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Focus of this Blog

James Michael McDonald, V and his wife Stacy purchased and operated Homeschooling Today Magazine unsuccessfully for a number of years before its resale. During that time, the venture turned out to be far from profitable, and the McDonalds have not been honest about how they established themselves in the homeschooling community, how they operated their business, or even about their personal lives.

Certainly no one rejoices in the drawing of attention to these matters, they must be noted in order to stop the deception. This movement of patriocentricity promotes false doctrine by perpetuating lies, profiteering off of the trust of earnest Christians who believe the shaming messages promoted by the movement. The end should never justify the means, and the Christian homeschoolers that support the McDonalds have the right to know the truth. This blog hopes to draw attention to the behaviors of the McDonalds, particularly those concerning the period of time during which the McDonalds owned and operated Homeschooling Today Magazine.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Unpaid Printing Costs of Homeschooling Today Magazine

Post Updated 21Feb09:

#1: From the personal and corroborated testimony of one prospective buyer of Homeschooling Today magazine while owned by James M McDonald V. (This is an an individual whose personal account I found online, contacted, spoke with and have corroborated his testimony with others over the phone -- real person, real events...):

Because James couldn't meet the print deadline, he began to label the editions according to the season, e.g., Winter Edition or Spring Edition. I noticed this and told him that this was dishonest. When I found out that he wanted to use another print company to print his magazine because he still owed too much money to his regular print company, I told him that this was not ethical. He wrote back that it was ok because he had the intention to eventually pay his regular print company. I was asked to sell anyway, which with a good conscience I could no longer do. When James terminated our work relationship I could only say that I had completed all tasks he had asked me to do that I believe I with a good conscience could do.

#2: A second person I encountered online declares herself a "co-owner" of Homeschooling Today magazine. I would post her identity and a link to her blog here, but she was most zealous to have her public admittance removed from online. I do not want to inflame her anymore.

Since confronted with this information about Homeschooling Today Magazine (HST), she seems to have removed references to the magazine from her blog. Prior to the Autumn of 2008, this woman's blog boasted that she and her husband sat on the board of HST because they gave money so that her husband could bear the title of "board member." She was posting on a blog, defending the McDonalds, though she falsely claimed to have no duty to the McDonalds. We confronted her, for she was not only what she called a "co-owner" of HST on her own blog, she also once served as a moderator of Stacy McDonald's "Patriarch's Wives" Yahoo Group. Online, I asked this Mother of four if, as a co-owner of the magazine, whether she had settled the old unpaid debt owed to the magazine's creditors. She stopped posting on that blog, protesting criticism of the McDonalds. At that time, she sent me this email and has subsequently removed references to the magazine from her blog:

Cindy, I'm sorry for contacting you after everything.

I had no idea about anything regarding the "Smiths" (or any unpaid debt). We were financial investors only. My husband's name was listed on the board of directors but that was in name only. We never made a single decision (or a single dime) with anything related to HST.

I will pass the website onto my husband so we can prayerfully proceed.

A few long-time participants of the Patriarch's Wives Yahoo Group told me that they recalled that this homeschooling mom and her husband invested funds in HST, and then they suffered a very terrible tragedy soon afterward that really does break my heart. Another former participant of the Patriarch's Wives believes that this couple actually incurred debt to come up with the sum to invest which made their tragic circumstances all the more difficult, [1Mar09 addendum: which is well documented]. When this "investing family" went to the McDonalds to recover their "investment" in order to pay for outrageous medical debt in the midst of their terrible grief, the McDonalds could not return the money [1Mar09 addendum: which is understood and documented by former participants of the Patriarchs Wives Yahoo group]. I understand that there was no money -- only debtors, debtors, debtors and unpaid bills. (That is why they were soliciting "investors" and "board members.")

The McDonalds used the magazine and their other groups such as Family Reformation ministries to solicit funds to help this family with their debt, and they raised a somewhat sizable sum of money given by kind Christians who took compassion on them. I do not recall exactly what sum was raised. I believe that, per the old postings on the mother of four's blog, it was abouut $5K, but I recall that it was under $10K (an amount that was marginal compared to the medical bills). For that reason, completely unknowlegable about the terrible financial state of HST at the time, they perceived this as a virtuous act on behalf of the McDonalds.

But needless to say, the information no longer appears on her blogs.

My Conclusions:

I believe that the McDonalds "offered to sell" something that people believed was partial ownership of the magazine in a desperate attempt to raise funds in any way that they possibly could. These "investors" received nothing in return, except that James likely "throwed them the bone" of being able to claim that they were "co-owners." But this seemed to mean nothing. They lead more than one person to believe that they actually had a viable interest in the magazine so that they would participate in the operation of the magazine.

There is the personal account that I am preparing to post here by an individual I have renamed "Jefferson Smith" who believed that he was assuming ownership of the magazine, but he had no funds. It should shed more light on the activities of the McDonalds. I believe that this individual was seriously mislead about the intentions of the McDonalds as well concerning the sale and ownership of HST.

And I wonder how many other "investors" there are out there that also contributed to the McDonald Cause, all ignorant of the yet unpaid debt (21Feb09)? I found these without trying.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Introducing Mr. Smith

I am about to tell a saga about a very real, flesh-and-blood human being who I have had the pleasure of talking with on the phone many times. I have read about him in fundraising letters and in updates on the state of affairs of “Yugoslavian” homeschooling. I’ve translated some “Yugoslavian” sources in order to learn more about him. I’ve talked with other credible, flesh-and-blood people who know this man. I’ve also been able to corroborate portions of his saga with other individuals who were peripherally involved.

I will only feature a portion of his saga here on this blog. I once had his whole account posted here, copied from another website that concerned itself with legal matters related to homeschooling. Because I received threats compelling me to take the information offline, and because I then discussed these matters with the author and corroborated them, I complied. They planned to grant me permission to repost this information, but that plan has changed since November 18, 2008 when I took the information offline. We are now well beyond the target date for the reposting of the material.

Then, several months ago, he was someone very zealous to communicate his disappointing experience. Though I do not know, I am concerned that some legal coercion has compelled him to keep silent on the matter. This individual does or did have a very serious disease, prostate cancer. For whatever reason, I believe that he is unavailable to continue to substantiate this personal account of events or provide documentation to support the account. (This is why I believe that he has been compelled to silence.)

To avoid charges of libel, I have left much of the content intact, but I have changed the names of the individuals and places, replacing them with names from a film I love dearly, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” I think that the starry-eyed, naive character of Frank Capra’s and Jimmie Stewart’s Jefferson Smith fits this individual very well.

There are aspects of this saga that I do not understand, and I would say that at several junctures, this very na├»ve individual trusted too many people far too much with far too little discernment. I also do not agree with his conclusions about what was at play. I am at times uncomfortable with his focus on homeschooling which sometimes seems to me to eclipse other concerns that I believe should have taken precedence in his life, but that is all part of the liberty we enjoy in this life. We enjoy the liberty of making mistakes. Though our “Jefferson Smith” in this saga was poorly treated, I believe that his own lack of discernment contributed to his current situation. Though that does not excuse the lack of compassion and care that his fellow Christian brethren showed to him in a season of desperation, I believe “Jefferson Smith’s” own personal choices put him into a position where he was too vulnerable and lacked resources to help him cope. (And but for grace, this could apply to any one of us.)

Though I am a strong supporter of homeschooling, I believe there are those who see homeschooling as though it were as significant as the Gospel of Jesus Christ itself. I do not agree with this and I do see it sometimes in the protagonist of the story. Nonetheless, I still view him as a “Jefferson Smith” who in the Frank Capra film was said to be the son of a man who fought for “lost causes.” I’m also unfamiliar with “Yugoslavian” homeschooling, so this individual’s own sense of importance to his cause may be exaggerated.

To protect the innocent from legal reprisal and to note the story, some of the names and locations have been changed (note “quotes”), though the content has been largely unaltered. I did add a small amount of information to the content because I did condense this long account from an even longer one. This is an actual account of one man’s demise. I think this man made some dreadfully foolish decisions, but that does not excuse the treatment he received from those with whom he worked and trusted implicitly, his Christian brethren. It seems that from “Jefferson Smith” and his testimony in this personal account that once appeared online, he received the bait and switch. Unfortunately for him, he became very ill in the process, and it seems that those whom he trusted did not behave with empathy, Christian compassion or altruism but rather chose to protect their own interests. From “Jefferson Smith’s perspective, this timing combined with the lack of accountability of his brethren nearly destroyed his life.

The Cast of Characters in the Saga of Jefferson Smith

The Players

James Michael McDonald, V

Then owner of the magazine “Homeschooling Today.” At the time that this narrative occurs, James pastored a church under provisional ordination through the Reformed Presbyterian Church General Assembly (RPCGA) where he had been granted pastoral credentials based on his undocumented claim of having been a pastor in the Southern Baptist Convention and at the recommendation of RC Sproul, Jr. The RPCGA required that James submit documentation supporting his ordination as well as his divorce decree from Sandy McDonald, the mother of his four oldest children. According to the personal report of Dr. Talbot of the RPCGA, with information confirmed via a phonecall, James never submitted that information. (He did, however, turn in documentation of his business degree from University of Idaho, his only college degree according to the RPCGA.)

When RC Sproul, Jr was defrocked by the RPCGA, James McDonald left the RPCGA, all without ever turning in his ordination information or his divorce decree. He left the RPCGA under “deposed” status (a status of censure), though at the time of this narrative, he was still ordained as a minister under this denomination. Currently, at the time of this writing in early 2009, James McDonald presides over his own (self-established) denomination of a handful of churches as well as a local body in central Illinois.

Stacy McDonald - Wife of James McDonald

“Jefferson Smith” (‘Jeff’)

Christian, father and idealistic supporter of homeschooling. He is a native of the US but married a Yugoslavian citizen and started a family in Yugoslavia. Mr. Smith worked for a private corporation called the “Slavic Company” that provided support for families in Yugoslavia that wanted to homeschool. He became “the face of Yugoslavian Homeschooling.” The Slavic Company and Mr. Smith worked with an American organization called “The Taylor Machine,” a nonprofit organization that raises funds for causes that promote homeschooling. The Taylor Machine gave funds to the Slavic Company in support of homeschooling causes in Yugoslavia, often featuring Jeff’s endeavors there to solicit funds for Yugoslavian homeschooling efforts. The Slavic Company gave that money to the Smith family in order to help them support Yugoslavian homeschoolers.

Jeff was approached by James McDonald, the then owner of Homeschooling Today Magazine. James traveled to Yugoslavia, presumably to meet Mr. Smith and evaluate whether he could be instrumental in the running of the magazine. This section of Jefferson Smith’s testimony begins at

about the time that the Smiths traveled to Houston, TX where Jeff Smith planned to assume the position of “Director of Operations” of the magazine.

“Clarissa Smith” - Wife of “Jefferson Smith” ( a native of Yugoslavia)

“Kiska Smith” - Daughter of “Jefferson Smith”

Jim Taylor

The founder of “The Taylor Machine,” Chancellor of “Willet Creek College.”

Joseph Harrison Paine (“Joe”)

An attorney employed by “The Taylor Machine.”

Hubert “Happy” Hopper

An attorney employed by “The Taylor Machine”

Judge Horace Miller

A Judge who presided over the hearing of the case against “The Taylor Machine”

The Agencies And Organizations

Homeschooling Today © Magazine

From their website: “Homeschooling Today magazine, a distinctively Christian publication, is committed to delivering trustworthy and timely articles that provide encouragement and spiritual growth to Christian families involved in the mission of educating their children.” According to the website, the magazine was established in 1992. I understand from those who subscribed and used to subscribe to the magazine, it was initially owned by Catholic Believers who sold it to a Reformed Protestant. This narrative describes events that took place as that second owner went into debt while searching for a new owner.

“The Slavic Company”

A private company in Yugoslavia that provided support to those in Yugoslavia who were interested in homeschooling.

“The Taylor Machine

An nonprofit organization in the United States that supports homeschooling.

Willet Creek College

A Christian college in a town and region of the US called “Willet Creek.”

“Christian Assuager Services”

An organization, founded an operated by attorneys, that handles disagreements among Christians and conducts “Christian” mediations and arbitrations.



Sunday, January 13, 2008

Respected Leader In Yugoslavian Homeschooling

The name “Jefferson Smith” once meant something. You must imagine where I came from when I arrived to Houston, having worked for the very respected private company, the Slavic Company. I was a highly visible leader in Yugoslavia, being the Director of what “The Taylor Machine” often referred to as “The Taylor Machine” of Yugoslavia (in cooperation with the “Slavic Company”). My wife (“Clarissa”) and I often met with some of Yugoslavia's highest politicians — presidents of state senates, heads of counties, mayors and even the Yugoslavia’s vice president of the European Parliament, who sometimes addressed me as Mr. America and once told me that I had a very convincing wife.

When there were problems with families in “Pidderbirth,” the Yugoslavian government sent one of its top international negotiators to meet with us and these Russian Slavic families. As it turned out and after another meeting, we won this man over to our side. He was quoted in one of Yugoslavia's leading newspapers to say that these “Pidderbirth” families should be left alone. It wasn't long and we heard that he had been retired.

We were mentioned in the press throughout Yugoslavia and the press liked our stories. We were somebody to be reckoned with. We had a name both in Yugoslavia and in America. James was hiring someone who would bring him and his operations prestige. In the 1990's homeschooling was very little known in Yugoslavia. If you were to tell someone that you homeschooled your children their mouths would fall open. What on earth is homeschooling?

Even government officials we met during this decade were not familiar with the homeschool movement in America. This all changed when we began our work in the year 2000. Beginning with the “Herding” family we went public in a big way. News outlets across Yugoslavia were running to write articles about homeschooling. We were being called for interviews and asked to be on radio and television programs.

There were many articles written in America about the “Jefferson Smith Family” and the work they were doing in Yugoslavia. In the 2005 May/June issue of Homeschooling Today magazine, I was referred to as the Lafayette of Yugoslavia. What was interesting here was that “Joseph Harrison Paine” (“Joe”) called us after the publication of this article and for reasons only he could understand was very angry at James for allowing this article to appear in his magazine. He said that he was going to tell James that from now on any articles he wanted to place in his magazine that had to do with Yugoslavia first must be cleared through “Joseph Paine.” This puzzled both my wife, “Clarissa,” and me.

Later, when I had just begun to work for James, I had an idea of a product I believed would sell well in America and that would allow us to finance our now lain-on-ice ministry in Yugoslavia for lack of funds. I called a close family friend, a man who has been a large figure in the American homeschool movement to tell him about it and to ask him to put me into contact with someone who might be interested to finance it. He told me that “Joe Paine” had told him that anything that had to do with Yugoslavia had to first be cleared through “Joe.” This puzzled me and my wife. What should “Joe” have to do with this? What was it his business? But after all, “Joe” was a trusted friend so we believed that he must have had a good reason.

James McDonald wants $60,000 per issue ad revenue James and I emailed back and forth and spoke on the phone during October and November of 2005, while my family was still living in Yugoslavia. In one email, he told me that it was his goal to increase the ad revenue of his magazine to $60,000 per issue. Now, upon my arrival to begin work, he told me that he wanted it done by year's end. I was not aware what this meant but later understood that it was an almost impossible task he was asking of me. It took me some time and difficulty until I finally estimated that when I began work the ad revenue was around $20,000 per issue.

I used my name and the work we had done in Yugoslavia as my selling point. It worked wonders! Many ad buyers wanted updates of what was going on in Yugoslavia. They believed that they were at the right address talking to me. To make a long story short, by the end of March, a mere three months after I had begun my job I had already achieved the goal of $60,000 per issue.

I cannot tell you how many calls I received from advertisers who were disgruntled because James had failed to publish several issues of his magazine. One was the March/April 2005 issue and the other was the November/December 2005 issue. I was not aware that these issues had not gone out before I began my job. The loss of the Christmas edition was the worst. Advertisers had special offers that ended January 1. They felt terribly cheated because this was the most important issue of the year in which to place their ads. I addressed these complaints by assuring them that James had for too long been understaffed and that this is why he brought me onboard. From now on everything would work just fine.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Payday Arrives and James Cannot Pay

When payday arrived on January 15, 2006, James told me that he did not have the money to pay me. There was no forewarning of this, so I was totally shocked especially since he had told me that I could expect to receive $4,000 a month to begin with. Being told that he did not have the money to pay me, I believed that he and his operations were in financial difficulty. I asked James to meet with me in my home office. In this meeting and with my family present James offered to pay me $5,000 for the month of January from a donation check which someone had pledged to donate to his ministry.

He kept telling me that he was waiting for the check to arrive in the mail so that he could pay me. In a February 14 email he said: "I gave your family $5,000 from our ministry account to cover this month's (January) needs, while I have only been able to cover half my salary."

Since I was the Director of Operations, I needed to take a close look at why James was in financial trouble. I asked his bookkeeper if the accounts of his three businesses were kept separated or if they were entangled with each other. I asked to see the books. Surely the money trail would provide the answer and enable us to make some adjustments and get everything back on track. I was never given the opportunity to see the books but was told to "go back and sell!" James was short and told me that nobody would get paid if I didn't sell. Of course I believed that James was irritated often because of the pressure he was under.

On one occasion, when James was backing out of his parking spot at the Tea Shop where he spent much of his time, he accidentally backed into my car, tearing off half of the back bumper. He apologized for this and asked if he could pay for it. I told him that it was an old car so just forget it. I was just relieved that no one had been hurt. He said that it was a good thing that he believed in predestination because this was predestined to happen — whatever that meant.

I saw very soon that the magazine could be a moneymaker and a good opportunity for me and my wife to finance our ministry in Yugoslavia. I could see raising it out of the little niche it was presently in — generally Presbyterian — into a much broader market. Since we were well known, this would have been in my opinion an easy undertaking.

Though I was not given opportunity to look into the books, and having watched James go about his business, I believed that the root of the whole problem was that James was not a good businessman (to which he admitted in front of his wife, me and my wife, and two men from James church in a meeting a few months later). I believed that if given the chance I could grow this magazine out of the little corner it was in and make it a great success.

James had already told me even before I began my job that he would eventually like to sell Homeschooling Today magazine and go full time into the church ministry (James was a Pastor and had begun a small church – what I believed at the time, as he was neither a pastor in good standing and likely not a pastor at all). Along with believing that James was in financial trouble, knowing this also encouraged me to begin talks with James to take over the magazine. In early February I began to discuss with James taking ownership of the magazine.

The old car I had purchased for $500 had given up less than two-months after I had purchased it. My family was now in dire need of another car. I asked James if he would co-sign. He told me that he couldn't do that but that he had a friend who owned a car lot in town and he would contact him. If he ever contacted his friend I never heard about it. I told James that since he would not cosign I needed an employment contract to show to the car dealer who might be willing to sell me a car if I could present him with an employment contract. He told me he was working on a contract but that it wasn't ready yet.

I couldn't understand why James was having difficulty working up a contract for me. It certainly wasn't my intention to irritate him by asking too often for this contact that he had promised to me upon my arrival to begin work. Though I couldn't understand why, especially since I was selling at such a high rate, James was obviously irritated with me.

Friday, January 11, 2008

New Owners of Homeschooling Today: James McDonald Agrees to Give Homeschool Today to “Jefferson Smith”

My wife and I met with James and his wife Stacy on February 25, 2006 to further discuss my taking ownership of the magazine and to close the deal. (I had been discussing taking the magazine since early February). It was agreed upon by all parties that I would become the new owner pending a few minor details that needed to be worked out. What was strange was that Stacy interrupted James at one point to remind him that he could not sell the magazine to me. James brushed her aside, telling her that it was ok. We ended up shaking hands over the deal and leaving to go our separate ways. “Clarissa” and I were excited because now we would have a business that would employ each member of our family and felt certain that we would eventually be able to finance our Yugolslavian mission. If my present sales volume continued we would be in fine shape in no time.

The following morning, February 26, I emailed Joe Paine, Hubert ‘Happy’ Hopper, and Jim Taylor, The Taylor Machine attorneys in leadership positions and trusted confidants to give them a heads-up that the Smiths would become the new owners of Homeschooling Today magazine. I wrote: “Well, a new turn in my situation. James McDonald has agreed to step aside and give me Homeschooling Today Magazine. My plan is to use it to instill in the next generation of homeschoolers a vision to carry on the work of their parents. You can count on me to promote The Taylor Machine and ‘Willet Creek College’ in all that I do. I will keep you informed."

Jim Taylor responded in an email on February 27: "What good news!!! Congratulations. I will look forward to working with you even more closely". ‘Happy’ and Joe did not respond to my email. Instead, Joe Paine acted behind my back, calling James in the afternoon to remind him of what he had told James before I arrived to begin my employment with James. February 26, in the afternoon James called me to complain that his selling of the magazine was now known outside of Houston. We had never agreed to keep this confidential. In fact, I had asked James if I could confer with others about it so that we could already begin to forge partnership relationships.

I emailed and called a former magazine owner and publisher to ask her if she would be interested to go into a full partnership with me. I had asked James specifically if I could talk to her and he agreed that I could. I asked if I could speak it over with James' bookkeeper and her accountant husband and he agreed that I could. James never hinted that I should keep confidential that I would become the new owner of the magazine. It was important that I be able to discuss this with others so that I could begin to prepare.

He called me in the afternoon to complain that the word had gotten outside of Houston that he would give up ownership to me. In addition to The Taylor Machine, I had also told one of James' church members of the agreement we had made with James. This man had visited me and my family in Yugoslavia and he and his family took us in when we first arrived in Houston. I thought perhaps that he had mentioned something to someone outside of Houston because his job called for him to travel a great deal.

I certainly did not expect that any of my three friends (trusted confidents!) at The Taylor Machine had said anything. I was certain that they would have contacted me first to talk it over before saying anything to anyone else. Jim Taylor’s email of congratulations is more what I would have expected from them. So, I only mentioned to James that I had talked to one of his church members. He never inquired if I had talked to anyone else but told me that for several reasons I should keep it confidential until the actual transaction took place.

James began to tell others that I had lied, and said that I had only spoken to one of his church members (I never said that I had only told this man). He also wrote emails where he accused me of telling him that I had only told this man, and making a big deal about me not being trustworthy (while he himself hid from me the preposterous charges against me told to him by The Taylor Machine attorney, Joe Paine). Following my phone call with James and honoring his request, I immediately called the church member and asked him to keep the news confidential. I also emailed Jim Taylor, ‘Happy’ Hopper, and Joe Paine with the same request.


Thursday, January 10, 2008

James Offers Contract

James acted angry toward me for telling others that I would become the new owner of Homeschooling Today Magazine (HST). February 27 he sent me a contract draft. I looked it over and called and told James that I could not sign it because it just was not what we had agreed to before I started to work for him.

The next day was payday. I was told that I would be paid less than $4,500 because this is all that had come in from the advertisers. It would be somewhere around $3,600 after paying taxes on it. James knew that I needed $5,000. I called “Brenda” and told her the problem and she said that I could keep most of the money if I was a private contractor and claimed many deductions. I emailed her that I didn't have a private contractor license so needed to be placed on the company payroll.

She talked it over with James and he told her that I didn't need a contractor's license to work in this capacity. He said that it was up to me which way I went. He knew very well that in order for me to pay my bills for March I needed close to $5,000. So, I thought to be paid this time as a private contractor would enable my family to get through the month so I decided to do it. By the end of the next month, James would surely have my employment contract ready. And besides, I soon would be the owner of HST. I simply could not understand what was taking him so long with the contract he had promised. After all he had told me already when I was in Yugoslavia that he would have it ready to be signed when I arrived.

James sent his son, James Jr. to my office with a contract that he wanted me to sign before he would pay me. It was a bad contract. I was upset with it but James assured me that it was only a "placeholder" contract until he could "work up an employee agreement" (I am certain now that James had no intention at that time to ever work up an employment agreement because he was still of the opinion that I was a scoundrel. He told his church elder during this time that he was going to get rid of me).

When his son visited me with the contract I told him that when I would officially become the new owner I would like to ask him to continue on with me as the graphic designer for the magazine. I believe that I had also told the bookkeeper that I would like to keep her as my bookkeeper. Now it must be understood that I still had no inclination that anything was going on behind my back. I believed I was working for a moral and honest Christian and more than that, he was a “Pastor.” My friends at The Taylor Machine were not only attorneys but they were confidants and Christians. I would never have suspected anything like what was going on behind my back between James and The Taylor Machine. If someone would have told me I would have been unbelieving.

It was only when I overheard the elder of James church on March 3 in his telephone conversation with Joe Paine that I began to suspect there was something gravely amiss. If I had not overheard a portion of this conversation but would have been told of it instead I would not have believed it. In Yugoslavia, my wife and I knew who we were dealing with when we dealt with government authorities so we were watchful. But here we were among friends, friends whom we had entrusted with our lives. Christians! Pastors! Attorneys! To make it more dramatic, these were Christian attorneys who were personal family friends! Why shouldn't we trust them?

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

A Meeting with One of James’ Employees

February 28, an employee of James, who along with her two daughters had lived with the McDonald family and worked in their tea shop but who had recently left off living with them and were presently staying with the elder of James church and his family, called to tell me that I should meet with this elder. When I inquired why I should meet with him, she wouldn't say. I asked her if I could first meet with her.

A meeting was scheduled for March 2. She and her two daughters visited me in the morning. I had had a discussion with James around the middle of January and told him that this mother and her young daughters were working far too many hours. From what I had seen with my eyes and heard from my daughter, “Kiska,” who worked together with them in the tea shop, it was clear to me that they were being overworked and would soon become overly exhausted and quit. I was told that other families had come to work and left, so I believed the pattern would continue with this family if something was not changed.

During this meeting, this lady told me why she and her girls had moved away from James. Her father urged her to leave in haste because he feared for their safety. I was dumbfounded to hear this. I still believed then that the McDonald's were upright people. (I remember thinking that this lady was right. I needed to talk to the elder of James church who I believed was very close to James. If anybody would know anything it would be this elder). Sitting here and telling me this was a mother and two daughters James had said he had rescued from Hurricane Katrina and provided them with jobs and allowed them to live in his house.

She wouldn't tell me what James was saying about me, only that it was not good. I promised to call the elder to schedule a meeting with him to try to get to the bottom of this. Whatever could be the problem? Why was James saying bad things about me? My sales far exceeded anything James could ever have dreamed. Was he still angry at me for informing others that I would become the new owner of the magazine? But he told me I could talk to others about it in order to forge partnerships. I knew from the past several years that relationships and partnerships were important in this market if you wanted to succeed. Needless to say, I and my family were puzzled.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Church Elder Talks with “Joseph Paine”

Though neither the elder of James church nor I remember who initiated the call, we spoke on the phone around noon on March 3 to schedule a meeting between us. I knew that he had been suffering from laryngitis and so told him that this meeting was not urgent. I was very surprised when two-hours later he knocked on my door. I hadn't expected him.

I sensed that there was something wrong. I knew that he knew me and James were having problems. I led him into the living room area and invited him to be seated and went to my home office to retrieve letters of recommendation I had received in late 2004 from national leaders across America for fundraising purposes. My intention was to show him that I was a trustworthy individual so that when I addressed to him the problems I was having with James he might believe me.

He glanced through the letters and then asked if I had Joe Paine’s telephone number. He then asked me to call Joe so that a phone conference could be arranged between Joe Paine, James McDonald, the church elder, and me. I was happy to accommodate his request and immediately called Joe in his presence. My telephone conversation with Joe was cordial as always. I always made it a point to get Joe to laugh when I spoke with him on the phone. Joe offered that he would be available all afternoon for a conference call.

The elder immediately left and went outside (for what I believed to make a private phone call) and I remained in the living room awaiting his return. Once outside he called James McDonald and asked him to come to my house where we would all call Joe together. When James arrived (me being unaware of what was going on outside), James called Joe, and then handed the phone over to the elder.

Joe told this elder that I "had used funds for private living expenses that The Taylor Machine had raised to be used exclusively for attorney fees associated with defending Yugoslavian homeschooling families. Because of this Joe Paine did not consider me, “Jeff Smith,” to be a trustworthy individual. [The elder] reminded Joe Paine of the command of Matthew 18 to confront a person caught in sin before telling others in the Church.

Joe Paine acknowledged that command but said that if he followed such a course, Jeff Smith might make the issue public to the great detriment of The Taylor Machine’s mission and the greater homeschooling movement. [The elder] reminded Joe Paine that Christ commands our obedience regardless of the outcome we expect. Mr. Paine indicated that Jeff Smith was not a stable person and that Mr. Jefferson Smith’s management style was not compatible with his. This is quoted from an Affidavit signed by this elder.

In the middle of this conversation, the elder ran into my house and asked me where the letters of recommendations were that I had shared with him a few minutes earlier? I gave them to him and he told me that he was looking for the ones from The Taylor Machine. I told him that I only had only one and that was from Jim Taylor. He glanced over it and left to go back outside, leaving the door open. I now saw both the elder and James in the driveway. The elder was talking to someone on a cell phone.

I was amazed to see James there and the elder on the phone so I went outside to find out what this was all about. I overheard the elder confronting “Joe Paine” that it was his biblical duty to confront Jeff Smith personally. This caused me (“Jeff”) to become suspicious about the whole matter. What in the world did Joe have to do with all of this? The elder ended the conversation shortly after I arrived and handed the phone back to James who walked away out of hearing distance, continuing his conversation with Joe.

I asked the elder what this was going on? He responded that I had no credibility until I would straighten things out with Joe. I pleaded with him to tell me what this was all about. How could I make things right with Joe if I didn't know what it was I needed to make right? He held fast to his position of refusing to tell me. He continued to say that I first needed to call Joe and make things right with him.

After he and James left, I immediately called Joe Paine to inquire of the matter. Joe would only offer that he and I had a difference in management style. His voice had changed from a friendly tone in which we had always spoken to a very low and hostile tone. I had never before heard him speak in this tone and was taken aback. I began to recollect with him the history of the relationship between the Smiths and the Paines. He remained silent. When I could no longer get a response, I believed the phone connection was lost so I hung up and tried several times over the next half hour to reach him so that we could continue our conversation.

Surely there was something that I did not understand. When Joe failed to answer I became very distressed. What in the world was going on? There had to be a mistake. I couldn't imagine what the problem might be. The Smith’s relationship with The Taylor Machine attorneys and especially Joseph Paine had always been very warm and cordial. I could think of nothing I or any one of my family could have done. This was all perplexing.

Now James began to tell me that he was looking for an exit strategy. That he could no longer have me around. I was frantic. I had a family to take care of. I had signed an eighteen month lease agreement for our house. I had signed an agreement to buy a car on a payment plan. James had fooled me into signing a "placeholder" contract which would cut me off from the revenues of my sales with termination of the working relationship. What in the world was happening here? Why was this happening?

Eventually the elder shared with me the accusations against me. My wife, Clarissa, and I were speechless. We were dumbfounded. We felt betrayed. But at least we now knew why James and Stacy McDonald had acted toward us as they had since our arrival in Houston to take the job with James. The elder asked us to gather documents that would exonerate me of the charges, which I did and which convinced this man of my innocence.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Meeting with “Jim Taylor”

April 7, 2006 — My wife and I, along with a witness we had brought along to this meeting, a former Texas judge, met with “Jim Taylor” in “Jim’s” own office in Willet Creek, on campus of Willet Creek College. I presented Jim Taylor with the letter of recommendation he had written for us in 2004 and asked Jim if he still stood behind it. Jim immediately responded that he stood behind it 100%.

This was important because the elder in James church had told me that Joe had said that The Taylor Machine no longer stands behind their letters of recommendation. This threw me because I knew that I only had one such letter from The Taylor Machine and that was the one from Jim Taylor. I then presented Jim with the elder's affidavit, which Jim quickly read over. I then proceeded to present Jim with the minutes of the 2003, 2004, 2005 Slavic Company board meetings that proved what Joe Paine was telling others was not true. I asked Jim Taylor if he was aware that we had been declared attorneys in The Taylor Machine’s May/June 2005 Report that went out to The Taylor Machine members. He said that none of the The Taylor Machine leaders ever believed that the Smiths were lawyers.

Sometime into the meeting, Jim Taylor retreated to another room and had a telephone conference call with ‘Happy’ Hopper and Joe Paine. Upon his return, Jim adamantly stated that the monies The Taylor Machine sent to Yugoslavia were from the beginning only for attorneys. Both Joe Paine and ‘Happy’ Hopper confirmed this to Jim Taylor during this phone conference and Joe told Jim that he had written documentation to prove it.

It appeared clear to us that Jim was not aware of what was going on between us and The Taylor Machine at this time. He promised that he would ask Hubert ‘Happy’ Hopper to investigate the matter. Near the end of our meeting, Jim asked me what I wanted. I responded that I wanted the Smith name cleared. The judge interrupted and told Jim that he believed the Smiths should be given some sort of compensation that would allow them to get back on their feet because now the relationship between Jefferson Smith and James McDonald was understandably beyond repair and so Jeff Smith would now need a job.

The judge had seen enough of the evidence to recognize that the Smiths were innocent of the charges being leveled against them by Joe Paine to others behind their back. Jim Taylor told us during the meeting and after his telephone conference with Joe Paine and ‘Happy’ Hopper that The Taylor Machine had given the Smiths over $100,000 and now they want more? (Now remember, The Taylor Machine was telling others that the money was given for attorneys and not for the Smiths! Jim Taylor said that Joe Paine had evidence to prove this!) At any rate, the truth is that this money did not belong to The Taylor Machine but rather to the people who had so generously donated it for Yugoslavia and our work. We had every right to spend the money solely for our family's living but instead used the bulk of it to pay for travel, conferences, meetings with government officials, etc.

When we left this meeting, the judge told us that these were bad guys. We simply could not believe this. Over the years we had become in our minds very good friends with Joe Paine and Jim Taylor. Several times, Joe invited us to sit at his table during the The Taylor Machine national leadership conferences held annually. This was regarded a privilege that seemed was not offered to anybody but his very close friends and associates. On May 23, we asked an attorney friend to call ‘Happy’ Hopper about our situation. We asked him to ask Jim where the report

was that Jim Taylor had promised us during our meeting in April. Jim emailed us his report the following day. In this report he admitted that the Smiths were authorized to receive monies sent to Yugoslavia by The Taylor Machine. The report stated that it was only "toward the end of The Taylor Machine’s providing funds to The Taylor Machine of Yugoslavia for the homeschool cases, Joe found out that you had been using funds raised by The Taylor Machine for personal support." This was clearly a not true.

Joe knew all along that this money was raised for the Smith’s support. Joseph Paine was the vice president of the Slavic Company Board and he knew everything that was happening with the Slavic Company. In November 2003, when we were considering going full time into our ministry of helping Yugoslavian homeschool families, we knew that we needed to raise funds to support our work. We told Joe that we would like to reach out for funds and if the Lord provided we would go full time into the

homeschooling movement in Yugoslavia. He agreed that we could give it a try. We asked him how we should go about raising the needed funds. We had never raised funds to support our ministries (Ministries included an outreach to missionaries and a Christian high school in “Bagel,” Switzerland, and our work for Slavic). We had always paid for our ministries out of our own pocket. Joe offered that The Taylor Machine would raise the funds because then the donors could write off their donations. He said that he would talk this over with Jim Taylor. An hour later, Joe called to say that Jim agreed that The Taylor Machine could do this. We were astonished!