Former interns, staff members, and missionaries from Potter’s Field Ministry, which was run by preachers and founders of a multimillion-dollar empire Michael and Pam Rozell, have told The Daily Beast that they had to deal with aggression, verbal abuse, poor living conditions, and long hours of working almost for free.
Marie Grice, who worked as an assistant to Michael Rozell, noted that sometimes the pastor’s abuse took a sexual turn as he used to repeat whatever one said and “make a masturbating gesture with his hands near his crotch”. He is also said to have forced women to share excessive details about “sexual sin”.
“I’ve heard he also asked several girls if they ever struggled with sexual sin. According to Michael, sexual sin was masturbating or watching porn and he apparently would force girls to talk about it in detail for hours”, she said, while another former member said that the pastor had once asked if she “ever let a dog lick [her] down there”.
According to the former follower, cited by the US outlet, he also “disregarded the relationship between a pastor and his church members”, sharing what another girl told him about her sex life and asking her if this “sin was normal for little girls”.
The Rozells’ empire included not only an Evangelical Christian ranch, but also a missionary programme, which cost salvation seekers thousands of dollars, and a fast-food chain called MudMan. Although they started as a struggling couple, with Pam being a former actress and Michael an-ex regional marketing director of a Wall Street firm, as their memoir book says, they rose to prosperity and made $5 million in 2016, according to The Daily Beast, citing their tax records.
The couple had reportedly made more than 200 appearances across the country by 2019, not only sharing testimonies but also selling pottery, CDs, and merchandise. At the same time, the so-called interns were supposed to fulfil various tasks around the ranch, living in an old farm house with little heat, only a few mattresses, and rats.
The conditions during missions abroad were hardly better, as one of the interns, Sonesta Josephsen, said, noting that the “compounds” for workers had no air conditioning or hot water.
“People donated thousands of dollars, as interns we paid thousands of dollars, but I still have no idea where any of that money went. It certainly didn’t go to the kids we were dedicating our time to helping”, she said.
After the missions, some were reportedly put to work in the burger chain, founded by the pastor. However, according to former interns, cited by the outlet, they received less than minimum wage and worked 60 to 80-hour weeks, in addition to ministry commitments.
The Calvary Chapel Association, affiliated with the ministry, removed the Rozells’ ranch from its pastor list in 2019 over allegations about their training and methods, and the couple stepped down as ministry leaders. However, as The Daily Beast points out, they are still named as board members even though the ministry has a new CEO, Pastor Rob McCoy – who is also the mayor of the Californian town Thousand Oaks. McCoy has hired an auditor to look into the allegations. The Montana Attorney General’s Office has declined to comment apart from saying that they are “aware of the issue”.
Meanwhile, local law firms are gathering information from former members and staffers, planning to take legal action. According to one of them, Edminston & Colton, more than 100 individuals have spoken up, revealing allegations ranging from “violations in work laws to sexual harassment and sexual assault”.