Many of the European disciples who joined Mary Teresa's tribe (which also included North Africa), had considerable wealth, which could be shared, not only with the poorer members in Africa, but also with tribes in other parts of the Third World. But getting funds from one place to another was not easy.

 

Europe led the world in adopting "the Mark", a microchip implant that was gaining in popularity throughout the world, because of its efficiency. The Twelve Tribes, like the Jesans before them, were opposed to the use of credit cards, smartcards, and especially to using the Mark. This made commercial transactions difficult for all of the tribes, but especially for European members.

 

The position taken by the Twelve Tribes came from a prophecy and a curse which appear in the 13th and 14th chapters of The Revelation:

 

"He (the Antichrist) causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a Mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads, so that no one might buy or sell, save he that had the Mark, or the name of the Beast, or the number of his name." (Revelation 13:15-16)

 

"If anyone worship the Beast and his image, and receive his Mark in their forehead, or in their hand, they shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and they shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb. The smoke of their torment ascends up for ever and ever, and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the Beast and his image, and whoever receives the Mark of his name." (Revelation 14:9-11)

 

Without the Mark, it was difficult for Chloe or Sister Mary, or anyone in their tribe, to make the simplest purchases. Rayford and Chaim did not teach that credit cards or smart cards were necessarily wrong, but they taught that a true believer would want to err on the side of being too cautious, rather than making excuses to move closer and closer to taking the Mark. The hard part was that so much business had to be done outside the generally accepted channels. Sister Mary became quite adept at dealing through the Black Market, although it meant paying very high prices.

 

Although some evangelical Christians had, in the past, promised to oppose the Mark when it came in, as soon as it became clear that it was going to cost them personally, they adopted other arguments to justify using it, as they had done previously with credit cards and smart cards. The most common argument was to say that a loving God would never punish anyone for ever and ever, especially not for doing something so innocent as buying and selling.

 

One line of reasoning said that Christians could take the Mark without necessarily worshipping the devil, and as long as they did not "sell their soul" to the devil, the grace of God would compensate for their treachery. In its purest form the argument stated that even if they did worship the Antichrist or sell their soul to the devil, providing they had said a magical prayer "asking Jesus into their hearts" before selling out, God would be forced to forgive them. The teaching had been used to justify greed, pride, lust, dishonesty, self-righteousness, and every other sin you could think of for many decades before the Mark came in, so it was only natural that it should be extended to take in that form of disobedience as well.

 

The Mark took a number of different forms. By far, the most popular was the tiny implant, just under the skin on the back of the right hand. Technology had succeeded in making a little biochip (or passive transponder) that was so small that it was almost microscopic. It contained a universal pin number which was unique for each bearer. With the Mark in place, a person's right hand could be waved in front of a scanner using low frequency radio waves to verify the number before funds were added to or subtracted from that person's bank account. This would be done each time they wanted to buy or sell something.

 

An alternative Mark was available for amputees or others who could not use their right hand for one reason or another. These people could have the microchip implanted under the skin of their forehead. They could then just put their head in front of the scanner to authorise sales and purchases.

 

The third alternative was for people who (usually because of their great wealth) feared someone might kill and skin them, in an attempt to locate their transponder. Authorities assured the public that this would be virtually impossible, because the implants were extremely difficult to retrieve after they had been injected, and because a scanner would recognise anyone with two implants and it would refuse to process them.

 

Nevertheless, if people insisted on not accepting the implant, then they had the option of having a visible tattoo on their hand to signify that they had been officially "Declared and Certified Legally Exempt from Verification Implant", which was abbreviated DCLXVI, or 666 in Roman numerals!

 

People choosing the tattoo were allowed to manually punch their pin number into scanning machines, as it had been done in the old days before the Mark.

 

The only other exception was Dangchao himself, who needed only to use his name as identification. He had neither a tattoo nor an implant. Chloe and Mary Teresa found that, even with Europe's widespread use of the Mark, new members had each failed to accept the implant or the tattoo for one reason or another. For some it seemed merely coincidental, because they knew nothing about the spiritual significance of what had been happening in the banking world. These amazing coincidences deepened the movement's conviction that God had been intervening in each of their lives, to protect them from the Mark. Nevertheless, Rayford and Chaim were quick to educate all members on the seriousness of what was happening, and on their need to be prepared to die before they would ever accept the Mark.

 

A few recruits had credit cards and/or smart cards, and in some exceptional instances these were used to do business on a temporary basis. This was particularly true of the European bases. Wherever possible, however, transactions were done with cash. Credit cards and smart cards were gradually destroyed.

 

The banks had brought in measures which complicated things for people still dealing in large sums of money. Paying for airline tickets, rent, printing, vehicles, and even food and clothing with cash always led to delays, and sometimes forced the believers to pay higher than normal prices.

 

Rayford and Chaim urged the Twelve Tribes to prepare for when they would neither be able to use credit cards, smart cards, nor cash. Chloe had learned much from her year and a half with the original Jesans, and she prepared a study on how to survive without such aids. Her three-pronged plan for survival, was called "Beg, Barter, or Steal." Begging and stealing shocked some members until the terms were more fully explained.

 

"It's really religious pride that we're dealing with," Chloe wrote. "We're only talking about doing things like stealing thrown out food from supermarket trash cans, or asking farmers for permission to glean leftover fruit from previously harvested fields. The barrier holding us back is not that we are doing anything immoral. It's really just a simple case of pride."


In England, Rayford had gone over the study with his top leaders, and then finished it up with a group outing to some of the Jesans' favourite supermarket bins in the West London area. Every leader was expected to take a turn at climbing into a bin and foraging for food or other useful items. When it came Irene's turn, she crept hesitantly off toward the back of an Aldi supermarket, while Rayford stood guard in the van just around the corner from her.

 

Irene, who had somehow escaped participating in such an activity while she and Rayford had operated from the flat in Guildford, was apprehensive. She first squeezed behind the big industrial bin, in order to get a foothold on the fence next to it, before climbing in.

 

But then, just as she was about to lift herself up, she saw movement inside the bin itself, and she froze. There in front of her was a withered old woman dressed in several layers of rags, whose hair was unkempt, and her face black with dirt. The two women stared at each other in shock.

 

But it was the filthy, bedraggled bag lady who spoke first.

 

"Irene!" she shouted in amazement, and then she recoiled almost immediately, as though from shame.

 

Irene was speechless. How did this strange, almost frightening woman know her name? And then she saw something in the woman's eyes which she recognised.

 

"Elaine? Is that you? Elaine!"

 

Irene leaned far into the bin to hug the poor woman, who had begun to cry, both from fear and from relief.

 

By the time Rayford came looking to see what was taking so long, Elaine had told most of her story. What had been missed was told and re-told back at the flat when the bin excursion had ended.

 

Elaine Billings had been able to use Tom and Betty's car and money to get fuel, and to drive herself and her husband on to Montana, from where they had left Irene in North Dakota; but Vernon had died from the effects of radiation, only a week after they had arrived.

 

Those pilgrims who had reached Montana had quickly broken into factions when it became clear that there was no Messiah to be found. A couple of deluded souls had tried to pass themselves off as Jesus, while others insisted that they only needed to give God more time, and their dreams would come true. On the whole, it was a sorry, disillusioned lot of pilgrims. Most, like Elaine, were torn between losing their faith altogether and struggling to rebuild it on the basis of different criteria. Many of them died there in Montana before rescue teams came by helicopter to take them out of the country several weeks later.

 

It may have been good luck or just poor management that had brought Elaine to England. She had come on the understanding that she had a cousin there who would take responsibility for her. But, in the confusion of the time, the authorities (many of whom were volunteers) had done little to check out the background to her claim. When she arrived, Elaine discovered that her cousin, a penniless recluse, had died of a heart attack more than a year previously. She was all alone in a country whose charity was already stretched to near breaking point.

 

Elaine had made no effort to link up with or seek aid from any church or charity, choosing rather to work out her own salvation on the streets. Despite her shocking appearance and confused mental state, Elaine possessed a strength of character that had not only carried her through the past year and a half but had been partly borne out of the circumstances in which she had found herself.

 

Elaine quickly regained what sanity she had lost through her ordeal. Because they had both been through such similar spiritual pilgrimages, she and Irene became closer than any two sisters. Irene saw her new companion as a blessing from God in replacement for the son and daughter that she had farewelled a few months earlier. Elaine was warmly accepted into the Tribe of Joseph as part of the Guildford administrative team.

 

But back to Chloe's lessons on survival without the Mark... "Stealing" was a pastime that Elaine had become expert at, after a year and a half on the streets. She had a host of helpful tips about living out of bins and surviving on other throwouts. But she was also good at bartering. She had learned to pick up little treasures that she found, and then later trade them with the right people for food, clothing, and sometimes even a night's shelter (although she relied mostly on begging to get shelter).

 

Bartering was a handy way to circumvent the Mark, especially when members of the Twelve Tribes were forsaking possessions that they had no need for in their new lifestyle. In later years they would most often do this to get clothing and food. If they were prepared to take a big loss, there was always someone prepared to give them what they needed in a lop-sided swap.

 

Unfortunately, bartering did not work with large purchases like travel tickets and motor vehicles, because of the paperwork associated with it. Consequently, the Twelve Tribes were told by their spokesmen to brace for a time when they would have to live without such luxuries.

 

Technically, the believers had until three and a half years after the Temple agreement had been signed before they would be forced totally outside of the economic system; but in practice, the test had already begun, especially for those living in the affluent West.

 

The Jesans, and a few others like Elaine, who had been living outside the system prior to the agreement, were the recognised experts on how to survive in an alien world. They had benefited greatly from having rejected credit cards and smart cards -- both forerunners of the Mark.

 

"We do not need any more information about the Mark than what is found in the gospels," wrote Chaim Rosenberg, in Australia "The Mark is never mentioned there," he went on. "But there, in the teachings of Jesus, we are told to be like the flowers and to be like the birds, who do not have jobs, do not plant fields, and do not weave cloth. God feeds them, and he will feed us, if we will put his work first. If only we had taken that more seriously decades ago, we would be so much more prepared for what is about to happen now."

 

Chaim taught that most of the suffering that would take place amongst believers during the approaching Great Tribulation would be the result of disobedience to the teachings of Jesus now.

 

"The Antichrist will not have to hunt us down," he said. "Those with shallow faith are already lining up to receive his Mark. Others, who are brave enough to refuse the Mark, will starve or freeze to death without any action on the part of the Antichrist himself. It will happen because they never learned how to hear from God and how to obey him from day to day. That's what we are learning now. But those who run away from such discipline now will pay dearly for it in the next few years."