The GOP's New Godfather

John Godzich's network is helping him live the good life. Religion. Politics. Business. That's life, says John Godzich. It's harmful not to mix them. "When there's an exchange," he says, "people become more tolerant."

New ventures, new places excite him, he says, which is one reason he likes Arizona. He recalls driving around the state back in 79 in a Ford with no air conditioning, staying in small motels. "It seemed like everything was possible out here," he says.

Godzich's company is set up like the Amway network, to which he once belonged. (Unlike Amway, says Godzich, some of his distributors also are shareholders of his company.) You recruit distributors to sell products, you sell them products, they recruit other distributors, more products are sold. Distributors get a cut of the sales generated by distributors whom they have recruited.

If you want to make money, you've got to motivate not only yourself but also the distributors who are "downline" from you. Multilevel marketing companies usually don't advertise on TV or in print. They are self-contained networks based on personal recruitment and sustained by rallies, seminars, sales-incentive trips, motivational tapes and, sometimes, evangelical Christianity. Free enterprise is extolled in religious terms. Multilevel marketers like to set up controlled situations in which there's a lot of cheering and applause. They do not talk, however, to the press--or any outsiders except for recruits--about their business.

Amway has made billions of dollars for its co-owners, Rich DeVos and Jay Van Andel, and millions for some of its distributors, like Dexter Yager, a North Carolinian who gave Doug Wead his start on the Amway lecture circuit in the Seventies. Conservative politicians like Ronald Reagan, George Bush and Jesse Helms have received immense help from marketers like DeVos, Van Andel and Yager. That's what John Godzich is doing for Doug Wead, whom he met years ago through Amway. Godzich's explanation of his involvement in the GOP is simple: "I like Doug. He's always in search of the truth."

Godzich helps nurture his distributors by sending them on trips throughout the United States. For the past few summers, many of Godzich's distributors have come to the U.S. He rents them cars, gives them itineraries; they wind up staying at the Pointe Hilton resorts, pouring money into the local economy during the summer doldrums.

All summer long, there are groups of them saying "yee-hah" on Saturday nights and "Amen" on Sunday mornings.

Pastor Tommy Barnett was correct when he told the packed house at his huge church on Cave Creek Road on August 16: "First Assembly is Phoenix's French Connection!"

The door greeter at Phoenix First Assembly of God, which Barnett often refers to as "America's fastest-growing church," said, "Bonjour." Associate pastor Leo Godzich gave the opening prayer in French before saying it in English. After "The Star-Spangled Banner," the church orchestra and choir performed the French anthem, "La Marseillaise." In the church lobby was Wead campaign material. Sitting on the dais was John Godzich.

After Barnett's sales pitch (Give like you've never given before! Let us pray in the name of Jesus!), he told his audience, "We've got some international visitors, some French businessmen and women. Let's give them a hand! . . . Let's give them another hand! . . . Let's give Jesus a hand!"

The church's huge choir gave a rah-rah chant for the French guests.

After the collections were taken, the frenetic, raspy-voiced Barnett delivered a sermon, with John Godzich standing next to him as interpreter. Their images flashed across two huge TV screens suspended above the altar as Barnett told the crowd, "He wants you to have your own desires! The desires of the righteous shall be granted! He wants us to be prosperous!"

Imagine Yves Montand translating for Jimmy Swaggart.

"Some of you think you're here because you were invited! Others think it's chance! But it's destiny that brought you here!" Barnett said, while associate pastor Leo Godzich was busy ejecting a newspaper photographer.

In the end, hundreds of French visitors answered Barnett's altar call to Christ. They streamed onstage past a beaming John Godzich. Packed like sardines, they raised their hands and repeated after Barnett and Godzich: "I am now a Christian. . . ." Barnett told them: "You're helping to change your country for the better. You'll return to your country filled with spirit."

Afterward, many of the French visitors cried with joy. But they still wouldn't tell an inquiring mind what they were doing in this country, other than to say, "Business and pleasure."

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