EL Survivor woman, wife of Canadian member recounts her ordeal with the 12 Tribes in Nelson
EL tells the story of her involvement with the Twelve Tribes into which she followed her husband from Togo to Canada.
I am an African woman and I grew up in a 7th day Adventist family. I have survived my experience with the 12 tribes and I married a Canadian man in Africa in 2010. My husband Shai Massot sponsored me to come to Canada and live with him. I arrived the 9th of May 2012. Upon arrival I was faced with the fact my husband was living as a member of a sect in the 12 tribes of Israel community in Nelson.
The community did not recognize our marriage as valid in spite of the Canadian government doing so. They did not want to recognize it as their intention from the beginning was to separate us. Isaac Dawson, the top leader started influencing my husband. (Teaching him) that we blacks are slaves and that we have an evil spirit. Shai started mistreating me, physically attacking me, pressing me against the floor and door. The following day I reported what happened that night to Isaac, only to be told by him to go and apologize to my husband for him abusing me.
Isaac cut me off from everything: to go to English classes, to work outside. He even prevented my husband from helping me fill the forms to get my permanent residency and my social health insurance cards and other things. My husband’s personality changed for the worse and he became what he had never been: violent, aggressive, a liar, manipulator, an accomplice…
It is the group who has authority over me. I couldn’t speak English, French is my native tongue. They took full advantage of my isolation.
Life in this community is truly burdensome, especially for women and children.
My husband was loyal and totally dependent on the group. He wasn’t getting paid and so couldn’t support me. They didn’t take care of my needs nor was my husband. He also had become very neglectful…
This was around the month of June when I talked to my husband about my plan to find work to take care of my own needs. He strongly reacted saying if I did he would divorce me.
From May until August I worked at the 12 Tribes Café full-time. I felt lonely and I hardly saw my husband. Shai was working at the café. So in order to see him I chose to work at the café too, instead of working at home.
I found work very near at the local hotel. To appease the situation with my husband and the rest of the community I kept on working at the café before and after my job at the hotel. That lasted 3 months. Then in September it started getting dark and cold and I decided to come straight home after my hotel job. They were greatly displeased and I was told to go and see Isaac. He didn’t not want to understand my point of view and wanted me to keep working during the evening at the café.
Unhappy, he suggested I should start sharing my wages with the community. It seems he might have had in mind to have my wages go directly into his bank account! So I said: No, I’ m not under contract with you, I work voluntarily, I am not a beast of burden at your disposal.
Shai and I woke up between 5 and 5:30 am. Shai had to look after the cows very early and milk them, before going to work at the café. He shared the chores with other members. He was one of them who were giving the hardest tasks while other members were treated like princes and princesses.
At 6 am everyone wakes up.
6:30 I was ready to go to work at the café
7:00 the café opened its doors
I either would get a ride with the morning team or I would stay for the morning gathering, which started at 7 am.
I would work until 7:50 and then walk 1 or 2 minutes to the hotel Best Western Plus. I had a job as a cleaner.
I would work at the hotel for 4 to 5 hours depending of the needs, and 5 days a week. Work was seasonal; in autumn it would go down and stopped in November for the winter season.
Until August I worked every day at the café while the morning gathering was on.
After work I would go straight to the café, I felt like I had chains on.
I would take my lunch at the café, as it was very close to the café. I earned very little and since I worked for the community for nothing I thought it was only fair that they would feed me at least… But their food wasn’t always to my taste and I couldn’t take all my meals at the café. So back at home often I would come back hungry. But I wasn’t allowed to help myself in the kitchen and I was supposed to wait for dinner, after the evening gathering, at 8 pm.
On Sundays I did a bit of everything, I would take care of my own things and also contributed to household chores such as doing the dishes for example, with the other ladies. Sometimes I worked at the café. When I would take the opportunity to have a nap on Sundays, the women would criticise me. They would go as far as calling directly my husband at work to tell on me and what they considered laziness on my part…
I participated in all the needs of the household on a regular basis including helping with Sabbath preparations.
I was made to come to every gathering, morning and evening.
There you constantly hear derogatory comments aimed at Christianity as a religion but also more personally aimed at Christians. All Christians are part of a devilish system and none of the Christians on the earth are really saved nor have the Holy Spirit, only they the members of 12 Tribes are obedient to God really and are saved and know God and Jesus. Day after day I felt insulted by their Isaac Dawson and the other leaders and their remarks that, as a Christian, I couldn’t help but take to heart.
They were always on my back demanding for me to stop working on my job and to go to my church.
After work I would go to the café and would work and come back with the other café workers.
Rosemary Cruzado continues to tell the story of this woman who wants to be called by the pseudonym EL Survivor Woman
Forbidden from practising her religion
EL was raised and still is a Christian and is part of the 7th Day Adventist Church. When she arrived in Nelson she found a church she felt comfortable in and would spend 3 hours every Saturday morning. This took place between 9 am and 12 pm, at a time where back at the 12 tribe’s community it was between the morning gathering and lunch time, a time when members enjoy their “free time”. But this caused a lot of problems for EL and she was criticized for taking too much liberty and being a bad example for others. This would be because it is strictly forbidden for members to leave the premises except to go on a walk with others and their families. Also members are forbidden attending any events outside the community. The only events they might attend would be as part of a proselystising effort and having been sent/ authorized to go by leaders.
And so the wife of Isaac Dawson whose name is Dada ordered her to stop going to church every Saturday morning. EL told her that Shai and she already had discussed this matter and he didn’t see any problems with her doing this. Shai thought that since EL didn’t miss the Saturday morning gathering and that she was back for lunch afterwards that they took together, he had agreed to her going.
Isaac’s spouse insisted EL would stay with her husband on Saturday mornings. EL challenged her: “OK, try and stop me then!
“I couldn’t understand, says EL Survivor woman, why when someone would want to get saved they would all take off to the river, even on a Saturday, and baptize that person, why can’t they let me go for 3 hours a week to go to church?. I wanted to have a good time with other 7th day Adventists and make friends, get some fresh air, spiritually speaking and see something different than their religion with no mercy nor charity!”
“You need to be saved!”
One of these Fridays, as usual, EL comes back from her double labour and not having had a chance to eat a snack gets home and goes to the kitchen hoping to eat something discretely. As she is not allowed to help herself and she is supposed to ask her husband, she asks him if he could get her a glass of milk. This is a good compromise she thinks, as a glass of milk is not a meal. She was supposed to wait, as everybody else was, until dinnertime. This was during the hour of preparation, hour before the gathering which starts at 7 pm and marks the beginning of the Sabbath for the members of the community. Nothing was being served during the gathering and dinner might be delayed and start well after 8 pm. Her husband is busy entertaining guests. Friday nights are prime occasions for the communities to have their life on display and invite people. There is celebration, a nice big dinner, live music, dancing. Everyone is wearing their festive attire. Her husband is reluctant and tells her with impatience a sentence EL has come to hear too many times: “You need to be saved”.
Her patience wears out, she is exasperated. She is only asking for a glass of milk so her stomach doesn’t hurt and to keep going until dinner! For the love of God! What does asking for a glass of milk have to do with being saved or not! For EL it is the ultimate insult!
With everything that happened and all the mistreatments I endured there, I was very smart. I recorded the way in which I was treated, in particular by their brain, their guru, Isaac Dawson (click here to go to Transcript of recording)
EL Survivor Woman continues her story
Isaac Dawson had ordered me to leave the premises. I asked him “Where do you want me to go? I am a foreigner in this country and I live with my husband, not you. Then we had the meeting when he gave me an ultimatum and demanded I’d give him an answer the day after. That is the meeting I recorded.
Of course I wanted to stay and live with my husband.
After the meeting, my husband was sent to another household for 2 days. When he came back as it had been reported I had missed gatherings he was upset with me.
It was the month of December and my health started to deteriorate, a result of my life in the 12 tribes. My husband had neglected me, no care. As for them they thought it was the great god who had condemned me.
And so I was a good example of someone who doesn’t obey their rules and others could go to hell like me!
My health gradually got worse. I had stomach aches.
Isaac and the group were trying to find a way to separate us, Chai and me. They transferred us to the café, Yellow Deli in Nelson, to the basement of the café. This had no amenities, no heating. It was freezing. Shai only spent 4 days with me in the basement and had returned to the community, telling me to return also. I became ill during the night of the 24 Th of December 2012. I called the community, no one answers. I call Isaac’s cell phone and ask him to pass me my husband. I told my husband I needed him urgently, I was ill. He hung up on me. I called back, this time another cell phone number of the community and this person didn’t answer as they knew it was me. Hours go by and my husband hasn’t called nor showed up.
I left in hope of getting help, no one in the street, everything is quite. I spot a police car and I get closer and ask them directions to the hospital and they show me on the map. On my way there, very weak, traumatised, frozen, I could barely walk up the hills of Nelson. It was worse in winter, it was slippery. To my surprise a black car stops at my level and someone asks if I need help. I said sure, I’d like to go to the hospital and I feel sick. I was a bit scared but when I got in the car I realized it was a policeman.
He helped me a lot until I was taken care of. Today I give thanks to God for him because he saved my life. I left hospital on the 25th to come back to the basement of the café. The nurse had prescribed some drugs for me. It was 10 am when I finally saw the face of my husband. He wanted to know what had happened to me. After, I handed him the prescription asking him to buy my medicines. He sees me there lying on my bed suffering and asks me to give him some money to buy them…hummmm…what negligence!…A few days later my husband tells me in front of my pastor that he gives me until the end of the month of January to vacate the room and go elsewhere. I asked him where elsewhere? To that he had no answer.
This is my life in Canada in my 8th month in the middle of winter. After kicking me out, a week later Chai calls to tell me Dada, Isaac’s wife is asking if I need crockery. What an insult. I don’t have anywhere to go to have a roof over my head…huugrrr….how am I going to manage all on my own and they don’t lift a finger to help me, not even my husband and they are not ashamed to ask if I need plates!
EL Woman Survivor concludes
Today I wish for the Government to regularise sects. In the 12 Tribes there is no adequate education. There is a lot of abuse. And we are in Canada where Human Rights are in place.
I am not an object.