An Explanation for the Horrific Abuse Many Christian Missionary Children Suffered at Mamou and Other Overseas Boarding Schools

This film clip (one minute trailer above) details the emotional, sexual, physical and spiritual abuse of Christian missionary children at Mamou Alliance Academy Boarding School in Guinea, West Africa, from the late 1940s through the 1970s.  Mamou was the first Christian Boarding School to be investigated for child abuse.

All God's Children Documentary

Christian Children studying in Mamou School

According to Missionary Kids Safety Net, 21 other Christian denominations have reported child abuse occurring at countless missionary boarding schools.”  The Presbyterian Church and the United Methodist Church have both launched investigations.  (If you are a reader currently dealing with a similar issue, visit the Missionary Kids Safety Net website to find support and assistance.)

Keith and Howie Beardslee tell their story about Mamou

Here are just a few examples of the types of abuse that children at Mamou suffered.  The first-grade teacher terrorized the children daily by shrieking at them, and regularly turning over whole desks (with the child in it) when she was displeased.  Both adult women and adult men sexually abused children.   The school was a perfect set-up for pedophiles, according to the now-adult survivors of this abuse.  Children caught whispering in bed after lights were out were beaten until they were bloody.

Children at Mamou Boarding School in Guinea

This abuse of the children was shown in the later investigation to have not just been a few individuals, but a complete systemic problem of abuse of children for four decades.  Parents were kept in the dark because all letters home were severely censored and controlled as to include only positive content.  Many more precise details of the abuse at Mamou can be read about HERE.

Christian Missionary Children at Mamou Boarding School in Guinea

After watching this film, as a teacher, it’s now very clear to me how this abuse could have happened.

The explanation lies in the fact that child care and education of the children was completely devalued.   According to the official Grace Report ( p. 10),  “the children were viewed as a hindrance to the work of God.“In addition, the adults placed in charge of the children in the school were the  adults in the missionary community who were not good at learning languages, or in other ways not suited to “missionary” work.  They were put into child care of the other missionaries’ children BY DEFAULT.  In other words, it was thought that, “those who cannot DO, will TEACH, or care for the children.”

Christian Children who attended the Mamou boarding school

By definition, it’s clear that caring for the children was also a very low-status job within the missionary community.  Not only did these people have no love for their work, but that many of them really did not want to be there (most wanted to be out doing missionary work themselves, not child care).  Their work with the children was not valued by the missionary community.   In addition, those in child care were isolated with the children 24-hours-a-day and had no respite  from their undoubted frustrations,  nor outside supervision (or help) in dealing with their frustrations.  It appears to me that many of these adults also had multiple psychological problems of their own which were never addressed.

The plain fact is, no one should be actively involved in child care unless they themselves like children.  Unfortunately, because children are an economic drain when they are young, often the least competent people are put in charge of caring for children.  This seems to be what happened here.

The Christian & Missionary Alliance, founder of the Mamou school, is based in Colorado Springs, Colorado

The Christian & Missionary Alliance, based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, has been sending missionaries to Africa since 1884.  All missionary parents of the time (early 60′s) were expected to send their children to boarding school the minute they were of school age (at six years old).  It was not a choice.  The missionary culture impressed upon parents that they were following in the footsteps of God in doing His work, that they were willing to sacrifice their sons and daughters to boarding school so that they would be free and have the time to do “God’s work.”

Missionary Children arriving at the Mamou Boarding School

Furthermore, the school was usually between 500-1000 miles away from where most parents were living, and it was a horrendous journey of several days in each direction in wild country without roads or bridges.  The children were taken there at the beginning of the school year and picked up nine months later.  The schools encouraged parents to have minimal, or no contact with their children in the meantime.  (Although partings were terribly difficult for both parents and children, the parents did NOT know their children were being abused.  They thought they were leaving their children with adult friends of theirs in the community.)

This 70-minute documentary is posted on YouTube in several parts.  (Each part is between six and eight minutes.)  Below are links and short resumés of each part, in case readers want to see only a short part of the documentary.

Part I–Missionary life involves suffering and hardship “in the work of following Christ.”  Sacrifice is considered to be an element of this, and this involves “sacrificing” one’s own children to boarding school from the age of 6, for the sake of the “lost.”

Part II–The trip to school was 500-1000 miles with no paved roads, and necessity to cross rivers by ferryboat, or just trying to drive through. Once the children are there, they are there for nine months, and you never saw your parents once.  Parents were encouraged not to go there.  There was a lot of pressure, “Good parents don’t cry when their kids leave.”

Part III–”Dorothy Adam, the school nurse, ‘ran down to Mexico to get some dental training’ and she was horrific!”   She almost always drilled into the gums, and when the children cried, she would scream, “You’re such a baby for crying!”  Some children had to have their arms tied down into the dental chair, and an African would have to hold their head while she drilled away without novocaine, not because it wasn’t available, but she chose not to use it “out of being sadistic.”

Part IV – The missionary culture, what children were told, and why they did not report the abuse as young children.

Part V–”While you’re a kid there, you put up with it, and you figure ‘this is the way the world works.’ ”  Survivors of Mamou talk about how the experiences have impacted them as adults.

Part VI–Adults who were molested as children began to contact each other on the advice of therapists.  They became concerned that some of these individuals involved in the abuse were still out there with children.  However, church authorities wanted nothing to do with investigating the allegations, and did their best to ignore the issues and dissuade those who were molested from bringing the charges to light.

One of the adult survivors of Mamou tells his story

Part VII–The only way this issue finally got any attention is when the survivors went to the media and shamed the Christian & Missionary Alliance into paying attention to what had happened at Mamou School over several decades.  Finally a group of five investigators was put together.  In the end, the report showed it wasn’t just a few bad individuals.  It was a “consistent, systemic problem from the late 40′s through the 70′s.”  At this point, a retreat was held for Mamou victims.  80 alumni, 50 parents, and 20 spouses attended.

Adult Survivors of Mamou Missionary Boarding School

Part VIII–The organization asked for forgiveness at the retreat (after stonewalling all the way up to the retreat).  The survivors felt they were just trying to get off the hook by asking for forgiveness.  Some of the survivors explain how they are now moving forward  with their lives, and getting past the abuses of Mamou.

Part IX–Eight staff, over who the church still had jurisdiction, were now accused of  sexual abuse, spiritual abuse, psychological abuse, or physical abuse.  Church discipline hearings took place for three, and two had their  licenses and credentials removed.  Many others were unfortunately no longer under church jurisdiction.

Dorothy Wormley, the first and second grade teacher who had turned over desks with the children sitting in them, was accused of physical, psychological, and spiritual abuse.  She denied all charges and refused to cooperate.  Dorothy Adam was charged with physical, sexual, and spiritual abuse.  She denied all charges and was formally reprimanded.  Grace and Larry Wright were charged with physical and psychological abuse.  Larry was under the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease, and they refused to cooperate.  No action was taken against them.

"Children of God" Documentary

Marilyn tells her story about repeated sexual abuse at Mamou

The pedophile who raped Marilyn many times was not formally accused because she was the only person to testify against him, and there was no other evidence.  He is still employed by the Christian Missionary Alliance.  Others claim privately to have been abused by him, but the others are not willing to come forward publicly.  No legal charges were brought against any of the staff members.   “All the perpetrators got ‘slaps on the wrist,’ but no one was hauled away and put into handcuffs.”

Part X–When the report came out, many people started to contact them.  They have now formed an organization called Missionary Kids Safety Net, which includes a website and forum.  Most people who come onto the forum say, “Oh, I thought I was totally alone!  I thought I was the only one out there!”  They also offer assistance in terms of advice for who to go to, and people to contact.

The group met with church leaders to suggest changes, but the leaders insisted that it be in a closed meeting.  They have never released the recommendations, and none of the recommendations have been implemented.

I know what my own recommendations would be.  No one should be in teaching or child care unless they feel they are doing the VERY important work of “creating the next generation.”  Their work needs to be valued by the entire community, and the people doing it need to prefer that work to being out doing missionary activities.

–Lynne Diligent

About these ads

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

8 Responses to “An Explanation for the Horrific Abuse Many Christian Missionary Children Suffered at Mamou and Other Overseas Boarding Schools”

  1. don and debbie felio Says:

    There were many mistakes in the early mission field. There were many mistakes in the treatment of minorities and children by the US government, and in fact I would offer the attitude of the missionary teachers in some ways reflected the attitude by govt toward children. Did you know Protective services for children came AFTER protection for animals? How is the increase in sexual abuse in the public school with parents in the home and children in their neighborhood schools explained? How is it explained that NOT everyone watching and caring for the children was abusive? While I in no way condone or excuse the acts against these children, it can become easy in retrospect to make recommendations, but currently there continues to be abuse and trafficking of children by those with and without religious affiliation. Childcare and education are still paid less than most other jobs with equivalent education ( except community mental health!), and the ease at which parents give over the care and trust of their children’s well being needs to be re-evaluated.

  2. Bob In Philly Says:

    Its always interesting to see how people in power and authority always lay off saying, ‘well mistakes were made’ or ‘we need to learn from this’ at the same time they are backpeddling throwing money at lawyers and hiding behind the very institutions they claim they so proudly represent.

    This missionary group, the Vatican, Bush and his claimed weapons of mass destruction, the abuse, cover ups and excuses just go on on. Well mistakes were made. We must hate the sin but love the sinner.

    Not one of these cretins ever shows a trace of humility.

    The story line in all of this misery of abuse, destruction and death is that the story line never changes.

  3. Catherine Darnell Says:

    This Note was recently shared by my friend Beverly Shellrude Thompson. As an abuse survivor from Prairie Bible Institute, I advocate and mentor survivors of abuse within faith based communities. I contacted a blogger who has been very supportive in raising awareness by sharing on his blog. He has shown his support for Marilyn and all survivors by writing about this on his blog today. I pray that you will take a moment to read the information below, and the attached blog post.

    Sincerely,

    Catherine Darnell
    http://hopestapestry.com

    In the documentary All God’s Children my sister, Marilyn Shellrude Christman, talks about being raped by a dorm parent at Mamou. Marilyn reported to the C&MA that Ron Israel is the dorm parent who raped her. We have been pleading since 1999 for the C&MA leaders in Colorado Springs, in the Pacific Northwest District and at Dallas Alliance to remove him from leadership in order to protect vulnerable children and the elderly from him.

    Only recently has he been forced to resign (he was not fired, he was allowed to resign). He is still on staff of your church until Monday, October 1, 2012.

    My sister, Marilyn Shellrude Christman, died September 6 of a brain tumor. There was no justice for her. Beverly Shellrude Thompson, Marilyn’s sister.

    Link to blog: http://www.benedictionblogson.com/2012/10/05/prairie-bible-institute-abuse-survivors-stand-for-survivors-abused-in-missionary-boarding-school/

  4. thenonconformer Says:

    The CMA is a place of ungodly persons, snakes., demons.. it is not a true church..http://thenonconformer.wordpress.com/?s=missionary+alliance

  5. thenonconformer Says:

    All the well known now and clearly bad politicians, civil and public servants, even bad pastors still deny their own guilt, but that realy now is no surprise,for it would be a surprise rather if they had admitted it. They still have clearly lost the respect of many citizens still. They next will still get what they deserve in Hell and not in heaven.. http://anyonecare.wordpress.com/2011/10/17/no-abuse-is-acceptable-zero-tolerance/

  6. Lynne Diligent Says:

    Catharine, thank you for sharing this link.

  7. Monique Says:

    I know of children at an orphanage in Mozamique who have been sexually and physically abused for years and it is still happening. The founders of the orphanage are the main instigators of the abuse and somehow keeps on jumping the law. Several cases has been reported to the police and nothing has up to date been done to save the children. Do you have any advice on who I can contact to investigate the cases and put an end to the abuse?

    • Catherine Darnell Says:

      Hi Monique, I can connect you with someone who will be able to help you with this. Please send me an email and I’ll send you the contact information. Thank you for speaking out!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 56 other followers

%d bloggers like this: