Remembering My Spiritual and Business Mentors

Millard Fuller

Yesterday, February 3 was the 10th anniversary of Millard Fuller’s death. Millard, along with his wife Linda, founded Habitat For Humanity and Fuller Center for Housing.

In 2009 my two most significant mentors died within several months of each other, Milo Shantz and Millard Fuller. They both made profound impacts on my life. My friendship and working with them changed my life and ministry forever.

When Linda Fuller Degelmann wrote and invited me to attend this celebration of Millard, I told Phyllis if possible we should attend.
There were several highlights.

President and Mrs Carter after Sunday School Class

Attending President Carter’s Sunday School Class in Plains, Georgia  was moving. Over  500 persons from around the world were in attendance. Since President Carter (age 95) cancer experience, the numbers have increased and people start arriving at 5 am. We were lucky to have reserved front row seats next to Linda Fuller. 

Phyllis and I were blessed to sit next to President Carter and Rosalynn over lunch where we could chat informally, remembering our times of working together when I was President and CEO of Habitat for Humanity Canada.

Millard’s grave at Koinonia Farm

At the memorial service, with over 100 persons gathered,  I reflected on how Millard loved Jesus. I shared with the audience that Millard was not timid in challenging you to be bold. Millard had a way of integrating his faith with his work. Both Milo and Millard impacted and changed my ministry;  faith, work and service were integrated. They were committed to make the world a better place to live. Thank You Millard Fuller. 

Windsor Hotel, Americus Georgia

On Saturday evening, after driving around Americus and showing Phyllis the various Habitat for Humanity sites and The Fuller Center for Housing headquarters, we enjoyed dinner at the beautiful Windsor Hotel. There is so much history in Plains and Americus that we need to come back and spend more time exploring.

Wilmer with brothers Lyle and Eugene

This past week has been rich and full. We hosted my brothers and their wives, Eugene & Lorene and Lyle & Jenny, over three days. Other friends from Pennsylvania and South Carolina also stopped by our home in Sarasota for a visit.

As I start a new week I remember President Carter question at the end of his bible lesson yesterday. How can you make our country more peaceful? He said, how many of you will promise me you will, this week or this month, to do an act of kindness? Help a neighbor, share love to a lonely person… I believe everyone raised their hand.

~ Wilmer Martin

Christmas Greetings

During the holiday season Phyllis and I attended a number of meaningful concerts. The ones most moving for me were the ones where my grandchildren were in the choir.

Choir at Rockway

My grandson Matthew is in Grade 7 at Rockway Mennonite Collegiate. I found my eyes moist and I realized how blessed all these students are attending such a strong educational institution. Phyllis and I want to thank all our friends for their generous donations to Learning for Humanity in lieu of gifts for our wedding.

As you celebrate the New Year with your family, join us in thanking God for the ways lives of children in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Kenya are being changed through this program.

Blessings to you all, Wilmer & Phyllis

Continuing the Journey in Vietnam and Cambodia

Inside the Temple of Literature in Hanoi

Before I met Phyllis, I agreed to join my friends Ross and Richard Kennel and 12 other friends from Waterloo, ON on a Mekong River Cruise. Once Phyllis and I decided that we were going to join our lives, we decided to use this trip as the  2nd part of our Honeymoon. We left Ontario on October 29.

We met our friends in Hanoi, Vietnam. We marvel how friendly and welcoming the people of Vietnam are to the world and especially Americans.  This country is growing rapidly and is open for business.

Hạ Long Bay

At Ha Long Bay we visited what is considered by many to be the eight natural wonder of the world. I enjoyed hiking up the 428 steps to view the Bay. Jim Erb and I were the only ones  in our group to hike to the top. We also visited a pearl farm.

In Cambodia we spent 3 nights at Siem Reap, the gateway to Angkor Archaeological Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and former capital of the Khmer empire.

I will post some photos to give you a glimpse of the rich history of this region. The Cambodia people welcome the world as they serve as guardians of these sites and rich culture. They are grateful for the partners of the other nations who assist with funding and archeological restoration.

Child from the village Kampong, Cambodia

Cambodia has 16 million inhabitants and our guides are very helpful in interpreting their history and current life. They are proud of their King. One guide said, “our King is friendly with the Government of Vietnam. They have 95 Million inhabitants, we must share the Mekong Delta. Good Friends builds Freedom.”

Tomorrow we board the AMA Waterways boat which will be parked on the Tonie River, Cambodia.

Please enjoy the photos below.

~ Wilmer and Phyllis

Temple of Literature, Hanoi, Vietnam

Phyllis and Ross Kennel, Temple of Literature

Turtle steles: the turtle is a symbol of longevity and wisdom in Vietnam.

Temple of Literature

Street life in Hanoi

Hanoi, Vietnam

Phyllis and Wilmer enjoying a ride

Pearl farm

At the Pearl farm

Cave in Hạ Long Bay

Temple at Angkor Archaeological Park

Temple at Banteay Srei

This early 12th c temple was built by King Suryavarman 11 to honor the Hindu god, Vishnu.

Child monk

Weaving at Silk Island near Koh Chen, Cambodia. This industry provides employment for widows of the war.

Enjoying a ride

Our home on the Tonie River

Dinner in the Captain’s dining room

A beautiful dinner

Ross and Richard Kennel “enjoying” the ox cart ride.

Going for an “ox cart” ride

Street vendor selling jewelry

This school group (students ages 8 to 13) performed on our ship. They pulled a few of us up on to the stage to help them.

Greetings from Phnom Penh, the Capital of Cambodia.

Family transportation in Phnom Penh

Views on the city tour

Commemorative stupa filled with the skulls of the victims at the Khmer Rouge Killing Field of Choeung Ek.

Meeting with one of the survivors of the Killing Fields.

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum where we learned about the tragedy of the Khmer Rouge Regime from 1975 to 1979.

We visited Tan Châu, a small Mekong Delta farming island. We were welcomed to a 71 year old farmer’s home. He was one of the original families to settle on the island. We’re back in Vietnam.

Life on the river

Making rattan matts at a workshop on Evergreen Island.

We enjoyed the beautiful Lotus flowers.

The river at sunset.

We enjoyed a delicious farewell dinner on the ship and took a photo of our group. Next stop, Saigon.

Notre Dame Cathedral in Saigon.

Head Post Office in Saigon.

View of the city of Saigon at night. We enjoyed dinner on the 18th floor of our hotel. Fantastic view!

We visited the area where the Viet Cong had tunnels during the war.

Ross Kennel was brave and went down into the tunnels.

Relaxing before our flight to Seoul, Korea. We have a layover there so will enjoy a four hour city tour prior to our direct flight to Toronto.

Continuing the Journey

Our Florida home

We are enjoying our Honeymoon at our home in Sarasota, Florida.

Last evening we had our first guests for a  barbecue on our pool deck. Appropriately the first guests to come to dinner and sign our guest book were Julie & Loren Roth and Lyle & Jenny Martin. Lyle is my younger brother.

Julie and Loren are close friends, neighbors and members at Phyllis’s home church, Kern Road Mennonite Church.

Wilmer, Loren, Julie & Phyllis

They graciously opened their home to Phyllis, hosting her for the 2 months between when she sold her Indiana home and our wedding.

Jenny, Lyle’s wife, and Julie assisted us with the wedding reception setup and details. Jenny also helped Phyllis with decorating our Florida home.

We also enjoyed welcoming Paul and Ruth Herr also from Kern Road Mennonite Church.

Hospitality in our homes deepens friendship.  We are grateful for the quiet time in Sarasota. Next week we return to Ontario.

Visiting with Paul and Ruth Herr

We want to say thank you to the many friends who donated to Learning for Humanity  as a wedding gift. We are overwhelmed with your generosity. You are invited to go on the website to see how your gift is impacting the lives of teachers and children in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Kenya.

Please keep in touch. We deeply appreciate your friendship.


~ Wilmer and Phyllis

A Pre-Wedding Surprise Party

Saturday evening my children Janelle, Alan & Christiane and Grandchildren; Matthew and Miriam planned a surprise pre-wedding event for us.

They told us to reserve the evening of September 15 for a family event. We were instructed to dress formally but didn’t tell us they invited also invited 60 of my friends and colleagues.

It was the kind of event that makes you cry with joy. So much love and support.  Some of those gathered will also join us at Kern Road Mennonite Church in South Bend, Indiana for the wedding in 3 weeks.

A special thanks to Janelle, Alan & Christiane for planning a Special gathering.  Also a special thanks to Christiane and Alan for opening their home to host the gathering.

We love you.
~ Wilmer and Phyllis

P.S. For more photos, visit my Facebook post by clicking here.

Continuing the Journey

Phyllis Miller and I look forward to the gathering of our Family and Friends on Saturday, October 6 at 3:00 pm. Our wedding will be held at the Kern Road Mennonite Church in South Bend, Indiana.

The theme of the celebration is “continuing the journey.” Both Phyllis and I were happily married for more than 50 years: Phyllis to Joe and me to Janet. As we move forward on this new path together, we want to celebrate our first marriages and continue the traditions of Service, Family and Hospitality that have been a hallmark of our two families.

Phyllis and I have been blessed in our lives. For this reason we request that, those wishing to honour our wedding and the beginning of our life together, make donations to Learning for Humanity in lieu of gifts.

My daughter Janelle is part of the management team of this organization and Janet and I have been involved from the organization’s beginning. Phyllis and I regularly visit the office and interact with the staff, hearing the latest stories from the teachers in Zambia, Kenya and Zimbabwe.

We are excited to see how lives are changed as teachers have curriculum to teach and students have educational resources – many for the first time.  We love seeing the excitement of the staff and hearing the stories from staff returning from the field.

We value our families and the support of our friends around the world. God has blessed us richly in this way.  As we look forward to October 6, we marvel that God has led us together and that we can both love again.

One way we can offer thanks to God is by inviting our family and friends to join us by giving gifts of education that lead to transformation and hope. We are deeply committed to Learning for Humanity.

Click here to make a donation.

Thanks and we look forward to celebrating with many of you.

Zurich, Switzerland

Kuhns-Kennel Agreement in the Alps

Yesterday we traveled from the Bernese Oberland, over the SustenPass on our way to Zurich. The weather has been wonderful throughout this tour. We have not had rain and the clouds seemed to move from the mountain peaks when needed to ensure wonderful photos.

There were many expressions of amazement as JP drove the coach around the hairpin corners as we wound our way up the mountain. Ross had made everyone cousins on the Ross Kennel Family and Friends Tour. Since there were 4 Kuhns relatives on the trip, they had a photo taken sealing the relationship.

Loren & Julie Roth Sustan Glacier

We stopped for a photo at the glacier. JP showed us where the glacier was in 1998 and we were all amazed to see how much has melted in the past 20 years. The Glacier is still huge; however, John Ruth pointed out the huge rocks now exposed that had been buried under the ice and snow for thousands of years.

Kappeler Peace Marker

In the afternoon we stopped at the Kappeler Peace Marker on the north side of Lake Zug. In June 1529 soldiers from Zurich, accompanied by Zwingli, met the soldiers from Schweitz. It was a religious conflict as Schweitz was Catholic and Zurich was Reformed (Protestant).

The soldiers meet at Kappel on the hill overlooking Lake Zug. They were hungry and decided to share their food. The soldiers from Schweitz had milk soup while the soldiers from Zurich had bread. So they shared a meal and packed up their guns and went home. The Marker tells the moving story.

Heidi Farmstead, Hirzil

At Hirzel we remembered the story of Heidi the Swiss girl written by Johana Spyri. We saw the farmhouse that Johana could see from her home in the village. This house became the model she used for her Heidi stories. The Spyri house is today a museum dedicated to Spyri and her books about Heidi.

Students from Weimar College joined our walking tour

On our Anabaptist walking tour in Zurich we met students from California who attend the Weimar Institute and are Baptist Adventist. Their group was led by two professors who were thrilled that they were meeting a group of flesh and blood Anabaptist Mennonites. John interpreted the Felix Mantz Marker and we sang and prayed along the Limmat River.

Grossmünster, Zurich

Wilmer invited them to walk with us to the Grossmünster (the Great Minster) and to the home of Felix Mantz’s mother, the site of the first baptisms, forming the first church of the Radical Reformation. John interpreted as our groups walked together.

As we gathered around the fountain John encouraged everyone to dip their hands in this water. He explained that the house is no longer standing but water would have flowed here in 1525 as it does today. This was the source of the water used for that first baptism. Here is the beginning of our church and the tradition of believers baptism.

We sang together Faith of our Fathers and shared a prayer before we separated. With nearly 50 voices singing together, neighbors were attracted and listened from their windows.

John Talking with farmer Wilfried at Anabaptist Gathering place near Schleitheim

This morning we drove to Hemmental where our friend, and local farmer, Wilfred met us with his tractor and wagon. He drove us through the Forrest to the monument on the grounds. The monument was erected in remembrance of the Anabaptist who lost their lives when they gathered here for worship, nurture and encouragement.

5 of us hiked up the trail . Those who climbed realized the cost and commitment these local believers paid to follow their conscience. They were going against the culture that demanded certain loyalty and had the power of the government and police to control it citizens.

John outlined the principles of the Schleitheim Confession of Faith. We use it today guiding our church life. It came from meetings in this Forrest. John asked what is absolute for us? This Marker portrays the life of people who gave us a foundation for our faith. Ross responded that this is a hard question and it is hard for him to list.

Richard with Petra and a journalist friend talking at the marker in Tauferhutten im Wald

The Rhine Falls at Neuhausen were wonderful to visit, especially for Nancy since it was her birthday. We took an hour to walk and take photos. Ray and Elizabeth enjoyed feeding the fish in the river as it flowed from the falls.

This afternoon is free time in Zurich for last minute shopping and for us packing our suitcases for our flight home tomorrow. At our farewell dinner this evening John will give a quiz. It will be a great reminder of all that we have seen on this tour. Will Ross Kennel win the prize for getting most correct answers? Or will he yield the prize to his cousins?

Wilmer Martin

Hasliberg / Reuti, Switzerland 

Richard Kennel studying the map with Wilmer at Frankfurt Airport

The Custom Tour organized with Ross Kennel Family & Friends is already in its 5th day. The weather is awesome and we are travelling in some of the most scenic areas of Western Europe.

Upon our arrival in Luxembourg we visited an American World War 2 military cemetery near the airport. We were touched by the solemn calmness and the vivid reminder of the human tragedy of war.

Traveling by coach gives the opportunity for conversation and the large windows are great for photo taking.  Ross, Richard and Ray like the back of the bus where they can move quickly from side to side for better pictures.

Ross & Richard Kennel at the Belgrad sign.

The first main stop of the tour was to visit the Jantzi Homestead at Belgrad, near St Avold. The area is very prosperous. Ross and Richard’s mother was a Jantzi. Ross shared some of the stories he has heard from family members who have visited this area in Lorraine, France.

This past Friday we enjoyed traveling to Salm. Beautiful fields and vineyards growing straight up the side of the mountain, indicated that agriculture is a significant part of life in this region. The Rouge Mountains were in the foreground as the sign welcoming us to the Alsace appeared.

We enjoyed seeing the narrow streets as we drove through Molsheim. Flowers were in bloom everywhere in the window boxes and in the gardens.

Group at Augsburger Homestead

We all were impressed with JP’s driving through the Forrest. The Oak tree we visited was planted by the Amish in appreciation of the fact that they were given a military service exception from fighting by the French government. We also noticed the Augsburger name over the door of one of the homesteads.

We enjoyed listening to the stories of John Ruth as we traveled through Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines, the birth place of the Amish Church under Jacob Amman leadership.

Group eating Scucurt in Riquewhir

At Riquewhir we enjoyed the traditional meal of the Alsace- Scucurt – 4 cuts of pork cooked with sauerkraut and potatoes.  Delicious!

Yesterday we entered Switzerland at Basal and immediately went to the city of Bern for our walking tour. We noticed the wealth of the citizens, displayed by the cars. We walked from the National Government plaza down to the bear pits.

This city was very cruel to the Anabaptist. John Ruth said that many of them felt the claws of the government as symbolized by the bear claws on the statues. The Bear is the symbol of the city of Bern. In the afternoon we walked the beautiful Aareschlucht.

Esther Lewis & Muriel Coultes walking the Aareschlucht

This morning we enjoyed worship at the oldest Mennonite Church in the world.  We were impressed with the young population in the meetinghouse. The church was filled and many youth were also involved in the leadership.

This is cherry season.  John Ruth found a cherry tree near the Tracheswald castle.  He said “Roma will not be happy with the juice stain on his new shirt and slacks, but they tasted good.”

Wilmer was enjoying the sweet wild strawberries. Nancy, Phyllis and others agreed they are delicious.

~ Wilmer Martin

Oberammergau 2020

Oberammergau’s Passion Play theatre, photo by Robin Zebrowski cc-by-nc 2.0

The World Famous Oberammergau Passion Play is next performing in 2020. This play, performed every 10 years, is fulfilling the village’s promise to God made in 1634.

Many of my friends are asking if I plan to take any tours to see the play. Currently I have 2 tours planned:

May 21-31, 2020: Explore the Alps Tour: Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Germany including Oberammergau

My friend Lorne Smith will be joining me and serving as storyteller on this tour. The focus will be on history and culture. Some of the experiences on this tour include:

  • the fantastic scenery of the Swiss Alps as we travel the Cable car at Erlenbach, Switzerland
  • visit South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology to visit Otzi the Ice Man in Italy
  • an evening Tyrolean Folk Cultural show in Innsbruck, Austria
  • visit Sound of Music country and the church in Mondsee, Austria where the wedding scene was filmed

September 15-28: Holy Land Tour including Oberammergau

My friend Pastor Henry Detweiler will be joining me in tour leadership. The first two days of the tour will be spent in Oberammergau. Can you imagine how meaningful the tour will be after experiencing Jesus’ story so vividly? We will experience the Passion Play and then travel to the Holy Land where we will walk the Jesus Trail in Galilee, visit the Mount of the Beautitudes, as well as visit other cities central to Jesus’s life (Nazareth, Caesarea, Bethlehem and Jerusalem).

Our home away from home in Oberammergau, Hotel Turmwirt

Both tours include two nights at beautiful Hotel Turmwirt where we will be hosted by the Glas Family as we deepen our faith by observing the Passion Play.

For more information and tour details, including pricing, please write to wilmerraymartin-(at)  A $500 deposit per person will reserve your place on a tour.  Make your check/cheque payable to W.J.Martin Developments Inc. and mail to 1501-144 Park St. Waterloo, Ont N2L 0B6

I hope you are able to join me one of these exciting tours.

~ Wilmer

A Visitor from Jamaica

Dr. Kimberly Nugent at the front of Erb St. Mennonite Church

It has been my privilege to host Audley’s (Milo) daughter Kimberly in Ontario the last 8 days.  I of course remember Kimberly from when she was a young girl.  Some of you who traveled with me to Jamaica on TourMagination tours will remember our fantastic driver / guide Audley, commonly known as Milo. He took on the nickname in appreciation of Milo Shantz who helped him get started in the transportation/guiding business.

Kimberly is Audley’s youngest daughter. Audley passed away 4 years ago and she misses him greatly. Not only was he her much-loved father; he was also her supporter, encourager and adviser. This past January I visited Kimberly in Jamaica and as her father had done many times, she hosted me on the beautiful island.  She took  me to visit Audley’s grave and helped facilitate visits with many of the friends I developed over my 30+ years of working in Jamaica with TourMagination and Habitat for Humanity.

Sunset over Lake Huron

One of Audley’s greatest wishes was for Kimberly to visit his friends in Ontario. This is her first visit. When she arrived last weekend we went to Erb Street Mennonite Church on Sunday Morning. I told her her Dad worship here when he visited Canada and that I was pastor here for 13 years.

Drs. Ross and Richard Kennel invited us to their home on Lake Huron on Sunday night.  The scenery was spectacular as we drove to the lake.

Kimberly, Richard, and Ross enjoying a wonderful barbeque meal.

Kimberly is a gynaecologist and obstetrician at the St Ann’s Bay Hospital in Jamaica. She expressed an interest in meeting other doctors and visiting hospitals and clinics.  Ross and Richard enjoyed talking with her and Ross also arranged visits at the hospital in Kitchener/Waterloo and to seniors’ facilities and clinics.

During this past week I also took her to see Janet ‘s grave. The iris I planted following her death were in full bloom. Janet of course also worked with Audley and had meet Kimberly during our visits to Jamaica.

Beautiful iris at Janet’s grave.

We also visited the Learning for Humanity office to discuss and learn about this ministry which provides digital education materials around the world. My daughter Janelle is one of the principals and heads up the team providing the curriculum materials included for each country.  Kimberly was interested in the material provided for the Nursing School in Zambia.  There may be some resources that Kimberly will use at her teaching work in Jamaica.

Of course, Kimberly needed time for shopping. She reminded me she gets a chance to shop once a year when she comes North.  I also took her to the Ontario Mennonite Relief Sale yesterday at New Hamburg.  We meet many of my friends, some whom remembered her Dad.  One of the first things to do at the relief sale is to taste the potato donuts made by Tavistock Mennonite Church and the neighbouring congregations. Even though it is a long time since I served as the pastor at Tavistock, the donuts still taste just as good!

Wilmer and Kimberly at St. Agatha Mennonite Church.

Today Kimberly is celebrating her 30th Birthday. We worshiped at the St Agatha Mennonite Church and the congregations sang Happy Birthday to her at the end of the service.

She returns home on Wednesday.  She has a few more meetings scheduled at the hospital.  Her hope is to arrange a fellowship at an Ontario hospital, allowing her to work, study and develop a deeper specialization within a field related to women’s heath. This is her passion.  She said, I now know why my dad wanted me to visit Canada. Everyone is so warm, friendly and it is safe in Canada. Thanks to all the persons who assisted me in hosting Kimberly.

I pray she will go home enriched and have more energy for her work. I pray that the doors will open , so that her desires for deeper service can be realized.

~ Wilmer Martin