On this page you will find the following explanations:
1st GENERATION: 1978-1994 From its beginnings in 1978, Yisrayl Hawkins set out to build a business, where he profited from the unsuspected, zealous, believer, who were coming into the Sacred Name Movement after realizing that Christianity was not giving them the facts of the scriptures. They were a new generation of religious zealots, who were the 1st generation of believers who wanted to know who Yahweh was! Yisrayl Hawkins capitalized on this movement and built a foundation of hard core followers who knew that the planet was in trouble, possible nuclear war was eminent, and saw Yisrayl Hawkins as a prophet/witness for the truth that they found in their studies of the scriptures. The early days of this House of Yahweh was some of the best days of our lives, because we as believers came in contact with others who opened their hearts to a fellowship of true love that was not found in any other religious organization at the time. Big religion had its setbacks and share of problems, and the House of Yahweh in Abilene seemed like a breath of fresh air in a stale religious climate. The early days were the best days, when it seemed that the House of Yahweh in Abilene would bring in the truth of the Holy Scriptures to all the world, and we would be a vital part of this work! At that time other sons of perdition were at work, Jim Jones, David Koresh, David Applewhite, and others who were riding on the religious revival of the day. We came as true followers, wanting to find a true belief of Yahweh, others came as children, whose parents wanted something better for their families. All in all, as survivors, this is our story! We saw the days when the Feast started in a mobile home with 8 people, was taken to a building that accommodated 120, then to a tent in the parking lot that held 100’s, then taken to a permanent building in Clyde that held over 1500. We were part of the New World Training Center Speech Class, the Books of Commentary on the Laws, booklet classes, prophecy classes and the best Feast days one could imagine. The turning point was the death of Jacob Hawkins 3/22/91, the teachings of multiple marriage 7/93, and the divorce of Kay and Yisrayl Hawkins. This is the 1st generation of those who laid a foundation that was built upon the Law and the Prophets.
Peter’s STORY 1987-2010
I came to the House of Yahweh at Feast of Pentecost, 1987. I had learned the name of Yahweh and Yahshua in 1976 from my mother and was reading/studying the literature of the Assemblies of Yahweh out of Bethel, Pennsylvania; Holt, Michigan; and Rocheport, Missouri until 1987 when I read the House of Yahweh literature for the first time. It was my first Feast I ever attended and at that Feast I was baptized along with my wife, Sandra. We came with our two sons, Peter (4 yrs) and Matthew (2yrs). I was ordained a Deacon at FOUB 1988, an Elder at FOT 1989, and a Judge at FOUB 1991. I decided to move to Abilene and in 12/89 sold all my possessions and moved to the little town of Clyde, Texas. The early years were so great, I was a part of the Speech Class, Booklet Class, Limmudyah Class and participated in everything available and we volunteered in all that we were asked to do. I helped in construction of the sanctuary in 1990/91 in Clyde, always volunteering my time and energy for the work of Yahweh. In all my years there from 1987-2010, I never received one penny from the House of Yahweh and never asked for payment. My whole heart, soul, and might was into building the House of Yahweh.
I was involved in many projects and was manager in the following positions:
All these jobs were done with the utmost diligence and respect for Yahweh’s people. I tried to stay involved with any activities that would build up the House of Yahweh. In 1991 when Jacob Hawkins died, I did have concerns about the prophecies concerning the Two Witnesses but to be honest, that is not what brought me there. I was more interested in learning the Laws and how to follow them. By 1993 I had approached Yisrayl Hawkins for answers concerning the laws of marriage. There were several men talking about the laws of marriage. His encouragement and allowance for many men to pursue a multiple marriage relationship was perfect timing for his own personal desires. At the time I didn’t realize he was using many men as scapegoats for his own multiple marriage intentions, and found out later he was having an affair with his secretary. I also found out at a later date, he was pursuing an affair with my best friend’s wife.
The way he spun the lawfulness of extended family lifestyle, showing all the scriptures of righteous men allowed me to be the perfect pawn to bring forth the laws of multiple marriage and take all the heat, which I did in July of 1993. I think that day I most likely made a few enemies, especially with the women. There were so many people hurt and I was the object of their anger and frustration at the bombshell of a sermon. It is surprising that I didn’t get hurt by someone. This was a major turning point in the House of Yahweh and anyone who was there to witness this time period, can say they saw the House turn from a great place to what it is today, the empire of Yisrayl Hawkins sex cult. Yisrayl knew by me promoting multiple marriage, that I would take the heat from the people and from his wife Kay, which he was avoiding. In fact, Kay was waiting in the foyer when I got off the stage and her words were “He set you up to bring this sermon didn’t he?” Of course I took one for the gipper, and acted like I was the lone wolf in this chicken pen. Today, I have to laugh at my ignorance of how I got conned.
Another big con Yisrayl pulled on me was giving me permission to build my house on the 44 acres. We drew up a contract that I could have the property to live on, but of course, he never would sell me the land. I had faith in him, his words, and in Yahweh, that this was the place to be and that I would stay there till the Kingdom came and he would be the faithful teacher of righteousness. So I built my rock house in the spring of 1991 and finished it by Tabernacles of 1991. Many people assisted me: David Mrotek, Andy Glick, Steve Weber, Charles Warren, Michael Sharrow, Darin Jeffries, Todd Rogers, just to name a few. I did not know at the time that Yisrayl Hawkins wanted that property badly. I sold him my mobile home next to the house, which he promised in writing would only be used for the Feast by Kay and him. It didn’t take long for him to break that promise, and as soon as Kay and him divorced, he had put his other wives/concubines/girlfriends in there. I was upset, especially when he had convinced others to fix the place up. I knew then I had been conned. What can you do? I definitely let him know, as Sandra and I drew up a letter letting him know how we felt betrayed, but it didn’t faze him. But it did allow him to size me up and realize that I would stand up to him if he pushed me too far.
By 1995/96 things had gotten bad, Kay had divorced Yisrayl and he had a very uncomfortable relationship with my best friends wife. When she had gotten to her lowest point with this relationship, the truth finally came out and what a mess it was. (I will leave that story for her to tell). We met at my house, David/Tonya Hodge, Darin/Anah Jeffries, Miriam Mosheh, not sure if Jay Martin was there, Sandra and myself. We were talking about the affair that Yisrayl had been carrying on with my best friends wife and what we should do? My wife then told me that Yisrayl had approached her from behind in the office and kissed her on the nape of the neck. I was stunned and didn’t know whether to go punch his lights out, forgive him, or leave the HOY. In my belief in Yahweh, I was willing to try to forgive him, because we were taught to forgive our brothers. I also felt the divorce had somehow traumatized him and he wasn’t thinking clearly. I felt that we would have to let this go as an isolated incident, as my wife seemed to not be in agreement with his advancement. (I never knew of any particular cases regarding Yisrayl, nor any problems in the past about his sordid history of womanizing. Damn what a sap I was for not investigating more into his life!) Eventually, he stole my wife Sandra, as well as my two sons. This is all part of his plan to dominate, control, rule over people, and break up families!
After this time period, things changed at the HOY. Darin and Anah left, and then David/Tonya Hodge, Michael/Debbie Sharrow, Bill/Sharon Stubbs and then Cliff/Cherylee Clark. This group of people were close to us, as we spent a lot of time with all these families. We would hang together for parties, fellowship, and studying. I would say at least 3-5 years after the multiple marriage laws were brought out, the House had changed its membership rolls by 50%. A lot of great people parted and every Feast we would ask where is so and so, and we would get the same response, they fell away. At that point falling away was occurring in droves and the influx of members entering were not filling the places left vacant. We lost quite a few of the thinkers, the foundation stones. Those who had no problem questioning Yisrayl Hawkins, were slowly but surely leaving and getting kicked out. The new people coming in, where of a different generation, and didn’t have the same exposure to the studies and teachings we received in the early years. By the time the Peaceful Solution Character Education Program had begun to evolve, most of the Elders, Deacons, Deaconess, that I knew and considered friends and my examples of righteous guidance, were gone. The newer generation was fed a program of loyalty to Yisrayl Hawkins instead of loyalty to Yahweh.
By 1998, I had built two homes on the House of Yahweh grounds, managed a successful construction business, and raised my children in the House of Yahweh. It seemed for me to leave would have been a waste of all those years, so I focused on my salvation and not necessarily others around me. Many times I examined the situation and every time I would say “other peoples problems are not mine” and this afforded me the ability to stay and not ask them what is the reason you are leaving or why are you getting kicked out. However, that is how strong deception is, you don’t realize you are deceived because you accept things that you know are wrong and you know any rational person should stand against. I knew that many people had been done wrong, even if I didn’t have the actual proof. I has suspected that Yisrayl Hawkins was using Deacon Robert Martin (Elder Bryan Bisso and Elder Yahshua Qodesh, filled his shoes after he left) to do all his dirty work of ripping people off, but I didn’t have any proof, other than other peoples confessions. Yisrayl is a smart cookie, he knows not to trust me or anyone, with anything that can be used to prove him guilty. When I left in 2008 I told my son to keep in safe keeping all the brides price forms that I had, so that I could have evidence of his lies. However, I didn’t think my own flesh and blood sons would turn against me. That is how deceived I was to Yisrayl Hawkins spider web. When I came back in 2010, all the forms I had left in my house were gone. Yisrayl Hawkins will turn blood against blood, and accomplished this through his teachings! He is that good at what he does and the members are loyal to him in that they will stand with him against their own father or mother.
Through the years I would, from time to time, complain to my family about how the righteous authority within the HOY, was being destroyed, and how others on HOY payroll were taken this authority, without my knowledge. Now I realize Yisrayl bought these guys, by paying them, he bought their loyalty. If they weren’t loyal, they would be out on the streets, like so many around them had been kicked out. (Shaul Schneider, Michael Sheets, Charlie Palmer, Brian Bisso, Yahshua Qodesh, Anayah Bowler, Walter Jandrisevits, David Verner) had all been put on the payroll and through loyal service to Yisrayl Hawkins had become the core of yes men that he needed to accomplish his goal of totalitarianism within the organization. (His church is a religious mafia in every sense of the word!) When I left in 2008, Paul Schneider made sure to do his best to defame my character through lies, defamation and slander, so that when I came back at Passover 2010, to see if Yisrayl Hawkins come clean and confess his cover up, concerning Chris Jandrisevits sexual perversions, the effects of his character assassination were quite evident and already had done damage. However, now I realize that I was protected all those years, because I did not allow Yisrayl Hawkins to buy me, or steal my faith in Yahweh; he knew my loyalty was to Yahweh first, and I never was brought into his inner circle of con men, and I Praise Yahweh for his mercy in that regard.
In November 2007 when Elder Yedidiyah was arrested for child molestation, I was stunned! I knew he liked adult women, (he had 4 wives at the time) but not children! A few months prior, I had been told that he was getting betrothed to a 16 year old girl! At first I didn’t do anything immediately since her father was an Elder, and any information I had wouldn’t have convinced him to change his mind. To me, Yedidiyah was definitely a sick puppy, and I had tried to warn his previous wives, not to marry him, to no avail. In fact, Yisrayl called me after I warned one of his wives, and told me that I needed to stop trying to talk women out of marrying Yedidiyah, because he was an Elder. I told him that Yedidiyah could not mentally handle a wife, nor afford, or needed another wife, but He kept saying that “he isn’t breaking any law of Yahweh.” I was no match for the Overseer of the House of Yahweh, after all I couldn’t stop anything! The judges by then had all been kicked out and I stood alone and didn’t have anyone who would stand with me against the Overseers decisions! I should have been more of an aggressive person, but at that point, I had been intimidated by all those years of being fed that Yisrayl Hawkins was Yahweh’s scriptural anointed witness, and he convinced me for many years, that he knew what was best for Yahweh’s people.
Throughout the years Elder Yedidiyah portrayed many of his wives as rebellious, but one in particular, stood out among the rest, as a rebellious wife who was constantly in rebellion to his headship. (I was naive for buying this con game, which he learned from the best con man, his idol, Yisrayl Hawkins) Whenever someone would talk to me about what his wife was going through, Yedidiyah was always one step ahead, by telling me in advance of his hardships with his rebellious wife (we were told by Yisrayl Hawkins that is would be a sin for us to talk to any man’s wife w/o his permission, and no righteous man should give any man permission to talk to their wife!) I now see the pattern of Yisrayl Hawkins and how he turns family against family, out of chaos, he rules supreme and his best disciple, Elder Yedidiyah was an outstanding student of his. His teachings were well learned by Yedidiyah in subversion in deception, on how to set up people to make them look bad or unrighteous. It was because of this case, that I finally stood up against the evil and realized through Yisrayl Hawkins teachings, that I was also becoming what I detested, “a person void of feelings and emotion and lacking proper judgment according to the Torah.” I love Yahweh’s Torah, but Yisrayl made the Torah seem unjust to so many people, and it was the Law’s judgment that opened my eyes, in the House of Yisrayl Hawkins.
Yisrayl’s separation of the men and women around 2000 was the last stage of his division of family and his supreme rulership in the House of Yahweh. In 1999/2000 the law of confessions came out where everyone had to go and confess their sins to the Elders. The Elders confessed to Yisrayl Hawkins, and the wives confessed to their husbands and to other Elders wives. He actually came in the Elders meeting on sabbath and told this horrible story, he was crying and putting on a grand old show and his confession of when he was young and how he had sex with an animal. I was thinking damn, this guy is telling it all. ( I am not sure if this is true, as he might have been putting on a show and inspiring everyone else to tell their deep secrets. Of course this worked, because the Elders, and the majority of the congregation, came clean and confessed their sins to the Priests, just like the Catholic Church has done for centuries. The congregation had to go before two Elders, the women before the Elders wives, and we all had to lay out the deepest darkest sins we had done in our lives. He had instructed the Elders that all the confessions of the people should be written down so he could examine them, and of course he had all his wives, concubines, etc… confess to him. What an ingenious move on his part! A perfect play right out of the mind control handbook! He knew everything about everyone. He knew who has sex with his wives, girlfriends, concubines. And the confessions he had on the rest of the congregation, well what can I say, it is a blackmailers dream! I can remember him asking me if I had done anything with a particular wife of his and I was like, no, hell no! I can now see his insecurities and his obsession with trying to find out who was having sex with his women. I guess that is what occurs when you think other men, think like you, and he is one sick perverted twist of an old man! He is and has been most of his life, a sexual predator and thinks all men and women are like him! So confessions were his way of finding out all the details of every male and female in the congregation! His final blow to the family unit was the putting up of the separation wall in the sanctuary, which separated men, women, and families from each other, it was a wall about 7-8 feet high that went down the middle of the church building. After that, we never saw another woman in services, not even our wives or daughters! We were taught that we couldn’t even get together for socializing at all. We were taught this was Christian thinking!
From the confessional, Yisrayl’s loyal women were able to gather information, earn loyalty to him, and convince the women, (married and single) that they were to reveal to the counselors their innermost secrets and that they should trust them over anyone, even their husbands. I remember certain men coming to me complaining about the lack of respect, disconnections in their marriage, lack of physical contact, and how those men whose wives were in the work for Yisrayl Hawkins, were being mistreated. The women and men were forced to sign vows that they would not reveal anything they saw or heard, to anyone, not even their husbands, concerning the work of Yisrayl Hawkins. While this was hard to believe, my hands were tied, as no one interfered with Yisrayl’s command over his slaves. By 2007, my authority as an Elder had been diminished to the point of just a title! All I really did was make sure the sanctuary was clean on thursday night for upcoming Sabbaths. For many of my counseling cases, I was paired with Elder Michael Sheets, and usually he did most of the talking and counseling. I remember one particular counseling session with Charlie Vance who complained because his wife, Angie Vance, was having to pay back money that was shorted in the HOY grocery store register. Because it was found lacking on her shift everyone had to pay the money back. Now she was only making $25 a week to begin with, so even though she didn’t take the money nor should have been held responsible for it being missing, she was obligated to pay it back by her superior. Needless to say, Charlie was upset, because they depended on every penny earned, to survive. (He was in the work also.) Of course I felt it was unjust and told him to make a formal complaint to Yisrayl Hawkins. Michayl intervened and said that because they were in the work we couldn’t interfere with this matter. I was upset about this statement and let Michael know I was right in front of Charlie. We argued a few minutes about it, in front of Charlie and because Michael always thought he was the senior Elder, I relented in order to avoid conflict. In his ever control freak mentality, he reminded me to not argue in front of those we were counseling and suggested we could talk about it later, which of course we didn’t. (I regret now, not taking a stronger stand but I knew the routine, and had been beat down enough by years of indoctrination to submit to this authority; I knew my voice would not be heard, no matter how how much I pushed any issue.) Yisrayl Hawkins set up this kind of disfunctional agenda in the work of his Church, pitting Elder against Elder. Later on, I found out the money had been accounted for in the HOY store where Angie worked. However, she never got her payment that was taken out of her weekly pay. She was told this was considered a donation to the work of Yahweh!
The congregation were told many times to take health cleanses, so that we could become clean from std’s and other unwanted parasites that we had acquired from our father, grandfathers and our own sins. When the Buffalo cleanse was taught by Yisrayl Hawkins, it was touted by him to be the last cleanse, the 7th cleanse, we would have to take for our bodies to be free from our sinful past! We obediently followed Yisrayl’s instructions and started the cleanse. Someone close to me, had just found out she was pregnant about a month before the cleanse and when she took the cleanse, it caused her to have a miscarriage. It was an awful event and at the time we did not associate it with the cleanse, because the cleanse was from a plant (buffalo gourd) and was supposed to be safe, natural cleanse. But a few weeks later, she informed me that several of her counselees (Ahalyah White specifically) had also had miscarriages. This caused her to suspect the buffalo cleanse of possibly being linked to these women’s miscarriages. She did some research on the buffalo gourd and put together all the information, with all the important things underlined and highlighted by a yellow marker, which revealed that the Buffalo gourd was used by the Native Indians to induce labor when their women had problems in delivering a child. I personally handed him the information in his office and made him aware of the facts that were found on the buffalo gourd. The following sabbath, he got up on the stage and declared that there was nothing wrong with the buffalo cleanse and that they had checked it out and it was perfectly safe. I was sitting there thinking what the hell is going on? When I got home from services, I was asked if I had given Yisrayl the report, with all the information about the buffalo gourd. I responded, of course, and didn’t know why he would get up on the pulpit and tell everyone it was a safe body cleanse. Well, years later, I relayed this information to someone who worked at Life Nutrition Store (Yisrayl Hawkins store) and they informed me that at the time of that sermon, they were given instructions to ask the women if they were pregnant, whenever they came into Life Nutrition Store to purchase the buffalo cleanse juice. (Yisrayl Hawkins had conveniently canned the buffalo gourd and sold it at the store.) It is evident now, that in order to protect the him and the corporation from lawsuits, he never revealed the buffalo gourds dangers to the congregation. To this day, no one knows how many women have had miscarriages because of this buffalo gourd cleanse! One day, as these women come forward, the truth will be revealed and proven by their testimony!
In January 2008 after Yisrayl Hawkins arrest, I made a decision to leave. I had started an investigation on my own, about Elder Yedidiyah’s child molestation charges. Years before I would never have believed such a thing. I knew he liked adult women, (he had 4 wives) but not young girls. When I found out Elder Bill Thornton lied to me, I knew that they were trying to cover up this incident. (Bill had to lie to protect his job, he worked in law enforcement at the Texas Correctional Institute in Abilene, Texas) However, that was enough information for me to realize it was time to leave, especially seeing my name broadcasted on local news stations, mentioned in an indictment with Yisrayl Hawkins, for bigamy. My survival instincts kicked in, and I felt that certain things were about to occur:
I was possibly going to be arrested,
I knew that the Elders and Yisrayl would use me as a scapegoat, trying to convince me to take the wrap for Yisrayl and lying under oath, which I would never do,
I was concerned for my family, we had just had a baby who was a week old when we left. Who would take care of my children, if I was arrested? Yisrayl Hawkins? I knew he wouldn’t help me!
I didn’t trust anyone after knowing that the Elders and others, would lie for Yedidiyah, so I knew they would lie for Yisrayl Hawkins.
I knew that Elder Shaul (Paul Schneider) and others would set me up for a fall, to protect Yisrayl Hawkins and the corporation, this was what they were trained to do.
So I left my two houses I built with my own personal money and hard labor, my personal property, personal belongings, everything I owned, and I placed the business under the management of my oldest son. I instructed him to take care of the family, his mother, brother, and his family. I gave him power of attorney to handle all my affairs, while I was absent. At the time I had already had a ticket to go to overseas. When we left Abilene, we packed up our suitcases with our clothes and took our suburban on our journey, leaving everything we had known behind. In a nutshell, starting over from scratch. We went to a brother/sisters house in Louisiana and stayed there long enough for me to get passports for all the children, and within a week I had arranged tickets for all my family to go overseas. We went there with the intention of staying there for an indefinite period of time. I was working with Brock Fisher, (another loyal member to Yisrayl Hawkins) on his internet business and was hoping that would take off and I would have money coming in. To this day the $5,000 I invested with him in business months before I left Abilene, has never been paid back and I doubt if I will ever see it. (After all they consider me a fall away and they don’t have to pay back fall aways.)
We stayed overseas around two months and started to realize it wasn’t the safest place to be. My mom was calling me and wanted me to come to Israel, where she was living. I remember talking to my son on the phone and he told me Yisrayl wanted me to get a divorce, as he stated “it would be great for his case, if I was divorced.” I was insulted! After leaving my home, family, business, and everything I had known for 23 years, the Pastor who taught against divorce, was asking me to divorce my wife, for him! Like what I did was not enough! Needless to say, I told my son to tell Yisrayl Hawkins if my leaving everything I had was not enough for him, then I could not see how I could help him any further. After that, I realized that we had to go somewhere else, as where we were at wasn’t working out and so Yahweh opened the door for us to go visit my mother in Israel, so we packed up our bags and headed to the Holy Land.
In Israel, we felt at home. It is hard to describe, but we felt connected to the land and the life. It was relaxed, modest, and we got to experience the sites of Jerusalem and the ancient city of Tzafat, but more importantly while there I was directed to the only House of Yahweh excavated in the land. I went there and to my amazement was fascinated that there was an actual House of Yahweh in the land, which verified to me that the name “House of Yahweh” was an actual place, where Yahweh had his people, and his name, placed at one time long ago. It also showed me that Yahweh doesn’t need a building to preach or take his name to the world. We are the House of Yahweh, living tabernacles on the move, ready at a moments notice to preach the glad tidings of the kingdom. I sent the information back to Abilene and no one seemed to be as excited as I was. Another blow to Yisrayl Hawkins ego! His brother Jacob who restored the name, “House of Yahweh” in 1973, had found out about the name from reading an article in the Jerusalem Post about the excavations going on in Tel Arad, Israel, which is where they found the ostraca with the name, “House of Yahweh” on it. Imagine that, here I was almost 25 years to the day, bringing to HOY-Abilene, information on the place where it all started, and they weren’t excited about such information. I guess it blew Yisrayl’s theory about him being the only House of Yahweh in the world. Another lie, that he would have had to explain and cover up, if the word got out.
We returned to the States around June, 2008 and went to Louisiana. From there we went to Nebraska, then back to Texas. In October 2009, I went to my first sabbath service a week after Yisrayl Hawkins was released from all his criminal charges. When I entered the sanctuary I was harassed by a Shamarim (Yisrayl’s police force), who said he was only doing his job. The sanctuary, and the atmosphere in it, had changed. There was an strange feeling returning, as the sanctuary had been turned with the stage facing south towards the parking lot. I went and sat down up front right next to the number one deceived Kahan Shaul Schneider and his pet sidekick, Jason Pindur. After services I would say maybe 25 people (out of 250 men) welcomed me back with hugs and the others stayed away from me, like I had the bubonic plague. I never realized what it felt like to be considered a “fallaway” and that moment it hit me like a ton of bricks. People who I thought were close to me, my supposedly brothers in the faith, didn’t even say shalom. Certain Kahans, like Charlie Palmer, Doug Schoenheinz, Nearyah Bisso, and a few more never even said shalom to me, even to the day I was kicked out almost a year later. I found out from several loyal Deacons at the next Feast, that Kahan Shaul had started the gossip of character assassination by spreading false accusations and rumors about me. When I heard this, it helped me to understand why I was treated so contemptuously and he the devil’s advocate was.
When I came back for my first sabbath in 2 years, I went to see Yisrayl Hawkins, through special appointment. To me he had aged alot in 2 years, and looked frail. I was led to a room with no windows and only a desk with two chairs in it, obviously not his normal office, more like an interrogation room. There was a door to his back and the one I entered in from the front. I was only there for maybe 15 minutes. Every two or three minutes Elder Chris Hyler would knock on the door and say “Pastor your next appointment is here.” Of course I knew this routine and knew they were trying to hurry me, so I would have as little time as possible. At one point Chris opened the door and I told him to get out, as I was not finished speaking and had a lot to say after two years. Basically I told Yisrayl that since I was appointed a judge in a House of Yahweh, I was going to do my job appointed to me by Yahweh. I explained to him that I had started an investigation into Elder Yedidiyah’s child molestation case before I left, and found lies, deception, and cover up from the beginning of it till that point. Of course he acted like he didn’t know anything. (He probably thought I was recording him!) Anyway, I reminded him of my office and position within a House of Yahweh and that I would continue my investigation until I found out the whole truth. I told him that Elder Shaul Schneider, Bill Thornton, and others were involved in the cover up. By that time Chris Hyler had worn out his knuckles knocking on the door, so I left him and that was the last time we had a real one on one, private, personal conversation.
Several weeks later I called him to let him know that I had a study I had done on the Passover and wanted to get him a copy. He asked me to meet him on c.r. 254 at about 5:30 a.m. I agreed and when we met, I just handed it to him through the truck window on the road. He made a smart remark to me “what church did you get the information from” which I replied I never got it from any church, I studied it on my own. And then we drove away into the darkness. On the way home I kept thinking about his comment and it made me realize how much of a jerk and cold hearted person he really is. For the next few months leading up to the Feast of Unleavened Bread 2010 and Feast of Passover, he hit me with everything he had across his pulpit. If you have access to any of those sermons between 12/2009-4/2010, he was trying his best to make out the information I had presented was foolishness and he ridiculed it to the best of his ability. At the time there were several other Deacons who also had presented information on the Passover and I think it was getting the best of him and he had to destroy the credibility by attacking the people, not the subject matter. One thing in my study I presented was that the Passover seder that we did, was of pagan origin, and that the evidence pointed out that the rabbi’s had borrowed much of its traditions from the Roman/Greek symposiums. I gave my study to several people and was not ashamed of the information and was hoping that others could verify the facts as being real or not. Yisrayl Hawkins ego would not allow me to bring any such thing into the House of Yahweh as it would have undermined his authority. He had in the past two years prior to my return, to run an character assassination campaign. After all, in their minds, how could I leave the House of Yahweh in Clyde for 2 years and still have holy spirit? How could I actually bring forth something that Yisrayl Hawkins didn’t know? Man, his ego was bigger than Dallas and if I had been allowed to present any truths, his status of “Buffalo God” might have come into question. After all, I was supposed to be void of understanding after leaving the presence of the great teacher Yisrayl!!! Well I guess I proved that fool to be folly. Sometime later he came up with some BS reason to not drink wine and now no one drinks alcohol at the Feasts. I remember him making fun of the Christians years ago, for drinking grape juice at the Feast. And now he has all of them drinking grape juice!
At the Feast of Tabernacles, 2010, I had several heated arguments with certain people, like Elder Anayah Bowler, concerning their so called, saint, Elder Yedidiyah who I said was a child molester. I also did not approve of getting searched and having a metal detector being scanned over my body, for sabbath services. I would tell the guards that I forgive them for their trespassing against me and said that I understood that they were doing their job just as Hitlers soldiers did their job by following orders. But just because I forgave them, didn’t excuse them for their wrong doing, and for breaking the Law of Yahweh by trespassing on my body. So between those incidents and my unwillingness to back down off of my investigation of Yedidiyah, by the third day of the Feast of Tabernacles 2010, I was stopped at the front gate, by the guards and Elder Shaul Schneider, Russell Owens, and Matt Stubbs who denied my entry within, and said I was not welcome to the Feast.
Throughout all the years in the House of Yahweh church, and now standing outside the gates, I have examined my 23 years of service in that cult. I had the wonderful opportunity to meet so many people, some who became friends, but so many are gone and forgotten. I try to cherish the great memories. I will always take my faith seriously, because I believe that there is a creator, and I believe that all these trials in life can be accounted as acquiring knowledge! My mother started me on the path to following Yahweh and even though I have strayed from time to time, to pursue other interests in my youth, I have been convinced since I turned 27, that to live according to the Torah is the choice I have picked.
In retrospect, I know that I gave some bad counseling at times, not always using proper investigation, instead following what Yisrayl or other Elders told me to do. That is their main teaching now, “be obedient to Yisrayl, follow the One Sent, and don’t question his authority!” Well when I came back from exile, I vowed to Yahweh never again will I follow a man blindly, I questioned Yisrayl Hawkins authority, and it got me kicked out! Praise Father Yahweh! Through the years, I also had to sign my name to letters that expulled people out at Yisrayl’s church, which now I have come to realize that many of these people never got a fair trial. I know that those who kicked me out, felt like they were doing right, just like I felt at the time. I try to not hold any animosity towards them, because I know that they are deceived, just as I was! But in actuality I need to thank them for setting me free from a religious mind control cult
Today, my faith and family are the most important thing in my life. I want the best for my children, I am blessed with a beautiful family. Yisrayl Hawkins concept of extended family was designed by him, and he has been a bad example, especially if you look at his marital record of those who left him as a wife/concubine. I definitely wouldn’t recommend him for marital advice!
I am sure I have left some things out and as time goes on, my memory will be jogged, and I will update this story.
Here is a list of loyal Elders who obey Yisrayl Hawkins every command:
Brian Bisso, Michael Sheets, Paul Schneider, David Verner, Tovia Grynewicz, David Heimerman, Jeff Heimerman, Aaron Fostey, Nathan Ashong, Matt Stubbs, Chris Hyler, Jason Hyler, Rayben Napoleon, Russell Owens, Benjamin Crouse, Levi Everetts, Devalle Hayes, David Depass, Kenneth De Benedetto, Yliyah Matthews,
Here is a small list of loyal Deacons who obey Yisrayl Hawkins every command:
Shaun Miller, David Knighten, Brock Fisher, James Fuller,
First of all, I would like you to understand the platform from which I stand now. I am an ex doomsday cult member, who has a degree in sociology, and a profound love/honor for the art of Jazz. I grew up in a fundamentalist religion called “The House of Yahweh” started by a guy named Bill Hawkins, or today known as Yisrayl Hawkins (Google all this if you’re curious). It’s referred to as a doomsday cult by me, and other media institutions such as CNN, because they have repeatedly predicted the end of the world. Notice how I say repeatedly. Every time… they were wrong…. obviously.
So perhaps you’re predicting some cynicism to evaporate from my story. You’re probably right, as my 12 years in the House of Yahweh has definitely skewed the way I approach the idea of any organized religion. At times I may be pungent… pessimistic, or even sentimental, so for fair warning… all of that could simply be a symptom of my current state of mind. Although you should know, I do hold contempt towards Bill Hawkins a.k.a. doomsday cult leader Yisrayl Hawkins. He has proclaimed himself to be a prophet, our last days anointed witness, he is a polygamist with over twenty wives. He has lead the minds of many down a road that he prophets from. Not only does he collect 20% of their income (30% at times), not only has he set up several “market places” in which he makes it a commandment for his followers to buy his goods from, Not only does he smile and laugh when his congregation cheers and praises him as their King, but he has taken so many beautiful people off their own path, and set them on a road that destroys their internal well being, and profits him.
So I feel the need to tell you my story. How it all started with me at a very young age. How the religion evolved, who I met, and what I learned. My goal is to help you understand the power of these institutions, their place in society, and how they can be detrimental to anyone’s well being. I want to approach this issue from a sociological point of view. I may hint at things from a functionalist perspective, but when people are making a lot of money at the cost of others, I will mainly stick to a conflict paradigm. As this experience still brings conflict between the members of the House of Yahweh who have left, and those who are still in.
For those who are still in the House of Yahweh, you are beautiful people, always have been, and will be (most of you that is). You will always be remembered and cherished for your discipline and steadfastness to your beliefs. But, at the same time I also have sorrow for you, because I know that the core essence of the teachings you receive, hold many of you back from what you can truly be.
Finally, this story is for you Mr. Buffalo Bill Hawkins, you can read and catch up on this yourself, because you should know how you affected my life and many others. Perhaps you might tell your congregation about this, and to stay away from it. The last thing you want is to have your followers finding information that bashes your doctrine.
Bill.. I’m going to talk about everything. Everything you denied on Nancy Grace, and every other broadcasting network you’ve been on. I know you’ve threatened peoples lives for these issues… and you’ve succeeded in doing so… they’re afraid. Well many others are not, and I’m not either. Look for me… find me… I’ll just know this… the time you spend on my acts… will keep you from your most evil acts.
“May Yahweh Bless You” is what I said to you the last time I looked deep into your empty eyes. You shamefully looked down and away as if your guilt couldn’t stop you.
I knew I was never coming back, even before I said it.
I was four years old when…
I remember driving down an old country road in the Upper Peninsula Michigan during the full blossom of summer. The forest had bloomed around the road, and the sun was in the middle of the sky. My father had asked me if I wanted to drive. Nervous and curious I replied that I did. So he set me on his lap and let me steer. I laughed and giggled over the excitement.. It was great.. One of my best memories as a child. I then sat back in the passenger seat, put my seat belt on, and began to listen to him talk about Yahweh… briefly. I said to my father “You talk about Yahweh too much”. He shrugged and said “yeah…?” As if it were my fours years of worldly knowledge already working against the holy spirit.
My parents divorced when I was around that age. One of my earliest memories in fact was when I was two. My parents were fighting in their bedroom. My mother standing on the left side of the bed, my father on the right, and me watching the shouts carry across the room. Like any two-year old, I cried. My mother tried to comfort me like it was my fathers fault, but even at that time I knew it wasn’t. She was having an affair.
Eventually my parents were separated, and like most mothers in the state of Michigan, she got full custody, and received child support checks for many years after that. During these years I was handed back and forth between parents. I lived with my mother in Green Bay, Des Moines, and Milwaukee. As she jumped from workplace to workplace, I jumped from school to school. During that period I spent many weekends with my father, who would drive four to eight hours to come see me. My mother was often very busy, and rarely could afford to drive me the distance.
During my time spent with my father in these years, we went from church to church… to church. I knew my father was searching for something, but it was beyond me what he was searching for. It was hard for me to critique it, or have any opinion on it whatsoever. I knew my father loved me, so I simply couldn’t care.
One day my father was sitting on a set of public chairs. He notices a National Geographic with a picture on the cover of an ancient tithe receipt. The Aramaic text had Yahweh’s name on it. Shortly after that, perhaps even the same day or hour, and man approaches him with a business card that says on it “The creator has a name”. Well the name was Yahweh.
This was his calling. Unfortunately, when I was four, I didn’t have the cleverness to say “Dad… it’s just synchronicity”.
It was my fifth birthday when my dad and I met up at a Hardee’s in Green Bay. He had a G.I. Joe helicopter for a present. It wasn’t wrapped. He told me that it was going to be the last birthday present he would ever buy me(and it was). He said he would still buy me gifts, but not for any holidays sake. He said he still loved me, but he couldn’t do that any more.
I wasn’t upset. I was very accepting of his choice. Of course I couldn’t understand it at the time, but I knew what was most important, and I could feel it as well. He loved me.
Once my father began to believe, I was swayed along.
My father started attending what’s called sabbath services once a month in a town called Manitowac Wisconsin. He would meet my mother at a hotel on the highway to pick me up. He would pick me up on a Friday, and we would spend the night at his new friends house there in Manitowac. There I met a lad who was a little older than me, and his family. We would play, and get into mischief, like kids do… with their b-b-guns, matches, kerosene… you got the idea. But, come Saturday morning, we would prepare for sabbath services. Services would last for a couple hours, then we would eat. I loved the food, as there was a huge variety, and lots of it.
Definitely something I looked we all looked forward too.
The first time I was there was in the summer time. I was about six years old. I met another lad, who would eventually become one of my closest friends throughout my duration of this faith. For now… I’ll call him… Elvin. Elvin and I hit it off real well. The next thing we knew, we were running around in the woods, playing with knives, matches, and shooting each other with pellet guns. Brats… I know. We hung out all the time we could, and seldom referenced the doctrine of our so called faith. Kids will be kids… no matter what religion they’re in.
Once I had a friend, and the House of Yahweh members in that area were familiar with me, I started to become “one-of-them”. I was accepted as a member. They treated me nice, encouraged me to strive to be righteous, and soon enough I had the desire or drive to be “righteous”.
I soon learned the most basic rules of the religion. First of all, there’s the food laws. These laws kept a somewhat strict diet on what you could, and could not eat. Next, was the sabbath, in which you are not suppose to practice your own pleasures between Friday at sunset to Saturday at sunset (that is unless of course, your pleasures meant reading the bible, praying, or fasting. Those were okay.). These were the basic, introductory instructions of the religion. However, they evolved dramatically over the next ten years.
It wasn’t that bad. I couldn’t pinpoint anything that was wrong about the faith. Everyone was nice, and seemed to do everything they could for each other. My mother however, didn’t like the idea of telling people it was a sin to eat pork, and that they would die an eternal death if they didn’t follow Yahweh’s 613 laws (I might not have phrased it exactly like that, but I hope you know what I mean).
It wasn’t too long after that; my mother was taking me to a councilor. Was I brainwashed already?
My first feast: Entering the Compound
Many people outside of the group refer to it as a compound. The members refer to it as a campground. Here’s the details: It is a barb-wired, fenced, gated, and guarded 44 acre plot outside of Abilene Texas, in Callahan County. Also known as Clyde Texas. The guards are un-armed, and there are signs saying “No Firearms”. So they say firearms are strictly prohibited. Which for the most part I believe they are. Although, I have seen firearms on a few occasions on the grounds.
I have to say, I didn’t really care much about how the area looked because we drove across the country, about 1,500-miles in two days to get there. I was simply glad to be done with the trip. Being six years old, and stuck in a car for 30-hours… Well you know where I’m coming from.
I had gotten out of school for two weeks to do this trip. I was in the first grade at Crossroads Elementary school in Des Monies Iowa. All the kids were like “You get to go to Texas???” Like it was a huge deal. I remember my babysitter asking me when I was 4 if I’d rather go to Disney World, or Green Bay. Well I hadn’t heard of Green Bay at the time… So I said Green Bay. Kids right?
When I arrived to the grounds, I was relieved from being in the truck for so long, and excited to be somewhere new. Everyone was friendly, ready to help, and the kids were excited to meet each other. I was waiting for Elvin to arrive. I was excited to hang out with him in this new “spot”. He was also excited to see his friend who he told me about earlier… I’ll refer to him as Jake.
Jake, Elvin, and I were to hang out together until we left. It’s a little odd… but we left the institution in the same order that we came. Elvin, Jake, and then myself. Boy were we the trouble makers. We didn’t really start trouble, but we did do things our own way, and the elders didn’t like that. In the early days… things were fun. If we weren’t at men’s prayer at 7:00 am or pm. or in services from 10:00 to 12:45, or in services from 2:00 to 4:00, we were walking around the grounds talking, making jokes, eating food… and having a good time.
We complimented each other nicely. Jake was prudent, intriguing and forward. Elvin was contemplative, calm, and eager. And I was… well… I was wacky, “out there”, hyper, you know… the A.D.D. type. I meant well though. (Religious fundamentalists have no clue how to deal with the “A.D.D. type” by the way… they’ll just think your crazy… or evil).
Becoming Perfect with the 613 Laws of Yahweh
The rules were simple at first. No eating pork, or rabbit, bear, or seafood, or birds like ostriches. Chicken, beef, salmon.. things like that were fine. No fornicating, drug use, drunkenness, homosexuality, or saying the names of gods. Words such as “good, happy, lucky, wish, fortune, chance, and Monday, Tuesday… etc.” They were replaced with great, joyful, blessed, opportunity, and the days of the week were replaced with 1st day, 2nd day, etc. We had to make sure we were at the feast grounds three times a year for the feasts. We had to pay 20% of our income in tithes. The first 10% went directly to yisrayl, and the next 10% could be used to buy goods from the vendors on the grounds. At first there were a few different vendors. Eventually, there was only one, Life Nutrition. None of that was that bad. It was what it was… for a young boy. However, some of these rules evolved into being more strict. The obvious rule like drunkenness for instance, was interesting; Everyone had their own idea for what it was. Some people said two beers is it. Some people said it was when you slurred your words that you were drunk. Some people said it was when your thoughts are altered. Silliness. Some members were drunks, while ex-drunks were highly against drinking. (I will say this though, drinking as a child while trying to be fully perceptive of my reactions to the alcohol, was a good practice. One that can be easily moderated with parental supervision.)
It was a law that you’re not suppose to eat blood. That sounds alright right? Well apparently any milk that you don’t see coming directly from the cow could have blood in it, and according to the House of Yahweh, you have to treat it that way. Soon after this “detail” came out about the blood in the milk, the house of yahweh was selling their own milk to their people. This restricted the followers from consuming any product that had milk in it. Therefore no chocolate, ice-cream, cheese, and many other products; Unless it came from the house of yahweh, or life nutrition could be consumed. Keep in mind that the food the House of Yahweh sells, is blessed by priests. This may be the reason for the outrageous pricing.
The blood in the milk issue was one of the first peculiar rules. Soon after they came out with confession. Just like Catholicism right? Not quite. We had to think back hard. On everything bad we’ve done in our lives, write it down in our 613 Laws of Yahweh pamphlet, and then sit in front of two elders, and confess our sins in detail. It was a dramatic experience, hurtful, and powerful for those who took the confessions. A funny part to that, was hearing the rumors of how elders wives were sleeping with other elders wives, and continued to do so. [Silliness. Self righteous people pretending they’re on the road to perfection while judging others, telling them where they’re wrong, and “sinning” behind closed doors.]
Confession started as a feastly-occurrence, and then turned into a weekly ordeal. Wherever the members were at, they had to call the house of yahweh in Texas every Friday night to confess their sins. People who didn’t call were kept track of. Same for those who didn’t pay their tithes. (Keep in mind that paying your tithes is the most important law. Jake was told that he could do whatever he wanted if he payed his tithes. Jake didn’t like it when elder Yedidyah told him that, but Jake is glad to know that elder Yedidyah is in jail.)
Another odd rule that I found was very patriarchal, and controlling of women, was that when women were on their period, they needed to sit on a pad. Most of the women used a place-mat, or something similar, but it was the fact that it was sooo obvious when a woman was menstruating. Not only that, but the area were they sat, needed to be marked with a note that said unclean until sunset. So if you’re menstruating in the hoy, then your unclean for the duration of your flow, and seven days after the last sign of blood. That means no being close to your husband. But that’s okay for your husband… especially if he’s a priest, because if you’re his wife, that means you’re probably not the only wife.
Along these lines of keeping women “in their place”(which is bullshit) women were not allowed to approach any male unless it was her father, brother, or husband. Any other relative, or old friend, could only be spoken to in the presence of her husband or father. Women eventually had to wear burkas, which covered everything on the woman. They were not allowed to roam the feast grounds like men were, and the women were completely separated from the men in the sanctuary. Separated with a 7-foot tall barricade directly down the middle of the building.
Over the years I attended 36 feasts. Many of these feasts tend to blend together, so forgive me if my comments about this experience aren’t chronological. I want to say that things primarily stayed the same until I was about 14 years old. Up until then, The religion didn’t seem that different from other religions, such as Pentecostal, or Mormon. We had our quirks of course, and there were definitely the self righteous type, but for the most part, it was an educative and enjoyable experience… For the most part.
I met many different people, from all over the world, and from many different walks of life. Looking back however, there are some traits among these people that they all had uncommon. Some of these people were trying to leave the drug abusing world, some had a series of wives who left them, some were already familiar with the name Yahweh, and came because of that. Thinking back about all of them, excluding the family or loved ones they brought with them, it was clear that there was a void that needed filling in their life. That was the case for my father. He searched, he found, and invested enough to make it not worth it to look at life differently.
There were times during these feasts where I would become uncontrollably depressed. I had no idea why I felt the way I did, but sometimes I just had to go to my tent and cry. There was an abundance of anxiety when leaving the feasts as well. Knowing that I was going back to public school where the kids would ask me what I did, and why I was in such a weird religion. Many of them would say “Go back to Texas”. Being the hyper-active type of child, while dealing with two different persona’s had quite the affect throughout middle school and high school.
My parents were always trying to get me to read the bible; All the time. What 12-year-old boy wants to be forced to read the bible for a portion of everyday? Naturally I was figuring out ways to get out of it, just as I did in school. I wasn’t a good reader at all during that age either, so getting any meaning out of the bible was nearly impossible. The use a metaphor in the house of yahweh was non-existent as well, which made viewing the world from such a black and white paradigm dramatic and depressing.
When I first starting coming to Texas in 1992 the organization seems only slightly odd as compared to what it turned into by the time I left in 2004. Women and men wearing burkas, people putting table spoons of salt in their water, and the animal sacrifices which were later burned in order to mix their ashes with water to cleanse Yahweh’s people from the dead.
What ultimately made me decide to leave was the fact that Buffalo wife-beating Bill was immune to all of the teachings that his followers desperately had to follow.
He went behind the back of the father of the girl who I was in the process of getting engaged to, to marry himself. Now look at this formula: A 70-year old man who is a prophet from Yahweh tells a 16-year old girl that if she marries him that she’ll have her place in the kingdom of heaven. I wasn’t upset that I wasn’t able to communicate with this girl anymore. How could I have an emotional bond to her in the first place when talking with her was like an inmate speaking to a reporter classmate in front of the prosecutors?
I approached this diseased leader and said “Congratulations Yisrayl, for your marriage with *****”. He didn’t respond, so I repeated myself louder, and made sure I got eye-contact. He still didn’t respond.
This was my last time ever being in Texas.
I told my father what happened and he told the elders. Later I was scolded by Jeff Heimerman and was told that Yisrayl can do what he wants, even if it’s breaking the law. He will not be judged for it and I needed to accept that.
That was all I needed to hear.
I Never turned back.
*editor’s note: David Richardson was mysteriously and viciously murdered in Abilene, Texas after this interview, and the crime has never been solved to this day! Many in the HOY, know he was killed by one of Yisrayl Hawkins hit men.
David Richardson tries to explain through tears and jitters brought on by fear, lack of sleep and the need for a smoke why he joined the House of Yahweh and why he has now gone broke trying desperately to get his family out.
“There is an emptiness inside of everyone that you’re trying to fill,” Richardson said. “I thought I was going to meet the Almighty anointed on Earth.”
Instead, he met Yisrayl Hawkins. The former Abilene policeman known then as Buffalo Bill Hawkins started his own, Old Testament-based religious sect headquartered in Abilene and Callahan County back in 1980.
Since then he has attracted followers from across the country, a number of whom are here this week to observe the Passover. The sect is now attracting state and even national media attention for continued reports of polygamy, allegations of fraud and Hawkins’ association with members of extreme anti-government groups. At first attracted by Hawkins’ proclamations, Richardson said he later began to doubt and question prophecies he saw proved false. And then he wanted out as badly as he’s ever wanted anything, he said.
“I was stupid,” he said. “I can’t believe I fell for it. You have no idea what this man can do.”
Hawkins has not responded to repeated requests for interviews from the Reporter-News and other media. Followers who are contacted issue a blanket denial of all allegations.
‘GOT THEM OUT OF THERE’
Richardson, 38, came to Texas from Maryland over two weeks ago to try to extract his family from the sect’s compound near Eula.
He was successful in getting two sons, ages 12 and 6 removed, he said.
“I went on the grounds and put them in the car and just got them out of there,” he said. He claimed one elder tried to block his quick departure and hid his face when Richardson tried to take his picture to show authorities.
He hasn’t been as successful with his 14-year-old daughter or his wife, Bonnie, who on March 1 legally changed her name to Biynyah Hawkins to match that of the sect’s leader. More than 100 followers have made similar name changes in past months.
Since he began his quest, Richardson said he has spent most of his money, has been threatened by someone who told him he’d been hired to “take me out” and is moving from one place to another out of fear. He has made contact with law enforcement officials, child welfare caseworkers, lawyers and anyone else he thinks might help, he said.
Richardson, who said he was ex-communicated just this week in a ceremony videotaped by sect members, isn’t alone in falling into disillusionment with the House of Yahweh and its founder. He has been in contact with another ex-communicant, Darin Jeffries, who has set up a refugee camp for others who want out.
“We want people to know there is a life after the House of Yahweh,” Jeffries said. “I’m not going out there and trying to get people out, but I would sure help them out if I could.” JOINED IN 1991
David Richardson’s story is similar to that related by others. A middle-class family living in Salisbury, Md., the Richardsons were members of Herbert W. Armstrong’s Worldwide Church of God, the same church Yisrayl Hawkins adhered to before starting his own faith with his brother, Jacob.
Among their beliefs is keeping Saturday holy. Apparently, the family’s name got on a mailing list of people who worship on Saturdays, Richardson said.
Two people from the House of Yahweh traveled to Maryland to meet with the family, he said. Eventually, the Richardson family counted themselves among the House of Yahweh faithful, and in 1991 they began making yearly pilgrimages to Abilene for the three Feast Days observed by the sect.
But then things turned ugly, Richardson said. His wife started living with an older member of the sect. A year ago she left Richardson and moved, along with the three children, into the compound. She works for $35 a week in a print shop operated by the House of Yahweh and is required, as all members are, to give three tithes of 10 percent each to Hawkins, Richardson said. When he was a member, Richardson said he himself had given the House of Yahweh thousands of dollars of his own money through tithes.
“He keeps you in poverty so he can control you,” he said.
Before Richardson got out, at Hawkins’s urging he applied for and got Aid to Families With Dependent Children and a Lone Star Card, which replaced food stamps in Texas.
In return for that advice, Hawkins got a 30 percent tithe, Richardson said. Although he is unemployed, Richardson said he will soon leave the state, relinquish his welfare benefits and find another job as a salesman. Worse even than turning over money to Hawkins, Richardson said, is that people get caught up in his teachings and are manipulated by him. As for himself, Richardson said he “woke up” and began to see how Hawkins was misusing scriptures.
Richardson is fearful of what might happen to those remaining under Hawkins’ hand. “They think he is the anointed one,” he said. “They would kill themselves if he said to.”
As for his own spirituality, Richardson said he still maintains his original beliefs: “I believe in the name of our Father. Our Creator is Yahweh, but he is not here.”
Looking around the motel room, shaking as he tries to light a cigarette, he said, “I’m living like a vagabond, and I haven’t done anything wrong. All I want is my family.”
A daughter of Yisrayl Hawkins, whom he excommunicated from his religious sect, claims she routinely received members’ food stamps as tithes while she and her husband were employed at the compound.
Margo Corneillie made a number of accusations against her father in response to a guest column, signed by sect member Jodie Beard, published last week in the Reporter-News.
In his notarized letter, Beard stated the sect “never” accepted food stamps for tithes. But Corneillie claims she received members’ food stamps as tithes while she and her husband were employed at the compound.
“We often received tithes in the form of food stamps and we were told to write ‘other’ on the receipts rather than ‘cash’ or ‘check,’” she said.
The food stamps were then given to Yisrayl Hawkins, she said.
“He never once turned them down or instructed us not to accept them,” Corneillie said.
She and her husband worked in the sect’s mail room for 2-1/2 years and dealt directly with funds that were mailed in, including food stamps, she said.
Corneillie also claimed that her father taught people how to get on welfare and instructed new mothers to write “father unknown” on their birth certificates, so the child could take the name “Hawkins” and so the mother could get a larger welfare check, one-third of which was tithed to the House of Yahweh.
On Tuesday the Reporter-News again requested an interview with Yisrayl Hawkins through a spokesman at the sect’s headquarters on T&P Lane in Abilene. The spokesman said he would forward the request, the latest of many, to the sect’s board of elders.
Officials who oversee welfare programs, including food stamps before they were replaced with the Lone Star Card, say it is illegal to use the stamps for anything other than the purchase of food.
Her accusations against her father are similar to ones made by other ex-members. They include the selling of wine at the compound without a license and operating a restaurant during feasts without a health permit. The food at the restaurant and stores was purchased with food stamps, she said, and sold for cash.
Following the publication of Beard’s letter, several other ex-members came forward to say they, too, gave food stamps as tithes and were encouraged to do so by elders. They declined to let their names be used because they feared either prosecution by the state or reprisals from the sect.
One man provided a tape recording he’d made of a meeting with elders who chastised him from falling away from the House of Yahweh and called him a “thief” because he didn’t pay tithes.
“I have to give you all my damn food stamps?” the man complains on the tape.
“You don’t have to give it all,” the elder says, “you just have to give 10 percent for Yahweh.”
When the man protested it was illegal, the elder said he could convert the food stamps to food and give that as part of his tithe.
Although Corneillie’s claims against her father are the same as those told by others, her story is more poignant.
“I used to call him ‘Dad,’” she said.
That was before she noticed that her father’s teachings began to change dramatically. When she and her husband started pointing out things they disagreed with, both were ex-communicated by form letter.
“When you question it, you’re labeled as a rebel,” she said.
She said originally her father’s teachings were pure. But something happened and he grew paranoid, corrupt and power hungry, she said.
“When Yisrayl started hungering for the power, the focus was taken off the Kingdom and placed on the man,” Corneillie said. “His goal is to become a god.”
A number of disillusioned members are leaving the House of Yahweh and circulating a video refuting Yisryal Hawkins’ teachings.
Forty to 50 people have left the Abilene-based sect in the past few weeks and months, interviews show, and for the first time two people who changed their last names to Hawkins have returned to the Taylor County Courthouse to have them changed back.
Ex-members said they expect more to follow suit, and hope their video gives them the courage to do so.
“It’s all a money game,” said 50-year-old Norman S. Davis, a New England native who joined House of Yahweh in 1994 but now refers to Hawkins’ House of Yahweh as “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.”
“I’ve been here for two years and not one prophecy or whatever you want to call it has come true,” Davis said.
“Last Easter, Satan came to the Earth, according to Yisryal,” he said. “This coming Sunday it will be 10 months since Satan’s been here. What the hell is Satan doing? Sitting in the Vatican, drinking tea with the pope?”
“Buffalo Bill” was Hawkins’ original first name, before he changed it in 1982 as he built the sect. More than 200 men, women and children have also changed their last names to Hawkins in Taylor County in the past two years.
Said one other member who has recently left, and who asked that her name not be used: “I’m just embarrassed about the whole thing. Some of us aren’t even going to get our names changed back; we’ll just go back where we came from and get on with our lives.”
That doesn’t mean Hawkins’ sect is dwindling away, the ex-members stress. It still counts many hundreds of adherents and continues adding new ones around the country. But an increasing number are asking questions, Davis said, and he hopes the video helps.
Hawkins is fighting back. An audio cassette by an elder is also circulating, attacking those who’ve fallen away and stressing the scriptural basis of Yisryal Hawkins’ teachings.
Late last month, Hawkins himself acknowledged the discontent in a newsletter. He warned his followers about a “deception that Lucifer is carrying out against Yahweh’s work.”
Some of his people had fallen away, he said in the Dec. 31 newsletter, because they “listened to the lies and gossip of those who desired to take over the House of Yahweh.”
The message concludes with a warning that “we have about three years left before the kingdom of Yahweh is set up. I plead with each one of you to remain strong in Yahweh’s only prophesied established work — the House of Yahweh.” VIDEO MESSAGE
Recent departures were spurred by several factors, ex-members said, including widespread media coverage, and especially a long Texas Monthly article last summer.
That piece, by Austin writer Robert Draper, delved extensively into Hawkins’ background and quoted people accusing him of sanctioning multiple marriages and manipulating religious texts and followers for financial gain.
The video shows former members also grew frustrated that Hawkins never successfully addresses their own questions about his inconsistencies.
On the tape, former elder Miciah Michaels explained why scripture does not support Hawkins’ teaching that he and his brother, Jacob Hawkins, are the two “last days witnesses” who alone could lead their thousands of chosen followers to salvation in Israel after the fall of the world.
Jacob Hawkins died of natural causes in Odessa in 1991, and critics say Yisryal Hawkins quickly amended his scriptural findings.
That inconsistency is one point Michaels stresses in the video.
“When I moved down here to the House of Yahweh, I was looking for great joy and love and what I ran into was heartache and moaning and groaning,” Michaels said on the tape.
“I saw a body of people who were crying out with all their hearts and all their souls about the double standards of the elders and the double standards of Yisryal, unjust things Yisryal is doing, lies he has told.”
Michaels, who has since left Abilene, explained two deacons tried to bring these concerns to Hawkins, and Hawkins said he would address the problems personally.
“Seven weeks later, he never asked a man about the lies,” Michaels said. “He never showed the love and compassion to save them from falling away or leaving the House of Yahweh, and he showed no care for their salvation.
“That sent a message to me, a very strong message,” he said.
Davis added last week that Hawkins has recently announced only a few key people will be going to Israel, another amendment to earlier prophecy, he said. Efforts to reach Hawkins for comment were unsuccessful.
There’s other evidence people are leaving the Callahan County compound, which has had a resident population of 100 to 200 but draws many hundreds more for feast celebrations.
The county’s Justice of the Peace Don Burns said he has been contacted by several who have become disillusioned with Hawkins.
“They want to know if I know what’s going on,” Burns said. “They keep me informed. They just insinuated they didn’t like what was going on out there.”
Most of the calls to Burns concern the sewage disposal system at the compound. Burns’ office must issue permits for septic tanks in the county. Recently, he has been told that several additional trailer houses have been placed either inside the compound or nearby with no septic system.
Burns said he is investigating the sewage complaints as fast as possible in his one-man office.
“I want to determine what really and truly is going on out there,” he said.
His office started issuing permits in 1991. Since then he has issued 20 single-use permits to people living in the compound and three “professional-design” permits for systems to be used by multiple families. Usually eight to 10 trailers will share one system, he said.
Burns said that for six months last year no one filed for a permit, although he knew that several trailers had been moved in. Burns said House of Yahweh members are used to installing the systems and for a while they didn’t have a certified installer, which may have accounted for the delay in getting permits from his office.
Some ex-members have also consistently questioned Hawkins’ financial dealings.
He has recently opened a new business, Ahoy travel agency, at 901 T&P Lane in Abilene. Its managers, however, claim not to know anything about Hawkins or his House of Yahweh, whose headquarters is located nearby.
During an open house on Jan. 5, attended by the Abilene Chamber of Commerce Redcoats, two women who run the business adamantly denied that the business had any association with the House of Yahweh.
They said that it was mere coincidence that their last names were Hawkins and that the House of Yahweh headquarters was located in the next block, at 1025 T&P Lane.
They said they had never met Yisryal Hawkins and didn’t know anything about him or the House of Yahweh.
However, three permits were issued to Hawkins through the city’s building inspection office to do work on the travel agency office.
The property at 901 T&P Lane has been deleted from records at the Central Appraisal District office and an appraiser there said most likely it is included with the 1025 T&P Lane property. The property wouldn’t be listed on the tax roles since it is exempt because of being owned by a religious group, said Sharon Wheat, business appraiser.
“We don’t have any of their other stuff on the tax roles,” Wheat said.
Like many other people who’ve left the sect, Davis insists he has not “fallen away” from the faith but only from Hawkins’ interpretation of it, including his establishment of multiple tithes from followers.
“I still follow the Sabbath, I still study the scriptures as much as I did when I was out there,” he said. “A lot of people get caught up with the fact, ÔYisryal said it, that’s all you need to here.’ And that’s stupid.”
What will happen? Davis, noting as others have that Hawkins has at least two Social Security numbers, believes some day he may be gone.
“Knowing Yisryal, he probably could pull a Harry Houdini real easy,” he said.
The man worshiped at a HOUSE OF YAHWEH