Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Haiti: Child safeguards or accusations of Satan?

In Haiti, officials arrested ten members of a Southern Baptist “mission team” for trying to take a busload of 33 undocumented children across the border to what was described as a "temporary orphanage."

The Haitian prime minister explained the arrests with these words:

"It is clear now that they were trying to cross the border without papers. It is clear now that some of the children have live parents. And it is clear now that they knew what they were doing was wrong."
Another official said the arrested Baptists were “suspected of being part of an illegal adoption scheme.”

So, the Haitian government is seeking to enforce its laws -- laws that were designed to protect Haitian children and families against child trafficking.

In response, Southern Baptist pastor Clint Henry, urged his congregation to pray to God to "help them as they seek to resist the accusations of Satan. . . . “

Uhhhh … is he talking about the accusations of the Haitian government? Is that what he’s calling the “accusations of Satan”?

So let me get this straight.

When another country’s government seeks to safeguard children by arresting those who take them without documentation, the pastor of some of the arrested “missionaries” publicly denounces the matter as “accusations of Satan.”

Must be nice to always have someone else to blame, huh?

Maybe that’s part of the reason why Southern Baptists are so reluctant to institute accountability systems for their clergy. It’s just so much easier to blame Satan rather than to take a hard look at yourself.

And by the way . . . this guy, Clint Henry, isn’t just some Podunk pastor. He’s pastor of Central Valley Baptist, the largest Southern Baptist church in Idaho. In fact, the combined Utah-Idaho Southern Baptist Convention described him as “one of our finest pastors.”

So this is the sort of example that is set by a prominent Southern Baptist pastor.

His church sends a “mission team” that, according to the Associated Press, “appeared to lack any significant experience with Haiti, international charity work or international adoption regulations.” It was, at best, a dreadfully “misguided approach.” Yet, rather than taking responsibility and dealing with it, the pastor shifts the blame to Satan.

A spokesman for Unicef in Haiti said he was “amazed” that the Baptists thought their actions were acceptable. "You can't just go and take a child out of a country no matter what country you're in. This is not what is done," he said.

And the head of a Canadian group in Haiti said this: “Whether this is trafficking or not, it puts children at risk. Because even well-intentioned people who remove children from their communities and their country, by crossing borders, it makes it almost impossible for us to track them and find their parents and extended families. . . . “

Yet, despite the knowledgeable views of established aid workers, Southern Baptist pastor Clint Henry expressed his disappointment in having his church “dragged into the controversy.” And then he blamed it on the “accusations of Satan.”

How will Baptists ever accept accountability for themselves when they’ve always got Satan to carry the blame?

Jeri Massi did a good job of summarizing some of the apparent problems in this whole scenario, chalking it up as yet another example of the lack of accountability in Southern Baptists’ “radical church autonomy.”

The accountability and tracking of this so-called ministry is, itself, problematic in terms of the Southern Baptist Convention. In the end, there really is no convention-wide oversight of this mission. This is the problem of such radical church autonomy, which is typical of Baptist denominations, coming to surface yet again. Nobody in the Southern Baptist Convention is actually held accountable to the Convention at large . . . .

So, and this has been made quite clear, local churches . . . could have sent down nitwits, incompetents, spoiled little rich kids, or even criminals, on a mission team to Haiti. There is no centralized record keeping in place in the Southern Baptist Convention to tell us, or to certify, that these people were qualified to attempt this "mission" . . . .

If each local church that sent members of the team did not do exhaustive background checks on those people, then nobody did. The Southern Baptist Convention would not require it. Remember, we are talking about a local church pastored by a man, who, when it was announced that his members had been illegally transporting impoverished children after an earthquake, who were dehydrated and ill, first expressed concern and dismay about the reputation of his church, and not the children.

I really do not know if these Baptist "missionaries" had criminal intentions. I doubt that they did, though I can easily believe that criminals would have found them easy marks to use to round up children. Clearly, they are incompetent and short sighted. . . .

But such gross incompetence is wrong. High handed "rescues" that ruin lives are not rescues. They are tragedies. . . . Nobody, no matter what their intentions, has the right to be that incompetent with the lives of others.


Update: As reported in the New York Times: "While the Americans said they did not intend to offer the children for adoption, the Web site for their orphanage makes clear that they intended to do so" . . . "with seaside villas for adopting parents." Haitian parents said they trusted the Americans "because they arrived with the recommendation of a Baptist minister." Laura Silsby, a leader of the "mission team" said, “God wanted us to come here . . . . “


Anonymous said...

Thank you for publishing such important information. Many think that clergy who abuse only do so in the United States. This is a worldwide problem.

Jeri said...

Every time Laura Silsby opens her mouth, she changes her story.

BaptistPlanet said...

You closing quote from the New York Times haunts me, and I have separately verified every word of it.

Christa Brown said...

"Your closing quote from the New York Times haunts me...."

It haunts me also. They use God as an excuse for doing what they want, regardless of the law, and then when the law tries to hold them accountable, they blame Satan. It's a perfect belief system for avoiding any personal responsibility for one's actions.

Lydia said...

I understand your points but we are also not there. There is a stink to this from the Haitian government that is quite fishy.

They have criminals roaming the streets raping children, escaped convicts stealing and selling donated food stores, dead bodies everywher and the government was denying the missionaries access to their lawyer, prosecuting them in the press without representation and were holding the children instead of sending them back to their supposed parents. It stinks to high heaven.

If there is a crisis of epic proportions and I do not act to fill a need because I fear getting in trouble or breaking the law when chaos reigns, what does that make me?

Are we jumping to conclusions without all the facts? Why are we automatically assuming these folks had nefarious intentions like the Haitian government is doing? Could the parents have asked them to take them (like many were) and then changing their minds when they saw how the government was responding? It is not like a democracy there at all.

If you listented to their lawyer interviewed, he was only allowed to see one of them for a few minutes up until yesterday which is the last time I checked.

I am going to withhold prosecuting these folks until they are back and can speak freely.

Jeri said...

Lydia wrote: "If there is a crisis of epic proportions and I do not act to fill a need because I fear getting in trouble or breaking the law when chaos reigns, what does that make me?"

If you misrepresent your mission to families of small children with promises of an orphanage that does not exist, take them away from their homes, and try to cross a border with them, with no documentation trail that would protect them, and the smallest of them sick and dehydrated, you are a kidnapper.

John said...

Even if their motives were sincere there is problem with the idea that because they are Christains they can break the laws of another country. Remember you just can not fix stupid!

Jim said...

Another example of "the rules that apply to others do not apply to Southern Baptists." These may have been well intentioned people, but I remember my Mom's admonition that the "road to Hell is paved with good intentions." Perhaps they were trying to do the right thing the wrong way. Regardless, they were wrong.

Lydia said...

Even if their motives were sincere there is problem with the idea that because they are Christains they can break the laws of another country. Remember you just can not fix stupid!

February 3, 2010 10:45 PM

So, no more smuggling bibles into China or the ME?

Lydia said...

If you misrepresent your mission to families of small children with promises of an orphanage that does not exist, take them away from their homes, and try to cross a border with them, with no documentation trail that would protect them, and the smallest of them sick and dehydrated, you are a kidnapper.

February 3, 2010 6:23 PM

How do we know the parents did not change their minds when they found out how the government reacted?

We have heard one side of this so far from the Haitian government and the press who talks to the Haitian government and other agencies..

I have NO idea if they are guilty of some nefarious plot or not. I am just a bit surprised at so many to pre condemn folks who were dealing in a country full of chaos and dead bodies. I have even seen some insist they were going to adopt them out because one of them was involved in Haitian adoptions before this earthquake. I have seen nothing but jumping to conclusions and condemnation.

They would not even allow them all to meet with their lawyer. There has been no due process at all for these folks.

Missionaries break the law every day in foriegn countries. Some claim to be humanitarian aid people so they can get it. Some smuggle bibles and hold illegal home church meetings.

Jeri said...

Laura Silsby's story has changed each time she tells it. And each version gets contradicted by some other person giving a different version.

But the facts are in before the Haitian legal system, and they've all been charged (to my surprise. I had been thinking 9 might get off with a slap on the wrist and only Silsby herself held).

So the legal system has concluded that there is enough evidence of criminal activity to warrant criminal charges and detainment. And the US is not interfering, noting only that the Haitian legal system is following its due process in a transparent way that invites US monitoring.

Jeri said...

Lydia, you said we have heard only one side of this story, but actually, Laura Silsby, leader of the group, has had very free access to the press and has given several versions of her side of the story.

Christa Brown said...

From the Associated Press: Ten Americans charged in Haiti with kidnapping.

"None of the children who are old enough to talk have said they were orphans."

Anonymous said...

"Pastor" Clint's email address is no longer posted on his website, but why not feel free to share his address with others:

Let this man know how disgusted you are by his illegal and immoral actions (and I do not mean the contradictory lies spewed from the sorry-ass members of his Christianist missionaries).

May the LORD smite them and their evil ways! LOL!!!

Jim said...

Associated Baptist Press reports, today, that Southern Baptist Leaders have sent a letter to President Obama asking him to persuade the Haitian government to release the "missionaries" and then enable them (Morris Chapman, Johnny Hunt and Frank Page) to accompany those "missionaries" back home, in order to provide spiritual guidance and pastoral care. Yeah, right! They should have said, we want to accompany them home to "debrief" them to make sure they don't say anything to further embarrass the SBC. Seems like those noted Baptist leaders have ignored, completely, the children. Oh, I forgot, that's just what they always do...forget about the children and defend the adult offenders, whatever the charges.

Christa Brown said...

Jim: Thanks for the update.

Here's the article Jim is referring to: "Southern Baptist leaders ask Obama to intervene on behalf of missionaries."

I can't help but think how ironic it is that these Southern Baptist leaders would ask Obama to intervene to protect the missionaries in Haiti, and yet these very same Southern Baptist leaders wouldn't lift a finger to intervene with their very own affiliated Southern Baptist churches so as to help clergy abuse survivors and protect others against predatory clergy.

In addition to the ABP article that Jim references, there is also an interesting op-ed piece in ABP today, written by a Baptist minister who works with a program in Haiti: "Opinion: Prosecuting missionaries good for Haiti, families, church."

Lydia said...

"So the legal system has concluded that there is enough evidence of criminal activity to warrant criminal charges and detainment."

The "legal" system in Haiti? You must be kidding. It is completely corrupt and now is decimated by earthquake.

I would like to see your story after being held in a Haitian jail with very little access to your lawyer.

Once again, I have no idea what is exactly going on. So, I won't jump on the bashing bandwagon.

But to suggest that the Haitian 'legal' system is just or even organized at this point is ridiculous.

This is the land of Baby Doc. And the recent 2004 coup of Aristide. It has consistently been in the top 10% of corrupt nations.

Lydia said...

Great comment from the link:

So let me see if I understand this right. Haiti and her government are in shambles. Children are dying daily for lack of care. Someone has a bright idea to move some children to a new orphanage in the stable country next door. So far this sounds like a great idea.

The missionaries think they have proper documents from the government saying they can take the children across the border, but as things turn out they do not have the proper documents. The government is not even functioning due to the disaster. So the thought of gaining the proper documents when half the government is literally dead is a pipe dream. So the missionaries take the limited documents they do have and try to do best by the children. Once again, the missionaries believe they have enough documentation to move the children. They may not have normal documentation, but what is normal in Haiti after the earth quake has killed so many.

To sum things up, the missionaries believe they are acting legally. Genius above would have the missionaries wait on the proper stamp from a half dead government in chaos before helping children in danger of literally dying. Could the author have painted these missionaries in any worse light?

This paragraph by Fritz is just ignorant:

"The Southern Baptists from Idaho appear to have worked solely with a single Haitian-American pastor and ignored advice that what they were doing was wrong, illegal and that they would likely be detained when they attempted to cross the border with these passport-less, non-orphaned children."

The missionaries had documents but not the right documents. They believe they are acting legally! He should know this. "ignored advice"? From who? When? Did he just make this up? "Non-orphaned" children? Yes, but the families gave them to the missionaries in hopes of providing the children with food, shelter, education, and a better life. If they have the family's permission what is the problem? (Yes, the families were told they could visit.) He paints the missionaries as liars who are taking "non-orphaned" children away. . . as if by stealing! The family said ok, take our child. The author does not even mention this IMPORTANT fact. This is irresponsible journalism at its worst, and ABP should pull the article.

I have never seen this level of hatred in the Baptist wars. Would his level of venom be just as poisonous if these were not Southern Baptists? The man does not even give all of the facts. How is this not libel?

Not real sure what to make about the international adoption rant toward the end. Evidently Christians are satanic when they want to adopt children from impoverished countries. How dare they desire to provide food, shelter, and, yes, even the Gospel to their new son or daughter. What planet is this guy from?

Christa Brown said...

"'Ignored advice'? From who? When? Did he just make this up?"

Reported Feb. 3 in the Wall Street Journal:
"But more reports surfaced Wednesday that the group was warned away from its plan. Carlos Castillo, the Dominican Republic's consul general in Port-au-Prince, said in an interview that he met with the group's leader, Laura Silsby, on Friday at the consulate in the Haitian capital and told her she lacked the documents to transport children."

"She told Mr. Castillo she had applied to Dominican authorities for a permit to cross the border, he said. But Mr. Castillo checked and found no such application. 'I told her I could authenticate Haitian documents but she had no Haitian documents of any sort,' said Mr. Castillo. 'She told me she would try to reach the border in order to cross. I told her not to do that without the necessary documents because she could be accused of trafficking children.'

"Mr. Castillo said that at the border Ms. Silsby showed Haitian authorities his business card and said he had authorized her to cross. Border authorities called him and he denied it."

"Steve Hersey, director of the Quisqueya Christian School in Port-au-Prince, said by email that he told Ms. Silsby's group that their plan was 'unconscionable' when they approached the school looking for help."