Yesterday I received two comments on my article titled “Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) Funded Abuse of Nigerian Orphans” from a woman named Christine. It would appear that Voice of the Martyrs has loosed their damage control team on the internet as obviously efforts appear to be coordinated across the web. Some organizations hire public relations teams to stem the tide of negative publicity and it would not surprise me if VOM has done so. I asked Christine what her relationship to VOM was, but she did not respond to me. She may just be a loyal donor who accepts everything VOM tells her as truth. Both her comments appear to be the work of an amateur, as opposed to someone who is paid to combat bad press. The first one strikes me as a bullet point reponse that VOM has asked their loyalists to utilize, not fit for a stand alone comment. I would attribute the second comment solely to Christine. Surely an organization that hauls in $55 million a year from donors would have a more professional sounding suggested comment than what Christine came up with.
Look at the first sentence: “This is not factual information and shoddy reporting.” What is not factual information? The statement that follows, or my blog post linked above? Reference the “shoddy reporting,” the sentence structure causes me to read the sentence as “This is not factual information and this is not shoddy reporting.” As a policy we generally do not publish comments that are not backed up with factual content stated in a clear, concise format. Any simpleton can, and often does, resort to calling Janna and I agents of Satan, or some such “Church Lady” remark. Most don’t see the light of day, but being that this was Christine’s first comment on our blog (and likely her first comment ever penned to anyone, anywhere) we decided to publish it. I also try to be a fair guy, so I am not opposed to publishing the other side of a story, no matter how ridiculous I feel their claims are.
If anything, Christine’s comment does a good job of illustrating the ease of which charlatans must have of bilking the average Christian out of their hard earned dollars.
Did Christine even read my blog article? Did she watch the video produced by Reformation Baptist Church? The video presented numerous first-hand accounts of neglect, abuse and misappropriation of funds, yet I am accused of aiding Satan in his work of clouding the minds of believers! Incredible. Children in Nigeria, in a supposedly Christian orphanage are being starved and raped and when I and others take the time to document this tragedy we are the agents of Satan?
Christine chooses to believe the word of the leaders of Voice of the Martyrs over well documented claims of individuals on the scene of the crimes in Nigeria. Does Christine recall that In April 2012 the executive director of VOM-USA, Walter Thomas “Tom” White, who served in that capacity for over 20 years, committed suicide after only two to three hours after an accusation of suspected child sexual molestation (pedophilia) of a 10-year-old girl was formally filed by her parents with the local police, and while the Bartlesville, OK police were searching to arrest him? At the time of his committing suicide, Tom White had a $140,000+, plus perks, yearly salary and very substantial travel and expense account used in his extensive and frequent international travel. Since the suspected perpetrator was dead, the police closed any further investigation of the sexual molestation. The police chief and the former mayor of the town of Bartlesville, OK were personally serving on the Board of Directors of the Voice of the Martyrs.
Does Christine recall that Richard Wurmbrand’s son, Michael Wurmbrand, wrote to the VOM Board of Directors and asked for a “Blue Ribbon” commission to investigate back at least two years, all Tom White’s travel points, contacts and especially financial expenditures to establish and put to rest any suspicions regarding child molestation?
Does Christine recall that four days after Michael Wurmbrand sent his letter to the VOM Board of Directors he received a curt letter of termination of employment? No “sorry” and no “thank you for his founding the organization or the many years of service! Michael Wurmbrand’s letter had not been answered after more than two years.
Does Christine recall that VOM spent $28 million dollars of donor money to build their new headquarters in Bartlesville, OK? (The previous headquarters cost approximately $90,000.) The present chairman of VOM is a former mayor of Bartlesville and was a part of the city leadership.
Does Christine recall that a repeated offender 3rd degree felon, who as of 2013 was still under a 10-year parole conviction sentence as an embezzler was named the Voic of the Martyrs Vice President? Tens of thousands of donor dollars out of contributions for supposed misssionary work were extended as a loan to him to pay back some of what he stole and escape parole supervision.
Does Christine recall that VOM had reluctantly agreed in 2001 to help about 100 believers who were imprisoned 5-10 years for their faith in communist prisons in Romania, currently destitute in their 80s and 90s, with less than $1 (yes, one dollar) a month?
Editor’s note: These and many other reports detailing the corruption of VOM leadership can be found on Michael Wurmbrand’s website.
These are the type of people Christine chooses to defend, and I assume donate her money to. Blogs like mine which detail the corruption of so-called Christian organizations such as Voice of the Martyrs are the bad guys, the tools of Satan. Am I the only one who thinks Christine’s logic is a bit skewed?
Below is a PDF file containing copies of emails that were exchanged between VOM staff and Michael Wurmbrand. Wurmbrand was attempting to obtain funding for those in desperate need. VOM couldn’t help as the donor money was being used for the construction of their lavish new headquarters.
Below are copies of financial reports on VOM. You will notice in the first one, compiled in 2010, two year prior to Tom White’s committing suicide, he waa paid a salary of nearly $161,000. This is a very extravagant salary for a man who heads a religious ministry funded soley by donors.
You will notice that in the second report, compiled 5 years later, donations were up nearly $7 million dollars yet VOM had a deficit of $1.5 million dollars.
Below is the response that Reformation Baptist Church just published in response to VOM’s PR campaign. I find the Reformation Baptist Church’s response well-reasoned, logical and believable. I have no doubt as to whom is being forthright and who is attempting to skew the truth.
RESPONSE TO VOM USA BY REFORMATION BAPTIST CHURCH
(This response was posted on Facebook and may be viewed here.)
Voice of the Martyrs has just released a statement responding to the allegations in the Persecuting the Persecuted video. The statement is dated April 13, but it was not publicly released until today, May 3. We are thankful that they have acknowledged some of the issues in their work in Nigeria, but we are very concerned that they still refuse to do an independent investigation, and that several statements they made are not open and forthright.
1. “VOM-USA has never controlled VOCM-Nigeria’s operations nor its hiring and management of staff.”
VOM-USA tried to use this same distinction in our conversations with them. As we said in the Persecuting the Persecuted video, we do not believe this is a forthright description of the situation in Nigeria. In our experience, they both had their own staff in Nigeria, and worked closely with VOCM staff. For example, VOM-USA has told us that Zingak Deshi was a VOCM employee, and so they had no role in his firing. However, we know from both Zingak and the former VOM-USA contactor who hired him, that he worked for VOM-USA and never VOCM-Nigeria. Therefore, it had to be VOM-USA who fired him, furthering Isaac’s attempt to retaliate against those who spoke against him.
2. “Despite the questionable source of the allegations against Isaac, VOM-USA undertook a thorough investigation [in 2011] and found no evidence of their truth. “
This statement fails to mention other occasions when these allegations were made against Isaac and they refused to investigate. They also do not answer the allegations in the Persecuting the Persecuted video that their investigation had several critical flaws which led to failure to uncover the truth.
3. “When VOM-USA received a video on August 31, 2016 … VOM-USA had already cut all financial support to VOCM-Nigeria.”
Although it is true that we did not send the video to VOM-USA until August, 2016, that was certainly not the first time we had told them of these allegations. Very soon after we shot the first interviews, in January 2016, we met with a VOM-USA staff member to discuss the allegations. We sent the video to the VOM-USA board in August because we did not believe that VOM-USA employees were handling the situation in a biblical way, and because the video had been requested by a VOM USA staff member to show to other national VOMs (since we didn’t believe that they ever did, we sent it to every other VOM we could find contact information for.) We had also been promised that they would bring in two independent investigators which, since none ever contacted us for the information we had, we believe has never happened.
One thing their statement does not address is why, after they decided to stop funding VOCM because of poor conditions at the Stephens Center and financial misconduct in VOCM, they gave over $100,000 in properties and cars to VOCM, especially as they had already been made aware of allegations of sexual abuse by Isaac Newton, head of VOCM. An employee of VOM-USA even told Jeff Arnette that Isaac Newton offered to buy them back, but they gave them to him and didn’t accept any money.
4. “[Former VOCM-Nigeria staff] had not raised … allegations with VOM-USA staff members who visited Nigeria or had involvement with The Stephen Centre or other VOCM projects, and who had met with VOM-USA staff at VOM-USA headquarters in October, 2014.”
We have every reason to believe this statement is false. We know that Raphael reported these issues to VOM USA when he was visiting the United States in June of 2015. Raphael and Zingak also raised these issues with their VOM-USA contacts on other occasions. However, even though these people were their primary contacts with VOM-USA, those contacts may not have technically been “VOM-USA staff.”
5. “[T]hose who produced the video have apparently made no contact with Nigerian authorities…”
Early in the process, Zingak went to a Nigerian attorney and was told that the Nigerian government will not do anything based on these reports without it being brought before them with sworn testimony from victims, or upon the application of pressure outside the government. Another attorney has told us the same thing. We are still working with Nigerian attorneys to bring this to court in Nigeria in a proper and effective way. Based on VOM’s statement today, we looked for other avenues to attempt to report it and we have contacted the Nigerian embassy in the US, as well as the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Justice.
6. “[N]or have [those who produced the video] been willing to provide the name of even a single alleged victim that VOM could follow-up with or minister to.”
We were indeed asked by VOM-USA to give a list of the names of victims. We were told in the same meeting that VOM-USA would be bringing in outside investigators in investigate the situation. We told them because of the victims’ lack of trust in VOM-USA and because of the security risk, we would only give those names to the outside investigators. This was specifically told to Jim Dau, president of VOM. However, we believe that no serious outside investigation was ever done as we were never contacted by outside investigators.
We did not give VOM-USA the names directly because we wanted to protect the victims from retaliation by Isaac Newton. He was threatening victims with the withdraw of VOM-USA support for their mothers and siblings at the Stephens Centre if they talked. We had been told VOM-USA had worked with him in an improper way before on other investigations by letting him know in advance that the investigators were coming. We concluded that we could not trust them not to give the victims’ names to Isaac.
7. “VOM is contracting with an outside child safety ministry to evaluate the methodology of VOM’s work in Nigeria and advise our staff in best-practices…”
Please note that this is very far from the outside investigation we are requesting. This ministry seems to be in merely an advisor role, with no responsibility or ability to investigate the very questionable actions of VOM-USA in the past, or ability to ensure that VOM-USA staff followed through on any policies that they might have.
If they were serious about dealing with these allegations, we would expect VOM to publicly announce the name of the ministry that they were contracting with, release the full results of their findings, and be open about their policies for handling reports of sexual abuse in VOM ministries. Since they have been ministering in the name of Jesus Christ, they should desire to walk in the light and insist on an outside investigation to clear their name and to make certain that they do not have policies in place that would facilitate this in other places in the world.
8. “We are providing more than $2 million in care this year to widows, orphans and other Christians in northern Nigeria…”
We have been told by VOM-USA and others that after severing ties with VOCM, VOM-USA began directing money instead to Chris Collins. According to witnesses we have interviewed, and the documentation that we possess, Chris Collins partook in the same financial corruption that was rampant in VOCM. Who is currently in charge of VOM USA’s ministry in Nigeria, and have accusations of his financial corruption been thoroughly investigated?
We ask VOM to release another statement that deals in full with the questions raised in the Persecuting the Persecuted video:
-Why would VOM USA donate property worth $100,000 to someone who they had good reason to believe was abusing the people he was supposed to be helping?
-Why didn’t VOM USA act years earlier? What wasn’t Isaac removed after the other investigations?
-Why has VOM USA on several occasions blamed another man for things that Isaac had done?
-Will VOM USA bring in outside investigators to discover why they allowed this evil to go on for so long?
-If this is how VOM USA handles accusations of molestation in their organization, how do we know that children aren’t being assaulted all over the world on their dime?
-Is VOM USA using their money and influence to report Isaac to the Nigerian authorities, or are they just trying to make the problem go away?
-What about the other corruption that is rampant in VOM’s other work in Nigeria?
We continue to pray that God will reveal the truth, and bring justice to this tragic situation.
Below are some photos of the lavish headquarters of VOM. What would cause a so-called Christian organization to spend donor money so foolishly? The amount of money spent was culled from the Michael Wurmbrand website.
Below are some photos of the Voice of the Martyrs headquarters located in Bartlesville, OK. The total cost of the complex was approximately $28 million dollars.