Searching for Souls in Wells, Texas

by Published on
wells3
Patrick Michels
Andy and Patty Grove have been camped out in Wells since the summer, worried about their daughter.

 

“I never took eternity seriously again until we moved down to Wells, Texas.”
—Carolyn Wiegand, 11-year-old member of the Church of Wells

Gertrude Hearne’s front porch faces a wooden house painted light blue. On a September morning, a lawnmower drones nearby as a young woman wearing a long skirt lugs a bulky stroller, baby inside, up the blue home’s front steps. The young woman is a member of the Church of Wells, and we watch her from Gertrude’s darkened home, curtains shut tight and screen door open. The light-blue house across the street is the last place residents recall seeing Catherine Grove after she came to the East Texas town of Wells—population 769—to join the Church of Wells.

Inside Gertrude’s living room, an oversized Bible is open on the coffee table and an aging chihuahua sits by her side. Here in this room the 84-year-old widow used to occasionally host youthful missionaries from the church who knocked on her door. She would serve them coffee, and they would offer to bring her groceries. Eventually she had to tell church members they were no longer welcome in her home. “I was nice to them before they kept bothering me and telling me that I’m going to hell,” she says.

Since the evangelical church came to town in 2011, there’s hardly a resident who hasn’t been preached at, sometimes several times a day. It’s hard to miss the women of the church, wearing long skirts and pushing their strollers down the streets, and the men, riding bikes along central Rusk Street, where abandoned brick buildings are overgrown with grass. A Church of Wells member owns the town’s only grocery store, the R&R Mercantile, whose wide aisles are sparsely stocked with Pringles and Chef Boyardee. The R&R no longer sells cigarettes or lottery tickets.

For as much as the church proselytizes, few locals have joined. Only one pre-church Wells resident, the elderly widow wife of a former Wells mayor, is known to be a member. Another resident, Lanetta Houghton, said she told church members she’d like to attend a service, but was told that she “can’t just come. There have to be studies first.”

The Church of Wells is one of many unrelated evangelical churches that have sprung up across the United States since the 1990s, born of discontent with mainstream Christianity and desire to live a “true” Christian lifestyle. “The antichrist reigns today in professingly godly, Christian America,” one Church of Wells elder has written. Many Wells residents consider themselves Christians, but the Church of Wells does not believe they are saved. The suspicion is mutual.

In May 2012, a Church of Wells member’s 3-day-old baby died of natural causes. The family didn’t call 9-1-1 until the conclusion of a 15-hour prayer session following the death. Then rumors began to spread that the church was buying up more property in town, promoting arranged marriages and converting the town’s youth. The word “compound” eventually entered conversations.

Some residents consider the church a “nuisance.” Others believe it may be more nefarious, with an “endgame” that could be destructive. Then there are those who state their fears bluntly: that the Church of Wells is a cult—“Jim Jones stuff,” as Lanetta Houghton says.

The Church of Wells’ revival is not going as planned, especially not since the recent “Catherine Grove controversy,” as the church calls it. Gertrude has posted a handwritten sign in her front yard: “Catherine, your Mom and Dad love you and they are still in Wells and want to see you.” Some nights, a volunteer from the neighboring town of Rusk drives Wells’ residential streets broadcasting the same message with a loudspeaker. Since July, Catherine’s parents have been living in an RV parked just a block from R&R Mercantile, refusing to leave until their daughter comes home.

 

The Church of Wells’ home in a century-old former Baptist church and Masonic temple.
Patrick Michels
The Church of Wells’ home in a century-old former Baptist church and Masonic temple.

On July 2 this year, Catherine, 26, left her apartment in Arkansas in the middle of the night and took a bus to Lufkin, about 20 miles from Wells. Andy and Patty Grove received a call from Catherine’s roommate letting them know that their daughter, and all her belongings, had gone missing. Catherine left no clue as to her destination.

Catherine had been at somewhat of an impasse, having left behind nursing school and a job at LifeWay Christian store in Little Rock and briefly moved back home with her parents, both full-time missionaries. It wasn’t until July 7, at 11:30 p.m., that the Groves received a call from Catherine saying she was in Wells. According to Patty, Catherine said, “Don’t worry, I’m here with a group that’s taking good care of me.” Patty thought to herself, “Maybe this is a good place for her.” But that assessment would change dramatically after she and Andy arrived in Wells, where they encountered a wall of opposition to their attempts to contact Catherine. Church members said they feared the Groves would “kidnap” Catherine.

The church maintained that Catherine was “seeking the Lord” and did not want to see family or friends; her cell phone, now unreachable, had been deemed a source of “evil communication” by the church. The Groves were baffled as to why they had to ask anyone’s permission to see their daughter. They were issued a criminal trespass warning against visiting the R&R Mercantile. Patty and Andy hunkered down in a brown and cream-colored RV owned by a Wells resident, parked in the lot of another local church. Each day the couple is in Wells they learn a little more about the church their daughter joined.

The Church of Wells is mostly—though not exclusively—young and white. There are 56 adult members, dozens of whom are pictured on the church website looking like chipper undergrads—a parent’s dream image of wholesomeness. The church’s three “elders”—Sean Morris, Jake Gardner and Ryan Ringnald—all white men in their 20s, are dressed in button-down shirts, grinning widely for the camera. (A news commenter on HLN’s Dr. Drew On Call show labeled them “the church of the hot boys.”) The trio formed the Church of Wells, originally called the Church of Arlington, in 2010 while street preaching across the United States.

Videos of the charismatic trio’s preachings are full of confrontations: with drunken revelers on Halloween, Catholics after Mass, and Staten Island Ferry passengers at 2 a.m. In a video of the latter, Ringnald preaches to a tired and captive audience. “Excuse me, sir, nobody wants to hear your voice,” one passenger responds. Another pushes Ringnald, who continues to preach, unfazed by his audience’s alternating indifference and anger.

These young church elders appear to thrive on conflict; their self-described first-century lifestyles wouldn’t be complete without “Pharisees” persecuting them. They’ve branded Wells pastors like David Goodwin, of Falvey Memorial Methodist Church, “false prophets.” Competing churches are dismissed as “seeker-friendly” and easy on sinners, when sinners should be chastised.

“If they had come in here and had crazy beliefs, I’d [accept them], but they attacked, telling people they’re not saved,” says Goodwin, who joined eight other local pastors in signing a media statement questioning the new church’s aims in Wells. “It took everything I’ve ever learned and every experience I’ve ever learned from my father, a Hells Angel, to keep my cool.”

 

U.S. Highway 69 runs through the heart of old downtown Wells, much of it vacant today
Patrick Michels
U.S. Highway 69 runs through the heart of old downtown Wells, much of it vacant today

Wells is no stranger to religious movements imposing their visions of salvation. Since its founding in 1885 as a stop on the Kansas and Gulf Short Line Railroad—and its boom days as a state prison coal camp in the 1890s—Wells has hosted a short-lived Mormon community, the Church of Christ, itinerant preachers, brush arbor revivals, Methodists, Pentecostals and Baptists. Some of these churches survived, others faded away, and a few were laughed out of town.

In the 1974 book Between Two Rivers, perhaps the only written history of Wells, resident author John Cravens writes wryly about a preacher who “decided to reenact the miracle of Jesus walking on the water” in Wells, only to have the planks he’d placed underwater sawed in half by local boys. “The embarrassed minister had a pretty difficult time getting out of the deep water while his audience laughed at his failure to perform one of the great miracles of biblical times.”

The atmosphere today seems less lighthearted. At the Wells Interfaith Pantry, where local churches—not including the Church of Wells—distribute food to residents once a month, Pastor Goodwin introduces me to a packed room as a reporter writing a story on the Church of Wells. Everyone groans. Whether it’s at me, the idea of a story, or the church, I can’t tell. An older man who doesn’t speak much hovers near me while I talk to people. I ask him if he has any thoughts on the church. “Don’t like ’em,” he says.

The Church of Wells’ doctrine doesn’t differ wildly from those of the town’s other churches; they believe the Bible is the literal word of God and that Jesus died for mankind’s sins. Yet their interpretation of such beliefs and the requirements those beliefs demand is exceptionally strict. Anthropologist James Bielo, author of Emerging Evangelicals, says of the Church of Wells, “There are strong expectations about being part of this community, so it’s not just about saying something, asking Jesus for his forgiveness—it’s more than that. There’s community moral and social expectations of how you’re going to live. They see themselves as modeling that way, that path. And so they want to invite everyone to come, but unless people are willing to totally give themselves over…”

In testimonies on the church’s website, members express disgust with the hypocrisy of mega-churches and the commodification of Christianity. According to church website testimonials, a good number of the church’s members considered themselves devout Christians before joining the church—though at least one was a Rastafarian—only to realize one day that they were practicing a “false Christianity” embraced by their families, friends and American culture at large.

Kristin Pursley, the mother of the baby who died in 2012, writes on the church website, “My mom insists that she loves God and has for many years, but her passion rather revolved around entertainment and trips to Disney World.” Kristin’s husband Daniel, 37, adds, “It became overwhelmingly apparent to Kristin and I…that Disney was an idol in their life.”

Stephanie Bailey, a member in her 20s, devotes more than 1,300 words in her online testimony to an argument over Eminem with her professor at a Christian university. The other half of her testimony is devoted to the HBO program The Wire. Yet another church member credits her revelation to the sinfulness of the movie Transformers.

Many seekers see the Church of Wells as an opportunity to escape sinful worldliness. The church’s “Doctrine of Judgment” holds that separation from the world—even from family and loved ones—is a prerequisite.

Elders make repeated use of the following bible verse: “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” Elder Sean Morris quantifies the conflict on his blog: “Number of Parents in good relationship = 50. Number of Parents who are ‘against us’ = 35.”

From the July day they arrived in Wells through late August, Andy and Patty Grove met with Catherine a handful of times, but only in the presence of church members, and once with a sheriff’s deputy in attendance. The most memorable of those encounters occurred Aug. 2 at the home of church member Heidi Keyes, mother of deceased serial killer Israel Keyes. Israel killed an estimated eight people across the United States starting in 1996. He visited Wells before his arrest, in 2012, to attend the wedding of his sister, who like her mother is a Church of Wells member. Heidi, who raised Israel in the Mormon faith, then adopted Amish beliefs, acted as interlocutor between the Groves and their daughter.

For about 12 hours, the couple sat in Heidi’s home with Catherine and elder Ryan Ringnald while the latter preached. Patty later said that as the night advanced she became “confused in my own mind how to talk to my daughter; I was being influenced by them.” After the meeting Patty concluded that Wells was not a “good place” for Catherine. At the time of this writing, Patty and Andy have not seen or heard from Catherine since Aug. 19.

As the Groves tell me this story, standing outside their RV, a young woman with light-brown hair walks by, wearing a long tan skirt and pushing a stroller. Though she passes just a few feet away, she doesn’t acknowledge us. Patty identifies the girl by name, age, and husband. Several Church of Wells members live on this block. Minutes later another female church member walks by. Then, as if to alert us to their presence, unseen church members begin to sing unrecognizable lyrics from afar. Their voices, light and falsetto, seem to come from the surrounding trees.

Catherine signed an affidavit on Sept. 23 attesting that she did not want contact with her family, and confirming that she is “at liberty” to contact anyone at any time. “I affirm that my ability to make decisions is not being hindered in any way,” she writes.

Catherine is an adult, after all, and the Church of Wells has been accused of nothing illegal. The local sheriff has checked in with her multiple times. Supporters of the Church of Wells contend in online forums that the issue is a matter of overprotective Christian parents shielding their “quivering daughters” from the world. Elder Jake Gardner condemns the idea, prevalent in “conservative, home-schooled, Christian America,” that “a converted daughter should obey her unconverted father’s will even when it is contrary to the will of God.”

Yet there is no shortage of support for the Groves, especially in Wells, and among other estranged parents of church members who also believe the group is a cult. One mother, who preferred to remain anonymous, told me her adult son joined the church and moved to Wells in 2012. She believes the church appealed to her son and his wife because “they felt they could live out a Christian life without all these sins in their face.” Though her son has not been “cut off” from her—she texts him and he sometimes responds—she says he has undergone such a transformation that it’s nearly impossible to have a conversation with him about daily concerns. Such matters have become trivial in light of the “burden” he feels for his mother’s soul.

On Oct. 23, the Church of Wells broadcast its latest evidence of spiritual transformation, a video titled “The Testimony of Salvation and Baptism of Catherine Grove.” The soft-spoken Catherine, who looks and sounds younger than her 26 years, describes her spiritual journey for an audience of dozens of church members and is then submerged in a lake. Elder Sean Morris then speaks to the crowd for several minutes, explaining “what she meant.”

Soon after her baptism, Catherine sat down for a video interview with a local reporter. He asks, are your parents enemies of God? “They very likely are,” she says.

 

The Church of Wells is housed in a two-story wooden structure sinking under the weight of more than a century of use. A pair of dirty green Converse shoes, a cooler and a barbecue pit share space on the dusty porch.

When I knock on the door, church member Jesse Morris answers wearing jeans and a black T-shirt. From inside, he calls one of the church elders on the phone. They can’t meet with me today, he tells me, but maybe next week. I try to make small talk about the history of this building—it’s one of the oldest in Wells, formerly home to a Baptist church on the first floor and a Masonic temple on the second. He says he doesn’t know much about it, just that a relative of his owns it now.

My subsequent emails and phone calls to church elders went unanswered until one night I sent Sean Morris an email asking about one of his blog posts. He replied: “Did you understand what was being said, seeing that there was scriptural and metaphorical language being used?” After several more emails discussing scripture, I asked again for an official interview and received this response:

“We are engaged in much labor for the gospel of Christ, and we loath to get any more entangled in the media (which often grievously misrepresents things) however, if you have any questions or desires for personal reasons (like your own soul’s standing before God, and how to be saved from God’s wrath on judgment day), we would be glad to answer them ‘off the record.’”

Wells is surrounded by ghost towns. Denizens of defunct towns like Cheeseland either relocated or died, but Wells has remained on the map with a near-steady population of several hundred. The arrival of the Church of Wells, its members coming from all over the country, was unexpected. Like missionaries in a foreign land, the church arrived with little concern for the town’s “carnal” reality, only for its residents’ eternal souls.

In the video interview following her baptism, the reporter asks Catherine if she sees herself staying in Wells for a while. “All of us are going to heaven,” Catherine answers. “This isn’t our home. Wherever we go, God is going to be with us. We don’t have to worry about earthly things anymore.”

  • channelclemente

    One is left at a loss for words. This could be an episode on the Simpsons.

  • GibsonGirl99

    Bloody hell.

  • TheAngoraRabbit

    The arrogance of this group is appalling.

  • texasaggie

    There comes a time when interference in someone’s religion is justified.

    • Ygg Drasil

      This isn’t religion.

  • Jack Hughes

    Hopefully the day won’t come when that cult gets a “revelation” to kill.

  • Ygg Drasil

    Great article. Well done.

    “Only one pre-church Wells resident, the elderly widow of a former Wells mayor, is known to be a member.”
    She isn’t a widow. Her husband, a former Wells mayor, is still living.

    • Forrest Wilder

      We have corrected the story. Thank you.

    • Truth

      One thing I might add because the English word “Repentance” sounds so dramatic in current tongue; Strongs 3341 Metanoia: means in literal translation “a change of mind” or “repentance”

  • channelclemente

    A Jack Chalker reference, in Texas, where else.

  • adnilorotrot

    This so-called “evangelical Christian” church is totally unbilblical in its practice. The fifth commandment says “Honor your father and your mother.” Jesus ate with sinners. Jesus honored His mother and father. The Church of Wells is perverting the Word of God. This church is a cult, and gives true biblical Christianity a bad name.

    • Truth

      Technically, a Christian is a follower of Christ, not of Moses…. The term Christian is used far too loosely; failing to represent the title in truth. Also technically, Catherine is following Christ under her beliefs, if her parents were atheists, should she be an atheist in order to make her parents happy? Oh wait, the commandment doesn’t say “make your parents happy.” So that’s 2 points against your understanding of scripture… I’m no Church of Wells expert, so I cannot say whether they are a cult or not, but I’m quite certain that box office churches give “true biblical Christianity” the worst possible name the religion could acquire. A church as small as Wells cannot represent all of “Christianity,” they can only represent themselves and their beliefs, so they cannot give Christianity a bad name unless they claim to represent the entirety of the term “Christianity.” Catherine’s parents should be ashamed however, for exploiting their daughter for their own sake, if they truly loved her and truly follow The Lord, they would know that she is in his hands, their prayers will be heard; but their selfish ambition is what they want to be heard, they’re going public and “praying” to the press…. The only ones giving any bad name are quite obvious when you look at the situation with a bit of an open mind.

  • Christian P

    Leah. This is interesting. How these parents have supposedly lost their daughter, but more so they have lost their minds. It seems professing christian or non bible believing people are joined together and going against the Church in wells, this all seems just like what I read about what Jesus Christ had faced and I wouldn’t be surprised if most of these people would crucify Jesus if He was here today, He probably would be with that Church in Wells TX. It is interesting.

    • Ygg Drasil

      Now, this is interesting. Not sure what to make of it.
      “It seems professing christian or non bible believing people are joined together and going against the Church in wells” – That’s an odd perception. How did you get that from this article? What do you mean? How are they “going against” the Church of Wells?

      There are literally billions of “professing Christians” and more “non bible believing.”
      Of the world’s 6.9 billion people, 2.2 billion or 32% are Christians. The other 68% are 1.6 billion Muslims, 1 billion Hindus, nearly 500 million Buddhists, 400 million adherents of various folk and traditional religions, 58 million “other,” comprised of many religions including Baha’i faith, Jainism, Sikhism, Shintoism, Taoism and Wicca, 14 million Jewish. Most of the world’s population, 5.8 billion (84%) affiliates with a particular religion. 1.6 billion (16%) have no religious affiliation. Many with no religious affiliation hold religious or spiritual beliefs, such as a belief in God or a universal spirit, while not identifying with a particular religion. Pew Report.

      “This seems…like what Jesus Christ had faced and I wouldn’t be surprised if most of these people would crucify Jesus if He was here today.”
      You aren’t seriously comparing a group of young urban Americans, mostly from Texas and California, that formed a corporation, bought houses and a grocery store, spend a lot of time on the internet on iPhones, build slick websites and operate commercial services (landscaping, logging, fuel sales, gold buyer), to Jesus Christ. Are you?

      Um, nope, no crucifixions these days. That would be serious felony. Jesus was arrested for treason (mostly because he was a Jew), tried in Roman court and sentenced by the convention of the time. This isn’t the Roman Empire under Tiberius. This is America, President Obama, and the convention of the day is sheriff departments, prosecuting attorneys and public defenders. Constitutionally-protected human rights and religious freedoms.

      Which has already been tested and precedent established with respect to “Church of Wells.” These young Americans are guilty of acts of cruelty to a newborn and the death of a baby and have not been held accountable.

      “if He [Jesus] was here today, He probably would be with that Church in Wells TX.” Probably not. Jesus was Jewish.
      Jesus was primarily characterized by his strong stoic confidence in his own beliefs and convictions. That’s what he was about. So, no, it’s not likely he would join this group. Regardless, he was Middle Eastern and didn’t speak English.

      • Marsha

        only the leaders have the cell phones not, “the others” and yes they preach to the non believers like Jesus did…they bought shacks and a tiny store barely stocked as all the other “accepted” religious groups before them… did o not read article? What did historian say? or was that another article? and like other bible thumpers you are taking things literally, rather than the IDEA I don’t get your first response with the wiki statistics as a dissection to the poster so I won’t address that one…Plus your statistic are totally irrelevant as to how many believers and non believers are existing in your pew report because what he said is TRUTH that BOTH Christians and NON believers are persecuting the wells group he found irony in it and so do I! Not too slick of a web site since it drones on and mostly all articles are on one laboriously long page…That once again like all bible love’n south does picks and chooses verses and mish mashes them together sew the sh*t out of them and post it and preach it for all to follow as “THE WORD”… no matter HOW distorted the preachers personal distortion of it is it serves it’s purpose….to manipulate the listener… It’s the exact distortion the Southern Baptists hear when they attend church…no different…certainly not slick. And since most don’t understand the reason the bible was written in parables (look up definition of the word; you will find NOTHING relating to the meaning “LITERAL”!) is the same exact reason you are picking apart this dudes post…so erroneously, btw…Now who in their right mind would actually believe he meant crucifixion literally (except the B- belt)?? Now lets get the jist ok? It means if Jesus came to earth now he would side with the ultra religious Well’s Church and the extreme right religious group against them would most likely crucify the Well’s group…now lets compare “crucify” like this …you caught your teen daughter having sex in her bedroom in your house …you would “crucify” them (well unless you are packing the guns, you would shoot them). Maybe not literally but you would be hopp’n mad about it… you would “persecute” them “mock” them “curse” them “crucify” them in words and deeds. Get it now? Nope? Didn’t think so… Your second “observation” umh the baby was determined by a hospital to have died of natural causes. so your bizarre “save a baby” angle doesn’t work with that one. And driving a dead baby around is no different than your grandpa laid all night in the hospital morgue and then driving him to the parlor to be -de-liquefied and then re-(lol), cleaned, hair makeup etc but that’s after he layed there another 8 hours waiting at the end of the line before it was his turn to be “done up” .then him placed in the cooler that night for the next viewing then drive him to a church then drive him to the plot gee I bet that baby was buried quicker than the average person much more “humane” than what we do to dead bodies Christ what do you think they did before embalming ( I figure you got to be female at this point lol) They prayed over it for some bizarre reason they thought hat would bring it to life more faith than the average “believer” I would say….. Now lets see, your last idiotic interpretation..umh Jesus was a Jew whom created the Christian fellowship through his teachings and educating his disciples to go and teach the same with no clothes btw (getting rid of earthy holdings yah know)… umh ah um He certainly would NOT join a Jewish synagogue since they do NOT believe in him as the messiah! (dumber than dirt hear my friend) He certainly wouldn’t “dis.” them or “crucify” their beliefs. Honey, The Jews only believe in his father.. Which means they do not believe in” the father, the SON, and the holly ghost”. =the trinity..They only believe in “The Father” part… so umh ah,,, your WRONG! Of course your true stupidity is in NOT understanding that the trinity are ONE. = The father is the son, the ghost is the father and the son, and the son is the father and etc…By you by saying Jesus would not understand English is denying the holy trinity. That means you are saying he is not God and if God created all things…..pretty sure he knows ALL the languages…Oh and to edify you further the jews don’t study the new testament so they don’t believe the miracle stories told that he preformed in it…Anyway, since you are making ignorant suppositions; I will add one of my own…How do you know that there may not be an ex jew in the group that could translate his Hebrew??LMAO In your highly “intellectual”, albeit uneducated dissection of a general opinion/comment and trying to turn it literal is hilarious. Especially when you purport to know “facts”. Irony other irony I find is how the extremely religious are oh so ignorant to religion period! (their own included).

      • Truth

        Pretty much everything you just said is false or inconclusive; starting with the last sentence, English wasn’t a spoken language during his time on earth, so that point bares no relevance.
        Jesus was Jewish, however most of his preaching was against Jewish popular belief, and in correction of Moses and “The Law.” The Jews were expecting their messiah to come to condemn and punish the world for their sins, he clarified that he came to save the world. He was crucified for blasphemy, not treason…. Bit of a difference.
        What the poster meant in as far as believers and non believers alike going against the church was simply exactly as he was stating, it wasn’t one side or another, it was both…. It was a simple summary of the situation, both Christians and non Christians covers everyone and in the text of his statement it implied everyone not of the Church of Wells. How difficult is that to grasp…. With all your statistics and googled knowledge do you have the ability to comprehend what you are reading? If I remember correctly reading comprehension is a 5th grade skill… But please find the specific statistic for what grade level it is because I am just assuming.

    • Ohreally

      Christian P, are you a member of the Church of wells? These parents are not being allowed to see their daughter alone, as are other family members. The church are verbally abusing people in the name of Jesus, and it is the Church of Wells that seeks to judge and condemn people. The media and families and local folk are just talking about what is going on. The church has brought down this scrutiny themselves, of their own desire. They WANT this. The WANT the publicity. In the bible, that the church of wells profess to know, Jesus says “2 For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” Matt 7:2 The Church of Wells is being measured the same way they have measured others. No surprise there.

    • Marsha

      I also found it quite interesting Christian P.. That the extremely conservative religious right are offended by the ULTRA religious Well’s group… I found it very apropos that the extremer’s don’t like the slap in the face from the ultras. Just because they don’t agree with the ultras’ LAWS and RULES. VERY interesting indeed, when the shoe is on the other foot, isn’t it? Especially when the Extremes are trying to do that very thing by voting for politicians that create LAWS on all peoples in America of MANY faiths. One and the reasons America is great, because of the CHOICE and “lack of persecution” (cough cough) for practicing that faith….. Funny I wonder why they don’t like it since these kids are living the words of Jesus (well except for the brainwashing part, but the extremes wouldn’t notice that at all since…well you know…). Hey! they should look on the bright side, I think these kids are living that “free society” that the Koch boys profess. They are “getting it back for America”. (sorry boys, American NEVER had a free society” It is not doable unless you wish anarchy) except with out the worldly goods those greedy bathtards just LOVE. (They should fess up really they would HATE a real free society outside of their mansion compounds)These “ultras” practice what they preach, why wouldn’t the “extremer’s like that of all things? Oh yeah, riiiiight, they don’t want to follow their laws and rules……any light bulbs going on I wonder? Nope. because the extremes are the “RIGHT” ones and only THEIR beliefs, laws, rules, preacher’s and politicians are RIGHT. So BOTH sides just couldn’t be possibly RIGHT now could they???? Nope, sorry, we don’t belong we can just see OTHER’s sides of things…it’sa ” walk a mile in my shoes” kindda thing….. you just wouldn’t understand.. Ps The girl is 26, she really could decide if she wanted to be brain washed or manipulated or not don’t you think? Isn’t that the point? to shelter her from the evils of outside influences geez yah figure the south would rah rah them for the very things they like to do… nope I can’t see any light from this end of the tunnel…they STILL don’t get it..lol

  • stinkyboy

    hey thanks, good story. thanks for that reference to israel keyes; one seriously messed up dude. no wonder he went psycho with friends and family like these people.

    • Ygg Drasil

      If evaluation is accurate, Keyes was a sociopath. He wasn’t a member of this group, wasn’t raised in it, didn’t have significant interaction. Probably never heard of it until his sisters hooked up in 2012. But he was raised in and exposed to similar extreme environments, including the Christian Identity group in Washington state.

  • Trilby Foster

    This is the type of article and attention we need to bring awareness to this group. The Groves have set up a facebook community called Pray for Catherine Groves I encourage people to look over. Updates, news articles, information and general prayers are shared here with over 4500 followers. One of the church “elders” was recently arrested and is currently in jail in New York for threatening and harassing someone. Also of interest is when Keyes committed suicide in his jail cell, church elders and his family went to perform his funeral service. You can search the internet for funeral for Israel Keyes and link to video of the service which was performed by Jake Ringnald. This is a for profit group that runs several business around town. When a new member joins and sells off all their possessions the money is given to the church as well. One fear of leaving the group, aside from the fact you are told you will not go to Heaven, is you have no possessions, no car, no money, no place to live, no cell phone (church provides you one of theirs if you get one) and have severed your relationship with your family. Please keep sharing and keeping the topic fresh and in the news.

  • Ohreally

    In their sincere to follow the teachings of Christ, they have become the “mega” church that they hate; specious and idolizing their speciousness. Hatred is the same as the sin of murder. The Groves have shown no hate, only the persistence of love. Will Church of Wells people who have children, cast them out when they are adults due to this teaching of leaving parents?

  • Carattop

    Where do they get their money???
    Do they work?
    Welfare recipients?
    Believe what you want, I say, but not at the state’s cost!!

  • lizzy

    Where do these people work? Do they work? Where does their money come from? The “elders” went to Baylor Univeristy……remember David Koresh? Branch Dividians? Maybe these are sons of some of the wives and going about to fulfill what David Koresh started. Has anyone looked into these mens past? If not there would be a starting point.