USA 2005 – 2011
I began supporting GFA missionaries in 2001, after hearing Brother K.P. speak at our church about the native missions concept. My family has a long history of missions involvement, and they spoke well of Gospel for Asia’s work on the field. Chrissy and I were dating at that time.
As I kept reading the updates from the field, I got more involved in supporting the ministry financially, and one day in late 2003 I received an invite to go to India on a Vision Tour. After praying about it I felt I should take the opportunity, and in February 2004 I went on a 10-day tour of GFA’s work in Mumbai, Hyderabad and Kerala. The group of donors I went with was phenomenal, and we bonded and had a great time. I greatly enjoyed rooming with Strat G., and talking with him about reaching the lost and personal evangelism. David C. also led that trip.
During the trip, I met KP during a layover in the airport, and we talked about the web development work I do and the need for technology on the field. Toward the end of the trip, KP invited me to join staff. I was humbled and blessed by this offer, and took it seriously to pray about it. In fact when he made the offer, I remember saying “I’ll pray about it,” and he gave a very persuasive response: “In the Great Commission, Jesus didn’t tell the disciples to pray about it. He just told them to go.” At the time, I thought, yes, I ought to pray and see if GFA is where the Lord will have me carry out the work of the Great Commission for however long He wants me there. Looking back now, I can see that the implication of KP’s statement: I would not be carrying out the Great Commission if I remained in my secular line of work.
This reminds me of a story about Martin Luther and a new Christian, in reference to Christian calling. Tullian Tchividjian tells it well:
Martin Luther was once approached by a man who enthusiastically announced that he’d recently become a Christian. Wanting desperately to serve the Lord, he asked Luther, “What should I do now?” As if to say, should he become a minister or perhaps a traveling evangelist. A monk, perhaps.
Luther asked him, “What is your work now?”
“I’m a shoe maker.”
Much to the cobbler’s surprise, Luther replied, “Then make a good shoe, and sell it at a fair price.”
In becoming a Christian, we don’t need to retreat from the vocational calling we already have—nor do we need to justify that calling, whatever it is, in terms of its “spiritual” value or evangelistic usefulness. We simply exercise whatever our calling is with new God-glorifying motives, goals, and standards—and with a renewed commitment to performing our calling with greater excellence and higher objectives.
One way we reflect our Creator is by being creative right where we are with the talents and gifts he has given us. As Paul says, “Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God” (1 Corinthians 7:20,24). As we do this, we fulfill our God-given mandate to reform, to beautify, our various “stations” for God’s glory–giving this world an imperfect preview of the beautification that will be a perfect, universal actuality when Jesus returns to finish what he started.
For church leaders, this means that we make a huge mistake when we define a person’s “call” in terms of participation inside the church—nursery work, Sunday school teacher, youth worker, music leader, and so on. We need to help our people see that their calling is much bigger than how much time they put into church matters. By reducing the notion of calling to the exercise of spiritual gifts inside the church, we fail to help our people see that calling involves everything we are and everything we do—both inside and, more importantly, outside the church.
I once heard Os Guinness address a question about why the church in the late 20th century was not having a larger impact in our world when there were more people going to church than ever before. He said the main reason was not that Christians weren’t where they should be. There are plenty of artists, lawyers, doctors, and business owners that are Christians. Rather, the main reason is that Christians aren’t who they should be right where they are.
“Calling”, he said, “is the truth that God calls us to himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do, and everything we have is invested with a special devotion, dynamism, and direction.”
Needless to say, I did pray about it – for six months – and it seemed good to join staff at GFA. At this time I also got engaged to Chrissy, and we were married the next January.
I actually interviewed solo and accepted the role on staff before I even made my engagement to Chrissy official – a mistake I do not recommend repeating, as it was very inconsiderate of my future bride. But I corrected it and got engaged to her a few weeks later, and she was gracious with me. She is also very loyal, and was completely willing to go wherever I went, even though it meant leaving all of our relatives and moving to an entirely new place. We were joyfully married the next January, almost 10 years ago.
At first, I was so eager to join, that I offered to move down just weeks after our marriage. But as it turned out, neither of us had any peace about that. Our pastor counseled us that the Holy Spirit is a Spirit of peace, and that since we were feeling so uneasy, it was wise to wait until we had a clear peace from the Lord about going to Texas. We wisely took his counsel, and waited about 4 months before revisiting the decision. At that time, we did feel peace about it and planned our move.
During those 4 months, KP called me a few times, concerned about my delay, and at one time he told me that when God called Abram out of Ur, he just went right away, and had Sarai not followed him, he would have gone anyway. Now this is speculation about Abram, and it was also very harmful speculation about me, the assumption being that Chrissy was holding me back from going where I was called – when in reality, it was the Holy Spirit holding me back. I regret not recognizing and speaking against this at the very first moment, and it was at this moment that KP began to subtly insert his authority in between me and my wife, and this event did serious, long-term damage to our marriage to this day, in that Chrissy from the start saw that I was putting a ministry and its leader above her. Worse, I did not correct this until years later, and even during the past three years since we left GFA, it has been a process.
Though I gave ear to KP, I did not take his advice to come sooner, but we went when it seemed good to us, later in 2005. When we arrived, some of the ladies greeted Chrissy, “So you’re the unsubmissive wife we’ve been praying for all year.” No wonder Chrissy’s cult radar went off years before mine did. Needless to say, women were commonly viewed as un-submissive (translation: rebellious) any time they didn’t fully embrace every single tradition and teaching at GFA unquestioningly.
Those who did were labeled “core staff” and this was idealized as the standard of measure for anyone who is truly committed to their calling. Many, many staff were (and still are) frustrated by the fact that despite their best efforts to commit their whole lives, they were never brought into the inner circle of “core staff”, never added to the list of safe staff to seek counsel from, or never added to the list of safe families to host students and field leaders. It seems to me that this non-acceptance was because leadership didn’t feel they had total control over them. Unfortunately this practice created division, hurt and burn-out, and fostered feelings of rejection, envy and hopelessness that despite one’s best efforts they couldn’t “measure up.”
However, I think they are still better off than those who truly have yielded full control of their lives to leadership – those who have done that have embraced the lie which GFA leaders have said to many people: that if GFA leadership leads them into sin, they won’t be held accountable, rather the leaders will – as though GFA is God in the Abraham sacrificing Isaac story. These people must have silenced their conscience far too many times, and I fear for them, because a seared conscience is very dangerous. Far better to repent and take back the responsibility God has given you, even though it may come with shame for having allowed GFA leaders to usurp your God-given authority over your wife and children all those years in many areas.
Beginning in 2004 while we were raising support, and into the first year while we were on staff, a large group of staff families left – probably about 20 staff or more. Some of these were folks we had already gotten to know pretty well, and this surprised us greatly. But already we picked up that it was definitely not kosher to talk to ex-staff or really dig into why people left; we were taught that many ex-staff would say words that have subtle power to poison us and draw us also away from our calling to serve God [GFA] as happened to them. About this group specifically, leadership said some pretty nasty things went down with them, including immorality, and they said you probably won’t want to know, it was so bad, but if you have questions, please ask. Being young, and still very much putting KP on a pedestal, I just took his word for it, and of course the way they put it, we felt like we would be meddling and digging up dirt on people that was not our business if we did ask about the details, so we decided to be content to let it be, and not ask them about anything. How I wish I had, now, in retrospect.
One time around the middle of our stay at GFA, perhaps 2008-2009, KP announced at a prayer meeting that it is not safe for staff, especially younger staff and students, to seek counsel from just anyone else on staff. He said that some staff are not where leadership believes they ought to be in terms of spiritual maturity, and may give bad advice that would lead one in a wrong direction. He said this right in front of all the staff! Then he said leadership had compiled a list of those staff they deemed safe to talk to, and he encouraged everyone who wants to talk to other staff to get this list. I still wish I had asked for it – it would have been quite interesting to see who was on it. In any case, that made all of the staff question ourselves, especially when it was discovered who was and wasn’t on the list. I recall one of our friends being very frustrated that even though she had given her whole life up, left everything and served GFA for many years and even jumped through every hoop she felt she needed to, she was not on that list. It made her seriously question her standing with God, thinking she must have hidden sins or flaws she doesn’t know about. Honestly most of us felt that way. In hindsight, this seems to me simply a control tactic – an attempt by KP to block the influence of anyone except his most faithful followers, the ones who would never question him no matter what, the ones who would not even confront him if he were found to be lying.
It’s again ironic to me that one of the books KP wrote is entitled, “Seek Only God’s Approval,” but in that meeting he said, “We have a list of people here who we approve for you to get counsel from [others are not approved.]” So you cause staff to intensely seek leadership’s approval in addition to God’s approval, because not being on your list makes them feel they don’t spiritually measure up. Inevitably this will cause them to seek your approval even before seeking God’s approval. They’ll think that by gaining your approval they thereby gain God’s.
At least three times during the six years I was there, KP held a staff meeting with a Q&A session. I remember asking a question at each of those meetings, and each time, I did not get an answer, but more of a reprimand. Usually I would select a question that nobody else was asking, but that I knew everyone wondered about. There was not much transparency with leadership, even though they always tried to appear transparent by saying their door was open for us and we could ask any question.
At a Q&A meeting early on in our time at GFA, I asked if GFA has any policy, or general advice, regarding single staff who are interested in pursuing a relationship with another staff member or in general. At the time we were friends with most of the young single adults, as we had no kids and always hosted them at our home, and we knew there seemed to be many unwritten rules. Some couples had been upbraided by leadership when they began a relationship without seeking leadership’s guidance or approval first, not to mention that the singles were frequently reminded by the married leaders of where Paul says it’s better for one to remain single. The implication seemed to be that it was best to push off getting married and give your best young years to working at GFA as an un-distracted single (not that that would change when getting married, because of how wives and concerns of family and children were often portrayed as a burden on a man in his ministry vocation as opposed to a help and a blessing.) So people were confused about it. This question I submitted anonymously, and nobody guessed I was the one asking since I was already married. KP’s answer was very brief and gave no real specifics at all. Nothing about any policy or preference, only “seek the Lord” or something like that. After the meeting there was quite a stir among the staff, wondering who asked the question, and I recall people being disappointed that KP did not really answer it or directly address the questions about policies and advice.
Another meeting was a Q&A about the campus, probably in late 2010. When it was first proposed, KP showed a picture of a well-appointed cottage with gardens all around it, and said this was his vision for the staff housing. Everyone was surprised and excited about it, but later we found out that they were only planning to initially build 8 single family houses and the rest of the buildings were to be multi-family dwellings. Considering that there were probably 40 or 50 staff families currently living in single-family homes, and considering this was very different than the initial vision he proposed, this caused quite a stir among people with 3 or more children wondering how they would downsize like that. Anyway, my question was something along the lines of, “Do you plan to build more single-family homes in a future phase, or are you expecting most staff to downsize?” KP did not even begin to answer the question, and never addressed it directly. This was becoming a pattern. Instead, he immediately went into a long rant about why we should consider sacrificing all for Christ and why this concern seemed to him like selfish, greedy motives. Later I asked another leader, who gave me the simple answer I was looking for: leadership wants most people to downsize into townhomes or apartments. Why could KP not just have said that? Not only was he not transparent, but he was harsh and judgmental when he had no reason to do so.
Speaking of that, there really had been no discussion whatsoever with the staff involving their input about the campus housing and how everything would be set up. It was as though all the staff were children, whose parents were taking care of everything, except the leadership really had no way to know if their plans would really work well for the staff. I realized this and that it could have a big effect on how many staff actually chose to live on campus.
Finally there was a third Q&A staff meeting, in which I asked the question, “Has leadership ever considered surveying the staff, in order to solicit feedback about the campus and to see who is actually planning to live on campus, before we build all of this?” By this time I suppose I had become a thorn in KP’s side, being the guy always asking the questions. In fact we heard from a friend that one of the senior leaders told them that I was exactly that! Well if it’s a thorn for KP to answer simple questions from his dedicated staff, then I consider it an honor to be that thorn because he ought to be doing that. In any case, he appeared quite agitated, and with a raised voice, responded: “If we listened to everyone’s input we’d never get anything accomplished. I am the shepherd, and you are the sheep.” I thought of many things I would have liked to have said, like “in the Bible, shepherds don’t beat their sheep,” or, “why then does it say ‘Servants’ Quarters’ on your office door?” – but literally I had no response. After the meeting, many of the staff came to us visibly grieved, apologizing on behalf of KP at how he responded to me. He never apologized to me about it though. One staff member emailed me to say, “I’m sorry KP slapped you down like that.” This action by KP woke a few of our staff friends up to the abuse and they left not long after we did.
Moments like this, when the leaders’ abuse comes the strongest, cause staff to respond in one of three ways: leave, question it and get fired, shunned or blacklisted, or simply look the other way. Some may have looked the other way (or been starved of rich Bible teaching) long enough that they may no longer be stirred by this kind of treatment.
After these various meetings, I found out that Q&A questions submitted by staff were filtered before even getting to KP, to pull out any that might bring up issues he doesn’t wish to talk about, or put him in an awkward position. This was another dent in the transparency and trust.
KP did make himself available to speak with me freely, until I started asking questions. I always felt like KP and I were on friendly terms but later I saw that it was really about his agenda and how I fit into accomplishing his goals; otherwise I was completely dispensable.
For most of my time on staff, other than the things I named already, I didn’t feel like I personally ran into a lot of abuse. Perhaps I had higher boundaries up from the beginning than many did; I was not willing to be a yes-man. But, unfortunately I did fall into this in some ways and it took me far too long to finally start listening to my bride, who had been complaining from the day we arrived at how GFA treated women and how her image of God and ability to relate to Him and pray without constant guilt was being messed up. In fact to this day she testifies that it’s hard for her to pray without hearing an Indian man in her ear telling her to sell everything she has or God won’t hear her. She also recently realized that the insomnia she’s been dealing with for the past 3 years started the very day we left GFA – and apparently we’re not alone in this; we’ve found that a number of other ex-staff or their kids suffer PTSD-like symptoms or nightmares about GFA.
Another prayer meeting I distinctly recall is when KP was on his usual topic of “stay in the battle [at GFA]” and spoke about spiritual authority. He explicitly stated that if he were to ask one of the staff to move to Burma, and they responded that they would pray about it, they would be in sin. Many other staff and ex-staff certainly recall this meeting. At the time, I took a strong note of it, and it opened my eyes to the fact that KP may actually be serious about this! Most of the time KP said things, he would seem to go back and forth from one extreme to the other, like “sell all you have and spend every free hour in the office” to “we need to remember to rest – go take a vacation” – so it kept you guessing, and taking everything with a massive grain of salt. This drove Chrissy nuts, because she’s very black and white about things and won’t accept pat answers or half-truths, whereas I was usually more of the attitude of giving pretty large benefit of the doubt and saying, “I’m sure that’s not exactly what he meant” or “under certain circumstances I could see that he may have a point.”
In 2010, the Lord put a burden on our hearts to adopt children from foster care. We were inspired by our friends the [T’s], who were always looking for opportunities to minister to people and were real servants to the Body of Christ – it seemed that if something was on their heart to do, they would just go do it without hesitation. I remember asking the Lord how I could emulate that, and immediately adoption came into my mind and I knew it was time for us to do it. We had been married five years and had not yet borne children, so we also felt the timing was good in that regard, even though lack of children was not the reason we chose to adopt.
Since this would be a change in our family, I thought I would go seek counsel about it from KP, to see if he had anything wise to impart to us about it, and to keep him in the loop about our family plans. We did not feel obligated to do this, but simply felt it would be good. KP met with us and told us that we were free to adopt, as if he assumed we were there to ask permission. This is the power he thinks (and tries) to wield, successfully for so many staff.
If there was any doubt about whether GFA leadership thought they owned us and that we therefore ought to have sought their permission and followed their advice for family decisions as personal as whether to have a child, David C.’s response in his July 21, 2014 email to me clears that up:
“There is a clear teaching and messaging from the leadership regarding family, ministry, or personal life, that the overriding priority in all of these is Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, or Christ in your family, Christ in your ministry, Christ in your personal life. There is plenty of deeds that support this, such as us giving one of our department coordinators about a year off to return home to care for her aging mother or even your wife, JD, who needed to reduce her time serving in the office for her well-being and then later stopped serving altogether to care for your adopted child.”
Here David C. says that GFA did us a favor and a good deed by simply allowing Chrissy to become a mother! And by allowing her to stay home when she was sick! Do not even secular employers do that? Actually they do it better because they don’t speak badly of or shun people for taking leaves of absence for health problems, or for new mothers leaving to become homemakers. I suppose he thinks they weren’t obligated to allow us to make these family decisions, that GFA had every right to prohibit Chrissy from becoming a homemaker, or staying home when sick.
He of course felt it would be very likely to distract us from our call, which as he saw it was simply to serve GFA for life and nothing else significant. That is how KP views calling, for his staff anyway. He also told us that our children would come with demons, and bring trouble into our homes, and gave that as another reason to avoid it – but in our minds, we see that as a reason to embrace it and bring victory through Jesus in those precious childrens’ lives. Not to mention, what a way to congratulate someone on a new child coming into their life: “Get ready because they’re going to come with demons and distract you from your calling.” So we left that meeting with no support from KP on the matter, but more of a thinly veiled opposition, and despite this discouraging meeting we pressed on in what we were convinced God, not KP, was telling us to do. KP’s lack of support of this seemed to come through in a couple of ways as our first adoption proceeded.
As we began the matching and waiting process, we wondered if we should ask to be put on the prayer sheet, which had a section for anyone who was pregnant. We knew it was likely to be less than 9 months until our adoption was finalized, but we figured someone would approach us to add us. Nobody did, and we didn’t bother much about it. When we finally had a match that we planned to follow through on, who is now our wonderful son, there was only about 6 weeks left until he would come home, so at that time I really felt that we needed prayer more than ever. It was then that I requested we be added to the prayer sheet. Well, to my surprise I was told by the prayer sheet coordinator’s assistant that we could not be added. I went over and spoke with the prayer coordinator to ask why, and he said that it was because they did not have any more room in the “expecting” section on the prayer sheet – that adding a line for us would mess up the alignment or something like that. I was again speechless. Who was so against us adopting? I really didn’t think that coordinator would have the gall to make a call like that on his own. I did tell my own coordinator at the time, who also had adopted, and he immediately had some words with that prayer coordinator. I don’t recall if we ever ended up being added or not, but this seemed like a real slap in the face by GFA leadership.
Well, we went ahead and adopted our son, and it went quite smoothly. Our family absolutely loves him and it was a total joy. Once he came home, and even leading up to the adoption, we took on additional expenses setting up his room, getting furniture and baby stuff, etc. But I waited until he was actually with us before asking for the customary raise given to families that have children. GFA salary is based on family size and level of need, within a pay range that represents somewhere between 150% and 250% of the federal poverty level and increases for larger families. GFA has officially documented HR policies regarding these pay levels.
I went to David C. to ask for the requisite increase (a few hundred dollars a month) and he told me that the ministry was not doing well financially and could not grant my request. He also spent some time telling me that I was already near the top of the range for a staff couple (which was irrelevant as that was based on existing needs including my school loans,) and he proceeded to give examples of other families on staff that had multiple children and were managing on less income than I currently had (no doubt, they were applying KP’s teaching to give up everything possible in an effort to free up more dollars for program expenses, even though some of them could have raised more support, or did raise it and chose to allow the excess to go to the general fund.)
This was an offense to me, and began to show me the legalism and desire to usurp submission from the staff in GFA leadership. It was completely irrelevant to my request, and was essentially a rebuke for my current standard of living, which was within the range GFA dictated from the start.
At that point I was considering discussing the possibility of raising additional support, but as it turned out, God had already provided a better way for us. Just a month or so before that, I took a part-time programming contract which I worked entirely on nights and weekends about 15-20 hours a week, to help offset serious losses I had taken on some rental properties I owned at the time. I knew that I could have made a case about it, but I thought, you know what, why should I take time away from the ministry to do a support trip, and raise money from donors, when I can earn it on my own time? So I did not press any further for a raise but remained at the family-of-2 income for our family of 3. We began to recover financially, and this helped us greatly. At GFA, the incomes are so low, that most families do not have room to save or invest anything at all, not even for long-term savings for occasional expenses that everyone must pay at certain intervals of time, such as large vehicle repairs or a new vehicle or even new tires, replacing home appliances, expensive foundation and plumbing repairs in the old, poorly built homes in Carrollton, etc. So when extra money did come in, it got absorbed by all the things that we held off buying the entire time we were on staff, things that wear out like linens, clothes, etc. But we were thankful that despite GFA leadership’s treatment of us, God took care of us.
As 2011 progressed, there was more and more talk about the campus, and I kept building a growing list of serious questions and concerns in my notebook, which I began trying to find a time to discuss with K.P. I actually made a list, entitled, “My hopes for the future Gospel for Asia, and what I perceive to be currently threatening those hopes.” That list was the foundation for what would eventually become the letter that I drafted this year (2014.)
At a prayer meeting on 7/5/2011, KP sharply chastised the staff for their discussions about the campus housing. I actually transcribed the audio from that evening in my notebook:
“I’m so worried when we talked about the East Campus, that a few began to murmur, “what kind of house will I have?” “what kind of space will I have?” “Would I have this? Would I have that?” I tell you what, a day sooner and earlier you can find some other place, you’ll be happier. Because we offer you nothing more than hurt and tears and agony and anguish, you and your children, for the sake of Him who died on the cross and nothing less and nothing more. And I made the decision once again, as I read the pages of the book, and I said hell is a real place and heaven is a real place. I don’t care what others think about me. Good or bad, I made my decision to move on to the end, and I invite you to consider Him.
“Don’t stop and consider your future, your health, your wealth, your well-being – please don’t – it will soon be over. I can bet on it. If you don’t believe me, please, call me, I’d like to talk to you.”
And I also wrote my own comments in the notebook that day:
Are you saying GFA will provide for the retirement of staff who become too frail of old age to work? It would be pretty bad if someone couldn’t serve on staff anymore and had no retirement, but was left to care for themselves at that point. At another time you suggested that it’s wise to save 10% of our income aside. But I can bet that people right now are thinking of investing that 10% into gospel tracts or something.
There are many proverbs which teach that it’s wisdom to consider one’s future and foolishness not to. If you’re saying what I think you mean, which is not to be self-centered when considering your future, that could not have been less clear.
Are you also saying that if anyone enjoys their life and doesn’t go looking for ways to suffer and find anguish and pain, that they are not on track with the rest of us? What is the meaning of that? It’s one thing to be willing to suffer for the Lord, but quite another to suffer unnecessarily. People WILL misread this and think you’re speaking of self-imposed austerity – and they WILL be deceived into thinking they are more spiritual – earning favor with God – by doing so.
I think it was more than a few people who were asking those questions, because everyone was interested in knowing and it was never made clear to them, leaving everyone wondering. When you say people were murmuring about what kind of house they will have on the new campus, you made it sound like they all had selfish motives and were only concerned with getting the nicest possible amenities.
However many of us were not murmuring with evil intent, but rather just openly discussing what our new living situation would be like, hoping others might have more information since we didn’t have much. Where they will live is a very significant topic for everyone especially as they consider how to plan for things like timing of the sale of their current house, whether or not to make certain home improvements and where they will invest their existing home equity.
When you first showed us the drawings of the ideas you had for the buildings and homes on the east campus, you showed some beautiful single family dwellings, suggesting that we would be able to choose one of them. And there would be townhomes and apartments available for those wanting a smaller living space. Everyone loved it and 95% of those I talked to said they wanted to move onto campus.
Then shortly after that at another meeting, it was shown that only about 8-12 single family homes would ever be built on the campus during the initial phases of development. When the staff raise the question of how this would be sufficient for the 40+ existing families that have single family homes, no answer was given. After the meeting ___ explained to me when I asked about it that the assumption was that most everyone would move into a townhome. That was definitely not clear in the presentation. After that meeting, about half of the staff I talked to expressed hesitation about moving on campus. With this mindset, will we be judged by everything we have? When we bring a new car home, will we be looked down upon? Will people who’ve given up their vacations look down on those who travel to a nice destination? Legalism and judgmentalism are just waiting to strike, and they are already alive and well among our staff.
The staff was never asked for their input. If they were they might not be murmuring.
This “beating of the sheep” (as these scoldings became known among some of us) was way over the top, and not even appropriate, considering that it’s very normal when families to discuss the details when they are preparing for a big move and change of lifestyle. Speaking of the “nicest possible amenities” which KP so harshly scolded us for supposedly wanting, I find it ironic that now that the campus is built, who has the largest house with the nicest amenities, offset from the rest, and gets driven around in the back seat of his car by a staff member, but KP himself. Even before the campus, his home in Castle Hills was one of the nicest staff homes. I never had any problem with how much or little earthly resources people have stewardship over; that is not a measure by which to judge someone, as in the parable of the talents some were given more and some less, and yet all were expected to be faithful with the entire amount. But it’s another thing for KP to live inconsistently with the “Road to Reality” message that made him famous, about living bare-bones, and with the way he expects his own staff to live.
On August 15, 2011, at another Tuesday prayer meeting where KP was again praising men who forsook all including their own families to do the work of vocational ministry, Chrissy and I took the following notes:
KP is saying that the bible is very clear, in the KJV, that when Jesus says to leave everything, he means exactly that.
And he criticizes people who study the Greek and Hebrew trying to better decipher Jesus’ meaning when he says “leave everything.”
I have problems with this:
1. How can we determine the full meaning of what Jesus says without looking at the context?
2. While the truths of the Bible are relevant today as they ever were, it would be wise to understand the time these things were written and the audience. The more I learn about the bible, the more I see that the apparent contradictions only make sense if you study the context and realize what exactly people mean when they wrote these things (I.e. 1 John’s audience helps make sense of the verses that if we sin we don’t know God.
3. Jesus obviously could not mean to give everything or we would all be naked and without food. Obviously the Lord can provide these things and we shouldn’t care for them, but we don’t see examples of that actually being lived out in the bible. KP himself hasn’t sold everything. And he’s yelling at us for not taking it literally? This is trying to communicate a strong message but it will only make sense if we seek to make sense of it. How do we do that? Study the original context and language. But KP wants to criticize deep study of hard passages because he claims we’re trying to avoid the subject. But what’s actually happening is the nagging of not selling everything is so terrible, because I want to belong to Christ. So i search, because the scripture wouldn’t contradict itself.
4. When Paul was encouraging people to remain single, wasn’t it because of something going on in the Corinthian church?
5. When would the call of the Lord on your life contradict the covenant of marriage? That doesn’t make sense that God would do that. If marriage is supposed to unite two people as one, how could a union be contradicted in its call? I can understand a wife not wanting to go, but if she doesn’t follow her husband she is in sin. I still would like to know more about this. I didn’t know Tozer neglected his wife. Why is doing that so holy?
This finally stirred me to email KP, asking about his teaching on marriage and family vs ministry, and asking about his thoughts on the verses that speak of caring for one’s family and ones like, “He who finds wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord” (Prov. 18:22.)
A few days after I sent that email to KP, he approached me in a morning prayer meeting, and said that he certainly agreed with me that a man is called to love his wife as Christ loved the Church, laying his life down for her, etc. I then told him it would be nice to hear that teaching more often from the pulpit, as a balance to his messages about “true discipleship” and forsaking all to follow Christ, especially the frequent praise of men who left their “un-submissive” wives to go to a mission field or pursue the work of their vocational ministry. At this KP got visibly upset with me. He said they teach plenty on that.
I then reminded him that he had just held up A.W. Tozer in the last prayer meeting as a man who pressed into the ministry and didn’t allow his wife to “distract” him, and that I thought it was questionable to praise that as many historians (and by his own widow’s statements) believe Tozer neglected her. To that, KP responded to me, “You are not worthy to shine Tozer’s shoes!”
I was utterly shocked by KP’s response here. I wanted to say, “Tozer was just a worthless, hopeless wretch of a sinner, just like you and me Brother KP, and all his best works are as filthy rags before God but by His grace alone.” But I did not have the wit at that moment, and KP immediately began accusing me of being one who “talks” to other staff, I suppose with these kinds of questions about his teaching and so forth, as though that is a bad thing.
I assured KP that I do not participate in gossip, but told him I do have a growing list of serious concerns about GFA that I’d like to discuss with him for an hour sometime soon. To this, he immediately responded, “don’t waste my time any more with your questions.” Again, I was stunned. All these years he had this open-door policy, but the only time I have serious questions for him, he won’t discuss it?
He asked me point-blank if I disagree with anything he teaches specifically. At that moment, I said “no”, because I was still hoping that all my concerns were just misunderstandings, so I didn’t feel I could definitively say I disagree until I had a chance to discuss all the issues with him. But he reiterated that he was not interested in any further discussion about my questions. He said something to the effect of, “If you don’t agree with something I teach, you are free to leave, but I am not interested in your questions.”
At that point, my hand was forced, way earlier than I had expected. The options were either to leave, or to bury my head in the sand and not ask any questions ever again about anything he teaches, not to mention the already-long list of issues I had wanted to discuss. I knew that the latter option would never be a healthy way for a Christian to live, not to mention it violated my conscience. I took a personal day that day, and discussed the matter with our pastor from our sending church back home. His counsel was that it definitely appeared that the Lord was moving us on from GFA, and when he said that, we both looked at each other and could sense that immediately a huge, huge burden had just been removed from us. We felt free and joyful, confident the Lord had freed us and was moving us on to serve Him elsewhere.
The next day, I made the phone call to David C. telling him that I believe we are being called to move on from GFA. He accepted our resignation, and did not push back about it. KP may have been expecting it based on the prior day’s conversation. I told him that we would stay on staff for another 5 weeks, to train replacements in all the areas of our responsibilities, which we did. He requested that we not tell anyone that we are leaving, but wait for leadership to announce it. We respected that request, even though we felt that it was quite awkward to be training replacements and not be able to tell them why. Only a few very close friends knew about it, since we had already been discussing the whole chain of events with them. Quite humorously, one of them slipped and let the cat out of the bag a few weeks early among my whole department. I was glad for that though, and so were they I think, as it relieved the awkwardness. However, I did not tell many people the reasons I was leaving, and to be honest, almost nobody asked. That was the M.O. there and I knew it, so this was not much of a surprise, even though it did hurt that many close friends of 6 years did not even ask us about why we were leaving.
We were never offered, and never had, any exit interview.
We are very thankful for our time at GFA. We know that many things were, and still are, being done there which are sinful and very harmful to the staff, students and children, and dishonest to the donors. But the Lord used those years in countless ways to bless us also. We learned so much from the godly example of many on staff. We absolutely love the children there. And we know that our hearts were always to serve God – not to serve a man or an organization.
Every one of the staff at GFA are very dear to us, leaders included. We have so many friends at GFA, and we treasure the relationships we built with them. We cannot express this enough! I could write so much about all of the wonderful times we had with them and the countless ways that they blessed us and positively influenced our lives.
The whole reason I wrote the letter to GFA’s leaders this year was out of concern for the staff. I wanted to be able to tell my close friends there, in good conscience, what my experiences and concerns were, so that when they left abused or walked away from the faith or whatever other fallout happens to them that happened to other ex-staff before them, they would not be able to say to me, “Why did you never warn me about these things?” But I knew that just going and talking to all the ex-staff would immediately create walls, as the staff are conditioned not to talk with ex-staff, especially if it’s anything negative at all, true or not. I realized that the only way for me to go to them in good conscience and have a good chance of being heard was if I had first exhausted every opportunity to address the issues directly with leadership, and came away corrected or more affirmed in my understanding of the matters.
Yes, I had been very directly and strongly told by KP that he was not interested in ever hearing my questions. Also, 6 months after I left, in early 2012, I had even emailed him 5 times trying to get a meeting with him to discuss his teaching on authority – with ultimately no response after he promised to call twice and didn’t. At that point I didn’t feel I should pester him any further. But I knew that a more formal communication was the only way to show that I had really tried everything to address the leadership.
As it turned out, I kept hearing so many stories from friends on staff who left one after another, that we all began to realize that we all left for essentially the same reasons. I also heard that many of them had begged KP to listen to their concerns about these same issues, and he would not. It was then that I began praying about how best to address the issues, having realized that a one-on-one approach had been repeatedly tried by me and many others, to no avail. That led to the present day, where 75 former staff including me put together a formal letter to GFA’s leaders and board. It is my prayer that this current effort will be seen and used as a tool in God’s hands to bring correction, healing and restoration where it is needed.
If anyone is reading this who is on staff, know that we love you and pray for you. Boldly go before God’s throne of grace with only Christ as your Advocate – you need no other mediator between you and Him. He will guide you and provide for you. And know that there is now a large and well-connected network of former staff who have shared your experiences, who are willing to help you in any way you need.
Even though GFA’s leaders have definitely cultivated a cult-like culture of domineering “shepherding” theology and various other abuses, we believe that God is even now working in them to bring glory to His name, and we pray for them frequently. Though we personally took plenty of abuse and false teaching while at GFA, we have always forgiven their leaders from our hearts and we hold no bitterness, as God is our witness, toward them, in as much as we can know our own deceitful hearts.
One of the books KP wrote was a book about dealing with failure, and moving on from it. I believe that now is the time for KP and GFA’s leaders to be encouraged by the words KP published in that book, that after a deep or even catastrophic failure, there is grace at the cross. Oh, Lord, praise you for your grace! How wretched were we, yet you made us a new creation! How we continue to set up idols! May we all fall face down and seek you in humble repentance!