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

 

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