Pastors Arrested, Charged with ‘Money Laundering and Organized Crime’

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James Lasher

Mountain Gateway, operating as Puerta de la Montaña in Nicaragua, is currently facing a challenging situation as the Attorney General of Nicaragua moves forward with charges against three U.S. citizens associated with the organization and 11 Nicaraguan pastors. The allegations include money laundering and organized crime.

In response, Mountain Gateway released a statement vehemently denying these accusations and expressing deep sadness over the situation. The organization asserts that it has diligently followed all legal requirements in both the U.S. and Nicaragua for non-profit and faith-based organizations.

Mountain Gateway has provided documentation demonstrating that the Nicaraguan government reviewed and approved all funds entering the country. The organization operated under the government’s oversight to ensure the appropriate use and management of funds. In 2023, Mountain Gateway conducted eight mass evangelistic gospel campaigns in collaboration with the Nicaraguan government, operating under strict accounting and budget reviews. The organization emphasizes that no members of Mountain Gateway personally profited from funds sent to Nicaragua for ministry functions.

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Nicaragua has recently revoked the registration of numerous non-profit and faith-based organizations, including members of the Catholic Church, citing charges such as money laundering as reasons for revocation. Mountain Gateway, having retained Nicaraguan legal counsel, trusts the judicial process, considering these proceedings normal for an investigation of this nature.

However, the organization’s U.S. pastors, Jon Britton Hancock, Jacob Britton Hancock and Cassandra Mae Hancock, express confusion over the situation, emphasizing their love for Nicaragua and their commitment to abide by government regulations and laws. They have requested legal representation and appointed attorneys to represent them in the legal process. Mountain Gateway questions whether the charges are politically motivated rather than legally justified.

Since 2013, Mountain Gateway has been actively involved in serving the citizens of Nicaragua through various initiatives, including discipleship, church planting, humanitarian aid, disaster relief and mass evangelistic campaigns. The organization’s primary motivation has been to share the love and hope of Jesus Christ with the people of Nicaragua.

Despite the legal advice to trust the legal system, Mountain Gateway raises concerns about the situation’s complexity and potential political motivations. The Nicaraguan government has imprisoned nine evangelical pastors associated with Mountain Gateway, claiming they were under the control and direction of U.S. citizens and Nicaraguans. The government’s latest press release states the innocence of these pastors, but they remain imprisoned with no legal representation or contact with their families.

The government has set a criminal hearing date for these pastors for Jan. 26, 2024, yet has not provided their legal counsel with charging documents or files to prepare a defense. Mountain Gateway expresses its commitment to resolving the situation through diplomatic channels, claiming the charges are based on erroneous information.

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In times of persecution, Christians will find guidance in the Bible, where several passages offer wisdom on how to navigate adversity. One such source of solace is found in Matthew 5:10, a part of the Beatitudes. In these verses, Jesus declares, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The message encourages believers to endure persecution with a spirit of endurance, understanding that their faithfulness to righteousness is recognized in heaven. Additionally, 1 Peter 4:12-13 advises Christians not to be surprised by trials but to rejoice in sharing Christ’s sufferings, reinforcing the fact that facing persecution is part of a Christian’s journey.

Furthermore, Romans 12:14 implores Christians to respond to persecution with love, instructing them to “bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” This counterintuitive approach emphasizes the transformative power of love and forgiveness even in the face of adversity. These biblical teachings underscore the resilience of the Christian faith in the midst of challenges, providing a moral compass for believers navigating persecution. By adhering to these principles, Christians aspire to reflect the enduring love and grace of Christ in the face of opposition.

As Mountain Gateway faces these challenges, the dangers of being a Christian and fulfilling the Great Commission become evident, both physically and spiritually. The organization’s commitment to serving others and sharing the gospel has brought them into the midst of a legal and political storm, highlighting the potential risks associated with such endeavors. Mountain Gateway remains steadfast in its pursuit of resolving the situation while trusting in the promises of Jesus Christ and the rewards that await them in heaven.

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James Lasher is Staff Writer for Charisma Media.

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