|PELC 2014 Update by Tammy Landry|
It was my honor to work with Steve and Samantha at The Hope of Survivors’ exhibit booth for the Pastoral Evangelism and Leadership Council at Oakwood University. God has so graciously healed me from the abuse I suffered at the hands of my pastor and I wanted to help others through The Hope of Survivors at this conference. My experience can be explained by my desire to encourage and educate, how I was blessed, and what I learned.
My heart’s desire was to reach out to hurting women that may have suffered clergy sexual abuse and bring them hope through our Lord Jesus. I’ll never forget this young lady approaching the booth with her head down as she read The Hope of Survivors’ brochure. I asked her if she knew anything about pastors sexually abusing God’s sheep and she looked up into my eyes and declared, “You don’t have to tell me about this—I have been assaulted many times right here in church!” My heart sank with empathy as I shared how sorry I was, how much Jesus loves her, and that our God is bigger still. Then I hugged her so gently as our hearts joined together.
Educating the church was another mission of my helping The Hope of Survivors. I witnessed Samantha so boldly speaking the truth with love to many pastors and others that stopped by the booth. It was obvious that the Holy Spirit had taught and guided her to give such wise answers to some hard questions. Like some would ask, “but if a pastor repents—shouldn’t the church welcome him back to his calling behind the pulpit?” And she would gently but firmly answer, “he should be restored back to the Lord—but not back to the pulpit!” What an apt reply. Many, many people stopped by to talk with us and many were pastors or spiritual leaders. And of all the people we spoke to—only one older woman asked me if this really happens—pointing to The Hope of Survivors’ sign of clergy sexual abuse. I assured her that it was happening in all churches—in all parts of the world—at an alarming rate. Samantha stated that two new victims contact The Hope of Survivors each week for help from this abuse. But everyone else—including all the pastors—fully believed this abuse was going on in our churches. The subject of Clergy Sexual Abuse is just the Big White Elephant in our churches—a cancer hidden in plain sight. Most know it happens, we just ignore it hoping it will go away. Unfortunately, the only way to deal with such darkness is for the church to expose this evil like it is written in Ephesians 5:11:“Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.”
I also wanted to share how I was blessed by helping The Hope of Survivors. Many times in life, you find that when you try to bless others—you are the one doubly blessed! We shared many laughs and goods times during our three-day exhibit. There was this 90-year-old sister that was so kind to us all. She invited us and even drove us to eat with her at the college cafeteria with her and we had a wonderful time of sharing. She came back the next day and talked with me about her experiences for a long time. She shared from her heart and taught me so much. Many brothers and sisters came by to encourage us—all telling us how they respected what we were doing and to keep up the hard work. Steve and Samantha deserve to have their hands lifted up as they complete this precious ministry to which the Lord has called them. I was truly blessed!
Finally, I would like to share two things I learned. First, we learned about a predator pastor that was attending the conference. Two separate men—one a pastor and the other an exhibitor—warned Samantha about this known predator pastor that had his credentials revoked. The pastor gave his name and said he was bold and would definitely approach us. And he sure did. He tried to use his skillful grooming techniques right there at The Hope of Survivors’ booth. It was incredible but confirmed these abusers are active and looking for more victims.
On the other hand, I learned a good truth. An older pastor walked up the last day to thank The Hope of Survivors for their ministry. He went on to share that God had been revealing to him that true ministry was to care for God’s people—not pastors preaching behind the pulpits. He went on to say ministers needed to be caring for their sheep and not being “pulpiteers” as he called them. He was so correct! I agreed with him and quoted Isaiah 61 where it is written to bind up the broken hearted, proclaim freedom for the captives, and to release from darkness the prisoners. His eyes lighted up and he shared a long paper he had written that also quoted Isaiah 61 as a model for true ministering. He pointed to The Hope of Survivors sign and told Samantha—this is true ministry—this was caring for God’s flock. He is so right—The Hope of Survivors is a true ministry of our Lord Jesus—for they are binding up the broken hearted, proclaiming freedom for the captives, releasing prisoners from darkness, and comforting those who mourn like Isaiah wrote.