sisters to their fellowship house, ready to know more. Their’s was a four story building, with a Synagogue on the first floor, on East 8th St. between avenues C and D, in NY’s Lower East Side. The building was in a dangerous state of disrepair, as was the neighborhood. For instance, the building next to the fellowship’s was in collapse, and its outer wall had fallen over and crushed our second floor porch. We laughed, and dug it out. There was also about two feet of trash in every apartment that had to be removed (by us) before we could call it home (and, all of this for a mere $500 per month rent from for Hasidic Jews). This was in a neighborhood that was “drugs central” and was in a state of 24 hour chaos. When the Hippie kids from Pennsylvania (the FF ) showed up in their hippie vans and Volkswagens they were eventually “crashed in” by the locals, that tied them up and stole their stuff. They shouldn’t have left the door open; live and learn. But, we were confident that we were living there under God’s Grace and Love. We sometimes had our Bible studies, lead by Dave Rissetto, on the roof (and to a background of Conga drums, Fire Engine sirens, helicopter chatter, and screams and yelling from the street). And, were thankful for every moment, looking to the Lord’s leading, for our success in New York City. I stayed for the next two weeks, assured that this must be the gift I prayed for.
    In my innocence and naivete I was certain that this group had something to do with my destiny. Stewart, was spoken of, but, my motivation in all of this was Jesus and a “life in Christ”. Stewart I didn’t know. My love was for Jesus. I guess I was just lucky. Stewart may be a rascal, and the sub-total of his message may be brainwash (the fellowship actually got together once and looked up “Brainwashing” in the dictionary, sure that it had no relevance to what we were doing. Shocked that the definition actually reverberated with what we were experiencing, personally, we dismissed it as inaccurate and possibly even, an assault by the Devil, I’m bad), but it set me straight.
    I think I was just lucky, in a way. I eventually met Stewart at the fellowship in Allentown. I was just being myself, listening to his Bible story with the others in the living room. And, remarked to him afterwards at “how cool” I thought the nuggie, bible study was, when he was done with it. That remark, of course, a negative, as was the spirit of it which alluded to the “praise of man” ( a “number” I was playing on old Stewart ) was to be discouraged. He shot me back a disparaging look that made me freeze. Dave, and the others were either aghast or smiling benignly at my inexperience with Stewart. I knew I had done something wrong, and it was that ambiguous criminality that comes from being “in the flesh”.
    I moved in and out of fellowship before being shunned and cut off. From there I lived in stark loneliness and felt quite detached from the rest of world for years. It created a void in my life that has been hard to fill. It has had devastating effects on my relationships. But, certain things were simply unobtainable elsewhere in this world.
    I’ve joined churches, and lived in other Christian fellowships, but they never had the strength of purpose we possessed. We were truly that Ephesus church.
    My fault, I consulted my heart while I was there. I Couldn’t, honestly, do some of the things they asked, and so didn’t. I never made any of the witnessing quotas. It wasn’t malice, but it sure didn’t make me popular.

    I was a member intermittently from june ’74 through to Feb of ’78. I “lived in fellowship” from ’74 to Feb ’76, and July ’77 to Feb ’78.


    • Hi Paul~!
      Thankyou for sharing your experience here with us all. It may be painful for many but the more of us who now 30 years later still have seen the effects Cobu has had on our lives and on the lives of our loved ones, its important for the healing of those most effected to be able to see what we have written and know there is still hope in Jesus and that there is a future for each of us.

      So many left feeling strong condemnation that has crippled them in their lives in many ways.

      Others have been able to join other churches and ministries while still many have never fully found a place to fit in that had that sense of urgency in being able to preach the gospel and live a life according to the Word. Some have reverted to their former religions and some , sad to say , have become agnostics.

      Then there are those who were able to rise above it and deal with it that have recovered to go on to lead purposefilled lives and together we can help those who were hurt most and rejoice with those who made it through.

      We also have other lists where former friends can get together and find one another. Next week more than 40 from around the country are coming in to a park near Reading for a reunion picnic. Some will stay both days yet at night go to a motel or campground nearby.

      You are welcome to join in if you would like 🙂 We try to organize reunions every few years and this one is to be the best ~!!

      Former members no matter where they are at spirituall or emotionally are invited to attend and no one will compel anyone to their new religions, yet all are free to talk about any of their experiences while in Cobu and since leaving. The reunions are based on our shared common experiences which those outside can not relate to.

      If you want more info, just contact me~!


  72. Ave,

    thank you for the invitation, I can’t attend, but, I would like to at sometime. It sounds like a wonderful occasion and to see some of our fellow travelers would be a relief.


  73. I Got saved thru the Forever Familys preaching at my high school, Praise God , He is good.
    No one else was preaching Jesus Christ crucified, and none was reasoning with people about God .
    I am so thankful they came and were obedient , I am sure they sufferd persecution, and still do. God bless all of you !

    I still worship God continually go to church at one of the most wonderful gathering I have ever seen.

    God bless you all,

    Bill M

    Bible Psalm 110:1-3
    (A Psalm of David.)
    1 The LORD said unto my Lord,
    Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.
    2 The LORD shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies.
    3 Thy people [shall be] willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth

    ·:*°-:¦:-°*:·.††.·:*°-:¦:-°*:·.††. Jesus is Lord of All l·:*°-:¦:-°*:·.††.·:*°-:¦:-°*:·.††


     ¸…¸    __/ /\____ ____
    ,·´º o`·,/__/ _/\_ //____/\
    “`)¨(´´´    | | | | | | | ||  |l±±±± |
    ¸,.-·²°´ ¸,.-·~·~·-.,¸ `°²·-. :º°
    As for me and my house,
    We will serve YHWH! 


    • Hi Bill M~!
      Praise God the work of those who were diligent in serving Jesus while in the FF/Cobu had a positive witness to you and you have experienced a positive outcome~!! I was already a Christian for 2 years before meeting and joining the Forever Family in NYC and it was so fervent and onfire for serving Jesus at that time and even after it transformed to the Church of Bible Understanding~ Many were indeed saved and have gone on to serve the Lord, as you mention you found a good church and are actively serving God ~!
      I wonder what year you were witnessed to and where it occurred.[what city] and if we ever met . It is sad that evil overtook the leadership and transformed COBU into a cult that exploits the fervor of those seeking to serve Jesus and transformed them into a slave labor force for his own gain. While many have recovered the pain that was caused them, some still have pain while others have managed to go on and effectively serve the Lord. I am very glad you are one of those who has remained faithful to Jesus.
      I too was very impressed when I met them and saw and heard how they witnessed, which drew me into leaving all behind and traveling with them to learn their witnessing techniques. Once it began to change into a cult, I left, hoping it would revert back to diligent service to Jesus but instead it became the vehicle Stewart Trail drove to become a multimillionnaire at the expense of others.
      There are still some remaining in the cult , about 40 last I heard, that now do have health care at least [as they age] while Stewart has a compound in Palm Springs,. 4 planes and some real estate holding along with his S&G Photographics where he ’employs’ sisters to work for him but has them sign over their paychecks back as donations…He is a very clever and manipulative man that needs to get to know the real Jesus..


  74. Hi Ave I was in Bristol PA house in 1976 and than it was moved to Sansome street Phila. I had a lot of fun trips to New york. I was a lamb of John Doherty . He was very tall with Red hair about 21 years old in 76/77. I would love to contact him again . We became very close friends. I met some of the most amazing spiritual fun people. I would love to connect with John . I think I read the bible cover to cover back then. I was a senior in high school at the time. I know he was originally from Bucks county . He was considered one of the elder brothers in the Phila house. Does anyone know how I can contact him. Thank you Ave I wonder if we were friends back in the day . Love to you and thank you for your help, Coleen McDonnell

    • Hi Coleen~!
      We had a house in Center City Phili~ 1807 Pine St~ I lived there til it closed in may 1976 John gets online on some of the xcobu groups occasionally so if you were to post to them. or if you want, I could copy your message and post it onto their message boards, perhaps he will see it and contact you. Let me know if you want me to post it into their forums 🙂 [ or you can join the forums by checking them out on my xcobu site~


  75. Get Smart Get Saved —- I attended a Bible Study the group had in Plainfield, NJ on West Seventh Street in the 1972 to 1975 era. Is this the group you are writing about? They said they fixed vaccum cleaners to pay their bills ?

    • Hi Ken~
      Yeppers~ i also attended the Plainfield area meetings in in Spring til Summer of 75 – Its the same group. It didnt start going downhill til mid 76 when it was twisted into a cult slave labor force – no more vac fixers but vac cleaners going office to office in NYC cleaning and donating their entire salaries to ‘the church’ [Stewart] who then made other investments and is now a multimillionaire with an estimated 40,000 people who have passed through the doors/gates and worked free, [some for more than 14 years without pay] only to be booted out when productivity got low~

      Glad you must have gotten out in 75~ I was lucky to get out in July 76


  76. Actually it was EAST Seventh St, corner or Berckman Ave in Plainfield, NJ. For some reason they showed me the vacuum cleaners they had in the basement, told me how they put those red GSGS stickers on the Parkway toll booth coin collector machines.

    I was looking for a “home” so I may have easily fallen into the group, but ended up in a fine Bible study at the Baptist Church in North Plainfield. God Bless you, make sure you make it to Adult Sunday School tomorrow, that is really good way to make Christian friends. Ken

  77. I have moved so many times while in the group and since I am lucky to remember the names of towns or states, lol..
    Glad you found a good church home~!! Praise God~!!
    God bless you too, brother :))
    We are going to a new Alliance church up on the hill outside Ridgway tomorrow. We will see how we fit in there, they seem like they will be a good place to go, but being new to the area we may visit a few before settling into a new church home.


  78. Hello,
    I was a part of the Forever Family from 1976 till about 1999. I lived in Richmond, Va, Utica, Boston, Bronx and NYC. Reading these posts brought back so many memories, most of which are negative. However, I have strong memories of loving and good relationships with some of the other members. I think of them fondly and wish them nothing but the best. Most of the people I knew have left but I think that one of my closest friends is still a member (last I checked a few years back). Her name was Gail Lyczowski but I think she changed her name at some point to “Tallulah”.
    At the time I left, I had a young son and I really think it was just God guiding me and removing me from the church. I remember delaying turning my paycheck in on Friday like I normally did, waking up the next morning, packing a bag for myself and a bag for my son, and then catching the bus home. I remember how free I felt riding that bus back to my home in Lynchburg, Va. God is good.


    • Hi Wanda, 13 years ~!! What an amazingly long time for you and your son~!! Praise God you were able to go back ‘home’ and have survived the ordeal of it all and yes the most redeeming part is the friends we made along the way that helped us to make it through,. Jesus was always real and brought us each to where we are today, just in those days, idealistically it represented a dream for each of us to be able to serve Jesus within that lifestyle, everyone committed to purity & service, just a shame we all were equally exploited for Stewart’s ego & making his fortune. How sad that he had to use so many people so callously manipulating their desire for salvation and serving Jesus, that he being the most unmerciful of servants exacted every bit of energy and money he could from all who would listen to his pied piper’s song~!! GBU~!! 🙂 Ave

  79. Oh my goodness!! I meant to write from 1976-1979!! What a BIG OOPS moment! So sorry about that ..It was really only about three years LOL…yikes

    • Hi Wanda, Even 3 years was alot & with a child as well~!! I meet a girl in 76 with medium short curley dark hair that had a little boy ~She was petite & I think was still nursing her little baby. I dont think she was from the Phili fellowship, but not sure if she was from NYC or maybe Allentown… Could that have been you as I cant remember her name….?

  80. Hi Ave,
    No, that wouldn’t have been me. Although my son was a little baby at the time, I was bottle feeding him. Plus, I had long brown hair. I lived in the Bronx for a while with Josephine and Paul Inman and a girl named Rachel lived with us. She had a young baby boy at the time- was petite and had short curly hair might have been her.
    It’s been a long time since I have really thought about the church and its effects on all of us. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth to think about all that goodness and love and desire to serve God being exploited by Stewart, as you said, for his own ego and fortune.
    My son is now 35 and, in explaining all this to him, I could only say to him that Stewart will have to answer for his own actions one day. He will finally have to take ownership and responsibility for his misdeeds. It is up to God when that happens but , as my dad used to say ” Every dog has his day”.
    All those years I spent feeling worthless, less than, always searching my heart to see why I couldnt be more, do more , desperately trying to be more deserving of God’s love- it makes me so angry!.. Now, I know, God loves…period.
    While the larger picture of the fellowship , with Stewart and his teachings, were so negative, the smaller home groups that I was a part of, were, for the most part, wonderful. I felt such a sense of community and family, knowing we were all working together for one good purpose. I can clearly remember Jospehine and Paul being so kind to two single moms (myself and Rachel). They loved our babies so much and I cannot tell you how much that still touches my heart to this day.
    Thanks for this blog and all the other work that I see you have done on the net. It’s so wonderful to finally have someone to talk to about all this.
    Have a blessed day,

  81. Now that you mention Rachel, I think that was the name. Hard to remember after all these years, but it comes back in bits and pieces as we all try to remember parts of it. Yes the fellowship in the early 70’s through 76 was awesome. I had a lot of friends in there and alot of people got saved which was great considering the times of the 70’s, love sex drugs and rock n roll.To find a group of people that abandoned the baser tastes and sought the wholesome service to Jesus was rare. The COGS were polluted, having sex in their cult and later got even worse in their perversions. The Moonies had assigned marriages . The Krishna’s well besides worshipping an idol, were also sexually active and for the most part the FF & later as the COBU remained predominantly drug free and sexually pure.
    The harm wrought on people of child bearing years that should have been times of courtships and marriages was energies diverted into building an empire for Stewart, one he still rules with an iron fist behind the scenes.
    Yes, he will have to give account one day for being such an unmerciful servant. his master obviously isnt the real Jesus or he would repent and make restitution to all he has injured.


  82. Oh my! I only quickly skimmed all that is written here. A lot to take in, very painful. Stirring up a lot of memories, many I have forgotten as it was 36 years ago! I am a former member of FF/COBU I started my 2 years of (never to be the same) adventure in the Richmond house on Carey St. in 1975.

    I was already saved but beginning to fall away from the Lord. A friend of mine from Alexandria, VA introduced me to the group over Christmas break. His last name was Gordon, I can’t remember his1st name.

    When I returned to school started going to the Richmond house. I was very attracted to everyone’s dedication and to the hippie-like way of living for Christ.Seems to me Chris Blaise was the leader. One of the sisters was Debbie Young. I really can’t remember others names.

    I quickly became a dedicated member and got my roommate in college to start coming. I see she is still a member, Haroldine Bailey (now Raynolds) This so breaks my heart. She and I were going to VCU, she was an amazing artists!

    We didn’t continue in school the next fall as this was frowned upon. Stewart visited our roach infested store front a few times with his ex-wife. Me, as well as other sisters, were victims of being “dealt with”. Which was an amateur way of trying figure someone out with verbal trickery. I think I stumped Chris pretty well. I and few others moved down to North Carolina and opened several other houses; Chapel Hill, Durham, and Raleigh.

    I was completely sold out to soul winning and nurturing lambs. I had a short relationship with a brother who was a former Jew named Jeff (can’t remember last name). Then later with a brother named Chris Rice.

    These relationships were short and left me rather disappointed, so I opted for the “training center” in New York to cure my woes. I slept in a sleeping bag on a concrete floor for 3 months. Got up at 5AM every morning to catch the subway to my job, which was in a donut shop across from the world trade towers. Only to give up my paycheck at the end of the week. We went out in the freezing cold rain, snow, sleet every night to lead people to the Lord.

    I do believe that the Lord used me to lead hundreds, perhaps thousands to a saving knowledge of Him, but of course, the doctrine was false and the leader- a heretic.

    I was lonely and would spend at least an hour after work on my knees on my sleeping bag praying to God. We drove to big meetings (in blizzards) for round the clock Bible studies. Of which I had mounds of notes from. I kept my notes and my badge for years after leaving. I ended up leaving the training center and going to the Scranton house. I was running out of steam.

    I hadn’t seen my family for 2 years and begged for permission to visit them for Christmas. When I got home it was so nice to be warm, in a clean bed, good food, not have to go out soul winning every night. My family bribed me to stay. I decided not to return to the Scranton house, but did so thinking I was was doing something wrong.

    A couple of sisters visited me to try to get me to return, but I was emotionally spent. It probably took me 10 years to accept it was in a cult.

    I was a mess and confused for years and resolved it by drowning myself in the ways of the world. God in His loving patience, gently nudged me back to Him. Built me up in His strength and grace, not mine.

    I had to relearn the real God of the Bible, not the God of Stewart. He’s a way different God, who loves us unconditionally.

    I have been married to a wonderful husband for 26 years and have a very wise and godly 21 year old son. I teach art in a Christian school for a living.

    In my attempt to keep this short I have given a nut shell of my experience with the COBU.

    I am happy to share more later as I recall things. Anyway, don’t know if any of you remember me, my name was Teddy Terry, now Teddy Richardson.

    The Lord has followed through on His promise in my life, “those who seek Him with all their hearts will find Him”. Thank you for your website.

    Blessings and Merry Christmas!

    • Dear Teddy,
      Thankyou for sharing your account of your time in the FF/Cobu and your life afterwards with its good testimony! Praise God~!

      Your life parallels so many of ours, as it took many of us years to concede it was a cult.Then many still debate whether it was one from early on or when it transformed. I believe many of us who were young Christians prior to joining were enamoured by the fervor of the early fellowship {FF} but agree the changing of the name gave birth to what became a cult.Once Steward was able to collect all our paychecks, in his greed he consolidated the fellowships, sending most to warehouses to live like cattle, sleeping on hard floors, owning virtually nothing and began to take control over every aspect of our lives. While witnessing still yielded salvation for a time, after a while it was more about numbers and recruiting homeless to feed the slave labor force which made Stewart a multi-millionaire as he still is today, with many businesses that were created by the hard work and money of the members. Most left with nothing and had to start rebuilding their lives.

      What happened to us was tantamount to being spiritually battered housewives or spiritual rape. Then as any of us departed, spirits were sent after us to taunt us and break us down even further. Many ended up backsliding, some for years, based on the curses that were pronounced concerning us. Some were told that they would become homeless, homosexuals, prostitutes and that they were becoming apostate in backsliding from the Cobu they were told they were backsliding from Jesus. Some were told they would commit suicide and more.

      The religious spirits that Stewart is possessed with, he imparted to his closest supporters to help him control the masses and be like the unmerciful servant he was – making some twice the children of hell.These spirits followed and oppressed many who left the Cobu, some are still troubled to this day. Others have since been delivered, praise God~!!

      That enormous sense of guilt when leaving there after being physically and emotionally stretched beyond human limits was nothing more than demonically inspired~ Spirits of guilt, depression, rebellion, bitterness, pride, self-destruction and more along with them would bombard the minds of those who left causing a swift downfall once they left. I have met few who were lucky and managed to survive without total downfalls, but most fell and hit bottom before they could begin see God as a loving father.

      It took me nearly 10 yrs to realize it was actually a cult before I left in July 1976.I visited occasionally over the years but my last encounter was in the mid 90’s in fact my husband went back for a couple of months and considered having us all go back which I refused, as i would not subject our children to that insanity.Still the Cobu bore its mark on my entire family and my children know much about it just from us talking over the years and from all the churches we attended in trying to find the right place to fit in.

      You mentioned Chris Blaise and Debbie Young. They later got married and still are. She raised his children with him and they had a few more of their own.They live in York and go to church there.Some of the brothers that were big in the Cobu still try to live that way and have been parts of other offbeat fellowships for years after COBU and some have found God’s grace again and are trying to serve Him now.

      Dave Rizetto and his wife JoAnn still go witnessing in NYC. Some brothers meet with them there and go witnessing with them on occasion. They were involved for years with Teen Challenge after leaving Cobu.

      You mentioned Jeff~ there were 2 that i knew of Jeff Seif a guy with poodle like curley black hair and then there was Jeff Bernstein. Jeff Seif got involved with the jews for Jesus and later became part of the Zola Levitt ministries in Texas and Jeff succceeded Zola on the TV show after Zola’s death. Jeff married Patty Daniels. Jeff Bernstein went on to continue serving God as well and has been in some ministry that goes overseas last I heard.

      Chris Rice rings a bell but I dont think I knew him and have not heard of him on any of the website groups but he may be out there. Mike Montoya started the first survivors group about 11 years ago and several of us have sites up in hopes to reunite with those who were friends back in the day and to help any who may still have issues from being in there.

      Joy Irey was still in last i heard. I tried to help get her out in 1989 and she almost came to visit us but last minute they didnt give permission and she had to stop calling us. There are more than 40 old timers still involved there.We keep them in prayer that God opens their eyes and sets them free.

      If you go to [ a website I set up] it has links to all the online groups of former members and you might be able to find some old friends and we would love to share stories concerning in and out of Cobu as an encouragement to us all.

      I also am an artist and own which is a family friendly artists network for artists to display ‘g’rated art and they can sell them there and use the promotional tools to cross promote any other art sites or blogs they have. You are welcome to check it out since you mentioned you too are an artist.

      Nice to meet you~! GBU~!

      Ave [Cosgriff] Hurley
      I was in from April 1975- July 1976 in the NYC center and then in the Phili Center where I met my husband and we were married 10 years later after neither of us did too well in the world post-cobu. He died in 2009. We have 5 children and 13 grandchildren. 🙂

  83. It took me a long time to come back to my Dad, and allow Christ Jesus to run my life again. I am in a wonderful fellowship where we read, and are encouraged to Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth 2 Tim 2:15. One of the things that I learned is once you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord, and Savoir, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead you are saved Romans 10:9 & 10.THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS BACKSLIDING. You never loose Holy Spirit unless through blasphemy. You can get yourself out of fellowship, but the connection is not lost God is always waiting to talk to you, He is your Daddy who loves you. That was the thing that was missing. “For God so LOVED the world. The love was not there, the Grace was not there. There was a lot of condemnation which is NOT according to scripture: There is now therefore NO condemnation for those in Christ Jesus (risen Lord) Roman 8. When God looks at up He sees Christ in Us, not the dead flesh. Every religion (man’s way of getting to God) picks and chooses scripture to further their religion. But all scripture is inspired of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. 1 Timothy 3:16. I remember the reproof, but never being told how to fix the problem. I am grateful, that I accepted Jesus as my Savior, and I learned a whole lot of Verses. But mostly I am thankful for God’s Grace, after leaving fellowship I was so rebellious, there are many things I did that could have ended my life. I am so grateful God NEVER gave up on me, and saw Christ in me when I couldn’t.

    • Dear Lou, Praise God you have continued with Him and that the distress of the Cobu didnt sabotage your relationship with God in the long term. Many of us have grown from there, after being through many trials and learning other things the hard way as well. I was glad when I first joined the FF as it showed me another way to explore scriptures. I had been saved 2 yrs before joining yet had difficulty reading the old testament and also with how I witnessed to others about the mercies of God through Salvation in Jesus. After leaving the FF then turned Cobu, I had a hard time remaining in any one church for extended periods of time. I had returned to my former church for a few years but felt like an outsider. Same with subsequent churches for many years, despite volunteering and doing things others were not so willing to do.In the mid-90’s I realized I was relying on works rather than God’s mercy and had a spiritual awakening to being able to tell the difference between the inspirations that entered my mind and could begin to reject religious spirits and listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit which since has brought me a peace that surpasses understanding and has enabled me to weather many storms throughout my life. I am grateful to God for His mercy towards me and for Jesus loving me enough to save me despite myself.
      Have a great week in the Lord~!

      • We do not go to a “Church” we meet at our minister’s home. It is just how Jesus and his disciples did it. I had the same problem with the churches I went to. If you live in Ohio I would love to have you come. I know you would feel at home, we speak in tongues one at a time, sometimes tongue with interpretations, and once in a great while prophesy. Things are done decently and in order as instructed in the Bible. I will ask God to hook you up with a loving, learning Fellowship so you can build each other up. God WILL supply ALL of your needs. My favorite passage “Trust in the Lord with ALL thine heart, and lean NOT on your own understanding, in ALL thy ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct thy path. Proverbs 3: 5 and 6 God’s blessings on you my Sister in Christ.

      • I live in northwestern Pennsylvania a few hours from the border – dont get out much, but when I go to Minnesota again, perhaps we can get together along the way. GBU:) Ave

      • I live in northwestern Pennsylvania a few hours from the border – dont get out much, but when I go to Minnesota again, perhaps we can get together along the way. GBU:) Ave

    • It has taken many of us a long time to get back on track after Cobu- What a terribly detrimental effect it has had on us, but praise God, that He is in control and gently leads us backl to Him and doesnt take His Holy Spirit away just because we might have sometimes, misbehaved ~!! GBU~! Ave

  84. I used to baby sit Dave Rizetto and his wife JoAnn children. Remember the BRAT diet i had to give them when they were sick.

  85. You know, what kills me is how many of you are still seduced by that jesus ******…after all you’ve been through, you still persist in irrational thought? it’s ALL a cult, all religion, not just COBU or FF or whatever…

    I was in the “Youngstown fellowship” in the early-late 70s, I’ve heard and seen it all…it took me years to become free from the brainwashing, and realize NONE of this has to do with “truth” or some sort of “deity,” but rather with carefully calculated techniques, based on basic human social psychology, carefully designed to draw alienated people into “the fold”…

    Stop deluding yourselves that it was EVER the “holy spirit”…close your bible and go to the library, study at a university and get some REAL knowledge…the Mormons, the COG, your local born-again church, a million self-help cults…they all use the same manipulative techniques…think for yourselves, be HUMAN! ditch the centuries-old superstition already, it’s 2012, not 1202!!!!

    • I can agree with much of what you said and many other former members likewise could agree to much of it.A few have become agnostic/atheistic as a result of the brainwashing and subsequent disillusionment with any form of religion. Religion, today, seems to be more of man’s social clubs for validation by association and often has little to do with actually knowing, having a relationship with or worshiping God. Little has to do with knowing Jesus on any kind of level. Lack of knowledge and often a lot of game playing witnessed in a lot of churches/fellowships/social clubs/cults etc can turn some off to ever seeking the real God.

      Unlike you, however, I have found a relationship with God that has given me a peace and calm within my every day life and helps lead me into the future, while surviving the present and accepting the past.

      The Bible is still valid, a tool for survival, a weapon against evil, a comfort in times of need and a foundation to build my life upon. No matter how I strayed over the last 40 or so years, did my own things, my own way, denied its power, denied God’s very existence at times even ~ “HE” has come and proven Himself to me over and over again and carried me through circumstances that should have left me dead decades ago.

      I have however become somewhat of a hermit or loner as He has enabled me to see through much of the baloney this life keeps offering up as the ‘way’. Even so the Bible speaks of ‘Do not forsake the assembling together, AS IS THE HABIT OF SOME”….’ which lets me know there are more like me out there, as well as more like you, [who have become so discouraged and un-trusting that you can not even listen to or for the voice of the Holy Spirit since you were hurt so deeply] that for you it seems easier and more practical to throw the baby out with the bathwater and deny the existence of God altogether
      Problem is, that even if you choose to not believe in Him, that it seems to help you, perhaps to believe only in yourself, is that you can not ultimately save yourself, nor did you create yourself nor your possible offspring.

      I challenge you to go back into the Bible, at any entry point, read, while asking God to reveal Himself to you through Jesus and to help silence the racing thoughts or voices you may hear within your head while looking, so that He will open your ear to hear His voice alone.

      It took me over 20 years of struggling in churches and fellowships, always feeling like an outsider, seeking to attain peace and acceptance through my own vain works and efforts, til I came to that crossroad of almost not believing in Him anymore. I had been sucked down so many rabbit holes with good intentions, disappointed ultimately every time, that I could still agree with much of what you said, except that to come to the conclusion you have reached and seem to live by, is a wrong conclusion.
      The Bible even says “There is a way that SEEMS RIGHT to a man BUT its end is the way to death”….Since you would probably agree that everyone makes mistakes, you need to consider that your current opinion and conclusions concerning God and the Bible could be wrong and if so, you need to start seeking Him, His way as told in the Bible so you can obtain some solid foundational answers that will help shape your life and future.

      Seeking the Jesus of the Bible and inviting Him into your heart and life and considering Him and His ways when you make that decision every day of choosing whom you will be serving~ Well I can tell you that God’s not dead, he’s still alive. Like a song said” I feel Him in my heart, I feel Him in my head, I feel Him all over me”…. IT IS TRUE~!!

      Sure, religions, churches, social groups are disappointing and I am not saying to go looking for one to join or copycat some true believer you may run across in time. I am saying is that while ‘they’ liked to us over the years, that Jesus is real historically and in every other way He claimed in the Bible and that the book is real , alive and valid, despite misinterpretations, misapplications and misuse by those who have presented it to us in the past in order to gain some sort of control over our lives.

      • Once you receive holy spirit you do not loose it except by blaspheming the holy spirit. You can be out of fellowship with your heavenly Father, time and time again. He is always waiting to hear from His children no matter how far away we get ourselves. All that is takes is to say I am sorry, and to give Jesus back lordship in our lives. Then we can start that personal relationship back up again. It took me a long time, and lots of rebelling for God to open my heart back up to Him again. I am so thankful, and remember how unlovable I was, and in spite of it all He still loves me, and is listening when I talk to Him. I pray that God will teach me a quietness where I can hear His voice, and lead me in the way He wants me to walk. God has sanctified His children (set us apart from the world for a purpose). So the most loving thing we can do is to pray for ALL of the brethren, that they will find the truth and accuracy of God’s word, and have a PERSONAL relationship with their Heavenly Father.

    • Hey Frank~

      Religion is the opiate of the people ~ I can agree to that. The bible however the verses are twisted by people to manipulate others into their way of thinking has burned alot of people off to seeking God. God does exist and so does His Holy Spirit but until we can contain our own thoughts to a degree that we surrender to the will of God, we would be tossed to and fro by religious doctrines and lies.

      You dont throw the baby out with the bath water! The Bible is true despite those who twist verses to fit their misdirection of lies.

      It took me nearly 20 years to finally be able to distinguish religious sounding spirits from that of the Holy Spirit but once I was blessed with that healing of the mind, I was able to call out to God and ask Him to direct my steps and help me day by day and He does!

      I had to renounce the workings of satan in my life. I had to put out all the negativity and evil thoughts out of my mind that I would easily get.
      I had previously tried all sorts of counseling both Christian and psychological.

      I went through all those hocus pocus meds like Prozac, Effexor and Paxil. [I nearly killed myself on too much Prozac~! ]
      I then prayed out to God afterwards to ‘take m’e or ‘save me’ [not like my conversion in 1973 before meeting FF in 1975]
      I stopped all meds. The racing thoughts that had me like an ADHD kid and into projects that often failed which I thought I was doing as a service to God, were religious things that He never told me to do that I had volunteered for and did on my own.

      I was a very religious person for a long time but never fit in anywhere I went. I always volunteered for the jobs no one else wanted to do. I took in the homeless, I took in domestic violence victims,I took in whole families.I picked up hitch hikers.I took in the unwanted~! I burned myself out doing good deeds~!! I didnt know how to b e still and ‘know’ He was God and that He loved me and accepted me. It was me not accepting me~! I had to accept His forgiveness and I had to forgive myself as well.I had to forgive others – even those I didnt want to.

      I now use the Bible as my survival handbook.

      It covers everything and I dont need any other person to lead me around in it. The Holy Spirit brings verse to mind that always pertain to daily life and all circumstances.I then can look them up and I find the internet search engines have many good bible sites where [you] can reasearch and find verses and bible stories to study and apply to my life/

      We all go through the fire, the flood, the famine, the illnesses during this life. While we do, we are to remain faithful and not blame God for what the ruler of this world is doing in our lives. When things get tough however we can pray for help and He helps us[me].

      Jesus said we would have tribulation and hardships in this life. Look what He had to go through! Yet He still loves us~!!

      I believe that every word of the Lord proves true and the bible actually has all the verses that explain how to understand the rest of the bible~!
      Any where 2 or more are gathered in His name He is in the midst of them – the bible verifies itself.
      As you draw near to God, privately, He will draw near to you~!
      David said ‘thy statues are my counselors’ – not people’s opinions, but the written Word~!

      Proverbs too has many wise sayings and in them are alot of the ‘rules’ to understanding what you read~!

      David also said there is safety in a multitude of counselors, not people but the Word as he said ‘thy statutes are my counselors’.

      In the new testament it says to ‘study ad show yourself a workman approved, rightly handling the Word of Truth’.

      Perhaps you were burned but you lived~ perhaps you never became a workman approved — but you can be~!Why kick against the goads??

      Each of us will be judged by our own actions and relationship or lack of relationship with Jesus through the Holy Spirit.
      We are told to think on good things, things that would be pleasing to God~

      Even though so many throughout the centuries that have misused the Bible to create religions of bondage – that doesnt negate the truth of the Bible~!

      Jesus is still son of God, everything He told us to do and how to be is still there. Heis the same yesterday, today and forever~!

      You can use others as your excuse to not seek God, but in the end you will or you will be sadly disappointed.

      Even the sinner on the cross next to Jesus became aware that Jesus was the son of God and proclaimed it~!
      Dont wait til you are on your death bed to turn to Jesus~ You might have had a bad introduction to Him but He is real and the Holy Spirit is real.

      You can ask God to prove Himself to you and He will guide you personally into the beautiful truths of the bible and the reasons things happen in life the way they do.

      This life is a test from birth til death.How we handle what is thrown at us will build our character here and in eternity.
      Turn your heart back to Jesus and get to know Him. You dont need a church or a preacher for that but to seek Him yourself, fairly and honestly and dont listen to the negative thoughts in your head – Seducing spirits provide many thoughts that seem to be our own, but they speakto us in our own language to upset us. Those thoughts arent your own until you act on them~! Act instead on the good thoughts and get on your right path with God~!


  86. Hello Ave,

    Recently, I was speaking with a man who, I discovered during the conversation, had a similar path to Christ as I did. I have not thought about my experience in the FF for a LONG time. Thankfully, I have never had any significant issues with my experience. However, my conversation aroused my curiosity motivating me to check to see if there was anything online about the old cult (as you know, the older you get the more you ‘reminisce’). I found your site via Mike M’s site about COBU. My name is Tim Hillenbrand.

    Your main posts are excellent (particularly “There is a way that seems right to a man, BUT…”). I did read a few of the responding posts in this blog and understand that many people were very adversely affected by their FF/COBU experience. My younger brother Bob is in that group. I would encourage anyone who still has issues and has never counseled professionally to find a good Christian counselor as well as giving your troubles over to Jesus. Please remember Bob in prayer. He was instrumental in bringing me to Jesus and I have been praying for him for almost 20 years. I fervently believe the Lord’s word “not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance”

    I am amazed that this cult is still around (did a Google search). I thought ST would be dead by now. It is unfortunate that the Lord allows such a person to continue to take advantage of other people. He is the epitome of the description Peter gives in his second letter 3: 13-19.

    I was originally saved in Allentown (March 1976) and moved onto Cleveland and, finally NYC. My time in NYC was short. I quickly grew weary of the 18 hour work day and the badgering of a crazy, long haired demon (ST). The harshness of the older brothers was abrasive and I finally decided this was not for me. I was very depressed because I thought I had found the ‘way’ and now I was ‘running away’. Thankfully, the Lord took care of me. A short period after I reached home, a Christian family moved in next to me. The Lord used these Christians (the type I disdained when in the FF!) to encourage me. Their Pastor visited me several times and within 6 months of leaving the FF, I was connected to a church where brethren surrounded me with the love of Christ. I am still in the same fellowship 36 years later-Praise the Lord-He works miracles! Frankly, the FF experience quickly dimmed from my mind as the Lord helped me grow at the new fellowship.

    My curiosity is also piqued concerning persons with whom I was closest while in the FF. It would be interesting to connect again, if only briefly. While in Allentown, I was discipled by Cookie and Mary (last names escape me). Once in Cleveland (where I was a center leader until moving to NYC), I spent time with Jim Greiner (originally from Cleveland, and leader before me) and Chris Cole (leader in Akron/Canton-from my area-Bethlehem). Also Jan Martinez and Gail (can’t remember a last name). I mention these names only in case someone else will remember them (and provide any contact info if available). If anyone reads this post and has contact info on these, feel free to email me at .

    In reading a few of your ‘responding’ posts, you seem to be able to minister to those who have had terrible consequences due to their time in the FF. Encouraging someone back onto the path of life is one of the most rewarding experiences the Lord can give you. I know the Lord will bless your efforts. Blessings to you.


    • Cookie Lester; got yelled at a few times myself. I am from the Cleveland area. The first house I remember meeting at was on Greenleaf Ave in Parma. Jan Hilton, and Shelly Shaker are on Facebook. I saw Shelly at our class reunion, she looked great, the same as I remember her. It was great seeing her, I pray for all my brothers and sisters in Christ, no matter what Fellowship they belong to. We are all still in the body of Christ. Once you receive Holy Spirit, you do not loose it except for blaspheming the Holy Spirit. You can be out of Fellowship many times. Studying to show thyself approved unto God, rightly dividing the word of truth will keep us from being tricked out of who we are in Christ Jesus. We are justified (Justification, to stand before God with all accounts paid, and clothed in the righteousness of His only Son, Jesus Christ) because it is Christ in us and Christ NEVER sinned, sanctified (set aside for a purpose, God’s purpose) redeemed (a releasing effected by payment of ransom) Christ ransomed us, he paid the price for our sins, we have the power of reconciliation (the ability to share salvation), righteous A primitive root; to be (causatively make) right (in a moral or forensic sense): – cleanse, clear). The devil will use anyone to make us feel like we are less than the best. But because of Christ in us we are the best. God’s blessing on all my brothers and sisters in Christ. I leave God to take care of Steward, he will be held accountable for his actions.

      • Hi Lou~
        I love your attitude which shows your Christly character~!! You said it very well. So many have been tormented by familiar spirits for years after leaving Cobu – like being followed out by Legion – man : spirit of religion, spirit of elitism, spirit of pride and so on. It took a few decades before I was delivered from them and can discern them now. It has stabilized my walk with Jesus and keeps me in peace no matter whats going on in the world. Have a blessed week~!

    • Hello Tim~ It was good reading your post. I get lost with WordPress at times and done find the responses fast enough. I am very happy you found a good Christian family to help you through your transition time~!!Wonderful to find a church home that you have remained in for these passed 36 years!
      If I were to name all the churches I have belonged to for a year or two after leaving Cobu, the list would be long. I also had to move alot and out of the area after my accident in 1984.I often wondered about Cathy and little Audrey.Did they stay with Bob? Is he stil “IN”? I haven’t checked the lists in a long time.He was the cause for me leaving Cobu, so in retrospect he did me a big favor.It was after he left Cleveland or Detroit and came to be center leader of Phil in Spring of 1976.What I didnt realizat the time was that he was following Stewarts new orders the begining of Cobu.
      I appreciate learning how to witness bettter and how to read the bible deeper , from my experience in FF/Cobu.Many things were eye openers as I was saved 2 yrs before joining but my witnessing was limited to giving new testaments to people and inviting them to church. I didnt know how to pray with someone to lead them to Jesus and the FF wouldnt show me until after I agreed to move in for a month before my wedding.
      Once in , it got intense.My fiance was a Viet Nam war vet, older, he got saved but wouldnt move in and by that time they convinced me thatI should stay with them so I moved to Delaware instead of getting married.
      I remained friends after cobu with Jim Hurley and Dan Higgins but lost contact with Dan as he went back and lived in NYC with Cobu.I rented a car once and picked up Jim Hurley to go visit Dan as he wanted to try and get him out.
      In late 1981 Jim moved up to NYC [ not cobu] to my house. I had a 2 family house and rented him the upstairs. I was also taking in homeless and domestic violence victims and disabled people. It was like a fellowship for a while.
      Later on Jim and I grew closer but had personality issues and went our separate ways. He found me again after I had moved upstate and called every day for a month and asked me to visit and when he came we got married.
      It was odd for years before that since it was Bob who said we had backslid together when we hadnt.That sort of made us stay friends for a long time rather than thinking of marriage. I am glad for the time we had together, despite all the cobu style fights we had over the years leading to our divorce in 2001. We remained close for a few years after that but he had gotten into heavy drinking so I refused to remarry him unless he stopped drinking. He instead met and married a woman from the internet and they lived separately for the first year.She wanted a military dependent to get more pay and she split the money with Jim.He didnt tell me he had gotten married again and was home nearly every day til my daughter found out and told me. Later on he went to Guam saying he was going to get an annulment and come home but he was trapped by finances, medical coverage and health issues.Neverthless we didnt speak for a few years but the last 2 yrs of his life we were in close contact. He died Jan 28 , 2009 after being beaten by his young wife. It was tragic for our kids. WE have 5 kids and 13 grandchildren.
      Well he is at peace now anyway, as no one dies unless God permits it.He is home with the Lord and freed from that bad situation.
      I remember Chris Cole Cookie , Fortune, Jim Greiner. I think they all made it out of the Cobu and are still living faithfully.

      God bless you and your family and I will keep Bob in prayer too 🙂


  87. I to was in that group from March to June of 76 I remember the worst thing was being at the NYC Training center on 27 Bleecker st with 400 other men an women on the 4 th floor in a loth my health was getting worst if i hadnt save some of the money at that time i would of never got out of there and that color Bible thing was something else to , my Dad live on long Island so he come got me out of there but remember how they tell u if left bad things were going to happen to you , but praise be to Jesus, he rescue me from them Nuts and in 1982 I did become a Believer at First Assembly of God in Binghamton New York i currently go Calvary Love Assembly of God in Johnson City NY

  88. remember the big meeting at the airplane hanger in delaware in 1975 ? With Dave Coleman and the rest of the Frankford Ave house in Baltimore. Took me 4 months to figure out Stuart was a sociopath and a self deluding fraud. Curtis Ibex

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