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April 19, 2000

Dearest Maria,

I'm sorry it has taken a while for me to get back to this letter. It is always very difficult for me to write to you. I suppose that difficulty has to do with a multitude of reasons. Writing to you this way reminds me yet again of how long it has been since I've really been able to communicate with you one on one; I fear writing something that will upset or distress you in some way (and that is definitely not my intention); and, I am not accustomed to writing personal letters that I know many people I do not know will have access to. I pray that you will receive this letter, read it completely and with the understanding that it is from a mother who loves you, a mother who is far from perfect, but one who...loves you more each day, loves you unconditionall; loves you more than you seem to know. I shudder literally and deep in my soul when you tell me that you fear we will try to kidnap you and that you live with that fear and that it makes you uncomfortable. I understand. Such fear would also make me uncomfortable and taint my every thought. Dearest Daughter, you spent the first 21 years of your life knowing us intimately, how can you now fear us so greatly? Did you always fear us so??? Did you never trust our love for you??? How can it be that 21 years of loving you can be washed away, and worse, turned to fear in such a very short time??? We understand your searching and longing for the Lord. St. Augustine wrote "My soul is restless, Oh, Lord, until it rests in Thee." This is not just a nice little saying is is a truism for all people. God is our source, He is our Salvation, and until we return to Him we are indeed restless, always searching and He is the only answer. We do not hate you, we hold no bitterness toward you, we do not love you any less. You are a blessing in our lives, now and always.

The things I write in this letter come from my heart and soul. I do not pretend to have a great understanding of the Bible. I can only read it and attempt to understand it to the level that the Lord allows me to do so. I want you to know that your father and I read the Bible daily. We pray for you and your brothers and sisters daily. One thing I have learned over the years is to pray in a way I hadn't prayed before. I now pray only for God's will to be done in my life and in the lives of those I pray for. I ask that He allow me to accept His will and that I may learn from Him and grow closer to Him. I pray for your soul, Maria. I pray for salvation for you, and your brothers (speaking biologically here) and for the souls of all of your brothers and sisters in Christ. I pray for salvation for your father and for myself, also. I pray I will know His will and follow it. He asks much of us..."to whom much is given, much is expected". He also gives us His guidance and strength to carry the crosses He sends our way, making them much lighter for us to carry. Jesus came to show us the way...He is THE Way, THE Truth and THE Light. He is our guide and we must strive to listen to Him and not be misled or misguided by evil. It is a difficult task He has set before us, and many things get in the way of attaining our ultimate goal.

I would like you to understand that your father and I do not question your desire to serve the Lord. We believe that serving the Lord with your entire being is an honorable and righteous calling. It is, in fact, our only calling. We would never question your desire to do the right thing in serving the Lord. We have always prayed that our children would use their many gifts and talents to serve the Lord and make a positive difference in this world. You should remember hearing me say that many times in my classroom. "Our ultimate goal in life is to attain Heaven. We do that by loving God with all our heart, all our soul and all our strength. Our job is to serve Him and His people in this world, so we can spend eternity with Him in the next. You should use your gifts and talents to make a positive difference in this world." Maybe those weren't always my exact words, but they were my sentiment, said over and over again in a number of ways over the last 30 years. Now I wonder if I did not say it often enough, or if I did not live it clearly enough. I pray God will forgive me for my many failings.

I believe you told me that you do not celebrate holidays or holy days, but we are currently in the season of Lent. I think it is a good thing to remind ourselves that we are all sinners, and are in need of repentance daily, but it is also good to be reminded of these things in a special way. It is essential to remember the Sacrifice our Savior made for us. During Lent we spend time re-reading the passion of Christ and the passages from Isaiah, Job, and the Psalms that correspond with His passion and death and Resurrection. There is much food for thought in these readings. As I was reading the account of the Last Supper in Luke 22:17-20, I was wondering why you do not interpret this literally...or do you??? And, again , in I Corinthians 11:23-26, and continuing in vs. 27-29. This message from Paul seems pretty stiff if the Eucharist doesn't exist or isn't real. Again, I am just asking for clarification of these verses in accord with your beliefs.

I was also wondering, after reading the last flyer you sent on "the Brethren", why it says you do not believe in the Trinity. Was that a mistake or is that true?? Could you also explain that to me. I don't see anything "un-Biblical" about the doctrine of the Trinity. Jesus is always referred to as "the Christ," "the Messiah," "the Son of God," etc. and the Holy Spirit is sent by "the Father and Son" numerous times throughout the Bible. They also are all present at the Transfiguration and at the Baptism of Jesus. Again, when I read John 14:11, Jesus seems to me to be saying that He and the Father are one. Could you also clarify that for me.

I may be asking you some hard questions, I know. But, I also know that you are being well educated to explain your beliefs as they are based on the Bible, so I would like you or one of your brothers or sisters to help me understand these two particular beliefs, if they are indeed what you hold, perhaps I have been mis-informed or mis-read something you sent. Or, perhaps you can send me another flyer that explains these things. Thanks.

I think that is enough for now. Again, I hope you receive these letters and are able to respond to them.

Just another paragraph or so, to keep you up on some family news. Jon and Lori are fine, still living and working in San Luis. Ben also lives in San Luis. You have a nephew. Jacob Sebastian Ofstead was born on Monday, April 10. He weighed 9 pounds 3 ounces and was 21 inches long. He is strong and healthy and doing well, Praise God. He is Ben's son. Laurie is the mother, she is not someone you ever met. Please keep them in your prayers. Joe has returned to San Francisco. He recently met one of your brothers on Market Street. The brother spoke to Joe as they were both waiting for a bus. Joe told him to tell you that he loves you and misses you. I hope you got the message. Angela and the boys are doing fine. She is still struggling emotionally. Losing Grandma and Uncle Mark in a 6 month period of time was extremely difficult for her and the boys.

I am not working, except as I told you in previous letters. My little friend, Pedro has been in the hospital for the last 3 weeks, so I have not been able to visit him. He is quite ill. Dad is fine, still missing you, of course.

As you can see, we are all in need of prayer and we keep you in prayer.

Please do not walk in fear of us, Maria. It is not healthy for your body or your soul, and there is no need. Remember John 14:2? "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." Trust Him, Daughter.

Remember the song of St. Francis and be "a channel of His Peace."

Shalom, Dearest Maria.

We love you,
Dad and Mom

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