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Continued: April 20: Friends recall rise and fall of Victor Barnard

Eventually, Barnard and his Way colleagues wore her down and persuaded her to sign up for the class — and to sign over one of her paychecks in the process. That’s when her family stepped in.

Her father and brother went with her to the class and insisted on a refund. Then, she said, she saw the dark side of the group that had been wooing her for weeks.

“This person, who had been just lovely to me all summer, turned on me and started using all sorts of horrible words,” she said. “They said, ‘Get out of this house. I don’t want any more communication with you, nor will Victor have any more communication with you.’ I never saw Victor again.”

Now, with Barnard’s name and face all over the news, she is haunted by thoughts of the Maidens.

“I was so sad for these girls,’” she said. “I was helped, because I had the support of my family, but they have been left with nothing.”

The Way’s ways

Barnard was one of nearly 400 followers of the Way International who in 1983 entered its leadership training program called the “Way Corps.” Karl Kahler was another.

Kahler, who joined the Way International in 1980 at age 16, remembers Barnard as “a friendly, smiling, mellow people person,” he said Friday. “I didn’t view him as a real leader of his peers or a hard-charging personality.” But, he added, “I can see where he had the charismatic qualities to develop a following.”

In the four-year program, the young men and women learned everything from how to shake hands to how to climb rocks. They practiced leading weddings and funerals. They studied public speaking. “We were trained to be leaders — people who could get up in front of a crowd,” said Kahler, now the national editor of the San Jose Mercury News.

Reading about the charges against Barnard, Kahler sees echoes of Victor Paul Wierwille, the Way’s former leader, who died in 1985.

Kahler, author of “The Cult That Snapped,” cited a speech in which Wierwille says that King David is not to be criticized for adultery because every woman in the kingdom belongs to the king. There was “a culture of adultery” in the Way, he said. “There were plenty of leaders who thought it was their right to have sex with their followers.”

The Way International splintered after Wierwille’s death, Kahler said. “The ministry virtually collapsed,” he said. “Lots of new leaders arose, left the ministry and took their followers with them.”

Building a following

By 1990, Barnard had returned to Minneapolis, registering a business, Lost and Found Enterprises, to a home in north Minneapolis.

The following year he and his friend and fellow Way member David Larsen moved to Rush City, Minn. to homes along another River Road. They rented state parks or resorts to put on religious retreats but then began playing with the idea of creating a camp. Larsen heard about a former Christian camp on a lake in Finlayson called the Shepherd’s Inn.

Barnard and other leaders envisioned the new property, which they called Shepherd’s Camp, as a place for retreats and discipleship.

For Stanley Barnard that simple life of growing their own food, running small artisan businesses and raising goats and sheepdogs, is what he saw on his occasional visits.

“There was no cult going on, or anything like that,” he said. “They wanted to be self-sufficient and study the Bible.”

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