As reported in 2016, almost 50 full-time Gospel for Asia Staff departed. See The Gospel for Asia Staff Exodus of 2015.
There continues to be a steady trickle of key staff leaving the ministry. Some depart as they are able to get a new job or figure out a place to stay as they try to get on their financial feet.
There is story after story of former staff helping out staff leaving, as in many cases there is nothing to go to. When you depart, some form of shunning often begins, so a support system is vital. The support could involve anything from a place to stay, financial help, or someone to talk to and pray with, as the road ahead can be challenging. Many former staff that left had poured their life savings into the very ministry they were serving at.
The Big Leap and Special Exceptions
It is a big leap for many, especially those with family, to leave this ministry as you don’t really have any means to save for anything. There are a few exceptions to the rules that were in place for the last 20-30 years. A few staff were granted special exception that allowed their spouses to work off-site at a “real job” with a good income. But this is rare, and there were only a few unique people accomodated with this special exception granted directly from the founder of Gospel for Asia and Believers Church – K.P. Yohannan.
If those individuals wanted to leave, there wouldn’t be the huge financial leap of faith so many had to take in 2015 by leaving GFA. As stated, so many who left in 2015 had either sold off assets prior to coming on staff and ended up giving that to the ministry, believing it would go to the area and people of Asia they hoped it would.
There has been a continued exodus of staff. From 2016 to 2017 staff continue to depart from the ministry. Many leave for “other reasons” and say it has nothing to do with all the financial issues that came up in 2015. Like the dismissal from the ECFA, or the dismissal from the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB), or the lawsuit against Gospel for Asia for donor fraud to name a few.
Recruiting new, young Christians that can be Moulded
It’s is a little easier for single people to leave, but not by much. So, Gospel for Asia continues to recruit new, young students to fill the gaps.
It is an interesting process to join the School of Discipleship. You fill out an application and tell them all the areas that you struggle with as a young Christian. Then you are brought in to a very closed loop of senior leaders and “discipled”. Exposing those vulnerabilities can present some interesting scenarios.
The environment can be control-like. Outside viewpoints of what has transpired since 2014 are either very covered up internally (on the campus) or those with an opposing view of what happened are labeled as “those who have been deceived” and “those who bring an evil report”. Of course shunning is a staple of GFA’s history – see some of the testimonies of staff and former staff shunned by Gospel for Asia at GFA Diaspora.
What a convenient closed loop environment. This would explain in part the move to a 300+ acre campus in 2014 to a not-so-populated area of East Texas – Wills Point, TX.
Tight to Less Tight Control
In the areas that GFA is not able to monitor and tightly control the activities of these young female and male Christians, there may be some small areas of breathing room. Yet the control is tight – and there is a very real need for GFA to recruit more young Christians.
In the old days GFA was able to recruit more families. But that sometimes involves mature Christians, and at this point if there is a wise, mature Christian coming to the campus to seek out joining staff … I would hope they are doing their homework about the core of what has been revealed about Gospel for Asia.
The Same Core Leadership Team that Sanctioned Carrying Cash to India
For the new, young students, the Homeland Security investigation has been interesting as it has unfolded over the last two years. To think that the very same core leadership team that loaded up young students with $4,500 in cash to take over on their trips to India, are the same core leadership team that remains in place today.
From Christianity Today article: Why Gospel for Asia Got Kicked Out of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability …
For several former staffers, a breaking point came in 2013, when GFA began sending cash money overseas in unmarked envelopes.
At the time, the ministry was concerned about increased scrutiny from the Indian government. So it began asking staff, students, and pastors on vision tours to carry cash for the ministry without declaring it to US officials, according to former staff members.
US regulations stipulate that travelers must declare any amount over $10,000 when leaving the country. Former staff members and students in GFA’s school of discipleship told CT that GFA attempted get around that rule by having a number of group members carry smaller amounts—as much as $4,500 each.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) warns that such “bulk cash smuggling” is punishable by up to five years in prison.
Helm said he carried $4,500 in cash on one occasion and that Yohannan asked him to give similar envelopes to the group of pastors he was leading. The total amount of cash exceeded the $10,000 limit, he said. Helm refused to hand the cash to the pastors.
Upon arrival in India, Helm said he turned over the cash to GFA staff but did not receive a receipt. Some cash was also carried by students in GFA’s School of Discipleship.
“We’ve taken more than a half million through these students to India—and never got a receipt,” Helm said.
As the exodus of staff continues, we pray truth and the love of Christ will prevail in each heart.
Read an interview with a School of Discipleship student about their cash carrying experience.