There have been so many sexual abuse scandals that have come to light within the last few years that it’s hard to keep up with them all. One of the most recent scandals involves the International House of Prayer, Kansas City (IHOPKC). IHOPKC has been one of the better-known organizations within the Charismatic wing of American Christianity. IHOPKC is known for its prayer ministry that is carried on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Mike Bickle was the senior pastor up until December 2023. He allegedly has sexually abused several women over the years. If you want to obtain a detailed account of what has been happening I recommend you watch this video podcast “Wake Up and Win” by husband and wife team of Blaise and Christina Foret. Alternatively, you can read the ground-breaking story by Julie Roys here.
In an attempt to get a handle on the burgeoning crisis within the IHOPKC organization, leaders hired two men – Retired Major General Kurt Fuller and Eric Volz. Volz serves as the “point man” – the official spokesman for IHOPKC.
I understand the appointment of Fuller – by all appearances, he is a strong Christian and has two daughters who went through 3 years of school at IHOPKC. After they graduated, one became the administrative assistant to Stewart Greaves, the other to Daniel Lim.
Why Volz was appointed, and who was responsible for the appointment is not clear to me. Volz claims he has visited IHOPKC on several occasions, but I know of no other connections.
I started to research who Eric Volz is, but it wasn’t easy to determine much about his past. The best source I found was this book authored by Volz. The book is available on Kindle.
Volz doesn’t deal with specific dates as he writes about his early life. He was born in 1979. We learn his mom and dad were divorced and his mom’s parents had immigrated to the USA from Mexico. In his younger years, Volz wasn’t interested in his heritage, but as he grew older his interest grew and he learned to speak Spanish. He was a solitary type. He took to rock climbing and was very proficient. After three years in an unspecified Community College, he was accepted to the University of California, San Diego. He became interested in political science and he made some “interesting’ friends. In his words, Volz:
“had the good fortune to meet a number of politically engaged teachers who strongly influenced developing perspectives in their fields. First, I met Ignacio Ochoa—“Nacho”—a young Guatemalan dissident. Nacho and I became close enough that, years later, when he needed a safe place to lay low after his activism in Guatemala put his life in danger, I arranged for his protection in Nicaragua. After he left the university, I ran into him again when we both enrolled in a San Diego State course taught by the Mexican human-rights activist Victor Clark Alfaro. Victor’s class actually met in Tijuana, and, although it was officially sanctioned, he kept the class under low profile and always had one or two armed men standing guard over our meetings. Victor was constantly receiving death threats and had had some close calls. I bonded with Victor in much the same way I had with Nacho, and I remember riding in his car through the backstreets of TJ with all my senses on fire, alert to the danger. This was the first of many times I would be in a group that would use car swapping as a safety precaution.
Through Nacho, I met Julio Cesar Montes, the notorious Guatemalan revolutionary and activist with whom I developed an equally close relationship. Known as El Comandante, Montes had founded the Rebel Armed Forces (FAR) in the early 1960s, later commanded the Guerrilla Army of the Poor (EGP) during Guatemala’s thirty-six-year civil war, and served the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) in El Salvador and even fought alongside my future captors—the Sandinistas of Nicaragua. Montes knew that I had also become interested in filmmaking, and about a half a year after our meeting, I found myself in Guatemala with him, shooting video for a documentary. Cesar Montes was the real deal, a modern revolutionary, grassroots activist, and soldier, a man who lived in shadows, except when he would give a speech at an event. In Cesar’s world, you had to stay sharp and alert. Everybody had a gun, and everybody had a secret. It was an intense existence, and while the possibility of violence constantly hung in the air, you learned that letting the fear get the better of you endangered the lives of everyone around you, not to mention the cause for which they were making so many sacrifices. As in climbing, I had to learn to channel fear into focus, and also as in climbing, we all had to be light and fast and sure of every step. Seeing the world through Cesar Montes’s eyes changed my understanding on many levels. I saw the painful past and present of Central America up close, in the kind of detail that most North Americans never see. I saw people risking everything, including their own lives, for something larger. Following Montes around the mountains and jungles of Guatemala was at times a little sketchy, but it was always inspirational. Together, people like Nacho and Victor and Montes woke me up to a different kind of life.
I made a special arrangement with UCSD to finish my undergraduate degree and senior thesis abroad, in the Dominican Republic. The United States and Mexico aren’t the only countries with border issues. The dynamics between the peoples of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, two tiny countries sharing a small Caribbean island, were as fragile and volatile and relevant as anything I could study in the United States. My experience there allowed me to see how easily and quickly random trouble can flare up around innocent people. When I returned to California my life had come to be more about the world south of the border. I spoke as much Spanish as I did English. I found myself immersed in all these underworlds of the immigrant experience, such as that of my Mexican friends who would paddle their boards up from south of the border and surf into the United States on the morning tide.”
Source:”Volz, Eric. Gringo Nightmare (pp. 8-10). St. Martin’s Publishing Group. Kindle Edition
It appears Volz had become radical in his political views. He later traveled to Iraq as a photojournalist. I am unsure where he obtained his training to shoot videos of revolutionaries and become a photojournalist in Iraq, nor do I know how he financed his globe-hopping expeditions. In his book, Volz stated neither of his parents or step-dad were wealthy. Eventually, Volz moved to Nicaragua to surf and start a monthly magazine with a friend. While there he began a relationship with Doris Jimenez, a beautiful Nicaraguan woman.
In reading Volz’s book I started thinking Volz must have, at some point, become an “asset” for the U.S. government. I am not the only person thinking this because Volz wrote:
“Eric, your government has been very involved in your case and there is speculation that you are an agent from the CIA. Tell me, is this true?” Though the assertion has not one shred of truth, it would be repeated many times over in the coming months.”
Volz, Eric. Gringo Nightmare (p. 190). St. Martin’s Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
I will explain my reasoning for thinking Volz was an intelligence agent further down in the article. For now, suffice it to say that Volz was being honest when he denied being an agent for the CIA. You should know, however, that the CIA is just one of approximately 17 U.S. government agencies that have intelligence agents on their payrolls. One of the other agencies is the State Department.
“The Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) is an intelligence agency in the United States Department of State. Its central mission is to provide all-source intelligence and analysis in support of U.S. diplomacy and foreign policy. INR is the oldest civilian element of the U.S. Intelligence Community and among the smallest, with roughly 300 personnel. Though lacking the resources and technology of other U.S. intelligence agencies, it is “one of the most highly regarded” for the quality of its work.” -Wickepedia
Volz and Doris Jimenez eventually broke up, although they remained in contact. On November 21, 2006 Jimenez was brutally raped and murdered. One day later the U.S. State Department calls Volz to check up on him! No suspects had yet been named. How many of you think the State Department would check in with you if you were in a situation like this? Here is what Volz says about the phone call:
“My cell phone rang again while I was in Reyes’s office. The thing hadn’t stopped ringing since I’d left Managua. This time, the caller identified himself as Mike Poehlitz, the RSO—regional security officer—of the American embassy in Nicaragua. The RSO is responsible not only for the safety and security of the diplomatic personnel but also serves as official liaison between the United States and the host country’s law-enforcement or other agencies. Doris’s murder in San Juan del Sur was already making news. Poehlitz needed some eyes and ears “on the ground,” someone who could tell him exactly what was happening in San Juan so he could anticipate if there would be fallout for Americans there. It’s not a big country, so you can imagine how small the community of Americans there is. If Poehlitz asked around, as I’m sure he did, any number of sources would have given him my name. In fact, the American embassy already knew me; I had been meeting regularly with the economic officer there with updates on the progress of EP. Poehlitz mostly just listened to what I knew of the murder and the current situation in San Juan. He said little, except to tell me, “Be careful and keep me updated.”
Volz, Eric. Gringo Nightmare (p. 47). St. Martin’s Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
I don’t want to get too involved in all that went on in this case other than to say I believe Volz was innocent of the murder. He was set up and individuals high in the Nicaraguan government appear to be responsible for the sham ruling of the Judge who claimed Volz was guilty and sentenced him to 30 years in prison. The State Department was involved in helping him every step of the way. I will cite some examples below.
“On Feb. 16, 2007, Eric Volz was found guilty of murdering his Nicaraguan ex-girlfriend Doris Ivania Jimenez. She had been found hogtied, raped and strangled to death in the back of her clothing boutique in the touristy beach town of San Juan del Sur on Nicaragua’s Pacific coast. However, a second man, Julio Martin Chamorro, a small-town bully with the reputation of being a “tourist leech,” stood trial alongside Volz and was also found guilty of the murder. Both he and Volz were sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Then, after nearly 10 months in jail, Volz was vindicated on Dec. 14 by an Appeals Court in Granada, which ruled in a 2-1 split decision to absolve him of all charges, while upholding the sentence against Chamorro. Yet before Volz’s release papers could be signed, his voluminous case file was mysteriously “lost,” prompting his lawyers to cry foul. In the meantime, even though his passport has been ordered returned to him, he has not been allowed out of jail and cannot leave Nicaragua because the judge at his original trial has not signed off on the release order.
“There are some dark forces at play here,” defense counsel Fabbrith Gomez told TIME, adding that his client is now being detained illegally — an opinion shared by appellate judge Roberto Rodriguez. The U.S. Embassy has weighed in with a letter asking the authorities to “implement a decision as quickly as possible” and assure for Volz’s well-being and security while under state custody.
The decision to free Volz sent a shockwave around the country this week and revived a old debate on whether justice is applied equally to foreigners and Nicaraguans, and to rich and poor. The decision to free Volz and not Chamorro seems to have divided people along class lines, with most expatriates and wealthier Nicaraguans applauding the decision. The vast majority of poor Nicaraguans, however, complain that it is another case of the rich getting away with murder.
Time – Gringo Justice in Nicaragua By Tim Rogers/Granada Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2007
According to the recording, the response that the expert gave police is: “Look, he said he could say everything, past and how he could help us, but then refused to sign his statement and said no, that he, the Ambassador told him to say nothing,” was the response of the police officer.”
Source: Nuevo Diario Newspaper Jan 24th, 2007, Doris Ivania Jimenez blog.
Below we read that the State Department was instrumental in helping Volz get a private security force armed with military rifles to protect Volz. Again, I am sure the State Department would do the same for you or me were we in similar circumstances.
“The third morning of the trial brought a flood of new press, including one of the most damaging articles published about me throughout this ordeal. Again, El Nuevo Diario was the culprit. “Que Corona Tiene Volz?” (What Crown Does Volz Have?) the front page screamed. The article described a squadron of mercenaries armed with AR-15 machine guns with an accompanying photograph (only one member of the security team carried such a weapon) and decried the presence of what was depicted as a private army on Nicaraguan soil. Other papers picked up the story, all asking how such an insult to the competency of their own police and security people, not to mention to Nicaraguan sovereignty and national security, could have ever been allowed. The papers’ only intention was to fan the flames of anti-Volz sentiment across the country.”
“All the advance planning and efforts at cooperation; all the high-level government meetings, phone calls from no less important a person than the U.S. ambassador, and approvals; all the hoops the team had jumped through—they all blew up in our faces. It seemed that we’d never be able to undo the damage caused.”
Volz, Eric. Gringo Nightmare: A Young American Framed for Murder in Nicaragua (pp. 143-144). St. Martin’s Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
*There were indications that Hollmann resented my defense effort. Tim Rogers reported on the Time.com Web site on January 24, 2007, that “San Juan del Sur’s Sandinista Mayor, Eduardo Hollmann, had a heated phone exchange with U.S. Ambassador Paul Trivelli” regarding the lynch-mob incident. Rogers quotes Hollmann as saying, “He (Trivelli) told me ‘You don’t have lynch mobs in a civilized country?’ and I told him, ‘Yeah, didn’t you used to lynch blacks in the United States?’ ”
Volz, Eric. Gringo Nightmare (pp.130-131, 149). St. Martin’s Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
“It was a bad sign when Toruño ordered the police not to allow the U.S. Embassy personnel into the courtroom for the reading of the verdict. Something was about to go down if she was prepared to implement that kind of diplomatic insult.”
Volz, Eric. Gringo Nightmare (p. 147). St. Martin’s Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
The first step—and in the end the most important step we ever took—was adding a new member to the team, a fixer, a consultant who brought knowledge, experience, and sheer heroic commitment to the job of helping me. This man was Bob Lady, a former CIA operative who came recommended by Simon Strong, the investigator hired by Green-burg Traurig.
Volz, Eric. Gringo Nightmare (p. 153). St. Martin’s Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
The next day, Madeleine Albright visited Nicaragua. The former secretary of state met with Arnoldo Alemán and his wife, and she probably met with Daniel Ortega and his wife, Rosario Murillo, as well. We have reason to believe that she acted on our request to raise the issue of my case and appeal.
Volz, Eric. Gringo Nightmare: A Young American Framed for Murder in Nicaragua (pp. 238-239). St. Martin’s Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
By that time, even the staffers at the U.S. Embassy had begun referring to me as a “political prisoner.”Volz, Eric. Gringo Nightmare: A Young American Framed for Murder in Nicaragua (p. 239). St. Martin’s Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
The hospital seemed to be buzzing. The hospital director came by and repeated the news about the verdict, and before long guards started poking their heads into my room, telling me of the verdict, letting me know that things were going to start happening, that I was going to be released, but nobody was sure when. Shortly after, I could hear someone arguing in a non-native Spanish accent outside my door. Two U.S. Embassy officials had come to get my signature in order to get me a passport.
Volz, Eric. Gringo Nightmare: A Young American Framed for Murder in Nicaragua (p. 243). St. Martin’s Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
A Nica government official named Omar Cabezas went on television to condemn the appeals verdict. He called it “repugnante”—repugnant—and repeated all the lies about me: I’d offered a million dollars to Mercedes, I’d paid off the appellate judges with cash, and so on. He claimed that “in order for Eric Volz to be able to move U.S. congressman, thousands of supporters, and Condoleezza Rice from the State Department, and the U.S. Embassy, he must be very powerful . . . and it proves that he is related to a senator very close to President Bush in the Republican party.”
Volz, Eric. Gringo Nightmare: A Young American Framed for Murder in Nicaragua (pp. 247-248). St. Martin’s Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Finally, I have listed below every statement I could find in Volz’s book having to do with his Christian faith. I wasn’t impressed, but in an attempt to be charitable, I note that his book was written in 2009. In 14 years, I expect he has grown in his faith and knowledge.
One guy in particular made a deeper, spiritual contribution. That was Pastor Mario, a true agent of grace. Once a kidnapper and a drug pilot, Pastor Mario held a daily Bible-study gathering at the end of our hallway. I realize that stories of men turning to God in prison go back as far as written history will take us. The phenomenon turns up so often in memoirs that some have even called it cliché. But there is a reason why. Prison is a journey to the furthest reaches of suffering, loneliness, and danger. When you face the reality of death, you are forced to ask big questions. Inevitably, you arrive at the issue of what happens when your life ends. For me personally, I started to feel like there has to be more to this than I’m just screwed. In the Bible study I came to understand that the possibility of life after death allows one to maintain hope even in the depths of pain. For my part, I was raised with a Christian faith. Not in-your-face fundamentalism but a simple, everyday Christian consciousness and lifestyle. My family felt comfortable with a Christianity that made room for all kinds of people and all shades of believers. In La Modelo, where I was thrust into emotional and psychological solitude, my relationship with God took on much more significance and so played a greater role in my life. The daily sessions with Pastor Mario did not “bring me to God,” but they certainly gave me a map. Study, writing, and prayer gave structure to my previously vague feelings of faith and provided logical purpose and direction for the battle I was fighting.
Volz, Eric. Gringo Nightmare: A Young American Framed for Murder in Nicaragua (pp. 179-180). St. Martin’s Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
In the first months of my sentence, I occupied myself with the practicalities of survival—learning the ropes, setting up my systems, mentally lining up my allies and enemies, establishing my rank, and so on. I had not yet arrived at the understanding that my spiritual faith would itself become the most significant practical element of survival, that God would make it possible to survive, but I was starting to get small indications. I had never in my life felt so completely alone, but really I hadn’t even glimpsed the far reaches of despair I would experience later. I still hadn’t gotten used to the complete absence of all the things in life that provided the feedback one uses to define oneself. Magazines, job, Internet, clothing style, friends, lovers, family, community—all the stuff we use to help us manufacture our illusion of joy, importance, success—it was all gone, so far out of reach. The human resources had run out. It was like being stripped bare, with no one even there to see you exposed. In those studies with Pastor Mario I began to grasp what it meant to be saved and to feel the fullness of God’s grace rushing in to fill the void. Very soon after I came to dos alta I began receiving letters of support written to the Web site, which were printed and brought to me. I can’t count the times some letter, even just a quick note of encouragement from a complete stranger, brought me back from the edge of desperation. People I knew I’d never meet would take the time to write down their prayers, share with me their stories, tell me of their love or even of their own pain. The letters became my own private epistles, almost like a bible edited just for my situation. Some letters had practical advice—“chew your food until it is like soup to extract the maximum amount of nutrients possible”—others held spiritual insight: “God is kind but not soft.” Volz, Eric. Gringo Nightmare (pp. 180-181). St. Martin’s Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
I refused to let my story end that way. I had no choice but to lean on faith—faith in God, whose presence I felt in the letters that came to me from around the world; faith in my parents, whose love was reason enough to keep going; faith in Tio Bob and in Fabbrith and in all the others who in different ways and in different places around Nicaragua and the world were turning over every last rock until they found the key to my release.
Volz, Eric. Gringo Nightmare: A Young American Framed for Murder in Nicaragua (p. 205). St. Martin’s Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Two days later, the twenty-third, I marked the end of one full year in captivity. It would turn out to be a day full of new twists and developments, but for me it began as a day of spiritual reflection. My eyes were opening after a year in captivity, and I was able now to see some hint of purpose in this whole ordeal. I saw with great clarity the flawed priorities of the life I had led. I had been reaching for money; telling myself that money begets power, that power begets mobility, that mobility makes positive social change possible. I had believed that ideas without resources would not get you very far. I had seen so many passionate initiatives fail for lack of competitive drive, even ambition. It made sense to me that if you want see results, you needed to infect the system like a virus and then effect change from the inside out. The plan looked good on paper, but it didn’t take into account that there were moments when it had to be about me. I had to be the one on the mic and to have my name on the checks. I had to be promoted. I even started to buy myself expensive things. I had become Don Eric. Now, removed from that material world, I could strive for something beyond myself. All that remained was a pursuit for true survival, which I could see now as a quest for a life in God’s kingdom, through fulfillment of his purpose for me. My life was still about building bridges, but not just bridges between people and resources or between one culture and another but between the madness of the fallen world we inhabit and the inheritance of an eternal kingdom. What had been missing all along in my life was the quest for holiness.
Volz, Eric. Gringo Nightmare: A Young American Framed for Murder in Nicaragua (p. 235). St. Martin’s Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
As the day wore on, I found it harder and harder to even breathe. I retreated into scripture, trying to focus every scrap of consciousness on the words in front of me. The passage in the modern translation I read seemed written for only me, to be read precisely in that moment: Like barbarians desecrating a shrine, they destroyed my reputation. . . . God, how long are you going to stand there doing nothing? . . . those who hate me for no reason. . . . Don’t you see what they’re doing? . . . Please get up, wake up! Tend to my case, my God, my Lord. My life is on the line. . . . And, as though timed perfectly, just as I finished reading and closed my Bible, the door of my room opened and three friendly nurses burst in. “Have you heard the news? They just said on the TV that you have been found innocent.”
Volz, Eric. Gringo Nightmare: A Young American Framed for Murder in Nicaragua (pp. 242-243). St. Martin’s Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
I went to bed Thursday night as I did every night, with my only companion, my Bible.
Volz, Eric. Gringo Nightmare (p. 255). St. Martin’s Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
At the gate, the guards all jumped out and ordered me not to move. I sat alone with my thoughts for another half a minute. Part of me had imagined this moment, just as I had imagined so many other possible closing scenes of this ordeal. I knew for sure that there was a reason I was here, and that knowledge centered me as I waited alone. I felt great honor and privilege to have been chosen to play such a role in God’s works. As I remembered his promise to keep and protect me, I was infused with greater strength than I had ever felt. I took in a deep breath and released it. Out loud, I said, “Okay. Just give me the strength, Lord.”
Volz, Eric. Gringo Nightmare (p. 262). St. Martin’s Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Sitting in a deli on Lexington Avenue, just a couple of blocks from Grand Central Station, the very heart of that great, rumbling city, an elegant and beautiful black woman stopped and stared at me through the glass. She came in and walked to our table. “Are you Eric?” “I am,” I said, and the woman threw her arms around me and broke down, sobbing, telling me how much she had prayed for me and my family and how it was a miracle that I was standing in front of her. She did not—she could not—let me go. I thought to myself, This is it! This is the bridge I had once imagined. It might not look like I thought it would, and I hadn’t built it with my own hands as I had once planned, but here it was, nonetheless. A bridge that brought strangers together, a bridge built on and strengthened by injustice and the triumph of good over evil. Since that day, I have read a lot about and meditated often on the human connections that give meaning to our experiences. One passage from a close friend’s letter that I read in my cell remains very present in my thoughts: If the true measure of our life is the depth of love that our friends and family have for us in their heart, then Eric, you are indeed a very rich man. Know that you are deeply loved by men and women of great character and personal integrity. ’Cause you see, in the end of our life, that is all that we can take with us.
Volz, Eric. Gringo Nightmare (p. 271). St. Martin’s Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.