By Terrence McCoy
By Scott Fishman
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Allie Conti
By New Times Staff
By Ryan Pfeffer
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Kyle Swenson
TV news quickly caught on. That same year, Terry appeared on the Today Show. Then ABC Nightly News shot footage of the 9-year-old in a segment about child preachers in which a mustached anchorman asked: "But whose word is it?" They aired clips of women falling to their knees at Terry's touch. Randall Balmer, a professor at Barnard College, explained that Terry and kids like him were "parroting their parents." He later told New Times: "There's an element of exploitation... it turns preaching into a spectacle."
Some fans treated Terry as a Christ in the making. "We got calls every day," Monroe says. "They wanted him to cure they sick sister or they dieing mama."
Other viewers approached Terry on the street. One starstruck 20-something ran up to Terry at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport two years ago. "Can you touch my wallet?" she asked, explaining her financial woes. A 105-year-old woman vowed to have Terry bless her before she passed away.
Churches across the country began inviting the boy. The family stayed in the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort in Atlantic City — a $300-per-night oceanview hotel — and the Hilton in Newark, New Jersey. A millionaire in the Cayman Islands put them up in her mansion, Monroe says. "She wanted to be the one to take care of Terry."
Adds Todd Durham: "It's very lavish... with limos and fine dining."
By the end of 2007, Monroe and the twins had upgraded homes again — to a cream-colored $286,000 place with a pool in Margate. Though she was still on government disability checks, Monroe opened her current storefront church at Powerline and McNab roads in Fort Lauderdale. It was called True Gospel Deliverance Ministry. She declined to talk about church finances, saying, "The money is our business."
This past March 1, the New York Times ran a story on Terry with the headline "11-Year-Old Boy in Florida Is a Man of God on Sunday." It quoted heavily from Monroe, noting she "had a vision in which a child joined her at the pulpit." It makes no reference to the family's criminal history or the substantial offerings during guest appearances.
Monroe says the boy is doing God's bidding. She is cagey about Terry's income. "We're not making millions," she says.
Todd Durham adds: "I put more time and money into this business than I get back." He says the cash will go to pay for Terry's education.
Terry doesn't pay much attention to the money. On a recent Saturday, he dedicated the entire day to preparing a sermon titled "God Is a Provider" while his cousins attended a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese.
New Times asked if he ever misses out on normal kid stuff. "No," Monroe answered for him.
Terry adds: "People say my grandma is pushing me. But God chose me."
Child preachers like Terry are most common in Pentecostal communities, says University of Miami religious studies professor David Kling. They're also embraced at African-American churches, where there's a "strong folk and oral tradition."
These settings are ideal for "freelance evangelical preachers to collect unregulated income," he says. Sometimes there's a belief that if you give, you'll be rewarded. "If people are convinced a healing is taking place, they are more willing to give," Kling says. "It's as if a transaction were occurring."
Back at New Harvest church — on the treeless stretch of Northwest Miami-Dade — Terry's sermon has been over for ten minutes, but tears are still rolling down the braided woman's cheeks. She sits on the floor sobbing to herself in front of the audience. A few older ladies stroke her hair, rub her shoulders, then escort her back to her seat.
In the audience, Terry's mom and dad both wear T-shirts with Terry's face printed across the chest. They read: "Little Man of God." As he steps down from the pulpit, several churchgoers form a semicircle around Monroe to gush over the boy's talent. She smiles.
Pastor Gregory Thompson, who earlier encouraged the congregation to donate money to the boy, says Monroe called him a few days before the sermon. She offered him the chance to hear Terry preach. Thompson says it's unusual for New Harvest — which he calls "Bapticostal" — to have a guest minister. "But it's not every day you get a child like this."
It's unusual too for cash offerings to go directly to the preachers, he says. Typically, donations fund the church and are divvied among bills, the pastor, and community events. He adds that it's especially odd for a first-time guest preacher to walk out with such a hefty wad. But Thompson says he was inspired. "He's a young man who is doing something positive... I wanted to send a message to our church's youth."
Outside New Harvest, A. Leon Worthy — a wiry 69-year-old with a snowy beard — says he thinks of it as a duty to give the family money. "It's a mandate from the Bible to support the man of God," he says. "His message was from the heart."
Later, Pamela Brown, a sophisticated 52-year-old with thick-framed glasses, explains she believes Terry is a prophet. Before she got to church, she asked God if she should become a pastor herself. Terry didn't know this, but he told her, "You can now walk into the path of ministry," she says.