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Decades later and half a world away from the defunct West African boarding school where they suffered abuse, 80 adult children of Christian missionaries met for a peaceful reunion in suburban Atlanta in May.

They had been invited to Simpson wood Conference and Retreat Center by the Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA), the denomination that ran Mamou Alliance Academy, the school where, as young as six, they had been beaten, fondled, and forced to eat vomit and sit in their own waste (CT, April 27, 1998, p. 16).

With them came 50 of their parents and spouses and 20 counselors and facilitators.

DENOMINATION APOLOGIZES: It was a weekend of hugs and tears, of baring the deepest angers of the past and the greatest concerns for the future. In the bittersweet gathering, some friendships left latent for decades revived and some hurts long buried surfaced.

For officials of the C&MA, a denomination of 328,000 members with missions in more than 50 countries, it marked a time of confession and repentance.

"I want to express to each of you the deep sorrow that we feel because of the abuse that you experienced at Mamou Alliance Academy," C&MA president Peter Nanfelt, 62, told the assembled. "It is hard to imagine the pain which you have endured, some of you for the past 25 to 35 years."

Nanfelt—who became C&MA president last year—apologized that the denomination did not have safeguards in place to prevent the abuse, and that leaders did not take complaints more seriously when they first heard of them. "We were wrong in this, and we are sorry," he said.

During the summer, officials are sending copies of the apology to alumni who could not attend the reunion and will visit anyone who requests a meeting, according to Bob Fetherlin, ...

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In the Magazine

July 12, 1999

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