In my upcoming memoir, Dear Mom and Dad, Please Send Money, I mention Jim Jones, a man I knew in my youth. The name "Jim Jones" registers immediately with most people over the age of 30. Many of the younger set, however, need more explanation. With a couple of hints they connect Jim Jones with the People's
and then with Temple -- and the light bulb comes on. The impact of long ago history depends on its relevance to our lives. Guyana
Jim Jones was relevant in many people’s lives, including mine. Back in 1971, my parents, hoping to convince me to leave the controversial Children of God religious commune, encouraged me to meet with Pastor Jones and join The People's
Did I? The answer is revealed in the memoir.
Below is a quick history lesson, parts of which are excerpts from Dear Mom and Dad, Please Send Money.
He was the founder and leader of The People's
that he built on East Road in our valley. Jim Jones believed a Temple nuclear holocaust would occur on July 15, 1967, and his research revealed would be one of the few places in the world likely to survive it. He predicted the surviving elect would create a new socialist Redwood Valley on earth. He intended to be the leader of that select group. Eden
The holocaust did not happen. Even so, Jim Jones’ congregation remained faithful and the church membership increased. He expanded, opening new churches in
and San Francisco . Los Angeles
His sphere of influence continued to grow, and he and his congregation were applauded for helping the poorest of the poor –- drug addicts, the homeless, and racial minorities throughout
During the 1970s, The People’s
purchased and managed at least nine residential care businesses, including my family’s board and care home. At first, my parents respected his work with the poorest of society; however, in mid 1975, he tried to cheat them out of a portion of their vineyard land and their opinion changed. Temple
Nobody, however, was prepared for what happened after he moved his followers to a remote jungle in British Guyana, called “Jonestown.” There, on November 18, 1978, Jim Jones, my former teacher, a man who lived in my hometown, ordered the mass suicide of over 900 followers. Men, women, and children died agonizing deaths. Some were shot, and others were forced to drink poisoned “Kool aid.” Most were said to have willingly participated in what was called "revolutionary suicide."
I heard the news on my car radio. I pulled the car to the side of the highway and sat there listening in complete shock. The pictures of death were soon broadcast to the world. The dead, lying on top of each other, mothers lying face down holding onto their young children, and men holding their wives.
I lost several of my neighbors that day. They were good caring people who followed Jim Jones and moved to
to find peace and purpose. He had promised them life in a Utopia – he delivered death. It was a sad day for the world, and for all of us from Guyana ." Redwood Valley