Former members talk about early life in Samanta Roy group
In the early 1970s, few people outside the group had heard of The Disciples of the Lord Jesus or its founder, Dr. R.C. Samanta Roy, then known as Rama Behera.
They saw themselves as a group of devoted Christians who wanted only to serve God and be left alone to their beliefs. For the most part, the group kept to itself. As far as is known, the group never pushed its religious views on others or tried to recruit local residents into the group.
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Community members paid little attention in those days. They saw them around town and in some cases could tell or assumed they were members of the group because of the conservative style of dress. In all other respects, they seemed to be the same as anyone else, living their lives, going to work and raising families.
Their leader was said by followers to have performed miracles, could interpret dreams and had the gift of prophecy. His early preaching relied heavily on the Book of Acts and he denounced most organized religions, particularly the Catholic Church, for what he believed were their hypocrisies.
“He presented himself as a charismatic Christian leader,” said Eva Hall, an early follower whose name was Eva Dickenson then. “He looked like a sweet and humble man.”
Hall was a member of a church group in Merrill where she lived then. Samanta Roy had been invited to the church to preach. He asked whether there was anyone in the audience who was ill. Hall, who had a stomach tumor, responded.
“Do you believe that God can remove tumors?” he asked, according to Hall. She said that she did. Samanta Roy told her she was cured. “Go and sin no more,” he said, according to Hall.
She began going to his meetings in the Town of Wescott and eventually moved into an apartment in Shawano.
It was in that apartment that Hall delivered the babies of a number of group members, including the twin daughters of former member Gail Langsjoen.
“There was a lot of home birthing,” Langsjoen said. “It was encouraged by Rama.” She said she had four children who were born at home during her years with the group.
Soon after joining the group, Hall encouraged her son, Elliot, to join.
Elliot Lane was in the military at the time. He said there were only about 15 to 18 people at the first meeting he attended.
Samanta Roy prophesied some things and told him he needed to leave the military, Lane said. According to Lane, Samanta Roy told him the military was a tool of the devil and that if he stayed in it he would go to Hell.
Lane left the military and moved into his mother’s Shawano apartment, where his brother also lived.
He stayed there for six months. Then, Samanta Roy prophesized that he and a woman in the group named Ann would be married.
It was one of a number of marriages in which Samanta Roy chose spouses for one another, according to former followers.
“I had no idea who she was,” Lane said. “But I wanted to do whatever God told his messenger to do.”
Within a week, Lane and Ann, the spouse Samanta Roy had chosen from the group, were married by a Justice of the Peace in Rochester, Minn. A week later came a wedding ceremony held by the group and officiated by an Elder of the group, Grant Kemp.
Langsjoen – whose marriage to Thor Langsjoen was also arranged by the religious leader – said she met Samanta Roy through a Bible study group held by Kal Gronvall, who is still a member and often a representative of the group.
“The first meeting that I went to when I met Rama, some of the allure was about Rama himself but some of it was about the people who were clustered around him,” she said. “They were pure and good and had this aura about them and I loved it. It felt like a next step in terms of family, a next step in terms of what to do with my life.”
Langsjoen described Samanta Roy as dynamic and charismatic in those days.
“But it was graced with this really sincere and tender love for the Lord and hope for people that would love the Lord,” she said. “It was captivating.”
Soon, according to followers, 80 to 100 members were congregating in a garage on Samanta Roy’s property in Shawano. They also met in Rochester and Mankato, but gradually Samanta Roy pulled the group toward Shawano, one of the former followers said.
Former members said there were also meetings held in Pensacola, Fla., where the group would gather for a two-week stay at a motel in the city.
One of those former followers said he quit his job so that he would be free to spend those two weeks in Pensacola.
When they gathered in Shawano they would stay for the weekend, from Friday night, through Sunday, even though there were no quarters on the property for the visitors.
“There were wall-to-wall sleeping bags,” a former member said. “You’d have to fight for space.”
Samanta Roy was treated by members as a saint, as “a Moses or Elijah,” Lane said.
“They would carry his shoes, open the door for him,” another of the ex-members said.
But, followers recalled, there was also cooperation and fellowship between members.
“It was a true Christian community in the early days,” said one former member.
Hall said the members would gather on the weekends and share big meals, sing and worship. It seemed a wonderful thing to everyone, she said.
“We all wanted to serve God,” said Hall. “We believed Rama was the way to heaven.”