U.S. missionary group apologizes to child sex abuse victims after NBC News report

"Words can be pretty, and even convincing," one of the women responded. "Actions say more."

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By Aliza Nadi, Kate Snow and Rich Schapiro

Eight days after NBC News aired an in-depth story on child sex abuse at now-shuttered missionary schools overseas, the Florida-based organization that operated them released a public apology to the victims.

"There are no words to express the deep sadness, sorrow, regret, remorse, and anger that Ethnos360 feels as a result of the abuse suffered by these women (former Missionary Kids – MKs – who appeared on NBC) at two of our international boarding schools from the late 1970s to the early 1990s," read the statement from Larry Brown, CEO of Ethnos 360, formerly New Tribes Mission. "Nor can we even begin to understand the fear, pain, violation, and profound emotional effect this has had on these victims throughout their lives."

"While we continue to grieve these actions and know we cannot change the past, Ethnos360 would like to publicly apologize to the women interviewed on NBC, and all of the victims, for the horrific abuse they suffered from the perpetrators while attending an NTM boarding school as children and any mishandling of the situations when they were first brought to NTM's attention approximately 30 years ago."

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The apology followed a Feb. 7 piece broadcast on the "Today" show and "Nightly News," as well as an online story, featuring the accounts of five women who said they were sexually abused by New Tribes missionaries while attending boarding schools in Senegal and the Philippines in the 1980s and 1990s.

The two men accused of preying on the women, who were as young as 6 at the time, returned to the U.S. without facing any consequences. The NBC News investigation also found evidence that the missionary organization, known for traveling to the furthest corners of the globe to spread the gospel, had covered up the abuse for years.

One of the women featured in the stories, Bonnie Cheshire, rejected the group's expression of remorse.

"If I didn't personally know several missionary kids who were cut off from counseling, I would believe their apology," Cheshire said.

"Words can be pretty, and even convincing. Actions say more."

Ethnos 360 released a statement a few days after the initial NBC reports expressing sadness over the incidents and detailing steps it has taken to strengthen staff training and child protection policies.

But the statement on Friday went further.

"Ethnos360 has and will continue to cooperate with law enforcement in any way we can to see perpetrators brought to justice," Brown said. "We are very frustrated that prosecution has not happened and at the lack of legal recourse."

Jaasiel Mashek, 38, who told NBC News that she was sexually abused while attending the New Tribes Mission school in the Philippines, said she welcomed the updated statement.

"I appreciate the apology and the ownership of mistakes made," said Mashek. "I am gratified to see that stricter policies have been put in place and hope that these include yearly and/or random reviews for all staff that supervise children. Hyper vigilance is key and will be essential in preventing future failures."