question and answers

Thank you for wanting to learn more about ABWE.

Since ABWE was founded 85 years ago, we have come alongside local, Bible-believing churches to help send missionaries to all corners of the earth. Our prayer is that everything we do opens doors for the gospel and expresses the richness of God’s grace and love to all people.

Nearly two years ago, we as a mission became aware of the very challenging and heartbreaking reality that in 1989, one of our missionary doctors abused several of our MKs. At that time, we knew of only one. Then we began to learn that there were others. The revelation of this information prompted us to prayerfully evaluate our past actions and current policies.

As a result of this time of self-examination, the mission has had to confront many mistakes and acknowledge that change was necessary on our part to help ensure that nothing like this ever happens again.

ABWE & ABUSE
Protecting our children

Since ABWE committed to address allegations of sexual abuse by a former missionary, the administration and board have prayerfully worked to identify our failures, repent and reconcile with those who were hurt, and make the changes necessary to further protect our missionary kids. These actions include:
Repentance

Issuing a public apology for our past mistakes and failures

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Leadership Changes

Making administrative and personnel changes

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Professional Staff

Appointing a full-time child safety officer

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New Policies

Drafting and implementing comprehensive child protection policies

Notifying Authorities

Notifying the necessary authorities and supporting churches in instances where child abuse was suspected
or discovered

What Does Protecting
Our Children
Look Like?
Prayer

Prayerfully examining the ministry and continuously seeking God's wisdom on how we can better reflect
His truths in everything
we do

Investigations

Hiring multiple firms to perform independent investigations of all cases of suspected child abuse

Increased Standards

Implementing an organization-wide historical investigation, looking at each incident according to today’s legal standards

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Financial Assistance

Continuing to make funding available to victims seeking counseling

Education & Training

Organizing an in-depth training for all field administrators in best practices and standards for child safety

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Q & A
Quick Links

Throughout this entire process we have been asked (and asked ourselves) many questions.
Here are some of the most common:

WHO IS ABWE?

Since 1927, ABWE has come alongside local, Bible-believing churches to help them pick up the torch of missions. More than 900 missionaries serve in 60 countries to share the story of hope, build communities of faith and serve the world with love.

BUILD

ABWE Ministries works to connect believers with local churches so they can grow, learn, and serve together. We strive to build a solid spiritual foundation in these communities so they can train others to do the same.

SERVE

Around the world ABWE works in the areas of social justice and uses humanitarian relief to show the love of Christ to those who are hurting.

Share the story of hope. Build communities of faith. Serve the world with love.

WHAT IS ABWE DOING TO PROTECT CHILDREN AND PREVENT CHILD ABUSE?

Since we began an independent investigation more than 20 months ago to perform a historical investigation of child abuse in Bangladesh and the mission’s subsequent response, we have also hired other reputable firms to help us examine our entire organization’s 85-year history. Our goal was to identify all the areas where change was necessary to help ensure the safety of children in the future, and to repent of our past failures.

The mission-wide investigation concluded in July 2012. Read about the findings here.

We also appointed a full-time child safety officer in November 2010 to serve as an advocate for victims and their families, assist in auditing investigations, and oversee the training and education of mission employees. This officer works with a team of seven people to respond to suspected child abuse. All members of the team have received Investigative Team Training from the Child Safety and Protection Network.

Also in November 2010, the ABWE board adopted a comprehensive child-protection policy based on input from industry experts. This policy outlines the appropriate steps for reporting, investigating, and responding to victims.

Since July 2011, all missionary candidates are required to attend a session on child safety as part of their requirements to join the mission. Additionally, background checks have been implemented for anyone traveling to an ABWE mission field or gaining employment with ABWE.

Furthermore, our commitment to training our staff on the best practices in child safety is on-going, and we are continually looking for ways to make it more effective.

HOW HAS ABWE RESPONDED TO MKS IMPACTED BY ABUSE?

The present administration and board desire to see the MKs who were abused by Donn Ketcham in the 1980s, and those who approached the mission in 2002, be provided with every opportunity to experience full emotional recovery and reconciliation. We have taken the following steps toward this end and will continue to do so.

Separate from the Bangladesh child abuse investigation, ABWE hired a highly experienced third-party investigator to determine if there were other instances in the organization’s 85 year history where child abuse had occurred and was handled improperly. Those findings were released in August 2012.

WHY DID ABWE REPLACE G.R.A.C.E. WITH A NEW INVESTIGATIVE FIRM?

Just as our worldview affects how we see the world around us, so can our ministry passion. This passion can cloud one’s perception of events, and even transgressions. Jesus himself illustrated this reality in the New Testament when He spoke to His followers about the danger of not being able to see the beam in your own eye, while pointing out the speck in your neighbor’s. The point is, sometimes we can’t see ourselves as clearly as others do. This is why we desire an independent “eye” to examine the child abuse that occurred in Bangladesh over 20 years ago, and how we dealt with it.

As concerns grew throughout the investigation conducted by G.R.A.C.E, especially in the past few weeks, leadership at ABWE felt that the objectivity of the investigation was seriously in question. ABWE believes strongly that everyone — from the MKs and the administration, to our missionaries and you — deserves a truthful, objective and complete investigation.

It is our desire to be a better organization; we believe replacing G.R.A.C.E. was a step in that process. As our concerns grew about the investigation and we approached G.R.A.C.E regarding these matters, the relationship became more strained. Following the principles of Matthew 18 we tried to address those issues directly with G.R.A.C.E. — but to no avail. As a result, several months ago G.R.A.C.E stated to us that “perhaps ABWE should reconsider its relationship” with them.

As we move forward, we pray the investigation helps us improve our mission and advance the goals of repentance and healing — as an organization, a community of believers and as individuals on a journey of faith. ABWE is not afraid of the truth being revealed. In fact, the decision to replace G.R.A.C.E. was made because we deeply desire the truth.

Because we desire transparency, ABWE will publicly release the final investigative report when it is completed by Pii. Because protecting the privacy of the victims is of paramount importance, any information that would be damaging to the victims or would reveal their identities will not be included. No other information will be altered. Two victims will be given the chance to read the report to demonstrate that no changes are made to the document — beyond removing information that would be damaging to victims. We believe this is the very least we can do for the men and women involved in the Bangladesh MK blog — who had the courage to speak up and challenge us to have integrity in all that we do.

We hope this decision will foster true objectivity. We also pray that through time and example, ABWE will faithfully show our integrity in this matter, and, more importantly, continue learning how to be God’s servants in the process.

Learn more about this difficult decision.

As members of the body of Christ, we know the value of truth, honesty and transparency — and we are continually learning how to exemplify those characteristics in our actions and words. The heart of the matter is that ABWE desired to work with G.R.A.C.E. to seek a resolution.

In the fall and winter of 2012, at least eight victims and witnesses voluntarily contacted us to express their concerns relating to the G.R.A.C.E. investigation. They felt G.R.A.C.E had left out information, did not record their testimonies, changed their statements, provided inaccurate summaries and asked leading questions. Some of these individuals shared that they had been in touch with G.R.A.C.E. directly regarding their concerns, but they were dissatisfied with the organization’s response to them. As a result, we know that some of the interviewees requested that G.R.A.C.E. not use their testimonies at all.

Starting in November 2012, ABWE wrote Mr. Basyle Tchividjian, director of G.R.A.C.E. to request a meeting to address the victims’ and interviewees’ concerns, as well as potential problems we saw in the investigation. ABWE offered to meet with Mr. Tchividjian in person, or even fly in members of the G.R.A.C.E. team. G.R.A.C.E. agreed to meet, however, they told us that they could not address specific areas of concerns without knowing the identities of the victims and witnesses who had contacted us. We believed that this was a fair request, so we asked those who contacted us for their permission to share their names along with their complaints with G.R.A.C.E. These MKs and victims agreed with one stipulation. They asked that G.R.A.C.E. promise to protect their identities to prevent reprisals or retaliation.

G.R.A.C.E. refused to sign a confidentiality agreement to protect the identities of these witnesses. While we do not understand this decision and were offered no clear explanation, the ABWE Board of Directors believed it was important to respect the MKs' and interviewees' request for confidentiality — especially as some expressed a fear of retaliation in this process. Since G.R.A.C.E. would not sign the confidentiality agreement, we were unable to meet to bring clarity to the body of concerns and questions.

We felt that this response by G.R.A.C.E did not seem to reflect an interest in protecting all the victims, including those who had questions about the investigative practices.

Without being able to address the questions and concerns about the legitimacy of the summaries and testimonies used to produce a report by G.R.A.C.E., we were left questioning the validity of the report itself. If G.R.A.C.E.’s report was based on paraphrased testimonies or incomplete statements from witnesses and victims rather than their exact words, there may be information missing from the analysis that could greatly alter the tone or accuracy of the report. We felt this also made G.R.A.C.E.’s agreement for us to “fact check” the report meaningless. How could we fact check a document for complete truth (which G.R.A.C.E. required we do within 5 days) when we wouldn’t know what information was omitted which might have an impact on its accuracy?

We believe there may have been a way to work through these issues with G.R.A.C.E., had the organization been willing to sign the confidentiality agreement and agree to correct these investigative flaws where they could. We were incredibly disappointed when we learned that G.R.A.C.E would not, but needed to remain true to our commitment to protect the confidentiality of the victims and witnesses.

We firmly believe that a truly independent investigation should be conducted in a way that is consistent with the highest standards of the industry. The process of collecting evidence should be objective, and key interviews should be recorded and based on unbiased and open-ended questions that seek facts. For this reason, we have begun working with Pii, an investigative firm with a track record of high standards in objective reporting.

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IS ABWE’S DECISION TO REPLACE G.R.A.C.E. AN ATTEMPT TO HIDE SOMETHING OR PREVENT THE FINDINGS OF THE REPORT FROM BEING RELEASED?

No. One of the biggest misunderstandings in our replacing G.R.A.C.E. is that we are trying to hide something. Our true hope and prayer continues to be that in discovering the truth we will gain true objectivity and become a better organization because of it. Discovering the truth about our organization is more important to us than our public reputation.

It is out of this desire for transparency that ABWE intends to publicly release the unedited report, when it is completed. Because protecting the privacy of the victims is of paramount importance, any information that would be damaging to the victims or would in anyway reveal their identities will not be included. No other information in the report will be altered. Two victims will be given access to the report to demonstrate that no other changes, besides those involving the protection of the victims, are made to the document.

Whatever the report reveals, we commit to full disclosure. But more importantly, we commit to using the information to grow as an organization of godly men and women who are made better by walking in the light of the truth.

IF ABWE WAS UNHAPPY WITH THE INVESTIGATION, WHY DID THEY WAIT SO LONG TO TERMINATE G.R.A.C.E.?

Replacing G.R.A.C.E. was an act we long pondered. At the urging of the grieved MKs, the ABWE Board of Directors hired G.R.A.C.E. to perform an independent investigation. Even though the Board was aware that G.R.A.C.E. was an advocacy group, they expected the investigation to be independent and free from bias.

When we discovered this might not be the case, we first tried to work through the situation with G.R.A.C.E. We knew that a decision to terminate G.R.A.C.E. could be interpreted as dishonest or disingenuous, and we knew it could greatly affect some of the MKs who urged us to hire the organization in the first place. However, we believe our greatest priority, and opportunity for full repentance, is in discovering the truth.

When we were unable to reach an agreement with G.R.A.C.E. on how to address the concerns and questions surrounding the report, we had to prayerfully consider what to do next. It was important that we weigh all of the information and the consequences of our actions before making a decision of this magnitude. It was not something that we took lightly.

WILL ABWE MAKE THE FINAL REPORT PUBLIC?

Yes. ABWE will publicly release the final investigative report. For privacy reasons, we cannot include any references to the identities of the victims. Otherwise, no information from the report will be altered or edited. We believe this is the very least we can do for the men and women involved in the Bangladesh MK blog — who had the courage to speak up and challenge us to have integrity in all that we do.

WHO IS Pii?

Pii is a multi-disciplinary team of investigators with a vast array of experience from local, state and federal law enforcement, in the areas of corrections, education, insurance and finance as well as legal/litigation. Led by 35-year FBI veteran investigator, Bob Davis, Pii has a distinguished reputation with a combined 100 years of investigative experience among its staff. Davis is an expert in child-abuse investigations, particularly in international settings, and has led training on various aspects of child-abuse prevention and investigation throughout the country.

WHAT IS THE TIMELINE FOR THE INVESTIGATION TO BE COMPLETED?

Because there are many factors involved, we do not yet know the timeline. We will update you when we know more.

IS IT TRUE THAT ABWE WITHHELD IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS AND KEY WITNESSES?

No. There were some documents and records that we were not legally able to release directly to G.R.A.C.E. However we made provisions for G.R.A.C.E. to access all of the records and information. At their request, we also provided them with a list of victims, witnesses and board members for possible interviews.

For instance, in following HIPAA privacy regulations, ABWE was not able to directly provide G.R.A.C.E. with medical records we had on file. The law prohibits us from releasing those records to anyone but the individual to whom they belong. We informed G.R.A.C.E. of this but let the organization know that we would be glad to provide the documents to all individuals who asked for their files—at which point they would be able to personally give the documents to G.R.A.C.E. Seven people took us up on this offer.

Further, ABWE offered to make all staff available to G.R.A.C.E. for interviews. G.R.A.C.E.’s complaint that we refused to supply key witnesses was based on a misunderstanding that we could somehow require people who didn’t work at the mission to participate in the investigation. We do not have the authority to mandate that anyone other than ABWE employees speak with G.R.A.C.E. Private individuals were free to choose whether or not they want to be interviewed.

HOW DOES THIS DECISION AFFECT THE VICTIMS?

While we believe we are doing the right thing, this is a question we have asked ourselves repeatedly during this whole process.

As a mission, ABWE has talked a lot about our goals of repentance and reconciliation with our hurt MKs. It seems, however, that in our day-to-day actions we sometimes fail to move closer to those goals. When we decided to replace G.R.A.C.E. we worried about the impact it might have on some of our MKs.

As we look back over the past two years, we acknowledge that we haven’t always gotten it right. There have been times we have talked when we should have listened; times we stayed quiet when we should have spoken up; times we sought reconciliation without asking what it might look like to the offended person. Through these failures, we have shown why Christ came to save us all. But we never stopped striving to do better, and to be better.

We acknowledge that ABWE’s journey out of scandal and toward the discovery of truth may have come at the expense of some of our MKs trust. This was not intentional or malicious, but it has happened. For those MKs especially, we know that reconciliation is something personal, individual, and ongoing. And it will be something we need to show we desire just as much as they need to be willing to extend to us. On our path to discovering truth, we don’t want to forget our goal of helping those who were hurt find healing.

As a mission seeking reconciliation, we have a continuing obligation to admit, confess and repent of our failures and mistakes to those we have hurt. Yet we understand that reconciliation will happen at different rates for different people. Therefore, we put no burden on those we have failed to reconcile with; rather, we simply want them to know we are sorry, and we are taking steps to ensure nothing like what hurt them will ever happen again. We will let them dictate their level of reconciliation with us.

We strongly believe that the MK blog, BangladeshMKsSpeak, should be credited with making ABWE a better organization today than it was two years ago. We are grateful for the voices of those who challenge us even today to continue to grow, uncover sin and learn from our mistakes. We are thankful for those who desire to reconcile with us and help us continue to grow as a mission, and we pray every person impacted experiences substantial healing.

We are praying that we will finish this journey from scandal to grace with integrity, and most importantly, bring glory to God.

HOW HAS ABWE EXPRESSED REGRET AND WORKED TOWARD RECONCILIATION?

We have publicly and privately expressed our regret and sincerely continue to have heartfelt concern. However, regret without change is meaningless. That is why we have held small group and one-on-one meetings to express our regret with some victims and families, as well as maintain an open invitation to pay for counseling to those who request it — no questions asked.

In addition, we have taken the appropriate action steps within our leadership, staff and missionaries to help prevent events like this from happening in the future.

We have worked, and will continue to work to create an organizational culture where the interest of the victim is paramount — even beyond the redemption of the perpetrator or the interest of the mission.

WHAT ACTIONS HAS ABWE TAKEN TO ADDRESS THOSE WHO MISHANDLED THE SITUATION?

ABWE has taken a series of administrative steps, including asking for and receiving several resignations, to ensure that no one involved in ABWE’s mishandling of the child abuse case in 1989 or 2002 would be involved in any decisions affecting child safety at the mission again. In fact, no one directly involved in these past decisions remains with the ABWE board or administration. Learn more about the administrative changes that have been made.

WHY DID IT TAKE SO LONG TO GET TO THIS POINT?

When allegations of missionary Donn Ketcham’s sexual abuse of a minor first surfaced in 1989, he was immediately dismissed from the mission. However, the leadership and ABWE Board’s failure to look more deeply into the abuse delayed the discovery of other MK victims.

When the allegations resurfaced in 2002, the administrators who were aware of the situation failed to conduct a complete and thorough investigation, or to notify other members of the administration or the ABWE board. Learn more about the administrative changes that have been made.

WHY SHOULD I TRUST ABWE?

We recognize that perhaps no sin scars its victims more than child abuse, and that our failures have tragically impacted the lives of some of our MKs. Although we acknowledge the importance of the biblical principle of forgiveness, we understand that there are still grievous consequences to sin, which we must seek to make right.

In the past 20 months, the mission has had to confront many past mistakes, and acknowledge that change was necessary to prevent events like this from happening in the future. These actions are highlighted here.

As part of this effort ABWE hired a highly experienced third-party investigator to determine if there were areas in the organization’s 85-year history where child abuse occurred and was handled improperly. Those findings were released in August 2012.

Our prayer is that the steps we have taken as a mission demonstrate Godly grace. We continue to pray that God shows His guidance in how we respond to victims of abuse as we work toward reconciliation and transparency.

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