GARY, Ind. -- At the end of the world, God's flying saucer will hover over Lake Michigan to transport survivors of the nuclear holocaust to the next dimension.
Gary is God's loading dock.
That's the belief of a Taiwanese religious cult that prayed in the sands of Lake Street Beach in Gary on Friday (Jan 9), anointing the "headquarters" from which God will rescue all remaining life on Earth.
"After the Great Tribulation happens in 1999, God's flying saucer will carry off the survivors that come here," said the group's religious leader, Hon-Ming Chen, speaking through iterpreter and follower Richard Liu.
The cult's 21 adults and 11 children arrived in Gary Friday after driving two days from their home base in Garland, Texas.
"We just followed God's instructions," said the silver-haired Chen, 42.
On the beach, cult members stomped in the sand, waiving ritualistic objects such as ornate scepters, golden crosses and ceramic dragons. Chen threw fruits and rice into the water, periodically staring at his open palm. Chen speaks to God through his hand, followers said.
Their religion combines aspects of Christianity, Buddhism and science fiction. Among the group, two 9-year-old boys were said to be the reincarnations of Jesus and Buddha.
Commonly known as the Taiwanese UFO Cult, the group is often compared to Heaven's Gate, the cult of computer programmers who systematically killed themselves last year to rendezvous with a UFO trailing the Hale-Bopp comet.
Speculation on the Internet is that the Taiwanese cult, which claims to have 150 members, could commit suicide as soon as March 31. That's when they believe God will come to Earth in an exact replica of Chen in order to instruct humanity by means of television of what is to come.
But Chen said he and his followers don't intend to commit suicide if that doesn't happen.
"God tells us that suicide is never to be allowed, never permitted," Chen said. He, like others, wore a white cowboy hat through which followers believe that God's spirit enters their bodies.
The Taiwanese cult started its first chapter in California in 1995, after followers used their life savings to come to the United States. Chen, their leader, relocated the cult last year to Garland. which he describes as "God's office." The name, Garland, sounds like "God-land," he's been quoted as saying.
Chen preaches that a nuclear war in 1999 will trigger what he calls the "Great Tribulation." Those who survive the nuclear winter will be rescued by God's flying saucer. There will be other loading docks, but Lake Street Beach will be the headquarters, Chen explained.
"Regardless of any kind of religious sect, any believers in God, any life form in the American continent can survive the Great Tribulation," Chen said. "All those who believe in God and are willing to receive God's salvation can be saved by God."
Toward the end of the hour-long ritual Friday, several adults and an 8-year-old girl, said to be a leader in the coming dimension, took off their sneakers, rolled up their pant legs and waded into the lake's 36-degree water. Another part of the ritual came when members dipped ornate scepter-like objects into the lake. The group planned to return to Garland.
Asked if there's a spiritual connection between Garland and Gary, Liu answered: "Nothing is a coincidence," adding, "After March 31, everything will be clear."
Original file name: CNI - Taiwan UFO Cult.Gary Ind.
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