Calvary Chapel ends support of Potter’s Field Ministries

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Potter’s Field Ministries founders Mike and Pam Rozell are pictured in 2011 outside their ranch. (Brenda Ahearn/Inter Lake file photo)

The Calvary Chapel has broken its affiliation with Potter’s Field Ministries in Whitefish and the ministry’s other associated businesses and nonprofits following allegations from former ministry members who allege the founders of Potter’s Field have long incited a cult-like environment through intimidation, fear tactics and other means.

Officials with Calvary Chapel recently announced on the website, phoenixpreacher.com, that “after prayer, much consideration, and a unanimous decision, Mike Rozell and Potter’s Field Ministries has been removed from the official list of affiliated Calvary Chapel pastors and churches. We find that the Potter’s Field form of discipleship training and methods of ministry are not compatible with the Calvary Chapel form of ministry taught to us by Pastor Chuck,” the online post stated.

Don McClure, a leading pastor with Calvary Chapel, confirmed the departure, adding that the “whole experience has been very painful for a lot of kids.”

Calvary Chapel, which has a presence in the Flathead Valley, was reportedly a significant donor to Potter’s Field Ministries over the years. McClure declined to provide an exact amount donated to Potter’s Field over the years.

And Calvary Chapel isn’t the only financial stakeholder in Potter’s Field Ministries.

The ministry is multi-faceted and has existed in the Flathead Valley community for a couple of decades, and according to publicly available tax information, just a portion of the organizations owned by the Rozells collectively have raked in upwards of $5.5 million in grants, contributions and donations from donors large and small in recent years.

But it is unclear where the dollars have gone.

Charity Navigator, which rates various nonprofits based on their 990 tax forms and other available information, has given Potter’s Field Ranch, one of the multiple nonprofits that fall under ownership of Michael “Mike” and Pamela “Pam” Rozell, a zero-star rating six years in a row for accountability and transparency.

The organization looks at multiple metrics to determine its evaluation. Red flags on the Potter’s Field Ranch’s 990 forms and website include failing to list the chief executive officer’s salary, lack of an independent voting board and more.

Another figure of interest in tax documents includes Potter’s Field Ranch donation of about $250,000 to Potter’s Field Ministries in the most recently available tax filing. Multiple former ministry members allege a large portion of the money was tossed back and forth between the Rozells’ multiple nonprofits. Under the “explanation” on the 990, the two are identified as sister ministries that work in tandem with one another. The Potter’s Field Ministries’ system includes multiple moving parts, and different arms of the system operate slightly different from the others on paper, but sources say all exist to “support the ministry.”

Multiple people have alleged a sizable portion of the financial contributions go straight to the pockets of the Rozells, who were unable to be reached for comment regarding the allegations.

While Potter’s Field Ranch and Potter’s Field Ministries operate as nonprofits and must legally disclose financial handlings, the Selah Fellowship of Whitefish and MudMan Burger chain also fall under the ownership umbrella of the Rozells and function differently. The Selah Fellowship is also a nonprofit, but is registered as a church; therefore, owners are not legally required to provide information regarding the financial functioning of the organization, including donation sources, revenue details, expenses and more. And MudMan Burgers, which Potter’s Field new Chief Executive Officer Rob McCoy said Monday is officially closing amid the allegations, was also part of the Rozells’ dynasty and operated as a not-for-profit under the Potter’s Field Ranch nonprofit.

But MudMan, which was part of the ministry’s IGNITE internship program, was a point of frustration for many of the nearly two dozen sources who spoke to the Daily Inter Lake regarding allegations.

Kenzie Kinney, a former intern, said all of those who worked at MudMan received between $2 to $3 an hour and worked as much as 90 hours per week.

“Kids pay to work for free,” Kinney said of the IGNITE program, which interns also pay to be a part of.

According to a pay stub provided by Kinney, for two weeks of work of MudMan, she received $306.28 in 2016. On top of poor pay and strenuous work conditions, the employees of MudMan were also required to pay rent and expected to tithe 10 percent of their earnings. A contract provided by a former ministry member shows that interns were required to work at least 20 to 25 hours per week at MudMan and pay $200 per month rent to Potter’s Field Ministries, “starting upon receipt of first paycheck.”

The popular burger chain opened in 2016 and, that year, grossed about $350,000 for Potter’s Field Ranch, according to tax documents.

Other trends within tax forms indicate the ministry is giving less to key programs, despite making more than it used to in revenue.

For example, the website for the ministry said one of the ways Potter’s Field “is transforming lives around the world” is through Potter’s Field Kids. The program, which was highly advertised by the ministry, sent members, who mostly paid their own way, to Cambodia, Uganda, Costa Rica, Kenya, Guatemala and other international locations to serve mission trips and also allots a portion of donor dollars to the areas.

A 2013 tax document shows Potter’s Field Ranch received $1,809,618 in total revenue with about $1.6 million of that coming from “contributions and grants.” During that year, wire transfer records show about 20 percent of that revenue was sent to the multiple Potter’s Field Kids locations. But in 2016, when the charity amassed $2,448,161 in total revenue, with about $1.9 million of that coming from “contributions and grants,” only 13 percent went to the locations.

The wire transfers make up only a portion of “total expenses” and the largest expense, which from 2013 to 2016 tax documents exceeds $1 million per year, is simply labeled “other expenses.”

While it is not illegal for a charity to not list out its expenses specifically, it is something that can be considered poor practice, considering donors are unable to see a clear money trail and nonprofits are generally expected to practice the utmost transparency with their money handling.

Furthermore, former ministry members Paige McClure, Brooke Garza and Danielle Hawk allege there are major transparency issues, particularly with Potter’s Field Kids, that extend beyond financial obscurities.

McClure and Hawk allege the program, as a whole, is falsely advertised to the public.

Hawk served a mission in Guatemala for a few months where she was told she and a team were going to start a kids club.

“I never saw one kid the entire time we were there,” Hawk said.

McClure, who served a mission in Uganda in October 2018, said the Rozells and others with Potter’s Field often tell potential donors they financially support thousands of kids in that area. But McClure said based on her time there, she believes that number is closer to 200, if that.

“I came back from the mission not OK with telling people about the number of kids we support. I remember thinking ‘this is a scam,’” McClure said.

Garza recalls the day she learned that the money she thought she was giving to a child named Oscar in Guatemala by way of a kids sponsorship through Potter’s Field, was actually going straight to the ministry.

“I was excited to meet the kid I had been sponsoring. I brought my picture of him and [his] location and asked when I might be meeting him,” Garza said.

But a staff member at the Guatemala office told her they closed down the location that served Oscar and that she “hadn’t seen him in a long time.” Garza estimates she donated about $500 total during her sponsorship period.

Garza and McClure also claim Mike Rozell showed a general lack of interest in participating in missionary work, saying he would only show up for photo shoots with the kids and would spend most of his time off-campus in lavish resorts.

“He didn’t do anything himself,” Garza said. “He always stayed off the compound, he stayed in a nicer hotel. He was exempt from it [the work], and that was never questioned either.”

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