Amish from communities as far away as Minnesota, Indiana and Ohio are paying close attention to the case of missing Lancaster County teen Linda Stoltzfoos and offering prayers to her family through a monthly newspaper published here called The Diary.
The Diary, which is published in Kirkwood, routinely carries dispatches from Amish across the United States about the weather, crop season, births, deaths, weddings, migrations and ordinations.
The last two issues have carried the somber news of Stoltzfoos' disappearance on June 21, when the 18-year-old Amish woman was last seen walking from church to her family's home on Beechdale Road in near Bird-in-Hand in Upper Leacock Township.
"I keep thinking of the parents in PA who are waiting on news of their missing daughter. Can we imagine the stress, the grief, the suspense? May God carry them through," wrote a Mrs. Daniel Raber from Harmony/Granger, Minnesota, in the August issue of the newspaper.
Amanda H. Otto, writing to The Diary from Curtis, Wisconsin, stated: "My thoughts go daily to the family of Linda Stoltzfoos in PA. I am sure those who have had no such experience cannot imagine what they are going through. May you feel God’s presence during this difficult time."
Henry K. Fisher, of Bird-In-Hand, wrote: "Hopes to find her alive anywhere are very dim by now but the vigilant watch by the telephone at Lloyd is still maintained at all time by volunteers three hours at a time just in case. Yes, in case she might be somewhere where she could call home," wrote Henry K. Fisher of Bird-In-Hand.
"So, let us all keep praying. We realize that God could have prevented this but chose to let it happen. We question why! We need to seek for answers in order to get his message and let our voice of conscience tell us something. I didn’t see much of Linda since she turned 15 but have nothing bad at all in mind of her as a vocational pupil here."
Prosecutors have charged Justo Smoker, 34, of Paradise Township, with abducting Stoltzfoos. They allege that footage from a resident's surveillance camera shows Smoker’s car near a person believed to be Stoltzfoos.
Smoker will waive his arraignment Friday and has pleaded not guilty to kidnapping and false imprisonment, according to court documents.
Wrote Danville resident Benuel S. Stoltzfus: "Let us have faith that God will work a miracle now that all human efforts failed. Modern technology is nothing compared to God’s wisdom and power."
"He knows where she is, but has not revealed it to us at this time. God has a purpose in the things he does and allows to be done. I will not even try in my feeblest efforts to spell out all the good that has and may yet come out of this tragedy. Faith, love, hope, and a community spirit."
For many Amish, the case has brought back memories of Evelyn Fisher's 1980 abduction and murder. The 14-year-old Evelyn Fisher left her parents' New Holland home, walked across the family's yard toward a nearby vacant house, which she had been asked to clean, and was never seen again.
Ten weeks later, a police officer found her body in the Welsh Mountains, in a heavily wooded area repeatedly searched. It was about four miles from her home, southeast of New Holland.
"This year of 2020 has been a bizarre year so far. With the coronavirus coming to this country in March, with mask wearing and social distancing still being the cry in this last part of July. A lot of things are almost back to normal," Amos B. Lapp of East Earl wrote to The Diary.
"It took my thoughts back to the summer of 1980. In early May an Amish girl died in a car accident. In August, another car accident killed two Amish boys. On the last day in July, Evelyn Fisher of the New Holland area disappeared, and it went till the middle of October that she was found in the Welsh Mountains south west of New Holland. That area has been heavily searched in the last month, looking for this Linda Stoltzfoos," Lapp wrote.
The Diary is printed by Susquehanna Printing, a wholly-owned subsidiary of LNP Media Group.