The Duggar family sent daughter Joy-Anna to El Salvador as her sister Jill and brother-in-law Derick return for controversial ministry work in the country. Also with the three is Carlin Bates, the younger sister of Michaella Bates, whose wedding the entire Duggar family attended in Tennessee on Saturday. Yesterday, Jill posted a snapshot of the four on the flight from the U.S.
Jill and Derick volunteered in the country from July 5 through August 4, through S.O.S. Ministries, an organization long associated with the Duggar family and featured on several episodes of the family’s now cancelled TV series 19 Kids and Counting.
Apparently, this return trip to the country does not involve volunteer work. According to the Duggar family blog, Jill and Derick will be learning Spanish instead.
This is just another in a long line of confusing messages sent to fans about the Dillard’s missionary work. The Dillards first revealed their plans to become full-time missionaries in a preview of the never-aired Season 11 of 19 Kids and Counting. Then, the Duggar family scandal involving Josh Duggar’s sexual molestation of minor girls – including four of his younger sisters – unrolled on May 21, and the TLC network stopped airing all reruns of the Duggar reality show. Walmart was just one of many sponsors that pulled all advertising from the show.
After the June 3 Kelly File interview televised on Fox, Derick quit his job in the accounting department of Walmart corporate headquarters. Business customers trying to send him an email were greeted with the same message.
“I have recently accepted a position outside of Walmart and am no longer working for the company.”
Derick never stated where he would be working or what job he had accepted. Two weeks later, on June 17, Jill and Derick registered a non-profit company with the Arkansas Secretary of State: Dillard Family Ministry. The officers of the corporation are Derick, Jill and the Duggar family’s public relations consultant and spin doctor, Charles Chadwick Gallagher.
On June 26, Derick announced on the Dillard blog that he and Jill were moving “abroad” and requested donations.
“After much prayer and seeking Godly counsel, we realized that taking this opportunity and moving overseas in order to serve is the best option for our family.”
On July 5, Derick posted on the family’s blog that the couple was wrapping things up in America and planned “to move later this month for international mission work.” In the blog entry, Derick was still evasive about exactly where they were going overseas and how the donated funds were being used.
“For security purposes, at this time, we’re not publicly discussing specific times and places of international service.”
But on that exact same day, July 5, they had actually arrived in El Salvador – which is not “overseas” – and they were part of a group of volunteers arriving for a month-long stay with S.O.S. Ministries. Derick didn’t have a new job and the donated funds went to pay the fees all volunteers pay. According to the S.O.S. Ministries website, volunteers are charged $1,850 for a month, plus airfare, which means that Jill and Derick paid about $5,000 for their trip to Central America.
The tour also included visits to Guatemala. The volunteer program is run more like a summer camp for American do-gooders. It is part of a growing trend known as religious tourism, a multi-billion-dollar industry in America. One vocal critic of the practice of Americans seeking exotic, tax-deductible vacations describes the results.
“The Bahamas, for example, receives one short-term missionary for every fifteen residents.”
On August 4, the last day of the mission trip, the Dillards still had not admitted to being volunteers with S.O.S. Ministries. That interesting fact was revealed by MailOnline. The location was immediately recognizable to the many viewers of the defunct 19 Kids and Counting reality show.
Jill posted a short video on Instagram of one of the skits the volunteers performed in El Salvador. The 30-second clip shows a villainous Derrick and three other mission team volunteers push a girl wearing denim shorts to the ground. The victim is then shielded from her tormentors by a Jesus-figure wearing baggy shorts and a purple sash. The skit took place on an outdoor basketball court, with locals standing around in the hot sun watching the performance.
The reaction was swift and condescending. Lest they are removed at a later date, here are just a few of the comments from viewers of the short video clip.
“This really is stupid.”
“It must be hard to watch white people do stupid stuff like this. They’re mission doesn’t do anything useful for these poor people.”
“Sorry but this looks ridiculous.”
“Those people are Catholic, though, and already know about Christ. The missionaries they go to El Salvador, such as SOS Ministries, just don’t believe they’re the right kind of Christian.”
Jill and Derick flew back to the states to visit New York City and to attend the wedding of Michaella Bates in Tennessee with the Duggar family. No one has disclosed who paid for Joy-Anna’s trip to Central America or for her friend Carlin Bates.
Jill, Derick, Joy-Anna and Carlin were photographed by another religious tourist strolling the streets in Guatemala on Tuesday.
According to Jill’s cousin Amy Duggar, the whole Duggar family is coming to her wedding on September 6. If Jill and Derick do indeed fly back to Arkansas for that, it will be another $1,000 expenditure for airline tickets. It will be interesting to see the first income tax filing for the Dillard Family Ministry.
Just at the time when the Duggar family needs credibility and transparency more than ever, the actions of Jill and Derick Dillard and their Dillard Family Ministry are having the opposite effect.
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[Photo credit: Intro photo from Wochit Entertainment YouTube]