Kevin and Heather Sanford run into the Truth wall in San Diego – “Heaven Gate.”



In early January I received a message from San Diego, California asking about the former pastor at Abundant Life in Galway Kevin Sanford and his wife Heather. Ever since he had to vacate the country having left major debts to a landlord we had heard very little about him.

I had heard that he had gone back to Texas but that because of the trail of damage he had left behind in Ireland he wanted to start a new life in San Diego CA. I received reports that he was starting the Harbor Church there. I was trying to find what I published at the time but then remembered I had not published the information as I did not want to alert him so that he could control how the information was being published. I was in touch with a major TV network about doing the story, but my memory suggests we got caught up with the c word cult. They wanted to do a cult story, but I wanted to just let people read our articles on our archive and make up their own minds. So to be honest it just slipped my mind until I got a reminder a few weeks ago.

Then I received this message:

Hello Sir, I am a Minister from San Diego, Ca and would love to speak with you and know the details in regards to a Pastor that you exposed on your “Cult Busting Organization”…Pastor Kevin and Heather Sanford who were from Abundant Life Church in Ireland…Many Multiplied Blessings.


This was a Minister called Michelle Padgett. She explained to me that the Sanfords had been involved with at least 3 other churches and maybe even 5 before they came to her church which is called Church Tsidkenu.


The Sanfords had told everyone that asked them about their missing Irish CV that they had to leave Ireland because they were persecuted by the Catholic Church. No one seemed to know the real reasons behind them having to leave. Though on LinkedIn Kevin writes the following without irony:


“With experience, industry and frugality, I will work hard to empower those over me and under me toward excellence and accomplishment and would value an opportunity to prove to be real asset to any group.”



He claims to have between 1997 and 2012 to have.. established a Christian Church in the West of Ireland drawing Catholics and Protestants together in one of the largest non denominational efforts in the country.


You will note the prominence of Kevin and Heather Sanford on the Tsidkenu web site. People were clearly beginning to wonder who this couple were. They apparently were on a three month probationary contract managed by the leaders Ben and Lydia Wisan.

I was spending significant time trying to brief them and was promised a number of times that Ben would call me. He never did and so nearly two weeks later it is time to publish.

Remarkably soon after engaging with Michelle I received this message.

“Guess what?? My Pastor Fired Them Last Night!!”

I will leave the rest to your imagination.


Here was how this was seen in 2012 by the general public here in Ireland:


A lot of the links do not function now but here is our archive of that period:

Here you can see how this all developed and the wreckage the Sandfords left here in Ireland.

Here is the first evidence that Sandfords were going home…..

‘CULT’ PASTOR TEXAS MONEY AND RUNS, By Jim Gallagher Sunday World  November 13, 2011



 ‘God tells Rolex-wearing preacher to move to States’ as he cons flock out of thousands and leaves €160k debt


A Rolex-wearing church minister accused of being a cult leader is quitting the country leaving behind massive debts. Kevin Sanford and his wife Heather, who wears a €10,000 diamond ring, told their ‘Abundant Life’ church in Galway that “God has told us to move to Texas”. Sanford was taken to court earlier this year by a landlord who claimed he was owed €80,000 for 18 months rent arrears for the church on the top floor of Tower House in Galway.  The High Court ordered Sanford to pay nearly €160,000 in rent, penalties, interest and court costs. Even though he won the case in March, landlord Owen Heffernan has not seen one cent of the money. Instead of coughing up, the American Sanfords have announced they are quitting the country, leaving behind their church of 15 years.


 The couple, who arrived in Ireland with nothing, live with their four children in a beautiful five-bedroom home in Craughwell, south Galway. They also own a villa near Alicante, Spain, which they bought after telling supporters that Heather suffered from a condition which required six weeks of sunshine every year. Abundant Life members pay a “tithe” of at least ten per cent of their earnings to the evangelical church. Some families have donated €50,000 to €60,000. Now, in a farewell letter to supporters, which the Sunday World has in its possession, brazen Sanford said the move to America would be “very expensive” and pleaded: “We would like to ask everyone we know to consider helping us.” Former members of Abundant Life have told this newspaper how their lives were taken over by the church which they described as a cult. Heather Sanford has surrounded herself with a team of devoted, mostly single women who do all the cleaning, cooking, washing and babysitting.

Some travel to Spain with her to do the chores there. Abundant Life has huge similarities to the King of Kings church in Tuam, which we exposed as a cult last year. Former members of that church, run by Mary and Ossie Sheridan, have joined Abundant Life. Both churches preach the “prosperity gospel”, telling followers that whatever they give to their pastors now will be returned by God many times over in years to come.

“Kevin boasted from the pulpit about buying his wife a €10,000 diamond ring for their tenth anniversary,” said one former member. “He said God had blessed him so much he was able to do it – and bring his wife on a trip on the Orient Express for the same anniversary.” The ex-member said if followers cut back their donations the two pastors would demand to know why. Kevin Sanford would tell them: “The amount you give shows how much your heart is in it. Your heart is connected to your wallet.”

He said every sermon began with a long message about the need to give. “Heather would also say €200 was needed for the phone bill or that they had fallen behind with the rent for the church. They begged for money. “People were donating and assumed the rent was being paid but it wasn’t.” At its peak three years ago Abundant Life had 250 members but that has now dropped to 100.

Former American intern Kenny Sabourin* told the Sunday World this week how he was abused, bullied and manipulated by the “tyrant” couple when he was just 18 and straight out of school. He was expected to work 50 to 70 hours a week, cleaning bathrooms, washing dishes, emptying bins and running errands.

 “Heather was always making you feel like garbage,” said Kenny. “She said the kingdom of God wasn’t for lazy people even though I was working for nothing seven days a week..” He said Heather once ordered him to wrap Christmas presents for her children but described his work as “disgraceful and an abomination”. “She always made me feel like the most pathetic human being in the world. “The only work she did was ordering people around.” When he got sick, Kenny said she ordered him to get up and pray to Jesus to be healed so he could get back to work.

Abundant Life was particularly aimed at women, who made up nearly 70 per cent of the church, former followers claimed. Relationships between members were not encouraged as it would distract from “God’s work”. “Some women gave up their child-bearing years for Heather,” said one former member.”

Latest figures for Abundant Life, which is a registered charity, showed its income in 2009 was nearly €450,000, almost all from members’’ donations. Figures uncovered by the Sunday World also revealed Sanford, an ex-US marine, earned nearly €70,000 from his US charity, Kevin Sanford Ministries, last year. The Sanfords also took extensive expenses from Abundant Life.


The Sanfords told their congregation two weeks ago they would be leaving at the end of December. They are currently in El Paso, Texas, where they are setting up a new church. The couple introduced Brendan and Sheila Hade from Dublin’s 1,000-strong Victory Church as their new pastors. Hade is a businessman whose church made a fortune from government contracts supplying accommodation for refugees. He was also a director of Abundant Life from 2001 to 2003. He is in the High Court this week where he is being sued by three businessmen who claim they were ripped off. Hade is expected to run the Galway church along with his Dublin operation. Owen Heffernan, the church’s former landlord, said: “I don’t want to say anything because I am still hoping to get my money back. It’s a lot of money.”

Mike Garde, of cult-busting organisation Dialogue Ireland, said: “We were alerted to this church nearly 10 years ago. “We have been assisting individuals who have come out of this group; people whose marriages have been affected or whose finances have broken down.” “Abundant Life, King of Kings and Victory represent the same goal of religion attached to financial gain.”

An Abundant Life spokeswoman said nobody was available to comment. Phone calls and emails to the Sanfords in America went unanswered.

* DI had extensive interviews with Kenny Sabourin.





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