2014: Embracing A Year of Adventure & Change

Each year New Year’s Eve rolls around, and we gather with family or friends, or both, and celebrate all that has been in the 12 preceding months. The good. The painful. The devastating. The incredible.

Through laughter and tears, we thank God for it all; it blends together to shape our lives, to make us who God wants us to be, if we give it all back to Him.

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Looking back over 2013, it is with mixed emotions, particularly from a ministry perspective. We did more retreats and conferences than any other year to date, and that growth seems to be continuing in 2014. But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, a few more thoughts about 2013…

There was a time I said I would never do ministry among ‘my people’–the Mennonite culture–because I feared rejection. Still, when God laid it on my heart in late 2012, I found myself, almost instinctively, planning a conference for this spring as though it was everything my heart had ever dreamed of. When fears surfaced, I pushed them down, reminding myself that the thing God calls us to, He also gives us the strength for.

The conference took place in April, and went off pretty much without a hitch. Worshiping God with so many believers from my background is one of the most wonderful things I’ve experienced in my life. There was life. The Holy Spirit was present, without question, healing hearts, stirring souls, and denominational barriers were broken. At least for some of us, and for a time.

That weekend opened a floodgate, and many new doors to ministry. I was busier with one-on-one sessions in the months that followed, than I had ever been, and that continues to this day. With those open doors, and those sessions, came more stories of abuse, violation, and violence against children. And as we worked through those stories, and mediated between victims and perpetrators, resistance grew.

Since April 2013, we have experienced more attack, more resistance, more lies circulating than we have in three years ministry. That tells me something. We’re getting dangerously close to exposing something the devil has a vested interest in hiding. It has nothing to do with Mr. & Mrs. Martin, or Mr. & Mrs. Weber, or Mr. & Mrs. Bauman or Mr. & Mrs. Wagler or some Ms. Anybody, or Mr. Anybody Else. Sure, they and their families might slip into a rage over the exposure of hidden sin, or they might retreat in shame and silence, and some will hate on me and spread lies,  but it’s not about that.

It’s about God and the Devil. Ultimately God loves truth and justice, and the devil hates it. When lies come against truth, those walking in the truth continue to walk in the love of God and the truth of Christ. But when truth comes against lies and the devil, those walking in lies get all riled up and begin letting the enemy use them as tools to spread darkness and hate. And they suddenly busy themselves trying to cover their evil at any cost. And that brings backlash to anyone involved in bringing that darkness to light.

I said I expected it, when I went into ministry in the area of sexual abuse in the church. And I thought I did. I thought I was prepared. But when it came, it still blind-sided me. I wasn’t as noble as I desire to become, in how I responded or reacted. From time to time, when I met the people who were responsible for spreading hate against me, in stores or churches, and they glared or turned and walked away, I struggled. It took the grace of God to be kind, to wish them well, when, at times, I would have rather ‘said my piece’.

And that struggle is okay. God never asked us to not feel the anger, hurt or pain. He asked us to walk in the Spirit in spite of those feelings. I failed at moments, but constantly my heart cries out to be more filled with the Holy Spirit, and become more like Jesus.

It has taken a lot out of me, the battle in the mind. Hearing absurd lies about oneself, and having friends turn their backs, gets a bit wearing. But it has not changed anything as far as vision is concerned. Whatever God leads me into, even if it ends in twice the ‘hell’ I’ve fought this year, I embrace it.

Having said that, it appears as if 2014 may be a different flavour, and He may not be asking me to do any conferences here, with the local hostility. I’ve felt no ‘pull’ to find a host church for a similar conference, and don’t feel the slightest bit compelled to plan anything of that nature. (That will change in an instant, however, if God speaks the word.)

The only exception is a women’s conference, if it works out. We have a dynamic Old Order Mennonite woman from USA, who I hope will speak at a conference for women. She has a powerful testimony and is an anointed, Spirit-filled believer with a gift for speaking. If that works out, we will have her come join us for a local conference in late 2014.

All other conferences, so far, are scheduled out of the country, beginning with a mixed audience, Shatter the Silence Conference in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. We will work in partnership with Pastor Dale & Faith Ingraham, of New York, whom we had at our conference in April 2013. With true ‘servant hearts’, they will join us in sharing through testimony, and teaching.

Chambersburg conference posterChambersburg conference brochure outside

brochure insideAfter the conference,on Saturday evening, we will also do our first ever sessions–like a mini-seminar–for married and engaged couples. We will teach God’s design for marriage, and share vulnerably about the impact sexual abuse has on marriage.

It is exciting (if not a bit scary) to think about opening that part of our story to the public. Exciting in that I know it will help other couples, and scary because we’ve never shared that part of our story. Even my closest friends know only little snippets of our journey, and the hell we went through. I’ve never even written much about it. There was so much trauma, at times, and it was where the ‘hell of childhood’ came out in night terrors, flashbacks and angst like I had never known or acknowledged in my life. I think of those early years with Tim as my safe place to ‘feel the past’, really, for the first time.

Even now, as write, I’m back in that era… I even went back in time and purchased Silverwind music on iTunes, and am listening to ‘Only Jesus’. How I remember listening to that song, over and over again, knowing there was truth in the words. “Like a bird, whose wings are broken, wishing I could reach and touch the sky, Then the word of God was gently spoken, Suddenly my heart was free to fly… Only Jesus…. Jesus… makes my heart soar like a bird… Only Jesus… Jesus…  can free my soul with His word…”

Tears pour unashamedly as I listen to the words, the music, and remember what once was, and the healing God has brought into my life. And the sweet truth that, when His word was spoken, my heart was healed, set free.

And that is the message we will share with couples in Chambersburg Pennsylvania, who are fighting the demons of past abuse, and hiding the shame of that struggle. That part thrills me.

There are several other ‘out of country’ events in the works as well, including a 4-week conference/speaking tour in New Zealand and Australia this fall, God willing.

Writing will continue to be a big part of my life. Possibly even more than in the past. A friend awakened an old dream to write fiction–something I tried years ago and did not enjoy then, and didn’t feel was my niche. But I may just give that a ‘go’ again, when I finish my current projects.

There is also ‘rumblings’ of a bill being passed that will prevent me from continuing with one-on-one sessions, as I do them now. While I have never called myself a counselor or psychotherapist, the reality is I work with trauma and using a Christ-centered approach to working through that trauma with people. It’s effective. It produces results. It’s life changing for my clients. But soon–I’m not sure when, exactly–it will be against the law for me to do what I do, as I do it now, I am told.

This will change my life dramatically, unless we work around it. Instead of sitting with clients 3 to 5 days a week, I will look at moving into doing more conferences and speaking. It’s a tragedy, in my opinion, though I’m sure the motivation is to protect the public. Or at least so they say.

Makes me wonder what the world was like before the government controlled everything. Probably some negatives, but maybe some positive things too?

The only way around it will be to do fundraising, and offer a free service to people in need of a listening ear. And, as donors get on board with Generations Unleashed to make that possible, we may just end up being busier than ever. What I know for sure is that God has redeemed every potential negative in my life and in ministry. No doubt this is a set-up for something very different than it appears to be.

As this change and the unknown lie before me, and our ministry, all I can say is, I can’t wait to see what God has in store. Each year brings with it pain and tears, intermingled with great joy and celebration. Looking back there isn’t a year in my life that I would erase if I could. Some are hard to remember. Very hard. Particularly those early years of marriage and parenting when the hell of the past revisited me mentally…. If it were not for the husband God gave me, with a patient and godly heart, I don’t know what might have happened to me.

But even those years God is redeeming and using for His purposes and His glory. Knowing this about Him gives me confidence that 2014 will be a Kingdom building year. A year of relationships. A year of Redemption. A year of Change. A year filled with God’s blessing in every trial and every success.

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2014, I welcome you, with all you offer. My God has given you to me, and I am jumping in with passion, purpose and commitment!

© Trudy Metzger

Return to First Blog: September 2010, “Running on Empty”

Return to first post in Sexual Abuse Series

Return to First Post in Spiritual Abuse Series

Return to the First Post in ‘Abigail’s Story’ Series

Adventures in Amish Country

Yesterday was a day unlike any I’ve had before. My friend Juanita and I visited Aylmer Amish country to meet her boyfriend’s family, the Waglers. When Juanita asked me, a few weeks ago, if I would like to accompany her, it took me all of one second to decide if I would like to go.

Not only did I grow up only minutes from the Wagler home, but her boyfriend, Nate, is a very good brother-kind-of-friend to me, with whom my husband and I have spent hours talking, laughing and playing games. Since moving to the states several years ago, we’ve not seen Nate and have only interacted through social media, but he’s the kind of friend that you pick up where you left off, no matter the time that has passed.

Through Nate I also met Ira Wagler, his brother. Ira is has a blog that I follow, and is the author of ‘Growing Up Amish’ a memoir that made it to the New York Times Best Seller list. It gives readers a glimpse into the Amish culture, through the eyes of someone who was born and raised in it. Ira takes us on a journey through his life, and the struggle to leave the only culture he had really known as a child. I found it to be an emotional read, more so than most books, because of my own ties to the Mennonite culture, which is not unlike some of what he shares. By the end of the book I felt as though I knew the Wagler family, as though I had made friends with Nate and Ira’s siblings, and was sad to have them step out of my life so abruptly.

I was thrilled when Juanita asked if I would go with her to meet Magdalena, the second oldest sister, who was visiting from South Carolina, and the Wagler family who lived in the Aylmer area. The opportunity to meet in real life some of the characters in a book, was something I would not pass up!

Yesterday we made that trip to Amish country. When Juanita and I get together two things are a given: laughter, and tears. We have known each other since our preteens, but it was in our early twenties when we became close friends.

We spent some time in the wooded area at Pinecroft Tea Room, where we had hoped to grab a bite to eat, but the Tea Room was closed. Instead, we looked through the gift shop and took photos. (I got a bit camera happy and now have pictures of Juanita with almost every possible expression on her face. I will not post them here, for fear she would get even.)

Following this little escapade, we went to Ruby’s Cookhouse, in Aylmer, and enjoyed a lovely meal. I’m not a fan of burgers, really, but they serve an amazing burger! We talked heart to heart, sharing ministry dreams and hopes for the future and thanking God for what He has done in our past.

Finally the time came…

We were invited for 6:30pm to the Wagler home and arrived pretty much on time. Magdalena  and Ray Marner greeted us warmly and invited us into their little ‘home’ in the basement of Rosemary’s house. It was refreshingly cool, given the heat outdoors, and the lack of electricity made lighting dim, but pleasant.

We all connected immediately. Magdalena  with a heart of gold, an easy communicator, and Ray, with his gentle eyes, is soft-spoken but deep. Both made us feel welcome and took us to meet everyone.

Juanita was the main attraction, as she should be, being Nate’s girlfriend and all. She was delightfully ‘Juanita’ and everyone seemed intrigued with her bubbly responses in conversation. Juanita is animated, expressive and engaging—even a bit more so when a touch nervous—and this seemed to draw in the Wagler family, whose culture is much more reserved than she…. let alone the two of us together. (I have no doubt they are still recovering from the shock of these to ‘English Women’, who most likely behaved much to youthful for our age. Still, they were obviously delighted with our visits. That, or they were very good at acting.)

Mr. Wagler—or ‘Pappie’, as he is called by family—intrigued me. A highly intelligent man, with a wealth of knowledge in writing and history, among other things, he was an engaging conversationalist. The kind of man I could spend hours listening to, asking questions, and ‘reading’ him, to figure out how he thinks, what lies hidden below the surface.

Mrs. Wagler, or ‘Mammie’, suffers from Alzheimer’s and is bedridden, relying on help to sit up. I wished I had known her, in the days when she could speak and communicate clearly. She had the most beautiful smile—one inherited by her daughters and granddaughters—and her eyes carried depth. Depth of pride and joy was evident in the way she responded to her family—though it would not be expressed as pride in the culture—and depth of sorrow. Hidden behind that beautiful smile, and those tender eyes, was a story and a heart I would have liked to know.

Rosemary, the oldest daughter and in whose home we visited, had eyes that sparkled as she engaged in conversation with Juanita and me. Her daughter told her I had worked with the elderly, with Alzheimer’s patients, and that I had loved it. This led to questions and an engaging conversation about caring for elderly and various aspects of health challenges and caring for the different stages of the disease. I don’t recall how it came about, when ‘Pappie’ talked of writing, but someone asked if I enjoy writing too, and when I said ‘yes’, Rosemary asked what I’m writing. I mentioned my blog, and that I’m working on a book, and she said she would like a copy when I finish it. I promised that I would drive out to her home and hand-deliver a signed copy to her when it is complete. I will keep that promise.

Rosemary’s daughter and son-in-law, Naomi and Peter, obliged us in a horse and buggy ride. It all started when I told Magdalena  that I had asked Ira if he would give me a buggy ride later in the summer when he comes, and that Ira had playfully said buggies are not safe. At this Magdalena lit up, “Oh, would you like a ride? I’m sure you could take the horse and buggy.”

Immediately I lit up, eager to try it, but then thought about holding those reins and trying to control horses, and cringed. In the end Peter and Naomi seemed pleased—grinning from ear to ear—at taking these two ‘English ladies’ out for a short ride.

“Would you like to go slow or fast?” Peter asked.

Simultaneously we responded, “Fast!” and then I added, “As fast as we can go!”

We travelled down the road and back, pleasantly surprised at the comfort of the buggy and how safe and sturdy it felt. I could have spent hours with the breeze blowing over me, chatting and enjoying the scenery.

After the buggy ride, Magdalena took us around the countryside, showing us the childhood home that Ira wrote about in his book. The school they attended. The exact places where certain events took place. The emotions rose and fell, happy to sad, as she relived some of her own childhood as she shared.

Inside the school building I crawled around in the dark, with nothing more than a key-chain LED flashlight, climbing over desks and through spiders webs in search of names and initials scratched or written in pen under the stairs.

The experience brought “Growing Up Amish” to life in a whole new way, as I read the names of students, not the least of which was “Ira Wagler” accompanied by his  age and the date. I’ve decided to read the book again, something I don’t do.

After a chat with Magdalene by the fire pit—that ended abruptly when a bat swooped at Juanita’s face and she let out a scream—we went back into the basement.  The remainder of the evening was spent with Ray and Magdalena, with an oil lamp as our light, connecting on a deep level about God, life, faith, religion and much more.

It was a full day that left my heart just as full. To be welcomed so warmly, and have the opportunity to experience a small taste Amish culture, was a delight. The memory will go with me for a long time. And one day, hopefully sooner than later, I will return, my own book in hand, to deliver a signed copy to Rosemary.

© Trudy Metzger 2012

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