4 yr old Anabaptist girl beaten to death; parents James Mast (28) & Mary Mast (29), Ethan Mast (35), and Kourtney Aumen (21), arrested for murder

Disclaimer: I have tried to verify any information written here. There are many rumours floating around that I have left out as they are not (yet) fully verifiable.

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On Sunday December 20, I was contacted regarding the horrific murder of 4-yr-old Jessica Mast in Missouri. (READ THE NEWS UPDATE HERE: 4-year-old girl ‘beaten, submerged in a pond, then left to freeze on the bank’). The accused (Kourtney Aumen and Ethan Mast) allegedly claimed the mother, Mary S. Mast who was also beaten, had a demon and the children would turn out just like her if they did not remove the demons. Arrested for her murder at the time were Kourtney Aumen (21), and Ethan Mast, (35). As of December 24, 2020, the child’s parents, James Mast (28) and Mary S. Mast (29) have also been arrested. (READ THE NEWS UPDATE HERE: Benton County Sheriff: Parents arrested in connection to child’s death).

People noticed I am friends on Facebook with Kourtney Aumen, one of the two individuals charged with the murder. Truth is, I did not get to know Kourtney. Beyond a friend request over the time of the CAM and Jeriah Mast fiasco, we had no exchanges of any kind. In spite of not knowing her, it hit pretty hard knowing that sometimes we just don’t know what depravity hides behind a religious facade. Looking at her FB profile — the pic and what she writes — would never have indicated a young woman sexually entangled with two married men, capable of murder and sexual assault. Her one accomplice, Ethan Mast, I had never heard of before. James Mast, the father of the murdered child, I vaguely recall hearing of his disappearance.

What is to be said about the present murders is in the links I posted. Rather than retell it, I encourage you to read the news updates. The backstory, however, is not covered there.

Aumen allegedly got ‘counseling’ support from James Mast a few years back. At some point, James allegedly said he was driving her to a counselor, but instead he disappeared for two weeks to a cabin with her. This, over the time that his wife Mary was very pregnant and gave birth. The story starts somewhere back there, or maybe before. Aumen is not one iota innocent, nor is she the victim in this case. However, whenever grown men (or women) take advantage of the vulnerability of someone coming for help, they are responsible for violating that trust. No matter how messed up the person is who is looking for help or counseling,. If anything, the more messed up, the more you are responsible for how your actions will further harm them. Whatever the story is here — if it didn’t start before that ‘counseling’ — it was the prelude to the present situation. What she did in this present crime is on her. But what went down back there is part of the story that led here. And it sounds like she was reaching out for support, as allegedly did get counseling from another well-known unlicensed Mennonite counselor.

SHE HAD A DEMON, SOME SAY (GOD FORBID THEY MENTION THE MEN INVOLVED)
No matter the backstory, Aumen is responsible for her crimes. Even so, it reeks to high heaven when people start declaring “Kourtney had a demon”, or “She was demon possessed” or “She had a spirit not of God, and totally overlook the men — “leaders” as we call them in our Anabaptist settings — as though they were her victims.

‘Thank you, Captain Obvious. I’d have not known quite to which power to attribute this heinous act without that insight.” It’s seems some people get a religious ego boost labeling women as demon-possessed.

No Christian will look at this horror and say, “What Aumen did was of God!” Obviously, then, if not of God, it is of the devil. But to put the focus all on Aumen having a spirit not of God and say nothing of two grown men -who were part of it does not speak well to the character of those speaking. This habit of demonizing women (even when their actions are demonic) is the voice of the religiously emasculated crying out. Real men of God, those who take their leadership seriously, hold other men accountable, first and foremost. No, they wouldn’t let Aumen off the hook; she did very wicked things in the name of God. But, as men who preach leadership, they would first call out the men for not stopping this horrific act. These men could have overpowered Aumen if they wanted. And I can’t imagine it would have taken two of them. Instead, they slept with her and then participated in a murder; whatever their respective roles were. These men should be called out, if not first, at least equally.

The father’s belt was used to do the beating. Somewhere in there, as a parent, you would say, “Over my dead body!” You would let them shoot you first, before you let them kill or beat your child. And for days on end? No one in that position gets to step back and be the victim. How it shakes out with the law is not of greatest interest to me. (Though I fully support putting them behind bars. If a defenceless innocent child is not safe with them — if they stoop that low — then they should not be on the loose. Same as sex offenders). But that is not mine to orchestrate. As a believer, I know my God will be their judge and it is before Him they are guilty of their various roles, including James and Mary Mast, whatever those roles may be. (And save the ‘maybe James was being nonresistant’ speech. No one living in adultery with the murderess and engaged in sexual immorality gets to lay claims on that as a religious excuse).

Both James Mast and Ethan Mast were having sex with Kourtney Aumen. For these adults to actively beat the life out of a child for two weeks, or stand by while the other(s) did the beating with the father’s belt, does not leave any of them innocent. Children were being assaulted. Jessica ran around the table crying for her parents to intervene. Adults did nothing to intervene. That makes the latter guilty. It is our duty as adults to protect children.

NOT ONE OF US
As I watch some in the Anabaptist community scramble to disassociate themselves from these people, I shake my head. It is true, most would not in a million years do these things. I hope. I trust. But when you raise someone — whether in your home or in a church (such as Charity, in this case, which by all rights is Mennonite with a different name) — you cannot simply wash your hands of people when they do wicked things. Especially when those wicked things were inevitably rooted in some of the horrible beliefs taught in your home or church.

In 2018 and 2019 I publicly called out the Charity (Ephrata Center) church for their ‘spanking rooms’ in which they kept a paddle (or paddles) with holes in it to make it more aerodynamic. This was to allow for a good sting without leaving bruises or marks so they would not get caught as they did not want Child Protective Services of Pennsylvania or Pennsylvania Law Enforcement involved. Parents were encouraged to spank their children until they went limp and broke (or gave in), I was told by numerous individuals who attended there then. This violence was encouraged for babies under age one. (Read some of the conversations here, especially the comments: July 17, 2019, October 20, 2018, October 20, 2018B). It is not possible to practice this kind of perverted discipline and then stand back at Pilates washing bowl and declare yourself innocent. Those who endorse this kind of violence, and the teaching of it, have no right to gasp at what Aumen and the two Mast men did. No right at all.

While I respect what Benton County Sheriff Eric Knox stated in the article shared above, that this is not the work of a cult, I do not believe the Charity church in Ephrata as innocent. When a church system — and in this case it was Charity who raised and/or influenced at least some of these men and women — teaches the kind of violence that was taught in PA, and when someone practices it to the extreme and it goes so badly wrong, the church does not get to stand back and say, “Well they left a few months ago and started a home church. They are not one of us.”

They left a few months ago? In the grand scheme of a their lifetime, the influence in their experience did not happen in the last few months. This went badly wrong long before a few months ago. The entire mind gets twisted up when you buy into the kind of violence taught there (not by all, and not endorsed by all) and the church sets up a spanking room (which at some point was soundproofed, I am told by former attendees, they are not innocent.

To every father, mother or other person who sat in that ‘spanking room’ or outside it and heard the screams (before it was soundproofed) and did nothing, you are not innocent. What happened in Missouri, the perversion of believing you can beat the demons out of someone, a child, no less, started on a pew in church, back in PA.

At least take responsibility for that much. Let Aumen, Ethan Mast and James and Mary Mast take responsibility for their crimes. But take responsibility for that perverted teachings gone wrong, and repent before God.

And all those ‘leaders’ who demonize women (calling them Jezebels, naming them Matriarchal witches, calling them demon possessed), they are not helping. What if we stopped preaching demons and focusing on demons, and started offering the hope of Jesus instead?

Even in this horrific case, what is the benefit of declaring demons? What does it prove? That I am spiritual enough to observe the obvious? And why has the doctrines of demons taken such deep root in the body of Christ, that we associate ‘demon theology’ more powerfully with some ministries than we associate the ministry with Jesus Christ?

What if His name escaped our lips more often than the declaration that there is a demon here or there? What if His love was the power that overcame the darkness in lives rather than pointing out demons whenever a woman does not measure up to your image of who a woman should be.

Somehow, that seems more like something Jesus would do.

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2020

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