Questionable mission

February 20, 2010

Laura Silsby is the “missionary” who was caught at the Haitian border with 33 children, trying to hurry them into the Dominican Republic where they would potentially be adopted by American families.  

This is not a religious column.  However, I am highly uncomfortable with the way people like Laura Silsby present my religion to the world.  I have a public forum, and I would like to publicly distance myself from the brand of Christianity represented by the Laura Silsby’s of the world. 

I believe that God gave us free will because He wanted us to come to Him willingly, in our own time – not by force.  Why did Laura Silsby focus her “missionary” efforts on sneaking children out of their own country as quickly as possible without proper verification that they didn’t have a family to care for them?

Because adults already have an established value system.  Because she wanted to circumvent free will.  Because she wanted to play God.  You don’t have to be Sigmund Freud to know that whatever messages are communicated to you as a young child deeply impacts your worldview for the rest of your life. 

Laura Silsby’s arrogance leaves me seething.  And of course, these are the people we hear about, because these stories are ripe for sensationalization.  We only hear stories about the fanatics. 

We start to believe that the Middle East is full of jihadists who want to kill us; that all of Africa is morally corrupt.  Those are the stories that reach us through the filter of the Media. 

Those places have Media, too – Media that jumps on stories such as Laura Silsby’s.  And their audience says, “See!  Christians will steal our children!  They will brainwash them against us!  They will tear apart our families and deny us our culture!” 

And in the meantime, hundreds of thousands of Christian missionaries around the world are quietly and humbly feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, building shelters and wells and planting crops.

For every Laura Silsby in Haiti, there are hundreds of other ordinary folks who show their faith through their good works.  If someone asks them what they believe, they’ll talk about it. 

Otherwise, they buckle down and get to work rebuilding schools, doling out millions of dollars worth of donated food and clothing, and yes, setting up orphanages for the truly parentless children. 

It isn’t just the children affected whom the Laura Silsby’s of the world hurt.  They also hurt the well-meaning adoptive families in the U.S. who trust that an orphanage with a Christian affiliation is reputable; the American soldiers fighting against religious extremists who will use her story as an excuse to hate them; and aid workers worldwide, particularly those with a crucifix around their neck, who will be met with suspicion by those they aim to help. 

Even her church in Meridian, Idaho is keeping its distance from Silsby.  The pastor of Central Valley Baptist Church, Clint Henry, explained that “Our church is not a key player in making the orphanage happen… The church’s role in this trip to Haiti was basically providing volunteers, which they saw as a ministry opportunity for the congregation.”

I was relieved to learn that the other missionaries involved were allowed to go home this week.  They went to Haiti believing that Laura Silsby, having been to Haiti before, was a trustworthy guide.  One minute they’re part of the relief effort.  The next, they’re in jail. 

How terrifying.  And it could have happened to anyone. Laura Silsby’s Christianity barely resembles the Christianity that I and the majority of other American’s espouse. 

If by chance the world at large might discover and read this column – I want you to know that there are a lot of different types of Christians out there.  Laura Silsby does not represent me.  I want nothing to do with her.

This article first appeared in the Lewistown News-Argus and the Sidney (Mont.) Herald on February 20, 2010.