Potter’s Field founder’s autobiography sheds light on allegations

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The cover of Pam Rozell’s book “Stones of Remembrance.”

The Daily Inter Lake has attempted to speak with Potter’s Field Ministries founders Michael and Pam Rozell multiple times since learning about the allegations of abuse in their intern program. Ministry representatives have said the Rozells are unavailable “due to their schedules” and would like to keep their silence “out of respect to those who have been hurt.”

However, Pam Rozell’s 2017 autobiography, “Stones of Remembrance,” offers insight into the Rozells’ history with the ministry and personal backgrounds as they pertain to the accusations that led to the abrupt shutdown of their Whitefish-based ministry and MudMan restaurants two weeks ago.

According to Pam’s account, the Rozells moved to Whitefish in May 1997 with the goal of establishing their ministry program. Michael is originally from Southern California and Pam was born in Thomasville, Georgia. The couple married in 1987 after three weeks of dating and began their touring ministry in 1992.

Prior to ministry work, Michael gained business experience selling investments with an unnamed Wall Street firm. Pam writes in the book, “Michael is a savvy businessman first.”

He developed the culinary background for MudMan Burgers — a key fundraiser for their mission program — working at Sir Winston Churchill’s Restaurant in California in his early 20s and as an in-flight staff member for the luxury airline Regent Air, where he purportedly learned to prepare celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck’s recipes.

While Pam has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of South Carolina, her professional background has focused on singing and theater. After winning the title of Miss Georgia in 1977, she performed on Broadway and a variety of cruise ships before transitioning into recording Christian music. She currently has 10 Christian albums for sale.

In 1992, Pam coupled her performance experience with Michael’s pottery making, an interest since his childhood, to put on an evangelical presentation in West Palm Beach, Florida. The Rozells expanded this performance — in which they would share personal testimonies, sell pottery, CDs and other merchandise and in later years, advertise for their IGNITE program — to include more than 200 appearances per year across the country until 2019.

They established Potter’s Field Ministries in Montana in 1997, started their discipleship school in 2004 and transitioned to the IGNITE internship program in 2009. She reports, “We wanted to have a new vehicle which could generate financial resources,” so they opened MudMan Burgers in 2016.

These organizations have since closed amid allegations of mistreatment of workers and claims of verbal and emotional abuse towards ministry members.

Pam’s testimony in her book sheds light on concerns about a “culture of yelling,” as former IGNITE intern Kenzie Kinney described, as well as the ministry’s financial accountability.

One of the most common complaints voiced by more than two dozen former members of Potter’s Field Ministries was Michael’s alleged rage. “You were yelled at for hours,” said former staff member Dawn Marie Grice, who served as the Rozells’ personal assistant for more than 11 years before leaving in 2012. “No matter what you did or didn’t do, you were always yelled at.”

Autumn Speir, an IGNITE intern from 2016 to 2018, also remembered being “berated for hours.” “I felt like I wanted to crawl out of my own skin,” she said.

Pam corroborates these accounts in her description of her husband’s anger issues.

She said in her book that she “endured a lot of wrath” and “unending abuse” over the years. In a book chapter titled, “The Rage Exposed,” she recounts a particular incident that echoes the accounts of many former Potter’s Field participants:

“I don’t even know what I said to him – but it just sent him flying into a rage … before I knew it, he was standing directly in front of me, screaming and yelling at such levels that any neighbor, or even someone in the parking lot, could hear him … Michael would always use the secret things I shared with him in my heart, my fears, and my family against me as a sword in these rage attacks. It was so hurtful that I thought my insides would explode with pain.”

Pam goes on to claim that Michael overcame his rage problem through the help of the church in the 1990s. But interns and staff members who departed the ministry as recently as April 2019 reported ongoing accounts of Michael’s verbal attacks.

When Nick Borghi informed Michael of his plans to leave this past spring, he said he was berated at length, called a “self-centered, narcissistic 8-year-old,” and alleged that Michael, “completely degrades you to where you don’t have the confidence to leave.”

According to Pam’s account, Michael’s anger issues had been deep-seated since his childhood. He grew up in what Pam described as a “broken home.” His mother was a teenager when she had Michael, and his father was a “player,” according to Pam. His parents divorced when Michael was an infant and his father seemed to neglect Michael and his brother in favor of the children he had with other women.

As a result, Pam states he had a problem with authority, particularly male authority figures. He was raised largely by his mother and grandmother, but “he learned early on that they had no control over him.”

Pam details a pattern starting in his childhood that appears to have paved the way for the angry outbursts described by numerous former Potter’s Field staff members: “He would throw fits in stores, writhing on the floor and yelling and making a scene when he couldn’t get what he wanted. His mom would resign and say, “give him what he wants.” She adds, “eventually [he] would intimidate his mom so much that she would acquiesce to him.”

In addition to the documented anger issues, Pam also details Michael’s troubled history with drugs, alcohol and legal issues. She said he began abusing drugs and alcohol at age 12, and he “was a full-blown alcoholic by end of freshman year of high school.” Michael also abused and dealt cocaine for many years and engaged in various illegal and destructive activities.

Pam reveals, “This was a vice that I was unaware that I was marrying into — his gambling addiction, in addition to a rage addiction, a drug addiction, alcohol addiction and four warrants out for his arrest.”

However, Pam asserts he was eventually “healed” of these vices through his spiritual commitments.

There have also been concerns about the ministry’s financial accountability. Kinney, an intern from 2016 to 2018, said, “kids pay to work for free,” in the IGNITE program. While interns would pay $6,000 to participate in the program and staff the burger restaurants for allegedly $2 to $3 an hour, Grice alleged the Rozells used ministry funds for personal expenses such as Pam’s eyelash treatments.

Former interns also claimed the ministry’s international sponsorship program did not live up to the way the Rozells presented it to their sponsors. Paige McClure, who served in Uganda in October 2018, described the international missions as “a scam” because they served far fewer children than advertised. Danielle Hawk was assigned to start a children’s program in Guatemala in 2012, and she said, “I never saw one kid the entire time we were there.”

In the autobiography, Pam claims, “Our programs provide education, medical assistance, nutritional needs, discipleship and scholarships for over 15,000 children around the world.” But she also reports, “We were the ones able to receive the profits from our nonprofit work, which went right back into the ministry to pay our salary and fund the continued work of Potter’s Field.”

She also states, “This was God’s ministry, and we always said from the beginning that no man’s fingerprints were going to be on it — especially our own! We never wanted the taint ‘of the world’ on this ministry.” She adds, “We are believers in accountability.”

But she admitted, “we both lived above our means, and we wanted to present to the world that we were materially successful … Michael and I both knew how to put on an outward display to others.”

In fact, Pam recounts multiple instances in which church elders accused Michael of serving the church under false pretenses. One person reportedly told him, “Michael, you’re a phony! And everyone knows it.” Another said to him, “You don’t want to serve, you want to be seen.”

In the opening pages of the book, Pam also writes, “I would see people raise holy hell during the week, and then go and play church, wearing a mask on the weekends, and that would seem to be okay with them. I knew there was something wrong with this, and the phoniness bothered me even as a young person. Interestingly enough, this would be one of the major themes that would be a driving force in our ministry to come in the future.”

The autobiography also details the Rozells’ history with Potter’s Field affiliates, including board members and Calvary Chapel lead pastor, Don McClure. McClure, who recently issued statements regarding Calvary Chapel’s dissociation with Potter’s Field, writes the book’s foreword.

According to the Calvary Chapel Association website, McClure is one of 12 members of the Calvary Chapel Association Leadership Council. On May 20, the Council issued the following in a statement: “Mike Rozell and Potter’s Field Ministries has been removed from the official list of affiliated Calvary Chapel pastors and churches. We find that the Potter’s Field form of discipleship training and methods of ministry are not compatible with the Calvary Chapel form of ministry.”

But in the 2017 book, McClure states, “My wife Jean and I have known Michael and Pam Rozell for over 20 years.” He refers to the Rozells as “very dear friends” and explains how he “took them to Central America” in the early 2000s and therefore “added a new dimension to Potter’s Field.”

McClure writes, “As you read about the lives of Pam and Michael in this wonderful book, you will see before your eyes and heart how the Lord took two people so deeply entrenched in this fallen world and lifted them out into being incredibly used by the Lord.”

Reporter Bret Anne Serbin may be reached at bserbin@dailyinterlake.com or 758-4459.

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