SOS: Save our SOULS
Witness Statement Details Spiritual Abuse at SOULS-West Outreach School
SOS: Save our SOULS
A Facebook post has been making the rounds on social media for the last couple of weeks. Sasha Mejia released a witness statement she wrote in late 2018. Her post accuses SOULS-West, an outreach school in Prescott, AZ, of spiritual abuse, harm to reputation, financial harm, mental anguish, and career sabotage. SOULS-West is a colporteur program for students all over the Pacific Union Conference (PUC)—the union in which the school resides. Mejia attended the school as a student, though the date of these alleged incidents is unclear.
Mejia’s statement recounts instances where four leaders caused varying types of harm to her and others in the school. These leaders are Larry Carter, director of literature ministries for the PUC; William Krick, then-director of the Central California publishing ministries; and Michael & Candace Tuazon, directors of SOULS-West. In one instance, Mejia claims Krick called a pastor of a church where she hoped to be a Bible Worker, convincing the pastor not to hire her. Mejia also details several instances of financial harm—including active discouragement from pursuing higher education and fundraisers (of up to $100,000) where Mejia was required to give SOULS-West the money from her own paycheck in addition to funds raised in order to pay off her school bill, even though she had a verbal agreement with Carter that she would owe no money to the school and would actually make money. One of the more poignant accusations is aimed at Candance Tuazon. Mejia claims that while she was hospitalized to determine whether or not a tumor was cancerous, she called Tuazon for support and prayer, but Tuazon responded implying that her decision to leave the ministry to pursue her masters and to care for her mother caused Mejia to get cancer. This conversation caused severe panic attacks, depression, and rapid heart palpitations for an already scared Mejia.
Doing some SOUL searching
Ten months after Mejia’s statement, the Pacific Union Conference published a letter confirming they had investigated the leaders of SOULS-West and had released the Tuazons from employment. As of the writing of this article, SOULS-West’s website still has the Tuazons listed as the directors. It appears that there is an ongoing lawsuit, though its specifics are unclear. The only public details current exist in Mejia’s Facebook post.
Word on the street is…
Mejia’s decision to come forward has resulted in several other individuals sharing their own similar experiences from SOULS-West, along with other literature evangelism ministries. More information may come to light as conferences become more aware of a potentially widespread problem in literature evangelism ministries. Others slam PUC for putting new directors in charge of SOULS-West who were trained under the same methods of those before them and are concerned that the publishing directors at the conference and union levels are still employed.
The 2019 enditnow Summit on Abuse Attracts 17,000 viewers
Views from the summit
On September 4, the third NAD summit on abuse kicked off at the campus of Andrews University. The summit, called ”enditnow,“ featured presenters discussing how to end all types of abuse in the church through educating and equipping members, leaders, students, and pastors on identifying and dealing with abuse. The presenters included church leaders, administrators, professional advocates, educators, and women who shared their personal stories of abuse and trauma. Over 500 people continuously tuned in to the two-day (English and Spanish) event’s live stream on the enditnow Facebook page and more than 17,000 people have watched since the event. Organizers and presenters at the summit emphasized the importance of Adventism’s role in combating abuse wherever it’s found. Attendees at the event expressed affirmed both the value of the information and the need for open and continued conversation about this difficult topic, rather than continuing the past practice of avoiding it altogether. In addition to the information and education provided by the summit presentations, the enditnow website shares information about organizations people can contact in their areas. The SDA Church in North America also offers a silent whistle program that allows users to send anonymous reports of abuse.
Third Nairobi Congregation joins the NCC in Ongoing Church Conflict
The Nairobi Situation Worsens
The ongoing Adventist congregational struggle in Nairobi (which The Scratch has covered here, here, and here) has escalated further, as another congregation (tallying up to three now) is splitting from the Central Kenyan Conference (CKC) to join the newly formed Nairobi Cosmopolitan Conference (NCC). The KPCU SDA Church in Mowlem, Nairobi cites a lack of transparencyin the 2015 election process as the reason for their split. Their split follows two other congregations that have separated from the CKC and joined the NCC. A fourth congregation may break from the CKC, but this is not yet confirmed.
Contributors: Jose Briones, Stephanie Wilczynski, Emily Weber
Editors: Ryan Becker, Kevin Christenson, Jill Evans