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Central Valley Baptist Church used its tax status for donations for Laura Silsby’s New Life mission

It has been apparent for some time now that  the “New Life Children Refuge” Laura Silsby and the teams in Haiti and the Dominican Republic were working on didn’t just magically spring into being.

It was a project built upon church networks, and supported financially by churches and the members thereof.

In this post, I’m going to focus on Central Valley Baptist, but obviously it represents only one of at minimum, five churches that had members either in Haiti or the Dominican Republic working as part of the “New Life Children’s Refuge” team:

  • Central Valley Baptist Church in Meridian, Idaho (Laura Silsby, Charisa Coulter, Carla Thompson, Corinna Lankford, & Nicole Lankford)
  • Eastside Baptist Church in Twin Falls, Idaho (In Haiti- Pastor Paul Thompson, Silas Thompson & Steve McMullen and in the Dominican Republic- Matt Crider, Lora Crider &  John Requa)
  • Paramount Baptist Church in Amarillo, Texas (Jim Allen)
  • Bethel Baptist Church Topeka, Kansas (Drew Culbert)
  • First Baptist Church in Andrews, Texas (see Bastardette’s post)

As I said some time back, prior to the (vastly premature) release of the 8 missionary scavengers, to even begin to get a handle on the scope of the effort, a thorough investigation would have to take place in at least three countries:

A full investigation would require information gathering in at least three countries at this point, the United States, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti itself.

Sure enough, evidence of church financial involvement has begun to surface.

Take this document,  Google’s cache of Central Valley Baptist Church’s  Haitian “orphan” mission that had been on Central Valley Baptist church’s website.

CVBC’s Pastor Clint Henry describes 5 of the 10 who go on to be arrested in Haiti, including Laura Silsby and Charisa Coulter as

our Haiti Rescue Team

as part of his plea to raise money for expenses relating to the team’s child collecting trip in Haiti.

Carla Thompson, herself one of those who goes on to be arrested in Haiti goes on to add:

We have sent a team to Haiti…

Carla Thompson is listed in the document’s sidebar as Central Valley Baptist Church’s Missions Coordinator.

Her arrest in Haiti as part of the child collection mission then must be viewed in full context, that of the CVBC Missions Coordinator arrested in the course of her missionary work on behalf of the church itself.

Silby’s New Life cannot be viewed as a distinct entity somehow separate from Central Valley Baptist Church, rather, it must be viewed as a project of the church, receiving direct financial support by way of Central Valley’s church tax status as donations to the New Life mission were explicitly being solicited for and collected by Central Valley under the umbrella of the church’s tax status. Again see the document from Google’s cache (emphasis is my own):

We need to raise $2,000 in the next 24 hours for our Haiti Rescue Team. We have already had $10,000 committed to this mission. Please help us! Call the church office and bring your gift in right now!

and

Finances:

*Support the Temporary Orphanage in Cabarete, Dominican Republic
*Support a Response Team to Dominican Republic $1500.00 each

Both of these are tax deductable donations that need to be given through Central Valley Baptist Church. Write on the Memo Line: Haitian Orphans.

Finances to support these on-going needs:
Needed NOW!

* Teddy Bears for a Traumatized child to hold New (or almost new)
* Non Latex Surgical Gloves
* Diapers & Pull ups
* Wet Wipes
* 100 Twin Sheets , 50 Full Size Sheets clean, (used ok)
* Baby & Toddler Formula
* Pediasure & Powdered Gatorade
* Powerbars
* Hand Sanitizer
* Hospital Soaker Pads, Surgical Masks, Gauze, Antibiotics and ointments
* Tylenol Liquid & Chewables, Deworming Medicine, Hospital Soaker Pads

Please bring these donations to Central Valley Baptist Church. A bin will be located in the Hall by the kitchen.

Central Valley was collecting (what it claimed would be) “tax deductable” donations on behalf of their team: Sislby and other “Central Valley Baptist Church team” members.

Once the request for donations went out, CVBC saw its members respond:

Before the Jan. 12 earthquake, two church members had started a charity in hopes of building an orphanage in the Dominican Republic for Haitian children. But once the magnitude of the devastation became apparent, Laura Silsby, 40, and Charisa Coulter, 24, accelerated their plan.

They asked the church’s missions program to help them get to the impoverished island nation as soon as possible and, according to family and friends, secured a motel in the Dominican Republic that could function as an orphanage. The congregation responded, Henry said. Stacks of donated goods began piling up in the church lobby.

The quote above from the L.A. Times makes it appear Silsby was the one requesting the donations, but as we see from the cached document, no less than CVBC’s Pastor, Clint Henry himself was asking his membership directly.

Money, as well as items came in according to Henry:

The 500-member church, where signs taped to large bins on Sunday read “Donations for Haiti,” gave several thousand dollars toward the mission, Henry said.

But even while employing language such as “our team” and using the church’s tax status as means by which money could be funneled to New Life, the church has attempted to create the fiction of a “separation” (emphasis mine:)

Henry told reporters Sunday that the organization and the mission is separate from the 25-year-old church, which has been involved in at least 100 different mission trips involving construction projects and assisting in medical relief efforts both in the United States and overseas.

Let’s be clear here, you cannot both collect donations headed for New Life and promise donors that their donations, funneled through your church will be tax deductable under the church’s tax status and then turn around and pretend New Life is somehow “separate” from the church.

While Laura Silsby (listed as “New Life Children Refuge Executive Director and Founder”) and Charisa Coulter (listed as VP and co-founder)  also headed up New Life, New Life cannot be seen as a separate entity from Central Valley Baptist Church.

New Life was, in effect was Central Valley Baptist Church’s Haitian “orphans” mission.

The media has a terrible habit of attempting containerize people and organizations, feeling that if they can be associated with one organization that somehow precludes involvement in another, as if church and ministry involvement for individuals is some kind of zero sum game. Yet clearly, Silsby, Coulter, Carla Thompson and others are better described as “both/and” or as wearing multiple hats at any one given point in time.

This has led to false impressions of Laura Silsby (who is let’s face it, is quite the unsympathetic character with a previous history of screwing over her own employees) as some form of evil mastermind with other ‘god fearing, do-gooders’ in tow, merely along for the ride, naive and innocent of any nefarious plans. In the pop perception Silsby alone bears their animosity, whilst the other team members actions are excused.

She makes a good ‘fall guy’ and allows American’s notions of the ‘nice church folk’ down the block go unchallenged.

These artificial barriers are useful not only to the media narrative, but certainly to the other ‘team’ members and churches as well.

Occasional blog posts such as Why is all the blame being put on Laura Silsby when her own pastor was involved? point out the foolishness of such container-i-zations.

Silsby AND the rest of the CVBC arrestees were working together on behalf of their church’s mission’s program. ALL bear responsibility.

Furthermore, Pastor Henry and those who wrote the checks that enabled Silsby and the rest of the Central Baptist team to do what they did may also bear some responsibilty.

The cached document that had been on Central Valley’s website lays out their team’s “plan” sumarized thusly:

Rescue Orphans from Port au Prince, Haiti

JAN. 22 (Friday/Saturday): NLCR team fly to the DR

JAN. 23 (Sunday): Drive bus from Santo Domingo into Port au Prince, Haiti and gather 100 orphans from the streets and collapsed orphanages, then return to the DR

JAN. 24 (Monday): Bus arrives in Cabarete, DR at New Life Children Refuge

Nowhere in that summary is there any mention of gaining permission from Haitian authorities. If anything, in the sidebar, under “prayer requests” the document ONLY makes mention of the role of the government of the Dominican Republic:

For God to continue to grant favor with the Dominican Government in allowing us to bring as many orphans as we can into the Dominican Republic

Note that this even goes beyond the 100-150 kids mentioned at various points, expanding the goal all the way out to an open ended “as many orphans as we can.”

As other bloggers and I have pointed out repeatedly, the documents the “team” had drawn up before leaving for Haiti, their mission plan were clearly known beforehand to at least some in the church structures. Note that this document, for example, has been, and continues to be available on the Eastside Baptist Church website.


Return to the Table of Contents of my Haiti series.

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