Missionary Kids Speak Out in CBN News Interview

Three MKs who were abused on the mission field spoke out in an interview which was aired today on CBN News.  You can watch the interview on their web site.  Kari Mikitson is a New Tribes Mission MK who was sexually abused at a boarding school in Senegal.  Wes Stafford attended Mamou Alliance Academy, the school featured in the documentary All God’s Children.  Susannah Baker is an ABWE MK who was abused in the 60s and 70s while she was living with her family on a missionary compound in Bangladesh, by an ABWE missionary doctor.  Boz Tchvidjian, who heads up the GRACE organization which conducts abuse investigations, also appears in this interview.

I applaud all of these people for speaking out about their experiences, and helping to bring to light these things which mission organizations have been trying to keep secret.

I just want to say that even though the lead-in announcer says “those reports are now being investigated,” that is not completely true.  All the reports of abuse are not being investigated.  For example, I am not aware of any investigations going on at SIM right now, but I know of many reports of abuse that occurred at SIM boarding schools.

In fact, it saddens me that SIM is not included in the stories of abuse investigations, and not included in the list of resources that are offered at the bottom of the story on the CBN web site.  I think this is because there is no “official documentaton” of abuse at SIM schools, because whatever investigations have been conducted are being successfully kept confidential.

Way to go, SIM!  You have managed to keep yourself off the radar for this particular news story.

Because SIM was not mentioned in this story, should we assume there was no abuse at SIM boarding schools?  No, because I personally know of many MKs who were abused at SIM boarding schools.  I know of investigations that were started and then thrown on the findings inconclusive pile because the victim could not jump through all the impossible hoops that were presented.  I know SIM asks for a confidentiality agreement so that no one knows about the perpetrator, the abuse, the consequences, or that an investigation even took place.

The secrecy and refusal of SIM to acknowledge what went on in their schools is creating life long consequences for the victims, and also allowing the perpetrators to continue on with no accountability for what they have done, possibly racking up more and more victims over the years.

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7 thoughts on “Missionary Kids Speak Out in CBN News Interview

  1. A Much Afraid………something I am researching. There is so much mistrust now that we cannot assume that, just because we are told these policies are in place doesn’t mean they are followed nor does it mean that those who are to be 100% on the side of the child who entrusts his or her story, is honorable. Sad to say but such is the state of affairs within the mindset of missionaries right now because of all the “cover ups.” Will try to keep you posted.

    @ Ruth Van Reken, thanks for posting. I agree with you on a lot of what you say, especially about Larry, but wholeheartedly agree with Liz on her comment. We have both worked on a recent allegation of abuse that we know to be true and have written facts but the victim had to “jump through hoops” and in the end, couldn’t take the pain of reliving his story. As Liz stated, there are no programs nor a department to help MK abuse from the past nor what is currently happening. No one feels safe. Yes, Marge Prince coordinates if an MK brings an allegation to light but given the way they are treated, no one feels safe to come forward. The abuse is running rampant as is evidenced by all of the allegations that are now coming out from missions all over…….SIM is no exception. I have seen it and I have lived it.

    Said policies that are in place, how do we know they work………I have recently heard that they are not all 100% advocates of the children……..this is a travesty. I am a SIM MK……19 years, went to KA, know all about abuse and have learned a great deal more during the past 3 years from quite a few sources that are very reliable about horrible atrocities. I don’t know if you watched the CBN special recently but as is stated there, most MK’s aren’t looking for a “cash cow.” An apology that would reach everyone……..not just SIMROOTS which seems to only want feel good stories instead of some of the harsh realities of MK life. What Larry Fehl tried to do was on him…..he had/has a deep love for MK’s. It is regrettable that the SIM doesn’t value the MK enough to have a department to make sure they are never abused. And frankly, there are some that have been so abused, they do deserve compensation and a restoration to life. And they don’t need anyone else to tell them to “forgive and forget….move forward.”

  2. If anyone is in a position to speak to MK Safety Net or anyone that has a voice for TCK’s or anyone that checks into boarding school policies, please look deeper than an answer on a sheet of paper. For example, if a boarding school was asked “Do you have dorm advocates?” and they answered “Yes”…that would sound really great and we would all breathe a sigh of relief for the TCK’s nowadays and wish we had had something like that in the old days, but the real truth when you look deeper is that the “Dorm Advocates” are from the staff and leadership of the school. So when a child is brave enough to come forward and trusting enough to believe the offers on the piece of paper put up on the dorm bulletin board to tell their story, then will the “Dorm Advocate” be listening to their story with 100% commitment or also be thinking about their position on the Board of the school?

  3. I, too, am so sorry for abuse that has happened in many situations, in many missions, across the globe, including my own mission, SIM. Each story is sad and made sadder because so often they happened in a situation where the abuser was supposedly serving God. Surely SIM has not been perfect in all its responses and if there is a specific incident it seems is being referred to as far as “droppiing the ball”, while I don’t know this particular story, I am sorry for that and will never defend such a thing.

    But in fairness, I must also say that I was present some years ago when then SIM USA Director, Larry Fehl, took a very proactive approach after hearing from some SIM Adult MKs (AMKs) and convened the first group of AMKs at SIM headquarters in NC and asked to simply hear their stories for purposes of understanding better what had gone on. As some may know from the letter Larry later wrote to SIM AMKs in SIMROOTs, as he listened to some of the stories being told from boarding school days and understood the depth of pain some had experienced, he literally broke down in tears – not because he had been the perpetrator, but because he knew (as he wrote in SIMROOTS) that as a person in his position of leadership in SIM, he had a systemic responsibility to do something for those who had been so wounded. It was a profound moment in my life to see that and I had great repect for the stand he and others in leadership at that time took on behalf of SIM AMKs who continued to tell him their stories in later meetings.

    In those early days, Larry not only asked forgiveness as a representative of the mission but he did convene an Advisory Council of AMKs and issues of abuse and prevention were high on the agenda in each of our meetings. Clear guidelines for prevention and reporting of abuse were written up for all the schools and caregivers. In addition, a questionnaire went out where there was opportunity for any AMK who replied to tell his or her story and followup occurred by a selected committee to work with the reports that came in. Our advisory group met at SIM’s expense a couple of times a year for several years and we heard very clearly from highest leadership at that point that they were willing to deal with abuse matters directly and would not try to shield the mission or perpetrators at the expense of the victims.

    Times and leadership change, of course. Larry has now retired and I don’t know all that has or hasn’t gone on in SIM regarding these matters in recent years. I’m sure we didn’t do things perfectly early on and obviously it sounds as if there are real matters where it seems the followup has not been as some feel was/is needed. I’m sorry for that too. Speaking of what Larry did is not a defense of SIM, but I always was grateful that he as a director in SIM USA was one of the first people I knew in the mission community to proactively ask AMKs for their stories and attempted to do something to deal with the reports that came in.

    Sadly, new abuse can happen as well as old abuse be newly uncovered and, as I said, I don’t know how things have been dealt with in recent years in SIM or other missions. I trust that this TV program and these various responses coming in will continue to spur not only SIM but all missions to take a careful look at each report rhey hear and not rewound those who were abused in the first place by somehow blaming them for telling their stories.

    But for those who have been abused, all of these facts don’t matter. What matters is that you were wounded and being wounded within a ‘God system” brings an extra measure of confusion and pain. . I am sad beyond measure for the countless stories I have heard of abuse in various missionary families and systems through the years. I wish I could have stopped it or fix it now. Thanks to each of you who had and have the courage to speak out and work for the healing needed for the past for yourselves and others who have suffered so badly and wrongfully and to find ways to prevent more of the same in the future. I know that you are changing things in missions around the world, including SIM, and that many are being helped by your courage to speak out. You have my deep respect as well.

    • Thanks for commenting here, Ruth. You have been a blessing to many of us with your books and all the work you have done for TCKs.

      I do believe Larry Fehl had a real compassion for wounded MKs. I think he is the exception in SIM leadership, and even back when the AMK Task Force was holding their meetings with MKs they were under constraints from the Board. When you read the AMK Advisory Committee Case Study, it is clear that the Board was concerned about liability and “staying safe” versus addressing the needs of the MKs. I am sure many MKs were helped by those meetings, but I don’t believe they were made accessible to the ones who REALLY needed help – the MKs who were estranged from family, who didn’t have a “referral,” who didn’t read Simroots.

      I also don’t think they continued the program long enough to resolve issues of the MKs they were talking to, or to allow others to come out of the woodwork. Its been over 10 years since the AMK Task Force was disbanded and there has been no outreach for abused MKs since that time, to my knowledge. Why is that? Do they think they got them all? Is the mission refusing to put any more money into the program? Is the mission afraid of what will come to light if they really open up and listen to the stories of MKs, indiscriminately? I realize that you cannot answer these questions, Ruth, I am just throwing them out there.

      Today, SIM has no programs or services for adult MKs who were abused in the past. The responsibility for this group falls into the lap of Marge Prince, who is the Child Safety Coordinator. During the past year she has been referring questions on this subject off to Larry Fehl, who is officially retired and has not been given the resources to help these people. Not only that, SIM doesn’t even have a policy for investigating abuse that occurred in the past. Dorothy Haile admitted this to me when she was acting Child Safety Coordinator and was answering some of my questions. This was driven painfully home when we saw the way they handled an abuse allegation that was investigated during the past year..

      I think SIM needs to address two things – one is that accounts of abuse that occurred in their boarding schools should be investigated, by an independent third party. This is important because perpetrators are still employed by SIM. The other is that help needs to be provided for wounded MKs who are suffering with all sorts of mental and physical issues because of their experiences. Ideally this would be headed up by a person who knows how to treat emotionally disturbed people and trauma victims, who has a compassionate heart for wounded MKs and who has the time and resources made available to them to do this. Of course I don’t expect all of this to happen, but it would at least to be nice to have some kind of acknowledgment that someone at SIM cares about this issue, instead of the silence we are getting now.

  4. Along the lines of mission boards turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to problems, and more particularly, covering up issues they couldn’t ignore, I welcome any comments on my blog concerning issues anyone here may want to share about such mission cover ups. We know about the sexual abuse issues, but I’m sure there were other issues, as well. And I know many readers of this blog have similar experiences from other fields, as well. Please feel free to leave comments at:

    http://bamissions.blogspot.com/2011/08/baptist-mid-missions-and-natore.html

    The previous link is to a post on my blog that I made a couple days ago, beginning to address Baptist Mid-Missions’ failures at Natore, Bangladesh. There were many. There were sinful acts committed by missionaries at Natore. In some cases, even criminal acts. And yet everytime attempts were made to tell the home office they’d say “I don’t want to hear it” and walk away.

    On issues they couldn’t ignore, they covered it up as best as possible, and then issued gag orders to the remaining missionaries. BMM continues to deny this. But my list of disgraceful acts by BMM missionaries at Natore continues to grow day by day, as I continue to investigate beyond what I already knew from personal experience.

    I greatly welcome anyone’s comments about BMM or ABWE or any other mission agency and such cover ups and gag orders. I am seeking to shed as much light as possible on this issue in an attempt to make the church as a whole face what is really going on, and hopefully bring these mission agencies under control.

    The testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ has been greatly damaged. The cancer is eating away. Invasive surgery to open up the issues and cut them out of the Body is our only option left.

    Thank you,
    your brother in Christ,
    Wes Patterson
    http://bamissions.blogspot.com/
    (Biblical Accountability in Missions)

    • Thanks for letting us know about your blog, Wes. I think that there has always been an assumption that missionaries are some kind of saints who can be trusted to do no wrong, but the fact is they are human just like everyone else, subject to every kind of temptation just like everyone else. But not held accountable for what they do in the same way as everyone else.

  5. Thanks for posting Liz. I feel, given the time frame allotted, that Heather Sells did a good job. I emailed the link to several, including Marge Prince at SIM. It is very sad that the investigation to which you are referring, “fell apart.” Reading all of these blogs and no one in a position of authority seems to bat an eye……….it is tragic and angers me terribly. Were I in better health, I would have agreed to a conversation given all the things I now know……am not happy right now.

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