"Brainwashing is a very, very, very slow process. Unless you have been there, you just don't get it." – Carole
“My brother Mark and I would sit on the front porch when new people would arrive at Fortney Road. I remember we’d sit there with out hands across our chests, sort of fascinated in a sick way because we would watch Larry break these people down. We knew what was in the store for them…” – Tim
If you linger in bed, a punch in the stomach or lashes with a whip will be forthcoming.
“We sleep so little that the average guy at the farm can’t hear an alarm clock to wake up in the morning,” Leon says.
“Recently, all the men failed to awaken in the morning and as punishment, they had to run ten or fifteen times through a pond that was three feet deep, in the middle of a freezing-cold Ohio winter,” Millie says.
Immediately upon arising, a Vietnam War veteran leads the men and women in forty-five minutes of exercises, including hundreds of push-ups, sit-ups, leg lifts and then a quick two-mile run. To increase the difficulty, some members also carry a club or staff during the run. After the morning exercises, sweaty and exhausted, you face inspection. “We have inspections of all our shoes, boots, everything, even your fingernails,” Margo says.
Following inspection, men rush to feed all the animals and clean their stalls as quickly and thoroughly as possible. After the animals are fed and the stalls cleaned, the men file into the warm farmhouse by six.
The women hurry to the farmhouse to prepare breakfast. With the exception of Diane and a few women Larry considers prophetesses, all the women are responsible for maintaining the farmhouse, and keeping it immaculate.
Larry leads everyone in prayer and a daily devotion to God. Some exhausted members begin to nod off as soon as they are seated but a jab in the ribs and the fear of being caught sleeping when they should be listening keeps everyone on edge and awake.
Some of the men stay on the farm all day tending animals, repairing buildings or working the fields. The select few who own brokendown vehicles struggle to stay awake as they drive about doing errands or completing their farm duties. Those with jobs in the city or suburbs hitchhike to work. Some jobs are as far as 40 miles away. The men wait patiently in the freezing weather for a ride. Glenn Schwartz is not only a gifted guitarist, he also is skilled with cars and he hitchhikes to town where he works at an automobile repair shop.
“We clean cracks on the floor with toothbrushes,” Carole says. “We do everything in the house everyday—all the woodwork. We shampoo the rugs once a week. We wash the curtains once a week.”
After eight hours at work, the men with jobs in town hitchhike home and start the evening chores. They immediately begin tending to the animals because Larry insists their stalls be cleaned morning and night. “The animals live better lives than we do,” Leon says.
Dinner is for most, but not all. Some members fast, either by choice or command, believing fasting brings them closer to God. Tim says, “We have many forced fasts that may last one to two weeks. We eat only rice during this time or only eggs. These fasts do not apply to my Dad.”
After dinner, Larry, Diane, or Laura Markko read carefully compiled lists of work assignments.
Then punishments are handed out for the previous day’s infractions. Leon says, “One person is told to run ten miles for the crime of not washing the goats properly before milking, while another person is told to run five miles for failing to wake up on time.” Other punishments include writing Bible verses over and over, or receiving a beating with a riding crop or a bullwhip. “I’ve been beaten thirteen times with a bullwhip, up to forty lashes at a time,” Leon says.
Joe says, “We commit ourselves to a program of Bible memorization in case the scriptures are not conveniently available during the Great War. Larry says the writings of Stalin specified the physical liquidation of every Bible, so each person is assigned several books of each testament so that the entire Bible might be resident in our collective memory.
“I’ve been given Galatians and Ephesians from the New Testament and the Old Testament books of First and Second Chronicles. Each of us recites the verses we’ve memorized that week. One chapter from each testament is expected from everyone. Each succeeding week, we rehearse everything memorized to date. It makes for some very long nights…”
Before anyone can retire, the watch list is posted. Eight men draw guard duty.
“The watch list consists of teams of two who are assigned to go on a rotating twenty minute patrol to check the animals,” Leon says. “The watch is required because the Great War can start at any moment and Larry doesn’t want to be caught unaware or unprepared, and doesn’t want the animals harmed.”
In order to have a place to hide during the coming Great War, members dig out a cave and tunnels in the woods near Geneva, Ohio, close to high vantage points along the Grand River.
“A small group of us are dropped off in different, remote locations each night around midnight,” Joe says. “The driver turns off the headlights to hide our activities from local residents. We follow paths and game trails through the woods until we arrive at the site of that night’s work. Lookouts are set up and a password system is established to challenge anyone approaching.”
Tim adds, “The challenge word is ‘Zero’ and the correct password is ‘Freezing.’”
After a few hours of digging, the community members camouflage the tunnels so they won’t be seen by anyone during the day and then they silently march through the woods to a designated pickup area.
“We get home with just enough time to get a couple hours of sleep before the four a.m. alarm and then we’d be off to our day jobs,” Joe says.
Tim says, “My brother Brett often says that he is so exhausted, he can fall asleep anytime, in any position, standing up inside or outside, even at high noon.”
“I told a friend how well I thought I could function if we can only average three hours of sleep per night,” Leon says, “but I rarely even get that. I think about sleeping all the time.”
“We employ creative solutions for staying awake,” Joe says. “Beyond the ‘stick your head out the window into the winter blast’ kind of therapy, some carry a cup of coffee in their hand and hold it high enough to create a problem should they start to drift off. My brother Randy holds a small, ball-peen hammer in one hand, handle up, directly above his crotch. It works…”