Someone sent me a screenshot of a statement made by Anabaptist Sexual Abuse Awareness (ASAA) Founder, Randal Martin, regarding the Jeriah Mast case on November 5, 2019 following Mast’s sentencing:
Whatever presently-irreconcilable differences I might acknowledge in regards to ASAA — that is until last year’s deceptions and gaslighting are appropriately addressed — I appreciate truth, regardless of it’s source.
What stands out most is the bold statement that CAM continues to use coercion and abuse of power in Haiti in regards to the victims, as well as the lack of Christ-likeness in the tragic responses to abuse.
He offers no testimony or proof to corroborate the claims, and I can’t speak to the ‘continuously’ part of it, but it does echo what some of the victims have said all along. But certainly he is right to call out the response of Jeriah, his leaders and church. And he is so right that no symposium or conference will bring change. Only repentance will. True repentance. With repentance will come a new way of responding to crimes in church, and new care for those victimized as well as new respect for the laws of the land.
It will take more than lip service. More than saying reporting is important and consistently doing it without interfering with the law and trying to get sentences reduced.
At The Gathering this weekend we had a time of repentance on behalf of the church for the dreadful response by so many to those who have been traumatized by sexual abuse. We worshipped together. We cared for victims by giving them a safe space to speak the truth of their experience. They were free to identify and name their abuser and his/her role in their lives, if they wished, and tell what he/she did, and how we can pray for them. It was sweet, the safety and the support in the room.
At one point a survivor shared that her abuser has been in prison for 10 years, and honoured their mother for supporting her children in the process. A cheer rose from the audience. A cheer that offended a few people, concerned there is no grace for offenders. Here’s the thing, there is grace. Lots and lots of it. There’s also consequences. And there are survivors who will cheer because, at least for a time, they feel safe. At least for a time that person won’t hurt a child. That’s something to celebrate. Not to mention that giving a safe space to feel and heal means a safe space to feel and express some uncomfortable things. Some will cheer. Some will cry. Some will be conflicted.
It was safe to cheer. And next year, when we plan to do The Gathering again, it will be safe again, if that is what they need in the moment. And we won’t judge their hearts for cheering, or assume they don’t hold the grace of God in high regard. That kind of judgement is what makes church unsafe in the first place.
We shared communion in the truest sense of the word; in relationship. No performance. No shame. Just true connectedness with a room full of people who understand each other. Acknowledging it is JESUS, only JESUS, who makes us worthy.
We also spent part of our day giving opportunity to acknowledge the lies we believe, and speaking truth over those lies. And then we worshipped some more. And in the evening we had a concert with Jason Gray and Behold the Beloved.
Many expressed it was the best day they ever had being together with other survivors. Feeling safe like they’ve never felt before. Knowing that if anyone who offended sexually as an adult, and if they felt unsafe or uncomfortable, there was security present to remove that individual. It was a commitment we made, and without excuse or exception, we would follow through. Not because it is easy, but because it is right. This, again, has nothing to do with grace or no grace. There is grace. Lots of it. And there is a place for offenders in the kingdom of God. But it isn’t at a healing event for survivors where they are promised safety … for most, the first time. We plan to offer that safety again next year.
We are deeply grateful for the volunteers who gave all they had to give, and then a little bit more, to make the day run smoothly. Above all, we thank JESUS for loving us and inviting us to gather in relationship. First with Him, and also with each other.
On that note, if you are a survivor of sexual abuse that took place in an Anabaptist community, set aside Saturday November 7, 2020. We plan to make The Gathering an annual event, and for at least the first few years plan to hold it somewhere in Lancaster County. We have not determined yet if we will open it to survivors outside of Anabaptist community or not, as there is also something healing about gathering with a group who understand the cultural aspects of our journey. We rented a room to hold the events of the day this year, and with 120 people it was packed out, but a perfect size audience for deep connections. Going forward we will need to determine whether we want to keep it small or grow it, and how large.
In any case, it is the beginning of a ‘family’ where survivors of horror are understood and worship God together. The focus was not on the abuse, but on Jesus and healing, while addressing and acknowledging the horror of abuse, the injustices and misrepresentation of God in many of our experiences, and the need for a more holistic response to abuse in our communities.
That said, it is not for everyone, and a few attendees had some complaints. And that’s ok too. None of us are called to reach everyone, and I certainly have no ambitions to cater to all or please everyone. If what we do ministers to you, come out again. If not, hopefully there’s a place for you elsewhere that is healing and encouraging. Either way, we wish you God’s very best.
EVENT IN ELMIRA ONTARIO:
November 28-29 we are doing our first event local since 2014. The reason for this is that the past five years we have had so many request from out of the area that we’ve not had weekends or time available to look for a local venue to host an event. Recently we were asked if we would do a training locally, if the venue was available.
Training is very different from the conferences we do. (We still do conferences when invited). These days are focused on practical ways to support survivors of abuse as well as how to help offenders responsibly. Day One focuses only on supporting victims, understanding their needs, the pitfalls that come with helping them, and then how to ensure we don’t burn out. Day Two focuses on protecting the innocence of our little ones; the reason responsible help is so critical. It then moves to offender needs and the pitfalls that go with helping them, after which we interview someone who has offended and who speaks very honestly about that journey.
Survivors of abuse are welcome to attend, even though training is geared toward those who want to support them, rather than for survivors. However, it is critical to be aware of the presence of someone who has offended. Here in Ontario, for this particular event, he will be present both days, though not in the room on the first day. He has offered to prepare the meals both days (with whatever help he recruits), and will be present in this context, as well as the interview and whatever sessions he sits in on for Day Two. If his presence is problematic for you, or our interview with him, we urge you not to attend. We do not wish to traumatize or trigger anyone. Your safety is of utmost importance to us, emotionally, physically/sexually, and spiritually. For this reason we are making you aware, while we also assure you that we have worked closely enough with him to believe he poses no risk. He is respectful of our boundaries and safety protocol, including publicizing his presence in advance.
To register you may fill out the form (below) and mail it in, or go to Generations Unleashed and register online. Group sizes for Training generally range from 20 to 50, and are more intimate and interactive.
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© Trudy Metzger 2019