A vision of "the end time"

Lake City Reporter/November 18, 1988
By Greg Messore

A great famine is coming.

One which will devastate the earth, wiping out all those who do not believe in Jesus Christ and the prophet of Christ --Charles Meade.

On a cassette tape recorded by Meade in Evanston, Illinois in 1977, which was then circulated throughout his ministry, Meade further detailed his End Time message.

Meade said, "an Angel of the Lord," came to him one night and took him for a walk. During that walk the angel led him down a main street, making clear to him a vision of the end time. Meade said he saw big trucks coming towards him dumping, "a white, sticky substance," which looked like "ground-up rocks."

"And they would dump it in the streets and it begin to spread out into the lots, and into the fields, and over people's gardens, and out through the fields, and begin to cover the whole earth."

The End Time preacher continues his revelation tape by relating how this sticky substance became hard, "and nothing would come up through this."

"Well that's a drought that's coming up on the earth. The ground will be baked-and there will grow nothing in this country, here."

Such is the basic philosophy controlling the members of the End Time Ministry.

End Time Ministries is the most recent name for a religious movement that has brought its members from various parts of the country to Lake City. They've come here because Meade has come here. And they'll remain here until the great famine.

The 71-year-old Meade preaches to his followers, "we're living near the end," and, "something bad, very bad is going to happen-you can feel it."

He predicts this "something bad" is going to occur in his lifetime.

Rev. Jeri Smith, a pastor from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, has spent a lot of time counseling ex-End Time members and their parents. She also is working on a doctoral degree in counseling, and has done extensive research on the subject of cults.

Rev. Smith said End Time members are led to believe by Meade that they are persecuted by the people of the outside world. Anyone who does not belong to their group is part of the "world". Meade preaches that the "world" and especially the mainstream religious community want them to fail.

Meade draws parallels between himself and his followers to Jesus and his disciples being hounded and persecuted in biblical times.

"That's part of their End Time vision," said Rev. Smith. "The world is going to rise up against them and God is going to destroy the world."

Joni Cooke, a former End Timer whose ex-husband Gary is still one of the most influential members in the group, lives in Sioux Falls. She was more specific about Meade's "End Time vision."

Cooke said Meade preached, "a famine would come." She added that this recent influx of End Time members to Lake City is due partially to a Meade belief that when the famine occurred, "it would be-better to live in the South."

"You live, if you're a Christian, you live through Jesus Christ," Meade preached recently at an End Time meeting in a banquet room at the Holiday Inn West in Gainesville. The group collects there almost every Sunday night.

"There is no other way to have eternal life," Meade continued, "it is only through Jesus Christ our savior, our creator, our lord, our king. And he's our soon-coming king."

This oft-heard religious doctrine is not, in and of itself, unusual.

But according to parents of End Time members and former members themselves, Meade uses Christianity to wield control over his followers-control so complete that he has convinced them that a massive famine will wipe out all nonbelievers. And to not follow Meade is to be a non-believer.

The End Time Ministry is an outgrowth of the Pentecostal religion, complete with charismatic prayer activities and a bounty of lively hymns.

Meade frequently preaches in terms of a great ending and death to those who don't strictly adhere to The Bible, or as he refers to it, The Word.

"It's the Lord, the one that made all things. He was The Word; he still is The Word. The Word created all things. The Word is what holds this world together right now. It's the word of God. And without this Word, if the word of God was drawn back everything would disappear. Did you realize that? Everything is held together by the word of God."

The End Time philosophy of Meade is an accepted part of his overall doctrine.

According to Cooke, this acceptance, coupled with Meade's personal charismatic powers, enables him to dictate other modes of behavior to his followers.

The people of End Time Ministries mostly keep their children out of the public school system. Instead they teach the youths at home. Florida law allows an in-home education program.

Meade preaches that books are evil. At the November 6th service Meade said all books should be thrown in a pile and burned. All burned that is except for The Word. Everything else Meade said is part of the "winds of doctrine" and the "words of man." These two phrases describe Meade's belief that anything read, heard or said that is not in The Word is evil and wrong.

Most End Timers also don't seek the help of doctors. They believe their faith is a strong enough force to heal any sickness. If someone is sick and does not get better, or in some cases if someone dies, Meade preaches that the individual's faith in Jesus was not strong enough.

Cooke said the members, "don't believe in immunizing their kids." When asked at a recent meeting about the ministry's stance on going to doctors, Meade turned and slowly swept his arm in an arc to survey the room and said, "Do you see any sick people here?"

A week later at the next End Time meeting, another member was asked the same question. "Do you see any sick people here?" he answered. "Don't we look healthy to you?"

Cooke said Meade has boasted of the power to heal. "He's claimed he's healed blind children," Joni Cooke said. "He's claimed to have raised his wife (Meade's first wife Marie) from the dead."

Meade also preaches against the characterization that they are a religious movement. "This is not a religious movement," Meade vehemently stated at a recent meeting. "This is Christianity - Christ-like."

The preacher was equally vehement of the Reporters' efforts to write a story on his End Time Ministry: "All this is foolishness," Meade said. "It's trying to pester these good people. " The self-professed prophet added, "I don't fool with foolishness."

Meade declines interview

In researching the series of stories on End Time Ministries, the Lake City Reporter contacted Charles Meade on three separate occasions and tried to arrange an in-depth interview. All three times, Meade declined the invitation.

The Reporter attended two religious services held by End Time Ministries at the Holiday Inn West in Gainesville. After those meetings, Meade and his wife Marlene did talk to the Reporter staff briefly.

On Thursday night, Meade was again contacted by the Reporter. When asked to comment about his church, Meade replied: "What church? There are lots of churches."

The Reporter explained the story being written about the migration of End Time members to Lake City. He replied: "What story? Why don't you do a story on another Pentecostal church? What's the matter with you guys?"

Contributing to this report were reporter Tom Leithauser, Publisher al Don Caldwell and Managing Editor Russ Roberts.

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