New Director, Amanda Benckhuysen: "Why I Want to Work With Safe Church Ministry"

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I was born and raised in Canada, though I’m currently living in Grand Rapids. I’m married (to a pastor) and have two teenage daughters, a freshman in high school and a freshman in college. In my spare time I like to read, hike, bike, travel, and kayak (in the summer). I have been serving in ministry for over 20 years, the last 12 years teaching Old Testament at two different seminaries. As of last month, I left my job at the seminary to begin working with Safe Church Ministry. Perhaps you are wondering why.

One summer during university, I worked for the Children’s Aid Society in Ontario as an administrative assistant to child protection workers. My job was to type up case notes assessing whether or not to remove a child from their home. I was not naive about abuse, having had friends who were survivors, but that summer broke my heart. I was struck by how vulnerable these children were—unable to do anything to prevent the physical, emotional, and sexual violations committed against them. All they could do was wait for someone else to notice who would then take up their cause and fight for their protection.

When the summer ended, I returned to university thinking I might pursue a career in law to advocate from the legal perspective for those who were being or had been abused. But God had different plans, calling me into youth and campus ministry and later, to teaching and mentoring seminarians who were called into ministry. 

Throughout this period, however, God regularly put in my path those who were or who had experienced abuse. I journeyed with them in their pain, listening to their stories, praying with them, sometimes referring them to a counsellor, sometimes crying with them, mostly just trying to be a supportive friend as they sought to cope with the destructive effects of abuse on their lives.

Many of the people I journeyed with were women, and most were part of the church. Some were abused as children by family members, some in dating relationships, and some by church leaders and volunteers (of various denominations). 

In most cases, the church dealt with the abuse badly, often turning a blind eye out of fear of the fallout if the abuse became public. The impact of this on survivors was devastating. They felt abandoned, left without spiritual resources or even a supportive community to deal with the trauma of abuse. And while their abusers had made them feel small, worthless, even dirty, the church made them feel invisible.  

When the opportunity arose to serve Safe Church Ministry in the CRCNA, I felt God calling me to a more sustained involvement in advocacy both with those who are survivors of abuse and for the work and witness of the church. 

As a church, we have an opportunity to embody the redemptive and healing power of the gospel by ministering effectively to those who are survivors of abuse and by cultivating healthier cultures in which every person is protected and valued. When we do this well, we model God’s love for all people in profound ways and live more fully into the calling of the church to join in God’s redemptive work. 

My hope and prayer is that over the years to come, Safe Church would continue the good work that Bonnie Nicholas, Eric Kas, Becky Jones, and Safe Church coordinators and teams have done in abuse prevention, awareness, and response that we would grow as a church in our capacity to address abuse with justice and compassion. 

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Thank-you for telling us about yourself.
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I appreciate your vision in the second to last paragraph.
Welcome to Safe Church Ministry.

Participant

Amanda: Thank you so much for sharing your story. Many of us are drawn to this work because we have been touched by abuse in some way. I am excited to be able to work with you in this very important area. May God bless our efforts, and touch the hearts of both the victims and the perpetrators. 

Shalom.

Welcome Amanda, 

It was great to hear more about yourself and how God has called you to this ministry and prepared the path ahead of time.  

It is the prayer of the BC Safe Church Ministry that God provides all you need in your calling and role.  We look forward to working with you as part of  God's redemptive work and plan for, in and thru his church.

I wish to also express my many thanks for and to all those who have worked towards safer churches and appropriate responses and prevention methods over the last almost 3 decades in the CRC.  The CRC has been blessed by all of these leaders and also our former Safe Church Directors Bonnie Nicholas & Beth Swagman. 

May God guide, direct, provide wisdom and immensely bless this new beginning and chapter in the life of the CRC and the Safe Church office.

  

  

Thanks Amenda:

In our small church we have a few survivors of abuse who fled to us.  Thanks for letting God lead you in your new position.

 

August Guillaume

 

So thankful for you, Amanda and all that you bring to this position.

Participant

Dear Dr. Benckhuysen,

Welcome to your new ministry!

My wife and I are praying for your work. May every survivor know they can be safe and have advocates that bring comfort, support and hope for the future because of your leadership.

May the abusers of power come to an understanding of their sin and trespass as a result of your determination to inform them of the difference between holistic power under submission to Christ and power that seeks to dominate, control and destroy the innocent. 

Yours is a ministry task, that is the heartbeat of God for the well-being of the weak and manipulated who through no fault of their own find themselves alienated, ostracized and sometimes despised. May God grant you increasing wisdom, courage and strength as we see from reading your introduction you already possess in great quantity.

Peace,

Kelly Sibthorpe

Welcome! It warms my heart to know that our God was preparing you for this specific ministry, long before we knew the position would be open! I look forward to getting to know you!

Welcome Amanda!  Thank you for sharing your story and how God has prepared you for this position.  I serve as the chair of our Safe Church Ministry Team in our church.  I am so grateful for the support that our denomination has given to me and to the church at large.  I look forward to meeting you some time in the future.  God bless you in this new position.

Judy Jongsma

Participant

Bless your heart Amanda, and welcome to the team... thank you for sharing a bit of how these concerns were put on your heart over the years...

praying for wisdom, compassion and a forehead of flint when needed, for you and all those who deal with an area that still too many in the church respond to with a willful blindness...

and as thankful as I am for the progress that has been made over the last 30 years... there is still much work to be done... 

be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. 

 

 

Thanks everyone for your warm welcome, support, and prayers.  I look forward to working towards safer churches with you all.