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Legal entanglements

"Legal entanglements" Continued...

Issue: "Probing international adoption," Nov. 16, 2013

This was a decisive blow to the school. If the ruling is enforced, the original $1.3 million raised from mission agencies, individuals, and missionary families to purchase the land and building in 2001 will be lost on top of the fines imposed. The school spent additional donor money on improvements to convert the Sports Complex into a school. 

According to a Sept. 19 email addressed to GIS parents from the school’s advancement director Matt Coe, “the movable assets of the school (computers, vehicles, etc.) could be seized and auctioned with the proceeds being applied to the amounts outstanding under the judgment.”

GIS received some good news in September: The country’s Supreme Court issued an emergency stay of execution, postponing what could have been a November eviction. Matyas said it could take days or years for the Supreme Court to decide if it will hear the case, and the school has pinpointed a number of possible temporary locations to rent should the case be denied and the school forced to turn over the premises. However, the options are not ideal and could involve more than one site with up to an hour drive for parents to take their kids to school.

GRACE JAM: The Stowells
Handout photo
GRACE JAM: The Stowells
CAVEAT EMPTOR: The pool on the GIS campus.
Tim Shuman
CAVEAT EMPTOR: The pool on the GIS campus.
CAVEAT EMPTOR: The basketball courts on the GIS campus.
Tim Shuman
CAVEAT EMPTOR: The basketball courts on the GIS campus.

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School officials have refused to answer WORLD’s questions regarding the 2001 donor-funded purchase and whether the school made any promises to the neighborhood association when it purchased the complex, raising questions about the school’s active campaign to raise $18 million for a new school. GIS purchased land three years ago and is hoping to quickly raise the $4.5 million necessary to build the middle school and high school, the age groups threatened by the eviction. GIS officials say plans were in the works for a new school prior to the lawsuit.

A letter sent to World Club residents and GIS parents (and posted on the blog of GIS Superintendent Don Williams and wife Kathy) claims the transaction was legal and straightforward: “At that time, no questions were raised about the legality of the transaction. All the papers were properly filed in government offices to transfer ownership to GISEF.” The blog also states in a 2009 post that the contract for lifetime memberships was “between the developer and the residents” and GIS “assumed no responsibility for the ‘contract.’”

The founding organizations of GIS are among the largest and most-established mission organizations in the world—the Southern Baptists’ International Mission Board, The Christian and Missionary Alliance, SIL International, New Tribes, and Pioneers. I communicated with all five founding organizations, and they spoke positively about their interactions with GIS. International Mission Board Executive Vice President Clyde Meador said his organization was involved from the beginning but he does not have knowledge of funds contributed toward the building purchase.

Grace International School has 75 teachers and 50 staff members, and all foreign employees raise their own support to keep costs low. GIS parents are involved in mission work in 27 countries in Southeast and Central Asia, and the school boards about 150 students, primarily in the upper grades. Their dorms are run by a mission agency and are not jeopardized by the lawsuit, but the school’s eviction could result in a significantly longer commute for many of the school’s students.

Matyas says these sorts of challenges come with the territory: “Thailand changes constitutions and governments pretty frequently and when you live in a foreign country you have to live according to their laws.” Relationships with Thai neighbors are also important, he added: “Grace is there not just to educate kids and facilitate families being out on the field. It’s also an outreach to the community.”

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