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Last year, on the occasion of the twenty-ninth anniversary of the 1984 raid on the Island Pond Community, my wife wrote a heartfelt letter to all six of our children.

Only three were alive then, with one in the womb, but it is part of the heritage of them all. It is a foundation stone in our existence as a people, a “Red Sea experience,” where our Father delivered us from hands too strong for us. He delivered us because we cried out to Him. Here is her personal letter to our children, amended slightly for public use.

My dear children,

There is a lot stirring in my heart today because it is the twenty-ninth anniversary of the Raid in Island Pond. Your father and I had been in the Community just a year and a half. We had endured two harsh winters, seen first-hand the spectacular fall foliage, and swum in the icy mountain lake. IP Fall SceneFrom fresh picked blueberries to maple syrup we boiled down from the sap, our life was simple but real. We had walked around the lake to pray, and sung “Without Faith it is Impossible” meaning it with all of our hearts.

Your father and I were both twenty-eight years old. As the song says, “We were young and we were small,” but faith was firmly planted in our hearts. Every day, the hardships and sufferings, the joys and over-comings, were convincing us: this life is true. We were being saved, experientially, every day.

I don’t have any teaching notebooks any earlier than autumn 1984, but we loved to hear the Word back then. It was nothing to us to wake up at 4 am and walk down the wind-blown road to the Block for a 4:30 am teaching twice a week (and sometimes the temperature was 30 degrees below zero!). It was all life to us!

IP Winter SceneOur eyes weren’t closed; we knew trouble was stirring in the town. I remember certain people glaring at us through their windows as we walked by. A man drove past our restaurant and shot into it late one night. Our Father protected us, for which we were very thankful. We loved each other all the more and clung together. The prophets told us to be prepared in our spirits, because something was going to happen some kind of confrontation. We were all exhorted to memorize Genesis 18:19 because, “Before a judge, the only thing that is going to stand is your faith. Be sure it is real.”

I zealously memorized the words and thought about what each one meant. I hated the world system we had just left. I wanted to train you children at home to love Yahweh with all your heart and soul. I did not want in any way to send you to public school. We had just moved to the Lake House in January. We had walked on the ice in the winter, and sailed boats along the banks in the spring. I had just started teaching you all to swim.

Then, one night two people had a dream — the exact same one. All of us were standing together on the shore by the ocean, when all of a sudden, a huge wave washed over the group! When the water receded, we were still standing! Not one was gone. That is how we were going to be! Not knowing what to expect, we were going to stand together. We would trust our Father. It was around Tuesday that we heard that.

I remember thinking, “Our Father is with us. He is speaking to us. He will help us.” We were continuing on with our life, striving to keep a good conscience, helping you to do the same, and expectant… Then, it happened…

It was Friday. Your father got up at 4 am and went down to the Block for the child-training teaching. I got up just a little later and started getting you children up. I was with Jeremiah in the bathroom, putting him in the bathtub to give him a bath. From the second-story window I noticed a man in a uniform walking around the house down below. I quickly ran to the hallway to tell my friends, “Hey! Something is happening!” Just then, I looked down the stairwell to notice my friend Hope talking to a state trooper at the door. “Oh well, I thought, they are all finding out themselves right now.”

I ran back to the bedroom to check on Isaiah and Jesse. You both woke up to a state trooper looking you in the eye with a flashlight. As quickly as I could, I gathered all you children together to get you dressed. Soon, your father joined us and we faced the officials gathering in the dining room.

“Would you like some breakfast?” one of the children cheerfully asked them. Another questioned innocently, “What’s that?” pointing to a gun and a billy stick.

Sitting down to eat some of our breakfast of oatmeal, I tried to bring you peace. As we were finishing, we learned that we were all going to St. Johnsbury. “What about Friday night? And our preparations for the Sabbath?” I considered the change in plans… It was going to be quite a different day. All of us in the whole community were going. Some families would be riding on a bus; our family would travel together in a small van.

We climbed in and sat dutifully. There was a heavy quiet. Jeremiah, you were just 4 ½, but you asked your father, “Is our Father speaking anything to your heart?” He responded with peace, “Yes, son, our Father is with us. We’ve done all we can do. Now it is up to Him.” It reminded me of when Isaac asked Abraham, “Abba, we have the wood and the fire, but where is the offering?” and he answered, “Son, our Father will provide the offering.”

As we drove along, I considered what we were hearing from the officials. All you children were supposedly going to be taken (even from us), and examined before social workers and psychologists for three days at Burke Mountain ski resort for signs of abuse.

They had already rented the facility and it was staffed with all these experts, just waiting for you to come. The court appearance was a mere formality, they said.

“O Yahweh, help us!” I prayed silently, but fervently. I could only imagine the trauma that it would put you all through at six, four and a half, and two and a half years. I did not want to even think about it. “Surely our Father is with us,” I hoped; reassured that your father had just said that.

At that point, in my mind’s eye, I could see that it could go either way. Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abendego (Daniel 3:17-18), I knew our God was able to deliver us, but even if He allowed suffering to come our way, we weren’t going to worship the beastly system of education by willingly delivering our sons up to it. You children were given to us by God, and I was going to do my best to raise you up to have our faith and to love and serve Him with all your hearts. You were not ever going to go to public school and face the hell I did there, with the unkindness, peer-pressure, propaganda, and defilement. That was child abuse!

We arrived at the gymnasium and gathered in little clusters around the room talking. Soon we began playing music and dancing with the children. Some of them asked if we were having celebration. One child thought we were having a wedding, but he couldn’t figure out who the bride and groom were! Later some of the storytellers, Kharash and Yonah, told captivating stories of our people from the Bible. At some point we had lunch. I prayed all day long (as I’m sure we all were). We could not leave the room unless “escorted” to the restrooms or to get a drink of water. Many of the participants commented at how nicely mannered the children were. Others expressed they could not understand why people thought they were being mistreated. Still others were skeptical, thinking that what they were seeing was an illusion or something.

Our friend, Deborah Lamb, was there on a stretcher with her new-born baby girl Naharah. She had just had a C-section the week before. I was five months pregnant with you, David Solomon. I was comforted by the thought, “At least this one they can’t take away from me.” As the day progressed, we heard they were trying to decide how to do the court appearance — altogether, or by individuals and families. Finally, we heard we were going to go one at a time, family by family, to appear before Judge Mahady.

A little while later, we were escorted to the courthouse. Soon our turn came to appear. I was so proud of your father. He spoke the truth calmly and plainly, “Your Honor, if I had been sleeping in another house this morning, this would not have happened to me or my family. I do not stand before you because I am guilty of any wrongdoing, but only because of my address. This is not right or just. The last I knew, ‘guilt by association’ was unconstitutional.”*

Judge MahadyYour father spoke for the two of us. I was not called upon to speak that day, but a response was there in my heart if need be. I had done nothing wrong. I was training you to keep a good conscience. Yes, I spanked you, but I had spanked you in the world, too, just as my parents had also disciplined me. (And no one had taken us to court for it.) I was not abusing you. I loved you, was warm and affectionate with you all. I loved to teach you things about life and faith, and read you stories from the Bible. I worked with you every day in the kitchen and around the house. We went on walks together and swam together. We did everything together.

We were in our first love. I loved Yahshua and our Father. I would do anything for them; I was doing this for them! I loved righteousness and justice. I wanted it to fill my heart and fill the whole earth! We would sing:

I am eternally grateful to Yahshua

for your life – for your love.

I am eternally grateful to Yahshua

for the shedding of your blood.

I am eternally grateful to Yahshua

for the coming of your Dove.

I am – I am – I am so grateful.

I am – I am – I am so grateful.

You are – you are – you are Messiah.

You are – you are – you are Messiah.

We meant these words with ALL our heart and soul.

How thankful we were when around 8:30 or 9 pm we heard that the charges had been dropped. There was no evidence against us! We rode home in a bus, singing with all our hearts in appreciation to our Father! We entrusted Him with everything,1 and He did not fail or forsake us. He was and is “Mighty and Powerful to Save.” We were saved that day. He still continues to save us. We are grateful.

Miriam Carlin

*Postscript from Kevin:

It was hard to read Judge Mahady’s response to me, as his tone was blank, but his words were wry: “We are trying to avoid giving the appearance of that, Mr. Carlin.”

However, Judge Frank Mahady saw right to the heart of the matter, judging the raid and the hoped-for detention to be illegal and “grossly unconstitutional.” He called the entire episode “a massive fishing expedition” on the part of the State of Vermont. His stunning decisions condemned the raid as the worst state-sanctioned violation of children since Herod the Great.” His eloquent words are lessons in jurisprudence, constitutional law, and the rights of man, all at the same time.

The collusion of the state and the anti-cult movement obscured and perverted justice as effectively and as unconstitutionally as if the state were acting on behalf of a religious denomination. So profoundly was the very notion of justice subverted that the state proceeded without any evidence of abuse or neglect, only rumors and hearsay. On June 22, 1984, in the courtroom before Judge Mahady, the state had not one witness, not one piece of evidence, to prove its allegations of child abuse.

No EvidenceHowever, Judge Mahady did have evidence that day — real, immediate, and “eye witness” in nature — the 112 children brought before him. Our healthy and happy children, even given the dire and difficult circumstances, “spoke” on our behalf. If a picture is worth a thousand words, how many a living child? The evidence they offered was irrefutable. Certainly, we were found guilty in the court of public opinion, as the Scriptures tell us we will be; but we were found innocent in a court of law, a determination based on evidence, not accusation.

Judge HayesAll we seek is to be treated fairly and impartially by officials who can discern between media sensationalism and culpable guilt before the law. In Vermont, in 1984, very few had that discernment. Among them were Administrative Judge Thomas Hays (who appointed Judge Mahady to the case that day), Judge Mahady, and the public defenders such as Andrew Crane who helped us.

Andrew CraneMay God bless them all. ~ Kevin

 

1) Judge Mahady’s Decision in the 1984 Raid, at http://twelvetribes.org/controversies/judge-mahadys-decision-1984-island-pond-raid

2) An Issue of Control: Conflict between the Church and State Government, at http://twelvetribes.org/controversies/issue-control-conflict-between-church-and-state-government

3) Retrospective on 1984: What We Know Now That We Didn’t Know Then, at http://twelvetribes.org/controversies/retrospective-1984-island-pond-raid

4) Letter from Jennifer Hanlon, resident of Island Pond, April 19, 2001, to the Burlington Free Press, at http://twelvetribes.org/controversies/letter-jennifer-hanlon-april-19-2001

1 If they had taken away our children, how could we have continued on?

This was Newsletter 20 published July 12, 2013.