MK Safety Net Conference 2015: Journeying Together

Did you attend, or wish you could attend, the MK Safety Net Conference in Chicago last year? You’ll be happy to hear that the time has rolled around again. You can register now for the 2015 Conference, which will be held in Atlanta, Georgia.

This is a gathering for adult MKs and TCKs who have experienced abuse, and also for family, friends and others who are involved in this ministry. The organizers hope to create an authentic environment where abused MKs can share their stories. They also want to affirm the support that is offered to abuse survivors through MK Safety Net, and help them connect with resources they can use. Last year’s conference was a huge success. You can read some of the comments from attendees on the MK Safety Net web site.

The conference will be held at Dolce Atlanta-Peachtree Conference Center in Atlanta, Georgia, on April 17-19, 2015. The conference cost is $150 ($125 for early registration) and there is an additional cost for the hotel room.

Wm. Paul Young, MK and best-selling author of The Shack, will give the Friday evening opening address. Boz Tchividjian will speak on Dealing with Institutions. Joanna Colrain, a Trauma Recovery Counselor, will speak on Recovering from Trauma. Finally, Ivan Fleishman, a Psychologist for abuse victims, will speak on The Effects of Abuse on Families.

There will also be breakout sessions, on these topics:
• Topics covered by the main speakers
• Legal options for abuse victims
• Creativity in the healing journey
• Recovering healthy spirituality after abuse in a religious setting

You can register for the conference and find a detailed schedule here.

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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.

 

 

Sweet and Sad Memories from an MK

Jos Night

by Stanley Steely
(after the graduation ceremony from Hillcrest High School)

I walk the empty streets
of my hometown for the last time.
It’s 1 AM with the black sounds
of night all around.
The rare street lamp spreads it’s
dim pool of pale light like
the crescent moon’s slim beam.
Night sounds of owl, cricket,
mosquito buzz and the rustle of some
creature in the roadside grass,
lull my soul but can’t soothe.

My heart cries out to join the tears on my face.
In a few hours I’ll jet away from Africa
to a distant land.  A place my parents know
and long for, but strange/fearful to me.
My childhood is over; mourning the early morning
sunrays that will illuminate a new turned page.

The smell of rain damp earth, mixed with sweet
Mango and Flame Tree scent, overwhelms me.
The distant drumming of villagers dancing
the night away, their fires flickering
through the minutes till time is gone,
ignites a burst of emotion and suddenly
my Bata’s beat a staccato on the hard tarmac
as I break into a desperate run…

I’ll not walk this road again.

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.

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.