Becky's Letter to VBC and VBM

Originally posted on October 23, 2021 on the Survivors of Austin Gardner FB page after the initial report from the Independent External Investigator was released. From the desk of Becky Earnhart An Open Letter to Vision Baptist Church and Vision Baptist mission. See also Teresa's testimony which corroborates with Becky's. See a testimony from an unnamed witness regarding the ice cream in bed. See another testimony from a former church member during that time period. See another testimony from Michael from that time period.

We had very strong reservations about speaking with the law firm PC&W for two reasons; first, they were hired to defend and protect Vision Baptist Church and Mission at any cost. Secondly, no testimony - not even mine - was required to be given under oath. Therefore, there were no consequences for lying.

Ultimately we acquiesced and spoke with the law firm assuming that as a legal entity, they would uphold the law. But even more weighty was the advice we were given that it would look suspicious if we did not cooperate. The law firm was insistent we understood their role was to interview, not investigate. So what did cooperating with this interview yield?

The law firm reported that I was interviewed for 4 1/2 hours when actually, according to our phone log, it was 2 hours and 38 minutes. Alarm signals went off in my heart. If the first line of their report was wrong, how could I possibly believe that they were truly interested in uncovering the truth?

The law firm did not report that Austin Gardner covered for at least two other child molesters under his leadership as pastor of Liberty Baptist Church. He covered for his youth pastor and his song director. Instead of reporting the youth pastor to the authorities, he sent him to Gainesville to start a church. The song director was allowed to remain on staff until, I believe, my senior year in high school when an affair was uncovered and the song director threatened legal action if Mr. Gardner were to expose him. Mr. Gardner did not expose him, and the song leader resigned on his own. I was told this man had been convicted of child molestation after I had graduated from Cartersville Christian School.

The law firm did not tell you that at least three people were beaten with at least 100 lashes. The lawyer didn't approve of the word "lashes". It seems it was too graphic and inhumane to use that kind of a word and he did not like the visual picture that it implied. The lawyer led you to believe that Mr. Gardner never administered more than 10 lashes at a time to his own children. If that were true, then Mr. Gardner would not beat his own children but had no trouble whatsoever beating other peoples children. When one witness testified that Austin punched a student in the mouth and used a 2 x 4 on the student, the lawyer attempted to tell the witness that maybe he couldn't tell the difference between a paddle and a 2 x 4. Thankfully the witness had the courage to speak up and say, "No sir, at 15 I knew what a 2 x 4 was!"

Within minutes of our conversation the lawyer was adamant to express that he had absolutely zero interest in any spiritual angle in this case. He was interested merely in facts. However, when submitting his report, he made sure to appeal to the church by using multiple verses regarding discipline. He then went as far as to excuse Mr. Gardner''s behavior, because 'in those days', beating a child was acceptable.

According to one witness, the lawyer said that Mr. Gardner was only 23 years old at the time but now that he's older, he said he knows better ways to do things.

The law firm did not tell you of one witness who spoke of having been invited into Mr. Gardner's bed alongside me and that the lawyer questioned her ability to remember the details accurately. Then, instead of consoling her, began to question her as to why she did not speak up to the adults and why did she - as a teenager - allow something like that to go unreported to the authorities. (The law firm has since amended their report.) This same witness was able to corroborate very specific details of inappropriate behavior between Mr. Gardner and myself.

The report from the law firm shows no evidence that Mr. Gardner was asked directly if he ever asked me to de-robe, if he ever touched my body inappropriately, or if in any way used his power of relationship or authority to take advantage of a minor. Nor does the report show that Mrs. Gardner was jealous of the relationship Mr. Gardner had with me which resulted in her slapping me in the face.

The law firm wants you to believe that our separation from the ministry in Arequipa, Peru, was because my husband, Johnathan, had a personlity conflict with Mr. Gardner. In reality, my husband had the discernment to identify a narcissistic attitude and philosophy of ministry and had the courage to not back down from Mr. Gardner's intimidation. (I had not yet revealed my own abuse.) We separated from the ministry because Jonathan would not work under Mr. Gardner's toxic leadership and philosophy of ministry. It was not a personality conflict- but a life philosophy. We refused to call the Peruvians idiots, imbeciles or morons simply because they didn't think, process or produce like "the Jefe". We refused to participate in the frequent hazing in belt lines, or forcing a missionary to be held down while seminary students shaved his back, or participate in activities like attempting to bury a seminary student live because he was too effeminate, nor would Jonathan sit at Mr. Gardner's feet soaking in the "wisdom" Mr. Gardner offered as he shredded the character of the very sending pastors who supported him, the missionaries on the field, and college students that were entrusted to his training.

You were not told that Mr. Gardner also covered for child molesters in Peru. The victims were orphans in a children's home. Instead of reporting the pedophiles to the authorities, he sent one to another continent as a missionary and another across town to Pastor. Multiple churches were started using this reasoning - send the pedophile or adulterer across town, across the continent or across the world, but not to the police station.

You were not told that Mr. Gardner covered for his son who was involved in a financial scheme in Peru. Hundreds of thousands of dollars - the life savings of many Peruvians as well as missionary funds- were lost. The Peruvian sits in jail while the American lives free.

This law firm never contacted us to advise that a file they had requested and had not been successfully attached or that it was unable to be opened.

In light of blatant misrepresentation and omission of serious accusations and relevant facts, can we honestly accept that this firm is a reliable source for seeking truth and transparency?

Many of the 24 missionaries who came forward to Vision Baptist Church and Vision Baptist Mission, received a 'cut and paste' apology letter from Mr. Gardner. The leadership at the Church and Mission Board were made aware that this is how Mr. Gardner responded. More frighteing, they are okey with his behavior. The missionaries have been labeled as 'bitter and angry people', just as I have been labeled. However, attempting to resolve things biblically and legally cannot be mistake as becoming 'bitter'. Spoken truth, whether the hearer wants to hear it or not, does not mean a person is bitter, not does it mean that they have a psychological problem.

Why does this matter so much to me? Because in October 2020, for the first time, I found out that Mr. Gardner, his sons, and his ex son-in-law had reached my family. For the record- When someone walks in on her husband abusing a child, instead of telling him to 'take care of his own baby' you should have told him to stop abusing mine. By the way- our immediate steps were: discover, call counselor, call lawyer who directed us to go to the police...because our responsibility as adults is to protect.

A PR firm that was hired should not responsible to protect your image within your community or your online presence. As leaders, you are responsible to identify and correct toxic behaviors that ultimately harm others. Transparency makes a difference.

Organizations that protect abusers (sexual, physical, verbal, emotional) do not have the right to influence our families and children. They do not have the right to teach these types of character patterns and abuse as "methods of ministry".

Is this how future abuse within Vision Baptist Church and Vision Baptist Mission will be handled?

So to Vision Baptist Church and Vision Baptist Mission:

If your goal in hiring this law firm was to clear your conscience and to cover yourself because 'at least you asked for an investigation', then you got what you paid for.

But if your intent was to find the truth, hold a perpetrator accountable, and identify the culture that he has cultivated in your own organizations, then you wasted God's money.


Becky Earnhart