Beverly Shellrude Thompson, a Mamou MK and one of the founders of MKSafetyNet web site, spoke with Rich Buhler today on the Talk From the Heart radio show, on KBRT AM-740 in Los Angeles. It was such a blessing to be able to listen to her talking about her experiences and how other MKs are struggling with issues of abuse. Here are some of the highlights, for me, from the conversation.
Beverly shared that she was in her 30s before she allowed herself to begin processing the abuse she experienced at Mamou Alliance Academy. Before that she had very few memories of the 10 years which were spent in a mission boarding school. The response from Rich Buhler was “Oh, you started processing it early!” That is very true. Many of us were in our 40s and 50s before we admitted that the whole boarding school experience was not a bed of roses.
Beverly told about how she began, as an adult, to talk to her parents about her experience and work out her issues of abandonment. Many of us MKs not only have to work through our own pain, but that of our parents, especially as we empathize with them now that we have kids of our own. The excruciating part of the pain is the finality of it. It is very difficult to come to terms with the fact that we can’t go back and rewrite the past.
Many people become missionaries in the first place to escape pain in their own lives. Beverly knew of missionaries who had come from abusive or dysfunctional families themselves. My own father joined the mission field soon after the death of his first wife, which must have been a very painful time. This is not to diminish God’s calling, but people who have recently experienced a loss, or are unhappy with their lives, are more open to the idea of leaving it all to start a brand new life. Yet they are entering into that life in a dysfunctional state, which is only going to affect their children or the children who are put under their care.
Beverly talked about several areas of child abuse on the mission field that are not being addressed: abuse of children by nationals of the country where they are living, abuse of children by their own parents, and a common one, abuse of children by other MKs. Many children who are molested will turn around and molest other children, and this was a common occurrence at SIM and other boarding schools.
Beverly had a message for missions. Many MKs consider their mission to be family, and you don’t think of litigating against family when you have an issue with them. However if the family doesn’t respond when you try to tell them about a problem, litigation becomes the only way that you can get their attention. Missions think they are protecting themselves by keeping these things a secret and not acknowledging abuse, but they are doing just the opposite. Litigation will become a reality if it is the only avenue we have as MKs to have our voices heard.
Beverly had something special to say about SIM MKs. She said that even though we haven’t had success yet, she knows that we will, because we are coalescing as a group, and eventually we are going to knock down the walls! I love it! Remember, my friends, you are not alone.
Thanks, Beverly, for speaking out for MKs. Visit Missionary Kids Safety Net web site. I am still trying to get a link from that interview, and will post it here if I do.