Interview: Cash to India via Gospel for Asia School of Discipleship Students


Q: Did you receive any type of receipt when you handed over the envelope of cash?
A: No, I was given nothing at all.

Here is a brief interview with a former Gospel for Asia School of Discipleship *Student

*The student has requested to remain anonymous due to current investigations into the cash taken into India by the students and other individuals. This student is from the era of students that were given cash to take to India. This student is also from the era in 2014/15 where GFA finally sanctioned students and staff to attend local churches, previously this was not allowed for students. Previously GFA staff were never encouraged to get involved in local churches, on-site bible studies have never been sanctioned.

These questions range from very general to how they felt about being asked to carry cash to India on their two week tour of India. The tour of India was part of their year at School of Discipleship.

Q: As a student of Gospel for Asia’s School of Discipleship, briefly outline your daily and weekly schedule.

A: My days were busy and structured. I didn’t mind the structure, though, because I wanted to grow and I knew that my year was going to be intense. We would wake up at 6:00 AM for a brief time of prayer with our housemates, get to the office by 8:00 and work until 4:30 or 5:00 in the afternoon, with an hour break for lunch. When we would get home, we often had scheduled study times. We also had scheduled house dinners several nights a week with the members in our house, and curfew at 12:00 or 1:00. Then, every week we had one prayer meeting in the evening, two or three prayer meetings in the mornings, a few hours of class during the workday, and most Saturdays a work party on the campus in the morning. Every Sunday we had chapel.

Q: Were you encouraged to fellowship with all staff?

A: Yes, I saw all the staff every day around the office in the prayer meetings. They always reached out to me and I felt very welcome to fellowship with them.

Q: Did you go to any local church for services or Bible study? Why or why not?

A: No, I didn’t because they had chapel on campus Sunday mornings and we were asked to attend that. The staff did join local churches and communities, though. Also, right before I left they changed that rule for the students, and many of my friends started attending local churches.

Q: Describe the kinds of prayer and worship you experienced on the GFA campus?

A: I learned a lot about prayer and worship at GFA. The prayer was intense and faith-filled, and during the meetings we would gather in smaller prayer groups to pray specifically. We would always make sure to pray for each other as well as for the mission field. The GFA culture welcomed prayer, especially spontaneous prayer; if I ever let on that something was bothering me the other staff or student would usually stop and pray for me right there on the spot. In the prayer meetings many of the women wore head coverings, but others felt free not to, and I never felt any obligation to wear one myself. The worship was always reverent, with the musicians standing offstage to keep the worship focused on God. GFA staff and students also felt free to kneel, raise their hands or express their individuality in worship.

Q: What were you taught about how you should interact with your family (parents, siblings, etc)?

A: I was taught to live in godly submission to the leaders God placed in my life, which applied to my dad as well as other leaders. Other than that I can’t remember being taught anything specifically about family interactions. I do remember that an RA encouraged me not to visit my family as often as I would have otherwise so that I could be more present in the SD community and grow more from my discipleship year.

Q: Did you feel that all staff understood what you were being taught about?

A: Yes, I did feel that they understood what I was being taught in class. Although many of my teachers were leaders of the ministry, several others were staff members, and I know that all the staff read many of the books I was given to read.

Q: When you got ready for your trip to India, did you know you were going to be taking cash?

A: Not at all. They didn’t tell us that we would be carrying cash until a day or two before we left. I do remember a student from the class before me mentioning something about cash that I didn’t understand at the time, and it was only after I was asked to carry the cash that I remembered that previous conversation.

Q: At what point during the trip to India did you receive the envelope of cash?
A: We were given our envelopes less than 30 minutes before getting on the bus to the airport.

Q: Were you told how much was in it?
A: We were told that there was $4500 in it.

Q: Who gave you the envelope of cash?
A: Left blank intentionally due to investigation.

Q: Where were you when you received the cash?
A: I was standing in the lobby of the administration building with all the other students who were leaving for India.

Q: Did they pass out the cash to a group or did they take you aside individually?
A: They passed it out to us as a group.

Q: Did anyone explain why they wanted you to take the cash?
A: Yes, a day or two before we left we were told in a meeting that they needed us to take the cash because it could get harder to send money to India in the future and they wanted to send it in a variety of ways. They said that it was legal because cash did not have to be reported if it was under $5000.

Q: Did they ask you or tell you to take the envelope?
A: They didn’t order us to take them, but neither did they give us the option not to. They just assumed that we would take the envelope.

Q: Who were you told to give it to?
A: We were told to give it to our team leader in Kerala.

Q: Whom did you give the envelope of cash to?
A: I gave it to my team leader, who said that she would give it to the appropriate leaders in Kerala.

Q: Where were you when you handed over the cash?
A: I was at the main Kerala office.

Q: Did you receive any type of receipt when you handed over the envelope of cash?
A: No, I was given nothing at all.

Q: How did the experience of carrying cash make you feel?
A: It made me feel a little bit uncomfortable. At first I was only uncomfortable because I knew that I would have to tell my dad, and although I trusted the GFA leaders, I knew that he would be suspicious. I did tell him the day before I left and he was unhappy, but felt that it was too last-minute to do anything. When they gave me the envelope, I felt proud to be trusted with the money, but nervous that I would lose it. I was most uncomfortable, though, when we went through the India customs. I had been prompted to act as if I were not travelling with the group, but the officer asked me whether I were travelling alone. (When our team leader instructed us to act as if we were travelling separately, she did not mention the cash; she said that the officials could assume our group to be on a missionary trip, which would have been illegal, because we only had tourist visas. We were only on an India tour, but she was afraid that the officials would be suspicious.) So I gave a half-truth and the official did let me through, but I was afraid that I would either have to lie or that they would detain me. I thought that carrying the cash was legal, but I knew that, if they discovered the cash, the situation would become more complicated.

Q: What did your fellow students say about carrying the cash?
A: They mainly expressed concern that they might lose the money. It was not until after we got back from India that anyone questioned the actual practice of carrying it.

Q: Overall, how was your time in India?
A: It was beautiful and marking. I was able to see many different aspects of the ministry and talk with the native missionaries and seminary students. I was overwhelmed by the joy that I experienced as well as grieved by the country’s poverty. I remember it as a time of bonding with my group and discernment for my own vocation, and I came away with a love for India and a passion for service and outreach.

Q: Would you recommend School of Discipleship to other young people?
A: No, I wouldn’t. For me, the School of Discipleship was a rich time of spiritual growth, and it helped me grow in my personal relationship with the Lord as well as in many other areas of my life. I also developed deep friendships and was encouraged by the tight-knit community and the loving staff and students who poured into my life. But I had to leave before graduation because I learned that the leaders weren’t acting in full integrity with the ministry’s finances. So I wouldn’t encourage other young people to spend a year fundraising for GFA, because I am not confident that it is using the funds faithfully. Also, many staff and students have left, and the ministry is reeling under so much loss that, although maybe in the future I will be able recommend the School of Discipleship whole-heartedly, right now I don’t think that GFA is a positive environment for young people.

Read about the former School of Discipleship student who was taken off the campus by her dad, out of concern for her well being and spiritual safety.

Parents of former Gospel for Asia School of Discipleship Student and Staff Tell Their Story


Why did Gospel For Asia send money to India in students’ backpacks?

Read about the spiritual mistreatment of Emily, a School of Discipleship student at Gospel for Asia from 2010/2011.

Read how a young, former Gospel for Asia staff member by the name of Hope was spiritually mistreated by KP Yohannan in India.

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