Amish-Mennonite Aid Worker Who Fled to US Over Rape of Boys in Haiti Indicted by Grand Jury on Sex Abuse Charges in Ohio

MILLERSBURG, Ohio — A U.S.-based aid worker who fled back to the states after it was discovered that he had been sexually abusing boys in Haiti has now been indicted by a grand jury in Ohio for child sexual abuse committed in America.

Jeriah Mast, 37, a longtime employee of the Amish-Mennonite charity Christian Aid Ministries, was indicted by a Holmes County grand jury on Monday on 14 charges: seven felony counts of gross sexual imposition and seven misdemeanor counts of sexual imposition.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the crimes took place between 1999 and 2008 and involved five youth. The felony charges are for crimes against children under the age of 13 and the misdemeanor charges are for offenses against youth under age 16.

Mast turned himself in to the Holmes County Jail on Tuesday and is being held on $250,000 bond. He appeared for a hearing via video on Wednesday, where he pled not guilty.

As previously reported, A Haitian court also desires for Mast to return to the country to face justice for children abused there. A judge had ordered the leadership of Christian Aid Ministries to appear in Haiti with Mast last month, but all failed to show. An attorney in the country is representing at five of the young men who were allegedly abused by Mast as children, and there are believed to be dozens more.

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.

Mast

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 last month 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.

Trudy Metzger, a Mennonite and child sexual abuse survivor who interviewed seven of the victims in Haiti, was overcome with emotion after learning on Tuesday that Mast is now in jail.

“Right there, in grocery store, I wanted to pause and weep when the news came in last evening,” she wrote on Wednesday. “It was a simple message announcing that Jeriah Mast is in custody at Holmes County Jail. The heaviness of such a thing is too real to feel particularly victorious.”

“I pray the church and para-church organizations will repent for the dreadful handling of things — whether deliberately or out of naivety and ignorance — and offer a more responsible handling of sexual abuse and violence going forward.”

She also urged prayer for the victims, as “[r]eligious communities have a tendency to band together to apply ointment on their own and each other’s wounds, and to mop up the proverbial spills around them, to the neglect of the victims of horror and terror whose lives have been forever altered.”

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