the Hope of Survivors

PELC 2015 Update

Dear Friends,

Last week The Hope of Survivors had a booth at the Pastoral Evangelism & Leadership Council (PELC) in Huntsville, AL. Steve and I were not able to be there, as we were in the middle of a transition from Iowa to Wyoming at that time, but volunteers Tammy Landry and Kyoko Sears were there to staff the booth on our behalf. I'd like to share with you the letter I just received from Tammy (it is long, but well worth the read!):

Dear Samantha and Steve,

Thank you for the opportunity to represent The Hope of Survivors (THOS) at the Pastoral Evangelism & Leadership Council (PELC) at Oakwood College. Kyoko and I were so excited to see how God opened hearts and minds to understand clergy sexual abuse (CSA). Many people wanted us to send thanks to you two for this needed ministry.

Kyoko plans to write down her thoughts about helping at the THOS exhibit. Our Lord guided her as she did a wonderful job educating, comforting, and displaying compassion for all those hurt by CSA.

Now I will share a quick recap of my experience at Oakwood this year. We had many people stop by to discuss CSA and how the church should respond—but I will only share some that stood out to me each day.

Day 1 - Sunday, December 6
PELC - THOS BoothWe arrived early to set up and there was an elderly lady directing us how to make our exhibit look its best. After we finished, she asked us what our table was about. I told her THOS is a ministry for educating and healing the church about Clergy Sexual Abuse. She yelped, "Oh NO!" and clasped her hands over her ears and said, " That is so dirty—please don't talk about it—it's so dirty!" Then I calmly agreed with her as I gently touched her arm and replied, "Yes, you are right—it is VERY dirty—that's why we have to talk about it!" Then she was open to hearing how THOS brings God's LIGHT to the abuse by clergy in our churches as well as healing. Next, I shared with her Ephesians 5:11, "Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them." Ultimately, she came to really appreciate THOS ministry!

Later that night, a young college man came up to the booth to join his sisters in Christ already there talking with Kyoko. Suddenly, he gasped and held his hand over his heart. "This is so upsetting," he said. He was speechless as he looked at the words of THOS sign. We all stood there waiting to hear what was wrong with him. His sisters kept asking, "What is it? Are you ok?" But he was too overwhelmed—finally he uttered, "NO, THIS is awful—I feel the deep pain here! My heart hurts for these victims!"

It was a powerful reaction to a horrible abuse in our churches. He plans to be a counselor after graduating—hopefully he can help those abused by predator pastors.

Also, a victim came up to Kyoko and talked to her about her abuse by a pastor. Although she was a former victim, she now is a counselor and wants more information about THOS. Many expressed a desire to help this cause.

Next, the former Vice President of Oakwood University and his son came by the booth to talk. Kyoko mostly talked with the V.P. and I mostly the son. He bought a DVD and we gave him brochures to help him properly handle this abuse. His son told me that his dad dealt with this issue many times over his 40 years in service. They really wanted to be better equipped to deal with CSA.

Another pastor came up and said he wanted to educate the elders and leaders back at his church—so he got both DVDs and brochures to take back to his church after the conference. He really wanted to bring needed understanding to his church.

Kyoko, Wintley & TammyYou saw the picture of Kyoko and me with Wintley Phipps—he was so humble and kind—his voice is a gift from God. Remember Pastor Robert Edwards from last year—the one from Riverside, CA, that gave me a hard time [in jest]? Well, I told him how Pastor Phipps had ministered to me—so he arranged for Pastor Phipps to come to us and take a picture! I was so blessed! Pastor Edwards said hi to you guys and still offers to come and preach at your churches whenever you would like. He was very supportive and bought DVDs too.

And we also had a retired school counselor come by our table and told us she would really like to help this ministry.

Day 2 - Monday, December 7
Do you remember the 90-year-old from last year that took us to the cafeteria? She came by the exhibit to talk of course. However, she told me that she had been thinking since last year and warned us not to judge pastors that sinned—that we should treat them as God did King David. Then I gently shared with her what I have heard you and Diana Garland say about the error of reasoning here and the devastating consequences David paid the rest of his life. But Kyoko said something I found profound—she pointed out that King David was not a Priest, but a King! [Although David was also a prophet and spiritual leader.] And the next morning as I meditated on that it became a powerful truth in my spirit! David was a king—not a priest—people did not go to him to have their sins atoned for, etc. So to understand how God looks at and deals with spiritual leaders abusing women under them, we must look at Eli's sons! That is the true analogy to CSA! God is just and true in his judgments—and it was His will to kill Eli's sons because He hated that abuse so much!

Also, a lady came up to us and shared how years ago a member of the church had raped her daughter when she was only 14. She was so angry about how the church handled this assault. They allowed the man to stay worshiping at the church and told them to stay away and not talk about it. She went to police and took it to court. The church excommunicated her—and eventually let her daughter come back. So she knows only too well how backwards the church is in responding—they support the abusers and silence and shun the victims.

We prayed for some people as they had needs and would share with us. It was such an honor to help others that are hurting.

We talked with a pastor before lunch that was so supportive of THOS! He was shocked at how prevalent this abuse is and how sick it is for pastors to manipulate vulnerable women through the counseling relationship. He was even more dumbfounded to find that this abuse is not a crime in the state of AL—only in the 13 states that have passed laws so far. Many people are not aware of how this abuse occurs and are amazed that CSA is not illegal.

Day 3 - Monday, December 8
By the last day, we had a few women coming up to THOS exhibit because others had talked with us and told them to come talk with us about CSA. It was a testimony by the word of mouth of others to this vital ministry.

Do you remember the woman—a friend of the 90-year-old lady—that ate with us at the cafeteria last year? She came up and talked with me at length and REALLY understood CSA—it was so good to hear someone who really got it. She also would like to help THOS.

Again, pastors kept saying they really needed to be more equipped in dealing with CSA. It was so refreshing to hear. God is moving to open some of the leaders' hearts to deal biblically with CSA. Also, Elder Ivan Williams said hello and thanked us for bringing THOS back again to the conference.

Sometimes we asked people what do you think this abuse on the sign deals with? Some said probably pastors that abuse their wives—like domestic violence. Of course we let them know about CSA and they were broken to hear such evil. All but one young pastor said they were familiar with CSA. We never had to convince the pastors that CSA exists in our churches. Some said they are dealing with it right now—but not very well, they added.

We had two pastors come up to talk—they were very interested and supportive. One of the pastors looked at me and said, "If you want to get pastors' attention, make this a felony crime! It will follow them forever." I agreed and told him about the 13 states that have done just that and how we are trying to do that in AL. Then he said, "I should know—I am a felon." Then, without batting an eye, I said with compassion, "that's ok—you're a forgiven felon," and went on. He was stunned that it did not affect me one bit. He and his pastor friend grasped the need for education and ministry of THOS, as well as the needed legislation.

A pastor came up to Kyoko from London and expressed great interest in helping get THOS ministry there. We gave him some materials and he gave us his card/email to keep in touch. He would like to receive the newsletter and wants to help London get involved.

Last but NOT least—Kyoko writes, "The last night of the conference, a pastor came up and asked what the THOS ministry was about. I briefly explained about the ministry and asked if he knew of any incidents of CSA. He blurted out that a sister whom he knew received a text soliciting sex from a prominent married pastor during the conference that night. He learned earlier that this sister was attending the conference, which caused him concern because he knew that this pastor is known to harass the sister. He didn't want to come to the conference, but the Holy Spirit prompted him to protect the sister. I gave him THOS pamphlet to help him understand and help her. I encouraged him to give the pamphlet to the sister as well—and told them they could call the helpline number if they needed any more help. I could sense the frustration in his voice as a secondary victim of CSA. Education as well as legislation is needed to deter CSA."

How bold. How evil! THOS is very needed!

Friends, I am grateful THOS had the opportunity to be at this convention. Pastoral education is truly key to the prevention of clergy sexual abuse, but also for helping pastors and church leaders understand how best to deal with the issue and those who have been wounded by it. When you support The Hope of Survivors, you are not only helping us provide the emotional and spiritual support victims need, you are enabling us to equip pastors and churches to aid in the prevention of this devastating abuse.

Thank you in advance for your consideration.

God bless you!
Samantha Nelson

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