From a Grown Daughter of the Twelve Tribes in Germany*
Hello, my name is Sarah Röhrs. I was born and raised in the Twelve Tribes communities. Most of my years growing up I spent on our farm in Klosterzimmern in Bavaria, Germany. We have an outstandingly beautiful farm there, lots of fields and animals, a river, a playground and a lodge to dance and celebrate (even play indoor games). When I think about it now I really miss it – it was kind of like a little paradise!
I was homeschooled there – of course – and there were things for us children to do and to get involved in…..farm work, our sewing shop, our little café and store. We would play music, sing and dance, write and practice plays. We were needed also and at times we would have sewing pushes in our little school and sew for markets or go and harvest fruit when it was the season or landscape flower and herb gardens…or we would have some very entertaining games of volleyball, tag, etc. We had a great time and were able to meet a need at the same time – and we became better friends through it all. That always gave me a great sense of fulfilment.
We had guests staying with us all the time. Visitors enjoyed working with us on the farm, joining in our volleyball games, and seeing the things we did in our school – very creative and useful things. Many a time they would ask us if they could send their children to our school – “abuse” was never a thought.
At our annual Hoffest (Farm Fest) thousands of people would enjoy our farm, home cooking, children’s play, traditional music and folk dancing. Our guests saw that we were happy, content children who had a purpose.
The way I was raised in was a very special way…it is the way God commanded Abraham of old and his household to follow in the way of righteousness.
“For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.” (Genesis 18:19)
My parents’ heart was turned to me and to my siblings (there are six of us, a lively bunch). Their love and devotion to us was shown by their interest and attentiveness to our needs, physical, spiritual and emotional needs. They taught me right from wrong – even how to love and respect others. I’ve grown up to love God and my neighbor with all my heart and to keep His commandments. I was praised for doing well and corrected or spanked for the things that were wrong and would give me a bad conscience.
This made for a childhood free from guilt, anger, and tension between us children and our parents.
It was usually peaceful. I was forgiven for things I did wrong. I don’t remember living with feelings of guilt or regret or having to live with a bad conscience for long. I have always felt loved – by my parents, my teachers and all my friends in the community. There are standards and guidelines in our common life to ensure order and respect. Within these boundaries I felt secure.
It was only when I was disrespectful or disobedient that I would need prodding (spanking) in order for me to “get back on track” – back on the way. I believe everyone knows that feeling of guilt and separation when you know the right thing to do but don’t do it. You feel bad and desire to make it right as soon as possible. When necessary, my parents would spank me and actually help me be the way I REALLY wanted to be: kind, respectful, caring. I could repent for my wrong doing and I was immediately forgiven…the wrong done was forgotten and our fellowship – our heart to heart communication was restored.
I never experienced my parent’s anger or frustration with me or their withdrawal of affection from me.
Things aren’t a big deal when they are addressed right away. It only takes a few minutes to make the wrong right and the end of a spanking was always a hug and a word of confirmation. Does discipline hurt? Yes, it does at the moment. But the positive long lasting results far outweigh the pain of the moment. Discipline has taught me the reality of life, that I am accountable for my actions, that my choices matter. I have learned to cultivate and maintain meaningful and deep relationships with the people I live with (in the community) and people outside of the community.
My parents had vision for me to grow up into a happy, respectful, secure and caring person. I am extremely thankful for that. It has helped me steer clear of the many troubles of youthhood and stay clean, pure, and free. Being disciplined has taught me self-judgment and respect towards others. I have learned about boundaries and the consequences that come from overstepping them. I believe it is the only way one can learn, gain character and maintain good morals. THIS is the way I will raise my children. It is based on the word of God and it works (history has proven this).
Training children is like gardening. If you don’t take care to remove the weeds while they’re small, they will end up overtaking the good.
Unresolved issues between parents and children pile up until someone boils over and reacts in anger. THAT is abuse!
When I see other youth my age outside the community, I actually feel for them – to see them trying to somehow fill that void inside. I see them chasing after vain, superficial and temporary pleasures, and acceptance by peers. Some express their discontentment and craving for attention through shameful behavior or outright acts of rebellion and violence. These young people weren’t given the attention and dignity they needed when they were children. Many of them were not trained to respect and honor their fellow citizens.
I am not a perfect person and I don’t live with perfect people – we all make mistakes and hurt each other at times. But it is because of forgiveness that we are able to live together and share all things in common out of real genuine love – for over 40 years now. The only reason we (who are here) are here, is because we WANT to be – it is a decision of our own free will – those who want to join AND those who were born here. I haven’t been a part of any other religion outside of our communities or even lived in the greater society, but I don’t desire anything else. The things I’ve heard and all I’ve seen has been enough for me to make a decision to live my life here. I am here because I believe in God.
God is love and here is where I experience love. We are learning to love others and receive love in return. I deeply love my friends here — we know each other’s hearts. But first one must extend oneself. It is a matter of the heart, whether I really want to or not. My hope and vision is that there will be future generations that will take on this heart – just as I have taken on my parents’ hearts.
If you’d like to hear more about what it’s like to grow up in the Twelve Tribes, feel free to come and ask questions.
From a daughter who grew up in the Twelve Tribes of Germany.
If you understand German, you will enjoy watching this interview of Sarah (whose name in the Community is Tehorah) from the summer of 2013.
For photos of the 2008 to 2013 Hoffest (farm festivals), go to this link: Hoffest.
* Sarah’s talk was first presented at the CESNUR (Center for the Study of New Religions, Turin, Italy) Conference of June 2014 in Texas.
Read her father’s noble words at the 2004 Press Conference preceding his arrest for not sending his children to school.