Quite a number of individuals have asked me about Dalton Thomas and Frontiers Alliance International. FAI seems to tick a lot of boxes: radical discipleship, evangelism, prayer, helping out in dangerous places like Iraq, Syria etc. Like myself however, they say something doesn't seem quite right, something is just a little "off". I felt the same thing and was perturbed. I could see many things to commend, but . . . .
I could see that there were some worrying connections with people who are NAR related like Joel Richardson and some others, but nothing really concrete. Until now that is. If you had any doubts about FAI and Dalton Thomas, this blog post reproduced in full from the blog of Mike Reynolds here, will tell you why.
FEBRUARY 22, 2020 From the Blog of Mike Reynolds
frontier alliance international (fai)
First, I want to apologize that I can’t share this story with you face-to-face. I wish I could sit across from each and every one of you who supported us financially, prayed for us, shared about our work in Iraq with your friends & family, or simply took the time to read about or watch what we were doing. By generously giving your time and/or money for our sake, you were stakeholders in our calling, and I feel obligated to share our story with you. Some of this you may already know, and much is likely new to you. Regardless, I pray it’s helpful, informative, and clarifying on several levels.
Second, this contains a confession, but my primary goal is not to share a confession. Full confession has already taken place before God and before my family, pastor, elders, counselors, and friends. You are not the first to hear this information and I don’t share the reality of my sin to get anything off my chest, to be relieved of a burden, or to claim any moral freedom. I am sorry for my sin and your forgiveness is greatly appreciated, but I am not writing to ingratiate or secure your forgiveness.
I am writing publicly because all previous attempts for transparency have been rebuffed and genuine good faith between the parties has been lost. My goal in writing here is singular: I feel a sense of responsibility based on what I know, and I believe that by sharing this story in this forum some people will be spared from finding themselves in an unhealthy situation in which unnecessary spiritual, emotional, and physical harm could be inflicted.
The Call to Serve Muslims
Soon after we were married in 2011, Susanna and I felt the desire to serve unreached people cross-culturally, particularly in the Muslim world. We had discussed the prospect regularly but didn’t have a clear path in front of us. We knew we wanted to serve in this way, but we didn’t have any doors opened to us at the time, and I was still touring with a Christian band 5-6 months out of the year.
In 2012 we met Dalton Thomas, founder of Frontier Alliance International (FAI). Shortly after, we began corresponding via Twitter and showing our support for his ministry and their team in Turkey. We gave money to the initial version of the Covenant & Controversy movie project and were looking for ways to partner with them in the future.
When I left the band in 2013, we knew that God had liberated us to pursue cross-cultural ministry and we were elated. FAI was at the top of our minds. In the spring of 2013 we coordinated a trip to Turkey to visit FAI and their team. We were deeply impressed with the individuals on the team, with Dalton’s signature talent for teaching, and with the welcome that we received during our short time there. Dalton extended an invitation to our family to join them in Turkey or to plant something new somewhere else in the Middle East under the FAI banner, but the timing wasn’t quite right for us. We needed more time to think and pray about our options. After we returned to the US, we continued to correspond with Dalton and other FAI team members.
In the late Summer of 2013 we learned that the majority of the team in Turkey had returned home for reasons undisclosed to us at the time. We were simply told that there had been a crisis and that virtually all the members had returned home to collect themselves. That winter we received a long email from Dalton disclosing what happened. He told us that he was sharing something that was only being shared with “close friends and family.”
He told us he had “opened [his] heart up and engaged in an emotional affair” with a single woman on the team who was under his leadership. He continued, “by the Lord's grace it was not a sexual relationship,” and “Anna [his wife] had perceived [the woman] as being divisive and as subtly pursuing me and subtly making herself available to me.” Dalton shared that, “She has been encouraged by our guys in Turkey to submit to her home church about the situation as our guys have made them aware of it and have sought her out, having been met with little remorse or repentance on her part.”
The guidance of the leaders in Turkey was that Dalton would return home, join a local church, be transparent with stakeholders, join the workforce, and prioritize their marriage and restoration at all costs. Dalton labeled the prescription of these leaders as “punitive” and reached out to his long-time friend Aaron Walsh to ask for assistance. Aaron then intervened and put Dalton in contact with other voices who “urged” him not to join the workforce but to return to Georgia for a season, then make their way to Kansas City and be present at IHOP to link arms with leaders there while their family recovered.
We later heard through first-person testimony––verified by the other involved parties––that his account was not the truth; Dalton had been involved in an emotional and sexual relationship with her that began several months before their team moved to Turkey. The relationship continued for another eight months throughout their entire time in Turkey before it ended through the woman’s initiation. Additionally, we learned through first and second person testimony that the relationship was not the result of another woman being “divisive,” “subtly pursuing” him, or acting “predatorily” (the term used by Dalton and Anna’s pastor in Georgia), but that Dalton initiated the infidelity and brought it into reality. This was the undisclosed factor that caused the team in Turkey to disintegrate.
Now that I’m mentioning this woman, I want to speak in her defense. Dalton communicated to us that the leaders in Turkey informed this woman’s elders in her home church and sought her out. This made it appear to us as though Dalton or others in FAI began the disclosure process. In reality she had already left Turkey, confided in her family and church leaders, and alerted Dalton that if he didn’t tell Anna [his wife], she would do it for him. She submitted to the oversight of her home church and professional Christian counselors to go through the restoration process entirely and with integrity. She owns the part of the relationship that she was complicit in and recognizes clearly and with a repentant heart the components of the relationship that she is responsible for. The power dynamics present in the relationship between the married founder/president of a Christian organization and a single female volunteer under his leadership (while in a cross-cultural context no less) leaves room for more discussion about who is responsible for what.
In the Spring of 2014, several months after Dalton disclosed the “emotional” affair to us, he asked if we would be interested in joining up with a new team in Colorado to begin planning for a move to the Middle East and to work in partnership with the Antioch Center for Training and Sending (ACTS) in Colorado Springs. Dalton told us that ACTS leadership asked him to “take over the leadership and oversight of their operations in the Muslim world” as the Regional Director of the Middle East and North Africa for ACTS. Based on our diluted understanding of the situation in Turkey, we felt that was a great vouch for Dalton and Anna’s recovery.
Having felt the time was right for our family, and being assured that their marriage was in a healthy place, we gave our tentative “yes” and began to pray and seek counsel about the move. An elder in our church and his family had been in Turkey with FAI and were among those who returned home from the field after Dalton’s immorality was unearthed. This elder reached out to Dalton to ask whether or not he had told us the truth about the situation in Turkey. Dalton assured him that he would tell us before we all moved overseas (he did not).
A number of our trusted friends and family members questioned whether FAI was a good option for us given Dalton’s moral failure; however, we assured them that Dalton and Anna had taken the steps to heal and recover. We didn’t think their home church in Georgia, IHOP in KC, or ACTS would be endorsing their return to the field unless they had gone through the proper steps in recovery. Since no one on our side knew the depth of the sin in Turkey, they didn’t ask additional questions and took our word for it. Dalton framed things in such a way that it was strongly implied that those who questioned their process were skeptical of the Lord’s leadership, and that those who didn’t question their recovery and supported them completely were merciful. We wanted to be merciful and supportive of Dalton and Anna so we didn’t second guess our naïve understanding of mercy or ask the hard questions that we should have. We just took their word for it.
Serving the Kurds
We pressed on and prepared for a move to Colorado with the remaining families and singles who comprised the core of FAI (three families and three singles), landing there in January of 2015. Immediately after we arrived in Colorado, Dalton and I took a trip to Northern Iraq to visit a couple of long-term workers building an effective ministry to refugees in the Kurdish village of Soran. Their team had been working and “platform building” in Iraq for the better part of a decade (nearly 20 years in total in the Middle East) and had been the first westerners to ever live in that area of Iraq. This trip solidified my love for Kurds, and it was the trip that produced the first Better Friends than Mountains film.
I returned from that trip deeply moved, knowing that I wanted to serve with minority groups suffering religious persecution or fleeing from war.
During the rest of 2015, the FAI team attempted to get to know one another. We spent about twenty hours a week at a house of prayer in Colorado, planned, created, and published the first Covenant & Controversy film, and eventually decided that northern Iraq would be the new Middle East headquarters for FAI. Nothing materialized with Dalton in the ACTS leadership team; he simply told us that he stepped down from the role because he felt like it would be better for FAI to retain its autonomy.
There was no way for us to get into Iraqi-Kurdistan without sponsorship, and the ministry we visited in January of 2015 tapped their resources and put their reputations on the line to vouch for us and get us in. I asked Dalton if these workers knew about the affair in 2012, and he told me that “they know everything.”
We later found out that he had been dishonest again; the situation in Turkey was not disclosed to those who were risking their reputations to get us into Iraq, not even the sanitized “emotional affair” version Dalton had shared with me. Multiple families in Iraq put their reputations on the line in order to grant access to FAI without being informed of the risk and liability they were taking on. Dalton told them that FAI was based in Turkey but omitted the fact that his own moral failure was the cause of twenty cross-cultural workers going home prematurely after they had corporately raised hundreds of thousands of dollars.
We landed in Iraq in early 2016 and hit the ground running. Dalton had given me leadership over all things local to our village and related to medical relief in northern Iraq. This covered our church-planting efforts with the Kurds in our village as well as my newfound passion for medical outreach (inspired by Preach and Heal by Charles Fielding). My main work was to legally establish the organization as an NGO in Iraqi-Kurdistan, build a program for medical relief, and learn Kurdish.
During that time I realized that FAI was essentially a shell--an organization that barely existed on the American side of things; there was nothing except for the IRS letter of exemption and the board members who were there on paper but were not involved in anything related to the organization. I was a director in the organization, but I had never met the other board members and for the time I had been involved in that capacity, I had yet to hear of or attend a single board meeting. I had to create letterheads, write the code of ethics for the organization, create templates for budgets, set budgets, write organizational mission statements, and generally prepare a lot of paperwork that certainly should have been prepared long before ever taking a team to the Middle East (much less a second team).
Dalton had assured us that there were numerous “grey hairs” helping guide the ship and that the second move to Iraq was good to go since it was the second international location for the organization. When I found out that the organization as a whole was basically being built in motion, I became disconcerted.
After solidifying the legal status of our NGO in Iraq, I focused the remainder of my energy on the creation of a medical outreach program to provide care for soldiers and refugees during the liberation of Mosul. In spite of a huge learning curve, a small group of us FAI workers successfully accomplished this. Often set up a few kilometers from Mosul, the days were long and the sights were horrendous. However, our medical efforts began to pay off, and we were granted more and more access and freedom to work as we pleased in the area we knew would lead to gaining the respect of our Kurdish neighbors.
Sin and Isolation
In the busyness of work I neglected my responsibilities at home. I began to give myself over to pornography. I found myself in a 4-6 week cycle of sin, confession, a sense of forgiveness, sin, confession, etc. It took a serious toll on our marriage and Susanna’s sense of safety. Due to the culture and lack of transportation, she was unable to leave the house alone. I was busy with the demands of registering and legitimizing an NGO and medical program all while being emotionally and spiritually unfaithful. It’s hard to put into words the strain and stress of that time, but Susanna pressed on and continued learning Kurdish (even creating a Sorani-Kurdish grammar book and dictionary for our team), engaging with our neighbors day in and day out, and wrangling two toddlers.
During a break between our trips to the front lines, Dalton and Anna came to our living room to discuss how one of our doctors was relating to me. Dalton shared with me that he “didn’t like that this doctor was relating to me as the boss,” and that “this medical program is my (Dalton’s) program, not yours.” I was startled by the conversation and unprepared to defend my “ownership” of the program, but feeling a deep connection to and responsibility for it, I certainly had every intention of seeing it through to completion. His verbiage in that conversation was disturbing and I became suspicious of his motives. I felt that Dalton didn’t want involvement with the local medical initiative until the moment it became successful, though this was very hard to put into words at that time. This particular exchange about how the doctors were relating to me felt like a nail in a relational coffin. I’m sad to say I didn’t continue to dialogue with Dalton or discuss these issues with him on a deeper level. Instead, I isolated myself to my own harm and the harm of my family.
I began to let Dalton take more and more trips to the front lines in my place, and I left an increasing number of responsibilities on the table for him to take on. This provided a lull for our family and some time to stay in our village and spend time with our Kurdish friends. By November of 2016 I was still in my cycle of sin with pornography. Despite my growing distrust for Dalton, we had no one else nearby to turn to, so Susanna and I met with Dalton and Anna to update them on this issue and to ask for help. They offered to use FAI funds to partner with our home church in sending us to the USA so we could go through a week-long counseling program where we could get some time with trained counselors and where I could hit the reset button in my dedication to the Lord and to Susanna.
In December 2016 Dalton was spending a significant amount of time with the medical program outside of Mosul and we were preparing for our team Christmas. We decided to do a secret Santa. Anna picked Susanna’s name and I picked Dalton’s. A few days after selecting names, Anna sent me a private message asking what gift to get for Susanna. I responded and asked what I should get for Dalton. Unfortunately, we didn’t stop talking, and the evil idea of infidelity entered both of our minds. I entered into an affair with my wife’s closest friend and mentor, the woman my wife had confided her deepest insecurities and fears with. The affair lasted a little more than a month, quickly escalating from texting, to talking on the phone, and into a sexual relationship up until the time we went to the USA for counseling in January 2017.
I wish I could say that I felt conviction and confessed my sin to my wife voluntarily during our time in counseling, but my hard heart did no such thing. Instead, Susanna discovered the affair inadvertently through a text message notification the night before our first session and confronted me about it. After she confronted me, I told her the truth. It was the worst night of our lives. I wish I could say that I was immediately repentant and merciful to Susanna’s newfound horror, but I wasn’t. It would take months for my eyes to be fully opened to my sin and for my heart to turn back to my wife. It would take more than a year for my heart to turn back to God and out of my despondency. I betrayed my Savior, my faithful wife, my children, my parents, my in-laws, Anna, Dalton, the other workers who trusted me, and our supporters in a vile and haunting way.
After Susanna confronted me, I walked outside, called Anna, told her Susanna found out and that she would need to tell Dalton. Within an hour, Dalton called to check on me and tell me everything was going to be okay. I was distraught and above all else I was ashamed. All I can remember saying is that I was just so sorry and embarrassed. I shared my regrets and sorrow about my abuse of his trust and offered whatever weak apology I could offer in that moment of impact. No apology would be sufficient for something like this in the moment, only apologies matched with repentance, ownership of my sin, and change over time. That night, Dalton opened up a private channel with Susanna and told her to emote with him and to share everything she was feeling there. He immediately and insistently requested that this information be shared with no one, in order to “protect our families.”
After staying awake all night, yelling and crying, fearful and tormented, we had our first of five counseling sessions. Monday, January 23, 2017, we walked into that counseling office hurting and scared. Those counselors spoke the first words of clarity that I felt like we had heard in the last four years. They began to lay out all the pieces expertly, identifying the manipulation and deception leading up to our departure for Iraq as well as all the lies I had allowed myself to believe. My truckload of infidelity hit Susanna, and they were her paramedics to patch her up and get her on life support. Unfortunately, I spent most of my time in denial, terrified of the consequences and shame of leaving the mission field in this way. I wish my heart change had been faster for Susanna’s sake, but by God’s grace I was what I was and he worked in me slowly instead of quickly.
Throughout the week of counseling, we continued to correspond with Dalton. He told me that our families would have supernatural forgiveness and walk through this together. I was so deferential toward him, and I allowed him to remain in our conversation for far longer than I should have. I deferred to him and Susanna since the two of them were the primary victims of the affair. He told us not to talk to anyone about the affair except the counselors we were meeting with. He said he didn’t believe our church would handle this the right way, so he told us not to talk to our pastor. Susanna wanted to tell the FAI team in Iraq as well as the local ministry’s leaders who had provided entrance for us in the first place. He said no one on the team in Iraq, local ministry partners, or the wider FAI members needed to know about this and that disclosure would need to remain extremely tight (Susanna never appreciated this approach, though in my guilt and shame I trusted him). He assured me that there would be a way for us to stay in the Middle East and continue working, either with us living in a different city in Iraq or in Jordan to help build an FAI relief program there similar to what we had just built in Iraq. He was adamant that we would be able to make our presence in the Middle East work. In my deference to him as someone I had sinned against, I complied with these requests until other advisors were involved who were able to bring clarity.
By the end of the week, our counselors had rightly identified our continued communication with Dalton and Anna as inappropriate in light of the affair and told us to cease all communication with them (except for communication about our children as they were still with Dalton and Anna in Iraq). The counselors assured us that any invitation to stay in ministry, in the Middle East, or with the same organization would be disastrous for our family. They helped set our recovery expectations and to fight dangerous notions that we would heal quickly or the naïve ideas that we would “be back at it before the end of the year” or that “true forgiveness will yield reconciliation.” They assured us that our pastor and elders needed to know and that we would need ongoing counseling indefinitely. The helpful wisdom they gave us feels endless; they were wonderful, and I wish I could have spent time with them in better circumstances.
After our final counseling session I called our pastor and told him everything. He said, “you’re going to fly to Iraq, get your kids, get your stuff, and come home. We’ll have a plan for you when you get here.” We flew back to Iraq to collect our kids and pack up our house. While we were packing, Anna reached out to me again by calling my local Kurdish phone, asking whether or not I wanted to talk to her. I’m ashamed to say that I said “yes” and allowed the conversation to continue for even a few more minutes. Instead of hiding my sin of reengaging with her, I told Susanna immediately.
The next day Dalton told me that he wanted to see me in person before their family flew out for the FAI family gathering in Cyprus that year and while we were still in our village. I walked over to our village office and apologized to him face-to-face. He looked at me, offered forgiveness, and he said “I had a feeling that Anna was having an affair. I’m just relieved that it was you.” Whatever shock he was in at that time would permit a statement like that (we all say bizarre things in shock), but it was an incredibly defining moment for me. It was then that I personally realized something was extremely unhealthy and backwards with Dalton’s desire for us to not tell anyone, to stay in the Middle East, to have supernatural forgiveness, to want to continue on with the work no matter what. It was as though my shock and denial was suspended for a moment, and it allowed me to see clearly just how desperately I needed to get my family home, back to our church, back to our families, and back to a regular life where we could be free of the sickness that had plagued us.
That same day, Susanna questioned Dalton about whether or not he would be disclosing the situation to those who were in the process of moving their lives to the Middle East to join FAI. He told Susanna, “I would ask you to let FAI go. Trust in the Lord. And don’t worry about us or those who run with us.” As with Dalton’s infidelity in 2012-13, it was framed in such a way that asking questions would indicate a lack of trust in the Lord. She pushed back and said that it isn’t a lack of trust, but preemptive pain for those who are joining the organization on false pretenses. Dalton responded saying, “The [other leaders in FAI] will be taking incredible care of them… I don’t receive them lightly, flippantly or foolishly. I will treat them with the same love, respect and honor that I have you and your family and the rest of our FAI family. That’s what we are: a family.”
Home in the USA
Dalton and I had agreed to keep one another in the loop whenever the affair was disclosed to another person, which at the time seemed to be quite reasonable. Dalton expressed disappointment and disapproval each time we shared the story with someone else. Soon after we came home, we learned that Dalton had communicated with all of our mutual partners in Iraq but had not honored the agreement to keep me or our family in the loop. This wasn’t an affront to me, but an affront to Susanna to share information with her network of relationships in Iraq without letting her know or giving her a voice.
I confronted Dalton in a message and shared a wild string of expletives about my distrust and anger at his disclosure to mutual friends without giving Susanna the courtesy of knowing. Susanna was rightly frustrated that she had sought to “honor” him by deferring to him when he didn’t want to share with these friends, only to find out from another person that he had apparently disclosed to them after we left. After apologizing for my rage, I tried to explain the dishonor this brought to my wife who was already suffering enough. There had been two affairs in three and a half years, and I went on to question the health and legitimacy of their presence on the field as Christian leaders. Understandably, he disregarded my perspective, though the main problem with what I shared was me. Unfortunately, there weren’t any other voices of wisdom in their lives to require them to come home, to heal, to get the ship out of the water in order to repair the hull. During this interaction Dalton began referring to Susanna’s skepticism as vindictive and I clarified that her skepticism was quite valid and wise.
A narrative fork in the road arrived for our families. By following the counsel we received to leave Iraq and to break communication with Dalton & FAI, he no longer had control of our story. Over time, we learned there was a different version of the story being given as an explanation for Anna’s despondency and our departure from the Middle East. We learned about the various ways he explained our family’s speedy departure from Kurdistan. He told some that I was crazy, many others that there had been an “inappropriate texting relationship” or an “emotional affair,” and some that he had to “talk me out of shooting myself.”
In the Spring of 2017, while the dust was still settling in our return home, I reached out to Keith Cowart, the pastor of the church Anna grew up in. Dalton and Anna relied on Keith as a voice of wisdom so I wanted to make sure that he knew the full scope of what had happened so he would hopefully intervene, help quench the deception around what happened, and be a voice of reason. My hope was that he would encourage them to come home, get off the support of the church, seek employment, and prioritize the health of their family without burdening the church with their financial well-being and unqualified leadership. Keith listened to me, heard the full scope of the situation, and assured me that they had a plan of recovery, though when asking about the plan, he refused to share it with Susanna, me, or our pastors who were also in communication with him.
In May of 2017, Susanna had a meeting with Keith as well. I wasn’t able to be there due to my work schedule at the time, but Susanna recorded it with his permission. In the meeting, four very important items were communicated clearly. First, FAI leadership had no intentions of bringing Dalton and Anna home after the second affair, saying “they will either live in Israel or Erbil.” Second, they already knew that the organization didn’t exist functionally; Keith even mentioned, “I’m technically… I guess I’m on the board, but we’ve never had a meeting” and that “FAI is not an organization with any kind of structure.” Third, they were convinced that the organization would turn over a new leaf and “restructure” so that Dalton could have a staff, providing time for him and Anna to heal. Fourth, Keith believed that this would be sufficient action to make right the many past wrongs up until that point.
Dalton and Anna continued in ministry without skipping a beat, intensifying their efforts, and accelerating when they should have been pumping the brakes. Dalton continued recruiting friends that I had introduced to him and FAI. Keith told me that he asked Dalton to stop recruiting our friends, but Dalton persisted. Jeff Henderson, the current board chair, pushed back against this statement saying that Dalton stepped back from ministry until August of 2017. The public record displays a different picture. Dalton taught at the FAI gathering in February 2017, and the Emmaus School soon after that. He was leading the relief initiative in Syria, and completing the second Better Friends Than Mountains film. Anna was also in a place where at the very least she felt comfortable doing a radio interview about raising a family in the Middle East and promoting FAI in May 2017 despite declining to engage with Susanna when she reached out to her (something Anna has apparently never had the capacity to do, to my wife’s detriment).
Given Dalton and Anna’s failure to slow down and contemplate healthy decisions for their family, Susanna and I had little choice but to reach out to those I was previously recruiting for FAI and encourage them to avoid FAI as an organization and Dalton & Anna as leaders in their lives. In every disclosure I took ownership of my sin and explained the deception we experienced during our tenure with FAI.
As we warned those in our circle of influence, the word through the grapevine about our family morphed from “crazy” to “vindictive.” The truly difficult part to believe is that these insults weren’t only being hurled at me (the rightful owner of many insults), but at Susanna. In an effort to bring about some resolution to the situation, Susanna had contacted Anna to express her vulnerable feelings of hurt, betrayal, and sadness that they stayed on the field. Dalton, Keith, and others on the team responded by calling Susanna “vindictive,” “slanderous,” and “abusive” in these efforts. Susanna was being pressured to extend grace and mercy to Anna, Dalton, and their process without their ownership of the specific deception, abuse, or any confirmation of their repentance. They were demanding that Susanna extend grace to Dalton, Anna, and FAI while only law was being extended to her.
I reached out to Keith again and shared my frustration that he or anyone within FAI would look at Susanna as an abusive or vindictive person in this situation. Grieving honestly and asking legitimate questions about Dalton and Anna’s recovery is entirely appropriate given the gravity of the sin against her. In my frustration, I told Keith that one day, people would know the truth about what happened, and that I would be one of the voices telling them. He told me “it will be your funeral.” Having no future plans to illegitimately enter into ministry again in the future, I beg to differ.
We continued reaching out where we could to mutual friends who historically had leadership in Dalton’s life, but we came to find out that Dalton’s plan of recovery after his affair in 2012-13 was not completed (or ever really started) at IHOP in Kansas City. One of the leaders who was assigned to Dalton and Anna told me “we didn’t do a restoration process with Dalton and Anna, at least we didn’t complete one” and that “Dalton wasn’t a part of our community.” We continued to reach out and found that virtually all the former ministry partners Dalton had cited as vouchsafes had ceased communication with him.
These previously associated organizations later formed policies to prevent their people from volunteering with or joining FAI. Dalton’s explanation for stepping down from the Regional Director role with ACTS was that the role would constrain FAI’s autonomy. The reality was that ACTS rescinded the offer because the other ACTS team leaders and ministry directors didn’t trust Dalton. The voices of past FAI leaders, team members, victims, and ministry partners allowed us to compare Dalton’s narrative with reality. There were two stories: Dalton’s story, which has been owned and repeated by FAI (even the current leadership), and the story of those who experienced Dalton’s many deceptions from 2012 until now.
As recently as April 2019, Dalton still denied having slandered the woman he was unfaithful with. He denied saying that she was unremorseful and unrepentant and further denied framing her as a seductress. I have both his original statement about her and his denial about those statements in writing. That is to say, we’re not only dealing with historical falsehoods, but ongoing and pathological deception.
There has been no attempt from Dalton, Anna, or the FAI board to confess to their misrepresentative slander of the woman who was used and discarded by Dalton before and during their time in Turkey. There has been no confession of the slander concerning the leaders who were seeking to help them in Turkey. There has been no confession of the deception leading up to our move with them to Iraq, neither to my family or other stakeholders in the Middle East. There has been no confession of the deception and false narrative that continued after we left Iraq. They have remained on the support of the Church, in ministry, without any public statement of disclosure to FAI stakeholders, namely their supporters, recruits, or their ministry partners. They have let the gross misrepresentations go unaccounted for.
At the moment, the word from FAI’s board is that the organization has been completely restructured with new policies to prevent this type of moral failure from occurring in the future. If they’ve corrected these past issues and have policies in place to prevent this from happening again, why should I not just let it go? The answer is very simple: the root of the problem is not mere policy or organizational structure, but a pattern of deception and lack of transparency among those leading the organization that render their assurances of little value.
First, organizational policies don’t patch people up, nor do they coerce correct behavior if the ethic has not been internalized in the individuals responsible. We are not only being asked to trust that there has in fact been a policy change, but we are being asked to trust that the ethic has been internalized by the leaders despite the fact that there has been no public statement to correct the deception or own the moral failures that would provide transparency for donors and volunteers.
I believe that Dalton, Anna, and the FAI board would vouch for the success of Dalton and Anna’s restoration process, the health of their marriage, and the health of the organization. However, those who are able to vouch for the success of their restoration process are immediately benefitted by a positive assessment of the situation. The positive assessment of the situation is being actively used to veil past failures from the eyes of current supporters and potential supporters. If Dalton and Anna are healthy, that makes me happy. A sign of that health would be honest disclosure about these failures and trust in the grace of God to provide and care for their family within the church, but not leading the church in public ministry.
Second, think of any case of unfaithfulness--whether marital, financial, or otherwise. Those who would be affected by the truth need to know the truth. Would all FAI donors continue supporting the organization and Dalton as a leader if they knew the truth about these two cases of infidelity and the deception and slander that followed these events? If there is even one donor who would not support the organization if they knew the truth, then there is a need for public disclosure to address these issues honestly for current and potential supporters alike. Some people do not want to give their hard-earned money to an organization whose leaders have not conducted themselves morally and they deserve to have that choice.
A financial supporter is giving their money based on what they believe to be true. Donating money to an organization is an act of good faith and that good faith is not being honored by FAI with transparency. A volunteer is giving their time based on what they believe to be true. Serving an organization is a sacrificial act of good faith as well and they are not being honored by FAI with transparency. There is a disparity of values in advocating for Christian missions while simultaneously taking away the right of volunteers and donors to make related life and financial decisions based on the truth. Those who donate their time and money should be given the right to do so with information that may inform their decisions one way or another.
Third, what is the real problem with marital infidelity? Is it primarily the extra-marital sexual activity? While adulterous sexual activity is a real and traumatic factor for all involved, it is primarily the betrayal of trust that is required for such a thing to take place and the lies that make it possible. Sexual infidelity is merely one of many symptoms of deception in the marriage.
If Christian leaders display such destructive deception to those who are closest to them, we are not to assume that they have greater accountability and transparency with those who they do not know personally such as donors and volunteers.
Given the history of FAI and the many workers I know whose lives and ministries have been derailed through Dalton’s deception or the lack of accountability from the current board and leaders in times past, I believe there is great wisdom in not honoring their request to extend blind trust. Christians are called to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. Forgiving those who sin against us is essential to the Christian life, but extending trust to those who have sinned and continue to misrepresent those sins is foolish. It is merciful and loving to refuse to enable deceptive or opaque behavior. No one is obligated to trust an organization or a public figure blindly; to the contrary, organizations and public figures are responsible to act in a way that demonstrates their trustworthiness. Once trust is lost or damaged, it is a very long road to rebuild and I don’t believe it can be rebuilt in Dalton’s current leadership context within his organization.
In the eyes of FAI, the success of my family’s recovery was predicated on our protection of the organization, despite the deception and misrepresentation before and after we joined. This writing would have been very different and perhaps unnecessary if they demonstrated a pattern of true and equitable communication with FAI donors and stakeholders.
My wife and I have now spent more than three years praying for a resolution, praying for more than policy changes, praying for the leaders of FAI to have wisdom and act in a way that would promote healthy families, healthy communities in the nations, honesty, and transparency. Their actions up to this point have negatively impacted many lives and harmed the integrity of the gospel in the nations. From Dalton and the FAI board, there should be honest ownership of these disqualifying sins and appropriate measures taken that would promote transparency and begin the process to restore public trust if the ministry is to continue forward.
Fourth, we all have a measure of sin active in our lives that we are being sanctified through and no one is demanding perfection from those who serve in ministry. However, those who are in public ministry are held to a higher standard that protects them and others from the extra-destructive effect of disqualifying or pathological sins. It is not the fault of sin’s exposure, but the fault of sin itself--and those who choose it--that is destructive to Christian missions.
In case there are doubts, I love missions. I love the brilliant commission in all its glory. Reaching the least and the lost, teaching and showing them Jesus, making disciples who will love and adore him with us forever, and giving them a joyful ethic for life--there is hardly anything more beautiful or dear to me.
Because of this love, I speak from experience that I have seen sin kill missions. It kills missions by (a) dispiriting the individual vessels who carry out the mission, (b) by bringing irreversible and multi-generational shame to Jesus’ name where it occurs, and (c) by diverting financial support from biblically qualified individuals and organizations. It is vitally important to the success of the mission that the ones carrying it out meet at least the basic qualifications for Christian service: among other things, they should be of good repute, filled with the spirit, wise, tested and found blameless, with their households in order (Acts 6:3, 1 Tim 3:8-13).
The gospel in the nations is too important to risk sending or approving individuals whose lives are not in line with biblical standards for Christian leadership, whether in spiritual leadership (1 Tim 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9) or in mercy ministry (Acts 6:1-6; 1 Tim 3:8-13). Paul writes these things in 1 Timothy 3, “so that… you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.” If they are within the universal Church, then they should be accountable to these standards of leadership.
The name of Jesus is too valuable for an organization that bears his name to be opaque and without proper accountability to engender public trust and good faith. I hope that this account can help contribute to transparency and accountability within FAI and to the many stakeholders in their cause, for their sake and the sake of those involved at every level.
The mercy of God is too sweet to think that He would not honor the full effort of restoring and prioritizing family health at the momentary cost of ministry activity. It is precious in the sight of God, and he is the God of family.
God is a God of light, he is the God of exposure and redemption. He does not hide or cloak the failures of his people. He does not allow for the deeds done in darkness to remain in darkness. There is no shade in his presence and my desire is that the light of the Son would do its necessary work and rescue some.