a typical day in ACMTC (1980’s)

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The alarm sounds at 4:50 AM, which leaves me 10 minutes to use the bathroom, wake up Nate, don my khaki uniform, and run a brush through my tangled hair before tightening it into a bun. I rebuke the voice in my head that curses the early rising, because I know where it comes from.

“Get behind me Satan, in the name of Jesus Christ!”

Everyone in the camp is inside the sanctuary by 5 AM. No one’s ever late, and we meet seven days a week. This morning we stand at ease with our legs apart and our hands folded behind our backs. The air feels heavy. General Lila’s behind the pulpit.

“God’s bringing us into a new dispensation, and there’s going to be so much for us to do that we’ll have no time for sleep… .”

The sanctuary’s quiet. God’s word is in the air, we can all feel it in our bones.

“I say unto thee this day my children that I the Lord thy God am thy Father. I say unto thee this day that it is I the Lord God who bore thee unto myself, and I say that I bore thee to be a great people unto me… .”

Her prophecies are often long and redundant and I lose her sometimes, and I struggle to grab ahold of the usual flurry of their wrath. Even God’s exhortations sometimes sound mad.

 “I say unto this day my children, weary not, for I the Lord thy God shall sustain thee, I say that I the Lord god shall give thee rest, that ye shall find thy rest in Me… .”  

The meeting’s over at 6:15 and we all return to our respective barracks to get ready for our day. I hardly ever see Steve anymore. He’s always over at the Citadel with the Greens. At 7 AM everyone goes to mess hall for breakfast. Steve doesn’t even eat with me and the children anymore. He sits with the Generals.

On Mondays I watch the camp children, ages 6 and under, mine and everyone else’s. Today’s Tuesday and I travel up HWY 50 to where I single-handedly man our one-man Art Shop in the beautiful little mountain town of Placerville. It’s a lovely scenic drive up there, about 45 minutes from Sacramento, and I love it. It’s like a get-away.

Sometimes Nate’s allowed to go with me and we hang out together in the shop working. I love it when that happens. Today he goes with me, and at lunch time we put a sign on the door saying, “back in a few minutes,” and we sneak off and we get a frozen yogurt across the street, and then we come right back, eating our yogurt along the way. Nobody will see us. This is Placerville.

Driving home we practice our multiplication tables. I’m teaching him, and he’s reminding me.

Steve and I pulled our children out of public schools when the Greens said we had to, and now they’re schooled for about 3 hours a day, about 3 or 4 days a week by Alberto who dropped out of University his sophomore year to come join us at Fort Freedom. The kids spend more time working at the Art Shops than they do in classroom.

Quite honestly, General Deborah intimidates me. I avoid getting too near her, especially if it’s just me and her. I honor her, but only because I’m afraid not to, if that makes any sense. She’s never shown any liking for me, not as she does for some of the younger women, the ones who don’t question, the ones with more zeal. But Steve is mesmerized by her.

Honestly, it feels awfully sick, this relationship between her and him. He’s enamored by General Lila, and it doesn’t settle well with me.  To me it’s obvious, not only that he’s attracted to her, but that she really likes his attention.

“I rebuke my thoughts in the name of Christ. Get behind me Satan!”

Right now my head’s buried in the sand. It has been for some time. I feel no joy in life anymore, and I don’t see happy faces on my children. I rarely do parenting right, according to General Lila and Steve. I’m too “sympathetic, I’m not spanking them hard enough,  we’re raising soldiers here, not sissies, and God’s not a God of emotion and sentimentality!”

I’m ordered to pull Simon’s pants down and beat him with a leather belt if he misbehaves in a meeting, i.e. if he shuffles around in his chair too much. Children are to be seen, not heard. They sit for hours a day in cold metal chairs, no books, no paper or pencil or color crayons to occupy their minds. They are supposed to be little soldiers.

Before Lilly and Simon were potty trained, Steve made me beat them on their bare butts with one of his leather belts whenever they pooped their pants. General Lila claims her two kids were both potty trained by age 6 months.

I’m so sorry God’s like this. He’s a God of love, but His love is so far above our own understanding of love. As mere mortals we can’t understand the depth of God’s love. A verse from Psalms resounds over and over in my head, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”

I’ve no one to talk to about this, about my fears, my doubts. Not even Iantha. Dear, sweet Iantha—given away in marriage at age 17, and afterwards sent off with her husband Mike to Malawi Africa.

When we first moved to Sacramento to join with the Greens, Iantha and I stood up together against a decision Steve and Jim made regarding her. We held hands, and we walked up to Steve who stood next to Jim, and I said, “no, you’re not going to do this my daughter.” But they did anyway.

I can’t just pick up one of the phones around here and call someone. Who could I call? My mom? I was ordered to have nothing to do with her or my dad years ago, in the beginning, even before I was made to throw my wedding ring down the gutter.

Honestly, I’m miserable inside. If only I hadn’t answered all those letters we received from Jim and Lila years back, the one’s that came in envelopes with teepees and buffaloes drawn on them. Steve never picked up pen nor pencil to reply to Jim or Lila. I’m the one who responded. I’m the one who kept the communication open.

I’m not me anymore. My children are not themselves either, and they’re not mine. We’ve control over nothing. Everything we do, we do by command of Generals Jim or Lila Green.

I try really hard to believe, but doubt is an evil stronghold in my life, that’s what Steve says. It’s hard to believe things that don’t feel right to me, things that make no common sense, or go against my mother’s heart. I feel helpless to protect my own children.

We listen to no radio, no television, and we read no newspapers. Everything we hear comes from within Fort Freedom. The world is evil, and we renounce it. Everything we do we do together. We eat together, work together, worship together, fight demons together. We talk alike, we look alike, we wear the same clothes, we eat the same foods, and we don’t even choose what it is that we eat. We’ve no friends, no family outside of ACMTC. Our old family, our old friends—they’re not elected by God. We are. We’re his chosen. It’s supposed to be a blessing, but it feels like a curse.

Nate and I are  home from Placerville at 5:30, and our evening meeting starts at 6:00 PM. I’ve just enough time to greet my younger children, take a shower, and throw a load of clothes in the wash.

Tonight’s meeting only lasts an hour. Sometimes it can go on for two or more. I’ve time to throw clothes in the dryer and tidy things up a bit before mess hall at 7:30.

After mess hall General Jim asks me to answer some camp mail, and I do so, but he doesn’t like the way I address the envelopes, and he tells me to do it over again. “Too close to the bottom.” he says. “The address should go straight dead in the center.” I feel stupid. I’ve addressed envelopes all my life.

It’s 9:30PM, my children are tucked in bed, but I can’t go to bed yet. Who am I to go to bed before my husband, before Captain Schmierer? I fold laundry, I iron our uniforms—our khakis, our camouflages, our greens, our red T shirts, our black and white art shop attire.

By eleven o’clock Steve’s back from the Citadel and he climbs into our sleeping bag on the floor. We don’t have beds, because we’re missionaries. We all sleep in sleeping bags on hardwood floors. Steve doesn’t even notice I’ve stayed awake for him. He doesn’t even acknowledge that I am here.

The alarm sounds at 1 AM. It’s our barrack’s hour to get up for an hour for prayer and guard duty. I rebuke the first thought about needing sleep, and I wake up Nate, and we all head over to the sanctuary in the quiet of the early morning to pray. Sometimes we walk around outside rebuking evil spirits just to stay awake.

After an hour the alarm sounds again, and we return back to our barracks and into our hard beds, and I reset the alarm again for 5 AM so we can start all over again—in three more hours.