Jan 16, 2020

Warsaw Man Details Life Inside The Twelve Tribes

Twelve Tribes
County Reporter
Benton County Enterprise
January 15, 2020

A Twelve Tribes community moved to Warsaw in the late 1990s and opened up a Common Ground restaurant on Main Street. In the twenty plus years that they have been settled in the area, they have quietly worked at providing a comfortable and tasty place to eat, and at the same time have been available if anyone wants to know more about their lives or religious beliefs.

As in most cases where a group of people are a little different from the mainstream, there has been some suspicion about the Twelve Tribes members. They wear modest clothing, live in big houses together, and share money, possessions and work. There have been stories told in the past about how they over-disciplined their children, and they have been labeled a cult.

www.good.is recently reported an example of a 15-year-old girl, Shuah Jones, who chose to leave a community in another part of the country. Her father was a founding member of the Twelve Tribes, so she sneaked out of the house at night and called a brother for help. Her young age allowed her to catch up on education by studying for a GED with the help of family members who lived outside her former community. She eventually went to college and is presently an insurance agent. Jones said that Twelve Tribes bans outside materials and offers only minimal education to children. She said that she had no decision-making skills and didn’t know how to protect herself. Jones believes that others who leave a community have difficulty with social interaction that makes it hard to navigate the resources that might be available.

There is apparently a network organized by some people who have left Twelve Tribes to provide support for one another and help current members leave when necessary. The network mainly tries to offer one a place to stay and a job.

In Warsaw, there seems to be a peace between this religious community and its neighbors, but there are still a lot of unknowns. Andrew, who helps run the Warsaw restaurant, now known as the Yellow Deli, talked at length over the weekend about what it means to be in the Twelve Tribes. He also described some of the unfavorable stories being told about the group a rehashing of old news from the past.

He said that in the 1970s, he and his wife were Christians in North Virginia, when they met some people who were moving from Chattanooga, TN to Vermont. The couple took an interest in these Twelve Tribes members and found out that they lived together. At the time Andrew and his wife also lived in a house with another Christian couple and they each had a small child. Andrew and his family visited Vermont and decided that they wanted to be a part of that life, so they sold their property and moved there.

“I have been asked Why Twelve Tribes?” said Andrew. “The heart of what we are doing is that we each individually have chosen to give our life, and serve, and follow the Son of God and give everything to Him. The scriptures say we can do that by caring for each other.”

After years in the community life, Andrew transferred to Warsaw when Common Ground was opened. A similar restaurant had first been opened in St. Joseph, MO, and the members thought Warsaw would be a good spot to open another one because the city was between two lakes and a good place to meet people. Andrew explained that meeting people meant that restaurants were good places for income, but also were places to meet without going to see the house where the community lived. The exception is on Friday evenings when the community gets together to celebrate with food, dancing, worshipping and singing, and the public is invited.

“A few years after moving to Warsaw, I spent a lot of time in a Boulder, CO, community,” said Andrew. “But, all of us go wherever the need is pressing, so I recently came back here where we needed people.”

Andrew talked about the local community’s children, health care, income and the procedure for leaving Twelve Tribes.

“Our children are home schooled so we can teach and train them from the scriptures,” said Andrew. “Our discipline also includes corporal punishment that is done with love, is gentle and in line with scripture. What we use is a thin reed, which will not cause harm even if someone gets out of control.”

He said that in cases of medical needs, the community tries to do what it needs to stay healthy, but when medical care is essential they pay as they go. They also take advantage of public health.

Sources of income for the local community come from the Yellow Deli and a construction and cabinetry business. The construction business provides more income at the present time. There is also a community farm located south of Topeka, KS, that provides some of the produce used in the restaurant, but the emphasis is to try and grow more of their own local crops.

“If someone chooses to leave the community, he or she lets that preference be known and the community does the best it can for that person,” said Andrew. “However, everyone is told when they join that any money they bring into the community may not be available to them if they leave. The community only keeps savings to pay taxes.”

When asked about the time a few years ago when the Warsaw community was trying to sell Common Ground, he said the money from the sale was going to help a community in Boulder to buy suitable property for the members to live in. However, about that same time, a young member came of age for an inheritance and that money was used to purchase the property. The Warsaw community questioned themselves about moving to Colorado at that time, but now know “This is the place where we need to be.”

Andrew and his wife have six grown children and 28 or 29 grandchildren. All but their oldest child live in Twelve Tribe communities.

The Twelve Tribes organization got its beginnings about 46 years ago when Gene Spriggs, from Chattanooga, TN began opening his home to anyone who wanted to come and learn about Jesus. As he became disillusioned with traditional churches, he and his young followers became a separate entity called the Vine Christian Community where they lived together and supported themselves by opening the first Yellow Deli restaurant. It has prevailed and spread to communities around the world. Twelve Tribes.com lists over 90 communities in the U.S. and abroad. Andrew said that a new community has recently been added in Japan and that there are Yellow Delis in Spain and England.

The Twelve Tribes web site states “The Twelve Tribes is a confederation of twelve self-governing tribes, composed of self-governing communities. We are disciples of the Son of God whose name in Hebrew is Yahshua. We follow the pattern of the early church in Acts 2:44 and 4:32, truly believing everything that is written in the Old and New Covenants of the Bible, and sharing all things in common.”


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