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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s been a number of years since I’ve spent time in Jamaica and I have had a longing to come to Jamaica and visit my friends. I shared this with my daughter Janelle and she encouraged me to visit. This is the first time since my dear long-time friend and driver Audley (Milo) died.
His daughter, Kimberly is now a Doctor. She and one of Audley’s friends met me at the airport. Kimberly and I talked the whole way from Mo Bay (Montego Bay) to Ocho Rios.
Her Dad, Milo and I worked together for more than 28 years. He was our driver-storyteller for my TM tours. He was also my driver during my work with Habitat For Humanity Jamaica. But most of all he was my friend and Jamaican brother.
I look forward to visiting the Rock Church with Kimberly this morning, having lunch with Shirley, the former cook at Palm Ridge. Kimberly wants to take me to see her father’s grave.
It is a good time of sharing, reflecting and encouragement for Kimberly. She said she would talk and share her Dad every day.
The Christmas Markets, also known as “Christkindlmarkt” are a street market associated with the celebration of Christmas during the four weeks of Advent. They portray the culture of each individual region of Europe. Janet and my favourite were the markets held in the Bavarian and Tyrolean Regions.
Janet and I loved coming to Europe for the Christmas Markets. I don’t know how many years we came; however, I know we both loved doing it. Some times we came with tour groups. Other times we came by ourselves. This year I told Janelle I want to go to the Christmas Markets and she said I will go with you. We decided this year to experience the markets of the Tyrolean region as Janelle has not seen these before. We are here and it is wonderful. However, we can’t do this trip without ending in Bavarian and visiting our friends in Oberammergau.
I stopped at the Erb Street Mennonite Cemetery before I came to Europe and visited Janet’s grave. I told her, “well Janet, Janelle and I are flying to Munich today to visit the Christmas Markets.” As I drove away I heard her say “Have Fun and enjoy your daughter.” The pictures show we are fulfilling Janet’s words of encouragement.
The first Christmas Market we visited was in Innsbruck, along the swift flowing Inn River. Jacob Huter is attributed with the founding of the Hutterite movement. He was martyred on the Maria-Theresien-Straße in Innsbruck. Today, his commemorative plaque was hidden behind a market vendor selling Bratwurst but we still managed to duck behind it and read the plaque.
Janet and I always enjoyed taking a road trip in the fall, especially driving from Ontario to visit our families in Pennsylvania. The Allegheny Mountain Range with the reds, yellows and shades of other colours are always spectacular. Janet would say God creates the most spectacular pictures for our enjoyment.
We are a little early this year, the leaves are just starting to change. However, yesterday on our drive from Ontario to Chambersburg Ross Kennel, who is traveling with me, said what a beautiful drive. It really was spectacular.
I am having so much fun showing him the areas where Janet and I grew up and introducing him to my family and friends.
Our nine days in Holland and Belgium went by quickly. Today we experienced the beauty of Brugge with its canals and wealth portrayed in the early 17th century buildings in this historic city.
We experienced the awe of the countryside of Flanders Fields and we experienced the sorrow as we visited Ypres-Ieper, Belgium. This area, where there was much fighting during the First World War, has over 1,000 cemeteries.
We saw the Hospital of Dr John McCrae, the Canadian from Guelph, Ontario famous for his poem ‘In Flanders Fields,’ written in the midst of death and tragedy. The bunker was his hospital and it is here where the poem was written.
Ross commented on the difference between Dr. John McCrae and Lord Kitchener whose famous poster he noticed: “In contrast, Lord Kitchener – who the city I was born in is named after – was Minister of War for England and was not a nice man.
Tomorrow we say goodbye to our friend and colleague JP Weber. He travels back to Luxembourg and then his home. We fly home to Ontario with wonderful memories.