Earnest prayers to God and a search are now underway for an 18-year-old Amish girl from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, five days after she went missing after attending church on Sunday.
East Lampeter Township police said the teenager, Linda Stoltzfoos, who is about 5-foot, 10-inches tall and 125 pounds, was last seen on a farm around 12:30 p.m. Sunday on Stumptown Road, near Bird-in-Hand where a church service was held. She was wearing a tan dress, white apron and white cape, NBC10 reported.
Multiple state, local, federal authorities, as well as volunteers are involved in the search for Linda, and a spokesman for District Attorney Heather Adams’ office said the case is a top priority.
While there is a well-known history of young people leaving the Amish community in rebellion, investigators say this does not appear to be the case with Linda.
"This is unlike her," Lt. Matthew Hess told NBC10. "There are certain teenage Amish kids who would have that personality or would express that interest, want to see the world. There was no indication that this is the case for Linda."
The simple, family-centered Amish culture in Lancaster County keeps the devout faith community separate from their more secular countrymen. They believe in a literal interpretation and application of Scripture as the Word of God, including biblical commands to separate themselves from the things of the world. They believe worldliness can keep them from being close to God, and can introduce influences that could be destructive to their communities and to their way of life.
Sparky Grace who rents industrial space from Linda’s grandfather for his wood shop, explained in a statement on Facebook how Linda’s father, Lloyd Stoltzfoos, just months ago prayed with him through a difficult period. Now, he said, he has been trying to support her devastated father in his dark moment.
“Christmas night of 2019 Lloyd (Linda’s father) exited the rear of his shop to find me in my truck. I was chain smoking overwhelmed by sadness. His gait is always relaxed and casual. He approached me with concern and held confusion in his eyes. He asked why I was there on such a significant holiday. He could see my tears and his face filled with the most genuine of compassion. He comforted me as I was broken. Little did I realize he’d fall into my arms at 4 a.m. on Monday morning, sobbing, and emit these words, ‘We can’t find Linda,’” Grace wrote. “Confusion filled my head and my only immediate thought was prayer. The man who once consoled me, now was shattered and broken.”
Grace also shot down speculations of abuse or suggestions that Linda might just be rebelling against her community.
“I can’t read things posted anymore on this situation. People proclaim suspicions of abuse or a rebellious teenager. I’m telling you, that is NOT the case. My last memory of Linda was before Christmas. I drove the whole family to a Christmas party. She was singing hymns with her sisters in the back of the van. Not a word was spoken as these girls serenaded all of us. The moment was surreal and filled with peace from the voices of innocents. Having a two year established relationship with this family, I will tell you they’re beyond rare,” Grace said.
“The kids are always polite and filled with gratitude. The parents and grandparents are people that resonate with wholesome values and unwavering faith. My life will forever be touched by the generous acceptance and compassion by the Stoltzfoos family. I now ache for them beyond what I can express,” he wrote.
A Facebook page called Amish Girl Missing - Linda Stoltzfoos has been posting regular updates on the search for Linda, including multiple videos of daily prayer and singing to God for her safe return. Another prayer meeting is scheduled for 7:45 p.m. Friday.
“At the dawn of a new day, the hope is alive in finding Linda today. The search continues,” the page administrators noted Friday in a post with a serene photo of farmland.
“Where is Linda? Sometimes you gotta lie in bed, stare at the ceiling and talk to God about confusing things in life and tell Him you’re gonna trust Him even though nothing makes sense right now,” another post noted.
Grace, in his post, said local police have been “leaving no stone unturned” in the search for Linda and encourage people to just pray for the family.
“People ask me what they could do. This Amish community is resilient. They even take shifts 24 hours a day to sit by the phone (even all night) in case Linda would call. The reality is; the best thing you could offer is prayer,” he wrote.