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A day of evangelization organized by Mountain Gateway in Estelí. La Prensa/Courtesy

A day of evangelization organized by Mountain Gateway in Estelí. La Prensa/Courtesy

Missionaries of Mountain Gateway guilty… of filling Plaza de la Fe in Managua, and other cities

Hancock, head of Mountain Gateway doesn´t realize that he did something that, in today's Nicaragua, is more than a crime; it is a mortal sin

Mountain Gateway Ministries missionaries say they do not understand what caused a radical change in the Nicaraguan regime’s attitude toward their work. What was initially enthusiastic support suddenly became aggressive persecution against them and their collaborators.

“I honestly have no idea what caused the radical change and this persecution,” said John Britt Hancock, president of Mountain Gate Ministries.

Hancock seems not to understand that he did something that, in today’s Nicaragua, is more than a crime; it is a mortal sin. He does not understand with the massive gatherings that they organized to praise God, they scared the rulers of a country who present themselves as all-powerful. They do not understand that they are guilty of, without realizing it, having brandished a huge sword in the face of a paranoid, dictatorial couple.

Their crime: they unified some 6,000 pastors from all corners of the country and achieved a gathering power of such magnitude that they dared to fill the Plaza de la Fe to maximum capacity.

At a time when the regime was imprisoning Bishop Rolando Álvarez and more than 20 priests, seminarians, and collaborators, an American appeared asking for authorization to carry out evangelization crusades.

And if the priests are imprisoned, another way to weaken them is by facilitating the work of those who, for years, have been eroding the Catholic flock. The Mountain Gateway then received the full support of the government.

While Catholics were prohibited from holding processions and other outdoor activities, Mountain Gateway was authorized to hold mass events in cities throughout the country, culminating with two rallies in the Plaza de la Fe.

These concentrations blew the fuses of government patience.

Hancock, in an interview with La Prensa, assures that there is no evidence that they have committed any crime, that the accusations of money laundering are nothing more than “a stupid story,” and that the entire time they had a government auditor supervising everything. income of money and all expenses.

He says he is in constant communication with several congressmen and senators, as well as with State Department officials, so that they can now help him recover the nearly five million dollars in cash and property that the government has taken from them.

The arrival of the religious ministry to Nicaragua

John Britt Hancock says that at the age of 19 he became blind due to macular dystrophy, a degenerative vision disease. But he says that someone prayed for him in the name of Jesus Christ and that he regained his sight.

LA PRENSA/Cortesía

Since then, he has been a Christian missionary. He has worked evangelizing and helping poor families in Mexico and Paraguay. In 2013, a Nicaraguan pastor invited him to visit Nicaragua.

Upon arrival, he was assigned a guide. Hancock didn’t know it at the time. But his guide was a former police officer who served in the Personal Protection Unit, in charge of the custody of the President of the Republic and other high officials.

His name is Walner Blandón. He told him that he had been in charge of the security detail as a bodyguard of former President Arnoldo Alemán. Without requesting an appointment, he took him to Alemán’s office in Bolonia, where he got the former president to see him and allow him to pray for him. He did the same with Congressman Edwin Castro. He took him to his office and introduced him to the veteran Sandinista congressman. He also introduced him to “the strong man” of the Managua Mayor’s Office, Fidel Moreno. He even took him to meet Edén Pastora, the famous “Commander Zero.”

Hancock remembers how sitting in the living room of Pastora’s house, Pastora confronted him with “aggressive and burning” questions about the role of the United States in Nicaragua. He responded that he was not in Nicaragua as an American or a representative of his government.

“I am here as an ambassador of the Kingdom of God and as a minister of the Word,” Hancock explained to him.

Pastora’s attitude took a turn from aggressive to friendly.

Hancock made a ten-day tour of remote areas of the country. He was taken by Blandón, his guide, to Puerto Cabezas and other areas of the country that could only be accessed by mules and whose names he does not remember.

During the day, they get wet in the rain, and their clothes get muddy. At night, they slept in hammocks in the humble peasant huts and allowed themselves to be devoured by mosquitoes. Blandón, Hancock says, could see that our work was serious.

Hancock also met Blandón and realized that, in addition to having good contacts with government officials, he had friendships with many pastors in different regions of the country.

Nicaragua, a fertile ground for their mission

Hancock preached in up to three different towns a day during that tour. He preached in a small rural settlement in the morning, then two hours by mule and another prayer service in another location, and after another two hours by mule, the final sermon of the day in a third town.

After his first visit, Hancock felt God had called him to Nicaragua to work among the neediest.

Following the country’s laws, they began the long process of getting the National Assembly to approve their status as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). They used two law firms in that process. A first who started and made mistakes because he didn’t really know the procedures. Then, another office that knew the process obtained the approval of the NGO.

They began working with poor communities and managed to buy an abandoned coffee farm in Jinotega. The idea was that the farmers in the area could work in coffee production. Their guide and now assistant, Walner Blandón, took photos of their work and sent them to government officials to show their work was humanitarian.

Support provided after the hurricanes

When Hurricane Eta hit Nicaragua in November 2020, the Atlantic Coast region suffered enormous damage, and thousands of families suffered due to flooding and landslides. Hancock immediately placed himself at the regime’s command and got a brotherhood of missions with planes to send humanitarian aid to Nicaragua.

The missionary contacted his collaborators in the United States and said he raised about $650 thousand. They bought food and medicine and began preparing packages to be distributed among some 10,000 affected families. To reach the affected areas, he claims that they had a boat built with a capacity of 10 thousand pounds, and with it, they managed to bring help to the families on the banks of the Prinzapolka River.

Mountain Gateway already had a tractor and a backhoe, which the mayor of Jinotega used to open roads that had been made impassable by landslides and water currents.

Mountain Gateway did not get involved in Nicaraguan politics nor the protests of 2018

Another of their works was training farmers who wanted to prepare to evangelize. They were subjected to Bible study sessions and taught how to preach. In 2018, when protests occurred across the country, Hancock asked pastors working in coordination with them to be careful not to comment on their preaching that could create conflict with the government.

“Many of the pastors knew that their congregations were infiltrated by government insiders,” Hancock explained. “Those people were there to report everything that was done and said in our services.”

He witnessed the persecution that the government launched against the Catholic Church for its denunciations of human rights violations. But he was clear that his work in Nicaragua was humanitarian and evangelization.

Hancock knew they could suffer the same fate as NGOs whose legal status was being dissolved by the government. To avoid this, he had to ensure that the dictatorship did not see the slightest threat in his work.

The Evangelization Crusade

His cooperation during Hurricanes Eta and Iota in 2020 earned him sympathy from officials. In 2022, the government supported their request to organize a “Evangelization Crusades” series nationwide.

The first thing they had to do was convince hundreds of pastors to participate with their congregations. Instead of meeting with the pastors at their apartment premises, they called everyone to a meeting at the Crown Plaza Hotel convention center. About 1,500 pastors from across the country attended.

“For me, this was a miracle from God. That, in such a difficult time in Nicaragua, so many pastors were willing to work together, and that the government opened the doors to us could only happen through a blessing from God.”

The government authorized them to hold eight events in different cities during 2023. La Prensa/Courtesy

The government authorized them to hold eight events in different cities during 2023 and a total of 13 events during 2024.

That is how they began with Evangelization Crusades in Puerto Cabezas and Bluefields.

By then, the Catholic Church was no longer allowed any processions or other mass events. In Hancock’s mind, there was only one explanation, which, according to him, was a miracle.

“I thought, Lord, you are doing a miracle. “I don’t understand,” Hancock recalls. “I don’t know why they were giving us permits. But they knew that in every meeting we had, I didn’t ask for anything and only talked about the Bible. And my message was from the book of Micah, Chapter 6, verse 8… You have been told, O mortal, what is good, and what the LORD requires of you: Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.”

The first “Evangelization Crusades” were held in Puerto Cabezas, Bluefields, and Managua. Then, there were others in Jinotega, Estelí, Ocotal, León, Chinandega, Masaya, and Jinotepe. Attendance was impressive at all events. The Nicaraguan pastors were enthusiastic about Mountain Gateway Ministries’ work.

After the departments’ success, they began to prepare two great Crusades in Managua. The government offered them the new baseball stadium. But for fear of damaging the lawn, the chairs, or the bathrooms, they received authorization to carry out their crusades in the Plaza de la Fe.

Tens of thousands arrived in Managua

The regime informed Hancock that they managed to bring together 175,000 people during the first event on a Friday last November. The next day, a Saturday, attendance was estimated at 278,000.

The regime provided them with photos and videos made with drones of the enormous crowd that filled the Plaza de la Fe, which since 2018, Ortega has not dared to use for his celebrations, which are now only “by invitation.”

Hancock, his family, and collaborators were impressed with the way Nicaraguan evangelicals had come out to participate in a massive event at a time when the Catholic Church could not obtain permission for even an open-air mass.

Hancock and his family left Nicaragua for California, where a Mountain Gate event would be held. There, they could show the tremendous success they had just achieved in Nicaragua.

Hancock, his family and collaborators were impressed with the way Nicaraguan evangelicals had overflowed to participate in a massive event at a time when the Catholic Church was unable to obtain permission for even an outdoor Mass.

The blow of the hand

Inexplicably, when they were in California, they learned that the government had occupied Mountain Gateway properties, and an investigation into alleged money laundering was announced. They had also arrested several pastors and some of their collaborators. Walner Blandón and his wife were among those arrested.

Hancock insists the charges against him are “a stupid story.” He assures that the Ministry of the Interior was informed of absolutely all the donations that arrived in the country for its works. To prove this, he has saved screenshots of the Ministry of the Interior website where the reported donations appear.

After informing the Ministry of the Interior of the donations, they also reported each month’s plans and the work they would be carrying out. A ministry auditor remained full-time in the Mountain Gateway office, reviewing the execution of each month’s schedule. I verified that each month’s expenses were in line with the plan.

“They saw absolutely every movement of funds, what it was for, where the materials were purchased, where every penny we used went,” he explains.

His entire family managed to leave Nicaragua. But he feels very bad to think that his work in Nicaragua has resulted in the imprisonment of several of his collaborators.

Hancock now spends much of his time lobbying the U.S. Congress and the State Department to help him recover the nearly $5 million in cash and property that the Nicaraguan government has confiscated from them.

Harsh sentences against members of Mountain Gateway Ministries

The regime sentenced thirteen people linked to Mountain Gateway to between 10 and 15 years in prison, including two lawyers from the organization. Each of the convicted persons was fined $80 million.

Hancock now spends much of his time lobbying the U.S. Congress and the State Department to help him recover the nearly $5 million in cash and property that the government has seized from them.

Also read: President of Mountain Gateway: The abuses are clear, there is no religious freedom, nor justice in Nicaragua

He says he already has the support of several senators, including Texas Republican Ted Cruz and Florida Republican Marco Rubio. He affirms that in Washington, Nicaragua’s intention to politicize Interpol, circulating it to him, his wife, his son, and his daughter-in-law, has caused rejection.

“They want another country to detain us and send us to Nicaragua to be prosecuted,” he explained. “But we are innocent, and there is no reliable legal process in Nicaragua. We have not received any information about the arrest of our pastors and two lawyers. “We found out about everything through the media.”

English Gobierno de Nicaragua Nicaragua

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