We feel that sharing some of our stories will help validate our concerns, and we hope that in them you will see the love and truth of Jesus.
While we have many more testimonies available, we hope the testimonies listed below will help paint a picture of the culture at GFA’s offices in the West.
GFA USA 2000-2004
Bernard pioneered the volunteer department and was department head
Jena wrote radio scripts for KP and articles for SEND magazine
Our family came to Gospel for Asia in the middle of 2000. Our children were six, eight and eleven. We had 10 years of campus ministry on staff with the Navigators, and my husband (Bernard) was one year away from tenure as a professor.
At a homeschooling conference, we picked up a free copy of Revolution in World Missions and the book spoke to our hearts. We had always wanted to be more closely involved with preaching the Gospel to those who had never heard, so when we realized GFA was looking for staff, we felt the Lord directing us to go. We sold our home, resigned from the university and raised our support rather quickly. People in our small town rallied behind us and we moved to Texas.
In general, the first couple of years were good. We felt like we were living our life’s calling.
Our family faithfully attended the weekly Tuesday night prayer meetings and noticed that almost every message was about “stay in the battle,” “it’s always too soon to quit,” and “don’t let anyone steal your calling,” which was explained as staying away from anyone who talks negatively about GFA and especially those who have “left the battle” (ex-staff). I was really surprised. Did they think our calling was so weak that it could be easily undermined? Did they think we were about to run away when we had given up everything to be there? Didn’t they trust us to listen to the One who had brought us there?
I excused it, telling myself they were extreme in their thinking, but I could block it out, focus on Jesus, and use my skills for Him. My husband had a harder time dealing with issues at the office. He has a mind for details, so any inconsistency with what he knew about the ministry and what we were communicating to donors really bothered him. He was also uncomfortable with how leadership treated staff. Every week, it seemed, he’d have a long conversation with David C. or John B., but those sessions would just go around in circles, with them trying to reassure him that everything was fine or that his views of things were wrong.
Head coverings for women during prayer meetings was introduced about six months before we left. Anyone who even hinted at disagreeing with KP faced accusations of rebellion and ungodliness. Even fellow staff would report on each other, telling leadership who was voicing concern, or who was not following orders. No one wanted to be viewed as ungodly, especially by KP, the man we all so admired and the one who held power over our paychecks and our social and family ties.
Three months after we left (March of 2005), a friend outside GFA asked why we left and I sent her this email:
“The whole issue of giving your life to GFA is a real problem. People who are ‘single-minded’ and give 110% are the heroes, and anyone else is uncommitted and in danger of losing their way. Ever since we came 4 1/2 years ago, I was amazed at how negatively KP talked to the staff. We had just given up everything, and I mean everything… but all we heard was we aren’t committed enough, we aren’t broken enough, God has to wrench the selfishness out of us.
There is an extreme ‘die to self’ mentality at GFA that over time we began to see as very unhealthy, even cult-like. For a long time, I would chalk it up to, ‘Well, they are just a little extreme in some areas, but overall, it’s a good ministry, and I can live with it.’
There are several things that opened our eyes. I think it all started when they went after Nicole, the young girl (around age 20) who lived with us, led worship and worked closely with KP. It’s a long story, but she went from a vibrant, sold- out lover of Jesus to a scared, self-conscious little thing who didn’t trust herself to make basic decisions without clearing it with KP first.
We’d been in campus ministry most of our adult lives, and this experience infuriated me. And it got deeper and worse by the day. KP way overstepped his bounds in telling Nicole who she could talk to, where she could live, and he told her things he thought about her… like she’s a compulsive liar, she’s no better than her mother and will end up like her (married to a drug addict and divorced), she was demonized, and that he had a vision about her that she had a dark blanket of oppression covering her. [My response was that KP was that dark blanket.]
Nicole would come shaking and crying to me when these things happened. I was not going to put up with this. I didn’t care if they kicked us out. I was not going to let them destroy Nicole. Bernard and I eventually had a meeting with KP where he said he was having a lot of trouble with Nicole and wanted our help. Well, I was ready. I looked him straight in the eyes and told him that he had overstepped his bounds and that he was controlling and manipulating. He looked at me, astonished, and said, ‘In 25 years, no one has ever said anything like that to me,’ and I replied, ‘Maybe that’s why it’s gotten so bad. No one has had the courage to confront you.’
The end of the story is that Nicole got ‘released.’ She was sent away with GFA’s blessing. She went to live in Washington State to have a chance to get to know a guy she was interested in. The guy she wanted to know is someone who was on GFA staff but got kicked out because he gave Nicole too much attention. That’s a whole other story. [You can read Nick’s testimony about that. They are now married and have a little boy.]
Not long after our meeting, KP put out a staff survey to see if other people thought he was ‘controlling and manipulative.’ [You can see the survey and read KP’s response email in the Communication section.] There was great hope. He was acting like my confrontation was a gift from God and that they would change. He apologized to another staff member who had been spiritually abused, and I was so hopeful for change. But then about a month later, KP fired that guy and asked him not to tell anyone that he, KP, had apologized.” [end of email quote]
After our meeting with KP, the survey, and our friend’s firing, KP started treating me differently, giving attention to my job (radio script writing) that he had neglected for months. We suddenly did hours of taping and he gushed praise over my abilities. He even said he wanted to start a radio show and have me on air with him. He said he ‘loved’ me and there was no need for ‘divorce.’
My husband thought he might be able to stay at GFA if he could be out of the office more, traveling to speak at churches and raise money for the children’s ministry, Bridge of Hope. Within a day of telling this to David C., KP said he had the idea that Bernard was supposed to travel and speak for Bridge of Hope. All of this was obvious manipulation to get us to stay.
John B. and David C. asked us not to tell anyone we were leaving until KP could announce it at a staff meeting. We agreed, but since KP was in India half the time, we had to wait at least a month. Bernard spent this time hidden away learning video editing (his choice and a survival tactic) for his supposed new role as traveling speaker.
When KP finally announced our leaving at the end of December, 2004, we stayed in Carrollton until May of 2005 because our son was in private school (we homeschooled the girls). During that time, only one or two of our closest friends at GFA reached out to us. One staff person offered to give us a goodbye party, but then leadership told her to cancel it. We knew that staff were under a lot of pressure to show their loyalty to KP and to avoid any appearance of “rebellion” by associating with us. Even though no one knew of the circumstances of our leaving and KP said nice things about us, still the idea that ex-GFA staff are rebellious and to be avoided is understood by all. I knew that trying to stay friends with people at GFA would put them in a difficult position, so I stayed away and did not try to maintain relationships.
In a nutshell, the realization that led us to finally leave was that KP had been put in the place of God. His commands were to be obeyed unquestioningly and his opinions were not to be debated. No amount of iron sharpening iron was allowed. No questions of interpretation were to be voiced. He often said staff were free to do this or that, but he also said he thought they were stupid or rebellious if they didn’t see things his way.
Our kids were then 10, 12, and 15 and we could not continue to raise them in that idolatrous environment. It got to the point where I told them to ignore the preaching section at prayer meetings, and we’d debrief when we got home. Life is too short to live like that. And we had done our confronting. It was time to go.
When I started at GFA on May 30, 2012, I felt like I knew the ministry well. I had visited the field for three weeks in 2005, interned at the office for a month in 2009, and I had been amazed and challenged by GFA’s ministry updates and books throughout. I was thrilled to be working with people I so deeply admired at a ministry that was so fruitful.
Pretty close to the beginning, I noticed some things that made me uncomfortable: Whenever we had a staff Q&A, KP almost inevitably dismissed questions by talking about how he had walked with God longer than most of us had been alive. A senior leader highly discouraged my new staff class from attending Bible studies. Elitist talk about staff was everywhere. And there were some unfounded teachings on biblical authority.
As someone who loved the ministry, who thought she had the greatest job in the world and was often overwhelmed by how lucky she was, I took it in stride. I didn’t speak up at Q&A meetings, I found a good Bible study, I praised my supporters, and I decided I could live with the authority teachings as long as they didn’t directly affect me.
Meanwhile, however, I began noticing some things I couldn’t ignore.
The First Two Years
Whenever we used a field report for a larger writing project, we had the option of asking for follow-up from the field. Sometimes it would be to clarify something; often it was just to get more detail. We generally weren’t asking because we doubted anything in the story, but over time, I started noting frequent discrepancies between the original reports and the follow-up.
In one instance, a dead mother had actually just run away. Another time, I asked about the symptoms a sick man had experienced, only to be told that he had never been sick. Sometimes there were cultural explanations (in the case of the mother, culturally, they would consider her as being dead), which comforted me. I never considered that if we were finding all these errors in the reports we did ask for follow-up on (the minority of reports used), there were probably similar errors in the reports we did not ask for follow-up on (the majority). I did, however, begin working farther ahead so I would have time to recover when projects had to be scrapped.
Another issue was the frequent dismissal of ellipses. When taking words out of a quote, standard journalistic ethics demand that one put an ellipsis (…) to show that something has been removed. Some writers, however, felt that readers would distrust the quotes if there were breaks in them. To the credit of my editors, whenever I insisted on ellipses, they told me I didn’t have to do anything I was uncomfortable with, but the practice continued around me.
June 19, 2014: A ministry partner wrote in, concerned that a missionary had said, “If you believe in Jesus and depend on Him, Jesus will heal you.” The partner was concerned because he didn’t believe we had any assurance of healing just because someone believes.
After speaking with a senior leader, the call center representative responded that he thought the quote was a paraphrase of what was said, not an actual quote. After just two years on staff, I knew the quote was a common thing missionaries said, so it is hard to believe that a senior leader would not also know this. (KP also confirmed to me, later, that missionaries frequently say this.) Nevertheless, a non-senior leader (NSL) asked the web team to change the quote to “can heal,” and said everyone should be on the lookout for these quotes and change them to “can heal.”
Date unknown: I wrote a description for a video about a girl who was abused and hated by both her mother and her father. When it reached my editor, she told me she had read the transcript from the interviews for the video. The transcript showed that the mother had actually been a protector of the girl, sneaking her food when her father wasn’t looking.
We rewrote the description to reflect only the father’s abuse, but we were told that it would be too much work to change the video. I was discouraged to hear that the slander of a woman was preferable to some extra work—however difficult that work might have been. This video continues to be reposted online.
Date unknown: I found out that some quotes from a School of Discipleship video had been tampered with. One student was quoted as saying something along the lines of, “I HAVE a devotional life that nothing can shake,” (emphasis mine) which was credited to her year at GFA. However, this former student says the quote was taken from the beginning of her year, when she said, “I WANT a devotional life that nothing can shake.”
Spring or Summer 2014: A frequent concern of mine was that students and interns learn to write engaging stories without embellishing. When I edited articles that speculated on events (without noting it as speculation), I marked it as such and asked students to rewrite it. Most students learned quickly, but one struggled with this throughout the year. Eventually, I was told, “You call it speculation, but” I needed to stop telling her “no,” because I was going to crush her creativity.
As all of these events added up I increasingly took comfort in the knowledge that, whatever anyone else’s standards, I could at least guarantee the integrity of my own work. On July 28, 2014, however, I began to realize that this was not true.
The Beginning of the End
July 28: I was writing a story based on a field report from 2010. I had received follow-up from the field (2014) and everything matched. When it reached my editor, however, she realized we had a transcript from an interview with the subject, taken in 2011. She noted several differences between the transcript and what I had written. Upon closer inspection, we realized that the transcript could not be reconciled with the report and follow-up.
Apart from a flood, a mom with five kids and the fact of Compassion Services teams, the two are completely different stories. A few examples: In the report, the father is gone and the family goes (with great detail) to a local shelter, where they stay for days. In the transcript, the father bails water out of the house, and the family stays at home because they don’t want to get separated while they go to a shelter. In the report, the mother watches her children sleeping without mats on the cold floor. In the transcript, she and her husband hold them in their laps because the water is covering the floor.
TO BE CLEAR: We are certain this transcript is an interview with the same woman from the report. Not only did the names match, but we also received pictures of the woman and her children in all three instances. There were also other identifying details that made it quite clear.
Our stateside field communications department was baffled as to how this happened, and the manager called the field. In the midst of this, I thought back to all the discrepancies I had seen in the past, and I began to wonder how I could do my work with the possibility of such great discrepancies as what we had seen in the Sri Lanka report and transcript. How did I really know which reports were solid and which were not?
July 30: I met with David Carroll and shared about the Sri Lanka report and transcript and the conflict I now felt about my job. David prayed for me and said this issue needed to be fixed. He asked if it were possible to verify all the reports we used, and I responded that we would have to drastically decrease our communications.
David suggested the possibility of working in another department, but I told him that if I couldn’t bring myself to work in the writing department, I didn’t think it would be right to work somewhere else and simply pass off the problem to another writer.
David strongly advised me not to go against my conscience. We prayed again, and I asked if I could take some time out of the office to continue praying. He agreed, and I went home.
August 3: After several people mentioned the possibility that most of our reports were trustworthy, I decided to look through the reports with follow-up from the last 12 months. My hope was that I would discover a very small number of discrepancies in these reports, indicating a small number of discrepancies in the reports we didn’t request follow-up for.
We didn’t ask for follow-up for most of our stories, so the number of reports I had to work with was small. It was enough, however, to indicate a large problem.
Out of 29 reports, I found that 13 had discrepancies. Some were insignificant, but about a quarter of the studied stories had significant errors. In some cases, our involvement was exaggerated or a situation was not as drastic as the original report made it seem (Or perhaps it’s the follow-up that’s wrong. There’s really no way to tell). This suggested that a good number of our other reports (that we didn’t request follow-up for) would reflect a similar problem.
August 4: After two workdays and a weekend out of the office, I asked for more time to pray, which was granted to me. Everyone acted very understandingly. I was informed that something had been changed already so our field communications department could talk more directly to the field.
August 6: My supervisor informed me that someone was being moved to the writing department. I was told this person wasn’t replacing me, and I think my supervisor truly believed this.
August 7: After completing my study of the last 12 months’ reports, I sent my findings to three supervisors within communications. I suggested that we might be asking too much of our correspondents and should ask for fewer reports so they have more time to solidly report on the stories they do send in.
One person replied to thank me for my hard work and feedback. She said, “I believe that only good can come from this, and that we all can learn so much from it. Definitely some good material to help us keep on refining our procedures.”
August 11: I met with a NSL, reiterating my concerns about the reports. He responded by asking me how accurate things would need to be for me to be happy. My response was that I didn’t know, but we should at least be trying for 100 percent. (I was asked this question several more times over the next few weeks. People insisted that we would never achieve 100 percent accuracy, which is true, but I thought we would get much closer to it if we aimed for 100 percent rather than 75.)
This NSL did tell me that Daniel Punnose had also received my spreadsheet of discrepancies and had already called our main Indian office about it. This was encouraging.
Next, I met with Daniel, and went through the entire issue with him. He explained one of the discrepancies as a cultural issue and said others were cultural issues or translation issues as well.
During the meeting, he expressed concern over how much writers waste reports. (This struck me as unnecessary because the reason I found the disagreeing transcript and report from Sri Lanka was that I was going through old reports from the last five years, trying not to ask the field for more if we already had things we could use.)
Daniel proceeded to tell me that the waste of reports bothered him more than the inaccuracies in the reports. He told me that he often apologized to the field correspondents, saying, “I’m sorry. They didn’t like your story.”
Later, I realized how absurd this claim was, because even as a writer and editor, I wasn’t aware of every report that was used or not used. How would a field correspondent who doesn’t get any of our mailings know what was used? And how would the vice president of the ministry have time to read everything we sent out? Further, Daniel would later claim that he didn’t realize how many projects we sent out.
As we talked further, I told Daniel that I wished we could verify the reports we sent out. Daniel very quickly said we could do that. This surprised me because he had previously talked about how insulting it was to question the field correspondents, and the information department had at times expressed concern about not overloading the field.
I asked Daniel if these things would be problems. He responded that it would be a problem if we asked the field to triple-check everything for the rest of their lives—then they would be insulted—but everyone knew there was a problem right now, and we could verify reports for the next few months while we worked things out.
I told Daniel that if that was the case, I could happily return to work. He suggested I take a couple more days for prayer. Later, I received an email from our field communications department saying Daniel had requested that they work out a verification system.
August 13: I emailed my direct supervisors to share about Daniel’s reassurance that we could verify reports. I told them I was eager to come back soon. We decided I would return that Tuesday.
August 14: Someone from field communications emailed me to let me know that the field was aware of the discrepancies and working on them. People had been communicating with the field about this. She also said she envisioned a checklist in the future to help correspondents double check chronology, ages, relationships, etc. at the interview level. In a meeting, they also discussed having regular cultural awareness meetings with the writers. She reiterated that we would be verifying the reports in conjunction with follow-up requests.
August 19: I returned to the office, excited to catch up on emails and get writing. My editor told me I could get started on some blog posts. I asked her what the process would be for verifying the reports the blog posts were based on. She told me we were only verifying reports for the bigger projects.
Several minutes later, she emailed me, telling me that if we had a report for a blog post or prayer digest email that seemed fishy or unclear, we could ask for verification. She added, “All of us are doing and will do our best to make sure we have completely truthful stories. We’re already verifying some reports.”
I responded that often, when we find a discrepancy between a report and follow-up, there isn’t any sign of the problem in the original report. Everything looks normal until we get the follow up, which means we would likely never ask for extra verification on short reports and thus never find the discrepancies in them. I told her that I wondered if I had returned too soon.
She responded, “So you’d like for us to verify every single report we use?” To which I responded affirmative.
A NSL came to my desk and asked if he could talk to me. When we got to his office, he asked how I was doing and then began hemming and hawing, saying he wanted to be careful how he told me this, because he didn’t want it to look like I was being moved for asking too many questions. He said we had a need in the print room for someone who was organized, and he asked me how I would feel about moving.
I told him I had come to GFA willing to be placed anywhere, so I would normally say, “OK.” However, I had just come to the conclusion that I wasn’t ready to come back after all because I had returned on the false pretense that we would be verifying every report we used.
As we began discussing the issue, Daniel walked into the office and sat down. He immediately began telling me that I wasn’t being punished, but that my name had come up a long time ago. (He would later tell me, indirectly, that it was about the same time when I first started questioning reports.) He repeated the need for an organized individual.
I repeated what I had told the NSL. Danny then told me:
1. It would be too much work to verify all the reports we used, and that I had a colonialist mindset to ask for such a thing. (Remember, I had already asked if verifying all the reports would be impossible or insulting and been told it would not be.)
2. A previous writer had had issues with the lack of accuracy in our reports. K.P. had talked to the writer and given him binders of proof that our reports were accurate (no such binders were offered to me), but Daniel told me the man had ultimately left because this all came down to a trust issue. He told me there was no policy they could put in place that would assure me of the reports’ accuracy. I, too, would never be convinced if I didn’t get over this “trust issue.”
3. I was under spiritual attack because Satan had me in a place where I couldn’t do anything for the ministry.
4. Pointing out that I had never worked for another ministry, he told me I would be surprised to know that there are ministries that make up 90 percent of the information they send out.
After Daniel left, I pointed out to the NSL that it didn’t matter if every ministry made up all their stories out of whole cloth—we should base our standards on God’s commands. The NSL agreed, but proceeded to tell me that the inaccuracies didn’t bother him because the main thrusts of the stories were true.
After the meeting, I packed up my desk, knowing I would not return to the office before we moved to the new campus.
Later that night: I told my parents about my job change, and how I had been told that it wasn’t because I was asking questions and it wasn’t a punishment. My mother said, “Lying doesn’t suit them,” to which I emphatically responded that I did not think they were lying. I told her, We disagree on the reports issue, but if I thought they would flat-out lie to me, I couldn’t work for them at all.
Date unknown (I believe either August 20 or 21): I met with Daniel again. I told him that since I had shared my perspective on the issue with the leaders, I thought it would be helpful for me to hear his perspective. I asked him to share with me how this saga had gone down in his eyes and what his thought process had been throughout. He gave me the history of GFA field communications.
He told me that GFA regularly does training with correspondents and that there would be more training in January. He told me that they weren’t doing this because of me but because it was the right thing to do. This was encouraging, and made me think that he understood the problem. (When I asked, in January, about the training, I was told that it had not yet been scheduled and they would see what the new year looked like. It did take place in April.)
I also asked Danny why he had originally said we could verify our reports, reminding him that, in our first conversation, I had pointed out the problems he had mentioned about verification. He told me he hadn’t realized how many reports we use for various projects. He told me he wasn’t as worried about the shorter reports because there were fewer opportunities for mistakes. He said we would watch the accuracy of the larger ones to gauge the accuracy of the shorter ones.
It was either in this meeting or our prior one-on-one that he told me people generally don’t leave the ministry over big issues; they leave over small issues, the implication being that my issue was a small one.
In this meeting, he also told me that my name had come up for the print room job “a long time ago,” which he clarified to be about three weeks prior.
We talked more about how some of the discrepancies were cultural issues. I asked him if he would be willing to go through my spreadsheet of discrepancies and explain the issues at hand for each report. He agreed.
The next day: An NSL said Daniel had told him we had an encouraging meeting. He said he didn’t want to bother me, but people were asking, and he wanted to know if I knew when I would be back. I told him I didn’t.
The first week of September, after much prayer and counsel from others outside the ministry, I decided to trust Daniel’s word that the shorter reports were more accurate. For that, I have to apologize to our donors. At that point, I still highly doubted our field reports’ accuracy. I had no business printing the stories based on them.
September 1: I began working in the print room. When my co-workers were out of the room, my coordinator asked me how I was doing and if there was anything in particular that had caused my move. I told him what I had been told: that there was a need for someone organized and they had sent me.
He told me he had asked many times about why I was being moved. He was confused as to why they would move a writer to the print room, and he had told ministry leaders that everything was running perfectly fine with two staff members and a student. He said people kept refusing to answer until they finally told him “something about ‘enhancing the print room.'”
With this new information, I met with the NSL who arranged my move and asked him why, if there was such a great need, my coordinator was confused about my even being there. He told me he had intended for me to take over as print room manager, but they weren’t telling people in case I didn’t stay.
I then asked the NSL why he did select me for the job. He told me that after I went home the first time, he started thinking about how he could give me a break from writing. He thought of the print room manager role and asked my supervisor questions about how I would do in it. Considering her answers and what he already knew of me, he decided I would be good for the job.
I asked him about what he had said in our first meeting, that I hadn’t been moved because of my questions, and he told me he hadn’t wanted me to think the role was being made up just so I would be out of the way. He wanted me to know I was filling an actual need.
I then asked him about Daniel’s claim that my name had come up before the issue with the reports. He told me, “I can’t think of any reason why your name would have come up.”
September 23: I decided to meet with Daniel and ask him why his and the above NSL’s stories about my job placement differed. To my surprise, he was prepared to meet about some follow-up we had received from the field about some of the report discrepancies.
In parts, this meeting was encouraging. Some of the stories had cultural explanations, and if these things were explained to the writers, it would eliminate some of the errors in our stories. (It eventually was passed on, in February.) Other parts of the meeting were deeply discouraging and disturbing.
1. One of our reports described a man who took the train to work every day and later expressed distress over his business. The follow-up, however, said that he was unemployed during this time. It seemed both of these could not be true. However, when we received the most recent round of follow-up, we found that the man had lost his job but his past employer still sometimes called him in for temp jobs.
Finding that each reporter had at least the partial truth was encouraging, but I asked Daniel, “You can see, though, how the first two reports seem to completely disagree with each other?”
Daniel responded that no, he couldn’t see that, because he would think that after two years in the writing department, he would know enough about the culture to understand that the man was being called in for random work at his old job.
2. One of our reports stated that a certain missionary’s bicycle was the only way he could reach a certain village. In our follow-up, however, we learned that before he received the bicycle, he had regularly taken the bus to the village. In the latest follow-up, we were further told that in the rainy season, the missionary continues to take the bus.
I pointed out that, deliberate or not, it was clearly a falsehood that the bicycle was the only way the missionary could reach the village. Further, had we not received the enlightening follow-up, we would have used that line and milked it for all it was worth, making sure people understood that an entire village wouldn’t have the Gospel without that bicycle.
Daniel insisted that people wouldn’t read it that way, however. He told me that I was reading into the line because I’m so analytical. He claimed that most people would assume that we were just saying it was the only way the missionary does go, not that it’s the only way he could go.
Even that interpretation wouldn’t be true, because we have two reports saying the missionary took the bus. Setting that aside, however, no one I have shared this anecdote with thought for a second that it could possibly mean anything other than that the missionary had only one way available to reach the village. This is the plain meaning of the text to anyone who is not trying to defend a ministry’s mistakes.
3. As we continued reviewing discrepancies, it seemed that Daniel saw me not as someone concerned about the ministry, but as someone trying to attack the ministry. At times, Daniel seemed willfully blind to what the discrepancies were, and I could only think that it was because he saw it as an attack on GFA.
4. At the end of the meeting, I finally got to ask Daniel why his story and the NSL’s story disagreed with each other. He repeated his claim that my name had come up before and said that the NSL must not have been in on those meetings.
Date unknown: At some point in October, the writing department began their cultural awareness training. During my time at GFA, it consisted of reading and discussing the book Cross-Cultural Servanthood, teaching the writers to be humble as they work with other cultures. It does not, however, teach them about the specific cultures they work with.
October 1: Confused by the conflicting stories I had heard about my job change, I asked to meet with David Carroll. Back in June, we had had a staff meeting about the Diaspora’s letter (even though staff didn’t receive it). While touching on the various points, David had actually tried to apologize for one of them. He was interrupted by another leader, who went on to defend the point, but that willingness to admit fault stood out to me. I trusted him.
Without giving any details of what I had heard, I told David that I had heard multiple stories of why I was placed in the print room and asked him the real reason.
He told me my name had been mentioned about two months ago (which would have been around the time I started asking questions), but that when I began struggling with the validity of our reports, it clinched the idea that I should be put in the print room. He said they were fixing things with the reports, but they had decided that, if for some reason I still wasn’t comfortable being in the writing department, I should be somewhere else. He told me he knew I was over-qualified for the job, and that he and other leaders didn’t see me there forever.
Couched as it was, it really didn’t sink in at that point that leaders had lied when they said I wasn’t moved because of the reports issue. It sounded like I was on the short list already and that the questions had been a minor thing.
October 31: In a meeting with several field leaders, K.P. Yohannan talked about the need for them to understand the needs of American culture. As an example, he said that they had recently moved one of the writers because she didn’t understand cultural things in the reports. When I heard about this later, the deception finally clicked. I had told my mom that I couldn’t stay if I thought GFA’s leadership would flat-out lie to me—because how can you trust someone capable of that kind of deliberate deceit? Now I knew, unless God performed a miracle, I would have to leave.
Christmas Weekend: I wrote a letter to KP, addressing deceit in communications, untrustworthy reports and the dishonest way my move had been handled. I laid out three suggestions: 1) Stop sending so many reports, so we can send more time ensuring accuracy (included in this was the idea of using each report for more projects); 2) verify every report we used until the new training had time to take effect; 3) take a strong stand on the issue of integrity. KP emailed me back, saying we would talk when he got back from India, and that we would do whatever we needed to do to fix the problem.
January 22, 2015: I met with KP. He told me, “We would die” before GFA would be dishonest. He said that if anyone in his family was purposely dishonest, “I would have no part with them.” He asked me what I suggested, and I repeated the recommendations from my letter. From that point on, I can’t remember the order of things, so I’ll just give some key points:
- He told me he admired my convictions, but went on to compare my objections over undependable reporting to the objections people had voiced when he was smuggling Bibles.
- When we talked about changing quotes to placate donors, he told me about missionaries who had reached a polygamist village. After much discussion, the missionaries had decided to advise husbands to stay with their multiple wives, rather than leaving them destitute. This decision had meant a loss in donations. KP asked me what I would have told supporters. I replied that I might not mention it at all if it didn’t come up naturally, but that if someone directly asked about it (as they had with the quote about Jesus healing people), “I would hope that we wouldn’t tell them, ‘Actually, the men each only had one wife.’”
On this note, KP explained to me that sometimes supporters will let smaller things distract them from the mission, so it was reasonable to change the quote. This is a common excuse at GFA: Donors won’t understand this or that thing, so we need to protect them or they’ll stop giving.
- We discussed the report from Sri Lanka (July 28). He told me it was probably just a mix up of two people with the same name.
- He told me he was concerned for my well-being more than he was concerned about the accuracy issue. He told me I should go live overseas for some time, and he would help make it happen.
- I had printed out the ECFA’s requirements for accuracy in communications. I read some key points that GFA’s practices conflicted with.
- KP told me he thought I should work with the field communications department (on the side of my regular job) to find out what had happened in the reports from my discrepancies list. I asked if we would make changes to our procedures accordingly. He said we would.
At this point, I almost thought I could stay. But I had to ask: What will we do to guarantee the accuracy of our reports in the meantime? The response was similar to what I had heard before: There are bound to be inaccuracies. There’s nothing else we can do.
With that answer, I almost resigned on the spot, but I wanted to see this problem fixed, so I went back to the start of the conversation, and we talked through everything a second time.
At the end of the meeting, I still didn’t resign. Full disclosure, I had a job interview the next day, and I didn’t know if I would be immediately kicked off the campus if I resigned (I wasn’t), so I decided to give KP a long weekend to think things through. It couldn’t hurt, right? I decided to wait until the following Tuesday, just in case he would have any news for me on Monday.
January 27: No news. I gave my two weeks’ notice. I was asked to keep things quiet until leadership had a chance to talk with me. I got permission to tell the co-worker who would be taking over for me. My close friends already knew the situation.
January 28: I asked if I could tell people about my leaving, and I was asked to maintain my silence. I did break the rules to tell a leader’s wife.
January 29: We had a staff meeting, during which KP told us never to trust a negative report, even if it comes from your closest friend. You should go to leadership and ask them if it’s true.
Shortly after I returned to my desk, I was cc’d on an email to the finance department, saying that January 29 would be my last day in the office and detailing my severance plan. When I asked my coordinator about this, he said the email wasn’t supposed to go out so soon. They had meant to talk to me first and offer to let me leave early but be paid through my two weeks. Given the gag order, and GFA’s history of sudden dismissals, I find the incident suspicious, but it is possible that it was a genuine mistake.
That afternoon: I met with my coordinator and David Carroll for my exit interview. We went over the reasons for my resignation. The first half was, admittedly, tense on both sides: I said I didn’t understand how we could call ourselves a people of integrity when we didn’t have any. David responded that we weren’t like other ministries who 1) ask a crowd of people how many of them want to go to America, 2) snap a photo, and 3) tell donors it’s people raising their hands to receive Christ.
We discussed the fact that I had been talking to other staff about the situation. We discussed whether I had to leave because I couldn’t be around other sinners or if it was that I felt like I would have to sin by being there (it was the latter).
David told me my last newsletter would have to be approved by my coordinator. I asked if I would be expected to just say that God had “called me on,” explaining that I would need to be honest with my supporters. David said I could be honest, and he thought they would be honest about why I was leaving. (In the end, he was outvoted, and the staff was told that I thought it was time to move on.)
We prayed, and then David asked if there was any way I would stay. I told him that, apart from my suggestions, I would have to have either a job completely divorced from the reports or a job actively working toward a solution. He asked about me working in field communications, to find the issues with reports and help make accurate stories. I said if that were a possibility, maybe I could stay. After the meeting, he went to talk to people about that.
I spent the rest of the day and evening praying about it. At that point, I was pretty sure it was time for me to just leave, but I wanted to be open to whatever God asked.
January 30: David told me he had talked with two other leaders. Those leaders didn’t think they could “shut down” everything like I wanted. For the record, I never asked anyone to shut down our communications, only to slow them down so we could guarantee our work. However, I didn’t argue the point. I had asked for clarity from God, and I had it.
The next week: I wrote my final newsletter, giving limited detail to my supporters about why I was leaving. I tried to stay upbeat about the ministry as I explained the conflict about the reports, but I did have to clarify something. In my previous newsletter (sent in October), I had told my supporters about my move to the print room and explained that I had been picked for the job because of the great need and my fitting skills. At that point, David had told me that the reports issue had clinched the job choice, but I still believed that my skills had put me on some kind of short list. Now that I knew that wasn’t true, I told my supporters the real reason, and said that I had originally given a different reason for the move because I had originally been told differently.
David wanted that explanation removed, saying he thought I knew the real reason. I told him that people had worked very hard to make me believe it was not related and that if I didn’t explain it now, it was like I was lying.
David told me he hadn’t realized that. He said I should keep it as it was, then, “because you never would have been moved” apart from the reports issue. “You were too valuable” to the writing department. He told me my name only came up for the print job because they were listing everyone in the office who could possibly do the job.
February 13 (after I had moved off the campus): Daniel Punnose told a room full of people that they had been seriously talking about moving me for the last year and a half, but I could never get the idea out my head that I was moved because of my issues with the reports.
GFA USA 2001-2002
Rebecca and I got involved with GFA when I was pastor of Calvary Chapel in Thousand Oaks, California. David C. spoke many times at our church, and I -would see him and John B. at pastors’ retreats. My wife and I read KP’s books, and we became supporters of the ministry. Our church sponsored 100 missionaries and built several churches in India. I was even able to go to India and teach in several training centers and the seminary. We were very impressed with the work.
In 2001, we wanted to be even more involved in the ministry, so we applied to be on staff. We, of course, thought the ministry would reflect what was said in the books. That was what we were signing up for. We raised our support in less than three months, sold my wife’s dream house, and moved to Texas.
I went to work in the Missions office with Bob M. It was a perfect fit for me, and I loved working with Bob. It was a great opportunity to work with the new people coming through GFA. I became known as the ‘cookie man’ for my passing out Nutter Butters everyday. How Rebecca and I loved the people!
Soon we noticed that everything in Revolution in World Missions was not how things really worked. I was surprised that not everyone raised their support as the book said. I recall one couple who had been working to raise support for two years. Because they weren’t able to reach the amount needed, we were told they weren’t “called” to the ministry. Others who raised no support and were not really familiar with the ministry, were invited to come. I asked John about this. He said, “We need their particular skills.” I replied, “But that’s not what the book says. It says you trust God for the needs of the ministry. How can you tell if they’re called?”
The ministry seemed to be moving in a direction different from the the books. The vision was now bigger and anything was permissible, for the ends were what was important. They were raising money in ways the books seemed to condemn. I, thankfully, can’t remember all the things I struggled with. It was 13 years ago. I told David of my struggles, and he seemed to have the same concerns. That probably wasn’t the case.
In 2002, I went to John B. and told him that I was going to go back to pastoral ministry. I told him all the reasons I was unhappy. Next I met with KP. He suggested I start a Calvary Chapel In Carrollton. I told him I was going back to California. I asked him if I could work until our house sold. He told me I could. I thought we were good.
Monday morning John met me at the prayer meeting with a box. He told me to clean out my desk and leave. I told him what KP said. He said he hadn’t said that. I must have misunderstood what had been said. I really felt badly. I thought of KP as a leader in the field of missions, and he had just been less than honest.
It took two months for our house to sell. We told anyone we saw that we were going back to pastoral ministry. (We did have a job offer.) We didn’t want to hurt the ministry in any way. We only told one couple of our real struggles, and that only the day before we left.
Romans 8:28 I still believe that God had a purpose in allowing this in our lives. I don’t understand His ways, but we trust in His wisdom. As it turned out, I’ve never pastored again. We have yet to gain back what we gave up to go to GFA. I know many of you must feel the same way. I pray for you. God is faithful and is able to heal all the broken hearts of His people. Praise Him.
There had been many issues involving Gospel for Asia that I gradually became uncomfortable with, and those are outlined in the enclosed letter so I will not expound on them here.
I was serving overseas in the GFA New Zealand office when I realized I could no longer ignore the warning signs that had been ever increasing. It was not until I was instructed that I would be staying overseas longer than my initial assignment that I came face to face with some problems I had become aware of, but not experienced personally.
When I say I was “instructed,” I mean it was announced to me that I would stay overseas. For a young, single woman, that is a substantial demand. When I asked questions to ascertain the details of this significant change, I was rebuffed, and my commitment to GFA (and even ministry in general) was called into question. Not only that, but I was specifically told that Gospel for Asia leadership did not expect me to pray, and even more than that, did not want me to pray, about whether or not this was God’s will for my life.
For a ministry that touts its dependence on prayer, this was absolutely shocking. All of my life, I have grown up in the church; my father is a pastor, I graduated from Bible college and have served in various ministry roles before coming to Gospel for Asia. The Bible has many teachings on prayer that I could quote, but I believe 1 Thess. 5:17 is pretty clear: “Pray continually.” There are also numerous Scriptures on testing what people say to make sure that it is sound teaching. Paul even states in 1 Corinthians 10:15, “I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say.” If we are to judge even an apostle for ourselves, and also to pray continually, then I see no Scriptural basis for any Gospel for Asia leader to ever tell any person, regardless of the situation, that they “are not asking them to pray.” Questioning Gospel for Asia is in no way tantamount to questioning God, but somehow it has become one and the same.
In 2006, I graduated from university and was searching out God’s calling in my life. I had been praying over several ministries and it was there I found GFA. I applied as a Road to Reality intern and kept my heart open telling God, ‘Wherever you want me to go, I will go.” I wanted to dedicate my life to Him in whatever capacity He called me to. God had opened the door for me to be at GFA and I had peace about His leading. I dedicated my year in 2007 as a R2R intern. It was a very tough year where I had to learn submission like I’ve never learned before. My housemates and our house leader struggled often as we tried to reconcile what having some independence looked like. DC often reminded us in our intern meetings that we were only dedicating 1 year of ministry for Him to use us and be shaped by Him. Eventually, we learned to just swallow things and remind each other, “It’s just for a year.” Our first 6 weeks were non-stop going in ministry activities. When it finally slowed and I felt I could catch my breath, I decided I wanted to find a temporary year home church. One of the other girls in another house warned me though that it wasn’t a good idea. She said she brought it before leadership wanting to join choir at one of the churches and was instructed by DC that it would distract us from our year calling. My housemates and I tried to find a church at first but since we often were told that GFA was our church, we didn’t attend any church regularly. This was a weird thing for me, but I just basically brushed it aside and thought, “Well, I guess for a year it’s alright.” There were other times during the year that struck me as weird. For example, when my housemates all were gone for a weekend and I was going to be home alone. I was actually excited so that I could have some downtime to myself and spend some guitar time without feeling like I would interrupt anyone. I felt sometimes ministry was so busy that I fought for that quiet time with the Lord. But, as the weekend approached, my house leader indicated that they didn’t “feel good about me being on my own.” So they had one of the staff members stay with me. I was initially really upset because I genuinely wanted to ask them, “What do you think I’m going to do? Honestly? I chose to dedicate this year…plus I don’t even have a car – and I hate driving!!” But I didn’t want to be rebellious so I just left it alone. When the year ended, I really had no desire to return. I had been encouraged by various staff along with my house leader that I had grown very much and I had demonstrated a desire to seek God in submission. I didn’t want to be pressured and so I told them that I really wanted to seek out God’s heart for me. When I returned home I really fasted and prayed for God’s direction in my life. I knew my heart was only to do the will of God whatever it was.
It was at that time that Danny P. had contacted me (which was strange for me because he was in India when I was an intern so I had no real connection with him) and had told me the Lord had put me on his heart to consider joining staff. I told him I was seeking out God and His direction in my life. I really didn’t want to join staff (I told God that) but as I continued to fast about it, I believe God showed Himself to me that I was to join the Canada office. My parents were uneasy about the whole thing and were concerned about my decision. But eventually they supported me in my decision and helped me support raise. I had raised my funds quickly and was able to move out to Stoney Creek in the fall of 2008. I was excited and had gotten to know the staff members there. My mentor invited me to live with her when I moved out. Things seemed the same except smaller than the GFA USA office that I had been in. Everyone’s heart seemed so genuine to follow God’s calling and I knew this was a gift from God. It was at that time that a new leader was also placed in the Canada office. I hadn’t honestly thought anything of it, but over time I saw the impact it had on so many in the office. Another sister, AR, had begun ministry life the same time I did and we were excited to learn, grow and do God’s work. When we had weekly clean-ups at the office, AR and I sometimes would be paired together and we share what God was teaching us as a ‘newbie’ in the office. She asked me if I wanted to have Bible studies with her more on a weekly basis and I was thrilled! I unfortunately shared this with my mentor and I think this got AR to be disciplined. I was pulled aside from Pat E. who asked me if it was true that she had asked me this and being the naive person that I am, told him the truth and how excited we were. We were still thinking of what book of the Bible to study. AR wasn’t also just thinking of me, she wanted to open it up to other sisters in the ministry. I thought it was great! To my shock though, Pat E. said to me, “That isn’t right. You have a mentor for that reason. You both started the same time and you both need to learn and grow. You should be seeking your mentor out who is more mature in faith.” I was a bit taken aback because I wondered, “She’s walked with God a lot longer it seems that I have…she’s also been alive a lot longer…what’s the harm in that?” Then the next day she came to me with tears in her eyes apologizing for her decision and that it wasn’t meant to be a ‘rebellious’ idea. I hugged her and told her I took no offense whatsoever! In fact, I was excited to hear what the Lord had been teaching her! Sadly, we eventually learned to keep our distance in the office for fear of talk that we were trying to start some kind of rebellion by wanting to do Bible Studies!
At the same time (or around then) DB and their family were leaving the ministry. When I think of it now, they were the only family in my time there, that were present for their exit gathering. Even though they were present though, it seemed strange that they didn’t share directly with the small staff where God was calling them to – Pat E. did that. He informed us that God called them to another work in the vineyard but to hug them and pray for them. Although saddened I didn’t think much more of it. I also by that time had moved to my own little apartment and with the help of those in the ministry, had begun to settle in. This was also better for my relationship between my mentor and I, as I found that she needed to have control over some of the work in the office. So it was a good breather because then I could be at home and more myself. But, I was encouraged by leadership to give her a spare key to my apartment if anything should happen to me. Again, naive me thought, ok. I never thought that she would use it without my permission. But there were a few times I was uneasy that she had a key, because sometimes she’d just come in unannounced while I was in the shower. I told her that I didn’t appreciate that and if she wanted to come over, just to let me know. As I got to know Stoney Creek a little better in my down time, my heart ached when I saw people in the downtown core suffering. I realized that I had been very shielded from a world that was really hurting. I remember one time the SB and CB shared with me that they had met people in downtown Hamilton who have never heard who Jesus was. I was so saddened by this! I thought to myself one night that Christmas was coming around the corner. Why not go out and bless people as a ministry activity. I brought the idea up to PE and he said he would think about it. He said, although it was a good idea, we didn’t want other causes to distract us. I shared with him that this could also be a team building activity for us in the office. He said he’d think about and get back to me. He never did and when I tried once more to bring it up to him, he said it wouldn’t work and to continue on in what I was called to do.
When the New Year rolled around, one of the ladies taking care of finances, I believe, had decided to also leave the ministry. I unfortunately couldn’t be present during that exit gathering as I was with family. My sister came to visit and had encouraged me to find a home church again. When she left, I decided that it was a good idea. With new resolve I thought I would get settled into a home church and start serving. Another sister and I started to attend a Bible Study together at a local church. I started to get to know some people there especially the seniors (I have a special place in my heart for seniors!). But I became hit and miss as the year wore on because I’d be attending over the weekend more functions and booths with my mentor. And when I was in town and went to a Bible study, I was again reminded that my call was special and that the churches don’t understand that calling we have on our lives (as Danny P. would often message that to me wondering what the Lord was teaching me…especially during the weekends). He often told me, “GFA is your church…and your family.” So, I became sporadic again. I wanted to serve, but I felt I couldn’t be dedicated. I began working in the office more frequently even on weekends, and kept reminding myself that my joy would come from doing God’s work even if I didn’t feel like it and felt more and more isolated.
One day, I don’t even know how it came up, but I shared with SB some things I was concerned about. We didn’t discuss too much at the office. Rather, instead, he had invited me over to chat with him and his wife about it. When I did, they openly shared their struggles with me and reminded me to be watchful and pray what the Lord may be doing in my heart. It was at that time I started to be in more contact with SB as well. She was so kind and prayerful, encouraging me to seek the Lord also in what I was going through. I began to pray and seek God’s wisdom as to what they meant. They were very cautious to share too much with me, but they were also open in telling me that my concerns shouldn’t be dismissed and I should seek out Scripture. As I continued to serve in the ministry, I began to see more red flags. SB was a good reminder to be careful of what I shared, and I began to realize that I shouldn’t be so open. As I just began to be more prayerful and watchful, it was announced at the office that someone no longer was in the ministry. I was shocked to find out SB was not present and was no longer in the office. I was deeply troubled by this and all that Pat E. said. He had indicated to all the staff that their family had some struggles and we needed to give them some breathing room. I don’t remember the full on conversation, but I remember enough that the message was clear to be very careful of our association because it can take us out from the calling God has put on our lives. We were to be soldiers going to battle and if we didn’t die to those emotions then we’d be too weak to serve in God’s kingdom (that sort of thing…obviously not verbatim). I was confused, sad and upset. SB and his family had become dear to my heart! How could I just leave them? It was then I shared with another brother in the ministry who was close to SB how he was through it all. He was enraged as well and said he wouldn’t stop having fellowship with them. So I decided, I too wasn’t going to stop either. After office hours, I’d ask to meet up with them and ask them what really happened. I guess I’m a firm believer that if there’s anything you question, go to the source to find your truth. So I went to them to find out exactly why they left and how I could be a support to them. It was then I realized DB and his family and CH were supporting them too. They all began to share their concerns with me (and for that I’m forever grateful). None of them ever told me to leave the ministry, rather they constantly encouraged me to pray and seek God’s heart. Because I knew their stories, I just couldn’t reconcile them. But then I thought, what does that mean for me? I began to really struggle being in the office. I fasted and prayed that God would show me what is really right and what is Truth. I tried to bring up to leadership that I didn’t believe it was right to obey without question, how we should be involved in churches and that since we had so many people leaving we should go and bless them somehow. My mentor began to get very concerned about me. She never said anything but immediately went to leadership. PE came to me more frequently reminding me of my call. He also told me that he didn’t like the fact that I was living in an apartment on my own and that since there was a plan to start a SOD in Canada, they were considering me to be a potential house leader. But I had to keep my eyes focused on what I was called to do.
I began to feel high anxiety not knowing what to do. I continued to meet with those who had left the ministry but it was then I also began to notice that my mentor was keeping tabs on me (at least at that time it certainly felt so). My mentor used to go to bed super early (at like 8:30pm or so) but when I continued to have fellowship with those who had left I’d stop off at the supermarket just to somehow ‘protect’ myself from being seen with ex-staff. There would be times I’d find her at the supermarket too and she’d somehow ‘bump’ into me wondering what I was picking up. Sometimes I’d be at the store even as late as 9:30pm and she’d be there with another staff member. I began to feel paranoid that she was following me. She’d question me a lot more during the day at the office about my night, what I was up to etc. So I began to strategize how I’d still have my fellowship times while not being followed. I felt so watched by people in the ministry and I felt very confused who I could trust and who I couldn’t. Danny P., SW, BW etc. would check on me regularly and I had a hard time deciphering who was genuine and who wasn’t. I just knew I didn’t want anything to get back to leadership. Eventually, it wasn’t until I tried to donate blood that the lady took my blood pressure and said it was extremely high. She indicated that I needed to go to the hospital. I checked myself in and the doctor said that my stress level was likely causing my blood pressure to spike.
I began to realize I was at a crossroads. I either had to choose to be blind to what ex-staff said and cut ties or I had to cut ties with GFA because I felt there was no other way. I was in turmoil and didn’t know what to do because I know the Lord led me to GFA. I decided to take a trip home and there I shared my concerns with my family. It was then I made up my mind that the Lord would have to call me out of the ministry. He revealed things to me that I really believe were not of Him. I visited the GFA USA office one last time, in hopes to share my concerns with staff members close to my heart.
When I returned to the office, I decided to say nothing to anyone. I begged the Lord to help me out if this was His will for me. The final exit made things really clear for me. GP had left the ministry suddenly as well, and his exit interview resembled much like SB’s. It was the same talk to be careful of our association, be a good soldier etc.
I slowly began to pack up my belongings in my desk, telling no one as I believe God was planning my escape and I needed to be ready. When I finally cleared most things, I sent in my resignation letter. I had a 2 hour long meeting with ML discussing Biblical Truths. We fought scripture with scripture and eventually I was told that I was young in faith and was leaving a calling God had placed on my life. My heart hurt so much as this was never my intention. That night, I stayed late at the office until everyone left. I cleared the remainder of things off my desk. When I looked back at the office I felt God had spoken to my heart telling me, “This is the last day you will step foot in the office.” I prayed and cried as I looked back one last time and never looked back. I felt completely lost and confused. That evening, I kept getting calls (at 10 & 11pm) wondering what was going on with me as my mentor went back to the office that night (I’m guessing to check up on me…but that’s speculation) and noticed my desk cleared. I lived in such fear and paranoia. I think because that became the GFA culture too…when they talk of dying…I really do think there is a part of you that dies. I had lived in such irrational fear for a few months especially feelings of being followed and then being disciplined (as I had witnessed many ex-staff face, that I just didn’t know how to stand up to that. Plus, I thought my mentor would come in since she had done so in the past. As ridiculous as it was…I even put a chair to my door so no one would come in! I think now at how silly I must’ve looked but at the time, I was so terrified. Thankfully, I talked to CH who reminded me they couldn’t do anything to me. She took me in the following night and I stayed with her. Eventually I flew back home and told my parents what happened. My blood pressure went back to normal while at home with my parents. In the fall of 2009, I moved back home. I still am healing from this.
It was with great sadness all this happened. I believe that no matter how great the work of the Lord is, if it isn’t done in the heart that He has, it has no meaning. God has shown me that He gave us two commandments (which sums up the law and the Prophets). Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind. The second is similar, Love your neighbor as yourself. If we cannot love our neighbor, our efforts are in vain.
In 2001, the Lord inspired us through a man simply called “Brother KP” to invest our lives in the Gospel. We were thankful for the challenge in KP’s video, Christ’s Call, and in several of his books to take up our cross and follow Jesus in wholehearted discipleship to fulfill His great commission.
We sought God about a local ministry to the poor in our city at which we could volunteer Eric’s time away from working as a pilot, but the door closed for us there. Since it was evident that God was working through the ministry of GFA, we pursued the possibility of volunteering at their U.S. office. Rather quickly, He opened the door for us to move to Dallas to serve there a few days a week.
Later, a layoff from Eric’s airline, followed by lack of peace at a replacement flying job, led to us considering GFA’s need for more full-time office workers. So we raised support and joined staff in 2003.
When we were accepted on staff, a senior leader asked us to commit to GFA for life. We told him we could not say for sure where the Lord would call us throughout our lives. But we assured him we were very committed to GFA. He warned us that unless we burned all our bridges and made a life commitment to GFA, we would not endure. Still, we knew God could use us there and we happily sacrificed our time and financial resources to serve at the ministry. Per leaderships’ teaching, we limited our time with family and church to maintain our call at GFA. We were glad to serve there as long as the Lord was there.
It was a blessing to work alongside dear brothers and sisters who were gracious and prayerful. The leaders shared inspiring messages from the Bible and stories from the mission field. We found GFA to be a special place to serve the Lord, and for these things we were grateful.
The ministry was smaller then, with staff brothers sharing at churches in the power of the Spirit about Jesus’ call to discipleship, His great commission, the unfinished task, and how to be a world-minded believer—which included an opportunity to sponsor native missionaries. GFA church speakers were careful to give a non-pressuring message so that people felt free to be led by the Lord to help.
On our trip to India in 2005, we were moved by the brothers’ and sisters’ love and commitment to the Lord. We witnessed Brother KP beginning to wear his larger cross necklace, but we accepted his explanation that it was a mere formality necessitated by the Indian government recognizing his official status as the bishop of Believer’s Church India. Since he didn’t wear it in the States, we thought nothing more of it. We came home blessed to be giving our lives for that which had real eternal value.
While Eric was Finance Coordinator, he was glad to see that GFA was careful with the money that flowed through the U.S. office, and that they ensured all funds designated for the field went to Asian banks.
However, over time, a number of formerly committed families quietly left the ministry. We didn’t know why; none of us ever dared to ask anyone for fear of jeopardizing our call. We accepted leadership’s explanations and assumed if someone were in the wrong, it was not leadership; they only desired to preserve the reputation of those who had left. We figured these who left had simply “lost the battle” and felt sorry that they left God’s high calling. And we were cautioned to not be negatively influenced by them.
We also noticed that as the ministry grew, worldly marketing techniques were embraced to maximize donations. For us, prayer meetings became increasingly laborious because of constant requests to pray for money and “million dollar gifts” instead of focusing on the fruit of the Spirit.
Eric journaled in 2006:
“It seems God has now become in trouble. We say we are dependent on Him but our prayer meetings reveal the importance for strategies and tools to solicit sponsors and funds. But shouldn’t we be praying simply for God to meet the needs of the missionaries on the field through whatever way He sees fit, even if through local [Asian] support or [tent-making missionaries]? Should we not simply be praying for God to touch hearts in the West—not [necessarily] to sponsor, but to live as Spirit-led stewards of their time, money and [talents]? Shouldn’t we be praying that we [GFA] will decrease and Jesus will increase (John 3:30)? … But we seem to be relying on a system: Share statistics, then field stories of the need, commitment and fruit of the field, then ask for funds or sponsorships.”
“I believe we want God to make things happen and receive the glory. I believe we want to be dependent on Him. No one here wants to make a name for ourselves but I believe that is what we are doing. We seem to have become a sponsorship-promoting corporation with programs, strategies and attractive ads. We want recognition because of the great need for funds…. We focus on numbers, both measuring needs and in measuring fruit by quantity [instead of quality].”
“The Lord has shown us several smaller ministries that do not promote themselves or ever ask for money, and the Lord has anointed and blessed their work tremendously. It has been a while since I’ve seen that kind of anointing at GFA.”
When Eric shared this with two leaders, both seemed to share his concerns to a degree; yet the ministry continued on without change.
Over that year, Eric’s inspiration to serve at GFA continued to dwindle. He earnestly sought God’s heart, offering Him continued—even lifelong—service at GFA if that was His will. Natalie encouraged him and prayed diligently for him, that he might not “lose the battle”. We were fearful of becoming one of those families who left GFA to return to secular work; for that was equated to looking back like Lot’s wife. So we continued in what was taught to be the life-long, high calling of God. We were also told often that we were “one in a million” with the privilege of reaching the many people GFA was reaching.
Leadership’s prayer meeting messages became regular admonitions to “stay in the battle”, which really meant to stay at GFA. We began to greatly tire from these repetitive messages. Years earlier, when we first came to volunteer at GFA, we saw that God was working there. No man told us to come; we freely came as we were led by the Holy Spirit. Ironically, the constant teaching to keep our call at GFA revealed that it had become man’s call—no longer of the Holy Spirit.
Asking for Money
Meanwhile, Eric had been pondering another struggle. One of the principles that first attracted us to GFA was that 100% of field funds went to the mission field. But this only shifted the burden onto the staff of having to ask for money to support themselves. Could we say with the Apostle Paul, “I have coveted no one’s money”? When we first began support raising, a leader told us that it was our pride that made us uncomfortable asking for support. In hindsight, we believe it was instead our sense of grieving the Holy Spirit by asking, evidenced by our sending pastor receiving complaints by members who felt awkwardly solicited by the phone calls we were required to make.
After several years, weary of burdening others to support our growing family, Eric increasingly sensed the responsibility to work and provide for his family “with his own hands” such as in Acts 20:33-34 and 1 Timothy 5:8. In order to understand God’s heart regarding asking for money for oneself, Eric studied the Scriptures thoroughly and quietly sought counsel from godly, mature brothers outside the ministry. While it is clearly biblical to be supported by others, Eric could find no scriptural example of a brother asking believers for money for himself and his family. Perhaps this was why we had initially felt conviction not to use GFA’s model of directly asking for money.
During that year God showed us through several godly brothers outside GFA that a calling to full-time ministry may not be for life, but for a season, and that His placing someone in a secular job as His witness is not inferior to full-time ministry. After much time and prayer, Eric concluded that it was God who was inspiring him to return to his vocation in aviation. Eric’s leader responded graciously but asked him to stay an extra month at GFA to help complete the year-end accounting work, which Eric was happy to do.
Before we left, Eric was unexpectedly called into the top leader’s office where he was angrily accused of being a weak American husband who did not lead his wife and home well.
You see, Natalie had recently met three other wives for coffee off-campus. As their time together ended, one of the women brought up her concern that Natalie’s and another’s feelings might have been hurt at a GFA Ladies’ Meeting where the top leader had labeled home and health concerns as a distraction from giving all to the lost. So three of the ladies had a brief discussion of whether this teaching was biblical. After all, a wife and mother should be a good steward of the resources God gives, investing in the care and well-being of her family.
The wives had also discussed if it was biblical for a man to teach all of the ladies without their husbands present. The women of leadership had exclusively taught these sessions previously, and it had not been announced prior to the meeting that a man—the top leader—would be teaching the women that night.
These four women were not attacking anyone’s character, but simply trying to discern how these principles might line up with the Bible.
Later, the fourth wife told one of the senior leader’s wives of the conversation because she didn’t know what to think about it. This got back to the top leader, and he must have taken it as gossip and insubordination. So he spoke harshly with Eric instead of clarifying the issue and commending us for testing all things to the Word like the Bereans in Acts 17:11.
The top leader also briefly brought up Eric’s plan to return to aviation and seemed to judge it with contempt—without knowing or asking the whole story. It is interesting to note that otherwise an airline pilot had been praised and admired by the ministry because he was a major donor.
Natalie also was called by an assistant leader after the coffee shop conversation and was in tears by the end as she defended herself from the charges of “rebellion”. After that, none of the ladies dared to discuss it again.
For the record, one month after this testimony was posted to the website viewable to GFA staff, the top leader sent an email apologizing for rebuking Natalie and for judging and speaking harshly to Eric. His apology was accepted, as we had already forgiven and moved on years before. The apology email was received the same day that many other Diaspora members simultaneously received a personal apology email from various GFA leaders.
While we appreciate that leaders apologized for some of their personal offenses, none of the deeper, root concerns were addressed; and our email reply back to to the top leader was never answered by him.
In our original testimony posted above, we did not mention the top leader’s harsh reaction because of a grudge, or to gossip, but rather to reveal another example of the pattern of abusive behavior and authoritarian culture at GFA since they would not acknowledge it as a systemic, doctrinal problem. Ironically, the harsh one-on-one reaction by the leader after his teaching had been questioned was itself what inhibited further dialogue as directed by Matthew 18:15, thus leading us to follow Matthew 18:16-17.
The teaching that wives should give up all to serve at the ministry, including concern for the health and well-being of their families, is an example of prioritizing ministry over family. Admonishment over the ladies’ discussion also shows GFA’s culture of absolute submission to authority and their strong stance against the questioning of leadership’s teachings. However, since we were already in the process of leaving, we did not overly concern ourselves with their doctrine and treatment—but it certainly confirmed our decision.
When we were leaving the ministry, Eric’s direct leader at the ministry lovingly encouraged him to make sure we didn’t drift away aimlessly once we were away from the ministry in secular work but to keep serving God purposefully. We appreciate that wise admonition to remember that each of us is an ambassador for Jesus, at work and elsewhere. Indeed, God has positioned His people in diverse occupations and places to be salt and light in a corrupt and dark world.
Recently we’ve been alarmed by photos and stories of “Brother” KP being called “His Eminence the Metropolitan” who exercises unaccountable authority over a religious hierarchy. When we joined GFA, we were told that the churches on the field were patterned after Calvary Chapel churches, where there is no “clergy over the laity”.
We’ve also heard personal testimonies of other ex-staff that show our common experiences are not isolated but result from systemic issues at the ministry. We see how a false view of submission to authority and an elitist attitude can affect leaders, contributing to damaged relationships and misrepresentation of the Lord. It is sad to learn how leadership has been so concerned with stopping perceived rebellion that they have not loved the person.
We care for our brothers and sisters on staff at GFA. Our hope is that their leaders will see their errors, humble themselves and change their ways so they can bear genuine fruit.
May we all live and speak the truth in love and grace—for His glory.
My experience is nowhere as heart-wrenching as some people. I enjoyed the perfect position for me at GFA (Building & Grounds Maintenance) and had a great relationship with my supervisor. I did not sense the politics and control that most were under in the building. There were some concerns, but I overlooked them. All organizations have things to be concerned with, and organizations are made up of sinful people.
One day a certain person was fired and blacklisted for “having a bad day”. Through that experience, I saw that KP controls everything. A personal example of that is that my supervisor and his supervisor (David C.) were not allowed to put up an awning on the north side of the building without KP’s approval on size, shape, color, etc. It was at least 6 months before it could be ordered. Meanwhile, staff had to stand in the rain to use their fobs and the north rains would soak the hall carpet.
Fast forward: The Lord kept me awake one night about being part of a grassroots start-up ministry that could get small churches involved in missions, so I ended up joining another ministry.
We did not give our notice right away for a few reasons:
1. We still had flex dollars to use.
2. We had extra dollars in our account because we were fully supported. We knew what had happened to others who had money in their accounts, and our supporters had not given money to the GFA general fund, but to us.
3. Mary had eye surgery scheduled that the flex was to be used for.
4. There was an unwritten agreement that we would stay at least two years.
So for the last 5 weeks before leaving, we took care of the above four items along with getting all our personal tools out of the building. You see, 90% of the tools used in the maintenance department at that time were ours and you pretty much have to leave on the spot when terminated.
I always say that God led me out of GFA. During those last 5 weeks, I found out that funds were not being used as designated. So out of principle, I would’ve had to leave anyway.
While at GFA we gave to some of the monthly appeals. Since GFA was no longer putting the dollar amount raised for appeals on the prayer sheets (I know why now), I went to gift entry and asked about how much was raised for wells and bicycles, as we had given to them. I learned that $500K and $600K were raised on the last appeals. I thought that was a lot, so I went back to my desk and did some math. Well, all GFA missionaries should have a bicycle. Good! The next day, the new SEND! magazine came out. The cover article was several missionaries riding on one bicycle. “We need more dollars for bicycles.”
We’ve all heard that Indians (and most others) don’t value free items, so they are charged a few rupees for a Bible, etc. I’ve been told that GFA India did not give a bicycle for free either. The missionaries had to pay for a portion of the bike. So that meant even more dollars available for bike distribution. Where did all that money go?
I had lunch with our mentor about where we were going and about the bicycle fund-raising issue. He seemed to be fine with what I said. When he got back to the office, he was asked by Dave C. who he had lunch with and what we talked about. That’s when we became a threat to the ministry and were not allowed to work out our month’s notice.
Vocationally GFA was a good fit for me. Unfortunately it seems KP has strayed from the original message of the B1 to building KP’s kingdom. Hopefully KP will return to building God’s kingdom and loving the staff that are helping to accomplish that goal.
USA / India 2009-2011
When I was over in India, I was thrust into the role of performing at GFA’s TV studio, in order to produce worship songs for their new TV channel in India. The other American staff member I was over there with was very talented musically and vocally, and thrived on this new responsibility. I, on the other hand, have had hardly any vocal training and get incredibly nervous when performing in front of others. I love to sing and play the piano, but I’m just not the “performer type” and felt really out of my element when thrust into this new responsibility.
I brought up my fear and nervousness several times to both Danny and Dr. Daniel, while over in India, but was basically told I needed to “suck it up” and that they needed me to do this because they needed “blonde, white girls” to attract the Indian viewers to watch the TV station and then hear the Gospel as a result. At the time, I told myself that if this was getting the Gospel out, then I should put aside my fears and anxiety and get out there and do this.
Over the course of several months, my American friend and I made numerous trips to the TV studio and recorded many different songs in both Hindi and English with an Indian band playing the music for us.
But my anxiety didn’t go away. I started getting panicked and edgy the night before we would go to record. I couldn’t eat or sleep and I would come back to the campus after a day of recording and be crying and exhausted. A few times I even called my parents on the phone, having a melt down and saying how I couldn’t keep doing this any longer. (We had an IP phone in our room that used internet to make international phone calls, and we were encouraged to use it to call our family members whenever we wanted to.)
I again tried talking to Danny and Dr. Daniel about how I really just didn’t feel comfortable doing this and asked if my friend (who was very talented in these areas) could do it without me. She was loving it and thriving on the performing aspect and quickly learning the music to the Hindi songs.
Again, I was told that I shouldn’t be so nervous and that this was important to do because it was a way of getting the Gospel into people’s homes through their TVs. My skin and hair color were a huge attraction and would get us many more viewers than if we just had Indian singers.
Eventually, after several more weeks of anxiety and panic over each recording session, I’d had enough. I sent an email to Dr. Daniel, who was the person we were supposed to interface with while over in India, about how much this was taxing my emotional – and physical health. I was losing weight rapidly, not getting sleep, and always on edge that we’d be called to record at the TV studio the next day. In my email to Dr. Daniel, I told him about these things and graciously but firmly stated that I needed to step down from this role, as it was never supposed to be part of my role when I took on this assignment in the first place, and I was having severe health concerns as a result of the anxiety it was causing me. I mentioned that I had called my parents a couple times when I felt overwhelmed by everything and needed some encouragement, and they had suggested I send an email to Dr. Daniel to lay out my concerns in a more clear manner since asking in person hadn’t seemed to work.
Well, within an hour, I got a phone call from KP’s “right hand man” in India (who is actually a woman – “Sister Sinny”) who said that KP wanted to meet with me right away. For some reason, my American friend was also asked to attend the meeting, so the two of us walked over to KP’s villa on the seminary campus, where he and Sister Sinny were waiting for us.
KP started by saying that Dr. Daniel had forwarded him my email and that he was outraged that I had talked to my parents about this situation. He said that I should have come to him about it. I reminded him that he had told us several times that Dr. Daniel was the person we were supposed to interface with about anything regarding our living situation, work roles, etc. while in India, and explained that I had asked several times to be relieved of this TV performance.
KP proceeded to yell at me (I’m not exaggerating, he was literally yelling) about how inappropriate it was for me to ever talk to my parents about anything that I was unhappy with at GFA. (My parents were very generous ministry partners to GFA at the time, and had taken a Vision Tour with GFA several years before I even joined the School of Discipleship). KP was enraged at me and started hurling accusations at me about how if I couldn’t handle the missionary lifestyle then I should just “go back to where you came from” (the States). He said if I couldn’t deal with mosquitos and no A/C and being far away from family, then I wasn’t mature enough to be here.
Through my tears, I gently told him that my issue was not with the mosquitos or the heat, and that I had never once complained about either of those things the entire time I’d been in India. I told him that I was dealing with severe anxiety and unable to eat because of this role that had been thrust upon me and that even when I’d asked several times to be relieved of it, I was denied permission for that.
I sat there on KP’s front porch for over 20 minutes, being yelled at and insulted and told that I wasn’t a “good enough Christian” to be over there and why had I even come? My American friend was sitting there next to me the entire time, and KP even mentioned at one point how she didn’t have a problem with anything and how wonderful of a job she had done with everything. Sister Sinny was sitting there the entire time as well, and it was so awkward and embarrassing to be humiliated like this for my “weakness” as a missionary.
Finally, near the end of our conversation, after KP had said his piece, he told me, “We’re not keeping you here. You’ve always had the freedom to go back home. If you want to pack up tomorrow and leave you can. In fact, I think you need some time to go home and pray over whether or not you’re really able to handle this responsibility.”
Our conversation ended the way it always did over in India, with me giving a small bow of my head and saying, “Thank you, Metropolitan,” which is how we were always told to address KP in India. (Metropolitan was short for Metropolitan Bishop.)
I went back to my room, utterly humiliated and devastated, and took a few hours to pray about what to do next. By the next day, I’d decided to take KP up on his offer and fly home to St. Louis to have some time to pray about my next step. I was on a plane within 3 days, and even though I’d asked for a month to “pray about my choice,” I knew that I would be leaving GFA.
I’ve heard several leaders respond to our group as saying that each of us was given an “exit interview” but that was definitely not true for me. The last conversation I had with any leader at GFA was one that I’ll never forget… sitting on the porch of KP’s villa and being yelled at and told that I wasn’t cut out for the life of a missionary.
Role: HR Associate
By the time of our arrival as full-time volunteers in 2006, we had already served as GFA field volunteers, and we were considered a major donor. We were blessed to be in a position to use our retirement and our funds in support of GFA. We were deeply convinced that GFA was doing the Lord’s work on the mission field in a Christ-like manner.
Coming to GFA with a legal administration background, managing law firm HR departments for 10 years, I was naturally placed in the HR Department. Each day I was amazed by both the servant hearts of the sacrificial staff whom I was serving, and GFA’s godly and Christian management approach of love and grace. Sadly, I was soon to begin learning that grace did not abound to all equally, that love extended only to those favored within GFA, and most shocking and discouraging of all was that the religious order was used to stretch the legal envelope: the protection from harmful and dangerous management decisions that the staff otherwise would have had was actually non-existent. During the course of over 6½ years I have experienced a number of questionable and defenseless decisions relative to the care of the staff, and this is a short and limited testimony:
• When a former GFA staff member requested to stay overnight in our home, a senior leader at GFA approached my husband with what we were to learn was the standard admonishment for associating with former staff and the risk of “our well being poisoned.” My husband is nothing but a servant of the Lord and biblical literalist and explained to the leader—whom he loves and admired—that while he would not overtly offer the hospitality, if asked, he would not refuse the requests of this brother or any brother in the Lord’s service.
• In my second year, I was asked to create an all ladies email group for the Ladies Ministry to use. After adding a particular staff member’s spouse to the group, I learned through a visit from a senior GFA leader that she had been banned from prayer meetings and ladies meetings and staff events, and therefore had no need of emails. And though this shunning discipline had occurred years earlier, and although I asked if the ministry would consider terminating it (and was told they would consider it), it continues today.
• In the fall of 2010, GFA took a severe and most un-Christlike step in the sudden termination of two families, without notice, due to the condition of their support accounts. Yet their accounts were in the same negative position as a number of staff. But it was the unloving, uncaring and spiritually abusive processes used in these terminations–both from a professional and spiritual perspective–that was nothing short of disgraceful. In the secular world the egregiousness of their actions, and the resulting impact on one family in particular, would have subjected the ministry to legal recourse. My husband directly approached a senior GFA leader, admonishing him that this type of action (and another issue he brought up at the time) were un-Christlike and that as committed followers of Jesus, repentance and a restoration was required to right the great offense that had been committed against the families who had been wrongfully and unjustly terminated. My husband was made to feel like he had no right to question the decisions of GFA leaders and he was quoted a scripture that twisted the meeting to turn it into an attack on my husband’s character.
• The very recent shunning, banning, and then termination of Troy and Pam—without cause or justification—has elevated the ministry’s lack of biblical accountability, recklessness, and brashness to a frightening level.
I am fearful that, notwithstanding their umbrella of religious order protection, GFA’s lack of biblically-led counsel when making their decisions, along with Bro. KP’s clear abuse of spiritual authority, are not in keeping with either the scriptural or moral or professional role of leadership. These practices are taking GFA down a very dangerous road, and will ultimately and greatly damage this ministry with deleterious effects on the field, not to mention the cost of human casualty of the many families and individuals that have been wounded by the ministry.
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!
GFA US: Joe P. – Church Relations, Volunteer, HR Dept. Coordinator;
Cari P. – Web Marketing
2010 – 2014
We were on staff from February 15, 2010 through June 10, 2014. During that time we were treated very nicely by everyone there, staff and leadership. We were blessed to develop wonderful friendships and live together as a community. When we were in need, leadership and staff supported us. When we saw others in need, we did our best to help them when we could. In so many ways, being on staff was truly wonderful for us. Unfortunately, over the four and one-half years we were there we discovered that GFA is not what it appears to be from the outside. Had I not seen and experienced this first hand, I would never believe it.
Although we have left GFA because the ministry is no longer what we agreed to support when we signed our statement of agreement and we do not agree with the new teachings, methods, and practices of the ministry, we are not on an anti-GFA crusade. We still greatly desire to see the unreached reached with the gospel of Jesus and do not in any way want to hinder that, but we must not ignore God’s Word or justify the breaking of God’s commands to reach the lost. If someone is in agreement with the teachings, methods, and practices of GFA, then it is their choice if they want to get involved with such a ministry. But GFA should be open, honest, and straightforward and disclose their teachings, methods, and practices to all current and potential supporters, staff, and students so that each can have all the information and make an informed decision regarding whether or not they want to support or be a part of such a ministry.
We are greatly concerned for the uninformed, unsuspecting, and trusting believers who may get pulled into this ministry without knowing what they are really getting into and what the ministry is truly doing and promoting. We are greatly concerned for the young adults and their parents who think they are sending their young adult children to a safe and solid non-denominational ministry and who have no idea what is being taught behind the scenes. We must never do the Lord’s work deceitfully in any way, so we humbly share this testimony out of our love for our brothers and sisters in Christ, those at GFA and those who are not, because love “rejoices in the truth.”
Before joining, we diligently sought the Lord’s will and He made it very clear to us that He was calling us to join staff. To this day I am absolutely certain He called us to GFA. As a dear brother in Christ and supporter said to me when I told him we were leaving and why, he said when Jesus got into the boat with His disciples in Matthew 8, He knew there was going to be a storm – He KNEW there was going to be a storm! And Jesus still had them get into the boat and go into the storm. He led them into the storm, He was with them in the storm, He led them through the storm, and He calmed the storm. And in the end, the Lord was glorified! So despite the storms we have faced, we can KNOW the Lord has been and IS with us as we continue to follow Him!
Shortly after joining staff, I began to notice some things that troubled me such as, Why does KP live in Castle Hills? That did not seem like “The Road to Reality” he wrote about. Why did such a large number of staff leave somewhere around 2003-2005? Why are we still asking for people to donate money for bicycles when so many have already been provided? Why when responding to a question about the ministry was I to share less information rather than more?
Despite these questions, I trusted leadership and accepted their answers and explanations because so many people, churches, and pastors spoke so highly of GFA and I did not find anything on the internet that contradicted that (other than some obviously anti-Christian websites). Also, I didn’t want to let such seemingly little things distract me from the main thing: reaching the 80,000+ who are perishing each day in the 10/40 window without Jesus! Certainly that was much more important than such seemingly little things! I did not want anything to hinder the lost from being reached, so I didn’t put these things, these “plates” as one leader refers to issues that staff members encounter, up on a shelf to remember. Instead, I pushed them under a rug or into a closet so they would be out of mind and not distract us from our call.
When I saw photos of the brothers in the field wearing cassocks, and when I saw them in person, as well as the bishops in their special colored cassocks when we went to India in September of 2010, I accepted the standard explanation from leadership that the cassocks help them in the Indian culture. But then at the watch night service on New Year’s Eve 2011 (going into 2012) I was absolutely amazed, astonished and baffled to see KP wearing a special cassock with a stole and beaded necklace with a cross to prepare for Holy Communion. I was really surprised and taken aback by this. He then proceeded to say special prayers over the bread and wine (juice?) and make the sign of the cross a number of times.
But again even though this bothered me, I wanted to extend grace and not let this cause division or distract us from our call. One of the senior leaders who was my mentor asked me if I was ok with this. Well, after having seen the campus pastor at one church in Carrollton about a year earlier present communion by saying, “let’s play a little make believe and pretend the bread is the best feast you ever had” and “let’s play a little more make believe and pretend the juice is the best vintage wine, non-alcoholic of course” (yes, that is what he actually said), the special attire KP wore and the special prayers KP said seemed much more respectful. So I told the senior leader that although I was not comfortable with it, it was better than someone saying we were going to play make believe.
Then Believer’s Church was started at GFA in July of 2012. Even though we were not required to attend, my wife, C.P., and I wanted to fellowship and worship together with other GFA staff, so we decided to attend. On the first Sunday I again was amazed to see how very liturgical it was, especially the special consecration of the bread with the prayer that “it may become for us the body of Christ,” and the consecration of the wine (juice) with the prayer that “it may become for us the blood of Christ.”
Having grown up in the Roman Catholic Church (in which I had nothing but wonderful experiences – other than being picked on a few times by one of the school bullies in the grade school), I did not want my knowledge of the false teachings of the RCC to interfere with what could be something positive that maybe I needed to learn. So my family and I attended for about six weeks or so trying to accept the highly liturgical format of the service including the special white cassocks the leader would wear with a shiny gold stole over his shoulders (yes, not just in India, but now in the U.S. office) as he presided over the service. The purpose of these cassocks we were told was “to cover the man,” though to me and everyone in my family it always seemed to bring more attention to the “specialness” of that man and set him apart and above from the rest of us. After about six weeks C.P. and I agreed to once again begin attending one of the solid bible teaching fellowships in the area.
Sometime around September of that year we spoke with one of the senior leaders about the liturgical practices of Believers Church and he suggested we speak with KP about it. So one afternoon we met with KP and he suggested that we study the early church fathers and he gave us a five part video series on worship which he had presented to the brothers in the field in August of 2012.
C.P. and I watched the first two videos together in the next month or so, but then for some reason we did not watch the final three until I began watching them myself January of 2014. I do not remember whether or not the first two parts had anything that was new to us and I did not take any notes on them, but the final three clearly presented KP’s teaching that the Sunday worship service should be based upon the liturgy that developed from second through fifth century church (what some call the ancient church) and that the Holy Eucharist is the climax of the worship service during which we experience the mystical presence of Christ. In KP’s words, “The Lord gives Himself to us in the sacrament of Holy Communion.” And “Body language is very important…the washing of hands, the gesture of laying hands on the bread and wine. Not just laying on of hands, but I found that it would be a gesture three times representing the Holy Spirit that it may become for us the body of the Lord Jesus.”
At one point Part 4 of the video series KP states that the early church fathers celebrated the Holy Eucharist every Sunday and he says, “So you say, ‘Metropolitan, why don’t we have Holy Communion every Sunday?’ We will, don’t worry, we will.” I am not saying it is wrong to have communion every week, but I believe this was the beginning of the high liturgy in the Believers Church and the initial training and preparation for the brothers in the field to be led into the Episcopal/Anglican-like beliefs and practices for their church services.
It was the beginning of 2014 when I began to really wrestle with the direction the ministry was going and what was and wasn’t being communicated to supporters. Additionally, a friend of mine had a son who was considering joining GFA’s School of Discipleship (SD). So now I needed to know, not just for me and my family, and my supporters, but for my friend and his son who he was possibly going to entrust to GFA for a year.
About that time GFA started a second year for the SD and offered a class on Wednesday evenings called, “Church History through 1200 AD” which staff were invited and encouraged to attend. So C.P. and I did attend hoping to grow in our understanding and acceptance of the direction GFA was going. The required book on Church History was very good and I read it through completely.
The supplemental book for the class which I also read through carefully and completely was “Common Roots – The Original Call to an Ancient-Future Faith” by Robert Webber, the father of the Ancient-Future Faith movement. This book really troubled me because it teaches among a number of other troubling things, “the climax of worship is the Eucharist, for the symbols of bread and wine are the material objects that in a mysterious manner are connected with the broken body and shed blood of Jesus Christ…” It also endorses the teachings of the mystics to the extent that Robert Webber states, “The primary source of spiritual reading is the Bible. But we must not in our love of the Scripture avoid the mystics and activists,” and, “Those who neglect these works do so to their own harm, and those who read them do so to their own inspiration and spiritual growth.” I wondered, “Do the parents of these students, even though the students are adults, have any idea what their young adult children are being taught?”
One of the things that was clearly taught and emphasized in the class was that the eastern church is led by a Metropolitan who is just one of the bishops and is considered the “first among equals.” We were taught that this is also how Believers Church is set up with KP as the Metropolitan and as such he is just the first among equals. But a few months later I found on the Believers Church website that the Metropolitan of Believers Church is actually “the supreme head” of Believers Church. A position where someone is the “supreme head” is very different from a position where someone is “the first among equals.”
As I diligently continued to seek the Lord daily about what the truth is and what is going on with the ministry, I often cried out to the Lord with tears and even questioned if I was being deceived by the enemy to pull me out of the battle. I prayed and fasted asking for the Lord to show me the truth. I asked Him to show me if I could stay. At times I questioned and doubted if I could hear from the Lord or if the enemy was deceiving me. But I held onto the truth of His Word and His promises and sought to walk fully in the light of the truth.. And as I held on to the Lord through this, I knew the Lord would never leave me and that “The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.” (Ps 145:18) I clung tightly to Him and to this promise!
As I prayed and sought the Lord in all this, I did not discuss my struggle with anyone, not even my wife. My reason was that I was not sure about any of this (that now is so very clear) and if I was wrong, I did not want to sow seeds of doubt in my dear wife’s heart and mind. I did not contact any current or former staff members about any of this, nor did any former staff contact me about any of this. Nor did I contact any churches or pastors about any of this, nor did any contact me about any of this. I wanted to be sure the guidance I received was from the Lord and trusted that when He showed me the truth, He would confirm it, and I could seek council before I made any decisions.
In May of this year (2014) I was getting to a point where I was greatly and heavily burdened with what the Lord was revealing to me. I was reading past prayer notes and seeing the dangerous teachings and the deceptiveness of the ministry more and more clearly – it was beginning to eat me up on the inside as I shared this with no one. Much of KP’s teaching is filled with truth and appears on the surface as being really good. But being on staff and wanting to “stay in the battle” and staying focused on one’s “call,” these messages are heard through a filter that screens out the underlying messages. From time to time I would hear things that were troubling to me, but after just a brief moment or two of thought, I would shove those things and thoughts under a rug or under a bed or into a closet. After all, I didn’t want anything to distract me from my “call”. As time went on however, KP’s teachings became more and more troubling to me. Below are some of his teachings that are dangerous, or at least, potentially dangerous. I have included just a few of multiple quotes from KP that I have for each:
Independent thinking is discouraged and linked to pridefulness and a lack of humility:
The independent thinking of our culture – I don’t know anything more dangerous to embracing a life of humility. I say that carefully because I struggle with it too. I have no illusion, I know some of you will not embrace this. I’m not beating you up, I just want to continue to ask you to embrace this life of humility on your journey with the Lord. (2013-09-24)
I’ve been agonizing over the east campus. My biggest agony is: is living in community with people who are one, serving God an illusion? As a nation we are heading toward anarchy; nothing is going to be safe. No family will survive on their own. The only way to survive is to be a community. What will keep us from being a community? Pride and independent thinking. (2013-10-08)
When we understand the sovereignty of God, that our life is not independent for us to make our own decisions, comes abandonment. (2014-05-13)
Leadership is to be obeyed without question:
“I thank God for our brothers __ and __ who served in our US office, but when asked, moved to different countries to head up other offices without question. I’m certain most of you would do that. Please, consider this call as serious. Let’s look at our life and evaluate, not as Americans, but as missionaries living in a world that is dark and desperately in need. We have no choice but to obey without question what the Lord asks.” (2011-11-15) [This last sentence equates instructions from KP as instructions from the Lord that should not be questioned.]
Asking to pray about a major life change is rebellion:
“Recently, I had a couple students approach me about serving the Lord in other countries. I ask you too, would you be willing to take your wife and children to some other country if I asked? You might say, “Let me pray about it,” but that answer is the independent passive rebellious nature.” (2011-11-15)
Elitism is promoted:
The bride that Jesus is coming for, we are part of one of the most elite groups in history, living in the enemy’s territory calling people to follow the Lamb. (2014-01-14)
Distrust of anyone, even family, other than leadership:
“The most dangerous thing is people that you believe in or you are related to, they sow the seeds of doubt and confusion and questioning and you start wondering. You need to guard your mind, your ears from listening to people who care more about your wellbeing and your happiness than for the glory of God and for the things of God. When someone, even among us, who is your best friend to you and me and we’ve never had to put our guards up, but when they are discouraged and down and out they will start talking to you.” (2014-01-10)
Don’t let anyone – mother, father, family, friends – influence you to the extent that you begin to wonder if you should do something else. Jesus firmly said, “Who is my brother, sister, mother, or father?” His mother and brothers were afraid that He was losing His mind and they wanted him to get away! But Jesus evaluated his blood relationships and family in light of his relationship to God the Father and why His Father sent Him to earth. Peter, one of His closest friends, said, “Jesus, please don’t talk about being killed or dying” and Jesus said, “Get behind me, Satan. Peter, you are speaking in human interest not in God’s interest.” This is a battle we have to deal with all of our lives. Trials, loneliness, confusion and attacks, all of these things come as a deliberate attack from the enemy to dilute our call and decision to follow the Lord. (2014-02-25)
Discourages open discussions about problems or concerns:
“All of you husbands and wives, and families, you especially need to be sensitive. In my home, many times my wife would quietly say, “What you are saying, I don’t think the Lord would say that. I don’t think that’s what Scripture says.” There was never a time that I can remember of Gisela looking at me, “What is wrong with you? You are a creep.” No. She’s very humble, very gentle but very much focused always to align with God not with her husband. We need to be very careful even in our homes. When our children were growing up, Gisela and I made some covenants about raising children and one of the things was we both made a promise to God our children will never hear us say anything unkind or negative about anyone, in the car or at our dining table or anywhere.” (2014-01-10)
Avoid people, even your best friends, even people in the ministry, who constantly only talk about comfort and ease and niceness and are negative about leaders. You and I need to be helping others, all of us together to protect us that the wall of separation from the world and worldliness will not be broken down and our lives are destroyed. I have seen this happen, and it could happen to us and it has to staff who have left from here and they contact me, a few of them, with statements, “I only wish I didn’t listen to that person. I only wish I was more honest to ask and walk in the light.” The reason I’m saying this to you, you, in a million years, will never be strong enough to keep your heart from being destroyed by negative input by listening to people. (2014-01-10)
Fosters an environment of fear (even fear of the truth):
“In a thousand years, you will not be spiritually strong enough to save yourself from evil report. And that’s what you need to keep in mind. The millions of people God delivered from Egypt, they were destroyed, except Joshua and Caleb. It says in Numbers 13:14, “They heard evil report.” And what was the evil report? It was truth, giants in the land. It is full of difficulties and the terrain is bad and it’s a mean situation. They were telling the truth. But that became evil report, and people believed and they were all destroyed.” (2014-01-10)
I have watched for 30 years how many people came here, having given up everything in their life, but how the churches and preachers have destroyed their life. (2012-11-13)
Humility is something that God will not give you. You can pray for it but you may end up in such catastrophic experiences. Because when God humbles someone you can get into a lot of trouble like in Daniel. He (Nebuchadnezzar) boasted in his empire and then became insane. (2013-07-09)
You need to be very, very careful, otherwise you will be deceived. And when you are deceived, you do not know you are deceived. (2012-11-13)
People outside of GFA do not understand our call:
“We at GFA have something that no one has, that is one another and Jesus. How do we live with hope and enthusiasm? What keeps us from killing ourselves? What keeps us to survive during seasons of going through the valley? Psalm 23, people read that when people die but it is not for that. Who will help us? Don’t look to people who don’t understand your journey. When Balaam was hired to say negative words to God’s people, no matter what he did, he couldn’t do it. He opened his mouth and said good things. In the end it was getting really confusing, he said, “I tell you what, nothing I say is going to work but you can do something to destroy them. God will not do one thing wrong, God will not destroy them. But if you do this, they will do certain things and they will be destroyed.” So they infiltrated, the wall of separation was taken down. They went in and began to mingle with the people of God, and they put their guard down and they talked and influenced everything and became the reason for God to judge them.”
As I came across these teachings, I began to understand the dynamics of how GFA operates. I had heard most of them before and had pushed them out of my thoughts, yet they still began to affect the way I lived and thought and even my relationship with the Lord. I am so thankful that somehow the Lord revealed the truth and the dangers of these teachings to me before I became completely blinded to the reality of the psychological and spiritual manipulation and control that is practiced at GFA and which most staff do not see because of their sincere and innocent hearts toward the Lord, their love of Jesus, and their trust in KP and other leadership at GFA.
On May 16, 2014, KP clearly revealed the direction he is leading the ministry when after the morning prayer meeting he recommended three books by Robert Webber who is considered the father of the Ancient-Future movement. KP said these books would be beneficial and helpful and give a biblical approach to life. The books are: 1) “Common Roots: The Original Call to an Ancient-Future Faith” (one of the two books used for the SD class: “Church History through 1200 AD” and which I referenced earlier); 2) “Worship is a Verb: Eight Principles for Transforming Worship”; 3) “Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail: Why Evangelicals Are Attracted to the Liturgical Church.” By endorsing these books to staff, it is clear to see that KP is leading the ministry into the Ancient-Future church movement and into Anglican-like or Episcopal-like beliefs and practices.
The problem with this is not just that I disagree with these teachings because they encourage spiritual activities, practices, and rituals that are not biblical and that are potentially very dangerous to one’s spiritual well-being. The problem with this is that the ministry has intentionally concealed this information from supporters, including those supporters who they know are opposed to these teachings. They have failed to openly, clearly, and plainly disclose these things to those outside the ministry as evidenced by what staff is allowed to communicate to their supporters and by the editing of reports, videos, and photos from the field to remove evidence of these practices in the field. This is deceptive communication.
One example of deceptive communication is the description of the “Practices of Believers Church” on their website, www.gfa.org, which I have shown below:
Practices of Believers Church
If you ever travel to various Believers Church ministry sites, you may encounter practices, protocols and dress codes that are a little different from what you are accustomed to. Some of them are simply cultural, others are biblical practices that may not be emphasized as much in other nations, while others are just matters of practicality. It is important to note that many evangelical churches in Asia share the same or similar church systems and practices as Believers Church.
Some of these systems and practices have been misunderstood by some in the Body of Christ who have accused us of being Catholic, which we are not. Nor are we Presbyterian or Anglican or Charismatic or Pentecostal. Rather, we are part of Christ’s Body, seeking to exalt Him and display His love and glory to the unreached masses in a very hostile environment.
The explanation above speaks of denominations that Believers Church is not and by not stating that Believers Church is a denomination and not explaining the actual type of denomination they are, to the uninformed, unsuspecting, and trusting believer, it appears as though they are a non-denominational church like most of the churches that currently support them. Additionally, this explanation is not directly linked through the “About” page on www.gfa.org. In order to find it, one would have to know about Believers Church being the name of the churches supported by GFA and specify a search on the www.gfa.org web site for “Believers Church.”
The explanation staff is given for this is that GFA does not want to show a connection to Believers Church for the protection of the brothers and sisters in the field. But in the center of the 2012 Annual Report there is a photo of a church building with “Believers Church” very clearly and prominently shown on the front of the church. And, if one goes to the Gospel for Asia India website (www.gospelforasia.in) and then to the “About” page there, the following statement is found, “Under the leadership of Believers Church’s Episcopal Synod, we improve the lifestyle of both rural and urban communities through various development projects.” So there is a direct connection between GFA and Believers Church on the India website. Additionally, if the link to “Believers Church’s” in the quote above is selected, you are directed to www.believerschurch.com where on their “About” page one will see the following description of Believers Church:
In Service to God
Believers Church, a Christian denomination, is Apostolic in origin, universal in nature, Biblical and evangelical in faith, ecumenical in outlook, and Episcopal in governance. The Church at present has thirteen Bishops, with the Metropolitan as the supreme head, giving his spiritual and administrative leadership in the service of God and humanity. The Church adheres to the Nicene Creed, Biblical Faith, and traditions of the historical church backed up with its own Canonical Constitution. The Episcopal Synod and the Diocesan Councils take the responsibility for planning and executing the mission, religious life, and charitable programs of the Church.
This clearly shows that Believers Church is a denomination, that it is Episcopal in governance, and it has a Metropolitan (KP) as the supreme head. This is who and what Believers Church is and GFA in the U.S. should not have to conceal this from anyone. Failing to be transparent and disclose this information to the U.S. and other western supporters is deceptive.
Another example is from when I was the prayer coordinator. In 2011 or 2012 we received video reports from various regions in Asia showing what was going on in their areas and we would show them at Tuesday night prayer. One night the field report we showed had a photo of KP with his salmon colored cassock and his beads and cross. The narrator said something like, “Thanks to his eminence, the reverend bishop KP Yohannan…” After the prayer meeting I was asked by one of the senior leaders about who was reviewing the videos before they were shown and to make sure such things would be edited out of the videos in the future. The reason for editing such things out was because some staff and visitors would not understand. I accepted that explanation and agreed to make sure that was done for the future videos.
A third example I came across after my initial meeting with leadership about leaving. While browsing the internet I came across a photo of KP holding a child in India and he was again wearing his salmon colored cassock and his beads and cross. Then the next day I saw the same exact photo in the 2013 Annual Report inside the front cover, but the beads were completely gone! Then I looked in the 2012 Annual Report and inside the front cover I saw another photo of the same little girl with KP taken at the same time, but in this photo the beads appeared much smaller than the original and the color was much very different than the original dark brown or dark burgundy and was now a much lighter color similar to KP’s cassock. These photos are shown below:
When I asked a senior leader about this, I calmly and politely stated that this could appear to be deceptive. His response was not concern about the photos, but said in a very loud and angry voice, “how can you make yourself judge, jury, and executioner?!” I said I am just asking what happened to the beads to which he replied, “What about Matthew 18?” I replied, “I did not say this is sin, I am just asking what happened to the beads?” To which he again replied, “What about Matthew 18?” This “What about Matthew 18?” statement was repeated to me several times when I restated my question, “What happened to the beads?” I share this detail not to get into all the “I said…” and “he said…”, but because this was so very strange and weird and not at all the response I would expect from a normally very calm, gentle, and kind brother in the Lord. He did apologize for the way he spoke to me, but to this day he has not expressed any concern about the photo to me nor has he or anyone else presented an explanation to me.
I could not believe it when I discovered these photos and I found it even harder to believe the response I received from the senior leader. I was heartbroken to see this from a ministry that I was a part of and passionately represented and supported. A ministry that has one of its core values stated as: “Being a people of integrity and excellence” and which I thought was beyond reproach in regard to integrity. Modification of photos to minimize or remove objects not just to protect the missionaries in the field, but to minimize or remove objects that may raise questions about the ministry was now obviously not a one-time occurrence. This practice may be used in the secular world, but as followers of Jesus we should never practice such deception.
These three examples show that GFA’s nondisclosure and concealing of the Ancient-Future movement and the Episcopal/Anglican-like denomination and practices of GFA and Believers Church are deceptive. This hit me very personally when I thought about my own supporters. One of my supporters who is an elderly lady in her late 70s who lives alone in a very simple and small one-bedroom apartment and was supporting me for the equivalent of $8.33 per month and who I know is opposed to the Ancient-Future church movement and would not want to support it in any way. I knew it would be deceptive of me if I continued to accept support from her, or any of my other supporters without being open and transparent with them.
As I wrestled with open honesty versus deception, I felt led me to do a word study of deception in the Bible which led me to the following verse:
“Cursed is he who does the work of the LORD deceitfully,” Jeremiah 48:10
Although the quote above is in a section about Moab, the principle is applicable to all. I knew immediately that I would be committing the sin of deceit and would deserve to be cursed by God if I were to continue saying I was doing the work of the Lord without being open and honest with my supporters about what GFA is doing and the direction it is going.
Then on Saturday, May 17, 2014, the first house dedication at the east campus took place. When KP arrived in a car driven by one of the leaders, KP was in the back seat even though no one was in the front passenger seat. This seemed a bit strange. But even stranger was that he was wearing two layers of silk or satin robes – something like the pope might wear – and like I had never seen him wear before. Then on the way home, we were passed by the car driven by the same GFA leader and again KP was in the back. Unless KP has motion sickness when he sits in the front seat, he was clearly be chauffeured to and from the east campus. This may not be a big deal to some people, but it certainly appeared to us as KP positioning himself in a special place of prominence above others.
The next morning in my prayer time I cried out to the Lord, with knots in my stomach and tears in my eyes, that I did not know how much longer I could go on without sharing this with my wife – it was eating me up on the inside and the weight and conviction from the Lord was getting heavier and heavier. About an hour later my wife asked me, “Can I ask you a question?” And I said silently to the Lord, “Oh Lord, please let the floodgates open. Please let the floodgates open!” And they did! We spoke for about an hour or so about things that had been bothering her. And she said, “I didn’t think any of this bothered you.” I replied, “You know how you have been asking me for the last two months or so if I was alright? Well, it hasn’t been the work load or anything like that. It has been all these things that I have been wrestling with,” and I opened up to her about the things I described earlier in this letter and she opened up to me about more things that had been bothering her. At the end of our conversation, we knew we had to decide what to do, so C.P. and I decided to meet with our mentors, and they agreed to meet with us the next evening, Monday, May 19, 2014.
When we met with them, I shared my concerns about how the ministry has become an Episcopal-like denomination and the Ancient-Future direction it has gone, and that is not what we came to GFA to support. I also shared that the ministry is being deceptive by not letting supporters know about this. With very heavy conviction upon me and sobbing I told them I could not deceive our supporters. Our mentors did not deny or try to correct me on this. The husband said that he has disagreed with some of the things KP had done over the years and he has thought about leaving a number of times. Each time he would pray about it and each time he felt as though the Lord did not show him where he should go, so he has stayed and prayed for KP. He said this at least three, maybe four times, and told me to pray about it.
So we continued to pray about it, and that week I called the pastor of our sending church and two other pastors who supported us and told them about Ancient-Future movement and liturgical movement of GFA. They each were surprised to hear about this as they previously had no idea this was going on for at least a year and a half and they were very concerned about this.
I also spoke with my friend whose son had now been accepted into the SD for the August 2014 class. He also was very surprised to hear about this and had no idea this is what would be taught to his son and that the students were required to attend GFA’s church (which I thought was Believers Church as it was before for staff, but now is GFA church and is still very liturgical and the students are required to go to it and are not free to choose a church on their own). I told him there were some very good things about SD that his son might benefit from, but that he needed to check it out more thoroughly as though I was not on staff.
After the Tuesday Night Prayer meeting that same week, the Church Relations coordinator approached me and said since one of the other speakers was no longer on staff, he would probably be asking me to go to churches more frequently. I told him that I needed to speak with him as soon as possible because I was really struggling with some things in the ministry. We met on Thursday and I shared with him that I did not think I could represent the ministry appropriately at the church meeting I was scheduled to go to in a week and a half, on June 1. I apologized to him for the late notice, but he graciously said ok, he understood, and to let him know if I worked through things so he could begin scheduling me again.
Later that afternoon, one of the senior leaders who also is a speaker and was now going to that church meeting, came to my office and asked how I was doing. I shared some of my concerns about the liturgical movement of the ministry and that it bothered me that the pastors in the field were called Father. He assured me that they were going to stop using that title and he said he would pray for me.
Over that Memorial Day weekend, C.P. and I continued to seek the Lord in this and we agreed that I would speak with leadership on Tuesday. So Tuesday afternoon I e-mailed the senior leader who I spoke to on Thursday and my Group Coordinator that I needed to meet with them about my serving at the ministry. Within about a half hour I was contacted to meet in his office with my Group Coordinator there. One of the first things the senior leader said to me was, “how can you come in here when brother KP is in India and try to leave before he gets back?” I said, “Brother, I did not come in here to tell you I am leaving. I would love to meet with brother KP and would welcome a meeting with him. I just came in to tell you that I have concerns and don’t know if I can continue supporting and representing the ministry. I know this is not good timing since it is such a very busy time with the move coming up and all, but I wanted to let you know about how I was feeling as soon as I felt I could.” The next part of our conversation went something like this:
Leader his normal voice: “So is God telling you to leave?”
Me: “I don’t know. I just know that I don’t think I can continue… ”
Leader interrupting me with a slightly raised voice: “Is God telling you to leave?”
Me: “Maybe, I don’t know. I just know there are some things that…”
Leader again interrupting me with voice raised even more, “Is God telling you to leave?”
Me: “Maybe. I am not sure, but it looks like it, so ya, I think so.”
Leader in a quieter voice: “OK.”
This was the first of several very strange conversations I had with this senior leader with whom I had what I thought was a really good relationship and to whom three months earlier I said, “I really appreciate you brother. You are someone I can follow as you follow Jesus.” To which he replied, “I feel the same about you.” Now when I raise concerns about serving at the ministry, his demeanor changed drastically and I saw a side of him that I had never seen before.
In that first meeting I told him that I was struggling with a number of things and described them to him: the Ancient-Future church movement; the Episcopal-like practices; the lack of honestly with our supporters; that we are being taught we are better than others; and that the staff in some way is being controlled. He said that I should have given leadership a chance to pray about this and I told him I welcome their prayers even now and if the Lord shows me I should stay I would. But even if He doesn’t, I am willing to stay until the end of July so I can help with the transition of someone new into HR and to help with the move. He said he would talk to brother KP about it.
A few days later I was called into that leader’s office and asked if I knew a particular SD student (my friend’s son) who had been accepted was no longer coming. I said yes. He then asked me if I had contacted him. I said that I had contacted my friend, who is my brother in Christ and that I told him about what was going on at the ministry. The senior leader then said that I should have asked leadership about this first. I said I did not know I needed to ask for permission to share the truth with a brother in Christ who I have known for seventeen years. I said that I basically told my friend that he should check out the ministry for himself as though I was not on staff and decide for himself if it is what he and his son want to do. The senior leader then said in a raised voice, something like, “How can you say those things to him and then say you left the decision up to him.”
It was later in that meeting, or maybe it was in my final meeting, when I presented the question about the photos that were modified for publication in the 2012 and the 2013 Annual Reports and when he said to me in a very loud and angry voice, “how can you make yourself the judge, jury, and executioner?”
Each of these three encounters show how when I approached leadership with concerns, or leadership found out that I shared something about the ministry openly and honestly with someone outside the ministry, leadership turned the focus off of the issue at hand and attempted to put me on the defensive.
Finally, the next week at about 3:30 on June 3, 2014, one week after I initially approached leadership with my concerns, I was called into the senior leader’s office and I was told that they had spoken to brother KP and that would be my last regular day in the office. I should straighten up my files and clean out my desk and just be available to answers any questions that may come up in the next week and a half. They did say they would pay me through June 15 and provide the regular severance agreement to me and they have done that.
I was asked to come to the prayer meeting that night when they would announce that we would be leaving and I was asked to be at the Tuesday Night Prayer the following week for the cookie reception and send off. After dealing with our own hesitations about attending these, we did attend both and neither week did leadership say anything about why we were leaving other than we feel the Lord calling us to leave. But there was no meeting with KP, no explanation about any of the concerns I raised, and no formal exit interview.
An interesting comment that the senior leader made during that last meeting was, “It always concerns me when someone comes to say they are leaving without giving leadership a chance to pray and fast about it first. It is as though they have elevated themselves above leadership.” This clearly shows the leadership of GFA believes they are above the rest of the staff and have, or at least want to have, direct and absolute authority and control over the staff.
Also, near the end of that meeting I mentioned that I had not submitted a letter of resignation and was then told that not many people do that anymore and it was not necessary. Nonetheless, I felt it was the right thing to do, so I submitted a resignation letter on my final day documenting three of our reasons for leaving: The Ancient-Future and liturgical movement of the ministry, the deceptive communication with supporters, and the teaching that praying about a request from leadership is rebellion. I addressed our resignation letter to “GFA Leadership” and included the following comment at the end:
We [C.P. & I] hereby give Gospel for Asia leadership full permission to share all the information contained in this letter, verbally, hardcopy, or electronically, with anyone who may inquire about the reasons we have departed from GFA.
Due to a lack of time, I did not include documentation of the dangerous teachings as part of our resignation letter, but I have now done so as seen earlier by listing specific quotations from KP and the dates he made them.
Also, I do not think my resignation letter was copied and distributed to the other leaders, so I have sent it to each of them via e-mail along with my documentation of the dangerous teachings I have heard and witnessed.
We are now back in Illinois, recovering from this heartbreaking and faith rattling experience, learning to trust others in leadership again, and serving the Lord at a non-denominational church. Through this, the Lord has shown us His faithfulness, reminded us that leaders are fallible and that we need to always keep our eyes on Jesus, and that we will go through difficult times in our lives but the Lord will never leave us or forsake us. Oh, how we love Jesus for His love for us and faithfulness!
May the Lord use this testimony to bring the truth to the light, break the enemy’s attempts to destroy a ministry, somehow help bring healing to those who are hurting because of the enemy’s deceitful influence, and encourage the leadership of GFA to honor the Lord being open, honest, and straightforward with all current and potential staff, students, and supporters.
Angela and I had been home support raising to come back on staff after our time in the School of Discipleship. During that time, we grew to be close friends, and after a year and a half, we felt the calling on our lives to get married. We immediately told our mentors of our calling, and that we would inform leadership so that we could both receive individual counseling until we were both back at GFA and able to attend marriage counseling together. Our goal was to wait for three to six months after we were both at GFA to begin dating, so that we could focus on getting adjusted to our role as staff members. Angela and I planned a weekend for her to come to my hometown four hours away and visit my parents. I told my mentor that she would be coming to visit in light of our calling. Throughout this time, GFA called me back to join staff, and her only days after.
The next day I received a call from my mentor. He told me he never received any notice of Angela coming to visit (I later sent him the email in which I said she would be visiting, a line which he overlooked.) He then proceeded to tell me that KP and leadership gave me an ultimatum: Cut off all ties with Angela or I couldn’t return to GFA. Shocked by such a response, I emailed David C. and made sure to clarify that Angela and I weren’t trying to hide something and all we wanted was accountability and guidance during this time. He told me I couldn’t be in contact with her for at least two years, and then only marry her with their approval. When I asked David, Danny and my mentor for a BIBLICAL explanation for their reasoning, I received no answer, other than one from my mentor saying I was coming across as “hostile” towards them. I was then asked to not come back on staff, and Angela resigned after that. We then disputed with GFA over the money we had raised, as GFA claimed the money belonged to them by law. Only until after some supporters called in to complain did they say there was a “new law” that allowed them to return the money.
There is a lot I could say, but what is apparent is that GFA from the first was not honest with donors about the nature of its ministry. I was a party to this, so I also need to repent of my actions and lack of actions when faced with this situation.
In the 1980s, GFA supported already established ministries in Asia. The problem was that while the supported ministries were Pentecostal in nature, GFA’s basis of support then was among conservative Baptists, who were opposed to Pentecostalism. So any reference to the nature of the ministries being supported was deleted from the news stories, photos, etc., because to be honest about who we were supporting would have resulted in fewer donations.
Some 30 years later, GFA had established its own Church in India, and KP, who was originally ordained a Baptist minister, had long-since rejected Baptist teachings and reverted to the Asian/Episcopal structure of his childhood. Once again, GFA was hiding the nature of its church on the field from its supporters, who are largely Calvary Chapel, Mennonite and Baptist — none of whom support the Episcopal structure. This was evident when we cropped pictures of Believers’ Church pastors so their robes wouldn’t show, and try to crop out photos that showed KP as a bishop. Again, the reason for the “editing” was the same: it would hurt income if the donors knew who we really were.
For a ministry that has publicly struggled with using “the methods of the world,” I can think of nothing more “worldly” than manipulating your communications to maximize income at the expense of truth.
The cult-like emphasis on authority is a total perversion of the freedom that is promised in Christ. It reached a crisis point for me when, in a leadership meeting, I questioned a point in KP’s “authority” book and was told later that “our role is not to question Brother KP, it is to follow his orders.”
So I left GFA with very mixed emotions. There was no question it was time for me to retire, as I was killing myself with the long hours and commutes, but what pushed me over the edge was the emphasis on authority and other cult-like tendencies.
Dear board members and leadership of GFA,
As I begin to write this I realize that I am standing before my Maker and King who requires from me honesty and truth. It is my heart felt conviction that I represent my family and their experiences at GFA not as a weapon of destruction, but as a mirror of self-evaluation that aides in the refining fire of Christ’s ongoing molding us into His image. In order to be brief I will try and summarize just a few key times that we took pause and recognized what we were experiencing at GFA was in direct opposition to how God, in His Word, calls His children to treat one another.
Looking back the most prevailing contradiction we saw played out was a spirit of fear. It was drilled into our heads that we need to be so cautious of being manipulated by others outside of the ministry, that everyone we came in contact with, family and people from our churches we need to look at as potential distractions from our “call.” Especially if they did not understand, agree or even challenged us on our “call.”
This became so very obvious to my wife and I when after three years at the ministry her walk had become so empty and her spirit had become so down from all her health problems that she reached an all time low and was feeling spiritually empty. I challenged her to look for a Kay Arthur Precepts Bible study like she went to when we were back home. They always were so spiritually invigorating for her. She would always come home with tons of notes and stories to tell me about how God spoke to her.
So after several months of my prodding she finally found one close to our home at Prestonwood Baptist Church. In my excitement I shared this new news with a women married to one of the leaders. I thought she would be very excited for my wife, only to find myself called into the office of David C. several hours later. He challenged me to not let her go the Bible study because she will be surrounding herself with women of affluence that would open up the opportunity for her to covet their lifestyle and then come home and lure me away from my “call” at the ministry. Even tough I explained all the benefits for her to him, he said he has seen this happen before and recommended that if my wife has this “free time” that it would be better spent helping the single women who serve in the office with meals or doing their laundry.
On a side note, my wife had been doing KP’s secretaries laundry for many months without their prompting. In my “blind” desire to “submit to my authority” I went home to inform my wife of this. My wife broke down like I had never seen her. Her spirit went from hope to even more hopelessness; her strongest point of contention was “who was the head of our household, GFA or me.” It became very clear to us both that it had become GFA. This placed a wedge in our relationship that took years to heal.
I remember back in October of 2010, several meetings being held talking about finances and circumstances with people in the ministry. This caused John B., at a separate meeting, to speak to staff because he wanted to squelch any rumors flying around that some staff might be getting laid off. I also remember a meeting several days later where KP spoke very vehemently about several staff members who they had conversations regarding their dissatisfaction with areas of the ministry. He even made the statement, “You know who you are!” I was taken back by KP’s comparison to Judas in his description of these individuals. I remember going home and telling my wife, “Someone is in really big trouble!” This was on a Friday.
On Monday morning I was called into David C.’s office. David informed me that we were being let go. We were one of just two families that were fired. KP was referring to us? I was dumbfounded. Neither of us had ever spoken to leadership or anyone up to that point, about anything we were feeling. David said the reason we were being released is that we were not fully supported. So what’s the truth? Many other families and singles were not even close to being fully supported. I knew of some who were a lot more deficient in their monthly support than we were, so why us?
David told me I had to clean out my desk and leave in the next three hours. I was in shock! What did I do? I was being treated like someone who had just committed a crime and was being asked to leave immediately. In order to come to GFA we sold our home and left our families, friends, my job as a public school art teacher, my ministry as children’s ministry coordinator at our church, I even cashed in my retirement loosing 70% of it to come to serve at GFA. I was told that staff was considered “family”. I was told it was my “calling for life”. I was prepared and willing to spend the rest of my life at GFA. What had gone wrong? Does the leadership not hear correctly from the Lord when they ask us to come on staff? Are we that expendable? I asked David if I had done something wrong and he said “no, not at all.” He was practically in tears, seemingly broken over this.
The day we were let go was my oldest daughter’s 17th birthday and the following day my wife was going in for her second major back surgery. David said he knew these facts, and seemed very broken up because he had to do this to us. That very morning before my meeting with David, God in His grace, had prepared my heart that no matter what I faced I should not fear and I sensed a peace from God had come over me. Out of this peace from God I was able to respond to this scary and life altering event with kindness and grace comforting David, with a peace that was not my own. Not that this justifies the ministries mistreatments and ungodly actions, but it allowed me to leave the ministry the way I felt Christ would do.
I recall asking David C. if they were still going to provide meals for us when my wife was released from the hospital. He responded with a very emphatic “Why, I don’t see why not!” I received an email from him the next day while in my wife’s hospital room informing me that after further evaluation the ministry was so very busy at the moment that they would not have the time to help us out with meals. It was then my wife, just out of surgery and in tears, reminded me of a time where she was told by a leaders wife not to give a meal to a women and her family who was having surgery because she was not on staff anymore. She was told that we needed to focus on the needs of staff only. Thus the shunning begins. Immediately, the severing of close relationships was evident. People did not call to see how we were, did not help when they had previously offered to, and simply acted as if we had fallen off the face of the earth. Since we were no longer “on staff” we were considered a distraction to the greater good, “The lost.” If not for the Christ-likeness of individuals at our church who, out of their abundance, displayed love and care for us by ministering to us both financially and spiritually, we would have been ruined!
When a ministry becomes so big that honesty, integrity, love, family and Christ-likeness are just talking points rather than actions I think that ministry needs to do some soul searching and re-evaluate who is the head of the that ministry, man or God. God does not run his church and ministries on fear, but on love and trusting that whatever we go through in life what matters most is our love for Him and our brothers and sister in the lord.
1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. -1 Corinthians 13:1-7 ESV
It is my hope and prayer that this overview of events is not seen as an attack, but a heartfelt appeal to the hearts and minds of loving servants who may have inadvertently lost sight of the fact that they are responsible for their actions. I forgive GFA for these events, but feel it is important to point them out so as to give the opportunity for repentance and healing. It also is helpful since my wife and I were never offered the opportunity to have an exit interview.
My story with GFA actually started 30 years earlier when I moved cross country to live with a group of dynamic Christians in a community setting. During my 7 years there, the group grew to 125 and was largely comprised of young people who came to know the Lord as a result of outreach. The leader of the group was a physically large man, chronologically older than most everyone and older in the Lord than most. Over the course of my time there I learned more about what the Bible says through teachings and gradually read my Bible less and less, as I unconsciously thought I was being spiritually fed.
I observed that none of the younger people (I was slightly older) were marrying, none of the married couples were having children and every married couple that left the group divorced. Our living arrangements changed over the years from communal housing to individual (read: isolated) apartments. We were disciplined verbally in corporate meetings, fear was instilled; and when anyone left the group, they were shunned. We were not to have friends outside the group and were to ignore or cut off family and relatives, as they were distractions from building God’s kingdom (their way). One day the Lord said to me, “This group is a cult and you are a cult member.” “I’m outta there!!” I said. I knew what was coming: Shunning. And they were the only people I knew at that point. Talk about isolation! I learned later that the leader had books on mind control and group control in his library and had a family history of psychological troubles.
Most who left the group, left the Lord. God was merciful to me, and I never did, but I was so afraid He would never speak to me again through His Word, that I couldn’t physically open the Bible. I would hold it to my heart and cry…. so desperately wanting His speaking in my life, but so afraid He wouldn’t. After several years He opened the way for me to read His words again.
I learned a lot about myself and people through that experience, especially that I need to listen to the Lord first, and sometimes only. He has a good plan for my life. The plan for my life in the group was to submit, unquestioningly obey authority, mandatory head coverings, call each other Brother and Sister, attend every meeting and whatever else the leadership might give as the only direction my life could go. Our humanity was not acknowledged or encouraged. There was no exploration of the gifts God had given to each of us, no further education, and even a squelching of that. We worked, gave our money to the group (leader) and had a small world view. We literally threw away all evidence of our past and lived simply, as we moved from one location to another. After I left, it took years to sort things out, as I had been so warped by my experience. I’ve never read a book on cults, but I believe what I was in was a religious personality cult, which spiritually boils down to a person with a controlling spirit.
Fast forward a few decades and I am now married, and we have a history of volunteering for organizations, GFA being one of them. After donating 3+ months over a two year period to GFA, we were asked about coming on staff. We had never considered that, but it seemed right, and we set about raising support. Six months later we moved cross country and were living in a one bedroom Autumn Chase apartment, having left a small house we built with our own 4 hands, a couple of businesses and selling 75% of our worldly goods. Within the first year, I recognized the familiar clamping down on people’s humanity, the controlling spirit, the fear of leadership, doing the wrong thing, and the shunning of people who one day were your commended co-workers and the next were condemned out the door. There were too many parallels with my previous experience, which the Lord Himself told me was a cult. I wanted out. I continued to feel trapped, until my husband also experienced enough inconsistencies between what was being said and what was being practiced, and how micro-managed things were, that we made plans to leave.
I consider the present GFA to be a cult and continually becoming more cultish. It seems to be moving away from God’s plan for us to serve others, and seems to be more and more self-serving, honoring a person above his Creator. The Bible calls this idolatry. I do not believe GFA started that way but evolved to become a cult, just like my previous experience. I am not proud to have been part of two cults in my life, but I continue to believe God is at work outside all human institutions and miraculously continues to bring good out of evil for each of His children. The common people I worked and prayed with at GFA are a very special group, presently some of my closest friends. I am grateful for this. May God be pleased to bring about the changes we all need to usher in His kingdom.
We were very disturbed and discouraged after a prayer meeting in which staff were told by K.P. that leadership was considering sending certain staff overseas to work in various international offices. The reason for our dismay was that K.P. specifically stated that if they told us they wanted us to serve overseas and we asked to have time to pray about it, we would be sinning because we were not submitting to them unquestioningly as our authority. There was also an implied threat that if we didn’t obey without question then we would be asked to leave the ministry. This specific incident is a prime example of the pervasive environment at GFA where staff are conditioned to believe that leadership is much more qualified to hear from God and discern His will for the staff than the staff themselves are. The core issue here is that the GFA leadership, in a man-made, rule-based attempt to “protect” the ministry, has far overstepped their bounds in what authority they should have over the lives of the staff; examples being where to live, who to associate with, church involvement, etc.
I came on staff a week before my 25th birthday, after spending a year and a half raising all of my own support. I had been volunteering for the ministry from my hometown for years and felt like GFA was where I was supposed to spend the rest of my life. Two months after arriving at Gospel for Asia, things began to get weird.
In a friendly conversation with David C., I told him I was interested in a girl who was on staff (we were just friends at the time). I was called into K.P.’s office and told that I was not allowed to continue to like this girl, and that I was not even allowed to pray about getting married for at least 2 years. I was surprised that I was being told not to pray, but my heart and intention was to do all that I could to comply with the wishes of the leadership. Shortly thereafter, all of the newer young single people on staff were called into a meeting where we were told that we had entered the ministry single, and so that is how we should remain.
From that point on, it was obvious that I was on leadership’s black list and I began experience what I later found out was a common practice at GFA: verbal and emotional abuse with the purpose of isolating and instilling a fear of being sent home.
The 3 leaders (K.P. Yohannan, John B., and David C.) would call me into K.P.’s office, and KP would proceed to tell me all sorts of terrible things about myself. He told me that I probably wouldn’t be a Christian in 10 years. He called me a mad man and said that he was glad that there was no one else like me at GFA, because he couldn’t imagine what I might go out and do. I loved the children at GFA, and would always volunteer in the kids ministry. Knowing this, K.P. said “There are 72 children here at the ministry, and you are going to ruin the lives of every one of them.” (That is a direct quote. I will never forget those words.) He also told me things that were outright lies. I had two close friends at the ministry who were female, and he told me that both of them were in his office in tears because of the inappropriate way I had acted toward them. I knew that this couldn’t be true, since I had always treated these girls as sisters in Christ and had never done anything even remotely inappropriate, but at the time it still crushed me and caused me to doubt myself. The leadership does a very good job at making you feel isolated and of letting you know in subtle ways that they are keeping a very close eye on you. I was a skinny guy when I went to GFA, but I lost 15 pounds that I didn’t have to lose over the next few months because of the emotional turmoil. In all of this I was trying to do what the leadership asked of me, but the abuse never relented.
One evening after a prayer meeting the girl I liked asked me if I had feelings for her. I was not pursuing her at all, and had no intention to do so because I wanted to stay at GFA. I answered her question honestly, and I told her that I did. In passing, not thinking it a big deal and having no idea that I was on leaderships bad list, she told K.P. that she had asked me and what my response was. The next day I was called into K.P.s office and told that I was being fired and kicked out of the ministry. The girl was then told that she was not allowed to communicate with me ever again in any way.
I flew home devastated a few days later on a trip that had been planned for weeks. When I flew back to Texas, I was expecting to be met by some friends who had planned a going away party for me. Instead, I was met by David C. who told me that the leadership heard about the party and canceled it. He told me that if I ever wanted to come back (at this point I still felt like this was my life’s calling) that I had to speak to no one and leave town the next morning.
I later found out that they had no intention of having me back, this was just a way to keep me quiet. The next morning, I packed what I could of my belongings into my car and started the long drive home. I had asked John B. if I could have some money for gas to get me from TX to WA. Even though I had over $8000 that I had raised in my staff account, they didn’t give me a cent. I later found out that when they made the announcement that I had left GFA, they told the staff that it was because I had psychological problems, but that GFA was going to help pay for my treatment. Both of these statements were completely false. It took me years to get over my terrible experience at GFA and the emotional and psychological abuse that I received, and I know that my story is only one of many.
I served as the writing group leader in the Gospel for Asia U.S. office from 2006 – 2011. I am thankful the Lord allowed me to be part of this important work and I still support the ministry financially and with my prayers. Now that I’ve had to time to think about some of the things I was taught during my five years with GFA, it is with a heavy heart that I realized they were deceitful and manipulative.
My devotion to the ministry was severely tested when it became apparent that K.P. Yohannan had lied to his entire U.S. staff. The incident occurred at a meeting to announce that the ministry had fired two families who were maintaining inadequate monthly support to cover their salaries. K.P. explained that the ministry could not continue to spend $4,000 a month to cover their salaries and insurance. He assured the entire staff that ministry leaders had talked to the staffers and worked with them to help raise their monthly support level but it had not worked.
A few days later I was comforting one of the wives whose family was fired. Through tears she said the firing came as a complete surprise because no leaders had ever talked to them about their support. This wife had no way of knowing what K.P. had said about her family at the meeting so she was not trying to contradict him. I believe K.P. lied to his entire staff that day.
I also realized the ministry teaches a warped idea of spiritual authority in parent/child relationships. The Bible says “Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise) so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth (Ephesians 6:2-3). Very often ministry leaders would teach that older teens should serve at the ministry in direct defiance of their parent’s wishes. These young adults (including the School of Discipleship students and summer interns) were told it would please God if they dropped out of school or left home against their parent’s advice in order to serve. When a teen or young adult is still receiving support from their parents, such as is the case with SOD and summer interns, the parents are still in authority over that young man or woman. Teaching that a ministry can usurp the authority of the parents is theologically incorrect.
One summer intern who lived with me came to me privately asking for advice on returning to college that fall. She had been taught that college was the sinful choice and serving at GFA was the only right thing to do.
Additionally, the leaders teach that we were to place our work at the ministry above the responsibility of any family not serving with us, including our aging parents. The Bible is clear that it is our responsibility to care for our elderly parents. I Timothy 5:4 says “But if a widow has children or grandchildren these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.” 1 Timothy 5:8 says “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” And Jesus himself, when he was on the cross, made arrangements for his mother to be cared for. This is our most important example. This teaching is always couched inside the call to “surrender all” to follow Christ. This is false teaching.
I pray that K.P. Yohannan will repent of lying and seek the Lord for healing of broken relationships.
I pray also that Gospel for Asia’s leaders will examine their own hearts and search the entire scripture and clearly teach what it says.
I was fired from GFA shortly after I returned from three months of working at the Indian office in Kerala. The firing was a complete surprise and no real reason was given. I had three hours to vacate my office. This is the last communication I sent to KP after I was unexpectedly fired:
Hope your travels went well and that the TV channel is still going strong!
I’m sorry that I did not get to say goodbye to you in person. I’m so very thankful to the Lord that He arranged my last interaction with you. It was last Tuesday evening, when after I shared prayer requests about GFATV, you reached out to shake my hand and say well done. That will be one of my last memories of you. Thank you!
I don’t know what was said to you last week but I’ve been down this road before. The Lord took care of the situation last time so I’m sure He will this time. I was frustrated, and I did talk to Larry. I felt I had talked it (my frustrations) over with Larry and all had been resolved. Or so I thought. I had no idea there was any other problem. I was not involved in a “leadership” meeting about my frustrations, not told that I needed to pray about my continued involvement with GFA over the weekend. It came as a complete surprise to be released from GFA on Monday afternoon.
(It does seem a little strange that God has “changed His mind.” I know that God called me here; leadership agreed that God had called me here and now “leadership” has changed their minds?)
But, it’s okay. I hold no bitterness. I’m saddened that policy manual guidelines were not followed and that my “reason” for being released was “It has been three years and you haven’t changed.” (That is a direct quote from David C.) I know that was meant to be an accusation but I take it as a compliment. I feel I have been rock solid on my foundation of Jesus. Straight talk, straight living, honest communication. I’ve stayed the course, regardless of all that has been leveled at me by my “leadership”. I have served you, Bro. KP to the best of my ability, as unto the Lord and I know you know that.
So, as I depart I would like to leave with a few comments that I truly and lovingly think you need to hear. Don’t worry, I’m not writing this to “blast” you by any means. I truly recognize that God has called you and gifted you to lead this ministry. And we all want you to lead us. We are in this together after all. As I pray for you as I would want to be prayed for, I find myself praying that God would lovingly and gently restore to you the humility you once walked in when you were small in your own eyes. I believe, by your own admission, more time spent in the presence of the Throne would accomplish this.
Secondly, I pray and already see God answering, that He would continue to lead you to His model of leadership, servant leadership. Serving and really caring for those who labor in the vineyard under you. Taking care of the sheep (serving them) will most certainly accomplish the ministry goals. After all, Jesus didn’t tell Peter to go out and win the world, He simply said, “Feed My sheep.”
I have faith to believe that God will accomplish all this and more in you, sir. I know that GFA will continue to do a great work in Asia. Thank you for letting me have a small part in it for these past 3.5 years. It has been hard, but I trust it will prove worth the battle!
See you in heaven, sir! Please say goodbye to Gisela and Sarah for me.
On Sunday, March 22, 2015, Troy took down his testimony from this website (a few days after posting it) and emailed GFA leaders asking their forgiveness for not approaching them privately before sharing it.
At the time he was in talks with GFA staff and leaders, and—despite the seriousness of the claims in his testimony—most of them were more concerned about whether or not he followed the biblical process rather than the unbiblical way he and his family were treated.
They accepted his apology but didn’t want to accept responsibility for their sins. Most of the leadership was only interested in picking apart the process, “straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel.” (Matt. 23:24) Troy believes this reveals GFA’s leaders’ hearts to be unrepentant and only concerned about protecting themselves.
Troy did what he thought was right, with a heart to please the Lord and also to see that the Diaspora didn’t “get a black eye” about being unbiblical.
Troy came to the understanding that this isn’t about a one-on-one conflict where one leader wronged one person here and there; it’s about an institutional problem in the ministry, where GFA is consistently causing harm to the Body of Christ through the actions and teachings of their leadership.
With that, on March 23, 2015 he requested that his testimony be reinstated with the other witnesses in hopes that exposing the leaders’ sin will bring about true repentance. (1 Tim. 5:20)
Troy – Church Relations Rep 2007 – 2014
Pam – Believer’s Café / Church Relations Admin. / Fulfillment 2007 – 2014
Sarrie – Staff kid / School of Discipleship Student / Strategic Giving / Field Communications / GFA Canada Staff / Missions’ Department 2007 – 2015
I first of all want to say that there are a lot of good things to say about GFA, but by no means should they give license to ignore the things that are wrong. When I removed Sarrie from staff on 3/14/15 I wasn’t part of the Diaspora. I had remained neutral, and if anything, focused on the positives of GFA. I did this because it is what God told me to do; I will explain more later in my testimony. It wasn’t until the evening of the 14th that I felt the Lord tell me that He was working through the Diaspora, and I needed to join what He has already put in place. I say this because there will be some of you who will think that I was lying and was covertly working for the Diaspora. My coming to them was as much a surprise to them as it is for you to see my testimony here. I, of course, worried what others would think and thought to wait a while until I told my story. But God said now and that I shouldn’t worry about my reputation. To love Him is to obey Him; my conscience is clear.
I’m not great at writing so I am going to stick to some of the more major events in my time at GFA. There are many, many more that would take days to write and I don’t want to spend that much time in front of a computer.
Things were rough for my wife right from the start: Within the first week, she had a breakdown. She went running out of the GFA building crying, right before a prayer meeting. I had no idea what was happening. As we sat in our car talking, I found out she felt like she was being forced into a “GFA box” by the women there. At that time, most of the women home schooled their children, ate only whole foods, and covered their heads. Pam did none of those things and said the women looked down on her for it. To Brother KP’s credit, he addressed the women in a meeting saying he wished they would send their children to public school so that they all could come into the office and serve. I told Pam that there is no such thing as a “GFA box.” I was wrong. I didn’t realize it until years later, but I was fitting myself into it.
A couple of years later, we were having a movie night at the GFA office. Before the movie, we ate dinner together in the café hut. Pam invited Brother KP to sit with us and about eight or so others. He sat with us and was telling jokes and we were having a great time when all of a sudden he turned very serious and implied that Pam was being unsubmissive because she wasn’t wearing a head covering, and he proceeded to make her feel like less of a Christian for it. They also started restricting the School of Discipleship students from spending time with Pam (even though they loved hanging out with her) because according to one of the leaders, she was shallow and had no spiritual depth.
Pam was a hair stylist and cut approximately 80 of the staff families’ hair. One day I got called into a leader’s office and he told me that someone told him that Pam talked negatively about GFA leadership while cutting this person’s hair. So Pam wasn’t allowed to cut hair anymore. The leader said this person wasn’t willing to come forward and accuse Pam to her face. One of the lies that we are fed at GFA is that ministry comes before family. I am ashamed to say that I bought into that lie. I failed my wife and daughter several times and didn’t protect them from abusive leadership. I have repented to both of them personally and publicly since. These failures of mine, although forgiven, are extremely embarrassing and probably my greatest failures to my family. I should have told this leader that this person needed to come forward and confront Pam before us and give Pam a chance to tell her side of the story, because Pam says that this never happened. But I knew if I did that, I would be seen as rebellious and my days there at GFA would be numbered. I’ve seen firsthand several times that when someone questioned leadership, they were on their way out, and planting churches in unreached villages was priority to me.
Sarrie had graduated from SD and was now on staff when leadership asked her to go to serve in our Canadian office. When Sarrie was a teenager, she went to India with other teens from the US office and the Canadian office. She became very good friends with Cassandra L. during this trip. Since then, her family had left the ministry but still lived near the Canadian office, so she wanted to hang out with her after office hours. Pat E., the Canadian office leader, restricted Sarrie’s time with Cass and eventually cut her off completely, telling her that Cass and her family were poison. I failed my daughter and told her to just submit to Pat because he had her best interests in mind, when I should have told Pat that my daughter is an adult and a very godly women whom I trust. If she says Cass isn’t poison and is safe to hang out with, then let her hang out with her. But once again, I knew if I did that, I would eventually be asked to leave GFA. Ministry before family.
GFA was building a campus and there was going to be housing on it, but leadership said that you didn’t have to live on campus, and if you did live off campus, if one of the spouses wanted to work a secular job part time to offset the living expenses, they could. We decided to live off campus and to allow Pam to cut hair part time again. GFA leadership has rules that can be twisted and manipulated to benefit GFA. Rules will apply to some families and not to others. They decided at the last minute, just when Pam and I were about to buy land and drop a mobile home on it, that she wasn’t going to be allowed to work outside the ministry. If she wanted to do that, I needed to become a volunteer.
This was the final straw for Pam; she wanted out, but I wanted to continue planting churches. So true to form (ministry before family), I asked leadership if they would be willing to allow me to remain on staff, and not Pam. They currently had this same arrangement with two other families, one in the US office and one in the Canadian office, but both of the wives of those families were shunned from the ministry. They said your wife will need to be shunned, and used Romans 16:17 as the Biblical reason: “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.” But the leader skipped reading the part of the verse that says “contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught.” My wife was not spreading false doctrine, but it was very obvious they wanted her gone. Once again, I failed Pam and accepted that unbiblical excuse to shun my wife, and accepted the agreement. Ministry before family. What’s funny is that two weeks after the shunning of my wife, the same leader publicly in a staff meeting said that GFA doesn’t shun. At this same time, they brought Sarrie back to the US office.
One week later, on a Monday morning, I was called into Brother KP’s office with another leader. Lately, I had started seeing a prideful side to Brother KP. He would say things during staff prayer meetings like, “Don’t you think that you know better than me. I’m older than most of you and have been in ministry for over 40 years.” That morning I met that same prideful man. It was a 20-minute, one-way conversation, him to me.
When he would talk about my seven years of service at GFA, he could do nothing but praise me. But as a father and husband, he would be tear me down. He said, “If I let you serve at GFA and Pam doesn’t, she will end up leaving you because you’re not a man.” He said the staff member that was currently living in the shunning situation was a man and that was why it worked, but that I wasn’t a man and wouldn’t be able to keep my wife. He looked at me with such disgust, and kept saying I wasn’t a man. Then he said, “You aren’t a man, look at you. You have a rebellious wife and a rebellious son and your daughter, well she’d be a good girl regardless of who her father was.” Once I felt he was done, I said calmly, “Well sir, with all due respect you’re wrong, my wife wouldn’t leave me. But it seems no matter what I say, your mind is made up and I’m out of here.” He said “Yes,” so I stood up and gave him a hug and told him, “Thank you for allowing me the privilege to serve here for the last seven years.” I was ushered out of the building and told to come back later that night after office hours to clean out my desk. They made me disappear. That night a leader escorted me to my desk, helped me clean it out, and that was it. I was gone. Leadership says everyone gets an exit interview to express any concerns; I didn’t get one.
The following day, Brother KP lied to the staff and told them that I left the ministry because I was having family problems and I needed to take care of those first. That was the only time I’ve ever heard him, or any leadership, mention family before ministry. Only when it’s convenient to them for an excuse of why staff disappears. I remember hearing that excuse given before and I believed it. And now here I was on the other side, hearing the lie and realizing that the other times were probably lies also (and found out later that they were).
I wasn’t offended by Brother KP. I live by a philosophy that if Jesus could lay down His rights and let His creation crucify Him so that I could live, I could lay down my rights so
that He could live through me; a servant is no greater than his master. So I’ve never needed an apology from Brother KP. I would need to be offended to feel I need an apology. Instead, I felt very sorry for him. Once I could get quiet before the Lord, I felt Him tell me that my daughter needed to continue to serve at GFA for a little while and that I needed to pray for Brother KP to repent of his pride. The Lord reminded me of the inhabitants of the land of Canaan whom He said He gave over 400 years to repent before He gave Israel their land. He said, “Give him some time to repent, pray for him. If he doesn’t, pride comes before a fall and he will surely fall.” So I had my command, and that is what I did for 10 months. I genuinely love Brother KP and all of leadership, so it wasn’t hard for me to do.
I could not share any of this information while my daughter was on staff, for obvious reasons; I might have lost a daughter. They have been known to turn family members against each other; I’m proof of that. Brother KP was right about me not being a man, but not for the reasons he was saying it. I was not a man because I wouldn’t stand up for my girls and defend them, and I allowed them to shun my wife. I have since undone that, and many other false GFA doctrines that got drilled into my brain. So when I felt the Lord tell me that it was time to pull Sarrie out, I wasn’t taking any chances of her being turned against us during a two week notice. And I also wasn’t going to let her feel like a lesser Christian and be looked down upon as though she has lost her call during that time (more false doctrine that we believed). So I talked to her and shared the whole truth of what really happened to Pam and me, along with many other stories of corruption, lies, pride and how power hungry Brother KP is. I then went on the campus covertly and moved my daughter out of her home, and then called leadership to let them know she would no longer be on staff. Dad finally showed up and protected his daughter.
Ultimately, my family’s demise came down to the fact that my wife wasn’t the quiet, meek, do-what-you’re-told-without-question-while-wearing-a-head-covering woman. She had ideas and opinions that she didn’t mind sharing, and if she saw something that was wrong, she pointed it out. She didn’t fit into the “GFA box.” But I want to publicly say that I have the greatest wife in the world. She’s drop dead gorgeous, and is my best friend. And she has NEVER disobeyed me. We are trying to work as a team again rather than “I am the man hear me roar and you simply obey without question.” Or probably more accurately, I’m loving my wife “as Christ loves the church” again, rather than the dictator husband that GFA created. Pam was never good at letting me get away with that anyway.
Six months after I was fired, Brother KP called me, offering me my position back in Church Relations. He said I didn’t have to move on campus and that Pam could continue cutting hair (she started her own salon since). He said I could commute the hour and a half to campus once a week or so and could work remotely from my home the rest of the time. I’m not sure if this was a genuine offer or just damage control because he was concerned about the Diaspora. He wouldn’t let me answer him and told me I needed to pray and fast about it, but I already knew the answer. During that phone call, he defended/justified the things he said to me in his office when he fired me. No apology, which was fine with me, because I wasn’t looking for one or needing one. Instead, I just felt sorrier for him. I never heard from him again.
Then the day that I removed Sarrie from the campus, he called me and left a voicemail asking for forgiveness for the way he treated me the day he fired me. This phone call I know was damage control. I can almost guess what GFA leadership will say about me to the staff one on one. It will go something like this: “Troy is bitter about how Brother KP let him go and will not forgive him.” Yeah well, good thing I’m not worried about my reputation. My conscience is clear, no bitterness here.
I think my husband did an excellent job describing a lot of the events that have affected us, and just as he started, I will too—in saying that there was more “good” about GFA then there was “bad,” which was the main reason that I tried to keep my mouth shut for so long. As a woman, I felt very belittled by some of the leadership. I’m not at all saying that I am the smartest person in the world, but I have run my own business for years and am a forward thinker and like to move ahead with new ideas. I found out pretty quickly that they don’t like women’s ideas, and/or they just didn’t want to hear my ideas. I think I was “marked” from the beginning because I was not like a lot of the other girls. In fairness they did use some of my ideas, such as the volleyball court and moving my desk into fulfillment, etc. But realizing after a few years that I was not conforming was when they put the “squeeze” on, by hearing me less, putting restrictions on the students, restrictions on hair cutting, etc.
I have always said that GFA’s got prayer times and spiritual stuff down. They did a great job with that, but were greatly lacking in the fun fellowship part, which A LOT of people were agreeing with!! So I was always asking to do fun events and even volunteered to do the legwork for them, but would get shot down about 70 percent of the time (which is why I was seen as shallow and not spiritual). Then one time I got reprimanded in an email for using GFA.net to invite everyone on staff to our house for a Christmas party. What???? Why???? After being there for a few years, I thought it was funny how we were always being preached to about “unity,” yet leadership itself would make it extremely difficult on us to create close friendships and unity with each other. They were too afraid that we would create a coup against them.
One of the things that was sooo demeaning to me was that in the seven years that I was there, I was never invited into a meeting about ME!!! If I did something that leadership didn’t like, they would call Troy into the office and tell him to tell me.
1. I felt like a little girl and they were tattling to my daddy about me;
2. I am an adult; talk to me so I can fill in information that may be missing or misunderstood or explain my reasons; and
3. The Bible says in Matt. 18:15 that “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.”
I had NO problem with them inviting Troy and me into a meeting together, but the verse does not say, go behind the person’s back and tattle to her husband! I was actually working in the office the day that they asked me to leave. But again, instead of inviting me in, they waited until I left for the day and called Troy into the office a few minutes later. I wasn’t even allowed to come to the office and clean out my own desk and/or say goodbye to any of my friends, which I was now no longer ALLOWED to talk to.
The majority of my issues with GFA can all be summed up in one idea: my PRIVATE life is PRIVATE! You have all authority to tell me what I can and can’t do within your office walls and/or on office time, but if I want to go to a Bible study, work a part-time job, go evangelize, be on a bowling league, etc., as long as it isn’t unbiblical or affecting my office work, it’s none of your business. Staff was given the mindset that they may not fully know God’s direction in their lives and were encouraged to ask leadership to do things, such as buy a house or a car or date a certain person, etc. Unfortunately I think this has given way too much power to [GFA] leadership in people’s lives. You should have your own relationship with God and be praying about those decisions yourself. Maybe ask opinions of the leaders, but ultimately, it’s between you and God. After years of this behavior, it seems like K.P. has decided his flock need him to tell them what they can and can’t do.
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.