Featured

A Major Evangelical Mission in America Persecutes one of its own Missionaries

The purpose of the blog is to protest the abuse of an SIM Missionary by the leadership of SIMUSA.  I (and my sister and brother-in-law and wife) are writing this blog on behalf of our father, who until recently has been with SIM for almost 25 years.  We have protested against what SIM has done for over a year now, and they continue to refuse to listen to us and to the advice from many other knowledgeable individuals.  We are hoping that public pressure placed on SIMUSA by partners and financial supporters may make a difference.

I will start off saying my father, “Bill”, has been a wonderful father to us.  He and our mother loved us, cared for us, and have been by our side helping us throughout our lives.   Our mother unfortunately had a head injury and died several years ago.  Our father was widowed for a period of time and was very lonely.  A few years after mom died, while he was serving in Ethiopia with SIM, he met and shortly thereafter married a woman there, “Ysabel”.  They had 2 boys together.

I’ll spare the details but suffice it to say they had a difficult marriage. They went to counseling many times.  Bill and Ysabel stayed with my wife and I in the US on multiple occasions, and we went and visited them in Ethiopia on multiple occasions.  During these visits as well as longer periods when we all lived together, my wife and I would observe my father’s total love and devotion towards his boys, while his wife (my step-mom) would spend very little time with them, preferring to go shopping or watch TV.  Over several years of direct observation, we would see Bill go to great efforts to care for the boys, while Ysabel acted like being a mother was a huge inconvenience.  My brothers themselves were an absolute delight, well behaved and fun to be around.

As their marriage progressed, Ysabel began increasingly hostile towards Bill.  I was aware of this, and would call Bill on an almost weekly basis to try and encourage him.  He would share that he was having a tough time with Ysabel, but would always lighten up when talking about the boys, stating over and over that were a joy and a huge blessing in his life.

Ysabel’s increasingly hostile behavior also manifested in accusations.  When staying with us or when we came to visit, she falsely accused both my wife and me of various evils, of which I will leave the specifics out.  Back in Ethiopia, as their boys become older, she began accusing the maids in the home of abusing their boys.  Bill told her this was not possible, the maids were wonderful with the boys and the boys loved the maids.  Ysabel still fired the maids, to the devastation of the boys.

Shortly before their return to America, Ysabel began putting a lot of pressure on Bill to transfer the majority of his retirement savings, over $100,000, to Ethiopia in order to buy a house for them.  Foreigners are not allowed to own property in Ethiopia, so when Bill subsequently transferred these savings, they automatically went into Ysabel’s name.  She also put significant pressure on Bill to apply for a spousal visa for her to live in the US permanently.

After this was done, Ysabel accused Bill of inappropriately touching their boys.  There was no evidence of this, but Ysabel based her ‘suspicion’ on their boys behaving like typical boys do at those particular ages (Ysabel would later admit in court she did not understand child development stages).  Bill sat down with Ysabel and explained how this was not true, that he loved the boys and would never hurt them.  Bill incorrectly thought after that the conversation was over.

Unbeknownst to Bill, Ysabel called SIMUSA in Charlotte and told them that she suspected Bill could have abused the boys.  Despite Bill having been with SIM for 25 years, and having never been accused of something like this before, SIMUSA did not ask him about these allegations from Ysabel.  Instead they decided to deceive Bill.  They sent to Ethiopia a counseling couple for a weekend on the pretext of ‘marriage counseling’.  During the weekend, Bill sat down with a counselor and discussed his marriage.  As noted, allegations of abuse were never raised.  At the end of the weekend, Bill was told their marriage was in bad shape and they needed to come back to the US for marriage counseling.  Someone with the SIM advocacy department  “MD” and a SIM director “EE” furthered the deception by directly lying to Bill in email and telling him that they would be coming back to the USA to spend together as a family and work on counseling. This was particularly troublesome to our family that MD, who supposedly is an impartial child safety advocate, would blatantly lie in written form to Bill before any type of investigation had been even started – how could SIM possibly be fair in this situation if the individuals who would later be heavily involved in the case were deceiving Bill before the case had even begun?

After a long flight from Ethiopia, late in the evening, Bill and Ysabel and their 2 boys arrived in Charlotte.  They were picked up by EE.  Once they got to SIM headquarters, Bill was confronted by a police officer and DSS worker, and his children were taken from him.  Without any legal representation, SIM forced him to sign a document saying that he was being accused of inappropriately touching his boys and would be separated from his boys.  Despite EE telling Bill that he was not accused of any crime but rather being investigated, this was not the case, based on the document Bill was forced to sign.

Later we would learn that SIM was in communication with a law firm in Charlotte as well as with Ysabel for close to a month prior to actually coming back to the US, to come up with this plan to charge Bill and separate him from the boys – again all without anyone from SIM ever actually talking about him about these allegations.

After being separated from his family, Bill was only allowed to initially see his boys 1 hour a day, 3 days a week.  After several people called SIM to protest, SIM allowed him to see the boys 1 hour a day, 5 days a week.  Bill called the DSS worker about this, and even the DSS worker expressed surprise that Bill was having such limited time with his boys.  The DSS worker called and spoke with SIM on Bill’s behalf regarding his limited time with the boys, but was rebuffed.  The DSS worker would go on to tell us that this profound  separation from his boys was never the intention of the document that Bill had been forced to sign.

During this period of time, when I went up to SIM to visit my brothers, I was scolded by EE and  another SIM deputy director that I had not asked permission to see my own brothers, whom I dearly love.  During the course of this conversation, when I told them that I did not trust or believe Ysabel, my statement was passed on to Ysabel and later used in court against me.

On another occasion my sister went up to SIM to talk with MD about how poorly our father was being treated – during their conversation MD told her that everyone has “secret sin” and that Bill “needed to be punished”.  MD, who is supposed to be an impartial safety advocate, made this statement that he needed to be punished before any actual investigation had ever been completed by DSS, SIM, or any legal authorities.

After 5 weeks, DSS in NC ultimately concluded what we knew to be true – Ysabel’s allegations were ruled unsubstantiated.  A forensic interview was performed for both boys, and they were found not to be abused.  Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police subsequently closed the case.  However, before the case was even closed, Ysabel sued Bill in court for full emergency custody of the boys.  Ysabel, with the support of SIM and using the SIM  law firm, did not even wait until the investigation had been completed  (and Bill had been exonerated) by DSS before suing him for custody.  Before even allowing the investigation to be completed, Ysabel with the financial support of SIM initiated a court battle which still continues today.

It should be noted that to date SIM has given tens of thousands of dollars of money donated to them to Ysabel to sue Bill in court.  It is even more shocking that ministry funds donated for work in Ethiopia was taken out of Bill’s account and provided to Ysabel to support her attacks against him.  For example, Bill and Ysabel had a ministry account in Ethiopia that supported 26 rural evangelists $100 a month while they worked in unreached areas – these evangelists had left their families and houses and crops behind to spread the gospel and depended on this money for survival.  These funds had been donated by supporters of Bill for the purpose of ministry in Ethiopia.  Against Bill’s requests, this account was drained by SIM, and Bill had to pay out of his own pocket money to get the rural evangelists back to their home villages, since there were no more funds to support them.

After DSS and the police in North Carolina closed the case, my wife and I both had an uneasy feeling that although Ysabel’s initial allegations were unsubstantiated, she would accuse Bill of abuse again.  We spoke with him about this, stating that we believed Ysabel would accuse him again, and asked him and the boys come live in our house so that we could be around and be witnesses in case Ysabel accused him a second time.

Sure enough, within weeks Ysabel accused Bill of inappropriate touching of the boys a second time.  Initially we all thought that her accusation was so ridiculous, as the first case had just been closed, that her second round of allegations wouldn’t even be investigated.  If Bill had just gone through a lengthy investigation for abuse and was just exonerated, we thought no one in their right mind would believe he could allegedly abuse the boys again the first weekend he had them back.  While DSS NC turned the case down, they did turn it over to the SC police, and for the next 3 months we were involved in a second investigation.

During this time, the church in SC had been trying to mediate and help the situation between Bill and Ysabel.  They offered Ysabel a free apartment in Columbia, childcare for the boys, and counseling for her and Bill while they worked out their issues.  Bill was excited about this opportunity to try and work things out through mediation instead of being slandered and attacked through the legal system.  Ysabel refused. In fact she had her lawyer send the church pastor a cease-and-desist letter to prevent the church from further contacting her, despite all their efforts to support this family.

Several people from the church graciously volunteered to help supervise during this time, since due to Ysabel’s allegations Bill had to be supervised around the boys. Unfortunately the judge had stipulated that Ysabel be able to approve the supervisors. She subsequently did all that she could to make our lives difficult, including initially hardly approving any supervisors. She initially didn’t even approve the boys own sister, stating it would put the boys in harm’s way. It was not until just before another court appearance, when Ysabel likely realized it would look bad to have been such an obstructionist, that she subsequently approved more supervisors.

The church had previously spoken with Bill and Ysabel whether they would consider taking a lie detector test.  They both agreed to take it. Bill took a lie detector test, where he was asked if he ever touched his boys in a sexual manner.  He answered no, and the polygraph test confirmed his answers were truthful without deception. Ysabel never took the test.

Finally, after a lengthy investigation lasting several months, Ysabel’s second round of allegations were discredited.  The boys had a second forensic interview performed by child abuse experts in South Carolina.  They found that the boys had not been abused, in accordance with what DSS North Carolina had previously also found.  Richland County Sheriff Department interviewed my wife, myself, Bill, and several other people and ultimately closed the case as well.

During this time, SIM fired Bill.  Bill had initially resigned from SIM, in protest of how poorly he had been treated in this situation, essentially being treated as a criminal and being declared guilty before ever being proven innocent.  However SIM wrote him back and told him they did not accept his resignation and wanted to meet with him instead.

Bill went up to Charlotte to meet with EE and some other SIM leadership, along with his Church pastor and elders, as well as my wife.  We all thought SIM was going to apologize for their treatment of him.  This was after DSS NC had found Ysabel’s allegations unsubstantiated and the police had closed the case.  Additionally, this was the day after the boys had had a second forensic interview in Columbia, where for a second time Ysabel (being accompanied by a SIM representative) was told that the boys had not been abused.  Instead SIM fired Bill.  During the meeting my wife brought up that we did not appreciate SIM’s lies – the only response EE had was that “mistakes were made”.
After SIM fired Bill, some former SIM missionaries, on behalf of Bill, appealed to the SIM International Director. However he declined their appeal, referring it back to SIMUSA.  Bill subsequently appealed to another leader within SIMUSA, “BJ”, who agreed to hear the appeal.

We initially had hope in BJ’s agreement to hear the appeal.  By this time, the second child forensic interview had been completed, and the SC police department had closed the case for a second time.  Ysabel’s repeated allegations had been disproved twice now.  We thought for sure that common sense would finally prevail at SIM.  Additionally, BJ actually sat down with Bill and heard his side of the story, being the first SIM representative to do so.  Up until that point, no one directly from SIM had ever bothered to ask Bill his side of the story.  SIM had asked an independent investigator to speak with Bill, but during that time he was simply asked yes or no questions – Bill answered “never” to the questions about whether he abused his boys, and then was still fired.

Despite our continued hopes that someone in leadership at SIMUSA would finally see reason, BJ did not reverse course and upheld the original decision to fire Bill.

Since that time, SIM has continued to obstruct the way.  In one court hearing in June, BJ even got up on the witness stand to testify against Bill.  In this case, however, justice was done – after only a few minutes, the judge determined that the only thing BJ essentially had to offer was hearsay, and he was told to step down.

At this court hearing, we saw multiple days of evidence.  One of the more shocking pieces of evidence was a video of one of my brothers being forensically interviewed, and after making certain statements in this video, he stated that his mommy told him to say these things.

After hearing all the testimony in court and reviewing the expert testimony, the judge threw out all allegations of abuse and instructed Ysabel to cease from making any future allegations. In the court’s final findings, the judge found that the boys had not been abused by their father.

However despite all this, SIM refuses to apologize to Bill.  When my family has continued to protest about this huge injustice being done against us, SIMUSA leadership simply tells us that they will pray for us, while simultaneously continuing to financially, logistically, and emotionally support attacks against us in court.

MD has continued to go to court in support of Ysabel and against Bill as well.   At this point there is an ongoing custody battle.  Despite MD being involved with Child Safety, and with the judge having clearly ruled that there is no child safety issue at this point, MD continues to go to court to support Ysabel in her fight against Bill.  Since when do SIM representatives get involved in custody disputes?

While clearly Ysabel bears the responsibility for initiating this course of lies and destruction, SIM has had a huge role to play in this situation.  By mistakenly thinking they are helping the boys, all that has been accomplished is to ultimately harm the boys, destroy any chance of reconciliations between their parents, and from the very beginning wholeheartedly support one parent who has made multiple blatantly false accusations against the other. To this day, my brothers cry when they are forced to leave their father after a brief period of time with him on the weekends.  I would not expect any less from Ysabel.  However I would have expected much more from SIM.

Considering the climate we live in today, SIM absolutely needed to report an allegation of child abuse to the legal authorities for investigation.  However after that first step, the rest of their response has been completely unconscionable.  SIM initiated a legal investigation but then has proceeded to ignore or explain away the actual findings as given by the authorities, perhaps because it did not fit their narrative and preconceived suppositions. This is supposedly a Christian organization and should hold to a higher standard. Yet despite SIM stating they are held to a “higher standard”, SIM personnel directly involved in this case have lied. They have ignored the recommendations from multiple legal authorities based on multiple forensic investigations that these accusations were not true (DSS in NC, ARC in SC, multiple police organizations, and the judge in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg court system).  They fired a long-standing missionary before ever even sitting down with him to get his side of the story.  They have provided huge sums of money and gone to court on multiple occasions to support the separation of children from their God-given parent, again based on disproved allegations.  Their actions have ultimately produced life-long emotional trauma for almost everyone involved, including my brothers.  This is inexcusable.

Our Beliefs

-We believe that EE and MD must step down or be removed from their positions of authority that they have abused.

-We feel that as a leader in this organization, BJ is ultimately responsible for this travesty.

-We believe Bill should be reimbursed by SIM for having to use the remainder of his retirement savings to pay for a lawyer to defend him against these false accusations that SIM has supported.  In addition, SIM should reimburse Bill for his travel expenses after he was forced to drive over 10,000 miles back and forth from his home to see the boys while they were being kept from him.  Additionally SIM has provided no pastoral care or counseling for Bill, and we believe they should support Bill with the pastoral care and counseling that he is undergoing.

-We believe that SIM should stop giving donated monies intended for ministry to instead sue an innocent man in court based on legally proven falsehoods.

-We believe that SIM must change their child abuse policy to prevent this type of situation from ever arising in the future.

Advertisements