Inside the cash mystery in Joel Osteen’s church

Written by Margo Genkin, CNN

CNN’s Micheal Sebastian is following Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church as he installs its new football field as a temporary venue for the World Cup.

For Ben Servati it’s a day he’ll never forget.

For the past three months Servati has been digging at Lakewood Church — home to mega-church pastor Joel Osteen — in Houston, Texas.

“I called up my company … and asked the owner how much it would cost to dig behind the bathroom,” he said. “And they said $1,500. I said ok.”

On Wednesday, Servati returned to do it again and was horrified to discover more than six-foot-deep bunks, $150,000 in cash and more than $90,000 in checks had been left behind.

Ben Servati made the discovery while excavating behind the bathroom at Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. Credit: Courtesy Ben Servati/Flickr

“(The owner)’s son was actually to blame for it,” Servati told CNN. “It was a conversation around the bowl of left over dough at the end of the summer.”

He continued: “There’s a lot of debate going on with his family about what is the good of just breaking out the communal potty for the world.”

‘Like a priceless collection’

When Servati began the search for the cash, he thought he’d discovered a “modest safe” that contained just $10,000.

“I opened it up and I saw 20 compartments that had over $2 million in cash,” he said. “And I thought, wow!”

Ben Servati opens a safe at Lakewood Church to find $2.6 million in cash. Credit: Courtesy Ben Servati/Flickr

Servati, a 35-year-old LA plumbing engineer, said he has spent the past three months finding money in unknown places across the US. His exploits first came to light in late July, when he posted a video of himself opening a safe, containing 1,400 pounds of cash, in Falls Church, Virginia.

His most unusual find, however, was on his last day at Lakewood.

“It was like a priceless collection — it was in small boxes and the people that donated it were thankful,” he said.

Osteen had a close call himself earlier this year. During an appearance on a TV show back in March, he was nearly killed by a rubber snake — long considered one of the world’s deadliest reptiles.

While still recovering from the attack, he began sharing the 3D images of the escaped animal on social media.

“Instead of being afraid of the snakes, I want to help people be more aware of them,” Osteen told KPRC, Houston’s ABC affiliate.

CNN has reached out to Osteen for comment but had not heard back by the time of publication.

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