CAM responds to HH sex abuse allegations… Life Literature to send accused to Haiti… A few thoughts on Lester Miller

Updates from today:

Today I reported the allegations against Harold Herr, of sexual abuse abroad, to FBI. I also notified them of the organization under whose employ he is scheduled to return to Haiti to offer training, in spite of these allegations, and the approximate timeframe when he is to leave USA.

Another alleged victim contacted me today. This one, like others, was disclosed years age; it is not new, though it is new to me. Please pray for this [alleged] victim, as well as previous [alleged] victims who have come forward. There is nothing of being forced to relive trauma that is easy. It is disruptive and traumatic to go back to those memories. Yet, to allow the risk of more assaults to go unchecked is not the solution.

Someone asked me if ‘an old man’ would even be a risk. To put it in perspective, there is at least one case where an abuser molested a grandchild on his deathbed. So is there a risk? There is always a risk when someone has abused, and that risk increases with time, with repeat offences and with denial. This case has 40 or more years of allegations not tended to. Yes, there is an ongoing risk.

It is my prayer, first and foremost, that [alleged] victims of Harold Herr will be heard and cared for, so they can continue healing, or begin healing, as the case may be. It is my prayer that Harold will repent, fully and openly, of all atrocities committed. While they are allegations not proven in court, my prayer is also for full truth to be revealed.

*****

A friend posted CAM’s response to the sex abuse allegations on Facebook. Or, more accurately, their response to allegations being publicized. Someone in leadership, who remains with CAM to this day, knew of the allegations since at least 2004. In that approximate timeframe is when Linda Espenshade did the news article and interviewed Stanley Fox who unquestioningly defended Harold Herr. So it is not truly the allegations CAM is responding to, but rather the exposure of what has been hidden and ignored for (at minimum) 16 years, by at least one influential staff member.

That conversation in 2004 happened approximately one year into Harold Herr’s service with CAM, or within the first year. (CAM stated he was in their employ from 2003 – 2009).  It was approximately 5 years prior to the one alleged sexual assault in Haiti. (This allegation was referenced in a previous blog Conservative Mennonite missionary “Grandpa” accused of molesting minors: 4 decades, 2 countries). If those allegations are true, then those assaults could have been prevented. Whether the assaults can be proven true or not, it: a). does not mean the assaults were not committed, and; b). is no excuse for waiting 16 years to address allegations such as this. Allegations that would be completely disregarded if I didn’t announce it to thousands.

I have little more to say in response to CAM’s statement, at the moment, beyond urging CAM to be transparent and bring in an independent 3rd party investigation team. (Ideally one not from Anabaptist community, unless it is comprised of men and women who have already spoken out boldly against abuse). An internal investigation — or ‘big boy’s club’ style — will never satisfy the discerning crowd. And it definitely won’t satisfy me. Not when allegations have surfaced repeatedly in numerous countries and against multiple individuals since the Jeriah Mast case went public. And when people are pleading with me to look into those allegations.  I plan to continue to do so as I am able — time and funds — as these things do not happen quickly. The Harold Herr case, even with information coming to me unsolicited, took countless hours of my time. It may be another 8 months, or longer for the next one. Currently I am waiting for information on a contact in one of the countries. That is my only delay in moving ahead.

If CAM hired an independent third party to investigate, I would be willing to cooperate with those investigators in regards to other allegations against more CAM staff. That cooperation comes with one stipulation, that the team is trustworthy, and not a team with a vested interest in covering up. And by independent third party I mean professionals not a handpicked group from within the culture.

In the meantime, I will continue organizing information sent to me, and following the trails. I will reveal names when survivors request that. At this point it is clear that there is a systemic pattern of dismissing allegations, keeping silent, and allowing the accused to remain within organizations working with the vulnerable sector.  That, as far as I am concerned, is one of the deep roots to the problem. We won’t end the epidemic until the organization(s) and leaders are held accountable for this pattern.

Leaders and organizations have a choice between cooperating with this exposure and ending this wickedness, or continuing in the coverups. The one thing about which I am certain, God is doing precisely what He said He would do: He is shouting the things done in secret from the mountains. And He’s just warming up His voice. This is only just the beginning.

*****

The late Lester Miller, who was with Life Ministries, is named in the timeline posted in my previous blog (Timeline of ‘Grandpa Harold’, and purpose for revealing his identity…). I never knew him, and know nothing of what his character was, so I cannot speak to that. However, I do honour his attempt at addressing the allegations by confronting Harold Herr in 1995. Back then, these things were not discussed, and such a confrontation was incredibly rare. For Lester to do such a thing is to be respected.

It is unfortunate that it stayed there and nothing further was done, especially given the statement Harold is alleged to have said three times in that meeting; “If I ever molested anyone, I was demon possessed!” (Taken from the timeline in the previous blog). But it was sincere effort, from what I am told, in a very different era.  I respect that. It’s more than we’ve seen from others, more recently, long after that silence was broken.

(In fact, currently there are several churches where leaders and some members are trying to get fellow leaders reinstated in leadership after they have blatantly abused their power with young women. And it is the young women who have to find a new church so these men can lead. (What is that anyway? Since leading the Jesus Way is about laying down our lives, and this is about anything but, how is this “leading”?) It is a truly sad day in church when this is the best quality of leaders we can scrounge together and other leaders fight to keep them in place. That raises an abundance of questions. But, enough of that rabbit trail….)

Allegedly, while Lester Miller was confronting Harold, there were other people in another part of the building, praying. (I don’t have names of all who were allegedly present, or how many, but I was given one name). That means there are people alive today who can confirm that Lester Miller did indeed meet with Harold and confront him. Somehow, even with that knowledge, Harold was able to infiltrate Life Literature, where he remained until September 2019.

I have reached out to one individual who was allegedly on site, praying, when Lester confronted Harold Herr. I hope to speak with them next week, but chose to include this portion as a follow up to the previous blog and acknowledge Lester’s effort in confronting Harold.

*****

As of now, as far as we know, plans for Harold Herr to return to Haiti to train his replacement have not been cancelled. No public statement has been forthcoming from Life Literature, and friends who told me they reached out had not heard back at the time of this writing. I tried to call, but did not get through.

Anyone who cares to make a difference and express concerns over Harold Herr traveling back to Haiti this month to train his replacement can contact Chairman Lamar Nolt at 980-297-9460 or info@lifeliterature.org

Not one of us would have stood blithely by and let Jeriah Mast return to Haiti this summer, after allegations came to light. We should not now either. (Therefore my report to FBI today, even though I do not have an address for the alleged victim(s) in Haiti. If they are inclined to follow Harold around in Haiti, they may just learn a few things).

It is true that Jeriah had admitted to the crimes, so they were verified, whereas Harold remains in denial. But, keep in mind that the allegations were known long before he admitted to them, and incredible damage could have been prevented. (Also keep in mind the Judge Rinfret’s admonition to the church at Mast’s hearing). And remember that Jeriah Mast lied and denied the allegations until someone — namely a Haitian pastor — was man enough to hold him to the wall until he brokeThat ‘someone’ had heard enough allegations to say, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. And we’re not quitting until we find it”.

When these allegations first surfaced against Harold Herr, and every subsequent time with new allegations, they should have been thoroughly investigated. In this leaders failed the public, whether all allegations are true or not. And that lack of response is inexcusable. It can be owned up, it can be publicly apologized for, and it can be acknowledged. But there is no excuse that is justifiable.

What will it take for someone to do that in this case? And the next… and the next… and the one after that… and how ever many more after that…

… because the strongholds are coming down.

*****

Rip me to shreds for speaking up, blame it on some lame ‘she hates Mennonites’ distraction, if it makes you feel better. But I have Mennonite family, whom I love, and thousands of Mennonite friends, and Amish friends who know that I care deeply and genuinely love them, and their culture. So that mantra is nothing more than gaslighting and a shameful attempt at distracting from the real issue; anything to avoid ownership. And statements like that speak a whole lot more to the lack of character in the speaker, than to me. Only someone of questionable character would distract from something as vile as sexual abuse to focus on my alleged hatred for Mennonites. (Even if it were true, which it isn’t, you would think sexual assaults against children would trump such a thing and draw greater concern. Apparently not).

I know before God what I hate and whom I love. I hate… really, really hate sexual abuse and the soul cancer it spreads. And I love people. My people. Mennonite people. Non-Mennonite people. Amish people. Worldly people. Non-worldly people. I even love offenders…. but, oh how passionately I hate the offending.

(Warning, medically graphic): When it comes to sex crimes, and exposing them, to expose is love. But love feels much akin to a scalpel slicing into the fully conscious person to save them. Sometimes it’s an emergency tracheotomy. Sometimes, as it was in my father’s experience when anesthesia would have killed him, they take a saw of some sort, while the person is fully awake, and using only local freezing, they remove the leg. And the patient feels every tug and motion, numb to the reality of what is taking place. Every case is not the same. But the purpose, always, is to save a life.

I have faith that, as the scalpel slices, honourable missions will not only survive, but rise up and stand against abuse. Because honourable missions will respond in honourable ways, and people will see that and support them. The same is true for honourable men and women. And churches. They do not fear truth; they welcome the scalpel for the life-saving measure it is.

That is my goal here… to save a life… or two… or many…

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 Trudy. To 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 2020

 

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:

Screen Shot 2020-01-06 at 6.34.02 PM.png

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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

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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.

 

Haiti: Critical items, List of men who abused me, A few good men, A prayer, And a broken Olive Branch

Critical Item #1: Amish Steering Committee

In my first blog on the Haiti Abuse Case involving Jeriah Mast (J), I mention the Amish Steering Committee (ASC). I say precisely what the people who are responsible for Jeriah were telling people to assure them he was/is being held accountable; that ASC and the Restoration Committee are involved. And that they’ve had over 100 cases with only two imprisonments. It is a fact that those Jeriah is accountable to said these things. I did not pull it out of a hat. I have multiple evidence sources. 

Two days ago I posted a blog stating what the Amish Steering Committee State Director told me. I share how, in that conversation I am told that they were not involved, and that the Shining Light Christian Fellowship Church (SLCFC) leaders got their hands on a Restoration plan designed for another offender.  SLCFC leaders then presented a copy of this to a Restoration Committee member for review, with redacted names. After this they asked the Restoration Committee member to call the police station and set up an appointment. I learned that there were indeed over 100 cases, but at least 6 imprisonments. I also learned that many cases are situations other than sexual abuse.

Note that SLCFC did reach out to the Restoration Committee, which works in partnership with ASC. Note that the Restoration Committee member did help with those details.

I tried to portray a fair picture and added to the information the part that ASC contributed after I was able to reach them. I did not retract the information that came from J’s family and the team responsible for him because they actually said it to multiple people in an effort to assure them they are ‘taking care of it’ and holding J accountable.

Fact:
SLCFC said (even if a stretch) that ASC is involved.
ASC says they were not involved
Trudy reported both.

Conclusion: Trudy is a liar. Do not trust her. She doesn’t wear a bonnet.

***

Critical Item 2: Allegations that Stanley Fox Knew

I very intentionally avoided analyzing Mr. Fox’s statement even though there are discrepancies with my evidence and his statement. I chalk this up to imperfect memory and human error. I have no doubt that, were I to sit with Stanley and go over the evidence I have, he would be willing to acknowledge that. (I did not have that confidence prior to releasing my statement and seeing his response, given the track record in this case. I do have that confidence now).

Before I go further, I will say again, that he is the first to break rank and I respect him for that. I sincerely thanked him for the acknowledgement/apology. I still sincerely thank him for that.

On Monday I received word and evidence that Stanley Fox knew about J’s abusive behaviour. The information was much more in-depth than what I shared publicly. In a nutshell I stated that Mr. Fox knew since “2016/2017”. He also stated publicly that he knew since 2017. He further states “I had no knowledge Jeriah was a pedophile when he was sent home in 2013…” What gets the focus is “(he) had no knowledge” yet in that very sentence Mr. Fox admits he knew there was *something* in 2013

He did not know what it was but he knew there was something big enough to be sent home for. The adult friend was a young adult, not an ‘adult friend’ who is a peer, or anywhere near J’s age. Subtracting the years since being sent home (4 years) from this young man’s age would definitely confirm he was a minor. Mr. Fox stated regretting he did not do more.

FACT:
Mr. Fox admitted he knew. Trudy said he knew. Trudy has evidence. Mr. Fox does not mention evidence, but still agrees with Trudy’s statement that he knew since 2017. (Albeit, the evidence states 2016/2017).

Since Trudy and Mr. Fox are saying the same thing, this one should be easy. Even so, it is determined by some that, even though his statement confirms what Trudy said, that she should not be believed. 

CONCLUSION: Trudy is a liar. Trudy hates men. Trudy is trying to destroy Mr. Fox. Trudy is using this as an outlet to transfer all her anger against the conservative Anabaptist men who molested her.

***

This is called of critical thinking. Please apply it when you read what I write. And apply it when others write. But don’t make us liars if there is imperfection. I do not consider Stanley Fox a liar for not including all the details I hold in my possession. I hope he does not consider me a liar either. I have not asked him.

But I do know this:

Silence is not the answer.

This topic needed to land in the forefront; we have an epidemic.

Our culture has taught us we must be perfect.

Perfection will never happen; we are messy humans with flaws.

Information will not be perfect no matter the effort.

Searching for truth is messy.

Addressing sexual abuse is messier.

Challenging deeply-embedded norms is probably messiest of all.

Jesus does miracles in messy places.

I welcome a miracle in this mess.

***

The Anabaptist Men Who Abused Me

This point is not so critical, but may be of interest to those who believe I am taking out my wrath on Anabaptist men because of the many who abused me. So here it is, posted publicly for all the world to see.

Trudy’s list of conservative Anabaptist men who abused her.

  1.  (name withheld… because he was a minor and his identity is protected by law)

Yes, that’s right. Not one Conservative Mennonite *man* abused me.

Only one teenage boy, or, more accurately, ‘young man’, I believe he was around 16, molested me.

One.

…. young man

…who was around age 16.

Yes, he was and is responsible for his actions. No, I was not his only victim. There were others. In fact, what he did against me, though damaging, did not hold a candle to the trauma others suffered. No it wasn’t dealt with properly, not by law nor by church.

He, too, was terribly violated. I am sorry for that. It doesn’t excuse what he did, but I am still sorry.

I am sorry he molested others. I am thankful God has healed my heart. I hope the hearts of his other victims are healed, or healing, too.

I believe in redemption. I don’t believe in looking the other way. Not even with minors.

If he had not molested me, I would have no Mennonite abusers. The others were all prior to attending Mennonite church, or after, during my rebellion.

My father, at whose hands our family suffered terrible violence and some (family and others) were molested, was Old Colony Russian Mennonite. He certainly never achieved “conservative Mennonite man” status in my world, and is the last person to come to mind when I think of them. He made a solid attempt for a few years, and failed. I don’t know if he spent more time being a member or more on probation and excommunicated. That’s how successful he was.

So, there you have it. The “list of conservative Mennonite men who violated Trudy” that drive me take it all out on the entire Anabaptist population.

I do not hate Anabaptists, and men in particular. In fact, my book “Between 2 Gods: A Memoir of Abuse in the Mennonite Community” lists some of the amazing conservative Mennonite men who did not abuse me. 

Peter Steckle was an outstanding leader with a gentle heart, and his wife Rita was my friend. I no longer see them, but hold them in high regard. I cared for his elderly failing mother for several years, so I saw their home ‘up close and personal’. It wasn’t perfect, but they were kind. Sure, they corrected me on ‘church standard’ issues, but Rita also confessed honestly her struggle with some of the rules.

I encountered them at a funeral, May 31, 2015, soon after my book came out. Rita gave me a hug and said how good it was to see me. Peter shook my hand and, with tears in his eyes, said he feels they don’t deserve the kind words in my book, and added, “As your ministry, we failed you…”.

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They’re not my only ‘heroes of faith’ in the conservative Mennonite church. There are more, both men and women. It is not the Anabaptist community I hate; it is the abuse that is destroying the community that I hate. I hate it with a fierceness. I hate it because it is destroying a people I love. I hate it because I see it destroying children, and their relationships with family and friends, and causing them to struggle for life in their faith, and robs them of wellbeing. I hate it because I see old men scrambling for a cover of deception when truth is revealed and years and years of evil come to light. I do not hate those men. I hate what they have done. I hate it because it robs them of goodness. I hate it because I watch women, first silenced, rise up to silence those who try to speak, because it touches too closely to their own pain… or their own crimes.

It’s too frightening to face truth.

I hate it with fierceness, the abuse, because it is eating the souls of a beautiful people and leaving behind a valley of dry bones. Before we can speak life into a valley of dry bones and command the flesh to be restored, we must first acknowledge the dry bones and the plague that took us there.

I do what I do out of passion for Jesus and truth, and compassion for victims.

Behaviours of public figures who rely on any public funding are analyzed to death may lose donors if they tell the truth and stand for justice. While I have never considered myself a ‘public figure’, I do acknowledge that I have a platform that reaches many thousands, and influences them. It would be irresponsible not to acknowledge that. Even so, I make no effort in creating a ‘public image’, ‘fan base’, platform or ‘tribe’. I don’t have interest or energy for that.

As for losing donors, we have less than ten donors who give regularly, and by regularly, I mean (all but one) “one donation annually” donors. These consistent annual donations amount to about $2000 to $3000 combined. Other donors contribute throughout the year, which fluctuates from year to year. So we have no huge donor base to lose. Yet, if I was booking a flight tomorrow, I have no doubt the funds would be available in a matter of hours, if it was safe and right for me to go. I trust my God.

In light of all of this, my prayer this morning was, “God to help me take it like Jesus did when I’m called a liar for speaking the truth.” I prayed it because I desperately need help. Many things do not cause me much distress, if any at all, in the backlash. But when I hold evidence that I cannot release and am called a liar by the people of God, that trips me up so often. And I don’t want to respond wrongly. I want desperately to trust that God has a purpose, even in that.

I want to learn to dance in the rain of that aftermath, like a little girl in her Father’s love, knowing I am not perfect, but I am perfectly loved…. to let others near enough to my heart to wipe off the tears and the dirt when I stumble…. and ultimately to fall, naked and stripped at the foot of the cross, where He appears; the sacrifice for the people. That place where Jesus bleeds on me and I am made whole… where He bleeds on you and you are made whole, even in this mess. And where the tears of all of us wounded in this horror – and it is all of us, really, who are wounded – flow like a river of repentance that heal the land.

I don’t think everyone who calls me a liar is evil. I think they are confused and hurting. I don’t believe that everyone who defends me does so for righteousness sake. I don’t believe that everyone who defends those I’ve called out for neglecting the abused do so for righteousness sake. I don’t think all who speak out against those I’ve called out do so for righteousness sake. I think many want truth, many want this thing wide open so that God can bleed life into the church where death long has had a grip. I think some want revenge, but that is not what I hear from most on my side of this tragedy.

I’m not interested in destroying these men, CAM, ASC, or JM. I am advocating for change. Spiritual change that will play out in the practical. If ever there is going to be a radical shift, the public does need to be informed of these things and how they are overlooked, neglected, disregarded or missed (pick your word) at a leadership level…. even if not intentionally.

Quietly sending them home (whether permanently or longterm) is not the solution. Several years a young parent contacted me to share how their pastor had crossed boundaries with them and seek advice. They did not wish to go to the law, so there was nothing I could do. This week I learned that he was sent home from the mission field not long prior to the account that individual shared with me.

Is this really the best we can do? Is it really so unimportant to protect our youth and children? We would never say that, but actions speak louder than words, I was always told growing up. And actions right now scream that we care little for the children, and a whole lot for power.

Leaders are a part of the revolution that needs to come, but leaders only hold the power we willingly give them. We, the lay people, have far more influence in bringing change than a few leaders will ever have.

We do need to partner together, all of us, to get there. And that may mean sitting in a room with people we would rather send over Niagara Falls in a barrel, or those who would rather see us in that barrel. We don’t have to like each other. We don’t have to like each other’s ways and methods. But we DO need to face the truth.

And, above all, we need to fall, at the foot of the cross, naked and bleeding… together.  Me… Stanley Fox… Paul Weaver… Eli Weaver…  CAM… and (insert names of other leaders who have failed similarly)… as well as every one of us who is ‘the body of Christ’.  And there we need to repent and begin anew, and lift up Jesus Christ in the midst of this ‘hell’, rather than lifting up humans or looking to them to be our saviour, or to get it perfect. We cannot. We will not. We have all failed the wounded. We can do better. But we must look to Jesus.

That is the only hope, going forward.

At the cross

It is the place I land alone, or with my husband, or with a friend. It is a place we are invited together, yet stand accountable, alone before God.

I am willing to meet in a place of truth and repentance, and work toward a more noble handling of things on the part of both sides going forward. Transparency with the public must be part of that process.

That is my broken Olive Branch, which I extend sincerely to all conservative Mennonite leaders – whether church leaders or ministry leaders – who are willing to work together for truth, prioritizing care for the victims, and with a commitment to transparency.  Guidelines would need to be agreed on, in writing and signed by both parties.

Leaders interested in negotiating a healthy plan for working together, going forward, are welcome to email me at: Trudy@GenerationsUnleashed.com, with subject line: “Broken Olive Branches: A Healing Path Forward” for easy identification.

This is not an offer to compromise on truth or on prioritizing victims’ needs. It is reaching out to those leaders who, though we may not see eye-to-eye, still:

  1. Value truth and are willing to look at the evidence and facts
  2. See that those who are victimized and powerless must first receive care and support, while caring for all involved
  3. For the sake of truth, shun being idolized and revered by the masses
  4. Are humble enough to own up to failure publicly without excuse (and are approachable)
  5. Agree that not every situation needs to be broadcasted publicly, but do not cover for abusers. (I have gone public with two situations in 9+ years that I can recall, as well as one that I was not directly involved with)
  6. Where  a leader has molested/assaulted someone, it must be made known
  7. Prioritize protecting the vulnerable, and giving them a voice in the process
  8. Are willing to apologize to the extent of their sphere of influence for past failure
  9. Report to the law without holding back information in order to protect from prison
  10. Agree an adult who has molested anyone should not be in church leadership or be sent on the mission field
  11. Don’t label as ‘gossip’ when there is public exposure (as commanded in Ephesians 5)

NOTE: Leaders are NOT required to like me. Some who have openly despised me have reached out for help in the past, and I have helped them.

There are more items that could be added, but these are some key basic items. Leaders who are willing to uphold this, I am willing to work with peaceably when abuse cases are brought to me on the condition that victims are comfortable with this, and willing to engage their leaders and me. It doesn’t have to be me. I am making myself available, because the fact remains I am committed to this messy calling. But there are others who will help and will mediate honourably.

Victims, especially, are welcomed to reach out for mediation (between them and their leaders) to assist in being heard, in hopes that leaders will learn from those who have walked this path of brokenness. While their grief, and how abuse has impacted life, is messy, they are the best teachers to learn a more healing way forward. I am almost 100% confident that the most dynamic shift, besides what comes from repentance at the foot of the cross, will come from this move toward validating suffering.

This broken olive branch is for those who love Jesus and whose calling aligns with a similar vision – even if not perfectly the same. It is not intended for those with other goals and values that are in direct conflict.

 

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

PS. Plans are coming together for the next trip, to take place shortly. Thank you to all who have donated. It’s coming together.

If you are able to contribute, and willing to do so, you may send funds (via PayPal or etransfer) to info@generationsunleashed.com. Or visit Generations Unleashed.

 

© Trudy Metzger 2019

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

Touching Response from Conservative Mennonite (to ‘Cult Curses’)

An understanding heart is the safest shelter in the storms of life.

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Being in church leadership, today, is not easy. Maybe it never was. And I say that from the sidelines, having been close to some church leaders, but having never led a church. While God has called me to rise up in the area of bringing light to darkness in the church, that has long lay protected, and He has called me to bring hope for freedom to the children, and hope for forgiveness to the abusers and those who have hidden sin so long, that is a very different thing than leading a church. Having seen up close, through the eyes of friends in leadership, some of the struggle and challenges they face, I appreciate even more when God brings church leaders into my life who represent Him with such grace, beauty and authority, that I walk away changed, having been touched by Him, through them.

In my life, presently, there are such leaders. And, in the past two and a half years of finding my way through some very dark battles, I’ve had some outstanding warriors, caring men and women, who entered into battle with me–including several pastors who called me into their offices, just to bless me, pray for me, and encourage me. I can’t name those who are leaders in Conservative Mennonite churches-ranging from Amish to Mid-west and beyond–because they could get in trouble for associating with me, so I shall refrain, but I still want to say “Thank you!” publicly: you know who you are. I bless you and thank God for the work you do. The few I can name, or think I can without putting them in a place of attack and criticism, are: Pastor Rob Gulliver, Pastor Dan Allen, Pastor Gord Martin, Pastor Bob Hamp, Heidi Konig, and Heather Tompkins. As men and women of God, you spoke powerfully into my life in a time when I felt like I could hardly breathe, spiritually, and your words of encouragement propelled me forward, when I felt too wounded even to crawl. Thank you! And, while not a pastor, but as someone who has walked his own journey of pain and grief, I am indebted to Phil Mills–a friend, and the son of Marion Mills and the late Pastor Don Mills, who both encouraged me to follow God’s call–for offering many an encouraging word this past year and challenging me to offer ministry from the broken places in my own heart. You are trustworthy men and women, in my estimation–for whatever my opinion is worth.

But today there is someone I’d like to thank, specifically, who is in leadership in a conservative Mennonite setting. Encouragement has come often, from you, and has lifted my eyes from the waves around me, to the Jesus before me. It has affirmed me in being this ‘voice in the wilderness of sexual abuse’, offering hope and healing to those lost in that wilderness. When I got your message, on the heels of releasing my blog Curse From Religious Cult Brings Blessing, my heart spilled its thanks all down the front of my shirt. You are truly a blessing! I am sharing your message here, with all identifying features removed, so that people in Mennonite churches will know  that you ‘dwell among them’, fighting for their hearts and their freedom and that you are not afraid to face the dark truth of sexual abuse, and help bring healing. There are many more like you, I have no doubt–even a few who contact me–who are waiting to bring healing to those wounded, when the truth finally shakes out. I pray for you in that shakedown, whether it come as a mighty earthquake, or a gentle crumbling of the walls. God knows and He has you on standby.

Here is the note that greeted me this morning:

“… just wanted you to know that I am in prayer for you as the release date nears.I have had, and still have a strong “sense” that significant things will happen… some of them relate directly to the topic of your book. There will be pain, and there will be rebirth. So, I bow my knees before the Father, by whom all heaven and earth was formed, and pray that He will grant you the exceeding riches of his grace, and that His plans will be done earth as he has planned for them in heaven. I bless and honour you today in the words of the Hebrew people – Eshet Chayil! (You are a woman of valor!)”

 For every lie the enemy throws my way, countless truths cover me, and for every curse, numberless blessings spill into my life. I am encouraged, especially, that many warriors are rising up among ‘my people’, fighting for truth and protecting the little ones who suffer. There is a deep stirring that thrills my heart and fills me with hope for the next generation!

God has not forgotten His little ones…  He has not forgotten those adults who carry the pain of childhood inside… and He has not forgotten His warriors.

Love
~ T ~

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© Trudy Metzger

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