For over eight years, congregants of Pathways International Kingdom Restoration Ministries here were hoodwinked into handing over the first pay cheque that they received each year.
Speaking to the Jamaica Observer, one congregant, who said he complied with this demand for years, shared that if the money was not paid over by the end of January, congregants would be shamed by the leader of the flock, Kevin Smith, who called the offering “first fruits”.
“So, in January you bring in every single dollar that you make. Everybody should do that and if not, he is angry and curses you and tells you seh you brought down death on your family and on your house. These are the tactics that he used — and we believed him because these things, we have seen [them] happen repeatedly,” said the man.
The congregant noted that though this money was to be paid over to the leader in January, there would also be a ‘watch night’ service at the end of each year, dubbed don’t Carry it Over.
“He called it a ‘Don’t carry it over’ service, in which he tells you the amount you should give. So, let’s say 2019, he said bring in $219, $319 all the way up to 2019 US dollars,” he told the Sunday Observer.
These monies, the man said, were seen as payments for blessings by their “prophet” as they all witnessed first-hand the “miracles” he had performed.
“We have seen where people come, dem deaf, dumb and blind and they see, hear and talk before they leave, and people walked just the same. I don’t know, maybe him used to plan it up behind our backs wid the people dem but we believed him for so long,” he said.
The start of the novel coronavirus pandemic in Jamaica also brought along more requests for monies from the leader as congregants were encouraged to attain loans from local financial institutions, the man told the Sunday Observer.
“He told us to get loans last year. A few of us, he said that we are his sons and that we are the ministers in training, so when we have different branches we would be leaders of the churches. But none of us got any [loan] and he was angry and he said that we are disobedient. I didn’t get a loan because at the time I wasn’t employed by a company; I was self-employed,” he said.
Then came the request for them all to leave their jobs.
“He told us to stop everything that we were doing and everybody stopped. People left their work. A lot of people also lost their jobs because the hotels were closed so people started to suffer after a while,” he told the Sunday Observer.
After struggling with unemployment for some months, the young man shared, he was able to score an online job with an international company to sustain the needs of his family.
“I got a job and I started working from home. The first two weeks’ pay was about $30,000 and when I got paid, I called the pastor and said to him, ‘My father, this is the first pay I got and I know you always speak about the first fruit, so would this be my first fruit?’ He said to me, ‘Take care of your bills and later on you can think about first fruit,’ ” the man said.
When he finally settled into the job and started to make some “big money” he called the leader again as he believed he was now fit to pay his “first fruits”.
“I can remember [when] I made about $300,000 for two weeks and I reached out to him because it was my first time making so much money. I was saying maybe it’s the blessing from this man of God because he said when he blesses you, you should remember where the blessing came from and he would use a statement that goes ‘If you receive a cup of water in the name of a prophet, you will receive a prophet reward’ because he said that he is the prophet of God,” the congregant said.
He continued: “So, I brought $20,000 in offering. He wasn’t pleased about it. He called up a few of us as males in the church and said that we should know that you don’t give a prophet what you feel like giving him because if you give him something that he isn’t pleased with, then you won’t receive a blessing. You should give him something that speaks to his spirit so that he can bless you more.”
Then, the man revealed, came the request for him to offer $100,000 each time he got paid.
“The next time I got paid about $400,000. I reached out to him by message and said, ‘I don’t want to dishonour you’ and I think he told me to call him. He said to me that for a man of his standard, the money that I am making is little bit, but the least he would take is $100,000 to show that I honour him,” the man told the Sunday Observer.
“He said days will come when he will be able to give me up to $2 million. He would say that he does not need our money because he is already rich, he is a millionaire in foreign currencies and we were like, ‘That means say him nuh really want wi money; him just wah bless we then,’ ” he added.
Months later, the man said, he made the conscious decision to stop complying with the leader’s request. This, he said, was met with resistance and before he knew it, he was back in the old routine.
“He told me that because I am not following through it means the devil will stand over me and take what he should get. So, mi believe him and mi a seh ‘Bwoy, mek mi just obey wah him seh and carry the $100,000 guh give him again,’ ” he said.
“He would always use tactics like he is trying to scare us. Like, im a seh ‘This is going to happen to you and I see where people are coming to kill you. If you want to cancel this, your seed will speak for you,’ ” the man added while admitting that this tactic forced him to comply.
Last Sunday, what congregants believed was a three-day convention turned into a nightmare after two members of the religious organisation were killed during a ritual. Three others were injured. Another member was killed by the police after he allegedly attacked the security forces with a knife when they breached the building.