Kanakuk International

Kanakuk International

Kanakuk International was a program in the Kanakuk “family of ministries” dating back to at least 1991, when “Kanakuk Haiti” was formed by Joe White in collaboration with another organization he co-founded known as Cross International. Kanakuk Ministries has invested over $10 million in the Kanakuk International program, which claims a presence in over fifty countries. It has taken many forms over its three decades of operation, and at one point was marketed with a unique “Kanakuk International” logo.


Varying Descriptions 

Kanakuk International has been inconsistently defined, including the following descriptions:

  • International Mission Work – CEO Joe White defined it as “international mission work in several countries” in an interview with Becky Garrison at YouthWorker.
  • Leadership Training & Partnership with Cross International – According to donor reports authored by Kanakuk Ministries in 2019, “Kanakuk Haiti” provides “education and feeding for the least of these,” and “Kanakuk International” operates in over fifty countries through programs, including trainings and programs implemented in partnership with Florida-based nonprofit, Cross International, which was also founded by Joe White.
  • Consulting – Kanakuk CFO Don Frank described the Kanakuk International program as “consulting” in a presentation listing Kanakuk-affiliated operations in 2005.
  • 990 descriptions vary year-over-year, but have included:
    • “The Kanakuk International program includes support of like-minded ministries that service youth in Haiti and Rwanda. In addition to financial support for education, nutrition and spiritual needs, Kanakuk also sends short term missionaries to serve over 5,000 people in these countries.” (2021)
    • Instances where the “alumni ministries” program references international work (“provided support for 17 missionary families around the world”) and this program, alongside Joe White’s speaking engagements, are grouped together in descriptions of Kanakuk International program services and related expenses. (2014)
    • “Facilitated two mission trips to Rwanda, Africa, in which high school students from around the country had the opportunity to fellowship with and minister to the Rwandan people. Additional support is given to special projects and missions around the world.” (2008)
    • “Activities have continued in Haiti by providing support for the nutritional, recreational, and educational care for 6,300 impoverished school children. Additional support is given to special projects and missions around the world. The first annual Kanakuk leadership training conference was hosted at the K-Kauai (family camp) facility, with 45 delegates from over 30 countries in attendance.” (2006)

Financials – More than $10 Million

Kanakuk Ministries has reported over $10.7 million in expenses, including grants, since 2001 (averaging over $530,000 per fiscal year) allocated towards the “Kanakuk International” program, detailing activities relating to schools, leadership trainings, mission trips, orphan care, facilities, vehicles, and more.

  • Domestic Grant Recipients – Kanakuk has referred to several USA-based organizations conducting international work as partners, or names them as grant recipients, including Kids Across Africa Foundation, Cross International, and Ahava Ministries (all three of which are formally affiliated with Kanakuk), as well as Compassion International, Food for the Hungry, and World Vision. International partners include Tyre Church and Horizons International in Lebanon, along with WellSpring in Egypt.
  • $1.9 Million in 2009 – The total sum of funding flowing out from Kanakuk to international activities, if also counting grants to domestic organizations conducting international work, increases drastically (In 2009 alone, there were over $1.9 million in expenditures reported to the aforementioned grant-recipient organizations).
  • Additional Investment by Affiliated Entities – The total investment when including the involvement of additional Kanakuk-affiliated entities is much greater. K-LIFE, Ahava Ministries, Kanakuk Institute and others have invested in mission trips and other international activities. There are also countries in which Kanakuk is known to have hosted mission trips or conducted other work that have not been listed by name in 990 reporting, such as a regular presence in China.

Kanakuk International Programming via Kanakuk Ministries

Program expenditures, grants, and operations have been reported in over 50 countries, including Angola, Antigua, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbuda, Canada, Ecuador, Egypt, Haiti, India, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mali, Mexico, Moldova, Senegal, Russia and Rwanda to “like-minded ministries” or in support of international leadership training with Cross International.

Key programs include:

  • Kanakuk Haiti – claims to support schools, orphan care and nutrition outreach, partnering with Cross International to support Divine Shelter Schools, New Life Orphanage, and Global Orphan Project (more details below on Cross International).
    • The Kanakuk Haiti website advertises a budget of $400,000 for 2022, and claims Kanakuk Ministries to be the “primary source for funding (including operational costs and food for school lunches) for 13 Divine Shelter Schools, partnering with Cross International. Kanakuk Ministries also claims to fund an orphanage, New Life Center in Haiti, impacting “over 4,200 students, 133 teachers, 13 school directors, and 52 cooks.”
    • Kanakuk Ministries 990s indicate previous grants made directly to Cross International’s domestic 501(c)(3) organization, as mentioned above, but since 2011, they have made grants directly to unnamed recipients in the Central America and Caribbean region.
    • According to public filings, the average grant size made to this region by Kanakuk from September 2019 to August 2022 (last three years of available IRS 990 forms) was $410,555.
    • Convicted abuser Pete Newman was known to lead trips to Haiti, as evidenced by this 2004 photo on Kanakuk Haiti’s website of him dressed as Santa posing with Haitian children.
  • Kanakuk Lebanon – working with Syrian refugee children in camp-style settings alongside local churches as recently as 2019.
  • Rwanda | Kids Across Africa Foundation aka Kids Across Africa Camps Rwanda –  hosting trips and operating camps from 2008-2011 (under a separate entity, but with Kanakuk Ministries support, staffing, leadership/governance and programming before, during, and after these years).
  • In 2008, four of Kanakuk Rwanda’s six board members listed on its website were Kanakuk Ministries staff including:
    • Gregg Bettis, who later served as the Chairman and President of Kids Across America and has held various roles, including personal assistant and private pilot for Joe White. 
    • Don Frank (Former CFO of Kanakuk Ministries).
    • Doug Goodwin (Current President of Kanakuk Ministries).
    • Joe White (Current CEO/Board Chair of Kanakuk Ministries).
    • Kids Across Africa hosted its first Soccer Camp in Rwanda in 2008. The day camp ran for five days at Sonrise School, with 150 Rwandan youth in attendance.
  • Kids Across Africa Camps Rwanda then launched a capital campaign to raise $4.7 million in 2009 to purchase land and construct a large camp; the camp was never constructed, although details vary regarding its current-day status:
    • Gregg Bettis wrote in his book Crashes & Climbs: Stories from a life lived on the edge that “after a couple of years, we turned it over to the Episcopalian diocese of Rwanda, who had the relationships and ability to take the project over and operate it.” Bettis also wrote that before they could construct the camp on the land they selected, the land was “owned by about ninety squatters” and they had to “buy all of them out before [they could] build anything.”
    • In an article last updated on January 3rd, 2024, The Rwandan Tribune reported on an ongoing and complicated land dispute between Kids Across Africa and the Anglican Diocese of Shyira dating back to 2003. The land is still registered to Kids Across Africa Foundation, but there is a lack of evidence to support the legitimacy of the land purchase and registration. The land was never developed and is considered by the government as an abandoned property without an owner, creating challenges for investors in the region.
    • Pete Newman was scheduled to visit Rwanda in summer 2009, but he was terminated in March for confessing to crimes against multiple children. His brother David Newman worked for Kids Across Africa Foundation / Kids Across Africa Camps Rwanda that same summer including after Pete’s termination.
  • Kanakuk Egypt – trips in coordination with Kanakuk program LinkYear and partner WellSpring International , which claims to operate day and overnight camps, as well as other youth development programs.
  • China Mission Trips – Kanakuk has featured university partnerships in China and hosted several mission trips there. In 2005 Pete Newman attended, and abused children while in China and on domestic layovers. Additionally, victims have claimed they were abused by Newman on China trips spanning several years, and one witness alleged he saw Newman filming massages of boys he hosted there and other potential child sexual abuse material (CSAM).
  • Link Year – A program of Kanakuk with a “gap year” model, described as a “program with college credit, individualized mentoring, focused discovery of spiritual gifts and identity, spiritual growth and biblical training for college, and encouragement toward world and community impact.” LinkYear promotes international trips for their students to the Bahamas, Egypt, and Peru. It was reported in most recent Kanakuk Ministries 990 to have accounted for over 1.6 million dollars in program expenses (alongside Link Academy). Founder Adam Donyes does not advertise the connection between Kanakuk/Joe White and Link Year, Link Hoops, and Link Academy on the various web sites he manages for these Kanakuk Ministries programs, other than listing the address that ties to Kanakuk Ministries.

Kanakuk International Programming via Affiliated Entities:

  • Ahava Ministries (DBA “Camp KIVU”)
    • A separate entity managed by Joe White’s daughter Jamie Jo and ex-son-in-law, Andy Braner, from 2009-2018 (also the recipient of Kanakuk’s donated K-Colorado facilities)
    • 990s indicate Chile, Patagonia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Philippines, and Haiti as locations where Camp KIVU hosted trips or full semesters. Additional sites reference Bolivia, Burundi, China, England, Germany, Guatemala, India, Israel, Jordan and Palestine as destinations.
    • The KIVU Gap Year program of Ahava included both domestic and international semesters where students participated in outdoor adventure programming and Christian spiritual development activities focused on “global relief operations,” both in Colorado and abroad. Ahava also mentions orphan care and adoption as one of its program areas/activities.
  • Cross International
    • Separate entity co-founded by Joe White in 2001, operating “in alliance” with Cross Catholic Outreach. Public scrutiny exists regarding the lack of transparency in the relationship between the two organizations (they have reported their financials jointly).
    • White has served on its Board of Directors since its founding according to Cross International’s 990 tax forms (commonly accepted best practices for nonprofit boards of directors indicate that boards should have term limits). He is currently listed as the Secretary of the Board, with no mention of his co-founder role.
    • Partners with Kanakuk Haiti.
    • Since inception, Cross International has received $1.3 billion in general contributions, $1.2 billion of which were non-cash / in-kind donations (reported as being primarily medical supplies).
    • Cross International was the 39th largest nonprofit in the US in 2022 (according to Forbes).
  • Kanakuk Institute 
    • Separate entity under the Kanakuk “family of ministries” umbrella. Kanakuk Institute students fundraise and embark on mission trips (including this example mentioning Trinidad and Israel as possible destinations).
  • K-LIFE
    • Separate entities under the Kanakuk “family of ministries” umbrella. More than 20 K-LIFE chapters operate throughout the United States and many host and support mission trips, such as this example of a 2022 trip to Costa Rica from the Dallas, TX-based HP KLIFE chapter.

Kanakuk International Entity Evolution

While Kanakuk Ministries and Kanakuk activities have featured an international programming component for decades, there are several entity structure changes that affect international activities, nomenclature, and relevant overlaps.

  • In 1991, Joe White founded Kanakuk Haiti.
  • In 1998, Kanakuk Ministries was established in Missouri as a nonprofit (former name: Christian Children’s Charity).
  • In 2001, Joe White co-founded Cross International with Jim Cavnar (partnership began with Kanakuk’s work in Haiti).
  • In 2003, Christian Children’s Charity was renamed “Kanakuk Ministries,” and camp operations first appeared in Kanakuk Ministries’ publicly available IRS 990 forms (including reference to the building of Kanakuk’s family camp, K-Kauai, which has also housed the Kanakuk Institute and as well as international leadership trainings in coordination with Global Outreach Group). The bulk of prior years’ expenses were directed towards work in Haiti.
  • In 2004, Kanakuk Ministries began to refer to “Kanakuk International” in 990s, encompassing work in Haiti.
  • In 2005, (effective January 1, 2006), two existing, for-profit Kanakuk entities in TX & MO merged, with the MO entity (Kanakuk Missouri Inc) surviving and being renamed as Kanakuk Kamps, Inc.
  • In 2008 (effective January 1, 2009) – the same year as Pete Newman’s confession to child sexual abuse and subsequent arrest), Kanakuk Kamps, Inc. was absorbed by Kanakuk Heritage, Inc.
  • Significant financial, real estate, entity restructuring, and other transactions have been reported in 990s and other state documentation in Missouri and Texas, between the various Kanakuk affiliated for-profit and non-profit entities, several of which occurred in 2008 (including over $8 million exchanged between Kanakuk Ministries and Joe-White-owned or White-family-owned entities).
  • Kids Across Africa Foundation was incorporated separately in Arkansas in 2008 (a Missouri entity was established previously in 2007), that ceased to operate in 2011, due to failure to file a correct and current annual report.
  • Kanakuk Ministries (DBA “K-Colorado”) – managed by Joe White’s daughter Jamie Jo and ex-son-in-law, Andy Braner –  donated its facilities in 2009 to Ahava Ministries (DBA “Camp KIVU,” referred to as “KIVU Gap Year,” also led by the Braners) and began to focus more exclusively on international “global relief operations” work, beginning the Gap Year program in 2011 and ceasing camp operations altogether in 2015.
  • In 2015, Kanakuk Ministries was granted church status by the IRS. As a “church,” Kanakuk is no longer required to file public 990 forms and there is less obligation related to financial transparency overall.



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