Where Is the Victory?

by Tamara Barrick Rice

I like documentaries. I’ll admit it. I’m kind of a “doc” snob, actually. But when I finally sat down to watch All God’s Children about the horrific MK abuse in the 1960s at Mamou, a Christian & Missionary Alliance boarding school, my heart just wasn’t prepared to be that broken.

The Time Machine
First, there was the obvious realization as I watched, that all missionaries in the 60s still dressed as if it were the 50s–whether Baptist missionaries in Bangladesh or C&MA missionaries in Africa. (It’s as if there were a missionary dress code back then, right?) So these pictures and images along with the hymns being sung on the documentary’s soundtrack, instantly transported me to the far away place I spent my own childhood. Where time sometimes seemed to stand still, in part because people often dressed, so charmingly and with admirable innocence, just a few decades behind American fashion.

But for me, the soundtrack of All God’s Children was one of the hardest parts. Music is like my time machine. And maybe there is just something about the sound of 30 to 40 American missionaries singing hymns in a brick building with a tin roof and a concrete floor and a badly tuned piano that pushes me over the edge.

Memories that should be beautiful, songs that should be sacred, are tainted for me, because quite often the man leading us in my mind, the man singing the best and the loudest in the chambers of my little time machine … is not someone I want to remember.

No Justice for the Abused
But more than that little trip in my time machine, when I watched All God’s Children, and I heard the stories of horrible abuse at Mamou, I was struck with the repetition of an awful phrase: “No charges filed.”

These crimes happened on foreign soil, you see. And so even those abusers who have confessed their guilt are seemingly immune to real justice, because our laws have not yet (not yet) been altered to protect little American children on foreign soil.

The Other Side of Injustice
In contrast to All God’s Children, I recently sat down to watch Witch Hunt, about the wrongful child abuse convictions of about a dozen or so parents in Kern County, California. These people were victims of ambitious prosecutors and investigators who did not know what they were doing in the 1980s–investigators who would interrogate 6-year-old children for hours on end, until they got the answers they wanted. Innocent people were sent to prison on outrageous charges of child molestation for as many as twenty years in one case, before convictions were finally overturned and these individuals were set free by these same children (now adults) taking a stand for truth.

I began Witch Hunt as a skeptic, thinking I wouldn’t feel much sympathy for the accused. But by the end I was weeping, just as I had in All God’s Children. There are several parallels between these documentaries. One is this: Little children are powerfully influenced by the adults in authority around them. The other follows closely and logically: Little children must sometimes grow into adults before they are able to speak the truth and seek justice, speaking out against the authority figures of their childhood. And, speaking of truth and justice, both documentaries contain the same third painful reality: That justice in this life is sometimes just out of reach.

Where Is the Victory?
You can’t give people back years of their lives. You just can’t. And you can’t give someone a new childhood.

So where is the victory for all of these people? Truth has finally been spoken, but will justice ever really be in their grasp?

I admit I was torn for a while, pondering these thoughts about truth and justice and victory in my head. And then an old hymn began to echo in my mind this morning, by John Yates and Ira Sankey: “Faith Is the Victory.” I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I can’t even begin to guess the last time I heard it sung, and yet there it was … stuck in my subconscious, like a little splinter in my heel. I couldn’t get it out.

And then I began to realize that maybe right there in that hymn lies the answer: That sometimes the only victory in this life is our faith — being able to hang onto it, no matter how much injustice we see. I’m  not sure that’s what Yates and Sankey meant, but it’s how I hear that chorus this morning:

Faith is the victory!
Faith is the victory!
O, glorious victory,
That overcomes the world.

As I looked up the hymn in my old hymnal, my eyes were drawn to the song that followed it, just below the chorus on the page. It’s one I was not familiar with, called “Peace, Perfect Peace.” So I read the lyrics.

Peace, perfect peace, in this dark world of sin?
The blood of Jesus whispers peace within.
Peace, perfect peace, by thronging duties pressed?
To do the will of Jesus, this is rest.

I have much on my heart today, but oddly enough God sent calm through these hymns, which are, to me, unlikely messengers. But they are there in my heart and right in front of me despite my sometimes adverse reaction to the worship music of my childhood.

I do think that holding onto faith is our victory, and I do think that doing the will of God is our peace. For me, I intend to work toward justice, as I believe that is the will of God. And I will not let injustice crush my faith along the way.

There is still work to be done, to protect the children of American missionaries, to get justice for the children of American missionaries who are now grown adults.

And I hope that you will stay with us through this journey, no matter how long it takes or how many times we must remind each other again and again to hold to the balance of justice and mercy and to cling to our faith as we do the will of God, wherein our own peace may be found.

And maybe living in — make that thriving in — that continuous pattern, in all it’s tiresome redundancy and beautiful simplicity, will be our sweet victory.

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About Bangladesh MKs Speak

We are a group of American former missionary kids (MKs) who lived in Bangladesh while Donn Ketcham worked as a missionary doctor there with the mission agency Association of Baptists for World Evangelism (ABWE) out of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
This entry was posted in Abuse Mishandling, Abuse Response Resources, Stories and Discussion of Documents and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Where Is the Victory?

  1. Dave DeCook says:

    Tamara, thank you for that beautiful, thoughtful post. I like knowing a few documentary snobs because I can benefit from their summaries without having to do the research. I feel so lucky to not have my enjoyment of precious hymns ruined by the memory of DK. Your quotes from both of those hymns instantly brought the melodies and the very spirit of those hymns alive in my heart. Thank you. I laughed at your comments on the clothes. Don’t we always laugh at what we wore back whenever? But it is kind of silly that it was done to such extremes (suit and tie in the tropics?) and with such conviction. Your theme reminded me of the title of one of Dr. James Dobson’s last books “Hanging on to your Faith When God Doesn’t Make Sense.” I hope this is what we are all fighting for. It will have the victory. It will overcome the world. We can take the worst the enemy has to dish out and may at times be down, but we are never out. We can indeed, “somehow, attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Phil. 3). I do think it will be the larger and more glorious victory if we do it together and to that end, I tip my hat to the blog contributors and the blog moderators. Keep it coming, my brothers and sisters!

  2. Ruth says:

    This is a beautiful and thought provoking response to the tragedy of living in a broken world. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  3. amazed says:

    Tamara, that film was heart wrenching. I’m one of those who read everyday, but have no real connection except through church circles. My faith is being strengthened by this website. This blog has brought into my life a spiritual struggle to think Biblically about these issues. Thank you please know that I’m praying. Thanks be to God who gives the victory! Will continue to visit and pray.

  4. Catherine says:

    Tamara,

    What a beautiful post. I too was transported back to a place and time through the images and music in All God’s Children. Had to watch it in sections, as I was overwhelmed with emotion and tears. Look forward to getting to know you in the months to come.

    Blessings,
    Catherine
    Twitter: @soundsblue
    https://www.facebook.com/soundsblue

  5. Tim Habeger says:

    This film is one of the strongest arguments I’ve heard about how our words must match our actions when raising children — or when hoping for a better world.

  6. Mamou Survivor says:

    Tamara, thank you for putting into perspective the two sides to abuse and justice in such a humble and objective way. It spoke volumes to me and echos some of the thought processes I have had over the many years since I was at Mamou in the early 60’s. The music of that era also evokes powerful emotions and memories in me. Strangely enough I was reading Isaiah chapter 61 this very morning and the verse that stuck in my mind follows closely on to Isa 61:8 (verse 10): “I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”

  7. Tamara Barrick Rice says:

    Thanks for all the great feedback, friends. I especially appreciate those from Mamou who chimed in here. I truly stand in admiration of those who clung to faith when the faith that was presented to them as children was so stained with sin and life-altering cruelty.

    I hope that films like the ones I mentioned here will move those whose human capacity for compassion is feeling the strain of our culture’s short attention span. We are called to love justice and mercy and need to keep fighting for these things. We cannot all choose the same causes or every cause, but for those who can stomach it, this — justice for abused MKs — is truly a worthwhile cause. It’s proving to be as rampant as abuse here in the States. Our parents gave up much to see others on the other side of the world know the love of God. I consider it a challenge and honor to sacrifice some time and talents now to show fellow MKs the love of God. God is not pleased by lies and he is not pleased by injustice.

    Dave mentioned a book here and our Mamou Survivor offered a comforting verse. I would invite anyone else who has a book or verse (or another documentary/movie) to suggest to inspire readers to cling to faith and/or work for justice in this area, please go ahead and list them here. If you cannot get links to work with the html codes, we can try to add them as moderators.

  8. Susannah Goddard Weldy says:

    Faith is the deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you may not understand at the time. – Oswald Chambers

    Daily, I choose to have faith- not in “men or women of God”- but in God Himself.

  9. Susannah Beals Baker says:

    Tamara,
    Thank you so much for your moving post. I think it’s interesting that so many verses in the Bible that talk about righteousness speak of justice in the same verse. Just a few of these verses, for those who want to look them up, are Psalm 9:7-10, Psalm 89:14, Isaiah 9:7, Isaiah61:8, and Luke 11:42. “But woe to you Pharisees! For you pay tithe of mint and rue and every kind of garden herb, and yet disregard justice and the love of God; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others”. I think it’s both interesting and sad that so many Christians seem to have embraced God as a God of love and mercy, which He is, but thrown out the idea(and verses) of God being a God of justice. I have had numerous Christians tell me to my face that I should “just forgive, and not pursue this (justice).” Have I felt bitter at times because of this response? Yes. Does pursuing justice mean that I am not also pursuing forgiveness? NO!!! My question for the day for those of you following the blog is,” Do you think that you can pursue justice and forgiveness at the same time and do you really believe that God is a God of justice as well as mercy? ” One other question. Is justice a component of righteousness, according to scripture?
    Susannah Beals Baker

    • watching closely says:

      Forgiveness deals with you and your heart attitude. To forgive another you must change your heart attitude and maybe even your actions towards them.

      Loving justice and mercy is how we call others to accountability. We have a justice system to hold people accountable for their behavior and to deal with misbehavior.

      God’s system of justice is the model, though we don’t always imitate it very well. God can require justice and still offer mercy and forgiveness. I see no reason why we can not go through the process of forgiving others and yet call people (ourselves and others) to justice. Part of dealing with wrong behavior is to find a deterrent so that bad behavior is not repeated.

      In the case of the various types of abuse suffered by the BD MK’s, justice comes into play as a way of trying to insure that this kind of thing does not happen again. Forgiving without calling for justice seems to deal with only a small portion of the problem.

  10. Deb says:

    Thank you for this post, Tam. I haven’t watched the documentary yet. Sometimes it takes me years to work up the courage to watch tragic nonfiction, and I avoid all abuse movies.
    But your commentary is beautiful. And also painful.
    The time warp puts a “Leave it to Beaver” and/or “Brady Bunch” innocence to those days visually, and it’s hard to reconcile with what we know was happening to children and families.
    One line from the chapters about Wess Stafford’s life at Mamou in the book “Too Small Too Ignore” sticks out to me. When his father was dying he said, “I’m sorry that our service in Africa came at such a high price for you.” I got to that part of the book and just cried and cried for the children and the parents — both in Mamou and in Bangladesh.
    And about victims not being able to address it until they were adults — this is probably why statue of limitations laws are changing across the country. It takes a tremendous amount of strength to speak out.
    It’s disheartening to me to read the response to the video on the C&MA website:
    http://www.cmalliance.org/about/beliefs/perspectives/child-safety/
    It’s a good start, compared to the past, but to me, it’s just not enough. “Hurt” does not begin to cover what happened.
    Praying fervently that ABWE does far more.
    It makes no sense that Americans who commit crimes against Americans in other countries cannot be prosecuted. Especially with mountains of evidence.
    Though nothing will ever recover a lost childhood, God only knows how many children will be spared horrific abuse because the MKs of Mamou and Bangladesh are speaking out so boldly and publicly.
    Thank you.

  11. isaiah 61:8 says:

    BLOG NOTICE: IF YOU HAVE INFORMATION FOR GRACE, PLEASE SEE THIS POST.

  12. Tam, thanks for your response to the documentary. Although I had been a strong advocate for reform for 15 years before being taped for that doc, I had never told my story publically before – even to close friends, for that matter (though my therapists had heard most of it!). But suddenly I knew I wanted to break through that shroud of secrecy and I wanted to tell the darker parts of story. I did it with intention, not spontaneously. But….. I still appreciate the feedback from others that it was alright to tell “the secrets” and that they can handle my story. So thanks for your response.

    On to MKSafetyNet. We have been an advocacy group since 1999, generally working with individual MK’s who wanted personal support or advice re. reporting abuse to their denominations. We have also been advocates for reform in child service protection policies, and in how investigations into abuse are conducted.

    One of our mandates at MKSN is to make it a safe place for everyone, regardless of where their spiritual journey has taken them. This has not always come easily, because although almost all of us started in very evangelical Christian communities, we are in diverse places in our beliefs now. Our goal is for everyone to be safe to express themselves, and that there is open dialogue.

    I have read your blog with interest, and am amazed at the energy and good-will here. We would love to find ways to work together with you, to work towards common goals and to take on new ones, e.g. change in legislation so pedophiles and those that protect them are not protected from the criminal justice system.

    In the next week or so we will be posting information about our first MKSN Conference, which will be April 20-22, 2012 in Chicago. If some of you can make it, it would be a great opportunity to meet one another and look at ways of expediting change in the world of missions and MK’s. But we would also like to start that relationship now. Check out our website (it’ll have a facelift by the end of August) and Facebook and be in touch. Warmly, Beverly

  13. Steven C. Pittman says:

    I am an MK from Africa and never suffered the sexual abuse that has been so horribly described by the events of BD, Senegal, and the CMA one. There are most surely others. There was abuse at the schools I attended and many MKs who never made it back out of the rain. I thank God for everyone who did. My prayers are with all of you. As an MK I have an instinctive distrust of Mission Boards. The politics of it all is so frustrating and yet they have been used by God to send thousands and thousands of missionaries all over the world and provide services that have facilitated missionary work. However, it seems that it is all too easy to slip into running a missionary organization as a secular corporation. You who are revealing the rottenness that seems to have invaded sacred precincts are doing a work that is having results. I know of a major mission board that is writing an abuse policy that has teeth. Thanks for the memory of the nostalgic hymn singing we all used to do and I still do, however not in the context of Africa. May the God of peace richly bless all of you abused MKs who are my brothers and sisters in our own unique fraternity. I am watching and praying and seeking to use my influence to make sure the missionaries sent out with whom I have to do are godly. In the end though “faith is the victory that overcomes the world” and when the LORD Jesus Christ comes back He will fix everything, even broken lives. He will also administer true justice. God speed the day. God bless y’all.
    Maverick

    • isaiah 618 says:

      Thank you for sharing with us and for your encouraging words to help us persevere, even on days when we would prefer to do otherwise. You’re right. All mk’s have that bond that stays strong throughout one’s life. Nobody can understand an mk as well as another mk.
      Susannah Beals Baker (In reply to Steve Pittman)

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