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?

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6 thoughts on “Shining a Light

  1. Indeed AMK’s are disposable to SIM in particular. In 30 years since I left KA, I have been contacted exactly ONCE, unofficially, just to say hello. The man who contacted me was the father of a boy that was a notorious bully at KA back in the day.

    Why have we AMK’s been shuffled off to the back burner? Bottom line is MONEY. Full and open investigations lead to embarrassment which then leads to the donors closing up their wallets. No money equals no mission work. Maybe this is what has to happen, If the Archdiocese of Boston could be sued legally, so can SIM.. Perhaps even the threat of such exposure would wake up the powers that be at SIM.

    Media commentators eat this stuff up. This could be a Pulitzer Prize for any journalist that wanted to investigate and then write about it.

    As for SIM doing its own investigation, or even asking GRACE to do so, let me just say this : Christians investigating Christians is like wolves investigating wolves after the carnage in the henhouse!

    • I agree completely. If you make enough noise SIM will contact you and invite you down for a visit, but their goal there is to smooth things over and quiet them up, not to actually raise the roof and see what is going on. They have zero outreach to abused MKs. The only real outreach to MKs at all is SIMROOTS, which of course is an MK project, not the mission. And that is mostly feel goody news, very carefully written. I think SIM would very much like to keep abused MKs isolated, but I am hopeful that those days are over since we can all find each other now online. Also many MKs are losing the constraints that have kept them from speaking out in the past. Parents are passing on, so you don’t have to worry anymore about making life difficult for them with the mission.

      It all boils down to money, both at the top level of SIM and also at the level of the missionaries themselves who are relying on the mission and their supporters to take care of them after retirement. It takes a lot of momentum to break through that resistance to letting the truth come out.

      A couple years ago a reporter named Heather Sells did a piece for CBN about abuse on the mission field, and interviewed MKs from New Tribes and a couple other missions. If she does a followup I’d love to see an SIM MK on the show.

  2. Thanks for commenting, Linda. I don’t know a whole lot about SIL. What is their history regarding boarding schools and what kind of resources do they offer? Thanks for your perspective. With the large number of MKs suffering from effects of past abuse, SIM should address this issue and have a written policy. It was painfully obvious from an investigation that happened just recently that they are writing the rules as they go along when it comes to investigating past abuse.

  3. I have found that SIL has more resources to refer people to than SIM for counseling for this area. I am a social worker with SIM (but not serving in a social work role). I have a background in child safety–worked for several years as a child protection worker.

    I helped to write our Child protection policy in Niger several years ago. When I presented the need for the policy–the question was why do we need a policy like this. People wanted to keep their heads in the sand. This is one of my passions! While I was researching to write the policy I discovered at the time that we did not have a policy to deal with current abuse let alone past abuses. We have come a long way but we have so far to go.

  4. Sad but true! Missions are more than happy to sign up the “good” MKs who fit into their “Christian” profile and are willing to work within the system. But the ones who are isolated, who are struggling with drugs, depression, cut off from their families, some living on the streets, who are angry and cynical and mistrust the mission because of how they have always been treated – well, there is just no help available for that group of MKs. Even though they might say, “Oh, it’s such a shame,” they don’t put any effort into helping the wounded MKs.

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