Ex-House of Yahweh insider and Abilene resident shares her story

Abilene Reporter-News/October 5, 2012

Even after divorcing House of Yahweh leader Yisrayl Hawkins in 1994, Kay Hawkins still lives in the shadow of her ex-husband's exclusive religious sect.

She lives in a house off T&P Lane, a few blocks away from Life Nutrition Products, which is owned by Yisrayl and frequented by House of Yahweh church congregants. She sat at a large dinner table one evening in mid-September, sifting through hundreds of pictures piled messily in front of her.

Family, friends and House of Yahweh congregants stare back up at her through photo frames — testaments of her past life.

"This is the family room," Kay said. "Family means everything."

She gestures to a brown, neatly shaved Yorkie excitedly wagging its tail in the doorway.

"And that's Buddy."

Kay, who attended the House of Yahweh for 14 years with her husband before unceremoniously being shown the door, has compiled her experiences in a book titled "The House of Yahweh: My Side of the Story," which she self-published this year.

Many Big Country residents likely have heard about the House of Yahweh, which is located in Callahan County.

The 50-acre church complex south of Clyde, founded by Yisrayl in 1980, started making headlines in the early 1990s, when reports surfaced that church leaders allegedly encouraged polygamy among members.

Kay said her excommunication from the church was the breaking point in the relationship between her and Yisrayl. It was also an impetus for writing "My Side of the Story."

"When he excommunicated me, I thought, 'What am I going to do?' Then the inspiration came over me." she said. "'I am going to tell everybody, one of these days, exactly what happened.'"

It took her 17 years, but she finally did it.

"The important thing is that people know what is really going on out there," Kay said.

In those nearly two decades, she has had time to reflect on her experiences with Yisrayl (formerly Bill) and the church, she said.

She still has fond memories of the church, just not of its leader and her ex-husband, she said. The book reads less like a scathing tell-all of internal House of Yahweh workings and more like a character study of Yisrayl.

In the early pages of the book, Kay defined Bill as "a cornfed cowboy with a weak chin and a Stetson hat."

That was when they first met in the early 1970s.

But in an interview, she said she now sees him in a more sinister light — she used the words "cockroach," "psychopath" and "satanic" to describe the leader of what some Big Country residents have referred to as a cult.

Yisrayl's secretary declined to comment about the book on his behalf.

Kay said writing the book was a cathartic experience she could only undertake after stepping away from the 17-year marriage.

"Slowly, I began to mentally recover," she said. "First, I had to recover from the manipulation, mind control and indoctrination I had experienced."

Kay said she made it a point to date letters and notes sent to her by her ex-husband, something that was invaluable when the time came to compile everything into book form.

When it was finished, she said she felt "elated." And she said the whole sordid experience with the church bolstered her faith, which she admitted was nonexistent at the beginning of her book.

"My faith in Yahweh has been strengthened because he never left me," Kay said. "Even in my darkest hour, he never left me."

Now she spends her time tending to the garden behind her home and seeing her children.

"Your children are your best friends," she said.

Kay said she doesn't know how many copies of her book were printed or how many have been sold.

"I just want to recover what I spent," she said.

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