An American Woman’s Testimony of Abuse

[Editor’s Note: It has been a while since we have published any testimonies, but we have not forgotten about the ongoing abuses or the abused.  On the contrary, we are pushing forward on all fronts, even if the wheels appear to be moving slowly.  Many who came forward last year are still in the process of writing their testimonies: they are painful and thinking and writing about the abuse opens old wounds that many wish would just disappear.

It takes a lot of courage to stand in the face of someone like Michael Howard, who is “δαιμονίζομαι” or “demonized.”  There is no other way to explain the systemic abuse and exploitation of others in the name of “Jesus.”

Many have asked the same questions, “Why does God allow Michael to continue?  How can Jim and Eileen Kirt continue to blindly follow this man and join in his sin?  Why hasn’t he been arrested?  Why is he allowed to stay in Malawi?  Why is the school still open?”

These are all legitimate questions, deserving of answers, but in the natural, situations and circumstances can often deceive us.  For those who are asking and those who are suffering, I offer the following truth from scripture:

Psalm 73, vv 2-20:

2 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;

I had nearly lost my foothold.

3 For I envied the arrogant

when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

4 They have no struggles;

their bodies are healthy and strong.

5 They are free from common human burdens;

they are not plagued by human ills.

6 Therefore pride is their necklace;

they clothe themselves with violence.

7 From their callous hearts comes iniquity;

their evil imaginations have no limits.

8 They scoff, and speak with malice;

with arrogance they threaten oppression.

9 Their mouths lay claim to heaven,

and their tongues take possession of the earth.

10 Therefore their people turn to them

and drink up waters in abundance.

11 They say, “How would God know?

Does the Most High know anything?”

12 This is what the wicked are like—

always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.

13 Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure

and have washed my hands in innocence.

14 All day long I have been afflicted,

and every morning brings new punishments.

15 If I had spoken out like that,

I would have betrayed your children.

16 When I tried to understand all this,

it troubled me deeply

17 till I entered the sanctuaryr of God;

then I understood their final destiny.

18 Surely you place them on slippery ground;

you cast them down to ruin.

19 How suddenly are they destroyed,

completely swept away by terrors!

20 They are like a dream when one awakes;

when you arise, Lord,

you will despise them as fantasies.

And now, a heart-wrenching testimony from an American woman, a doctor, who with the purest of intent followed Michael blindly into what she thought would be a glorious mission work for the Lord.  Like many others, it ended in abuse and disaster and she barely escaped with her life.  She has since abandoned the mission field and teaches in a secular university.  When I asked her if she would ever consider returning to the work she feels the Lord originally called her to, she said, “I don’t think so.  My heart is still in Southern Sudan, but I don’t think I’ll ever go back.”

My prayer for this dear woman and for all the others who have turned their back on the call of the Lord as a direct result of the abuse they received at the hands of Michael Howard, Paisley Mavutula and others who follow this cult, is that their hearts would be softened and that the Lord would re-ignite the fire within them and would stir up His gift within them.]

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“As with others, I have struggled greatly regarding this issue.  Should I respond to the allegations being put forward within this website?  Or should I keep silent?  Is the homosexual behavior / sexual abuse a fact?  Or is it fiction?  I can only write of what I witnessed and felt during my time with Kalibu.

Previous to joining Kalibu in November of 1994, I worked within a local church in the U.S.  Michael Howard was a regular guest speaker.  I remember receiving a phone call from a non-member before one of his scheduled preaching dates.  The caller was challenging me, asking how the church could have a homosexual preach from its pulpit, minister, and even lay hands on members of the congregation.  The caller went on to say that Michael had been having an affair with another well-known evangelist.  At the time I just believed it was a disgruntled person and assured her that it was probably just a rumor without any basis.

A few days before I departed to Africa, a deacon’s wife also challenged me.  She said that Michael had “propositioned” her son.  Evidently, he had been encouraging her son to join him in Malawi.  The son had gotten a “weird vibe” and thought the invitation was much more than just helping with the mission work.  Again, I dismissed it as miscommunication because “European” mannerisms sometimes seem effeminate to Americans.

The early days in Malawi were a learning experience.  I was taken aback by Michael’s leadership style.  He seemed more of a dictator than a leader.  But this was Michael’s ministry, and if this was how it was run, then who was I to challenge him?

Michael had no regard or respect for anyone else’s opinions.  He had no respect for the government or laws of the land.  I know that on more than one occasion Kalibu faked documents to get Malawian passports for non-Malawian Africans (Rwandan and Sudanese).  He even had these individuals travel to the U.S. on the phony passports.

Within the first three weeks in Malawi, I sensed an unnatural relationship between Michael and one of “the boys,” an adult Malawian who was “pastor” to the team.  There was just too much time spent in the privacy of Michael’s bedroom and the bathroom.  I believed it went well beyond the scope of “personal attendant” or “mentoring” to build a future church leader.

My internal struggle began.  In my heart, I knew something was amiss.  In my head, I rationalized that it was just my imagination.  I became “distant” from the Malawian pastor.  It did not take long before I was being accused (by Michael) of not being able to relate with “his boys.”

I had met another foreign lady who was a supporter of the ministry.  She was living in Malawi and we occasionally got together.  One day we were talking over the phone and I asked her to pray regarding the situation.  Michael had overheard my conversation and I became “persona non grata” from then on.

When the pastor got married and moved to town, Paisley Mavutula took on the same role.  I thought, “Surely, it was all in my imagination.  There wasn’t anything immoral going on.”  I essentially convinced myself that I was wrong and the relationships were pure.  What I had not realized was the strength of the spirit of deception that permeates a situation like this.  The person committing the immorality has deceived themselves, and that deception then works to dull the discernment of others working within the ministry.  It takes an outsider to truly see what is going on.  Almost every visitor from the U.S. questioned me about it; and I always denied that anything unnatural was occurring.

Regarding the physical abuse, I can absolutely confirm that it was occurring.  There was a “hosepipe,” a 3-4 foot piece of garden hose used to “discipline” anyone who went awry of Michael’s direction.  I hated that this was occurring, but again, this was Michael’s ministry.  I had spent two years in Nigeria, and it was not unusual (even standard) for teachers to discipline primary school (elementary school) students with a caning.  However, even in Nigeria, it was considered inappropriate to use on adults as Michael had been doing.  While in Kenya, I witnessed employers using physical discipline on employees more than once.  However, I found it hard to believe that such punishment would be standard within a Christian ministry.

Michael seemed to relish doling out the punishment.  He even prided himself before visiting American and South African pastors about his methods of discipline.  I remember Michael telling visitors how his night guard had fallen asleep near the fire we used to heat water.  Michael beat the sleeping guard, who awoke with a start.  Not knowing exactly where he was, he scrambled away from the beating and went head-first into the fire.  The beatings were an on-going activity at Kalibu.

I read Alinune’s testimony within this website.  I can 100% confirm that his testimony is true.  There was a time when Michael had traveled and Alinune was found to be skipping school.  I asked Michael what to do.  He said I was to strip Alinune naked and have him beaten.  Then he was to be chained to his bed and put on a 40-day fast.  Really?  Yes, those were my orders from Michael.  Did I obey?  Of course not.  But I know that upon Michael’s return, Alinune was beaten horribly….then decided that going to school was a good thing after all.

There were days when I was “dis-invited” from morning intercession.  These were times when Michael was gone and Paisley was put in charge.  I was told there was business to be discussed and it was none of my concern.  I found out later that Paisley was dispensing punishment to various staff members.

So why did I stay?  Again, it was that internal struggle, and deciding that I was wrong.  Deception is a powerful force.  So I poured myself into the work.  I believed in the project and its intent to raise and train godly men and women for leadership within the country.  This would impact not only leadership within the churches, but also in major businesses and the government.

When I came to Malawi, construction on Kalibu Academy was in its infancy.  There were plans in place and several thousand bricks had been made.  I oversaw the leveling of the ground, construction of the bridge, and laying the initial section of the roadway.  I hauled rocks with the rest of the workers and made it a real team effort.  I felt unaccepted as a person, and that my only “value” lay in the work I did.  Was I becoming a “man-pleaser?”  Or was I a “God-pleaser?”  Pleasing God is based on faith, on relationship, not on works.  Did I love God?  Absolutely!!  My joy came from the various outreaches in the villages, bringing God’s word to people in such great need….and seeing a new light shine in their eyes.

Michael wanted people involved in money-making endeavors for the ministry.  I worked with the team that built electric security fences.

I jumped at the opportunity to work in Southern Sudan.  I always believed that there was “something” even further north than the Rwandan refugee camps where Kalibu ministered for two months.  I spent a total of five years in Southern Sudan and I still feel a love for the people and the land.  Even though I have been back in the U.S. since December of 2001, Southern Sudan has remained in my heart.

On the journey from Malawi to Southern Sudan, we stopped at a mission guest house in Nairobi.  I was thrilled to find a former missionary friend from Finland (we had been neighbors when I was working in western Kenya back in the early 1990s) at the guest house.  We rekindled our friendship.  I found he and his family were now working out of Kampala, Uganda…which happened to be the next stop on our way to Southern Sudan.  In my opinion, this family was sent by God.  Every time I went to Kampala, I stayed at their house and they brought such a sense of peace and joy to my heart.

When I read in this website of Michael’s exploits in Finland, I’m am grieved, as I feel that I was the one who opened that door for him.

We established a presence and base in the city of Yei.  It was a major accomplishment for the government to give us control of the former British Agricultural College.  It had been a base for the enemy army and it had been nearly completely demolished during the war.  Most of the walls were still standing, but that’s about it.  With the help of various groups from England, Wales, and the U.S., we repaired the damage to the walls of multiple buildings, added roofing, electricity (from a large generator), and plumbing (from a large pump-filled tank to the kitchens, bathrooms, and out to sewage tanks).  Sidewalks were restored, and lawns and landscaping were added.  A team of master carpenters from Finland helped us build doors and window shutters.  We planted fruit trees and crops; and we started raising chickens for eggs and meat, as well as goats, sheep, and cattle.  The place was a beehive of activity in preparation for students.

I was back in the U.S. when the students were first brought in.  Michael was the sole instructor; and other visitors from the U.S. were given opportunity to teach.  My gifting is in teaching; and I was allowed to teach only four days during Michael’s absence (he didn’t care what I taught, just that I would finish the topic in those four days).

When not working in the area of construction, I would travel to villages and preach.  I loved that!  I remember a six-week journey where we just went “where the Spirit led.”  Our team included another American who was doing a missionary internship for the Bible school she was attending, and two Sudanese as interpreters.  We gave away all our food to a village that was near starvation.  People must have thought we were crazy, but it was amazing how God provided for us throughout the trip.  When we ran out of clean drinking water, God caused it to rain and we collected water as it ran off the roofs of our tents.  Whole villages came to Christ; soldiers would stop us on the road and ask us to pray for them.

I remember one journey to the front lines outside Juba.  In the evening, we showed the Jesus film (in Arabic), knowing that the enemy was not far away.  The altar call was humbling; most of the soldiers had fallen on their knees and crawled to the altar, dragging their AK-47s behind them.  All along, they had been fighting for their right to worship Christ, and NOW they knew Him in their hearts.  Awesome experience!!  We spent the night.  In the morning, we were relaxing over a cup of tea when the enemy began lobbing mortar shells our direction.  Never before had I felt such a protective presence of God.  His grace truly is sufficient as not one of us were harmed.  Before leaving I asked what we could do to help the soldiers.  They wanted materials so they could learn English.  How many soldiers were there at that outpost?  249.  We just happened to have 250 New Testaments to leave with them!  God is SO good!

A time came at Kalibu in Southern Sudan, when I just could not stay any longer.  I was in Michael’s office and he was ranting about something so minor I can’t even remember what it was.  His face was red, there was an evil look in his eyes, and he was spitting as he shouted.  I remember backing out the door; Michael was shouting that if I left out of his office, I could never come back.  He arose and I truly believed he was going to strike me.  I backed out, returned to my room, and packed.  Another American missionary asked what was happening. I only said I was leaving….and she said that she was going too.  The next morning, when we got to the border of the city, the officials would not let us leave.  It was not for another three days that they allowed us to go.

I returned to Southern Sudan with another group.  Michael was gone at the time.  I stopped at Kalibu because a container with boxes for me had arrived, and I wanted to pick them up.  Paisley was horrified to see me.  Another American lady was there.  All I said to her at the time was that “If she ever needed my help, I would be there for her.”

It was not many weeks later that I received word from one of the Sudanese students that this lady was in trouble.  She was being kept against her will at the Kalibu compound.  I came with an officer from Military Intelligence to the Kalibu gate.  When she saw me, the lady threw her “go-bag” with essentials including her passport over the gate to me.  The guard was confused, not knowing to obey orders from Kalibu, or to follow the orders of Military Intelligence.  In the confusion, the lady was able to slip out of the gate to safety.  She was terrified.  I was able to get her all the way to Kampala and then on a plane back to the U.S.

In late November 2001, a former Kalibu student came to me with Military Intelligence officers.  They told me that a “contract” had been put on my head and “they could not to have an American killed here.”  It was pretty easy to put two and two together and figure out the real source.  I was allowed to gather all my belongings and leave.  High-ranking SPLA officers I met in Kampala were astonished to hear what had happened….and prayed with me for a time I could return to their land.

I had hoped to remain in Africa, but family circumstances in America led me back to the U.S.  Other than for short mission trips, I have remained here since.

I continue to pray for Michael, Kalibu and the work of the ministry there.  But most of all, I pray for the people who so greatly touched my heart.  Works are temporary; souls are eternal.

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