A public statement about an external investigation of employee misconduct.

MAF is committed to honoring the dignity of every person and creating an environment where all staff and volunteers can thrive without threat of abuse or harassment of any kind. 

An independent investigation has confirmed the accounts of two women regarding serious sexual misconduct by former MAF employee, Jonathan Santhouse. Mr. Santhouse was not a senior leader in our organization and departed MAF over two years prior to the reports being made.

MAF started an internal investigation when the first report was made in November of 2021. Shortly after the first woman came forward, in December 2021, our internal investigation identified a second woman who reported a similar experience with Mr. Santhouse. At the time, MAF encouraged and supported the women to report their experiences to the police. We paused our internal investigation at the request of law enforcement and resumed it after they allowed us to proceed. 

We then engaged the law firm Castañeda + Heidelman LLP to conduct an independent investigation and make recommendations for MAF’s response. The investigation made three main findings.  First, it found that Santhouse engaged in sexual misconduct with the two young women during the time that he worked at MAF and afterward.  Second, while the investigation did not identify any additional victims, it did identify conduct by Santhouse that could be considered grooming behavior with other young women both before and after he worked for MAF.  Finally, the investigation found that MAF had organizational gaps relating to its processes, supervision, and training that Santhouse exploited.  

The full report from Castañeda + Heidelman LLP, can be found at this link below:

These two women have courageously stepped forward to share a very difficult and personal experience.  We are committed to continue to support and care for them. We have remained in contact throughout the investigation to update them on its status and to receive their input on its direction, scope, and recommendations. Their willingness to come forward and patiently interact with us during the investigation has helped clarify a number of improvements we will make to better protect others. Having these things come into clearer focus has been a difficult but important process for us to go through. The investigation has been particularly exhausting and painful for the women as they’ve had to recount traumatic events. We are convinced their input will help make our organization a safer place for others, and we are deeply grateful for the role they have played during this time of examination. 

MAF is now taking steps to increase our knowledge of safeguarding, while reinforcing and strengthening our policies, reporting procedures, training, and accountability measures. These changes represent areas that we failed to properly address, and we are committed to invest and improve in all of them.

To the victims, I want to take this opportunity to clearly apologize to you. We granted an excessive level of trust to Mr. Santhouse, particularly since he was in a position of influence over children and young adults. Looking back, we now see things that should have been signs to us, and we did not give sufficient attention to them. Our failure to do so made it easier for you to be victimized. We are deeply sorry. Our lack of needed oversight contributed to an environment that allowed these things to happen more easily, and this weighs heavily on us. It is at the heart of MAF’s work to care for those who are vulnerable and isolated, so it grieves us even more that this would take place within the context of our ministry. 

Looking forward, it is our desire to build a culture that is more sensitive to those in vulnerable positions and better equipped to protect them. At the recommendation of the investigators, MAF is:

  • Establishing clear ownership of safety policies. This will be the responsibility of the VP of Safety & Quality working in collaboration with the People Group to implement, administer, and be the point person for all safety policies and reporting issues related to MAF staff, volunteers, and children. 
  • Revamping or creating new policies related to volunteer and intern safety; youth programs; our aviation teen camp; safety protocols for youth-related housing arrangements; remote/off-campus work; and electronic communication protocols.
  • Strengthening understanding of and compliance with our existing policies and manuals by outlining training and enforcing best practices for all departments that work with children, teens, and other vulnerable individuals.
  • Improving in-person training programs on sexual harassment and employee accountability while raising awareness of how MAF’s high-trust family culture can lead to not asking or ignoring questions or concerns about potentially inappropriate conduct.
  • Enhancing our reporting procedures and bolstering the understanding of our anonymous reporting structure with training and requiring the VP of Safety & Quality and/or an outside expert to investigate reports of misconduct.
  • Implementing accountability for compliance with existing and new safety policies by conducting periodic audits by an outside firm to ensure all the above are being performed and providing reports with areas for improvement or changes.

Sadly, far too many ministries are facing issues of this nature today. We are aware that criticism may be directed towards us as we share this report, but we believe that doing so, while uncomfortable, serves as a catalyst for us to pursue needed change. Sharing this report also provides an opportunity for us to be transparent and give voice to the women’s experiences, which we fully believe. We also want to demonstrate a clear commitment to stand against this type of destructive behavior within our organization. The damage it causes is profound and undermines our testimony as Christ followers. 

We acknowledge that the sharing of this report will be incredibly painful for Jonathan Santhouse’s family. Many within MAF know them and care deeply for their wellbeing.  The impact this has had on them grieves us as well.

May our experience at MAF serve as a caution to other ministries. We all need to be attentive to the protection of others. We can genuinely care about the safety and wellbeing of those in our midst, but in the face of distractions and other pressing matters, it is all too easy for complacency to set in. We repent of that complacency and state our resolve to address needed changes. 

Finally, we cry out to Jesus to bring the redemptive healing that only He can bring. May his comfort and presence surround everyone who has been impacted by this very difficult situation. And may we all have a newfound commitment to protect those who are entrusted to us. 

David Holsten

President & CEO

MAF-US

It is not our intent to speak beyond the details found in this statement and the report, but should you have questions you may reach out to communications@maf.org