June 6, 2019
The court hearing has come to a close. Le Commissaire (the commissioner) sits in the judge’s chair. The court summons sent weeks earlier, was signed by the Supreme Commissioner Me Jonas Bertrang, and Le Commissaire is here on his authority. Today he has the power to arrest and imprison.
Le Commissaire speaks in (French/Creole), just as lawyers and witnesses have throughout. I do not understand either language and rely on interpreters. Le Commissaire has given CAM (Christian Aid Ministries) 15 days for their top officials to appear in court accompanied by Jeriah Mast, the sex offender, several interpreters tell me after court is dismissed. If they fail to do so, not only will they arrest a pastor who is present and hold him until they do so; they will also close doors to CAM in Haiti. Little do they realize that CAM is unlikely to be moved to action; it would have to be one of their own or one of Life Literature’s staff members for it to inspire action. Pastor has had no ties with CAM for years already.
Le Commissaire and legal representatives, alike, made it clear that failing to report crimes will not be tolerated; not even by an organization such as CAM. I find myself wishing I was hearing this in church.
The pastor they say they will imprison if CAM officials do not show up with Mast, has been placed in a holding cell, to the right of the courtroom, where he watches the proceedings. He bows his head, appearing to pray. The injustice is hard to stomach. While the offender rests and recovers on American soil, others pay the price. And those speaking out are already being judged as unforgiving gossips.
Jeriah has admitted to the crimes, but only after first lying repeatedly when confronted by a pastor May 3, 2019. With enough pressure he has confessed that he has at least 30 victims.
We, fellow Christians and fellow Anabaptists, alike, insist on transparency and honesty. For organization leaders to say “we knew, but didn’t know details” is not good enough. And if what these leaders did was so Christ-like, they should be ready to die for it and not avoid traveling to the countries where these crimes were committed.
Pedophiles and sex offenders, no matter how repentant, cannot and must not be left on missions. They must be reported. Under no circumstances will we look the other way, the lot of us who are rising up to bring to account the sex crimes, and the federal crimes committed in other countries by organizations looking the other was as something much akin to sex trafficking takes place in the guise of religious service. It is our duty to take a stand, and take a stand we will.
For me the story begins in Ontario Canada. Someone messages to say that a missionary has assaulted young boys. They are overwhelmed. The number, the offender admits are “too many to count”. Initially it is unclear if he came forward on his own, or if he was caught, but reports from within America’s Anabaptist community say he is broken and penitent. The few people who know offer him their support and prayer, grateful he is forthcoming. Fellow Christians are encouraged to be forgiving and not speak of the atrocities, now that they are repented of and forgiven. What few, if any, realize, is that the thirty victims to which he has confessed, is not representative of the true number. There are victims in numerous communities.
Initially, I am given no information. This appears at first to be a blessing. My intentions are to not get involved in the case. I am recovering from a spontaneous coronary artery dissection and minor heart attack, only weeks ago. Things remain relatively silent for a week, and I have no information to work with; nothing to provide leads. Not what mission organization. Not the name of the offender. Nothing.
Then, gradually, bits and pieces of the story appear in my inboxes and conversations trickle in. The name of family members. The state the offender lives. The organization. Like a puzzle in a box, as I look at the pieces, the details begin to shape into a coherent story. Still concerned about my health and suffering from fatigue, edema and other symptoms, I stand back.
Having been born into an Anabaptist family, and having worked for nearly ten years with Anabaptist victims of sexual violence, predominantly female victims of childhood sexual abuse, I am keenly aware of the crisis of epidemic proportions. As a donor many years ago, I am familiar with CAM Canada. I presume there is some connection between CAM USA and them, but don’t know the extent.
“I would hope they would do the right thing,” I tell someone. They are a massive organization. They know the law. You don’t get that far and that big through naivety. Besides, there’s enough conversations about sexual violence in our conservative Anabaptist culture that no one can easily claim innocence any longer.
I hope against hope that they will put out a public statement. I will give them two weeks from the time of his arrival in USA, I tell my informants, to do the right thing, and then I will do something if it appears the case will slip through the cracks. They have not given me enough details to report, but years of working with these crimes have taught me that lay members of the Anabaptist community are weary of these crimes; I will get the details sooner or later. Probably sooner.
As details of his time in USA trickle in from various sources – all of whom are forbidden to speak – I grow increasingly alarmed. He has spent two weeks in USA building a fortress that will serve him well, if law enforcement takes at face value, his repentance. His church and family have recruited the support of the Amish Steering Committee (ASC), a team of Amish men who come up with a Restoration Plan to be presented to law enforcement, to help Anabaptist sex offenders escape prison as consequences. A powerful committee, these men boast having had only 2 men sentenced to prison, of over 100 brought to them, in their two [edit: and a half] years since being implemented. People seem hopeful that the ASC will be able to keep this serial child molester out of prison.
Nearly twenty years of crimes, and this is the priority? My spirit grows restless.
A CAM leader, Dwayne Stoltzfus, who is also a leader at Mast’s home congregation, accompanies Mast to the police station. Nothing is heard of the victims, other than comments that CAM will reach out and help them; law enforcement likes to see that as part of a Restoration Plan. Word trickles out of Ohio stating that CAM has turned the case over to Mast’s church to handle, thus joining Pilate at the wash basin. This has been done before, when Life Literature staff, Harold Herr, was told of the crimes in 2012,
four [EDIT: two] years after Mast was excommunicated from church in Haiti for molesting boys. [EDIT: The crimes were committed in 2008. Excommunication was 2010. Harold Herr was approached 2012 about crimes committed in 2011].
Stories surface stating there were more crimes in other countries, by other CAM staff members. Not all informants feel comfortable sharing names of alleged offenders, but some names and details by various informants begin to fill the gaps left by others. An orphanage. Three offenders.
These details, coming from unrelated sources, combined with CAM’s failure to address the current crimes publicly, compels me to speak out. Heart condition or no heart condition, I find myself committed. Some things, I have learned, are worth dying for. Giving voice to the victims of heinous crimes is one of those things.
We, the Western church, and more importantly to this case, the Anabaptist church, must learn from these tragedies to better screen our missionaries, to take seriously allegations against potential missionaries, and to respond more adequately when we fail. Victims should not bear the weight of crimes committed against them. Crimes, committed in the guise of presenting the Gospel of Jesus Christ; that same Christ would unequivocally condemn such actions.
To learn from these tragedies, the darkness must be brought to light. And to do so, we must speak.
A former CAM staff member contacted me and asked if I would consider going to Haiti if CAM were to agree to fund such a trip. Sadly, I responded, I cannot align with their handling of things, and would not accept their funding. If I would go, it would need to be completely apart from their involvement. I remember well other cases of exposing crimes and how it worked out attempting to work in partnership. I would be willing to go, but it would have to be without CAM’s involvement.
The idea took root but, practically speaking, it was not feasible. I am still recovering from the heart attack, albeit steadily improving. I have many other commitments as a mother. I’m a PhD student and have ongoing medical testing, not to mention the financial commitment. However, as the time of the Haiti court case drew near, and I learned it was unlikely that CAM would appear as summoned, nor had they reached out to victims, I felt compelled to respond to the question, “Would you go…?”
Wednesday morning, June 4, I posted a status on Facebook, asking my friends – most of who remain conservative Anabaptists – if they would consider funding a flight for me to meet with numerous survivors of sexual violence at the hands of one of our own. Response was slow, and I understood that. I couldn’t offer any public information about the case, the organization, or the country. At 5pm we had almost enough for a one-way ticket to Haiti. The phone rang. A gentleman asked what we had raised and what we still need. “I’ll give $500,” he offered.
With that, I booked a one-way ticket to Haiti, trusting the remaining funds would come in. On Facebook, I offered an update. More friends responded. I decided to do a countdown, “.. now only need $375 … now $300…. ” and within minutes we had the funds. It was surreal.
June 5, 2019
The air is heavy, much like my heart, and surely the hearts of those we are about to meet; Haitian victims of an American missionary. I have come to Haiti to hear them; to give life and voice to their stories. This is more than a federal and international crime investigation for the Haitian government and FBI. It is that. And necessarily so. But it is more.
This is about lives, shattered and broken. Their stories matter. They matter. I have committed to do everything within my power to let them know this. My comfort is of little interest to me in the process. Truth must be told.
Apart from several chairs and an old bench, and a few bags, the room is empty. Here we seat ourselves for the interviews. With the help of my interpreter, I introduce myself and explain why I’ve come. I have heard of the terrible tragedy Haiti communities have suffered at the hands of a professing Christian from my culture. I tell them how sorry I am, and that I am offering to hear their stories and share them with Christians in USA and Canada. They are under no obligation to speak if they would rather not.
Almost immediately they say they would like to tell their stories. I explain that we will do this with one victim at a time rather than as a group, with none sitting in as the other shares. Each tells their story. And to each I express my sorrow at their suffering and apologize to them for the crimes committed in God’s name. I remind them that they are worth so much more, that God loves them, and that there are people back home who care and are not going to look the other way. I promise to do my best to have the stories heard and used in a way to influence accountability and deep and lasting change.
They tell of all the lost. They tell of his crimes; how he manipulated and accessed them at sleepovers. His ‘Modus Operandi’ matches what I’ve heard in other testimonials from other communities. It is compelling. But it would be in any case. Their eyes. The grief and sorrow. The mother whose son told her and was spared further assaults. Other boys who did not speak, and endured years of abuse.
A Haitian gentleman who has filled the role of mentor and father shares briefly what it has been like for the community and for the boys. It has brought deep, deep shame, he tells me. The boys are called “Madanm Jeriah” whenever they walk the streets and are mocked for being ‘gay’ because of the abuse they suffered at the hands of a male. They were not able to attend school without being bullied, and they cannot find work because of the shame. They have no place in the community.
The mother speaks. She is angry, she tells me. Angry that her only child, is paying this high price for the crimes of a missionary. Angry that her survival depended on CAM’s support, and that she had to choose between silence about the crimes to survive, and her son’s wellbeing. Angry that CAM knew [edit: knew that Jeriah was a molester] and did nothing. She tells me how, in his hardest struggles, she couldn’t manage and had to reach out to the mentor gentleman.
I hear her anger, but I feel her broken heart. I tell her how fortunate her son is to have her. Fortunate that someone cares about his suffering and about him. He nods. The two share a bond in suffering, but it is more than that. I tell her, too, how very sorry I am.
I ask them if they have a message for the churches in USA and Canada. They plead for churches and organizations to screen people properly and not send child molesters. At one point a young man makes a comment that it seems like all missionary men are homosexuals. (Their word for molesting boys is the same as the word for homosexual). I don’t blame them for feeling that way. Even as we speak a missionary gentleman they trust is translating, so I know that isn’t how it really is, but they don’t need to hear that right now. It seems too often that is the story that plays out.
“If you could send a message to Jeriah Mast, what would you say to him?” I ask.
Most ask for Jeriah to really repent and come back to face the crimes he committed against them, in their country. They ask him to stop thinking about himself and start thinking about them and the harm he has done to them, if he is truly repentant. All ask him for restitution. They have lost all standing in the community and any hope of thriving as homosexuals. (Again, they are sexual assault victims, not homosexuals).
At one point in the interview, “You Raise Me Up” by Josh Groban, plays loudly. A young Haitian girl’s voice joins in. The laundry on the wash line moves gently in the breeze. The sweltering heat has become almost unbearable, and my head ache is getting worse.
I ask permission to take photos, and they grant it, on the condition that I will not post them. I may post pictures of the empty room and those without people. They feel vulnerable. I make a promise.
Will I come back, they ask. I hope so. I truly hope so. Silently I pray. I ask God for health and life, and the opportunity to return, even as I feel the strain of the heat on my heart and observe the swelling it has caused in just a few hours. I will do everything I can, I say again. There are many things I cannot do, certainly not alone, but I can remind America that this is about victims, not about silencing crimes and protecting offenders from consequences. I can keep fighting for victims, and particularly for them. I can keep holding toes to the fire and press for accountability and insist that our religious communities stop looking the other way.
I thank them for being so gracious and sharing such vulnerable stories. They thank me for coming and giving them permission to speak the unspeakable.
We step outside. Here, a handful of children and youth gather around. A few linger, curious why this stranger has come.
The wash is off the line now. A lonely bird sings.
We are wrapping up our time in this community. Even as we do, I feel my heart wrapping around the community. A part of me is staying, right here. I will never forget these young men, this mama, and the gentleman who has fought for these boys.
Would to God that my culture, the conservative Anabaptists, could begin to grasp what we, collectively, have done to these children. Through sending pedophiles as missionaries, knowing they abused children. Through silence. Through looking away when the shame of their sin was more than we could bear. Through shaming those who speak out. Through perverting forgiveness to mean we dare not tell truth. To make any claims at all that Jesus would respond in kind. He would not.
The Bible is chuck full of bad stories that would have remained untold if such a God existed at all, and such a Gospel had even a sprinkling of truth to it. If such a Jesus had ever walked among us. Because that Jesus called for truth. He ripped the cover off the nest of vipers oppressing and subjecting the people to their own power. He flipped tables. He spoke with healing and gentleness to the broken-hearted. And never did he favour religious oppressors over the wellbeing of the wounded.
His Gospel… that’s what we need here. The Good News of Salvation that cries for truth, invites it… yes, even demands it, for the Gospel to be real at all.
That’s my Jesus. That’s the Gospel. Any other should never be spoken, and certainly not imposed on the wounded. And most definitely not taken to an impoverished people who rely on us for sustenance, so that we can take advantage of them.
JUNE 6, 2019
Outside the courthouse, prior to the hearing, the handful of victims pressing charges have initially declined to comment or have their photos taken. The lawyer forbids taking photos, saying is not permissible. I respect their decision. Instead, Pastor Blakely and I engage in conversation and he shares his story. He has been summoned to stand trial for knowing many years of Mr. Mast’s crimes against their children of Haiti and not reporting these horrific crimes. As a pastor, he says, he did the only thing he understood to do, and that was to excommunicate Mr. Mast and turn him over to CAM. If he could do it over with the knowledge he has today, he states, he would report Mr. Mast and support the families of victims in reporting. He grants permission to take a photo, and use it as needed to help them seek justice and acknowledgment of suffering.
My interest in the case is to give victims opportunity to share their stories, I explain, and hold churches and organizations accountable so that these crimes are not taken lightly. I do not wish to harm anyone, including CAM and Jeriah Mast, but assure the I will stop at nothing within my means to bring truth to light and have victims voices heard. I express concern that CAM did not immediately report Mast, and notify the public, their donors and all families and communities with whom Mast had contact. I also extend an apology, as a Christian and fellow Caucasian, for their ongoing failure to release a public statement condemning the actions and apologizing for their failure to respond adequately years ago when the crimes first became known. What has been done is very wrong, and hopefully accountability will ensure better protocol for screening missionaries, thus protecting children from such horrific crimes. Pastor Brucely expresses his appreciation.
Mast’s crimes did not begin in Haiti, though details of former crimes on US soil remain a closely guarded secret [edit: as far as the public is concerned. The law is aware. Hence my reticence to address them before charges are laid]. Mast’s church leaders – of whom Mast’s father is bishop – knew of crimes [edit: though not called crimes] many years ago, and still sent him as a missionary in Haiti, giving him access to many, many victims without accountability. When it was discovered he committed more sex crimes in Haiti, he was sent home and the community was informed there had been moral failure. Being allowed to return, they assumed it was likely porn; other missionaries had been sent home permanently for porn use. Never did they imagine that Mast, who was their friend and fellow missionary, was so skilled that even those closest to him did not see the signs. Having repented, Mast was allowed to return and continue his crimes, unchecked.
One community member told me of 25 victims in 3 communities. But the count is much higher, in numerous other communities. Mr. Mast allegedly admitted to 30, after initially denying the allegations when questioned by a pastor on Friday, May 3 2019. Within hours of learning that he was exposed, Mast packed up his family and fled to USA via Dominican Republic , leaving pastors and other staff members to face the consequences of his crimes.
According to some Haitians, Mast is a talented speaker who preached a fine message; he was as skilled at maneuvering and accessing victims. His position within CAM required him to visit many communities. While some Haitians knew or suspected the crimes were taking place, they held little power to do anything, as they rely heavily on CAM for basic provision, and lacked the corporate and financial backing the CAM provides. An impoverished people are no match for such a massive organization (approximately EDIT:
$150m $130 budget). It wasn’t until a handful of courageous young men came forward with a lawsuit that there was any hope of the crimes coming to an end, victims’ voices being heard, or there being any semblance of justice in this case.
As people seek to come to terms with the news, in Haiti and across the world, the list of Haitian communities impacted by Mast’s crimes continues to grow. Missionaries who condemn Mast’s actions are concerned at CAM’s lack of response and have reached out to various communities. Testimonials from other communities confirmed that the Ti Goave was only one of many impacted.
Mast befriended young boys, mentored them and scheduled sleepovers, giving him access. The details of acts committed, were similar, with slight variation from community to community, case to case, but similar basic MO. Mast carried with him a bottle of oil for the purpose of the assaults. He went under the guise of loving children and mentoring boys. He offered some gifts and cash, thus using their poverty against them.
Mr. Mast has repented numerous times for ‘moral failure’, offering a vague statement leading those nearest him under the impression that he struggles with pornography, or some personal sexual struggle. Nearly all are shocked to discover that he has, in fact, sexually assaulted so many children or the course of almost 20 years, that no one is quite sure how many there are. That shock intensifies at the discovery that leaders knew and did not send him home or warn the public.
Yet more shocking to some, is the discovery that Mr. Mast used bribes to silence some of his victims. Others say they heard unconfirmed rumours prior to victims coming forward. An attempted rape of one young man, sources say, resulted in Mr. Mast paying to build a house to silence him. (To this I ask, how did no one get suspicious of this type of ‘generosity’?) That gentleman’s brother also received a house. His story, for the most part, remains untold. A mother, whose son was assaulted, received a plot of land, but the deed was never given to her. And another young man was given money which was used to by a motorbike. And now, Haitians say that CAM’s lawyer has offered hush money, and even pressured victims to meet up for the purpose of silencing them.
After the court hearing it is announced that CAM’s lawyer and the victims’ lawyer have reached a tentative agreement. All that is needed is for CAM officials to sign off.
This is legal ‘hush money’, but hardly becoming of a transparent organization seeking to represent Jesus. Going to court against brother is forbidden, but paying off the victimized … I’ll leave that there. Again, if what was done by the organization is Christlike, there ought to be no need to pay off these victims to silence them. To help them, sure, but silence them? Never!
Now, sitting in court, I look at the pastor, behind bars. He has been temporarily arrested during the proceedings. He granted me permission to take photos of him and use them as needed. His trust is an honour, as they are in the thick of addressing trauma inflicted by my culture; my people. I promise to use them only to create awareness, help the victims, and ensure their story is told. I will not exploit them.
Prior to the hearing my interpreter has asked the Commissioner’s secretary permission to audio record, no video, and take photos. Permission is granted.
Much of the hearing is in French, some in Creole. I understand little, but several interpreters give me updates. I have read the boys’ testimonies, translated into English by several people, to cross reference and compare for accuracy, so while I do not understand, I know their stories.
Le Commissaire speaks in (French/Creole), giving CAM (Christian Aid Ministries) 15 days for their top officials to appear in court accompanied by Jeriah Mast, the sex offender, several interpreters tell me after court is dismissed. Mast has admitted guilt, albeit after lying repeatedly until backed in a corner. If they fail to do so, not only will they arrest a pastor who is present and hold him until they do so; they will also close doors to CAM in Haiti.
Le Commissaire and legal representatives, alike, have made it clear that failing to report crimes will not be tolerated; not even by an organization such as CAM.
That, frankly, is how it should be. However, it should be the church rising up to say it, rather than the law.
NOTE: I have documentation of court records, as well as evidence that certain CAM leaders, Life Literature, and other individuals were aware of these crimes. I forwarded all information I have to FBI. I have also informed the FBI liaison of my intentions to write and expose what I learned in Haiti. There are many details I know about the USA side of happenings that I have chosen not to include here. This is to avoid interfering with the FBI investigation. What I have shared here is public knowledge in Haiti, and I was grated permission to share, by victims and their lawyer. Following translation of the victim testimonies I collected, I intend to post them here at a later time.
~ T ~
PS. To the best of my ability, I have portrayed truth. There is more information that I am not free to share. I have documents, recordings, and photos to support what I have exposed here. The following is one of the numerous messages I received from Haiti affirming the accuracy of the above information.
You must be logged in to post a comment.