An Open Letter to Kendra and Brad Hansen (EMI Missionaries in South Africa)

An open letter to Kendra and Brad Hansen as they embark on their mission in South Africa with EMI World. Just a reflection on someone who I have known for almost 17 years and going back to Campus Crusade at Marquette University. This also considers the changes we both have had to deal with. Given many of the dark subjects that I write about at The Wondering Eagle its nice to see something come together that is beautiful. 

“If God’s love is for anybody anywhere, it’s for everybody everywhere.”

Edward Lawlor 

“If I had 1,000 lives, I’d give them all for China.”

Hudson Taylor 

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Matthew 28:16 – 20 NIV 

Brad and Kendra Hansen

Cru at Marquette in 2000-2001

Dear Kendra and Brad-

Kendra, man I can’t believe I have known you for 17 years! How does that happen? Do you still remember all those times in Campus Crusade at Marquette? Remember how in the fall of 2000 it was me and you, Jen Hight, Devan, and one more female whose name is escaping me? Do you recall all those retreats and going to TCX in Minneapolis? You probably remember the canoeing trip in a river off the Mississippi near LaCrosse in May of 2001. If you recall the canoe tipped over and I think it was you and me who got drenched. I recall afterward trying to turn off the alarm from my Honda. The water was not good for the electronic car keys. Oops… that was not fun. But can I tell you something? Its taken 17 years for me to admit this, but when the canoe tipped it was done deliberately. I hope you’ll forgive me? 🙂 

Our lives went separate ways after Marquette. I eventually came out to Washington, D.C. and you eventually went north to Green Bay, Wisconsin. We’ve both had our challenges in unique ways. Let me say that I am sorry Brad went through the cancer he did. I wish there was a way that I could have prevented that from occurring. I can’t imagine the pain, the times of uncertainty, and difficulty. Cancer is hard and for each person who deals with it, well it goes differently. I don’t have an answer as to why it happened, but I am grateful that you guys pulled through. I am relieved that Brad is fine and healthy today. One thing I respect about you Kendra is that when you commented how illness can be awkward and people don’t know what to say at times, I appreciated your honesty. Some of these things a person will never understand unless the go through it. Illness is like that, as I dealt with it in my Mom’s illness. I will write more about that below. 

While you were in Wisconsin and I in Washington, D.C. I had a profound faith crisis. You were one of the people I went ballistic on. My faith crisis moved me from William Lobdell to the likes of Christopher Hitchens. When Hitch in “Letters to a Young Contrarian” called for people to clash and seek out argument and destroy; and that is exactly what I did. As I struggled with a faith crisis I had a co-worker who tried to get me into C.J. Mahaney’s Sovereign Grace Ministries. The level of corruption hemorrhaging from SGM stunned me. Stories or spiritual abuse, child sex abuse cover up, blackmail and other criminal allegation bled out at a blog called SGM Survivors. When Andrew White pressured me and tried to get me involved it became a unique situation. Here I am into Hitchens who talked about how Christianity is corrupt and then I was being invited into an organization bleeding serious allegations of criminal activity. For me my atheism at the time was validated. As I processed through a faith crisis and the problem of evil, the unthinkable happened which sent me into the darkest season of my life. Andrew White allegedly claimed that I was a threat to his family through a false accusation. When I saw how an Air Force Captain abused his position in the system that he is in, I learned why rape and sexual assault is an issue in the military. This blog, The Wondering Eagle, was ahead of the Harvey Weinstein curve by about two years in writing about this issue of abuse and bullying. You can read about that false accusation in “How I Managed a False Accusation Given Birth to by a USAF Captain and Care Group Leader from Redeemer Arlington for 408 Days.

My mess was never resolved, even though I approached 140 people and sought forgiveness. As you recall Kendra you were one of the people I approached. Your letter is in this post the fifth one up from the bottom. Here is what I learned about spiritual abuse. Its a major problem that many evangelicals are in denial about. For me my days of the pollyanna view of evangelical Christianity with the happy clappy perspective of the world is gone. That part of me is dead and buried. I already had a funeral for that part of my life. Spiritual abuse is painful. I can’t tell you the tears I have cried and how its popped up in unsuspecting ways of my life. In my career, in my Mom’s hospital room or other areas of life. Spiritual abuse becomes the new normal, and just drags on unresolved.  My Mom deserved to die in peace, this mess didn’t have to drag on the way that it did. One of the reasons why evangelical Christianity is so sick Kendra is because many Christians never say they are sorry. They never admit error. In the end all I wanted to do was sit down and work things out. Is that too much too ask for from someone who boasted of how they have “sound doctrine” and listens to Matt Chandler, John Piper and Mark Dever? One of my goals at this blog is to close Redeemer Arlington. There are so many evangelical churches that are cult like or cultish that need to be closed. Instead of planting churches what needs  to happen is that many sick and unhealthy churches need to be closed. Will that happen? I don’t know, yet one can try. 

This blog came about through that psychological pain. This blog has taught me a lot. I have learned about such topics as domestic abuse, homelessness, rape, child pornography, child sex abuse, inner city problems, drug addiction, alcoholism, and more. Many of those issues are major issues in evangelicalism. And it would surprise you how pervasive they are. Remember when we went to TCX and listened to Bryan Loritts speak? His church was involved in a dark scandal. I will never forget the day when one of the victims emailed me the situation. She was allegedly secretly recorded in a church restroom by the worship pastor. In the course of time child pornography was allegedly made in the church restroom. I wrote about it and clashed with Bryan Loritts publicly. The goal I have here Kendra is to help others get the peace and closure that I was denied. People need peace and closure to pick up their kids from school, work their job, go to the gym, deal with a family illness and live their life. Many evangelicals do not understand what peace actually is. In my darkest season of life I needed help, but I was astounded by how many people were horrified who also did not help in the end. That is why I insert myself into some of these situations. To get people to talk, and help reconcile others as well. Then at the same time to keep away people from harmful churches and cults which exist. There is more disturbing stuff then good stuff Kendra. I wish that was not the case. 

My Mom’s death has also been hard. Kendra I feel so lost. I feel so lost without my Mom. I am dreading the holidays knowing that this is the first time my Mom won’t be here. I am coming up on the first anniversary of my Mom going into the hospital. I loved my Mom dearly and I miss her so much. Its been so hard on my family. Death really redefines family as I am learning. My Mom’s illness was hell. You know when you are working you mother in the hospital you almost know the the medicine and the treatments because you learn them. There times I updated the nurses on shift changes and explained the medicine and more. Every night before I left the hospital I asked God for five more years with my Mom. Just five Kendra. That never happened. I am not pissed off at God, instead I am numb and feel lost. I also heard stories at my Mom’s funeral that I wish I could have asked her. One of my Mom’s friends came up to me and told me what my Mom told them. My Mom said that she was proud of me and that I turned out to be the man she wanted to see. Flying back and forth across country was exhausting but in the end I have peace in one aspect. Out of love I gave my Mom 110%. If I could tell you one thing Kendra, (you too Brad) its this. Spend as much time with your parents as possible. Don’t take them for granted. I never did but as I grieve my Mom’s death I am thinking of a phone call I could have made here or there. Or of other opportunities to go home that I should have seized. Trust me as I say this, but after you bury your parents one day decades from now you will be grateful for that extra time you spent with them. 

I also have to tell you that I am happy for you and Brad in going to South Africa. Kendra I think you are going to be a good missionary for several reasons. One is that you have dealt with pain and suffering. I noticed when talking to you that you have developed a lot more empathy. You listen well and you and Brad have been through so much. Time does that to people. If people are honest they will face a lot in life. The other thing Kendra as I got the vibe that your heart is in the right place. You want to help. You are not trying to flee but instead you are going someplace where you and Brad belong. There are many bad missionaries just as there can be bad mechanics, teachers, lawyers or more. But your heart is warm and sincere and I think you are doing this because you desire to do so. I write about a lot of dark topics here but I also look out for good topics as well. I enjoyed dinner with you and Brad at Founding Farmers in Tysons Corner, Virginia. The two plus hours we spent together felt like 15 minutes. I drove home thinking about it and grateful to the Lord that I’ve known you as a friend. If I could encourage you to do one thing its this. Study and read history and the culture where you are going. Take it and process it. Philip Yancey has written about the Dutch Reformed Church and South African politics. Christians in South Africa defended apartheid. I think there are a lot of lessons that the Christian church can learn from South Africa. Its something I wish people here in the United States would consider when it comes to politics and the Supreme Court. I don’t recommend many authors, however Philip Yancey is the exception. Consider “Soul Survivor” and “What Good is God?” You will learn about South Africa in the process. When you get settled into South Africa let me know and I can also send you packages. I did that for another friend in Kenya for over a year. 

At this time I can’t financially support you Kendra but I also thought of another aspect that may help you reach your financial goal.  This blog is read by a number of people and churches in the United States. I know the Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA) reads this as I write about the denomination and break stories. Other churches and people also read this blog as well. So maybe one of them or a few of them in time will step up and help you out. Maybe I can give you a jump as well. The website is emiworld.org/give. And all a person has to do is select, “Give to a staff member” and then “Hansen, Brad and Kendra.” I hope someone does that. Can I recommend you guys also create a webpage so people in the United States can follow you? 

As I wrap this up, I just want to wish you well. Good luck over in South Africa. You have grown a lot and I see that in our conversation. I am thrilled for you and from time to time I will pray for you. Let me know what I can pray for and I will do that for you. Remember the next time you are coming through the Washington, D.C. area dinner is on me. Again thanks for the dinner. Brad and Kendra, please know that you are loved. I am grateful for our friendship and I look forward to hearing about your time in South Africa.

Very Respectfully,

David Bonner 

One thought on “An Open Letter to Kendra and Brad Hansen (EMI Missionaries in South Africa)

  1. Thanks for the encouraging words Dave! Brad and I could not be more thrilled to be heading out to do what we love (engineering) in places where we can make a real difference for the Kingdom. It was great to catch up with you while we were out east and I look forward to seeing where God takes you on your journey. I’ll continue to be praying for you – especially as you navigate this season where family loss is felt so intensely and the anniversaries loom ahead. Doesn’t seem possible that it’s been 17 years since our time together at Marquette! I always had my suspicions about the canoe…

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