Missionary Kid: How I Learned to Say Goodbye by John Haines

“You see, dear reader, the past is never far from any of us. Its presence has a way of growing as more and more time goes by. Like a continuous but imperceptible whisper, the past is always there. ”

In his book Missionary Kid: How I Learned to Say Goodbye, John Haines gives a humorous and heartfelt account of his early life and adult journey as a hobo jetsetter, also known as a missionary kid. I found it to be so entertaining, filled with dry wit and humorous descriptions, as well as some photographs and John’s original sketches. At the same time John poignantly captures the sorrows, regrets and longings that we have all experienced.

John’s parents served with North Africa Mission. Today this organization has incorporated two other missions – Southern Morocco Mission and Algiers Mission Band – changed their name to Arab World Ministry and joined with Pioneers. He was born in Morocco, moved to Marseilles for most of his childhood, and eventually attended Black Forest Academy, the international Christian boarding school in Germany.

After high school John was steered towards a Christian college, as is the tradition for many missionary kids. During his journey as a young adult he learned to question his beliefs, and constantly felt the urge to move on, from a couple of Bible colleges, to a State University in Minnesota, to graduate school in Toronto, with several stints of employment along the way. The sadness of the goodbye is described so eloquently in this passage:

“Have you ever had to say goodbye to a house or country, to a lover or friend whom you knew you would not see in a long time, possibly ever again? If you have, then you know that this goodbye is the hardest goodbye in the world, because when you come back, if you ever come back, this person or place will have changed beyond recognition. You too will have changed. And so, whether you know it or not, this goodbye is the last goodbye.”

And yet, like other MKs, John uprooted himself by choice many times during his adult life, moving like a nomad between schools and jobs, states and countries. After a childhood of being uprooted and forced to leave people that we love, you might think an MK wants nothing more than to settle down and live in one place, but for many of us the reality is very different. The constant urge to move on creates more necessary goodbyes, which seems to create a vicious cycle.

The book is addressed to three groups of people: Believers, Unbelievers and Innocent Ones. If you feel like you definitely don’t fit into any of those categories, you are probably a member of a fourth option, the Missionary Kid.

You will recognize many common features of missionary life, no matter which country you grew up in. The housekeeper and babysitter, whether man or woman, who would be a luxury to an American family, was commonplace among African missionaries. The prayer letter, which as John explains had a primary goal of fund-raising, was how missionaries kept in touch with their supporters, family and friends before the days of facebook, email and blogs. On a personal note, the prayer letter had a secondary function of documenting every awkward and unphotogenic moment of our childhood and adolescence, which would then be mailed far and wide to all the people we would meet when we came home on furlough.

We all participated in plenty of sword drills, and who among us cannot speak fluent “King James?”

I can relate to the stigma of the “missionary kid” label, and having to explain to people that our lives were not like “The Poisonwood Bible.” John does not buy the definition of third culture kids, but maintains that we are not defined by some mythical third country, but by the lack of a country. A missionary kid is missing a home.

There is an undercurrent of sadness in this story that will also feel familiar. Longing for someone that you were torn away from at a young age, like John’s beloved ‘ummy. The sorrow of not knowing your grandparents. The disconnect that missionaries and their kids feel when they return to their home country. The realization that the country which held so many promises is not what you expected.

Although this is not a story of abuse, the theme of the past being always present in your memory, and the needs to finally grapple with it, is relevant to many readers of this blog.

“It may fade, but it never disappears. Wherever we are, wherever we go, no matter how long we ignore it and no matter how hard we try to shake it, the past has been waiting, patiently waiting. Lying quiet and breathing still, it has been waiting for that moment when, finally, we give in and embrace it with all of its fury and affection.”

This is a circular story – it tells of lives that have traveled around many paths only to wind up in a starting place. John finally settles in Canada, the beloved home of his maternal grandparents. He ends with a story of “coming home” to Morocco at the age of fifty, for a visit. An encounter with some children on the street, the very sort of children that his parents ministered to for all those years, ignites a spark. “I looked into their eyes and felt the love of God,” another full circle for a missionary kid who bounced from evangelical to apostate and back again.

This book will both entertain you and tug at your heartstrings. You can find it on Amazon.com.

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Patrick’s Story, and an Opportunity to Help

Recently a former MK contacted me to tell me about his struggle with traumatic experiences in his past, and his goal to get a psychiatric service dog to help with his symptoms of PTSD. There is an opportunity to help if anyone is so inclined.

Patrick Murphy led a whirlwind life while he was growing up. His parents were with YWAM (Youth With a Mission). Beginning when he was in grade school, he lived in Haiti, Japan, the Philippines and Indonesia. This doesn’t count time spent living in Hawaii while in training. In Penang, Malaysia, Patrick went to a boarding school called Dalat.

Dalat was originally a Christian and Missionary Alliance boarding school. In 1999 C&MA decided to close the school and another group took it on, turning it into an independent school that serves the ex-pat business community in Penang. Dalat shares a history of reported abuse along with other Alliance boarding schools such as Mamou Alliance Academy, which was featured in the documentary “All God’s Children”, Bongolo School in Gabon, and Zamboanga School in the Philippines.

While living in Indonesia as a young teen Patrick survived several near kidnappings and was mixed up in transporting drugs for a local mafia, during which he witnessed the killing of a close friend. He was living on the island of Lombok In January of 2000 when thousands of Muslims rampaged through the towns, wielding machetes and torching Christian churches. Patrick and his family had to flee the country. A few days after the riots Patrick and his sisters were sent back to Penang to attend Dalat.

Patrick did not do well at boarding school, and was assaulted by a teacher, so his parents sent him back to the States to live with an aunt in New York until the whole family returned a year and a half later. The life-threatening violence and fear that Patrick experienced growing up had a lasting effect on him.

Patrick is now a husband and father, and still suffers the crippling effects of PTSD. He experiences flashbacks, panic attacks and sudden speech impairment. He and his wife heard about how beneficial a psychiatric service dog can be for people in his situation. A psychiatric service dog is different from a regular service dog, and can be very expensive to raise and train from a qualified breeder. Health insurance does not cover these costs, and it is difficult to find help if you are not a veteran. 

Here are Patrick’s own words  “For those unfamiliar with the process of getting and training a service dog, it is a very expensive journey to pursue and health insurance does not cover any of the costs, despite the fact one must legally qualify in order to have one. Many who qualify for psychiatric service dogs struggle to get one because there are no resources for those who are not veterans. It is expensive to adopt a service dog candidate from a breeder with a proven track record and even more expensive to pay for the 2 years of training it takes to fully train a service dog. We knew this when we first embarked on this journey last year and have trusted that God would provide, as he has always has.

With the coming news of a puppy being born in May, we are reaching out to ask for support. While it is humbling to do so, we truly believe this is the right path to take to for me and for my family. We are hoping to raise $3400, which is a little over half of the costs of adopting a service dog candidate puppy and 2 years of training.

Cost of adopting our service dog candidate puppy: $2500.

Cost of service dog training over the first 2 years: $4000

We are hoping to raise this support by June 25th. Would you be willing to bless us with your support?”

Patrick has a fundraising page at http://www.gofundme.com/servicedog4patrick. You can find a lot more details there about the costs of the dog, plus a link to his family blog and a way to contact him. He explains the many ways a psychiatric service dog can help in a panic situation. I actually think I need one to ride with me on elevators! Can you relate to Patrick’s story? Feel free to comment and ask questions here.

New Tribes MK Goes Public with Abuse Account

On March 26, 2014 Lori McAlister publicly told her story of abuse by Gary Earl, a New Tribes missionary. Lori is an MK who attended a New Tribes boarding school in Numonohi, Papua New Guinea. She has been writing her story in a series of posts in the forum of the Fanda Eagles blog.

In the early 1980s, when she was a ten year old living in the dorm run by Gary and Anne Earl, Lori was severely beaten by Gary Earl with a wooden board. The reason for beating a 10 year old girl until she was bloody? It was all over whether she did or did not sweep a floor, her chore for that evening. Read the details about Lori’s experiences that night and in the following years on the Fanda Eagles forum at the link above.

In February of 2006 Lori reported the abuse to New Tribes and had almost four years of correspondence with Scott Ross (lawyer) and Bing Hare. Effectively no action was taken against Gary Earl during that time. In fact it was over a year before they even confronted Earl about the abuse. During the same time frame the girls from the Fanda school reported their abuse, culminating in the GRACE investigation. The Fanda boarding school was in Senegal, so these were incidents from two different countries where New Tribes operated.

In 2013 Lori was contacted by Pii, an investigative group now being used by New Tribes. They were conducting an investigation into Gary Earl. She discovered that he had physically and sexually abused others besides her. The findings of the Pii report were not made public by New Tribes, and Gary Earl still continued to receive support through New Tribes Mission, according to an Earl family prayer letter posted on the forum.

New Tribes did eventually send a letter just to the Papua New Guinea branch of New Tribes to announce that Gary Earl had been “forced to retire” because he had violated the Child Protection Policy. However at the end of March he was still living in Papua New Guinea, at the same location where the abuse took place, and planned to stay there until May of this year.

Lori McAlister is very clear in the course of action she would like to see New Tribes take. She states “I have asked for only two things from New Tribes Mission: 1) exposure to Gary Earl’s supporters and all NTM missionaries through a statement from NTM, and 2) termination from being a New Tribes Missionary, no longer able to accept support as an NTM missionary. That’s it. It’s that simple. I don’t want money; I don’t want to see a therapist; I don’t want a retreat; I don’t want revenge; I don’t want an apology from anyone; I don’t want a meeting. I only want someone in Sanford, Florida, to write a statement that explains Gary’s termination and I want someone to click a delete button on the NTM.org website. It’s easy, really.”

I want to note that there is a big difference between a missionary being terminated and a missionary retiring, even if he is being forced to retire.

New Tribes Mission continues to protect Gary Earl from even these consequences of his actions.

It has been over three years since the GRACE report revealed the shocking abuse that went on in the New Tribes Fanda boarding school. Since that time there have been at least three lawsuits filed against New Tribes by abused MKs, New Tribes missionary Les Emory confessed to assaulting girls in the Philippines, New Tribes missionary to Brazil Scott Kennell was arrested and sentenced to 58 years for pornography and sexual assault, and investigations are ongoing into abuse at several other New Tribes boarding schools. Lori’s voice joins a growing crowd of MKs who have suffered abuse at the hands of New Tribes missionaries.

Let’s weigh the lives of these MKs, and all of those abused MKs we don’t yet know about, as well as the nationals who suffered abuse by these missionaries. Is the work of New Tribes Mission worth the pain and suffering inflicted on all these individuals? New Tribes is still trying to protect their organization and keep these accounts silent. Do you still cling to your belief that this could never happen in a Christian mission where men and women profess to doing the Lord’s work? They have been infiltrated by the Enemy, and the wolves have been running rampant among the sheep and the lambs for many years. If you are still giving support of any kind to New Tribes Mission you are contributing directly to this cover-up, which protects and enables child molesters and abusers.

 

The ABWE Abuse Investigation One Year Later

A year after firing GRACE, the abuse investigation at the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism drags on at a snails pace. What is happening behind the scenes of this slow and silent process?

The perpetrator in this case is Dr. Donn Ketcham, who sexually abused MKs in Bangladesh.  You can read on a survivor’s blog about the shocking way ABWE handled the case on the mission field. It took decades for the victims to get ABWE to address this case, and finally after a lot of exposure in social media, the mission hired GRACE to investigate the matter. This was back in May of 2011.

Almost two years went by, interviews were conducted, and GRACE was only weeks away from writing a final report, when suddenly ABWE pulled the plug and fired GRACE, essentially wiping out the entire investigation.

This was a devastating turn of events for the survivors who had come forward to tell their stories (not an easy process) and felt like their ordeal was finally coming to an end. The mission laid out their reasons for the termination, and GRACE responded. You can read the details on this blog and at the Bangladesh MKs blog at the link above. ABWE then announced they would hire Professional Investigators International (Pii) to redo the investigation. It was back to square one, but this time with an organization that the survivors did not trust, and with none of the assurances in place for how the final report would be handled.

Almost a year went by with no contact between Pii and the abused MKs. Finally they began to contact some victims to set up interviews. However when an MK asked Pii some questions beforehand, including basic things such as who would be present during the interview, Pii refused to give that information. (This intimidation tactic was also used recently by SIM when they were getting ready to interview an abused MK.)

The result of the ABWE victims being uncomfortable with the process is that they don’t show up for the interviews, they lose their voice and the investigators are missing that vital information about the case.

In the meantime, a strangely similar situation arose with Bob Jones University. They hired GRACE to investigate how the University was handling reports of abuse. In January, a few weeks before the report was due to be released, they fired GRACE. This time the news was picked up by major media outlets like Washington Post and NBC. You can find links to some of the stories at the BJU News blog. It was only a few short weeks before BJU met with GRACE and agreed to renew the investigation under the terms of the original contract.

Since nothing was changed in the contract between BJU and GRACE we can assume that it was the public outcry that caused them to change their minds and rehire GRACE. Wouldn’t it have been wonderful if the same had occurred for the Bangladesh MKs? Missions like ABWE, New Tribes and SIM should not be allowed to ignore and cover up abuse reports and drag out investigations for years. They should be held accountable by the laws and by public opinion.

 

Child Protection Training and Children Past

“What good is that God-sized vision of yours if you have to get to it on the backs of broken and silenced children?”

This question to mission organizations comes from Tamara Rice, an MK of the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism (ABWE). She is a gifted writer and self-proclaimed lover of words, and her blog, Hope Fully Known, is a joy to read, even though the subject matter is anything but joyful.

Among other things, Tamara writes about spiritual and sexual abuse and their legacy of depression, anxiety and grief. A recent post is directed towards all those church and mission organizations that are joining what seems to be the growing trend of child protection training. It sounds like such a good thing, doesn’t it? And yet when I hear that the Child Safety Advocate for SIM has been to such a training, why don’t I get a warm and fuzzy feeling that now SIM will start attending to all of their abused MKs? The reason is because child protection training is not about protecting the (many) MKs who have been abused in the past. It is about limiting the liability of the mission going forward. MKs from the past are still on their own.

“If your child protection policies aren’t protecting children past as well as present they aren’t protecting any children at all.”

Thank you, Tamara, for putting my feelings so eloquently into words.

Read The Realist Speaks: Child Protection Best Practices at Tamara’s blog, Hope Fully Known.

 

Speaking Out About Abuse at International Christian Academy

I would like to share an open letter written by an International Christian Academy alumni to Christian and Missionary Alliance Leadership and employees.

ICA used to be known as Ivory Coast Academy when it was founded by the Conservative Baptist Foreign Mission Society in 1962. Christian and Missionary Alliance partnered with CBFMS in the building and operation of ICA, to provide an alternative to their boarding school at the time in Guinea, which was Mamou. Other missions, including SIM, sent students there over the years. The school was renamed International Christian Academy in 1990. Read more about the early history of this school.

Gospel Missionary Union had their own dorm at ICA, and Paul Friesen has written about his experiences there in the book “Ultimate Sacrifice.”

An article in the Plain Dealer in 2010 told the stories of more children abused at Mamou and ICA.

Now, a strong, new voice has joined the others in speaking out about abuse at this school. India Baker was almost 12 years old when she arrived at ICA. During the five or so years that she attended, she was subjected to physical, emotional and spiritual abuse, She endured sexual assault, witnessed others being abused, and saw the blatant cover-up when these things were reported to the staff.

India writes “See, I was taught that children should be seen and not heard.  I was taught that God hated me.  I was taught that I was a worthless sinful being and that I was not worth time, nor attention.  The church is STILL teaching every child and adult  that has ever experienced these things that same lesson by refusing to bring the abusers to justice. In the United States of America it is illegal to abuse a child. So why is it okay for the church to cover this up?”

Why indeed? Churches and missions claim it would be harmful to their ministry and create confusion among supporters if information like this gets out. We all know it would really be harmful to their financial bottom line and jobs and reputations would be in jeopardy.

I urge you to read and share India’s open letter to Christian and Missionary Alliance.

 

 

New Tribes Missionary Warren Scott Kennell Sentenced Today

Warren Scott Kennell, the New Tribes missionary who was arrested back in June for producing child pornography, was sentenced today in Orlando, Florida. Kennell was arrested by Homeland Security when he was coming into the country. He eventually admitted to producing child pornography with young Brazilian girls that he worked with as a missionary.

A large group of family turned out to the courtroom and asked the judge for leniency, citing that the culture where he was raised may have contributed to his crime. I am not sure if they meant the Brazilian culture, or the New Tribes Mission culture.

Apparently the judge didn’t buy the argument, as he sentenced Kennell to 58 years in prison, just three years shy of the maximum allowable sentence. You can read more about the day’s events here.

The Influence of Missionary Parents

By the time I had lived through elementary school I was emotionally disconnected from my parents. It was necessary, since I only got to see them four months out of the year, and had by then weathered many, many trials without their help. Those of you who were sent to boarding school at the age of six know what I am talking about. We still love and respect our parents, but the emotional dependence of normal kids was severed when we flew away on that plane in September. (Some kids went home to parents who were abusive, and that is a whole other conversation.)

One thing all of our missionary parents have in common is that they are dedicated, determined and disciplined. In fact they are formidable people, who left their homes and traveled to Africa at a time when travel wasn’t easy, often by themselves, to embark on a life that was dangerous and uncertain. I think we all grew up with a lot of respect for our parents, if not actual fear. They set a high mark for us to follow. These are larger-than-life people who did some miraculous things, but we lost the chance to have a close relationship with them when they sent us away at such a young age.

Fast forward to the present day, and many MKs are stuck in a dysfunctional parent-child relationship. We long for a bond that can never be put back together, and we are careful not to do anything to upset what is there. We don’t want to get our parents in hot water with SIM by talking about abuse, especially if they are a resident at an SIM Retirement Home. We certainly don’t want to go into that dark place of grief with our parents, because it is like a chasm that will swallow us both up. We know now about the pain of separation from our own children, we can guess at how our parents suffered when they sent us away, and nobody wants to relive those emotions.

Some MKs have only begun to speak out about abuse after their parents passed away. My own father passed away before I started gathering information for this blog. It seems their passing opens a door that compels us or allows us to grab onto childhood experiences. Some MKs whose parents are still alive will only speak anonymously about abuse, or flat out deny having any issues with boarding school. We MKs are a very independent bunch, so why do our parents still have so much influence on this conversation?

HOW CAN PARENTS HELP?

I recently had a chance to read An Open Letter to Missionary Parents, by Rachel Steffen. Rachel is an MK who went on to the mission field and so also has the perspective of a parent. Rachel and her husband served for 27 years on the mission field with New Tribes, where they raised four children. This is not easy reading for an MK, and I imagine it is not easy for parents to read either, but I believe what she says is necessary, important and true.

SIM Missionaries, many of you have children who were abused or abandoned. Do you even know what happened to your children while they were at boarding school? Do you dare to ask? Perhaps you can give your children permission to take the steps that lead to healing. You can be advocates for your children with SIM, and you can ask SIM to investigate abuse and provide care for their wounded MKs. You can let your children know you support them. Please read An Open Letter to Missionary Parents, written by another missionary parent to YOU.

If you are an MK who was abused on the mission field, how do your parents influence whether or not you speak out?

New Tribes Missionary / MK Arrested for Sexual Abuse

A New Tribes Missionary was arrested at the Orlando International Airport last Friday as he was flying in from Brazil, where he had been living for several years. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations has been investigating him for posting child pornography online. Warren Scott Kennell denied the charges at first, but later admitted to molesting four children in Brazil and photographing the incidents. It is not clear whether the children who were molested are connected with New Tribes. Here is the story from Orlando Sentinel.

New Tribes has already been linked with sexual abuse many times in the last few years. The investigation by G.R.A.C.E which ended in 2010 uncovered numerous cases of sexual, physical and emotional abuse by at least 12 different adults at the Fanda boarding school. Since then at least three victims have brought sex abuse lawsuits against New Tribes Mission. There is an ongoing investigation into other boarding schools where MKs have reported abuse. Apparently after all that they are still unable to stamp out the perpetrators from among their ranks.

Here is a statement by a New Tribes spokesperson published in the Sun Sentinel yesterday:  “Our mission organization is one of the largest in the USA, if not the world. We work diligently to screen all applicants and have stringent child protection policies in place. We are grateful to the authorities for their actions and pledge our 100% cooperation. We defer to law enforcement for any future comments.”

New Tribes has put Kennell on administrative leave while they sort this out and “try to confirm whether there is a connection between New Tribes Mission and Kennell’s actions.”  I don’t know, do YOU think there is any connection between a sexual abuser and the mission that he works for?

Kennel, who is forty five years old, is a New Tribes MK himself. He was born in Brazil where his parents served for decades. Here is Kennell’s blog, last updated May 6 of this year. I would be willing to bet he grew up a victim, as did many other MKs out there from many missions, including SIM. Obviously the “stringent policies” didn’t help to find this abuser. Would an MK get a lighter screening than a brand new missionary, or be treated differently than someone who did not grow up with the mission?

Here is what can happen when missions ignore the abuse that went on in the past and even welcome abused MKs back on board to become missionaries themselves.

ABWE Plays Games With Abuse Investigation

Did you ever find yourself close to winning a game of checkers or chess, when your opponent shakes the board, moves all the pieces and declares that nobody won and you will have to start over? That is essentially what the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism (ABWE) has done with their abuse investigation. Maybe it is not great to compare it to playing a game, and winning or losing. It is certainly not a game to the victims of abuse who were looking for some justice. However ABWE seems to have a much lighter view of the investigation, which they have tossed out and restarted with barely even any notification to the people involved.

If you want to refresh your memory or are just finding out about this case, I wrote about it back in April of 2011. You can also read the official blog of the Bangladesh MKs, Abuse By ABWE Mission Doctor in Bangladesh. In May of 2011 ABWE hired Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (G.R.A.C.E.) to investigate sexual abuse on their mission field. After almost two years, when the final report was just a few short weeks away, ABWE now shakes the board and topples the pieces, terminating the contract with G.R.A.C.E.

In their news release ABWE states that the process was “fatally flawed” and paints G.R.A.C.E. as incompetent and inexperienced. The truth is that G.R.A.C.E. is made up of former child abuse prosecutors (and others) who have seen hundreds of court room cases, testified as expert witnesses in court and before Congress, developed courses for law schools and even taught thousands of classes on, believe it or not, best investigative practices. ABWE must have hired them in the first place based on this expertise, and it is really surprising that they are now claiming G.R.A.C.E. did not know what they were doing.

ABWE gives eight reasons why they terminated the investigation. They list them out very concisely and give little or no explanation or evidence for their complaints, aside from anonymous quotes by interviewees. On February 11 G.R.A.C.E. published a lengthy response. They go over the objections of ABWE point by point and defend their procedures in great detail. If you read the news release by ABWE, I strongly encourage you to also read through the response by G.R.A.C.E. before you form an opinion about this investigation.

For the record, G.R.A.C.E. states that ABWE had already breached the contract of their investigation by refusing to release documents and provide access to witnesses. They say that they had grounds to break off the contract themselves, but did not do so because of the pain this would have caused the victims. ABWE, on the other hand, makes it clear by their actions that they are not concerned about the feelings of the victims, despite their claims otherwise.

The longer an investigation drags on, the more it gets terminated and postponed and restarted, the more likely that it will just fade away. The evidence that is here today might not be available tomorrow. The victims might get exhausted and discouraged, the perpetrators might die, and the statute of limitations recedes into the distance. It has been over 30 years that missionary kids have been living with the effects of sexual abuse by certain ABWE missionaries, ABWE has known about the abuse since 1989, and MKs have been actively seeking justice in this case for the past 10 years. This mission has masterfully delayed any accountability on their part, and it seems they are once more kicking it down the road.

They have hired a new firm, Professional Investigators International (Pii), to “complete” the investigation, which must essentially mean gathering all the material again since they didn’t like the way it was done in the first place. I assume this will mean all the victims must undergo the difficult interview process again.

My heart goes out to all the ABWE MKs who were victims of abuse, who are once more being mistreated and denied justice by this mission.

ABWE announces they are discontinuing abuse investigation with G.R.A.C.E.

Response by G.R.A.C.E. to ABWE