There are two kinds of talking to God in the world, regardless of your beliefs. In one version, a person talks to their god through prayer and may even say God spoke to them and told them they need to become a veterinarian, or devote their lives to Xbox, or whatever it is. We usually accept this as normal. It’s typically metaphorical. The other version is when people claim God told them to do something the rest of the world would define as not normal. These people are often mentally unwell. More than one serial killer has claimed to be doing God’s word. With that in mind, here are 10 other people who claimed, for better or worse, to be acting on God’s orders.
10. A 23-Year-Long Cave Dig
Levon Arakelyan had one job: dig a potato cellar for his wife. It seemed simple enough, and the Armenian man set about the task. He started work in 1985 and didn’t finish for 23 years. Not because it was a tough job to dig a potato cellar, but because he’d received a vision. He was told he would perform a miracle and even if he got sick to not fear, he would be seen through to the end of his task.
What Arakelyan did was dig a seven-story deep system of caves beneath his home, all by hand using a hammer and chisel. It goes down 21 meters, features seven rooms, electricity, and a series of stone carvings made by Arakelyan. It is currently a museum. During the dig, once word spread, neighbors would bring food to help sustain him during the task, though he often shooed them away for interrupting him.
Arakelyan worked tirelessly at his task, saying God had instructed him to do it. He was working on the cave the day he died at age 67. It’s still a place you can visit if you head to Avan-Arinj in Armenia and ask to be taken to Levon’s Divine Underground.
9. The World’s Biggest Twine Ball
More than one person claims to have made the world’s biggest twine ball, but there are, of course, several ways to judge bigness. Does that mean the tallest? Heaviest? Longest if it were unrolled? The heaviest ball is said to reside in Wisconsin and is the work of James Frank Kotera, otherwise known as JFK.
The ball weighed over 20,000 pounds in 2016 and had been started 37 years prior. It was in 1979 that JFK says he spoke to God. The Lord told him to stop drinking – and he admits he was a drunk at the time – and instead, look to twine. So, since 1979, he worked for three days a week at the local dump, then spent four more wrapping bags of twine around the ball.
8. A New Language
There are a handful of “made up” languages out in the world that are still fully functional and can be learned well enough to hold a conversation. Klingon, Esperanto, and even Elvish are all languages that were intentionally made in recent memory. You may be less aware of a language called Volapük, created by retired priest Johann Martin Schleyer after God told him in 1879 to make a language that everyone in the world could speak.
It’s considered the “oldest international auxiliary language,” so that makes it something unique if still relatively rare. The language draws heavily from English as well as French, but it never caught on very well. As for the reasons why, they may be debatable but you can find more than one site on the internet making fun of the fact that, in Volapuk, the Lord’s Prayer starts with the line “O Fat Obas.”
7. Raise Money or Die
Televangelism and greed have a long and storied history. You can likely find hundreds, if not thousands, of stories and articles about fraud and theft and shady financial dealings online if you go hunting for them. Jesse Duplantis told his congregation that God needed him to have a $54 million private jet. He also once claimed that the reason Jesus hadn’t returned yet was that people weren’t donating enough money. So it seems like there are no depths to which some of these alleged men of God won’t sink when it comes to lining their pockets. But what about Oral Roberts?
The famed televangelist made headlines in 1987 when he was raising money for the university that bears his name. He told his congregants that he needed $8 million or God was going to call him home. In other words, God threatened to kill Oral Roberts unless people paid him $8 million. In some circles, that’s called extortion and/or ransom.
Roberts made a career out of fundraising off of visions. He said he saw an angel once and then sold statues of it. He had a vision of a 900 foot tall Jesus and fundraised off of that. Word is he raised $9.1 million.
6. A Temple in the Form of an Operating System
Do you know where God and technology intersect? For the most part, established religions don’t have a lot to say about technology since it wasn’t really a thing when those religions were getting started. When Christianity hit the scene, things like the wheel were still pretty revolutionary.
Terry Davis was developing a way to bring God and tech together after the programmer said he spoke to God. The result of that was TempleOS.
After being diagnosed as having both bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, Davis said he’d suffered a number of delusions about aliens and government agents. He moved in with his parents and says God came to him and told him to build him a temple in the form of an operating system. He fully acknowledges that this sounds like another manifestation of his mental illness, but doesn’t believe that’s the case. It took him 10 years to create it, and it’s still available today if you’re so inclined to speak with God through it.
5. Ending Slavery
Harriet Tubman’s legacy is one of immense bravery and compassion. She was one of the most important figures in the anti-slavery movement and personal helped many find their freedom thanks to the Underground Railroad. What is less well known is how Tubman was motivated to do this job. It was more than a sense of obligation for her, more than something she felt she needed to do for herself and for her people. She was motivated by God.
Tubman herself had been a slave for 30 years and suffered serious health issues, including narcolepsy and migraines. Those conditions may have played a remarkable role in the hero she went on to become.
As a child, Tubman had been assaulted by an enslaver who demanded she help restrain another slave. She refused, and the man ended up throwing a lead weight that hit Tubman rather than the other slave.
Because she was a slave, she received no medical attention. It’s believed that the head trauma caused the conditions from which she suffered, conditions which often include vivid hallucinations. She reported having numerous visions which she believed were from God.
She later said that God spoke to her not just once, but every day of her life. It was his direction that helped her choose her path in life, and that included devoting so much of it to helping free the enslaved, even on dangerous missions, when her poor health made the task even riskier for her. She believed she had divine protection and that, in turn, gave her the strength and courage to do what she was doing.
4. A Continued Career in the NFL
Reggie White was a force to be reckoned with in the NFL during the 1980s and ’90s. The defensive end won Defensive Player of the Year two times and was second all-time for most career sacks. He was also known to be devoutly religious, which earned him the nickname the Minister of Defense.
In 1998, White retired from the NFL in his 14th season. He was having some serious back issues, and he felt that his time had come. He announced his retirement on a Sunday. Then on Monday he was undergoing back surgery when he said God told him to not retire. He needed one more year to fulfill a contract he’d signed, despite his bad back. He had signed a contract the year before, that was for five years, of which he only needed to fulfill two. He had given his word that he’d pull out that second year, so he decided to give it another shot, though he was out for the 1999 season.
White did end up coming back for the 2000 season, playing for the Carolina Panthers before retiring once more when the season ended.
3. A Dog Poop Cleaning Business
If you were to ask a minister or rabbi or other theologian about why any god would make humans in such a way that we need to excrete solid waste, which is to say poop, they might tell you it’s because that particular god wanted us to eat and be healthy, and that’s part of the process. Fair enough.
Brian Hetzen, a janitor and founder of Disciples on Doody, said God spoke to him one day while cleaning a toilet. His mission? Spread the good word while cleaning up dog poop. He cleans yards and prays for the families of the dogs. Maybe not the most glorious of callings, but still a useful one. They’re still listed as being in business, and the company was founded in 2006.
2. A Giant Tower
Televangelist Rex Humbard’s plan was to build a tower. The biggest tower you could imagine, toward the end of spreading the word of God. He just needed $25 from every one of his followers. Then he’d make a massive tower that rose above Akron, Ohio, that could transmit the gospel to every country in the world.
Humbard was not able to secure enough money for his vision. The tower was started, and they made a pretty decent go of it. Things like the revolving restaurant meant to top it never came to fruition. What was meant to reach over 750 feet stalled out at 500 feet and achieved the less than complimentary moniker of Rex’s Erection. It’s been that way since 1971, when construction ended after just 22 days.
1. The World’s Biggest Tree House
Most kids love the idea of a tree house. It’s a house in a tree; there’s really nothing to not like. But there’s a serious difference between the average tree house and the one created by Horace Burgess over the course of about 20 years.
Known as the Minister’s Treehouse, Burgess claimed that God instructed him to build the house in 1993. Burgess used six oak trees as support to build a 10-story monster of a building that featured 3,000 square meters of living space and was constructed with over 250,000 nails. It had 80 rooms, a wrap-around porch, classrooms, bedrooms, and a kitchen. So it was less of a tree house, and more of a tree mansion.
The 10th floor was a penthouse suite, while there was an open space large enough for basketball inside, and even a half ton church bell. In 2012, the local fire department shut it down for being in violation of local fire codes. This turned out to be a very good idea since the structure later succumbed to a fire that tore through the entire place in just 15 minutes.