Category - School of Discipleship

Interview: Cash to India via Gospel for Asia School of Discipleship Students
The Gospel for Asia Staff Exodus of 2015

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.

The Gospel for Asia Staff Exodus of 2015

Why would so many staff leave Gospel for Asia in 2015?

With almost 50 staff departing in 2015, no matter how long they served, each staff member had to make serious choices. The reasons for the exodus are many.

left-church-homeWe left our church homes, our jobs, careers and our extended families to come on staff. Choosing to make these sacrifices to come serve at a place we believed in. We all tried to raise our support team as best we could. There would no longer be the involvement in churches like we took part in at home, involvement with local churches was not looked upon well up until about 2015. The concern was that it could “take you away” from the ministry. Small group bible studies never were sanctioned or encouraged at GFA for as long as we can remember. This was something that was missed by many staff.

Financial security was left at the door, unless you were retired or you had savings or investments. While serving at GFA it was very difficult to save money, so departing the ministry was a rather challenging prospect, especially for a younger family. The reasons to leave had to be strong ones, as strong as all the efforts we went through to get to GFA.


As for School of Discipleship students leaving in 2015, their circumstances are different, the program has a time commitment of one to two years. Some students chose to leave early from the program as they were able to see patterns of behavior at the ministry they viewed as less than forthright. Some of the students were concerned about the unique situation they were put in having to individually carry $4500 in cash to India in their group when they went on their two week tour of India as part of the program. See published article for context of School of Discipleship students carrying cash to India.

Not Your Normal Attrition

The 2015 staff exodus was not your normal attrition. It is true, people come and go from ministries and churches all the time, but this was different. If you look at how long so many of these staff had served and how much they personally invested in the work, in terms of time and commitment, these weren’t the type of people to leave over a little misunderstanding. This isn’t a case of personal conflict. Those kinds of things can be worked out in the body of Christ and personal conflicts were encouraged to be worked out quickly, as they should be in any ministry.

What people do leave over is repeat offenses that are born out of abusive patterns, they leave over a lack of trust. And if there is no true change in abusive patterns, let alone other forms of financial mismanagement, then you come to realize things will never change.

Patterns of Control

It wasn’t like these staff just made a decision to leave overnight. It can take time to see abusive patterns, especially if they are mixed with messages of obedience, obedience, obedience and suffering. On one hand at the office you were inundated with good reports from the fields of Asia of what God was doing, as we were told; on the other hand, you had spiritual authority taken to an extreme at the U.S. office.

When true spiritual authority is wielded with a warped version of God-given spiritual authority, it can be destructive on many levels, to an individual, a church or a movement.

The authoritarian atmosphere was prevelant from the early years of the ministry through 2015. Yet into 2016, with the advent of more public exposure of issues around GFA over the last year and a half, (see GFA Diaspora) less obvious control on staff and their personal lives may have emerged. Also, the physical absence of the President of Gospel for Asia from the U.S. office has now been the longest absence stretch known by any former or current staff.

The Authority Structure

It is important to note that three of the *four group coordinators who spent daily time with Senior Leadership and the President left the ministry.

*The fourth group coodinator who remained is the son of a founding staff member who grew up in GFA.

Spiritual Abuse?

A challenging matter to unwrap is that of spiritual abuse. It’s hard to define it well, yet here is an definition from Relevant. Read full article.

Abuse of authority, controlling practices, spiritual abuse comes in different flavors. It can be repetative ungodly patterns from a leader shrouded in false humilty. It’s partial truths spoken to large and small groups from a leader in the church or movement. It is an elusive demon that can dart and sting when no one is spiritually looking for it. Spiritual abuse can happen in closed door meetings with only two or three people. It can occur in settings of small groups with top leaders, in little moments that can be personally destructive. It is subtle.

Often members of a church or movement will want the approval of a leader. The desire for approval can leave you wanting, especially if aspects of approval are withheld by the leader. Yet every once in while you get a dose of approval, which keeps you going to the next dose. Unhealthy all around.

Testimonies from former Gospel for Asia staff:

staff4One example is from a former staff couple Troy and Pam — read their testimony. Treated and spoken to in a very non-christian manner. Their daughter was also part of the School of Discipleship program and later staff.

staff5Another example is the testimony of Lenny and Tiffany. The way they were let go from the ministry is very interesting.the following day (after being let go) my wife was going in for her second major back surgery-Lenny

Beware of the Leaven

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus warns his disciples to be wary of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Matthew 16: 6-12 Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, “We brought no bread.” But Jesus, aware of this, said, “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

GFA staff attrition in 2015

Here is a general illustration of staff attrition in 2015. It does not include names. Just take a look at the context as to who some of them were, the positions some of them held and who they spent much of their time interacting with. Click the image to see a larger, easy to read view.


So Who Remains?

Many of the staff that remain (not all) are those who were born into or linked to core staff families through marriage or some other connection. Try to put that into context and understand that paradigm. If you were born and raised into GFA, not knowing anything else, you might be prone to stay. Imagine some of the staff kids who, from their youth, have known nothing but GFA.

There is never any question about these folks on a personal level, the staff are wonderful. The difference really comes down to a core leadership team that has been mentored closely by the president. Whether you are aware of being mentored or not, the patterns created when you are in a state of unquestioning submission to that leader can dramatically change your view, and that same pattern can be carried to those around you.

In Conclusion

The reasons so many staff left are many, yet one only has to read through some of the materials published to draw some conclusions as to the climate of the office leading up to the many public reports. Sadly some current staff have chosen not to read anything that has been published.

Can You Feel the Love?

We were once called family.

With over 100 former staff a part of the GFA Diaspora, add to that a new crop of former staff emerging out of the ranks in 2015, you have a considerable group of people that are questioning both financial issues and matters of integrity. These questions are no longer based on conjecture, but much has been published and documented to validate concerns. Sadly, most who choose to leave GFA are lumped together in the minds of staff and leadership as all the Diaspora.

Can you feel the love? It’s hard to feel the love when *certain former staff and certain School of Discipleship students are not allowed on campus, and the gates are closed to them and their families. Fellowship isn’t encouraged with former staff, though the body of Christ is one.

matt20Also, many find the practice of “non-biblical shunning” ironic and irresponsible. In this case, the weights and measures are significantly out of balance as to how scripture is applied. We served on staff, we were called a family and now we are cast away.

There are also former employees that date back to the pre-2000 era at the ministry, some have shared about their experiences that follow similar patterns as noted by the GFA Diaspora.

*Certain former staff and certain former School of Discipleship students are allowed on campus and allowed to fellowship with current staff.

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