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

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.

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

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.

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 ( 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