The documentary All God’s Children, about abuse at Mamou Alliance Academy is full of shocking experiences. There are stories of sadistic teachers, spiritual and emotional abuse, forced separation of siblings, rape and beatings. I also attended a mission boarding school in West Africa. At my school we had our own sadistic teachers, spiritual abuse, emotional abuse, separation of siblings, rape and beatings, so none of that was a great surprise. What I found more shocking in this documentary is the way the situation was handled by Christian and Missionary Alliance from the time that MKs first came forward and even after the investigation found staff members guilty of abuse.
You may think that C&MA deserves a pat on the back for being the very first mission organization to investigate abuse at one of their boarding schools, but in reality the MKs struggled for years to get action. When a handful of MKs first approached C&MA and told them about the abuse that had occurred, they were met with evasion and lies. For ten years they contacted the mission through letters and phone calls. Peter Nanfelt, the VP for Division of Overseas Ministries, told them “I’m too busy to address these issues.” They were told that their problem of being abused was minor in the light of what C&MA was doing for the rest of the world.
Finally when the media began to pick up the story, C&MA was publicly shamed into taking action. In fact, the Board of Managers took control of the issue and began searching for individuals to serve on the Independent Commission of Inquiry that investigated the school. Eighty MKs came forward to testify to the ICI. The process for at least some of the MKs was extremely stressful. After the investigation, the findings were turned over to C&MA exclusively, and for a while they tried to withhold information from the MKs and the public, specifically the “need to know” section of the report. (Eventually the MKs did get this part of the report and you can read it on the Missionary Kids Safety Net web site.)
The ICI found eight staff members guilty of abuse. Some of these people were no longer connected with the mission, and the mission claimed they had no jurisdiction over them, so these people received no consequences for their actions. Three of the boarding school staff had formal disciplinary hearings. For the staff who denied the actions or who refused to cooperate, no action was taken. No legal charges were brought against any of the abusers. One particular abuser accused of rape was still employed by C&MA at the time of the filming. Although he had other victims, they have refused to testify out of fear of his threats to kill them if they told anyone the story, and there is no corroborating evidence for his crime. As the icing on the cake, the C&MA sent a letter to each of the Mamou staff apologizing to them for tainting their names in the investigation, and thanking them for their hard work at Mamou!
Is it any wonder that some of these MKs are still struggling with anger and wounds that will not heal?