Forces Of God, Faces Of Evil

by Edward Patterson

08-02g-patterson_thumbA small pebble tossed into calm waters will cause ripples to flow long after the pebble hits the bottom. So too will small events in our lives cause things to happen long after the events have occurred.

In 1963 I met a girl named Judy Stahl. Within days of our meeting, she invited me to attend church with her family, a small event in the life of a couple of teenaged kids. That invitation to join them at a place called Peoples Temple would cause ripples to flow in my life forever.

Judy and I dated until her family moved to Ukiah, California, with the first wave of Temple members from Indiana in the mid 1960s.  Still suffering from puppy love, I ran away from home and hitchhiked across the country to see the love of my life. After staying with her family for a short time, ”Father” – as Jim Jones was called by the Stahl family – said it was time for me to go back home. Little did I know how the events of those days would affect me years later.

By the time the Temple members moved to Guyana more than ten years later, I had grown up and started a family of my own. News of the deaths in the jungles shocked everyone in the world, but especially people like me, who had known someone who died that day.  I was like most people in another regard, though: I could not comprehend what had caused a group of normal, intelligent friends of mine to do the most horrendous things.

As the years went by, I would tell my children stories of my involvement with Peoples Temple and the time I thumbed my way across America at the age of 16. My daughter kept telling me I should write a book about all that happened to me during those travels, but I had no interest in doing so.

One night in 2007 I turned on my TV and by chance saw a program about the Jonestown massacre. It brought back old memories of Judy, her family and my trip to California. The next morning I began searching the internet and by luck ran across this website devoted to Peoples Temple and its members. I spent hours that morning reading all I could, listening to audio tapes and looking at photos of my old friends. Another ripple ran over me and I decided on that day to write the book my daughter had been telling me I should do.

Forces Of God, Faces Of Evil began as nothing more than a true life story of my encounters with the Stahl family, my personal discussions with Jim Jones, and my trip to California. In order for the story to make any sense I found myself going further back in time and also carrying my story further into the future past the Jonestown period. The book slowly but subsequently evolved into an autobiography from the day I was born until the present. It culminates with an explanation of how the small ripples in our lives push us towards a destiny that may be different from what we expect.

Ironically, the day I was searching the internet and reading about Judy and her family, a series of odd, minor events began happening to me. On that morning my TV set began turning itself on. Over the course of the next few weeks it continued to do so until one day I said out loud, “Knock it off, Judy.” It has never come on again. However, since that time my computer and cell phone have begun typing out strange messages from time to time, lights in my house will come on and doors will open all by themselves. None of that bothers me because I know it’s just an old friend’s way of saying, “Hi, Eddie, how are you?”

Peoples Temple was only a small pebble in my life, but the ripples it caused still affects me to this day.

(Edward Patterson’s previous article in the jonestown report is Judy Stahl, My First Love. He can be reached at edward@edwardpatterson.com.)

Originally posted on July 28th, 2013.

Last modified on December 5th, 2013.
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