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March 22, 2000

Dearest Maria,

We received your letter on March 14. We were, as always, very pleased to hear from you. We are glad to know that you are well and growing in the knowledge of the Lord. We are thankful that He continues to speak to your heart and that you still have a place for us in your heart.

I must try to explain to you, and your brothers and sisters, again ... our greatest sadness is not with your choice of religious beliefs (although we do not understand all of them, I'll get to that later in this letter), but with your abandonment of family and friends in the name of the Lord. If you had chosen to join Mother Theresa and her Sisters of Charity or some other religious missionaries, we would not see you very often, perhaps not for years, but we would still be connected to you through letters that went in both directions. As it is now, it is very difficult to communicate with you and it doesn't need to be that way. The brothers and sisters could easily have a single P.O. Box where letters from parents and family could be sent. Jonathan or one of the other elders could distribute them as they came in. It seems a simple concept and you could all stay "hidden" from your families if that is truly what you need to do.

This is not one of my better letters because I am speaking to you out of pain and frustration. I miss you so very much. I miss you for the everyday things. I miss your voice and your smile. I miss your sense of humor and your teasing, I miss your support when I need a female point of view. I miss hugging you. I miss the special smile on your father's face that he saved just for you. I miss the joy your father has lost because he no longer has the daughter he loves so deeply in his life. I just miss you. You must try to understand that I know every minute of every day, Dearest Daughter, exactly how old you are and exactly how many years months and days of your adulthood I have missed. I am not unaware that you are an adult. That is why I have tried so hard to see things from your perspective and to understand what you are about. Perhaps, like Jesus, you are "about your Father's business".

I do not question your devotion to God, nor your desire to serve Him. You wish to save your soul from eternal damnation. Hopefully, we all have that goal. This life is simply a blink of an eye, the next is forever. I share your goal. Perhaps the 21 years your father and I had the privilege of having you in our lives partially contributed to the fact that you have that goal, perhaps not, but I would like to think it did. I have not spent my life working with young people, trying to reach them through the teachings of Christ and in an attempt to imitate His unconditional love for them, in order to attain great wealth in this world. If I had had that as a goal I certainly would not have worked for free for so many years, and then later for only a small portion of what I would have received in a public school.

I have been much blessed in my life in a multitude of ways and I continue to be blessed. God has gifted me with a husband and children who are all blessings. I know you don't seem to see us as blessings anymore and that is a great sadness to me. I wonder if it also saddens the Lord. I read all the information that you send us on your beliefs, but I remain confused. You know me well, and you know that family has always been of great importance to me. We go out of our way to keep the family together. We go out of our way to help family members and others who are in need of our time, our money or simply our presence. We try to live St. Paul's message that if we claim to be Christian others must see the love that we have and give the glory to God. It is not easy to do and I know we have failed many times, but we continue to strive for the goals He has set for us.

I am going to read your last two letters as I continue to write this letter, so I can respond to the things you ask. Your last letter seemed to request a response, but I'm not quite sure where you expected me to send it ... so I will put this up on the web site and try to mail it to some of the addresses other parents have told me about. By the way, I must tell you, besides reading the Bible more and praying more, for us one of the greatest blessings of your joining your brothers and sisters in Christ has been meeting some of their parents. I know you probably won't agree, but many of the parents are loving, God fearing people. I wonder sometimes if it is difficult for all of you to understand all of us and our need to remain in contact with you, because none of you have ever been parents and the bond between parent and child is not an easy concept for those without children of their own to understand. I think it is the strongest bond there is. Perhaps that is why Jesus taught us to pray "Our Father", because no stronger bond exists. It's just a thought. But, I think it's true.

In your January letter you say that you received the letter (actually there were 5 of them from the last 2 years, I hope you got them all) that I typed and all the other things we sent. We are most grateful to the brothers and, or, sisters who passed these things along to you. It was most refreshing, although somewhat stressful, to meet two of your sisters in Seattle. They were most kind and understanding. I hope our time with them encouraged them to also write to their own parents. I do not think letters are too much to ask of ones children (Yes, I know you are adults ... but, remember Grandma referred to us as "the kids" until her dying day and we're in our 50's!!!'s just something parents do ... it doesn't mean we are unaware of your age or your emergence into adulthood). It was truly a blessing to speak with them and to be told that you were well.

It comforts us greatly to know that you received the letters. We are thankful that you continue to pray for us. We know the power of prayer. The gift of you was the result of many years of prayer, after 5 sons and the information that I would never be able to have another child, God blessed our lives with you. You remain our miracle baby and an answer to prayer. We praise God for you and pray for you and all your brothers and sisters daily. We will continue to pray, as you requested, that you remain faithful and steadfast in your prayer life.

God does continue to help us grow each day. In His infinite Mercy His words help to keep our hearts from anger and bitterness ... All things work to good in His time. He makes our burdens light and helps us carry our crosses. I very much enjoy and appreciate your analogy of the meat and the milk of the Word of the Lord. Someone is teaching you well. Faith means to continue to believe and seek even when you do not understand. It seems to me that we are not all meant to understand all of the Word on our own, why would He send the Prophets and teachers if this were the case. He seems to give us just what we need, when we need it, if we stay the course. Which, as you said, is not easy.

We, too, are thankful that the Lord has seen fit to save you from drugs, alcohol, fornication and the many other evils that prey upon people. We have shared your letters with your brothers as you requested.

I thank you for sharing Isaiah 65:17-19 with us. I do not understand your term "I don't want to seem contradictory in writing this verse". I'm confused as to how sharing a verse meant to bring comfort could be "contradictory", perhaps you could explain to me what you meant in your next letter.

Regarding your February letter: We thank you for sending us a copy of "the Brethren". It was kind of your brother to think to send it to us.

You are correct, it is easy to get distracted from the Word, even when we take ourselves out of the world. You referred to the "Bereaians" and their study of the Word, I don't know who they are, could you please explain in your next letter.

Yes, I heard that same report about the priests. It is very sad. Perhaps it is a lesson to all of us not to get "puffed up" in our positions in this world. And, a lesson not to put mere mortals in a position of honor that belongs only to God. We are all sinners and sin has been with us since the beginning of time. We must strive to control our own appetites which is often very difficult. We must also remember that we are all frail and we must be forgiving and merciful ... "forgive our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." Harden not your hearts.

We continue to seek God's guidance in how He wishes us to serve Him. No one religion has all the right answers, at least not that we have been able to discern at this point in our lives. All religious practices created by man have allowed some sort of hypocrisy, demagoguery or other non Biblical things to creep in. Even the apostles had problems with such things from the very beginnings of the Church. It is difficult to know what is right because all our beliefs are based on preconceived notions that we have been raised to believe as true and right. It is difficult to discern truth from fiction. It causes great spiritual confusion. Prayer, reading the Word and seeking guidance is always necessary. On that we totally agree.

I very much appreciate what you wrote about the life you have found with the brothers and sisters. I know you are all striving to do the will of God. I am thankful that you have found peace and fellowship. Your brothers and Lori do not doubt the sincerity of your choice to follow the Lord. They also simply miss your presence in their lives. Your continued prayer and sacrifice for us and them are most appreciated, and we too pray that they will bear fruit soon.

Dear Sweet Child, we are not looking for you, we have no one "hunting you down". We wish we could put your mind at rest about this. It saddens us that you are hiding and uncomfortable, believing that someone is after you. We have no intention of attempting to kidnap you, nor do we intend for anyone else to kidnap you. You are, as you said, an adult. You have made life choices that have had a profound affect on all of us, but we cannot force you to do something you do not want to do, nor would we try to. We do not question or fault your discipleship, we only miss having you in our lives. Yes, we would love to see you. Yes, if we knew you were close by we would attempt to visit with you, if you wished to see us. We would not force our way into your home. We have never done that. We went to St. Louis when we knew you were there because Grandma was dying and it was her wish to see you once again. We did not force our way into that home, nor did we lie about our reasons for being there. We would have flown you home to see Grandma one last time and flown you back to St. Louis, or wherever else you wanted to go. We did not invade the house in Richmond, nor did we intend to, we simply dropped off letters, paper, stamps and other things we thought the brothers and sisters might be able to use. We did not storm the house in Seattle, nor did we intend to. We were invited in and had a most enjoyable, though also sad, conversation with your sisters and left the things we brought for all of you with them. Again, we are most grateful that some of what we left managed to reach you. We are most grateful for their kindness and understanding hearts. We will continue to pray that we will see you again soon. In His time and in His way.

You asked that I let you know what papers you have sent us. Here is a list of what we have received: "The Brethren, In the beginning was the Word, Working?, Dearest Mark (a testimonial), A Chronicle of Religious Persecution in America, What do Roman Catholics believe, Let the Bible Decide,There is only one Body, The Light of the Glorious Gospel of Mashiyach, I must tell you this, The difficulty of humility, and O America thou has destroyed thyself, Eternal Life." That's all I have in your file ... I know you probably hate that it's in a file, but it's easier for me to find and reference that way ... And I have needed it more than once :-).

I know this letter is very long, I pray you receive it and read it through. I have not even gotten to the questions that I wish to ask regarding the information you sent, but I will do that soon in another letter. As you know I am a terrible typist, it takes me forever, so this letter and all the rest are truly labors of love. I wish I could just hand write a letter ... which I would do if I had a way to write you directly. :-)

I must go tutor my little friend Pedro. I am no longer teaching full-time, but I do tutor Pedro who has leukemia. He's only 9. What a blessing he has been in my life. The faith of little children is always a great lesson for the adults in their lives. You might remember him and his family in your prayers.

God Bless you, Dearest Daughter. May He continue to hold you close to His Heart. May He guide your steps ever closer to His way. We love you Maria Teresa, we want what is best for you and we want you to attain eternal happiness. That will never change.

I have many questions for you and your brothers and sisters, so I will try to write again soon. You might also pray for your nephew, Jacob Sebastian, who should be born any day now.

Dad, Mom, Jon & Lori, Joe and Ben


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