I had a hard time reading all the way through Wess Stafford's reminiscence of the abuse he suffered as an MK (missionary kid) in boarding school decades ago; it made me so angry I could hardly see, so distraught I could hardly breathe.

A degree of personal connection heightened my distress. I have family who work and live at a missionary boarding school -- one that, like the one where Stafford was tortured as a child, is located in West Africa and is connected with the C&MA. To know their passionate devotion to the physical, emotional, and spiritual welfare of their students makes it almost inconceivably infuriating to read about others in parallel positions of responsibility who so perverted their vocation.

I think I understand better now the anguish that faithful Catholics have expressed over the scandals that have recently rocked their church. Child abuse is horrible, any time, anywhere, but there's a dimension of personal betrayal, even if you're not a victim, when the abuse comes from within an institution that you love and trust and identify as your own.

Stafford describes his abusers as disgruntled and disaffected would-be evangelists who somehow didn't measure up to the rigors of "real" missionary work and so got stuck with "the least desirable task on the field: taking care of other missionaries' children." This could not be more diametrically opposed to the perspective of the missionaries I know who do such work today. For them, caring for these children is not a necessary evil that makes the real work of missions possible. The task of missionaries is to make disciples, and the children of parents who seek to minister in cultures not their own are as much in need of discipleship as the national populations of the countries where they are guests. Those who teach and foster MKs are mentoring future leaders and nurturing young souls through a challenging season of their lives. If anything counts as front-line ministry, this is it.

I am grateful that Stafford and others have told their stories, as difficult as it is to hear them, because the truth must out -- both for the healing of past victims and the protection of current and future generations of children.


The Muser (aka Beautiful Mama) said...

There are just so many terrible terrible stories like this of kids abused and even killed in unspeakable ways in Christian boarding schools. I've recently been learning about the atrocities experienced by American Indians in the US who were forcibly taken from their families by the U.S. gvmt and placed in boarding schools (most church-run) where they were violated in every way possible. So tragic that our faith has been used in such awful ways, and so tragic that the church as a whole (Catholic and Protestant) has done so little to acknowledge this and seek to make amends and aid in healing. The churches in Canada are way ahead of the U.S. in acknowledging abuses like this. Here in the U.S. most people don't even know about that era in our history.

Michael said...

I haven't read the CT article yet but I read Stafford's book, "Too Small to Ignore" which tells the same story and found myself shaking with rage and sorrow. Thanks for the recognition of how things have changed. If you get the chance, find Stafford's book and read the appendix about "the rest of the story." It's very moving.

I had the privilege of meeting him as he spoke at our conference in Germany in March. What an incredible man with an incredible history. He was in the first graduating class at ICA, since ICA was formed as a result of the closure of this other school.

There are still many people out here who have ties to that boarding school and while it's impossible for all to be made right, the memory remains to ensure that it will never happen again.

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