In 2006 I visited Ethiopia, travelling with a ministry team, through seven prisons, ranging from the harshest environments, to the best facilities in the country.
We entered a small room, and, to my horror, it was filled with children–the offspring of the real prisoners. I had been fore-warned. But nothing could have prepared me for that first day, the first scene. I had sunglasses with me. Thank God. I wore them. And I smiled. But the entire time tears threatened.
Before we left, I was asked to pray a blessing over them. I kept my voice steady and sweet as I prayed. And I wiped the silent tears that fell as I prayed.
On my bed that night I fell apart. I sobbed. And I told God that if I have to see that kind of thing one more time, He will have to make me stronger. The children didn’t need a puddle on the floor. They needed hope. Courage. Encouragement. For someone to believe in their future, to see them free, by faith…..
Sometimes I hear things from friends or family, and it all hits so close to him. The trauma, the tragedy, the violence and the evils of sexual abuse…
We have created a prison of our own, in the walls of our own churches. And I see children, free to run, to come and go as they please, trapped in the walls of that prison of shame, silence and victimization. And I see that they need hope. Courage. Encouragement. For someone to believe in their future, to see them free by faith…
It is hardest when it hits so close, and you can’t even reach out, because it’s too close. This, for me, is the hardest thing when it comes to abuse.
When I meet with people who are not part of my inner circle, or immediate family, I am able to remain calm and objective. But, for some reason, when it’s too close, my mind cannot separate myself from the trauma. I find I have to guard myself more closely, so that the past does not regain power over me. It is a very helpless feeling.
Like with the people I mentor, I am committed to confidentiality and letting ‘their story’ be just that–their story to tell. But it is the hardest thing in the world to be silent when people close to you, suffer like that, and your hands are tied. And you watch hearts break, and lives shatter….
These are the things that are hard to bear.
And when I hear the evil that is said and done, after abuse takes place in the church, I am undone. Completely.
One mom told me last week how she recently discovered her child was abused by someone in the church, a man in his twenties. In its own neat and tidy way it was ‘taken care of’ in the church, careful to guard image and protect the church name, the conservative Mennonite church. Wisely they took it to court and let a fellow church member know that he is not above the law. A crime against children is a crime to be dealt with by the laws of the land. (Bless them!)
Not long after, the older teen-aged brother of the young victim was told, by another man in the church, that what happened to his little brother ‘isn’t a big deal’, because there was no penetration. This is a cruel thing to do to someone who is grieving what happened to a sibling. As if ‘survivor’s guilt’ isn’t enough to deal with. Turns out that, years ago, the man had violated the man who abused the young boy.
How long will we turn a blind eye? How long before churches take a stand, openly, publicly and fearlessly? How long before we stop sacrificing our children on the altar of pride, religion and sexual perversion. How long before we release them from the prison we have created for them, through silence?
My heart can only cry out for mercy. And pray that God will Set the Children Free .
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