The ABWE Response to Abuse by Mission Doctor

In March of this year an MK from Association of Baptists for World Evangelism (ABWE) published a blog to shed light on the actions of Dr. Donn Ketcham, who sexually abused MKs in Bangladesh.  One of the victims was a 14 year old girl, and at least one other girl came forward with her story as well.  ABWE painted the whole thing as an affair, and made the 14 year old sign a confession.  Dr. Ketcham was terminated from ABWE for “immoral conduct,” not pedophilia, he never faced criminal action, and went on to practice in the United States where he may have had even more victims.  You can read all about it on Abuse by Mission Doctor in Bangladesh.

On March 23 ABWE issued an initial response to the blog.  They expressed regret to the victims of Dr. Ketcham, and acknowledged that their response to his crimes left an impression that “we tolerate abuse or seek to defend the reputation of offenders.”  You can read this response on the ABWE web site.

A week later, on March 30, ABWE issued an apology and confession which begins “Dear Hurting MK’s:  To our beloved MKs and your families who have suffered decades of sorrow and pain not only at the hands of Donn Ketcham but also from our mishandling of the abuse, we, the Board of ABWE and ABWE Administration ask for your forgiveness.”  They go on to list specific things they did which were wrong, and to state that the confession is only a first step in settling the wrongs.  You can read the whole apology on their web site.  It is interesting to read some of the reactions to this confession on the blog.

At the request of ABWE President Dr. Michael Loftis, the Board decided on April 4 to appoint an independent, third-party investigator to fully investigate the sexual abuse of missionary children by Donn Ketcham as well as the response to that abuse by the ABWE administration.  The Board appointed a Commission to look into the options and recommend an independent third party investigator.  G.R.A.C.E and other organizations were considered by this Commission.

On April 11 the Board requested that G.R.A.C.E facilitate and direct the third party investigation of Dr. Ketcham and how ABWE responded to this abuse.  They are going to be formalizing their agreement and moving forward with the investigation in the days ahead.

I feel sad that this victim who set up the blog had to resort to sharing her story with the entire world before ABWE would take any action.  It seems that dragging out all the dirty laundry into the sun is the only way to get Mission organizations to acknowledge these things happened.  Maybe it is payback for them making the bedwetters drag their mattresses outside every morning…who knows?   Then, when they publish a contrite apology, you have to wonder whether they are sorry for the offense, or sorry that they were publicly caught.  It is very telling that the apology and amends only come after the blog is set up.

Still, at least ABWE responded swiftly and publicly.  They have transparently posted all of the steps that have been taken on their own web site, including their apology.  The President of ABWE wrote to the victims himself to let them know of the Board’s decision to hire G.R.A.C.E.  They are joining the growing ranks of Missions who have investigated and uncovered all sorts of abuse that occurred in their boarding schools over the years.  You can read some of the other Mission investigation reports on Missionary Kids Safety Net.

I need to print a correction now to the paragraph above, after hearing from a few MKs involved in this case.  The fight to get ABWE to respond and investigate this man went on for decades, and it was only after extreme pressure was applied by many churches, and private documents were exposed, that the mission opened the investigation.  You can see a timeline of these events, and also take a look at the comments below.  (Updated on May 5, 2011)

Did SIM by some miracle run boarding schools for decades without abuse taking place?  Of course not, we know of specific cases of abuse.  What are they doing to address this issue?  Who knows, because they choose to be secretive and keep everything behind closed doors and in confidential files.  Recently an SIM missionary became burdened for abused MKs after being in a facebook conversation with some of us, and he contacted Marge Prince to see what was being done. He came back to us with the information that “it is a delicate process,” “trying to hurry things might ruin them,” and “he had not been given the freedom to share any details with us.”  In other words, the business of wounded and abused adult MKs is something SIM plans to handle on their own, confidentially, in their own good time, and the MKs themselves are not to be a part of that process.

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8 thoughts on “The ABWE Response to Abuse by Mission Doctor

  1. Pingback: ABWE Plays Games With Abuse Investigation | SIM Missionary Kid Survivors

  2. At an SIM Mission school I was beaten with a large wooden paddle by the principal so frequently at school that I was willing to be spanked at home with a leather belt to avoid going to school. It was finally then that my parents realized something was going wrong. At the end of our second term in 1969 at ELWA in Liberia my parents came to the states and remained there to help us children get through school. I was 9 years old by then. They had held me back one year so I was only in 3rd grade. Luckily the remedial education in the poublic schools I received in Cambridge, WI and in Verona, WI helped me catch up and excel by 7th grade. I was told by the teachers that I was stupid and retarded and would never amount to anything. They even told my parents I was dyslexic which is not true. In fact as it turns out I am actually smarter than most and a good athlete so I had the 2nd fastest 1500 meter time at the 1982 NAIA National Track meet in 3:51.73. By 7th grade I was getting all A’s and I have been working as a research scientist for a private company for 22 years. I got A’s in all the hardest biology or chemistry classes. My only crime was that I was an extra energetic hyperactive young boy with a short attention span. To this day I cannot go to the ELWA reunions or talk to the other MK’s without all these bad memories coming back so I just don’t. I have been emotionally scared for life by my treatment. It is difficult for me to socialize normally at church. Of course I was not able to follow in my father’s foot steps as a missionary.

    • I am so sorry to hear about what happened to you Walter. It was not your fault that you were mistreated and physically abused, nor was it anything that you could have changed or controlled as a child. Abuse is a very isolating thing, but you are not alone. Many of your MK brothers and sisters have struggled with memories of abuse and difficulty relating to the church and to God. The abuse and the church become very intertwined at that young age. I pray that you will find healing and peace, that you will be able to connect with your roots again, and that you will see how God has been with you all along. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

  3. Yes. You can now view the official “Timeline Post” on our blog http://bangladeshmksspeak.com/2011/05/04/timeline-of-events/ ‎that will show how much work, how much exposure of previously private documents, went into forcing ABWE’s hand. Their modus operandi was deny, deny until the final few documents went live and the president and board were forced to act or face the wrath of the hundreds of churches that wrote to them in the MKs’ email campaign. We reached out to churches–where the money comes from–and the churches reached out for us and ABWE listened to churches. That–and a merciful act of God–is truly how we got this far and though it seems overnight to some, it has been painfully slow for those who’ve been fighting for decades.

    • Thanks for posting the link to that timeline, and giving a clearer picture of how long it took to get some action from ABWE. There is such a pattern of blaming and punishing the women! Is this an attitude of the mission that the woman must be at fault, or was DK able to convince people every time that they were at least partly to blame? I added the information in to my post above.

  4. It is worth a read on the MKs blog, chronologically if possible, to see the outcry that had to happen before ABWE responded “swiftly and publicly.” One can see by the comments there that it took many emails, the random posting of additional incriminating documents, and multiple pastors, missionaries, and supporter pleas before anything besides very unfortunately worded explanations came out… It is good to see this forward movement on their behalf, but it was disappointing to see that they needed to be backed into a corner before making the right choice.

  5. I too applaud ABWE for choosing G.R.A.C.E to lead the investigation of their school. They have chosen a truly independent organization to do the investigation of mission abuses. The survivors of ABWE schools will have a fair and unbiased report as an outcome.

    The response of the SIM leadership to their missionary is painfully familiar. The majority of evangelical mission groups respond to the survivors of their system with secrecy and self protection. Their responses disempower the abuse survivors and keep their stories isolated from other survivors and from their constituency. There is no intention to respond to the survivors with transperancy. There is no intention to allow an investigation from a independent group such as G.R.A.C.E.

    Former MKs who tell their stories of abuse to mission leadership continue to feel isolated and ‘used’ by the system they grew up in. Many have no funds to seek out the professional help that is needed to assist them toward the healing of the wounds of abuse. The cycle of abuse that began as children continues as adults. Thank God for the presence of the internet where survivors can break the silence.

    Marilyn

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