DRIPPING SPRINGS, Texas — On Jan. 17, 2024, Mountain Gateway, functioning in Nicaragua as Puerta de la Montaña, was made aware that the Attorney General of Nicaragua is moving forward in pursuing charges against three U.S. citizens associated with Mountain Gateway (Jon Britton Hancock, Jacob Britton Hancock, and Cassandra Mae Hancock) and 11 Mountain Gateway Nicaraguan pastors.
The allegations are for money laundering and organized crime. Mountain Gateway would like to publicly state it denies these allegations, and it is saddened by this situation. Mountain Gateway has diligently followed all legal requirements in the U.S. and Nicaragua that apply to non-profit and faith-based organizations.
Mountain Gateway has documentation demonstrating that the Nicaraguan government viewed and approved all funds that entered the country, and the organization operated under the government’s oversight to ensure that all funds were used and managed appropriately.
In 2023, Mountain Gateway held eight mass evangelistic gospel campaigns in the country, with the support and assistance of the Nicaraguan government. Mountain Gateway fiscally operated under strict accounting from Mountain Gateway staff and budget reviews by the Nicaraguan government to account for every dollar associated with the events. No members of Mountain Gateway have personally profited from funds sent to Nicaragua for ministry functions.
Nicaragua has revoked the registration of hundreds of non-profit and faith-based organizations in the last five years, including most recently, expelling numerous members of the Catholic Church and seizing church property. In these cases, the government often includes the charge of money laundering or other financial charges as the reason for revocation.
Mountain Gateway has retained Nicaraguan legal counsel and they, along with their team, consistently assure Mountain Gateway to trust the Nicaraguan judicial process, advising Mountain Gateway that these are normal proceedings for an investigation of this nature.
Mountain Gateway’s U.S. pastors have nothing to hide and have requested to have an attorney appointed to represent them in this legal process. Mountain Gateway does not understand why this is happening in a country that it loves dearly and has worked steadfastly to abide by the government’s regulations and laws.
Since 2013, Mountain Gateway has served the citizens of Nicaragua through discipleship, church planting, feeding and clothing those in need, providing food, water, equipment, and recovery assistance during natural disasters, and sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ in mass evangelistic campaigns. Mountain Gateway’s motivation was solely to share the love and hope of Jesus Christ with the people of Nicaragua.
While Mountain Gateway’s attorney and legal team are advising Mountain Gateway to trust the legal system, it does have questions. It appears this could be more politically motivated than legally motivated.
The Nicaraguan government has imprisoned nine Mountain Gateway evangelical pastors, Marcos Sergio Hernández Jirón; Harry Lening Rios Bravo; Manuel de Jesús Ríos Flores; José Luis Orozco Urrutia; Álvaro Daniel Escobar Caldera; Juan Carlos Chavarría Zapata; Juan Luis Moncada; Orvin Alexis Moncada Castellano; César Facundo Burgalin Miranda.
In its latest press release, the Nicaraguan government says these pastors are innocent, but claim they were under the control and direction of U.S. citizens, Jon Britton Hancock, Jacob Britton Hancock, and Cassandra Mae Hancock, and Nicaraguans, Walner Omier Blandón Ochoa and Maricela de Fátima Mejía Ruiz.
While the Nicaraguan government says the above-mentioned pastors are innocent, the pastors have been imprisoned for over a month with no legal representation or contact with their families. The government has set a criminal hearing date for these same pastors on Jan. 26, 2024. The government has allowed a lawyer to be appointed to represent the Mountain Gateway Nicaraguan pastors, but has not provided their legal counsel with the charging documents or any files to prepare a defense.
Mountain Gateway does not understand the complexity of what is happening with the allegations made by the Nicaraguan government. Mountain Gateway has always strived to be respectful to the Nicaraguan government and has operated under its legal policies. These charges are based on erroneous information, and Mountain Gateway will do everything in its power to resolve this through diplomatic channels.
About Mountain Gateway
Mountain Gateway Order, Inc. focuses on disciplining national leaders through house churches and corporate worship and training national pastors to reach the lost in their nation. Mountain Gateway also runs a ministry training school in the United States to teach believers to take the gospel of Jesus Christ into any context or culture, giving them the tools they need to succeed anywhere God has placed them, under any conditions.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Religion News Service or Religion News Foundation.