James D. Arbaugh

Virginia Mennonite missionary to Haiti admitted to abusing many children

In 2018, James Arbaugh (b. 1977) pleaded guilty to “engaging in illicit sexual conduct” with 21 or more boys between the ages of 5 and 17 while traveling in Haiti as a Mennonite missionary between 2008 and 2017, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeb Terrien. Arbaugh would regularly visit remote towns and villages throughout the Caribbean nation, where he would befriend children and “evangelize and show Christian-themed movies” to residents, according to Terrien.

On July 23, 2018, U.S. District Court Judge Elizabeth Dillon sentenced Arbaugh to 23 years in prison (out of a maximum of 30) and supervised release for life.

Arbaugh’s defense attorney had argued for leniency in sentencing because Arbaugh disclosed the abuse. The prosecuting attorney argued Arbaugh only disclosed because he was caught by another missionary in April 2017. Arbaugh said that the children he molested “appreciated” it and that it was “acceptable in Haitian culture.” Said Judge Dillon, “It was a crime that involved scheming and planning. Mr. Arbaugh groomed his victims.”

Church-related positions

  • Regularly traveled to Haiti from 2008 to 2017 with his missionary organization Walking Together for Christ Haiti, which was associated with Virginia Mennonite Missions until it became an independent nonprofit in 2015. While associated with Virginia Mennonite Missions, its board of directors came from four Mennonite congregations in Virginia: Lindale Mennonite Church, Mountain View Mennonite Church, Waynesboro Mennonite Church, and Zion Hill Mennonite Church.


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