Is New Tribes Mission culpable?

I think some of you would be surprised to know that though we only gave the link to this site to 70 MKs from Fanda, those 70 passed it on and more than 1000 people from NTM have visited the site in the two days it was up. Most of the anonymous commenters are not MK’s, but are former and current NTM missionaries who are righteously and rightfully indignant about being lied to by leadership about the type of environment they were placing their child into.

I’m not sure if you have children, but imagine this scenario if you will. You place your very young child into a boarding school where the child care provider (let’s call him Uncle D) has no qualifications or training to work with children. You are not informed that he also has at least one current claim of sexual abuse against him by a child. Uncle D will become your child’s surrogate father, working with your child day and night, tucking your child into bed at night. As he is unsupervised he has the ability to stay by their bed as long as he desires.

One child claims Uncle D was sexually inappropriate with her. This is while your child is sleeping a few beds over from this girl. The supervisor at the school does decide to talk with Uncle D about the abuse claim, but after Uncle D claims innocence and because the school has a shortage of workers the case is dropped, without talking to the child, or you, the child’s parent, or any of the children’s parents.

Now imagine one year later, another child who is no longer at the school claims she was molested by this same man, never having heard about the girl before her, thinking she was the only one bad enough to have brought this on herself. She tells her father who believes her, and he contacts the school. School officials believe her dad is making the story up to vindicate his reasons for not returning to his village. Her dad doesn’t give up and keeps petitioning until finally the school agrees to have a talk with Uncle D.

He admits he molested several of the girls at the school, but as he is already leaving the school due to personal issues the matter is considered solved and nothing is done about it. The matter is dropped since Uncle D is already gone, no parents are told anything about what happened including the parents of the girls he admits to molesting and in fact when parents try to get information they are admonished by the school officials to stop gossiping.

If your child had been in that school living with that child care provider, wouldn’t you want to be informed so you could talk to your child to find out if they were also abused and if so to get them some help?

In fact, wouldn’t you claim being informed was your right? Wouldn’t you be indignant as a parent that the school did not bring this matter to your attention? Let alone attempt to discipline the abusive childcare provider? Of course you would! In fact it IS your right to have that information relayed to you. Concealment of it by school officials is a crime.

Not one person here can claim that as a parent they would say to the school, well everyone makes mistakes. No biggie. No, they very well might forgive but for the sake of those abused children’s self esteem and for the protection of all of the next generation of kids who might grow up under the protection of those school officials they would want the school disciplined for their criminal negligence. This is healthy and right.

I am telling this from the perspective of a parent whose child may or may not have been molested. The school is culpable and should be.

In another post, I’ll tell you what it felt like to be one of the little girls who told and was called a liar by school officials and even after the abuse was admitted to was not called by the school and vindicated, was not mourned with, and was actually ignored and made to feel like she was the problem for nearly ten years until it became apparent that the problem was much too big to conceal any longer.
Then she received a form letter.


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23 Responses to Is New Tribes Mission culpable?

  1. Anon Parent says:

    Noel and I sent our children to NTM boarding school in good faith and on high recommendations. We were told 75% of MK’s that go thru the boarding school system end up on the field. So we went to the field feeling confident that our children would-be well looked after.

    As we observed our children at Fanda and felt that they were happy. They always had good reports from both teachers’ and dorm parents. After a while Noel and I found that maintaining our relationship with our children was becoming more and more difficult, communication was failing and when we asked our children what was going on in their lives we felt we were intruding.

    After taking a look at what was going on at Fanda we found that the children in general had no trust in adults and communication wasn’t good. There was an air of rebellion and self harm in some of the children. Our concerns at the time took us to talking with other dorm parents who observed the same as us but couldn’t put their finger on the reason.

    An incident of abuse had been reported, that didn’t account for the children’s attitudes. I went to a committee member and said that my concern for the children was so great I thought it would be good for the field to have a youth pastor, he told me that was the work of the dorm parents. I did a lot of reading of books on the field on raising children. One book in particular that really had lasting impressions was on me was about the reason for discipline, was it for approval of others, because I didn’t like the behaviour, or was it because it was a sin. This helped me to change my attitudes about some of the behaviours that our children were displaying or things that they wanted to do.
    I was very concerned about my daughter. I felt that she was showing signs of abuse and asked someone on the committee to speak with her which they did. I also went for help to executive committee and a psychologist on the field with another mission. I felt that I got very little help.

    Eventually after we got home we realised that our children were wounded soldiers from a war they did not choose to enter. And now we are still getting just as little help.

  2. Lyn says:

    Hi I have read these stories with horror and so much empathy. Me and my family have just left Senegal after having an emotionally and spiritually abusive time with WEC. I have had counselling and i am doing well but i recognise so clearly, like others the harmful effects of control and having to submit to a committee and being viewed as rebellious if one does not agree. Someone said in the blog that they lost their spirit led sense of direction and relied on leadership for their decisions. This began to happen to us, but by the grace of God we left before more damage was done. The crowning comment from a leader was that my counsellor report was not applicable to a missionary organization! So they are a law unto themselves then with no responsibility or accountability. Bless you all dear folk, Jesus will bring out the truth into the light.

  3. Kari says:


    Kate, the author of that article backlinked to this website because he referenced this site. Backlinks do not guarantee any kind of affiliation or agreement, just so you know.

    Sorry to hear about your childhood experiences.

  4. Kate says:

    I am 100% behind the Fonda MK’s getting the justice they need. I hurt for you guys though I don’t know all of your story(s). I think that it is disgusting and horrific that you all went through so much pain and yet there has been very little justice brought about. I know what it feels like to be abused. I was abused sexually, physically, emotionally and spiritually as a child. It has taken a good portion of my adult life to even recognize the abuse that I have suffered and the rest of it trying to heal and forgive those who have abused me. I have come to learn that forgiveness is the only way that I will be able to heal. That does not mean that justice should not be served. It just means that you don’t have to continue to let your abusers control your life any more! If you struggle, like I did, and want to begin that road to healing you might find this link helpful

    I love that this website is up and I love how much it is helping people. I don’t understand why the McNeal link has been posted. The man accused NTM of saying that the papacy is the “Anti Christ” I am sure no one here really believes that to be NTM’s stance. The rest of his claims that NTM is guilty of genocide are far fetched at best and his entire section on how NTM has been a bad neighbor is biased. I can see that and I don’t know what NTM has to say about it. This link to NTM in McNeal is distracting to your cause and it doesn’t give you credibility. The person posting that article doesn’t sound very credible at all and I think you would do better not to associate with him. He is twisting the information. “The senses deceive from time to time, and it is prudent never to trust wholly those who have deceived us even once” ReneDescartes

  5. Pingback: New Tribes expansion in McNeal, Arizona — No. « Cochise County

  6. Another Friend says:

    I note with sadness this statement from the “about” page of this site: “. . . [W]e were prepared for a possible backlash. . . ” when first putting up the blog.

    I had to read that several times for it to sink in. Even now, I can barely wrap my mind around it. What kind of Christians are we, that people who were abused as little children in a missionary boarding school would have any doubt about the full and unmingled support of the Christian public? Our godless society sends people to jail for abusing kittens, and these poor souls had cause to wonder if we care about kids? What, pray tell, has been communicated to them? By whom, and to what end? And, how?

    Yes, I know. People who are victims of abuse – abuse in any form – are often too traumatized, too embarrassed and feel too alone to speak out. This is proverbial in cases of adult domestic abuse (battered spouse syndrome). It is no less true in cases of child sexual abuse. But, when the victims have worked past the shame, the self doubt, the lonliness and the trauma, when they finally speak out, should they not have been able to do so in full confidence of our outrage at what had been perpetrated? Why would they think we think they are worth less than a kitten?

    Maybe the answer is both easier and more chilling than we dare to think.

    Consider the guest book entry by a person who checks this blog almost daily, hoping to see that New Tribes Mission has taken a firm stand and are fully supportive of “the least of these” – the children, now adults – who were harmed in what an NTM leader himself has called “those dark days at the boarding school.”

    This person wants to post anonymously, concerned lest their “New Tribes affiliation could possibly backfire on” them.

    How? How could their New Tribes affiliation possibly “backfire” on them for openly “rooting for both New Tribes to be who they can be [and] for the adult MKs”? Hands up, everyone who isn’t rooting for NTM to be who they can be! Even the bloggers are rooting for that. Hands up, everyone who isn’t rooting for the adult MKs! Even people embarrassed by the blog are rooting for them.

    How could there be the slightest hint of suspicion that NTM leaders would object to their missionaries’ publicly declaring themselves in favor of justice? Why does this guest fear the consequences of saying they are against child sexual abuse, that they are outraged at the conduct of the leaders with respect to this situation and they want NTM to take a firm stand? Please review the comments above, regarding abuse. “Abuse in any form” includes spiritual abuse, of which this attitude is symptomatic.

    A New Tribes Mission Executive Board member told the bloggers: “I can assure you that we have changed our leadership style and the way we work with people.” Yet, their missionaries react with this kind of fear and intimidation? What kind of “leadership style” is at work here? By whom, and to what end? And, how?

    Let’s be clear: When NTM missionaries show this low level of trust in their leaders, the bloggers (victims!) can be forgiven for having doubts, leadership style notwithstanding.

  7. Gene Long says:

    “I think some of you would be surprised to know that though we only gave the link to this site to 70 MKs from Fanda, those 70 passed it on and more than 1000 people from NTM have visited the site in the two days it was up.”

    If you want to clog up the web like Michael Jackson’s funeral, just start taking stories from other boarding schools!

    Also, almost as many adults have been spiritually abused in NTM as children have been abused.

    You are to be commended for getting this stuff out in the open.

  8. A Friend says:

    The truth makes people uncomfortable. The bible is full of people that spoke the truth regardless of its popularity. They were called prophets, and one was called Messiah. The road ahead of you is definitely tough, but I truly believe that the trials you have faced during the last 13ish years, that I have really gotten to know you, have all been preparing you for his stage of the journey. To me it says a lot that you are not doing what you are doing out of a selfish desire for revenge.

    It may just be that my biblical knowledge is lacking, but I do not know of anywhere in the Bible that it says it is OK to cover up sin as long as “God’s work” continues unhindered. NTM would do well to remember that it is not their job to “save people”, they are not a holy ghost sent out to change people’s hearts. They are God’s tools, and sometimes tools get dull or break down, and it is necessary to replace those tools.

    Bonnie, Kari, your parents, NTM, EVERYBODY all need to remember that what is happening now is not the victim’s faults. NTM has had 20+ years to address these issues in an appropriate manner and continues to refuse to do so.


  9. anonymous says:

    Just an FYI… if this had happened in many states in the US, NTM would actually be held criminally responsible for not reporting child abuse, and allowing it to occur w/o prosecution. In PA as of last year, a specific law was enacted to prosecute churches and religious organizations who decide to deal internally with abuse without reporting it to the authoritities…. If someone is a mandated reporter (anyone who works with kids, is a mandated reporter and required by law to report). and they choose to not disclose they can (and sometimes do) face jail time under the new law.

    I don’t know/if it’s possible what state NTM would be brought to court under, but it would be interesting to find out.

  10. Naomi Cleaves (Quilliam) says:

    If a gun is made by a curtain manufacturer and is used to kill someone, the one behind the gun is up for murder, if it happens again the same, and again, the same but if it happens too often, the gun is examined and found to be made faulty. It has a hair trigger and is going off when it is not supposed to. The manufacturer is then liable. And they are held culpable. NTM IS culpable.

  11. Bonnie says:

    Dear Parent from Senegal:
    I so appreciated reading your comment – it was beautiful.
    Thank you for posting here, and I hope that you and your family are able to find healing soon.

  12. Kari says:

    Esther, it’s Kari Mik from Chobo as well as Bonnie Clingerman and the input of several other MKs. Please share with us whatever is on your heart.

  13. Esther says:

    A horror movie indeed!
    I don’t want to say too much since i don’t know who is actually running this site…but THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for starting this blog!

  14. molly says:

    It makes me absolutely ill to think that loving parents would be tricked into putting their children in abusive care. For the organization to be aware of 2 consecutive abusers and to not radically move to not only communicate the problem with all members of their organization– but to also correct it. It’s just sick.

    It’s out of a horror movie.

  15. Diane says:

    Thank you Parent, for this honest, vulnerable message.
    Welcome to the struggle.

  16. A Parent from Senegal says:

    Dear Kari, Bonnie, Joie, Miriam, Vicky, Naomi, and all who have commented so far,

    I am so sorry for the things you have experienced. Thank you for caring enough to share your painful stories.

    As you courageously bring these things out in the light you are helping us all to grasp the magnitude of the destruction wrought by people convinced they were doing God’s work. You are amazing people who have been tested through fires that we cannot imagine. Your grace, depth and empathy shine like gold. We are proud to know you.

    Some are asking where the parents are. Many of us are grieving. We mourn for you, our little ones who were innocent and helpless, who needed us and we needed you. We are heartsick with regrets, guilt and sadness. We are feeling betrayed and also like betrayers ourselves. While many of us may not have realized that criminal acts were happening to our children, we know we are not excused. We are the ones who made the choices. We freely joined up with New Tribes Mission and gradually entrusted ourselves (and you) to their leadership, learning to trust less and less our own instincts and the gentle promptings of the Spirit. The paramount NTM values of ‘flexibility’ and ‘submission to leadership’ had been well internalized by the time we were ‘released’ from ‘boot camp’. Most of us were young, idealistic and naive when we signed ourselves up for ‘the most important job on earth.’ We knew so little about children’s needs except what we’d been taught in our narrow paradigm, which could be summed up easily in one simplistic concept: control.

    Some of us are still trying to sort out our own relationship with NTM and our past. I ask that you please continue to share your experiences, your thoughts and your struggles. You need to be heard. We need to hear you. However, I would hesitate to say that we parents should press our grown children for information that they may not be ready to share. But I want to let you know that we do want to be able to help you. Dear ones, you need not protect us any longer!

    Grace and Peace to you. We love you.

    I am withholding my name only out of respect for my own children’s privacy. Thank you.

  17. TimBurke says:

    “Concealment of it by school officials is a crime.”

    Though the abuse took place overseas, the NTM executive committee in Sanford FLA was aware that it occurred and yet did nothing. Therein lies their culpability. These crimes were concealed by the entire organization at the time it occurred and for at least 10 years after. Ultimately, the responsibility for this lies with the NTM executive. There are countless comparable examples of how the catholic church has been held liable for the actions of individual priests within their organization. This is no different.

  18. Aubrey says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with Melissa in saying that the greatest ministry of a mother and father is to raise their children in a Godly manner. That comes priority #1 before ministry because it is a ministry that God has called us to. We are raising the next generation to either love and honor God or to fear and despise Him. No one should be told what to do with their children so they can get on with “god’s work” specially a Christian orginization. That is why I will keep my kids close so they will never have to suffer the feelings of abandonment, fear and dibilitating shame.

  19. Melissa says:

    First of all i want to say that i’m proud of you all for standing up and speaking out about this. And i’m so sorry you had to go through something like that. No child should be treated like this!
    It saddens me that NTM has such a low view of the family. And that missionary’s had to send their kids away in the first place. That is totally against everything that God put in place for the family. The parents are the childrens protectors and that responsibility should not be handed off to some one else. Not even for the excuse that it was in order to do “god’s work”. God would not want the family broken up. That is exactly what satan has been trying to tell us and he even has christian families believing his lie.
    The greatest ministry a mother and father have is raising the children God blesses them with to love and serve Him. I would love for NTM, churches, and christians in general to start to view the family the way God does and to see the parents role in a family as a wonderful ministry in and of itself.

  20. Mark Terpstra says:

    I second Joie’s comment about tackling these issues with your parents. I’m thankful for God’s redemptive work in my life. And I have to say that my parents (Jim and Jan Terpstra) played such a huge role – they were there with me every step of the way as I faced my emotional struggles.

    Let me just add that over a few years of Christ-centered counseling, God revealed to me a huge *lie* I believed as a child – the lie that my parents didn’t love me because they sent to boarding school. This was a lie from the source of all lies…the one who delights when we live our lives believing destructive lies.

    Of course my parents loved me. In fact they never ceased to be my advocate at Fanda (and even pulled me from Fanda that last two years). But this didn’t stop me from deep down believing this lie implanted in me when I was a child – a lie that contributed to my emotional problems and destructive behavior.

  21. joie says:

    i imagine a lot of the parents who have children who attended fanda during this time period are carrying around huge amounts of guilt. guilt that they didn’t pay attention; guilt that perhaps they didn’t believe their kids; guilt that they didn’t force them to talk because they the parent was afraid of what might come out; maybe even guilt that they sent their kids away to school in the first place. we mk’s are very susceptible to feelings of protecting our parents as we are trained to do so from a very young age – it can be a dangerous combination that makes for secret keeping.

    however, it’s never to late to start. as someone whose family has tackled all of these secrets, i can assure you that honesty and forgiveness can result in a beautiful family relationship.

  22. victoriafrayne says:

    For me, my parents are my greatest advocate. This issue is not “new” but to my family, it’s something new to deal with.

  23. Val says:

    I am the bestfriend of a victim. One of the things I have been stuggling with the most recently is that the victims of these terrible crimes have no voice but their own. Where are their avocating parents?
    Why isnt it the parents of the victims that have a website for their children, or meetings with the mission, or a quest for truth and healing regarding the matter? I understand that this is a huge weight to carry, but ignoring the truth and refusing to help carry the burden is a sin. This saddens me greatly.

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