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.