the Hope of Survivors

General Conference Session 2010 Update—Atlanta, GA

(From the July 2010 edition of HopeSpeak)

Pastor Steve Nelson, President of The Hope of Survivors
Pastor Steve Nelson, President of The Hope of Survivors
Wendy Schwitzer & Sandy Kirkham, both Victim Services volunteers
Wendy Lee & Sandy Kirkham, both Victim Services volunteers
Samantha and Steve discussing pastoral sexual abuse with a visitor to the booth.
Samantha Nelson, VP, and Dr. Martin Weber, Board Chairman, at The Hope of Survivors booth.
Samantha Nelson, VP & CEO, with Dr. Martin Weber, Board Chairman, at The Hope of Survivors booth.
Heather Brockett, Executive Assistant for The Hope of Survivors
Heather Brockett, Executive Assistant for The Hope of Survivors
Shyleene Rosado, Latino Division VP, being interviewed for MissionTV.
Shyleene Rosado, Latino Division VP, being interviewed for MissionTV.
Worship service at the General Conference (69,989 people in attendance!)
Worship service at the General Conference—69,989 people in attendance!

Dear Hope of Survivors Family,  

As many of you know, The Hope of Survivors had an exhibit booth at the 59th Annual General Conference Session, held every five years on behalf of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. There were 69,989 people (the official count on July 3)—from every conceivable country around the world—who passed through the exhibit halls in Atlanta, Georgia, and many of those individuals passed by our booth. We distributed over 7,000 of our new educational booklets and spoke to about three dozen victims who had discovered The Hope of Survivors—and hope—for the first time as they passed by the booth. We were fortunate enough to be able to speak to many victims, pray with some and direct others to the additional resources available on the website.

The Lord truly blessed our outreach and awareness efforts and we had an overwhelmingly positive response from nearly everyone who stopped to find out what the ministry was all about. This should be encouraging to all, not just victims. This means more and more people are becoming aware of the prevalence of pastoral sexual abuse and recognize the need to do something about it. We were also blessed by several live and recorded TV interviews (Good News, MissionTV and Adventist Missions—ASI).

This was also the first time we had numerous individuals ask to be a part of the ministry and volunteer to serve in some capacity—a definite answer to prayer, as we are quite short-staffed and under-funded. You can expect to see new faces and hear from new volunteers in the coming weeks.

I would like to share with you some of the feedback we received, from a few of our volunteers, as well as some of the people who stopped by the booth:

“I had the privilege of attending the General Conference Session in Atlanta for three days, working with Steve and Samantha for The Hope of Survivors ministry. Not only were we able to help educate, talk about prevention, and raise awareness about the issue of pastoral sexual abuse, we were able to talk to several victims as well. To see the impact our discussions had upon them, and having them realize the possibility of real hope for the pain they had suffered, touched us all. The Hope of Survivors provides a much-needed ministry and I am blessed to have been a part of it.”—Sandy Kirkham, Victim Support Services & Advisor to the Board

“I wanted to let you know how very blessed I was to volunteer at The Hope of Survivors Booth in Atlanta. Meeting the first victim of Clergy Sexual Abuse that came to the booth made it all worthwhile. Even though it broke my heart to hear of her story, it also gave me great joy to know that she walked away with information to help her heal from the devastation of what she went through. Also, the hundreds [which later became over 7,000] of brochures we handed out to educate others on Clergy Sexual Abuse. I was amazed at all the positive responses from those that stopped by the booth and how much everyone could see the need for your ministry. Sadly, there is this great need but what a wonderful thing to “leave the ninety nine and reach out to the one lost.” This is exactly what your ministry does. This is truly a mission field right in your own backyard. In everyone’s backyard really. The church should be a place of healing, not of harm. How very admirable for you to pick up the slack where so many churches should have and in many cases have not. The first word that came to me when I met you was ‘humble.’ You are, and I am excited to see what God is going to do with this ministry and hopefully through me, too, as I want to move forward and help where I can. May God continue to bless you as you go forth to do His will. You are truly God’s voice to the voiceless. I came to Atlanta to give to others and, really, I was the one who went away blessed.”—Wendy Lee, Victim Support Services, Canada

“I will never forget my time spent at the General Conference Session in Atlanta, Georgia. I spent three days handing out brochures, DVDs, and business cards for The Hope of Survivors at their booth in the exhibit hall. But it was more than just handing out brochures. It was about connecting with people. It was about doing our part to spread the love of God throughout the world through ministry and love. It was also about breaking the silence and the stigma associated with pastoral sexual abuse. There were literally tens of thousands of people from all over the world who visited the booth—most of them supportive, some not. I had the opportunity to hear real-life stories of people who have been a victim or know a victim of pastoral misconduct and hear how The Hope of Survivors is just what they need in their lives to help them heal. It opened my eyes even more to see that this is an issue that impacts thousands of people every day and it needs to be addressed and dealt with. I am very honored and proud to say I was there to help reach people and impact people’s lives through this ministry.”—Heather Brockett, Executive Assistant

Here are some of the more frequently heard comments we received:

“Happy to see this booth is here!”
“The church needs to acknowledge this happens and do something about it.”
“Much useful!”—Australia
“Very important!”
“This is so necessary.”
“I’m so glad you’re doing this ministry!”
“You’re very bold, brave and courageous for doing this. I commend you.”—U.S.
“It’s good to see a ministry addressing this. It’s long overdue.”
“Very powerful!”
“This is the most powerful form of evangelism!”—Canada
“It’s [pastoral sexual abuse] a crime!”—Pastor
“Good topic.”
“How wonderful!”
“It’s repulsive, but it happens.”—NY
“That’s great. You’re doing a great job.”
“I’m so tickled you’re here. I’ve been praying for someone to talk to.”—Victim
“This is so prevalent in our church. It’s a very important work you’re doing.”
“This is very real, but we don’t hear much about it.”
“This is REAL!”—Pastor from NY
“Muy bien. Es necessario.”
“Can I have another brochure [or sometimes 10 or 20!]?”
“How can I get involved?”
“We need this in the church.”
“This is a bigger issue in our church than most want to admit.”
“We need more people willing to speak out about this issue. It is so prevalent in our churches.”
“I’m glad to see our church doing something about this. We’ve been in denial too long, thinking this doesn’t happen in our church.”

One experience that stands out in my mind is when a woman approached Steve and handed him a donation. He thought she must have talked with me previously, but she had not. In fact, she had not even received a brochure from The Hope of Survivors. When I was finished speaking with someone else, she told Steve she wanted to give me a hug. As she did, she whispered in my ear. “There are more of us than you realize. Keep up the good work!”

As you can see, God really blessed our efforts to raise awareness of The Hope of Survivors and the issue of pastoral sexual abuse. We look forward to seeing what great things are in store for the future! Thank you all for your prayers and financial support—you make it possible for The Hope of Survivors to continue to bind up the brokenhearted and restore people’s faith and trust in the Lord.

In His service,
Samantha Nelson
Vice President & CEO

The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart...Psalms 34:18