Gospel for Asia
|K. P. Yohannan|
Gospel for Asia (GFA) is a non-profit missions organization, founded by K. P. Yohannan in 1979, which states they focus on helping the poor and needy in India and Asian countries through the love of God. The organization is located about five miles southwest of Wills Point, Texas, a small community east of Dallas. GFA’s primary aim is to support indigenous missions to "serve the 'least of these' in Asia".
- 1 History
- 2 Programs
- 3 Controversies
- 3.1 GFA Diaspora
- 3.2 Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) revokes Gospel for Asia's membership
- 3.3 Lawsuits against Gospel for Asia
- 3.4 GFA Canada
- 3.5 GFA UK
- 3.6 GFA New Zealand
- 3.7 Believer's Church (GFA India)
- 4 References
- 5 Bibliography
- 6 External links
Gospel For Asia was founded on the convictions of its President, K.P. Yohannan regarding the people in his culture in Asia. Since its beginning in 1980 , K.P. and his wife, Gisela Yohannan, have dedicated their lives to spread the knowledge of Jesus throughout South Asia in hopes that people who have never heard of Jesus would have the option to follow the Christian faith. After learning more about the time and cost of mission trips in the late 70s and early 80s , K.P., with the help of his wife and friends, developed a way for believers in the west to financially support Christian workers who were born and raised in Asia. K.P. began to tour churches in the U.S. to share this opportunity, and many Christian began to pledge $30 a month to support their own missionary in Asia.
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 in order to strengthen churches and promote proclamation of the Christian faith. In keeping with their commitment to a simple and cost effective stewardship of donations, GFA is able to distribute 200 tracts of gospel literature for $1.
Radio and television broadcasts
Radio in Asia is a broadcast that is especially designed to reach Asian communities. Athmeeya Yathra (Spiritual Journey) radio programs reaches more than a billion people and are translated into 11 languages. More than 900 radio stations across North America, Europe and Australia air Road to Reality. Athmeeyayathra Television’s youtube channel provides biblical video content to over 40,000 subscribers in a culturally appropriate manner.
GFA claims to have over 56 bible colleges serving a whole range of cultures and dialects 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. They claim that over 9000 native missionaries have been trained through these institutions. According to reports, 98 percent of GFA’s Bible college graduates go on to preach in areas previously untouched by the Christian faith, typically establishing a fellowship in these areas within one year of arriving.
Bridge of Hope
Bridge of Hope is a child sponsorship program for poor families in underserved communities, especially lower-caste families and Dalits. Child sponsorship provides education, three daily meals, and access to medical care. Education and literacy rates are extremely low in the Dalit communities, as families continue to suffer in a cycle of poverty. GFA’s Bridge of Hope program seeks to relieve some of this suffering through education, physical and spiritual care. Through the Bridge of Hope program, in 2018 over 200,000 women received healthcare training and over 10,000 received vocational training.
Millions in Asia suffer from diseases linked to sanitation and clean water deficiencies. 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.
Believers' Church hospitals and schools
Believer's Church owns and operates a variety of hospitals, colleges and public and residential schools. Most of these are for-profit enterprises. Narada News has reported that BC 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. According to recent reports, GFA distributed over 350,000 mosquito nets and conducted more than 1,000 medical camps in impoverished communities in 2018.
In 2014, the Believers’ 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’ 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’ Church, it was decided by an Indian High Court that the Believers’ 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.
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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 March 17, 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."
Erwin eventually provided his original report to the GFA Diaspora group, along with an apology for allowing the false report to be distributed. The original and unchanged report revealed that Erwin had in fact found all of GFA Diaspora's complaints about Gospel for Asia to not only be legitimate, but extremely concerning.
Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) revokes Gospel for Asia's membership
In September of 2015, GFA lost their 36-year membership in the financial standards advocacy group Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, 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.
GFA response to ECFA
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".
Lawsuits against Gospel for Asia
Gospel for Asia has been accused of raising funds for charity "while covertly diverting the money to a multimillion-dollar personal empire." There are two RICO anti-fraud lawsuits pending 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 first is awaiting an appeal by GFA. The second has a scheduled court day to begin a jury trial on 4/15/2019. 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."
GFA often claimed in fundraising materials and marketing that it sent donor money to the exact cause that a donor gave towards, but the lawsuit alleges that donor money was regularly funneled to fund other projects (including for-profit entities), and even GFA's current new headquarters, a large campus east of Dallas, TX.
Gospel for Asia sanctioned
On June 4th, 2018 Federal Court Judge Brooks issued an order sanctioning GFA ordering it 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."
Class action membership
In late November 2018, those who donated to Gospel for Asia between the dates of January 1, 2009 and September 10, 2018 were starting to be notified of the lawsuit and their eligibility to join the class action. Any person from the United States who dontated funds to Gospel for Asia during this time period is automatically part of the lawsuit (no action is needed). Information regarding the lawsuit has been published on the official Murphy v Gospel for Asia website.
There are also alleged problems with the Canada office, with one newspaper reporting that $90 million in donations could not be accounted for. The head of that office, Pat Emerick, is also named as a defendant in the Arkansas lawsuits. They also reported that Pastor Bruce Morrison and a recently ousted GFA Canada board member, Garry Cluley, have filed complaints against the office with the Canadian government.
There is also news that the United Kingdom GFA office has received the attention of the UK Charity Commission, which is their government agency that investigates charity-related fraud.
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.  The office in New Zealand was closed for a time, but may now have reopened in a new location. The local staff having resigned amid the controversy, staff from the United States were sent over to keep the doors open.
Believer's Church (GFA India)
There is also considerable controversy in India considering GFA. The Times of India has reported that "The Believers 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." Money from foreign offices can no longer legally be transferred into India in support of GFA (a major problem considering that much of GFA's donations are from western countries). In August 2017, The Hindu (a newspaper in India) reported that, "The Church of South India (CSI) has decided to pull out from 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. The latest development has to be viewed in the backdrop of the controversy over the episcopacy claims of the Believers Eastern Church that its head, K.P. Yohannan, was consecrated by the CSI Church." 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 criticized for engaging in predatory proselytization while providing aid in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami. The Hindu American Foundation condemned the organization for 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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