Jill Duggar is offering a refund to 19 Kids and Counting fans who helped fund her missionary work that turned out to be an unauthorized visit to Central America that some believe was a front for a vacation.
But despite the growing criticism, the reality television star has yet to address the controversy or answer the many fans asking if the trip is indeed legitimate.
Jill and husband Derick Dillard had been telling fans about their mission trip and even solicited donations, but the work has come under increased scrutiny in recent weeks. It was revealed that neither Jill nor Derick were certified to do missionary work by their church’s parent organization, the Southern Baptist Convention.
Derick had written in a personal blog that the couple was “certified” through a prayer ceremony, but the actual process to become certified for becoming a missionary is actually much more strict and includes courses.
“Upon returning to the United States, we have hit the ground running. Just this past weekend, we were commissioned to the mission field by our home church,” Derick wrote.
“The commissioning consisted of our pastor leading the congregation in praying for our family as we work on the mission field. We are eternally grateful for Christ’s body, the church. That same day, we also had the joy of attending Jill’s cousin Amy’s wedding.”
Now, Jill Duggar and her husband are responding to the controversy. The page for their non-profit group, Dillard Family Ministries, is offering a way for donors to get their money back.
The trip itself had been under scrutiny for weeks, with many fans believing that Derick Dillard and Jill Duggar were taking something of a vacation, or at least not entirely serious about their work as missionaries. Many pointed out that they were able to fly home to attend the wedding of Jill’s cousin, Amy Duggar, in Arkansas. Jill and Derick returned to the United States at least two other times as well, sometimes for extended periods.
Some fans even openly questioned Jill and Derick, posing questions on their Facebook page about the nature of the work.
“I (love) you all and Jill and Derick but it (concerns) me that I am sending (money) for them to do missions and (they) fly home 2 times for weddings,” complained fan Shadman Rolfe. “I want to know if my cash is paying for this or (ministry). I want to serve the Lord and I want to give (but) I need to know my money is being used right.”
Others questioned the rigors of a missionary trip that allowed both Jill Duggar and her husband to leave the program and take a “planned, month long trip to take care of some things and enjoy time with family and friends,” as Derick described it.
During the time they were supposed to be engaging in missionary work, Jill had also been studying to become a certified professional midwife, a process she recently completed. It also appears that Jill and Derick may not yet be fluent in Spanish, as he mentioned that they have both been in language school.
But Jill and Derick have not answered the criticism, instead posting family updates and sharing pictures online. This week Derick also wrote a reflection for Columbus Day, but in doing so did not make reference to the controversial missionary trip.
Jill Duggar also appears to have scrubbed information about the mission from the family’s website. There was once a tab on the Dillard Family Ministries site that offered an explanation and description for their work, but it has since been taken down.
[Image via Instagram/Jill Duggar]