Why was Linda Stoltzfoos’s black head covering a source of confusion? And are Wayfair & Amazon disguising sex trafficking in overpriced item sales?

AMISH PRACTICES OF BLACK COVERINGS & WHITE COVERINGS

Someone from PA, who lives near the community where Linda Stoltzfoos was kidnapped, asked if I would be interested in clearing up the confusion surrounding her black head covering on the afternoon of her kidnapping, when she was seen in the car of the kidnapper. My understanding of intricate Amish practices is limited. So instead of 
In some church districts in Lancaster the unmarried girls wear black coverings to church Sundays. And that is only when they go to their own church district. When the girl gets married she wears a black covering to the ceremony. After she is married she wears a white covering for the rest of the day. Other church districts do not practice this.

Linda’s district would practice this so she was walking home from church wearing a black covering. She was going to change out of her church clothes into a white covering for youth group. In the Gap area all Amish wear white coverings to church. That’s why it was so odd for bypasses to see Linda driving Sunday afternoon in a black covering. Especially in the Gap area where the young girls do not wear black coverings and even if she was from another area she would have changed to a white covering by the afternoon.”

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TRUSTING GOD IN UNKNOWNS

Over the years in ministry, I have learned that when something is meant to be, and it is God’s time, it will be. There’s no stopping the hand of God. There is also no forcing it. In my previous blog I shared how I’ve dreamed of having my memoir translated into Low German. I will always have a heart for my people — the Old Colony, later the Kleine Gemeinde, and the the conservative Mennonite groups — and when there is opportunity to serve them, I will do it. What God knows better than me, is what they are ready for, and what their needs are. So, while I pray for the funds to come together, and watch as the response is slow to none, I recognize that God knows what is best for them, in this season.

We will run the GoFundMe for a time, and see if things come together. If so, then I believe the time is right and the book will bring hope and encourage healing among survivors in the Low German culture. We ask you to consider sponsoring the project. If 300 people give $10, we have enough funds for the first phase. It isn’t about breaking the bank, to help with something like this.

Books don’t make a lot of money. I invested around $2000 in the initial editing of Between 2 Gods, and five years later the royalty checks have covered almost half of that. Unless you are a big name, books are ministry, not income. If you are able to support the cause, it would be much appreciated. If enough funds do not come in to move ahead, we will refund all GoFundMe contributions to donors. (Those who prefer PayPal will also be refunded in that case).

GOFUNDME (Canada): Translate Between 2 Gods to Plautdeutsch (Low German)

GOFUNDME USA: Translate Between 2 Gods to Low German

If you wish to give but prefer PayPal to GoFundMe, you May donate via: trudy.metzger@rogers.com.

*****

WAYFAIR & AMAZON SEX TRAFFICKING ALLEGATIONS

After people sent me links to allegations of sex trafficking by Wayfair and Amazon, I did some reading. I have to say that I believe it’s a theory, at best, at this point. The allegations are that they sell lines of product inspired by or named after ‘celebrities’ — for a lack of better word — like Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell. Epstein is the sex trafficker with a net worth of over 500 million at the time of his suicide while in prison awaiting trial, August 2019. Maxwell is one of his victims who later became his accomplice.

Wayfair carries a line of high priced (according to some, overpriced) furniture. (One example is Ghislaine solid wood dining table, and another the Epstein 6 – Light Pool Table Lights Square/Rectangle Pendant). Amazon allegedly carries (or carried) Epstein inspired merchandise as well.

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Would such a thing be possible? I’m sure it would. That said, naming a product line after a celebrity is common.  (And, yes, Ghishlane Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein have a certain ‘celebrity’ status, albeit a negative one. Celebrity merely means, “well known”). It is strange to have these two names in particular as product lines, given their connections to sex trafficking, and frankly I find it warped, but an assumption of trafficking based on that alone is weak. To my knowledge there has been zero victims. Zero strange activity reported. Zero reports of trafficking beyond these assumptions and speculations, started by someone who saw the names linked to overpriced items and produced a theory.

My concern about these theories being spread, as fact, without more to substantiate them is that it weakens the fight against trafficking and sexual violence. It makes advocacy look gullible (or undiscerning) and increases the likelihood that people will tune out legitimate cases with evidence.

This has been my biggest struggle and frustration in advocacy over the years, and it is not getting better. The assumption that all advocates should, if not must, jump on the bandwagon of assumptions, no matter what. This is not something I can do, or want to do. I am a firm believer in supporting victims of sexual violence, no matter what, and paying attention to credible allegations. Speculation that is based on assumptions and based on nothing more than speculation, do not fall in that category. If and when more evidence is produced, that changes, but at this stage I find it premature and irresponsible to pass on the allegations.

This should not be misinterpreted as me saying the allegations are not true. Simply that they should not be presented as fact until more evidence is available.

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PhD & COURSEWORK PROGRESS

I am days away from completing my final paper for the coursework portion of my PhD program. By mid August, it will be fully edited and submitted to my supervisor for review and grading. The next phase is to prepare for my first comprehensive exam, which is a 7 hour exam that will likely take place later this fall. While my short-term memory has made incredible progress, which was lost following a concussion August 2019 when I was rear-ended at 120 km/hr, and due to medication side effects in spring 2019, I still have some symptoms. This makes me a bit nervous, but thankfully University of Waterloo has been incredibly supportive and understanding in the recovering process.  Nonetheless, I welcome your prayers during this time.

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2020

Justo Smoker: What we know about the man who kidnapped Linda Stoltzfoos

Since posting my blog 34-year-old Justo Smoker Charged in Linda Stoltzfoos Kidnapping, people have been sending me snippets of Justo’s backstory. It is normal for people to try and make sense of the why and how of tragedies such as this one. Even more so, I believe, when the victim of such a crime is part of a group such as the Amish or Mennonite. Certainly there are dysfunctions among them and there is abuse, as there is in every people group, but their strong stand on non-resistance and limited social interactions with ‘the world’ make them an unlikely target. When such violence as a kidnapping (Linda Stoltzfoos, Amish girl kidnapped, Lancaster PA, 2020), rape (Amish woman raped in Marshall County IN, 2019) or murder (Nationwide Fellowship woman, Sasha Krause Farmington NM, murdered, 2020) does happen, the shock waves ripple throughout the community, and through the public.

In the face of trauma, humans seek answers. These crimes don’t align with we believe about most humans, and to feel safe and to believe again that our children and community are safe, we try to unscramble the story so we understand ‘the why’. How can someone go so very wrong? And why choose someone in a culture that is non-resistant and keeps more or less to themselves? Why Linda? Why Sasha? Why an Amish woman at home with a 2-year-old?

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I do not usually write much about offenders or their stories. In part this is because I don’t usually have enough connections to find the backstory. And in part because I hesitate to place them in the spotlight. Perverse as it sounds, that is what some want, and they get some thrill out of the attention and publicity.

In this case people who have connections to the family and situation sent me a considerable amount of information. (Much of this is via screen shots, and even copied-pasted from their conversations with people close to Justo. So I do not have links to offer). Information that will put some rumours to rest. One of the questions that has been asked is, “His name is Amish. Does he have Amish background?” and some are saying he has Amish roots. This is not accurate. To the best of my ability, with the information I have been sent, I will offer a brief overview.

Justo was on the streets of Dominican Republic, at age 7, when his parents, Vernon and Deb Smoker, adopted him into a (not conservative) Mennonite home. (They were not any form of  Amish or conservative Mennonite at any point in Justo’s life, I am told, and their church changed its name in recent years to a community church, however they remain part of a Mennonite governing body). Through Justo’s adoptive grandparents, there is Amish background, hence the ‘Smoker’ name, but even his grandparents were Lancaster Conference all their married lives, never Amish. (One individual wrote that one grandparent was born into an Amish home, but left the Amish early on).

In 2007, at age 21, Justo was sentenced to 12 1/2 to 30 years in prison for a series of robberies with a BB gun. His adoptive parents were present at the hearing and one stated that Justo had been trouble since they adopted him. They also said they will offer him support in prison as well as upon his release. The judge gave him a lesser sentence than the case warranted in hopes of giving justo another chance at life. Justo acknowledged that his parents had taught him better than what he had done, and apologized for the pain and suffering he had caused.

Since being released from prison, according to one source, Justo is said to have had money problems and was working many extra hours and taking shifts as a result. The nature of the money trouble was not mentioned.

Regarding the charges against Justo Smoker in relation to the disappearance of Linda Stotlzfoos, a link I found to give specific and helpful information is the Affidavit of Probable Cause for Justo Smoker, found on Scribd. Another report on the Lancaster County, PA News and Breaking News FB page, though a bit less clear, also offers some insights.

The unknowns are troubling for all who have followed this tragic case. At a distance, and being in/from another country, at times it makes me feel physically ill. I cannot imagine what ‘her people’ are going through. The details of her bra and socks being found (addressed in the Affidavit of Probable Cause) buried 6-8 inches, makes the heart and mind sick with sorrow, wondering what horror she endured, or perhaps is still enduring. It is almost too much for the mind. Still, in the unknowns, I pray that God will bring her back home, safely. Tonight I prayed that, if she is still alive, that God would help her escape. I almost cannot bear to think of what terror she has faced.

Continue to pray for her. Stories of miraculous escapes and survival exist. I pray she is one of those.

Pray for the Amish and surrounding community where this horrific crime was committed. Reports of deep struggle and anxiety are emerging, which is no surprise, as we would feel the same way if we were in their shoes. And pray for Justo’s parents, family and loved ones. It is impossible to imagine what they are going through. My heart goes out to them all with much love and prayers.

 

*****

On a ministry front, doors have opened to translate Between 2 Gods to Plautdeutsch (aka Low German or Plattdeutsch). Translating my memoir to my mother tongue has been a dream and a passion of mine since before I published my memoir. Now that we have a translator, we have set up a GoFundMe to help cover the costs, as translating, editing and then creating an audio, is a time-consuming and costly process. (That said, the rates being charged are more than reasonable at under $13 per hour, for which we are very grateful!).  US friends reported having trouble with the Canadian GoFundMe account, depending on payment method, so we have created a Canadian and US account.

GOFUNDME (Canada): Translate Between 2 Gods to Plautdeutsch (Low German)

GOFUNDME USA: Translate Between 2 Gods to Low German

If you wish to give but prefer PayPal to GoFundMe, you May donate via: trudy.metzger@rogers.com.

I know many of my readers/friends care deeply for the Mennonite community, and the Old Colony and other Plautdeutsch communities in particular. Please pray for them and for this project. And if you are able to contribute, your support would be much appreciated. Tackling the problem of sexual abuse is a difficult but necessary one. And in our Low German culture, little is available to support those who do not speak or write the English language. For those who cannot read English or Plautdeutsch, we are planning to release a Plautdeutsch audio version of Between 2 Gods.

Thank you for your support.

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2020

 

Half-blind, near-deaf & masked; A setup for bumbling humour

Anyone who knows me well, especially my family and Facebook friends, knows that I enjoy humour. That’s especially true in relation to things that I have no power to change, must somehow accept, and don’t particularly like. Masks have been the object of my humour for quite some time. Sometimes that humour spills over into day to day living… 

Ok. So I’m not blind or deaf, but being near-sighted, I can’t see faces and expressions clearly at 6 plus feet away. (I’ll get to the ‘deafness’ later). Even less so when the other person is wearing a mask. With the new mandatory mask requirements in some places, this makes life especially interesting….

So, there I was, yesterday, having to wear a mask to the viewing of my sister-in-law’s father. Masks are required at funeral visitations. I respect that. The regulations are letting more people through than I would have expected by this time, due to COVID-19, so a mask is small price to pay to be able to have a visitation. I wish on no one what we went through as a family, being forced to bury a loved one without proper mourning rituals. So, gladly, I wore a mask.

Once inside, I placed the blue surgical mask on my face, and put on my glasses. They steamed up. I took them off again. I tried to get the mask to fit in such a way that my glasses didn’t steam, but eventually I resigned myself to wandering through the line with the mask and no glasses.

Up first was a tall handsome chap. Not trusting my vision, while still a short distance away, I asked Tim to make sure it was our nephew Reg, whose grandfather passed away. Tim confirmed it.

We stood and chatted a while with him and another grandson and his fiancee, waiting for the line to move. The other gentleman introduced his fiancee, and we talked about wedding with COVID, and how it has disrupted things. I commented about our son Toddrick and his fiancee Emily who have postponed their wedding until next year. Our nephew looked bewildered. I was surprised he didn’t seem to know anything about the wedding, and said “You were invited”, and laughed. Simultaneously, Tim touched my elbow and said, “This isn’t Reg”, as the gentleman chuckled and said, “I’m Landon.”

It turned out I was chatting with Reg’s cousin, who is about his height and build, and the poor fella was too polite to clue me in that I’m a total stranger, chattering on about my kids he has never met. 🤣 I had noticed his hair was a bit different, and at one point when he spoke, something wasn’t quite Reg. Little clues, but not wanting to squint, and certainly not wanting to close that 6-foot gap, it was all just peripheral.

After a good laugh, and feeling slightly embarrassed, we meandered on, offering our condolences, and keeping a good 6+ feet away, as required. People said things. They smiled and I smiled too. Half the time I could not hear what is said. I am just hearing impaired enough to make conversation difficult in  any environment, and I rely quite strongly on lipreading. This is true even in our own home, when Tim and I are a few feet apart. It is common for me to say to Tim, “Please turn and look at me”, when he speaks. I have low pitch hearing loss, and struggle with hearing hard consonant. This makes hearing men or women with lower tones very challenging for me. So today I learned how distressing, and at moments hilarious, it is to live in a masked world.

That stress behind us, we got in our car. We sat there for a moment talking about what happened. I felt two things simultaneously. I laughed at what had happened, while fighting tears at the frustration of not being able to see or hear what is happening. Frustrated at what all this whole COVID fiasco has taken from us. But, no time to stay there… 

We’re not the kind to spontaneously go out for dinner. In our 26 years of marriage, no doubt we have done it, but not often. Nonetheless, I made the suggestion. Seeing as we were all dressed up and ready to go — a detail I pitched to hubby during my request — it made perfect sense to take advantage of the moment. 

We decided we would start with one restaurant to see if they had room on the patio, and, if not, we would weave our way through Kitchener until we found a spot with a patio and room.

Tim, role playing ordering at the restaurant, and indulging my love of poking fun at masks, said, “I think I’ll just have the soup, thank you. That’s all that will fit through my mask.”

At East Side Mario’s we had a charming server, with a delightful sense of humour. We sat and enjoyed our impromptu date, sans masks, eating more than soup broth, and enjoying each other’s company.

It’s wonderful to be married to your best friend, who can laugh with you, as we laugh at ourselves.

It was a good day.

*****

For those interested, there is a solution to the problem of masks hiding smiles, and preventing lip-reading. Click the photo to go to the website and order a windowed mask. It will probably steam up too, but maybe it’s better than nothing.

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2020

34-year-old Justo Smoker Charged in Linda Stoltzfoos Kidnapping

The news this morning that someone had been arrested in the Linda Stoltzfoos missing person case, followed by this update from police, is utterly heartbreaking! I feel a mix of grief for the family and Amish community, and anger at the evil done against them. Especially against Linda.

Please take time to read the update PARADISE MAN CHARGED WITH KIDNAPPING 18-YR-OLD LINDA STOLTZFOOS., and share the photos as requested (below).

“We ask that members of the media and public share and distribute, if possible, the photos of Smoker and his vehicle on broadcasts and reports and via social media channels.” Source: PARADISE MAN CHARGED WITH KIDNAPPING 18-YR-OLD LINDA STOLTZFOOS.

And continue to pray for her family and the community. When such a tragedy is imposed on a community it causes deep collective suffering and loss of safety. May God be near them and comfort their sorrowing hearts. While the article states they believe Linda was harmed, at this point nothing further is stated, so we continue to pray she is found and our hearts long for her safety.

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2020

Amish Girl Missing & Considered Endangered: Lancaster PA

An 18 year old girl, Linda Stoltzfoos, did not return home from church on Sunday June 21, 2020.

PA State Police put out the following statement: LANCASTER COUNTY: Missing Endangered Person Advisory. The East Lampeter Township Police Department is searching for Linda Stoltzfoos, 18. She is 5’10”, 125 lbs., with brown hair and blue eyes. She was last seen on June 21 at 12:30 p.m. on Stumptown Road, Upper Leacock Township. She was wearing a tan dress, a white apron, and white cap. Police believe this person may be at special risk of harm or injury. Anyone with information on Stoltzfoos should contact police immediately by calling 911 or The East Lampeter Township Police Department at 717-291-4676.

The following update was put up on the Facebook page for Linda 35 minute ago, at 3:12pm, Monday June 22:

Search Update: They are still welcoming any volunteers. Volunteers on Horseback and ATV’s are welcome. Please report to the Bird-in-Hand Firehall if you are willing and able to help. 313 Enterprise Dr, Bird in Hand, PA 17505.

The search will continue today until 9PM

For those of us who left the Conservative Anabaptist setting and ‘disappeared’ for a time, it can be challenging to respond to these cases. I left a home with abuse and violence and didn’t want to be found for a time. I find myself processing missing person cases through that lens, and I know many others do as well. However, with the recent tragic outcome with Sasha Kraus, from The Nationwide Fellowship church in Farmington NM, I am compelled to actively share. If I had been in danger, I would have prayed that someone would search for me until I was found. I encourage you to share as well and create awareness. The more people who are aware, the more likely she will be found.

Pray for Linda, and pray for her family as this is very traumatic for them. Pray also for her church and friends, and the broader Amish community. She is the daughter of Lloyd and Susie Stoltzfoos, of Bird in Hand PA.

My prayer is that Linda will be found, safe and sound, and that God’s grace will carry her loved ones through this difficult time.

As always..

Love,

~ T ~

Gustavo (Tavi) Rendon Faces 33 Sex Assault Charges; Has Harold Herr Been Cleared of all Charges?

The Tavi Rendon case is another reminder of the horror that some children in conservative Anabaptist settings suffer, while those who know (or should know) remain silent. The words of the judge in the Jeriah Mast case, when I attended the sentencing, will echo in my memory for the rest of my life. In my own words, “Someone had to know and no one did anything to intervene.” He called out the church and its leaders for that failure. The same is true in this case. Someone, somewhere, sometime had to suspect that something was terribly, terribly wrong. And no one intervened.

Among the charges Mr. Rendon faces are allegations that he took the victims to another location for others to abuse them as well. There is no indication whether these other abusers were also in the Charity Fellowship Churches or any church, for that matter.  While it is sometimes easy to speculate, it is seldom beneficial. I am grateful the law is looking into this and taking the case seriously.

Law enforcement continue to ask anyone with information about Rendon to contact Pennsylvania state police at 717-290-1965.

To read the article visit: Lancaster County man to face 33 counts of sexual abuse, including of children: prosecutors

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Numerous people have written to ask if it is true that Harold Herr has been cleared of all charges by the committee looking into the allegations. To my knowledge this is not accurate.

First of all, no professionals have been hired to look into the allegations, so even if he is ‘cleared’, it does not mean he didn’t do it. It just means the group of Anabaptist men investigating did not get a confession and did not find evidence. That said, last I heard — and I contacted Allen Hoover directly — they had not reached any conclusion, though that was quite a few months ago. I have not heard otherwise. I do know that to date they have not met with Daniel Herr or the other alleged victim in USA, and I’m not certain they even know who the alleged victim is in Haiti. They have not contacted me for any information.

I continue to hold that the allegations are credible, and the evidence/testimony is a strong indication that the sexual abuse took place. However, I am also comfortable leaving that in the hands of Almighty God, who sees the past, present and future clearly. He loves truth and is Truth. He is just. He is merciful. He is compassionate. And He will not be duped one way or the other. I find peace in that.

*****

To those who have asked regarding my silence, thank you for messaging. It has been an interesting season. Between working on my final pre-comp-exam assignment — a study on female sex offending — and working as a TA for the university, taking care of my health, as well as my love for outdoors, I have been busy. Blogging had to take a back seat, temporarily.

I am currently going through some medical testing, looking for answers to some of the health issues I have developed in the past year or so. I will do an update at some point when I know more. For now, I am at peace and doctors are helping me manage symptoms while they look for root causes. They have almost certainly eliminated congestive heart failure — to which my symptoms pointed most strongly — and for that I am very grateful.

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2020

 

 

New Holland State Police seek public’s help: Gustavo Rendon former (Charity) Ephrata Christian Fellowship member

Gustavo Rendon has been charged with sexual assault of six children. New Holland, State police seek the public’s help in this ongoing investigation. (To read the article: INFORMATION SOUGHT ON  ACTIVITIES INVOLVING NEW HOLLAND MAN CHARGED WITH ABUSING 6 CHILDREN Sourced via CRIMEWATCH®

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I received an email from an individual who attended church with Rendon, and am sharing with permission to help with awareness. (This makes a connection for people as to where he might have prowled and abused). Rendon was a former member of Ephrata Christian Fellowship (Charity Church), around 2005-2010. He allegedly taught children’s lessons and gave opening messages. Around 2010 they allegedly moved on to Joy Fellowship, which was a split from Ephrata.

Anyone with information they believe police should be aware of can contact Trooper Wardrop at 717-290-1965 or kwardrop@pa.gov.

***

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

 

 

For family & friends of Cornelius Harder: His cancer journey and final days

Cornelius W. Harder • February 22, 1960 – April 24 2020

*****

NOTE:
In light of COVID-19 restrictions, we are not able to hold a proper funeral or visitation for Cornelius Harder. This includes most immediate family members.

FUNERAL LIVESTREAM DETAILS: On Monday April 27, 2020, at 2:00pm EDT, the funeral for Cornelius Harder will be livestreamed via YouTube at the following link: Kebbel Funeral Homes.

*****

On Thursday April 23, 2020 family members of Cornelius and Susan (Bender) Harder received word that Cor, my brother, was declining rapidly. Knowing how difficult support is during COVID-19, I took some masks and gloves to his home to ensure his wife had all supplies needed. I anticipated dropping off the product, and possibly saying my goodbye to Cor if he was responsive, and then sitting in my vehicle awhile in the event Susan, Cor’s wife, needed help. However, shortly after arriving the VON nurse also arrived and asked if someone would be comfortable administering medications via port in the absence of a nurse. Susan, knowing I had done in-home elder care and worked as a nurse’s aid, years ago, suggested she talk to me.

Another sister and I, who both enjoy (for lack of better word) doing palliative care, spent the night with Susan and Cor, offering support and caring for his medical needs.  Our goal was to be present, monitor his condition, observing the progression of Cor’s decline, explaining any changes, and keeping Susan informed of what to expect next, so that she would not be taken off guard and frightened or traumatized. This allowed us to prepare her for his passing in a peaceful manner, keeping him comfortable and offering her the support she needed. It was an honour to offer this support.

*****

COR’S CANCER JOURNEY

On June 12 2018, only 22 days after he went to the doctor with initial symptoms, Cornelius Harder received a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. This began a 23-month journey in his fierce battle against this ruthless disease. On July 1, the physical suffering that would mark much of the next year and nearly ten months of his life, began, followed by the first of many trips to the hospital for pain management.

Surgeons were confident that surgery offered Cornelius the most likely chance at a full recovery, so by November 1, 2018, they successfully performed a Whipple procedure.  By April 2019, he had healed considerably, and was able to enjoy reasonably good health with minimal discomfort until August of that year. During these months Cornelius planted crops and kept up with his customers at Kenpal Farm Products Inc.

In mid-September 2019 a partially blocked bowel brought complications and reintroduced significant pain and suffering into Cornelius’s life. In October he was diagnosed with stage 4 recurrent pancreatic cancer. By November he experienced severe back pain, causing him to lose much sleep, leading to a challenging Christmas season. In the ensuing months, there was a gradual, yet steady decline in his health.

Even as he declined, growing weaker and weaker, he fought the disease valiantly, maintaining an element of independence and mobility, always concerned for Susan’s wellbeing and doing everything in his power to ensure she was cared for. But, in spite of his grit and determination, on April 18, 2020, standing by his bed, Cornelius became very weak. “My legs are going to give out,” he said to Susan “I’m going to fall.”

With Susan’s assistance, he managed to lay himself across his bed and wiggle back into position and get comfortable. This was the beginning of the home stretch. Cornelius maintained a good appetite and continued to eat well, for the most part. By Wednesday April 22, days after becoming bedridden, he had grown so weak that he was no longer able to feed himself, though he ate well with Susan’s assistance.

Early Thursday morning, April 23, Cornelius began sweating profusely without a fever. Susan’s concerns subsided when she offered him breakfast and he ate well. By mid-morning, in the middle of a conversation about the final details on the income tax return, Cornelius fell into a deep sleep which lasted until late afternoon. Not long after the VON nurse, Jennifer, arrived, he was suddenly alert, eyes wide open. Jennifer called Susan over, telling her she wouldn’t want to miss this time with Cornelius. This led to a delightful, endearing and humorous moment in Cornelius’s final hours.

Seeing Cornelius so alert, Susan smiled, kissed his forehead and expressed her love for him, to which he responded with warmth and affection, affirming his love for her. “It’s so good to see you wide awake, your eyes open,” Susan exclaimed, beaming.

“Have I been sleeping long?” he asked. She told him it had been awhile, but that he needed the rest and it was ok.

“Well,” he said, “while I’m awake I might as well sign the Income tax form.” The nurse, Susan and I all erupted in giggles to see him go from such a deep sleep we could barely communicate with him, to asking for papers to sign and complete.

Susan found the form and started flipping through the pages and commented at being uncertain where to find the spot that needed signing.  Instantly, Cornelius piped up, “It should be about page 3.”

A moment later he was set up to sign the documents. Declining visual focus made it challenging, but he got it done. This was his final act of practical care for Susan. Immediately he returned to a deep sleep.

A few people dropped by through the course of the evening to see Cornelius one more time. We were fortunate to have accessed masks to reduce risk of exposing Susan to flu viruses, while still allowing some of those closest to them to show their love and support. Dennis and Carolyn Martin and most of their family sang some favourite songs and hymns in the garage. Cornelius’s pleasure was visible.

Around 9:15 Cornelius became restless, the pain setting in again, and feeling obviously unwell. Nurses had left detailed instructions, and a phone number to call for help, so with their guidance we were able to settle down the pain. With Susan by his side for support, and the activities of the evening behind him, he was able to rest comfortable.

Shortly after 1:00am Susan said she knows what she needs to do, but oh how she dreaded it. She had heard that sometimes the dying feel when their loved ones cannot release them and fight to stay out of that sense of care and duty. After an hour of struggle, she took that difficult step, through tears, and assured Cornelius that God, family, friends and her church would care for her, and she would be ok. She released him to God, inviting the angels to carry him into God’s presence, to be with Jesus.

We played “Trust His Heart” by the Esh family, followed by a variety of hymns and songs familiar to Cornelius. He smiled, from time to time, resting peacefully, holding Susan’s hand, squeezing it gently. Then, soon after Susan released him, his breathing changed, growing more shallow, yet with no distress.

It was 2:39am. Susan needed to get something, so she released Cor’s hand for only a moment. Several of Cornelius’s sisters had stayed with Susan, and one noticed he opened his eyes and turned his head, as if looking for Susan, so she called her back.

Susan leaned over and kissed Cornelius’s forehead, “I love you so much dear husband!” she said. His face lit up in a wide smile, his eyes wide open, turned toward her.

“Look at that smile!” one of the sisters exclaimed. Susan could hardly contain her delight as she returned to her seat.

“Susan… Come…” one of the sister’s beckoned, “this is his moment. Cor is going home.” His heart never beat again, after that smile, and his next breath was the deep drinking in of eternal life.

At 2:41am, on April 24, 2020, with his wife Susan by his side, Cornelius slipped peacefully into the arms of Jesus, his Saviour, healed forever from the incredible suffering he endured in this life.

*****

Susan has given our brother exceptional care through his illness and their years together. As a family we are deeply grateful, and offer our love and support.

New Hamburg Conservative Mennonite Church and its leaders have again been compassionate and kind in their support as we go through this difficult time. It is especially meaningful so soon after supporting us in the loss of our mother. As a family, we express our thanks.

Special thanks to the VON nurses and PSW’s who supported Cor and Susan, so that he was able to stay at home with Susan, especially with the complications of COVID-19. The excellent care and compassion are appreciated by Susan and Cor’s family.

*****

God is kind.

In the midst of the trauma that comes with cancer and death, which is exponentially more complex and painful in light of COVID-19 restrictions, we find Hope in His goodness. We do not understand why now, at a time when we cannot properly gather to support each other without risk of arrest and extreme fines and consequences, including risk of imprisonment. But we know that God is not taken off guard. We know He cares deeply for each one of us. And trust and pray that when these restrictions are lifted, we will be able to find some way of connecting as a family, and beginning the healing process together.

Only a few siblings are able to be with Susan during this time to support her. I am not one of them, but she has my support 100% on the people she has chosen to be with her at this time. We have all experienced loss. But none of us have experienced loss to the extent that she has, losing her best friend, husband and partner in the day to day ups and downs of life. Having spoken with most of my siblings personally, while it is, admittedly, excruciatingly painful for those who cannot attend, each one echoed that support for her as well.

Please say a prayer for our sister Anna who is married to Leonard Hursh of Mt. Joy PA. She was able to cross the border, but as of yet there is no indication that she will even be able to see any family member, or go to the funeral home to find some closure, without the fear of extreme consequences even if masks and gloves are used. We are praying for a miracle. She and Cor were very close growing up and to not have her find some form of closure looks overwhelming for us all.

Finally, thank you to so many of you have prayed for Cor and Susan, and for our family, including many of my friends who don’t know them. We all prayed and cried out for a different outcome than the one we are walking through. But ultimately we prayed for healing, and his healing is now eternal. We are so thankful for Jesus, and the hope He offers us in this time.

As always…

With love,
Trudy

© Trudy Metzger 2020

Hope, birthed in an Easter Candy Hunt

Easter.

What does it mean?

I awakened this morning to the wonder of this day, Easter. A day when we Christians celebrate the resurrection of our Saviour.

For me, a day filled with warm childhood memories during the early years in Mexico, before religious traditions put an end to Easter egg hunts. Was it an annual tradition? Or did it happen only once? I don’t know. But I remember searching for Easter candy as a preschooler. Tagging along with older siblings, the place I remember with greatest fondness is the straw bales, and finding candy there.

Life was harsh, back then, with family violence and struggling parents. But those moments were sweet. It wasn’t just the candy. My memory of the day held much deeper meaning than candy, though, back then, I did like the sugar rush too. (Less, now). The sweetness was a blend of the treats and a reprieve from the mundane, struggling, ordinary life. A life I would grow up to discover was not ordinary at all. But back then it was.

Easter morning, long after the candy hunts ended, or hunt as the case may be, became a day of hope for me, starting in childhood. We moved to Canada the summer before I turned six. If we ever did an Easter candy hunt again, I have no recollection of it. But I distinctly remember the hope.

Hope that filled my chest one crisp Easter morning when I was around eight. There was no particular reason for it, other than a feeling that I had been conditioned for, in Mexico. It was a day set apart. I was dressed in my Sunday best, with little white ankle socks and shiny black patent shoes, with straps. It was the straps I liked the most. They made me feel pretty. I went outside that crisp Easter morning, and as I breathed in, it was as if I breathed in new life. It had been cool enough the night before that a thin shell of ice had formed over the puddle. I tapped it with my shoe, breaking it, and picked up a piece to feel the coolness.

It was a happy morning.

My father stood chatting with someone who had dropped by. I listened without hearing, and watched them. And then I ran off to play in the old car, with no wheels, sitting amongst dad’s junk collection. (Or ‘prell’ as we called it in Plautdeutsch, rolling the ‘r’).

I’ve often wondered why I recall that morning so vividly, and still, at 50, feel it when I think back. The scene, forever etched on my memory, is profound only for what I felt. Joy. Peace. Hope. That same feeling is associated with a special yellow dress I had in my early teens. And every Easter, most of my life, since childhood.

Easter. What does it mean to me?

In childhood, Easter was the silver lining in a hard life. It took me years to understand why it filled my chest as it did, long after the candy hunts ended, no longer part of our family’s tradition. Even before I truly understood the symbolism of its spiritual meaning. 

Today I understand.

That special day, searching for candy among the straw bales, hope was birthed in me. In stark contrast with the harshness of life, the simple celebration of that morning, wandering our property in search of candy, was a blessed relief. It promised a better life is possible.

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Somewhere in my teens I started to grasp the deep spiritual significance of that childhood hope. The stirring in my chest transitioned from that childhood unknown, to a powerful awareness of what Jesus did for me on the cross.

I, a sinner. He, God eternal. And He chose that broken path to the cross, for me. For my sin. My redemption. He chose trauma, death, and suffering. For me. To offer me reprieve from the brokenness of my life. Dying for my sin. And, not only for my sin, but all the brokenness that I would experience. And yours. He stepped in, unhesitatingly,

A promise of love, that declared I am worth being loved. Of being valued. So worth love that He would die to buy my freedom to know love.

We call that day, “Good Friday”. I read the story, and ponder the path He walked, His suffering, and I think there’s not one good thing about that day. Nothing. How can it be good when they kill an innocent man, and it is my sin and shame that played a hand in it?

It is the darkest of days in our Christian. history. It is symbolic of my life before I knew Him personally. That day. It feels like the days when violence ruled my childhood. Heavy. Broken. Tragic.

That Day.

I remember it. I acknowledge it. I worship my God on ‘that day’. I am deeply, deeply grateful for that day. But it is not ‘Good Friday’ to me. No offence to my Christian heritage and chosen lingo. It was a Friday (or Thursday, depending who you ask), from hell. It was evil, at its lowest depths, attacking the sacred like it never had before. Like it never would, or even could, again

That Day was the epitome of evil, the height of spiritual darkness.

Oh… but Easter was coming!

On that third day, when hope of a fulfilled promise, seemed to have died… When death would have begun to set into the corpse… When the rituals of spicing the body of The Christ had been delayed because of the Sabbath, and would not be so pleasant with decay having begun…

That Easter morning. Hope was dead. The harsh reality of practical burial rituals beckoned Mary to return and begin the process of grieving properly.

There, in utter hopelessness, He was. A promise fulfilled. Risen from the grave. Fully alive.

In that moment, as His body breathed in deep of our fallen world, He took in, again, the sins and sorrows of the generations.

And as He exhaled, He breath filled our world with His Eternal Presence.

Hope, birthed in an infant, snuffed out on the cross – or so it seemed, came alive in His resurrection.

Hope breathed the eternal into our fallenness. Our brokenness. Our sorrow. Our lostness.

Hope.

That’s what Easter means to me.

Hope. A promise fulfilled. New life.

This Easter, wherever you find yourself in the midst of this present chaos, I pray His life will breathe hope into your heart.

I pray that…
Where there is fear, may you be filled Hope. Where there is brokenness, Hope will touch you with His healing. Where there is fallenness, Hope will cover you with forgiveness, grace and redemption. Where there is betrayal, Hope will surround and fill you with love. Where there is emptiness, Hope will rise victorious in you; that your life will be the testimony of the empty tomb giving birth to new and greater things, of eternal value. Above all, I pray, that you will know the Jesus of the resurrection, personally. No matter who you are (or think you are), or what you have done, Jesus died, for you. But He did not stay in the grave! He conquered death so that you, so that I, would know eternal life with Him.

This is my prayer for you today, and for me.

Happy Easter!

*****

As I wrote this, Broken Vessels crossed my YouTube playlist.  I will leave it here for you to enjoy, if contemporary worship is your thing. It is my testimony. The revelation of His love. The wonder that He would lay down His life to raise the broken to life.

What a Saviour!

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2020