CAM’s lawyer responds to reports of Haiti victim being offered money

ROBERT FLORES, LAWYER FOR CHRISTIAN AID MINISTRIES (CAM), CONFIRMS VICTIMS OF JERIAH MAST WERE OFFERED MONEY

The blog (below) was already written when the phone call came….

“It turns out you’ve been telling the truth all along,” he said.

Ten little words.

It was no surprise to me that what I said was true. I had followed the evidence, gathered testimony from multiple sources. Each offered the same story; money was offered in exchange for signing a “Withdrawal Form”.

What came as a complete surprise is that CAM’s lawyer, Robert Flores, acknowledged that money had been offered. I respect the honesty. As far as I know, he did not acknowledge that victims were required to sign Withdrawal Form before funds would be released. (It is possible he is not aware of it. But it is important that readers know this was not directly confirmed, even while evidence supports it to be true. It is also unclear to me if he knew CAM was making these offers  in the first place). He also did not acknowledge that money exchanged hands, though some recent shopping ventures in Haiti — of which I have evidence — and testimony from the community members would strongly suggest otherwise. Even so, I continue to say ‘allegedly’.

(UPDATE: A source says they spoke with a CAM staff member who confirmed victims were required to sign a form before receiving funds. A source also reported that part of the funds were being taken from interest made on a cash reserve fund, so that CAM can say they did not use donor money. There was discussion about ‘tapping into the funds’ but whether they did so or not was not disclosed).

I have never asked God to vindicate me in any way, and I won’t. But, I confess in that moment, when I heard those ten words “It turns out you’ve been telling the truth all along,” I was grateful. I had not asked for anyone to investigate or prove my words; I simply reported what I knew to be true and what I knew needed to be exposed so that taking advantage of victims’ vulnerability stops. I am committed to doing what I am called to do, no matter what, but I am thankful for this confirmation.

PREVIOUSLY WRITTEN BLOG:
Questions continue to come in. Am I certain money has been offered? Is it true that the young men have to sign a form before CAM will release funds? Did they meet without lawyers present… How sure am I that this isn’t just rumour…

Very sure. Like, absolutely certain. These are facts: Money has been offered. Documents referred to as a “Withdrawal Form” (translated from Creole/French to English) are required to be signed before release of funds. Some victims refused to accept the funds and sign the papers. Allegedly several have signed and did accept the money. (This is supported by evidence that some of the young men have suddenly come by a windfall). And some admit it is tempting when money is being dangled in front of them and the day to day financial survival is so challenging.

Placing individuals already suffering in a situation where they feel they must violate their own integrity is not honourable.

Furthermore, if what CAM is doing is so good, and so honourable, why haven’t they made a public announcement, stating they are offering money to the victims and asking victims to sign the “Withdrawal Form”. Why is it so hush-hush? Why is it making victims feel like they are selling out their honour to accept?

If what CAM is doing is noble, they ought to make it well known so that it does not feel underhanded to the victims, to donors and … well, to people like me who advocate for victims and fight against the epidemic of sexual violence against children. There ought to be transparency. The documents being signed should not be such a secretive thing. (Nor should such documents now be destroyed. They are evidence). Victims who have lawyers should have their lawyers invited to the table. If there is nothing to hide, Homeland Security should be sent a copy of those documents, and be aware of what is going on given that there is an active investigation. If the latter has happened, I am not aware. And if Homeland Security knows and blesses what CAM is doing, then yet the more reason to inform donors and the public so that this shroud of secrecy is lifted.

By some I am told what CAM is doing is illegal, and by others I am also told it is above board. I have not made bold proclamations one way or the other, though I sincerely question it.  I have been given names of some individuals in Haiti involved in offering the money, and ironically they are all Haitians of the ones I have been made aware. No Americans. This raises its own questions. If it is illegal it is very possible these individuals are not aware of that fact. As one individual from Haiti said, “Everyone has a price… they’ve gotten support from CAM from the past… I doubt they know what it means legally.”

The gentleman said, “[What CAM staff/leaders] are doing is the same as what Jeriah was doing which is preying on the vulnerability and the poverty level to treat us victims poorly. Jeriah used to say if you don’t let me abuse you, I won’t buy you food tomorrow, nowadays CAM is saying if you don’t accept this little bit of money and shut up, you might die before justice is served in court, so for them, their abusive treatment is still the best we can get. If they really cared about the victims, they would of put a program in place to support the victims just so they can keep living while waiting that justice is served without asking them to sign the withdrawal paper.”

It is this dialogue with those victimized that compels me to stand against the corruption.

I am very aware that many religious men and women — and some leaders in particular — condemn what I do. This is ok with me. I have done my homework and know I am speaking truth. CAM knows I am speaking truth. Above all, God knows. And as long as I believe He is calling me to expose, the opinions of anyone other than those in leadership over me are not particularly influential. I hear them — whether concerns or attacks — and look for the truth bits and applicable tidbits.

That said, I do not, and I cannot take them to heart. I’d be in a constant state of disregarding God if I listened to every voice attempting to speak into my life or judge me. (Particularly those who condemn me for speaking out… while they do the same thing and speak out against me. Irony of ironies. I am not allowed to expose sex crimes but it’s okay to expose me for exposing? Not to mention it is ok for them to call me a liar for telling the truth, but I am not allowed to expose abuse of power? Not that I much care, because it says more about them than about me or anyone else.

And when all else fails they remind me I could be sued for defamation. My response to this is as follows:

  1. I knew this before I posted the first article and had that discussion with my husband. If I teach ‘be willing to go with truth at all cost’ yet do not live it, I am a hypocrite.
  2. There would need to be proof of malicious intent, and it does not exist. Calling out crime and exposing injustice is not malicious; it is helping the oppressed find a voice. Haitian victims would have no voice at all if no American/Canadian advocates got involved. In all my private conversations and public I have made it clear that I am advocating for victims not against CAM. I’ve not had any goal to ‘take them out’. Their transparency or the lack thereof will influence the outcome more than any other thing.
  3. What I have written has consistently been proven true. I am not making things up. I am not lying. I am not dreaming up allegations. When I hear things, I try to be thorough and have multiple sources for everything I make public.

I am repeatedly told this should not be aired in the public. Some Anabaptist leaders are boldly stating on Facebook that there is no biblical grounds for a Christian ever publicly calling out another Christian. Some are boldly stating that only leaders may call out leaders…. which, frankly, is a dreadful twisting of Scriptures that has led to this epidemic of abuse in the first place, while leaders hide their own past corruption and cover for others.

Besides, here’s the thing. Crimes were committed against the public. Covering it, or handling it quietly will not bring change. Look at history. So we are calling out criminals, not fellow saints. (With repentance, sure, they can be just that, but child molesters, rapists and those who cover for them are not particularly saintly. And those twisting God’s word to keep it under wraps are part of the problem. A big part). Furthermore, the ongoing less-than-forthcoming-and-honourable handling of things by CAM has been more than enough proof that public accountability is necessary. It’s the only way victims are ever going to be respected and cared for holistically.

Presently at least some victims have admitted to feeling like their poverty is being exploited through these attempts with payouts. That needs to stop. Making certain their needs are met in a transparent and honourable way would be appropriate. According to Peter Smith who wrote an article for the Pittsburg Post-Gazette, the lawyer’s statements indicated CAM will be looking at a more longterm approach and not trying to make this all go away quickly. It is my hope there will be follow-through, and that CAM will be transparent in these efforts.

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Read the article in the Pittsburg Post-Gazette: After criticism, mission agency seeks greater amends over Haiti abuse scandal

HOW CAN YOU HELP?
In the past three months I have been contacted repeatedly, people asking “What can we do? Where can we contribute? Are you helping victims financially?” And always I have turned away funds because we had no avenue for directing monies. I had previously posted other efforts but all have not been comfortable with the functioning of those plans, and lack of clarity where the money was going.

In response, we have set up a PayPal fund specifically to help the victims in Haiti with day-to-day survival needs.  It is a very basic and very transparent plan. We have made no promises or commitment to victims, and will in no case hand out large sums of money. However, it has become clear that the victims struggle to find work, even more than most in Haiti, because of the label of homosexual (Madam Jeriah) assigned to them. In at least one case we we have been told about, a victim was declined work after the job was offered because someone went to the place of employment and advised against hiring that victim. We are not talking luxuries. We are talking food on the table, and the most basic of needs. 

We will provide a monthly spread sheet with reflecting all funds paid out. These spreadsheets will reflect victims as “Victim 1… Victim 2” and so on, to protect their identity. At present we have a list of  victims whose allegations have been documented in various public record, as well as some confirmed by Jeriah’s own admission, or CAM staff and missionaries, with the awareness that that number could grow exponentially.

The initial proposal, based on feedback regarding monthly living costs, is to raise $225 to $300 monthly for victims with a spouse and family, and up to $75 or $100 for single victims. This would meet a portion of basic survival needs and support counseling costs. We will partner victims, expecting them to contribute in meaningful ways to their community as part of taking initiative and responsibility for their own healing. Healing comes in many forms, and one of the most significant ways is by moving beyond our hardship and helping others (Isaiah 58). This would be a blessing to the communities in which the victims reside, thereby hopefully helping to reintegrate them into their communities. We will ask them to update the committee in ways they have contributed to their communities, which will help establish meaningful relationships with the team.

In total we hope to raise $2500 monthly, with the present victim count, which would a surplus for unexpected medical care, for new victims who come forward (and are confirmed), and to create a small reservoir. While we would not plan to send American representatives frequently, we would from time to time send someone, and would need funds for this. All such expenses would be reflected on monthly expense sheets. These expense sheets would be inspected and accuracy confirmed by a minimum of three individuals each month.  These individuals will be given names of victims being supported, but will be asked to hold those names in confidence.

Committee members will not receive payment for their services. We will provide a list once each one has confirmed. We are still waiting for several individuals to respond. Presently we have the following committed to oversee accountability of fund distributions:
Abe Harder
Elsie Kornelson
J. Anthony Hertzler
Tim & Trudy Metzger

Support is not dependent on any agreement with victims to pursue criminal charges or not pursue. No funds will be used toward litigations costs, should victims choose to press charges or sue CAM or Jeriah Mast.

Contact: victimsupport@aslanhasheard.com

Donate via: Victim Support 

PLEASE NOTE: This is completely unaffiliated with Generations Unleashed or any other organization or venture. We do plan to work cooperatively with missionaries on the ground in Haiti to delegate support to victims.

AS FOR WHAT I HOPE HAPPENS TO CAM:
“What do you want from CAM; are you trying to take them out?”

This question has been coming my way since the initial exposure of the Jeriah Mast case, in various forms from different people, including friends and enemies, acquaintances and strangers. The questions are fair. The answer quite simple.

What I hope for CAM is straightforward. Transparency and truth. I am told that what they have been doing is above board, it is honourable and completely legal. I am also told that what they are doing is bribery, silencing victims, and shady… at best, if not illegal.  I am told (by Americans who are not on the ground) that there are no documents to sign to receive payouts. I am also told by victims on the ground — including names of who is involved — that there are definitely documents that have to be signed before any money will be released. The latter has been admitted by CAM staff insider and consistently stated by victims who have been offered money.

In my previous blog I made shared very little of my opinion on what they are doing, beyond questioning it. I stated that there have been rumours of hush money dating back many weeks ago – and called hush money by multiple missionaries in Haiti – and that this offering money continues to the present. And I questioned the integrity of it.

I would like CAM to become transparent. To be Christ-like and open about this mess, if it is Him they wish to represent. They know I’ve been telling the truth. I don’t need to be vindicated, but the public deserves for them to acknowledge the truth to its fullest extent. I would like to see them work in partnership with the victims in Haiti to meet their needs holistically and big picture for the longterm. They have been physically/sexually assaulted. They have been spiritually abused (Jeriah Mast was a leader with power parading as a Jesus-representative). They have been psychologically harmed. The impact has brought death threats and other threats into some of their lives. It has made it difficult for some to find work, and in other cases opportunities they had were taken away. It has cost them more than we can imagine, in a culture where same gender sexual contact – even through abuse – is viewed as homosexuality, and homosexuality is condemned and the victims shamed for it.

So what would I like to see happen to CAM? Show sacrificial care for the victims. Lean in. Ask, “What do you need from us to help you heal from the sexual assault? What do you need to heal from the spiritual betrayal? What do you need to heal psychologically? What do you need to survive and thrive?” And that ought to include how to help them thrive where jobs are lost or impossible to get. Throwing a wad of money at victims in secretive and hidden ways does not bring healing. It never has. It never will. Offering calculated support can play a role while healing is pursued in other ways.

Partnering. Valuing. Acknowledging. Grieving. Supporting. Listening. Entering in… These things humanize the victim and their suffering, and bring healing.

This is what I would like to see happen to CAM. It is the only way trust will ever be rebuilt. My Anabaptist culture are a very forgiving people. To a fault, at times and in some cases to the point where forgiveness isn’t really forgiveness anymore and has turned to cover up. But certainly forgiveness, at its best, is a strength among us.

Many of my Anabaptist culture are also truth warriors. Goodness! We were raised to expect transparency. The way confessions were demanded over listening to ‘worldly’ music, wearing the wrong clothes, or other constitution violations… the way leaders pursued us to tell all… the way we were asked to report to leaders when someone violated church’s written and unwritten standards… Really, what choice did we have but to become hyper-vigilant about truth? I have said it often, the culture I come from trained me to do what I do. Not only in my quest for truth and transparency, but in being observant of details that are the ‘tells’ for what is really going on. That, combined with living in a home filled with violence and death threats… It is the best investigator training available, because it shapes it as an instinct so you don’t even know you’re gathering information until it is needed.

That is the culture now asking for transparency and truth from organizations and leaders at every level. And it should be forthcoming.

I pray it will be.

As always…

With Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

Events and Announcements:

Dayton Virginia: Training and conference, October 9-12, 2019.

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To read a recent 5-part series addressing victim healing and forgiveness for offenders, click: HERE.

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ANONYMOUS SEXUAL ABUSE SURVEY BY ANABAPTIST MEDICAL DOCTOR

Some time ago, a friend told me of a medical doctor (Anabaptist) who is doing research into sexual abuse in Anabaptist communities. To take his survey visit:
Anabaptist Medical Matters

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JASON GRAY CONCERT:
NOVEMBER 2, 2019
Lancaster Bible College, Lancaster PA
7:00pm
CONCERT TICKETS NOW AVAILABLE TO THE PUBLIC: Here

NOTE: Due to the concert being the celebration for survivors of abuse,
we ask that any who have sexually abused as adults not attend out of respect

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November 2, 2019:  THE GATHERING, held at Lancaster Bible College, is a place where survivors of sexual assault, together with our support person(s), collectively invite God into our grief.  It is exclusively for Anabaptist survivors of sexual abuse and trusted support persons to gather for a day of acknowledging the generations of suffering and sexual violence among us. We will cry out to God, together. Come as you are in your raw brokenness, if that’s where you’re at, or in your healed togetherness. We welcome you! The itinerary is simple. It isn’t about ‘who’ or ‘how’; it is about Jesus and a safe place to meet, to grieve and 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.

NOTE: After August 1 concert is included dependant on availability. Once concert tickets are sold out, registrations will continue until October 1 and include lunch only.

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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 info@generationsunleashed.com. Or visit Generations Unleashed Donate.

Haiti Commissioner Orders Christian Aid Ministries (CAM) to appear in court with offender

Introduction:

June 6, 2019

The court hearing has come to a close. Le Commissaire (the commissioner) sits in the judge’s chair. The court summons sent weeks earlier, was signed by the Supreme Commissioner Me Jonas Bertrang, and Le Commissaire is here on his authority. Today he has the power to arrest and imprison.

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Le Commissaire speaks in (French/Creole), just as lawyers and witnesses have throughout. I do not understand either language and rely on interpreters. Le Commissaire has given CAM (Christian Aid Ministries) 15 days for their top officials to appear in court accompanied by Jeriah Mast, the sex offender, several interpreters tell me after court is dismissed. If they fail to do so, not only will they arrest a pastor who is present and hold him until they do so; they will also close doors to CAM in Haiti. Little do they realize that CAM is unlikely to be moved to action; it would have to be one of their own or one of Life Literature’s staff members for it to inspire action. Pastor has had no ties with CAM for years already.

Le Commissaire and legal representatives, alike, made it clear that failing to report crimes will not be tolerated; not even by an organization such as CAM. I find myself wishing I was hearing this in church.

The pastor they say they will imprison if CAM officials do not show up with Mast, has been placed in a holding cell, to the right of the courtroom, where he watches the proceedings. He bows his head, appearing to pray. The injustice is hard to stomach. While the offender rests and recovers on American soil, others pay the price. And those speaking out are already being judged as unforgiving gossips.

Pastor Brucely

Jeriah has admitted to the crimes, but only after first lying repeatedly when confronted by a pastor May 3, 2019. With enough pressure he has confessed that he has at least 30 victims.

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We, fellow Christians and fellow Anabaptists, alike, insist on transparency and honesty. For organization leaders to say “we knew, but didn’t know details” is not good enough. And if what these leaders did was so Christ-like, they should be ready to die for it and not avoid traveling to the countries where these crimes were committed.

Pedophiles and sex offenders, no matter how repentant, cannot and must not be left on missions. They must be reported. Under no circumstances will we look the other way, the lot of us who are rising up to bring to account the sex crimes, and the federal crimes committed in other countries by organizations looking the other was as something much akin to sex trafficking takes place in the guise of religious service. It is our duty to take a stand, and take a stand we will.

***

For me the story begins in Ontario Canada. Someone messages to say that a missionary has assaulted young boys. They are overwhelmed. The number, the offender admits are “too many to count”. Initially it is unclear if he came forward on his own, or if he was caught, but reports from within America’s Anabaptist community say he is broken and penitent. The few people who know offer him their support and prayer, grateful he is forthcoming. Fellow Christians are encouraged to be forgiving and not speak of the atrocities, now that they are repented of and forgiven. What few, if any, realize, is that the thirty victims to which he has confessed, is not representative of the true number. There are victims in numerous communities.

Initially, I am given no information. This appears at first to be a blessing. My intentions are to not get involved in the case. I am recovering from a spontaneous coronary artery dissection and minor heart attack, only weeks ago. Things remain relatively silent for a week, and I have no information to work with; nothing to provide leads. Not what mission organization. Not the name of the offender. Nothing.

Then, gradually, bits and pieces of the story appear in my inboxes and conversations trickle in. The name of family members. The state the offender lives. The organization. Like a puzzle in a box, as I look at the pieces, the details begin to shape into a coherent story. Still concerned about my health and suffering from fatigue, edema and other symptoms, I stand back.

Having been born into an Anabaptist family, and having worked for nearly ten years with Anabaptist victims of sexual violence, predominantly female victims of childhood sexual abuse, I am keenly aware of the crisis of epidemic proportions. As a donor many years ago, I am familiar with CAM Canada. I presume there is some connection between CAM USA and them, but don’t know the extent.

“I would hope they would do the right thing,” I tell someone. They are a massive organization. They know the law. You don’t get that far and that big through naivety. Besides, there’s enough conversations about sexual violence in our conservative Anabaptist culture that no one can easily claim innocence any longer.

I hope against hope that they will put out a public statement. I will give them two weeks from the time of his arrival in USA, I tell my informants, to do the right thing, and then I will do something if it appears the case will slip through the cracks. They have not given me enough details to report, but years of working with these crimes have taught me that lay members of the Anabaptist community are weary of these crimes; I will get the details sooner or later. Probably sooner.

As details of his time in USA trickle in from various sources – all of whom are forbidden to speak – I grow increasingly alarmed. He has spent two weeks in USA building a fortress that will serve him well, if law enforcement takes at face value, his repentance. His church and family have recruited the support of the Amish Steering Committee (ASC), a team of Amish men who come up with a Restoration Plan to be presented to law enforcement, to help Anabaptist sex offenders escape prison as consequences. A powerful committee, these men boast having had only 2 men sentenced to prison, of over 100 brought to them, in their two [edit: and a half] years since being implemented. People seem hopeful that the ASC will be able to keep this serial child molester out of prison.

Nearly twenty years of crimes, and this is the priority? My spirit grows restless.

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A CAM leader, Dwayne Stoltzfus, who is also a leader at Mast’s home congregation, accompanies Mast to the police station. Nothing is heard of the victims, other than comments that CAM will reach out and help them; law enforcement likes to see that as part of a Restoration Plan. Word trickles out of Ohio stating that CAM has turned the case over to Mast’s church to handle, thus joining Pilate at the wash basin. This has been done before, when Life Literature staff, Harold Herr, was told of the crimes in 2012, four [EDIT: two] years after Mast was excommunicated from church in Haiti for molesting boys. [EDIT: The crimes were committed in 2008. Excommunication was 2010. Harold Herr was approached 2012 about crimes committed in 2011].

Stories surface stating there were more crimes in other countries, by other CAM staff members. Not all informants feel comfortable sharing names of alleged offenders, but some names and details by various informants begin to fill the gaps left by others. An orphanage. Three offenders.

These details, coming from unrelated sources, combined with CAM’s failure to address the current crimes publicly, compels me to speak out. Heart condition or no heart condition, I find myself committed. Some things, I have learned, are worth dying for. Giving voice to the victims of heinous crimes is one of those things.

We, the Western church, and more importantly to this case, the Anabaptist church, must learn from these tragedies to better screen our missionaries, to take seriously allegations against potential missionaries, and to respond more adequately when we fail. Victims should not bear the weight of crimes committed against them. Crimes, committed in the guise of presenting the Gospel of Jesus Christ; that same Christ would unequivocally condemn such actions.

To learn from these tragedies, the darkness must be brought to light. And to do so, we must speak.

***

A former CAM staff member contacted me and asked if I would consider going to Haiti if CAM were to agree to fund such a trip. Sadly, I responded, I cannot align with their handling of things, and would not accept their funding. If I would go, it would need to be completely apart from their involvement. I remember well other cases of exposing crimes and how it worked out attempting to work in partnership. I would be willing to go, but it would have to be without CAM’s involvement.

The idea took root but, practically speaking, it was not feasible. I am still recovering from the heart attack, albeit steadily improving. I have many other commitments as a mother. I’m a PhD student and have ongoing medical testing, not to mention the financial commitment. However, as the time of the Haiti court case drew near, and I learned it was unlikely that CAM would appear as summoned, nor had they reached out to victims, I felt compelled to respond to the question, “Would you go…?”

Wednesday morning, June 4, I posted a status on Facebook, asking my friends – most of who remain conservative Anabaptists – if they would consider funding a flight for me to meet with numerous survivors of sexual violence at the hands of one of our own. Response was slow, and I understood that. I couldn’t offer any public information about the case, the organization, or the country. At 5pm we had almost enough for a one-way ticket to Haiti. The phone rang. A gentleman asked what we had raised and what we still need. “I’ll give $500,” he offered.

With that, I booked a one-way ticket to Haiti, trusting the remaining funds would come in. On Facebook, I offered an update. More friends responded. I decided to do a countdown, “.. now only need $375 … now $300…. ” and within minutes we had the funds. It was surreal.

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June 5, 2019

The air is heavy, much like my heart, and surely the hearts of those we are about to meet; Haitian victims of an American missionary. I have come to Haiti to hear them; to give life and voice to their stories. This is more than a federal and international crime investigation for the Haitian government and FBI. It is that. And necessarily so. But it is more.

This is about lives, shattered and broken. Their stories matter. They matter. I have committed to do everything within my power to let them know this. My comfort is of little interest to me in the process. Truth must be told.

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Apart from several chairs and an old bench, and a few bags, the room is empty. Here we seat ourselves for the interviews. With the help of my interpreter, I introduce myself and explain why I’ve come. I have heard of the terrible tragedy Haiti communities have suffered at the hands of a professing Christian from my culture. I tell them how sorry I am, and that I am offering to hear their stories and share them with Christians in USA and Canada. They are under no obligation to speak if they would rather not.

Almost immediately they say they would like to tell their stories. I explain that we will do this with one victim at a time rather than as a group, with none sitting in as the other shares. Each tells their story. And to each I express my sorrow at their suffering and apologize to them for the crimes committed in God’s name. I remind them that they are worth so much more, that God loves them, and that there are people back home who care and are not going to look the other way. I promise to do my best to have the stories heard and used in a way to influence accountability and deep and lasting change.

They tell of all the lost. They tell of his crimes; how he manipulated and accessed them at sleepovers. His ‘Modus Operandi’ matches what I’ve heard in other testimonials from other communities. It is compelling. But it would be in any case. Their eyes. The grief and sorrow. The mother whose son told her and was spared further assaults. Other boys who did not speak, and endured years of abuse.

A Haitian gentleman who has filled the role of mentor and father shares briefly what it has been like for the community and for the boys. It has brought deep, deep shame, he tells me. The boys are called “Madanm Jeriah” whenever they walk the streets and are mocked for being ‘gay’ because of the abuse they suffered at the hands of a male. They were not able to attend school without being bullied, and they cannot find work because of the shame. They have no place in the community.

The mother speaks. She is angry, she tells me. Angry that her only child, is paying this high price for the crimes of a missionary. Angry that her survival depended on CAM’s support, and that she had to choose between silence about the crimes to survive, and her son’s wellbeing. Angry that CAM knew [edit: knew that Jeriah was a molester] and did nothing. She tells me how, in his hardest struggles, she couldn’t manage and had to reach out to the mentor gentleman.

I hear her anger, but I feel her broken heart. I tell her how fortunate her son is to have her. Fortunate that someone cares about his suffering and about him. He nods. The two share a bond in suffering, but it is more than that. I tell her, too, how very sorry I am.

I ask them if they have a message for the churches in USA and Canada. They plead for churches and organizations to screen people properly and not send child molesters. At one point a young man makes a comment that it seems like all missionary men are homosexuals. (Their word for molesting boys is the same as the word for homosexual). I don’t blame them for feeling that way. Even as we speak a missionary gentleman they trust is translating, so I know that isn’t how it really is, but they don’t need to hear that right now. It seems too often that is the story that plays out.

“If you could send a message to Jeriah Mast, what would you say to him?” I ask.

Most ask for Jeriah to really repent and come back to face the crimes he committed against them, in their country. They ask him to stop thinking about himself and start thinking about them and the harm he has done to them, if he is truly repentant. All ask him for restitution. They have lost all standing in the community and any hope of thriving as homosexuals. (Again, they are sexual assault victims, not homosexuals).

At one point in the interview, “You Raise Me Up” by Josh Groban, plays loudly. A young Haitian girl’s voice joins in. The laundry on the wash line moves gently in the breeze. The sweltering heat has become almost unbearable, and my head ache is getting worse.

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I ask permission to take photos, and they grant it, on the condition that I will not post them. I may post pictures of the empty room and those without people. They feel vulnerable. I make a promise.

Will I come back, they ask. I hope so. I truly hope so. Silently I pray. I ask God for health and life, and the opportunity to return, even as I feel the strain of the heat on my heart and observe the swelling it has caused in just a few hours. I will do everything I can, I say again. There are many things I cannot do, certainly not alone, but I can remind America that this is about victims, not about silencing crimes and protecting offenders from consequences. I can keep fighting for victims, and particularly for them. I can keep holding toes to the fire and press for accountability and insist that our religious communities stop looking the other way.

I thank them for being so gracious and sharing such vulnerable stories. They thank me for coming and giving them permission to speak the unspeakable.

We step outside. Here, a handful of children and youth gather around. A few linger, curious why this stranger has come.

The wash is off the line now. A lonely bird sings.

We are wrapping up our time in this community. Even as we do, I feel my heart wrapping around the community. A part of me is staying, right here. I will never forget these young men, this mama, and the gentleman who has fought for these boys.

***

Would to God that my culture, the conservative Anabaptists, could begin to grasp what we, collectively, have done to these children. Through sending pedophiles as missionaries, knowing they abused children. Through silence. Through looking away when the shame of their sin was more than we could bear. Through shaming those who speak out. Through perverting forgiveness to mean we dare not tell truth. To make any claims at all that Jesus would respond in kind. He would not.

The Bible is chuck full of bad stories that would have remained untold if such a God existed at all, and such a Gospel had even a sprinkling of truth to it. If such a Jesus had ever walked among us. Because that Jesus called for truth. He ripped the cover off the nest of vipers oppressing and subjecting the people to their own power. He flipped tables. He spoke with healing and gentleness to the broken-hearted. And never did he favour religious oppressors over the wellbeing of the wounded.

His Gospel… that’s what we need here. The Good News of Salvation that cries for truth, invites it… yes, even demands it, for the Gospel to be real at all.

That’s my Jesus. That’s the Gospel. Any other should never be spoken, and certainly not imposed on the wounded. And most definitely not taken to an impoverished people who rely on us for sustenance, so that we can take advantage of them.

***

JUNE 6, 2019

Outside the courthouse, prior to the hearing, the handful of victims pressing charges have initially declined to comment or have their photos taken. The lawyer forbids taking photos, saying is not permissible. I respect their decision. Instead, Pastor Blakely and I engage in conversation and he shares his story. He has been summoned to stand trial for knowing many years of Mr. Mast’s crimes against their children of Haiti and not reporting these horrific crimes. As a pastor, he says, he did the only thing he understood to do, and that was to excommunicate Mr. Mast and turn him over to CAM. If he could do it over with the knowledge he has today, he states, he would report Mr. Mast and support the families of victims in reporting. He grants permission to take a photo, and use it as needed to help them seek justice and acknowledgment of suffering.

My interest in the case is to give victims opportunity to share their stories, I explain, and hold churches and organizations accountable so that these crimes are not taken lightly. I do not wish to harm anyone, including CAM and Jeriah Mast, but assure the I will stop at nothing within my means to bring truth to light and have victims voices heard. I express concern that CAM did not immediately report Mast, and notify the public, their donors and all families and communities with whom Mast had contact. I also extend an apology, as a Christian and fellow Caucasian, for their ongoing failure to release a public statement condemning the actions and apologizing for their failure to respond adequately years ago when the crimes first became known. What has been done is very wrong, and hopefully accountability will ensure better protocol for screening missionaries, thus protecting children from such horrific crimes. Pastor Brucely expresses his appreciation.

***

Mast’s crimes did not begin in Haiti, though details of former crimes on US soil remain a closely guarded secret [edit: as far as the public is concerned. The law is aware. Hence my reticence to address them before charges are laid]. Mast’s church leaders – of whom Mast’s father is bishop – knew of crimes [edit: though not called crimes] many years ago, and still sent him as a missionary in Haiti, giving him access to many, many victims without accountability. When it was discovered he committed more sex crimes in Haiti, he was sent home and the community was informed there had been moral failure. Being allowed to return, they assumed it was likely porn; other missionaries had been sent home permanently for porn use. Never did they imagine that Mast, who was their friend and fellow missionary, was so skilled that even those closest to him did not see the signs. Having repented, Mast was allowed to return and continue his crimes, unchecked.

One community member told me of 25 victims in 3 communities. But the count is much higher, in numerous other communities. Mr. Mast allegedly admitted to 30, after initially denying the allegations when questioned by a pastor on Friday, May 3 2019. Within hours of learning that he was exposed, Mast packed up his family and fled to USA via Dominican Republic , leaving pastors and other staff members to face the consequences of his crimes.

According to some Haitians, Mast is a talented speaker who preached a fine message; he was as skilled at maneuvering and accessing victims. His position within CAM required him to visit many communities.  While some Haitians knew or suspected the crimes were taking place, they held little power to do anything, as they rely heavily on CAM for basic provision, and lacked the corporate and financial backing the CAM provides. An impoverished people are no match for such a massive organization (approximately  EDIT: $150m $130 budget). It wasn’t until a handful of courageous young men came forward with a lawsuit that there was any hope of the crimes coming to an end, victims’ voices being heard, or there being any semblance of justice in this case.

As people seek to come to terms with the news, in Haiti and across the world, the list of Haitian communities impacted by Mast’s crimes continues to grow. Missionaries who condemn Mast’s actions are concerned at CAM’s lack of response and have reached out to various communities. Testimonials from other communities confirmed that the Ti Goave was only one of many impacted.

Mast befriended young boys, mentored them and scheduled sleepovers, giving him access. The details of acts committed, were similar, with slight variation from community to community, case to case, but similar basic MO. Mast carried with him a bottle of oil for the purpose of the assaults. He went under the guise of loving children and mentoring boys. He offered some gifts and cash, thus using their poverty against them.

Mr. Mast has repented numerous times for ‘moral failure’, offering a vague statement leading those nearest him under the impression that he struggles with pornography, or some personal sexual struggle. Nearly all are shocked to discover that he has, in fact, sexually assaulted so many children or the course of almost 20 years, that no one is quite sure how many there are. That shock intensifies at the discovery that leaders knew and did not send him home or warn the public.

Yet more shocking to some, is the discovery that Mr. Mast used bribes to silence some of his victims. Others say they heard unconfirmed rumours prior to victims coming forward.  An attempted rape of one young man, sources say, resulted in Mr. Mast paying to build a house to silence him. (To this I ask, how did no one get suspicious of this type of ‘generosity’?) That gentleman’s brother also received a house. His story, for the most part, remains untold. A mother, whose son was assaulted, received a plot of land, but the deed was never given to her. And another young man was given money which was used to by a motorbike. And now, Haitians say that CAM’s lawyer has offered hush money, and even pressured victims to meet up for the purpose of silencing them.

After the court hearing it is announced that CAM’s lawyer and the victims’ lawyer have reached a tentative agreement. All that is needed is for CAM officials to sign off.

This is legal ‘hush money’, but hardly becoming of a transparent organization seeking to represent Jesus. Going to court against brother is forbidden, but paying off the victimized … I’ll leave that there. Again, if what was done by the organization is Christlike, there ought to be no need to pay off these victims to silence them. To help them, sure, but silence them? Never!

***

Now, sitting in court, I look at the pastor, behind bars. He has been temporarily arrested during the proceedings. He granted me permission to take photos of him and use them as needed. His trust is an honour, as they are in the thick of addressing trauma inflicted by my culture; my people. I promise to use them only to create awareness, help the victims, and ensure their story is told. I will not exploit them.

Prior to the hearing my interpreter has asked the Commissioner’s secretary permission to audio record, no video, and take photos. Permission is granted.

Much of the hearing is in French, some in Creole. I understand little, but several interpreters give me updates. I have read the boys’ testimonies, translated into English by several people, to cross reference and compare for accuracy, so while I do not understand, I know their stories.

***

Le Commissaire speaks in (French/Creole), giving CAM (Christian Aid Ministries) 15 days for their top officials to appear in court accompanied by Jeriah Mast, the sex offender, several interpreters tell me after court is dismissed. Mast has admitted guilt, albeit after lying repeatedly until backed in a corner.  If they fail to do so, not only will they arrest a pastor who is present and hold him until they do so; they will also close doors to CAM in Haiti.

Le Commissaire and legal representatives, alike, have made it clear that failing to report crimes will not be tolerated; not even by an organization such as CAM.

That, frankly, is how it should be. However, it should be the church rising up to say it, rather than the law.

***

NOTE: I have documentation of court records, as well as evidence that certain CAM leaders, Life Literature, and other individuals were aware of these crimes. I forwarded all information I have to FBI. I have also informed the FBI liaison of my intentions to write and expose what I learned in Haiti. There are many details I know about the USA side of happenings that I have chosen not to include here. This is to avoid interfering with the FBI investigation. What I have shared here is public knowledge in Haiti, and I was grated permission to share, by victims and their lawyer. Following translation of the victim testimonies I collected, I intend to post them here at a later time.

 

Love,
~ T ~

 

PS. To the best of my ability, I have portrayed truth. There is more information that I am not free to share. I have documents, recordings, and photos to support what I have exposed here. The following is one of the numerous messages I received from Haiti affirming the accuracy of the above information.

Poll Re: Responses to Sex Abuse Victims in Conservative Mennonite/Anabaptists

In a recent post on Facebook, I was trying to point out two wrong response to the whole topic of sexual abuse:
 
1. That child molesters are most despised in society
2. And victims who speak out are most despised in church
 
Both statements have exceptions, and I was not intending to overlook those exceptions to say that ‘all people, in all situations’ respond this way. (In fact, that short quote was a mini-introduction to the longer post I was working on, which immediately followed and addressed the bigger message).  But the initial status was met with a defensive response to how wrong I am about how victims are treated and that it isn’t all churches, because I failed to ‘say it in so many words’ that it is not all, in every situation. 
 
I made a statement, based on 8 years of working internationally with victims of sexual abuse in conservative Anabaptist communities and spending the past two years reading academic papers from other religious communities, that victims who speak out are most despised in church and offenders most despised in society. I absolutely believe what I said. The statement about victims applies in two ways. Victims are not as despised outside of church, they are most despised in church. And, when considering those who are despised in church, I know no group to be more despised than victims who speak out about abuse and won’t be silenced. 
Acknowledging this was not meant to stir hatred toward offenders. It is what victims experience (less so in my case than in many), and to acknowledge and look at it is key to changing how things are. Frankly, I believe this is why half the crowd can’t read what is intended because someone is hell-bent on preventing Christians seeing it for what it is. If we do, we stand a chance at making a powerful impact.
 
Nonetheless, rather than take my word for it, and in order to let the stats speak for themselves, I created a poll for all victims of sexual abuse in/from conservative Mennonite/Anabaptist churches to vote on their experience in this regard. I trust the responses will be honourable and honest. (It is completely anonymous… I don’t even have access to names or identities of who voted).
The victims I work with may well be the group who are damaged through abusive response from church, and represent a small portion. The rest might be thriving because the church responded so well; I do not know. What I know and am confident in is that what I said is truth in the demographic of hundreds, even thousands with whom I have interacted, internationally, for nearly 9 years. And the statement regarding offenders is also true, based on academic papers written regarding sex offenders in prison — child molesters in particular — and the testimony of child molesters who have done time.
If you were abused in the conservative Mennonite/Anabaptist church, you can take the poll here: poll on response to sexual abuse.  After you have voted, the results (in percentages, will pop up. Currently, for 50% their church never found out, and the other 50% the church new and did not offer support to the victims.
As always…
Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2018

Daisy Petal Teardrops in a Bottle

Daisy petals
Scattered on the ground
He loves me, He loves me not…
He loves me, He loves me…
Not…
And I bend down,
Picking petals off the floor.
I need just one more…
He loves me.

Does He really love me
This Maker of all things
Does He see them,
Tear-shaped petals
Falling, falling, falling…
Does He catch them in a bottle
Remem’bring all my cries?
He loves me, He loves me not…
He loves me, He loves me…
Not.
And I bend down once more,
Pick one more petal off the floor.
He loves me.

Should it be this hard,
Being loved, and being known
Finding a place inside His heart
That I can call my own?
He loves me, He loves me not…
He loves me, He loves me….
Not.
I bend down, I look around
But there are no more petals on the floor
He loves me, not?

Does He love me? Really love me?
This Maker of the skies
Does He see the teardrops
Falling… falling… My soul suffocates, and dies?
He loves me, He loves me not…
He loves me, He loves me…
He loves me…
He bends down and gathers
Bleeding teardrops from the floor
Slips them in a bottle…
“I love her, I love her…
I only love her more.”

Daisy petal teardrops
Gathered in a bottle …
He loves me, He loves me…
He loves me.
***
Psalms 56:8
***

…Because when ‘church’ represents Jesus, and justice has no place, survivors of abuse:
1) We weep our tears alone
2) We question God’s love for us and often lose faith completely

This is a reminder that He sees your every tear. He is not ‘church’ – the institution – He is love, He is truth, He is justice, He is compassion.
He loves you. He loves me.
There’s always one more daisy petal to end on love.

***

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2018

 

 

More on Pastors failing to report, and positive transformation

In my previous blog I touched briefly on the topic of pastors being charged with failing to report. As I pondered it, afterwards, I decided to expand on it somewhat, as one thing I failed to mention could be misleading.

In my previous blog I stated that “I wouldn’t in any way interfere with a prison sentence for such a leader“, but that is where I missed one critical detail. I mention that I support reporting, but I fail to say that I would do much more than ‘not interfere’. I would actively do my part in such a process of holding leaders accountable, and I would also personally report leaders who fail to protect and fail to report. However, if at any point they stop looking the other way and don’t justify or excuse having done so in the past, I am inclined to work cooperatively with them.

And, frankly, I would rather see them not receive a prison sentence by the time they ‘get it’ – no matter how they arrived there – because they are key to ending the cycle. We need men – leaders in particular – inside the conservative Anabaptist culture who will help end this dreadful cycle. And if we put them behind bars, we essentially work against our own end goal; to stop the cycle and have those within the culture help stop it. But if they return to covering for abusers, then let the full extent of the law be applied, as far as I am concerned. Taking ‘ownership’ just to get off the hook isn’t taking ownership at all. It’s manipulation. And it isn’t acceptable. It is but another contributing factor to the epidemic of abuse.

If reporting and sentencing all who ever covered would end the epidemic, then I could support such an argument, however it would more likely push the problem further underground. Many victims would rather carry their stories in silence than to see their leaders charged when, in their minds, they were doing what was in the best interest of all involved. So, if pastors are charged without any attempt at working with those who recognize in the process that their decision brought harm, and genuinely want change, then we will inadvertently  bring further harm by pushing victims into deeper silence. But this silence will not be imposed. It will be chosen to prevent the fallout of leaders ending behind bars.

Furthermore, if leaders come around – even if only  after a warning – and work cooperatively to end sexual violence, then doing so is our single best shot at impacting the next generation. Removing them at that point seems counterproductive to the true goal – breaking the cycle of sexual violence in our culture – for the sake of ‘giving them what they had coming to them’. This is not justice. Because justice considers the big picture. It considers the longterm impact. It works always in the best interest of those most vulnerable. Therefore, if we toss every pastor behind bars because he asked for it by not reporting, and it inadvertently causes an outcome that sacrifices the victims and potentially creates more, then we have failed.To navigate this objectively, and not cause more harm than good, will take wisdom and discernment.

I continue to see God moving, and I see progress within the conservative Anabaptist culture, as more an more leaders, as well as parents and other non-victims rise up to say “enough is enough”. As it becomes increasingly apparent that some leaders are colluding to cover up, and some are doing so to hide their own history of abusing, those in the pews are growing discontent with the facade and taking a stand against both abuse and coverups. And those leaders who are transparent are joining those discontented in the pews, or even leading them. That is a very good sign!

For this day we have prayed, and to this end we continue to press forward.

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2018

Gaslighting & the Unraveling…

A promise made is a promise to be kept.
And God knows I’d rather forget.

It has been a few weeks since June 8… that fateful day in the present situation with attempting to expose an offender, and challenge the way the case was handled. Soon after that day, and after my ‘apology blog’, I pulled down the blogs I had written that opened up the crazy can of worms… or snakes… that led to that day in the first place.

I pulled all the blogs after discovering my apology was not warranted. I wrote it in sincerity, having been made to believe that I was wrong about the offender’s repentance and the way in which his public ‘confession’ came about. But I also wrote it in absolute confusion because the evidence I had didn’t line up with what I was made to believe. And I pulled them because I needed time to process the shock factor at discovering I had been tripped and gas-lighted.

I have yet to fully understand all the motives behind that day, but I made a promise to tell the truth that I know, after a bit of rest.

On June 4 an apology was posted by the man who sexually assaulted one young woman, and made sexually explicit phone calls to many others. I was told that it was a coached apology, written by a group of men – and that this information came from the leader I previously called into questions, who had been part of that process. On June 7, I called that out because of the incredible damage it was doing to the victims. The leader who knew about the sexual assault, and did nothing to protect other vulnerable individuals, had played a role in this ‘apology’, and had asked one of the leaders I was working with if it would ‘help’ if the abuser apologized. And then, as the attacks and poop-flinging ensued, he watched the destruction and attacks without the integrity to step in and intervene, but instead ‘liked’ abusive comments… on the bogus ‘confession’. (A pastor involved told me that he ‘is not repentant, but wants to be’.) Shortly after calling this out, a comment was posted attacking me. It was so vile and abusive it left me shocked. (And it takes a lot to shock me.)

In the wee hours of June 8, having spent a sleepless night processing what it all meant, another message came in…  I had spent the night struggling with the abusive comment, and the fact that this leader who works with sexual abuse victims would think such an apology was a good idea, (and then stand back and watch the destruction… as though that was ‘helping’), without the honour to stop it and admit what had been done.

And then I read the message that came in from one of the leaders I had worked with and trusted, “Trudy the misinformation coming from your public posts is staggering. It is truth with assigned motives that are very faulty. I also know about the editing. And why it was edited...” (There is a bigger piece to this that I am not free to tell, but will say that this leader did not agree with a half-baked confession, and if his advice had been taken, things would have shaken out very differently.)

I read it. Numb. Shock.

First, I understood ‘it is truth’ as meaning that the confession was true and sincere, and ‘with assigned motives’ as meaning that I was assigning faulty motives to the confession. And in that moment, I was a young teen, waiting to be excommunicated again. The allegations were not true, back then; I had not sinned the sins I was accused of. And in that moment, I was hurled into full blow flashback and PTSD. (It was not the first time in this experience of attempting to confront the abuser and bring an end to the abuse and hold leaders accountable that this happened. A previous time was when I was told that the leader (who appears to be) protecting the abuser, rates the man at a ‘3 out of 10’ for risk and/or perversion “because he gets no sexual pleasure from what he does”. Wait… Wha…?  I can’t even go there…)

In 27 years of working through my past, I recall a total of 6 … maybe 7 extreme PTSD/flashbacks. At least 3 have occurred in the past 3 months of dealing with this scenario and attempting to work with leaders, while watching as sexual abuse is downplayed, victims are re-victimized, and I am gaslighted. It is not an easy thing to deal with high level abuse. And hearing things like rating an offender a ‘3 out of 10’ because ‘he gets no sexual gratification from his crimes’ was horrifying on so many levels. That means many, if not most, child molesters are not a big deal because many touch the child without any form of penetration. This, again, effectively makes it all about the offender. God forbid we look too closely at the hell it brings into a child’s life.

By June 9 two things happened. I was informed that, in fact, what I had written in my status updates was truth. It was a group effort apology, and was intended to calm the chaos. (I am no longer convinced I was ‘off’ in what I assigned to it. It was to protect the offender, as I understand/see it, by calming the chaos. And such apologies always serve only to further victimize the victims and make the offender look good. It’s wicked, in my opinion and is often mentioned by victims as being one of the most damaging things in they have suffered in religious context related to the handling of abuse they suffered. “Let your yay be yay…” Don’t say an apology that isn’t true. That’s not appropriate. And if the man *wants* to be repentant, for heaven’s sake, help him face the consequences and stop lying to himself so he *can* be repentant!)

The other thing that happened by June 9, is that several people (unrelated to each other, and still unknown to each other) called me to tell me to watch my back. One said the leader close to the abuser had said I’m a Jezebel (more than once, over a period of months since January). And another said the leader called me a matriarchal woman and called one of the victims is a matriarchal witch. They commented on his hatred for Jezebel and his determination to destroy ‘Jezebel’. (Based on this, they were concerned that the leader was assigning his hatred for Jezebel to me, since that is who/what I represent to him.) Rather than ‘throw me’ or upset me, it brought clarity and understanding, and helped put all the ‘crazy’ in context.

I draw a line in the sand. I stand against abuse, and this is spiritual abuse to which I will not subject myself, and against which I will take a firm stand, not only for my sake but also for the sake of every woman and man subjected to this kind of abuse while Christian leaders rise up to protect each other. Until full ownership is taken (by him) for this abuse, and other abusive behaviours (by this leader), I am taking a firm stand to endorse nothing and partner with nothing in ministry that involves this leader. And ownership includes acknowledging the careless handling of the situation, disregarding those who approached him before me (at least 5 godly men and women – info that was forwarded to me via someone the leader’s wife shared it with), and apologizing for the name-calling and spiritual abuse.

I am choosing a path of forgiveness, but not a path of silence. And forgiveness also does not mean I won’t have firm boundaries, because forgiveness does not include letting abuse go unchallenged. And if we cannot hold each other accountable as leaders for abusive behaviours and putting others at risk then shame on us all. If we fear the blood-bath at our feet, when it involves leaders and ministries, and don’t recognize that the bloodbath has been going on for victims for many generations, with no one to intervene for them…. If we protect leaders and/or from consequences for abuse, and don’t protect victims from such individuals., then we have failed…. and God have mercy on us all.

I do not know where things stand with this whole situation, as far as what other leaders are doing with it. But I do know I am taking a stand against abuse, and I stand firm on the evidence and the account I have given of this situation.

If you have questions, send me an email. If it’s out of curiosity with no higher purpose, I’m not interested in engaging. If it’s to destroy people – whether ‘them’ or me – I’m not interested. If it’s for the sake of truth and for the good of your community, the actors involved here or some positive end, I’m more than willing to interact.

as always

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2018

The bride’s train… White boots… Gangrene… and dead children

Her white gown flowed with grace and beauty. She was stunning. The bride. She stood at some distance from me, and I watched. Who was she? What was that glow? I couldn’t see her eyes clearly, but I had no doubt they sparkled with joy. Her ruby lips, full and sweet carried the kiss of love for her Bridegroom.

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I, a stranger, watched from the fence line of my property. I didn’t know the bride or her groom, but when everyone talks about the most amazing wedding of all time – even greater than Prince Charles and Lady Diana, or their children’s weddings. The greatest wedding ever. That’s what the rumour was, when I heard it. So, from my place, my yard, I watched it unfold. She moved closer, the bride, on her path toward the groom, where he stood waiting to make her his. His eyes… Oh his eyes….

My heart skipped a beat, and a tear slipped down my face. Such love! I wondered what it would be like… But I pushed that thought back. Not me. Not in my world. Such love has no room in the rejected ones. My mind slipped back in time. I could hear my father beating her, the woman who had carried and birthed me. I was three then. I heard her, the woman who gave birth to me, curse me, curse my siblings, call us things… things so dark that I felt like a whore. I was still three then. I turned again to the bride, to the groom, trying to grasp this love…  But, no, that love was not my destiny. I would always be one of the rejected ones, the unlovables. Best to not dream…

I could see her eyes now… the sparkle. Another tear … and then another. Oh, if only I could be part of that wedding! There were crowds and crowds on the other side of the fence, all wearing white. It was breathtaking…

But, I … I was one of the castaway ones.

And then, as the bride moved closer, the most amazing thing happened.  She turned, in her glory, and her eyes looked right into mine. She raised her hand, gesturing for me to come join the wedding. I looked at my overall denim jumper, my gardening gloves covered in dirt, weeds still hanging from my hand. I looked at my weedy garden. And I shook my head, looking down, ashamed. She moved closer. I could smell the sweet perfume and hear her voice singing. The bride was singing to me, still beckoning.

I looked at the crowd. The white, in stark contrast with my rubber boots, covered in mud. They sang. The words. Why were they praising the groom, but also singing my name? Why was the bride beckoning? I looked around as if to find someone to pinch me and wake me. Surely this had to be a dream… a vision. I was nobody. Worthless. But the singing continued. They were all inviting me to join the wedding march. “Come just as you are”, they sang.

The bride pointed to the groom. He stood there, holding a white dress, for me. There was water for me to wash myself. Overwhelmed, I did the only thing I could do. I crawled over that old fence and ran to the Groom. Having washed, and dressed in white, I joined the crowd. The words of the song formed on my lips, and I sang. From my heart, I sang of the wonderful groom. And when I met them, the people on the other side of the fence, the bride and I sang the praises of the groom, and the names of those we met. Some joined. Some didn’t. All was well.

We were dressed, we were fed, we had every need met. I hardly thought of the past, the beatings, the name-calling, the rapes and abuse I had suffered. My new life was good. Too good to be true. But it was true. No one shook my body, calling my name to wake up. Reality. Truth. I knew love and care for the first time, in the wedding march.

One day I surveyed the train of the bride’s veil with great curiosity. It was long. So long, in fact, I couldn’t see the end of it. And then I saw it. A movement, as if there was struggle under the train, for as far as I could see, the bulges and movement continued. The bridesmaids carried the train, seemingly without questioning the thing I saw. Did they not see it? Maybe it was nothing. But it troubled me.

I ran for a groomsman – because the bride had said if ever we need something, anything at all, we should go to the groomsmen. They would help. And if it required a bridesmaid, the groomsmen would know which ones were equipped to help. The groomsman looked at the commotion I pointed to, and calmly responded, “There is no struggle. That’s nothing. Keep singing.”

His voice rose louder, and the people around sang louder too. The commotion under the train continued. I squeezed between the bridesmaids and reached for the train, trying to look under it. But, to my shock, one of the groomsman slapped my hand and then motioned for me to sing. I tried to sing. I wanted to sing, but something told me I had to see under the train. I lagged behind, trying to hide in the fringe crowd. From there, I would slip in and see what was under the train. I could see the writhing, and I would not quit until I knew what it was about.

I whispered to a sweet looking bridesmaid, and asked her what is under the train. She shushed me, urged me to focus on the wedding, on the groom, and keep singing. Seeing I would not stop, she explained. To look under the train would leave me deceived. I must not. I dare not. There was nothing under the train, she assured me. These imaginations had been presented by other deceived ones who wanted to destroy the bride, the groomsmen and the bridesmaid. She was only trying to protect me, she said. Her voice was sweet, consoling, reassuring.

I wondered what was wrong with me, and why I would imagine such things?

A man and a woman walked toward the train, carrying something. But what? The bridesmaids lifted the train, and I watched as they flung the large ‘package’ under the train. Their hands were red… Was that blood? I shuddered. No. This imagination, it needed to stop. I was going insane. I sang louder, more enthusiastically.

But it happened again. Another one tossed under the train of her robe. And another. And another.

I sang louder. And louder. And louder.

But the words… the words fell flat.

We sang of how the groom had given his mansion for us…

And then I heard the scream. Bloodcurdling, life-stopping scream.

A few in the audience mimicked it as if to make me believe it was part of the song. But I knew. I knew… I remembered that scream… It was my scream. I had screamed in the night. A child. A teen. A young woman. And the train had suffocated me. I would not, I could not hold back.

I ran, full force between the bridesmaids holding the train and grabbed it, trying to wrestle it from the bridesmaids. But they would not let me near it. They pushed me back.

A small hand reached out from under the train. I tried to grab it, but the bridesmaid stomped on the hand, and quickly it disappeared.

The bridesmaid called over a groomsman and soon others gathered around me, and gave me a row for creating such havoc in the wedding party. Had I no awareness that the groom wanted my attention? Did I not know that he would take care of these things? Why was I so intent on destroying the groomsmen and the bridesmaids? Did I not know that these men and women were forgiven? Had I learned nothing?

The small hand slipped out again.. and then another… and another… and another. And feet, as bodies tried to crawl out. I saw them, moving, blood-covered, flesh grown wild with disease and gangrene covering limbs.

Shocked, I gasped. Then vomited.

How…?  “My God! My God!” I wept. I looked at the groom. The groom this wedding march had pointed to and told me to worship… Our eyes met. I watched as his body doubled and he vomited, and he wept. And I knew…

Without a thought, I dove under the train. Dead bodies. More diseased bodies. Bones from ages past. Some delusional ones holding bibles, trying frantically to find some word to heal them of their disease. Others, cursing the groom and shaking their fists at him, lifting middle fingers high toward the heavens. Fingers bleeding from being stomped on.

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Men in what robes dove under, raped the corpses, the dying… even the infants. Women in white robes joined in, forcing objects into their little bodies, or forcing the little and dying ones to bring sexual pleasure to their own bodies, before kicking them and leaving them to bleed. As those in white exited they stood tall, and told those near them they had done things that displeased the groom. The crowd wept, and patted them on the back for their honesty, and washed the blood and diseased flesh off of them, and reminded them that the groom had forgiven. And together they sang.

I screamed at the top of my lungs, with everything in me, “These children are dying!! These women are dying!! These men are dying!! They carry the disease of the men and women who have raped and beaten them!”

A boot landed in my face. A white boot. A lead groomsmen. It left me reeling. Surely he doesn’t know what is going on here? I grabbed his hand and tried to show him the devastation. He nodded. “What you see here,” he said, “isn’t the fault of those who raped them. These are the ones who cannot forgive. They don’t know the groom. That’s the problem.”

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He seemed to speak from a place of truth. So I started to sing. I sang under the train to those dying. As I sang, their flesh fell off their bones. Why, when I was singing the life-giving words that had brought me hope… The words the groomsmen had taught me… the words they said were the groom’s words… Why was the flesh falling from their bones? I was baffled.

The men and women who had raped and beaten the wounded ones, pointed at me. “You are angry. You are bitter! You won’t forgive!” they shouted. “Stop blaming us! We are forgiven! You need healing! We are suffering for the groom here! Can’t you see what you are doing?” And as they shouted the crowd gathered around them and sang, patting them on the back.

I looked at the dying child in my arms. Clearly these people were not going to help these wounded ones. I ran to the groom. I yelled. I screamed. I wept.

“Why?!!! Why are they dying? Why can’t they just forgive those who infect them with this flesh-eating disease? Why? I am singing! I am praising you! It’s supposed to heal them!”

The groom looked at me, tears running down His face. “As they have done it to the least of these… the most vulnerable among them, they have done it to me. If they have disregarded them, they have disregarded me. Come with me…”

He led me back to the dead and dying and eyes were opened. There I saw the groom, nearly naked, dressed in nothing but rags, and taking on the flesh-eating disease and other illness. He was healing them. He reached out, without shame or reserve, and touched the bones which held no flesh. And suddenly there was flesh. His hand bore the scar, having taken on their diseased flesh. He knelt down, breathed deep into the face of a dead child, and suddenly there was life. He took the hand of a cripple, and he danced with joy. He kissed the eyes of the blind and they saw. The heart that stopped beating, he laid his hands on and in one instant it started beating.

Then he stood and walked into the crowd and shouted. “I called you to be like Me! I confronted religious spirits. I healed the broken hearted. I acknowledged pain. I let the prostitute weep on my feet. I walked among the diseased, the lepers, the untouchables and unlovables. I never condemned them for speaking out. I never condemned those who spoke truth. I confronted half-truths and deception. And I healed the contrite sinner who held nothing back. I was not popular! I was hated, not protected by religious institutions. I called you to be like Me!”

He paused. He did not praise me, and he did not shame me. He pointed to the bodies, diseased and dying and commanded, “acknowledge their pain and let me heal them!” And then he walked deeper into the audience and began stripping the robes that had been handed out in his name, but without his blessing. There, the flesh-eating disease was carefully hidden, gangrene setting in.

“The truth… The truth will make you free. I AM Truth. Live my Life and Love among them,” he said, again pointing to the wounded ones.

He moved forward and lifted the train, exposing the bride’s feet. They were mottled, a sign of poor circulation and pending death. Gangrene was setting in. The groom fell to the ground and wept. “My bride! My beautiful bride! I gave everything I have for you!”

He turned to the groomsmen and bridesmaids. “I called you to protect her! I called you to guard her, not to destroy her by hiding diseases under her train! Pointing under the train he shouted, “This will destroy my bride if you do not rise up! Rise up! Stand for truth. I came to confront religious arrogance. I came to heal the broken-hearted. I came to set the captives free. You have not only neglected them, but added to their broken-heartedness and led them into deeper bondage. You will give account.”

And the people kept singing.  A few touched up the bride’s makeup. But the train could never again hide the dying children, the diseased women and men, young boys and girls who had long lay under it. It could never again hide the dead bodies, the stench of which had stained the inside of the train.

And the groom, he stayed there on the ground. He did not dance and sing. He wept for the wounded ones even as he wiped the tears. He held them, as he sat there in sackcloth, and he healed them. He gave them each a white robe as he healed them. Most joined him in the ruins. Others went to the groomsmen, the bridesmaids and the crowds and kept pointing to the groom, directing the crowds away from the din and noise. They even spoke to the men and women who raped and beat the unlovables, and pointed them to the groom.

Because the groom…  The groom will heal all who humbly accept truth.

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Proverbs 31:8  
“Open your mouth for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all who are destitute.”

Matthew 25:40-45

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
Matthew 12: 20 
A bruised reed he will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory

 

Praying for the courage of many to rise up. We are losing too many victims to atheism, pain and depression. Dare to do what Jesus would do. Confront predators. Walk gently with the broken hearted. Settle for nothing less that truth. And invite all to Jesus.

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2018