CHILD ABUSE REPORT GIVES "NEW TRIBES" A CHANCE TO REFORM ITSELF
New Tribes Missions, a worldwide missionary organization with
headquarters in Florida, has an airport and housing compound in McNeal,
here in Cochise County, Arizona. The local operation trains pilots and
mechanics to support missionary work overseas. The local operation is
a site with many links to other New Tribes info.
On August 23, an organization called GRACE -- "Godly Response to Abuse
in the Christian Environment" -- issued a report about child abuse at a
New Tribes boarding school in Fanda, in the country of Senegal, Africa.
The original GRACE Report is at
and if that is removed, a backup copy is at
On August 28, GRACE posted a modified copy at
and a backup copy is at
As to the modification, GRACE says it "added a couple of paragraphs under the Recommendation
section that articulates the purpose of the report and the
standard used in making the recommendations [1, because GRACE's]
purpose was to address the failed responses of NTM to information
provided that provided evidence for abuse claims…not to convict
or acquit [and 2, because] We were contacted yesterday by Mark Adams
and were able to have a substantive conversation with him regarding the
allegations and recommendations as they relate to him.... We plan no
further amendments or addendum." The August 28 changes to the
Report did not affect any part of the article you are reading.
(Most recently, on September 8, GRACE issued a Supplement to the amended Report. See
The GRACE Report exists because a few abused "MKs" -- "Missionary Kids"
-- would not let New Tribes forever cover up the abuse and blame the
victims. The website of the Fanda Eagles, the abused children, is at
(By September 8, when GRACE's
Supplement came out, lots of MKs had had a chance to let the Report
sink in, and were responding by posting reports of even more horrible
conduct at New Tribes boarding schools, and also posting
dissatisfaction with the New Tribes handling of matters since the
Report came out. If New Tribes central headquarters expected that
it could handle any firestorm that the GRACE Report touched off, that
expectation is in for some serious testing.)
The abuse at Fanda is not merely "alleged," New Tribes admits it. Since
the GRACE Report came out, New Tribes's page at
has added a statement that "Individuals in our organization abused
children.... we as an organization are responsible and have sinned
against these students." (And on September 3, the New Tribes page at
added that "This week, the NTM USA
Executive Board completed several of the recommendations in GRACE's
report .... The recommendations that have been completed pertain
to 14 of the people named in the report.... NTM intends to take
action against other personnel as well.... Taking action against
these personnel in no way absolves New Tribes Mission of
responsibility. NTM as an organization failed to protect the children
at Fanda, and takes responsibility for these inexcusable failures....")
(On September 11, the fandaeagles website reported the following letter as "being sent to perpetrators and those who failed to protect us:
In addressing the sins committed at the Fanda boarding school, New
Tribes Mission acknowledges the centrality of its own sin. We did not
have proper oversight of either the school or the workers in the Field.
When New Tribes Mission received notices of abuse, we failed to respond
adequately or to respond at all. We should have immediately removed
those from authority who were responsible for these failures.
There is no question that many MKs were devastated by what they
experienced and observed during their time at Fanda. Tragically, this
devastation has manifested itself in alarming numbers of MKs suffering
from both emotional and medical conditions. Perhaps the most
catastrophic consequence of Fanda has been the indescribable spiritual
alienation suffered by so many MKs.
You were a member of the ______________ during the time that
allegations of child abuse at the Fanda school came to light. It has
clearly been documented that you failed to report child abuse and
otherwise take measures to protect the children of Fanda.
Your failure to protect the children at the Fanda missionary school
demonstrates a clear disregard for the seriousness and sinfulness of the
abuse perpetuated upon these young people. The failure to protect
children and report abuse is contrary to the mission and purpose of New
Tribes Mission, and cannot be tolerated in any manner or degree.
Therefore, NTM USA has amended your employment record to indicate your
active membership was terminated on _____________.
You are not allowed to represent NTM in any formal or informal
capacity. In addition, 10% of your gross NTM retirement income will be
deducted from your account to be contributed to an established MK fund.
NTM USA Executive Board
Larry Brown, Dan Kreider, Paul
Marv Ketcham, Mike Sullivan,
Also on September 11, the fandaeagles
site posted a followup letter from NTM explaining some terms used
in the first letter:
"Terminated from active service means that a person has been taken out
of full time engagement in ministry and will no longer serve or
represent NTM. Active Service means that the Member is engaged in
duties or responsibilities with NTM. To 'Terminate' someone from this
Active Service status means to make them a non-active member who no
longer has any responsibilities or duties with NTM.
Non-active Members are Retired members. They may receive income from
NTM if their financial partners choose to contribute to NTM toward
their support. They have no responsibilities or duties. While some
retired members may represent NTM, all individuals who have been
terminated as active members in this process are prohibited from
representing NTM in any capacity.
For example, the missionary who was representing NTM and was
terminated to non-active service will be classified as a retired
(non-active) member, but will no longer be permitted to minister or
Those who are terminated from membership will have no status within
NTM. They will have no further relationship with NTM, and their
accounts with NTM will be permanently closed.
Members being terminated from membership will be given 90 days to
transition out of the organization. These 90 days begin on the last day
of the month in which they receive the official termination notice.
During this 90 day transition, the member has no NTM responsibilities or
duties. Notice of Termination of Membership is sent to the member’s
supporters during this transition period. The member may receive income
from NTM if financial partners choose to contribute to NTM toward their
support during the transition period. Following the 90 day transition,
their account is closed.
The way NTM is implementing the recommendations is in accordance
with GRACE. We talked through this implementation and its rationale
with them before we finalized the steps we have taken."
In short, NTM is saying that because "many MKs were devastated [which]
has manifested itself in alarming numbers of MKs suffering from both
emotional and medical conditions [and] indescribable spiritual
alienation," then some -- the number has not been released -- of the
people named in the GRACE Report will be, basically, fired. Being
fired obviously affects only those people who are still working
with NTM; since many of the people named in the report left NTM long
ago, being fired can hardly matter to them. In addition, some
people will no longer be allowed to represent NTM. Finally,
people drawing retirement pay from NTM will essentially be required to
"tithe" to "an established MK fund," which is not identified.
Since NTM has determined that abuse
took place, NTM appears to have a duty to report the abuse to law
enforcement. The website at
states, as of September 12, that "The
U.S. State Department is responsible for tracking such predators
throughout the world. If the alleged predators are U.S. citizens and
they go to other countries to sexually exploit children, they can be
prosecuted under our laws. The Christian Mission program folks can also
be held liable both criminally and civilly for facilitating/aiding and
abetting the pedophiles. These offenses may constitute a form of child
sex trafficking which should be reported to a Human Trafficking Task
Force. All the appropriate state and federal agencies are members of
such task forces so this list will be helpful to access the appropriate
agencies in any case." That site then gives contact information
for law enforcement in Florida. It may be possible to get action
in other states in which NTM facilities are located.)
The GRACE Report details "sexual, physical, emotional, and spiritual
abuse. Much of this abuse was criminal," Report p. 1. The allegations
target New Tribes personnel named Mark Adams, Bob Ames, Donna Beach,
David Brooks, Aubrey DeJager, Phil Gates, Reginaldo Goulart, Norm
Livingstone, Hammy Penner, Judy Penner, Willem "Bill" Poortvliet, and
The allegations about Hammy and Judy Penner are noteworthy. The Report,
pp. 16-17, says, as to Judy Penner, that "Two MKs recall her forcing
them to eat their own vomit, as ... punishment for getting sick during a
meal.... Hammy Penner is ... remembered for beatings ... in which he
used the buckle side of his belt.... As an MK soberly put it,
'Emotional abuse did occur with the Penners.'"
So far as this writer knows, neither Hammy or Judy Penner, nor any of
the twelve people listed above, has any connection with the New
Tribes operation in McNeal.
More names may be coming. The Report found "evidence of reported child
abuse ... worldwide in the NTM system.... Where there are abiding
concerns, these other instances of MK child abuse deserve their own
independent investigations," Report p. 3 n. 8.
The GRACE Report is the opposite of an attack on the Christian
religion. GRACE was founded by a grandson of Billy Graham's, the Report
is infused with Christianity, and its Conclusion includes "How fervently
the leaders and members of NTM must seek the mind of Christ over the
Fanda scandal. For true Christian repentance, we must be changed to see
the wicked truth about Fanda, to grasp the wrongheadedness, to empathize
with the hurting, to tremble at the offense to God, and to resolve for
restitution. The cross and character of Christ demand no less.
The ultimate mission of NTM is to be like Jesus, in her going to every
tongue and tribe and people and nation. But, what good will it be if
she gains the whole world, only to lose her own soul?"
GRACE aims to bring New Tribes "back into the fold," and so, in its own
way, does this writeup.
This writeup is about McNeal, Arizona, not about the Fanda Eagles or New
Tribes worldwide. In McNeal, New Tribes has long treated its neighbors
with disrespect, and been a poor member of the community. See the long
Talking with New Tribes in McNeal has been difficult, because spokesmen
for New Tribes always appear to have their mind made up that New Tribes
is right, whatever it does, no matter who it hurts.
This writer knows that New Tribes's treatment of its neighbors in
McNeal, Arizona, cannot possibly be anything but trivial compared to
what New Tribes did at Fanda. Being a bad neighbor is nothing compared
to committing or covering up child abuse. This writeup is aimed at the
New Tribes process which led to both results. The GRACE Report matters
to McNeal because of similar "management techniques" at Fanda and
McNeal. "[T]he conduct of New Tribes [at Fanda], which emphasized the
saving of souls at the expense of children ... made the abuse that
followed predictable," Report p. 2. In McNeal, the emphasis on New
Tribes goals at the expense of all other considerations made abuse of
the neighbors predictable.
The comments on New Tribes's own page at
include "True repentance, as the GRACE report points out, will be seen
in our actions, and we pledge to act. Our current leaders are reviewing
the recommendations in the report, and will meet with GRACE this week so
we can fully understand them and move forward in the right way."
(On August 30, New Tribes posted a note at
stating "NTM USA's Executive Board
has begun implementing GRACE's recommendations. The first set of these
will be complete by the end of the week." However, that note also
includes a statement by New Tribes that "At the request of NTM and with
the consent of the former students of the NTM school for missionary
children in Senegal, GRACE conducted a review of abuse at the school in
the 1980s and NTM's response." That's a little disingenuous; NTM
may have first contacted GRACE, but it was only after intensive pushing
by MKs that NTM did anything at all. Such disingenuousness is not
an indicator of sincerity on New Tribes's part.)
New Tribes is, however, slow off the mark. Remember Hammy and Judy
Penner? The Report says "Two MKs recall [Judy] forcing them to eat
their own vomit, as ... punishment for getting sick during a meal....
Hammy Penner is ... remembered for beatings ... in which he used the
buckle side of his belt." (In fairness to the Penners, GRACE's September 8 Supplement includes "Mr. Penner recently communicated with GRACE and
wrote, 'We absolutely deny the allegations made against us personally.'")
After the GRACE report came out, the New Tribes page at
still continued to solicit contributions to "the ministry of Hammy and Judy Penner." (The solicitation went on until September 3. Here's a screen shot:
Sometime on September 4, 2010, New Tribes stopped soliciting
money for Hammy and Judy on the 409/link page. That page now
says "The missionary you are searching for was not found in our
And New Tribes's appearance of openness is countered by emails, after
the GRACE report came out, from MKs on the
The MKs' emails are painful to read in their honesty and agony. Many of
them are filled with personal agony about the writer's past, loathing
for what happened at Fanda, hope for a change in the institutional
governance of New Tribes, and worry that the current governing body will
stall any meaningful change.
(As noted above, as of September 8, the MK emails are getting more painful to read as the Report circulates and sinks in.)
Here's the New Tribes structure that allowed the abuses and coverup.
Fanda School in Senegal was run by a "Field Committee," Report p. 3 n.
8. "The power and control it exercised paralleled that of a pastoral
staff, a congregational board of Elders, a set of church Deacons, an
employer, a local civil government, and a family chieftain, all in one.
The minutes of the ... Committee reveal action items on such matters as
ministry assignments, supplies, housing, vacations, education, spiritual
formation, public morals, civil crimes, church censures, private
property, medical advice, marriage, children, and other family matters.
Thus, they were given final authority and control on matters of family,
church, and state, which in a finite and fallen world are best not
aggregated into one set of hands, no matter how skilled," Report p. 6
nn. 17 & 18.
"Without the mechanisms to contain the Field Committee and to hold its
power accountable, the Committee inevitably became piously cruel,"
Report p. 7. The "Committee repeatedly failed to report abuse to the
authorities, to inform parents of the allegations, or to competently
investigate the allegations. On the contrary, the Field Committee, to
the extent it acted at all, acted to protect the perpetrators and the
institution at the expense of the children. If not criminal, the
conduct of the Field Committee was grossly negligent," Report p. 26.
Here are comments from missionaries and MKs who were affected by the
-- "'Leadership exploited their authority, based on what they claimed to
be "God's directions," and often made decisions that were extreme, petty
and hurtful. I believe that FMS & NTM leadership exemplified what it
means to "take God's name in vain." They used it for their own ends,'"
Report p. 7.
-- "'Leadership spoke for God. If you disagree, you disagree with God
and it's sin!'," Report p. 7.
-- "One missionary in the survey labeled the Field Committee as 'a
dictatorship'. One veteran NTM official described the problem this
way: 'I think in the leadership there are a lot of nice people, but
when they get together they become dangerous'," Report p. 7 n. 24.
-- "The unspoken rule ... became 'do not challenge authority on
anything.' Dissenters were ostracized and eventually came into
compliance or left the field and sometimes the Mission. Former
missionaries from the Senegal field described such treatment by the
Field Committee as 'abuse' and 'cultic,'" Report p. 8.
New Tribes's overall problem appears to be excessive deference to a
central hierarchy, and placing organizational interests above anything
or anyone else.
New Tribes has been in need of something to shake it up, and the Fanda
scandal may be what was needed. The GRACE Report includes "In 1996 to
1997 ... the Executive Committee ... rediscovered the biblical doctrine
of grace, apologizing to NTM's missionaries for its past error and
encouraging institutional reformation. Distance and remoteness of NTM
fields have made the implementation of this reformation both difficult
and challenging with some fields still exhibiting the old culture of
legalistic autocracy. The new leadership on the Executive Board has
continued to model and work for such Gospel change within the corporate
culture of NTM," Report p. 8 n. 33.
Whatever happens at New Tribes headquarters in Florida, there's no
reason to expect headquarters to worry much about McNeal, in this remote
part of America. New Tribes members here in McNeal have a chance to
step up and repair their relations with the community.
New Tribes people in McNeal took a step in the right direction at a
County Planning & Zoning Commission in April 2010. At that meeting, New
Tribes asked to build what looked like the start of a boarding school.
The Fanda scandal was brewing at that time, and when this writer raised
that issue, the New Tribes spokesman, Walter Durfey, told the Commission
and the public in attendance, "That's not us." At that time, New Tribes
headquarters in Florida had ordered New Tribes people to say nothing at
all about the Fanda scandal to "media and any other outside party other
than current and former NTM members and MKs." See
Durfey was disobeying headquarters by making the comment that he did,
and he probably wouldn't have done it if he hadn't felt a strong sense
of commitment to the McNeal community at large.
So New Tribes in McNeal is already a little way down the right path, and
now that the Fanda scandal has fully broken, it's a good time for New
Tribes in McNeal to break from its "cultic" (as one New Tribes
missionary said) past.
At this juncture, even a little action by New Tribes would accomplish a
lot. New Tribes knows where it's been annoying its neighbors by flying
improperly and pushing the limits of its permits. We'll see if New
Tribes in McNeal takes this opportunity to become equals in the
community, and drop the pose of being separate and superior. The timing
is critical; as State, Federal, and County government continue to leave
this area unprotected from predators, local people must learn to work
together more than they ever have.