A Greater Ministries fact sheet made its pitch in writing:
“‘Faith Promises’ is a simple gift program to the ministry. It is not a multi-level or network. It is not a scam. It just so happens that God has given this ministry a means to multiply those gifts while using them for the work of God’s kingdom before He comes.”
Potential investors in Greater Ministries were told their “gifts” were tax deductible. They were told Greater Ministries’ had a headquarters in the Cayman Islands. Payne told people that Greater Ministries had grown so large, that it had outgrown banks.
None of it was true.
The African country that Gerald Payne and Greater Ministries used in their scam, Liberia, was a country with a history. It was also a country making new history. During Greater Ministries involvement, the mid-1990s, there was an ongoing murderous civil war in the west African country. That war would claim hundreds of thousands of Liberian lives.
Liberia is also one of the African nations that was involved in the infamous “blood diamond” trade. A ‘blood diamond’ is a term for a diamond mined in a war zone, then sold to fund war efforts, including munitions purchases for local warlords. Charles Taylor, since convicted and imprisoned for war crimes by a United Nations tribunal, was the main warlord in Liberia at the time.
Greater Ministries did dump money into Liberia, as much as $11 million. More than seven million dollars was spent on earth moving and mining equipment. Greater Ministries paid the National Bank of Liberia a four million dollar payment for permission to open a bank, the Greater Monrovia Bank. Monrovia is Liberia’s capital. Greater Monrovia Bank never opened.
Through its point man in Liberia, Niko Shefer, Greater Ministries spent investor funds on mining rights for mineral exploration in the Lower Lofa and Sinje regions. These sites are located in the heart of Liberia’s “Diamond Country.” It is unclear how many Liberian palms were padded with cash in order for Greater Ministries to ‘do business’ in the notoriously lawless, war-ravaged country.
Despite this investment, Greater Ministries reportedly never dug up a single nugget of gold, nor any diamonds of note.
Potential targets across the United States were told that Greater Ministries’ investments in foreign monetary trades and precious metal mining were so lucrative that Greater Ministries could also support global missionary and charity work, and still double a person’s “gift.”
That is the message that Gerald Payne, Don Hall, and the Greater Ministries traveling troupe brought to Pennsylvania in late November, 1998.
About 700 hopeful Greater Ministries followers jammed into the Lebanon County Expo Hall on that November evening.
Who were these people?