The AMK Task Force

In 2005 SIM published a case study titled Adult Missionary Kids:  How Missions can Facilitate the Process of Reconciliation and Reconnection.  You can read the published version of the report here:  AMK Booklet Final Copy Booklet Print.

The AMK Task Force was begun when an MK came into the SIM headquarters in Charlotte, NC and demanded that the Mission take a role in helping MKs who were struggling with unresolved issues.  At that time Larry Fehl was the US Director for SIM, and he began to invite AMKs and Mission representatives to SIM headquarters for “consultations.”  

All told, it appears that there were 10 meetings of MKs facilitated by the Task Force, two per year over a period of five years.  These meetings were by invitation of the Director, and he decided who to invite based on referrals from the rest of the group.  In my opinion, this creates a sort of exclusive club of attendees, and MKs who were very isolated or perhaps disliked would not have been included.  This was a small group setting with I am guessing about 8 to 10 MK participants in a session.  So overall the Task Force met with about 100 MKs during the 5 years that they were in operation.  Someone please correct me if I am wrong! 

From what I can gather, the Task Force uncovered two cases of serious abuse during their consultations.  That’s a rate of between 2 and 3%, assuming that all participants remembered and disclosed everything that had happened to them.  What’s the total number of SIM MKs out there, from all SIM schools?  There are a lot more cases of serious abuse that haven’t been addressed.

In the last issue of Simroots, published in 2010, an article stated that the task force was disbanded 10 years ago.  After a certain point the Task Force became an Advisory Committee, whose stated purpose was to be a resource to the SIM Director, but apparently didn’t do active “consultations” with MKs anymore.   I do remember several years ago a Simroots article mentioned that the Task Force was hoping to reach out to MKs in an electronic forum, but I haven’t seen any evidence of them doing this.

Was the SIM Task Force helpful in resolving issues for the MKs that attended meetings?  I’m certain that it helped a lot of them.  I’ve also been told by some who attended that 10 or so years later they are still in the same rut they were in at that time, that it was only a temporary help. 

What about the much larger number of MKs who were not invited to the meetings?  The MKs who are isolated, who mistrust the Mission too much to travel to headquarters or welcome the Director into their home?  Or the ones who are homeless, or mired in drugs, alcohol or despair?  What has SIM done to facilitate for these MKs?  I think they have just reached the tip of the iceberg.

When I read through the different things that the Task Force provided for the MKs that they met with, it is an impressive list.  However I’m not sure why SIM feels the task is now done.  They need to reach a much larger population of MKs and be open to hearing from all of them, not just the specially recommended and “safe” ones. 

I am sure the success of the AMK Task Force was due to the fact that it was run by MKs instead of by SIM administrators.  I find today that SIM is largely silent on the subject of abuse whenever it comes up in social settings like Facebook, and the only people who take an interest in discussing it are the MKs themselves.  When I read through the “Issues to Consider” on page 6 of the document, it appears that SIM leadership had a lot of reservations back then about legal issues, fear of what they would find, and the costs associated.  I don’t doubt that those reservations are all still very much in place today, and perhaps that is why nothing more is being done now to reach out to wounded MKs.

2 thoughts on “The AMK Task Force

  1. I am so sorry to hear your story, Sundance. You are not alone, in your experiences or in living with pain that will not go away. I think your assessment is right on target. I also believe Larry Fehl had/has a real concern for abused MKs. He had to answer to the SIM Board, who were worried then (and I am sure still are today) about being sued, as I have been told. Even his apology which was printed in Simroots years ago had to be approved first by the Board. I am sure there was also a question of how much money the mission was willing to put into this project. SIM, as a mission, does not appear to care about ministering to MKs. If you call Marge Prince and ask her who is charge of this area, she will say Larry and Shirley Fehl. Technically it falls under her job title, I believe, but she is passing the responsibilities off to a retired couple who are very limited now in what services they can provide. Basically, SIM has no outreach at all now for adult abuse survivors. And to answer your question there are MANY who are still experiencing pain. How can SIM have an effective ministry when they are turning their backs on their own MKs?

  2. I’m writing because I am one of the MKs that went to one of the consultations held at SIM headquarters in Charlotte. I’m writing under a nick-name because my purpose is to draw attention to the problem, not to myself.

    I’m one of those MKs who went off the deep end, but I lay the blame for that as much at the feet of my father as I do what I experienced at KA. Yes, I was physically and emotionally abused at KA, but my father continued that abuse once we came home from the mission field. He was in Christian work all his life, and truly believed that his work was more important than his family. He also firmly believed in “Spare the rod, spoil the child.” He still can’t own up to what he did all these years later. Back then, there were no child-abuse laws with any teeth in them. Today, he’d be behind bars for what he did to me.

    If there ever was a rebel, I was it. I left home at 17-years-old, preferring a life on the streets to what I had at home. I used about every drug I could get my hands on and got in many scrapes with the police. An angry young man, I was, and for many years. I managed to keep my life in a complete uproar even after I got off the streets, and it wasn’t until I finally experienced the power of forgiveness that I was able to get on with my life.

    But forgiveness is something you do for yourself. All it means is that you’ve decided to put the anger – the baggage down and walk away from it. It does nothing for the pain. It does not bring healing.

    Then I found out about the SIM consultations, and decided to attend one, and I’m glad I did. It was really good to be able to tell my story to people who completely understood what I had been through. Maybe they didn’t know what it was like to be homeless or in trouble with the law, but they did understand what being an MK was like, and that made a huge difference.

    After the weekend was over, Larry Fehl and Dave Wickstrom worked with me on trying to reconcile with my father. The effort failed miserably, but it wasn’t for their lack of effort or concern. Both of those men tried really hard to help me, and I will be forever grateful to them. God bless them both.

    That being said, there are a few more things I’d like to say. I think it’s important that credit is given where credit is due. I feel that the whole consultation thing was largely due to the efforts of Larry Fehl. I know there were a number of others such as Dave Wickstrom who also worked very hard on this project, and I don’t want to diminish their efforts in the least. All I’m saying is that the credit belongs with those individuals and not with SIM itself. I think the SIM board of directors would have preferred that the consultations never happen. And I find it rather telling that the consultations were ended shortly after Larry retired. SIM has made absolutely no effort to reach out to me since (or anybody else that I’m aware of), and that’s really sad. They will go to the ends of the earth to “spread the gospel,” but will do nothing to help those they themselves have injured. Instead, they walked away. Then they wonder why so many in this world look at Christianity and scoff!

    And I also feel that while Wickstrom ran the consultations in a very professional manner, he simply wasn’t given enough time to accomplish what he needed to accomplish. You simply can’t rebuild shattered lives in a single weekend. I would have liked to attend another consultation, but by the time I thought I had processed what I’d learned at the first one and what happened afterwards with my father to make a second consultation worthwhile, they had been cancelled. Shame on you SIM!!! How many others like me are there out there that are still lost in the wilderness of pain? How can you just turn your backs on them and walk away?

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