In Loving Memory of my Brother, John Martens Harder


Saturday evening, August 29, 2020, two nieces, Sarah Hoover and Linda Vandervliet both contacted me to let me know their father, my brother John (aka: Johannes) was killed earlier in a hit and run accident, in Mexico. Loss is always hard, no matter the circumstances. But it is especially shocking to hear of a sudden death such as this.

Details of the accident as relayed by John’s wife, Marjorie:
Late morning, August 29, 2020, John and Marj Harder were traveling by van from Bucerias to Mezcales Mexico. Once out of the van they had to cross the highway to go to the Walmart mall. They noticed vehicles had stopped both ways, so John said, “let’s go now..”. They started to cross, and all of a sudden noticed a vehicle coming. John started to run and the car hit him head on and pushed him quite a ways down the highway. Marj was not injured but witnessed the crash. Police and ambulance arrived within 10-15 min. They said John was killed on impact.

John married Marj Penner September 4, 1999. At the time of their marriage, John had two daughters, Linda (Mike) Vandervliet and Sarah (Chris) Hoover, and Marj had one son, Aaron Penner (fiancee’ Alicia Szucs). Together they have one daughter, Tonya Harder.

We are thankful that Marj was not injured, and our hearts go out to her as she processes the trauma of witnessing John’s death, and goes through the grieving process. She and their daughter Tonya, who lived with them in Mexico, plan to fly home with John’s remains as soon as they are able to make arrangements to do so. Tonya’s passport is expired, so they need to get that renewed first. Please pray for them, that things come together and they remain strong.

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Loving husband to Marjorie (Penner) Harder, Father to Linda (Mike) Vandervliet, Sarah (Chris) Hoover, Aaron Penner (fiancee’ Alicia Szucs), and Tonya Harder, Grandfather to Nadia and Luke Vandervliet, Evelyn, Nolan, Alice and Stella Hoover, and Natalie Marie Penner. Brother to Mary (Abram) Schmidt, Peter (Nancy) Harder, Jacob (Susie) Harder, Henry Harder, Anna (Leonard) Hursh, Tina Harder, Margaret (Jim) Verwer, Nancy (Lloyd) Kuepfer, Wilhelm (Connie) Harder, Trudy (Tim) Metzger, Eva Harder, Martha Harder, David (Shannon) Harder, and Abe Harder, and sister-in-law Susan (the late Cornelius) Harder. Brother-in-law to Laura (Don) Larochelle, Florence (Gregg) Klassen, and Fred Penner. Uncle to many nieces and nephews.

John was predeceased by his parents Peter and Anna Harder, his step-mother Katharina Harder, brother Cornelius, one infant brother, and his parents-in-law, John and Martha Penner.

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Our family extends appreciation to John’s wife Marj for her loyal support and love for our brother throughout their marriage, and for caring for him after death. To witness such a horrific event so far from most of her family, and then tend to these matters takes great courage. Thanks to Tonya Harder for supporting her mom in Mexico in this difficult time, and each of their children in the capacity of support they were able to offer.

Aaron Penner set up a GoFundMe to help with expenses and for Marj and Tonya to get established upon their return to Canada. Should family and friends wish to donate, visit GoFundMe: Bringing Family Together.

A personal thanks to the many who have sent words of condolences to our family, and offered prayers on our behalf. Your kindness and encouragement are much appreciated.


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For those able to read Spanish, here is a news article on the accident: Conductor mata a peatón por Lago Real y huye del lugar. (WARNING: Semi-Graphic photo included in news article).  The following is my best attempt to translate to English. Anything I could not translate, I excluded. (I welcome corrections).

Being dragged at least 40 meters after being struck by a vehicle, a man died at the scene of the accident, while the person responsible fled the scene.

This accident occurred Saturday morning [August 29, 2020], on Highway 200 [...]. Police were called and verified the accident.

It was after ten o'clock in the morning of this Saturday [August 29, 2020], when Municipal Police received the report of the accident. After confirming the accident, they called for paramedics support.

When personnel from the Civil Protection and Firefighters of Bahía de Banderas arrived, they pronounced the man dead at the scene of the accident.

State Police and SEMEFO arrived at the scene to undertake the task of recording reports surrounding the event, and taking the body to rest.

The identity of the person is still unknown. It is only known that it is an older male.

Reported by: Lupillo Arce

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© Trudy Metzger 2020

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.

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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.

 

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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