I write this post with a mixture of sadness, yet a resolve born of bitter experience, knowing that while the truth sometimes hurts, in the long run it is ALWAYS the best policy.
I wish to share the “other side” to a clearly unique, passionate and talented individual who I befriended online earlier this year; Peter Vandever, but whom I believe to be not presenting himself fully honestly to the world.
I write primarily for the Christian community, especially those who have engaged with Peter and his missionary and evangelistic work in some way. Before I start “whacking” Peter over the things that I have concerns about, I must say that Peter is certainly one unique dude!
He is personable, friendly and clearly passionate about what he does – saving souls, is what he calls it. He is also clearly a man who is an achiever. I enjoyed meeting with him once in Apia- quite a long meeting in which we discussed quite a bit in depth. Not really the casual “how-ya-doing” type of conversation, but one in which we dug deeper into some pretty pithy subjects relating to each others’ faith, past, reasons for being in Samoa, the environment here and so on.
I offered a hand out to help him and support him while he was here, so I have no hard feelings about anything with him personally. BUT . . . and this is a big but, some things do not quite stack up!
1. Misrepresentation at fund-raising time.
I have watched Peter misrepresent and mislead online when he was located here in Samoa.
Peter has sought financial assistance from the online community for many years (you can see his historical requests for missionary support going back for years) and again on multiple occasions while he was in Samoa. The general pattern is that he explains how hard hard-up, strapped for cash, or unable to continue that he is etc. One of his commonly used phrases is “We are believing for . . .” and then a range of various solutions or budgets, depending on the need that he perceives.
A major factor in his fundraising (as he calls it) was the prohibitive Internet costs here.
In some communications he even expressed outrage that the Church did not support him financially when they were doing other things less worthy with their funds. While I accept that this was and may be all true, what Peter has not spoken about was that at the time that he was making the loudest noises, I was also offering to help him, yet he never even bothered to spend $2.00 to catch a bus to see the home and facilities that I was offering him.
So just to make it perfectly clear here, while on the one hand he was out presenting a dire need to the world and seeking funding he knew very well that he could have had a free home and lodging, plus good and cheaper Internet than he was paying for but that (for whatever reason) he chose not to even view the offering.
Leaving out material facts is sometimes called a white lie. I believe that creating the impression of dire need, then deliberately asking for money when you haven’t availed yourself of what has been offered to you is deceiptful and totally wrong.
There are other facts relating to all of this which I’m not interested in going into, certainly not online, suffice to say that I am not here talking about one isolated incident or misunderstanding!
2. Confused Purpose & Hazy Calling
When seeking support from others, the core purpose, usually summed up in a vision or a vision statement is normally central to the sales pitch.
Generally a calling is specific and life changing, which represents a testimony that eventually brings glory to God. Abraham, Moses, Paul, David and Christ are all high-profile examples of godly men that received a clear calling and had purpose in their work.
Peter has failed to share this with me meaningfully, so (apart from saving souls) I have no idea what the vision is that the Lord has given Peter. Never once, in all my conversations in person and in all the communications he has presented online have I seen or heard the words that indicate to me that the Lord has actually called Peter to a particular place or ministry.
I have seen him move his focus and thoughts from his country of birth (the Philippines) to the States, to American Samoa, to Samoa, to Fiji which all presents me with a confusing picture. When the price of the Internet (a major issue for Peter) prevents a man fulfilling his god-ordained calling, I question whether or not one is actually “called”!
There is one central theme however – Peter Vandever wants to save souls – and tells the world openly what he thinks or feels.
While this may sound noble, Peter strikes me as a self-professed career missionary with the entire world as a mission-field but entirely lacking strategy, direction or support. In my experience, yes, a Christian Ministry grows up around a man who stands up and is counted, but their vision and calling is very simple to see and easy to choose to support or not.
Peter’s scattergun approach deeply concerns me – for him as much as for his supporters. I see all the evidence of a man who is struggling to deal with some deep issue and that this is being played out in public forum on a global playing field. I would encourage supporters to ask Peter about the calling.
I have questions lots of unanswered questions. Some things just don’t seem to stack up very well, when you start asking questions!
Could some of this be just a little over-zealousness in blogging about himself, or is there more? I think that there is more, but am not out to “get” Peter.
I of all people understand being on the outside, or the edge of mainstream Christianity. In my book, nobody has to justify themselves through any formal training, nor by being part of organised religion to do what God has called them to do. For me, anyone has just the same right to stand up and be a self-confessed missionary as I do to be a self-confessed IT strategist, author, blogger, IT Entrepreneur or whatever I want to call myself from time to time!
But there is a big difference if I then claim to be part of mainstream Christianity, presenting myself as an achiever, a successful missionary, an effective evangelist and therefore by inference somebody special, if I have major trouble with mainstream.
Peter has done this and continues to do this yet he is clearly outside of the mainstream. He does not currently have the support of his home church in Kansas (they have specifically called him to spend 2011 at home – advice that he subsequently, publicly ridiculed and ignored). He has also gone against the advice and wishes of his own Board, the Peter Vandever Evangelistic Association - something that I would consider to be a major serious “red flag” when assessing any situation.
To his credit, Peter has actually not hidden both of these events, but I consider that the way that he has dealt with both the conflict and public rejection of both the church leadership, his own board’s advice (and the AOG movement as a whole) are major factors that funders and supporters should be aware of and explore.
I don’t want to “go there”, because it is not my interest in digging into Peter’s life. I just have questions – that’s all.
My take on it
I think that Peter is probably on the run in some respects, doing a “Jonah thing” . What he could be running from is none of my business, but the signs I see everywhere all point to that conclusion. I just pray that he can deal with whatever he is dealing with sooner rather than later.
I’d also be very cautious about actively helping a man on the run. I doubt that any of the sailors sailing West would have welcomed Jonah on board until after he had done God’s business in the East – if they knew the full story!
This is the caution I issue to the Christian community:
Be careful and exercise wisdom!
There is another side to Missionary Peter Vandever.
I believe that people engaging with Peter, particularly those supporting him financially, and especially those supporting him primarily on the basis of his online materials such as Facebook messages, email newsletter and various blog posts should do research and attempt to know the full story prior to giving.
I am NOT saying not to give or not to support Peter. Not at all! In fact I have offered to support Peter and help him in real practical ways ourselves. I have also said that if at any time in the future he needs help that I will be there for him, and I really mean it!
I am however advising that we should all be aware of the FULL story before parting with our money and getting behind a cause.
My advice also is to be very careful when listening to gossip. I received some of this before I met him and made up our own minds, rather than just taking the easy way out and believing the street talk. Suffice to say that he clearly has “a reputation out there”.
I may have something wrong, and having only just met him once, I clearly do not know everything about Peter, so do not take my words as gospel without your own research or verification.
Peter has a strong online profile, with multiple Facebook accounts and websites.
He has thousands of followers on Facebook and a few active supporters who regularly engage with him. This gives you a great online resource from which to draw deeper understanding. Feel free to talk with him directly and befriend him yourself and ask him what you would want to know anything directly. He can be contacted via Facebook – just search for “Peter Vandever”.
His blogging over the last year or so is highly visible and I would assess it to be passionate and honest – but only to a point. It does appear to me though to be coloured and strongly biased, missing key facts, and presenting a one-sided “rosy” look at his mission and his work.
His current and past online newsletters are available via RSS here.
For the record, I have spoken some very direct words along these lines to Peter himself, and invited him to discuss any matter further. He left Samoa without making contact with us.
Again, as always, comments are open here and I offer the full right of reply.
UPDATE [6 March 2013]:
I have received the following communication from “Author of Void” and I have confirmed that the writer has indeed interracted (at least online) with Peter and her story stacks up well in many regards.
I note that she will mean here Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD, not PSTD).
I stumbled upon a blog about Peter Vandever and wanted to send you this in response because I don’t think you ever saw the real him as I unfortunately have…
When I found this, I nearly shit myself! This insane person you are referencing is a fake – a scammer, money moocher, stalker and violent offender. I was in Fiji (as I see while you two were conversing through email) and while I was there I also befriended Peter. The problem is that he fell in love with me – although I had never shown any interest other than to be able to remote to work through the night while he sat in the same vicinity. All I was doing was being friendly. He passionately fell in love with me, writing a number of blogs (some still online) about how he feels. I did not know this and when I found out I let him down gently. He then began a series of heaving stalking, nearly breaking down my hostel door at times while I hid from him. It got so bad with following me everywhere, cyber bullying, and the weight of being harassed endlessly, that I eventually had the American Consulate in Fiji talk to him. I also had to threaten him and his family – that I would go to the USA armed services and report his neurotic actions if he didn’t stop his bullying. He has a medical discharge for PSTD and seizures. If you call him crazy in any way, even jokingly, he will become a violent raging bull. I was afraid for my life, especially after he told me how many people had killed in Iraq and that he had no trouble continuing. I had no idea about him being a “Missionary” or anything like that. To everyone in Fiji he was clearly a mental health hazard. He never spoke about being a missionary to anyone – NO ONE KNEW THAT! It wasn’t until I went on youtube and found that he had, without my permission, made some BS video about what he is doing in Fiji with my picture in it. He also put a post up calling me a whore and slamming my corporation trying to get me fired. So, thank you a million for publicly exposing him as he has done to countless people. I can’t imagine how he justifies his actions to others and in the same breath call himself a saint.
I have never seen a more threatening person in my life and to find out that he claimed to be some sort of missionary is appalling! He did no “missionary” work of any sort in Fiji… he would just sit on his ass playng with his computer all day and all night – only eating in between. It was strange and just confusing that he claims to be a missionary of some sort. He is nothing but a scammer.
I hope this helps shed some light on your confusion with Peter as you mention in the posts. It’s hard to tell what he is when he lies so much!
From a very happy reader,
I also took the liberty of cautioning AOV privately about dealing with “people who are different”.
I recommend that you be careful though with your handling of PTSD and mental conditions. As you noted, people in delusion usually defend that delusion because they truly believe what they experience is reality. Calling a person a nutcase or crazy or a fraud, or a liar or labelling or categorising people in some way can be a reinforcing act as their defenses kick in and they can justifiably play the “poor me” card. Better I think to shoot straight and speak as you see things, raise questions and let others divine truth.
Privately AOV was gracious enough to accept my words, which was nice!
As I implied in the original post, I have no problem with Peter presenting his thoughts, feelings or view of the world online how and when he wants (even if some of it is fabrication or ‘from a different perspective’ – that’s his business), but I DO have an issue when people mispresent reality for the purposes of collections for missionary work and I will stand for the truth in that regard. I am sad for “Author of Void” that she had a traumatic experience with Peter (she actually agreed with me in a later communication that she has grown enormously through the experience), but I think that her decision to speak out and to permit publication of her experience (“I don’t mind you putting my words online since I know it will give so much more insight on him”) should be seen for what it is, noble, and probably quite brave. I do sense that she has got over it and that her intentions are good.
On another matter, this post receives moderately high exposure through the Search Engines. I have no interest in being a “get at Peter” hate website. I am happy to receive any personal communication from others endorsing my conclusions (or otherwise), but am unlikely to publish them or approve any further comments. Basically I’ve said my thing, others have confirmed my thoughts and I now wish to leave the guy alone.