It recently hit the news that New Tribes Mission, the organization my parents served with in the early 90’s, settled one of the many cases they are facing with former missionary children who suffered unspeakable physical, sexual, verbal, and/or spiritual abuse while under their care in their boarding schools.
Many of these abuses occurred in the past, but have been kept silent through intimidation and the incorrect belief that they were isolated incidents. Social media has changed all of that. Over the last decade, hundreds of us who were victims in boarding schools have found each other and begun to join our voices together. In response, NTM did finally begin investigating the claims, but over the years the hope has turned to frustration again as victims feel increasingly that the investigation is being silenced rather than brought to light and fully dealt with. Part of me understands it; I don’t think any of us realized just how widespread the abuse was, or how many were actually harmed. I wonder sometimes if New Tribes is horrified at the level of what has been exposed, far beyond what anyone anticipated, and what does that do to the current leadership – many of whom had nothing to do with the abuse, and who struggle with the fears of what this information could do to their ongoing efforts to reach the lost – a valuable goal of living out the great commission?
At the same time, when their lawyers are quoted in articles saying, “I’ve been very impressed with how they’ve tried to take care of these people,” I find myself shaking my head in frustration at the realization that they just don’t understand it. Victims who have been shamed, silence and intimidated for decades and who finally begin to get some of the help they need to fund the counseling and steps needed to somewhat recover do not feel like it has been an impressive effort. Being called “these people” is shockingly offensive. I have not met a victim yet who actually wants to sue New Tribes; we just want the tragedies of the past to be dealt with instead of covered up – a practice that puts the organization and the abuser ahead of the victim and ultimately victimizes them once again.