TULSA, Okla. -- Evangelist Oral Roberts, ending a fund-raising drive that touched off widespread criticism, said Tuesday he met his $8 million goal, but will not say for sure whether 'God will extend my life' until Wednesday.
When beginning the drive on March 31, 1986, to raise $8 million for medical scholarships, Roberts on his weekly television program had said God would 'call me home' if the project was not completed by March 31.
On Sunday, March 22, Roberts began a 10-day vigil in his ornate Prayer Tower. It was schuduled to end Tuesday night, but Roberts refused to let reporters cover his departure.
Helicopter pilot Larry Gass -- who has been conducting aerial tours of the Oral Roberts University campus, the Prayer Tower and Oral and Richard Roberts' elaborate homes -- said he thought Roberts had arrived home by 6 p.m. Tuesday because guards ended their vigil at the tower and moved to the evangelist's residence.
Gass said he saw Roberts outside the tower twice during the time the evangelist vowed to remain in the tower. The first sighting was outside the evangelist's home on the day Robert's supposedly entered the tower.
'When I came over, immediately he went in the house,' Gass said.
Gass said the guards' insistence that reporters not be allowed on campus motivated him to offer the helicopter tours.
Neither Roberts or a spokesman could be reached to comment on Gass's report.
A taped message for the Oral Roberts Ministries said Tuesday that the money had been raised as God ordered, but the evangelist says still more last-minute donations are necessary for God to let him live.
'I want to come down from this Prayer Tower not only with the needs met, but with an overflow,' Roberts said Tuesday on his son's nationally televised program, 'Richard Roberts.' 'This is the final day. Tonight will tell the story.'
Roberts told the audience he would not know until late Tuesday how much money had been raised or whether God would spare him.
The total amount raised will be announced on the Wednesday morning television program of Roberts's son, Richard Roberts, said Jan Dargatz, vice president for creative development at ORU.
'When I come on the program in the morning with you, Richard, I want to tell you I believe I'll be alive. I believe God will extend my life,' Roberts said Tuesday morning on his son's show.
Several television stations canceled his show because of his using the threat of his death to generate contributions. Other stations monitored individual programs and dropped those in which he repeated the statement.
Money, however, has been rolling into the Tulsa offices of the first of the nation's video evangelists, capped by a $1.3 million contribution on March 23 from the owner of two dog racing tracks in Florida.
The Oral Roberts Ministries got another boost this week with the settlement of two-year lawsuit against the Daseke Corp., of Dallas, Texas. The agreement gives ORU title to the Ramada Riverview Hotel, located across a street from the ministry complex, for an undisclosed amount.
The original owner, real estate developer Roger Hardesty, leased the land to build the hotel, with the agreement that liquor would not be served. But when the hotel changed hands, the Daske Corp. found it was operating with $4 million less in revenue than promised by Oral Roberts and decided to open a bar.
The settlement ends two years of legal battles between ORU and Daske. The bar is now closed.