CABARET — At least four more young men have come forward as victims of a U.S.-based aid worker who is believed to have abused dozens of boys in Haiti, and two top officials of the Amish-Mennonite Christian Aid Ministries (CAM) who had allowed the worker to return to the field despite his confession of child molestation have issued an apology.
The number of boys now who have now come forward stands at eight and a ninth is currently pending. Four new charges of rape have been filed in Cabaret Judicial Court against now former CAM employee Jeriah Mast, which will be pursued on a civil level for monetary reparations. CAM will also be included in the civil claims.
A fifth charge may additionally be filed, but the young man is no longer living in Haiti as the societal mistreatment from the scourge of being abused forced him to have to make a life for himself elsewhere.
A source who has been in contact with a sheriff’s office in Ohio told Christian News Network that he believes federal officials are pursuing criminal charges against Mast in the states to hold him accountable for his crimes in Haiti.
A hearing was recently held in Petit Goave over the new victims who have come forward, and the young men were all interviewed by a professional psychologist.
Rick Ashley, who leads an organization called Haiti First Responders, has been on the ground and provided Christian News Network with updates on the recent court developments. Ashley had worked with Samaritan’s Purse in Haiti to assist with disaster relief following the 2010 earthquake, and while there, met a young orphan boy who was being mistreated and needed help.
Ashley adopted the child and has been helping him for the past nine years to have a good life filled with hope in Christ. Because of his adopted son, Ashley remained involved in Haiti, and when he learned that numerous boys had been allegedly sexually abused by a worker with CAM, his heart broke.
He told Christian News that when he attended the recent hearings, he found that one of the young men who came forward as being abused by Mast realized that he knew Ashley’s adopted son from years ago. He told Ashley that because of the abuse he suffered from Mast, he “didn’t know if he could trust a white man again.” However, he observed how well Ashley treated his son and began to open up.
Ashley spoke to the four who came forward and told them that the wrong that had been done to them does not represent Christianity.
“He is not what you call a missionary,” he recalled stating. “He is a sinful man, and missionaries don’t do things like that.”
Ashley also took the young men out for a meal and asked them about their dreams and aspirations. He expressed to Christian News his concern over how the matter is being handled by CAM, and is especially concerned about what he sees as a mindset among some in the Mennonite community that sin is handled internally rather than reporting crimes immediately to law enforcement.
On May 3, Mast was confronted by a CAM pastor in Haiti, Eris Labady, about sexual abuse of boys in the country. Mast denied any wrongdoing at first, but as the pastor pressed, he broke and was immediately fired.
Mast then fled Haiti in the middle of the night, and went to the Dominican Republic before flying back to the United States, where he then confessed.
He went to his American victims and/or their families, and after reportedly receiving assurance that charges would not be filed, he went to the police to confess. It is also believed that Mast only intended on confessing his U.S. crimes to authorities, but as another individual who was privy to the matter alerted officials, the FBI also showed up to question Mast.
Mast’s church, Shining Light Christian Fellowship in Millersburg, released a statement weeks later explaining that Mast has been engaged in child molestation from his youth and has been “living a life of deception and hypocrisy.”
“He confessed multiple instances of immoral sexual relationships with boys, which began in his youth,” it said. “He acknowledged to living a life of deception and hypocrisy. He also confessed that he lied to cover up his sins.”
“Because of the sins that were committed and the victims that were abused, an appointment was made to report this to our local sheriff department. Jeriah voluntarily went in person for an interview and confessed to a local detective and an FBI agent (including giving names of victims).”
The pastor of the church, Paul Hershberger, is stated to be Mast’s brother-in-law. Christian News reached out to Hershberger at Shining Light Christian Fellowship — after locating the phone number, which was removed from the church website — but he coolly declined to answer any questions on the matter, expressing reluctance, and referred to the statement.
When asked if he was aware of the earlier sexual abuse allegations for which Mast had been sent home in 2012, Hershberger said “no” and hung up the phone.
The board for the Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries said in a statement that it was not aware of Jeriah Mast’s sexual abuse of male youth, but discovered that its assistant director and a member of the executive committee knew that Mast had confessed to child molestation 2013 and yet allowed him to return to the field.
“Paul Weaver and Eli Weaver are two men who have faithfully served the Lord and our ministry for many years in management roles. Unfortunately, they allowed Jeriah to continue to work in the field even after his confession in 2013 of sexual activity with young men that had taken place several years prior,” the statement outlined.
“Both men recognize that their failure to properly investigate and inquire into Jeriah’s conduct was a serious failure in judgment and should have severe consequences,” it advised.
The CAM Board of Directors consequently placed the men on administrative leave pending an investigation.
The two Weavers have since released a statement to their co-workers apologizing for allowing Mast to return to the field simply because they believed he had repented.
“[W]e are deeply sorry for our part in the decision in 2013 to allow Jeriah Mast to continue to serve with CAM in Haiti,” the letter reads. “We have asked God for forgiveness, we asked the victims for forgiveness and we ask the fellow missionaries for forgiveness.”
They explained that in 2013, Mast had confessed to having “homosexual involvement” with four boys in Haiti years prior, and that following his “confession and restitution,” the two met with Mast to ensure that he was repentant.
“We then allowed him to return to Haiti believing that everything had been resolved,” the Weavers wrote. “Looking back, we realize that we should have asked more questions, gotten more details of what took place, and reported the matter to legal authorities.”
They said that they heard of no further issues upon Mast’s return and over the next six years.
“As we consider the loss of purity in the young boys who were victimized by Jeriah, their shame, their reproach, their fear of being found out, their concept of Christianity and missions overall, and we again consider that we were a part of the decision to allow Jeriah to continue working for CAM, we feel deep remorse.”
Mast is currently out on bail after being indicted in Ohio last month for sexual abuse also committed in the United States. He faces 14 charges: seven felony counts of gross sexual imposition and seven misdemeanor counts of sexual imposition.