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GFA World Founder K.P. Yohannan Dies Following Accident

The missions founder was struck by a vehicle on his morning walk

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Kadapilaril Punnoose “K.P.” Yohannan, founder and director of one of the most prominent missions organizations in the world, has died following a severe accident near his ministry headquarters in Dallas, Texas.

K.P. Yohannan / Photo courtesy of GFA World

On Wednesday morning (May 7), Yohannan, 74, was struck by a car while taking his morning walk. A church spokesperson Father Sijo Pandapallil said in an official statement that Yohannan usually walked on the church campus, but that day he chose to walk along a county road. Then, an unidentified vehicle struck him.

Doctors performed emergency surgery on his lungs and placed him on 24-hour medical observation. Yohannan succumbed to a sudden cardiac arrest while receiving treatment the following day.

Born on March 8, 1950, Yohannan was the youngest of six sons. According to his obituary, Yohannan’s mother was a devout Christian who secretly fasted each Friday for three and a half years, praying that one of her children would commit their lives to ministry. At age 16, Yohannan dedicated his life to serving God and fulfilling the Great Commission.

In 1974, he moved to the United States and received theological training at Criswell College in Dallas, Texas. Later, he was ordained in a Baptist church.

While Yohannan spent much of his youth preaching, it was mission work that drew him.

In 1979, Yohannan and his wife founded Gospel for Asia (now GFA World), based in Texas and later, India. According to an article by Christianity Today, a recent ministry report says the organization trained over 100,000 people to preach the gospel and plant and pastor churches in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and other Southeast Asian countries for nearly 50 years.

Yohannan wrote over 250 books published in Asia and 12 in the United States, including “Revolution in World Missions,” a biography and critique of Western missions, which boasts 4 million copies in print. In the book, Yohannan explained his theory that national and local evangelists are more effective than missionaries from Western countries.

In 1993, Yohannan started Believers Church, an indigenous church movement that grew to 57 dioceses and over 12,000 congregations in 18 nations.

The church later adopted a more Eastern Orthodox style, and Gospel for Asia staff began to express concerns over Yohannan’s elevation of his own authority.

Additional staff concerns arose regarding the ministry’s fundraising, prompting an investigation by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) and an onslaught of public criticism by blogger Warren Throckmorton.

Following a lengthy review of the church planting ministry’s practices, the ECFA terminated Gospel for Asia’s membership. At the time, ECFA found the ministry had violated five of the financial accountability group’s seven standards, touching virtually every aspect of the ministry.

After the termination, the ministry faced several lawsuits in the U.S., India, the U.K., and New Zealand. In 2017, the Indian government banned Gospel for Asia and other non-profits from receiving foreign funds in India. In 2019, GFA settled a $37-million lawsuit over the misuse of funds, but a spokesperson for the ministry said the claims were “absolutely false” and that GFA could have won on appeal, which it never attempted.

Another suit, filed in early 2020, accused GFA of misusing more than $100 million in Canadian donor gifts.

Later, Indian tax authorities raided the offices of Believer’s Eastern Church and found approximately 60 million rupees, or about $807,000, in unexplained cash. Four months later, the Indian Tax Department seized one of Yohannan’s homes.

Christianity Today reported that after the expulsion from the ECFA, Believers Church decided to change its name to Believers Eastern Church to differentiate itself from Western evangelicalism. From then onward, the church has referred to Yohannan as Athanasius Yohan I.

Ultimately, Yohannan will be remembered for the stance he took on supporting native missionaries which called for the West to fund local missionaries rather than send their own.

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“If we evangelize the world’s lost billions at all, it will be through native missions. If anyone replaces the retiring generation of Western missionaries, it will be the thousands of indigenous missionaries who are the fruits of Western missions,” he said. “And if anyone provides financial support to this army of missionaries, called out from churches too poor to send them, it must be the believers of the West, rich in material resources, and needing only to acquire a global vision.”

Yohannan is survived by his wife, Gisela; their daughter, Sarah; and son, Daniel, who is now vice president of Gospel for Asia.

According to the church official, the accident is not a hit-and-run case nor was there anything suspicious about the accident. The police have also recovered the vehicle that hit Yohannan and registered a case.

Details on the funeral and memorial service will be made public in the days to come.

Main photo: K.P. Yohannan / Photo courtesy of GFA World

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Jessica Eturralde

Jessica Eturralde is a military wife of 18 years and mother of three who serves as a freelance writer, TV host, and filmmaker. Bylines include Yahoo, Huffington Post, OC16TV.