VINTON, La. (AP) _ Police were surprised when a driver wearing only a towel got out of a car, then got back in and sped off. They were dumbfounded when the car hit a tree and disgorged 20 people wearing nothing at all.

''The Lord told them to get rid of all their belongings and go to Louisiana. So they got rid of all their clothes and pocketbooks and wallets and identification and the license plate off their car and came to our gorgeous state,'' Vinton Police Chief Dennis Drouillard said.

''They didn't have any money. Not even a dime.''

All 20 were from Floydada, Texas, in the Texas Panhandle, about 550 miles from the southwest Louisiana town of Vinton. Drouillard said he believed they all were related.

Driver Sammy Rodriguez and his brother, Danny, both said they were Pentecostal preachers, Drouillard said.

Floydada Police Chief James Hale said he had been looking for the Rodriguez family since Tuesday night, when relatives reported them missing. ''They made statements like the devil was after them and Floydada was going to be destroyed if they stayed here,'' Hale said.

The family left in five or six cars, abandoning one in Lubbock and a second in San Angelo. Police found a third in Galveston, along with the family's clothes, pocketbooks, wallets and other belongings.

The chase in Vinton began after a campground owner called police. A Calcasieu Parish deputy stopped their car, and a man wearing only a towel got out.

''When the officer went to ask what was going on, he jumped back in and took off,'' Drouillard said.

They sped down Vinton's main street until the car hit a tree at the baseball park at the end of town. Fifteen adults, as old as age 63, piled out of the 1990 Pontiac Grand Am. Five children, as young as 1 year old, were in the trunk.

''And they were completely nude. All 20 of them. Didn't have a stitch of clothes on. I mean, no socks, no underwear, no nothin'. Five of them were in the trunk,'' Drouillard said.

The car was totaled, but the injuries all were minor, Drouillard said. ''I guess when you're packed in that tight, there's not much room to move around.''

Rodriguez was booked with reckless driving, flight from an officer, property damage and several minor traffic violations, he said. He was kept in custody.

Authorities said the entire group was released into the custody of a Baptist church in nearby Sulphur, awaiting relatives.

''We've never had any type of strange, off-the-wall actions from any of the family,'' the Floydada police chief said. ''The family here is going to go down and talk to them and see what they want to do.''