Update: 2015. They took it back. Still covering it up.
UPDATE: ABWE submits to a full investigation by G.R.A.C.E. Glory to God!
Or whom I want with me during the battle.
This is not a happy story. This is not a story about puppies or rainbows. And I wish I could say no one was harmed in its telling. But life is not a happy story, and we are all harmed in its telling.
We ran around like a litter of puppies, six girls, two families. One in my grade, and one below, one after that and one after that. We played in the park, climbed the trees, played on the basketball teams together and sat in AWANA clubs, side by side. The older one and I, a year apart in age but in the same grade, were friends on Sundays but there was always a good chance we’d be rivals by Wednesday and bitter enemies by Friday. But that’s what you do when you’re 10 or 12.
Those three other girls, their father was born with the specs and manuals for every single mechanism inside his head. He married a good woman, raised four beautiful daughters and loved Jesus with his whole heart. Because of his extraordinary gift, he decided to move his family to the jungles of south Asia to help keep a hospital up and running, a surgeon for the necessary machines. So he did, they did. They packed all their belongings in big barrels and shipped their lives over to Bangladesh for a year. They came home for awhile to raise money to go back and then they left again. I always missed them, my friends and my rivals.
They came back and there were rumors and over the years we knew something Not. Right. We, I, had no idea how not right it was.
The youngest daughter, 14 in 1989, was nearly devoured by a wolf. Not a four-footed, furry wolf, but it may as well have been. It was a wolf in surgical garb, a doctor, a hero of the faith. The big man on campus, the one who pulled in all the money with his glory stories of children saved and souls won for Jesus. The surgeon. And in the interest of expedience, the surgeon is to be saved. Forget the mechanic. Forget the girls. Forget the family. Save the ministry.
They packed everything back up inside those barrels and brought it all home, leaving something so important behind in the jungles and bringing back a cancer with them. It will be ok, they were told. We’re taking care of it, they were told.
As they set about rebuilding their lives here in the mundane Midwest, the cancer grew. To use a different analogy, their house was set ablaze, devouring memories and engulfing potential. But don’t worry, they were told by those that were in charge. Stay in the living room, don’t fret. The smoke you smell, that’s for the big happy Baptist camp bonfire. We’re all going to roast marshmallows and eat S’MORES. It’s going to be ok.
Back in March, and I don’t know why, the other survivors of the wolf, as well as those three brave girls, decided enough was enough. But unlike what I would have done, which would have been criminal, they collected their stories, strung together their facts and wove an inescapable net and threw it over the mission agency, the Association of Baptist for World Evangelism if you’re keeping score. (I am but I know I shouldn’t be). They presented their evidence for all the world to see on this blog. They confronted and badgered like the widow before the unjust judge. All they want is to identify all his victims and to figure out how it stayed secret so long. The righteous mission agency continues to obfuscate and hedge and whine and whimper before the face of all this truth: the hot fire they themselves set.
They, the mission board, promised yet again they will take care of it, that they will deal with the problem. But how big a problem is it now? The surgeon, the wolf, came back to the states with spiritual cover. No one in the appropriate agencies was told about what he was: a pedophile. So he has continued to practice medicine in the Grand Rapids area. (If you live there or are from there, his name is Donn Ketcham and he should not have access to your daughters)
I am not optimistic that these women will yet find justice. That’s just me and I’m prone to dark thoughts. I know this, though, my life is better for having been involved in small ways in this fight with them. I know that while the mission board can put them off as angry women, to me they are those three little girls with whom I played and with whom I argued like sisters so many years ago. Those girls are who I have in mind when I light a candle in the narthex of my church on Sundays. Those girls are on my mind and in my heart when I pray during the Liturgy “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
These women, their parents and those other survivors have shown more grace, more courage than anyone I have ever known. I write this as a tribute to them and ask that if you are a person of faith, you pray that their fight ends soon, that they find justice and peace. If you are not a person of faith, do not see this as a reason not to believe, but look to their example of the Christian life and see how honorable it is when you do things the right way, even in the face of such horror.
Lord, have mercy.