A Pennsylvania church has found itself in a bit of hot water after staging a mock-kidnapping designed to prepare their young missionaries for overseas eventualities. The Glad Tidings Assembly of God church in Middletown, Pa. thought it would be a good idea to blindfold youth-group members, toss them in a van, and scare the bejesus out of them with some menacing interrogations. What was unquestionably not a good idea was neglecting to inform the kids' parents that this whole thing was going down.
So now the church's pastor, John Lanza, finds himself under investigation by Lower Swatora Township police, after one traumatized fourteen-year-old girl and her mother filed a complaint with police. In an interview with a local TV station, the girl recounted her frightening ordeal. She said:
"They pulled my chair out from underneath me, and then they told me to get on the ground. I had my hands behind my back. They said, 'Just do as I say, and you won't be hurt.'"
The seventeen students would then be transported to Lanza's house, where the pastor himself would be mock-assaulted, before the kids were finally informed that it was all a sham. As the girl asked, "They heard me crying. Why not right then and there tell us it was a joke, when you see my crying?"
"Scared Straight" tactics are one thing, but not keeping parents — who've entrusted their children to you — in the loop is another. Lanza, who was aided in the "training" exercise by an off-duty police officer and a retired Army captain, said the church was "so saddened" by the girl's trauma, and "would love to" apologize to the girl and her mother, but is waiting until the investigation is complete. Lanza indicated that he wanted to keep the program going, though some tweaks are definitely called for. He said, "I would find a way that we could continue to keep the shock value, but I would find a way to inform the parents ahead of time."
According to one security expert, role-playing training is sometimes conducted "at the quasi-military level" for groups planning to work in war zones, like when the No Reservations crew was getting ready to go to Kurdistan in season seven.