Gospel for Asia
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|Bishop K. P. Yohannan|
Gospel for Asia (GFA) is a non-profit missions organization, founded by K. P. Yohannan in 1979, focusing on residents of Asian countries. The organization is located about five miles southwest of Wills Point, Texas, a small community east of Dallas.
Gospel for Asia is present in India, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Laos and Thailand. The group has faced class action suits in the US and Canada over their dispersement of the collected funds; the GFA settled the US case at a cost of $50 million.
Gospel For Asia was founded in 1980 by K.P. Yohannan who sought to evangelize Christianity in Asia. Yohannan toured U.S. churches, engaging in fundraising efforts to sponsor missionaries working within their own Asian nations.
The organization has since grown to support various humanitarian and spiritual programs as well as working with outside organizations, including local governments and the Believer's Eastern Church, which owns and operates hospitals, colleges and public and residential schools. Most of these are for-profit enterprises. Narada News has reported that BEC will be expanding their investments by building as many as 500 additional international schools. The list of what is currently operating includes some hospitals and clinics, some colleges, 9 schools located within small towns of southern Rajasthan, and at least four public schools. In 2014, the Believers' Eastern Church purchased the Cheruvally Estate, a 2,268-acre (9.18 km2) rubber estate in Kerala, India as an investment to help fund social work among underdeveloped communities. In mid-2015, the government initially confiscated the land from the Believers' Eastern Church in order to build an airport, but that decision was appealed. After a 3-year long legal battle between the government and the Believers' Eastern Church, it was decided by an Indian High Court that the Believers' Eastern Church has the ownership right of the Cheruvally Estate and the government must pay them for the land if they still choose to build an airport in that location.
The goal of GFA focuses on the formation of missionaries native to the nation the missionary is serving, with special emphasis on Asia. The organization has defined its primary mission field as being those people that live in the 10/40 Window, a rectangular region extending from west Africa to east Asia and between 10 and 40 degrees north longitude. By concentrating on this region GFA ministers to a dense population of largely poor communities that have had limited or no exposure to the Christian faith.
GFA's main focus is to train and equip national missionaries. Yohannan has stated that he does not limit "national missionaries" to formal nation-states, instead focusing on differences in culture and language to define nationalities. This approach might result in several specialized missionary groups within a single nation-state, from large cities and regions down to small tribes and villages. In 2018 GFA reported that they have over 16,000 missionaries and church planters in 18 Asian nations.
Church buildings, Bibles and gospel literature
Gospel for Asia raises funds for the building of simple Christian worship centers in small villages to educate new disciples as well as provide a visible meeting place for Christians. However, they have built several large cathedral type buildings in major cities. Examples are St. Thomas Believers Church Cathedral in Thiruvalla and another in an upscale neighborhood Hauz Khas. They claim approximately 16 churches or mission stations are created every day. Similarly, GFA states they distribute native-language bibles and evangelical Christian literature to the region.
Radio and television broadcasts
CFA produces the broadcast Radio in Asia, the Athmeeya Yathra (Spiritual Journey) radio programs and Athmeeyayathra Television's YouTube channel, which provides biblical video content.
GFA claims to have over 56 bible colleges in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka s with the purpose of training native missionaries within their own dialects and cultures so that they will be effective ministers. The program includes three years of instruction, including field instruction and experience.
Bridge of Hope
Bridge of Hope is a child sponsorship program for poor families in underserved communities, especially lower-caste families and Dalits. The program offers education, physical and spiritual care, including healthcare training and vocational training for women.
GFA digs wells in communities where water is scarce during parts or most of the year. These wells are built for long-term use near churches, bible colleges or Bridge of Hope centers, and each well is maintained by a local pastor. These wells provide free, clean water to individuals regardless of caste, class, social designation or religion. In 2016, 6,822 Jesus Wells were drilled in communities needing clean water. In 2018, over 10,000 BioSand water filters were given to families in order to provide easier access to clean drinking water.
Gospel for Asia-supported field partners joined forces with the Nepal government to provide disaster relief in the wake of the devastating earthquake that hit Nepal in 2015. The organization helped by providing food, water and medical supplies. Following the initial relief efforts, GFA's founder K.P. Yohannan met with the Prime Minister of Nepal.
Asian water crisis
One of their longest ongoing efforts to date, Gospel for Asia's Jesus Wells provide clean drinking water to Asian villages with insufficient access to safe, clean water sources. By 2018, the organization helped construct almost 7,000 wells and BioSand water filters. The wells are typically maintained by Gospel for Asia-supported pastors or their church members, preventing the wells from breaking down and ensuring they last for up to 2 decades.
Illiteracy and poverty
GFA's Bridge of Hope after-school program assists underprivileged villages through ongoing literacy and education for their boys and girls. This education helps children and their families to overcome generational poverty and avoid the worlds of bonded labor and sex-slave trade. There are more than 600 of these centers. Students at the centers receive daily education and a nutritious meal, school supplies and uniforms as well as free medical care. GFA is using these centers as a way to alleviate the root causes of impoverishment and gender discrimination in Asian countries as well as inhumane child labor practices.
According to reports, in 2018 GFA assisted "more than 70,000 children, free medical services in over 1,200 villages and remote communities, 4,000 wells drilled, 11,000 water filters installed, Christmas gifts for more than 200,000 needy families, and spiritual teaching available in 110 languages in 14 nations through radio ministry".
In 2018, flooding in Kerala left over 200,000 Indian people without homes. GFA's primary field partner saw their Kerala headquarters suffer from severe flooding. Many Bridge of Hope centers also suffered damage. But GFA's filed partner volunteers delivered medical supplies, clothes, food and fresh water to flooding victims throughout the area. The estimated recovery time from these floods is five years and GFA-supported filed partners plan to assist for as long as necessary.
Sri Lanka Easter Bombing
GFA also contributed to relief efforts after the Easter bombings in Sri Lanka in April 2019. They provided victims with food and other emergency supplies. One of GFA's supported social workers lost five family members in the bombings. In addition, two bombs were found near GFA-supported offices.
Due to the water crisis and national lockdown in India, leaving home and effective hand washing are not possibilities. In response to the coronavirus, Gospel for Asia is providing clean water projects through BioSand filters and Jesus Wells in order to give clean drinking and hand washing water. They are also partnering with local governments to educate people and improve on hand washing techniques. The organization is also installing toilets, running medical clinics, supplying food and hygienic education throughout South Asia.
GFA has or had 14 known affiliated LLCs registered in Willis Point, TX as well as national offices in various countries in which they operate mission efforts.
The GFA Canada office, established in 1986, is located in Ontario, Canada and is registered with the Canadian government as a charity that provides disaster relief among other humanitarian efforts to communities.
This section may rely excessively on sources too closely associated with the subject, potentially preventing the article from being verifiable and neutral. (January 2019) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
In 2014, a group of over 10 former Gospel for Asia staff members called the GFA Diaspora wrote two letters. While their concerns were mostly regarding GFA leadership, they were also concerned for GFA's donors.
These letters from former staff, along with their request to meet with the board and discuss the issues, brought about a supposed internal investigation by GFA that was completed by Gayle Erwin, a member of GFA's board. Upon the completion of Erwin's investigation, a report was released.
Erwin later admitted, after resigning from Gospel for Asia's board, that the report was dictated to him by GFA's president and founder Moran Mor Athanasius Yohan Metropolitan (formerly known as K. P. Yohannan) who was displeased with Erwin's actual findings and original report. According to Erwin, "When I first presented the conclusions of my investigation to KP (with David Carroll present) KP glanced at it, declared that he was a speed reader, and began what I will simply call an ugly scene filled with brutal expressions I don’t wish to repeat...". Erwin's report was discarded and a new report was written and given to the board, which was portrayed as Erwin's own report. Erwin wrote a letter to GFA President K.P. Yohannan on 17 March 2015 after seeing the false report. In this letter, he states "I think you are well aware that I cannot agree with this letter except for the generic niceties about wanting biblical reconciliation", and also "I think you exonerate yourself and GFA."
Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability revokes Gospel for Asia's membership
In September 2015, GFA lost their 36-year membership in the financial standards advocacy group Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA), with the ECFA reporting that GFA had not met many of their required standards of excellence in financial accountability and governance.
The ECFA had been conducting and investigation into Gospel for Asia for four months before releasing the results and revoking the organization's membership. The ECFA states that GFA's membership was "Terminated for failure to comply with:
- Standard 2: Governance
- Standard 3: Financial Oversight
- Standard 4: Use of Resources
- Standard 6: Compensation-Setting and Related-Party Transactions
- Standard 7.1: Truthfulness in Communications
- Standard 7.2: Giver Expectations and Intent
The ECFA also noted in their report that "Certain information provided to ECFA by GFA that was crucial to our review was, at least initially, inaccurate", and also that "Certain pertinent information about the compliance issues was not revealed to ECFA by GFA until late in the review process." Additionally the ECFA stated that "We have learned significant information from sources unrelated to GFA that we should have learned directly from GFA." In the letter revoking GFA's membership, the ECFA listed seventeen concerns.
The GFA board responded with a statement that noted "ECFA's decision was made after conducting a special review of Gospel for Asia, and we respect ECFA's evaluation. Our response was to begin a focused review and to implement the ECFA's recommended improvements".
Class action lawsuit
In 2017 Gospel for Asia was accused by Arkansas couple Garland Murphy and his wife Phyllis of raising funds for charity "while covertly diverting the money to a multimillion-dollar personal empire." The couple filed a class action RICO anti-fraud lawsuit against GFA's president and several GFA leaders, seeking to substantiate GFA's claims of where it spent the money donors gave to the organization. The case was settled after three years of court proceedings in which GFA and the plaintiff agreed "all donations designated for use in the field were ultimately sent to the field". Those entitled to join the class action were those United States residents who donated to Gospel for Asia between the dates of 1 January 2009 and 10 September 2018. Information regarding the lawsuit has been published on the official Murphy v Gospel for Asia website.
That court case states that in 2013, "Despite GFA’s explicit representations that it would spend in the field 100 percent of every dollar donors designated for the field, GFA spent only $14.9 million of $118.6 million on actual relief efforts, instead spending far more on salaries and overhead", according to the complaint. "The Murphys (the plaintiffs), of Bentonville, Arkansas, say that Gospel for Asia raised more than $450 million in donations from the United States alone from 2007 to 2013, much of which Yohannan redirected to his personal empire."
On 4 June 2018 Federal Court Judge Brooks ordered GFA to pay for a Special Master to oversee the gathering of evidence for the discovery phase. Judge Brooks stated, "Therefore, the court finds that the defendants abusive conduct in this case since August constitutes a willful violation of its clear discovery orders." In February 2019 Gospel for Asia lost an appeal denying a stay against discovery.
Brooks noted, "The fundamental question in this case has always been whether these entities have in fact redirected donated money in violation of promises that were made to their donors around the world". Gospel for Asia denied the Plaintiffs' allegations, maintaining all money designated for the field went to the field. GFA denied all misdirection of funds and willful misleading of donors.
At the end of February 2019 a settlement was announced. Gospel for Asia agreed to pay 37 million dollars to refund donations to 200,000 donors, $12,210,000 in Plaintiff's attorney fees and $750,000 in Plaintiff's attorney's expenses as expressed in the Final Order and Judgment. According to the settlement agreement, "All funds designated to the field were sent to the field and used for ministry purposes; and no Individual Defendant, as defined herein, received any improper personal gain or enrichment from or related to donated funds".
The settlement agreement also requires that K. P. Yohannan's wife Gisela be removed from the board of the charity for three years and for Garland Murphy, one of the plaintiffs, to be given a seat and another person appointed to the board acceptable to both Murphy and K. P. Yohannan; in addition a subcommittee of the board which will include Murphy but neither Yohannan nor his son, Daniel Punnose, will produce annual reports for the board, the Judge and the lead counsel for three years.
Although the settlement has been reached, GFA maintains that the settlement is not an acknowledgment of guilt.
There are also alleged problems with the Canada office.
GFA New Zealand
Gospel for Asia's New Zealand office operated out of space provided to them by the church Calvary Chapel Auckland. Once Calvary Chapel became aware of the controversies stirring in the United States, an investigation into GFA's practices was launched. Finding that the work on the field did not at all resemble what GFA had presented to the church and that many for-profit enterprises were run using donated funds, GFA was told to leave the building and the church ceased supporting the ministry.
GFA World (formerly GFA Canada)
Gospel for Asia's Canadian arm is subject to a $170 million class action suit launched in Feb of 2020 by Greg Zentner of Woodburn, Nova Scotia., alleging the charity "defrauded or made negligent misstatements to donors and civilly conspired to misrepresent the nature of donations collected." Citing the suit and a steep drop in donations due to the publicity, and the COVID-19 Pandemic, GFA World filed a request for Creditor Protection with the Ontario Superior Court on 26 June 2020. The Court placed their operations under trustee management of PricewaterhouseCoopers. During this period GFA may still collect donations but no disbursements may be made without PwC oversight.
There is also considerable controversy in India considering GFA. The Times of India has reported that "The Believers [Eastern] Church, founded by Moran Mor Athanasius Yohan Metropolitan (formerly known as K. P. Yohannan), and three NGOs associated with it have been barred from bringing in foreign funds to India with the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) canceling their FCRA registrations." As of September 2017, GFA provided the requested documents for review to MHA and "Fr Panthapallil said though the MHA website has advertised that the registrations of the four organisations are cancelled, they are still under revision." In August 2017, the Church of South India (CSI) decided to have a "non-cooperative stance" towards the Kerala Council of Churches (KCC), an ecumenical forum of non-Catholic Protestant Churches in Kerala, in protest against the KCC decision to provide membership to the Believers Church since the leader, Yohannan, claims to be a CSI bishop, a claim CSI denies. Narada News in India reported concerning that, "The CSI senate committee probed the issue. They came to the conclusion that their bishop was paid huge sums of money and a luxury car for this. The church sacked bishop KJ Samuel from the CSI for this deed."
There is also been an ongoing court case regarding the illegal filling in of wetlands in order to build the Believers Church Medical College Hospital. GFA has been paying a special tax because a "substantial" amount of its income is not used for intended purposes of the fundraising. An Indian court said, "It is not in dispute that substantial income of the assessee trust was not used by both the assessees for the purposes for which they were formed." Moran Mor Athanasius Yohan Metropolitan (formerly known as K. P. Yohannan) says that the claims were politically motivated and that the workings of Gospel for Asia and Believers Church are transparent.
GFA has been accused of engaging in predatory proselytization while providing aid in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami. The Hindu American Foundation criticized the organization for, according to it, pressuring vulnerable tsunami victims to convert to Christianity, setting up illegal unregistered orphanages and forcing orphans recite the Christian prayers several times a day.
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