On April 19, 1993, Americans watched their televisions in horror as the Branch Davidiancompound near Waco, Texas, burned to the ground, killing 74 cult members.For ex-Davidians David and Debbie Bunds, the tragedy brought special anguish. It also causedthem to praise God once again for delivering them from the apocalyptic cult in 1989, placingthem forever beyond the deadly grasp of the group's leader, David Koresh.
Born into the Koresh Cult
Twenty-eight-year-old Debbie was born into the cult, which was formed in the late 1950s, and raised amid its twisted doctrines by parents who had become Davidians in the 1960s.
Debbie will never forget how she and the other children suffered. "There were no adults that wekids trusted. We were nonhumans to them," she remembers. "They didn't look at us as human beings, as people with feelings, rights and minds. They just looked at us as lumps of clay to moldand to do with as they wished."According to Debbie, cult members readily accepted Koresh (whose name was Vernon Howell before he changed it) as their "new prophet" in the mid-1980s because of his charismatic personality, musical talent and apparent biblical knowledge. After 25 years of hearing previousleaders make failed prophecies about the end, "Vernon came along and we thought, Oh, finallysomething's happening," she says.Unlike his wife, 32-year-old David Bunds was not raised at the Waco compound but grew upwith his Davidian parents in California. He was 18 when he met Koresh for the first time andrecalls that the Davidian leader "spoke with authority. He could quote profusely from the Bible."Within months of this meeting, David's world changed drastically as Koresh began ordering allBranch Davidians to live at the isolated commune."All of a sudden it was life or death, an all-or-nothing thing where I had to totally devote myself to Koresh and his message," David says. "I had to go where he wanted me to go, do what hewanted me to do, live where he wanted me to live, get married when he decided that we couldget married. And then, once we were married, [we could] be together only when he decided itwas OK. He totally controlled our lives."After their wedding, David and Debbie continued to reside in Waco under Koresh's heavy-handed authoritarianism. They endured the abuse because they believed that because of their obedience to their leader, God might let them into heaven. Moreover, Koresh constantlyappealed to his authority as a "prophet of God" and warned them to "not touch God's anointed."David and Debbie finally found deliverance in Christ after David started studying the Scripturesfor himself. "It was the most wonderful thing that ever happened to us," says Debbie.