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

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

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.

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)-outlook.com  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

Celebrating the 180th anniversary of Erb Street Mennonite Church

Today was a special day for me. My cousin Ray Kuhns and his spouse Sharon Ruth arrived yesterday for a two day visit. It is nice to have them with me and show them around Waterloo County.

Wilmer, Sharon and Ray
Today was the 180th anniversary celebration of Erb Street Mennonite Church. This is the Congregation I pastored from 1978 to 1991. Janet and I loved being part of this faith community. Janet served as Church secretary. We were so connected to this community.

The congregation gathered at the Erb Street Mennonite Cemetery ‎at 9:30 a.m. for a time of reflection and worship. This was the site of the original meetinghouse. Sharon said it was fascinating to hear the stories of God’s presence as the history was shared.

Ray liked the way Ross Kennel shared during the children’s story, in the main worship service held at 10:30 am. He used the history book about Erb Street Mennonite Church ‎and talked about the treasure of the people in our History. He pointed out pictures from the book and had the children go into the audience, find the person and bring them forward. He focused on persons who provided congregational leadership in the past.

He reminded the children that we are all Treasures in God’s family. It was special sitting at the front with the children and seeing all the faces of the congregation. It is wonderful to see a full meeting house. I am very grateful‎ that God continues to bless this community.

~ Wilmer

Message from John and Michele Sharp

Altar at church for MJ Sharp’s funeral

John and Michelle’s home is a gathering center for people from all over the world today. This morning there were over 60 persons here. MJ’s collegues from the UN , the State department granted Visa’s for two of MJ’s. Congolese fellow workers to enter the US to attend the funeral. Family and friends. Everyone needs to be together to encourage one another in order to find meaning in the death of their friend.

Michele said, “his death seems to soon. However, we want his friends to carry forward MJ’s Vision. It is important that they can be together to talk and mourn.”

I gave John your greetings and shared we are so sorry for their loss. As he hugged me he said “ it means so much to me that you came to be with us. It is a long journey for a short time. It is comforting and encouraging to know that my friends in Europe and other parts of the world have been talking to you and are remembering us. Thank you”

Reserved seating for UN representatives and MJ's Collegues
Reserved seating at the church for UN representatives and MJ’s collegues

The Hesston College Mennonite Church is open to welcome everyone today, with a video beginning at 3:30pm and the service live-streamed at 4 PM. UN officials and other of MJ’s friends will be in attendance.

Michelle, John and the family appreciate your prayers on their behalf. They ask that you also remember in your prayers the continued work left by MJ in the Congo.

~ Wilmer

M J Sharp – The Witness of a Kind Soul

Michael Sharp visits with Elizabeth Namavu and children in Mubimbi Camp, home to displaced persons in the Democratic Republic of Congo. A coordinator for the Mennonite Central, he has an unusual approach to peacemaking. Jana Asenbrennerova/Courtesy of MCC
Michael Sharp visits with Elizabeth Namavu and children in Mubimbi Camp, home to displaced persons in the Democratic Republic of Congo. A coordinator for the Mennonite Central, he has an unusual approach to peacemaking.
Jana Asenbrennerova/Courtesy of MCC

If you traveled with me on a TourMagination Mennonite history tour to Europe, then you may have had John Sharp as your historian on the tour. John and his family recently experience a great loss, with the death of his son Michael J. “M. J.” Sharp.

Mourners around the world are gathering to pray, light candles, write poems and share stories as they struggle to gathering meaning on the untimely death of UN Peace worker MJ Sharp who was kidnapped and killed along with Zaida Catalan, a fellow UN peacekeeper from Sweden, and Betu, their Congolese interpreter. They were working for peace with the local church and the United Nations in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Darnell Barkman, reflecting on the loss felt by family, friends and the broader community states that “MJ was an Inspiring Man who gave himself for the lives of Others. His life points us to Jesus.”

Michael, in an interview with National Public Radio, said that he was working with the Congolese Protestant Council of Churches in something called their Peace and Reconciliation Program. Every few weeks MJ and his church colleagues would walk, unarmed, to the base of the rebels known as the FDLR (Forces Democratiques des Liberation du Rwanda). There they’d sit in the shade of banana trees to drink tea with the rebels and listen to their stories. Certain sensitive subjects – sexual violence against villagers, recruitment of child soldiers -were no-go, he said because the aim was building rapport with the rebel faction. “The more we interact with them the more they trust us to turn themselves into us.”

Sharp said the church program helped persuade some 1,600 fighters to lay down their weapons and leave the forest they’d occupied for two decades. On April 5th, MJ and Zaida’s colleagues at the UN Security Council expressed a note of compassion and observed a moment of silence in their memory.

Michael was doing a beautiful thing, beyond the logic of the world. He was acting in the ways of Jesus’ new creation. Love was overcoming fear, love and service were overcoming enemies and making them friends. Today my grandchildren asked me why I plan to go to the funeral service in Hesston College on April 15. I explained to them I want to go to support my friends and collegues, John and Michele Sharp. I admired the work of MJ, his passion and vision. Over several years, I had the opportunity to have him speak to TourMagination tour groups, when our paths crossed in Germany.

His parents gave a beautiful testimony in a recent interview when they said, “there is comfort in knowing MJ died following his passion and dream. He was a caring and Kind soul.” John and Michele, I am so sorry for your loss. You nurtured MJ, his death is a tremendous loss to your family and to the world.

~ Wilmer

A Principled and Persistent Leader

Last evening I learned that my friend, former Waterloo MP, Andrew Telegdi died at the age of 70. His death came as a shock – we have lost a voice that was strong, principled and persistent.

When I was Pastor of Erb Street Mennonite Church, Andrew, Roy Snyder and I would go golfing. At the time Andrew served as a Councillor for the City of Waterloo. There were always issues he wanted to discuss. Our conversations on the golf course often were intense. Roy and others were known to tell Andrew he was stubborn! Yesterday, on Facebook, Mark Yantzi shared about Andrew’s tireless work in support of persons in conflict with the law.

During my tenure as President & CEO of Habitat for Humanity Canada, Andrew – now a MP representing Waterloo and parts of Kitchener in Canada’s Federal Parliament, joined me in Budapest, participating in the Jimmy Carter work project. We built 10 homes in 5 days. Andrew was born in Hungary and immigrated to Canada with his family at age 10, making this a project very close to his heart.

Andrew was a principled and persistent leader. His death is a reminder our time on this earth is short. Recently at a restaurant Andrew stopped by my son Alan’s table to ask how I was doing, making Alan the last member of our family to talk to Andrew.

Today I read an article that Andrew would have thoroughly enjoyed reading. Local leadership blogger Wayne Townsend today posted “Intelligent Leaders Demonstrate A Heart For Humanity,” a blog about the work Learning For Humanity is undertaking. I hope you will take a moment to read this article. As I read it, I could hear Andrew’s voice in my head asking about the leadership I’m providing to this project. He was determined to make the world brighter and kinder. This continues to be my goal also. I hope it is yours too.

THANK YOU Andrew for your leadership. You demonstrated this quality in everything you did.

~ Wilmer Martin

My Epiphany moment

Today our congregation joined Christians‎ around the world in remembrance of Epiphany Sunday. Epiphany is the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles, as represented by the Magi, according to Matthew 2.
It reminds us of Christ’s Light breaking into the world, displacing the darkness. God coming to us as light through Jesus.  During the service I experienced moments of sadness. It is now 4 months since Janet’s death and for some reason it hit me harder today.
The last song we sang in the service was “You are Salt for the Earth”. I always find this song uplifting. I remember my son Alan leading this song in worship. Janet and I always enjoyed when he would sing “you are salt for the earth, O People” and the congregational reply, “salt for the Kingdom of God.”
Behind me today sat Kim, who has a beautiful voice. I closed my eyes and was ministered to by her singing this hymn.  After the service I thanked her for ministering to me.  This was my Epiphany today.
Christ came to me today, taking away the darkness that wanted to encompass my soul. Claim the Epiphany moments in your life. God’s light is always stronger than Darkness. However, you must recognize and claim it!
Wilmer

Happy New Year!

Today I was privileged to worship with John & Roma Ruth at Salford Mennonite Church. Maria Hosler Byler gave a sermon titled “Stopping with the Light.” She reminded us that although we are very busy, we must find time to stop walking and experience the light. Jesus came into our World as light to light our way. God is with us when we pause for reflection before taking our next step.

December 21 is the shortest day of the year. She reminded us that each day provides a little more light. We carry the light of Christ into the New Year.

Being with friends like John Ruth gives me energy and helps me find God’s light to help me face the new year. Let’s claim the light of Christ as we face the opportunities given to us in 2017.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

~ Wilmer