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Church leader Wayne Bent vows silence, curses world

The leader of The Lord Our Righteousness Church writes that he will no longer write or speak to people outside of his flock until two teens are returned to his church.

Wayne Bent (aka Michael Travesser) takes this latest stand in his July 1 post on his church’s Web site.  In all, 5,474 words appear beneath the headline, Healed and Michael Speak for the Last Time.

Bent remains indicted by a grand jury for allegedly having committed second-degree criminal sexual contact of a minor.  Charges involving a previously alleged second victim have been dropped.

After reading the first 3,596 words of Bent’s July 1 post, one discovers the following pronouncement:

I will write no more, speak no more, or listen to you no more.  Not until the children are released from their prisons will you ever hear from me or us again.

According to his Web site, New Mexico’s Children, Youth & Families Department decided yesterday that a 16-year-old girl taken from the property April 22 will not be allowed to return at this time.

Two other teens were subsequently taken from the church.  A teenage boy has been returned to his parents.  Bent maintains the boy is not happy and wishes to return to the church property.

A 13-year-old girl, “Willow”, has returned to her parents and Strong City.

The 16-year-old girl removed from Strong City April 22 goes by the name of “Healed”.  Bent’s July 1 post includes the text of what is purported to be a “draft” letter written by “Lakeisha R. Sayer AKA Healed”.

That letter includes the following excerpt:

I have told people over and over again that Michael did NOT sexually abuse me, use me, coerce me, touch me inappropriately, or force me to submit to him. Everything he did or does, was and is at my request and desire. It was pure, heavenly and undefiled by any perversions or human lusts or sexual desires.  It was purely of God, and it was all legal.

Bent immediately follows-up the letter with this excerpt:

She (Healed) also went on to say to us that she was including these thoughts:  I am NOT a victim, and I will not take the witness stand and testify that I am. I will not let you use me to testify for you against Michael. He did not molest me or even touch me sexually in any way.

At the outset of his final post, Bent maintains that Healed would be better protected at his church property than elsewhere, stating:

If this young woman was now willing to give up her love for God and Michael and go along with the pornography and screwing around with their boyfriends that most young women do in these days, and that which is common to her natural world, I can promise you she would not be in CYFD custody.

Bent rounds-out his post with numerous paragraphs (mostly “adapted” scripture) proclaiming his curses for the world, including:

Because you have refused to return my children, or let them speak with us, but instead keep them in your prisons, “…all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you. Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in your place of work.  …Cursed shall be your children, and the fruit of your ground, the increase of your cattle, and the young of your flock. …The Lord will send upon you curses, confusion, and frustration, in all that you undertake to do, until you are destroyed and perish quickly, on account of the evil of your doings, because you have forsaken me [and thought to keep my children from me].

Who, exactly, is Bent writing to?  He explains it this way:

My comments here encompass the entire population and not just certain people.

And what about his declaration of silence?  Will it carry over to court proceedings? The answer appears to be a definitive,”Yes”:

Go ahead and charge me with contempt.  When you prove yourself not contemptible I will speak with you, but now the God of heaven holds you in contempt, for your deeds are exceedingly evil and grossly perverted.

Bent’s flock appears to have imposed a declaration of silence, too. A vast number of videos posted by LOR members on Web sites such as youtube and myspace have been taken down.

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Bent’s Web site, “New Mexico returns Willow”

Update (July 17): This is a second version of the Strong City video concerning Willow’s return home.  It runs 3:35, just over a minute longer than the earlier version:

Update (June 18): The following video of Willow’s return to the Strong City church property in northeastern New Mexico was posted on youtube today (runs 2:42):


Update: Associated Press updates its story with a correction.
Update: LOR’s Web site has posted video of child’s return to Strong City.
Update: Here is a link to an Associated Press article published in The Las Cruces Sun-News.

(June 17, 10:41am PST) From the Web site of The Lord Our Righteousness church leader Wayne Bent:

At 10:32 A.M. today, Tuesday June 17th, the case for Willow Dawn Travesser was dismissed by the State of New Mexico, and Willow was released out of State custody back to her parents. She is on her way home now, and will come to Strong City for a meal with the family. My fast will end today when I see her face.

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New Mexico church leader now fasting

(*note: the headline to this story originally used the words “hunger strike” instead of “fasting”. The former headline had been written minutes after Wayne Bent published his post. I had not read Bent’s entire post. While some may debate “hunger strike” vs. “fasting,” I feel fairness calls for the word “fasting” in this story’s headline. I apologize for any confusion. -Mark Horner)

Strong City leader Wayne Bent says he is now fasting and will continue to do so until a girl taken by the state from his church’s property is returned to her parents.

Here is an excerpt from Wayne Bent’s post published on his Web site around 4:15pm today:

Today, I began a fast, as I did when I was in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. I will now abstain from eating until the child Willow is returned with no strings attached, or until God brings the deliverance that I seek from the present evil, or the answer to my inquiry of justice is clearly manifested, or I am gone from this life altogether.

On May 20th, 2008, a New Mexico grand jury indicted Bent on four crimes: Two counts of criminal sexual contact of a minor in the second degree, unclothed. And two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

New Mexico State Police arrested Bent May 6th.

After an ambulance responded to the Union County jail, Bent was released from custody May 9th. His son, Jeff Bent, posted the $55,000 bond.

Bent’s story has been featured on several American television programs, including Larry King Live and FOX News. But the story first found an audience in a British documentary last December. A re-edited version of that documentary appeared on the National Geographic Channel earlier this year.

In an e-mail received at 4:17pm today, Jeff Bent tells Beyond90Seconds.com:

The court declined an emergency hearing today regarding the conditions Willow is having to endure at the hands of CYFD. The initial ten day hearing was never completed and we are going on six weeks now since she was taken. The new post gives all the details.

You can read the remainder of Wayne Bent’s pledge to fast here.

###

UPDATE: Here is the story as it appeared on kob.com in Albuquerque, New Mexico on June 7, 2008.

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British documentary might have triggered New Mexico church’s battle with State

Updates:

Prudence Welch VIDEO interview about Wayne Bent’s arrest and much more (May 6)

Breaking News: Wayne Bent arrested (May 6)

Wayne Bent (aka Michael Travesser) responds to this story in “comments” section (May 2)

***

Let me say it right from the start. This post will be “video driven.” Videos that are well worth considering if you want to learn more about the story unfolding in the rolling hills of pinon and juniper cradled within the northeastern corner New Mexico. Not far from the Colorado border to the north. And even closer to Texas, a few miles to the east.

It is this quiet space where Wayne Bent’s church says biblical prophesies have been realized, with more to come to affect us all.

They call the place Strong City. But there’s nothing that looks like a city for miles around. The reference to “Strong City” appears to be strictly biblical. You’ll find it mentioned in a bible verse a bit later in this post.

In addition to video, you will also find some additional research here, to include documents.

But let’s start with a documentary. THAT documentary. The one that first appeared on British television’s Channel 4. It might just be the catalyst behind the State of New Mexico’s decision to remove three teenagers from the Union County church property.

I suspect that investigators might even consider the documentary to be their “smoking gun.”

You can watch that video just below. But, hey, don’t click on it just yet. In fairness, I’m also presenting a video produced by The Lord Our Righteousness Church. In its video, the church claims the British film crew it welcomed onto its property last year produced a story that is both sensationalized and guilty of presenting statements grossly out of context.

Consider the following three paragraphs taken from church member Shecanaiah Travesser’s blog:

Last year we opened up our homes and our hearts to a film crew from Firefly Film and Television Productions Ltd in London who spent several weeks with us interviewing and filming our lives here in Strong City. They stayed in a motel in the nearest town forty miles away, but each day they sat at our lunch tables as friends.

From the material they gathered while they were here they produced two documentaries, the first one titled, “End of the World Cult”, that was broadcast on Channel 4 in the UK on December 12, 2007. It was a sensationalized film filled with lies and distortions of the truth of what has actually occurred here in Strong City.

The second one, a remake which they titled “Inside A Cult”, was geared to capture the interest of the American viewing audience. It broadcast on the National Geographic Channel (NGC) in the United States on April 23, with an encore scheduled for May 7.

Note the dates. New Mexico State Police and representatives from the state’s Children Youth and Families Department first removed one child, a 16-year-old girl, April 22, 2008. Just one day before the documentary—according to Shecanaiah Travesser’s blog—aired on national television.

Authorities soon returned to remove a 13-year-old girl and a 16-year-old boy from the church grounds.

Such a story isn’t exactly good PR for any state largely standing on it tourism legs. And no governor likes to be embarrassed. Governor Bill Richardson–very much in the limelight these days–wouldn’t seem to relish the feared potential of what news headlines have already called the “doomsday cult.”

Okay, let’s cue up the videos. You’ll notice that they’re not brief. Here’s a look at the documentary End of the World Cult:

As mentioned above, members of church were far from pleased with the British doc. They say they’ve been betrayed, solidifying–it seems–a position now stated on the church’s Web site stating that the media are part and parcel of “the Beast.” On her myspace site, church member Danielle, 21, provides a “sequel” to the British film. Her offering is titled, The End of the World Cult II. On myspace, Danielle writes:

This little movie shows the contrast between the false picture that Ben presented the world with and the true picture of how things actually are here in our little group. Things are far different than Ben showed the world.

Danielle has been busy posting several videos on myspace. Above a video titled, Love’s Cost, Danielle writes:

I made this little movie for my precious Messiah Husband. This movie came out of my heart feeling Michael’s heart of pure love and the great sacrifice that He has given for us.

On its Web site, the church at Strong City has also posted a 113-minute video detailing its position on the spiritual role of “Michael” (Wayne Bent) during the final days of the world as we know it. You can watch that video, titled, Experiencing the Finished Work by Strong City, here: By now, assuming you’ve watched the British doc and the other videos (or parts of them), you may have picked-up on a “Heaven’s Gate” vibe.

On its Web site just last week, the group itself posed the question, Is Strong City a suicide cult? It’s a question that’s actually the title of—you guessed it—yet another video:


Enough video for now. More later.

Right now, let’s talk about documents, history…background.

While published reports say the legal name of the church’s leader is Wayne C. Bent, court records indicate that some in his flock have legally changed their names, taking on the surname “Travesser.”

For example, in December 2004, a girl younger than 14, legally changed her name from Julia Irene Thompson to Willow Dawn Travesser. Court records in Union County indicate that her father, Jonathan Thompson, consented to the name change. The actual petitioner is the child’s mother, Anaiah Michal Travesser.

Divorce records also reveal the name “Travesser” in two separate cases. In each case, the wife petitioned for the divorce and had already assumed her new surname.

In July 2004, Mesha Travesser divorced Patrick B. McCullough in Union County.

And in December 2005, Shecanaiah M. Travesser divorced William L. Carpenter Jr. in Union County, too.

It’s not difficult to find information about how Bent and his followers found their way to New Mexico. The church’s Web site and its members’ blogs provide accounts of their collective migrations. The blog of Shecanaiah Travesser is

especially detailed; although I’ve not found a Bible matching her translation of Isaiah 26:1.

You can compare this verse to other translations of Isaiah 26:1 here. Yes, the words “strong city” often appear in translations of this verse.

The journeys that, ultimately, landed The Lord Our Righteousness Church in New Mexico are often addressed on the church’s cyberspace writings.

In Part 1 of her blog, Shecanaiah Travesser writes about her earlier life in Spokane and Moses Lake, Washington. In Part 9, she writes that, in 1993, she and her church family had moved to an area called Castle Dome, located 50 miles north of Yuma, Arizona.

We would camp there in our temporary houses (RVs) on a parcel of land that Father had provided for us at the foot of Castle Dome.

There are 20 parts to the story Shecanaiah Travesser has titled, “Homeward Bound.” In Part 11, she writes about the church’s history in Sandpoint, Idaho and Safford, Arizona .

Indeed, a records check shows that a Wayne Curtis Bent, born May 18, 1941, lived on Wits End Road in Sandpoint, Idaho (Bonner County) when he received an Idaho driver’s license in 1999.

As I conclude this post this morning, what amounts to a gag order remains in effect. Wayne Bent is not providing comment. The case has yet to play out in court.

I am hoping that you have found the videos, links and documents useful as you seek to better understand this story.

No doubt, some will say they didn’t need ALL of this information to reach their conclusions…to form their opinions about what’s been going on within in those beautiful, rolling hills of Union County. Fair enough.

But the aim of Beyond90Seconds.com remains a simple one: To go deeper than what you’ll see on a typical local TV news story. And to attempt to do that absent of gossip, meanness and judgment.

Pretty simple really. Put as much useful info and links out as possible. And leave it for you to decide.

Thanks for stopping by. I hope some of you will post your thoughts here.

Oh, I did mention I’d come back to more videos, didn’t I? So let’s finish up with one more. It’s a look at the first teenager, named “Healed”, being removed from the church property April 22, 2008. The video is produced by Bent’s church and was posted on youtube: