A former conservative Anabaptist (CA) pastor speaks; A meeting with a few godly men (including a CA pastor); And a glorious shattering

Before sharing the main blog, I want to address a few things that that have surfaced a few times through this process.

WHAT ARE CREDIBLE ALLEGATIONS:
Does ‘credible allegations’ mean I am telling my readers that everything that was/is reported is exactly 100% as reported? Am I saying with unquestioning certainty that “all allegations are true”?

I have said it numerous times, “I am not God. I make no claims to know exactly what was done.” What I am saying is the allegations are not fluff and there is merit to them to the point that there should be a deep investigation. It is in this that CAM and LIFE Literature failed.  I have never asked anyone to unquestioningly endorse as absolute truth what they hear. But I have and will continue to insist that independent third party investigations must be done when such allegations are brought forward, by someone trained in handling victims in a sensitive manner. Such allegations must never be ignored.  And those against whom allegations have been brought should not be sent out on the mission field. It will backfire.

LET’S WAIT UNTIL THE COURTS DECIDE INNOCENCE OR GUILT
This would be a brilliant idea if the cases had been reported before the statute of limitations was up. Sadly, because leaders failed to listen and report years ago, that is no longer an option, so it is my vote that those same people don’t get to give the advice of silence until the courts decide. The courts will never decide on the Daniel Herr case because he was disregarded for approximately 30 to 40 years, and the whispers and allegations were excused.  So, no, we don’t wait. We do the right thing and let the public know.

There are more, but I will leave it there for tonight.

*****

The following is a conversation I had with a friend on Facebook Messenger. I asked his permission to share here, including his name: 

STEVE LAPP (not with LOH, for clarification):
Just read your update on “ Grandpa “ .. The coverups that continue to be exposed are beyond comprehension to me. I am convinced there is no limit to the blindness that accompanies the attitude of moral and spiritual superiority. ( God help us ) PS : I thought there was no statute of limitations on sexual crimes involving minors.
MY RESPONSE:
[As I understand it, the statute of limitations now is] age 50, [for any] victim [who] was under 18 in 2006. It formerly was 18 years […], plus 12 years. (So [age] 30). In 2006 that changed. But the [alleged] victims [in this case, other than those in Haiti] are over 50.

What makes me so sick is that they didn’t bother talking to victims and report to the law. None of them. Not in that many churches, leaders or organizations. And then, rather than deal with it when it gets exposed, they gaslight and say “Trudy is just trying to destroy mission organizations”. And for what earthly reason would I do that?! Ignorant. (Not that I care they say it. I just further exposes their ignorance).

STEVE LAPP:
It’s dark [the abuse]… My childhood was so happy , so secure, filled with love and laughter. There were no dark clouds in the sky for me as a child. I trusted , and never found a reason to mistrust.
Nowadays tho, I do lots of reflecting, and I realize how stunningly stupid and ignorant we become when we blindly trust a “ movement “ of any sort , and particularly a religious movement. I was once a follower of the Charity churches ( for a short time ) . Only when I began to question some of the “absolutes” in the Anabaptist community did my eyes begin to see into some of the darkness that was there. It’s been a journey “out” for many years now , yet I struggle to grasp the enormity of the problem among my people.
It seems to me as long as we hang on to even a trace of the idea that we are spiritually superior as a group ie: Anabaptist , (although it’s true in any group) we will never be able to see clearly. It’s incredibly blinding and should shake us to the core of our being , for it’s a mindset that is a breeding ground for gross immortality and wickedness.

Yes, there’s much progress been made among Anabaptist leaders as far as enlightenment, but until we are broken by our sin of “ spiritual superiority “ I fear this monster ( sexual immorality ) will always be present and thriving. We need more than enlightenment. We are in desperate need of brokenness that goes beyond admitting we have a “ problem “ with immortality. We have a pride problem that we need to own up to, and repent of .

 

***

This evening I had coffee with 3 conservative Anabaptist gentlemen (one was my brother), and later Tim joined in too. It was good. It struck me, at one moment before Tim arrived that the last time I met with 3 (or more) conservative Anabaptist men by myself I was 18, a brand new Christian, and was being grilled about my sexual history. The memory flashed through my mind and it struck me how safe I felt tonight. These are three honourable men.

We sat and talked about my work, and one of them (the pastor in our midst), referring to the conservative Anabaptists in relation to my work, asked thoughtfully and gently, “How did you become our adversary? We need you.” He went on to say we should be partnering together, not fighting one another, in addressing the epidemic. 

In that I didn’t hear him say, “I endorse every detail of how you do your work.” But on the other hand I didn’t hear him judge. He simply acknowledged that there is an abuse problem that needs to be addressed, and he acknowledged God’s calling on my life and the gift He has given me to do what I do. He also acknowledged pride (religious pride and arrogance) as a contributing factor to the problem at hand. 

There is something humbling and empowering, sitting in the presence of men of God with such humility. It is touching, and a reflection of the heart of God. 

And this, my friends, is why I do not fight against ‘the Anabaptist culture’. It is a problem of individuals who are arrogant and selfish, not a problem of a culture in and of themselves. I have honourable and true-hearted friends, so very many of them, within the culture. They don’t put their faith in the culture or any of the practices; it is a way of life, not a way of salvation. The bulk of my friends, prayer warriors and supporters are conservative Anabaptist. They are the people whose love and prayers carry me through the the ministry I do. 

Then, to have encounters such as this evening — or like when I sit with my Amish friends in USA and one of their ministers comes to ask question — and I sit and talk heart to heart with conservative Anabaptist leaders who genuinely cares about addressing the epidemic of sexual abuse in a redemptive and forthright manner, my heart is filled with gratitude.

The Spirit of God is alive and well among my people. Change is coming. Be encouraged.

A line has been drawn in the sand, and people will choose whether they will stand for truth and honour, or continue to bow to the idol of ‘good image’… will they rise up against this evil and bring healing to the children, or will they preserve self and reputation?

It is a painful shattering of illusions, but beyond that shattering lies glorious freedom and healing for victims and offenders.

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As always…

Love,
~ T ~

*****

Trudy offers conferences for survivors of abuse, and training to equip churches and the community in caring for victims and offenders. If you would like to inquire about having a conference or training in your area, send an inquiry via Contact TrudyTo support Generations Unleashed, the charity she works for, Donate Here.

SURVEY: 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.

© Trudy Metzger

 

 

Conservative Mennonite missionary “Grandpa” accused of molesting minors: 4 decades, 2 countries

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:

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A list of all individuals to whom the letter was sent has been removed, as it is too revealing.

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 somethingand 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’:

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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…

*****

As always…

With love,
~ T ~

 

© Trudy Metzger 2020

****

SURVEY

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.

 

True forgiveness leaves offenders in their own noose… And a sneak peek at survey results

We Anabaptists say that for a Catholic priest to forgive a penitent sinner is false doctrine. He has no such authority, we say, to stand in the place of God and forgive sins.

We then turn around and teach that victims of sexual abuse and violence must forgive their offenders. It is his/her Christian duty. And we teach that it brings freedom not only to the offended but also to the offender. Moreover, we have members’ meetings in which the guilty are singled out, and the congregation stands to declare forgiveness.

Tell me, if the Catholic priest has no such rights and authority, how can we say that we do? Do we not also stand in the place of God, and encourage victims to do so, when we make forgiveness about the offender? (I understand the priest ‘absolves’ the sinner, which sounds much worse, but only means to set free from guilt or responsibility. So, same thing as forgiveness. Same doctrinal practice).

Forgiveness is one of the most crucial aspects of *our own healing*. It has nothing to do with setting the other person free from their sins or wrongs. It sets *us* free from *their* sins and wrongs. It’s like it cuts the rope of the noose the offender placed around our neck, and allows us to truly live, completely released from him/her and the crimes committed against us.

Part of that noose is vindictiveness; entertaining the urge to retaliate. Part of that noose is vengeance; the act of getting even and letting them have it. Part of that noose is hatred; despising the person rather than the vile acts they committed. When we cut the noose, we release hatred for the person, and we release vengeance and vindictiveness. We are no longer obsessed with getting back at them. We trade those things for compassion, and maintain a desire for truth and justice, and to protect the vulnerable. The latter qualities do not evaporate with forgiveness. In this exchange, when we forgive, we become whole and the noose about our neck is severed.

When we cut that noose, however, offenders are no more free from their noose than before we forgave. He/she must come before God taking full ownership and in full repentance to be freed from the noose around his/her neck. Both ‘cheap forgiveness’ — the kind that quickly tidies things up to look good,  and lack of forgiveness — that keeps us constantly seeking vengeance, hold offender in bondage and do nothing for the freedom of the victim. It is a gift to the offender to be held accountable.

We are set free when we forgive, and we release them to accountability before God and the law.

In other words, forgiveness is an act of faith in God. Through forgiveness we recognize that the offender remains accountable before God for his/her sins/crimes, not to us. Vengeance is not ours; it is Gods.

Forgiveness also does not fulfil the demand of law and government. That is a separate accountability structure. (Romans 13). We have no more authority to ‘forgive’ the offender and ‘free them from responsibility to the law’ than we have to offer eternal life through forgiveness of sins.

False doctrine surrounding forgiveness keeps both victim and offender in bondage to the sin/crime committed. It keeps the victim in bondage to the consequences of the offender’s sins/crimes. We were not designed to carry the consequences of our own sins, let alone the sins of another. We can only choose to take ownership of our healing needs that result from those sins/crimes.

Forgiveness leaves the offender, right there in his/her own noose, before God. Because that noose has nothing to do with the victim. It has everything to do with his/her heart before God. It leaves the offender with the choice to reach up and cry out for forgiveness from God, and turn from the wickedness, or to slowly strangle the life out of him/herself. Our false doctrine of forgiveness leaves the offender to strangle, not realizing that’s what is happening.

True forgiveness, separated from the offender and his/her story, sets the victim free from the offender. It sets the victim free from the offence. It sets the victim free *from the consequences of the offence*. It releases the victim *from* being a victim *to* being empowered.

True forgiveness frees the victim to become an overcomer. And it frees the victim to take ownership of his/her own healing.

That’s what real forgiveness does.

***

SURVEY:

Currently we have a survey looking at Conservative Anabaptist Leaders’ Responses to Sexual Abuse and Domestic Violence.  We have 77 responses in under two days, which is outstanding. We are also collecting data on relationship of offender(s) to victims. Some of the results, as usual, are pretty much what we expected. Others are startling. For example:

SNEAK PREVIEW OF SURVEY RESULTS BASED ON 78 respondents:
• 40% of victims have been assaulted by their brothers
• 31%  of victims have been assaulted by family friends
• 27% of victims have been assaulted by their fathers
• 10% of victims have been assaulted by their mothers
• 15% of victims have been sexually assaulted by more than 5 offenders
• Roughly 57% of victims who suffered only SA or only DV left the conservative; When the two are combined — SA & DV — that number jumps to nearly 70%
• 30% of SA victims (no DV) who left the church say leaders played a significant role in their leaving the church; coincidentally 42% of all SA victims (no DV)  would recommend going to leaders
• 36% of DV victims who left the church say leaders’ response played a significant role in leaving the church; 87% advise victims NOT to go to leaders for support
• 42% of SA & DV victims who left the church say leaders’ response played a significant role in leaving the church; 100% advise victims NOT to go to leaders for support

NOTE: While the numbers are startling, it should not be assumed that 10% of all CA survivors (outside of this study) were molested by mothers. There are many factors that could contribute to this representation in this particular survey.
….

There is much more emerging, and when we have enough participants to feel fairly confident in the data, I plan to do a deep analysis and share some of the graphs and stats here. I’m hopeful that we will have around 200 participants with a bit of time. (Currently we are at 78, so climbing even since writing the last two paragraphs).

I have fine-tuned that survey, and will release the improved version on our new Survey’s Page shortly. (Hoping later tonight). I plan to update this page with new surveys as I get then ready, so check back. While this blog is the sole ownership and responsibility of myself, Trudy Metzger, the data gathered will be used by Generations Unleashed to better understand sexual abuse in our culture. I will also share surveys for other individual i trust, and who are researching sexual abuse.

I am hopeful that as the conversations continue, professionals and support persons alike will be equipped to give better advice and support sexual abuse survivors in our conservative Mennonite culture. For example, if professionals are encouraging victims to go to their leaders, but victims are finding their leaders to be abusive, then such advice should stop.

But it should not end there. Leaders should be trained and equipped to respond in more effective ways. Looking at the results above it appears (and has consistently throughout the survey) that leaders’ response to DV is even more neglectful than sexual abuse. There are many things that play into responses, including silence surrounding the topic. Respondents talked about ‘seeing change’ and ‘being hopeful’ that there is improvement. And some referenced ‘the last 10 years’.

This makes sense to me. The last 10 years is when we’ve started addressing sexual abuse more and more openly. It is anecdotal evidence that conversation is necessary for change. So let’s keep talking!

And, lest I’ve completely distracted you from good intentions, you can take the survey Conservative Anabaptist Leaders’ Responses to Sexual Abuse and Domestic Violence and let your voice make a difference. Also, for more accurate results.

As always,

Love,
~ T ~

 

© Trudy Metzger 2019

Should survivors of sexual abuse or domestic to go to church leaders to report and/or seek support?

Survivors of SEXUAL ABUSE and DOMESTIC VIOLENCE in ANABAPTIST COMMUNITY:

Should professionals advise survivors of sexual abuse or domestic to go to church leaders to report and/or seek support? Would you advise them to go to leaders, based on your experience? Why, or why not?

In the past I’ve said (and probably will again in the future) that it is not fair to put it on leaders to counsel victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence. They have no training for it. They are not counsellors or psychologists. Not usually, anyway. And how do they effectively support 1 in 3 to 4 women and 1 in 5 to 6 who have been sexually abused, and the domestic violence cases besides? Is it reasonable to expect this? Is it even wise?

Some say it is their duty. Others say it does more harm than good to have those with limited (or no) training and knowledge on these topics be the ‘go to’.  I have my thoughts and opinions, formulated through ten years of working with sexual abuse and occasionally domestic violence victims.

I would love to hear your thoughts, either for or against. To take the survey visit: Conservative Anabaptist Leaders’ Response to Sexual Abuse and Domestic Violence. The survey is completely anonymous.

As always…
Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2019

Forgiveness; Compassion; William McGrath a Conservative Anabaptist Leader and Sex Offender, and all the Things

FORGIVENESS
In all the Christian talk about the beauty of forgiveness, we have made the mistake of teaching and believing that forgiveness and justice are at odds. They are compatible. It is not ‘forgiveness *or* justice’. It is ‘forgiveness *and* justice’. God loves both.

The problem is that we really do not understand what forgiveness is and means, and we really don’t understand what justice is and means. (I do not propose to have the understanding either! But to think they are at odds is evidence we are missing something). As a result, most teachings on forgiveness are imbalanced, saying you must choose ‘only’ forgiveness. Many even teach that to forgive means “I am taking the consequences of your sin on myself.”

I would propose that we release ourselves from the consequences of their wrongs and sins when we forgive. Forgiveness is a matter of releasing my heart from the burden I carry as a result of the evils done against me. The greatest longterm ongoing consequence for most sins committed against me is what I believe as a result of that wrong. (There are exceptions. If a drunk driver kills my child, the longterm consequences is my grief, the loss of that child and all that goes with it. I speak here specifically to my experience and most wrong committed against me).

My forgiveness cannot free the other person; only God’s forgiveness can do that. In fact, if handled in such a way that the other person never truly comes to grips with their wrongdoing, ‘forgiveness’ (as taught by many) keeps that person in bondage. There is a kindness in a person being confronted with their own capacity for evil, when paired with compassion, mercy, grace and consequences that holds him/her accountable. If the offender is truly repentant, this encounter is life altering and a gift to him/her and those in relationship with them.

I believe in forgiveness. It transformed my life. It continues to transform my life. It is what set me free to live a whole life, to pursue my calling. And it is what breaks the power their actions had over me. It does not impose on me any code of silence. It does change the way I speak about it. I still call out evil. I still call out corruption and manipulation. I do not hate. I do not call for beheadings, literally or figuratively. I still support going to the law and ensuring offenders cannot continue to hurt people. That’s part of justice.

There is no justice in leaving children vulnerable to predators. None. Nor is that forgiveness. That is ignorance. But true justice never calls for the destruction (death or other) of the wrongdoer. Because true justice recognizes that I, too, am fallen humanity who deserves judgement, and the grace I have received is the grace I pass on. God did not remove this life’s consequences; I continue to live with those to this day. But He did offer me eternal life and removed from me the consequence of eternal death.  That is a gift I offer others, along with restoring their humanity, seeing them as having both capacity for good and for evil, and treating them with dignity even while holding them accountable for that evil.

***

Over my mother’s funeral several of my offenders showed up . One, in particular, stood out. He looks but a broken shell of humanity. Though he is not a family member, I’ve seen him at numerous family events such as weddings and funerals — I anticipate I will see him again tomorrow — and always what it stirs in my heart is grief. Not for what was done against me — I’m done with that grieving and am healed — but of what sin robbed him of. That’s not to say he hasn’t made his heart right before God. I’m not one to judge that. But the eyes tell a story…. and the story his tell… 

I saw him there… So I walked over, stood behind the gentleman talking to him and waited ‘in line’ to speak with him. When my turn came, I shook his hand, and thanked him for his expression of sympathy by coming to mom’s funeral. Admittedly, he looked relieved when my thanks was all I had to say to him.

Whatever he took from me when he molested me, it does not compare with what he lost within himself, and the consequences he has to live with for his choices. Don’t misunderstand me. I am not downplaying his crimes; they had a huge impact on me. Truth is, odds are high I would still be conservative Anabaptist if he had not done what he did. That is where and when I started feeling lost in the culture to such a degree that I knew I could not stay. I saw myself as a misfit who would never survive, and whose dreams would never come true ‘among them’. Trust me, I do not bemoan the outcome, but at the time, as a young teen who dreamed of marrying a Mennonite man — ideally a farmer — it was devastating. I saw only ‘old rejected spinster’ in my future, and that belief isolated me.

The greater harm was the sexual confusion it threw me into. Feeling things for which I had no words or teaching, and the ensuing years of deep shame it cost me. And because word got out, I had no idea who all knew. Every time a young man looked at me, I was sure he was thinking “slut”. So I would sit through special meetings at other churches, blushing and ashamed, whenever a young man looked my way. Yes, the cost was significant.

But I saw the consequences in his eyes at mom’s funeral, and felt only compassion. Since seeing him at mom’s funeral, I’ve said to Tim from time to time, “I think I need to go visit him and his wife. I need to have a conversation with them….”

We will see. If and when the time is right, I will do it. And that visit won’t be for my own good or healing; it will be for his redemption. Not relational restoration. That is not necessary. But his deep soul redemption and freedom.

If I do it, I do it of my own choice. And that choice has nothing whatsoever to do with forgiveness, other than to give me the courage to do it. Forgiveness is something I did in my heart before God many years ago. These things should not be confused with forgiveness, because they are not a requirement of the forgiving process.

COMPASSION
I felt that same compassion standing in the courtroom at Jeriah Mast’s hearing. First, and foremost, I felt deep grief for those whom Jeriah victimized. When the judge read the list of crimes Jeriah confessed to committing, it was all I could do to hold myself together and not begin sobbing. When the judge read how only weeks before the sentencing, Jeriah still said his sexual assaults (at age 25) of minors under 13 was ‘consensual’, I felt frustrated that he still doesn’t ‘get it’ how incredibly vile it is to use children and that there is no such thing as ‘consensual’ when adults take advantage of children. And when the judge handed down the sentence and explained why he chose the 9 years instead of a lesser sentence– because Jeriah is an ongoing risk to the public, in part because he doesn’t get it — I felt a mix of sadness and gratitude. Sad that it is a judge who ‘gets it’, not the church, and gratitude that at least someone does.

And when I saw Jeriah handcuffed and taken from the courtroom before a numb audience (his church and family, by all appearances), I felt compassion and deep sorrow. Sorrow that Jeriah’s crimes caused so much loss and harm to the victims, his wife and family, and his friends. Sorrow that so much of religion doesn’t grasp the harm and rallies for the offender. (I was one of less than a handful of people – and that’s a generous number – who were there to support the victims in a courtroom so full that people were standing around the room). And compassion for Jeriah’s soul and the things that took him down this path. It came out in court that he had been sexually abused by an older brother. This in now way excuses his evil deeds. To commit them was a choice, and he must own that before God and man.

Some say he has owned it. I reiterate that his comments not long before sentencing, minimizing his crimes to ‘consensual acts’, are revealing of his lack of grasping the severity of his crimes, which means he isn’t safe around the vulnerable, but the rest — repentance and forgiveness — I leave between him and God. And leave it with God to fully break him and help him understand how evil and far reaching the crimes/sins are. And to understand that children should be protected by 25 year old men; they should not need to be protected from them. 

***

William McGrath. The name evokes many and various responses, depending who is in the audience. Those who hold him high, and idolize this cultural trophy with his charismatic (so some say) personality, it evokes high praise and reverence. For his victims, and those near them, who watched a religious culture idolize him, then (some) question him, followed by deafening silence and cover-up, the name is a reminder of loss and suffering without proper acknowledgement of truth, and certainly a lack of justice. For the Beachy Amish leaders who investigated and then fell short of being honourable, I imagine the name brings shame.

For the woman whose husband — a victim of McGrath — committed suicide… I cannot imagine the deep suffering she has experienced at the silence, and at not hearing McGrath’s name where it should have been spoken, and where his actions should have been unequivocally condemned. And I can’t imagine how healing it must be for her to know that someone has heard her cries.

And ‘that someone’ who heard is the author of Anabaptist Medical Matters, a Conservative Anabaptist (CA) Medical doctor who has recently written several articles addressing the epidemic of sexual abuse in the CA community, including a current one on McGrath. He is forthright, gentle, honest, and — from what I see at a distance — seems to live honourably. (I have never met him, but still hope to one day).

In this article he tells of the case of William, and dares to speak to that which lies carefully buried. But the truth does not die with the body, and the consequences ripple throughout the generations, when sex crimes are left unaddressed. Especially when it is at a religious leadership level. To read the article, visit, “Blessed Are They That Mourn“.

(Warning: The article may be triggering for survivors. Trigger or not, I would read it for the gold that is in it. By giving you a heads up, I hope it will prevent extreme triggering and make it possible for you to push past the triggers. The first potential trigger is in ‘mourn for the offenders’. I agree with the author, but have worked long enough with survivors to know the general consensus is that offenders’ needs are always placed first. If able, push past this and read on. The second trigger is in addressing Jeriah Mast. The author may not be aware that only weeks prior to his sentencing, Mast was still defending/excusing his actions against boys as young as 11 — when he was 25 — as consensual. For those who know this, the author’s statement “By all accounts, he has sincerely repented, even expressing a desire to be rebaptized” could be very triggering).

I do not agree with everything written here, and that’s ok. I see a sincere and honest acknowledgement of deep failure in the CA community, in this writing, and bless the author for daring to go there. It is not a popular move in that culture.

Frankly, until survivors have permission to speak, and those who remain (whether family or culture) repent for the coverups and abuses, there is no changing the course of history. But God forbid that the abusers be the ones to ‘stand in the gap’ and repent for other offenders, if they have not first done so with their own offences. If you are godly, and if you have taken ownership for your wrongs and repented at a personal level, only then have you any right to stand in that gap without making things worse.

***

Tomorrow is my 50th birthday. I feel blessed to be alive and doing so well. I’ve had some near-death encounters in my life — two in particular stand out — including numerous events this year that reminded me of the fragility of life. To have made it half way to 100 and thriving, is the mercy and grace of God.

I have no personal needs but have many in my life who do have needs, so to celebrate my 50th, I invite you to support the following:

  1. THE GATHERING, our second annual event offering survivors of abuse a safe place to gather and connect, a place to find hope, safety and healing. This year we were able to offer attendance considerably below cost, thanks to donors. It is our hope to continue making this event affordable through donations. To donate, visit Generations Unleashed Donate and scroll down to The Gathering 2020.
  2. Support for victims of Jeriah Mast in Haiti who did not accept payouts from Christian Aid Ministries. We started this fund just prior to my mother’s decline and death, with a team of people willing to help oversee it, and with reports. To date we have received two donations — one for $200 and one for $20 — but unfortunately holds were placed on both donations (presumably because it was a new PayPal account, since we could not put this through GU). One hold has now been lifted. Furthermore, the tragic events in Haiti have made it impossible for us to set up vendors where these survivors can go for prepaid supplies, whether groceries or other. As of this week, that has changed for some survivors who have relocated. We will now work toward arranging for their needs to be met, where they have relocated, but will require considerably more funding than the $220 we presently have. Donate: Here and scroll down to Haiti Victims.

 

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

***

UPCOMING EVENT, ELMIRA ONTARIO:
November 28 and 29
Emmanuel Missionary Church in Elmira Ontario

To see details and register visit: Generations Unleashed Events Page or print flyer (below)Thanks to donors, we are able to offer this training at discounted. If you have questions, please contact Generations Unleashed.

To read more about what to expect on Training day, click HERE and scroll down to the Elmira training announcement.

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© Trudy Metzger 2019

Mike Kauffman arrested for Sexually Assaulting minors; False allegations from a vindictive b!*ch or victimized children?

To get the backstory on the charges, read the news report on Mike Kauffman’s arrest and charges he is facing:
Lititz man facing charges for allegedly sexually abusing multiple juvenile victims for years, from 2011 to 2017

***

The buzz on FB by Conservative Anabaptists (CA) — including leaders and lay people alike, defending Mike Kauffman, son of a bishop in a Beachy Amish church — is mind-boggling. (That bishop detail is important because it shows the power structure). Chatter about false allegations that do not name Kauffman, are well known to be referring to him. Some are declaring him innocent (or likely innocent) of the charges (or at least most of them) against him, Some are too polite to use the word b!tch, but the message is as clear; his evil ex-wife is out to get him. It’s false allegations, some are saying, at least most of them, if not all. And so they play god, speaking with certainty into that which only God and those present have the right to speak.

Here’s the thing, I can’t tell you whether his ex-wife is vindictive or not. I can’t see inside hearts, and the rest of you can’t either. However, even if she is vindictive, how does that negate the word of numerous children who have gone through intense interviewing and questioning; something no child should have to go through. (In the interest of full disclosure, I have been ‘friends’ with the ex on FB for a few years, and met her in person on three separate occasions. I do not know her well, so I can neither extol her nor condemn her. What she does know about me is that I will side with truth, not with her or with the accused).

I also can’t tell you that every allegation is true. I don’t know that; I am not God. I wasn’t there. You were not there (unless you are a victim reading this, or the offender). God was, and He knows the finest of details. For the sake of argument, even if only half the allegations are exactly as told by the victims, or quarter, the children still need to be heard and cared for, and he is still a serious predator. I would add  a comment about,  “If all were proven false…”, but that isn’t going to happen, I am confident. I am privy to some of the evidence and how it came out, and that evidence speaks for itself. Most significant in this is how it came out. So even if only that part can be proven, and even if his ex is a vindictive b!tch, the children deserve to be heard and cared for.

The loud cry that the ex made up the allegations is a blatant lie, and one that is being perpetuated by religious leaders and others in the CA community. The bulk of the allegations were not discovered by the ex, nor were they reported by her. They surfaced during interviews when the allegedly-vindictive-ex was not allowed in the room. To this day she has not been told the full extent of what was disclosed to professionals by the victims.

My concern here is not whether the ex is vindictive or not. My concern is children whose stories deserve compassion and understanding without the bullying and defending-of-the-alleged-perp that the CA community is engaging in. We are talking about very young and vulnerable children here, who have struggled through terrible things that no minor should have to face. If every allegation they have brought forward is in fact true, there is serious blood on the hands of many. There will be accountability before God for this kind of mindless defence of the alleged perp. If half are false, the truly compassionate leader will still guard his/her public statements, recognizing that the children are deeply wounded (either way) and the case needs to be handled gently. (And any father with any heart would protect his children, even if their allegations were false.)

Leaders who do such things are not safe to be near victims or perpetrators. They silence victims and empower perpetrators. Perps in religious communities count on this kind of protection to get by with their heinous crimes.

It is my prayer that, as in the Jeriah Mast case, the CC Matthews case and others, the truth will come out and the deeper wickedness be exposed, if it is there. If it is not, then my prayer is for truth to reveal that too. In the meantime, I pray that assumptions about false allegations not do harm to the children in this case, especially if all allegations are true. 

 

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2019

 

Events and Announcements:

Emmanuel Missionary Church
2 First St,
Elmira Ontario Canada
2 Day Training: November 28-29, 2019.

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50 years… almost…and a dream..

Some time ago, I said to Tim, “I hope we die together, holding hands in our sleep, when we’re in our early 80’s.” 

“Speak for yourself,” he said, “I want to live into my 90’s”. 

I laughed. “Well, I hope your last years aren’t too lonely!” And then I instructed him, as I do from time to time, that if I should die before him, he should get married again soon so he’s not too lonely. 

I am about to start my 50th year. It’s reasonable to believe that this means over half of my life is gone. (Is it okay to say, “I hope so!”? I have no ambitions of living to 100. None. Yes, yes, I know. God ordains my days and I get no say. I’m good with that. I’m just saying I don’t get it about people who want to make it to 100. It baffles me.

We were never ones to celebrate birthdays much, at home. I had one party at age 10, with three friends over, and Mrs. Frank Roth, my one friend’s mother, had sewn me an apron in white with lime green frills around it, and flowers painted on the white centre panel. I think I still have it tucked away in a box of treasures somewhere. It was pretty special. Not because I cooked a lot — I was more likely found in the barn than in the house — but it was from my friend, and her mom had taken time to make it.

With the start of my 50th year being just a jog away (I turn 49 on Friday November 23), I started thinking about what I want that year to be…

And the only thing I long for is a breakthrough year for survivors of sexual abuse in our conservative Mennonite/Anabaptist communities. We are planning an event, and  limiting it to various conservative Mennonites and Anabaptists because we are a unique culture. We have suffered in unique ways, and process abuse with mindsets shaped in very specific ways within the culture, not easily understood by those who were not raised like us. (This includes everyone from conservative Mennonites, Amish, Old Order, Hutterite, Markham, Old Colony, Mid-West, Mid-Atlantic, Mid-West, Eastern, NorthEastern, SouthEastern, Pilgrim, Nationwide, Fellowship, River Brethren, German Baptist and everyone in between and beyond. And if you don’t have a clue what any of those mean or are… I’m guessing you are not from a conservative Anabaptist community.) And it is for both male and female survivors of abuse, but excludes those who went on to victimize and abuse others as adults. 

We’ve had conferences and seminars, and they’ve been good. More recently we’ve done training days, offering sessions for those wishing to support victims. These have been very well received, and I’ve enjoyed doing them. (Tentatively we plan to do a two-day even here in Ontario, April 2019, followed up with a Friday evening to Saturday conference.)

But this year I want to do something special for the survivors who are often neglected among us. Rather than a teaching conference, I’ve long dreamed of bringing survivors together to acknowledge and grieve/mourn the suffering, and also celebrating purpose and hope and experiencing God with us… the God who enters in and suffers with us and among us… who weeps with us and gives us permission to enter raw places in our hearts, without pretence. (Jesus wept. King David sat in sackcloth and ashes. Job… the prophets… These heroes of faith grieved. It’s time to shatter the politeness that denies suffering, and let God visit our sorrow. Only then will healing come. No amount of teaching, training and ‘fixing’ will change the course of history until God has dwelt among us in our suffering, and that suffering is acknowledged.)

We will have compassionate leaders speak life and hope over the audience. No preaching…. let along long preaching or ‘advice’. No telling them how to get over it or do better. Just life. Spoken in the present. Purpose, declared. In the present. Love offered, without judgement. In the present. Just as we are. Because it is that ‘present hope’ that transforms us, not the pressure of trying to attain.

We will have some survivors share poetry, art, and will all worship God in the midst of suffering. There is something powerful that happens in worship, and there is something powerful that happens when pain is acknowledged and we discover we are not alone. People care. We are in this together…. Bring together the acknowledgement of suffering with the presence and worship of God… Ah… yes please!

And the beauty of how God has wired us! In trauma we tend to lock up and lose our words. Yet, through art He gives us expression that cannot come out any other way, and though it He invites us to healing. And in that expression, we connect with others and it opens up their spirits to hope and healing. This is true of music, painting, poetry, dance, mime and so many avenues. We are not all the same. A painting may do nothing for one of us, yet move the heart of another to tears. The same with poetry. But when expression pours from the heart of the other, we enter into their story and find permission to enter ours. When I studied this in trauma class, I spent several weeks on a project, and in 12 weeks of that course, the healing that came to locked up places was almost surreal.  Yet, when I return to the project I did — a poem set to dramatic background music — I still weep because it still unlocks a place in my soul, connected to childhood, that only art can touch. And it is beautiful. Because the pain means I survived, I overcame. I am alive! And that connection with fellow survivors is what my heart longs to create, with the help of many.

I shared it with a handful of people, and the response was exceptionally positive. I posted an email address to sign up for updates, and within minutes the emails came in. Updates have been well received, with many taking time to give feedback in response to ideas. Voting on things like location — with Lancaster PA by far in the lead — and whether to have a concert at the end of the day, or with what musician…. Jason Gray took a strong lead here, as many have already found his music to be very healing and uplifting. So we put in a request to have him come, and are waiting to hear back.

Over the years I’ve used his music (as well as Matthew West, 10th Avenue North, and others, but especially Jason Gray’s) to minister to the brokenhearted, to give them a safe space after sexual assault or other abuse, when down and out or struggling with suicidal ideation. In one of my earlier blogs I shared a young woman’s story – with permission – and the night of breakthrough God used Jason Gray’s song Nothing is Wasted to open her heart, and set her on a journey of freedom. Another young woman asked me to take her to the location where she had suffered deep trauma, and we played Remind me Who I Am, as she faced her trauma and wept. Many of my early clients could tell stories of finding permission to grieve and struggle through chaos of their stories, inviting God to speak through the avenue of music, when the spirit cannot hear Him for the pain.

To make it all happen is going to require a ton of organizing and planning. Which I love, fortunately! And I’ve recruited the help of a handful of other individuals, with yet others messaging to offer their assistance! (We are so thankful for each of you!) A few of us are already talking food prep, because… well, it’s our culture and we love good food! (We’ll try to feed you well, though we may not compete with a traditional Mennonite Sunday dinner.) One enthusiastic volunteer spent the night after a conversation dreaming we were making food together, so she’s all in! I will be donating hundreds of hours throughout the year, and many volunteers will also be giving of their time and resources, for which we are thankful. If you want to be updated, please send an email to AslanHasHeard@gmail.com.

I’ve set up a fundraiser on FB – which has generated almost $2000 since Saturday.  (However, the majority of donors have given through our website at Generations Unleashed since this is an American event, and the FB fundraiser only allows Canadians to give). All funds are specifically allocated for this event expenses, with the hopes that it will allow hundreds of victims to attend at minimal cost to them. (We ask for a non-refundable $15 to $20 contribution, as it creates a sense of ownership and commitment.) 

In the next few months we will need to raise around $15,000 for this event, to cover venue rental, the fee for bringing in a musician, and food costs. The minimal registration fee will go towards these costs as well, as we anticipate more than $15,000 in expenses.  If you wish to contribute, please visit our website by clicking HERE

I have one wish for my 50th year… that victims will be heard like never before, their suffering be acknowledged, and that they will become survivors, and then move from being survivors to being warriors for truth and justice, willing to lay down their lives for the next generation. This is my birthday prayer this week,  and my prayer for the event next November.

That is how I want to celebrate 50 years on this planet, (if God grants me one more year), by gathering with hundreds who, like me, thought they are/were the only ones molested and abused. And for every celebration between now and then — birthday, Christmas, anniversary and my 50th next November — the only gift I long for is making this event possible for survivors of sexual violence. 

Love, 

~ T ~ 

© Trudy Metzger 2018