Scripture is filled with references to God as Defender of the vulnerable. But sometimes, the responses from churches when someone asks for help in an abuse situation do not seem to reflect His character.
Almost every week I spend some time reading articles on this blog. It’s eye-opening, and it’s also very painful. It’s hard to think about these things! But we really need to if we are going to understand some of the dynamics, and step up to truly protect those who are vulnerable.
The focus is broader than the safety of children, but it seems that many of the dynamics are the same in situations involving children.
A Cry For Justice
Have you seen the movie “Spotlight“? It won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2015. And here’s a link to some articles talking about the story behind the movie.
Although this is not a pleasant topic, vulnerable children need the adults who care about them to educate ourselves about the reality that children may be harmed by Christians. Watching this movie is one good way to take a look at the bigger picture, and recognize that churches have enabled and protected “well-respected” adults who are in fact abusing children.
Some people have a hard time understanding or believing that a seemingly-kind adult could harm a child. Here is one story of how it could happen, with helpful response and prevention ideas too.
Komal: A film on child sexual abuse
Have you noticed the references to children in the Bible? There are many! One example is when Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14) He demonstrates His heart for them, and similar references occur throughout the Scriptures. And as I seek to grow in my life of faith, I want to value what the Scriptures tell me God values.
After a couple of years working in the area of child safety, I’ve learned that there are many who haven’t understood (or don’t believe) that abuse could occur in a Christian environment. I didn’t know much about it before entering into my current ministry role, either. Many of us are so busy keeping up with our daily lives and responsibilities that we don’t have time for much else, and this is not a pleasant topic. Though few in number, the situations I’ve worked on where an adult has harmed (or is alleged to have harmed) children have been overwhelming, all-consuming, and devastating for all involved.
We may need to learn more as adults, if we want to be effective in protecting children. As you read this, if you’re not familiar with these concerns, I hope and pray that you will begin to read and learn. And I hope and pray that each of you reading this will add your voice and your strength to improve the protection of children.
I’m going to share some links that will offer you more information. And please let me know if you have questions, or more resources you’d like to share.
Darkness to Light is an organization that provides excellent training in child abuse prevention. They summarize five ways adults can protect children:
1. Learn the Facts
2. Minimize Opportunity
3. Talk About It
4. Recognize the Signs
5. React Responsibly.
“Weariness is what I am seeing in so many colleagues. A chronic weariness. As we serve others, we will certainly tire . But is chronic weariness a proper, Christ-like way to live and serve?
We know better than to let ourselves get so run down, so why do we do it?”
“It is possible to live a life where our steps are directed by the Father. Jesus’ life was not a frenetic, exhausting drive to meet hoards of needs. Ours is not to be either.”
These quotes are from an article recently shared by a friend of mine, and it’s really worth reading if you are a cross-cultural worker, or if you are a friend of one! It’s part of a series on themes recognized by a pastor in the role of shepherding cross-cultural workers.
5 Themes: Theme #2 Total Exhaustion
So great to be together! The times we have together are special and fun, as they are more rare than any of us would like!
One part of my work with SIM is to provide training in child abuse prevention and response with the workers who are at SIM USA for orientation. This week, in a short-term orientation group I was surprised to meet Kat, an intensive-care nurse who had served on the same ship Joey was deployed on! She was a friend of his, and has flown in his helicopter during missions on their deployment! It is always a privilege to meet Joey’s military friends, but this was an unusual setting. She had mentioned to Joey while on the ship that she’d like to give some of her time after the Navy to serve in a mission setting, in a part of the world where skilled nurses are needed. He told her about growing up in West Africa with parents in SIM… and the connection was made! She is now on her way to an area of the world where the need is great and the workers are few. Please pray for Kat as she prepares to serve. I thank God for her heart to use her skills in this Kingdom work!
Another trip to Minnesota, to visit with sending church friends, and share about the work God is calling us to do through SIM USA. We were blessed to be able to attend the wedding of one of our longtime friend who has been part of our “Barnabas” encouragement team for many years. We were privileged to be hosted by another family who has faithfully supported and encouraged us over many years. We love these times when we are able to worship at our longtime sending church, and be with people who have known us for so much of our lives.
A bonus was that my aunts from the West Coast were in Minnesota at the same time! I hadn’t seen some of them for more than 20 years. It was a great joy to spend some time with such a large part of my extended family!
We loved spending time visiting with Jacob and Katie in their new home. Jake is working in the lab in a biomedical company, and moving closer to the work he feels passionate about. We are thankful for that! And, we got to spend some time with Sam and Nikki and their family– and as some of you may remember, Sam was one of our boarding home kids when we were boarding home parents way back in 1989-1990 in Liberia! We’ve had a special relationship with him ever since then. On this trip, we watched with his family the highlight video of some of our fun times in Liberia when he was fifteen. So many memories, and so many evidences of God’s faithfulness in each of our lives. We are grateful.
It was a joy and privilege to be able to travel to Minnesota for our nephew’s wedding. It was a great time of connecting with family!
And, a few days at my mom’s cabin, including special times with longtime friends was a bonus. We loved having Joey with us for a few of these days too!
SIM’s purpose statement has been recently updated, and it says in part, “…compelled by God’s great love and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we cross barriers to proclaim the crucified and risen Christ, expressing His love and compassion among those who live and die without Him.”
The barriers we cross include culture and language, oceans and deserts, distorted thinking, resistant hearts, and much more. Crossing those barriers is not easy, and we don’t embark on such a journey lightly or unprepared.
Can you see what’s changed in the recently updated sign at the entrance of our SIM USA campus? Our office is no longer referred to as the SIM USA Sending Office, or SIM USA HQ. Not that those are totally inaccurate, but we believe that Global Mission Center is a more accurate description of what we’re all about!
SIM USA Global Mission Center
On this large campus of seven buildings and over 100 workers, we find, prepare, send and support workers going out into the world (currently about 800 of them), across barriers, that they might proclaim the crucified and risen Christ, expressing His love and compassion among those who would otherwise live and die without Him.
(Here are some stories that will give you a peek at what’s happening on the other side of those barriers.)
We can’t do any of that without partners like you, who give generously and pray fervently! Continue reading
Cutie calf (seen on a walk with a friend, in VIrginia))
spring in Charlotte
baby bluebirds in a nest box! (in Virgina.)
three generations of Decker men enjoying a moment in Uptown Charlotte!
These fun pictures represent moments in April that fill me with gratitude for God’s goodness and love, and the beauty of His creation!
I am privileged to be part of a team that works together with others from many organizations who are committed to preventing harm to children in any mission setting. These meetings represent many people who have given hundreds of hours, researched and evaluated research, and are dedicated to implementing and improving practices in all organizations to protect the vulnerable.