Glo­ri­avale mum of 11 drowns in river bank cave-in

The Press - - News - Sam Sher­wood sam.sher­wood@stuff.co.nz

A woman from the Glo­ri­avale com­mu­nity was stand­ing near a flooded West Coast river with a group of chil­dren when the bank gave way un­der her.

The body of Re­joice St­ed­fast, mother of 11, was re­cov­ered from the Haupiri River in the Grey District just af­ter 8am yes­ter­day.

St­ed­fast and a group of chil­dren had gone to check on the river on Thurs­day evening when the bank col­lapsed and she was swept away. She is the daugh­terin-law of Glo­ri­avale sec­re­tary and trea­surer Fer­vent St­ed­fast, and sis­ter to Glo­ri­avale founder Hope­ful Chris­tian’s wife, Ruth.

A Glo­ri­avale spokes­woman de­clined to com­ment yes­ter­day.

A po­lice spokesman said Search and Res­cue re­cov­ered the body of a woman miss­ing in the Haupiri River, Grey District, yes­ter­day.

The woman’s body was pulled from the river just af­ter 8am.

The death will be re­ferred to the Coro­ner.

In a video tes­ti­mony posted on Glo­ri­avale’s web­site, Re­joice St­ed­fast, who at the time had nine chil­dren, said she grew up in a large fam­ily where her par­ents had turned away from God.

‘‘In my home, there were of­ten fights, anger, fits of rage and even death threats.

‘‘My mother told me that she hated me. At times we were smelly and hun­gry, eat­ing out of rub­bish tins and wear­ing the same dress for six months at a time.’’

At the age of 13, she said she was ‘‘at the end of my­self’’.

‘‘I prayed ‘Lord you know I can’t take this any­more, I will ei­ther leave home or kill my­self’. I had an aunt liv­ing at the com­mu­nity and I prayed ‘Lord make a way that I could go to the com­mu­nity for a year’.’’

Fol­low­ing her year at Glo­ri­avale, Re­joice St­ed­fast went home where her par­ents were more abu­sive than be­fore.

She even­tu­ally re­turned to Glo­ri­avale and mar­ried her hus­band two years later.

‘‘He’s faith­ful and true and lives by the prin­ci­ple of the word of God.’’

Her death comes af­ter 20-year-old Sin­cere Standtrue died in early Novem­ber, less than two weeks af­ter suf­fer­ing a med­i­cal event at Glo­ri­avale on Oc­to­ber 23. A po­lice spokes­woman said the death was not sus­pi­cious. A coro­nial ser­vices spokes­woman con­firmed Standtrue’s death was be­fore the coro­ner.

Glo­ri­avale founder Hope­ful Chris­tian died at the se­cluded com­mu­nity in May. He founded the re­li­gious com­mu­nity in 1969 at Cust in North Can­ter­bury, be­fore the com­mu­nity was moved to the shores of Lake Haupiri on the West Coast and changed its name to Glo­ri­avale.

Since then, the com­mu­nity has hit the head­lines sev­eral times, in­clud­ing fol­low­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the cir­cum­stances of the death of Prayer Ready, a 14-year-old girl who had Down syn­drome.

Last week, for­mer US Navy en­gi­neer Howard Tem­ple was con­firmed as the new head of the com­mu­nity.

A for­mer mem­ber, who still has fam­ily in the com­mu­nity, said Tem­ple was ap­pointed the new ‘‘over­see­ing shep­herd’’ af­ter the death of Hope­ful Chris­tian. Tem­ple, who Chris­tian had ap­pointed his suc­ces­sor, re­cently spent sev­eral weeks vis­it­ing a Glo­ri­avale off-shoot in In­dia, he said.

Re­joice St­ed­fast

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