False e-mail rumor causing undue worry about missionary

5/26/1999By Mark Kelly RICHMOND, Va. (BP) -- A false rumor circulating via e-mail is creating confusion and unnecessary concern for the well-being of a missionary in West Africa. Missions supporters who e-mail prayer concerns to other intercessors have been spreading a rumor that Mike Hutchinson, a Southern Baptist missionary in West Africa, is about to be tried for murder and is in danger of being hanged. Like all rumors, this one contains a kernel of truth but the majority of its "facts" just aren't true, said Ron Hunt, an associate director of the board's work in West Africa. "It is true that Mike was involved in an unavoidable traffic accident in which a 16-year-old boy was killed," Hunt said. "But there was no mob involved, he is not being tried for murder, and he is not in danger of being hanged." On April 20 on a road near Fatik, Senegal, a teen-age boy stepped in front of the Hutchinsons' vehicle without looking, Hunt said. Though Hutchinson was briefly detained and his passport and driver's license were taken, authorities termed the event a "regrettable accident" and released Hutchinson pending a hearing. When the hearing does occur, the charge to be considered will be "involuntary manslaughter," a standard charge in such cases, which are all too common in West Africa, Hunt said. There seems to be no indication from authorities that Hutchinson is at fault. Even if Hutchinson was convicted on that charge, the most serious outcomes might be that he would be fined or deported. More likely, the charges will be dismissed. IMB missionary Phillip Brown ministered to the boy's family after the accident, Hunt said. He attended the funeral with them the next day and was asked to read Scripture for those assembled. The Hutchinsons continue to carry out their ministries while awaiting the hearing. "The fact that Phillip Brown had an opportunity to minister to the family is a great blessing," Hunt added. "The Hutchinson family is doing well, but naturally they are shaken. "I know Southern Baptists will pray for them, as well as for the family who tragically lost their son. We just want them to know what the real needs are and not be misled by wild rumors circulating on the Internet."

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