Tell Your Stories for Strength and Healing

This is a guest post by Audrey Martin.

My name is Audrey Martin and I attended a boarding school in East Africa in my childhood in the late sixties. My parents were not career missionaries but I felt the entire MK experience, but at the same time was able to see the issues a step apart.  I have watched my peers walk out many of those positive and negative aspects of the MK background and since I was in my twenties have taken the initiative to support with first, re-entry, and then other issues of identity and sadly, abuse.  Here’s my take on what is happening regarding boarding school and abuse issues.

At the very end of the film, “The Help,” the protagonist talks about the importance of telling her stories and how doing that can bring freedom.   Various female characters were afraid to tell their stories, afraid of the kickback. But they found that telling them and having them written down helped them leave the place of victim and move forward. That’s what those who suffered at boarding schools need to do today – tell their stories and write them down, the good, the bad and the ugly.

Currently, mission boarding school stories are dribbling out, often when some kind of legal action is taken. I use the word “dribbling” advisedly. But I think it’s time for one of those Southern Hemisphere downpours – the kind that blast down rain, clean the air and then clear up.

The time has come to shake off fear in order to tell the stories. These stories have strength and power in and of themselves. They don’t require finger-pointing or blame. The events, the impact and the emotions are real, as is the ensuing healing journey.  The focus for many seems to be on obtaining acknowledgement of the wrongdoing and to find someone to pay the debt. It somehow seems overwhelmingly important to nab a perpetrator and pin them to the wall.

But a better position of strength is to acknowledge that there was wrongdoing whether or not anyone acknowledges it or pays for it, and that in fact, no one could make it right. As an adult, one accepts the life given them and makes the best they can of it.  Of course it’s important to seek accountability from individuals and agencies, but this in itself does not bring healing.  Telling the stories for their own sake, however, can bring healing not just for oneself but for others.

It’s time for abuse victims to come out of hiding and lay it all out in as straightforward a manner as possible. My call is for no more “dribbling,” no more whispering or hiding in paranoia. It’s time to stop the fear cycle. The choice to put oneself supposedly at the mercy of a missions agency and its policies and decisions is in itself continuing the victim mentality when one no longer is a victim. And often the greater fear, of offending parents, can only be addressed from a position of strength. It is not our place to protect our parents’ sense of call and their worthy contributions. That is their place. Silence has always aided and abetted abuse. In telling our stories we help to dismantle the pain and bring truth and healing to light. But when we speak out, it needs to be in a strong, self-confident adult voice, not the fearful small one inside that is on the healing journey or the strident one seeking reparation or retribution.

When this voice speaks, whether verbally, online or on paper, more people will hear, and more importantly, more will listen.

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9 thoughts on “Tell Your Stories for Strength and Healing

  1. Nearly beaten to death, months later his mother is shot to death, years of horrific abuse so awful that a polygraph test is administered to reveal the truth and the court record is ordered sealed! Year’s later working as a Bounty Hunter and Strong Arm Collector he makes a decision so big that it changes his life forever!

    Charles Dudrey takes you to the center of drama and violence as hell unfolds in his life as a young boy. You will feel like your right there as he is nearly beaten to death by the hands of his own father. In the back of an ambulance he is rushed to the emergency room in the middle of the night. Barely clinging to stay alive, he has suffered severe head trauma and now the hope for his life looks grim.

    Months later in the early morning hours of a cold November day his mother is murdered. She is shot to death in the kitchen of the family home with his father’s handgun, leaving him with a despairing and uncertain future. The day after his mother’s funeral his father stands in a court room waving a bible and pleading with the judge not to charge the man who had killed his mother.

    During the next several years the writer endures hideous and unspeakable abuse by his father and a woman pretending to be his step mother. He lives in a state of constant horror and turmoil never knowing when his abusers will attack and strike, perhaps even killing him. It could come at any moment without warning.

    He is assaulted and beat unmercifully with broom handles, mops wringers, whipped with extension cords and beat repeatedly for years. In his mind he withdraws and dreams of a better life, clinging to hope that he will someday escape with his life. He is starved continually and denied any food to eat. When he complains of being hungry he is forced to eat food that is rotten or contaminated with bodily fluids. His abuser forcing his mouth open, digging her fingernails into his face forcing him to eat and drink. She is yelling and screaming at him in fits of uncontrollable rage accusing him of being ungrateful as spit flies off her lips hitting him in the face.

    Then late one night in a dark cold house the author is awakened from his sleep to the voice of his abuser yelling and screaming for him to come to where she was. Scared and running as fast as he could not want to anger her any more, and not knowing what might be waiting for him. He finds her lying on the floor at the “Top of The stairs” doubled over in severe pain, in labor about to give birth. She is pleading with him, begging him to help her as she lays there helpless.

    This was the opportunity he had dreamed and longed of for years. Now is the time to make her suffer for all the pain and abuse, the unspeakable things she had inflicted on him and his brothers and sisters. No one would ever know that he killed her and he knew he would get away with it. Standing there for a moment the memories of this woman spitting in his face, choking him and looking into his eyes all the while reminding him how much she hated him. So now on this night standing at the top of the stairs he makes a decision that will pave the course of his future.

    Years later working as a Bounty Hunter he has found a place where he is comfortable in life, a place that is familiar. The author feels right at home hunting down and arresting bail jumpers. Beating up people for hire has become an occupation. Using some of the same techniques and methods he learned growing up, fear, violence and intimidation. He feels at home working in the streets, dark alleys and night clubs. He has learned how to live and survive how to hustle and live in the fast lane.

    Then while on the run from the law to avoid another trip back to prison, something drastic happens, he has an encounter on a cold and rainy night that changed his life forever! He has an encounter with Jesus!

  2. @ Thorntree, I agree with Audrey. Due to internet access and blogs, all the press that is being given to MK abuse right now, I believe it is time for us to come together and act as a whole. I have to say that the Fanda Eagles site along with the Mamou film All God’s Children, there is a movement to shed light on the atrocities that happened to MK’s and those whose parents have been in the ministry, whether is has been overseas or stateside. Having said this, I certainly understand your viewpoint. It takes a great deal of resilience and strength to keep plodding along in the face of so much discouragement!!!! United, I believe, we will make a difference.

    Thanks for sharing on this blog!
    beth

  3. Thorntree – This is why we need a critical mass of stories so they overtake any possibility of denial. I think it’s a mistake to decide ahead of time that all is lost. The times they are achangin’. – Audrey

  4. A compilation of stories would be fantastic – I would personally like to send a copy to all the Directors of SIM, as well as the Board, and to the woman in charge of Child Safety, since it seems like they don’t believe there are any abuse victims still out here.

  5. All very helpful and good suggestions. @ Raz……….I don’t know if you have seen the movie “The Help” but it was really good and wouldn’t it be great if we had a trusted individual that we could tell those stories to and have them compiled into a book……….it would be a fascinating, gut wrenching read.

    Thanks for posting……….nice to see you on this blog as well.
    beth

  6. Audrey’s idea/suggestion is very intriguing! Imagine a compilation of MK stories that would catch the world’s attention! The stories could be published anonymously, and they would still be so powerful! There is so much wisdom in Audrey’s thoughts on finding our voices, and not being held back by fear of our parents or our former missions.
    I will be praying that someone with knowledge, ability and connections will take hold of this idea. I think there are many, many MKs ready to tell their stories, to the right person, and in the right arena. MKs from a number of missions, countries and generations.
    I hope this idea will take wings!

  7. I whole-heartily agree, Ms. Martin. For those of you who struggle with a history of abuse, telling your story doesn’t mean full disclosure to the “world.” Start with that ONE person who you know you can trust. I remember telling one person my darkest childhood secret, the one that excluded me from the love of God and His Kingdom…and have been free of that fear ever since. I never felt the need to go beyond that one person because her acceptance and reassurance absolved me of all the lies the Enemy had whispered into my heart.

    The other thing about the fear of telling comes because we are afraid of what it will “do” to another; destroy a ministry, hurt someone’s feelings, etc. If the fear is about destroying a ministry, think for a moment about those already destroyed in that ministry. God cannot/WILL not bless sin. If cover-up–LIES–is involved, God won’t bless that. God lives, moves, works in Truth and Light. Shining the light of Truth into darkness IS ministry in and of itself. Jesus said, “Blessed are the PEACE-MAKERS,” not the PEACE-KEEPERS. Sometimes, making peace involves routing evil and that is noisy, messy, ugly, but therein dwells our God. Too many of us learned that God inhabits a place of “peace at all costs.” The abuse victims are not living in peace! My prayer is that they find one trusted and TRULY Godly friend who will join them in routing the evil!

    Prayers for Truth, Peace and Righteousness for the Kingdom of the Prince of Peace,

    Susan Lochstampfor Smith

    • You are so right, Susan, we can’t forget that our Enemy is a master of lies and deception, and abuse victims continue to live with those lies for years and years. The lie that God doesn’t consider you worth saving, or that He doesn’t have the power to save you. The lie that it is your own fault that these bad things have happened, and that nobody cares about you. Putting your story out there for the public to read is not the right path for everyone, but I will venture to say that keeping it a complete secret is not good for anyone. For those who are suffering in silence and going through it alone, (many, as the people visible on this blog are just the tip of the iceberg), you are not alone! Talking to one person, as Susan suggests, or even writing your story down, might start you on the path to healing.

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