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

Ocho Rios, Jamaica

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.

Wilmer and Kimberly Nugent at the Almond Tree Restaurant

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.

Watch for more photos.
Wilmer

The view from my room at Hibiscus Lodge.
Hibiscus Lodge gave me the same room Janet and I had when we were here in 2013.
A Bald Pet Pigeon enjoying breakfast outside my room.
At Rock Church with Pastor Omar and Kimberly’s mother Joyce
Visiting Audley’s grave. Audley was buried in the Family Plot in Hampsted.
It was a privilege to meet up with Shirley who was the Cook at Palm Ridge for 20 years. She joined us to visit the Ridge, where we meet up with Winston – still providing security services.
View of Ocho Rios from Mystic Mountain
Wilmer at Mystic Mountain Park
Watching drummers and dancers at Mystic Mountain Park
Dr. Nugent with her colleagues in the HIV ward. I was impressed that they had a quote from Gandhi on the wall.

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

Bolzano, Italy

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.

View from the balcony of the Hubertushof, our hotel for our first night, in Anif-Salzburg.
View from the balcony of the Hubertushof, our hotel for our first night, in Anif-Salzburg.
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.

I enjoy sharing Anabaptist history with Janelle as we visit the cities.
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.

~ Wilmer

We stopped for a morning coffee at Cafe Katzung before exploring Innsbruck's Christmas Market.
We stopped for a morning coffee at Cafe Katzung before exploring Innsbruck’s Christmas Market.
Our welcome to the Innsbuck ChristKindel Market, a beautiful mural of The Ascencion of Christ.
Our welcome to the Innsbuck ChristKindel Market, a beautiful mural of The Ascension of Jesus.
Castle at Guifidaun, important due to George Blaurock's imprisonment in this castle. He was whipped out of Zurich as one of the three Swiss Brethren captured and imprisoned in this region, before being burned at the stake in nearby Klausen.
Castle at Guifidaun, important due to George Blaurock’s imprisonment in this castle. He was whipped out of Zurich as one of the three Swiss Brethren captured and imprisoned in this region, before being burned at the stake in nearby Klausen.
Village church in Guifidaun.
Village church in Guifidaun. We were blessed when the sun came out for our stop here.
Wilmer with the Saint of Guifidaun.
Wilmer with the Saint of Guifidaun.
Ötzi the Iceman at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology
We visited Ötzi the Iceman at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology first thing this morning. Over 5300 years ago, Ötzi was crossing Tisenjoch/Giogo di Tisa in the Schnalstal/Val Senales Valley, South Tyrol, where he was murdered and preserved naturally in the ice. As you can see from this chart, he lived long before Jesus and is over 1,000 years older than the Egyptian mummies.
View of the Dolomites
The Dolomites in Northern Italian Alps, numbering 18 peaks which rise to above 3,000 meters. They are some of the most spectular in beauty and are also an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Christmas market in Trento, Italy.
Christmas market in Trento – our first Christmas market in Italy. We arrived in time for the lunch rush as many locals enjoyed the market.
Old city wall, Verona, Italy
Return from dinner along the old city wall, Wilmer pauses to reflect on his trip to Verona with Janet, many years ago.
The Lower Church of Chiesa di San Fermo Maggiore, Verona, Italy. Excavations in the floor show the original church foundations from the 8th century.
Fresco showing the baptism of Christ, dated to approximately 1250.
Juliet's balcony in Verona, Italy.
Juliet’s balcony in Verona, Italy.
Wilmer "hanging out" with poet Berto Barbarani
Wilmer “hanging out” with poet Berto Barbarani.
Christmas market in Piazza dei Signori, Verona, Italy.
Christmas market in Piazza dei Signori, Verona, Italy.
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.
Beautiful Christmas flowers at Flover Christmas Village.
Beautiful Christmas flowers at Flover Christmas Village. It made me want to buy my Christmas flowers for my condo.
Basilica of Saint Anthony, Padova (Padua)
Lynn, Wilmer and Lisa in front of Basilica of Saint Anthony, Padova (Padua)
Cappella del Santissimo Sacramento
The Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, Basilica of Saint Anthony
Botanical Garden at the University of Padova
View of the Hortus Cinctus (1545), Botanical Garden of Padova, with the Basilica of Saint Anthony of Padua in the background.
Wilmer at the US Army African Headquaters in Vicenza, Italy. The base has been in continuous use since 1942.
The happy couple, Lynn and Lisa. We were walking in Vicenza, talking and enjoying the church bells ringing all around us. We timed our visit just right, they return to the US in a few weeks.
Van Gogh. Tra il grano e il cielo
Lynn, Lisa, Janelle and Wilmer at the ‘Between Wheat and Sky’ exhibit of Van Gogh’s work at the Basilica Palladiana, Vicenza. Featuring over 120 works among paintings and drawings. Janelle helped interpret the exhibit for me as, during the year she lived in the Netherlands she visited the Van Gogh Museum more than 50 times!
After a coffee, we bumped into Lynn and Lisa’s daughter Laura who gave us the history of the Teatro Olimpico and of her neighborhood in Vicenza.
The Martin clan enjoying a family meal (from left to right) – Jake, Laura, Janelle, Wilmer, Lynn, Lisa and Alex
Wilmer was pleased that proud Grandpa Georg allowed him to hold 11 week-old Annalena, the newest member of the Glas family.
Wilmer back at home in Oberammergau, in front of Pilatushaus – home to the Oberammergau Museum’s collection of paintings.
Today Wilmer finally got to eat his favourite type of bratwurst as we visited our final Christmas market in Bad Tölz. Doesn’t he look like he’s enjoying it?
Etta and Georg Glas with Carola’s Daughter Annalena – the 5th generation at Hotel Turmwirt. Time for one last cuddle before dinner.

Remembrance Day

On Friday, at Empire Public School, they held a Remembrance Day assembly. My Grandson Matthew wrote and read his poem “Brave knights in Shining Armor.” On Thursday evening Matthew and Miriam were at my home for supper. Matthew gave me the poem to read and we talked about it. He said “I am personifying the earth.”

Brave knights in Shining Armor by Matthew T. Martin, age 10.
Brave knights in Shining Armor by Matthew T. Martin, age 10.

I am very touched by his understanding and his compassion.

MCC (Mennonite Central Committee) has pins which say “To remember is to work for peace.” Matthew, at age 10, has already captured this message in his soul. This Remembrance Day let’s all work to make our world a kinder, more gentle place to live. We do this by loving and forgiving our neighbours.

Please join Matthew and I as we live his poem, “But for now I still pray…For now peace”

~ Wilmer

Brave knights in Shining Armor
by Matthew T. Martin

At the beginning I was flattered, but now it hurts.
For so many screams and so many knights in shining armor.
Thump they land right on my face,
Blood stains everywhere.
My scars, my struggles,
I pray and pray that it will end.
I have seen lots of civilizations go,
Destroyed
But for now I still pray
For now peace
This century will be my last
If this keeps up
For now I close my eyes
And Say Good Bye…bye…bye…

Vancouver, British Columbia

Every year Janet and I would look forward to the first weekend in November when we would attend the Annual MEDA Convention. It is the occasion when Business Leaders gather to worship, hear Keynote speakers ,attend workshops and nurture one another. This year I invited Phil Baker, the president of Learning For Humanity to join me.

Phil Baker, Wilmer and Sanford Stauffer
At The Thursday night Plenary session Wally Kroeker spoke on, “Girders of Faith: Hope that Lasts.” He reminded us that MEDA is an acronym for Mennonite Economic Business Associates. We have a Anabaptist view of what it means to be Christian. He is grateful to MEDA for serving as a spiritual /professional home for transforming integration of faith, business and economic develop. He told stories helping us to understand how lives are being transformed in the more than 60 countries he traveled visiting MEDA work over the last 32 years.

Wally reminded us that we are Anabaptist Christians. He has observed as he has traveled to more than 60 countries visiting our programs that we put into practice Jesus teaching that we call the Golden Rule” Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” Matthew 7:12 in our work all around the world.

Albert Hildebrand, Ferdinando Rempel, Wilmer and Phil Baker
He continued, “I learned a new insight recently that this teaching is not unique to The Christian faith. The Jews have a similar teaching in their writings , so does the Muslim faith in the Koran, as do the Hindu and the Buddhist. Not how would the world change if all of these Faiths would put this teaching into practice?” A powerful message moment for reflection.

Yesterday at the Plenary Lunch, “Building Bridges to New Lives for Refugees” we were challenged by the Panel members. You may want to follow this link to read about Peace by Chocolate. Tareq Hadhad, a Syrian refugee, shared his story and how he and his family are giving back in Nova Scotia by providing work at their chocolate Factory.

Tonight we look forward to hearing Dr. Samantha Nutt speak about “Justice, not Charity.” Her work has benefited hundreds of thousands of war-affected children.

~ Wilmer

Lancaster, PA

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.

~ Wilmer

My grandchildren asked me to take Dr. Ross to the play ground at Oregon Dairy. But the calf was too small for him to ride!
We visited Ruth Ann and Willie Kauffman at Willie’s wood working shop (wkfinewoodworking.com). They were glad to have the opportunity to show us “Willie’s world” and the process of cabinet making.
Aunt Sarah at age 93 is very sharp and loves to be with her nieces and nephews. My brother Eugene and I kept asking her questions!
I visited my parent’s grave at Chambersburg Mennonite Church.
My brother Eugene was pleased to show Ross and I his church office.
Anna Blanche Martin, Wilmer and his sister Elaine.
We visited the Church where I was ordained when I was 18 years old. Ross and I had a good visit with Pastor Jerry Roth. It was good to reflect and share together.
Ross discussed family genealogy with John Ruth in his home.
John Ruth said it best. The food was unusually tasty in spite of the Atmosphere. ‎It must have been the company. Look at their faces!
We visited Philadelphia with John, including the Germantown Mennonite Church and Cemetery.
A beautiful day to visit Germantown Mennonite Church, the first Mennonite Meetinghouse built in America.
While in Philadelphia, we also visited James Logan Historic House, a colleague of William Penn.

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

Brussels, Belgium

Enjoying a cruise on the canals in Brugge. What is Ross doing to Wilmer’s Hair? Is he taking out the Gray ones?
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.

Flanders Field
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.

In Flanders Field by Dr. John McCrae

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.

Lord Kitchener’s famous recruitment poster.

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.

~Wilmer

Wilmer and Ross enjoying the original “French Fries” in Brugge. They were delicious. ‎Ross prefers Ketchup rather than Mayonnaise.