Sunday, December 18, 2011

Gullibility: Swallowing Three Cups of Bitter Tea

Today, on the subject of gullibility, I offer up exhibit A: Greg Mortenson and "Three Cups of Tea."

In "Three Cups of Tea," Mortenson writes of being kidnapped in the Waziristan region of Pakistan in 1996. In his second book, "Stones into Schools," Mortenson publishes a photograph of his alleged captors. In T.V. appearances, he has said he was kidnapped for eight days by the Taliban.

"60 Minutes" located three of the men in the photo, all of whom denied that they were Taliban and denied that they had kidnapped Mortenson. One the men in the photo is the research director of a respected think tank in Islamabad, Mansur Khan Mahsud. (To view the 60 Minutes story on Greg Mortenson, click here). "60 Minutes" also checked on schools that CAI claims to have built in Pakistan and Afghanistan and found that some of them were empty, built by somebody else, or simply didn't exist at all. The principals of a number of schools said they had not received any money from CAI in years. 

Best-selling author, Jon Krakauer (Into The Wild, Where Men Win Glory) writes that he was one of Mortenson's earliest backers, donating $75,000 to his non-profit organization. But after a few years, Krakauer says he withdrew his support over concerns that the charity was being mismanaged, and he later learned that the Korphe tale that launched Mortenson into prominence was simply not true. Krakauer says a former board member of CAI told him he should stop giving money to Mortenson's charity years ago. "In 2002, [Mortenson's] board treasurer quit, resigned, along with the board president and two other board members...he said, in so many words, that Greg uses Central Asia Institute as his private ATM machine. That there's no accounting. He has no receipts," says Krakauer. 

Mortenson says the charity took in $23 million in contributions last year - some it from thousands of school children who emptied their piggy banks to help its "Pennies for Peace" program, and some of it from large fundraisers.

What was missing in Greg Mortenson's life and charity (CAI) is accountability. Everyone wanted to believe the story without checking the facts, or auditing his books, or actually investigating the work itself to see if it schools really existed and what, if any impact, they were having on the children of that locale. While CAI is not a Christian charity, we as Christians have been "hoodwinked" time and again by evangelists and their efforts to raise money for overseas' works. If you want to make sure that your charitable donation is getting to the intended work or need, check to see if the organization is a member of the ECFA (Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability). They have a rigorous process which churches and ministries have to meet in order to be approved as a member. Charter members include: 
  • The Billy Graham Evangelistic Assoc., 
  • Child Evangelism Fellowship, 
  • Food for the Hungry, 
  • Jews for Jesus, 
  • Missionary Aviation Fellowship, 
  • Prison Fellowship, 
  • Teen Challenge, 
  • World Vision, 
  • Wycliffe Bible Translators
---just to name a few. 
Jeremiah 6:13 (NIV) 13 "From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit.
 Proverbs 12:17 (NIV) 17 A truthful witness gives honest testimony, but a false witness tells lies.


  1. Mr. Yancy, Please allow me to share my impressions of this post. I've been as short-winded as possible, and most of it is in the form questions:

    Gullibility = believing only the last person you heard or read.

    Example = Why do you completely believe Mr. Krakauer instead of Mr. Mortenson? Is it because JK's booklet is the last thing you've seen on an issue that's 8+ months old?

    Gullibility = believing one person over another because you've only read one side.

    Example = Did you stop after reading JK's booklet, because you didn't really care enough to look further? Drop in at to get re-engaged!

    Gullibility = Writing to help steer others' choices about something of which you neither have any first-hand knowledge nor gathered an array of information from a range of sources.

    Example = You don't mention having looked at CAI's site ( over the months since April. Also how about the feralfighter blog writing on JK's own errors? Then there's testimony from people JK quoted who've said "I didn't say that!" cf: galleycat for 4/29/11 re Scott Darsney.

    I don't in the least dispute your belief that donors should look into the trustworthiness of their charities of interest. The sad part is that you did not look into Central Asia Institute ~ you only looked into what someone else said and wrote about it!

    Best wishes for the new year,
    Susan Hale Whitmore
    Silver Spring, Maryland

  2. Susan, it would be enlightening to find out what your connection to this particual NGO is, as you seem to come pretty loaded with details someone not connected wouldn't know.

    Dale; in all my travels to Africa, I have found that greater than 80 percent of NGO's and even Religious Charities are at best, Poorly managed and at worst, total fraud and scams. There are fewer ways to make lots of money quickly, with NO Acountability, than some great pictures, a book and a 501-c3. Good Review.