Believe it or not, the most outrageous thing we’ve seen in recent years that has supposedly been done in the name of the Lord hasn’t been the religious right’s obstinate support from Donald Trump. It came from John Chau, a young missionary who traveled to a remote Indian island in hopes of converting the Sentinelese, one of the few peoples that have had no contact with the outside world. He did so even though the Indian government does not allow anyone to come within three nautical miles of the Sentinelese’s island.
But there’s a reason that ban is in place. The Sentinelese have been isolated from civilization for some 60,000 years–so long that they lack genetic immunity to ordinary diseases. Chau could have potentially wiped out the entire tribe just by being there. If this interview with the missionary group who trained him, All Nations, is any indication, he was well aware of this–and went anyway. In so doing, Chau may have been more tone-deaf and more self-absorbed than any Trump-worshiping televangelist you can name.
It takes a lot of effort to be that tone-deaf. But a medical missionary from Virginia stands accused of doing something that may have reached that level. She has been sued in a Ugandan court for misrepresenting herself as a doctor and running an unlicensed medical facility where hundreds have either been killed or disfigured.
Renee Bach claims to be fighting the scourge of child malnutrition in Uganda through her ministry, Serving His Children. She’s even adopted a Ugandan girl as her daughter. WSLS-TV in Roanoke did a profile of her in 2018 while she was fundraising in her hometown of Bedford, Virginia. Watch here.
But two Ugandan mothers, Gimbo Brenda and Kakai Annet, painted a far different picture in a lawsuit they filed against Bach and Saving His Children in January 2019 in a Ugandan court. WSET-TV in Lynchburg obtained a copy of the suit. Read it here. Soon after the death of Brenda’s son, they learned Bach had no medical training.
This came as a rude shock to them, since Brenda and Annet claim Bach held out her organization as a “medical facility,” and she was seen wearing a white coat and stethoscope while giving medicine to children. Even worse, they learned Saving His Children had been ordered shut down in 2015.
It turns out that klaxons have been sounding about Bach for some time. Last fall, Kelsey Nielsen, co-founder of No White Saviors, a multinational NGO that works to get foreign missionaries to be more sensitive in their desire to help Africa, revealed she’d had a run-in with Bach more than four years earlier. In 2014, Nielsen recalled that a boy had come to her center not long after visiting Bach’s facility to be treated for malnutrition.
When the boy died of a heart attack, Nielsen discovered that no one from Serving His Children had followed up with the boy’s family after his visit. Nielsen claimed that Bach should have known “how critical it is to follow up in cases like this.” She later heard reports that Bach was actively practicing medicine on children despite having no training of any sort. She also learned that Bach frequently convinced mothers to take their kids from licensed hospitals to her unlicensed facility.
The Friendly Atheist first profiled Bach in November, and Bach adamantly denied any wrongdoing. Specifically, she denied trying to “play doctor” or luring patients to her facility. But No White Saviors obtained clips that prove otherwise. For instance, they obtained audio from an interview Bach did with a Ugandan journalist in which she admitted taking part in medical care.
They also talked with a Ugandan pediatrician who recalled multiple instances of patients being lured from her hospital to Serving His Children.
Additionally, a registered nurse submitted an affidavit showing how she witnessed Bach performing medical procedures.
The parents of at least two kids treated at Bach’s facility claimed that Bach’s “missionary” efforts left their kids with permanent mental and physical scars.
Bach never showed up for court. Suspecting that Bach may have fled back to Virginia, No White Saviors went on the offensive. It is seeking the help of a licensed attorney in Virginia to file legal action against Bach on this side of the Atlantic.
WSET tried to speak with Bach at her home in Bedford, but there was no response.
Due in part to No White Saviors’ efforts, Bach has been the target of a firestorm of criticism. It’s been so severe that she deleted Serving Our Children’s entire social media presence–Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and all.
But this missionary shouldn’t have to avoid answering these charges for long. The sheer egregiousness demands a federal criminal investigation. After all, based on the timeline, Bach may have known that her facility was illegal. And if that’s true, her fundraising efforts may amount to fraud.
One thing is beyond dispute–these kids and their families deserve answers, and soon.
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