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A Quick Look at Two Other Ministries Helping Persecuted Christians: Barnabas Aid and RescueChristians.org

UPDATE: Thanks to excellent cooperation from the ministry, we have now had the opportunity to review Barnabas Aid’s audited financial statements and IRS form 990 for the ministry’s fiscal year ending August 2013. Click here to view our latest analysis of Barnabas Aid.

“If one part suffers, every part suffers with it” 1 Corinthians 12:26

In our last MinistryWatch.com Update we took a close look at the finances of the three ministries helping persecuted Christians in the MinistryWatch.com database: Voice of the Martyrs (VOM), Open Doors and The Persecution Project Foundation. Here is a link to that Update.In today’s Update we look at two ministries seeking to aid persecuted Christians that are not presently in our database. In both cases, we are responding to questions raised by our readers about these ministries. Since neither is in our database, the level of financial information we have on them is less than normal and also less reliable. Nevertheless, what we discovered is interesting and meaningful to potential donors of each ministry.

The first ministry one of our MinistryWatch.com users asked about was Barnabas Aid. Unfortunately, up until now at least, the ministry does not appear to want to answer MinistryWatch.com’s questions. We have tried to get a response from the ministry’s representative via telephone and e-mail, but so far she has ignored our requests. That, of course, is never a good sign for potential donors. We have been acquainted with the work of Barnabas Aid for some time and view it as worthwhile. So, we would not want to overreact to the initial decision of the ministry to dodge our questions. Even without being able to gain additional clarity through such questioning, we have been able to learn some important items about Barnabas Aid. Basically, Barnabas Aid is the US arm of a much larger charity based in England named Barnabas Fund. The US arm is actually quite small, bringing in a little over $1 million in the year ended August 2012, which is the most recently available financial data. Fundraising costs were a high 14.1% and administrative expenses came in at a slightly above average of 11.6%. In two of the last three years, the ministry has run an annual deficit and its balance sheet indicates its net assets are -$458,933 (meaning Barnabas Aid owes more than the value of its assets). Effectively, the ministry looks bankrupt, but this is actually not the case. Apparently, the value of the buildings the ministry owns have been fully depreciated on the balance sheet in accordance with accounting principles, but the true market value of the buildings is actually greater than the original cost. Additionally, the larger UK-based parent ministry has helped keep the US ministry afloat even though it is struggling financially at the moment. Of course, that cannot go on forever either. At the moment, given what appears to be substantial support coming from the UK-based Barnabas Fund, donations to the US based Barnabas Aid are likely used in large part just to help keep the US arm up and running rather than going to help those in need overseas. In essence, US based donors, and there do not appear to be many of them, may only be helping fund the US offices work, and even then further significant assistance from the UK-based parent is needed to pay the US bills. Now, we are pretty certain the UK-based Barnabas Fund does great work helping many Christians in need around the world using donations they receive in the UK and other places besides the US. At the moment, however, US donors are not likely funding those activities to a great extent, if at all. It appears that Barnabas Aid has been in operation for quite some time in the US but has never been able to grow the US arm enough so that it can actually be a significant contributor to the good work of Barnabas Fund around the globe. Accordingly, we would be reticent to recommend donations to Barnabas Aid at this time. We also hope the ministry will engage with MinsitryWatch.com so that we can have a clearer understanding of what is actually going on. As best we can tell, Barnabas Aid is small and very weak financially. It appears to be unable to survive without funds being diverted from its UK-based parent and is not transparent about its finances. Given all of this, we would caution donors about giving to Barnabas Aid. Hopefully, the ministry will decide to speak with us and we can bring a more positive report at that time.

MinistryWatch.com was also asked to look at another persecution ministry named RescueChristians.org. Recently, the leader of this ministry, Keith Davies, appeared on a Fox News program which led to MinistryWatch.com being asked about their activities. We have had a chance to speak with Mr. Davies and review a variety of financial documents that he willingly provided us. It is clear that RescueChristians.org is a very small, entrepreneurial ministry doing quite a bit to help persecuted Christians in a very direct manner, mostly in Pakistan at this time. They also have big plans for the future should they be able to attract the needed funds. Davies is a Jew who is looking to repay Christians for the many efforts they made to save Jews from death and persecution over the years. Revenues for RescueChristians.org jumped following the Fox News report but still will likely approximate $500,000 in 2013. Davies, who is independently wealthy, claims to take no salary from the ministry and says 93% of the money coming in goes to help those in need. The ministry provides very practical help to Christian victims of persecution including legal aid and paying hospital bills. On its website, the ministry displays a variety of receipts it says are for hospital and other bills it has paid on behalf of persecuted Christians. They believe they have been able to assist 1,000 people so far and hope to raise the funding to help many more.

While apparently doing admirable and often dangerous work (one of their workers survived two gunshot wounds while trying to rescue a young girl in Pakistan who had been kidnapped with the intent to force her to convert to Islam), RescueChristians.org is not an organization every donor will be comfortable with. As a small, entrepreneurial group with limited capacity at this time, it is sure to make many mistakes in its sincere efforts to help those in need. Its communications will tend to be more sensational than the other more established persecution ministries and Davies has no problem courting controversy in the name of getting the word out about their work. It is also affiliated with Walid Shoebat, a man who claims he was once a Palestinian terrorist before converting to Christ. Shoebat’s reputation has been marred, perhaps unfairly, by press reports which may have been significantly biased against both him and his Christian faith. Yet, he is prone to make highly provocative, if not bizarre, statements, such as calling Martin Luther King an “evil communist” as he did yesterday in a tweet on Martin Luther King Day. Shoebat tried to back his claims with obscure quotes from King, but somehow managed to overlook the bigger picture of King’s impressive legacy. Despite RescueChristians.org uncomfortable ties to Shoebat, Davies is clearly the main force behind the ministries efforts. The ministry itself is operating under the IRS 501c-3 designation of the Forum for Middle East Understanding. While hardly a ministry that is organized in a standard manner or operates in a way organizations like MinistryWatch.com would prefer, RescueChristians.org seems to be reaching out directly to persecuted Christians in Pakistan in very meaningful ways. The ministry has also apparently been endorsed by the Bishop of the Church of Pakistan, which is essentially the Anglican Church in Pakistan, who has commended the organization for their provision of legal aid, safe houses, medicines and escape routes for those being persecuted. While some donors may not be comfortable with the ministry due to its small size, aggressiveness, and controversial ties others will be attracted to its hands-on work in very difficult circumstances. MinistryWatch.com cannot endorse this ministry, but we would encourage donors not to overlook it either. We hope RescueChristians.org will be able to continue its good works on behalf of persecuted Christians and can simultaneously mature into an organization that gains the respect of many. Time will tell.