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New reports of child abuse drew attention to missionary boarding schools this fall but overshadowed the current trend: how rare such schooling is today.

About 30 missionary kids abused between 1950 and 1990, many at boarding schools in Africa or Asia, received a formal apology from Presbyterian Church (USA) leaders in October. About a month earlier, New Tribes Mission (NTM) released a report detailing the abuse of at least 50 missionary kids who had boarded in Senegal in the late 1980s.

Yet of the estimated 150 schools worldwide that serve missionary kids today, no more than 30 still offer boarding, said David Wilcox, an international director with the Association of Christian Schools International. "Even among those that offer boarding, for all but a handful, the boarding students are the minority of students they serve," he said. For example, Faith Academy in the Philippines has about 575 students, but only about 80 students board, he said.

The "significant and measurable shift" in where missionary families send their children to school has been gaining momentum for a number of years, and it isn't due to fears of abuse, said Steve Moore, president of the Mission Exchange. Many groups, including the International Mission Board and the Christian and Missionary Alliance, have adopted stringent child safety rules over the past decade.

In addition, the motivation for dorm parents has changed. In the past, some personnel at boarding schools were placed there because they were failing as missionaries, unable to learn the language or fit in with the culture, Wilcox said. "That is totally a thing of the past," he said. "Now more people have been called to the ministry [of dorm parenting]." This helps curtail the potential problem of ...

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In the Magazine

January 2011

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