Church fakes teens' kidnapping using real gun

MeMe - Raises Her Hand (-_-) (Mommy Of A Toddler And Teen) - posted on 03/26/2012 ( 9 moms have responded )




A southeastern Pennsylvania church subjected members of a youth group to a mock kidnapping and interrogations without telling them it was staged, and the outraged mother of one 14-year-old girl has filed a complaint with police.

The pastor of the Glad Tidings Assembly of God in Middletown said the church is "so saddened" that the girl was traumatized at the Wednesday evening youth meeting.

But the pastor, John Lanza, said Friday there have been emails of support from other students at the church, about 10 miles southeast of Harrisburg, because the intent was to prepare them for what they might encounter as missionaries. He didn't disclose the names of those involved but said the mock kidnappers included an off-duty police officer and a retired Army captain.

"It was a youth event, to illustrate what others have encountered on a regular basis," he said, adding that the focus of the lesson was "the persecuted church" in other countries.

Lanza said there were about 17 students at the meeting and the mock kidnappers covered the students' heads, put them in a van and interrogated them. Neither the students nor their parents were told about the raid beforehand, he said, though it was discussed with the parents of one youth who might have health issues.

TV station WHTM interviewed the girl who complained.

"They pulled my chair out from underneath me, and then they told me to get on the ground," she told the station. "I had my hands behind my back. They said, 'Just do as I say, and you won't be hurt.'"

The girl said the teens were taken to the pastor's house, where it appeared he was being assaulted. Eventually, she said, the adults in charge revealed it was a staged event.

"They heard me crying," the girl said. "Why not right then and there tell us it was a joke, when you see me crying?"

'Much thought'

Lanza said the church has conducted similar events at least twice before, adding that "there was much thought given to the safety aspect."

"If anyone was ever uncomfortable, they would be removed" from the exercise, Lanza said, though part of the idea was to shock the students with the experience.

Lower Swatara Township police Chief Richard Wiley declined to comment until an investigation into the raid is complete. The names of the mother and daughter who complained haven't been made public.

There could be consequences if the teens didn't know what was going to happen and didn't agree to be a part of the event, Dauphin County First Deputy District Attorney Fran Chardo said.

"It's extremely disturbing," Chardo told WHTM.

Tom Copeland, who studies international affairs and terrorism at Geneva College, a Beaver Falls school that emphasizes a "Christian worldview," questioned the wisdom of submitting a youth group to a mock kidnapping.

"It just seems inappropriate for that age group. You would think there would be permission from the parents," Copeland said, adding that he's never heard of anything like that happening at a church.

He said that while there have been highly publicized episodes of violence directed against Christian missionaries in other countries, it seems those countries' local religious groups are more at risk.

One security expert said role-playing training is sometimes conducted "at the quasi-military level" for groups that are going to work in war zones.

Daniel Karson, chairman of business intelligence and investigations at Kroll, a worldwide risk consulting company with headquarters in New York, said the idea of conflict zone training "is to acclimate someone to a possible situation that might arise." The training might involve everything from what items they should take to the country to a review of who they're meeting and security conditions there, he said.

Lanza said members of the church have made numerous mission trips overseas and have learned to be cautious. He said they were planning a trip to Mexico but reviewed current news and advisories and decided it was unsafe.

Lanza said he "would love to" apologize to the girl and her mother but feels he can't until the police investigation is done. He said the church wants to keep doing the program but would make changes.

"I would find a way that we could continue to keep the shock value," he said, "but I would find a way to inform the parents (beforehand)."

WTF?? Sorry but if this was my child, I would be PISSED. Reading it made me think of how traumatized this could leave a 14 year old. My daughter would have nightmares for a long time!

I think they are going to the extreme here. To use this method on teens? Especially without notifying and getting consent from the parents? Ummm No. My kid would not be going on no mission trips that were dangerous anyway. I think the parents that do let their children are nuts.

What are your thoughts here? Do you think this guy went overboard? Or do you think it was a good experience for the kids to learn "what could happen" while on a mission trip?


Tracey - posted on 03/26/2012




So children were taken without their or their parents' consent, tied up, transported in a van, interrogated and forced to witness an assault before someone turned round and said it's not real. Whatever the intent, the ordeal to those involved was real and I would have the church charged with false imprisonment and abduction. The church shouldn't be saddened by a girl's distress, they should be saddened by the fact they should spend the next decade behind bars.

Are we now going to get peadophiles use this excuse for taking children - sorry judge I was just preparing the little girl for problems she could face in the real world!!

Lady Heather - posted on 03/26/2012




When I went to field school we had to do bear safety training because we were working in the bush. Our training did not include a surprise faux bear attack. I encountered bears numerous times and found the training to be perfectly sufficient. And the really cool thing is the training didn't give me PTSD.

America3437 - posted on 03/26/2012




I say all the parents of the kids should "kidnap" the church officals and see how the hell they like it!

Lady Heather - posted on 03/26/2012




That is so messed up. I don't even know what to say. And it's still kidnapping. I don't really care what your intent is. If you force someone to go somewhere at gunpoint it's abduction.

[deleted account]

i think it had the potential to be a good learning experience, but...the people involved should have put more thought into it, such as tell the parents that they planned this. maybe even make an announcement a month in advance that they would be doing something like this to help prepare the kids, and mention that it would be a surprise event.

as for mission trips being dangerous, it wouldn't be that hard. heck, you could go the next town over and get kidnapped nowadays. at the risk of sounding somewhat paranoid, there is no such thing as a "safe" mission trip, especially if you're going to a country where Christianity is not the accepted religion.


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[deleted account]

Naturally they're being given a pass because its' a friggin church!

Too angry to post anything because it will be offensive to any theist .

Christina - posted on 03/26/2012




and this was done by a church wtf. see church people are crazy too because if my kids had been subjucted to that id be in jail for beating the shit out of someone. i understand the logic of it so they can be prepared but there are other ways of doing it to not scare the hell out of kids

MeMe - Raises Her Hand (-_-) (Mommy Of A Toddler And Teen) - posted on 03/26/2012




Yes, America3437, I agree. Absolutely crazy if you ask me... ;)

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