Note: This blog was proofed and approved by the four critical parties who are referenced in documentation and/or who brought documentation forward.
EDIT/ADDITION: In the next blog ‘Grandpa’ is named. To avoid confusion, we are adding the link here: Timeline of Grandpa Harold and Purpose for Revealing his Identity.
It was late summer 1989, if memory serves me right… maybe 1990. I had returned to my Conservative Mennonite church about 2 years prior, after several years of pretty harsh living. Now, a young adult roughly two years into my conversion, I faced my 20’s with new-found faith and freedom. Life was good.
The conversation took place on one of many trips to US, where I had many friends and dated a young man for over several years. I don’t recall which year it was, exactly, but the moment lingers in my memory…
A group of youth, myself included, visited an Eastern Pennsylvania Mennonite church that summer Sunday night. I don’t recall who preached. I don’t recall about what. But I do recall the startling moment of standing in a group of youth discussing a school teacher who had allegedly molested his students. He then had left the Eastern Mennonite Church, moved to another conservative Mennonite group, and was ordained there. That this was acceptable, horrified me. And that adults couldn’t see the risk of such a thing baffled me.
Nonetheless, the information came, and it went. I did nothing with it. Not beyond maybe another conversation or two. And then I laid it aside. What is a barely-past-teens adult to do about that which they’ve never been taught; that which many only whisper in the shadows, but have no clue how to address? Especially in the ’80’s and ’90’s, and in our setting… long before the topic was welcomed. (Not that it really is now, but we’ve made progress).
Spring 2019, the topic resurfaced… Not from one individual, but eight including documentation from an alleged victim, as well as documentation dating back to 1970’s with verifiable timelines. Besides messages, several individuals spoke with me about this alleged abuser, wondering if there was some way to expose him and warn the public. The first messages started trickling in shortly before Jeriah Mast was exposed for his sex crimes in Haiti and Ohio, completely unsolicited, and they continued coming after. The most recent contact, from a total stranger, was December 2019.
Circumstantially, I met with the alleged abuser to discuss another matter, and in that conversation I told him of the allegations against him, and asked what he had to say for himself. He made one significant error that day. He lied. He said the individual(s) bringing the allegations had withdrawn them. I knew for a fact that was untrue. Whenever a person has to tell an untruth to convince me of innocence, it tends to raise my concerns. (Ironically, he spoke with someone soon after my meeting with him, and next thing I know, I allegedly sent a woman in Canada to prison for not changing her baby’s diaper often enough. I sure hope that woman who went to prison wasn’t me!).
A second troubling tidbit was that he boasted having proof that a child he was alleged to have fathered in USA (or was somehow in question) was not his. If he never assaulted the mother, or touched her, why would he need proof the child is not his? And since that proof was not a DNA test, it would hold no weight in court. The child would need to be found and a DNA test done to prove his claims. (I will refrain from disclosing what item the ‘proof’ was/is, as it becomes too revealing of story I cannot yet share).
We shall call the alleged abuser Grandpa, without using his name at this point. It is not critical that the public know his name until I am asked, by victims, to make his name public. So a nameless Grandpa he will be.
Initially, when told of the allegations and asked how to stop him, there was nothing I could do. I had been given allegations from numerous sources, but none by witnesses or alleged victims. No documentation. But as more information trickled in, that changed.
Three particularly compelling testimonies caused me great concern. One stood out in particular, of those three, because it allegedly transpired over the ocean, in a remote area, far away from the allegations dating back four decades.
A man was traveling on the mission field with this Grandpa in the vehicle when a man from that remote community approached their vehicle. He was irate and called the Grandpa an unrighteous man. The traveling partner did not know why they called him unrighteous; suffice it to say, he had a bad reputation.
On another occasion, a missionary was in the area without the Grandpa, standing at a small shop where they purchase drinks and snacks. He was in a group of men and boys, natives of that country, when a few youngsters walked by. Pointing to one of them, someone in the group said, “That one is [the Grandpa’s] [child].” (Note, the name of the grandpa in question was spoken, and the gender of the child was revealed. I am not comfortable sharing that information here). Not only were there claims that Grandpa had fathered a child, but that he had fathered the child with a minor (an exceptionally young minor) in their community.
What’s more, the minor who was allegedly assaulted gave birth to a child at around 9 months after the time Grandpa visited the community. And it was confirmed that Grandpa was indeed in the community, over night and without anyone else to hold him accountable, at the time the alleged assaults took place.
It is very possible the child is not his. I make no claims one way or the other. But certainly, if he did assault the young girl, it is also possible the child is his. However, even if the child was not his, it does not negate the allegations against him. It is uncanny that a man, who has allegations in his home country dating back more than 4 decades, winds up with allegations in the mission field. Allegations from someone with no knowledge of former allegations.
What is more, the Grandpa reportedly kept in contact with that young mom and her child, ensuring provision for them on various practical fronts. Either he is an incredibly good-hearted man, or he has his own worries that maybe he’s responsible for the child… or at least that he harmed the mother. I can’t tell you which it is. I don’t know.
The following is evidence sent to me, again with no solicitation on my part, of allegations made against this Grandpa.
Note the date on the following letter. Tonight is the eve of the 30th anniversary of when it was written. Coincidence that I expose it this at this time, and that I did not realize it was exactly 30 years? I think not:
Not only did international allegations (referenced above) came to my attention this past year; I discovered that many people knew of these allegations dating back to the 80’s. It remains almost common knowledge, it seems, in some communities.
One of the items sent to me includes leaders that were spoken to at various times, which organizations, which churches. All who did not act on what they heard. (Ironically, that is just the thing Judge R took the church to task for in Jeriah Mast’s sentencing. Someone must have known. Someone must have said something… and no one did anything. (Not sure if wording is exact).
That these allegations were never reported, adequately investigated or pursued, and that he was allowed to (just like Jeriah Mast) to work with the most vulnerable of the vulnerable, is shameful at best. The quote in the newspaper article (below) “I’ve heard [Grandpa/John – not his real name] repeatedly say, and supported by his Christ-like lifestyle, that he never abused anyone.” (Hmmm… that’s what Jeriah Mast said too, until he couldn’t anymore). The article is worth reading. Other quotes show the mentality in leaders who refuse to interview family of the accused, or their victims. They simply accept the testimony of the accused.
The knowledge of allegations crosses over 4 decades, at minimum 3 organizations, and at least 3 churches. (The timeline is very detailed, however, I do not know what churches some of the leaders affiliate with). And NOT ONE… NOT ONE did the right thing. How does this go on… and on….. and on… ?
The following account was published in the newspaper, and one of the situations mentioned, refers to the man in question. The journalist covers several cases in the article, including referencing ‘Grandpa’:
Sadly, as always, there is much more tragedy to the story than can be adequately shared. Not only of the Grandpa’s alleged crimes, but also how it negatively impacted his alleged victims, and others under his influence, and the ripple effects it caused.
I was just informed that Grandpa is about to embark on another mission trip to do some training….
Some things, it seems, we are slow to learn…
~ T ~
© Trudy Metzger 2020
Conservative Anabaptist (CA) Leaders’ Response to Abuse: If you are/were CA and have been sexually abused and interacted with a CA leader regarding the abuse, this survey is for you.
I am preparing several other surveys and will release them on our SURVEYS PAGE.