I Made a Promise: Confronting the Shame and Bondage of Sexual Abuse

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By Martin Schlomer, Senior Pastor

It was early February 2016 when I made a promise to the Elim family. We had to confront the ugly reality of sexual abuse. A young man was accused of sexual abuse. When confronted, he confessed that the accusation was true. The individual was turned over to the proper authorities and arrested.

While none of this abuse happened at any Elim ministry event, we were asked the question, “What’s next?” Many others came with their own stories of being victims of sexual abuse. This was my introduction to the ugly reality that so many people must endure. One in three women and one in five men have endured sexual abuse. Most suffer in silent agony, enslaved in deep and toxic shame. I promised the Elim family that we would develop a strategy to shepherd and disciple those adults among us who have been victimized by sexual predators.

After eight months of thinking, praying, and looking for someone to help guide us through this process, I met with Shonna Porter to brainstorm options. She connected me with Mary Jane Apple, who works alongside Dr. Dan Allender, a renowned Christian psychologist in the realm of sexual abuse. I have assembled a team of eager individuals who will work with Shonna and Mary Jane to be trained and to develop a strategy to move us forward. At this point, Elim will host two seminars this fall. In September/October, we will host a two-hour seminar for Elim and the South Hill community, with the topic of defining the scope of sexual abuse: What is it, and how does it happen? Then, before the end of the year, we hope to offer a two-day intensive seminar called “Healing the Wounded Heart.” Coming out of these seminars, it is my hope that we will be equipped to pursue an ongoing ministry outreach based upon our understanding.

Why is this important? The Gospel has the power not just to save us for eternity, but also to lead us on the way of freedom here and now! “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). This fullness is for ALL men and women who bow their knee before Jesus, experiencing His heart and following His ways!

This journey will be no picnic in the park. In my first conversation with Mary Jane, she asked me, “Why do you want to pursue this path?” After I explained my reasons, she gave me this rather unsettling assurance: “You are stepping into some strongholds, some very dark places. Satan will not step aside and walk quietly into the night. You need to build a prayer team as you begin this journey.” This is now my first priority! If you are willing to pray weekly, please email me and I will put you on a prayer list and will keep you updated monthly on ways you can pray. Please put “Allies in Prayer” in the subject line.

May our Father lead us as we bring the light of the Kingdom of God to very dark places!

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SNOW

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By Brian Waple

Snow, snow, beautiful snow … we got close to a foot of snow at the house Sunday night … makes up for the past couple of years! As I was looking at the snow Monday morning, it made me think of Martin’s message this past Sunday regarding shame. Everyone deals with it — believer and unbeliever alike. It’s one of the unfortunate byproducts of our fallen nature. Early on in Genesis, we first hear about shame: “At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves” (Genesis 3:7 NLT). Can you imagine what that must have felt like? Everything is going so perfectly well, and suddenly you think, “I am bad.”

So, what does this talk about shame have to do with the snow? Well, think about it: the beautiful white stuff covers the frozen ground beneath. Just like the fig leaves covered the shame of Adam and Eve. Just like we do when we present our “front stage” selves to others, hiding what’s going on in the back stage. But the back stage is still there, and in the midst of the back stage, among other things, lies our shame.

As Martin said, it’s not easy dealing with shame. It takes a brave person to face the fact that they are living with shame in one form or another. Shame permeates pretty much everything we do. It can even affect the good things we do. But it is when we are brave that we allow people into our backstage … into our shame (and make no mistake, it’s probably one of the bravest things we’ll ever do). It doesn’t make it any less messy, however. But, when we become vulnerable and allow people in, it’s kind of like melting snow through which we start to see the slushy, dirty ground underneath. The ugliness is still there, but if we are willing to confront the ugliness, surrender it to God, and seek encouraging and loving community to help us deal with the ugliness, through God’s grace, mercy, and love, the ugliness will be replaced with what lies at our core — God’s beautifully created image bearer.

But, taking that first step, being brave enough to admit your shame and ask someone to walk with you as you address your shame — that is how we face and overcome our shame, being willing to accept that we are not perfect people, but in our imperfection we are accepted by God and we are worthy of love and belonging. It is only then that our shame, like the snow, begins to melt away, revealing God’s beautiful creation underneath.

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT)

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