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.

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

Sarasota, Florida

Dinner with my nephew Lynn and Anna-Blanche in Pennsylvania.

For many years I wanted to buy a home in Sarasota, Florida so Janet and I could come for a few weeks in the winter. Janet would never agree. She said, “you have too much energy, you will come for a few days and then fly away to some where in the world with your work. I don’t want to be stuck alone in Florida without my children and grandchildren.”

She was right of course. Her vision was what I am now doing. She would say,”when we are ready we can rent a home in Florida. Our family can join us for the time they have available and we can enjoy visiting our friends.”

Janet died too soon to enjoy Florida winter vacations. She had done the research and talked to some properly owners. I feel her presence as I am here this winter for 3 weeks.

Visiting The Billy Graham Museum and Library

I enjoyed driving to Florida by way of Pennsylvania, bringing my step-mother Anna Blanche Martin and her friend Betsy Waldo with me.

We had a wonderful drive. The first night we visited Janet and my dear friends Don and Eunice Warfel in Waxhaw, North Carolina. They have been long times workers with JAARS and Wycliffe Bible Society. Janet and I have long admired their commitment, listening to them and supporting them as we had opportunity. Betsy and Anna Blanche said that our visit with the Warfel’s was a highlight of our drive to Florida.

We also stopped and visited the Billy Graham Museum and Library. This visit was too short and will require a future visit to fully appreciate the impact The Billy Graham ministry has made globally.

Our Sarasota home for the next few weeks

Our first full day in Sarasota has allowed meeting friends this morning and Evening at The Sarasota Community Church (Baha Vista Mennonite). Dinner and Visiting with Lyle and Jenny my Brother and Sister in law. Swimming in the Pool with Daryl Zook and his grandchildren.

As Pastor Shenk said this morning, ” Live for God’s Kingdom, Long for the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Being in Sarasota and seeing so many friends who have traveled  with me to many countries of the world gives me energy and encouragement. As we reflect it also allows us to share how God continues to direct and bless our lives.

Watch for future up dates.

I’m looking forward to daily swims in this pool.

With my brother Lyle and his wife Jenny at their home.

Lyle’s house is for sale – here are the details if you know someone who’s looking for a lovely home in Florida.

Today we visited the Ringling Circus Museum.  We really enjoyed learning about the Circus and John and Mable Ringling. Their contribution to communities across the US and in Sarasota is remarkable. It is important to recognize the gifts of leadership.

Anna-Blanche, Lyle, Betsy and Wilmer at the Ringling Circus museum.

On tour at Spanish Point. We learned a lot about Bertha Palmer the first rancher and developer in Sarasota County.

Anna-Blanche with Gary’s daughter Tessa – another Great-Granddaughter to cuddle.

Welcome to the Martin family Tessa!

Lunch with my niece Jolene and her husband Joe.

My nephew Gary and his family came for a visit and the children enjoyed time in the pool with their dad.

Four generations of family! So special.

Tessa giggles when I hold her. This makes me smile.

Lunch on the patio at Jolene and Joe’s home at Apollo Beach. I’m really enjoying the multi-generational family time.

After lunch Jolene and Joe took us for a ride on their boat. Such great hospitality.

Relaxing in the sun on the water.

We had such a wonderful day – thank you Joe and Jolene for wonderful memories.

Betsy and Anna Blanche finished a 1,000 piece puzzle in 3 days! I’m not sure how they do it.

Louise & Gary Ervin and Ray & Wilma Wadel joined me for lunch one day this week. Louise and Wilma are from the Lehman family. Growing up they lived on the other side of our house. It was fun reliving memories of growing up like siblings.

My first spring training game. Unfortunately the Yankees beat the Blue Jays in the ninth 9 to 8.

Ran into some friends at Der Dutchman – great to see you Nancy Steinman, Lynn Yantzi and Ruth & Dwight Steinman.

Golfing at Bobby Jones Golf course in Sarasota with Steve from St. Louis, MO and Miles from Oshawa, ON.

Earl Kennel from Roanoake, IL is pretty sure we’re related. We’ll have to do some digging into our genealogies.

Second spring training game – Toronto Blue Jays vs the Pittsburgh Pirates. I met Cliff and Mary Bauman at the game.

Breakfast with Jim and Elaine Weicker.

Visiting Don and Betty Heatwole

Visiting the Ark

While I was in Florida several of my friends encouraged me to drive home by way of Indiana so that I could visit my good friend Leroy Troyer in South Bend as he has had some major health issues.

The drive to Indiana has been very interesting.  My first stop was in South Carolina to visit my friends Don and Betty Heatwole.  In Kentucky I stopped at the Ark Encounter, a life-size Noah’s Ark built to the dimensions given in the Bible.

Visiting with Leroy

Today I had a good visit with Leroy and his wife Phyllis. Leroy has always been such an encouragement to me.  He stood by me during my years is served as President and CEO of Habitat for Humanity Canada and later he served with me on the Nazareth Village Board in Israel.

We’ve always talked and discussed the work of the Mennonite Church, which we both loved.  Leroy and Phyllis traveled with Janet and me on TourMagination tours. Today’s visit was no exception; however, it was shorter and we ended with both of us praying.

This was a good way to end my three-week vacation.  Tomorrow I arrive home.  I can’t wait to see my family.  Matthew and Miriam told me on the phone they cannot wait for my arrival home.

Wilmer Martin

Atlanta, Georgia

The last two days I have been in Atlanta for The Fuller Center of Housing’s Board of Directors Meeting.

This morning Edgar Stoesz lead a very meaningful opening devotional in which he reminded us that Millard Fuller, who began this ministry, died over 8 years ago but the long shadow that he created continues around the world.

That ministry (shadow) is now active in 21 countries. We listed words that clarify his vision – warm and generous, compassion, relationship, love of Jesus, faith – to mention just a few of the long list of words the board came up with. Edgar concluded by reminding us of a quote from Matru Basko, “Do not seek to follow the steps of the old – seek what they sought.”

David Snell our executive director reminded us that we had a remarkable year in 2017. He brought us to tears by telling the story of a little boy who, for the last 4 years when he sat on Santa’s lap, said “what I want for Christmas is a home for Mother and me.” This year the boy and his Mother got a home from Fuller Center for Housing so this year when he visited Santa, he said “what I want for Christmas is a home for all boys and girls and their mothers.”

I am grateful for the ministry of The Fuller Center For Housing, that this legacy of Millard and Linda Fuller continues to minister in the name of Christ and that I have the privilege to be a part of their important work.

If you would like to learn more of the ministry of The Fuller Center for Housing you can visit their website.

~ Wilmer Martin

New Year’s Message

Happy New Year. As I was Reflecting on beginning a New Year, the Bible verse “I can do all things through Christ who Strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13) came to mind.
This verse has been a comfort and encouragement to me since I was ordained at age 18. At that time I was feeling overwhelmed at being called to lead as a teenager. My father’s cousin, Bishop Raymond Charles from Lancaster, invited me to attend a Missionary Training Institute being held in Philadelphia. This was four months after my ordination. At that meeting this verse became embedded in my spirit and has been a comfort ever since.

Christ has strengthened me this past year through my family, friends, church family and colleagues at Learning for Humanity. It is such a blessing to have a meaningful office to go to each day and be surrounded by exciting people doing work that is making a difference globally. To see the smiling faces of children and to hear them talk about the difference their education is making gives me energy for my volunteer work as Development Officer at L4H.

Janelle enjoying "chocolat chaud" at the Christmas market.
Janelle enjoying “chocolat chaud” at the Christmas market. She said she had never had a more delicious cup of hot chocolate.

Number 1 for me is my family. My daughter Janelle traveled with me to visit the Christmas Markets last month in Austria, Italy and Germany. Janet and I loved this trip which we did many times. You can see by Janelle’s face she too enjoyed traveling with me.

Matthew and Miriam enjoy being with Grandpa. I love cooking for the family. Several days ago they told me my “signature dish” is Meatloaf. I use the recipe that Janet used. My goal is to keep the traditions of the family. They think I should open a restaurant. Miriam said we will call it Grandpa’s Meatloaf Restaurant.

Christiane, Alan, Miriam and Matthew with Grandpa- ready for Toronto!

Alan, Christiane, Matthew and Miriam invited me to join them for New Year’s Eve in Toronto. So we all took the train from Kitchener/Waterloo to Toronto. It is a beautiful city to spend time time exploring as a family. It gives me energy for facing a new year. “I can do all things through Christ who Strengthens me”. This is my prayer for 2018.

Happy New Year to all my friends. I hope to see many of you in the year ahead!

~ Wilmer