Exclusive: Christian 'Night Raiders' in battle for the souls of Gloriavale

There is a battle going on for the souls of the people of Gloriavale - a battle that is taking place night after night at the fundamentalist Christian community.

Newshub can reveal religious groups are undertaking night-time raids to drop off material that presents a different view of God.

But Gloriavale's leaders are striking back; it has a night watch set up to stop anyone from getting in.

On the night we visit, a car is blocking a one-lane bridge on the way in to Gloriavale. In the car is Helpful Christian, who says he is part of the night watch.

"I'm here to stop people coming on the property that we don't want coming on the property," he said.

Gloriavale's Helpful Christian
Helpful Christian. Photo credit: Newshub.

Gloriavale is fighting continuous night raids by well-meaning missionaries.

The 'Night Raiders' sneak in to deliver alternative religious messages. Their mission is to break what they view as a religious cult.

Thrown out for changed beliefs

And it worked - with John Ready, who has just got out of Gloriavale.

"I always resist the words I left. I always say I was thrown out," Mr Ready said.

"Thrown out", because his view of God changed - thanks to pamphlets left by the night raiders.

They come from South Island churches that we agreed not to name so they can't be prosecuted for trespass - and they bring with them religious material.

"They would bring it in at night and sort of stash it round and in about places," Mr Ready said.

The pamphlets are called "contraband" by Gloriavale's leadership - contraband they would eventually expel Mr Ready for having.

The Gloriavale compound is really just a farm, so the raiders leave their messages where they can, and they don't give in - they have been at it for years.

"They keep coming, they keep persisting and wanting to free people, basically. Literature, pamphlets, books, to understand better the word of God," Mr Ready said.

John Ready and Patrick Gower
John Ready and Patrick Gower. Photo credit: Newshub.

He said Gloriavale has one main line of defence: the night watch. They stop other religious groups from coming in.

But they are not watchful enough to stop the raiders, who approached Mr Ready while he was working before dawn on one of Gloriavale's dairy farms.

"Half past three in the morning, bringing the cows along the race - and then all of a sudden, 'What, there's people at my window'," he said.

Like all in Gloriavale, Mr Ready is a big believer in God, and had his mind made up about religion. But his mind was challenged - and changed.

"My whole concept of God changed; the light came on, he was a God of love pursuing after me to save me from myself - not a God holding me over Hell, threatening me."

That meant challenging what Gloriavale preached, clashing with its leaders and being caught with contraband.

It is clear from spending time with Mr Ready that the real breakdown came because he challenged Gloriavale's view of God. And for those trying to free people from inside - this is the way to break the so-called 'cult'.

Using a different, more forgiving view of God is way more effective than calling in the police.

Getting out of Gloriavale

Those involved with the night raids say they have helped 75 people leave over the past five years.

Several requests were made for an interview with Gloriavale's leaders - but they declined.

Helpful Christian said the raiders weren't welcome.

"If you want to come on you go through the leaders, and the leaders will sort out what we need to be reading and things like that," Mr Christian said.

Mr Ready says he was forced from the community - and forced from wife Purity Ready and his family of nine children.

He loves them, misses them and has a message for Gloriavale's leaders.

"You've actually got no legal, moral or spiritual authority to separate me from my family."

Newshub.

Contact Newshub with your story tips:
news@newshub.co.nz