They are an “Army of God” waiting for Armageddon at their compound in a remote corner of New Mexico.
They wear uniforms, have ranks, and take their orders from a self-appointed “general” named Deborah “Lila” Green who claims to be an “Oracle of God.”
And for the hundred or so members of the Aggressive Christian Missions Training Corps (ACMTC), former followers say, Green’s word is law.
“Lila claims to be God’s prophet and people in the group don’t question her,” former member Maura Schmierer told NBC News. “To not believe Lila Green is equal to sin.”
The secretive Christian sect found itself thrust into the national spotlight earlier this week when Green and three of her followers were arrested and charged with rape and abusing children, as well as failing to register the births of children on their compound in Fence Lake, New Mexico, a speck on the map some 100 miles west of Albuquerque.
Four others were arrested with their nine children when, according to police, they tried to flee their headquarters.
Arrest warrants obtained by NBC New allege that Green presided over a compound where the births were not reported to authorities and children, who held the rank of private, were trained to hide when the police came around.
Green also was loath to allow in doctors, not even when a flu virus "passed through the camp in 2013," according to the warrants.
One child — a girl allegedly smuggled in from Uganda — was treated especially badly, the warrants revealed. She became Green’s personal slave and was reportedly “treated like a dog” and whipped bloody for the most minor of infractions with the equivalent of a cat-o-nine tails, the warrants state.
That girl, who is named in the papers but is not being identified by NBC News, told investigators that she was sexually abused by Green and by her son-in-law Peter Green, also known under the name Mike Brandon, who raped her four times a week from the time she was seven, the warrants allege.
“Lila claims to be God’s prophet and people in the group don’t question her. To not believe Lila Green is equal to sin.”
Green is charged with child abuse, four counts of sexual penetration of a minor and negligent abuse resulting in death, according to a criminal complaint. Peter Green is charged with 100 counts of criminal sexual penetration of a child, the complaint adds.
Another follower, Stacey Miller, allegedly fled the compound after investigators began looking into the death of one of her children during the flu epidemic. She was arrested on a child abuse charge in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. She told police the child died after he "began to leak puss from his forehead."
Miller admitted to investigators she did not report his death to the authorities.
Yet another key member of the sect, Joshua Green, is charged with failing to properly register a birth, according to the warrnats.
All were being held in the local lockup and it was not immediately clear if they had gotten lawyers. But on their website, the sect denied the charges.
“We don’t know who all the accusers are, but the accusations are just re-runs of old lies that have been investigated and shown to be malicious attacks against a legitimate ministry,” they said in a statement obtained by The Associated Press.
Schmierer joined the sect some 30-years-ago when it was called the “Free Love Ministries” and based in Sacramento, California. She first described her ordeal in a National Geographic special report.
In an interview with NBC News, Schmierer said she didn’t see any sexual abuse while she was part of the group for five years.
“But I witnessed a lot of child abuse,” she said. “We were taught we had to be hard on the children to raise them up to be Christian soldiers. When my son was 6 months old, we were in one of the services they hold all the time and he made a cute noise that distracted everybody. I was instructed to take him into another room and beat him. I couldn't do it.”
Schmeirer said Green's husband, "General Jim" Green, was the official co-leader of a sect that believed the world was hurtling towards a final battle between good an evil that only they would survive. But his wife called the shots, she said.
“They kept everybody in line by keeping us hungry and tired,” she said. “We would get awakened in the middle of the night for prayer sessions. They would limit our access to our families on the outside. They would even require us to change our names, which is why Lila’s son-in-law goes by Peter Green and not his real name.”
A former sect member named Johanna, who asked that her last name not be revealed, said she was a troubled teenager when she joined in 1984 and finally fled in 2003.
“General Jim has a bit of heart compared to her,” she said, referring to Green. “At first it was her and him running everything. But by the time I left, it was just her. I was pregnant with the child of another cult member and I knew I would be punished if I stayed. I had to leave my two other kids behind to get away.”
Asked why she didn't leave earlier, Johanna answered, "I believed Lila when she said I would go to hell."
Julianna Gudino was identified in the court papers as one of the people interviewed by investigators. She said she was in the sect for 20 years. The authorities first got wind of what was allegedly happening on the compound when the girl from Uganda was brought to a local hospital in either 2007 or 2008 with a broken leg, according to Gudino.
“She had rickets and her legs were really fragile,” said Gudino, who lived on the compound when the girl was there.
The child was removed from Green’s custody by the state Children Youth & Families Department and placed into foster care, she added.
What happened to the girl afterward was not immediately clear.
“Due to New Mexico state law, we are unable to release any information regarding any prior investigations that the agency is involved in,” CYFD spokesman Henry Varela said. “We do currently have an active investigation into this matter and will continue to work closely with law enforcement within our legal means.”
Rick Alan Ross, an expert on cults, said he is very familiar with this group and said it runs on the backs of the free labor done by the children. He said the grownups are sent out to sell baked goods, picture frames and other trinkets they manufacture and the money goes back to Green.
“In my opinion, they fit the profile of a classic destructive cult,” he said. “It’s run by Deborah Green. She is the charismatic personality. Her husband is subordinate. Whatever comes out of Deborah’s mouth is the word of God. Everybody’s wrong except Deborah.”