Tag Archive: Missionary

Ushering in the End of the World: The John Allen Chau-All Nations Connection

john allen chau

Last month, a 26-year-old man from Vancouver, Washington named John Allen Chau was killed by an indigenous tribe on North Sentinel Island, a small and isolated island in the Indian Sea. According to friends, witnesses, and his own personal writing, Chau made the dangerous journey to talk about Jesus with the world’s most reclusive and remote tribe, known as the Sentinelese, and convert them to Christianity. While some evangelical Christians hailed Chau as a martyr after news of his death broke, many others — evangelicals and nonbelievers alike — condemned him as naïve, reckless, arrogant, imperialistic, or all of the above.

What many missed while wrestling with the ethics of Chau’s decision, however, was a precise understanding of his likely motivation. Chau was affiliated with a Kansas City-based group called All Nations Family, which believes that missionary work is part of a 2,000-year-old game, the final element necessary to herald the Great Tribulation, the return of the Messiah and, at long last, the Final Judgment.

Far more than the desire to convert a few heathen souls to Christianity, global missionary organizations like All Nations Family, which was founded in 2000 by author and lecturer Floyd McClung, believe they are laying the groundwork for the Second Coming of Christ, ushering in the end of days, when the righteous will ascend to heaven and wicked nations will perish. For Chau, the unreformed souls of the Sentinelese people may have stood between us and the Apocalypse.

In his final letter to his parents, Chau referenced Revelations 7:9-10, which reads:

After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.

….

The eponymous missionary organization states on its website that it wants to “make disciples and train leaders to ignite church planting movements among the neglected people of the earth,” and “to see disciple making movements in every people group of the world so that Jesus may be worshipped by every tongue, tribe and nation.” All Nations claims to train and support 150 workers in 35 countries, each year training 3,500 people in 35 cities to plant churches among purported “unreached people.” Fairly standard stuff, so far. But their website continues: “The Lord wants All Nations to be part of finishing the Great Commission in this generation by igniting church planting movement among the unreached.”

This “Great Commission” is traditionally believed to be the final words and instructions of Jesus, when he explained to his disciples what is required before he will return to earth. Though evangelical Christians have for hundreds of years used these verses to justify global missions, ministries, and baptisms, missionary organizations like All Nations want to “finish” the Great Commission “in this generation,” without further delay. While evangelicals largely share an eschatological worldview, a gap exists between those who believe Jesus will return suddenly, “like a thief in the night,” and those who believe he won’t return until the gospel is spread throughout the world, thus preparing the ground for his reign.

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y planting churches “among the unreached” (an evangelical term to distinguish any ethnic group or community that hasn’t yet been introduced to Christianity) these missionaries are willing to violate international laws and risk their own safety to fulfill Jesus’s final prophecy. Missionary organizations like All Nations are spurred into action not by social goodwill or love of humankind, in other words, but by the belief that their works will precipitate the apocalypse. (Chau is hardly the first American to be killed doing missionary work; just one month earlier, a missionary named Charles Wesco was shot and killed during a shootout between soldiers and separatists in Cameroon. Further back, five evangelical Christian missionaries who traveled to the Ecuadorian rainforest to contact the isolated Huaorani tribe in 1956 were killed by members of that tribe.)

In their statements of faith, groups like All Nations, Brooklyn-based Christ Covenant Coalition, and Colorado-based Joshua Project declare their allegiance to the evangelical manifesto called the Lausanne Covenant, which was drafted in 1974 at the First International Congress on World Evangelization in Lausanne, Switzerland. Considered to be the foundation of modern global evangelism, the authors and signatories of the 15-point document pledge to spread the gospel throughout the world, “to proclaim it to all mankind and to make disciples of every nation.”

The document goes on to declare that Christians should “reject as a proud, self-confident dream the notion that people can ever build a utopia on earth,” and that the promise of the Second Coming of Christ is “a further spur to our evangelism, for we remember his words that the gospel must first be preached to all nations.”

— Santi Elijah Holley, The Outline, Was the Missionary Killed on a Remote Island trying to End the World?, December 4, 3018

You can read the entire article here.

Previous articles on John David Chau

Who’s to Blame for the Brutal Death of Evangelical Missionary John Allen Chau?

Quote of the Day: Did Christian Arrogance Get John Allen Chau Killed?

Quote of the Day: Did Christian Arrogance Get John Allen Chau Killed?

john allen chau

There’s a story that’s been in the news about a Christian missionary named John Allen Chau who was killed by an indigenous tribe while attempting to evangelize them into Christianity. Apparently the tribe who live on the North Sentinel Island only number between 50 – 150 people and have refused contact with the outside world. Because they’ve had virtually no contact with the outside world, the Sentinelese people also haven’t been exposed to most contagious diseases. Their immune systems aren’t strong enough to handle even the common cold. Therefore it’s actually illegal to make contact with them – partly for their protection. Despite of this, John Allen Chau – an Oral Roberts University graduate – took it upon himself to go and tell them about Jesus. Apparently he had been there before, shouting “My name is John, and I love you and Jesus loves you” to the bow and arrow wielding tribesmen at which point they started shooting at him. One of their arrows even pieced his Bible, but that didn’t stop him. He went back a second time and this time he didn’t make it out alive.

My first thought is, why? Why would you do that? Why risk your life to go and tell a hostile tribe about Jesus when they clearly don’t want to hear about Jesus? The answer, of course, is arrogance. Here you have a tribe that does their own thing and doesn’t bother anybody and they just want to be left alone. They’re a small community of people; they probably eat healthy as they don’t have access to the processed stuff that we eat. Apparently, they don’t even understand what money is or how to use it. So, they don’t have all the stress that we have that goes along with having money. Maybe they’re backwards, maybe they’re savages and they shoot people with arrows, but are we really so certain that our way of life is better than theirs? Are we so certain that they are lost and in need of saving? And that’s the Christian arrogance that I’m talking about. Because then you have a guy who grew up in a Christian culture, went to a Christian university where he was given a particular worldview and he just assumes that this worldview is the correct one.

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My second thought involves the sheer preposterousness (is that a word?) of it. Apparently God created this tribe of people, but then he decided that they must go to hell. But at the same time, he loves them, so he’s kind of in two minds about it. He comes up with a solution – he butchers Jesus on a cross, which is supposed to solve the problem, except it doesn’t. Unless someone goes to this island and tells them that God butchered his son on a cross and they believe it, they’re still going to hell. Perhaps the reason why the Sentinelese refused contact with the outside world is because they didn’t want to be corrupted by crazy ideas such as this.

What really got to me is that – when I read some of the comments on the articles covering this story – a lot of people said things like, “This guy is a hero… he has earned a great reward”, “He fulfilled his mandate” and “What a mighty welcome home he received from our Savior Christ the King”. And the Sentinelese people are the backwards ones? Do we still believe in a God who will reward us with stuff if we get ourselves killed against our better judgement? Christians are making out like he died for a worthy cause when the only reason he went there was so that he could feel better about himself and his own relationship with God. That probably sounds very judgmental of me, but I know this because admittedly I did similar things when I still called myself a Christian. I used to do talks at rehabs and my talks involved Bible verses. I don’t think my intention was to convert anyone to Christianity, but a part of me did do it for my own ego.

— Erik Stoop, Voices From the Wild, Did Arrogance get John Allen Chau Killed?, November 22, 2018

Please see my post on Chau’s Death, Who’s to Blame for the Brutal Death of Evangelical Missionary John Allen Chau?

Who’s to Blame for the Brutal Death of Evangelical Missionary John Allen Chau?

john allen chau

Oral Roberts University graduate John Allen Chau was killed last week while attempting to evangelize an isolated tribe on North Sentinel Island — 700 miles off the coast of India. Chau, 26, did not have permission to ferry to, land on, or evangelize North Sentinel natives. He broke the law, choosing instead to “follow” the “leadership” of the Holy Ghost. His obedience to God and the teachings of his peculiar flavor of Evangelical Christianity cost him his life.

CBS News reports:

Officials typically don’t travel to the North Sentinel area, where people live as their ancestors did thousands of years ago. The only contacts, occasional “gift giving” visits in which bananas and coconuts were passed by small teams of officials and scholars who remained in the surf, were years ago.

Indian ships monitor the waters around the island, trying to ensure that outsiders do not go near the Sentinelese, who have repeatedly made clear they want to be left alone.

….

Scholars know almost nothing about the island, from how many people live there to what language they speak. The Andamans once had other similar groups, long-ago migrants from Africa and Southeast Asia who settled in the island chain, but their numbers have dwindled dramatically over the past century as a result of disease, intermarriage and migration.

Chau spent his young life immersed in Evangelical Christianity. He attended an Evangelical high school and college, and was trained for missionary service by Fundamentalist mission agency, All Nations in Kansas City, Missouri. Mary Ho, international executive leader of All Nations, admitted to CBS News that Chau had discussed his mission trip with her and understood the danger and risk of landing on the island. Ho stated, “He [Chau] wanted to have a long-term relationship, and if possible, to be accepted by them and live amongst them.”

The first day Chau landed on the Sentinel Island, a young boy shot arrows at him, forcing his retreat to a boat waiting for him offshore. Chau wrote in his notes:

Why did a little kid have to shoot me today? I DON’T WANT TO DIE Would it be wiser to leave and let someone else to continue. No I don’t think so.

Chau’s second return to the island was his last. He was killed by Sentinelese tribesmen — yet another well-intentioned zealot who wasted his life attempting to evangelize people who weren’t the least bit interested in what he was selling. This tribe is known for killing or attempting to kill outsiders who dare to trespass. Chau knew this, yet he believed God was leading him to take the gospel to them. I am sure he thought that God would protect him. In one comment, Chau said that “God sheltered me and camouflaged me against the coast guard and the navy.” In his mind, if God miraculously kept him from being found out by authorities, it is not a stretch to think that he believed that all would go well when he came ashore to preach the gospel. After all he brought gifts for them — fish and a football. What could go wrong, right?

As I ponder the wasted life of John Allen Chau, I ask, who’s to blame for his death? Not the tribesmen. They were protecting their land from an interloper. No, the blame rests on the Evangelical churches, school, and college Chau attended. These institutions filled his head with stories of grandeur, of missionaries God used to evangelize the “lost.”  The blame also rests on All Nations. They filled his head with nonsense about reaching “lost” Sentinelese tribesmen for Jesus, ignoring the fact that Chau’s interaction with them could have infected them with deadly Western diseases, diseases for which the Sentinelese had NO immunity. All Nations knew about Chau’s desire and encouraged him to be obedient to God. Everyone who filled Chau’s head with Evangelical beliefs about the exclusivity of Christianity and the need for people to get saved lest they spend eternity in Hell bears responsibility for the young man’s death.

Chau was a True Believer®. His heart and mind were set on being an obedient, zealous follower of Jesus. As missionaries and martyrs before him, Chau was willing to die for the cause. Is this not the true mark of zealot? I am sure he heard countless preachers talk about being willing to die for one’s faith. Jesus gave his life for us! Should we not be ready and willing to give our lives for him? countless preachers have said. Much like Islamic zealots, Evangelicals — in theory, anyway — believe that, if called upon to do so, they would die for Jesus. I say in theory, because I highly doubt, when push comes to shove, that most American Evangelicals would truly die for Jesus. It’s easy to say, “I will not deny Jesus, and I am willing to die for him,” when in fact few Evangelicals are willing to follow Chau to the grave.

Several weeks ago, I wrote about the death of Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) missionary Charles Wesco. Much like Chau, Wesco threw his life away thinking that he was called by his God to evangelize the lost in Cameroon. Within a week, Wesco was dead, caught in a gunfire battle between opposing forces. Both of these deaths are, on one hand, tragic, but on the other hand they are unnecessary. No one “needs” Jesus, and the world would be better off if Evangelicals minded their own fucking business. If asked about Jesus, share away, but if not, keep your cult’s dogma to yourself. Do I sound harsh? I intend to be. Both of these stories have all the markings of cultism, no different from the Manson or Jonestown cults. Oh, Evangelicalism might appear more respectable and be accepted as a “good” cult, but their teachings can and do cause psychological and physical harm, and, in some instances, death. Chau’s and Wesco’s deaths are perfect examples of what can happen when some really, really, really believes, drinking glass after glass of Jesus-inspired Kool-Aid. Their deaths left countless mourners who want to know WHY? One need not look far for the answer. The blame ultimately rests on Evangelicalism and its teachings about sin, salvation, the Great Commission, and the exclusivity of the Christian religion. These deaths should lead preachers and other church leaders to ponder and question their missionary rhetoric, but alas, men such as Chau and Wesco will, instead, be venerated and turned into martyrs, inspiring others to foolishly follow in their steps.

The next time someone tells you that religions is harmless, I hope you will think of John Allen Chau. His religion cost him his life.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Who’s to Blame For the Tragic Death of IFB Missionary Charles Wesco?

the charles and stephanie wesco family

Two weeks agoCharles and Stephanie Wesco, ages 44 and 33 respectively, along with their eight children, ages 2 to 13, traveled from Indiana to Cameroon to evangelize the lost. Today, Charles is dead, thanks to a bullet wound to the head after being caught in crossfire between government soldiers and armed separatists. (Stephanie and her oldest daughter were in the car with her husband, but luckily escaped injury.) I can only imagine the heartache Stephanie and her family must be experiencing. That said, in the hope of warding off anyone else needlessly dying for Jesus, there are a few things that need to be said. I realize I will be accused of being insensitive, but after numerous stories in recent years of Evangelical missionaries being killed, kidnapped, and arrested, I think it is time for someone to suggest that maybe, just maybe missionaries need to rethink their “calling.”

The Wescos are Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) missionaries. Stephanie is the daughter of Don Williams, pastor of Believers Baptist Church in Warsaw, Indiana. Don Williams is a graduate of Hyles-Anderson College. He is the son of Ronald Williams, pastor emeritus of Believers Baptist and the founder and director of Hephzibah House — a girls boarding school. Hephzibah House is notorious for its abusive discipline and has been investigated several times by the state of Indiana (see video below). Charles’ brother is Indiana state representative Tim Wesco.

Video Link

2015 Wartburg Watch article on Hephzibah House

As IFB missionaries, the Wescos spent two years traveling from church to church (deputation) begging for support. Once they raised sufficient support, they made their way to Cameroon so they could win souls for Christ and establish IFB churches. You can check out their website here. The Wescos believed that God has called them to go to Cameroon to preach the gospel. I have no doubt they were excited once they raised sufficient money to begin their evangelistic work. I suspect they planned to win countless Cameroonians to Christ and establish numerous Fundamentalist Baptist congregations. Yet, two weeks into their endeavor, Charles is dead, Stephanie has lost her husband, and eight children no longer have a father.

Charles is being called a martyr for Christ, a man of faith who was willing to put his life on the line for the Cameroonian people. Others are praying that their God will use his death to bring many Cameroonians to Christ. And then there are those who are trying to make sense of the senseless, trying to understand WHY God would have the Wesco family go through the rigors of deputation and the pain of leaving their family and church behind, only to have Charles gunned down, Stephanie made a widow, and their children left without a father. I suspect people will be told to not dwell on the WHY, and to, instead, trust in the loving, faithful, enduring providential care of God. Their pastors will remind them that God knows what’s best and all they can do is ask for God’s name to be glorified through Bro. Charles’ death. They mustn’t dwell on WHY because that might call God’s purpose and plan into question; it might cause Christians to wonder if there really is a God in Heaven who loves and cares for them; it might cause them to question God; yea it might even cause them to doubt his very existence. Of course, those of us who are former Evangelicals know firsthand about asking WHY and not finding a satisfactory answer. For many of us, realizing that, at the very least, God was indifferent towards us or unconcerned with our loss and pain was our first step towards unbelief. I have no doubt that there will be Christians who will face real crises of faith over Charles Wesco’s senseless death, and perhaps some of them might even question God’s very existence. To that I say, good. Better to learn that trusting God to care for you and keep you out of harm’s way is delusional than to see anyone else get it in their head that God talks to them and wants them to pack up their family and go to a hostile foreign land to evangelize sinners.

The root blame rests, of course, on the person(s) who murdered Charles Wesco. But, culpability also rests with the IFB church movement and its doctrines, Believers Baptist Church, Pastor Don Williams, Pastor Emeritus Ronald Williams, and the Wescos themselves. It is IFB preachers and churches that tell congregants that the entire world is divided into two classes of people: saved and lost; that God has commanded them to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature; that American Fundamentalists are duty-bound, if led by God, to carry the gospel to foreign lands. Cameroon is 70 percent Christian, yet the Wescos thought there was a “need” to take the gospel to Cameroonians. Why? Well, 40 percent of those Christians are Catholic, and in the IFB world, Catholic is just another word for LOST. Thirty percent of Christians are Protestants, and in the IFB world Protestant is also just another word for LOST. In the minds of the leaders and congregants of Believers Baptist and the Wescos, what Cameroon needed was Jesus-loving, sin-hating, King James-Only Independent Fundamentalist Baptist churches.

I realize that my words may come off as those of a heartless atheist, but I hope that my speaking the truth will cause others who are interested in evangelizing the lost in foreign countries to reconsider their ambitions. Granted, my words are no match for God’s, but surely there’s room for reason in the discussion. Surely, there’s a place for common sense. If Charles Wesco wanted to go to Cameroon and put his life on the line so he could expand his cult’s reach, well that’s on him. But, he, as the head of his home, took his wife and eight young children into harm’s way. It could just as easily have been his wife or one or more of his children killed in the crossfire. It is fair for thoughtful people to question whether taking children into the midst of a brewing civil war is reasonable. I know I would never put my wife, children, or grandchildren at risk of being hurt or killed. As a husband, parent, and grandparent, I have a duty to love, care, and protect those I love. My booking a family vacation in Cameroon would be considered by most people to be dangerous, careless, and irresponsible. But for people who are immersed in the teachings of the IFB church movement, if God is leading the way, no risk or danger is too great. And when things take a tragic turn, as in the case of Charles Wesco? Few will question God, Believers Baptist and its pastors, or the parents of the Wescos as to their culpability in Charles’ death. Cameroonian soldiers and insurgents will be blamed, end of story.

Here’s what I know for sure. Remove IFB beliefs from the equation and it is likely that Charles Wesco would be sitting at home tonight with his wife and children. It is IFB beliefs that put Charles in the line of fire, regardless of his sincere intentions. Had it not been for his cult’s beliefs about divine calling, missions, and evangelization, Charles never would have packed up his wife and children and traveled more than 6,000 miles to a country torn by political strife and violence.

I lament the fact that Stephanie Wesco has lost her husband and her children have lost their father. No one should have to go through the pain they are going through. But, perhaps this tragic story will cause other IFB missionaries-in-training or on deputation to ponder whether they are really ready to sacrifice their lives or the lives of their families for Jesus. At the very least, I hope this story will end the practice of sending families to the mission field; that missionary work will be restricted to single men, much as the Mormons do or the Apostle Paul did 2,000 years ago.

I know my words will be misunderstood and I will be pilloried in IFB circles, but I felt it my duty to say what other want to say but won’t.

You can read Charles Wesco’s obituary here.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Missionary Kid: How I Learned to Say Goodbye by John Haines

missionary kid

Missionary Kid: How I Learned to Say Goodbye details the fascinating life of a friend of mine, John Haines. Raised in a devoutly Evangelical home, John spent much of his life on the foreign mission field as his parents attempted to win Moroccan Muslims for Christ. John later returned to the United States, and is now a professor at the University of Toronto where he teaches music, film, and things medieval.

John’s book is memoir, but written in a delightful conversational form.  I prefer this style of writing. Far too often, memoirs are page after page of boring minute details. Missionary Kid, instead, tells John’s life story in a way that allows readers to enter the story and travel along with the author as goes from Morocco to France and from Germany to the United States. If you are interested in reading a first person account of what it was like growing up in the home of Evangelical missionaries, this book is for you.

Missionary Kid: How I Learned to Say Goodbye comes in at 202 pages and can be purchased from Amazon, either in print ($9.95) or Kindle ($4.95) form.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Missionary Donn Ketcham — Serial Child Molester, Still Unpunished for His Crimes

donn ketcham

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

What follows is an excerpt from a feature story by my friend Kathryn Joyce detailing the decades-long criminal sexual behavior by Evangelical missionary Donn Ketcham and his sending agency’s (ABWE) coverup of his crimes. It’s only been in the last year that Ketcham has faced charges for one of his many crimes.

It was a hot day in July, a Saturday afternoon, and Kim James was bored. Her older sisters had taken her to a church event in their small hometown in Indiana, where the girls were spending their summer. Her parents were back in Bangladesh, working at the remote Baptist missionary compound where the family had lived, on and off, for five years. For an adventurous and high-spirited 13-year-old like Kim, Indiana seemed dull compared to Bangladesh. She missed her friends, the dozen or so missionary kids everybody called “MKs.” She missed the menagerie her parents let her keep: goats, cows, a parrot, a monkey. She missed the jackals that called in the distance at night, and the elephants that sometimes crashed through the compound fence.

As she thought about the mission, though, Kim felt troubled. Something was weighing on her mind. So she decided to skip out of the church event—it was for little kids, anyway—and go see the pastor. She found him in his office, trying to compose the next day’s sermon. Kim ambled around his desk, picking things up, putting them back down. Eventually, with feigned casualness, she pointed between her legs and said, “Is it wrong when someone does this—touches you here?”

The pastor dropped his pen and looked up. “Kim,” he asked, “has this happened to you?”

At first, Kim said no. But as the pastor gently persisted, she began to sob. Yes, she had been touched, there and there, lots of times.

The pastor asked Kim who had touched her.

Uncle Donn, she said.

Donn, the pastor would soon learn, was not really Kim’s uncle. He was Donn Ketcham, the 58-year-old chief doctor at the mission hospital in Bangladesh. His father had co-founded the Baptist denomination that sponsored the missionary group, the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism; its goal was to create a “militant, missionary-minded, Biblically separate haven of Fundamentalism.” Little known outside the world of Christian fundamentalists, ABWE is among the largest missionary groups in the United States, deploying more than 900 Baptists to 70 countries. His father’s legacy made Ketcham a sort of prince within the world of ABWE: the doctor with the “magical name,” as one missionary later put it, much beloved by the family of churches that supported the group. He’d been the undisputed patriarch of the Bangladesh mission for almost three decades.

Kim gave the pastor only a partial, fuzzy account of what had happened to her; as a child raised in a fundamentalist “haven,” she lacked the vocabulary to describe sex acts, let alone understand them. But rather than call Kim’s parents or contact the police, the shocked cleric turned to a higher authority, placing an urgent call to ABWE headquarters in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

That, Kim would realize many years later, was when the cover-up began.

….

It didn’t take long for Kim to wish that she had never said a word to her pastor. Two days after his emergency call to ABWE headquarters in Pennsylvania, two high-level staffers from the organization landed in Indiana. Kim came to think of them as “the Russes.” Russell Ebersole was ABWE’s executive administrator for the Far East. Russell Lloyd was a prominent counselor for the missionary group, eschewing traditional psychology for “Bible-based” therapy methods. They arrived at her pastor’s home looking grim and official, and immediately set about determining whether Kim’s story was true or merely “the exaggeration of an immature teenager,” as Lloyd put it in “Journey to Bangladesh,” a diary he kept about the case.

For the next two days, the Russes interrogated Kim with only the pastor and his wife present, and without the knowledge or consent of her parents, who were still in Bangladesh. “It was nothing like, ‘Kim, we’re going to be talking about some things,’ ” she recalls. “No taking time to get to know me—just point-blank, we have to do this fast.” Ebersole and Lloyd asked questions involving terms that Kim didn’t understand. Did Ketcham have intercourse with her? Had he touched her clitoris? “What’s that?” she responded, bewildered. “I think I was in shock. I’m 13, and I’m being taught the whole story of sex by these men.”

The Russes already knew that Uncle Donn had a sketchy past; Ebersole had personally fielded a complaint involving one of his affairs with an adult woman at the mission. But now Ketcham was being accused of molesting an underage girl—the first time ABWE officials had heard an allegation of child sexual abuse. As Kim struggled to answer their questions, the Russes became convinced that she was telling them the truth about Ketcham touching her. What they couldn’t believe, given fundamentalist precepts about the nature of sex and women, was that she was an innocent party. “It was lust in its most base form, uncontrolled in the body of a spiritually immature woman,” Lloyd wrote of the 13-year-old in his diary. Ketcham, he wrote, had become Kim’s “secret lover.”

The next thing Kim knew, she was flying back to Bangladesh with her two interrogators. Ebersole and Lloyd had decided to confront Ketcham by surprise, to prevent him from concocting a cover story in advance. However much they blamed Kim for the “affair,” they knew the doctor would have to leave the mission if he couldn’t exonerate himself. On the long flight, they sat Kim between them and continued to drill her with questions. At one point, when she got up to go to the bathroom, Kim weighed whether to tell a flight attendant that she’d been kidnapped.

The Russes “strongly encouraged” Kim to sign a statement, styled as a confession, in which she apologized for her role in a “relationship” that “transgressed God’s word.” She didn’t understand much of it, but she signed it anyway. “I did exactly what I was told,” she says. “I think I was trying to protect Donn, because I cared about him. So I said whatever responsibility I have is fine. I guess that’s the way I was raised: You accept your responsibility, and I wanted to accept mine.”

Across the world, her parents were in a panic. All they had received was a cryptic message that their youngest daughter would be flying back from Indiana alone with ABWE officers. Unable to reach their other daughters back in Indiana, the Jameses came to fear that something awful had happened to everyone but Kim. Had their other daughters been in an accident of some kind? Were they dead?

When the plane touched down in nearby Chittagong, Ken James was almost beside himself. “Are my other two kids alive?” he asked the Russes. Assured that their other daughters were safe and sound, the Jameses were almost relieved to hear the actual news: There had been some inappropriate touching, the Russes told them, between Kim and Dr. Ketcham. Nothing was said about a rape or a signed confession. Sue and Ken wouldn’t know about any of that for many years to come. “They said it was fondling,” Sue recalls. “We thought, ‘We can handle that.’ ”

But the parents were given no opportunity to “handle” the situation. ABWE was in charge, and Ebersole and Lloyd refused to leave Kim alone with her parents. The plan, the Russes explained, was to drive back to the compound and confront Ketcham in person. If Ketcham was caught off-guard when they arrived, however, he recovered quickly. The doctor blithely owned up to what he called a “bittersweet relationship” with Kim, characterizing it as one in a long line of extramarital indiscretions. Saying he wanted to start at “the real beginning” and confess it all, Ketcham recounted “illicit sexual relationships with other women” dating back to his college days and stretching through his nearly three decades at the compound. Lloyd was impressed by the accused man’s poise. Ketcham’s “sense of humor was intact,” he wrote. “His creative wit and clever use of words were still laced throughout his comments. He even laughed on occasion. It was as if he were describing someone else!”

Still, the Russes told him, he’d have to leave the mission. After Ketcham excused himself to go home and tell his wife what was happening, the men from ABWE were surprised to see the couple return in less than half an hour. According to Lloyd’s diary, he and Ebersole assured Kitty that her husband had not “seduced” the 13-year-old, that Kim had been “a willing partner.” And when they told the Ketchams they would have to leave the mission after nearly three decades, Kitty seemed as unaccountably unruffled as her husband. “Interestingly,” Lloyd wrote, “her only notable question pertained to how long they would have to pack and be off the field, and to the severance package that ABWE would give.” He chalked this up to “unspeakable shock,” predicting that “torment, rage, bitterness, resentment, betrayal, shame, embarrassment, grief—if not present then—would soon visit her.” The Russes, so indignant over Kim’s “lust in its most base form,” were brimming with sympathy for the Ketchams. “How we ached for both of them!” Lloyd wrote.

….

Donn and Kitty Ketcham flew back to the States and settled down in Allendale, Michigan. ABWE officials rallied around the couple. On their advice, Ketcham wrote a letter to the churches that had sponsored him, confessing to “sin,” but not to child sexual abuse. Ebersole sent his own letter, explaining that Ketcham had left the mission over “immoral conduct”—a vague charge that most interpreted as mere adultery. Ebersole asked the churches to keep funding the Ketchams for two more months, until they’d resettled and found jobs. “A beloved brother has fallen!” Ebersole wrote. “May God help us to biblically restore him and to help bear the deep burden that he and his dear wife, Kitty, carry at this time.”

Because no one from ABWE alerted police or the state medical board that Ketcham had confessed to sexually abusing a child 45 years his junior, he was able to return to practicing medicine and teaching Sunday school. He would go on to see patients for another 23 years. For years after their departure, ABWE president Wendell Kempton continued to write the Ketchams warm letters, sending “love and prayers.”

You can read the entire story here. I encourage you to read it. If you have any doubt as to why I publish the Black Collar Crime series, let this story settle your doubts.

In 2017, Ketcham was finally brought to justice for one of his crimes, albeit not the ones detailed in Joyce’s story.

Wood TV-8 reports:

A former missionary doctor accused of molesting 23 girls and young women decades ago on the other side of the world was in an Ottawa County courtroom on Friday.

Donn Ketcham, now 86 and living in the city of Wyoming, was never charged with the alleged sex crimes in Bangladesh because they happened so long ago and so far away.

But on Friday, he was ordered to stand trial on a charge of first-degree sexual assault, accused of molesting a girl at his practice in Allendale nearly a decade after leaving Bangladesh.

The ruling followed a preliminary hearing that included testimony from the alleged local victim.

She is now 23, but says she was 4 or 5 in the late 1990s when Ketcham assaulted her during an appointment at his office in Allendale.

“I guess what they call is, digitally penetrating me with his hand,” she testified.

She said it lasted 10 to 15 seconds.

She testified that her mom was in the room, but that Ketcham was standing between them, blocking her view.

She said she even recalls what she wore.

“I was wearing Tweety Bird overall shorts, I think,” she said.

The woman said didn’t report it to police until 2011.

“I had watched a TV show, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit,” she testified. “There was a case on there that was exactly like what had happened to me.”

Ketcham started working in Allendale after being banished in 1989 from the mission field in Bangladesh over allegations of sexual misconduct —  allegations covered up for years by the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism.

At first, the Ottawa County sheriff’s department, not aware of the old allegations, didn’t pursue the local victim’s case.

But detectives reached back out to her after Target 8 told the stories of five women allegedly molested by Ketcham in Bangladesh.

They said it happened when they were young girls, usually under the guise of medicine, some with their mothers in the room.

Carol Finlayson, the owner of Allendale Family Practice, testified for the defense on Friday. She said she started working with Ketcham in 1989 or 1990 at a nearby medical center. She said never heard a complaint about Ketcham.

“We had a wonderful working relationship,” Finlayson said. “He was admired; he was well-liked.”

Finlayson, a certified nurse practioner, said she treated the alleged victim for years as a child. She said she often came in for “minor issues” and said she never complained about Ketcham.

On Friday, Ketcham’s attorney questioned the local victim’s memory. The woman has been diagnosed with anxiety, depression and a medical condition that affects short-term memory.

“Do you think maybe the confusion or the memory problems might have muddled the TV show and reality?” defense attorney Matthew Borgula asked her.

“Absolutely not,” she responded.

He argued to dismiss the case.

“Her story has changed over time. It’s the defense’s position that there’s not even probable cause to believe that her story is true,” the defense attorney said.

….

In December 2017, Wood TV-8 reported:

The women identified as sexual assault victims of a former missionary doctor decades ago in Bangladesh say they never got their justice.

They thought that would finally change when a local woman came forward to report that the doctor from the city of Wyoming had molested her as a child.

But a year after Dr. Donn Ketcham was charged in Ottawa County Circuit Court, the case is still unresolved. Now, the women who say Ketcham molested them so many years ago at a Baptist missionary camp in Bangladesh wonder if they’ll ever get to face him in court.

“It felt like maybe something was finally going to happen to him because I knew there was nothing we could do,” said Sheryl Marshall, listed as one of Ketcham’s victims in Bangladesh.

….

The case in Ottawa County Circuit Court has been delayed repeatedly. The latest delay is to determine if Ketcham is competent to stand trial.

“We’ve gotten subpoenaed five different times and every time we get it in our minds that we’re going to go to this trial, we get a call or letter saying they’ve postponed it again,” Marshall said. “It’s very difficult.”

It’s difficult, she said, to draw on memories she’s tried a lifetime to forget.

“It’s both anger and frustration. I’m scared. It’s scary to think about testifying, so you try to prepare yourself, and then it doesn’t happen, so.”

Still, she said she wants to face Ketcham before he has to answer to God.

“Too many people need justice,” she said.

You can read about ABWE’s very much after the fact systemic changes here.

Black Collar Crime: Mennonite Missionary James Arbaugh Charged with Sex Crimes

james arbaugh

James Arbaugh Facebook Profile

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

James Arbaugh, a Mennonite missionary in Haiti, has been charged with “grooming and/or having sexual contact with approximately 21 males under the age of 18.” Arbaugh attended Mountain View Mennonite Church in Lyndhurst, Virginia.

The Mennonite reports:

James Daniel Arbaugh, a Mennonite missionary, has been arrested and charged with molesting children while serving in Haiti. On Nov. 21, The Daily News-Record of Harrisonburg, Virginia, reported that Arbaugh was arrested on Nov. 15 by a U.S. Homeland Security special agent. Court records show that Arbaugh, 40, was charged with felony coercion or enticement of a minor. Arbaugh attended Mountain View Mennonite Church in Lyndhurst, Virginia, a former Mennonite Church USA congregation, and was a board member for Walking Together for Christ Haiti.

The criminal complaint, filed with the U.S. District Court in Harrisonburg, states that “Arbaugh reported grooming and/or having sexual contact with approximately 21 males under the age of 18.” Arbaugh disclosed the abuse to a counselor during a Sept. 11 session. In Virginia, health-care providers are mandated to report child abuse to social services. According to the Daily News-Record, social services contacted the Harrisonburg Police Department, who then contacted federal agents.

Arbaugh traveled to Haiti from 2009 to 2015. According to a website where he documented his mission work, Arbaugh was a self-supporting “tentmaker” partnering with Walking Together for Christ in Haiti and involved in “media ministry.” The last post on the site is from July 2.

According to the complaint, on Sept. 15, Arbaugh allowed police to look at his laptop and showed police a picture of a 5-year-old boy, the son of a pastor at a church in Haiti, on the computer. The complaint states that Arbaugh confessed to molesting the boy.

The complaint states, “Arbaugh indicated he used his missionary work in Haiti to build friendships with the minors. Arbaugh acknowledged that he groomed the minors in Haiti by engaging in minor sexual activities with them so that one day they would be open to more.”

….

According to Lynn Suter, VMMissions Director of Operations and International Ministries, VMMissions has not partnered with Walking Together since its incorporation in 2015. Prior to that time, Suter says, VMMissions was engaged in intermittent work in Haiti and sent six short-term missions teams from 2003-2010. VMMissions is reviewing its records to determine the extent of its connections to Arbaugh. VMMissions has not found record of James Arbaugh having been employed as a missionary by VMMissions. VMMissions is calling on individuals with information about Arbaugh’s connections to the organization to contact Suter (lynn.suter@vmmissions.org). According to Suter, VMMissions and the Walking Together board will work to contact individuals in Haiti that Arbaugh may have been connected to.

Suter says that VMMissions first learned in September that Arbaugh had returned to the United States to receive professional counseling for unnamed “sexual sins.” VMMissions was told that Arbaugh was aware that if he divulged anything about his behavior that was illegal, the counselor would be legally required to report it to the authorities. VMMissions did not learn more about Arbaugh’s behavior until the Daily News-Record article was published on Nov. 21. VMMissions does not have information regarding the time frame when Arbaugh’s misconduct occurred.

“VMMissions strongly condemns the abuse Mr. Arbaugh has confessed and is alleged to have committed. We are heartsick for the victims and for the grievous misrepresentation of Christ and his church by someone who should have been trustworthy,” wrote Suter in a Nov. 30 email.

Suter says that VMMissions has procedures both to assess the fitness and conduct of individuals who apply for service with VMMissions, including criminal background checks.

“The revelation of Mr. Arbaugh’s conduct compels us to more closely examine the character and conduct of persons who are not appointed or employed with us but with whom we associate on the field and their own systems of accountability,” she wrote.

….

A February 6, 2018 report in the News Virginian states that James Arbaugh pleaded guilty and now faces up to 30 years in prison:

A Stuarts Draft man who prosecutors say traveled to Haiti as a Mennonite missionary to sexually abuse “multiple children” — some as young as 5 years old — pleaded guilty Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Harrisonburg.

James Daniel Arbaugh, 40, entered a guilty plea to the charge of traveling in foreign commerce to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a minor.

Arbaugh, of Stuarts Draft, will be sentenced in June. He faces a maximum of 30 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Arbaugh admitted to “engaging in illicit sexual conduct” with more than 20 boys while traveling in Haiti as a Mennonite missionary between 2008 and 2017, according to assistant U.S. Attorney Jeb Terrien.

The defendant would regularly visit remote towns and villages throughout the Caribbean nation, where he would “evangelize and show Christian-themed movies” to the residents, according to Terrien.

During these missionary visits, Arbaugh would befriend children in the communities and “groom” them to satisfy his sexual desires, the prosecutor said.

In all, he sexually abused 21 or more boys who were between the ages of 5 and 17 when the abuse took place.

….

Evangelical Missionary Matthew Durham Sentenced to 40 Years in Prison for Molesting Children

matthew durham

Evangelical missionary Matthew Durham was sentenced Monday to 40 years in prison for sexually molesting children while working at Upendo Children’s Home in Nairobi, Kenya. Durham, 21, “engaged in sexual acts with multiple children, male and female, aged between 4 and 10 years.” Casi Marlowe, a writer for Dead State, reports:

A U.S. federal court passed a 40 year prison sentence on a former missionary from Oklahoma for molesting children at a Kenyan orphanage. Twenty-one-year-old, Matthew Lane Durham, was accused of molesting eight children at the Upendo Children’s Home in  Nairobi, Kenya in 2014.

Although Durham claimed he did not molest the children, prosecutors revealed he told staff members at the children’s home that he had been possessed by an “evil spirit.” He also claims he doesn’t remember the crimes.

During a preliminary hearing, prosecutors revealed that a live-in caretaker at the orphanage said the children reported that Durham either touched them sexually or encouraged them to touch themselves while he watched. According to a criminal affidavit, Durham was confronted by the founder of Upendo along with several church members, where he allegedly confessed to his crimes.

Despite pleading not guilty to 17 charges last June, a federal judge found Durham  guilty on seven counts, including engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places. However he was acquitted on three of the counts by US  District Judge David Russell in January because the judge felt prosecutors failed to establish enough evidence that Durham had engaged in sexual acts with with (sic) one of the victims.

Prosecutors argued Durham used his position as a missionary to win the trust of the children in order to prey on them. But Durham’s attorney claimed his handwritten and taped confessions were coerced.  Officials at the children’s home only reported Durham to the authorities after sending him home to the United States.

….

In 2014 Durham told friends that he was possessed by a demon. Here are several screenshots of text messages Durham sent to his friends prior to his return home from Kenya.

durham text 1

durham text 2

durham text 3

Link to PDF of messages

Here is several screenshots of part of the July 18, 2014 amended Federal criminal complaint against Durham:

durham statement 1

durham statement 2

Full text of amended criminal complaint

Readers might remember my posts on Durham after he was arrested in 2014. Durham will be an old man before he is released from prison. I hope his story will serve as a warning to Evangelicals who use their position of authority to abuse, sexually assault, molest, and rape those who trust them to do no harm.

Notes

Durham attended and graduated from Crossings Christian School , an Evangelical institution located in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. His mother is a fourth grade teacher at Crossings.

2014 Heavy story on Durham

2014 Christian Post story on Durham

Another 2014 Christian Post story on Durham

2015 KFOR.com report on Durham’s trial

Another 2015 KFOR.com report on Durham’s trial

2016 PDF file of judge’s decision to dismiss three of the charges against Durham

Video of Durham’s confession to children’s home director

Video Link