escaped from the Yellow Deli
June 1, 2006
My name is Karen Draper and I currently reside in Utah. In my youth, I lived
with the “Yellow Deli” commune for several weeks before making my “escape.”
Recently, one of my friends in Chickamauga, Ga., informed me that the Yellow
Deli [currently called the Twelve Tribes] returned to Chattanooga,
Tennessee. Ironically, she owns an audio tape in which I recount my
experience with the Yellow Deli. I remember as if it was yesterday, and I am
really concerned that they decided to return to Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Yellow Deli members use biblical passages to justify their child rearing
practices. Their history shocked me. For the few weeks that I lived in the
commune, I witnessed a mother hovering over her secured and seated child
with a “stick” in her hand. Apparently, the child’s oatmeal was too hot to
eat and every time he put his hand out to touch the food she smacked the
outstretched hand with the stick.
When I intervened, they abruptly told me that I wasn’t a member long enough
to correct anyone concerning their practices. They informed me that the
children did not belong to the parents but to God. The parents followed a
schedule for child rearing but lacked input on where and with whom their
child spent time.
Upon joining the commune, I had to give everything I owned to them so I
turned over my old bashed up car. Secretly, I kept $70 for myself because I
didn’t have anything else.
They believed that the “outside” world represented evil. When I joined the
Yellow Deli, they drove me to Chattanooga State where I attended so I could
withdraw from college. When I told my counselor of my plans he just shook
his head. I told him I found Jesus and these people [Yellow Deli] loved and
would care for my needs.
When I met the Yellow Deli people I was situationally vulnerable because at
the age of 21 I left a three year abusive relationship. I rented a room in a
house in St. Elmo and found myself directionless with no loving family
support.. At the time, commune members told me what I needed to hear - that
they and God loved me. Immediately, they invited me to move in with them.
When they convinced me, two members moved me out of my little room at 3 a.m.
and drove me to their commune in Dalton, Ga.
I was familiar with the Yellow Deli as I frequented their restaurant and
loved the food. I thought of them as pot smoking hippies that loved each
other and lived communally. When I arrived at the commune in Dalton, Ga., I
found that they neither smoked pot nor ate that wonderful food they served
all the sinners. That was my first “red flag.” Why did the children of God
[Yellow Deli people] eat crappy food while the sinners dined like kings and
queens? We also could not eat food outside the commune.
One night I was so hungry for some protein I made a pact with some women
commune members that I would buy them something to eat at the local Wendy’s
restaurant. Suffering with severe paranoia, the women feared that they would
get into trouble. We told those in charge that we needed to purchase
material for the women’s “head coverings.” Thank God they believed our
deceptive “white lie.” I promised the women that we would hide all the
evidence so no one would get into trouble. As far as I know [the hierarchy]
never found out about our sneaky escapade!
Their paranoia seemed valid as they related the story of a young man who
lived in the commune. I can’t remember his name, but he was academically
slow and received a monthly check from Social Security Disability. Commune
leaders found out he drank a coca cola and in response they used his Dr.
Scholl’s shoe to spank him in front of the congregation. Despite this man’s
brutal and humiliating treatment, these brave women risked eating burgers,
fries and coca colas. My goodness, what major sinners!
Anyways, I can describe more stories about the Yellow Deli. Hopefully they
have changed but I honestly doubt this. I believe a big difference exists
between swatting the bottom of a youngster who runs into the street and a
child who does what comes natural to them. Yellow Deli members thrash their
children under the guise of “discipline” and employ the Word of God to
justify their sadistic behavior. I sincerely hope the Yellow Deli people
once again find that they can’t “save” Chattanooga and leave the beautiful
city alone. They prey on the discarded and lost and they found me in this
way. Fortunately, I had friends and enough knowledge of God’s mercy and love
to know something was terribly wrong.
After my escape from the Yellow Deli, I returned to Chattanooga State. The
administrative office failed to process my paperwork so I only fell two
weeks behind in my academic work. I finished college and received an A.S. in
social workers assistance program.
If anyone would like to hear more please feel free to send me an email. When
I lived at the Dalton, Ga., commune I boldly told Elbert Eugene Spriggs, the
leader, that his followers lacked vitamin B, they suffered from dull and
lifeless hair, their skin was broken out in acne and they worked too many
hours and experienced sleep deprivation. Does anyone remember little Rachel
Tuttle? Elbert presumptuously told her parents that God would heal their
child thus negating the need to take the child to the emergency room within
walking distance to the commune. When they finally listened to their God
given intuition and took their daughter to the hospital she suffered from a
very serious pneumonia infection. If they listened to the “Apostle” their
child would have died without the aid of medical intervention.
Return to Vermont and leave Chattanooga alone!
Karen Brown Draper