By Andrew Ford
An Inside Look Into the Dove World Outreach Center
“Sticks and stones may break your bones but words will never hurt you.”
“Sometimes, it’s not true,” Faith Sapp said. When people call you ugly, it stays with you.
Faith has had a lot of close friends change their mind and talk badly about her.
Kids at school didn’t bother to ask her why she wore a shirt that read “Islam is of the Devil.” They just thought it was mean.
“They don’t know how else to express it,” Faith said. “They think ‘If I ask her, I’m going to seem weird, so I’m just going to curse her out.’”
She and other young members of Warriors of Christ, a branch of the Dove World Outreach Center, stand on the sidewalk outside the All Women’s Health Center.
Luke Jones, son of the infamous pastor Terry Jones, drove them here in the church’s lumbering white van. Luke said the center provides a variety of services, one of which is referrals for abortions.
Luke assumed head pastor responsibilities at the church since his father is often traveling on behalf of his political group, Stand Up America. Luke’s administration is called Warriors of Christ.
The young people on the sidewalk held vinyl signs that read “Fear God” and “Repent and Live!”
Some of the men in the group, led by Luke, take turns preaching repentance.
“You’re not pro-choice because you don’t give the baby a choice,” they shout over traffic.
After a few minutes standing by the road, it’s possible to decipher a supportive honk from a condemning one. Drivers reacted to the signs and half of them threw a thumbs-up or a middle finger out the window.
“My youngest daughter, Faith, has had some pretty disappointing days,” Wayne Sapp said in an interview at the church. Faith had close friends who started hating her because of who her father is.
Sapp sees the impact of their work in a positive light.
“I think it’s drawn us together as a family,” he said.
Sapp used to manage restaurants. He would leave at 5:30 in the morning and come back at 10:30 at night. His wife would put the kids to bed early and wake them up so he could see them for an hour.
Now he sees his kids every day. He knows what’s happening in their lives, and he gets to mentor them and talk to them.
His kids were at the church during International Burn a Koran Day. They were there when people were coming onto the church property, vandalizing. Sapp and his son were running on the lawn together, chasing people away.
“We were laughing,” Sapp said.
So many families grow up without knowing each other, he added.
“At least my kids know me. They know what I believe in, what I stand for, and that I’m there for them. I think a lot of families don’t have that at all.”
Sapp was a partier who married young. His wife came from a deeply religious background. She pestered Wayne about getting back into church. She said if he’d come to the Dove World Outreach Center once, she’d stop asking.
“I knew this was my chance to get her to shut up and leave me alone,” Sapp said.
He came to church and reluctantly sat in the first row with his wife. There was a guest preacher.
“The most famous verse, everyone knows, is ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only son,’” the preacher said. “But you know, even if it was one person, even if it was one person that had sin in their life that was going to die, go to hell, be separated from God the father forever, Jesus still would have died for that one person.”
Sapp grabbed hold of that thought and dwelled on it.
“If that’s true,” he thought. “Would you have died for me?”
“If so, show me.”
The service was ending and the speaker was praying for people in the church.
“That’s it,” Sapp thought. “I came. Nothing.”
From somewhere across the room, the preacher stopped praying. He walked through the crowd, looking at people.
“This man has lost his mind,” Sapp thought.
The preacher walked up to Sapp and said: “It’s you.”
“You don’t know me,” Sapp said. “I don’t go here.”
“But it’s you.”
“What about me?”
“God wanted me to tell you he would have died for just you. He loves you that much.”
Sapp stood up. The preacher led him in prayer. Now, no one can ever convince him that there is no God.
He came a long way since then, and he carried out the burning of the Koran at the conclusion of a trial presided over by Terry Jones last spring.
Terry Jones said he got saved in his living room.
He was a hotel manager in Nashville, Tenn. He married very young and because of that, they had their share of problems. His wife had gotten saved and Terry saw the changing force in her life.
He put on a cassette tape about how to get baptized in the holy spirit by a man called Don Basham. He knelt down in his living room, repented out his sins, asked God to forgive him, stood up and felt like a changed person.
From kneeling in that living room, he rose to the international stage. He was forced to leave a church he was preaching at in Cologne, Germany for somewhat mysterious reasons. The Gainesville Sun reported it was for fraud charges. Der Spiegel said he was expelled by a congregation that found him too extreme. Terry Jones is banned from entering the United Kingdom. Wayne and Luke are on that list too.
Terry grew up in the sixties. He misses the fighting spirit of that time and sees apathy in today’s society.
“Most Americans don’t really live,” he said. “They just exist.”
In Terry’s opinion, if you’re not really making a mark, if you’re not working to improve society, it doesn’t matter if you die at 40 or at 80. You will have just had 40 more years to eat at McDonalds. But most people are satisfied with their station wagon and their wife and kids and gold watch after 50 years. A rare few hunger for more.
Luke Jones was born in Germany. He grew up in church, a pastor’s son, but he didn’t live a Christian lifestyle. Around the age of 12 or 14, he started experimenting with soft drugs, marijuana and a little speed.
The Joneses lived in Cologne, Germany, about an hour from Holland. Luke and his friends would drive across the border to buy marijuana cheaply and in copious amounts. They smoked almost every day. One day he was at a friend’s house and took a heavy rip from a gravity bong. He went home and his parents saw him, red-eyed and stoned.
“We know what you’re doing,” his parents said. They were aware that Luke smoked cigarettes out of his bedroom window.
“You need to do something with your life,” they said. “You need to experience God.”
“We can’t do it for you…we can’t help you,” they added.
“I didn’t know what to do with my life,” Luke said. “I was smoking dope. My friends were losers.”
Luke went to bed that night and cried out to God.
“If you are real, I want a sign,” he said.
The next day was church Sunday. Luke went with his family. The church held about a thousand people. Luke got into church and straight away, a pastor named Rob came up to him and said “God heard you yesterday.”
Rob kept talking, but Luke didn’t hear the rest. That was all he needed.
Terry Jones, Luke Jones and Wayne Sapp each said the large misconception the public has about their church is that they hate. They said they don’t hate, and they’re worried about the vast numbers of people who are on a path to damnation.
Wayne Sapp explained that it’s similar to what he told his wife’s parents when they were engaged. They thought Wayne didn’t like them.
“If I don’t like you,” Sapp said. “I won’t waste my time talking to you.”
“I’ll keep my thoughts to myself and go down the road and whatever happens to you, happens to you.”
Sapp believes that Jesus is the only way to the father. That means 1.5 billion people are going to hell because they don’t know Him.
“If I hated them, I’d just keep my mouth shut,” he said.
Maybe people don’t get saved when they hear the message of the Dove World Outreach Center. Maybe they get mad. But Wayne hopes that people ask themselves why he and the other church members would take on the wrath of the world and take a minute to think about the message.
Above: An inside look into the Dove World Outreach Center, including its controversial trial and subsequent burning of the Koran. Photos by Andrew Ford. Click any image to start a slide show with captions.
For another side of the story, check out Why Dove World Outreach Matters, Even Though It Shouldn’t.