Dear Anonymous Mennonite Friend

IMG_2128IMG_2129Dear Anonymous ,

I’m sorry for whatever happened in your life to make you this bitter and hateful. The letter speaks for itself, and for you–as all anonymous hate letters do–but I will let the readers make of it what they wish. I see no need to respond to most of it.

I will, however, address (with evidence) one item of misinformation regarding the ‘lie’ you claim I told. Evidence, for the second item I will address, would be documented at Family & Children Services (F&CS).

The minister I spoke to is from local church, along with another staff member as a witness.   (If you are involved in this case and would like to have their names/contact information, please email me using the Contact Trudy page and I will connect you with them.)I shared the details of what transpired the night your friend fled home in terror, leaving a child in the care of a man she feared, and I was encouraged to call F&CS, even months later.  (You will note in the text screen shot below that I never hinted at it being a Mennonite minister. I have the other texts as well, and there is no harassment.)
text to friends of anonymous letter

At some point, after speaking with them, I called F&CS using a hypothetical situation, to find out what my obligations are for reporting, months after the fact. They said they have to investigate and determine the danger/risk, it is not up to me. (I told them I hesitate to answer because I am concerned about backlash from the Mennonite community–see letter above for evidence/reason for such concern) They questioned me until they got enough information to make a house call, but even looked up the address themselves and guessed at the child’s age, because I did not know. (This, I presume, would all be documented at F&CS and is the extent of my ‘harassment’, as you and your police officer friend call it.)

I’m sorry that your friend cannot face the truth of what happened that night. Abuse only ends when confronted, regardless of what tragic past experiences trigger the abuse. And I hope she and her husband go for counselling and get the support and healing they both need.

Having said all that, your letter begs one question–what truth are you afraid of having exposed, to react this strongly to something that has nothing to do with you?  (And to which you clearly do not have facts. Harassment charges never come from a citizen doing their duty and calling F&CS, especially when advised by a church leader to do so. )

I offer my forgiveness for calling me a ‘BEAST’ and a ‘loser’. And, again, I am truly sorry for whatever it is that causes such darkness to spill from your soul onto paper.  I pray you will discover just how incredibly much Jesus loves you, and find peace.  I have nothing but love and compassion in my heart for you, and for your friend.

Sincerely,

Trudy

Ps. Mark, Stuart, Glen, Kenny and other pastor/minister in your church(es) are welcome to contact me about this or any other Mennonite abuse cases. I respect the three that I know and have heard many good things about Glen.  I’ve already met with other Midwest leaders and, in all but one situation, everything has been handled with grace and integrity. When one leader got angry, he later apologized, in front of two fellow ministers, his wife (I believe was there) and one other individual, and then thanked me. That takes humility.

© Trudy Metzger

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Musings of a Weary Warrior

In a recent post, wherein I revealed what dreadful secrets lie buried in my cultural background, I made the comment that sometime soon I would need to think about posting a blog about all the things I love about my Mennonite heritage. And a host of things floated through my mind, of what I might, and ought to share.

Since then I have heard quiet murmurings, here and there, some spoken, some written, that my blog seems to exist mostly to express my hate for my cultural heritage. (Thank God I prayed for a thick skin and a tender heart, else I might well be standing beside Pontius Pilate washing my hands of the truth I know, hoping that some other fair judge will fight for it.)

So the sweetness of that intended blog, and the romantic musings of one enthralled by an idyllic setting, known to the more fortunate in that culture, and shared with me through stories and observation, will be less so than originally intended.

Not because I don’t believe it exists. I do. And I have been so fortunate as to have experienced it, and known it through visiting some of my dear friends, like the Weavers, whom I have written about in the past. And others.

But, unfortunately the romance is tainted by fatigue, and simply not having any desire to convince anyone of anything right now. Not the beauty and serenity that I saw in a few homes–including my time with Peter and Rita Steckle, at Lakeview–nor the evil that lurks in many other homes, hidden behind the pretences of ‘all is well’.

No. I don’t wish to defend either truth in my writing. Because it occurred to me, as I contemplated the accusations against me–of being hateful towards Mennonites–that neither truth needs a defense. Each truth stands unwavering, with or without my support, my applause, or my proclamation. And each truth is very well known by those who live in it. And those who most furiously rise to defend the ‘good’, and declare me the enemy, are most likely to know better of the hidden things than any one else. Because if there is one thing I cannot be fairly accused of, it is hate.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am not upset by it. Discouraged? Barely. Exhausted? For a time, yes. Because I feel as though I shovel constantly, and still the heap never grows smaller. I recall, as a young girl, who was more a tomboy than a lady, how I loved to spend time in the barn with the animals. Their warmth in the winter was kinder than the smells they produced, and I endured one, for the other. I loved the animals. But the manure pile seemed never to shrink, no matter how much we shovelled.

That, quite frankly, is how I feel in all of this. I love my cultural background. I love the people there. And I love how some are sold out for Jesus. But, more and more, I feel as though the manure pile grows faster than I can shovel it. And it’s not the abuse I’m speaking of. I have yet to find one victim, who is in the Mennonite culture and interacting with me, who does not serve as my cheerleader. I get many messages from those dear, wounded souls, who have not been heard. Those who have been silenced by leaders for wanting to be free. Those who have tried to establish some help for their own, only to discover they will be shut down by those same leaders. Those who have been told, “We don’t want them (the abuse victims) here’, and ‘it’s not our problem. Those who have been told not to speak of it outside of their families. And those who have cried out and been told, “you don’t need help”, and then are counselled to read their Bibles and pray more.

It has never been my wish or desire to fight against a culture. My heart, my goal, my passion and my desire have been to help people within their culture. Not to remove them and ‘fix them’, but to walk them through to healing within that culture. But the resistance is strong from some. And when all else fails, and the truth gets too dangerously close, we human beings have a habit of resorting to judging motive, regardless what lies we must conjure up to do so.

So my words are less sweet than intended, because I am not one to slather on pretences or niceties to tickle the ears and polish image–neither mine nor yours. I am forthright, yet try always to be gentle. I love deeply and compassionately. But flattery I try to avoid.

But I will say this. There are some, even in leadership, who represent God well, and reflect Him well, with a heart that is true. My prayer is that they will see…. truly see… the plight of the countless victims. My prayer is that they will open doors for true healing, without judgement and the hypocrisy of ‘secrets’ that force the victims of abuse to carry shame.

Other leaders have buried themselves in their own sin and shame so long, that their only agenda is to keep the hidden thing down, at any cost, and always with a religious guise. To you I say, May God have mercy on your souls and devilish conniving.

And to every victim of abuse, who has never had a safe place to go, I simply say, I’m sorry. I’m sorry you have suffered. I’m sorry you have not been heard. I’m sorry you are forced to carry in secret, your burden of pain and shame. I’m sorry that you have been made to feel guilty for disclosing what your fathers, brothers, uncles, friends and even leaders have done. I’m sorry that you have not been believed. And I pray that someone, somewhere will offer you a heart that is true. A heart that will listen, acknowledge your grief, and not judge you for the crimes committed against you. I pray that someone will exemplify Jesus in your life, and thereby lead you to Him for that ultimate healing.

One day, maybe soon, I intend to write that post that tells of all the wonderful things I know and love about my Mennonite heritage…. but for today, suffice it to say that I wouldn’t get my hands this ‘bloody’ for anything but love. If I wanted revenge, there are countless damaging ways to get it, and they would include  court cases, lawsuits and vile public exposure, not ministry, and certainly not the painful truth intertwined with forgiveness, whether publicly or privately.

The Apostle Paul exposed sexual immorality–incest being one of them–in the Corinthian church. He did so publicly, having published the letter in a book more read than any other. He was forthright. I presume he, too, was accused of many things. And a few nights ago I spent some time reading the writings of Menno Simons. It stood out to me how much of his writing was responses to attacks. One might expect these things, I suppose, and if they can publicly respond to those accusations, I will do likewise.

…these are the musings of a weary warrior. But to my adversaries, don’t get your hopes up… I’m not going to lay down and die, or abandon my passion.

© Trudy Metzger

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A Haunting Dream (Warning: May Be Disturbing for Some)

Tim stepped in the house, looking quite shaken. I had watched from a window, as a strange man, apparently a neighbour we didn’t know personally, had paid him a visit. Tim told me the man had come with a warning that they were watching us.

The man, slightly built, yet muscular, and scruffy–as though not having shaved for some time–had that ‘worn’ look that comes from smoking, drugs, alcohol and hard living. He looked physically strong, in spite of his size, and tattoos decorated his arms and neck. His eyes. Evil. Daunting.

We were packing both of our vehicles, as we always do, to go on family vacation. A much-needed, rare treat, escaping from the busyness of life and the demands of work and ministry. We had looked forward to this, but now a dark cloud loomed. I could feel it.

Tim looked pale as he spoke. “He said they are going have a cabin near us. They’re going to be there all week, keeping an eye on us.”

We didn’t know what it meant, but the heaviness left me with a sense of dread. Our time of rest, now becoming a time of survival.

We arrived at the cottage and settled in. It was simple, but nice. Tim and I chose an upstairs bedroom, where the morning light greeted us, with its warmth each morning. How I have always loved to lie in the sun and feel those rays, since early childhood.

True to his word, the neighbour who had confronted Tim–and it really had felt like a confrontation, though we had no idea why–showed up directly across from us.

There were only two cottages in this lovely wooded parcel of land, and somehow they had known we would be here. The thought was not a comfortable one.

On about the second day, we took our family to McDonald’s in the evening, and were about to leave, and return to the cottage, when the neighbour–who obviously had followed us there–walked over. He pulled out what looked like an over-sized razor blade, but with only one sharp edge, and one heavier side, for better grip. I saw it, but had no time to react.

With the same threatening intimidation I had observed through the wind in that initial encounter, he swung the blade, cutting Tim. I wanted to scream, to fight back, to stop him. But I could do nothing. I stood, frozen in place.

I couldn’t make out the words he said, still clearly intimidating, before he walked away. Tim remained calm. But whether it was shock or resilience, I couldn’t tell.

The next few days passed, without incident. It was as if the intruders were not there.

That last morning at the cottage, I awakened to the sun spilling her light through the window, onto our bed. Tim was awake, sitting up and leaning over me. He kissed me. I closed my eyes and smiled. Stretched. And opened my eyes again. A perfect morning.

My eyes fell on the neighbour’s cottage. And that’s when I saw her, at the window, watching us. Her face, though emotionless, communicated so much. She was a beautiful young woman, with long auburn hair falling around her face and shoulders. The expression was a blend of jealousy, hate, longing, grief, and rage.

Was she the neighbour’s wife? His hostage? A girlfriend? What did it all mean? Her expression confused me.

Our eyes met in that split second.

She turned, a look of resolve overtaking all other emotion. Instinct warned me. I said something to Tim. Told him that she had been watching us, that something wasn’t right. I feared she had watched us all week, and we didn’t even know she was there.

And then we waited. My heart was sick with dread. The sun had promised a lovely day, but the heaviness warned me that it was a day of survival.

I heard the footsteps, moving up the stairs, followed by a knock. Tim immediately opened the door. I crawled out of bed and moved toward the door. Something wasn’t right.

And then, as a glint of light caught it, I saw that sharp blade, just like the one the neighbour had used to cut Tim. She said something, but I couldn’t make out the words. I wasn’t listening. I saw what Tim couldn’t see.

I dove forward, took her off guard as I grabbed her arm, and snatched the blade from her. I gave it to Tim, then wrestled her onto the bed. Then I calmly I broke her arms. This was survival. I had no choice. Everything in me resisted harming her, but I feared if I did not, she would stand up and fight. I used the blade. Not to inflict extreme damage, just enough to ensure our safety.

And then I left here there, on the bed, in agony, and walked out the door, and Tim with me. She didn’t move. Didn’t attempt anything at all. She simply lay there, defeated.

Downstairs the neighbour greeted us. Asked if we had seen his wife. I said we had not. Tim didn’t say anything. The man walked past us, upstairs to our room, where she lay. Tim followed him.

I looked for our children. I had to take one of our vehicles and get the children to safety. How I wished Tim had not followed the man. I was no match for his strength, and to pursue them would only increase the risk. I was the one who had harmed her. I had no choice but to leave.

I found three of our children and rushed them out to my car. It was already partially packed with items to take home again and left only enough room for the three. The other two would have to stay and come with their daddy. I could only pray for safety.

I sped down the road, watching in my rear-view mirror, to make sure no one followed, yet praying that Tim would follow. I didn’t see him.

Afraid of returning home, I stopped at a friend’s house, where family and acquaintances had gathered for an event. Maybe Tim would escape and remember the gathering, and find me. I prayed he would. My heart felt sick at the possibilities.  And the guilt. How I hated the guilt that consumed me for having left two children and Tim.

What if…

I pushed the dark thoughts and images from my mind. Willed myself to reach for hope. This was no time to give up.

I waited for hours, pacing. Everything was so very wrong. This kind of thing wasn’t supposed to happen to us. We’re a peaceful family. I tried to engage in conversation, but the thoughts distracted me.

My brother came over to me, then, and started to talk. I told him everything. I tried to be positive, but the dark possibilities spilled out. My deepest fears–that Tim, and our two children with him, were murdered. I shifted to survival. How would I get on with life, if I never saw them alive again?

My brother tried to be positive, to not think the worst. Well, I had tried all day, but now, as evening approached, hope faded fast. It had been too long. If he was alive, he should have been here by now, or contacted me in some way.

The sky grew darker. The day was coming to a close. What started off so filled with hope, love and life, grew increasingly ominous with every passing second.

There was a knock on the door. I ran, opened it.

Tim stood there, pale, worn and exhausted. He had talked the neighbour down. It had taken time and patience.

I looked around. The children. Where were they?

Tim looked the more exhausted.

Had he found them? Or had the neighbour gotten to them first. The pain in Tim’s eyes stopped my heart. Fear.

Images and scenes, unpleasant, unbidden, flashed through my mind. Not my children! I would have sacrificed my life for them….

Tim shook his head. Whatever had happened, he could hardly speak. “They’re tired. They didn’t want to come in.”

They were alive! Relief. Pure, sweet, welcome relief. Whatever had happened, they had survived. I could see in Tim’s eyes that it had not been good, but he offered no explanation. He didn’t have it in him to relive it verbally. What mattered, for the time being, was that we had all survived. No one had lost a life, but all of us had been touched by trauma and evil.

It would take time to recover.

For just a moment I felt as if it was all a dream. That maybe Tim wasn’t really back and I was hallucinating.

I looked at him, reached out to touch him…..

And then I woke up.

It was 6:50am, Tuesday, October 24, 2012. My heart raced. My body trembled. It all felt so real. Too vivid. Too orderly. Too possible, and yet not possible at all. What did it all mean?

As the fog lifted from my mind, I prayed. Whatever had triggered the nightmare, I wasn’t about to dwell on it, or let fear move in.

****

And that is the graphic ‘survival’ dreams/nightmares I encounter, from time to time, when ministry is at its busiest. Yesterday many people wrote, offering prayer and support. One woman even committed herself to fasting, as Esther requested of the Jews, and praying safety for our family.

I recognize that this is war. And if that dream told me anything at all, it is that we are in a battle against evil. It is not a battle I fight. It is a battle we fight, as a family, even extended family and friends.

Thank you to all who pray for us. It means more than we can express.

© Trudy Metzger

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