HUNTINGTON, Ind. (WANE) - Leaders of Youth For Christ hoped reaching out to parents after the firing of one of its former youth pastors helped ease their concerns.
"I think that running from a problem only delays the reality," Vincent Haupert, a father of three, said. "We appreciate the leaders and the board members of YFC addressing it and taking the first steps towards moving on."
According to Wendell Bontrager, the Fort Wayne area Youth For Christ board chairman, the ministry organization invited every parent of Huntington schools to the meeting at Hiers Park. Approximately 150 people from the community attended.
"We realize the tragic events that occurred this past week raised a lot of concerns and questions in parents' minds," Bontrager said. "So our objective tonight is to be a listening ear. To really hear those concerns by parents, to listen and try to answer any questions they may have in the process."
Parents asked a variety of questions. Many of them were about what Youth For Christ knew before Hasty's arrest.
"On September 21, in the afternoon, the FBI showed up at Nate Hasty's home and confiscated some computer equipment and files," Larry Lance, the organization's executive director, said to parents Thursday night. "We immediately heard from Nate. He said he knew there was some trouble, and he had violated some of the Youth For Christ policies, and once we found that information out, Nate was immediately suspended."
Hasty was then fired on September 24. Lance said he and the organization did not know what the youth pastor was arrested for until Monday. And added they learned about it the same time the public did.
Lance said the most important thing parents needed to know was Youth For Christ does not know the names of any victims. The executive director had received a call earlier in the week from a parent who wanted to know those names..
"We do not know the names of any students involved in any of this, " he said. "I want you to know that."
Youth For Christ estimates that close to 350 students from Huntington County are active in the ministry.
Parents also wanted to know how Hasty passed all of Youth For Christ's tests that allowed him to become a youth pastor. Lance said there were never any signs.
"There was never a hint of anything that would have warned or alarmed us," Lance said. "We take great pride in making sure we hire people. Background checks are done. Proper forms are filled out. Training is checked off, assessments, supervision. That has all been done."
Lance went on to encourage parents who suspect their child is a victim to contact the authorities. Youth For Christ handed parents a list of names and numbers parents could call. On it, included the Huntington and Indiana State police departments, along with the FBI's office in Indianapolis.
The list also included a list of school and local counseling services.
"We as a ministry are there as a resource," Bontrager said. "To not only help kids stay away from the temptations they are facing and to be a connecting point that gets them on the right track. "But to also partner very closely with families to do that very thing."
Youth For Christ told parents at the meeting that it expects to get counseling services out to parents Friday. Some parents said they had already sought those services.
"I started asking for advice from people wiser than me on Monday at noon," Lisel Haupert, a mother of three, said.
Lisel Haupert said one of her children spoke with a counselor on Monday, and found it beneficial.
Parents who were not able to attend are encouraged to call the Youth For Christ office, at (260) 484-4551. Bontrager added parents should visit the organization's website, where there are plans to keep parents updated on counseling services available.
"We certainly want to be open and available for on-going concerns as time goes on," Bontrager said.
Hasty is scheduled to be arraigned in a U.S. Federal Court in Fort Wayne on October 25.
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