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Rebuilding the Ancient Ruins in Holmes County, Ohio

By Jewel Showalter

“The magnitude of the problem of physical and sexual abuse in our very religious Amish-Mennonite community keeps weighing on us,” said Larry and Kendra Kaufman, pastoral couple at Grace Mennonite Church in Millersburg, Ohio, for the past 15 years.

The Kaufman’s explained that just this year in their community, the once-hidden issue has been thrust into the public eye through the conviction and imprisonment of an Amish preacher who is a sex offender. Larry explained that since many in their congregation come from an Amish background, Grace has felt led to launch a safe house known as 58:12 Rescue – “a safe place of healing and restoration for female victims of sexual and physical abuse” in Holmes County.

“My parents left the Amish church years ago,” Larry said. “So we feel a very personal connection. We understand and respect the community, but we are also determined to break the silence and secrecy surrounding the issue of abuse that is so prevalent in these closed communities.”

“We understand and respect the community, but we are also determined to break the silence and secrecy surrounding the issue of abuse that is so prevalent in these closed communities.”Kendra shared about several women who have come to Grace Church and specific ways they have tried to help these women and educate people about abuse and justice.

“We’re committed to helping people find healing through Jesus, the healer and restorer of our brokenness,” she said. “But it’s sobering to hear how often families want to brush this shame and guilt under the rug and not become a part of the abused person’s healing journey.”

Kendra said that when abused women first began coming to them they would take them to a secular women’s shelter. But increasingly they have sensed God calling them to open a shelter closer to home.

“We feel like we’re entering a huge battle zone,” Larry said. “This problem has existed for a long time. There are fears that keep people quiet. Young people end up in my office, telling me things they’ve never told anyone. We want to ‘walk in the light,’ to educate people and work on prevention. We are passionate about building godly marriages and healthy families.”

“It’s not about tarnishing people’s images,” he added. “But we need to expose this evil problem. Isaiah 58:12 captures our vision to be a healing place (in case you don’t know where our name comes from!) we are called to be the ‘repairer of broken walls, restorer of streets with dwellings.’ We are all broken and in need of God’s healing grace.”

58:12 Rescue is a registered 501C-3 organization that is an extension of Grace’s ministry to the community. Someone with a heart for vulnerable women donated a beautiful piece of property and a fully furnished home that can hold up to 15 residents. In addition to the emergency shelter, 58:12 Rescue provides Bible teaching, mentorship, Christ-centered counseling, life skills training, and medical care. They have also set up a hotline: (330) 204-5788.

“Our vision is to welcome vulnerable women into a safe and loving environment where they can receive healing and grow into their God-given potential,” Kendra said.

“Our vision at Grace Church is to create an environment that is transparent and unapologetically Christ centered,” Larry said. “We believe in the power of the gospel to break strongholds of abuse, and to set people free from shame and guilt.”

If you would like to financially support 58:12 Rescue, send donations to 58:12 Rescue, 5850 CR 77, Millersburg, Ohio 44654. “Help us get the word out about 58:12 Rescue.”

If you, or someone you know has been, or is being abused, please call the United States national hotline numbers: 1-800-656-4673 for victims of sexual assault and 1-800-799-7233 for victims of domestic violence.