The Influence of Missionary Parents

By the time I had lived through elementary school I was emotionally disconnected from my parents. It was necessary, since I only got to see them four months out of the year, and had by then weathered many, many trials without their help. Those of you who were sent to boarding school at the age of six know what I am talking about. We still love and respect our parents, but the emotional dependence of normal kids was severed when we flew away on that plane in September. (Some kids went home to parents who were abusive, and that is a whole other conversation.)

One thing all of our missionary parents have in common is that they are dedicated, determined and disciplined. In fact they are formidable people, who left their homes and traveled to Africa at a time when travel wasn’t easy, often by themselves, to embark on a life that was dangerous and uncertain. I think we all grew up with a lot of respect for our parents, if not actual fear. They set a high mark for us to follow. These are larger-than-life people who did some miraculous things, but we lost the chance to have a close relationship with them when they sent us away at such a young age.

Fast forward to the present day, and many MKs are stuck in a dysfunctional parent-child relationship. We long for a bond that can never be put back together, and we are careful not to do anything to upset what is there. We don’t want to get our parents in hot water with SIM by talking about abuse, especially if they are a resident at an SIM Retirement Home. We certainly don’t want to go into that dark place of grief with our parents, because it is like a chasm that will swallow us both up. We know now about the pain of separation from our own children, we can guess at how our parents suffered when they sent us away, and nobody wants to relive those emotions.

Some MKs have only begun to speak out about abuse after their parents passed away. My own father passed away before I started gathering information for this blog. It seems their passing opens a door that compels us or allows us to grab onto childhood experiences. Some MKs whose parents are still alive will only speak anonymously about abuse, or flat out deny having any issues with boarding school. We MKs are a very independent bunch, so why do our parents still have so much influence on this conversation?

HOW CAN PARENTS HELP?

I recently had a chance to read An Open Letter to Missionary Parents, by Rachel Steffen. Rachel is an MK who went on to the mission field and so also has the perspective of a parent. Rachel and her husband served for 27 years on the mission field with New Tribes, where they raised four children. This is not easy reading for an MK, and I imagine it is not easy for parents to read either, but I believe what she says is necessary, important and true.

SIM Missionaries, many of you have children who were abused or abandoned. Do you even know what happened to your children while they were at boarding school? Do you dare to ask? Perhaps you can give your children permission to take the steps that lead to healing. You can be advocates for your children with SIM, and you can ask SIM to investigate abuse and provide care for their wounded MKs. You can let your children know you support them. Please read An Open Letter to Missionary Parents, written by another missionary parent to YOU.

If you are an MK who was abused on the mission field, how do your parents influence whether or not you speak out?

Reading the “Abuse” Issue of Among Worlds Magazine

Interaction International is an organization based in Wheaton, Illinois, with a mission to provide resources for and meet the various needs of third culture kids and their families. They publish a quarterly magazine called Among Worlds, geared towards encouraging and empowering adult third culture kids (ATCK). The September 2012 issue of Among Worlds was especially interesting to me and will be to readers of this blog, as the topic was abuse, mainly on the mission field.

Each of the twelve articles deals with some aspect of abuse, and many are written by names you will recognize such as Dr. Wess Stafford, Michèle Phoenix and William Paul Young (author of The Shack). Then there are two very familiar names of SIM MKs who have stepped forward to tell their stories in this magazine. Both of these women attended Bingham Academy in Ethiopia and suffered abuse at the hands of a sexual predator who worked at that school. Neither article specifically mentions SIM or Bingham Academy, for that matter the names of missions and schools are carefully omitted from all of these articles. But hey, I know these women. I am so grateful to them, and to all of the authors here, for having the courage to write their stories and publish them.

I have to admit it took me a while to read through this magazine. That is why I am writing about it 4 months later. I did leave it behind on a trip and had to wait a couple months to retrieve it again. But even while I had it with me it was not easy. Maybe it is because I always have my defenses up when I read about abuse. Will there be a bias towards the missions, justifying their actions because they were doing God’s work? Will I be told once again to forgive, and just to be grateful for having such a rich childhood? Will I read things that are going to trigger my own unhappy memories?

Instead I found these stories were written with soul baring honesty. Several of the authors acknowledged how vulnerable it made them feel to tell their story, and yet they still told it, without glossing over any of the pain, confusion, anger and other emotions that are a result of abuse. Even though specific organizations were not mentioned, none of these articles is anonymous. Each has a real name attached, and lists the countries where that person lived.

There are common threads that run through these stories. The lies of the abuser, especially spiritual manipulation, often telling the victim that he will be responsible for sending people to hell if he jeopardizes the ministry by saying anything about the abuse. The burying of the pain to allow the victim to function in life, even though it never quite stays buried. The lifting of a burden when the victim finally lets go of the secrecy and speaks their story to another person. The suffering that stays with the victim throughout life, even after the healing process is well under way.

An ATCK from Japan writes “Even in the midst of my confusion and anger at the suffering of my fellow MKs, it has been hard to admit the name ‘abuse’ for my own experiences. It’s tempting to minimize things.”

An ATCK from Papua New Guinea talks about how hard it is to make the move from hopelessness and devastation, a situation we have been mired in all of our lives, into freedom. She equates the “comfort zone” of pain and misery to an addiction that she has to always be careful not to fall back to.

Another woman who lived in Indonesia and Malaysia, and was an editor of Among Worlds for many years, talks about how vulnerable it makes her feel to write her story, and wonders even as she is typing out the words whether she has made the right choice. She writes “We may talk in strong language against it, but how many of us are willing to openly admit we have been the actual subject of it? Why is there such shame associated with the admission of having been abused?”

An SIM MK talks about two types of abuse. Active abuse is an attack against a person that deliberately crossed the healthy boundaries of the individual. Then there is passive abuse, which is simply withholding or controlling the basic needs such as love, food, water, clothing and care for the purpose of dominating the will of another person. My own personal note is that passive abuse was a common tactic used at the boarding school I attended, Kent Academy. This type of abuse resides in a sort of grey area where there are no physical or outward signs and it could all be chalked up to discipline. Thank you for letting us put a name on it and call it what it is.

The last article in the magazine is by Becky Leverington, a licensed professional counselor who has served with Wycliffe/SIL since 1994, is currently their Child Safety Director and serves as the steering committee chair for the Child Safety and Protection Network (CSPN). I have reservations about CSPN which I have written about in other places on this blog, but Ms. Leverington’s article had some good points. She is a TCA, or third culture adult, meaning she has lived in different cultures as an adult but does not have the experience of growing up between countries.

She says denial is the number one agent of abuse, and mission organizations are more vulnerable to denial because staff members tend to trust one another (more than they should) because of their common faith. Parents also trust school staff and don’t safeguard their children as well as they would in a non-mission setting.

CSPN has been compiling statistics on abuse, and she talks a bit about their preliminary findings. One is that there is a substantial number of cases of sexual abuse between children. MKs who have been victimized sometimes repeat the behaviour with other children. This will not come as news to a whole generation of boys who attended Kent Academy while they were in junior high.

Ms. Leverington talks about adult MKs who are coming forward years later to report abuse. She says they most need the following, which I am paraphrasing in less detail than her actual words.

  • To be taken seriously.
  • To be listened to compassionately and in person as they share their account.
  • For their accusations to prompt a thorough, unbiased investigative response process by trained response team members, including at least one team member from an outside organization to ensure an unbiased response. (Personal note: I don’t think one is enough. No one on the team should be involved with the mission.)
  • To learn that due diligence was done to determine if there were other victims.
  • To have the outcome of the process shared with them.
  • To learn that appropriate agency discipline and reporting to civil authorities has occurred.
  • To hear a genuine apology by an organization representative.
  • To know preventative measures have been put in place for the future.
  • To be provided assistance for counseling.

Just for the record, it’s been my experience that SIM has not met the majority of these needs for their adult MKs.

If you are a victim of abuse on the mission field, or know a victim, or want a deeper understanding of what it means to be a victim, I encourage you to get your hands on a copy of this magazine.

If you want to read the magazine but don’t feel inclined to order it online, or are short on funds, please write to me using the contact link on this blog.

You can order a back copy of the September 2012 Abuse issue of Among Worlds for $6.00.

How Safe are Missionary Boarding Schools Today?

I am not involved personally with mission schools today. I don’t have children attending a mission school and I myself haven’t attended one for over 30 years. So when the Director of SIM talks about guidelines that are in place to protect children on the mission field today, I have to believe that the children are protected, right? Except that at the same time I receive messages from missionaries who do have children in boarding schools, and are telling me a different story.

A number of people contact me privately with comments about things I write on this blog. They don’t feel safe talking openly because they fear repercussions to themselves or their children. The fact is that some missionary parents whose children attend mission schools are afraid to speak out about things that are going on.

For example in one particular school the “advocate” designated to hear complaints of abuse or mistreatment from children is a member of the mission Board. How is that person going to be an impartial advocate who is truly on the side of the child, and not also looking out for the interests of the organization? This is a school attended by some SIM students, who are boarders. Even though SIM is not running the school, do they have a responsibility to make sure that conditions at that school are safe for their MKs?

Then there is the case of New Tribes Mission. As recently as the 1990s there was widespread and horrific sexual abuse at Fanda, one of their boarding schools.They are currently investigating some of their other schools due to many reports by MKs, and this was only after much dragging of their feet and pressure from MKs to start the investigation. MKs actually had to submit a petition to New Tribes to get them to investigate these schools. New Tribes currently has at least two lawsuits ongoing against them for abuse. And they are a member of the Child Safety and Protection Network which Mr. McGregor speaks of so highly.

Just because a mission joins up with CS&PN and puts out a child safety policy, that does not automatically mean they have the protection of the children at heart. Sometimes it is more the protection of the mission organization that drives their actions.

SIM Talks about Child Safety and Abuse in Latest Issue of Simroots

The latest issue of Simroots arrived in my email box this morning. I was pleasantly surprised to see an article titled SIM and Child Safety by Malcolm L. McGregor, SIM International Director. I have been involved in many a discussion about abuse at SIM schools, I have even written to Mr. McGregor personally (got no response), and this is the first time I’ve seen any of the SIM administration weigh in on the topic “on the record.”

Mr. McGregor is writing in response to concerns from some SIM Adult MKs about how SIM responds to child safety issues both past and present.” He also mentions that they have received reports from SIM missionaries of SIM beinguncaring, unresponsive and/or indifferent to the reports of child safety.” These impressions came from social media, Facebook of course, and web blogs.

The article starts out explaining how SIM has protocols in place to prevent child abuse today. The new full time International Child Safety Coordinator is Liz Ebeling. It is not clear whether she will also be handling reports of abuse that happened in the past, or coordinating any sort of care for past abuse victims.

Mr. McGregor issues a public statement concerning SIM’s stand on Child Safety. In that statement he mentions that SIM became aware of some cases of abuse in the 1990s. He says “We listened, investigated, and confirmed openly that these incidents had taken place. We moved quickly to offer care and recovery support for those who suffered abuse.” He also states “we have committed significant resources of personnel and finances to the education and care of missionary kids (MKs) for many years.”  

These two statements do not ring true with me, based on what I have learned in the past several years. I do know the AMK Task Force uncovered a few cases of severe abuse, but I don’t believe they were openly confirmed. When and where were they openly confirmed? Who were the perpetrators, and what were their consequences? Were any other MKs who were under the care of these people notified that this abuse had occurred? Many perpetrators have multiple victims. Was any effort made to contact others who may have been hurt?

What significant resources has SIM committed to help abused adult MKs? Where is the dedicated staff for this ministry? Where is the outreach? The AMK Task Force was run largely by MK volunteers, who donated their time and a good deal of other resources to help their fellow MKs. Then they somehow got the impression they had helped everyone who needed help. Or, perhaps what little funds they were working with dried up. Or, perhaps SIM decided it was best not to dig any deeper into issues that could turn into a huge liability for them. I think that all three of these reasons could have contributed to the disbanding of the Task Force over 10 years ago. An unmet need still exists.

The article concludes with this statement: We deeply regret and, indeed, grieve any occurrence of abuse, and we stand ready to respond if we learn of any current abuse or anyone else from the past for whom we could help bring a measure of justice and healing. We also protect the right of confidentiality for those who have made reports.”

Is SIM also protecting the confidentiality of the perpetrators? Are they imposing confidentiality on investigations to protect their reputation? How does SIM plan to help to bring justice and healing to abused adult MKs? I look forward to hearing more details about their plans.

This article by Mr. McGregor gives me hope that SIM is paying some attention now to the issue. I wonder what the response will be in the next Simroots and in the more immediate forum of the social media.

Read the latest issue of Simroots.  The article by Mr. McGregor is in Open Dialogue on page 3.

Abused MKs and the Question of Compensation

I hear more and more that people believe abused MKs are only out for the money. Nussbaum and Sidebotham made it a premise of the article they published back in June of 2011.  This article with its rather twisted logic claimed that Protestant Ministries have become a new market for MKs who are all out to get a large sum of money as compensation for their abuse.  Nussbaum has a great deal of influence in the missionary community, since he is legal counsel for the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI), and also for Christian and Missionary Alliance and no doubt for other missions.  On top of that ACSI is a member of the Child Safety and Protection Network (CSPN), which bills itself as a collaborative network of mission agencies, faith based NGOs and international Christian schools intentionally and strategically addressing the issues of child protection.  Many, probably most, of the missions we discuss on this blog, including SIM, are members of CSPN, attending their conferences and working with them in some capacity.  We all know missions today have a heavy reliance on lawyers, and are greatly concerned about their liability.  When misinformation like that in the Nussbaum article is being passed on to missions is it any wonder that they become hostile and defensive when an MK comes forward with allegations of abuse?

Now, several MKs have spoken out and disagreed with the assertion that we are all out to get large amounts of money.  I think it is true that most MKs are not interested in compensation, but rather in having their experiences acknowledged and validated, and having the perpetrators dismissed from the mission.  But is any of this really even what we should be discussing? My feeling is that it is just a tactic to throw blame back onto the MK, to make it seem like they are the “bad guys” for wanting compensation.  When we all start debating why MKs are opening investigations, we lose sight of the real issue, which is the abuse that happened in the first place.

So what if an MK wants monetary compensation for abuse they suffered in the past? I know MKs who have spent thousands on counseling and medical fees out of their own pockets, who have been unable to earn a steady income because of the effects of abuse, and who missed their chance at education and proper training because they had NO support when they were young adults fresh home from the mission field.  If someone added up all the costs associated with abuse that occurred to SIM MKs, it would be pretty staggering.  And yet the fact that they would ask for compensation is such a bad thing that lawyers are writing up papers about it!  Shouldn’t they be focusing instead on the fact that many perpetrators are still on the mission payrolls, and still out there in the community working with children and putting them in harm’s way?

Whether the goal of an abused MK is to get an apology or to get compensation does not matter. The fact is that they are the victim, they are not the one who has done something wrong.

Lets take the blame off the abused MKs and put it right back where it belongs, on the shoulders of the missionaries who caused so much trauma and heartache for children under their care, and the missions who are refusing to do anything about it.

Shining a Light

Christian and Missionary Alliance dragged their feet for years before they were pressured into acknowledging and investigating abuse at Mamou Alliance Academy.  Then they gave it a half hearted attempt, as you can read in the previous post.  Today, there are still many missions that will not even agree to investigate abuse.  At the time the documentary All God’s Children was filmed the MK Safety Net organization had reports of abuse occurring at boarding schools of 21 different Christian denominations or mission organizations.  Only two, PC USA and the United Methodist Church, had launched investigations at that time.  Since then you can add New Tribes Mission and ABWE to that list.  However both NTM and ABWE only launched investigations after intense public pressure in the form of internet exposure, newspaper articles and pleas from churches and supporters.

Most missions, including SIM, do not want the abuse that happened in their boarding schools to come to light.  SIM, for example, already knows of specific cases of abuse that happened in their schools.  Who are the perpetrators, and what actions, if any, have been taken against these people? This information is sealed up in confidential files.   There is no need to dismiss or even discipline a perpetrator if no one is going to find out about it anyway.

Victims who have spoken out in the past few years have been first ignored, and then given so many painful hoops to jump through in order to move their case forward that it is destined for the file of “unresolved cases.”  The vast majority of abused MKs do not speak out, because the mission, other missionaries, and even other MKs discourage it.  SIM has NO outreach for this group.  The only contact available is Marge Prince, who as far as I can tell is not trained or capable of dealing with trauma victims and sexually abused adults.  She has passed several inquiries by both MKs and missionaries off to Larry Fehl, claiming he is in charge of this department. Mr. Fehl is actually retired from SIM and has virtually no resources at his disposal now.  This is how much SIM cares about their MKs.

Matthew 5 says  “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.”  SIM is not a well-lit house. They have many rooms that are dark and kept locked and hidden.  How can they be shining the light of the Gospel to the rest of the world, when they refuse to turn on the lights in their own house?

It has taken publicity and lawsuits for other missions to finally acknowledge the abuse that occurred to children on their watch.  What will it take for SIM?

Missions and Mothers

Today is Mother’s Day in the US, and I am lucky to have my mother staying with me right now.  Her memory is not what it used to be so I have reminded her several times already that it’s Mother’s Day, and it’s only 10:00 am.  She always receives this news with a delighted smile, hearing it again as if for the first time.  I feel as if I never really knew my mother when I was growing up, because from six years old I spent nine months of the year at a boarding school.  To be perfectly honest, I think our mother-daughter relationship was broken many years ago.  I have never had a bad relationship with her, but watching other mothers and daughters I sense that they have something my mother and I do not have.

Today, though, I have the perspective of raising my own children to make me realize the struggles a mother goes through.  I also know a lot more about what goes on behind the scenes in a missionary’s life to help me understand the decisions that my own parents made.  Talking to other MKs and reading about their relationships with their mothers helps, especially the ones who struggled.  In the latest issue of Simroots, Beryl Kirk, who attended Gowan’s Home in the 50s and early 60s, writes a heartwrenching story called Mother and Me.  Back in those days SIM children were sent back to their home country for schooling, and only saw their parents every four years when they came home on furlough. 

I don’t believe SIM required that missionaries send their children to boarding school when I started school in the mid 60s, in fact I know just a few kids who were homeschooled.  However that was against the norm, the majority went to KA, and I imagine that a busy woman running a leprosarium or a guest house as my mother did, which was a full time job, would have a tremendous struggle about giving up that ministry to homeschool her children.  What would be the reaction of the mission if she had chosen to do this?  Several years ago my mother told me that if she had to do it again she would never have sent us to boarding school, but she did not know then what she knows now.

In an article on the Missionary Kids Safety Net web site Ann Beardslee talks of her reasons for sending her children to Mamou, an extremely abusive boarding school.  The Christian and Missionary Alliance required that missionaries send their children to boarding school, and the Beardslee family was obedient to the mission, up until the point where they realized the terrible harm that was being done to their children at Mamou.

My own mother, Lavina Jackson, traveled over to Africa as a single woman in the 50s, on a freighter.  She is a breathtaking beauty in the pictures of her younger years.  She worked as a nurse in a leprosarium, met my Dad, married and had three children, and spent 30 or so years living and working in Nigeria.  Even after she left the mission she volunteered in soup kitchens, ran Child Evangelism Fellowship classes in her home where she got to know all the neighborhood kids, and even took in a foster daughter for several years.  She is an incredibly brave woman, in fact she is quite fearless.  But at the same time she is gentle and kind, open minded and understanding.  I know all these things about her, and I know I am her daughter, but I still feel a bond is missing between us that should be there.

Raising my own sons has been a tremendous struggle for me since I have no history with my own parents.  What is the proper thing to do in this situation, or that one?  While I listen to others talking about the joyous days of caring for their young children, I look back at it as a time of uncertainty and anger that I could not explain at that time.  Now I know more about why I felt that way, but children grow up, and it is too late to go back and do the parenting over again.

Best wishes today to all you missionary and MK mothers out there, on this bittersweet holiday.

How Many Were Abused at SIM Boarding Schools?

The definition of Child Abuse given in SIM’s Child Safety Policy is as follows:

Child abuse or maltreatment constitutes all forms of physical and/or emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect or negligent treatment or commercial or other exploitation, resulting in actual or potential harm to the child’s health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power.

This is the WHO general definition, which was still up for discussion at SIM when I received the document, but was the one written in their policy at that time (September of 2010).   Presumably this is the standard SIM uses to decide if abuse occurred in the past, as well as the present. 

Lets just take a look at sexual abuse alone.  In the US population in 2007, the Department of Health and Human Services reports the rate of sexual abuse was 7.6% – those are only the cases that were reported.  You might say “It’s going to be a lot lower in a missionary population,” but that is not the case. 

What SIM Already Knows About Sexual Abuse

In 1993 a consortium of eight major missionary groups conducted a study from a random sample of 1200 MKs.  Six hundred MKs responded to the survey.  One part of the survey asked whether the respondant had been sexually abused.  Of the MKs who responded, 6.8 percent remembered being sexually abused during grades 1-6.  Another 4 percent said they were abused during grades 7-12.

Although other data from the survey was released, the data about sexual abuse was not released for eight years, when the results were provided to a Cleveland Newspaper.  One of the researchers was David Pollock, who expressed that they had “a great deal of pain and frustration” with the results.  Another researcher was our very own Kent Academy MK David Wickstrom, who explained that the full-time day jobs of the researchers had prevented them from finding the time to release these results on sexual abuse for eight years.  You can read more about this survey at the Beliefnet web site.

Is it possible this problem existed at other missions, but not at SIM?  Absolutely not.  I personally know of sexual abuse that occurred at SIM boarding schools, as well as physical and spiritual abuse.  There was a story written up in Simroots several years ago about sexual abuse that occurred at Bingham Academy, although it was written in the most general terms so that it left everyone wondering whether it was their school and their dorm parents that were guilty.  John Morrow, an SIM employee who worked at Good Shepherd School in Addis Ababa, was named as a sexual abuser by an Independent Review Panel for the Presbyterian Church.   You can read about this on the Presbyterian Outlook web site.  Scroll down quite a ways until you find where they talk about Ethiopia.  These are just a couple of the stories that we know about.

How many SIM MKs were sexually abused?

How many MKs have passed through the SIM system of boarding schools?  Simroots, the magazine for SIM MKs, reports on their web site that they have 2000 on the role.  This would include some parents and staff, but there are also many MKs that don’t get Simroots, or families where MKs share copies.  SIM MKs attended 13 different boarding schools, some small, and some like KA that housed a couple hundred students each year for decades.  It’s probably safe to say there are at least 2000 adult MKs who were “raised” with SIM.  If statistics hold true, about 140 of them were sexually abused.  The AMK Task Force that was meeting with MKs 10 years ago reported 2 cases of serious abuse.  Sexual abuse, by my definition, is serious abuse.  So, 2 cases?  It seems to me there are a lot of adult MKs out there are living with the unresolved consequences of sexual abuse.

Don’t forget these statistics are just for sexual abuse.  There is also physical abuse, which was very widespread at KA, and even more widespread were emotional and spiritual abuse.  Humiliation was a favorite method of punishment. 

What is SIM doing today for their abused MKs? 

Since they disbanded the AMK Task Force 10 or so years ago, I am not aware they are doing anything.  The Task Force conferences were “by invitation only,” and MKs who were isolated from their families and friends, or who didn’t read Simroots, didn’t participate.  It seems to me SIM has been picking and choosing who they want to help.

I think SIM needs a person on their staff in a dedicated role of outreach to MKs who have been abused.  This person should be qualified to work with victims of abuse, and should be acting as an advocate for the victims, not as a damage control operator for SIM.  They need to set a clear policy for how they handle abuse accusations, and to publicize this policy using all the media they have at their disposal.  This policy should include investigations by an independent panel, not by former MKs and SIM missionaries. Simroots should not be the main route for dispensing information about this because it is a paper that’s only distributed twice a year, which not all MKs choose to read.

What do you think?

The Sound of Silence

Hello darkness my old friend….

I’ve been involved in a lot of discussions in the last few months about abuse on the mission field, and one thing is always there – the overwhelming sound of silence coming from SIM.  Even though I open up my Facebook privacy settings to “everyone,” and in fact I have quite a few missionaries on my friend list, and SIM itself has a big presence on Facebook, not a single SIM missionary or employee will weigh in with an opinion.  The same is true of this blog.  All of the comments are from MKs of SIM and other missions, but SIM prefers to sit back silently and not participate, even though we are all talking about them. 

I understand the reasons that many MKs are silent on these issues.  Some do not want to delve into painful memories.  Some were both victims of abuse and abusers themselves.  Some don’t want the shame of sexual abuse to become public.  Some flat out don’t remember what happened to them in boarding school.  Some want to protect their parents from the pain of knowing what they experienced.  Some just don’t want their parents to hear that they are saying anything against SIM, after all many of our parents are all living together down in Sebring.  Some don’t want to have to confront their abusers, who are still alive.  Some believe that it is sinful to speak out against SIM, and don’t want to do this in front of parents and peers.

Why is SIM silent?  Are they sitting back with arms folded, waiting for this to pass, hoping that nothing will be done before all the perpetrators have passed on, so there won’t be any unpleasantness of having to discipline their own people?  Are they afraid of acknowledging that anything happened, because of the cost of setting things right, or legal problems that might ensue?  Would they rather all of this just stayed hidden in darkness?  Are they actually oblivious that anyone is talking about these things?

Do they still regard MKs as a lesser priority, not really important to the work at hand of winning souls? 

Maybe you have stumbled across this blog while you were searching for information about SIM.  For anyone who is looking for answers, the new Child Safety Coordinator at SIM is Marge Prince.   (She took over the position from Dorothy Haile, who answered some questions for me in the past about SIM policy.)  If you decide to open an investigation into abuse in an SIM school, past or present, Marge Prince is the one who will likely be handling your case.  (Although you may be shocked to find out how a case of past abuse is actually handled.) I imagine you could also direct questions to her about what SIM is doing to reach out to wounded MKs.  Marge’s email is marge.prince@sim.org.

Marge Prince or anyone else from SIM is welcome to break the silence and join the conversation here.

Sin of the (Dorm) Parents

Exodus 34:7  “Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”

In Fall of 2001 issue of Simroots a couple who worked as dorm parents for many years at Kent Academy wrote an open letter to the KA “Kids.” Here is an excerpt from that letter:

“Among the many lessons that you can learn as an adult from your childhood experiences, one of the most important is this: What I am today in large measure is the cumulative result of the experiences I had as a child-most especially the experiences I had in my own home and family.”

They went on to “grade” the parenting skills of families they knew on the mission field.

  • A+ goes to wise, godly and proactive, intelligent parenting
  • B goes to above average families
  • C is for parents who didn’t seem to understand the impact of their parenting, and didn’t put much thoughtful effort into it
  • D is for barely passable parenting
  • F is for thoroughly dysfunctional failures

The letter ends by telling the KA Kids that whatever our childhood experiences were, we are to proactively seek to give our own children an A+ home.  They say that “no work or ministry in which you may be involved can be compared to this responsibility.” 

The point that this couple seems to be missing here is that they were in the parent role for many of us, during the good part of our formative years.  Since this woman was primarily involved in taking care of us in the girls dorm, perhaps she wouldn’t mind being graded by her own system.  She was probably the strictest enforcer of policies that would be considered abusive by the standards SIM uses today, because they resulted  in “actual or potential harm to the child’s health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power.”  One example is that girls were not allowed to use the bathroom at all during rest hour or after lights out at night.  We would actually be stopped in the hall and sent back to our room, and you can imagine the consequences.  This woman who is handing out advice on parenting gave no quarter to children who were unable to meet the standards set for dorm and dining hall, and for my part I was terrified of her.  I give her somewhere in between a D and an F. 

In the boy’s dorm, each set of roommates would collect points during the week for having a clean room.  Rooms had to be cleaned in the mornings, and there was also a surprise check sometime during the week.  This is normal, right?  What isn’t normal is that the boys in the room with the least points would be scheduled to be strapped on Saturday afternoon.  Points were tallied up early in the day, so that the boys would spend all of Saturday morning anticipating their punishment.  We are talking about boys as young as 6 and 7 years old.  If you were a messy type, or happened to be rooming with someone messy, you might get strapped on Saturday afternoons on a regular basis.  I doubt there was ever a perfect room, so it’s safe to say that every boy experienced this punishment at least once or twice during the years it was in effect.  The worst part of this system, if I am understanding it correctly, is that since there would always be a room with the least number of points, someone always got strapped.  Was this to teach the boys to clean their rooms, or to fill a need of the dorm parents to punish? What kind of a grade would we give parents who treated their children this way?  I would give them an F.

Parenting my own children has been one of the most difficult things I have done, since I often felt like I had no standard to use as a guide.  I have struggled with unexplainable anger, confusion, irrational fears of separation and guilt as a parent.  And to recap the letter’s message, “what I am today in large measure is the cumulative result of the experiences I had as a child-most especially the experiences I had in my own home and family.”  I will change that to read the experiences I had at Kent Academy.

Why would God punish children for the sin of their parents, as the scripture above says?  This hardly seems fair.  And yet it is true that people who are abused often abuse others, even their own children.  Or perhaps it is an acknowledgement of the anger, fear and grief that abused children will experience throughout their lives, and then maybe pass on to their children. 

How will SIM take responsibility for their role as a parent to MKs?