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.

https://www.record-eagle.com/news/local_news/therapist-loses-license-for-sexual-contact/article_563536c1-8116-58cb-9811-f6ed63fe3681.html

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.


Arielle,

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.

Thanks,
 John

Open Letter: Former Pastor's Daughter Speaks Out

The following is an anonymous open letter from a former Grace Baptist Church pastor's daughter, who was a member of Grace Baptist Church and a student at Grace Baptist Christian School.

My story with Grace Baptist Church begins in August of 2005 when my family packed up and moved to Gaylord, Michigan. I was not thrilled with this move at first, but it got easier as time went on. My father was hired on as the Bus Ministry Pastor and later took on the radio station, and many other various ministries within the church. My mother became one of the church pianist and various other rolls. She also taught in the Christian school. I was used to being a preachers kid who always had a light on me and everyone watched my every move. It was easy going at first, and then my parents went back to normal after we all got comfortable with the new church and the people in the church.

My parents were loved by all and very well respected. Which meant I couldn't talk about what was going on behind closed doors. To put it politely, my father had a temper like non-other. My mother was very vocal outside of the house, but when my father would get mad she would just stand there and watch him and wouldn't stop him or even have an opinion. I would walk into church with bruises all over my body and would try to cover them up with clothes or just lie about what actually happened. It would happen almost every night and you just expected it after a while. You pushed through the pain that was going on at home and then walk into church and pray it would somehow just go away. And don't worry, it never just went away. I would try to talk about it to people and it was just crazy to them that a pastor at church would do this to his children and especially when we was a Children's pastor. The abuse would go further than just hitting, I would have keys, shoes, or whatever he could find thrown at me. Pushed against the wall because I wouldn't do something right, or just because he came home in a bad mood. My dad would try to do the same to my mother. I remember, for instance, my father was so mad he was hitting my mother and I tried to get in the middle and I told my father to hit me instead of my mom. He just pushed me out of the way and kept yelling. It was a normal occurrence in our house. And then we would all walk out to the car and go to church. My sister and I would sit in the choir and my dad on the platform and my mother at the piano. We had to uphold the reputation of a good Christain family. Then it becomes the emotional abuse. We were taught to love one another and treat others the way we wanted to be treated...... yeah okay. I tried to talk to the youth pastor, Derek Hagland about the abuse at home and why I had all these bruises and he just laughed it off and said I should try to do better and pray about it. So from then on, I swore I would never tell another person about it. If not even another pastor in the church would do something about it I guess no one would. When being yelled at at home I would hear about all the problems of other people in the church. I heard so many stories of other people and how bad they have it, he said I should be happy I'm not in their shoes. I thought it odd my parents would tell me such personal information about people but i did my best not to share those stories with other people.

My senior year of high school, my boyfriend and I got in trouble because they found out we were having sex. Mind you it was consensual. But when my mother found out she went straight to my dad. It then got through the whole school and I was pulled out of class immediately. I was kicked out of school because I was sinning in the eyes of God. I was home for maybe another week before I got fed up of being yelled and screamed at. And I am not exaggerating when I say screamed at. My dad would sit so close to my face and scream at me so loud and so hard his spit would hit my face with every word he said. You know the saying "fear of God...." yeah he was the definition of that phrase. He would threaten to stock my boyfriend and shoot him through his window, he would tell me in explicit detail of how he was going to do it and cover it up. My dad tried to scare me into going to a girls home and getting up in front of the church and apologizing for my sin. Oh and don't forget, this is a man of God and a pastor. I later ran away from home, but this is why I will NEVER step foot back into a church. You are taught none thing on Sunday morning, but when you get home its a whole different story. Pastor Jenkins knew of what my dad would do and he sat there and just watched it as if it was nothing.

Former Student and church member of Grace Baptist church and school

Open Letter: Chelsea Cooper's Grace Experience

The following is an open letter detailing experiences at Grace Baptist Church and Grace Baptist Christian school by former student and member, Chelsea Cooper.


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. 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 and 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 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, 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 town house and liked to do fun stuff on the weekends like rent movies, go to the park, 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, 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. Well, we got evicted from our town house 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 out dated 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.

My second and third experiences were both involving teachers at our Christian school. The first was my math teacher. His name was Mike 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. 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 stiff 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 was inappropriate activities going on with him and multiple teenage girls. When Jenkins let him go and sent him off to a new state, he did now warn Ruthy’s mother that there had been teacher on student activity, and he did not inform the police. Ruthy was close with their family, and had unknowingly been raped by Willand BEFORE he left to move to Washington. Ruthy at 13 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. The only people that knew of the previous girls being preyed upon was Jenkins and his staff. Ruthy ended up being assaulted at 13 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. 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.”

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 you 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 distain. 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. 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 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. He started getting obviously close to my friend Brianna Stevenson, who like me, didn’t have a dad in her home and lived in a low income single mom situation as well. 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.” Two students that I know of wrote to Beckner and told him that his influence over Brianna was wrong. He wrote me back and threatened to harm my family if I didn’t stop trying to harm his.

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. 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 church for going against the pastor, who was viewed as god’s living mouthpiece. 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 were other male victims in this church that were preyed upon by older women, but one victim has since passed. But it is important to point out that abuses have happened as recently as this past summer, and their stories will come out soon.

There is SO MUCH more I could say, about my time in their “college”, about child porn from staff families never being reported, for professors sleeping with college students who’s 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.” Embezzlement that they didn’t report, 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 listening,
Chelsea Cooper- former GBCS student

Open Letter: Public Statement by Former Grace Baptist College Staff Member

The following is a public statement by Jacqueline Sorg, former Grace Baptist College staff member.



Public Statement:

To Whom It May Concern:

I worked on staff for Pastor Jon Jenkins for six years. (2006-2012)
In that time I witnessed several occasions of inappropriate behavior of the male pastoral staff towards the female members ranging from high school to adult.

I was a freshman in college (2005-2006) when the Beckner situation occurred.  I was made aware of the situation from Jenkins’ sister; who informed me that Beckner at the time was asked to leave quietly.

My second year as a staff member after graduating college the Vice President of the College’s son was caught viewing child pornography. Mind you he was a bus captain and was involved in children’s ministries. I was the Demerit Office Secretary at the time.  The family was kept on staff until Pastor Jenkins could figure out what to do with the family while the situation was kept quiet. Only staff of the college and the appropriate pastoral staff knew. The son was not allowed to attend classes and was asked to stay away from all church locations. Once Jenkins figured out what to do with the family they all got to leave quietly while saying their goodbyes to friends and family.  They all relocated to another ministry in Iowa and were all still placed on staff. No police were ever called or involved in the outcome of the young man.

My third year at the college we hired in a new Dean of Students.  His previous job was Youth Pastor from another local church in the area.  Everyone thought he was super friendly,  but he turned out to be a little too friendly. While working at the college he was caught numerous times in inappropriate situations with a secretary and even young college students after hours in his office.  The incidents were turned in several times, but were denied and swept under the rug.

That same year two college staff members had an affair that was covered up.  I was pulled in on this situation to help the wife get through the circumstances. Again I was told that I could not discuss this situation because they both were influential staff members; we could lose college students and church members if facts were made known. I have carried this secret for 10 years. At this time I would go counsel with Jenkins because I still had to work with the woman and man that were involved. I felt that someone needed to leave, but Jenkins explained that we needed to give the individuals grace. Now mind you this was pastoral staff member and a college secretary and dorm supervisor. They knew right from wrong.  In my last counseling session with Jenkins he opened up that the woman who was part of the affair gave her resignation but he wouldn’t take it and that the man would be on probation and not allowed to go and preach at events. I asked him why he would not take her resignation.  He then proceeded to open up about several other situations, such as a sexual encounter between a female staff member and a boy who was a minor. The Dean of students had sexual encounters with underaged girls. He was trying to show different circumstances where he has shown grace and still prays for them. None of these inappropriate illegal activities were ever reported.

When I heard this information I confronted Jenkins’ sister and mother wondering if this information was true.  They confirmed every story, but it was always the victim’s fault. They would say the girls dressed or acted in such a way to tempt a staff member. Or the boy knew what he was getting into.

There is so much that has been covered up and pushed under the rug to keep face.

Open Letter: To the Youth Pastor of Grace Baptist Church

The following is an open letter to Derek Hagland, who was the former youth pastor of Grace Baptist Church. This letter has been submitted by Naomi Perez, who was a member of Grace Baptist Church and a student at Grace Baptist Christian School.



Derek Hagland, I don’t need to introduce myself. You know exactly who I am. I respected you more then any other human while you were my youth pastor. You and I both know the day that the respect ended. I truly believe you were following Jon Jenkins lead in covering up what Aaron Willand did to my sister, I truly believe you were used by him. He made you believe it would “hurt the churches cause”. That’s the past, that’s done and over with. You knew, you looked away and stayed quiet while a pedophile was sent to another church to be a youth leader. You cannot change the fact that my little sister was then harmed, simply because you didn’t nothing. I told you and you denied I told you to my mom, making it look like I made it all up. Sadly, the pedophile later told a judge the truth, he did harm on CHURCH PROPERTY. The truth unfolded and my mother sincerely regrets listening to “men of god” over her 16 year old daughter. But again, that’s the past. You are the youth pastor, yet again. So I ask, with recent events of assault, what will you do??? Turn your head again? Ban and disown the victims while embracing the family of the criminal?? Will history repeat itself? Or will you finally stand up against these heinous crimes. Jenkins clock is ticking, don’t go down with his sinking ship simply because you feel loyal. If he was loyal to you he would have told you the moment he was made aware so you could protect the rest of the girls in your youth group. Including your own daughters. He only cares about his image. I can line victims up and even though we haven’t met our stories are the same, Jon Jenkins only cared about image, not one victims was instructed to contact police. Every girl was made out to be a whore. What if it was your daughter? 12 years old, dropped off early for teen church, only to be groped and raped by her volleyball coach who was also her Bible and Math Teacher. What would you do? Brush it under the rug? I don’t hate you, I forgive you. I’m just pleading with you to not continue this path, to admit the past was a mistake, apologize to those victims who were in your youth group and when a new victims comes to you, you go to police prior to Jenkins. You do what’s right for the victim. I truly believe that doing right is never a grey area. I truly believe that doing right is never covering up a sex crime. Doing right is what actually saves a churches reputation, not covering up sex crimes to make the church look like it’s filled with perfect people.

All these young girls who were scared to speak up, they are Mom’s of daughters now. Hell hath no fury like a mother who knows pure evil. They will not go away quietly, they will protect the generation coming up under neath them. They will do it all for their own daughters. Tonight they get their voices heard. I hope this reaches you in time so you can sit and watch it with your own daughters and explain your mistake from the past and then remind them that if anyone every hurt them they are to never feel ashamed or cover it up. That they are to report it and then slowly as they rebuild their life they will find strength again. I hope you remind them that you will be there the entire time, that you won’t chose a church over them and that sexual assault doesn’t happen because of how they dressed, acted, looked, breathed....it happens because of evil men and woman. The survivors are blameless. 💜

About

This blog is a collection of open letters, news links, and other documents and resources all regarding the mistreatment of students, staff, and members at Grace Baptist Church in Gaylord, MI.