A Healthy Mission Board for MKs

We are often asked what a healthy mission board/field for MKs would look like. While we don’t have all the answers, we definitely have some thoughts.

  • In the initial hiring process of missionaries several things should happen:
    • Thorough background checks of prospective missionaries
    • Thorough sexual abuse prevention and response training
    • Waivers signed stating that the mission knows of no allegations of abuse regarding any of the coworkers (nationals and missionaries) on the field where the missionary will serve and that they will be notified immediately in writing if any come to light at any point, even if no longer with the board. [NOTE: Addendum in light of some insights from a friend. Let’s call this a “commitment” or “covenant” not a waiver, and let’s include supporting churches in this covenant. That supporting churches will be notified immediately and with specificity of any breaches of morality clauses by any missionaries they support.]
  • On the field several things should be considered:
    • Discontinuing the forced “aunt” and “uncle” tradition, which creates a false sense of intimacy and trust before trust has been earned
    • Don’t allow the team to make decisions for individual families. Families must maintain their autonomy as an independent unit, capable of making their own choices of what is best for their children in all matters: education, housing, friendships, etc.
    • Consideration for the impact a male dominant culture can have on young girls, if the missionaries are stationed in such a culture. (For example on the Bangladesh field girl MKs lived very sheltered lives, while male MKs enjoyed a lot of relative freedom. A greater effort could have been made to ensure that while girls were safe, they were also not internalizing the unhealthy messages of the surrounding culture regarding their value, their voice compared to males.)
    • [Addendum: A friend mentioned just now the importance of MKs being able to contact a third party on their own to tell, without fear and intimidation. A hotline via email if not phone. A way they can speak up safely. They should all know this contact info from heart or have it posted in their MK school. Amen!]
  • At the home office several things should always be in place:
    • Total transparency regarding allegations of abuse and investigations into abuse. (All churches must know, all missionaries must know.)
    • A commitment to report all allegations in the US and abroad, if foreign soil issues exist.
    • A commitment to never interview a child without parental supervision. [Addendum: Per an insightful comment below, when the accused IS the parent, other arrangements must be made. And the interviews should always be done by third-party professionals.]
    • A commitment to never withhold information regarding  a minor from a parent.
    • A strict zero tolerance policy regarding their morality clause.
    • A true third party to investigate all claims after they have been reported to legal authorities.
    • Legal support for any missionary families who want to press charges against a fellow missionary for child abuse.

So that’s a starting place. Do you have any thoughts or anything to add, especially those of you who are missionaries or former MKs?

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.
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9 Responses to A Healthy Mission Board for MKs

  1. paulspassingthoughts says:

    Yes, this is the most substantive statement made since this whole mess broke. If ABWE would implement something like this post haste, it would facilitate a lot of healing. I would add a Matthew 18 process for the local sending churches. A rep. from ABWE should be required to meet face to face with the leadership of the sending church. This would be in addition to contacting the authorities of course.

  2. If the abuser is a parent and I do know of a case the parents should not be present. If done in the US there is no reason for the mission to interview a child it should be done by a professional not associated with the mission. All interviews with children should be professionals who are trained to interview children who have been abused. Missions must get everything about abuse out of house or they become part with the abuser. If it happens outside US the mission should pay the cost of sending a third party person who knows how to interview children who have been abused to do the interview. I know that is expensive but that would sure say a lot to MKs that they are not just in the way of the mission.

    • isaiah 618 says:

      Great point about parents. I guess I would refer to what police do in cases of needing to interview a minor–whatever that may be. And speaking of police, why not always involve them from step one in such cases? From the very first phone call. And all great points about professionals only and third-party only. You do not want the abuser’s pal doing the interview, under any circumstances. Horrific mistake, as proven by ABWE in 1989.

      – TR

    • D Bos says:

      Very good point about the need for professionals to interview children. I have been present and had the privilege of working with some professionals in our area who do just that. They are very good at what they do. I had been a little skeptical going in about whether or not the interviewer would use leading questions or manipulate the responses of the child. I was pleased to see they did not do this.

      Also, during these interviews, the children were interviewed separately from the parents. The interview with the parent/s took place in one room and at the same time the interview with the child was going on.

      Another interesting thing to note: the interviewers (social workers, detectives) for girls’ interviews were women. The nurse and the doctor doing the physical exam (usually part of the procedure at this particular place) were women. I do not know what they do when the victim is a boy because I was not present at any of these interviews. I’m sure the center I’m describing has a protocol for this too.

  3. This certainly should be passed on to all mission boards. I am kind of glad to see the statement about the “aunt and uncle” intimacy. I mentioned this when the blog had just started and most were not happy with my thinking on it. Some mentioned that it helped alleviate missing true family and I do understand that but I reckon this could possibly be just another way a pedophile can use his victims. We raised our children on the mission field and some missionaries did want to get this started but we were totally opposed and assured them we would not have our children calling fellow co-workers “aunt and uncle.” Just my personal feelings mind you. Full stop.

  4. Dona Martin says:

    I strongly support your “A Healthy Mission Board for MKs” statement! Thank you for all the thought and work of preparing such a succinct document.

    I also agree with the posted comments. A few of those which really stand out to me are: (1) A representative of the mission board “meet face to face with the leadership of the sending church.” (2) Anyone interviewing the child needs to be trained for that specific need. (3) The person interviewing the child must never be a friend of the accused, or possibly not even from the same mission board.

  5. amazed says:

    Seeing as how the parents were bypassed in the 1989 incident the ABWE board should contact or have the church contact the parents or guardians immediately. To me the local Pastor in this situation was just as wrong because instead of contacting the legal guardians at the time he contacted ABWE- ABWE should then have a rule that they will ask and determine if the parents are informed from the start of the process. To me the local Pastor should have insisted that he, himself talk to the parents even if out of country. I know you are only dealing with ABWE, but they should have a rule about outside people and parental rights IF the parent is not the abuser.

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