Once Upon a Time at SIM

I first posted on this blog in January of 2011. Has there been any change since then in the way that SIM treats their adult MKs who have been abused?

My story actually begins a couple years earlier in 2009, when some SIM MKs began to speak out on Facebook about the abuse they had experienced on the mission field. The AMK Task Force that Larry Fehl had formed in 1998 had long since ceased activities, although they had not accomplished all of their goals and they knew there was much more to be done. (See the AMK Advisory Committee Case Study) Investigations of past abuse were being handled by Mr. Fehl, even though he was officially retired from SIM. The ministry to abused adult MKs had been put on a back burner, very far back. Meanwhile social media such as Facebook was giving MKs a new voice. MKs from New Tribes effectively used social media to start an investigation into abuse in the Fanda Boarding School, and the results were shocking.

In the fall of 2010 I contacted Dorothy Haile, the International Personnel Director at that time, and asked her some questions about SIM abuse policies. You can find the conversation on the pages of this blog under the SIM and Abuse tab. Although SIM was developing policies for MKs currently on the mission field, she said they had no policy for dealing with reports of past abuse by adult MKs. Ms. Haile opened an investigation for an abused MK.

A month or two later, still the fall of 2010, Dorothy Haile handed over her responsibilities as International Personnel Director at SIM to Marge Prince, the Child Safety Coordinator for SIM. The investigation opened by Ms. Haile continued under Marge Prince. It was seriously mismanaged until it ran into the ground in April of 2011, and to my knowledge SIM has never re-addressed that particular case of abuse.

In the spring of 2012 Malcolm McGregor, SIM International Director, wrote about the subject of abuse in Simroots and announced that the International Child Safety Coordinator was Liz Ebeling. I wrote to her and had several phone and email conversations. I wanted to get a contact for abused MKs, preferably with a name and face, and find out what they could expect if they reported past abuse. Liz Ebeling gave me an SIM email address but did not want her name or any personal information to be posted online. Malcolm McGregor had already put her name out there, but it is disappointing not to be able to share her background on the blog. She could not tell me of any written policies regarding past abuse, but said it would be dealt with on an individual basis.

In January of 2013 Mary Decker took on the role of SIM USA Child Safety Advocate. Here is the announcement on her blog. I asked her a question in the comment section back in January or February, inquiring whether she would be handling cases of abuse reported by adult MKs. She answered that she would be responsible for this, working along with Liz Ebeling. Later I left another comment asking what kind of outreach would be done for the SIM MKs who were still suffering the effects of abuse. I mentioned that I knew of specific cases ranging from the 1960s all the way through 1993.

Mrs. Decker gave the following reply: “Hey Liz,specific concerns could be addressed to liz.ebeling@sim.org, our SIM international Child Safety Coordinator. From what I understand, many SIM’ers including leaders have sought to connect via SIMRoots and in various other ways. Each situation must be responded to on an individual basis, and my sense is that it’s best to work through these in person and not via media where so much misunderstanding is possible. Recognition and concern for people who have suffered in years past strengthens our desire to prevent further harm to children in days ahead.”

The reason you can’t see this comment thread today is because Mrs.Decker decided to delete the whole thing from her blog. She said the conversation might be very confusing for the family, friends, and supporters who follow her blog.

Indeed, it must be very confusing for supporters to hear about a history of abuse at SIM boarding schools when this topic is never mentioned or discussed publicly.

During the past two years SIM has been mostly silent on the whole subject, with the exception of Malcolm McGregor’s article in Simroots. He wrote a good deal about things SIM is doing to prevent current abuse, and then he said the following:

“In the 1990s, SIM leaders became aware of cases of abuse. We listened, investigated, and confirmed openly that these incidents had taken place. We moved quickly to offer care and recovery support for those who suffered abuse.”

Mr. McGregor is referring to the AMK Task Force that I talked about earlier. The reason the SIM leaders “became aware” is because an MK first of all marched into the SIM Headquarters and demanded that they pay attention to this issue, and then the entire outreach effort was headed up by MKs, at a minimal cost to the mission. As for Mr. McGregor’s claim that the incidents were “confirmed openly,” I would like to see where and how these abuse investigations and their results were made public.

It seems that not a whole lot has changed over the past two years other than a turnover of people at SIM. There is still no written policy on how to handle past abuse, but instead they say it needs to be handled on an individual basis. From what I saw of the investigation I followed, this translates into a trial and error approach which ends up being traumatic and damaging for the victim. It means a victim has no idea what to expect if they bring an abuse allegation to SIM. SIM does not even publicly post the contact information for the people who would handle a report of past abuse.

SIM USA just unveiled a brand new web site in February, and as I peruse it and follow the links I see no mention of any outreach or ministry for adult MKs, abused or otherwise.  They do have a list of twenty five or so of their special projects that you can support with prayers or financial assistance. Wouldn’t it be great if there was an Abused MK Ministry right out there on that list of projects, with the wholehearted commitment of SIM to do whatever needs to be done to ease the pain of wounded MKs.

The AMK Task Force had its flaws. First of all the investigators of abuse (mostly MKs) were too closely linked with the perpetrators and with SIM. Secondly their “invitation only” approach excluded the seriously abused who were no longer connected with their families and classmates. However at least it was an effort by people who seemed to really care, which is preferable to the nothing that is happening now.

With all the ups and downs on this blog I have greatly appreciated those of you who sent me private notes letting me know you are still reading, telling me about your situation, and reminding me of the reason why I have the blog in the first place. Every time I start to wonder if it’s worth it or to get distracted by life, God sends me another reminder in the form of an email, letter or phone call from one of you.


11 thoughts on “Once Upon a Time at SIM

  1. At least SIM USA has tried to some extent and had a truth and reconciliation commissiont. SIM in countries like Canada simply denies or ignores the issue.

    • “Tried to some extent” is done by all missions. It is like handing a starving person a soda cracker then asking him why he is still starving. Yet they think they have done their part. It is not strange that those outside the evangelical world have no respect for the evangelical community.

      • Maybe in the USofA that is true but in Canada SIM most certainly does not try at all. When AMK abuse is reported to them they take no responsibility at all.

    • That doesn’t surprise me Dave, it is always easiest to ignore something and see if it will go away. If you want to pursue it maybe you could try contacting Liz Ebeling at intl.childsafety@sim.org. She is the International Child Safety Coordinator who I believe oversees all the other regional ones. Let her know everything you have done in trying to get a response from SIM Canada. I am not saying you will get anywhere with her either, but it is worth a try. I hope you can find someone at SIM who will listen to your story. Blessings.

  2. Thank you for this update, Liz. I think of you, my fellow MKs, often. This struggle is long and weary, and even those of us who have thought perhaps we’d be seeing a more active response (in our case, from NTM) have started to feel that this is a round and round exercise in futility. There is no true repentance, I’m afraid …. just a frantic scramble to protect the institution. Sad and depressing ….

    • Amen, and I love that passage because it speaks right to the beliefs of SIM and many other missions that one missionary child is less important than the Africans or whatever other group of people they are there to save. The Shepherd leaves the ninety nine sheep and goes after that one that is lost.

  3. Liz this is a great summary of what has not happened in the past and what still is not happening today. It is beginning to look like many missions have a contract among themselves that they will not deal with past MKs unless they become obedient missionaries or have a lot of money the mission can convince them to give up to the mission. Mission leaders live well, maybe not rich, they have their travel expenses paid, often get housing. The abused MKs some made it and some have made it even rich, o yes those are the ones missions like to talk about. Most have some how learned to deal with their past. But many have such problems they can not earn a living, some are homeless because of being kicked out by missionary parents, O yes they could go over seas to reach the lost. But they won’t help their own child, instead condemn their children for being nonspiritual. Many have health problems relating to abuse and have no money to pay medical expenses. When we get the same response from a number of missions is that not evidence of some kind of contract.

    • That is so true, Shary. I can think of a few MKs who are living on the verge of homelessness or have done so at some point in their life, who struggle daily with depression or panic attacks and who struggle to pay for basic health care let alone counseling to get at the root of their problems. I have also read one too many “updates” in Simroots about a family member who sadly is not “walking with God.” This drives me crazy not only because it is a judgement of the MK but also for some reason the rest of the family thinks they have to explain this to the whole missionary community!

      • Roots calls those of us who think that not everything was right in the schools, “the angry whiny ones”.

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