We are reformers at heart and our prime focus and life calling has always been about the priesthood of all believers and many times attempted to reform the modern institutional church from inside. After years of traumatic experiences, we have since repented and realize our disobedience to the very purpose for which Jesus came. While He came to reconcile man to God, He also came to destroy temples of brick and stone and establish the real temple within human beings, enabling them to worship Him in spirit and truth without a mediator. This account is our cost of discipleship. The ministries and people named here (with links) are to fully tell our testimony, which is the power of God unto salvation. If you dare to read on, we are confident that His resurrection power will raise you up again as He did for us.
We are both first-born Christians in our families and were primarily outside institutional Christianity until we were married in 1982. Katherine went to several bible schools in the late 1970’s. After fully investing in many churches, ministries and denominations at that time we could not find any expression of our core convictions.
We first encountered the Vineyard movement and the teaching of John Wimber “Everybody gets to play.” This was life changing as we thought we had finally found something that resonated with our birthright.
First interaction with Wesley and Stacey Campbell through Vineyard movement. We were on the leadership team with Ken Blue and John White at the North Delta Vineyard in the Lower Mainland, leading home groups and having responsibility for distribution of church funds in benevolence. Several personal interactions with the Campbell’s over the next 10 years.
Outside the institutional church again for 5 years.
Assisted planting the North Langley Vineyard with Gary and Joy Best who were also national leaders of the Vineyard movement in Canada at that time. We hosted Vineyard Vision in our home and served in various leadership capacities.
Outside the institutional church again for 3 years. Moved to Calgary in 1998.
First met Harold Eberle (founder and leader of Worldcast Ministries) who founded Destiny Bible Colleges in partnership with Weston Gitonga. We began substantial financial support of Harold and his Africa vision at that time.
Continue to support Harold to the point of hosting him in our home in Calgary several times and assisting with facilitating his ministry in the area. Harold began speaking into our lives that we were “born for Africa” and began encouraging us (and our sons) to go to Africa independently and bring teams.
First trip to Africa (John, Katherine and youngest son Caleb). Harold connected us with Weston Gitonga and encouraged us to develop our own itinerary directly with Weston and also our own relationships as we made connections. We were given the honour of speaking to their bible colleges, churches and city leaders.
As we have with all trips and our entire life and in following the Apostle Paul’s example of not being deprived of our boast, we paid for all costs on the trips (transportation, food, accommodation) and costs for our hosts (all vehicle costs, fuel, food and accommodation). We also brought many financial and personal gifts for our hosts, children and gifts of food for orphans.
When we returned home, Katherine spoke to Harold about the corruption she had witnessed in the leadership (e.g. immorality, misuse of funds, spiritual abuse, habitual lying, etc.). In short, Harold was not interested in hearing about it.
Later that year, we connected with Wesley in Calgary and began developing a project with Be a Hero to build a medical clinic in Nyahururu. We named this project “The Oiljar” and established a model where we led the fund-raising and project details with Weston and Violet. Be a Hero was only the non-profit channel for the funds to Africa so that donors would receive tax receipts. We directed the investments by requesting Be a Hero to disperse the funds where requested to do so. Wesley’s other contribution was that Be a Hero would match all of our donations (2 for 1) through soliciting donations from others. We were not told that there was another 50% partner in this project in Australia until the very end of the project. Since the completion of the medical clinic, Be a Hero (Canada), Be a Hero (Australia), Worldcast Ministries, Heroes of the Nations and Bethel Church have all taken the credit for the medical clinic. While we are not looking for public recognition, we find this practice reprehensible. Lack of morals and ethics = corruption.
Family trips to Africa continued (annually to 2012) to Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania to continue what we had began. We felt this was our life’s calling and poured ourselves into this. Samuel Mwangi (Principal of the bible schools) was our personal escort around Africa. We developed a very strong relationship with him on this trip and learned that he was in a difficult, authoritarian relationship under Weston. We began to bond with him like a son and I (John) dedicated his first-born son in a service in Africa. We also brought Samuel to Canada for a visit at our own personal expense.
Many regional leaders in Africa began confiding in us about harsh treatment from Weston, Harold and Bethel Church and the conflicting messages they were receiving from the multiple ministries involved there. We shared this with Harold and he once again assured us that we were free to grow whatever relationships God was leading us in. We continued to do this with his public support while becoming increasingly aware that we were a threat to the dishonest and corrupt way the other ministries covered each other’s practices in Africa.
Through work in our family landscaping business and John’s business career we built up a fund of $22,000 to support additional benevolent projects. This was donated to Be a Hero and was to be held until we gave the direction to which project it was to go to per the agreed to process and past practice.
During 2008, we funded a project (electricity hookup, diesel generator and DVD player) with Destiny Bible College in Kitunga, Uganda. Weston had requested this since the Uganda school was not receiving funds. Also, this was done with full communication with Harold Eberle, Weston Gitonga and Andrew Sievright of Heroes of the Nations and Kris Vallotton of Bethel Church (the administrative board overseeing the Africa efforts at that time). We would later be accused of insubordination and promoting ourselves by Eric Johnson and Kris Vallotton of Bethel Church. None of the other board members defended us.
From 2007 to 2010 our entire family was deeply involved in the Bethel culture and Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (BSSM) in Redding, CA. We graduated from BSSM with two of our sons. We owned a home in Redding from 2008 to 2012.
In Feb, 2009, John and Katherine met with Eric Johnson, Steve Backlund and Amy Jackson (now Smith) regarding our possible projects in Africa and interest in working with Bethel there. We now knew that Harold Eberle was in the process of transitioning Destiny Bible Colleges to Bethel Church’s oversight. Our goal was always to be part of the team. At the meeting we were asked to slow down because we were “just dating” (per Eric). Despite our now 10 year history with Africa, 3 years of travel there and confirmed written support from Harold Eberle and Weston Gitonga, we abided by this request and waited. Even though we had been openly called apostles to Africa by Harold (in the presence of Kris Vallotton), this was never recognized. At this meeting, we were told that there were also “messes” in Africa that hadn’t been cleaned up. From that day forward we began asking what was being referred to and have never been told what these “messes” were. We believe this is unscriptural (see Matt 18) and have since learned that it is a regular practice at Bethel Church which some refer to as “stonewalling”. We made numerous attempts to address this issue through email, personal meetings and conversation with Harold, Weston, Eric, Amy and Kris Vallotton. All attempts have been ignored.
This year ended with very obvious increasing favour and influence of our entire family in Africa, which continued to be unrecognized by Bethel Church who continued to exclude us from their Africa activities.
This was the final part of our 2-year ministry school experience at BSSM. John was concluding his ministry school elective course where he led a project team to create a proto-type school and plan for a ministry school in Uganda. While this was said to be successful by Amy Smith (the person running the course and the lead Bethel person involved in the real Bethel Africa ministry) there was continued stonewalling from Bethel regarding the Matthews being involved in the Destiny Bible College/Bethel ministry. Harold Eberle had almost completed the transition of Destiny to Bethel and continued to insist he was putting our name forward to continue to be involved. Harold visited our home in Redding in the spring and said that he had met with the Africa board (Kris Vallotton, Eric Johnson, Andrew Sievright, Weston Gitonga, Dann Farrelly and Amy Smith) and asked for four specific things to conclude the transition:
- Bethel would take over Destiny Bible College in 2010.
- Bethel would fully fund all 11 bible colleges.
- After graduating the Destiny student later in 2010, Harold’s only involvement would be as a board member.
- The Matthews would be part of the ministry.
Harold specifically told us that the board only agreed with the first 3 but he went ahead with the transition anyway. This was the first major confirmation that we had been officially abandoned by Harold and aborted by the board. We were told that there were “some concerns” about previous incidents in Africa and that our “messes had been cleaned up” but they did not want us involved. Once we had heard this news from Harold, we tried to talk to Amy and Eric and were told only snippets of this meeting. Nobody would confirm what we had done wrong and why we were denied involvement in Africa. John also tried to meet with Kris Vallotton many times that spring to discuss Africa and also our pending ministry school plans. He avoided this consistently and admitted it in a meeting in November of that year.
Upon realizing that we had no future in Africa, while in contact with Wesley and Stacey Campbell, we were asked what our plans were after graduation and whether we were interested in coming home to Kelowna to start a ministry school in partnership with them. We began to pursue this in earnest in March, 2010. Our contact with the Campbell’s at that time was due to our previous relationship with them and their knowledge of our involvement in Streams Ministries Canada and Scott Evelyn, who had given prophetic words and interpreted dreams several times in Kelowna.
In May, at the end of the BSSM year, John asked Kris Vallotton to bless our team that would be going to plant the new school in Kelowna. He ignored the request and we eventually approached Bill Johnson who prayed for the team at the back of a meeting room (not publicly) at the conclusion of a BSSM school session. We launched the school in September, 2010.
In June, our sons Caleb and Luke did a large ministry trip to Africa. Samuel was their escort and partner and the three of them visited Tanzania (Arusha, Mybea) and Kenya (Nairobi, Mombasa, Nyahururu). They visited rural bible schools and churches in all places and also appeared on national radio in Tanzania. As usual, we paid fully for all expenses on the trip. During this trip, Samuel’s father died. Caleb and Luke prayed for Samuel in person. John and Katherine were having breakfast with the Campbell’s when we were called from Africa by Samuel and prayed with him in front of the Campbell’s. In what had become normal practice by then, Bethel did not acknowledge our relationship with Samuel and in fact we received an email from Amy giving us the “news” regarding Samuel’s father long after we had been in personal contact with him.
In early October, our new ministry school (Eaglesnet School of Supernatural Ministry – ESSM) in Kelowna hosted a conference at New Life Church with Paul Manwaring and Harold Eberle as the main speakers. While we were in relationship with New Life Church, we were not a part of the ministry and were always autonomous. We simply rented space in the building and our students attended the church. Wesley and Stacey were “Overseers” in the sense that their extensive experience in revival would be offered to the school and they would speak roughly 3 or 4 times per month to the students. At their request, they were not part of the school board, leadership team or non-profit society running the school and would only help us “kick down doors” in local church politics and with their many ministry connections. Furthermore, they were quite clear that they had 5 other ministries to run and did not have time to run a ministry school. As Directors, we established and built the entire school from its conception in March. (See our original ESSM Bylaws).
While tension had been consistently increasing with the Campbell’s following the launch of ESSM in September, it reached a peak during the conference when it was very obvious to all that something special was happening in ESSM and the Campbell’s made a power play to take control of the school. Both Paul and Harold apparently spoke to the Campbell’s about this issue. John, Katherine and Caleb had dinner with Paul and Sue (his wife) where we talked at length about the problems with the Campbell’s and we were encouraged to have the courage to submit to the Campbell’s. We did not accept this and clarified that we were partners in the school and that we were not in a submission type relationship with them.
When Paul Manwaring returned to Bethel in Redding, we were all summoned to attend a meeting with Kris and Paul in Redding in early November, again at our own expense. While en route to the meeting from Canada, we received a copy of an email sent by Harold to the Africa board and Destiny Bible College leadership saying that the Matthews and Bethel could never work together and that the Africans would have to choose whom they would work with. At first we felt supported that Harold would write a letter on our behalf. However, we realized after the meeting with Kris that we had been set up to fail because he told us in the meeting that he had only supported ESSM being started if Wesley and Stacey were in charge (we were never told this when planning and setting up the school). Harold’s letter could now be seen as an attempt to get us further away from Bethel and the Africa ministry. We now realized that we had no support from Bethel at ESSM or in Africa and were essentially alone in both situations.
In this meeting (also attended by Paul Manwaring), Kris gave us less than half an hour to discuss the last 10 years of our family’s life’s devotion, the establishing of a residence in Redding to accomplish this, the ending of John’s 30 year business career and attempting to align our birthright (priesthood of all believers) with Bethel, Africa and ESSM. Katherine spoke first stating that the entire 2 year time at BSSM that we had honoured their leadership, never speaking against them and followed their channels and methods. She added that one of the key issues with the Campbell’s was their continued attempts to change the methodology, curriculum and vision of ESSM. We resisted, remaining faithful to what we had been taught at Bethel. Kris responded that in his opinion the school was the Campbell’s and that they were friends of Bethel. He also said that he told the Campbell’s “The Matthews’ are rebellious and too strong for you” and that Wesley had replied “No problem. I can handle them.” Katherine replied that a real prophet of God does not set up his people for failure, which is what Kris had done. Caleb then spoke up and said that he had been at Bethel for 3 years and while he had been accepted somewhat (although his ministry in Africa ignored), he had watched Kris and Bethel leadership, from the day his parents arrived, ignore, dishonor, humiliate, discredit and murder them. Kris reacted to this strongly. At this point, Paul Manwaring, having not spoken, began to recoil in what appeared to be fear and shame at what was transpiring before his eyes. John then spoke up and confronted Kris about his many attempts to communicate and meet with him and asked how he expected anything to be worked by ignoring us. Kris then admitted that he had intentionally avoided us the entire time we were at BSSM but remained adamant that we were to submit to the Campbell’s. It is important to note that while the meeting was obviously very tense, we were respectful in tone and approach. Furthermore, in relation to “submitting to the Campbell’s” it is also important to note that up until that time they were not pastors or leaders at New Life Church and ESSM (as stated earlier). Even though we do not believe in hierarchical, top down leadership, the Campbell’s were not leaders in any way in the church or the school. The meeting ended with Kris standing up saying “You know what you are supposed to do” and walked out.
During the development of ESSM, in early September 2010, Stacey Campbell told us “Kris doesn’t want to deal with you and that everything needs to go through us (the Campbell’s)”. We said that didn’t surprise us and we already knew that Kris didn’t like us but we didn’t know why. Everyone involved and named in the story knew this. Katherine and I had been systemically stonewalled, ignored and betrayed by everyone involved. Some we had worked with for over 10 years. What is worse, we have still never been told what messes we had made or concerns that may have existed. This is in complete violation of scripture and certainly does not portray the heart attitude of a true apostle or prophet, as we understand them to be.
During 2010, a professional church consultant, Patrick Fiore, had been retained by New Life Church to negotiate the re-entry of the Campbell’s to New Life Church as part of the board. He had a similar role in a previous scandal between the Campbell’s, New Life Church and Kim and Darlene Unrua (who were pastors at the time). This was a major public scandal in Kelowna at the time along with another investment scandal called Amber. They had been outside of New Life Church after being asked to leave by the board of elders. After we returned from the meeting with Kris and Paul, Patrick was asked to assist in resolving the dispute over ESSM, which he attempted without success since he could not possibly be neutral due to who was paying for his engagement. Power plays and scandals such as this have followed the Campbell’s on a consistent basis (in church ministry and business) often accompanied by public tribunals with those they were in dispute with. With Patrick Fiore’s assistance, this was the plan for us and we had no intention of going the route of a popularity contest with “Christian celebrities”. We were just one of many and were now beginning to realize how incredibly big, connected and corrupt the alliance of leaders against us was. As reformers we were completely over our head thinking we could accomplish our life’s calling inside the institutional church. After all, the reformers in the past primarily operated outside not inside the system.
Around this time, Samuel Mwangi called us saying he was angry about what was happening and wanted to intervene and speak with Harold, Weston, Amy and Kris. Katherine warned him that would not be a good idea and that if he spoke up for us that these people would destroy his ministry and future. Sadly, we haven’t heard from him since.
On November 10, we separated ESSM from the Campbell’s, the office at New Life Church and any remaining connection with Bethel Church. Our 19 students and 3 interns were given the choice of leaving the school, staying with us to complete the year or finding an alternative with the Campbell’s. 6 students and all 3 interns remained with us and we completed the full year, operating out of our home and a student home. (7 students went home and 6 remained with the Campbell’s with all receiving a pro-rated refund of tuition). Our connection with Africa was also fully severed at that time.
During the separation, the attached letter was written by Kris Vallotton and made public in Kelowna and at Bethel Church. It is full of errors, untruths and innuendo however the top down, hierarchical theology and organizational control should be clearly apparent to any reader. During this time, a New Life Church elder came to our door uninvited and attempted to force his way in to our house and physically threatened Katherine. Fortunately, one of our tall, adult sons was home and assisted with warding him off.
We finished the school year in April, 2011 at great personal cost and pain, continuing forward in teaching and demonstrating our conviction about the priesthood of all believers. All of us ministered as a team in the few remaining church contacts we had, not fully realizing at that point that our message and demonstration was an irritant to the very system we were still operating in. The average person loved what we were doing. However, the leaders of the various ministries were clearly not comfortable and also began to pull away.
Within days of the separation, we sent a request to Be a Hero for some of the project money that had been set aside and were told that it had been “sent to Africa as we wished”. This was a complete violation of the working arrangement we had with Be a Hero (we had always been consulted first) and believe it was done in retaliation for the separation. If that is not the case, it was done before the separation and behind our backs while we were supposedly in “partnership” with the Campbell’s. There was no documentation provided to support where the money had been sent and given the significant financial hardship Be a Hero was in at that time it is highly likely it was used for general administration expenses. We wrote to Harold, Kris, Eric, Paul, Dann, Amy, Wesley and Stacey and pointed out the dishonesty as an example of the kind of situation we were facing in Kelowna with the Campbell’s. We also spoke directly to Harold about it. Kris took the lead to respond and of course defended the Campbell’s on a technicality that we had inquired about the funds for Pakistan when it had originally been raised for Africa. He also accused us of trying to create a scandal regarding the Campbell’s. The issue we were raising was dishonesty about when and how the funds were dispersed, which was completely ignored. The point is that we had always directed the funds until this incident. In fact, my (John’s) personal involvement in directing the funds was one of the conditions from the donors who had supported us, especially my employer who had provided a sizeable gift upon my retirement. Furthermore, we had only held off dispersing the funds in Africa at Bethel’s request and then the money was stolen from our Oiljar fund without our permission.
In April, we finished our ESSM school year with a trip to Costa Rica and graduation of our students .
After the violent tearing and pain associated with being ousted from our work in Africa, we decided to reach out to one of our contacts that had no association with Bethel, Destiny Bible Colleges or Worldcast Ministries. Early in the year we began to reconnect with Sebastian and Ruth Okwero through email. In discussions about projects, we informed them that our project money that had been saved with Be a Hero had been stolen and sent somewhere else without our knowledge. They were supportive and we began to plan to visit them again. We personally contributed the funds to replace what was stolen and made plans to return to Africa in 2012 and visit them to finish what we had intended to do.
In Feb, John, Katherine and Caleb visited the Busia district (Murumba church and Arrowhead Children’s Home), Teso (outdoor crusade), Nasewa District (political healing of the land with community leaders) and crossed over into Uganda for a 3-day outdoor crusade and also Kampala to minister friends at an Anglican Church. We also visited a Connect Africa Biosand filter plant and water facility just outside Kampala. On the way home, we briefly visited Kisumu.
While in Nasewa region, we also toured the Biosand filter plant at Sebastian’s father’s land and shared a meal and blessed the business. At Teso, a high witchcraft area, we were overwhelmed with children and saw the most need for support. We later decided to support the local pastor (David) and family for 1 year.
During the visit to the Arrowhead children’s home, we began discussions on doing a well project, which soon became a full water project with retail building that is now completed. We also brought gifts and a solar light to the children’s home.
In July we learned about a serious illness with David from Teso because he needed an operation to remove a growth in his lower bowel area and that he had serious difficulty with bowel movements. We wired extra funds (above his support) to cover this operation.
In Aug, John and Caleb went back to minister at a large conference in Rwanda with leaders and pastors from Uganda, Kenya and Congo.
In October, Sebastian had a serious illness and we believe a brush with death. We sent a large gift to assist with his medical expenses.
We concluded our activities in Africa in early 2013 and launched Back to Eden Group to continue to communicate our passion and vision as well as encourage and support those coming out of the abuse of institutional Christianity. By this point in our life we had stopped traveling and ministering so that the Spirit of God could do a thorough detoxing and healing of our hearts. Though we had lost everything that was dear to us (our life dreams, friends and vision) nothing could compare or prepare us for the real loss amidst this horror. We thank God that He works all things for good, even to those of us who die daily in the dark night of the soul. This dark night would continue for 8 years. When we thought we would finally get out of the dust, the horror of any parent was evolving in the midst of this trauma. What began as the dream of two parents to bring their family together with their life’s dream and vision to help the poor now culminated in the greatest loss of our lives and our generational history. Our eldest son broke relationship with us, aligning with the value system of the institutional church that had harmed us and walked out of our lives. This happened on the graduation day of ESSM, which should have been a day of celebration for the small group of people who had run such a difficult race the previous year. Although we have worked through so much pain and loss from the Africa, ESSM and overall institutional church experience and have reconfigured our lives outside this corrupt system, the loss of our son is a cross we will carry forever.
It has now been 5 years since the ESSM graduation. We have been healed and resurrected and God’s grace is sufficient for us. For us, there has been a significant cost of discipleship. In the last few years we have helped many people, through Back to Eden Group, who have been chewed up and broken through institutional Christianity. This detailed account of our experience is not presented with any other intent other than to encourage others that it is possible to recover from the worst experiences within institutional Christianity. You can exist and thrive outside this system and in fact Jesus came to aggressively oppose it and set us free from the domination of religion. You are the temple.
Feel free to contact us or read more about following Jesus outside institution (Rome) at www.b2egroup.net.
We bless you in Jesus name and may the Holy Spirit give you hope for freedom.
John and Katherine Matthews