Money for missions fails to add up

Note: "Together in the Harvest Ministries" (Steve Hill) and "Partners in Revival" (John Kilpatrick) ministries are now both members of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.

The Pensacola News Journal/November 18, 1997
By John W. Allman and J. Lowe Davis

Pensacola -- Evangelist Steve Hill says he has poured money into a multitude of foreign missions and charities.

His attorney, Walter Chandler, specifically mentioned three, including an orphanage in San Nicolas, Argentina.

But when the News Journal called the orphanage for details, staff members said they have not heard from Hill in 10 years.

They asked the News Journal for Hill's address so they could write him and ask for a donation.

Many missions that Hill mentions cannot be reached to confirm his giving because he does not provide addresses, phone numbers or other forms of contact. The News Journal reached the orphanage by contacting the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which found contacts and phone numbers that eventually led to the orphanage.

Hill is fondly remembered at the orphanage he was in a mission group that built it in the 1980s, said Betina Fernandez, executive secretary to orphanage director Pastor Omar de Felipe.

Fernandez, who said she has never met Hill, spoke highly of him for helping create the orphanage, the Asociacion Civil Hogar Evangelico El Amanecer. It provides beds, food, counseling, medical treatment and schooling for 70 children. It relies on government funds, Fernandez said.

Hill's stories about his ministry's benevolence help inspire the Friday night Brownsville Revival crowds to give generously $100 apiece is the amount the revival leaders ask.

Asked for specifics about his giving through his ministry, Together in the Harvest, Hill and his attorney gave the News Journal two different financial statements showing three different totals for his giving to missions. None of those three totals match the list and total on the ministry's IRS return.

The different figures are:

  • $900,000 - On his ministry's financial statement, Hill noted: "75 percent of Friday night offerings are allocated for foreign and home missions." Hill's ministry receives the entire collection every Friday night at the Brownsville Revival. That amounted to "about $1.2 million" for the ministry from August 1996 to August 1997, so 75 percent would be $900,000.

  • $789,689 - Elsewhere on the financial statement, Hill provided Hill said that 31 percent, or $789,689, of the ministry's total budget of $2.2 million went to foreign and domestic missions. It did not list the missions.

  • $639,383 - Hill's attorney provided a missions list for the same time period. It said $639,384 went to missions and Teen Challenge centers in 17 foreign countries and two American states. Some missions were named, most were not and were identified only as a country. Some were designated as "Ministerial giving" and "Pastoral."

    The list identified three Teen Challenge centers in Florida as receiving $18,260. Officials in the Teen Challenge Florida headquarters, however, said only that Hill has contributed to several Florida centers. They declined to say how much Hill has contributed or where the money went.

  • $102,212 - The IRS return states that Together in the Harvest gave $102,212 about 9 percent of its revenue of $1,187,519 to "ministry/outreach." By comparison, $421,438, or 35 percent, was the year-end unused balance.

Hill and his attorney both said they did not know whether the IRS return was for the 1996 calendar year or for the same August to August fiscal year as the two other financial statements. The return does not specify the time period, but it was dated Aug. 12 and received Aug. 19.

Hill has emphatically reassured revival audiences that their donation to Together in the Harvest will be well-spent. He has often said to the audience, "our books are open" and "there is nothing to hide."

"Don't get blown out of the saddle when someone asks you for a missions offering, Hill said to the crowd at the Friday night revival Sept 26. "You should get blown out of the saddle you should and you'd have every right to if the money is being squandered."

In a recent interview with the News Journal, Hill said that in 1984 he asked the Assemblies of God headquarters in Springfield, Mo., to send him into the mission field. In 1985, Hill and his wife went to Costa Rica to learn Spanish. In 1986, they moved to Buenos Aires.

While in Argentina, Hill said, he watched and learned from revival leaders like Carlos Anaconda, credited with inspiring the Great Argentine Revival.

Hill said he traveled back to the United States periodically to raise money, then returned to Argentina to use that money to build churches.

"I was the one. I would go to a city. I would pray over the city. Someone's got to be leading this thing, and so I was the one doing that," Hill said.

One of his crowning achievements, he said, is the Evangelistic Center in Neuquen, Argentina.

Hill and Pastor Hector Ferreyra started the church 10 years ago in Ferreyra's garage, according to The Sheaf Report, a newsletter mailed out by Together in the Harvest.

The church now has a multi-use building with a gymnasium, a 3,500-seat sanctuary and eight dining rooms, according to Pastor Oscar Revelino, who said he and Ferreyra are members of an Assemblies of God union in Argentina.

Revelino said the church feeds 800 children per week in its dining rooms and ministers to about 10,000 children on the street.

Revelino said Hill has "helped with money," but said he did not have figures. Revelino said the News Journal needed to speak to the church's accountant, but he did not identify the accountant.

Hill's financial statement shows his ministry sent $137,084 to Argentina between Aug. 1, 1996, and Aug. 1, 1997.

On a videotape of the Sept. 26 revival, Hill said he has sent $45,000 to Ferreyra to buy an abandoned movie theater in Cipoletti, Argentina; $30,000 to a Bible school in Argentina; and, he said, he has been sending $3,000 a month to Colombia to help establish a Teen Challenge center.

The ministry's IRS return, however, does not list any of these places as receiving money.

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