Oct 182011
Authors: Matthias Gafni McClatchy-Tribune

OAKLAND, Calif. — If there’s a Rapture and no billboard announces it, has the world really ended?

Yes, or probably, according to the Oakland, Calif.-based Family Radio ministry and its leader Harold Camping, who are sticking to their latest prediction that the world will end — for real this time, well maybe — Friday.

Camping originally foresaw a cataclysmic rolling earthquake-spawned Doomsday on May 21, and his nonprofit spent millions of dollars proselytizing with the Armageddon on billboards, a fleet of RVs, radio stations and throughout the worldwide media.

Camping became one of the most popular web searches in the days before the end, and the butt of jokes, particularly after the world survived the day.

Five months later, Camping, now 90, and his believers have not lost faith, but they have kept it to themselves.

The billboards have disappeared, the evangelical caravan parked, followers have folded up their End of Days sandwich boards, and Camping, recovering from a stroke at his Alameda, Calif., home, and his ministry have kept quiet.

“We have no comments for the media,” a friendly Family Radio operator said Friday. “We’re not doing that any more.”

“Family Stations, Inc. has no comment concerning October 21,” wrote spokesman Thomas Evans in an email. “Our media response was made back in May.”

Camping’s home phone number has been disconnected.

A woman answering the door at Camping’s house Monday said he was not seeing anyone and politely closed the door.

The End of the World notwithstanding, 2010 tax returns show the Oakland-based nonprofit now has assets of more than $104.8 million, up more than $30 million from the year before.

Donations soared in the months before the expected end in May, and the nonprofit dumped millions of dollars into more than 5,000 billboards worldwide, but those figures will not be public until next year.

The nonprofit owns several dozen radio stations across the globe, but Camping stopped his weekday broadcast of Open Forum religious programming after his June 9 stroke. Camping recorded a message to his followers in recent weeks.

“I’m still a long ways away from being healed, but there is progress being made,” says Camping, his normal gravelly voice now slurred.

In the six-minute message, Camping addresses the mistakes of May 21 and the expectations for Friday, which will not come with the global earthquake he previously predicted.

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