I was raised in the church that you now pastor. You never got the opportunity to be my pastor because I left for many reasons some of which I’ll explain later on in this letter. You did see myself and many others grow up in front of your eyes while your dad was our pastor. I have such good and bad memories all mixed together and sometimes it gets very confusing. I should probably be directing this towards all of the elders throughout the years and your father John Grant as well because he was my pastor while I attended. I’m directing this towards you now because your voice can bring the change I feel is necessary to start or continue the healing process that so many like myself need.
I want you to know the people of Calvary Gospel Church were my family growing up. I was loved by so many and so many helped me in times of great need. I will always be grateful for the compassion and kindness I was shown. I’ll always be thankful for the families that took us in and gave us a safe place when my mother left and helped my dad in his time of need. If one can love, be hurt, want change, but still be angry at the same time that’s how I feel. I like many others suffered trauma that even with counseling makes it impossible to want to go back to my Calvary Gospel Church family. I feel grief and loss for so many of my once friends, but also find quiet support from others. It’s weird to have such pain and hope at the same time.
I’ve learned that a family is only as sick as it’s secrets and the same can be said about a church family. There were so many things that were kept secret or purposefully hidden while I was attending both the church and the Christian school. I’ve had the opportunity to talk with six sexual assault survivors from my youth. They were all minors assaulted or raped by adults. There are also secrets of minors touching minors inappropriately. When it’s hidden knowledge that adults are sexually assaulting minors and getting away with it, that behavior is sadly typical in children and some will respond in this way because they do not understand what is going on. I’m sure there are many other survivors that are still scared to tell their story for fear of being shunned or talked about behind their back.
One of those survivors is my older sister. She was raped as a teenager around the age of 13 by Mike Bakken a man in the church that was ten plus years her senior. She went openly out on dates to Pizza Hut with him and myself. There were plenty of other church adults who witnessed it. He had sex with one other underage person that I know of (my friend Deb) before he raped my sister.
I go back and forth in my mind about how all of this could have happened. Was it the culture that taught little girls from the pulpit that a slit in her skirt causes adult men to lust but then didn’t tell those same adult men to keep their hands off? Was it countless adult men dating underage children and teens without any repercussion from the pulpit? Was it that parents were too trusting? Was it that we were so scared of hell that when something bad happened to us as children we didn’t say anything? Was it that 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15-year-old children were to blame for the lust of others? Was it that we were not shown the love we needed so we were searching for love? I think it was a mix of all of it and much more that could take years to explain.
I know I’m not perfect so let me be the first to say to you Roy that I’m sorry I didn’t have the courage, to tell the truth as a child when I saw these things happening and when they were happening to me. I have deep regret and have suffered severe depression because of it. I wish I had been stronger back then. I was scared and I could have potentially helped a lot of children not have to suffer through the trauma I did. I should have asked for help, but I didn’t think we’d be believed. I should have stood up and asked why things were wrong instead of cowardly letting them happen. There was a lot of fear involved in my silence, but I’m not scared anymore. I want to make right the wrongs that happened and the only way to do that is to apologize. I am truly sorry to anyone I hurt with my silence and inaction.
What I want from you Roy, like I asked my dad to do, is to acknowledge that these things happened. Acknowledge that they were wrong. Apologize for the elders and pastors for hiding things and not taking them to the police. Apologize to the people that were threatened into silence. Change your policies so that when people are assaulted, especially children, the police are notified. Foster a culture where when bad things happen children don’t blame themselves for the lust of others. Create a place where toxic shame doesn’t exist and it is safe to tell the truth when one is being hurt. I honestly believe that most people want to do the right thing but are scared to or can only follow your lead. Please be the leader Calvary Gospel Church needs. Please choose to do the right thing for all those hurting people. Please do what Jesus would want you to do.