It’s been almost a year since Joburg teenager Diane McMillan ran away to join a cult in Oregon in the United States. She married the cult’s 58-year-old leader, Amadon, and has vowed never to return home.
Diane’s story made headlines everywhere, and many parents became extra concerned for the safety of their own children.
It all started when the McMillan family, from Northcliff, Johannesburg, had to cope with a string of crises three years ago.
Diane, the middle child of Karene and Ian McMillan, turned to the Internet for comfort.
She was 15 at the time. There she came across a “New Age guru” on the website www.Livinglovefellowship.com (LLF) – and fell under his influence.
On Friday March 18, the day schools closed for holidays, Diane told her family she would be spending the night with a friend. The next day, the McMillans received a phone call from the self-styled mystic Amadon saying their daughter was in Canada and would soon be in the US. They were to be married.
“When she told us about sleeping over at a friend’s house, we thought it a bit strange because she had never asked to do that before. On the Sunday, Diane called us to say she and Amadon were married and that she was never coming home,” said Ian at the time.
On Easter Monday the family received a letter from Diane, threatening to cut off ties with them. Diane wrote: “I want you to know that I am safe.
Amadon is everything I always thought he was. Now that I have left home and am a married woman, I am no longer under your control. This is my choice and the life I want.”
After several attempts by family members to persuade Diane to return home, her mother and sister Laurie decided to pay the LLF a visit in Oregon – to ensure that she was well.
“She has been indoctrinated,” Karene said at the time. “She listens to everything Amadon says, and doesn’t question it. She doesn’t seem to understand that our reaction to her actions is natural. She thinks everything we’ve done is ‘nuts’.”
Shortly before their departure to South Africa, Karene and Laurie were visited by Diane at their hotel. It is assumed that Amadon had brought Diane, as she couldn’t drive.
She insisted they apologise to Amadon for “all the nasty and bad things” they said in emails to her. Karene refused. But she came away feeling a little better: her child was not being drugged or mistreated.
“How could we apologise to such a conscienceless person – who lures a 15-year-old over the Internet, waits until she is 18 and then whisks her out of the country into a marriage? I am sure that she knows how much we love her.”
The McMillan family have chosen not to comment further. It is believed Diane is still married to Amadon and still a member of the LLF. She has no intention of returning home.