An aspect of the Gospel for Asia story that I have not explored much is the claim of controlling actions on the part of GFA leaders. Today, I want to bring out one such claim. Before I tell this story, I want to alert readers that I reached out to GFA through their PR firm InChrist Communications. I told InChrist Communications that I wanted GFA leaders to have a chance to address these serious claims. I received no answer.
On the GFA Diaspora website, a former male employee named Nick tells about his experience about a decade ago of expressing romantic feelings toward a female staffer at GFA. One would think such sentiments would be encouraged in a Christian ministry, but according to Nick and the girl who was the object of his feelings — Nicole — GFA leaders went out of their way to end the relationship.
Nick attended Bible college and had interned in a Calvary Chapel before coming to GFA. Nicole had led mission trips and was a worship leader with GFA. Nick was 25 and Nicole was 22. Their interest in one another was age-appropriate and they seemed to be heading in the same direction.
On the Diaspora website, Nick wrote:
In a friendly conversation with David C., I told him I was interested in a girl who was on staff (we were just friends at the time). I was called into K.P.’s office and told that I was not allowed to continue to like this girl, and that I was not even allowed to pray about getting married for at least 2 years. I was surprised that I was being told not to pray, but my heart and intention was to do all that I could to comply with the wishes of the leadership. Shortly thereafter, all of the newer young single people on staff were called into a meeting where we were told that we had entered the ministry single, and so that is how we should remain.
After the scolding, Nick did not tell Nicole about his feelings. However, his disclosure seemed to change his standing at GFA. According to Nick, the GFA leaders subjected him to what can only be described as harassment:
The 3 leaders (K.P. Yohannan, John B., and David C.) would call me into K.P.’s office, and KP would proceed to tell me all sorts of terrible things about myself. He told me that I probably wouldn’t be a Christian in 10 years. He called me a mad man and said that he was glad that there was no one else like me at GFA, because he couldn’t imagine what I might go out and do. I loved the children at GFA, and would always volunteer in the kid’s ministry. Knowing this, K.P. said “There are 72 children here at the ministry, and you are going to ruin the lives of every one of them.” (That is a direct quote. I will never forget those words.)
Nick tried hard to be a good staffer and did not tell Nicole about his feelings. Nicole was unaware that GFA leaders had warned Nick about pursuing a relationship with her.
According to Nicole, who was then serving as one of Yohannan’s writing assistants, Yohannan began to ask her if she thought Nick liked her. Nicole described these initial questions as being delivered in a “friendly, fatherly way.” Gradually, the questions became more persistent and Nicole decided to talk to Nick. Nick acknowledged his feelings but didn’t have an intention to pursue a relationship in order to honor the dictates of leadership.
Not knowing that Nick had been warned about talking to her, Nicole told Yohannan that Nick liked her. According to the couple, Nick was kicked out as a consequence. Nick wrote on the Diaspora website:
The next day I was called into K.P.s office and told that I was being fired and kicked out of the ministry. The girl was then told that she was not allowed to communicate with me ever again in any way.
Despite Yohannan’s warning, Nicole later contacted Nick and told Yohannan that she did. According to Nicole, Yohannan turned from fatherly and friendly to mean and intrusive. She added that Yohannan became increasingly critical of her. According to at least two former staff, the mistreatment became obvious to others (see the testimony of Bernard and Jena on the Diaspora website for their account).
According to the couple, Nick was told to leave the campus immediately without any of the money he had raised in his staff account. He had to find money to live on without the funds he had raised while at GFA.
According to Nicole, GFA also told remaining staff that Nick left due to psychological problems and that GFA was going to pay for counseling. According to the couple, none of that was true.
The story does have a happy ending. Both Nick and Nicole left GFA and are now happily married with a child.
Although not all staff and students have bad experiences, Nicole told me that she believes concern for current staff and students is warranted. She worries for the students, often just out of high school, who sign up for the School of Discipleship. Nick and Nicole are telling their story with the hope that students will be wary of GFA’s approach to mentoring youth and find another way to learn about ministry.
As noted at the beginning, I asked GFA for their side of this story but got no response. I have, however, interviewed numerous former staff and several current staff and students in the School of Discipleship. Many, although not all, have echoed concerns similar to those expressed by Nick and Nicole.