Right there, in grocery store, I wanted to pause and weep when the news came in last evening. It was a simple message announcing that Jeriah Mast is in custody at Holmes County Jail. The heaviness of such a thing is too real to feel particularly victorious. The right thing is often the hardest thing.
And sometimes the right thing is only the right thing now because a different ‘right thing’ wasn’t done in the past. … or because many past right things were missed. Some out of lack of knowledge, some out of willful ignorance, some out of naivety. And the end result is today.
A warrant was issued July 2, 2019 for the arrest of Jeriah Daniel Mast, age 37, of Millersburg Ohio. He is facing seven Felony-3 charges and seven Misdemeanor-3 charges involving 5 victims. As of late evening, July 2, he was being held in Holmes County jail. Note that these charges are for his crimes on US soil only, not his crimes in Haiti. (To read more in local news Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Former aid worker indicted on sexual abuse charges in Ohio. And the Daily Record: Former Ministry Worker Charged With Sexual Abuse in Holmes County)
The consequences for these crimes and years of hidden sin are now imposed on his family and loved ones; especially his wife and children. The ripples continue to impact countless people.
My heart is heavy, and deeply saddened. I find myself asking God, “What will it take for things to change? How often must this happen, again, and again – first the abuse, and then the legal battle – before this topic of sexual violence becomes a priority for ‘church’, where abuse runs rampant? Before children are protected and their wellbeing and safety prioritized?”
My confidence that exposing this case was the right thing has not lessened; it is stronger. It brought more victims forward in US, and made the broader church aware. (Though I do not know if the victims referenced on the indictment are those that came forward after exposure). It has created awareness that there are consequences when victims speak out. It also clearly communicated that there are those of us standing in the gap for victims, who are asking for organizational transparency, accountability and responsibility.
Our priority is caring for the victimized and simultaneously preventing further victimization. To this end we will press forward and continue to address abuse cases that are brought forward.
It is my hope that the ripples of this tragedy and the tremendous consequences will not be wasted. I pray the church and para-church organizations will repent for the dreadful handling of things — whether deliberately or out of naivety and ignorance — and offer a more responsible handling of sexual abuse and violence going forward. And I hope the next generation has less victims as a result.
On that note… many have prayed for Jeriah and his family, and continue to. Please also remember to pray for the victims. Religious communities have a tendency to band together to apply ointment on their own and each other’s wounds, and to mop up the proverbial spills around them, to the neglect of the victims of horror and terror whose lives have been forever altered.
Remember the victimized.
~ T ~
THE GATHERING, NOVEMBER 2, 2019, LANCASTER BIBLE COLLEGE:
One of the things we are working toward November 2, 2019, at THE GATHERING, is creating a place where we collectively invite God into our grief. It is exclusively for Anabaptist survivors of sexual abuse, and their trusted support persons to join together for a day of acknowledging the generations of suffering. We will cry out to God, together. The invitation is to ‘come as you are’ in your raw brokenness, if that’s where you’re at, or in your healed togetherness. The itinerary is simple. It isn’t about ‘who’ or ‘how’; it is about Jesus and a safe place to meet, to heal another layer, together.
NOTE: Anyone over 18 who sexually assaulted someone – whether child or other adult – is not welcome. This does not mean they are not forgiven if they have repented. It means victims should not fear being confronted with the source of their trauma on such a vulnerable day. Security guards will be present to remove any who show up and are identified as offenders by the victims.
Until August 1, 2019, registration for the day’s events includes lunch and attendance to the evening concert with Jason Gray, whose music had brought hope and healing to countless victims. Songs like “The Wound is Where the Light Gets In“, “A Way to See in the Dark“, Sparrows“, “Nothing is Wasted“, and many more speak a language we understand.
If you are able to contribute to Generations Unleashed and our work with and for victims, you may donate via PayPal or e-transfer to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or visit Generations Unleashed Donate.