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That question. Why can’t I just shut up? I’ve been asked this question in various forms over the past several years, by a variety of people. I’ve been unfriended (both in the real world and on FB) because I won’t shut up. One woman, a victim herself, who claims it’s had no impact on her and “it’s not a big deal” had a most condescending way of telling me to give it up already and find something better to do with my life.
Here’s the thing. With my personality, my nature, or the way I was trained – (I don’t always know where the ‘born this way’ starts or ends, and where the ‘trained this way’ picks up) – but in any case I would rather shut up. Yes, you heard me. I would rather shut up and pretend that sexual abuse isn’t an epidemic. And I’d especially like to pretend it isn’t in churches and faith communities. But it is. And I can’t.
In part I’d like to shut up because it’s not a fun way to spend my life. And I like fun. I love laughter and doing fun things. And I’d rather do them all the time than to even once get my hands bloody and feet dirty in the messy world of sexual violence against children. I’d rather plant flowers and manicure my lawn and sit in my flower garden and sip coffee, tea and water all day long in frivolous conversation with happy people. (Okay…stroke the ‘frivolous conversation’ bit. I don’t enjoy that.) And eat fruit. Because in The Garden it was supposed to be that peaceful and nice. But we don’t live in that Garden and hell has invaded our worlds in ways our first parents never imagined when they took that bite.
So the thought of sitting in a garden chattering with friends, laughing and playing games is appealing. Not gonna lie. No one would threaten to sue me. No one would hate me. Everybody would love me. If all I did was sit in a garden with friends and never spoke another word of confrontation about sexual abuse and the agenda to cover up. Okay, they might hate me if I was super rich and if it was only an elitist group welcome in my garden. But if all were welcome and I simply served biscuits, treats and drinks, no one would hate me. Except maybe those who hate everyone and are always jealous. But mostly I would be loved. And that is my bottom line, based on my personality and who I am: I like to be loved and accepted. I am born for that. I am conditioned for it. Follow the rules. Don’t stir the water. Love everyone, and be loved back generously.
But I can’t shut up. And I can’t because every day children are conceived. Every day they are born. And every day they are molested, raped, brutalized and used. And every day I am aware that at any given moment, if I pause, a child enters the world, somewhere. And in that same moment another is being raped or molested in some way. And in that same moment an abuser, a church leader, a parent… someone, somewhere, is denying the horror that child lives. I cannot ‘un-know’ these things. They are as real to me as the breath I breathe.
But the real reason I cannot shut up is because I know there is hope for that child in spite of all that darkness and hell and trauma. And if just one child (whether an adult or still a child) hears that someone, somewhere is willing to fight for the truth and their hearts, then defying everything my heart longs for (peace, no conflict, Garden-kind-of-innocence, and to be loved by all) is worth it. Because that child might not commit suicide. That child might find the courage to heal and get help. And that child might not grow up to molest others, if that child knows that their story matters to someone.
So, go ahead, ask me if I can’t just get over it already, or move on or get a life. But first dare to picture the graphic truth of a toddler (male or female) being raped, an adult body forcing inside, and that adult getting away with it as a “member in good standing” because he said he is sorry. (Now recreate with a female offender). Too graphic? This is the reality of many children so we as adults better be able to handle it if we demand they live with it.
If you can physically step over that toddler, spirit torn and flesh bleeding, and keep on walking and literally ‘get over it’…. then send me your challenge to get over it and move on. But I can’t. And I won’t. Because I have ‘seen’ those little bodies left to bleed… I have seen them in the broken lives of struggling adults. I will continue to pick up those little bodies, wipe up the blood and bodily fluids that have left forever stains in their spirits – stains which remain, fluids which continue to spill, and blood which continues to flow from those scars for decades. And I will speak the love of Jesus over them, tell them who they really are and what they are worth. And I will confront boldly the dark sins hiding in our communities.
Because Jesus would. And He would say a whole lot more than I have courage or boldness or words for. And it wouldn’t be laced with an ounce of self-preservation or fear or wanting to be liked.
I invite you to speak up. Educate yourself about the truth. And fight for the lost children, stripped of innocence, and born into the silent sex-trade of what we call church and faith community.
Rise up. Join in transforming our communities so children are safe and offenders are called out and held responsible. Together we will create an environment where image means nothing and truth means everything. We need you. Even if the only ‘speaking out’ and ‘fighting for’ you can muster is on your knees in your room. The children need you.
~ T ~
Today marks the day, fourteen years later, when the news came of my father’s passing. It was an odd, shocking, numbing feeling; one which I still cannot frame in words. The finality is jarring, knowing the last words spoken were the final exchange. While I had no regret in that, specifically, it was harsh nonetheless, and I recall my mind trying, as if by sheer force of will, to turn back time one day, and call him. I’m not sure there was much left to say, really, though there are a few questions I wanted to ask… the kind that always felt too frightening and vulnerable to say out loud, even after he asked me to forgive him for the harm he brought into my life. That day, an old, broken, and fragile man he wept and asked me to forgive him. And I responded, “Dad, I chose to forgive you a long time ago. Yes, I forgive you.”
That was 2001. I was 32 years old, a mom of four and pregnant with our fifth. I called Tim before I left the hospital that day, crying, to tell him about our conversation. “Miracles still happen,” I remember saying through tears. Choosing consciously and purposefully to forgive my dad dated back more than a decade before that day. But it didn’t look the way many fit forgiveness into a perfect little box. The consequences for his choices meant that I suffered flashbacks, anxiety disorders (including PTSD), and nightmares every time we had contact for many years, and they became especially haunting after we had children. This continued even after I forgave him most sincerely. My fear that some horrible thing would be done to my family prevented us from feeling comfortable interacting too closely. I meant we attended at most one family event a year, if that.Tim and I chose early in marriage to not risk the lives and innocence of our children by placing them in an environment where abuse of every kind had run rampant and remained buried. This choice, in the eyes of some, would have been cause to judge me as unforgiving. Nonetheless, we made the choice and never looked back. No regret, for the sake of our children.
The cost to me was significant. It meant I had to miss out on family gatherings, and years later the lack of relationship leaves an emptiness within. The loss is ongoing. Still, I choose to forgive my father. And still I don’t regret having the boundaries, in spite of that cost.
My choice to forgive was first and foremost for my freedom. Not a fraction of that decision was to overlook his sins and crimes, or make myself okay with them. They are not okay. But the power of his sin, by allowing bitterness to take root in me, frightened me far more than did the consequences of his choices against me. Secondly, I chose to forgive him for the sake of my husband and children. To let his sins rule my life would be to give him permission to pass on the curses of many generations to my children, through my bitterness. (And generational cycles are well documented in both secular and spiritual literature.) I didn’t want that, and to the best of my ability I protected our children from anyone who had molested, and never left them unsupervised in an environment where known offenders were present.
That said, I was not perfect by any stretch of imagination, and made choices as a mom that left scars on my children, and those are choices for which I take ownership. When I chose to forgive my father, I chose also to take ownership for decisions I made, even if birthed out of the scars and emotional deficits he left in my life. I did this so that the chains would end with me.
I chose to forgive my father to break generational chains that he struggled with to his death, to end cycles of abuse and violence, to leave a new legacy for the next generation, and to prevent bitterness in my life. My children will need to decide whether they will forgive me for ways I sinned against them, and whether they will take ownership for the ways they sin against their own children. And the generation to follow will need to make the same decision.
Forgiveness isn’t a choice to overlook violence, molestation, neglect and various abuses. It is the decision to break chains, end vicious cycles and leave a new legacy. It doesn’t mean everything is all cozy and the wrongs are never spoken of again. It means we do our best to lead the next generation, even at personal cost. And sometimes it means we tell broken, painful and brutal stories, so that the amazing grace of God in our lives is understood, and so others can draw hope and strength for their own journeys.
When my father asked me to forgive him, I chose to verbally extend that grace and reflect the heart of God the best I knew how. It didn’t change how we protected our children by not giving him access, and it didn’t change much of anything at all in a practical sense. But I knew my forgiveness was genuine, and he knew it too. And that was enough for me.
If I could go back to the day before February 21, 2003, knowing what I know now, I might still visit dad and ask some hard questions…. but maybe I wouldn’t change anything at all. I told him I loved him. I told him I forgive him. And, when he doubted that God would forgive a man like him, I told him that because of what Jesus did on the cross, there was a place in heaven for him.
I stood alone by his coffin in the funeral home and wept as I repeatedly whispered the only three words that formed, “Thank you Jesus.”
Even as I write this, I recognize that I have not fully absorbed the words in the note that arrived earlier this week. I shared it with a small handful of people, not offering the name of the author, and most responded with tears and emotion, amazed and encouraged. Of those with whom I shared the message, most–if not all, besides my husband– were also conservative Mennonites. And because it was so encouraging to them, I decided to share it in a blog….
I am accustomed to receiving letters, emails, text messages and Facebook messages from strangers. It’s pretty much a daily occurrence, so when I saw that note, I was mostly nonchalant about it. That is, until I started reading. And my eyes have this way of taking in an entire page all at once, but registering only a portion, so words popped out grabbing my attention. “…don’t know me… conservative… minister… negative connotation…” This can be a distressing thing, at times, when the wrong words grab me, and my heart rate increased ever so slightly as I read it.
The shock at what I read, compelled me to read it at least three times before it all registered. (All identifying information has been edited out:
Trudy, We have never met but I feel a fire inside to drop you a line this morning. I am a conservative Anabaptist …minister…. Recently …in the course of different conversations your name come up at least a half dozen times often with negative connotations but not always. For your name to come up that often you must be having a big impact … I want to do 2 things.
1. I want ask for forgiveness where “my” people have spoken evil of you for just following the call on your life.
2. I want to thank you for following that call and not giving up. We need you. Your call? Isaiah 61:1
By the third reading I felt like a dam was pushing against the inner walls of my heart, threatening to burst, but it would not give way. I wanted to weep, but only a lonely tear or two formed. A thousand thoughts flew through my mind and memory, of all this one message addresses in my heart, and the ‘history’ of my life among ‘his’ people… who are and always will also be ‘my’ people.
In an instant I realized how very healed my heart is in so many ways and places, and yet how there are small ‘brutally raw’ spots, waiting to heal. The words God had spoken, and words I shared with Tim and a few friends a few years ago, when my heart was particularly raw, returned, “Healing will come… and it will come from the very source of your pain.” At the time I tried to imagine just how my healing could or would ever come from ‘my people’, where so much pain had entered my life and broken trust with God. But I chose to believe it.
And little by little it came… A note from a friend still in the setting… and another… and another… An encouragement from one Conservative Mennonite pastor after my book came out in March… and then another… and another… and another, until there were six.
And then the unthinkable happened. Never in a million years would I have anticipated it or even dared to desire such a thing… but it came. I attended a funeral in my former church setting, and a leader I knew in ‘those years’ shook my hand. But he didn’t let go. He held my hand and his voice choked up as he thanked me for honouring them in my book. “We didn’t deserve it,” he said. I smiled and patted his hand–still holding mine–“I think you did,” I said. Tears formed then, as he continued, apologizing for not understanding me, for not being there and for failing me. “I wish we had done more to help you,” he said. I thanked him, and immediately felt it; another moment of healing.
These moments have been representative of my Heavenly Father; Abba… Papa God, who cares personally and intimately about every wound in my heart. Even the ones I forgot I had, or never acknowledged. I expected nothing more in the way of healing. My heart was full.
And I think that is why the note this week was so overwhelming. It wasn’t just about the past. It was about the ongoing lies, evil-speaking and attacks on our ministry. (Which, thank God, I have learned to let run off as the oil of the Holy Spirit covers me and doesn’t allow it to penetrate.) But more than that, it was a blessing on our ministry.
Ultimately my affirmation comes first from my Heavenly Father, very directly, as He ministers to my heart. Secondly it comes from my husband who stands with me. Thirdly it comes from hearing and reading about others who are rising up to bring the healing of Jesus to the broken and wounded in the church. I seek nothing beyond that, in the way of endorsement or affirmation.
So when a moment like this drops out of the clear blue sky, my heart and spirit are almost overcome. I thank God for this minister’s encouragement, for his ministry to the wounded, and for a reminder that there are others ‘within’ in spiritual warfare for the children and offering the hope of Jesus to the wounded.
It is my prayer that this minister’s note will be encouraging for those of you who are also conservative Mennonite and feel alone and abandoned. If you are wondering if any of ‘our people’ and leaders in particular, will acknowledge what was done against you, and the need for your heart to find healing, now you know.
I recently received a message from an abuse victim, asking if every conservative Mennonite victim of sexual abuse gets the urge to strangle anyone they see wearing a plain suit coat. And in another email this note arrived not so long ago, from a victim of extreme sexual violence, in a religious home with this question:
“why is it that the people who ‘look the most christian’ are the ones that are the least understanding and the most hurtful? Even the ones who don’t place much stock in a host of church rules etc. The people who have shown me a clear picture of who God really is are people who my friends and family would call wordly. (…) It’s been drilled into us since we were kids that if they don’t wear a Menno dress they probably aren’t Christian and yet look at what all goes on in the life of people who wear the ‘right’ clothes. When it comes to some of these people it feels like the only thing you accomplish is beating your head on a brick wall.”
My prayer is that the gentleman/minister who wrote the note of encouragement and apology, who also wears a plain suit coat and is conservative Anabaptist, will be representative of the Father’s heart to you as he was to me, and a reminder that good and evil dwell in every culture. And I pray that healing will come to each of you also–even from the very ‘source’ of your pain–as it has for me, as Jesus is represented will by those who love Him above all else, including image and religion.
Those of us who love Him, will love you also, and we will tear down the dividing walls between brothers and sisters in Christ, with no regard for self preservation. We will put ourselves on the line for your well-being, because that is the way of Jesus.
Last but not least, I want to bless this minister of the healing Gospel of Jesus. I pray that God will enlarge his sphere of influence, so that many of ‘his people’ will know the healing touch of Jesus Christ, through him, his wife, his family and his church.
~ T ~
It’s November 30, and the final of my 30 days of focusing on victims of sexual abuse in these blog posts. A day or two after I made the commitment to do my best to post daily for the month, and acknowledge survivors of abuse, in some way, I realized that November is Canada’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month. There are many aspects to family violence, and sexual assault is a part of that violence. That said, while offenders are often family members or close friends, it is not always the case.
My goal this month has been to lift a weary heart, to encourage those lost in the shadows of shame, and bless victims who have lost sight of their own value and personal identity. And hopefully it encouraged those who are not victims to reach out to the hurting around them.
My prayer has been, and is, that each victim becomes a victor… an overcomer… So that together we become a people who raise our sails against the winds, and master the winds of pain and trauma… using the very thing intended to destroy us, as the launching pad for a future filled with purpose and hope.
In this 30 day stretch I learned that it is very difficult to focus solely on the victim, but it can be done. And it was a good exercise for me. Longterm, however, both sides of this equation need attention, and both the victim and the criminal need the appropriate help.
I also learned that it is challenging to write daily about sexual abuse, even from a ‘healing for victims’ perspective. There is a heaviness to this topic that cannot be done away with, no matter how positive the ‘spin’. It’s painful and it is hard. From that perspective I understand why church leaders, parents, teachers and the general population want to run, deny or silence people. But it is a cowardly act, and it is not of God.
God welcomes the cries of His children, and comforts us. He doesn’t tell us we are making things up, lying, over-reacting, or just trying to ‘get even’. He doesn’t tell us that our reality is nothing more than a nightmare or a demonic imagination. He hears us. He holds us. He comforts us.
But most importantly, He reminds us who we are; His beloved, accepted and healed; His adopted, with divine authority over the darkness; His redeemed, filled with the Holy Spirit. His love flows into us, and out to others. We breathe in His life, in exchange for the stale air of sin that poisons us, and we breathe out His life to those around us.
That is purpose. That is hope. That is a good future. That is redemption.
~ T ~
Yahweh, your God, is intimately present in your battle, as a mighty and victorious warrior, fighting for you! Having overthrown your enemy, He serenades you, singing over you with great delight, like a Papa mesmerized by His child! He (Based on: Zephaniah 3:17)
The battle is not mine, it is not yours. We are loved. We are fought for. We are accepted. And our Heavenly Papa–Abba–holds us in His arms and in His heart. He is not a far-away-never-present Papa; He is ‘over us’ watching, loving, laughing and finding joy in us.
He sees His creation; a child in His own image and likeness, not the brokenness that we feel. He sees us through the eyes of love, acceptance and grace. We are His; we belong… no longer misfits. In this we find our true identity, our freedom.
Take a moment to whisper a thank you to this amazing God, and spend a moment basking in the light of His infinite love. It is life-altering to experience the wonder of Him.
~ T ~
Your story matters. Your pain matters. And most importantly, “You matter.” In fact, you matter so much that you are worth more than the chains they have tried to put on you.
You are worth a ‘prison break’, to leave that bondage behind and move into a place of freedom, purpose and healthy personal identity. If you are struggling to find that freedom, find someone–anyone safe–who will walk you to that place. It awaits you.
And, whatever you do, don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t be free.
~ T ~
Look at the word closely, and it becomes a place; a state of ‘being’. Much like kingdom. Kingdom is that which is in a state of being under the authority or ‘belonging’ to a king. Freedom is that which is in the state of being free.
And it can often feel much like that; and elusive placed which one must have a key, or a connection to enter. Currently I am traveling in the United States of America–hence the lack of consistency in posting, and it will be that way intil next Wednesday–and I needed a passport to get in; not to mention the security process. Had I tried to force my way in any other way – – especially with the state of our world right now– – It probably would not have gone so well for me.
As it was, things really couldn’t have gone better! The security process back in Ontario Canada, had three steps. As we neared the third and final security check, I observed something that I would define as freedom. A security guard, all decked out in his uniform, stood near the line singing the orders. “You don’t need your passport now, all you need is your boarding pass and a smile on your face…”
Over and over he sang, and as he sang the people walking through the line who could hear him, began to smile, and chuckle. I caught a young woman’s eyes just as she rounded the corner; they sparkled with delight. We exchanged a few words and shared a laugh. (And it wasn’t until I turned away that it struck me; she was Muslim.) Around me similar exchanges happened between strangers from many races and cultures, and gradually most of the line transformed from sullen and sober, to smiling and chatting amongst ourselves. It was 5:30am.
The security guard’s freedom inspired and influenced us, but his freedom was personal. He was confident to be himself; daring to be different than everyone else around. He stood out from the crowd, in hope and expression.
Freedom is like that. It stands out, offers hope and influences those around, but ultimately it is personal. It can seem like a land far, far away, to which there are no passports or visas. It can feel like an illusion, but if we push through – – much like all those security points to enter another country — there comes a moment when we find it, and realize it was there all along, waiting for us to discover and express it.
Freedom is a choice in the midst of unpleasant circumstances. (Trust me,–anyone who sings to a passing audience of grouchy strangers–a few who really couldn’t bring themselves to be amused–at 5:30am, is choosing to rise above.) It isn’t about making the circumstances right, but about refusing to surrender to them. It doesn’t always look like singing; sometimes it looks like tears or even frustration. It looks mostly like a lack of pretentiousness and yet choosing hope even in pain, even in frustration.
Freedom is that inner state over which I am given authority. It is as my willingness to enter in, and it is as successful as my ability to be honest, and and as lasting as my honesty and humility in seeking help from someone else, if and when that is needed.
Ultimately it is about how free I am to function within my intended design, regardless of what life has done to rob me of that gift. That is freedom.
~ T ~
© Trudy Metzger
The last few weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind. An exciting whirlwind, spinning wide open in a dance, just like they did in Mexico in the dust. How I loved the way they spun and twirled, rushing across the yard! And that’s sort of how I feel right now, about life. Oh, there’s been some ‘downers’, like the death of my beloved Mazda 3, nicknamed Rustbucket. In the weeks before its death, I had started to call it Rattletrap, and even joked that one day the tires will just keep rolling down the road, and the rest will fall off, and there I’ll sit. Fortunately, it gave up the ghost, slowly and safely. Anyway, that was distressing, and made even more so because we hadn’t had a chance to do anything about replacing it yet, when the brakes on our van went, leaving us with any vehicle. But enough of the depressing things… Overlapping with this some very exciting things happened…
It started April 21, 2015, to be exact. I had received a friend request on Facebook, a day or two earlier, from Peter and Mary Froese, and accepted. The name stood out, but I didn’t give it a lot of thought. We Germans have a lot of Loewens, Reddekopps, Klassens, Froeses and, well, you pick the name and there’s just a lot of us, so I didn’t even consider trying to figure out if it’s a family I know.
I had been in a meeting, and when I came out that afternoon, there was a Facebook message posted to my timeline from Peter. It read as follows:
Hello Trudy. Thank you for accepting our friendship. I read your book last weekend. Wow, I have never read a book as fast as this one. It only took me just over two days and I’m not a reader. Many memories, since, I was your neighbor boy back in the old country. I remember many of the events you are sharing in the book, including your moves, the house without windows, plus the three funerals. I was very surprised of the details that you remembered. I must say the book was very well done. But what interested me most was the point of it all. To bring out and point out the real God from the harsh God of religion which is indeed no god at all.
I’m looking forward to your next book. The rest of the story. How you got from there to where you are now. The healing steps, the growth etc.
May God continue to use you for his Kingdom and bless you.
I can’t quite describe the emotions that filled my chest. These are people I knew as a youngster in Mexico, and have never seen again, since moving to Canada. That’s forty years of separation, this summer. This month it will be, in fact, to be specific; we left Mexico in May 1975.
Days later I received a friend request from another familiar name. Herbert Hildebrandt. Again, the name caught my eye, but again, I didn’t over analyze it. But, again, the following message landed in my inbox.
Hi Trudy, I first heard about your book thru Ira Wagler, intending to buy it some time when I come across it. Only yesterday we realized that our family has a personal connection in that you lived on my grandparents property in #82 (David Hildebrandt). My dad is Henry, he vividly remembers your family being there and the fact that your brother had the ability to determine what brand of tire a vehicle had by the tread pattern left on the dirt road and yard! He’s told that story since I was a little boy…so yesterday someone in Aylmer let us know what the connection was to you and the book. Having said that, is there a place to buy the book locally? If not, we’ll order a few online for the family. Two of my uncles died of cancer in the past decade, not sure if you remember them – John and David. We admire for you speaking out in word and print, blessings to you and your family. Herbert Hildebrandt
It was almost surreal, this double chain of events, and rediscovering neighbours from the same community, one living to the left and down a ways, and the other to the right, if my memory has it accurately. There is a connection and a bond that happens in early childhood, that cannot be recreated, and it flooded back, after all these years. I could hardly absorb it all, that these re-connections were spilling in so soon after the release of Between 2 Gods. These are things you don’t think of, when you write a book with the hope of reaching a few broken hearts, here and there. The radar simply doesn’t extend that far. At least it didn’t for me. So it has come as a complete surprise, and an incredible blessing; the payback and the gift of these invaluable connections.
Some quick brainstorming with Peter and Mary, and with connections at The Central–an amazing restaurant in Aylmer, and my favourite place in town–we planned a book signing for Saturday, May 2, 2015. Peter checked with deBridg radio in Aylmer, and sure enough, they agreed to do an interview. Could I make it Wednesday, April 29, for 2:00pm, they wondered. Yes, I told him, even though I wasn’t sure how I’d get there without a car. Something would work out.
Fortunately Tim’s mom had let us borrow a vehicle for until the brakes were the van brakes were repaired, so we had that, but so many things happening in our household. Five children. Three jobs. My client appointments. It’s a busy household. By Saturday April 25 we had found a decent used vehicle–a gorgeous and incredibly under-priced Honda Accord, which the owner sold at less than two-thirds of going wholesale price, and less than half of going retail. The perks: leather interior, manual, and just a sweet looking vehicle. The downside: two-door, therefore slightly higher insurance, but with the price, still a better deal. The ultimate bonus, of course, is that it falls in the ‘Honda and Toyota’ category. I trust those vehicles. A lot. That car is a little miracle, in every way. Still, there was a lot to be done, and I had no guarantees I’d have it on the road for Wednesday.
Wednesday morning, having purchased and done the E-Test and Safety on the vehicle, I drove it to the Service Canada office to register it, having acquired insurance at 4:45pm–15 minutes before close–on Tuesday night. By 10:00am Wednesday morning, it was a done deal. My car was ready. Well, almost. I still needed the right plates on it. Tim had put a ratchet and screw driver on the passenger seat, for me to install the plates before heading to Aylmer. I pulled into the Foodland parking lot, surrounded by trucks and truckers headed into Tim Hortons for their coffees, and there I attached the plates, all dressed up and ready for my radio interview. Tim, in the meantime, printed out the insurance slip because our printer was not working, and I drove over to his work, to pick it up.
When I arrived in Aylmer for the interview, Hein Rempel greeted me, and immediately we jumped into German conversation, preparing for the interview. “We knew some Rempels in Mexico,” I said, casually, not expecting there to be an easy connection. “Isaac Rempels,” I added as an afterthought.
Hein chuckled. “I had a brother Isaac,” he said. Hein looked too young to be a brother to the man I remembered, I thought to myself, but I pursued it.
“He was a bit of a ‘frotz’ (clown),” I said, injecting a German word into my English sentence. Hein nodded, adding a chuckle, and said his brother was too. “He used to get my brothers to hide under the table,” I said, “and if they would stay under it for a given length of time, he would promise to give them a peso. Then he would proceed to pound on the table and do anything to make them come out.” This had fascinated me as a little 4-year-old, and I wished Mr. Rempel would offer me a peso too. I’d sit there for it.
Now Hein laughed, almost certain it had to be his brother. And then it popped in my head, the moment of being in the Rempel home, and seeing their daughters, and hearing their names. Memories that had long disappeared into whatever unknown place they visit, when you don’t think about them for almost 40 years. “Did he have a daughter Utje…” I asked, intending to also ask about the other daughter.
“Yes!” Hein said, “and Sushje.” It was confirmed. I had just connected with yet another family member of our friends in Mexico!
We did the interview then, and shared with the Aylmer community a wee glimpse into the ‘why’ of my story, as well as the ‘what’, and let them know that I will be back on Saturday to hopefully meet many more. I don’t really know what to expect, and how many friends and relatives I will see, or if some other unexpected past connections might happen. What I do know, for sure, is that Saturday is going to be a very exciting day! We left Mexico in late May, 1975. Now, in May 2015, I will see friends I played with… or ‘tried’ to play with, since they were a bit older and I was still the ‘pesky little sister’ who liked to tag along. How cool is that?!
I walked to my car, accompanied by my friend Maria Dyck, from deBridg, to get her a book from my trunk. We stood on the sidewalk and chatted a moment, when a woman stopped, after Maria greeted her with a, “Hi Helen!” She saw the book in Maria’s hands. “I just read that book,” she said, and explained how she borrowed it from a friend. Helen looked familiar, but I couldn’t place her until she told me we recently connected on Facebook. Moments later another friend walked by, a woman I met at a speaking engagement; Mary. I realized again, how small the world is, and what a blessing relationships are.
Checking on messages, I found one from Peter, saying he hopes the interview went well, and then added a note he received from a pastor in Mexico: “Her story is not unlike many others in our Mennonite world. Really sad but so blessed that Trudy has the guts to reveal what’s going on in so many homes.”
I walked to The Central to finalize details with Peter, and inside was greeted by more friends. People I met in the eight months, when I traveled to Aylmer to meet clients for sessions at The Central. It’s a friendly town, and th ‘familiarity’ from days gone by, even in the accents, make me feel at home there.
My last stop, before heading back home, was at my mom’s. I spent about an hour and a half with her, listening to her tell stories, and answering questions. She told me she supports me telling our story publicly, because so many victims are stuck in shame, and get all suicidal, and give up hope. “It’s cost too many lives,” she said.
I warned her the book wouldn’t be an easy read, and I’d be happy if she never gets her hands on it because of what I think it would do to her. She understood, but made no promises, which was fine since I wasn’t looking to tell her what to do. She’s a big girl and whatever she decides, I will bless. It’s not really my business anyway. It’s just that I’d rather she not need to feel and walk through all that again, in story form. I know what it did to me in the writing process.
“People will start asking you about it,” I warned. “They might give you a hard time for me speaking out.”
She chuckled and told me how it’s starting, the questions and wondering. Even as I arrived to visit her, a group of women saw me coming toward the building, and when mom said my name, they asked, “Is she the one on the radio, who has written a book?” and mom just giggled and said she doesn’t know about the radio, but yes I am the one who wrote the book.
She’s taking it all in stride, this thing of having the ‘outside world’ peek into the windows of our family’s story. I’m glad for that. And I hope it stays that way. And I hope it never becomes an attack on her, or a rejection for giving birth to me and raising me, for those who don’t like this ‘telling’. But that we leave in God’s hands.
Tomorrow is just a day away now, and I’m excited. The action starts tonight already, when I meet with a reporter from the Aylmer Express, who will do a story on the book, and will come again tomorrow to interview ‘characters’ from the book. Some Froese family members and hopefully some Hildebrandts, will answer a few questions the reporter has. And I’ve called Mrs. Wolfe, to whose place my mother fled when dad threatened to kill her and our family the summer before I turned seven, and asked her to come for a book and to talk to a reporter. She will come, she said. And that makes my heart so very happy!
It’s going to feel like a regular family reunion, being among my Plautdeutsch friends like that, and in one of the communities in which I lived. It is beautifully mind-boggling.
I’ve asked my cousin Helen Knelsen, if we could slip over to see her mom and dad, my Aunt Anna & Uncle Jake, so we’ll be doing that after the interview wraps up. And then I will head back to Helen’s house and crash… hopefully…. if I can sleep tonight… Few things get me so excited that my sleep is interrupted, but this just might!
I wish you all a wonderful weekend, and if you’re in the Aylmer area, please pop by! We’d love to see you! The Central has offered to serve coffee and refreshments, and we’ll be doing a draw for a few prizes, so don’t miss out!
~ T ~