the Hope of Survivors

PELC 2015 Update—Tammy Landry

PELCI sing because I'm happy
I sing because I'm free
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know he watches me

These lyrics from the song, “His eye is on the Sparrow,” were the theme for me at the PELC—Pastoral Evangelism & Leadership Council—held at Oakwood University in Huntsville, AL, on December 4-6. This is the third year Steve and Samantha gave me the honor to represent The Hope of Survivors (THOS) to bring hope, healing, and education to the Church about Clergy Sexual Abuse (CSA).

Like other years, there was so much I heard, felt, and experienced that I feel my words would be inadequate to express them all. So let me tell the highlights of those three amazing days. And just like we often save dessert for last, God saved the best for the last day too.

A very well dressed woman walked up to our booth and went right for the brochures on the display table. At first I thought she would just get one and start to read about THOS ministry. But instead, she grabbed a whole handful of brochures. I asked did she know anything about CSA and her answer was stunning. She exclaimed that she was very familiar with this abuse and needed to take all these brochures back to give to women. She was a gynecologist and needed to give them to her young patients that were pregnant with their pastor’s babies. Wow—Baylor University’s research showed how prevalent CSA is—yet it is still shocking at times!

A young girl came up to THOS table, picked up a card, and asked, “So what is this all about?” At first I hesitated as to how much I should tell such a young girl but then she simply stated, “Oh this is about sexual abuse.” What amazed me was her matter of fact handling of this and her apparent knowledge of sex and the abuses of it. I then said, “Yes it is when a pastor or spiritual leader sexually abuses someone in their care,” and then asked her how old she was. She was only 11. Even at the young age of 11, today sexual abuse is commonly known. I went on to tell her to keep the card so THOS could help her not become a victim of CSA or to help a friend who may need it. She agreed and went on her way.

I was talking with an older pastor that had been in the ministry for over four decades. He was well aware that CSA was rampant in the church and I was showing him THOS website with all the education, resources, and services. He was so interested in THOS site as he had seen this abuse up close and had dealt with it many times. Suddenly, a young pastor walked up and said to both of us, “Thank goodness this does not happen in our church!” Immediately, the older pastor says firmly, “you are young and inexperienced—but let me tell you, this abuse DOES go on in our church! You will see after years like me.” The young pastor was from Romania and still in disbelief. I told him CSA happens here, Romania, and all churches everywhere. As he left I encouraged him to go to THOS and see for himself.

It is a joy to get to know all the exhibitors at the PELC. One vendor beside us was talking about how awful it was on the television show Cheers to have an ex-alcoholic owning and working a bar. He stated an alcoholic should never ever be in a bar again much less run one. We all agreed and then I connected that same logic to why everyone should understand how ridiculous to think a predator pastor should be behind the pulpit again after abusing his sheep. Like I always hear said, “Restored back to Jesus—always; restored back to the pulpit—never!”

Now it was the last day. As I was driving to Oakwood, I was asking the Lord to bring anyone that needed the THOS ministry–especially any hurt sheep. And soon after arriving, I was standing away from the table talking when I noticed a beautiful woman had come to THOS table and was looking through our materials. So I quickly came by her side to ask if she knew anything about THOS. She said she had not heard of this ministry but knew about CSA. We talked for a long time—me explaining all about CSA and how it happens. At one point while I was describing the grooming process, she interjected how subtle this can be. I took note of this and thought to myself—she may be a victim herself, but did not want to ask. She really wanted to talk and we continued for a long time and then she asked me,  “Why did you get involved with THOS?” Let me say here, I wait on the Holy Spirit to give me wisdom on how much to share with each person. Some may not be ready for my transparent testimony while others need to hear it. And still others are predator pastors who will try to take advantage of such. I am always willing to share without shame how I was abused. But I want to be guided by the Lord. So I opened up honestly how this abuse happened to me. We shared our hearts. I encouraged her that victims can be healed and restored from the abuse with its shame, guilt, and secrecy. God did that for me and He could do that for all—all could be FREE! Afterwards, I stood in the busy hallway and sang softly to my Lord,

I sing because I'm happy
I sing because I'm free
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know he watches me

I sang with a full heart these powerful words! I am free indeed!

Later in the afternoon, I noticed a pastor that talked with me last year about THOS. He was very supportive of the ministry. He was sitting by a woman and kept pointing to our sign saying this ministry is really helpful. So I took my IPAD over to him because last year I did not have a way to show THOS website. He was excited and again told the woman THOS was a wonderful ministry. He said he bought the DVD, “Call it Anything but Love!” last year and watched it. It was very impactful—it really opened his eyes to this horrible abuse. He went on and on about how powerful the DVD was to him. I thanked him and had to go as someone came to our table. It really encouraged my heart to hear how THOS was touching other hearts!

It was getting almost quitting time and some of the exhibitors were breaking down their signs and things. We had about half an hour left before the church wanted us to close our booths. I had noticed a distinguished gentleman that had been near our table several times. He finally stopped by looking at THOS sign—in particular the words ‘sexual abuse.’ I talked at length with him about CSA—giving him statistics, going over the website, and sharing how complicated this abuse was to so many. He took a handful of brochures to share with others that he thought had been abused. He said he looked for red flags with friends and people who may have been sexually abused to offer help, as he was very familiar with sexual abuse. Then he prayed a beautiful prayer to our Lord that brought such comfort and strength to each of us! I never expected to be so blessed and touched—but isn’t that just like our wonderful Lord Almighty, Creator of the Universe. He uses THOS to bless and heal others & He uses others to bless and heal us!

Just before we left one another, he said to me, “we heal so that we can heal.” I said, “yes, like being transformed from glory to glory.” Then I said these words:

I sing because I'm happy
I sing because I'm free

And he said these words back to me:

His eye is on the sparrow
And I know he watches me

Praise God for THOS! May He receive all the Glory!

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