Monday, May 31, 2010
Let Down by Church Men
I haven't been writing much. Computer problems at home (keyboard issues) and less time in the office (more court) means I'm behind in posting. I've also been up to my eyeballs in church issues.
About a year ago, a few church members began asking me if Mitch (not real name) was "approved," meaning background checked, met the minimum length of membership and all the other requirements. I'm head of the group that oversees approving volunteers at church. Mitch was approved, but the number of inquiries peaked my curiosity. Then my friend told me what had been going on.
Mitch is a 60-something year old man, with two almost-grown sons and a wife. He takes no interest in his family. Rather, he attaches himself to a family with young (pre-teen) girls. He invites them to his farm where they can fish in his pond. He be-friends them on facebook. He plays online games with them. He likes to ride roller coasters with them. He is fun to be around -- until he is always around. Calling, texting, emailing up to 8x a day. "where are you?" "when will you be home?" "How do I know that is where you really are - send me a picture." When the calls aren't returned or the girls want to be with their friends, he cries, calls himself an "old pitiful man" or says he ought to go "jump in his pond."
I called the pastor who confronted him. My friend cut off all contact between he and her daughter. The pastor said not to worry - he had talked to Mitch. It was fine. There was just a misunderstanding. I didn't buy it. And Mitch didn't stop...he just moved on to a new family and a new girl.
That was almost 1 year ago. This past week the newest family called me. Mitch had become so clingy the girl told her parents that he was "creepy" and she "didn't want to be around him." After a few days went by with no contact, Mitch lost it. He wrote a letter and gave it to this girl's friend to give to her. The friend's father opened it.
The letter was over the top. "I am just an old man. You probably don't like me because of my balding head and I'm overweight." On and on. He talks about wanting a hug from her more than anything. He includes a DVD with pictures of this girl and tells her to listen to the words closely. The song is Uncle Kracker's "Smile." It is a song a boyfriend would send a girlfriend.
Three fathers of pre-teen girls, one of them the girl that the letter was written to, and the pastor were present with Mitch when the letter was found and read. None of them killed Mitch. They didn't even lay a hand on him or threaten to kill him. Instead they called a meeting. Later that night, I got a call from the mother about assisting with a restraining order or other legal action.
Now let me clarify that no one involved thinks Mitch has inappropriately touched any child....yet. I think he will. However, he has definitely crossed boundaries. He acts like a ten-year old himself.
The pastor was ready to blow things off again. We were told not to discuss the matter at all, so as not to scare people away. He thought the involved fathers should take Mitch out to lunch and talk to him. I said "not good enough." I set up some rules - Mitch can come to church, attend an adult Sunday school of his choice and worship with his family in service, by sitting with them. He was not to attend children's activities, was to resign as teacher and would not be allowed to chaperone children's camps this summer. I called the children's committee together. And we acted.
The pastor is mad that things were not kept silent. Nevermind that he has a degree in counseling and should know predators thrive on silence. He is more concerned about people leaving the church. The family of the young girl is upset because they "like Mitch" and now "Mitch is sad" and "threatening to leave the church." They understand needing rules at church but why shouldn't they take their daughters over to Mitch's house to fish. They don't understand that Mitch can never be around young girls until he has years of mental health help and firm boundaries in place. Another father is mad that Mitch can't play ball with the guys anymore because kids are present. Forget about the fact that Mitch doesn't play - just hangs on the bench with the kids.
I'm really disappointed by the men of my church involved in this. And by the mother who had the gall to write "We love you Mitch" on his facebook page after her daughter just told her she finds Mitch "creepy." I can't believe Mitch is still standing after fathers read that letter when he was just arms-reach away. I'm pissed the pastor is more concerned about his reputation than the children.
So if you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that tact is not my strong-point..........and making people mad is something I do well without many worries.......
I recruited my husband and 2 other couples and we took charge. We contacted each family with pre-teen girls and informed them of the rules Mitch was to follow and why it was important for them to help in keeping boundaries consistent. We discussed the consequences of not following the rules. Two of us ladies met with Mitch's wife. The one that Mitch says is a real witch and wants nothing to do with him. But in real life, the woman who is hurt beyond belief that her husband prefers young girls over she and their boys. We encouraged her to help Mitch get therapy. We put the rules for Mitch in writing. We encouraged the fathers who were insistent on helping Mitch to invite him to adult-only activities like the men's Bible study.
The result - the pastor is pissed. The one family is "sad" that we "ran Mitch off." But the kids are safe. Mitch was not at church on Sunday, but facebook pictures show he and his whole family spent the day together, which is a first.
I'm really disappointed by these particular men and fathers. But pleased that at least a few stepped up and took charge. Including my husband who really wanted to kill Mitch. And the one other guy whose hands twitch with anger when he sees Mitch.