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Cult victim tells all

$100,000 fee to stay in Smith's 'ark', where congregants slept on the floor and were fed dumpling and mackerel gravy

Observer staff reporter

Friday, October 22, 2021

MONTEGO BAY, St James — For an entire month in March of last year, 70 congregants of Pathways International Kingdom Restoration Ministries, who were told to pay $100,000 each for entry into Kevin Smith's 'ark', slept on concrete floors and barely had enough to eat. That first boarding of the 'ark' ended badly, but without the loss of life seen during this week's bloody second attempt.

Yesterday, a victim of Sunday's ritual who had boarded the ark on both occasions, painted a picture of an organisation heavily focused on feathering the nest of its leader, and followers who often blindly complied with the shepherd's wishes.

In an exclusive interview with the Jamaica Observer, the victim, who asked not to be identified by name, said Smith's first call for them to board the ark came just a week after Jamaica confirmed its first COVID-19 case.

“He told us to take out loans and bring them to him to buy food, because the Lord spoke to him and told him that something is coming. That was the novel coronavirus pandemic that was coming; he knew about it — I don't know how — but he knew about it before it came here,” the man told the Observer.

“He then called the ark on March 17. He said that we should all get into the ark because a lot of things are going to happen and the coronavirus is going to kill a lot of people. We believed him,” the young man added.

He explained that the ark was the name Smith gave to the physical building of the organisation now being labelled a cult. It was stocked with supplies paid for with loans taken out by congregants.

While the standard entry fee was $100,000, he and other members who had been experiencing financial difficulty were given “a bly”. But nobody entered free of cost.

“I didn't have $100,000, so I ended up paying $20,000. But everybody else, he told them they should bring in that $100,000. A lady had to pay $300,000 for her, her two daughters, and a granddaughter, but a lot of people did pay the $100,000 to come stay there,” said the man.

He said it was a gruelling four weeks at the premises in Albion, St James.

“While we were there we were treated badly by people he had as the missionaries and ministers. We were getting two dumplings with mackerel gravy for dinner. He had us sleeping on the ground and they were cooking like three tins of mackerel for about 70 people,” he said.

“He would make them give us tun cornmeal fi eat. Some days we got porridge to eat in the morning and soup to drink in the night, and you know those are appetisers so wi did a dead fi hunger.”

In addition to the steep entry fees to get into the ark they were also forced to pay utility bills, the young man said.

“He said that we have to pay for the Internet, because wi haffi call wi family abroad, and we have to pay for light and water. I think it was like some ridiculous figure. He said the water bill came up to some $200,000, and that the light bill came up to this and that, so every family had to pay additional money,” the victim shared.

He said that after a month at the premises and no sign of conditions improving, a former member was made aware of the events and raised an alarm on social media. This forced the leader to “allow” them to exit the ark, he said.

“It came to a point where a lady overseas who used to come to the church started to talk about it. She posted on Facebook saying that it is not right, how can he have people sleeping on the ground, while he was locked up in his office under AC. He was eating big food while we were eating scraps like we were dogs,” he said.

“Commotion was over there on a daily basis, because people were not used to getting this likkle bit of food. He even changed [the menu] and we got broth in the evenings. But that didn't really have much substance to help you to go through the day so we were always hungry,” the man added.

With empty stomachs growling, congregants were also forced to sleep on cold slabs as the building was still under construction.

“When the lady started to talk about everything, that's when he told us that we are going to go home and he is going to tile out the place because the ground wasn't suitable for us, and then we would come back,” the young man said.

“He [later] called others behind our backs and stated that no ark will be kept. Time passed and we started going back to church,” he told the Observer.

They were never called back until about two weeks ago, he said.

On Sunday, what congregants believed was a three-day convention turned into a nightmare after two members of the organisation were stabbed to death during a ritual involving human sacrifice. Three others were injured. Another member was killed by the police after allegedly charging at the security forces with a knife.

The full interview with this victim will be published this Sunday, in your Observer.