My name is Brent Baccala. Some of you know me only as the man in the white robe holding the sign that reads “Surfing the Nations is a Fraud”. I don’t particularly like the sign, but it’s been given to me by God. I’d rather just stand in front of Surfer’s Church with a microphone and preach, but Tom Bower will not allow that to happen. Let me explain, briefly, my history with STN, tell you what has happened over the last month, and summarize the message that I wish you to hear.
A. My History with STN
I first interacted with STN five years ago when I lived in Haleiwa and was writing a book (Icarus’ Wing). After I ran out of money, I approached both the church and the monastery that I supported with my tithe; neither of them would house me. I also approached STN, first asking Richard Moore, and then Tom Bower if I could join the group. The answer was no, and I was left with the distinct impression that STN internships were only open to people with thousands of dollars, not to Christian disciples who had sold their possessions and given the money to the poor (Luke 12:33). I continued interacting with STN until I was categorically banned from the premises, and then left, feeling led by God to Alaska.
I continued praying for STN, praying for Tom Bower and his entire team, the staff, the interns, praying that God give Tom good council and the wisdom to discern it. I even prayed to God to let me forget STN, since it’s been so much on my mind for the last five years! Yet I avoided returning, since we have such deep doctrinal differences, and I’m convinced that Tom holds me in contempt. I finally concluded that STN was constantly on my mind precisely because God was leading me back, so I decided to return, but I knew it wouldn’t be pleasant or easy.
B. The Events of the Last Month
I returned to Oahu on June 4th and took a bus directly to Wahiawa in time for Surfer’s Church that evening. I saw Tom Bower and we exchanged greetings; he bought me a coffee. A few days later I had the chance to sit down and talk with him. I told him bluntly, “Tom, I feel totally convicted by the Holy Spirit to make a sign that reads ‘Surfing the Nations is a Fraud’ and to sit with it outside STN”. I began to explain why. I had spent hours in prayer over this and sensed that God was leading me to this exact course of action.
Tom explained to me that Surfing the Nations is not a Christian organization, it’s a humanitarian organization, gave me some vague talk that there are two kinds of people in the world, those who learn and those who don’t, and then told me that he didn’t have the time to discuss the matter with me. Our conversation lasted no more than ten minutes.
That evening, there was an open mike night at the coffee shop. I asked the barista if I could preach for a few minutes and he told me yes. I signed up at the door with Jeremy and told him that I’d like to preach; he put my name down and suggested five or ten minutes as a guideline, which was fine with me. I bought a drink, sat down, and joined a Bible study group. Then Tom Bower came over, reminded me first to “behave”, and then returned a moment later to tell me, no, I would not be allowed to preach, and I wasn’t. So I behaved, shared with the Bible study group, and then left. Of course, I had anticipated before I walked in the door that this is exactly what would happen.
The next day, I fashioned a sign that said exactly what I had told Tom it would say, exactly what I felt led to by the Spirit, without changing a word: “Surfing the Nations is a Fraud”. I took it to STN around nine o’clock in the morning, and sat down in back on Ohai Street. A few people came by, including Cindy Bower, who gave me some food, and then Tom showed up, pulled out his cell phone, and called the police. I prayed, and felt that I had guidance from God by the time the policeman arrived a few minutes later. We had a cordial exchange and established that although STN’s property in back extended up to the street, there was a public sidewalk in front. So I moved around to the front and sat down, with the sign, by the front door of the coffee shop. Tom now claimed that I was obstructing the sidewalk, but that didn’t fly with the policeman and I was left alone for the rest of the day.
The next day I returned, again, with the sign. A few people talked with me, most notably Carson Gibbs, who probably spent half an hour with me. It was after Carson’s visit that I felt the greatest uncertainty about whether my course of action was right, but Tom Bauer soon removed that doubt when he returned with two police officers to hand me a formal trespass notice and tell me that I could not sit against “his” wall. Again, the Lord showed me the answer. I moved to the fire hydrant, which afforded me a nice seat, away from the wall, where everyone driving down Kamahamaha Highway could see the sign!
The next day was a Saturday, and again I was back with the sign. Late morning two things happened nearly simultaneously. A nice Christian woman stopped to talk with me and invite me to McDonald’s for lunch, and Tom Bauer came by to suggest that I talk to someone he was “accountable to” in an attempt to resolve this. I accepted the lunch invitation, had some good fellowship and prayer, and decided that God would have me accept Tom’s offer, which I did via a text message.
The sign then remained down for a month while I met and exchanged emails with Glen Maiden, the man whom Tom had selected to facilitate this process. I’ve achieved all of those emails in a PDF if anyone wishes to review this process. A key point in Glen’s conclusion was that “[your] references did not affirm [your] teaching or prophecy gift within the church”, along with a claim that the trespass order “is not because of your message, it is because [Tom’s] students are not safe around you and you make them feel fearful”.
Once again, I feel that the Lord has showed me a way forward — this letter.
C. My Message to STN
What is presented at STN is a model of part-time Christianity. Sometimes we give out food for free; sometimes we’re selling coffee as a business. We don’t actually have to “give to anyone who asks” (Luke 6:30); we only need to give some of the time.
Feeding the Hungry is great! However, Jesus taught us to live this way all of the time.
Most people will stand behind a cash register with a huge rack of food behind them and refuse to feed you if you can’t pay. This is immoral. Jesus told us “when I was hungry you fed me” (Matthew 25:35), but if you don’t have money these stores will let you go hungry. What would Jesus do? What is the loving thing to do? What would you do if Jesus Christ himself walked up to you at a cash register and said, “I have no money, but may I have a cup of coffee?”
I’m not willing to refuse to feed people who don’t have money. Period. I will not treat people that way, and neither should you.
Those who sell their worldly possessions and give the money away (Luke 12:33) are not honored for their obedience to God, they are treated like trash. Let them get a job! After all, we’re saved by grace. Nobody else has to obey the commandments, so why should they?
If the owner of a store actually does what Jesus commands — feeds everyone that comes through the door — he will be put out of business, and the store will be taken from him and given to someone else who will not feed people unless they have money. This is our “freedom”.
The majority of people are defiant of God and are going to hell for that reason. (Matthew 7:13-14) It is not God’s will that anyone should perish (2 Peter 3:9), but people choose sin for the pleasures of the flesh and the ease of a comfortable life. They persecute people who obey God because disciples have little or no money and their leaders tell them to work their jobs and refuse service to people without money.
Do not emulate them.
The church is very weak, reduced mainly to Sunday worship and Wednesday Bible study. Most Christians spend the better part of their time working for secular leadership so that they can enjoy prosperity, which is an even greater lore than sex. What we need are Christian schools, Christian restaurants (soup kitchens), Christian supermarkets (food banks), Christian housing, Christian transportation, Christian technology — all free. Managed by prayer; no atheist Marxism; no capitalist quid pro quo.
We need to use our political freedoms to preach genuine Christianity and to organize against this wicked capitalist leadership that has come to dominate our country. Both revival and revolution are in order.
Our mainstream churches are preaching all manner of heresy because it’s popular. The Gospel is watered down so that the commandments become optional, and that’s the kind of religion that the majority of people want. Sometimes we give food to anyone who asks; sometimes we’re selling coffee only to those who have money. We obey God… some of the time.
Tom Bower is preaching that you can run a business, sell coffee, sell internships, sell leadership training, and also run a food bank and offer a free dinner before church. Look at all the people we’re helping! You can be a part-time Christian, and live a nice, comfortable life in Hawaii.
Tom’s behavior is typical of the majority. They use their authority to silence their opposition. He’s not going to talk to me, he’s not going to answer my emails, he’s not going to let me speak at the open mike night, of course he won’t let me preach at Surfer’s Church, but he’s right there with the police to “get tough” when I pull out the sign, and then claims that it’s done because people are “not safe” around me. He wants me to go away, to present an illusion that nobody opposes what he’s preaching, that nobody has a different understanding of Christianity, that everybody has to work for money, that these people are just bums, they won’t work, they’re very angry at the world, and you never hear from us to know our true motives.
The Muslim solution to this is all over the news: kill them all! The Christian solution is discipleship. We turn our lives over to Christ, we seek to obey God to the best of our ability without fudging his commandments, we understand that we will be hated and persecuted by the majority of people who are determined to break us and force us to submit to their wicked authority, and we trust in God, that through his Holy Spirit he will be guide us through this life. One of our most important tasks is to preach, and that’s why I came back to STN.
Preaching the Gospel! That’s the true Christian solution. Not to condemn Tom, rather to pray for him, to remain respectful of his authority, but not to be silent. (Acts 5:29) Tom Bower has built Surfing the Nations up from scratch, and it’s an amazing organization, full of the Holy Spirit and transformational in this community. Yet he is also preaching capitalism and pop religion, he won’t listen to anybody who comes against it, and he silences those who preach the true Gospel.
Surfing the Nations is a fraud, and this is the nature of the fraud:
Tom Bower is not a Christian.
The PDF version that I handed out at Surfer’s Church can be found here.
The email correspondence with Glen Maiden can be found here.
14 Replies to “An Open Letter to Surfing the Nations”
Perhaps you should stop focusing so much on yourself and focus instead on what is most on God’s heart — that is, feeding the nations with spiritual food — food and drink that does not fade but is everlasting: The Gospel message of Jesus Christ. You have a lot of passion and zeal but it is being wasted on causes that will not make an impact in light of eternity. Instead, forgive those who have wronged you as the Bible commands and move on to go and reach the unreached (those who have never once had a chance to even hear the message of Jesus Christ dying for their sins). These people are perishing at a rate of 60,000 a DAY and going to hell all because people who know the truth continue to do nothing but focus on their own petty concerns. Stop terrorizing little organizations and do something worthwhile with your life like becoming a hardcore missionary who shares the gospel to those who have never heard of Jesus in asia, africa and latin america.
First, love your zeal! God is great and your commitment to trying to follow Him makes me happy to hear. Unfortunately, I think you’ve got a case of zeal without wisdom. You are totally ignoring a key scripture man, 2 Thessalonians 3:10 “For even when we were with you, we used to give you this command: “If anyone is not willing to work, neither should he eat.”
I understand completely your heart break and disappointment in those in Godly leadership positions. I too have experience similar shunning in time of need. My experience was an emotional lack of caring for myself and my four children when my “Christian ” husband abandoned us.
What I have learned through the shame of being judged and shunned was that Jesus and only Jesus is truly there for us 110%. People are flawed struggling individuals (yes, even pastors) . Often times God allows shunning from the church to teach us and shape us.
What I have learned from my experience I could not have learned without the “lack of church” support. I learned how to be more compassionate toward people who have dealt with similar situations- and the greatest thing I learned is that no pastor ,group of Christians or even my former Christian husband can take away who Jesus is to me..
You have to forgive and realize that they are flawed humans- don’t stay trapped in the prison of unforgiving.
You’re right about needing to learn with the “lack of church” support. God wants the church to carry out his mission in this world, but he also wants us to be dependent on him, not the church. This is one of the big problems the Israelites had during the exodus – they wanting Moses to make water come out of a rock, but actually only God could do it. They were asking the wrong person to help them, then threatening to stone him to death if he couldn’t!
I’ve been trying to see Tom, and other like him, as though he were a very good friend who’s made bad choices and treated me like trash. Fortunately, I’ve got some good friends, whom I really like, that have rejected me and rejected God. The man I’m thinking about right now is a confirmed atheist, but I absolutely loved him when he was 13 years old and I was 26. I still pray for Robert and hope the best for him, which is another way of saying that I hope he turns to God. I know someone else, someone that I really like, an angry atheist who’s told me that she’ll “never talk to me”. Sigh. All because I wear a robe and preach about Jesus.
It’s a bit harder with Tom because I never loved him the way I loved Robert, and the lies he’s told about me have made me a lot angrier that just saying he’ll never talk to me. Yet still, I watch how people live around me, shake my head, and say to myself, “Man, you’re going to have to answer for all of this to God someday”.
For me, that kind of attitude is the road to forgiveness.
The man is it lying I’m a disabled veteran and they’re a bunch of liars down there you see they were bringing me food and then two weeks in a row they decided they would lie and tell me that would be up here in didn’t come the first time they did come after I said something to him about it the second time they never came back they said they’d be here on a Friday and never showed up when I called them on the carpet about it I told him that I was told that I shouldn’t talk the way I do well I’m fucking sorry this is the way I talk just the world I was brought up in this is the world that I’m from I’m 61 years old I’m a Vietnam vet and they want to lie to me I doubt it when I’m able I will show them what type of person I am they’re going to see the devil in me even though I have a lot of God in Me to see I was baptized back in 1979 in the middle of February 17 degrees weather so I know the power of God I know what the power of God thinking is thinking of God UCI serve no master I serve myself that’s the way God Made Me and that’s the way I am
Tom lied straight to my face when I asked him: Why does STN need a lobbyist to represent them. I was so fed up with him, I told him: You are a fucking liar.
STN website doesn’t portrait an accurate picture. Try to find anything on their website about God. It’s not there because it would prevent their access to the specific countries on the latitude they are trying to access.
As far as a business model, STN is slick. Bauers were booted out of YWAM, took a hiatus using one of their other nonprofits monies, Kings Kids. Came back a year and a half later from Cali and started a family partnership STN Travel with the kids Charis, Kristy, and their other girl. What the STN website doesn’t represent is: the Bauers, the Iflands, and the Erik’s sons are all family through the daughters. So, Bauers come back from California, partner with Grace Chapel (?) in Honolulu, change the family partnership to a nonprofit and get Marcus Oshiro (then Means and Ways/Finance Chair House of Representives) behind them to back 200,000+ for a 12 apt building and storefront along Main Street, dislocated the occupants, and become a major player in the Wahiawa gentrification. Bauer then recreate their own version of YWAM and recruit students from the Christian college their daughters attended, and stack them ‘hostel’ style at 2-3000.00 for a 6 week – 3 month internship, in essence turning a 1.5 to 2x FMV on each apartment. Everyone is a volunteer so minimal employee overhead and the original industries, ie coffee shop, collect payment as Donation so no GET on retail. It’s a common practice: Surfers Coffee and Church is a nonprofit, they switched STN to a Foundation and if you go back over their IRS 990s for the past 10 years you can see how STN gives the max 35000 donation to Surfers Church and vice versa to keep nonprofit status. It’s all in the paper trail.
STN is a MARKETING MACHINE. 700,000 or so a couple years ago. There operations are simple: they match free food, ie. Hawaii Food Bank/Aloha Harvest with free labor, Student/Internships and they get paid by the students/interns.
Not to worry, Tom treated me the same way he treated you Mr. Baccala. There is a lot more to my interactions with the Bauers…. Like you I got fed up, so I went to the State House to discuss their GET practices and reported them for not having their Coffee Shop licensed with Dept of Health. State House was aware there were unethical practices going on, but it was borderline legal and I was instructed to stay aware of the next time they get a State In-Kind grant and there is a specific statute that allows a challenge and they are forced into an audit.
The rest of my time in Haleiwa, I reveiwed the In- Kind awards and STN was always turned down. I’ve been on the Mainland 2 years and let that ship sail.
Your example demonstrates to me: the Bauers haven’t changed their stripes.
P. S. STN will always be in MARKETING mode and ATTEMPTING TO BUY PROPERTY/IMPROVEMENTS IN WAHIAWA
That’s how you balance the books for a NONPROFIT that has everything ‘free’ and making money on one side of the ledger.
The Bauers/Iflands/Erikssans can present themselves in an Altruistic/Selfless “We Love Wahiawa” light, but the reality is: In a little over 10 years, the Family is sitting on Million + worth of property while I witnessed Charis, Tom, and Cindy put people out on the street!
P. S. STN will ALWAYS be MARKETING and LOOKING TO BUY LAND/IMPROVEMENTS.
That is how you balance the Books for a nonprofit, especially one as fiscally and marketing aggressive as STN with low labor cost and COGS.
While the Bauers, Iflands, and Erikssons present themselves as ALTRUISTIC/SELFLESS Servants, their FAMILY FOUNDATION, STN, has accrued a MILLION + + dollars worth of Real Estate in approx 13 years.
Meanwhile, I have witnessed Charis, Tom, and Cindy throw people out of their business and home without remorse!
PS. Don’t forget the Millions of dollars worth of Real Estate the Family Foundation has acquired. STN will continue to buy up real estate. It balances the Books.
The saddest witness STN ever gave was when Charis, Tom, and Cindy kicked their Korean neighbors to the curb. The family had 45 days to relocate and had to choose housing or their business. I asked them to give the family 6 months as a sign of Christian/Humanitarian charity. Charis, Tom, and Cindy kicked them to the curb Without Remorse. The family’s daughter had to leave college to help support the family. And 6 months later, the space was still empty and not remodeled.
They are Slick. Charis, Tom, and Cindy had a TV crew come to STN and had the Korean family interviewed, giving STN a rave review. Two weeks later the family was served eviction, pressured by colleagues of Tom while he stood in the doorway. In business this is a preemptive stategy: Get the positive press and it put the family in a malicious position if they recanted. Tom, Cindy, and Charis are rotten to the core.
My apologies for the triplicate on my last reply. There was a delay in the posting by the software. Please forgive me…. I had no intention to rant, just communicate my experience with STN.
Thanks for your comments, Jacob.
I’m not surprised by most of what you shared. No way that I’m the only person that Tom has mistreated. I’ve looking into their finances enough to understand that they’re a middleman for the free food (it gets donated to them), that they’ve bought up over a million dollars in real estate, and their board of directors is very much a family affair.
What I didn’t know is that they had a past connection with YWAM, and reading your perception of STN as “their own version of YWAM” put it in a different light. I haven’t had any direct exposure to YWAM, only what I’ve read, so I might tend of think of YWAM as a “version of STN”. Doesn’t cast YWAM in a very good light, I know.
I was also interested by your description of STN as a “MARKETING MACHINE”. I’ve wondered this myself – where on Earth do they find the kids for these internships? I’ve never seen any of their marketing material and don’t know how they promote themselves, but you obviously know more than I do. Yes, it stands to reason that a slick marketing operation is required to keep STN rolling.
What bothers me the most is that they sell this to the youth as Christian. It really is a sad situation.
And it gets worse:
(They covered up sexual abuse during their time at YWAM.)
My name is Luke dubsky and I was involved with surfing the nation’s for three years at their Kalihi property. I travel the world with Tom Bauer slept in the same bed with him and received numerous Bible teachings from Cindy which I really learned a lot from since she used to teach in the Mormon Seminary when she was only 16. Unfortunately I think it should be known that when we went to third world countries, would head straight for the brothels and Cindy would have a man from why Wham come and stay with her. I cried when I knew I wouldn’t see them anymore because they meant so much to me but I was definitely brainwashed and taken advantage of numerous times they’re not perfect people but they do have a cult following and are trying to do good things my best advice would be to forgive them and ignore them and just let them do their thing there’s been enough comments on this post to expose their weaknesses and let people know the real motives of their hearts. God calls us to love one another not judge one another Tom and Cindy are definitely flawed and have made many mistakes but I still love them and believe them to be Christians even though their Ministry might not claim Christ or Jesus in its mission statements.
I was angry when I wrote this tirade, and only slightly less angry when I posted it.
It’s caused me a lot of internal anguish, as I’ve asked myself repeatedly should I have written it? Distributed it? Did I go too far?
What I didn’t expect was that it would become a magnet for accusations against Tom Bower, and I say that without any disrespect for his supporters who have commented here.
I’ve been placed in the situation of a webmaster who has to decide whether to censor allegations of sexual misconduct (read Luke Dubsky’s comment, if you haven’t already).
I’ve decided to leave Luke’s comment as posted and unedited. I’ve never personally witnessed sexual misconduct at STN, but I have witnessed misconduct, and I have to agree with Jacob Eberhardt’s conclusion that Tom is an “f—ing liar”.
So far, I’ve decided to leave all of the comments as posted and unedited.
The ongoing impact to Christian youth at STN troubles me to this day, more than ten years after I first met Tom, and I’ve prayed for Tom, for STN, and for guidance on what I should do about it.
Speaking of doing something about it, I’d like to maintain contact with those of you who have made serious allegations on this website. Please email me; I’m cosine at freesoft.org.
Is Tom Bower a Christian? I overstepped on that one, and I really regret writing that. If he gets down on his knees and prays to Jesus, then he is. Whichever way, I’m not qualified to say.