In 2006 I was living in Tampa, Florida. I had moved there 2 years prior to attend the University of Tampa for college. I had recently dropped out due to being unable to afford my private university tuition despite having partial academic scholarships. So I started working at what was at the time the largest financial institution in the world. I started off in their call centre working in the credit card retention department. While there, I met some incredible people, one of whom was a deeply Christian man. We had lots of deep spiritual conversations and I had told him repeatedly that while I was raised Christian, I didn’t actively practice the faith, didn’t believe in it like that, had serious issues with it and it’s rhetoric particularly the homophobic aspects, and generally was uninterested in attending church. He was always gentle and non-threatening (as most non-denominational Christians are because that’s the play) and simply handed me the information and told me that when I was ready, I would go. I scoffed in his face because I knew myself and knew there was no way, short of God physically picking me up and driving me to Church, I was going willingly. God decided to test my gangster in ways only He/They can.
A few months later, I was sitting on my couch watching TV on a Thursday night. On God, I swear with everything in me, God LITERALLY picked me up off the couch, dressed me, and drove my ass to church. To this day, I don’t really know or understand how that happened. I feel like I was in a bit of a fog because I had ZERO intention that evening to go to church. That was the absolute last thing on my mind. But alas, there I was. At Without Walls International Church for their mid-week service. I remember how I felt that first night walking into church. It felt like I was coming home. The energy was amazing, the praise and worship incredible and the sermon by Pastor Randy White was pure Holy Ghost fire. I felt like I had been in a desert and had found an oasis full of spiritual water and my soul was parched. I went to work the next day and told my coworker about my spiritual experience. He smiled that slightly arrogant, knowing smile Christians smile when they “know” about experiences like this and said “See? I told you!” I truly thought this was what I had been waiting my entire life for. What was more, it didn’t take anyone convincing me to do it! God had literally picked me up off the couch and drove me to church Himself. If They didn’t want me to be there, it would have never happened. I remember calling my mom and Grandmother in Canada and telling them what had transpired. They both expressed their joy and happiness that I had finally found my way spiritually and that God Itself had lead me to it, so now it was for real for real. All was well and good and right in my soul and mind. Or so I thought.
That following Sunday, I attended service and that was where I saw her. Paula White, in the flesh. Since I was a newbie member and this was literally my second time in their doors, I hadn’t really heard much about her other than what my co-worker had briefly said. He had gushed over her and waxed poetic about her international ministry and how widely known she was. She had written all these books, had a multi-million dollar TV ministry, had a private plane and everything. She was the real deal, he told me. Once I joined the church and saw her preach, I was convinced she was the next messiah myself. She preached with a fervor and Southern charm that dazzled me. She would twang at just the right parts to connect with our ultra-Black church. She quoted the Bible like a scholar and explained things in ways I hadn’t considered. I was completely sold. I fully engrossed myself into her and the church’s ministry. I started paying my full 10% tithe AND gave offerings, even when I was broke beyond all comprehension because wages in Florida historically sucked and I was living close to the poverty line, as where a lot of the Black and Brown people in our church. But there were some celebrities who attended our church, and they were always praised as those who had been faithful to God and as such were being rewarded by their increase. Not that these were privileged white people who were only there because of the prestige the church afforded. It was after all at the time, a mega church with tens of thousands of local church goers attending and millions more online. The money used to flow into that church. I know this intimately because once I immersed myself in the ministry, I started volunteering to help with different things there. One of them was counting the tithes and offerings money in the back room with the church’s controller at the time, a Caribbean woman from Trinidad and Tobago, and the police officer who would oversee us. We would count out all the monies and give final tallies and counts on everything. We weren’t allowed to leave the room until everything added up. So trust me, I KNOW how much money on any given service day was rolling in, not including online donations as those were handled separately. But like everyone else there, I chalked it all up to God’s favour, grace and mercy on my pastors as they were able to do so much in the local communities. I entered into the church’s pastor internship program, which also costed big money (which interestingly I never paid) and was required to volunteer with several different ministries within the church. We had a homeless ministry that did phenomenal work in the community. We had a turkey drive and book bag drive every year and fed families and gave kids back to school supplies. You couldn’t talk to me about my church at the time or my pastors because I was beyond loyal.
About a year or so into my attending Without Walls, I remember Pastor Paula bragging to the church about her connection to Donald Trump. She told us a story of how Donald Trump had seen her on TV and called her and repeated “verbatim” three of her sermons. They formed a relationship and he started calling her “his pastor” and that became the biggest validation for her. Every time she preached, she talked about him and his wealth and how God had blessed him because he was faithful. Trump and Robert Kiyosaki had written a book called “Why We Want You To Be Rich” that was given away for free to our church. I remember how it was marketed to us, that this was such a big deal because Trump had marked Pastor Paula as “his pastor” and as such had given her thousands of free copies of the book to distribute to the church. There was even an interview done by Pastor Paula with Trump that was aired at our church to promote the book. The validation we collectively felt was heady. We already felt like we ran shit because of the big time pastors who had walked through our doors for camp meetings and conferences. Noel Jones. T.D. Jakes. Jamal Bryant. Eddie Long. Tim Story. We had the big names. There were also associations to other mega churches. Pastor Paula frequently told us that Bishop T.D. Jakes was her “spiritual father” and that Without Walls was under the “covering” of The Potter’s House in terms of spiritual accountability. All of this was lies and fake bullshit but we ate it up because we didn’t know any better as the congregation.
In early 2007, God gave me a prophetic dream were He showed me images of Him destroying my church with cyclones and twisters, and my pastors were standing in the middle. I remember not understanding the dream and being so disturbed by it, that I shared it with someone I trusted who was on the church’s leadership team. I will never forget the look she gave me and then said “Girl, you have no idea what God just showed you. If you only knew…” I didn’t know how to take what she said at the time because I couldn’t have imagined what was going on in the church that God would literally destroy it. But I was soon to find out. The same way God picked me up off of my couch and took me to church, is the same way He then told me to stop going. Shortly thereafter I moved back home to Canada in August 2007, and then all hell broke loose at my former church. The first scandal had hit right before I left based on an expose front page article in the Tampa Bay Times about misappropriated monies, debts being owed and questions about a loan that was supposed to be repaid back to an elderly woman in the church who took out a second mortgage on her home to give to my pastors to buy the church. Then, after the financial scandals started blowing up, I watched on live stream from Canada as my former pastors announced they were getting a divorce. I remember how much that rocked my former church. There were members I still kept in touch with at the time who were absolutely devastated and went through serious spiritual crises. Then there was the U.S. Senate investigation into a slew of mega churches, ours included. Pastor Paula refused to cooperate with the Senate investigation and got away scotch free.Then she got remarried to Journey keyboardist Jonathan Cain and moved out of Tampa Bay, then came back, then left again and ends up in Apopka, Florida with a new mega church started with an $100,000.00 donation from Donald Trump as a wedding gift. All while Pastor Randy White’s life spiraled out of control after the death of his daughter. I remember being at the church when she passed. It was truly heartbreaking and devastating because she was a beautiful person. I remember all his kids being so down to Earth and just being real people, so when she died at such a young age and left her husband, kids and family it broke the entire church community. We had prayed and fasted for her healing. There were offerings made for her because she was so loved. My pastors went through a lot during that time and the church members went through it right along with them. My former pastor used to always talk about who would be there for him when he was on his face; yet he never considered how he stole the trust of the congregation by being dishonest about the financial scandals they both were embroiled in. They never once thought about all the Black and Brown people they spiritually manipulated and mutually stole from for years.
There were real people who gave everything they had to that church. I remember many a Black woman sowing seeds for all kinds of things into Pastor Paula’s ministry specifically. She made millions ($40 million dollars a year to be exact) off of Black women and still is. I remember her running these offering drives such as First Fruits and the like, money making vehicles were by you are told that if you “sowed a seed” (donated to her ministry) you would be blessed beyond measure and you are going to get an extra gold star and treat because God saw your faithfulness (wink wink). I remember sitting in the audience at her live tapings in the studio at the church while she preached to Black and Brown women about making sure we lived pure, Holy and gave like hell. I remember the larger conferences we had at arenas where we’d bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars a night in offerings. I remember how much money was paid to the visiting mega pastors as “offerings” and “donations.” It was all a business. Pastors would send over a list of their expenses and would “suggest” an offering/donation of said amount. It was all a business. And a very well run one. I don’t deny that if you are a Christian and believe in any of this, that it serves a purpose for you. I think at the time it was easy for me to justify because I focused on all the good the church had done via the food drives, back to school events, homeless ministry, seniors ministry, kids ministry, etc. But churches are businesses. And my former pastors were brilliant at getting people to turn out their pockets… in the name of Jesus.
Now a days, my former pastor is serving as President Donald Trump's spiritual adviser. It’s a position that I suspect she’s been jockeying for for a while. She has become a monstrous person that I literally do not recognize. Actually they both have, to be honest. The rhetoric that spews from them is beyond disgusting. It’s crazy to me that there are still Black and Brown women who listen and follow her and her teachings, because it is clear she doesn’t like them. The things she says and the conspiracy theories she believes in are so out of whack and spiritually out of touch, it’s beyond my comprehension that she still has a ministry. I am beyond saddened to see what she has become as a person and as a Christian minister. I’m angry that she has the power and platform to spiritually manipulate people with her garbage about her loyalty to Trump being about God. I have watched Paula White’s crocodile tears up close for years and truly believed her when she used to tell my church that she “prayed for us every single day.” Yeah, she was praying we wouldn’t see she was a farce of a person and we wouldn’t stop giving to her and bank rolling her ministry. She is the epitome of white privilege. She has hidden behind the patriarchy her entire life and supports it as it fits and accommodates her life. She has shown zero remorse for the people she and her former husband hurt and destroyed financially. So it is only fitting to me that she should be named to President Trump’s cabinet. She and him are of the same ilk. For years, they have manipulated people into giving them their money and could care less about those people. They lie, cheat and steal with smiles on their pearly veneers. And they invoke God’s name like Dad doesn’t see what they are doing.
One day, Paula White will have to answer for everything she has done. While I don’t believe in hell, I definitely believe in karma. That what you sow so shall you reap. You cannot do the things she has done to people and continues to do and get away with it. There will be a day of reckoning for her. And when it comes, my sincerest prayer for her is that she will be able to atone for her errors in judgement while she has time in this life. I pray that she is shown a mercy and grace that she has not given to others. I pray that she will gain true self awareness to understand what she did and has done. And I pray for justice for everyone she has harmed. While I am no longer a Christian, I still very much believe in God. I believe that all is being seen and recorded. And we should all chose our actions wisely.