Twelve-year-old Benjamin Pace is clearly enjoying himself as he steers the family riding mower in lazy arcs around the lawn under a hot Texas sun.
His mother, Alexa, sweeps clippings from the nearby sidewalk. Family friend Ophelia Santoyo waters rose bushes alongside the yard. The scent of the grass and the drone of the mower complete a scene of domestic tranquillity repeated thousands of times a day in towns and suburbs across America.
Revitalizing Their Faith
Charred timbers, buried in weeds, can be found nearby. The Pace family lives at Mount Carmel, the infamous land outside Waco, Texas, where David Koresh and his Branch Davidian followers went down in flames in 1993 after a 51-day standoff with the federal government.
Charles Pace brought his wife and three children to this bloodstained land in the hopes of revitalizing the Branch Davidian faith and preserving the memories of those who died here, including four federal agents.
"We believe that this place is full of the Holy Ghost," said Pace, "because this was a church community, and we all worshipped the Holy Spirit here."
Pace preaches at Mount Carmel in a handsome, recently built chapel. He treats patients with various new-age therapies in a double-wide trailer dubbed a "wellness center." There's a memorial with a stone marker for each of those who died on the property in 1993, as well a small, one-room building slated to be a visitor's museum.
The Branch Davidian sect is a tiny offshoot of the Seventh Day Adventists. Pace has been a Davidian since 1973 but left after a 1984 confrontation with David Koresh.
Followers Lacking in Numbers
Pace nonetheless believes the Waco tragedy was inevitable.
"This was prophesied that it would happen," he said. "We members of the church knew that this was going to happen. He told everyone that he was taking on sin and that he was going to die. And he was going to be basically punished for what he was doing."