'Please Pray': Nicaragua Jails Pastors, Accuses US Evangelists of Crimes After Huge Outreaches
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Missionary Britt Hancock of the ministry Mountain Gateway followed God's call to help lead mass evangelism campaigns in Nicaragua, where he says close to a million people attended.
Now, he faces criminal charges from the Nicaraguan government, along with his son Jacob and daughter-in-law Cassandra, over allegations of money laundering and organized crime.
The attorney general of Nicaragua also announced that 11 Mountain Gateway Nicaraguan pastors face the same charges.
"Mountain Gateway would like to publicly state it denies these allegations, and it is saddened by this situation," a news release from the organization stated. "Mountain Gateway has diligently followed all legal requirements in the U.S. and Nicaragua that apply to non-profit and faith-based organizations."
"These charges are based on erroneous information, and Mountain Gateway will do everything in its power to resolve this through diplomatic channels," the release continued.
Hancock told CBN News the allegations come after God did amazing things in 2023 through the ministry's outreaches in the Central American country.
"This last year, I've watched Him heal people, set them free and transform their lives," Hancock wrote to CBN News. "I'm sad and very concerned that our pastors, my friends, are in prison right now."
Hancock said he and his family got out of the country and are safe. He says he's now doing everything he can to help the imprisoned pastors and their families.
"The Nicaraguan government has reviewed and approved all of our budgets, so I just don't understand the complexity of what is happening in a country that we dearly love and have done everything we could to help," he continued.
According to the same news release, the Nicaraguan government says nine of the pastors are innocent but claims they were under the control of the three U.S. citizens and two of the imprisoned Nicaraguan pastors.
The release goes on to say that even with the government's admission of their innocence, the pastors have been behind bars for almost two months and have not been able to contact their families.
"I know without a doubt that the Lord asked us to do the Gospel campaigns, so I trust God has purpose for this," Hancock wrote to CBN News. "He is not surprised by our circumstances; we see time and time again in the Bible that where there is persecution, the Church grows."
"He is working, and He is doing something," he continued. "Please pray with us for the release of our pastors. Pray for their families, and pray that the people of Nicaragua continue to meet Jesus Christ!"
Religious Freedom Institute (RFI) President Eric Patterson weighed in on the situation, issuing a statement to CBN News:
"The arrests of these three U.S. citizens and Mountain Gateway pastors in Nicaragua are tragically, only the latest example of the Daniel Ortega regime's repressive tactics against religious leaders in Nicaragua. This regime has been persecuting Catholics there since 2018 for standing up against the government's egregious human rights abuses and corruption. It has also targeted political opponents and journalists with imprisonment, deportation, and termination of citizenship.
Regarding these most recent arrests, this appears to be an example of the regime's bullying of religious organizations and corruption. Current reporting suggests that the Mountain Gateway organization met all legal and financial requirements under Nicaraguan law and that Nicaraguan authorities have previously signed off on the credibility of their financial statements. It would not be surprising for this to be outright persecution, or, at the very least, a not-so-subtle effort to fleece this and other religious ministries."
CBN News reported on Mountain Gateway's mass evangelistic campaigns last year, which Hancock says attracted close to a million people.
The release said those events had "the support and assistance of the Nicaraguan government."
"Mountain Gateway fiscally operated under strict accounting from Mountain Gateway staff and budget reviews by the Nicaraguan government to account for every dollar associated with the events," the release continued. "No members of Mountain Gateway have personally profited from funds sent to Nicaragua for ministry functions."
CBN News asked Hancock to elaborate on the above statement.
"When the Lord told us to do these Gospel campaigns, we had to go through a strict process with the Nicaraguan government to get approval to hold them," he wrote. "We submitted a project plan outlining all the Gospel campaigns and submitted a budget for 2023. Funds could not be sent into Nicaragua before those were both approved."
"After the funds were in the country, Nicaraguan government auditors reviewed all the movement of the funds, ensuring everything was used for what we said they were being used for," Hancock continued.
Mountain Gateway currently is not accredited by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA), but Hancock wrote the organization has "no objection to accreditation."
"Our organization has been a smaller organization for years with very close relationships with its donors and supporters," he continued. "As we grew, there were questions arising about ECFA's processes and the value of the accreditation, which we believe have now been handled and clarified."
"Once the immediate crisis is over in Nicaragua, we are likely to apply for accreditation," Hancock added.
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