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NRK Norway Interviews John Collins Concerning the "Message" Cult

Image courtesy NRK
3/18/2018. Christian Nicolai Bjørke, investigative reporter for Norway's national news center NRK, interviews John Collins concerning the "Message" cult.

The text of the interview is in Norwegian. We have translated it to English for those of you who do not speak Norwegian. The original article can be found here:

Original on NRK: https://www.nrk.no/ostfold/xl/lytter-til-en-dod-_kvakksalver_-hver-dag-1.13940449
Original on NRK (Google Translate to English): https://www.nrk.no/ostfold/xl/lytter-til-en-dod-_kvakksalver_-hver-dag-1.13940449

Listens To A Dead Quack Every Day:

David Forsberg (43) has been responsible for 2000 hours of sound recording of "the most important voice since Jesus".

It is lit in three windows in the old town hall. We are in the small village of Varteig in Østfold. Nearly 40 people are gathered in a room with wooded timber walls. Half are children. All the women wear skirts and have long hair. This could have been any church in Norway. They have prayed some prayers, read from the Bible, sung songs with guitar and tambourine. But what happens now separates them out.

David Forsberg takes the floor. "Are you ready for hearing?" Then we give the pulpit to God's prophet, brother Branham. The voice that fills the room belongs to the American healing pastor William Branham. He died in a car accident in 1965.

Branham has been dead for 53 years. But it is only him who becomes a speaker when the community of David meets. He left behind a lot of sermons on recording. 1206, to be exact. Over 2000 hours of messages like this:

"Now are you gonna listen to false prophecy or the truth? Search the scriptures, it's up to you!" [William Branham speaking]

David calls William Branham "The Most Important Person Since Jesus". But when the preacher visited Norway after World War II, the Directorate of Health stamped him as a "quackal ointment". It broke down.

A very special meeting:

The year is 1950. A long line of people tries to fight their way into the premises of the Philadelphian Church. Indeed, it is an American who says that by God's help he can make sick people healthy. William Branham brings together tens of thousands of people in the United States. Now he is for the first time in Norway. Several hundred must turn in the door. Director of Health, Karl Evang, has picked up the Code of Conduct.

It states that only health professionals can treat sick people. Branham is allowed to speak, but does not lay his hands on a single sick Norwegians.

The "Kvakksalverloven" is the popular name of a 1936 Act. It was discontinued in 2003 and replaced by "The Act on Alternative Treatment of Diseases.

The Oslo Police Department's foreign department is in the hall to make sure that the Americans follow the law. The Christian people are furious. Branham bends, but never returns to Norway. Back in the United States he becomes more and more radical.

William Branham attempted to bypass the healing ban with some sort of "collective healing", Aftenposten wrote the day after the meeting in Philadelphia.

He believes he is a prophet from the Old Testament sent to earth. That Eve had sex with the snake in the garden of Eden. And several perceive that he says that the Judgment Day will come around 1977. When William Branham dies, it takes several months before being buried. One theory is that the followers are waiting for him to resurrect from death. He never does.

Today it is quite quiet around him in Norway. But at David the sound is full of all the time.

Straight in the ear:

David Forsberg works as a painter. Now he is in the kitchen in a municipal residence in Sarpsborg. "Caution", he puts on the door of a restroom. The 43-year-old is dressed in a knight green sweater with company logo. From a pair of white ear plugs, the voice of the South-East accent flows into the ears of the painter's masterpiece.

David has all the words of William Branham on the phone. He has listened to them since he was ten years old. "If you had the voice to Jesus or Paul on the tape, it would have been very big. Then you would also listen to it every day," he says.

It's time for meeting, and David is on the first row. He has replaced the painter with a blower. When the audio recording is played, he feels small, like getting encouraging calls or laughter. As if Brother Branham, as he is called, would be standing right in front of him.

It's over 20 years since David moved to Varteig with his wife Ellen. At that time, they knew no one. Now they are leading a community that counts around 50 people.

Several times a month they gather to listen to sermons from the 50s and 60s. The sermons are also played if there are weddings, children's blessings or funerals.

"For the Branham supporters, the recordings are like the pope are for the Catholics," says Robert Williams Kvalvaag, First Core in Christianity, Religion, Life and Ethics (KRLE) at OsloMet.

Robert Kvalvaag is one of the few researchers in Norway who has studied the American healing preacher.

"Branham said is infallible in the sense that it is only he who can interpret the Bible correctly. "That's why it's so important for his followers to spread the 'Message' - even in Norwegian," he says.

By the millennium there were around 300,000 Branham followers in the world. Kvalvaag believes that the number has increased since then. Even the Branham movement claims that there are between two and four million people following his teachings.

"This is a growth in growth in India and in many African and South American countries," says Kvalvaag.

There are currently 27 offices in Africa and 16 in Latin America. In Europe there are six offices. The Branham Movement Headquarters is located in the founder's hometown of Jeffersonville in the state of Indiana in the United States. In the same city there is a man who devotes all the time to warning against the voice they hear in the meeting rooms in Varteig.

The Lost Son

"Until that day, I would have taken a bullet for this sect. American John Collins has a round face and a deep voice.

Quietly, he tells about how he and his wife left January 1, 2012 with his children and broke out of the Branham movement. He describes it as a sudden awakening after being surrounded by the tales throughout his life.

"I was listening to the sermons every morning as I went to school, in the bed at night, in the car, until I left. People who do it are brainwashing themselves without knowing it." - John Collins

Collins belonged to the innermost circles at the headquarters of Jeffersonville. His grandfather was one of the pastors. He refused to talk to his own grandson after he broke out. "We heard that there was a big difference between us and other Christians, and we were proud of it. Through Branham's sermons we had a knowledge they did not have - and so we looked down on them. We were the small group who waited to be taken to heaven, while all the others were left." said Collins.

The grandfather is dead now, but large sections of the family are still involved. Collins mother, father, cousin, aunts and uncles. They sometimes try to talk together. It's rare that it happens.

Collins believes it is dangerous to put so much weight on 60-70 year old audio tapes.

"The audio tapes often have extreme messages and hate speech - especially when it comes to women. They say that women were created by Satan to tempt men. But I had heard it so many times and did not catch it", he says.

NRK has requested a response from the Branham Movement Headquarters in Jeffersonville, without receiving any response.

Today, the son of William Branham is the leader of the movement. The message is inherited. That's how it was for David too.

Following Grandmother and Dad

"I think everyone will be a fruit of the upbringing they have," says David.

The voice of Branham has followed his family for generations. Mormora Helene Karlsen was one of those who stood in line for hours to listen to the Philadelphian preacher in 1950.

The newspapers described Branham as a "small and stubborn" person who "speaks with a low voice that sounds loudly heard in the middle of the hall." Still, something happened to her and she brought the message home. Eventually the sound bands and Branham's voice came into her home. This changed the life of Terje Forsberg - David's father.

The Incident in the Forest

In August 1970, Terje Forsberg was a unemployed seaman who had just been fired for being violent.

In the middle of the night he was on his way to a farm to steal liquor. In his luggage he had a broken childhood with an alcoholic father. The school had stamped him as ability weights.

Then it suddenly became completely quiet. He experienced a strong light that penetrated through the dark forest.

"A voice talked to me. What the voice said, I did not understand. But every word relieved of the pressure inside me", he says.

He calls it an experience of "pioneering love". After that he has never smoked, drunk or used drugs. In adulthood he completed schooling and started working as a college teacher.

Ten years after the experience in the woods, he spoke of William Branham from his in-laws. When he started reading them and listening to the tapes, some loose pieces fell into place.

"I recognized the voice I had heard in the woods. The message to Branham has made me living a very happy and rich life today, says Terje.

Life Mission

The father gave Branham's voice to his son. David grew up in a home where the numbers were part of everyday life. Now it's 43 years old to manage the old audio recordings.

In 2009, David and his wife Ellen were contacted by the US headquarters. They would be given a mission: To make all of Branham sermons available in Norwegian.

"Then we started to really burn for this. We realized that this is a worldwide movement. This is not just a kind of cult that lives in Varteig", said David.

The married couple met in the 1990s as youngsters at a Christian gathering. Ellen was going to sit in David's car on the way to a cab ride. On the way, the American speakers spoke out loud.

She recognized it immediately. There were sound recordings of Branham, the same as her grandparents and parents listened to - and as she had heard of since childhood. "I just thought oh!".

When they got married in 1997, they left Honeymoon to Egypt. They ended up spending their entire stay sharing Branham's sermons in Kairos streets.

Now Ellen is sitting at the front of the computer in the basement of Varteig. Behind a glass wall stands David and tries to make the microphone stand right.

The basement has become a home-made studio. On the walls hang the carpets that dampen the sound. In front of him, David has a sheet of official translation of a speech.

"We are very keen to convey exactly what Branham said, so no interpretations will arise," he said.

"After that, I have Branham's voice. After saying a quote, I say the same sentence in Norwegian."

According to David, there are a total of 1,000 people in Norway who receive Branham's sermons regularly in the mail.

"It's all societies, from former parliamentary representatives to the very simple soul," he said.

100 Years of Work Remains

So far, they have spent seven or eight years translating and recording over 100 talks in Norwegian. They spend a number of hours on each. Keeping the same speed, it will take nearly 100 years before they finish all the 1206 sermons.

Ellen is working on the full-time project. David uses every free time.

"Before, I used to say that I worked as a painter and spent my spare time at Branham. Now it's been reversed, says David.

It is noticed in a small village like Varteig.

"I've heard that someone calls the Branhamites a cult," said David.

"But I still have the pleasure to hear that when someone says it to me face to face. A cult is something that closes the doors, which keep themselves. However, I have been football coaches for many years. I'm a painting company and I'm in a painting champion. I am a lot out of people and give money to both the Blue Cross and the Red Cross and other good purposes. We are the absolute opposite of a cult.

He leans back. Thinking about it.

"But also Jesus was accused of creating a cult. That people call us things is the price we have to pay. For Branham was very radical, and I like what's radical, "said David.

Pink dots = Tuberculosis

Branham had many sympathetic sides early in the career, according to Robert Williams Kvalvaag, first actor at KRLE at OsloMet.

"There is no doubt that things happened around him," he said.

Kvalvaag tells about Ern Baxter, a Canadian pastor who traveled with Branham from 1947 to 1954 and later distanced himself. He claimed that Branham could read on his own hand what disease people had. Tuberculosis should have been shown as pink dots. In cancer he must have a swelling where the thumb grows with the palm of the hand.

"Several independent sources are absolutely sure that they have observed this and that it is not humbug," he says.

But according to Kvalvaag, Branham gradually begins to develop his own teaching - with himself in the center. The judgment day was central.

"In short, it is apparent that he is the elect who will bring the message to those who live in recent times. Those who will be saved must join this "Message". All other churches are wrong, only what comes from Branham is from God. He developed a very negative attitude to the world, and proclaimed that it was important to distance himself.

Broke out - Helps Others

There is a network on the internet where former branhamites meet. It currently counts between 600 and 1,000 people. Several of them live in Norway.

One of them is "Anonymous". She believes that the voice of one man ruled her life.

"When I was in my own mind, I thought there was no guilt and that I could choose. But at the same time you are very trapped by what Branham says. You must have good reason to do something that goes against it, "she says.

"Anonymous" is in the 40's and lives in a town in Eastern Norway. A few years ago, she broke one of the communities in the Branham movement in Norway. It is not the same community that David is a part of.

The condition for talking to NRK is that she must be anonymous. Partly because she is afraid of losing the little contact she has with the family, partly because she thinks she has participated as a whistleblower.

There are still eagles everywhere in her house - both paintings and carved figures. The eagle is a common symbol among the Branhamites and refers to Branham being the Prophet who flew the highest of all of them.

"Anonymous" says that the interest in Branham has been in the family for several generations.

Today I think it's very scary a let a man rule so many choices in life. They always say they do not upset him, but they do.

Recently, there was a debate in the Canadian city of London after some Branham supporters had insulted women on the street.

In this video, a man says that "a woman dressed in shorts she is dressed like a whore."

"Anonymous" recognizes the rhetoric

"As a girl there are many limitations. It's about how to dress, how to look with your hair, make no use, do not participate in organized sports, and preferably do not educate yourself too much. It is slightly different how strict the different churches in Norway are. But it's important for everyone to be a testimony outward and separate you from this world, "she says.

Today she is part of an organization that helps other people who want to break with a religious community. At the same time she is in therapy to move on. Still she can feel the little blaff of anxiety in everyday life.

"Branham thought that he lost his wife and daughter because he had once been disobedient to God. If something happens in my life that's not good, then I can think it's because I've left the Branham movement, "she says.

County by County:

A few years ago David and Ellen traveled to Finnmark. They believed that God had pointed out the county as the mission mission of the year.

For four days they traveled around to advertise a movie show of the "Deep Calleth to the Deep", the only sermon by William Branham that was filmed.

This year's mission target is Telemark. By 2018, all residents in the county will have a cinema invitation in the mailbox. Cinema rental, reprints and invitations will cost between 200,000 and 300,000.

"This has put us in the heart of God. The money is gifts from private individuals and sponsors. In addition, I use some of the profits in the painting company, "said David.

When asked about Branham's view of women, David says that he knows that Branham has been called "woman hater".

"But, if you take fragments from a speech here and talk there, you can get the most amazing things. Branham had a clear call for men and women that one had to dress suitably, because one would save too much. It's not you, it's something wrong, but everyone is wondering about what you can meet, "he says.

When he hears about the street preachers from the Canadian city of London, he just shakes his head.

"I do not identify with such extremes in the Branham movement. It's very bad to condemn women for the way they choose to dress up, "said David.

But he agrees with Branham's request that women should wear skirts and not cut their hair.

"It was like practically all Christians if you go 50 years back. I think it's a nice thing to encourage. But even finer, I think, is that the individual follows his own beliefs, "said David.

"Healthy to Brainwash":

In several of his 1,206 sermons, William Branham is concerned that what he says is being addressed. He talks that people are going to sit with small earplugs and listen to his message in the future.

In the home studio in the basement of Varteig, David and Ellen are involved in helping Branham's prophecy to come true. Another speech is translated into Norwegian. Still, it is well over 1000 again.

He finds people asking if he worships William Branham.

"I do not. I do not worship the man. But I worship the God who operated through Branham," he says.

The critics call it "brainwashing" to listen so much to one man. David does not agree with that.

David turns off the light in the home studio and closes the door. Then take us into the room. There is painted a Bible word on the wall:

"Blessed are those who take care of his testimony."

David lets his eyes rest on the letters. It is as if his life assignment is summarized in these nine words.

When these numbers are available to all of Norway, at least we have done every part

Original on NRK: https://www.nrk.no/ostfold/xl/lytter-til-en-dod-_kvakksalver_-hver-dag-1.13940449
Original on NRK (Google Translate to English): https://www.nrk.no/ostfold/xl/lytter-til-en-dod-_kvakksalver_-hver-dag-1.13940449