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

 

Timeline of ‘Grandpa Harold’, and purpose for revealing his identity…

My previous blog was not posted lightly. It has been the contemplation of many months, many conversations, and the most careful consideration given to the alleged victim(s)’ needs. I took direction from the alleged victim whose letter was shared in the previous blog, in particular, as well as several informants. All wanted to disclose publicly to prevent risk of further harm and prevent more victim at the hands of ‘Grandpa’,  who is ‘Grandpa Harold’ to some, or Harold Herr. However, for all who speak out there is a cost, and I do not get to choose when to impose that on them.

Since releasing the initial blog yesterday, the individual with the timeline [referenced in yesterday’s blog: Conservative Mennonite missionary “Grandpa” accused of molesting minors: 4 decades, 2 countries] felt peace about releasing it. There has been much conversation as to the best way to move ahead. When names are released, there is serious backlash. When they are not released, there is serious backlash. Our decision is not based on that. Our decision is very specifically made based on what will accomplish the best outcome with the least damage.

Do we always get it right? I certainly don’t. But sitting on my hands debating what to do isn’t an option.

As with other details related to going public, each party has put effort into offering understanding to the others. (ie; if one was not ready to go public, none would. And if one was not ready to make the name public, none would).

In their communication with me, and any communication forwarded, they have been kind and respectful, with no intent to harm ‘Grandpa’. They made the decision out of a deep passion and conviction to prevent further victims and give Grandpa Harold opportunity to seek real help and take responsibility. This has not been easy for them. They have my deepest respect.  I honour their voices and speak no more than they are ready for. So, if you send me messages asking for more detail, I won’t respond. It is not mine to give.

*****

To those who would like a criminal investigation done  before going public:

  1. The statute of limitations is past for these crimes. So that’s not going to happen. (Though, leaders who knew and did nothing could still be charged if it was pursued, I believe. I am not 100%).
  2. The alleged case(s) in Haiti are incredibly difficult to prosecute due to alleged victim(s) having no permanent address that can be passed on to law enforcement. We’re still working on all of this, but at best it is challenging.

*****

The following timeline was written by someone I do not know and have never met. (I hope one day that changes). The introduction is completely their words:

“The informants disclose the perpetrator’s identity only after weighing the situation with great sensitivity, compassion, and dedication to integrity vs. malice, vindication, or retaliation.  They realize that he can only receive help for his self-destructive addiction to pedophilia, perpetuated by religion, through the tough love of accountability.  Potential victims can only be protected from the danger he currently poses to society by honorably identifying him as a source of harm. Covering would be complicit participation in devastation both for the perpetrator and his victims.”

The following timeline was sent to me months ago, and the redacted version was submitted to me today, to be posted:

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*****

What makes the information submitted so compelling, is that sources were not connected to each other, and none, when they contacted me, knew others were communicating with me. Each carried his/her own piece of a tragic puzzle.

Even so, it is not my goal to make judgements or determinations on the details. It is my goal to:

  1. Give the church, organizations and individuals involved opportunity to repent.
  2. Once again give opportunity for the accused to come forward with truth, without manipulation, lies or other self-preservation.
  3. Give opportunity for others who have offended and/or covered up to come forward and come clean. (This is by far not the last case that landed on my desk over the Jeriah Mast case. There are other alleged abusers who were known, or in some cases allegedly known, by some of the same people, churches, and/or organizations.

Contrary to popular belief, among some, I do not find any joy in discovering more and more cases. While I am not surprised, it continues to shatter me. I read stories and testimonies, and weep. No child should suffer sexual abuse, or any other abuse. No adult should have to live with those memories, having been overlooked, neglected and silenced. Some go on to thrive and do well. Some remain locked in a state of trauma and pay with their health and their life.

To anyone involved in abuse and coverup… I am not asking you to like how I expose abuse. I’m not asking you to agree with me in practice or doctrine. But I am inviting you to reach out if you are ready to come clean and work toward acknowledging and healing for victims, and taking full ownership. You don’t have to like me for me to help you.

I won’t cover up. But I will gladly work cooperatively to bring truth to light in other ways. There is always grace, always forgiveness for the truly repentant. But cover up can not ever be part of that equation. That’s not grace of forgiveness; it’s self preservation at the expense of truth. I don’t partner with that. It is my prayer that all guilty parties here will repent. Truly repent.

I am committed to seeing this epidemic of sexual abuse in our Anabaptist culture through to greater exposure and greater healing. Even in exposing, it is my hope that somehow it will begin to heal the victims and the church. And, frankly, I hope it brings the church to her knees in repentance.

When the same organizations and individuals are involved in repeated cases of sexual crimes, at home and abroad, we have to start asking some pretty hard questions.

How did we get here?

And how do we move to a better place?

The problem is multifaceted. The solution, while complex, must begin with a repentant individual or group, no longer willing to cover up. That’s step one… and only the beginning.

****

NOTE: As stated yesterday, Grandpa Harold is to return to Haiti in the near future to do some training for the same organization where Jeriah Mast worked one day a week. We have not heard if this trip has been cancelled.

I am not out to destroy mission organizations. I am determined to hold accountable those who have and are looking the other way when they know there are allegations. It is inexcusable that the leader at CAM, who was interviewed by the reporter (yesterday’s blog), stated ‘good behaviour’ (in a nutshell…and assuming in public, given the crimes allegedly going on behind the scenes) is enough to declare innocence.

As always,

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2020