Rhubarb in the House for God?

You may have already heard of The House of Yahweh, a splinter cult that broke off from the Worldwide Church of God in 1980, and their founder pastor-prophet Yisrael Hawkins, via media coverage. The church grew from humble beginnings out of a mobile home in Abilene, to one attended by thousands, keeping Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles; publishing printed media, with millions of dollars in tithes collected annually.

Anyone can order Hawkin's free monthly magazine subscription called Prophetic Word if they are so inclined by simply calling toll-free: 1-800-613-9494. Or even easier, the website may be used to order Hawkin's profound monthly newsletters of understanding, or booklets with such catchy titles, as "Which Day is the Sabbbath of the New Testament" and "True Stories About Christmas". Through the years, the House of Yahweh has attracted members from around the world, using satellite broadcasting, radio and Internet to spread a message. That warning message weaves news reports of Armstrongist-type plain truth about today's terrible world news: crime, famine; pestilence; drought; economic collapse; violence; the march to nuclear war; and, intertwined with that depressing news is some bible prophecy about tomorrow's future world. But there has been for some time big trouble brewing up in the true House of Yahweh. And as usual, the things Herbert W. Armstrong's subsidiary prophets have predicted to occur by today have inexplicably failed to come to pass.

In 1997, when Hawkin's prediction about the 'end of the world' failed--several of his ministers left. Then Hawkins, predicted that this world would be devastated by nuclear bombs in late 1999 or early 2000. That did not happen. As with Herbert Armstrong's place of safety ( it is somewhat tedious to pin down all of Hawkin's confusing prophetic time lines) he has said that following a nuclear war that only those who were with The House of Yahweh and living (but not in Petra - this time - Abilene, Texas) would be spared from any harm. He has also predicted that we have 'approximately five months to prepare'--because, according to him, the last three and one half years of mankind began in October 2000 - but apparently even that expired time-cycle didn't completely dissuade his stalwart House of Yahweh members.

In spite of the world coming to an end, Hawkins has managed to buy up a considerable amount of personal property held in his personal name. The Callahan County tax rolls carry 27 property listings for Yisrayl Hawkins totaling 239 acres In addition to those listings, the House of Yahweh sanctuary sits on 43.53 guarded acres in Callahan County.

The leader of the cult, 73 year old Pastor Yisrael Hawkins, was arrested and indicted in February -- less than two months before raids on the Eldorado compound -- and charged with promoting bigamy.

Pastor Hawkins also faces a misdemeanor charge of breaking child labor laws. He's accused of having up to 40 children working weekdays in the fields, in a canning operation and in a cafeteria.

Another member, elder Yedidiyah Hawkins, is expected to stand trial this summer on charges of the sexual assault of his now 14-year-old stepdaughter, who authorities allege he was planning to make his wife.

He faces additional charges, as well, including bigamy and engaging in organized crime. Prosecutors say he has at least four wives.

Both men deny all the accusations. Their attorney, John Young, said the criminal charges stem largely from accusations by disgruntled former members and from misconceptions about the group.

Yisrayl (pronounced Israel) Hawkins, a former rockabilly band leader and Abilene policeman, founded the House of Yahweh in 1980 — three years after the former Abilene police officer was fired for having beer in his patrol car. (Any comparison to Philadelphia Church of God founder Gerald Flurry is unintended.) The group moved to rural Clyde several years later so they would have room to celebrate the weeklong Old Testament feasts.

Some former members also say Hawkins' followers tithe nearly a third of their incomes to the church. Many purchase the church's organically grown food, herbal drinks and dairy products, believing similar items available elsewhere are "unclean."

Nowhere is his influence more apparent than in the sect's 1,200-seat warehouse-like sanctuary, where a dozen poster-size pictures of Hawkins adorn the front wall.

Worshippers must first remove their shoes, and feet and hands are then sprayed with disinfectant before they come in.

Questions have also been raised about at least two deaths within the sect.

A 7-year-old died in 2003 after her mother and another member performed home surgery on her infected leg. Both women were convicted of injury to a child.

And in 2006, a woman bled to death after giving birth because she was prevented from going to the hospital, according to a wrongful-death lawsuit filed by her husband.

CPS officials also investigated the death of a 1-year-old child who died of malnutrition and traumatic asphyxiation. Investigators found "reason to believe" the death was from medical and physical neglect. No criminal charges were brought in that case.

The criminal charges come after years of suspicion surrounding the sect, which gained attention in the 1990s because of its eclectic, sometimes vitriolic, Old Testament teachings and prophecies. The group believes in strict adherence to the laws of Yahweh, a Hebrew name for God.

Ruby Wilkins, who was a sect member in the early 1980s and whose children also were members, said Yisrayl Hawkins helped her escape from a bad marriage. But she came to see him as controlling, exploiting those who had nothing.

"Out on the street, they were just nobody, and they didn't have enough smarts to be anybody. Bill took them in, would give them a black suit and called them elders. As long as they were there, they were somebody," Wilkins said.

The bigamy case against Yisrayl Hawkins could go to trial in the fall.

A&E has produced and shown an hour-long television program about the WCG cult derivative. With striking similarities to Armstrong, the doctrinal buffet includes Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles; denying the triune nature of the Godhead, following 613 Old Testament regulations, and keeping the Saturday Sabbath. As with the Worldwide Church of God under Herbert W. Armstrong, Easter, Christmas, Halloween, Valentine's Day and celebrating birthdays are held to be pagan and not to be observed. Yisrael's ex-wife was interviewed. She claims that he is an insane cult leader. He could easily be compared to David Koresh or Jim Jones by how he rules with an iron fist. This woman left him in 1994 when he authorized polygamy within The House of Yahweh. When she found out she was not going to be his only wife, she left. Now it is rather hard to leave. One person interviewed said that when she left this group she feared for her life. She said that once you get a glimpse of the truth, then it's all over. They know that they have lost you and you become an enemy that they can no longer control. A man was interviewed who had left this group, and was motivated initially to leave because his daughters were approaching the age when other men would want to start taking them as wives. That was the initial motivation but since he has left he realizes that everything taught there is based on a lie.

Everyone who joins this group takes on the last name of Pastor Hawkins. They showed a nearby graveyard and every headstone had "Hawkins" on it. No one who goes there to find buried loved ones' remains can tell which is the one they are looking for as all graves are identical with the same stone.

Cult watcher Rick Ross was contacted by a woman in Australia who was concerned about her sister who deserted her family and moved to Abilene, Texas to join The House of Yahweh. Somehow, Rick and the sister were able to get to see this woman for five hours at an off-campus location. The woman was clearly brainwashed. She said she did not care if Yisrael's prophecies did not come to pass as the point of the "ministry" was to call people to be ready for the end times and the coming tribulation. Rick asked her why Yisrael Hawkins was collecting so many long-term assets, such as multiple large homes, while others on the property lived in run-down house-trailers or wooden shacks with cubicles for children to live in. She had no answer.

Most recently, this Tuesday CNN's Nancy Grace conducted a prime-time televised interview with Yisrael Hawkins and his attorney Tuesday. Hawkins gushed on about prophetic matters, but deferred questions about the legal charges to his attorney. Here is a transcript of the program that aired: PASTOR HAWKIN'S INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT

House of Yahweh Timeline:

1950's - Hawkins was one of nine children born to an Oklahoma family. Hawkins and his brother J.G., later to be called Jacob, entered the religious arena with a radio broadcast in the early 1950's out of Eastland, Texas. The broadcast was called The Question and Answer Program. The subject matter was Bible Prophecy and Mosaic Law of the Old Testament.

Just as related dreams figure prominently in Armstrongism, Hawkins purports to have had a bizarre recurring dream which he claims has directed the course of his life: "From memory, I think it was about 1951 that I had my first dream that my brother Yaaqob and I were the Two Witnesses spoken of in Revelation Chapter 11. My dream went something like this: I knocked on the door of a white house next to a sanctuary. My brother answered the door, and I asked him, 'Are you ready to to to Israyl and do what we have been called to do?" (The Prophetic Word, 7 June 1991, p. 766).

1969 - J.G. Hawkins accepted the dream as divine direction. He actually did imigrate to Israel with his family and two other couples. It was at this time that he began calling himself Jacob or Yaaqob. While in Israel Yaaqob heard of an archaeological discovery of a door mantel with the Hebrew title, "BAYIT YAHWEH" (House of YAHWEH). As certain as Herman Hoeh was regarding "Church of God", both brothers believed this to be the true name of God's true Work.

1975 - Yaaqob Hawkins returned home to the United States. He settled in Odessa, Texas and began what became the House of YAHWEH Odessa. The two borthers, however, divided over the issue of the true name of the Creator. Yaaqob chose to use the title Elohim. Bill disagreed, stating that Elohim was the title for pagan deities. On December 2, 1980, he dedicated the House of YAHWEH Abilene.

1980 - The present day Worldwide Church of God website now states The House of YAHWEH (Yisrael Hawkins) split from the WCG in 1980

1982 - Buffalo Bill Hawkins had his name legally changed to Yisrayl Hawkins (The Prophetic Word, 7 June 1991, p. 76). The name change enable Yisrayl Hawkins to claim the mantle of prophetic authority as the spokesman for the Two Witnesses of Revelation Chapter 11. Upon Yaaqob's return from Israel in 1975, Yisrayl claimed to have had a third occurrence of his dream. In his third dream, he claimed there was a "TERRIBLE TRAGEDY" involving someone's death. Yisrayl now states this dream was prophetic of his brother's death on March 22, 1991 (Ibid.).

The magazine Texas Monthly published an interesting, well-researched cover piece by editor Robert Draper, who spent a week there fact- checking, on Yisrael Hawkin's House of Yaweh called "Happy Doomsday" 1997.
House of Yahweh sanctuary, food and storage trailers, and guarded surrounding 43.5 acre estate.

Yisrael Hawkins Website

House ofYahweh