Abuse at Missionary Kid schools

I’ve been processing my thoughts on this for the last couple weeks and will continue to do so in the days to come – it’s certainly brought up a lot of old emotions and reactions that I haven’t thought about in some time.  My family lived in South America for three years, during my 10th-12th grade years of high school.  They served with New Tribes Mission as teachers for missionary kids.  During our brief tenure in Bolivia and Paraguay (my parents were short term missionaries, not career), three missionaries were removed from the organization in those countries (that I know of) for sexual abuse of minors.  During that time other missionaries were confronted on other forms of abuse as well.

Some of God’s angriest words in the Bible are reserved for those that take advantage of children, hurt them, or cause them to stumble.

Recently I stumbled across a World Magazine article detailing an abuse scandals at an NTM boarding school in West Africa called Fanda, and the mishandling of it by the leadership.  That pointed me to FandaEagles.com, a website created by missionary kids as a place for the abused missionary kids from around the world to have a voice.  What has been heart breaking for me to realize is that the situations I saw where I lived were not unique to our school as I had always assumed, but far more widespread.

Why am I writing about this?  It’s not to paint a horrible picture of New Tribes Mission.  It breaks my heart to think in an organization with so many missionaries doing so many incredible things for God that such horrible sin has repeatedly reared its ugly head with the most vulnerable members, the missionary kids.  What I do want to do is help spread the word that there is a place for hurt missionary kids to have a voice and find support.  FandaEagles.com and it’s forums is a great place to start.

13 thoughts on “Abuse at Missionary Kid schools

  1. Hello, Matthew. I am an MK who attended SIM boarding schools for most of my schooling, and there was abuse there as well. Missionary kids who have been abused DO need to have a voice, and its clear that is not going to be provided by the mission leadership, at least not at SIM. Thanks for helping to spread the word about the Fanda Eagles web site.


  2. I enjoyed reading this post, as well as the article you wrote a while back about being a TCK.

    There have been reports about the abuses that occurred in the NTM schools in Bolivia, Paraguay and (perhaps) Brazil. It is good that some of the pedophiles were removed. I am sure the victims of the abuse in those schools will appreciate support from people who were a part of the NTM community at the time. If you and / or your parents are able to contact the victims who were abused and their families to offer your support, I am quite sure it would be appreciated. So often the victim and their families receive very, very little affirmation from former students and colleagues of what they have experienced.

    Again, thanks for what you wrote.

    Beverly Shellrude Thompson


  3. It's sad in so many ways because there's so much shame and guilt that end up being placed on the abused rather than the abuser when these situations are handled this way. Unfortunately, it seems to be the pattern in organized religion at large, not just NTM. Trying to hide the abuse to protect the reputation of the organization seems to be the common response for churches, organizations and ministries in general. It's also troubling the arrogance, whether intentional or not, that leads an organization to believe that it's discipline is enough, even though the laws of every country out there would say otherwise.

    I think it's just been a shock to me to find out how much has gone on around the world in MK schools – I honestly thought what was going on in our neck of the world was unique to area.


  4. @Liz Liz, SIM did take steps several years ago to deal with their responsibility for trauma associated with boarding schools. They now have very strict policies in place, including no boarding school until grade 6. Larry Fehl, president of SIM-USA, personally apologised to all who had been hurt. Contact them if you have been overlooked. Help is available!


  5. @D. Buck

    I love that rule! It has always blown my mind, especially now that I have children, that missionaries would send their kindergarten age children off to a boarding school. It just never made sense to me for younger grades – maybe I'm biased as a youth pastor, but I see the benefit in having more peers and teachers in middle school and high school, but the younger grades are better off at home if the option is homeschooling or boarding school!


  6. @D. Buck

    Hello, D. Buck. Are you an MK or SIM staff? I don't think SIM has fully taken responsibility for past abuse. How does it help for Larry Fehl to make a blanket apology, when there are abusers out there, I could name 2 or 3 that I KNOW were abusers and are still SIM employees, keeping silent?

    Shouldn't THEY be the ones apologizing? Why are known child abusers still employed at SIM?

    It's very good that they no longer have boarding school for little kids, and are polishing up their child safety policy today. Now they need an outreach for victims of past abuse. The AMK task force stopped holding "consultations" 10 or so years ago. Did they think their job was done and they had reached everyone who needed help? The MKs that were not "invited" to their meetings are the ones who were much more seriously abused.

    SIM has no formal policy for investigating cases for adult MKs, who were abused in the past at boarding schools. I was told that by Dorothy Haile, the International Personnel Director at SIM. It just simply is not a priority with them to help these people.

    I am witnessing first hand what happens when a seriously abused MK accuses an SIM employee. There has been an ongoing investigation I am following. The victim has been treated very badly by SIM, in my opinion.


  7. @Maribeth

    I was at Sakeji in the late 70's.

    I am not aware that there was any sexual abuse during that time. Personally I don't think there was.

    Mostly the staff in charge at that time were loving and approachable people and I have mostly great memories and fond feelings for the teachers there.

    However, physical punishment was a tad harsh at that time and I and many of those there with me did suffer that. I don't think girls got punished to the same level, but it was not unusual for boys to 'get the paddle' for what were essentially minor misdemeanors.

    Also, while my memories are mostly good, I do know that there are some who where there are the same time as me who really didn't enjoy their time there. How much that was to do with simply being away from home rather than the specific environment of Sakeji is anyone's guess.


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