On the evening of Friday, March 16, Tabitha Carper, a Bossier City resident observed her 16 year old son communicating with five strange men using a Skype internet account. One day later her son came up missing. Fearing the worst, Carper called the Bossier City Police Department and attempted to file a missing persons report. Her cries for help did not yield satisfactory results. She was told that her son had not been missing for a long enough period of time and that he did not fit the criteria for the Amber Alert or Child Abduction Alert System, which is designed to make the public at-large aware of abducted children in a timely manner.
After also failing to get a satisfactory response from the local FBI office, Mrs. Carper hired a lawyer to help her get things in motion. Twenty-four hours later two detectives from the Bossier City Police Department opened an investigation into the disappearance of her son.
He changed from being a normal child who excelled in the classroom and had an active social life, to an individual who took every opportunity to sever all ties to the life he had lived up to that point. Mrs. Carper believes that the group encouraged her son to virtually drop out of school, to challenge a number of Christian beliefs he had been raised with, and that they even encouraged him to emancipate himself from his mother, leaving her with no legal control.
The group is somewhat open about their agenda. They use their website and a number of social media sites on the internet to get their message out to the world. Basically the Gathering of Christ Church, which claims to have a number of churches around the country and in Europe, is a collection of mostly African-American and Hispanic followers who believe the tribulation period described in the Bible will occur very shortly. They feel that a satanic agenda is being put into place by what they describe as a New World Order being run by a group they identify as the Illuminati. They also teach that America will be one of the first and hardest hit regions of the world as a result of the satanic agendas. In light of that reasoning the group wants to ultimately flee from America and live a simple “off the grid” lifestyle in other countries.
Mrs. Carper feared that her son became so indoctrinated by the group’s agenda that he focused all of his energy into leaving the country with other members of the Gathering of Christ Church. Before the two Bossier City detectives arrived, Tabitha Carper was able to obtain a list of her son’s recently cellular telephone activity, in hopes of finding some clues about who he had been communicating with before his disappearance. Operating under a sense of desperation she called some of the numbers on the list she did not recognize. Ultimately she was able to contact a few of the senior members of the religious group.
Mrs. Carper says that the one of the individuals that she spoke to, who she recognized from some of the YouTube videos available online, basically did not take her seriously and gave some inconsistent statements in regards to her son’s whereabouts in connection to the group. She said that when the law enforcement officers started making contact with those same individuals, her son suddenly made himself available to Bossier Police department officials.
Mrs. Carper’s son was found in a hotel room in Bossier City by the police, and was believed to have been there for more than 96 hours. After being questioned he told his mother that he intended to join with other Gathering of Christ Church followers and flee the country. Carper says that the only reason her son agreed to come back was because he did not want to get the group into trouble because he was still a minor.
Since her son has returned, Tabitha Carper has had a number of family members and close friends to pray, talk and counsel with him. She says she feels that professional counseling will be required in order to permanently help him. “If my child could wander upon this group (on the internet), someone else’s child could and has wandered upon the same thing,” Mrs. Carper said. “We need to speak out about this.”
She has also identified another family in South Carolina that has experienced the same kind of troubling issues associated with the Gathering of Christ Church. That family also describes a number of changes that occurred in the lives of the young men in their family, where they are fully prepared to abandon the lives that the have built in pursuit of the religious group’s goals after viewing the same type of Gathering of Christ Church videos and making contact with the group’s formal members.
Local Licensed Professional Councilor James Jenkins, feels that this group could be using the same type of strategies as a cult. “Young people are trying to discover not just themselves but the world. If they don’t have all the answers, sometimes they seek out a place that says that they have those answers,” he said.
Jenkins said that cults can mimic a gang experience as far a feeling of brotherhood, which he explained can be very appealing to young people. “These groups can give individuals a since of togetherness and brotherhood. They will tell them that ‘we’ve got your back.’ This is how an individual can learn to identify with the group’s cause.”
Tabitha Carper hopes that by publicizing this story that other parents will learn to get involved in their children’s lives and make them aware of groups like the Gathering of Christ Church which she feels negatively impacted her son’s life.