As I was lying in bed one morning, I thought about what special item I could share with you for Christmas. There are always encouraging “snippets” from sidewalk counseling and the Pregnancy Helpline, but I don’t have a big story from them to tell right now. And then it occurred to me—I have a story already. So, I decided to give you an except from my book, Universal Man. What I include here is not an exciting, action-filled scene, nor is it brilliantly crafted dialog, nor an exposition of the dramatic, world shattering plot. Instead, it is a humble, poignant letter written in the midst of all those things from a young woman, Sarah, to her brother, Stan Timmons. The story is like a Christmas story—joy and redemption within an environment of sorrow and pain, if you think of Herod’s slaughter of the innocents.
When he receives Sarah’s letter, Stan is secretly staying overnight at the home of his pastor, Fr. Murray Schmidt in Vancouver, Washington. Stan had been hiding on a Hutterite Colony near Spokane for about a year, and he has not seen his children, Maxwell and Chrysanthe, or heard any news of them, ever since a horrific government-inflicted “disaster” at the Mollicoat Estate. The Estate was the location of a retreat center in NW Oregon, and the second home of the Sterne family and home of many other people, including Stan’s parents. Stan’s wife, Mindy, is dead, but that is a whole different tale. (Her maiden name is Sterne.) As he reads Sarah’s letter, written a year earlier and kept by Fr. Schmidt, Stan has just left the friends he made on the Hutterite Colony, and he is poised to embark upon a noble and lonely mission that likely will cost him his life.
Sarah had been taking a break from packing for the Sterne family’s permanent move from their Columbia River house to the Mollicoat Estate when the disaster occurred. With her were Stan’s children; her young son, Guthrie, who Sarah conceived through rape before she was married; Kiyohira and Mutsumi, children of her husband, who had been widowed; and Stan’s youngest brothers-in-law. Luther Sterne was 14. Sarah’s husband, Bennett Uchida, had just been murdered in the disaster. As Sarah wrote, she and all the children were on their way to Newport Bay, Oregon where she expected to board a fishing boat, which was to meet a Coast Guard Cutter, which was to rendezvous with a submarine, which was to take them to a safe country. Fr. Schmidt was driving them in a church van.