The church sits between two houses, a church in Gaye Town on the Old Road, Monrovia. Its entrance advertises the name of the church: “Prince of Peace Temple United Church of God,” and printed neatly under is the message: “Solution Temple.”
The appealing message of being a ‘solutions temple’ although it is a church for spiritual matters, one could imagine it as a prospect of solutions for everything that deals with the difficulties of life. Following the recent Ebola experience in Liberia, it makes sense to consider the church’s advertised solutions also could solve problems in business or whether being truthful to a benefactor was a fundamental solutions concept.
But if any member of the church needed an urgent solution to his personal problems, it was Pastor (now Bishop) David Kyne Pokolo himself.
Hence the visit of American Malachi Jones, who was invited by the mother of his Liberian wife, was exactly what Pastor Pokolo needed to help him carry out his long held objectives.
The year was 2013, and Malachi Jones had wrapped up his visit in Monrovia with his wife’s family and was planning to return to the United States. At a meeting held in Jones’ hotel room, Pastor Pokolo cleverly introduced the idea of the church embarking on a ‘fish project from China that would lift the church up in the service of the Lord’.
“We need an investment for the project, and we will in a few months’ time return the capital,” Pastor Pokolo told Jones. Desiring to uplift Pastor Pokolo, who had performed the Jones’s marriage, Malachi Jones felt he could, for once, take the risk to help a brother and his church, he told the Daily Observer in a telephone interview.
Meanwhile a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was drafted and Bishop Pokolo attested to it with his signature. The money needed was US$43, 000.
Back in the United States, correspondence between Jones and Pastor Pokolo raced through the internet. Jones, a veteran, meanwhile convinced his former military buddies in the United States that since the project was merely providing an interest free loan to help a church in Africa, they had nothing to lose. “I had to convince my friends in the U.S. to trust me with the funds,” Jones would later admit.
The MOU said, “It is further understood that the proceeds will be managed in such a way as to keep buying and selling the container fish indefinitely once the amount of US$43,000 had been reimbursed to Malachi Jones…”
But Pastor Pokolo did not have any intention of repaying the money, investigations have shown. With the money safely in his possession, Pastor Pokolo requested for additional money.
An email from Jones to his wife in Monrovia dated June 8, 2013, stated, “Please note that he asked for more money in this email. It went from US$43,000 of course and the group here sent US$43,000.” Pastor Pokolo’s demand for more money immediately after he received the first amount started to push the alarm bells in Jones’ mind, but the money was already in Pokolo’s pocket and evidently he was not planning to play fair.
But like many Liberians who are quick to credit their misfortunes to another source, Bishop Pokolo was so unnerved by Jones’s emails to the extent that he was moved to confess in an email telling Jones, “Now I did not want to continue responding to your many mails because… it is adding up to my frustration in this project…It is possible that something went wrong (curse) with the investment, and so I am experiencing much calamities in getting things properly (done)”.
Delivering a Sunday morning sermon recently at the church in which this reporter was in attendance, Bishop Pokolo, preaching on the theme, “Arrangement with Jesus cannot fail,” urged his congregation to remember that trusting in Jesus and committing themselves faithfully to God is the sure bet for salvation and a better life even now.
In typical televangelist fashion, Bishop Pokolo led his 200 strong Grebo congregation in energetic dancing to songs about comfort and the rewards of honesty. Yet he had found it difficult to be truthful not only to God, but to his fellow man and benefactor, Jones, choosing to bring the name of his church and Christ into disrepute, a close friend of the ripped off American told the Daily Observer.
Bishop Pokolo, in an interview, admitted receiving the US$43, 000 for the ‘fish project’ but explained that while the first consignment from China went well, the second consignment ended woefully.
“A company in Sri Lanka duped me of the money,” he claimed, although Jones told this paper that Bishop Pokolo did not inform him about being duped.
Meanwhile, Bishop Pokolo has not been able to begin repayment of the US$43, 000, and the lenders in the United States have since taken Jones to court and his passport was seized, according to information reaching the Daily Observer.
Bishop Pokolo told this paper in an interview that he will repay the money, but he could not say how or when. The incident has brought a rift in the church, a former member said. Many recalled that Bishop Pokolo sidelined even the elders of the church and went his own way when the money first reached him. Another former member said Bishop Pokolo used part of the money to purchase a bus for the church, an assertion that Bishop Pokolo confirmed.
While the case may be upsetting to some Christians, an unidentified middle aged man in Monrovia, in a telephone call, told the Daily Observer last week that several supposed men of God had fallen in recent times due to being engaged in activities unbefitting their calling.
“Rev. Mohammed Keita,” he alleged, “fell from grace because he did not prove true to God, and Pastor Wilson of Gardnersville, he claimed, was also exposed by God because he lived a life unbecoming of a Christian.”
The two men, he said, at one time or the other had several thousand followers but ‘debauched (immoral) life-styles and dishonest behavior’ proved their undoing and as a result they have disappeared from public view.
“They lived a life of hypocrisy that Jesus Christ warned his followers against,” he said.