While there may be public disquiet on how pastor Vinworth Anthony Dayal was able to amass $28 million in cash from tithes, as he claims, his congregation couldn’t give a damn, the Trinidad Express reports.
The Sunday Express went to the Third Exodus Assembly Church in Longdenville on Friday night to view proceedings and listen to his sermon.
Dayal, who is currently under investigation after he attempted to exchange $28 million in old paper-based $100 bills for the new polymer ones on New Year’s eve, delivered a sermon.
He declared “Satan” was trying to make him famous.
However, he said out of every evil comes some good, and he praised the number of people who came out for the service, and those tuning in online through social media streams.
“It is good to see all the troops out tonight. Satan is trying to make me famous. Amen. But there is more in Heaven, friends. More with us than with them. There is more with us than with them by the grace of almighty God,” Dayal said during his opening address to the crowd.
The Sunday Express counted 200 men, women and children among the congregation.
TV screens located near the pastor displayed more followers in other church locations, said to be in Barbados and Dominica tuning in, and supporting the pastor.
The service was scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.
Reporters arrived at 6.30 p.m. at the compound just off Depot Road, Longdenville.
The road to enter the compound was about a minute’s drive and in poor condition, but the compound of the church was massive and well maintained.
Upon entering, security officials greeted parishioners and asked their names, where they were from, if they were invited to the service and how they heard about the service.
At the car park, there were at least five people who said they were security guards or parking attendants.
From the car park, it was a short walk through a corridor to the church.
Church personnel directed members of the congregation where to sit.
The building comprises several rooms, including an air-conditioned main hall which seats more than 200 people.
This room was outfitted with at least six Bose surround sound speakers and two HD TV monitors.
The screens showed images of the main hall to outside, showing that CCTV cameras had been set up around the premises.
It also flipped to people in other locations, with at least eight separate buildings shown.
Later, it was announced that the church was streaming to its “family churches” throughout the region, including Barbados and Dominica.
The congregation prayed fervently.
Elderly people were on their knees on the concrete floor, giving praise, while others were on stage with their arms raised.
The prayer service went on for just over an hour.
Persons came in, sat down, stood up, knelt, and loudly prayed.
The Sunday Express spoke to residents who live near the church, who said they had never been to a service.
Devil tried to
Pastor Dayal came on shortly after 8 p.m. on Friday.
There was no fanfare on his arrival.
Hymns began to play and the crowded hall sang along to the music.
The congregation sang hymns for about 25 minutes before Dayal began to speak and pray.
His words were greeted with smiles, cheers and shouts of approval.
At the end of almost every line, people in the congregation could be heard responding: “Amen!” or “Hallelujah!”
With arms raised high, the congregation seemed firmly behind Dayal.
While he touched on the controversy which brought him and his church into the spotlight recently, Dayal did not let his sermon focus on it.
“Satan is trying to make me famous. Amen. But there is more in Heaven, friends, more with us than with them. There is more with us than with them by the grace of almighty God. Hallelujah!” Dayal said.
He added: “You see, that the devil has tried. You see that is what the devil has tried, Amen. The devil tried to hit something and thought we will scatter and fall apart. Amen. But that word is planted in you. Amen? So, glory be to God in the highest. That’s when the going gets tough, that’s when the tough gets going.”
The pastor praised his congregation and his religion, saying: “We not in some kind of jokey religion, friends! Amen! This is an apostolic church with an apostolic faith, in the last days. This is the Bible church,” Dayal said.
The entire time he had his congregation behind him, audibly supporting him.
He welcomed visitors to the church.
“Welcome to the house of the Lord. Sometimes it takes crisis to see truly how all things root together. And how it can bring people together. So if it can bring everyone back out tonight like this, then what a great thing it is, ent? Oh my. People just want some action! They want some action! But we will be here strong as ever, and stronger than ever,” Dayal said
While he maintained he had done no wrong, he said the media attention was welcomed, as it allowed him to bring the “good news” to mainstream news.
“This is the kind of world we live in, friends. It have that news and the good news. The gospel is the good news. And the latter news is the one we need. The one that changes lives. The other one confuses people sometimes. But the good news is still here. It is always the same. Yesterday, today and forever.
“So, if to bring this news (the good news) we take a bit of a beating, a hit to our reputation… especially in the media house, then so be it. Because, here we are, bringing the good news. And that news is always present. And it, and God, will always be the same,” Dayal said.
At the end of the two-hour service, a number of people were observed walking to the back of the church to deliver what appeared to be tithe envelopes.
On December 31, on the brink of 2020, Financial Investigation Branch (FIB) officers went before a magistrate and secured a detention court order to impound $28,046,500 from the pastor, under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
Dayal, described as “a minister of religion and a pastor of the Third Exodus Assembly Church of Depot Road, Longdenville”, went to the South Trunk Road, La Romaine, branch of State-run bank First Citizens on December 23 and informed officials there he intended to redeem all the old $100 notes in his possession.
Dayal’s attempt to redeem $28,046,500 triggered the seizure and detention just before midnight on Tuesday night.
The pastor had been due to meet with Central Bank officials at 1 p.m. last Tuesday, but failed to show up at the appointed time.
Sources said attempts to get the Central Bank to give an undertaking that it would redeem the money before the money was brought to the bank failed.
It was not until shortly after 5 p.m. that the money was presented at the bank, and FIB officials began counting to verify the amount.
The money was eventually seized by the FIB, which secured a detention order from a magistrate.
In a pre-action protocol letter dated December 29, 2019, to the Central Bank, Dayal’s attorney, Darrell Allahar, explained the source of funds as having been derived from churchgoers who contributed their tithes.
He said Dayal “had collected over the past 19 years voluntary offerings for his personal use and benefit from members of the congregation of the church in the form of tithes.
“These tithes have always been collected from members of the congregation in specially marked ‘Tithe’ envelopes,” the letter said.