Sunday, February 17, 2019

Chelsea Cooper's Grace Experience revised.

It has been 5 years since I’ve been to Grace Baptist Church as an attendee. I’ve moved on completely from that lifestyle and those beliefs. I’m in the science field now, and I am busy with my career and my education. The only thing I hold on to from my days growing up at Grace Baptist are the injustices I witnessed at the expense of my friends and my family. Injustices that have never been rectified.

My first experience with the church was a lady and her young kids coming to the apartment I lived in with my brother and my single mom when I was around 11 years old. She told my mom that she was going to hell if she didn’t come to the church and learn how to be “saved.” She repeated over and over in my mother’s face while she laid sunning in her lawn chair that she was going to go to hell.

About 6 months after this, we started attending another Baptist church in town. We went there for a little while and it was just something we did on Sundays. Eventually, my mom got more interested in Christianity and living “by the Bible.” This eventually led us to start attending Grace Baptist in the year 2000, the year I turned 12. It went from a Sunday morning thing to a 3 times a week or more. We started dressing differently, only skirts past the knee and short haircuts and a tie for my brother. Our lives also changed drastically because she took us out of our schools and put us into the church school. We did not fit in well because my brother and I were born in “sin”, while most of the other kids had nuclear families whose parents went to Bible College and did everything “right.” We had lots of new rules to live by, such as we couldn’t watch movies anymore except old family style movies and shows, or stuff for kids. We couldn’t listen to music anymore and had to listen to only music made by people in the church. We lost all of our friends and were isolated from family because they weren’t “believers” or had the same standards, and we were thrown into an environment so foreign to us and it seemed like it all happened overnight.

My mom was a single mom as I mentioned, so we were fairly low income, but we had a nice apartment townhouse and liked to do fun stuff on the weekends like rent movies, go to the park, go to grandma’s, etc. A few months after being regular members of Grace, my mom quit her only job and source of income to work full time, for free, in 5 of Pastor Jenkins ministries. He convinced her, through the preaching and through counseling, that she had something to pay back for living a long life previously of not tithing and not living by the Bible. He convinced her that if she gave her whole entire life and money to god that she’d get it back ten-fold and her life would go from a mess to being blessed. Well, we got evicted from our townhouse because we couldn’t pay the rent, and we had to move to a very sketchy trailer park on Center St, that has since been bulldozed. We got our car repossessed. Our electricity was shut off and we didn’t have food most of the time. I couldn’t wear any of my previous clothes because I had to wear all dresses now, so the only clothes I had were old fashioned and outdated skirts that my mom found at the Goodwill. We would spend hours and hours in our trailer taking turns reading the Bible or going to clean the church to pay for our school tuition. We spent our days at the church because my mom volunteered all her time there, and this is when the sexual abuse started to come out all around me.

My first experience with sexual abuse at Grace Baptist was in 2001 or 2002 when a friend of mine was over at my house for a sleepover and she told me that an adult man bus worker had had sex with her in the church van while they were out inviting kids to church on Sunday. I was around 14 years old at this time, and she was maybe 1 or 2 years older than me. When Pastor Jenkins found out that this abuse had occurred, he sent the man off to another church and that man and his wife ended up abusing more children. They both went to prison. It is sad to think that another victim may have been spared if Jenkins had just called the police instead of just sending the man away. The victim from all of those years ago has since confided in me that Pastor Jenkins offered her mother and the victim a free year in the Christian school if they did not go to the police. She went to our school for one more year and then got expelled for reasons unknown to me.

My second and third experiences were both involving teachers at our Christian school. The first was my math teacher. His name was Aaron Willand, and when class began he would write some problems on the board, and then make his way back to his office with a few of the more popular girls in tow. They would go in there, shut the door, and remain in there for the rest of the class period. Every day when he would write the questions on the board at the beginning of class, some of us would try to hurriedly ask questions before he would go to his office with the girls, and he would scream and yell and say things like “you should know this stuff by now!!” My whole education experience at this school was like this. It is another thing, in my experience, that should be investigated. We spent most of our time in our classes goofing off or doing manual labor for church functions like Camp Meeting and Teen Spectacular. I didn’t graduate with any math past Pre-Algebra, which I got a D- in. I have had to work really hard in my post-high school education to get to where I am today.

Getting back to Willand, as I mentioned he would go back to his office with these girls every day, and everyone knew that there were inappropriate activities going on with him and multiple teenage girls. Jenkins and Derek Hagland, who was our youth pastor, were both notified that Willand had been seen in compromising situations with teenaged girls.  When Jenkins let him go and sent him off to a new state, he did not warn Ruthy’s mother that there had been teacher on student activity, and he did not inform the police. No parents were informed of the teacher’s behavior. The reason Willand got let go from the school was because he was continuously caught alone in inappropriate situations with students, and Jenkins and staff knew this. Ruthy was close with the Willand family, and had, unknown by her mother, been raped by Willand BEFORE he left to move to Washington. Ruthy at 13-14 years old went to Washington with them to help them move. Again, no parents were informed and no police were called, so Ruthy’s mother had no idea of anything inappropriate before she went to Washington. Ruthy ended up being assaulted during her time in Washington. When she came home, she told her mom, and her mom called the police. Jenkins did not call like he has said, nor did he go with her mom to the police station, like he has said in the past. He only had one meeting with Ruthy, and that was to ask her if she was going to sue and that if she ever felt mad at Willand that she could “go into his office and cuss his name whenever she wanted.” There was no police involvement on his part, despite his statement to the press and to the church. I know all of these things because Ruthy told me herself when we were in High School. Details are more clear to me now because I have recently heard Ruthy re-tell her story, but she told me the main framework of the story and Jenkins’ response when we were both teenagers in school together.

After my friend Ruthy was groomed and preyed upon, the general attitude toward the situation was that Ruthy was a whore and that she asked for it by dressing provocatively. Jenkins family members said that, classmates said that, parents agreed with this, and basically Ruthy was an outcast from that point on. The youth pastor, Derek Hagland and his wife, would treat Ruthy differently and always be on her about how she dressed and just treated her with complete disdain. She was not “loved and prayed for” like their public statement has said. It was hard to live through, but I was just a kid and was very, very brainwashed by what they told us to think about situations like these. I was under the impression that my classmate and friend was a whore, based on what I was being taught at the time.
A few years later, we got two new teachers. They came together from the same town and started teaching right away. One of them was named Dave Beckner, and he started out being well-liked, but eventually, his temper would show itself on multiple occasions and he started being liked by students less and less. He would blow up during Chapel preaching sessions, saying he wished he could be in a young man’s body for one day so he could physically harm the male students. He liked to hang out with and write letters back and forth with the tenth-grade girls, which was not appropriate in any setting, but especially in our setting because we were always supposed to stay away from “the appearance of evil.” Evil being any type of relationship between the two genders in any situation. There was no dating allowed between students, no physical contact, no hugging, no being alone, nothing. I was a very strict environment, so the attention he showed female students was well noticed. He started getting obviously close to my friend Brianna Stevenson. She started to visibly cut herself off from the rest of us and became very, very close with the Beckner family. She eventually stopped talking to us altogether, and would only sit in the corner writing Beckner letters back and forth, which he signed “Daddy.” One student that I know of wrote to the administration and told him that his influence over Brianna was wrong. I personally wrote a letter to Beckner telling him that what he was doing to Brianna was wrong. I told him that our Principal, Robert Perrotti at the time, did not get close and write letters to the female students, so why does he? I told him that he was making Brianna act differently and that he needed to stop, and that her friends wanted her back. He read the letter, his face turning beet red as he whipped the pages around his desk. He wrote me back and threatened to harm my family if I didn’t stop trying to harm his. This part of the letter was written in furious, scribbled print as if he was going insane. The rest of the letter said things like “I did not know you wanted a relationship with me so badly, I will try harder.” He had obviously missed the point and I was very, very frustrated. The other teacher that was friends with Beckner and came the same time as he did started paying attention to Brianna’s sister, calling her things like “beautiful” when he thought no other students could hear. So, while we are all supposed to be learning and being kids, we had these two teachers causing all of this on a daily basis. Eventually, what was going on between Beckner and Brianna was obvious, and ex-staff members and former parents have confirmed that they confronted Jenkins about it, despite him saying that he never knew of these matters until 2011. This all happened in 2005-2006, and everyone in the church were all well aware. Beckner was given a choice to be able to leave quietly, and he took it. This has been confirmed by a past staff member that attended all the meetings and is willing to speak publicly on this. Brianna ended up moving to WV with his family because we lived in an environment that didn’t protect or value young women. If it was known that you had sex before marriage, you were very much looked down upon and viewed as “damaged goods.” No one valued Brianna anymore, and she was sent away with the monster himself. Our parents could have done more for us, but they didn’t. As bad as it sounds, it was because they would have been ex-communicated from the church for going against the pastor, who was viewed as god’s living mouthpiece. No one looking in on the outside will understand this unless they lived it. It was a hard life to live, and I am grateful that it is all starting to come out and that future girls and boys can be spared from this hell.

There was also a male victim that I knew of named David. He was in high school at the same time I was. His abuser was a woman in her 40’s or 50’s named Kyla McCloskey. I was friends with her daughter and would hear from her daughter at school about ways that her mom would act with David that upset her. It got to a point where everyone knew what was going on with David and Kyla, but nobody really did anything about it from what I observed. Their family got to move away as well, with no police called and nothing was done for the victim.

As far as how this church has hurt my family personally, aside from all of the sexual predators I had to be around in the school, and how my friends were raped around me, the story is a long and painful one. Pastor Jenkins taught parents that they needed to “break the will of their children.” This teaching harmed my brother and me and caused my parents to turn into monsters. My mom, previous to attending this church, did not practice this type of discipline. It started after we started going there. We were in trouble ALL of the time, and I mean every moment of every day was dedicated to discipline and trying to get us to repent and be model Christian children. Breaking our will meant breaking us of anything that may make us think for ourselves, to have a backbone, to be an autonomous being. Breaking the will of a child was taught to be executed physically as well as emotionally. Parents were supposed to spank for ANY infraction, no matter how minor. I was spanked all the way until I left for college, per Pastor Jenkins’ teachings. The physical and spiritual abuse that Jenkins taught his congregation to act out on their children was practiced in full force in my home. And Pastor Jenkins continually taught this throughout the time I was growing up, so this home environment never ceased or eased up in any way. He promised parents that these teachings would yield results and that you could not give up. This brought me great mental and developmental harm until I was well into my twenties when I decided to see a therapist about it.

Another way Grace Baptist Church harmed my family was encouraging my mother to isolate us from the rest of our family because they weren’t Baptists. Growing up with a single mom, we were really close with our Grandma and would go there every day during the summer time and very often during the school year. After we started going to Grace, my Grandma started questioning how much we were changing, and called Pastor Jenkins and told him that he had too much control over her daughter. Jenkins told my mom that my Grandma just wasn’t “saved”, and that she didn’t understand that we were trying to live by the Bible now. This caused my mom to isolate us more and more from our Grandma and our extended family because we were taught to stay away from the unsaved because their lifestyle could rub off onto us and hinder our spiritual growth. I eventually lost touch with every single person in my family and did not speak to my Grandma for over six years. I was not able to attend the funeral of my Grandma Miller, whom I loved, and this grieves me more than any one thing I can remember. This harmed me emotionally on a level that I cannot express in words. It tore my life apart. It took people in my life away from me that still lived in reality. I was from then on surrounded ONLY by people within the IFB and their beliefs.

The next step in my life was to go to college. The ONLY option I was given was to go to Grace Baptist College. I left home and started there in the secretarial program. I paid 800 dollars a month for a worthless degree and to live under some of the most strict rules I’ve ever heard of now that I’m out of the cult. I did not know that it was not normal to be watched and monitored as an adult 24/7, to have to sign in and out so they could track you, to have to get a pass to go anywhere, to have my phone confiscated at night and to have my clothes approved every single morning when I woke up. While I was here, it came out that the Vice Presidents son had gotten caught watching child pornography, and one of the professors came around and told us to stay away from him. His name was Kendall DuFour, and no police were called and I never witness Kendall get into any trouble. Their family told the college that God was calling them away. Well, right before this happened  I ended up getting expelled because I got stranded in Mackinac City with another girl due to the bridge being closed, and had to stay in a hotel. Well, two male students ended up being stranded as well. It was Spring Break and a lot of students were trying to get home to the U.P, so we pooled the little money we had and all stayed in the same room. Being alone with the opposite gender, even as adult college students was against the rules. The administration found out and I got expelled, and Pastor Jenkins himself had a meeting with my mom and my boyfriend at the time and told them that I had gotten expelled because I had shown my breasts to a boy. This did not happen. It was a lie literally pulled out of thin air, and the rumors that Jenkins started about me ruined my reputation there and it was never the same for me again. This also affected my mental health greatly and I considered suicide for years after this. I felt that I had done all of this to myself for not reading my Bible and praying more, or for not tithing enough, or for having iniquity in my heart. Despite being so hurt, I was not equipped to live in the real world, so I went back.  I gave them all my money and eventually started working at the call center located in their building. They did not own the call center but somehow were allowed to start taking my whole check without giving it to me first, and only giving me 10% of it to live on. I lived a pitiful existence until I got married at the young age of 21 years old and moved 3,000 miles away, where I lived with my wounds from this place for years. I lived the life of a recluse. It was not until I moved back to MI in late 2013 that I started trusting people again, and started to make my way back into society little by little. I started going to real college at 26 years old and have come so far. Almost two degrees, a career and tons of real-world experience doing things the cult would have told me was wrong helped me see that I was worth something. I am nowhere near fully healed, but I have hope now. It is because of therapy and the power of a real education that I am still alive today. I only tell my story because I want this to stop. I do not want attention, I do not want money, I just want it to stop. There is so much more to my story, but I have tried to sum up the main points as best as I remember them.

There is SO MUCH more I could say, about my time in their “college”, about professors sleeping with college students whose parents send them there to learn about god and to be safe from worldly influence. Stories about how I had to marry so young before I was ready to so that I could avoid “sin.” Children being hurt and even dying at their bus activities, and so much more.

I don’t think it is fair that Jenkins told the news and the church in his public statement that he didn’t know about Beckner’s abuse until 2011. Or that he didn’t know that Willand had sexual relations with minors before he moved away or that he called the police. If he had told his people that this was just the way things were handled back then, that would be fair. They could make their own decision based on the truth.What he’s doing is covering up what he’s always covered up, and there is just too many of us this time.

Thank you for reading,

Chelsea Cooper- former GBCS and Grace Baptist College student

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Open Letter: My Experience At Grace Baptist Church

The following is an anonymous open letter from a former Grace Baptist Church youth group member. The incidents detailed in this letter happened in 2000s and 2010s.

My experience at Grace Baptist Church

I was a “bus kid”, a public school student who rode the church bus on my own free will. I wasn’t raised in the church like others, but I was there for many years by choice. I attended Sunday services the majority of 14 years  or so, beginning at age 12. I met many wonderful people along the way, I feel that’s important to say. Some of these people are still my closest friends and many have changed my whole life.. but throughout the years I witnessed a few things..

  • As a young teen (14) I had a college student (bus worker) communicate with me in inappropriate ways. Essentially a relationship without the title. Not just on the bus, but all week through explicit text messages and photos. This went on for over a year. Of course this had to be kept a secret. 
  • I once got on the empty bus after an church activity to find a college student bus worker making out with a public high school teen on the back seats. 
  • I have a family member who was in a secret relationship with a college student. They came to my family members house over the summer many times and spent the night. They met on the church bus when my family member was a “bus teen”.

I have strongly suspected at least 2 other relationships / involvements between bus workers and bus teens over the years.

  • Our bus routes went on an activity and went swimming. There was 9-10 adults supervising nearly 50 kids who were in and out of the water. Suddenly we realize a 6 year old is face down. They retrieve her from the water and attempt to resuscitate but failed and she passed away.. I was told that the funeral was paid for by the church and possibly a small settlement. But if it had been properly supervised it wouldn’t have happened! This is a child’s life we’re talking about. 
  • On another bus activity, we went sledding. They decided to use a removed car hood as a sled. The bus captain and multiple children went down the hill on it, crashing and injuring many. This was after the first accident.. once again, not enough proper guidelines being practiced. 

These situations could have been prevented had the church provided proper supervision. No single individual is responsible for these happenings but there should be rules in place to prevent these incidents. The leadership needs to protect these teenagers and children both from sexual and physical harm.

At Grace, I was taught of all the “worldly things” that were evil.. I was convinced that my family, my friends, my school, basically everyone I knew was on the path to hell and it was my job to be the perfect example and lead them all to Christ with a special prayer. I essentially was turned against my whole support system, because they weren’t pure. I was separated from the “Christian school kids” in the earlier years. They sat in separate sections and had their own Sunday school classes. I was taught to obey men, that women couldn’t “preach” or “lead” unless it was only to other women, and that it is our job to never dress in a way that attracts a mans attention...

I didn’t go to Jenkins about anything I witnessed- but I never felt I should or could. I went there nearly every Sunday for almost 13 years! I knew MANY of the people in the church including his children and I shook Jenkins hand every Sunday, and he smiled and greeted but I guarantee he doesn’t even know my name. How could I say anything? Why would he take my word over someone he knew? He wouldn’t. I knew other girls who reported things to teachers and were told they were drawing the attention to themselves with their clothes.. etc.. I thought I’d be told it was my fault, or the other bus teens fault, because we weren’t following the rules and we were “asking for it.” Children need to feel safe.. they need to know they can report if something is happening, they need to know that they will be believed and the proper procedures need to take place to protect that child immediately. Grace Baptist has failed to do this time and time again.

Open Letter: Former Youth Group Member Details Grooming and Sexual Misconduct

The following is an open letter from Lindsey Schwartz, a former member of the youth group at Victory Baptist Church of South Boardman, MI. Mark Holston, a former Grace Baptist Christian School student and Grace Baptist College graduate, was her youth pastor at Victory Baptist Church. This letter details the grooming and sexual misconduct that took place.

My name is Lindsey Schwartz and a friend reached out to me wanting me to share my story of what had happened to me in our IFB church. Though nothing illegal had taken place, position of power was abused and details were just swept under the rug.

I started attending Victory Baptist Church of South Boardman, MI when I was 16. My family and I had just left our previous church, Zion Baptist Church in Traverse City, MI for many reasons. A couple of those reasons were that we never knew or were allowed to know where our tithe and offering money went. Another reason was that when my aunt left the church before we did, our family was slandered from the pulpit and my brother and sisters who were in the junior choir were very badly treated by the pastor’s wife. After we left that church we have heard of accusations of affairs by the Pastor himself.

Enough about that church, my story starts when I was 18 at VBC. Two years after we started attending there I got really close to my Youth Pastor and his wife, who at the time were Mark and Leah Holston; both graduated from Grace Baptist College in Gaylord, MI. I would always spend the night at their house after I babysat their son, go shopping with Leah, bus call with Mark; they were my best friends and who I looked up to the most at the time.

I graduated high school in 2012 and had planned on attending Hyles Anderson College in Crown Point, IN. That was also the summer that Jack Schaap was found to be having an affair with one of the teenage girls he was counseling. He stepped down and was eventually put in prison. My family advised me not to attend the college for that reason. They didn’t feel like it was a good time to go there and that I should wait or attend a different college. Mark Holston also advised me to do the same. So I stayed home and didn’t attend college for that semester and just focused on work, church and my youth group. Though I was graduated I was still able to remain in the youth group since I wasn’t attending college at that point. While my relationship with my parents dwindled, my relationship with Mark kindled.

We got so close that we would always tell each other we loved them and had what we called a ‘brother/sister’ relationship. He even got very protective of me while I was talking to/dating a guy from another church that I had met at summer Bible camp and tell me I shouldn’t be dating him. Mark also took him aside one night at the summer camp and talked to him privately one on one and the next morning he told me that what mark said was completely out of line and that he had a definite control over me. We’d joke around and tease each other and for some reason thought it was funny to pinch each other as just a joke or just playing around. I  guess you could say that was our little ‘game’ but now looking back it was only an excuse to make us feel better about what we were doing. The pinching got so bad that I would come home from his house or church at night with bruises and my mom would ask me where I got them from. Id just shrug it off and give a little lie. After a little while we thought it would be even funnier to pinch each other in certain areas that would hurt far worse.  I think you can guess those areas. We’d meet up in private spots; for example: a two track barely driven down; and use the excuse of wanting to hurt and tease each other to touch each other in those areas. Well I’d get bruises and he’d want “proof” and when I was a bit hesitant at first, he would joke “unless you’re too chicken.” I eventually would text him pictures of the bruises in those areas and vice versa. After a while he didn’t use the excuse of wanting “proof” to get those pictures and would also start asking for pictures and videos of me doing certain sexual things to myself. This went on for months. Every so often I would get guilty and say we shouldn’t be doing it, but then he’d start it up again and ask for more pictures and videos and say “It’s not like we’re have sex or anything like that.” so of course that took a little bit of the guilt I had away because if my youth pastor didn’t think what we were doing was completely bad, then it must not be that big of a deal. He also made sure to tell me that if I told anyone about it that it would hurt his marriage and that he would lose his job and I didn’t want to be the bad guy that did that to him.

Yes, I know, I was of age and wasn’t forced to do anything and I definitely should have known better. But having that kind of attention for the first time and during a very hard time in my life by someone who I completely trusted and respected made me vulnerable.

Well, January came and I decided I wanted to attend Grace Baptist College for their winter semester. Though the sexual things between me and Mark stopped, we still remained very good friends. After being there for a month or so I became very guilty of what I did and while I was home for the weekend I was having a conversation with my mom about the whole Jack Schaap situation and she told me if anything ever happened to me like that, that she was there for me and that I could tell her. I don’t know if it was something in my face that made my mom ask me or what but she asked “had something like had actually ever happened to you?” I told her everything. The next day I drove back to Gaylord for school and she called our Pastor; William McQueen, and told him everything that I told her about what happened between Mark and I. He called me up and asked if it was ok that he visit during my lunch hour and if we could talk about what had happened. I told him everything.

Mark Holston was told he had to resign, I wasn’t allowed to play piano anymore for services or be involved in the bus route when I came home to visit and my family ended up leaving the church. My parents had so much trust in him as a youth pastor and even a friend and thought of him so highly that the fact that he never reached out to them to apologize in any way was the main reason they never went back and never felt they could forgive him and thought of him as a coward. I still attended every now and then, but I could definitely tell a difference in how I was treated. While the people who said that they would always be there for me and who I had gotten extremely close to over the years, never contacted me in anyway to see how I was doing or even a simple hello, Mark and Leah started getting random “Thinking of you guys/praying for you” gifts from people in the church. Eventually I stopped altogether. Mark was eventually allowed to preach and run the church bus route again.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Open Letter: Former Youth Group Member Details Unreported Murder Attempt

The following is an anonymous open letter from a former Grace Baptist Church youth group member. The incident detailed in this letter happened in the early 2010s.

Ok so back in 7th or 8th grade, i was out with the youth group on a Wednesday afternoon knocking on doors. I'm sure you've seen or been on these, or at least heard of them. We'd knock on doors for 2 hours, then get food, then back to church for service.

This particular day, we went to culvers. We all ate and were notified that it was time to go. I was one of the first ones to get to the bus and i got on and sat in the driver seat (i was waiting for the driver, as i was previously talking to him about hunting or fishing..?). While I was waiting on the driver seat, a certain teenager (a year or two older than myself) grabbed a knife from his pocket and tried to stab me in the chest. I grabbed his hands and held him off until he stopped trying and then he just went and sat down. I was scared and didn't want to be drawing negative attention so i just went and sat down (the Baptist way, forget and forgive no matter what).

A couple of my friends saw this and later told adults that if i hadn't have caught his hands as he lunged his knife at me, and been strong enough to hold him off, I'd probably be dead. Parents after church i told my parents and they weren't happy at all (obviously). They went to pastor and said that they wanted to call the police. Pastor Jenkins asked if we could discuss it first (this is all right after church, the same day). We sat down and talked with several leaders of the church (pastor, youth pastor, principal, etc) and they asked if they could create a "punishment plan" and i agreed to it, then we could avoid calling the police. My parents told me it was up to me. (My parents did recently tell me they have felt it wasn't quite right letting this go without calling police, but at the time they thought it was an okay thing to do as pastor advisory was to let church handle it).

After a few meetings they had written a plan and it included no youth activities for 6 months, he wasn't allowed to bring knives to any church or youth activity, annnddd a few bs things he had to do (one i remember was reading certain Bible chapters at home every day). They sat me and my parents, and him and his for a meeting. They read this plan to us all and he apologized. They then asked me if i was ok with this and i said yes. (Yes i said yes, but a 7 or 8 grade kid, easily intimidated by this kid sitting across from me, who had the entire youth group which liked him better than they liked me. And as the church is, who's who is everything).

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Open Letter: Public Response to Public Statement of GBC

The following is an open letter that Elizabeth Osborne-Leech wrote in response to the official public statement released by Grace Baptist Church on December 12, 2018. Elizabeth was a member of Grace Baptist Church, and a student at Grace Baptist Christian School from 2001 - 2009. The statement is included full at the bottom of this letter.

I’m disappointed, and yet also impressed with this public statement. Whether purposeful or on accident, you manage to use the right buzzwords (rape, restraining order, authorities, conviction, etc.), give just enough detail to appease (1.) the people who came here to get the juicy details, and (2.) the people who don’t have first-hand knowledge or memory of these situations, and let’s not ignore the uplifting and comforting message at the end, of how much love and support Pastor Jenkins and the church have to offer victims of past and potential abuse and assault. Well crafted; Bravo. Honestly, I’m surprised you even put out a statement at all.

The problem, first and foremost is of course the sexual crimes committed against members of this church, and students of this school.  However, under the surface, there is an equally, if not more alarming issue, and that is the conditioning of the members of this church to not recognize crime and cover-up of crime happening right in front of them.  My own mother asked me today if anything ever happened to me there, and was in total shock to hear of all this. How does this happen? How does a flock of believers believe their pastor right off a cliff? A skilled method of manipulation, in short. More on that some other time.

Let’s go back to the public statement.

Two-thirds of the information provided is a defense: “your side” of what happened. One-third is related to your policy and your support of victims. The unequal distribution here seems to be a clear representation of the true attitude in the church. Surely, the church’s reputation and testimony is worth more of my time and energy than the church’s viewpoint on sexual assault and victimizing. Take note of how many times Pastor Jenkins is name-dropped vs “the pastor” or Grace Baptist Church and/or Christian School as a whole. At first it might seem like Pastor Jenkins is just taking it personal (as he should), but this is a classic conditioning tool used in IFB churches. Pastor Jenkins is the end-all, be-all. His word goes. This idolization of IFB pastors is what allows rapists and pedophiles to continue to get shuffled from church to church, under the radar. Because a letter of recommendation or “gods will” is all it takes from good ol’ PJ to move a criminal out of his church, and into another, to protect the image of the great GBC.

Notice how many times “former employee” is mentioned. This is the church’s way of absolving itself from crime. These were CURRENT EMPLOYEES when the abuse occurred, and you waited to bring it up until their status turned into previously employed and local news started dragging GBCs name through the mud.  Don’t try to diminish the allegations and PROOF of crime by saying they were FORMERLY employed here. In doing that, you are shirking responsibility for your lack of oversight, safety measures, and you fail to admit that the crimes did in fact occur under your administration, by your staff, to your students/members, sometimes even on the grounds of the church itself. How incredibly disrespectful to the victims you so fondly speak of in your statement. Your statement basically says: “Ruthy was assaulted in Washington state, and we helped catch the bad guy.” You conveniently left out that in his trial, it was clearly discussed that the assault and abuse began in Michigan, however, Michigan allowed Washington state to be the prosecuting state. Or maybe you didn’t bother to ever read the court documents because one of your teenage members getting raped didn’t make the to-do list, what with all the camp meetings and mission conferences or an 8-week alliterated sermon..or maybe a Hawaiian vacation going on. Unfortunately, Beckner hasn’t been charged or convicted, so at this point it’s your word against everyone else’s who say you knew at the time.

What now? Nothing GBC does now can change what happened in the far and even recent past, but GBC CAN DO SOMETHING to change what will inevitably happen again in the future.  What we’d like to see is transparency, safety and accountability, as was so well put in your statement. What a joke. If you were transparent, you would make public knowledge the convicted and alleged crimes related to staff at this church WHEN THEY HAPPEN, so that parents can better protect their children. Because safety is more important than your reputation. If you cared about safety, you would institute changes (and be transparent about them) in your day to day school and church operations to better protect your population. Maybe you have made some changes based on the MULTIPLE sexual abuse scenarios that have occurred over the years..

this public statement would have been a really great place to include that information, rather than just a bunch of CYA.

Accountability?? How about a public apology to the victims of sexual abuse that occurred under the administration of GBC by any employee whether former or current. How about IMMEDIATE action when allegations occur, so that both the church and the victims have better outcomes altogether, and so that you can better protect your members and students.

Do better GBC. You have failed and you don’t even recognize it yet. God help your congregation, your leadership certainly won’t.

Friday, December 14, 2018

News Article: Mark Melton Loses License [2008]

Mark Melton was a member of Grace Baptist Church in the mid-2000s. He taught in the Junior Church services on Sunday mornings.

In 2005, he had sexual contact with a patient; forced an employee to perform oral sex in order to keep her job; and exposed himself to a patient and employee, and forced the employee to perform a sex act with the patient.

Open Letter: Some Things That Happened While I Was Involved With Grace

The following is an open letter that I, John Pavlick, wrote to a reporter for the Gaylord Herald Times. I was a member of Grace Baptist Church, a student at Grace Baptist Christian School, and a student at Grace Baptist College.


The following is a short summary of things that happened to and around me, personally, while I was a member of Grace Baptist Church, and a student at Grace Baptist Christian School and Grace Baptist College, from 1999 - 2009. I started attending the school in 4th grade at age 8 in 1999, and I attended the college for a semester at age 17 in the fall of 2008.

Others have elaborated in detail on the sexual abuse cases. I will avoid those, apart from my own limited, first-hand experience - as others have done them far more justice than I would ever be able to.

A quick note about me: I was a Good Kid. I spent the better part of a decade planning to be a Baptist gospel preacher. I sang in choir. I didn't lose my virginity until I was 20. I wasn't a troublemaker, or a problem-causer. I was the Bible Verse Memorization Champion, not the kid filling the empty vodka bottles back up with water and hoping that nobody would notice.

In no particular order:
  • In October 2006, I delivered a three-page letter regarding Brianna Stevenson's abusive relationship with David Beckner to the school administration. Nobody would discuss the matter with me further. Nothing was ever done.
  • In September 2008, the Dean of Men at the college called the man whose daughter I would later marry - a man that was a total stranger to him - to tell him that his daughter was "hanging out with a bad seed". (This man has a well-documented history of sleeping with college students. I'm sure you'll hear more about that from others.)
  • In the spring of 2009, I moved downstate to go to college at U of M Dearborn. Later that summer, three of my good friends and my highschool soccer coach were all killed in a freak accident. At the combined funeral, I was told by a deacon that I was "not allowed" to sit with my Christian-school friends - with no explanation given - and ushered to the back.
  • The pastor's children bullied and harassed me for years. Nothing was ever done.
  • Teachers - some of which were also pastors on staff - routinely humiliated and belittled students, myself among them, in front of the class.
  • The school had a bullying / hazing problem for years. Reporting incidents to the administration never fixed or changed anything. I have been punched, kicked, spat on, groped, shoved into tables, and shoved into walls on church property, during school hours, and no corrective action was ever taken.
  • I was kicked out of school and told that I couldn't walk and graduate with my classmates - on the LAST DAY OF MY SENIOR YEAR. My only offense was wearing jeans and a t-shirt, instead of my required school uniform. My parents (who always sided with the administration, against me) drove up to the school and pitched a fit, and I was allowed to walk; but not until after the last day of my highschool career was spent stressed out and miserable.
  • I got groped by other students, often. It just happened. Other students would grab my ass, grab my genitals, and touch my thighs, without my consent. I never reported it, because reporting my problems only ever made them worse.
  • Around 2001-2002 (if memory serves correctly), the church raised a ton of money in donations to build "The Heritage Center" - a gymnasium / community center - as a community-outreach initiative, and to give the Christian school a nice facility for sporting events and practices. Without any input from the donors or church family, the church administration re-appropriated all of the funds raised to start a for-profit "Bible" "College".
If you need anything - if you have questions, if you need clarification, etc - please email me back, or call (XXX) XXX-XXXX.