By: Mark Schacknow


Matthew 5:11 & 12

Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. [12] Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

In order for you to understand my story, I must go back to my earliest memories. When I was around five years old, I remember my father leaving my mother when we lived in Florida. We lived in Riverview, FL until I was in the 5th grade. My mother, my sister, and I were poor and we always went from church to church but I didn't understand why.

When I was in the 5th grade my mother had an illness and the doctors told her she would not live through it unless she got to a drier climate. We moved to Wilcox, AZ, and then to Elfrida, AZ where I went to school up to the 10th grade. At my sister's graduation in 1974 my father, Julius Schacknow who use to be a minister in Gospel Assembly Church in St. Louis, MO, who later started his own cult church, came to the graduation. When we talked, he told me, as we were walking across the street, that he was Jesus Christ-- I almost jumped in front of a car. That was the last time I saw him.

All through my school years, we had no electricity, no running water, no rest room, and no money. I can remember being hungry and cold most of the time. I could not concentrate on my school studies because of our living conditions. Throughout my life, most of the people that came in contact with us didn't believe that my sister was really my sister, because she doesn't look like the rest of the family. I have always thought that she was the child of T M Jolly, but I can't get any answers. Shortly after she graduated from high school, she moved out due to all of the problems in our family. Her life has been a wreck.

I dropped out of school at the end of the 10th grade to open my own TV repair shop in hopes to make a better environment for our family. Shortly after I quit school, my mother decided to move to Eldorado, IL and she convinced me to move with her. In 1976, when we moved, she just showed up at the Eldorado, IL Gospel Assembly Church with no plans, no money, and no place to live. Somehow we ended up staying at the church property.

I went to Gospel Assembly Churches from 1976 until 1991. I knew T M Jolly, (the leader of the body after William Sowders) and some of the ministers from the other churches. At first, the church seemed OK, but over time all of the people seemed to be controlled, and intimidated into subjection. If a member had a difference of opinion, that person was destroyed over the pulpit, as many good Christian people were. We were told that the church was ours, but signs were posted in parts of the church telling us not to enter at any time. I was able to talk to Tom Jolly because my dad, Julius Schacknow, used to be a minister in the church.

See: Brother Julius Cult (AFF Site)

Also see: New Haven Register article. (Rick Ross Site)


People have told me that when my dad came to Gospel Assembly Church in St. Louis, he and TM Jolly argued about who would be the "leader of the body" before Bro. Sowders died. My mother was already in the church when my dad came. She was put in charge of the music department. TM Jolly told the entire church that "Mary Schacknow gave up her mansion for a Schacknow." I'm told that this is a famous quote throughout the "body." There were several lies told over the pulpit about my dad by T M Jolly and what ever they were, it ruined my dad. Strange enough--my sister is 18 months older than I am.

T M Jolly always told me never to enter his room when he wasn't there, or unless I knocked first. All of the married women were told that it was a Cannon law of the church that they were to wear their hair up on their head, and wear long dresses and long sleeves. I began to notice over the years that most of the patients at the local mental health department, were from Gospel Assembly, but I didn't know why. In the fifteen years that I went to Gospel Assembly, a lot went on that I didn't agree with, but I was told to keep my mouth shut.

When I went to church I began to notice things that didn't seem to make any sense like there were no black people in our church. There were no black people in Eldorado. I later found out that black families were told to be out of town before the sun went down. When I talked to one of the men in the town about the racial problem, he got very violent. To this day there are no blacks that live in Eldorado, IL. I always heard the ministers talk about the undesirable element that we were fortunate not to have in Eldorado.

We were told in the services that we should council with the minister before we did anything. I was told by Tom Jolly to study for the ministry on multiple occasions. For the next two years I studied the scriptures and went to church. I had no outside activities except to go with band members to Louisville to the general conventions because I played the trombone.

I did like I was told and went to T M Jolly to ask his permission to date one of the girls in the Eldorado church, but he stated that she was not right for me because she had a cosmetic defect. She was a very nice lady and his decision broke my heart. Some how I moved on and decided that the next time I dated a girl, I would make up my own mind. Later that same year, I met one of the girls from the Kansas City, MO Gospel Assembly Church. We talked, began dating, and almost one year later decided to get married. I went to TM Jolly to tell him that I was getting married and he told me that because of my decision, that I would not be considered any longer for the ministry. It appeared to me that he wanted to pick out my wife for me. My wife to be told me that Bob James, the minister in Kansas City, tried to stop the marriage because of who my dad was. Brother Julius who was the leader of his own cult church in New England by this time.

We wanted to get married in her church and then come back to Eldorado.

I was mentally beat down by my hypocrite father-in-law because he hated Jews and blacks. After we got married, we tried to make ends meet in Eldorado, but with all the mental pressure from the church, and very little work, we moved to Kansas City. I got a good job in the area, but things were rough. The Gospel Assembly Church in Kansas City seemed to be worse than the one in Eldorado. There were families fighting all the time, discrimination against blacks and as long as you maintained the required outward appearance, you could do anything you wanted, even if it was wrong and still sit on the platform. I saw people in the church get different counseling because they had more money. The minister would call people in for questioning to the parsonage and tell them what they needed to do without investigating both sides of the story.

When my oldest daughter was approximately five or six years of age she came to my wife stating that while daddy was downstairs in the church working on some equipment, a young boy of approximately thirteen to fifteen years of age tried to get her to kiss his private parts. My daughter was not aware what he was talking about since she had never been exposed to any male parts. When my wife questioned her further it was evident she was telling the truth. My wife and I approached the minister and his wife concerning this, and they questioned my daughter and they also felt she was telling the truth. However, the minister did nothing. He and his wife said it was best to keep her away from the family of this boy and to watch how we dressed her. (Like this had something to do with it.) She was dressed appropriately. My wife and I questioned this family a few months later and they emphatically denied the allegations. Nothing was ever done. Thank the Lord she was spared. 

One time on Sunday afternoon, about five minutes before church, a lady drove into the church parking lot with a flat tire. We all started helping her until one of the ushers spoke up and said that church was starting. Every one but me dropped what was going on and went in the church. I finished changing the tire for the lady and made sure that she got on her way OK. All of these things made me ill so I went to the minister and questioned him about our Christianity as a church. Well, that's all it took to start a war. After that my father-in-law tried to split up my marriage with the blessings of the minister, Bob James. I got so disgusted with the whole mess that I quit going to church. That made things even worse, to the point that I moved to Birmingham, AL where my wife had family.

From the time we lived in Eldorado until we left Kansas City we had two daughters. My wife stayed in Kansas City with one daughter and I moved to Birmingham with the other one. I found a job and a place to live then my wife moved. It was so nice to be a family again but once we got settled down we wanted to see if we could go to the Gospel Assembly Church in town, where different ministers from Louisville, KY rotated being pastor. Before we knew it we were back in church full time in the same mess as before. We were told how to dress, how to wear our hair, what kind of car to drive, how much money to give, what kind of job to hold, who to marry, and who not to associate with. It all got me down to the point that I cried out to God on a regular basis for relief from the pain that I was in.

My wife was very good for me through all of this because she began pointing out problems that she noticed. She talked me into getting back into school to get my GED certificate. When the church found out about it I was treated like an outcast. They preached against education. I still tried to serve the Lord through all of this mess in the church, and I continued to ask God for understanding and to know why I wasn't as good of a Christian as the church told me that I should be.

My wife and I had a friend in the church in Birmingham that wanted to marry a boy outside of the church. When the minister at that time, Asa Gillespie, heard about it, we were told to tell the girl that all children that were born to her would be bastards and that we could no longer have any thing to do with her. I can't believe that we actually told her all of this, but when we did she cried out loud and I'll never forget the look she had on her face. We apologized for telling her what we did, and told her that the minister told us to tell her this stuff. We couldn't stand hurting a friend. We are still friends today.

In 1991 the public announcement came across the pulpit that the leader of the body TM Jolly was caught in various sexual sins. For weeks a lot of us had questions for the ministry, but we never got any answers. Everything got swept under the rug. The whole thing seemed to be a waste of my time so I found a good job in Columbus, GA through the local college I was attending and we moved.

From time to time we have tried to visit the Gospel Assembly Church in Birmingham, but we always get the cold shoulder. The last time we went to the Birmingham assembly, I called the minister, Brother Sharber (I don't know this man so I'm not sure of the spelling) with an idea. I asked him if he could stop by a church we were visiting in Columbus on his way to the Panama City Gospel Assembly Church and fellowship with some good people there. He told me that I shouldn't get involved in things that were none of my business. Then that afternoon in church I became the entire sermon. It was awful the things that were said. At that point my wife and I decided that we would not go back again.

My father believed that he was God before he died three years ago. My mother still lives around Eldorado but she doesn't go to Gospel Assembly Church any more. I have tried to put my life back together by going to college for three and a half years and running my own small business. I never got any answers to all of the questions I had.

Several of my friends are still in Gospel Assembly Church but they never have any contact with me. I believe the mind control still exists and all of the control factors are used on people that go to Gospel Assembly Churches that I have been associated with. To this date the destruction still continues, people are still damaged and all of the problems are swept under the rug. There is no level of accountability for the ministers when they go bad. The main center is in Louisville Kentucky by the name of Christian Assembly, where most of the ministers meetings are held. My life has been destroyed. Can't anyone do anything about this?

These men that are in charge of the Gospel Assembly Churches in Louisville, KY, Dawson Springs, KY, Indianapolis, Ind., Eldorado, Ill, Anna, Ill, Kansas City, MO, Panama City, Fl and others I can't remember. They should be removed so they can't hurt any more people. My entire family was torn apart. The churches belong to the people that gave their money to have them built. The members need to have some kind of Constitution to prevent bad men from taking over the church.

I hope that my story helps someone.

Mark Shacknow -

From "Cult leader Brother Julius dies at 71," AP in New Haven Register, 7/30/96

Cult Leader "Brother Julius" Is Dead

Julius Schacknow, "Brother Julius," a cult leader who called himself "the sinful messiah" and claimed he had to sin to know what it was like, died in Connecticut in late July at the age of 71 at the home of one of seven women who, he said, were his unofficial "wives."

Schacknow, a convert to Christianity from Judaism after serving in the Navy during World War II, proclaimed in 1970 that he was Jesus Christ reincarnated, and several hundred young people flocked to the guidance of the longhaired, bearded preacher who wore a white robe and had mesmerizing green eyes. From the beginning, Schacknow was accused of using his charisma and position as a religious leader to manipulate young women, suggesting that it was God's will that they sleep with him. In 1976 he stopped making public appearances and began to build a multi-million dollar real estate and construction business, which reportedly did $100 million in sales in the mid-1980s.

All of the business collapsed with the real estate market at the end of the 80s, leaving behind a financial mess and prompting scores of followers to desert Schacknow.


Cheryll's Story (Mark's Wife)