SANDY SPRINGS, Ga. -
Their mission -- help make the world a better place.
But several religious groups who plan overseas trips complain a Georgia company made their mission... impossible. The company is Mission Trip Airfare, based in Sandy Springs, operated by a pair of siblings who aren't providing much information to some puzzled faith-based leaders across the country.
"What's happened here?" asked Keith Wilkins, pastor of Crossings Community Church in Sanford, Florida. "Have we been taken?"
"Were you ever wanting to actually, you know, provide tickets?"asked Wayne De Wet of One Plus God, a ministry in Marion, Ohio.
Mission Trip Airfare advertises "low fares exclusively for faith-based and humanitarian organizations." They require all the money upfront, with the guarantee the tickets would be delivered electronically a few days before departure.
But it's only a great deal if the tickets actually arrive.
"We want our money back because we realized there's just no tickets behind this money." complained De Wet.
We're not just talking one or two missing trips. According to Sandy Springs police reports and Better Business Bureau complaints, Mission Trip Airfare failed to provide tickets for missions to Belize, Puerto Rico, Africa, two different mission trips to Israel and many more. Groups had to either come up with the money to buy tickets a second time somewhere else or stay home and break a promise to the people they were hoping to help.
According to their Better Business Bureau complaint, the One Plus God ministry paid Mission Trip Airfare $97,100 up front for three mission trips to Haiti. When the company never produced the tickets, One Plus God says it had to borrow another $50,000 to buy tickets a second time so they could still deliver on at least some of their promises.
"Because we are Christians, people want to take us at our word," De Wet explained. "And if we say we are going to do something, you know we need to do it."
Crossings Community Church told Sandy Springs police they didn't learn until two days before their trip to Honduras that Mission Trip Airfare hadn't come through with their $10,000 worth of plane tickets.
"We are a victim," sighed Rev. Wilkins. “We were taken advantage of in ways that we never expected would happen."
"To me it's really scary,” added mission director Evonne Meagher. “I don't want to see someone else in the same situation at the last minute having to panic and be in the same situation that we're in."
The amount of money involved in the police reports and BBB complaints totals more than $250,000. Some religious groups say they’ve heard from many others who claim they also are owed money for mission airfare tickets never delivered.
What's going on? Mission Trip Airfare is owned by Beth Greenhill. But some churches told police they dealt with her brother, Jonathan "Andy" Greenhill. According to the location tag on his Facebook page, up until at least July he was living in the Czech Republic.
His sister Beth still lives in Roswell, but we got no answers when we approached her outside. Instead, she ran into her townhouse and quickly shut the door.
Mission Trip Airfare’s attorney later issued a statement promising refunds but with no explanation or timetable. "Mission Trip Airfare's management apologizes for its inability to provide full and immediate refunds and realizes that this issue adversely affects your organization."
The issue has tested the patience of those familiar with sacrifice.
"We pray for them,” One Plus board member David Whitaker pointed out. “We've been in our board meetings since this happened. We pray for these people."
Still, he said someone needs to be held accountable.
“We definitely would like to see this stopped,” Whitaker declared. “We do not want to see other ministries hurt.”
Here is the full statement from Mission Trip Airfare:
As you know, Mission Trip Airfare recently retained me to assist it with an assessment of its financial situation. Over the course of the last week or so, I have had the opportunity to work with Mission Trip Airfare to assess their situation and to determine what steps it can take to resolve your organization's situation.
Unfortunately, Mission Trip Airfare does not have sufficient funds on hand to issue your organization (or any organization) a full refund immediately. Mission Trip Airfare's management apologizes for its inability to provide full and immediate refunds and realizes that this issue adversely affects your organization. Rather than providing inaccurate information, however, Mission Trip Airfare's management felt it best to inform you candidly about this problem.
Over the course of the next 90 days, Mission Trip Airfare will be working with its advisers to determine the best way to provide refunds to its customers. Mission Trip Airfare will provide periodic updates to its customers on how the process is going. Mission Trip Airfare will do its best to treat each of its customers fairly.
For sixteen years, Mission Trip Airfare has prided itself of providing outstanding service to its customers/congregations. Mission Trip Airfare's management regrets that it finds itself in this situation. Mission Trip Airfare thanks you for your patience and apologizes for any problem that these issues have caused you.
Of course, please feel free to contact me at your earliest convenience; however, please realize that the information that I am able to provide to you will be no more detailed than is set forth in this e-mail.
Frank G. Goldman, Esq.