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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.