As we take time to recognize Child Abuse Prevention Month, Christians must acknowledge that there are still many dark places inside the Church.

Places where children wake up each day fearing that they will be once again beaten.

Places where children who live in fear each night about what will happen when the lights go off.

Places where children are physically and sexually abused by the very adults they are taught to love, trust, and obey.

Places where those who profess Jesus turn around and destroy the lives of little ones.

Places where all too often the Church ignores the painful cries of victims while embracing their abusers as “model Christians”.

Places where abuse survivors are marginalized and allowed to drown in darkness and isolation by the very Church who is called to pursue and embrace them.

Places where the lives and souls of those made in the image of God are destroyed.

During the past twenty years,  survivors have taken time to share with me the indescribably painful impact that such dark places have had upon their life.  Here are just a few:

Because of my abuse on the mission field, I absolutely DESPISE anybody who calls themselves a Christian.

I have no desire to share the gospel.  My experience with abuse has destroyed any spirituality that I had with Christianity.  I would like to have something to share with my children besides Santa Claus. I hope I will understand God one day.

At age 13, I was so disillusioned with Christianity that I preferred to be in hell.   

How do we respond?

How do we respond to those who have been so gravely hurt by people who profess Jesus?  How do we respond to these amazing survivors who get up each day struggling with trauma, shame, self-worth, abandonment, and a lifetime of processing the pain and the all too often failed responses of the Church?  How do we respond when these beautiful people have been overwhelmed by the darkness?

In his powerful book entitled, The Return of the Prodigal Son, Henri Nouwen writes, People who have come to know the joy of God do not deny the darkness, but they choose not to live in it.  They claim that the light that shines in the darkness can be trusted more than the darkness itself and that a little bit of light can dispel a lot of darkness.  They point each other to flashes of light here and there, and remind each other that they reveal the hidden but real presence of God.

Speed of Light - photo courtesy of Aleta Rodriguez via Flickr

Speed of Light – photo courtesy of Aleta Rodriguez via Flickr (Image source)

If we Christians profess to know the joy of God, why is there so much darkness within the Church?  Why have we not pursued, protected, and embraced the precious souls trapped in the dark places.  I am convinced that it is only when we begin to live out what we say we believe about the Gospel, that the flashes of light will overcome the darkness and the presence of God will be revealed.

What do those flashes of light look like?  I believe they look like Jesus and are fueled by the Gospel. Let me explain:

The Gospel is all about a God who was not silent when confronted by evil, regardless of the ultimate consequence…death.  The Gospel is what fuels each of us not to be silent when confronted by the evil of child abuse regardless where it happens, who commits it, or the consequences we may face when we confront it.

The Gospel is all about a God who is the pursuer of hurting souls.  The Gospel is what fuels each of us to pursue and love those who are suffering from the ravages of abuse.

The Gospel is all about a God who is most approachable by those who have been marginalized and discarded by the religious people.  Just ask the woman at the well, the leper, Zaccheus, the list goes on and on.  The Gospel is what fuels each of us to be approachable by those everyone else has hurt or ignored.  I heard Bob Goff recently say, “Jesus didn’t run around holding everyone accountable, he just held them close.”  We are approachable to the hurting when we simply love them without strings attached, while demanding accountability for those who inflict evil.

The Gospel is all about a God who did His most powerful work when His Son was most vulnerable and transparent – naked on the cross.   The Gospel is what fuels each of us to be real with those who are in deep pain.  This means I am free to weep with those who weep, and not to have the answers to every question.  This means that I am free to expose my own vulnerabilities and fears as I love those around me.

The Gospel is all about a God who never lets us go!!  Did you hear that?  Let me say it one more time…God never lets us go!  The Gospel is what fuels each of us never to let go of the survivors God has privileged us to call friends.  The Gospel is what fuels each of us never to give up on these beautiful human beings made in the image of our great God.  In fact, I often pray that these dear friends will never give up on ME!

When we are fueled by the Gospel, flashes of light begin to reflect Jesus upon the most amazing people stuck in the darkest of places. This reflection overcomes the darkness and brings forth hope.

A Church filled with flashes of light will lose its dark places to safety, love, acceptance, and authentic joy.

A Church filled with flashes of light will shine forth Jesus.

A Church filled with flashes of light will be beautiful beyond description.

A Church filled with flashes of light is something I long to be a part of.

Will you join me?

23 Comments

  1. Hey Boz, as always you put into words what we as survivors feel. And you are brave enough to confront the evil within the church we love, or did love. Fortunately for folks like myself, we have regained our faith, but so many are still lost in the darkness and it’s up to us to expose the predators, as you say, “no matter the consequences”. I look forward to speaking with you.

  2. Comment marked as low quality by the editors. Show comment

    Why are you excusing those who dislike dislike Christianity but even those are hostile toward Christians? Does the evil of others done to survivors allow open willful disobedience toward God’s Word? My family member is one of not only hostile but is out for revenge. If she has her way those who sinned against her many years ago to be confronted in earthly courts. She’s the one who is choosing to bring this all up again after decades.

    Don’t we have a continued call to repentance that is tempered with grace and not characterized by bitterness, vindictiveness and discord?

    Bitterness, vindictiveness and discord are what Satan uses to tear families and churches apart.

    I find it sad that you, Mr. Tchvidjian, as a professing Christian, would defend such behavior!

    • Cindi –

      Please forgive me if I’m misunderstanding….but it appears you’re rather upset with your family member.

      It appears to me that things may be much deeper for your family member to willingly put herself through having to be interviewed by investigators, police investigators, investigators with an district attorney’s office, meeting with Assistant District Attorney’s and be asked questions regarding painful and personal details. Often the same questions over and over…..until you have been interviewed like this and have paid the price for seeking justice with your own mental and physical health with hours of your life.
      Hours of your life you won’t get ever get back.
      Believe it or not,those interviews are their very own sort of trauma.

      Please be willing to step back for a moment.

      Isn’t also possible what you think of as outward anger is your family member saying a really loud OUCH? Isn’t it more likely your family member has been living in her own private hell all of these years? That keeping such secrets were silently killing her?

      Has your family member discussed her case with you? If not, where have you been hearing of her accusations?

      Is it possible that you’re hearing these things from one of more of the accused…or perhaps even from some who *fear* they may be among the accused?

        • Boz Tchvidjian,

          I don’t think so.
          You use your blog and the media to encourage those hostile to Christ and toward Christians.

          As a result, Instead of being willing to suffer wrong some people choose to bring Christians before the Worldly courts giving an platform for Christ and His church to be ridiculed and mocked by the Ungodly. (I Cor. 6:1-8)

          Once again, as a professing Christian why are you encouraging those consumed with bitterness, vindictiveness and discord?

          • Cindi:

            Let me get this straight. You have a family member who has had not just sinful behavior, but criminal activity forced upon her. You know, sexual abuse *is* criminal activity. While the Bible does strongly discourage Christians to take civil matters to worldly courts, it certainly does not forbid us from dealing with proper authorities in criminal cases. Why would you choose to punish a family member for seeking the justice God more than allows for in such a horrible situation? Do you not love your own family? Do you want abusers to run free to harm others — or maybe even you someday?

            Seeking justice has nothing to do with the horrible things you are saying about your family member. Nothing at all. I hope someone who truly loves Christ is there to show him or her the love you refuse to give.

          • sharyhauber@gmail.com

            Cindi maybe this will help you understand why some you say are filled with bitterness, vindictiveness, and discord.

            I truly love God who loved me unconditionally long before I loved him. But what churches and missions have done in my life has brought me much heart ache. This is by another MK but describes much of what many abused MKs feel.

            There is no flash of light
            No Jesus shining through
            The church is just a hollow place
            For me and quite a few

            No one ever asks
            Why we fill not a Sunday seat
            I mean really really asks
            Not the old lines do repeat

            Lines about forgiveness
            Letting go and letting God
            But when you’ve been to hell and back
            Letting go is very odd

            Few even know the truth
            Of a mission field of hate
            Where souls of Missionary Kids
            Become the Agnostic Late

            Beaten, raped, molested
            By those who faked their call
            This had nothing to do with Love of God
            Nothing, nothing at all

            And even when the evidence
            Is as plain as black and white
            The cowardly pastors don’t want to know
            Or a wounded soul to sight

            So they ask no questions of destroyers
            Who went in Jesus name
            And read the lying prayer letters
            And give to support the perverted game

            The light is then extinguished
            By hopelessness and despair
            For there is no point being a fake Christian
            In a church that does not care

          • Cindi,

            I’m not sure why, but I read this blog and interpret it the opposite from what you’ve described. I perceive Boz as trying to work from within the church and with Christians to make the church what it should be, a safe place for children and a shield for survivors of abuse. Nowhere have I ever seen him encourage discord, or appear hostile. To the contrary, it’s clear to me he wants the church to be what it was intended to be, receptive to those in need. I hope you are able to see this one day.

          • “As a result, Instead of being willing to suffer wrong some people choose to bring Christians before the Worldly courts giving an platform for Christ and His church to be ridiculed and mocked by the Ungodly. (I Cor. 6:1-8)”

            I have seen and heard “Christians” mocked and ridiculed for providing havens for sexual predators, for being hypocrites, for covering up crimes, etc. and this ridicule and criticism was deserved. May I never be counted as one of those who behave contrary to how I believe Christ calls us to behave.

            But, Cindi, I would gladly endure your criticism and the world’s ridicule for standing up for justice, for believing that Christians are not above the laws of the land, for being compassionate to survivors, for not covering up sin, for believing that wrongdoers should not go unpunished, for standing up for the oppressed, and for weeping with those who weep.

            Those who perpetrated unspeakable evil against me did not face justice in this life because I did not speak out. I do not regret my decision but I do regret living in a world that makes it so difficult and so traumatic for survivors to report the crimes committed against them. We are silenced at every turn — first by the perpetrators, then by their supporters and allies, and finally by society at large.

            No more.

            I thank God for those who will not be silenced.

            I thank God for those who advocate for the oppressed rather than for their oppressors, and those who advocate for survivors rather than for their perpetrators.

            I thank God for those whose zeal for the Church and whose concern for God’s reputation cause them to rejoice whenever our Father’s House is cleansed. May the Church cease to be a hiding place for criminals and abusers. May we be cleansed of this evil in our midst.

            I thank God for those who allow their hearts to be broken with compassion for my brother and sister survivors.

            I thank God for those whose love is great enough to extend even to the perpetrators and whose love compels them to seek justice. Am I loving my neighbor when I pretend his criminal behavior matters nothing to God? when I insist he not be held accountable? when I criticize anyone who would attempt to stop him from perpetrating more abuse on others?

            I realize by what you have repeatedly posted here, Cindi, that your concern rests solely with the perpetrators of evil, rather than with their victim. My prayer for you is that you would allow the love of Jesus to so invade your innermost being that your heart would be melted and that you would experience, for the first time, His compassion — because you will never be the same after that.

            Once you have truly tasted His love, you too will long for evildoers to be brought to genuine repentance and for their victims to find healing. Your heart will cry out for justice, and you will no longer see this as “vengeance” or “retribution”. Your heart will break for the abused and violated. You will stand with the oppressed. You will raise your voice with theirs; you will weep with them in their brokenness and pain and rejoice with them in their healing. You will not want the vile evil done to them to remain unpunished because allowing evil to continue is so contrary to the very heart of God.

            May God change your attitude towards sin by changing your heart. May you learn what real love is.

            However, I must offer one word of warning. Afew years ago, I was challenged by someone to pray that God would show me the depth of His love. I freely admit that He has been far more faithful in answering than I was in praying. But this is my warning: nothing in my life has ever broken my heart as much as God’s love is breaking it. This is a good breaking, a turning of stone into flesh, a healing and redemption. That is what I am praying for you — that the love of God would break your heart so that you could find healing.

            “Sharing in the fellowship of His suffering” is just part of that breaking, Cindi. Oh, but it is so worth it.

            Surrender to His love, Cindi. Truly surrender. Let it have its way in your heart. Taste and see that He is good.

      • I am never going to criticize you for speaking up against the abuser and abuse. But often the folks who speak loudly and want to get their voice heard, do tend to blame others instead of letting God handle it. Yes, there were mistakes those people made.No one is perfect. However, why be so unforgiving of those people? If you are indeed a Christian, why strangle other believers, and others who hurt you by dragging them before Wordly courts?
        Why is it necessary to label any and all people and or churches affiliated in conservative groups, as dangerous and bad? It is important to take the higher ground and let God work it out.

        • Cindy you are doing exactly what those that abuse children do so well, blaming the victim and using the bible to gain their silence. the scripture you refer to about not going to worldy courts was written to a church that would not judge its own righteously and therefore allowed sin to grow and not be addressed. A “church” that covers up sexual abuse of anyone (child or adult) is no body of Christ, it is as the Pharisee run temple of Jesus’ day and the Pharisee’s were always publicly rebuked by Jesus. When you tell a victim of sexual abuse done by a church leader to remain silent you allow the perpetrator to abuse again and again, if the church would police itself it would never be necessary to rebuke them publicly. all the cases I have ever read of in the church were first brought to the attention of the church and the churches reply was to do nothing and cover the abuse up.
          15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. 16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. Matt 18:15-17 (KJV)

          Do you think its ok to inform the authorities and press charges in a public school invironment where there is a teacher that is sexually abusing children? a situation that deals with a heathen man in a worldly environment? a non-repentant church member, especially one in authority is the same as that.

  3. Cindi,
    Your post is really confusing. If I’m reading this correctly, you are being just as disobedient to God as this family member you are complaining about. What I am seeing from your post is the very bitterness, vindictiveness and discord you are accusing your family member of.

    Please hand it over to God, and don’t be bitter. Let the God you worship take care of it. Whatever it is exactly that this family member is doing, if it is considered a sin, is every bit as forgiveable as whatever sins were committed against her. The God who will judge those who sinned against her is the same God who will judge her, and also you.

    Let me suggest also prayer asking God to change everyone’s heart in the way it should be changed, even yours……..according to HIS will. And then step back and allow God to do his work.

    Remember Romans 8:28- And we know that *all* things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose.

    So, if you love God, keep this verse close to your heart, and KNOW, as we are commanded to do, that all things will work together.

  4. “To those who pleaded their ignorance, Clement of Alexandria replies: “But are we not all striving after life? What sayest thou? How didst thou become a believer? How lovest thou God and thy neighbour? Is not that philosophy? Thou sayest, I have never learned to read. But thou hast heard the Scriptures read; and the faith may be learned without hearing the Scriptures, for there is a Scripture which is adapted to the capacity of the most ignorant, and which yet is divine, and that is love.” – Clement of Alexandria

    When I came across this passage of church history, I had to stop and read it again and again. This one passage stopped me with its profound simplicity. Sometimes, as Christians, we get so caught up in doctrines and religious beliefs that we miss the most important concept that our faith is built upon – Love. The question that Clement of Alexandria asks: “How lovest thou God and thy neighbour?” is worth reflecting on.

    I read the response from the lady whose only desire seem to be to throw hurtful words at you and her sister, Boz. I noticed one important thing that her hurtful reply was devoid of – Love. Instead of showing a willingness to understand this article, instead of exhibiting love for her family member, she showered each of you with judgment, using religious jargon as a weapon to inflict emotional harm. Just so we all understand the Third Commandment and what it means, here it is:

    “The Third Commandment also has not fared well in English. Lo tissa et shem Ha-Shem Eloheikha la-shav is usually translated as “You shall not TAKE the Lord your God’s name in vain.” Many people think that this means that you have to write God as G-D, or that it is blasphemous to say words such as “god-damn.” Even if these assumptions are correct, it’s still hard to figure out what makes this offense so heinous that it’s included in the document that forbids murdering, stealing, idolatry, and adultery. However, the Hebrew, Lo tessa, literally means “You shall not CARRY [God’s name in vain]”; in other words don’t use God as your justification in selfish causes. The Third commandment is the only one concerning which God says, “for the Lord God will not forgive him who carries His name in vain” (Exodus 20:6-7). The reason now seems to be clear. When a person commits an evil act, he discredits himself. But when a religious person commits an evil act in the name of God, he or she discredits God as well. And since God relies on religious people to bring knowledge of Him into the world, He pronounces this sin unpardonable.” — Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, Jewish Literacy

    How sad to see anyone stepping into God’s shoes and assessing the thoughts, motives and intents of another person’s heart. How sad it is that this person has forgotten that God DEMANDS RESTITUTION to victims of crime. He spent two whole chapters in the O.T. on this subject. If a family member suffered from a crime decades ago and has not received restitution, God says she is STILL entitled to it. God DEMANDS restitution be paid to EVERY victim of a crime.

    Obviously this person who posted these harsh words is hurting too. Her very words betray hurt and anger and frustration. I only hope that she is able somehow replace the anger and hurt with love toward her family member and other victims. This testimony is so far removed from Christian love that I went away from reading it sorely disappointed. Nothing is more important than loving your neighbor and treating them with dignity and respect. This is even more so if it is a family member! If you love your neighbor as yourself, you will choose your words more wisely so as not to offend. If you love your neighbor, you will agree to disagree amicably. There is no place for publicly humiliating anyone – it is abuse and the one doing it, becomes an abuser.

    If you love your neighbor, you will learn to LISTEN to what they have to say because that shows them that you genuinely CARE about what they have to say. Sadly, the words of this woman come across with much anger. She made it quite clear that she didn’t care about you or about what her sister has endured at the hands of those who Carried God’s Name in Vain for their own selfish causes. Basically, this response shows that she deems her sister as WORTHLESS in her sight. Sad, indeed. Surely she did not mean to come across this way?

    Another statement Clement makes is this: “and the faith may be learned without hearing the Scriptures, for there is a Scripture which is adapted to the capacity of the most ignorant, and which yet is divine, and that is love.“ Imagine that! Clement does not hold the Bible to the standard that we do. People CAN have faith without the Bible. What a concept, indeed! How is that possible? Because LOVE IS THE ANSWER. If you love your neighbor as yourself, you don’t need to push your theology and beliefs on others. The fact of the matter is this: They don’t care how much you know. . . until they know how much you care – about them. Beating people up with religious rhetoric and/or scripture will never turn a soul to God and it will never express God’s love to a hurting heart in need of it. I am saddened for you and this sister that is the recipient of such hurtful, humiliating words.

    Thank you for standing up for the broken and bruised that the Church and its members have cast aside as WORTHLESS, Boz. Your genuine LOVE of God shines through and brings comfort to all these hurting souls. It is a light unto Him in their darkest moments of pain.

  5. Learning to be a survivor

    This is an incredibly beautiful article and so hopeful. The first time I read it, I had just learned that a specific “godly” perpetrator seems to be successfully being protected by various Christian groups. They have surrounded him with a wall of protection, possibly ensuring that he not be accountable in any way for the crimes he has committed. One of the hardest parts about it is that one of those groups protecting him has made numerous recent statements clearly emphasizing that they do not and will not protect offenders and that they support victims who want to report offenders. To realize that their statements are not backed by actions was a harsh and painful lesson.
    When I first read this article, all I could think about was the betrayal I have seen in the many years of being in churches, in Christian schools, and in this most recent development. I wanted to push back against what the article was saying, against the hope that was in it. I didn’t want to feel hope anymore. I seemed like the flashes of light I have seen in more recent years had been swallowed up in the darkness of continued betrayal.
    I read through the article a bit later and felt hope stirring again. While it is true that many Christian organizations seem to be magnets for abuse and many of them will continue to get away with it and will continue to protect perpetrators, I HAVE seen real flashes of light and they do pierce through the darkness.
    I have since read the article several times. Each time, I see and remember more clearly the lights that are shining brightly, showing glimpses of God’s love. While the darkness is thick and seems to overwhelm the light at times, there are lights that are shining steadily.
    To GRACE and others who are continuously shining bright lights of hope, thank you! I see those lights and I hope. I hope that God sees what is happening. I hope to know, to really know, that God cares and I hope that some day, I can be one of those lights shining through the darkness, showing a path of hope for others.

  6. There is no flash of light
    No Jesus shining through
    The church is just a hollow place
    For me and quite a few

    No one ever asks
    Why we fill not a Sunday seat
    I mean really really asks
    Not the old lines do repeat

    Lines about forgiveness
    Letting go and letting God
    But when you’ve been to hell and back
    Letting go is very odd

    Few even know the truth
    Of a mission field of hate
    Where souls of Missionary Kids
    Become the Agnostic Late

    Beaten, raped, molested
    By those who faked their call
    This had nothing to do with Love of God
    Nothing, nothing at all

    And even when the evidence
    Is as plain as black and white
    The cowardly pastors don’t want to know
    Or a wounded soul to sight

    So they ask no questions of destroyers
    Who went in Jesus name
    And read the lying prayer letters
    And give to support the perverted game

    The light is then extinguished
    By hopelessness and despair
    For there is no point being a fake Christian
    In a church that does not care

    • Learning to be a survivor

      Oscar,
      I just want to say that I’m “with” you. I was also an MK and know the cesspool of abuse that was part of my experience as an MK. While I don’t know your specific circumstances, I know how terrifying it is to live in that world where no one cared and abuse was a part of daily life. It is a time period that I work hard to keep blocked out as much as possible.
      I’m so sorry that these were your experiences as well. :(
      I still know of at least one current missionary who is a sex offender. His mission’s response was only to ask what it would take for that information to not be exposed so his “godly” ministry can continue.

  7. Alas there are many hundreds of MKs in my shoes on similar disillusioned spiritual paths.
    For the life of me I have never been able to explain or have answered how so many missionaries from my childhood committed such serious crimes of abuse. There were many good, dedicated missionaries, but then there were the pockets of others. Others who ended up in the boarding schools and support networks on “the field”. Were they inclined to abusive crimes before they became missionaries or was there offending a result of not coping correctly with the big fish in a small pond syndrome?
    And so MKs left there schools and homes, to return home, taking one of three paths:

    a) Returning to the field as missionaries themselves.
    b) Finding an alternative faith, but similar.
    c) Putting religion in the too hard basket, or no basket at all.

    For many of us it was option c). For we could not reconcile what we saw and experienced with a Truly Loving God.
    I’m not bitter about what happened, it is what life dealt me, but I am aggrieved that there is clear evidence that cases of abuse are still occurring and that the past has not been addressed. Offenders have been sheltered and shuffled around to avoid convictions.
    I am also puzzled why so many home churches continue to support ungodly men an women and their organisations who parade themselves as Missionaries. Only with the pursuit of justice and exposure is there any hope of ending the abuse of MKs and avoiding MKs tumbling out of their childhoods with lives in which they just exist and often never go on to truly live.
    The pursuit of justice and exposure often comes at a cost. For some of us it pits child against parents and people we called “uncle and aunt”. It brings out the worst side of people and organisations who will quickly go on the offensive to protect their reputations and income, labelling anyone who asks probing questions as “bitter”, “failing to forgive and forget” and/or “dragging up matters that are too historic”. But crime is crime and in “normal society” would be dealt with severely.
    Only when this mess is cleaned up, then MKs like me will not avoid the faith of our parents because we don’t want to believe in something that we are to afraid not to. But rather embrace a faith that was real because those who practised it around us, truly were shining lights.

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