September 16, 2018 - We are communicating to address a difficult situation that we believe you should be aware of, based on a formal investigation that is in process.
The investigation is regarding information that has come to light about the 2012 Mount Lebanon Kids Camp that The Village Church attended. The Cedar Hill Police department, under the direction of Detective Michael Hernandez, is investigating a report of sexual assault by an adult against a minor at the camp. Earlier this year, the minor came to a place where it was possible to verbalize the memory of what happened for the first time through ongoing therapy. Detective Hernandez has been investigating the case since that time.
It took courage and strength for the child and the family to share this information, and we want to support them in any way possible. We have been working with the family and Detective Hernandez to do all that we can to bring healing and the light of justice to this situation, including the decision to make this investigation public now. We only have one reported incident at this particular camp and year, so no other camp or event is under investigation at this time.
We want to clearly state that there are no persons of interest in this investigation that have access to children at The Village Church. We would not allow anyone who is under investigation for a crime like this be near children at TVC. We have strong child safety and security practices in place through ongoing training provided by an outside consultant called MinistrySafe. We require all staff and any volunteers who work with children to complete this training. We are committed to doing all that we can to protect our children. On Monday night, when Detective Hernandez met with parents from the 2012 camp, he noted that our child safety practices and training were strong in 2012 and have only improved over time through our ongoing work with MinistrySafe.
This is heartbreaking news to deliver. The weight of it leads us all to a pleading with Christ to bring healing, justice and help to everyone involved.
Can parents be confident in the safety of their children at TVC events in light of this news?
Yes. We are very serious, intentional and committed to the safety of our children. We have strong safety and security procedures and practices in place and have only increased those over the past few years. We continue to work with MinistrySafe to train us in child safety and protection, and we require all staff and any volunteers who work with children to go through the training that MinistrySafe provides.
What prompted sharing this information now?
Detective Hernandez asked us not to share the news of this investigation any earlier as it could have hindered his work. We have been working closely with the family and Detective Hernandez on the best time to make this news public, and everyone agreed that this was the proper time. We will continue to stay in close contact with the family and Detective Hernandez and provide timely updates as we have them.
Do I need to keep an extra eye on my children at church because the alleged perpetrator is at our church?
No. The clear and emphatic answer to this question is no. We would not allow anyone who is under investigation for a crime like this be near children at TVC.
How should we talk about this situation with our children?
Every family and child will be different, so we encourage you to share what you feel is best and wise for your situation. Our main encouragement would be to center their hearts and minds on the power, justice and goodness of God. He is ruling and reigning over the universe in the midst of this, as hard as it can be for us to believe and trust in that at times.
How should I talk to my children about sexual abuse?
Children need to know they are free to talk with their parents about sexual abuse and come to them if they ever feel unsafe or unsure. The best advice we can give to parents about this conversation is to have it. You won’t get it perfect. You’ll forget something you wanted to say or say something maybe you didn’t think you should, but this is not a one-and-done talk. It’s many conversations, over time.
Below is a list of resources and places that can help.
Books for children
Will we have overnight events for elementary, middle school and high school students in the future?
We have decided to not do overnight events for elementary children based on counsel from MinistrySafe, reflection and prayer. We will continue to do overnight camps for middle school and high school students based on their ages and the safety and security guidelines and procedures we have in place through our ongoing work with MinistrySafe.
How are the child and family doing and how are we supporting them?
Here is a statement from the family:
We believe the Lord is giving a voice to the voiceless in this situation. He cares deeply for those who carry the false shame that a victim often bears and calls us to cast this false shame at the foot of the cross where the healing love of Christ awaits. The Lord exposes what has been done in the darkness, and He has faithfully brought it to light. As parents, our hearts have at times been angered and grieved beyond measure, but we know we have never been left without hope. Our child and our family have seen the Lord’s abounding love in this through the listening ears and tangible hands of loved ones, our church leadership and staff.
We ask for continued prayer for our church leaders who desire to serve us all so well. We clearly see they are just as heartbroken and angered over this as we are. They deeply care about our church body and desire justice and truth.
Finally, we ask for your continued prayers for healing for our family. Please pray for the justice process that is ahead. That we would continue to exercise patience and trust in the Lord. That we all steady our hearts on Christ alone.