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Our Stories - Near Death in Guyana

Seek The Truth Blog

Our Stories - Near Death in Guyana:

There are many stories my grandfather told that I'd give anything for former "Message" believers to hear. Having spent so much time alone with William Branham and his sons, these "special" insights shed a great deal of light on the little-known side of the cult that the "common people" never witnessed. After my grandfather was recruited into the "Message", he shared an almost instantaneous closeness with the Branham family. Whether this was because Branham suddenly liked my grandfather above all others, or because my grandfather had ambitions of being an evangelist during the "Voice of Healing Revival", or for some hidden agenda we will never know, my grandfather, and his wife and children shared many, many hours with William Branham and his wife and children. From both the family account and the accounts of others who were there, visits to the Branham home were almost every single Sunday and frequently during weekdays.

No matter what the situation, when my grandfather told a story that included William Branham, he claimed there were "supernatural" powers at play. As a child, hearing about the invisible "superpowers" was better than reading a comic book. Instead of common, ordinary memories, they were greatly enhanced with invisible villains being controlled or mocked by invisible heroes: the "angels" that surrounded William Branham at all times because of Branham's "preferred status with God" above all other human beings. Like the Green Lantern, he didn't choose the "ring", the "ring" (God) chose him! As a child with wide eyes and big ears, the "heroes and villains" were so exciting that very little critical thought was applied. It was far more fascinating to compare the story to comic book heroes than it was to compare it to the average person who also faced similar struggles in life and overcame. Sadly, my comic book hero views continued into adulthood much like others who were raised with the same influence and manipulation. Years later, armed with the incredible amount of information that has painted the picture of William Branham as a much better storyteller than he was a supernatural hero, memories of these stories my grandfather told seem much different. In fact, some of them are very eerie and when combined with other stories and memories myself and other former members share.

When Grandpa told about his near death in Guyana and mentioned that place where the other cult leader had "killed all those people", those listening would shake their head in scorn as if the "Message" did not have the same structure of central figure leadership. "Message" members, obviously unaware that the same potential danger existed, always thought of the Jonestown victims as "Jones' group" as opposed to "Branham's group". They did not realize that they were labeling themselves as people following a central figure in doing so. By any definition, this was the structure of a destructive cult. Why were they not "Jones' group" as opposed to "Jesus' group?" Sadly, I had never even considered that line of thought until long after our escape, a fault all of us who are willing can admit.

Listeners were absolutely fascinated when Grandpa told about how he narrowly escaped death. Without question, they were more focused on the "supernatural" part of the story than the poor dead victim who allegedly died so God could spare two of recognized "Message" fame. They never thought about wife and family of the man who died, but instead thought about how "special" it was that William Branham's son and the pastor "God chose" to lead the Branham Tabernacle were miraculously spared in Guyana.

Most people hearing that story were not aware of the many other facts that should immediately spark critical thought. Even among those who attended the Branham Tabernacle, only a privileged few were aware of the bodyguards who escorted Grandpa from the little room in the back of the church to his car. They weren't aware of those who wore guns to church, or that there was even a reason to wear them. Instead, they were satisfied with the image that had been painted of my Grandfather, William Branham, and others in power: simple, humble men, with very little money, who loved God and thought nothing more about life than religion. They never once stopped to critically think about the situation. Why would anyone want to murder simple men with little money or power? How did they attract assassins that would strategically plan their execution any given Sunday, on road trips, or when traveling to other countries?

The truth of the matter is, there is a lot they didn't know. Except for a handful of people, very few were aware of William Branham's sermons in Peoples Temple from 1956 to 1957 and likely beyond. Few knew that William Branham held private interviews with the very people Grandpa mentioned who died in Guyana when he joined Rev. Jim Jones for weeks at a time. Few were aware that Grandpa himself had met Rev. Jim Jones, or that he strongly disliked the man rising up to be a recognized evangelist in the "Voice of Healing Revival".

Instead, most "Message" members were exactly like we were: fascinated by stories that we didn't critically examine. Giddy with excitement over even the slightest mention of the "spiritual", insomuch that we overlooked the natural explanations. Blind to what was going on behind the scenes, even though much of it could be witnessed in plain sight. Most of all, we were accepting of these stories, simply because of the men who told them. We were the problem; too often we put "faith" over common sense. Without people like us, who avoided critical thought, eyes closed and arms extended while reaching for just another thimble full of "supernatural" crumbs, there would be no cult.

It took a long, long time for me to heal enough to critically examine the "special stories" we grew up hearing. It was years before I could think of my grandfather in the same way I viewed other cult leaders that continued the manipulation after William Branham died. There are so many things to process, so many stories to re-examine, many of which were never told outside of Grandpa's four walls. They need to be told. One day, maybe they will.

John Collins
Author and Webmaster, Seek the Truth


Grandpa's story: