Compare Gospel for Asia’s Image with Reality

In 2019, Gospel for Asia is celebrating 40 years in business. This comes the same year GFA settled a fraud lawsuit (Murphy v. GFA) for $37-million. The settlement was just finalized with about 26,000 claimants seeking just over $109-million. Not everybody will get what they donated but this shows that donors weren’t happy.

On their Patheos blog, an unnamed staff member wrote a glowing vanity piece about GFA founder K.P. Yohannan. I would like readers to compare that piece with an email from David Carroll to Yohannan from 2015. This email came to light during discovery in Murphy v. GFA. At issue in the case was the use of donor funds. Plaintiffs Garland and Phyllis Murphy contended that GFA didn’t use all donor funds as donors intended. As a part of fund raising, GFA made representations that the funds were all going to mission work and were urgently needed. The discovery process pulled back the curtain on GFA’s claims and found that the reality wasn’t always what they claimed.

The narcissism in this article is obvious. The blog is GFA’s and the person writing it is an anonymous GFA staffer and yet readers are expected to take the following statements at face value:

They, and others like them, can look back and stand in awe of how an Almighty God has blessed their ministries abundantly and beyond imagination.

I know a man exactly like that. His name is Dr. K.P. Yohannan. He is one of the humblest and most dedicated men I have ever known. Forty years ago, he responded to God’s call to minister to the millions of people in Asia. Little did he know that in 2019 he would be able to look back at the remarkable things the Lord did over the past 40 years.

By any objective assessment, GFA has not had such a good record since 2014. The organization has been embroiled in scandal, membership in the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability was removed, they lost other symbols of financial integrity, they lost their registration as a charity in India, at least one of their schools in India closed due to financial problems, and they have to pay a $37-million settlement to donors. Yes, K.P. is a remarkable CEO.

Leaving aside the fact that GFA hasn’t had a great record of late, the picture presented is that GFA is taking all of that money using it to help the poor and needy. Since all of this is done for the Lord, surely there wouldn’t be any deception or double talk.

Now let’s pull back the curtain a bit.

In the fraud lawsuit, an email from Chief Operating Officer David Carroll to CEO K.P. Yohannan surfaced which presents a different picture. Here is the email. 

Sir, I need to share with you where I am over this situation. I will try to summarize for brevity sake. We have a saying in our country: The numbers don’t lie. The published FC-6 reports show westerners that we have either sent money to the field raised for National Ministries and Bridge of Hope to fund the hospital and the corpus fund, or our FC-6 filings are filed wrong. Either way, this is a huge problem. It appears to those reading these that we might have been dishonest to the donors (fraud), or been dishonest to the Indian government, (a PR nightmare at least). Sister Siny’s report below will, in my opinion, do little to satisfy those who are printing out and analyzing our FC-6 reports. I am sorry for not expressing more confidence than this. I think we may have used money raised for National Ministries and Bridge of Hope for the hospital.

I think that India feels that we raise money and send it. I think that India feels that we raised money and sent it to them and they can legally use it any way they deem fit. I hope that I am wrong, but I am doubtful. I also don’t think that it is an intentional wrong, but if I am correct, it is a huge wrong. We’ve spoken at hundreds of churches with tears asking for the National Ministries and Bridge of Hope support, and the FC-6 that is public says that we sent much of that money for the hospital and the reserve corpus funds.”

“It doesn’t matter that we have now moved the money out of the corpus fund because according to the public FC-6 reports, we have been building them up for years. Moving the money only serves to confirm the feelings of guilt to outsiders.”

“I think the only way for us to handle the inquiries raised by Bruce and others is to refer them to our Indian office. Mr. Throckmorton (unless a miracle happens) will get this information and may even begin an investigation of us. We can say all we want that we don’t have anything to do with the Believers Church or the field and that you are only the
spiritual head of the church and that finances are handled by others but you, but as a practical matter, that will not hold up. Can the field find a way out of this situation? I too am very nervous. I have always believed in total accountability of the field, yet the FC-6 reports provide numbers that, as a former auditor, I cannot just explain away with a simple explanation. I, and the world, will need numerical proof now, and I do not have the ability to get it from the USA end. Only the field can explain it, and I am in the hot seat in this crisis and I feel a lot of pressure.

If I say, well, it is not my problem, it’s a field problem, it’s as good as saying we are guilty of misappropriation, If I say “The FC-6 reports are filed inaccurately on purpose, due to the hostile environments we work in, it gets the field in trouble and turns the attention to them. I get the feeling that, although we are not financially dishonest, we are financially reckless — the stockpiling of money in the RBC [Royal Bank of India] account
and then the hurried transferring of it to the field, the Hong Kong account, et cetera. Sir, may I please have my name taken off of the RBC account as soon as possible?”

There is much in this email which is inside baseball. One would need to follow this story closely to understand all of what Carroll is worried about. But note this: He is worried. He is worried because GFA was caught in misrepresentations and feared that Bruce Morrison from Canada and/or I would investigate the matter further to expose it all. And we did.

For the purpose of this post, I want to highlight one misrepresentation. K.P. Yohannan told people that he had nothing to do with finances in India, that he didn’t control anything financially there. However, here is what David Carroll said about that.

We can say all we want that we don’t have anything to do with the Believers Church or the field and that you are only the spiritual head of the church and that finances are handled by others but you, but as a practical matter, that will not hold up.

Yohannan told the the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability and his staff the story that he had no power over finances in India. However, in this email, David Carroll acknowledged that Yohannan’s story would “not hold up.” Click this link to hear the audio of the staff meeting in 2014 when he and Carroll told the staff about a $20-million gift from India which was used to complete the GFA headquarters in Wills Point, TX. The transcript can be read here.

Carroll could see there was a problem with donor funds going into a corpus fund (a kind of rainy day fund) and being spent on a medical center and other projects instead of on what donors intended. Yet, GFA was officially denying all of this. Eventually, the ECFA removed GFA from membership when these discrepancies could not be cleared up.

GFA still hasn’t admitted publicly that anything was ever wrong. They haven’t been readmitted to ECFA membership. They were sanctioned by a federal judge for delaying discovery during their fraud trial. There isn’t an indication that anything has changed. For all we know, reality is still much different from what they are presenting.

One aspect of the fraud case settlement which might serve to bring GFA into the light is the addition of two new board members to GFA’s board. Plaintiff Garland Murphy and an unnamed person will be added. Provided GFA honors the intent of the settlement, there may be some light at the end of this tunnel. For now, the public would do well to discern reality from image.