I, Will C., first heard of Gospel for Asia in the fall of 2005 when a Gospel for Asia speaker came to my church. The Lord used his presentation, along with the book Revolution in World Missions, to help me have a heart for those who do not know Christ. I immediately began supporting national missionaries with Gospel for Asia. I found out they had a volunteer program and I flew to their USA headquarters for training to be able to represent the ministry at conferences or at Churches.
In 2006 the ministry invited me to visit the mission field of India with major donors. It was a wonderful trip getting to see the brothers and sisters laboring to make the name of Christ known. At this point GFA represented itself as a non-denominational evangelical mission organization dedicated to spreading the gospel.
While in India I saw the “preachers” dressed in cassocks. It was explained to us that the Indian government recognized the Episcopal governance due to the long standing influence of the British Empire. While they were structured this way for the Indian government’s sake, they were really evangelical in practice, they said. I remember thinking, “Ok, be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” It wasn’t till years later that I discovered that they were pushing hard toward the Episcopal structure and practice. (Note: I want it to be clear it is not that I have something against Episcopal Church structures; the problem is that we were led to believe that the Church coming out of Gospel for Asia in India in practice was more aligned with a evangelical practices, like, say, a Calvary Chapel.)
I came back from India and continued to be a volunteer on the East coast. In 2009 my wife Tina and I interviewed with Gospel for Asia. During one of the interviews we were asked how long we were going to stay at GFA if we were invited to join staff. I remember my response was this:
We feel God is calling us to come and work in missions with Gospel for Asia. We will be here until either He makes it clear for us to leave or if GFA begins to deviate from godly principles.
We were told it wasn’t a yes or a no; it was wait. So we waited for a year, and in 2010 we began to raise support. In April 2012 we left Maryland, family and friends, and a good Federal job of 14 years and headed to TX.
I am thankful for the mission work we were able to do as we served as “unto the Lord”. I am thankful that we did not experience many of the abuse stories as others did. What we did begin to notice were little things.
We began to notice that people never confronted you directly, but that many “issues” were handled third party. As an example, at GFA we were told that as staff we babysat for each other and didn’t charge one another since we were all on poverty level salaries. One day a leader took me to lunch and told me we needed to pay for our babysitters. I told him that we would gladly do so but we were given different instructions. I asked him who complained so we could make it right with the young lady or perhaps her parents, and he said he could not tell me. This happened to us on other occasions in which the person with the problem didn’t talk to us directly but used a leader to come talk to us. We were annoyed with this and found it rather childish. We chalked it up to spiritual immaturity and didn’t hold it against them.
The other strange thing to us was we were strongly encouraged NOT to get involved with a local church because we could become so involved that we would eventually “drift away from reaching the lost in Asia.” The Bible makes it clear to be in a Bible-believing church, so we disregarded this “advice” and attended a local church, signed up for one of their marriage classes, and also participated in men’s and women’s retreats. This church was in Carrollton, the town we lived in before we moved out to the East Campus in Wills Point, TX. Later when we left GFA and moved in with friends who lived in Carrollton, we attended this same church, and this church family helped us overcome the loss of what was unfolding at GFA, and we didn’t feel as alone or isolated.
Also, I was perplexed that, with this many awesome Christians at GFA, there weren’t any Bible Studies going on at each other’s houses. I asked about that, and leadership told me that they were discouraged since their experience was that people became so hotly divided on topics like Calvinism vs. Armenianism and different views of eschatology that division was caused in the body and the work of reaching the lost in Asia was hindered. You don’t know these answers until you are there, and so, while it seems weird, you give the benefit of the doubt to the leaders, even though this never set well with us. Later on when we were all moved onto the campus, I raised the issue of Bible studies once more as a way to promote unity and still I got the answer: no not a good idea. (Not a good idea to study the Bible together?)
We were having a tough time making it financially with the shoestring budget that GFA told us to raise for our family, but we were trying to be good soldiers and not complain. To help us we were dipping into our savings (we had some $$ from the sale of our house in Maryland). We used up all of that savings while living in Carrollton, and were hoping to be able to save quite a bit once we moved onto campus. Well, moving onto campus didn’t end up being as cheap as they had told us it would be. Between now having to pay for our own health insurance (GFA dropped the group policy), more gas money because we now lived so far away from everything, etc., we ended up applying for WIC and Food Stamps just to help us survive. In hindsight I now believe GFA wanted people to deplete their savings so in the future you had no other options but to come to leadership for financial help, and, if you ever decided to leave it would be very, very hard. This is exactly what happened to us, as we now have a five figure debt as a result of starting over from GFA. It would have been worse if not for some great friends who let us live with them for 7 months.
Backing up a bit, during our time there, we were enjoying the prayer meeting, the mission, and the friends at GFA, and both Tina and I began talking about wanting to give a gift to the Lord to help in missions. We prayed and pulled out money from our IRA, which we, of course, were encouraged to do by leadership. We gave a five figured gift for very specific things we were told our money would go for, but by February, it was becoming doubtful that our gift really went for those things. We made several internal requests for all or part of our gift back since some of the gift was to sponsor children and missionaries for multiple years. We were told they couldn’t return the gifts, and they hid behind ECFA rules. I kept my email campaign to document the exchange, but to no avail.
In the summer of 2014 I remember the staff meeting when leadership addressed the letter from the Diaspora. David Carroll’s language and body language were apologetic like he was really sorry that so many former staff were hurt, yet KP Yohannan, sitting right next to him was the exact opposite—arms crossed and defiant. Tina and I didn’t want to read the letter, thinking it was a bunch of disgruntled former staff, and we had assurance that GFA leadership was addressing it. So we kept preparing for the move to the East Campus. As staff we were told that the Diaspora had taken things to the GFA board and that the board would address the issues.
We moved to the East Campus in August of 2014 and again we had great friends and neighbors on the working level who wanted to see the great commission fulfilled. We all had great hearts and our biggest desire was to honor God with our lives.
In the fall of 2014, during a staff meeting, we were told by leadership that a family was going to take a sabbatical, that they had been “in the battle” for a long time and they were taking a break. We were told “there is nothing wrong with their marriage” and that the ministry was going to start doing this for all the senior leaders. Later it came out that this was a lie and the couple was in fact having marital problems. Leadership didn’t have to address their marital problems with the staff, but they shouldn’t have gone out of their way to tell us a lie that “there were no marital problems.”
KP, in another staff meeting, told us that Gayle Erwin, one of the board members, was investigating the claims by the Diaspora. They told us he would be on campus talking to people, so feel free to talk with him. At the time I saw this, as many others did, as a good sign of openness. It turns out that Gayle Erwin didn’t interview any current staff or anyone in the Diaspora to see if the claims had any merit. He only interviewed GFA leadership.
In March the board of GFA issued their letter, and, after reading it, I was totally disappointed. Even though we hadn’t read the Diaspora’s 1st letter we did know the five things the former staff wanted addressed. We even agreed that some things needed to be addressed and had some merit. Gayle’s letter by the board found no merit to the Diaspora’s claims. (Months later Gayle Erwin resigned from the board, and let the Diaspora know his original report found that many of the Diaspora concerns had merit. See Gayle Erwin’s letter to the Diaspora. I encourage you to read it).
We were both shaken by this poor response and had hoped for so much more from leadership. I told David Carroll how disappointed I was in the board’s response, and he basically said that leadership was too, but that since the board is leadership’s higher authority, we have to live with it. We began to ask who was on the board—at the time there were seven, three of which were KP, his wife and his son. Not real independent.
People began to leave the ministry, and for us it began with my boss announcing he was leaving after serving 12 years. He has six children and was resigning with no job. He was the Communications Coordinator. Another man who was higher up in the leadership chain announced he also was leaving after 8 years. I told Tina I was going to take both of them to lunch to find out why they were leaving. What did they know that I didn’t?
First I took my coordinator out to eat. He told me the things he saw at his level of management and his efforts to affect change. I listened, and, while disturbing, I felt that organizations take time to change and things don’t happen overnight. Maybe it was my turn to step into his old position and do 5-8 years to help reform Gospel for Asia through policies and procedures. Your mind justifies quite a bit when looking for reasons to stay. This was on a Friday. I was going to take Travis, who served as the next level up in management, out to eat the next Monday. During our lunch he shared with me an email from a Canadian GFA leader addressing KP. In the email the leader ascribed to KP a Bible verse that was only meant for Jesus.
Why would GFA leadership feel it was appropriate to address KP like this? Secondly why would KP allow his staff to address him this way? I knew then that policies and procedures would not fix this but that the issue was pride—pride in KP. If he was this lifted up, then he could justify any lies to the staff. I came home and told my wife that we couldn’t stay. We prayed and cried and then tried to think of how to move on. That week was such an internal struggle of sadness, grief and anger.
Somewhere in there, there was a staff meeting where a GFA leader accused KP of letting people kiss his rings. KP, his son and other staff members denied that this happened, and KP actually stated that they taught against it. Really? Then what is this video?
Later when this video of people kissing KP’s ring came out, the next day a staff meeting was held in which he stated that (paraphrasing now):
You know the evangelical community eats its own, and you sin, I sin. We need to get past this, and, if you can’t, maybe you should leave. You would be surprised how defiled your heart has become. (End of paraphrase.)
Later there was going to be a staff meeting and staff were encouraged to submit questions ahead of time. So I asked the following.
- Why would GFA leadership knowingly endanger students by making them carry $4,500 on their persons while going to India?
- Was Donor money used to purchase the $65,000 statue of Jesus in the new hospital? (Yes it was.)
- Why would GFA accept a $20 million dollar gift from the mission field (Believers Church) to finish building the Texas campus? That looks like donor fraud!
The answers to these questions were so patronizing and sad it just continued to confirm they were hiding the truth.
One day Debbie C. stopped me in front of the GFA building one day and flat out asked me, “Whose side are you on?” We proceeded to have a very heated discussion, she basically accusing me of being disloyal and expressing her frustration over all the people who leave GFA and then join that terrible group, the Diaspora. I told her that, while this could all be persecution as she and leadership was telling everyone, it could also be discipline from God. It was an uncomfortable conversation to have in public, and I chalked it up to a wife defending her husband who was under a lot of stress. What I rationalized is that she doesn’t know the other side since she doesn’t read any of the testimonies or Diaspora stuff; she just blindly follows what leadership tells her, and much of the stress is self-induced by following a corrupt leader.
Once it was announced that we were leaving, certain people began to give me the cold shoulder. People that I worked with for three years sitting across the cubical didn’t speak to me anymore. I was shunned.
Certain staff and students came and asked me why I was leaving, and I would share with them my issues and concerns. On one occasion a person asked me and I began to share a few of my reasons. At that point a senior leader, Fred S., came along and proceeded to brow beat me and call me disloyal and a troublemaker. He stated that I was going around to staff and poisoning their minds and souls with my issues. He proceeded to ask/intimidate me: “Why are you leaving Will? You never came to me?” This was all very public in an open cubical area. I was totally caught off guard. I asked him who told him I’m going around “poisoning” people, and he wouldn’t say. He falsely accused me in public and offered no evidence to back up his claim.
He wanted to know why we were leaving right there so when I told him one reason was KP lied to staff saying people didn’t kiss his ring, yet there is a video of people kissing his ring that is out there on YouTube, his response was: “Were you there Will? Were you there?” I responded that I couldn’t know if Abraham Lincoln ever lived because “I wasn’t there”. Absurd reasoning! I pointed out that two current staff testified that they were in India and saw it—were they lying? He wouldn’t answer that.
After this incident I had other folks ask me why I was leaving, and I didn’t know if they were truly wanting to know or if they were trying to set me up. Fred’s conversation had a chilling effect. I was very ill until I left. Packing up my house and putting it in storage and moving my wife and kids in with friends was all very stressful, and doing it on a campus with hostile employers was even harder. It would have been easier to ignore all these facts as they came out and bury my head in the sand. Did I want to put my stuff in storage and move in with friends, uprooting my kids and wife from our day-to-day friends? Not really, but the alternative would be to live a lie and violate our consciences. I left with my wife and three kids with no job. About 4 weeks later I came down with a bad case of Shingles. Eight months later we moved back to Maryland, and I landed a job in my former field.
I am giving you this record of the last month of our time there to give you a picture of what life was like at Gospel for Asia AFTER the Diaspora letter accusing them of the five points of mistreating staff. Did they change their conduct? No. They did not have to be this way with me or the many others who left.
GFA falsely advertised themselves to potential staff, telling the potential staff they are joining an interdenominational missions movement, when in fact KP Yohannan is just building his denomination, Believers Church, with funds from unsuspecting donors and sponsors.
I give this testimony but I want to say that many of the worker bees, of which I was one, truly love the Lord and want to see His kingdom built. They, like us, want to see the love of Jesus shared across the world. Please pray for my friends who are still there and for those of us who have left, for this has been a very shaking time in my Christian walk. I came to GFA to serve the Lord and it goes to show just how subtle deception can be. I was deceived, but once the evidence is presented to you, you have a choice to make and for us it was clear.
Some are hung up on this “calling”. One current staff asked me how I know God was calling me out of GFA. It makes the assumption that one cannot make a decision unless you receive a special dream or word from the Lord. Well this is how I know we were called to leave: anytime you are in a church or group or place that begins to deviate from scripture, you have a choice to make—follow Jesus and what he has clearly laid down in His word or follow man. Yes, everyone sins, but when the leadership is habitually sinning, and, in this case habitually lying, you can’t follow them. You must follow Jesus and His word. That is why it is important to be grounded in His word and the truth of scripture like Hebrews says: “don’t forsake the assembling of yourselves as some are in the habit of doing”. That trumps anyone (in this case GFA leaders) implying that you really shouldn’t have close connections to a church or be involved because you might be led away. Stay true to Jesus my friends.
Blessings, Will and Tina C.