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.

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

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.

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.

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.

A Visit with Friends

Looking at the water entering the North Sea at a pumping station. We learned ‎a lot about the coordination required to enable fish to return to the fresh water lakes/canals for breeding.
JP and Ross in Geithoorn
Left to right: JP, Wilmer, Ross, Onijdes, Jantsji, Jennifer Metthe & Tristan Hagen
8 year old Olivia reminds me so much of my granddaughter Miriam. I enjoyed having a “tea party” with her.
Wilmer, Jantsji, Ross and Onijdes in front of the Menno Simmons Monument at Witmarsum
Oudebildtzyl – A wonderful dinner on Saturday evening with friends. Left to right: Ross, Annejet, Onijdes, Jantsje & Stijsma , Arejen & Yinkje Hoogland, Wilmer
We had a wonderful tour of Het Gravensteen Castle, Gent Belgium
We had a wonderful tour of Het Gravensteen Castle in Gent, Belgium

Volendam, The Netherlands

On Wednesday, September 13 my friend Ross Kennel and I arrived in Brussels, Belgium. We were met at the airport by my long time friend and coach driver, JP Weber. JP and I had planned this time together, traveling with his car. I invited Ross to join us on this holiday.

Wilmer, JP and Ross touring 'De Kat' windmill, ZaanDam
Wilmer, JP and Ross touring ‘De Kat’ windmill, ZaanDam

Our first stop after entering Holland was the Delta Works Museum. This was very informative how the Dutch people have learned to control the water. The last major flood was in 1953 when 1,000’s of persons drowned when the Dyke broke. We discussed how the Dutch are raising the Dykes in Holland as the water table is rising. Globally, the Dutch are helping other nations deal with flooding as global water levels rise.

We were impressed by the size of the Aalsmeer Flower Auction which covers the same land mass of 220 football fields. The air was so fresh as we walked along the catwalk, enjoying the beautiful flowers. The guide told us 34.5 million flowers are sold here each day. The top 5 importing countries were Kenya, Ethiopia, Israel, Belgium and Germany. The top 5 exporting are Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Russia.

Did Ross buy a new garden gnome?
Did Ross buy a new garden gnome?

Later, at the Rijksmuseum, we spent time exploring the work of Rembrandt. His paintings depict the famous Dutch sky.

Walking around Zaanse Schans to explore the Windmill it started to rain. I forgot my umbrella leaving it in the Ccar. So I found a red, broken one in a garbage can. It helped to keep the driving rain off. I couldn’t figure out why JP and Ross and everyone was laughing at me.

at the Alkmaar Cheese market
Why did Ross let the mice sample the cheese?

This morning we visited the famous Alkmaar open-air Cheese Market. We enjoyed tasting and talking with some of the workers and our families will enjoy tasting the cheese too, when we get home.

Walking around Volendam JP reminded us that this town was also the name of one of the ships that carried Mennonite refugees from Europe to South America. Tomorrow we travel to Menno Simmons country, to spend two days with my friend Onijdes and his family.

~ Wilmer

Enjoying the beautiful sunshine in Volendam
Enjoying the beautiful sunshine in Volendam

A Visit from Albert & Mary Hildebrand

Albert Riding in Ross's Convertible.
Albert riding in Ross’s Convertible

Albert and Mary Hildebrand from Sommerfeld, Paraguay arrived at my home on Thursday. We have been friends for the past 18 years. Janet and I would visit Albert and Mary each year either in Paraguay while on a TourMagination tour or at the yearly MEDA convention.

It is such a privilege to have them stay with me. Albert and I enjoy deep discussion about business, church, world events and how to make a difference in our world.

At the St. Jacobs Farmer's Market
At the St. Jacobs Farmer’s Market

Last March Ross Kennel and I traveled to Paraguay to visit Albert & Mary in their home. Planning for Albert and Mary’s return visit was fun. In Paraguay, Ross and I enjoyed visiting Albert’s various business interests. We tried to plan similar opportunities for Albert, planning places to visit that may give him ideas to use when he returns to Paraguay.

Gathering on Saturday evening
Saturday evening gathering

Ross volunteered to host a gathering of friends who visited Paraguay and Albert and May on past TourMagination tours. ‎Conversation was lively as people shared memories of visits to Albert and Mary’s flour mill in Paraguay and responding to Albert’s questions.

Sunday afternoon we visited Aunt Trudy, Albert’s last living aunt in Fonthill. This was a wonderful opportunity for Albert and Mary as four of Aunt Trudy ‎children also came to visit.

Mary and Albert with Aunt Trudy
Mary and Albert with Aunt Trudy

Kitchener in Bloom

Beautiful daffodil
Beautiful daffodil
When Janelle bought her home several years ago she decided she wanted a flower garden rather than grass in her front yard. Janet and I were very supportive. Janet had a green thumb, like her mother and Janelle. I like to work (play) in the soil so I quickly took a spade and turned the grass under.

Janelle did her research and I helped her plant bulbs over the last number of years. For this reason she has flowers blooming from spring through the fall.

What a surprise for her yesterday morning to open her door and discover a sign and a letter stating that her garden has been nominated by someone to participate in Kitchener in Bloom!

Kitchener in Bloom nomination sign
Kitchener in Bloom nomination sign

With excitement she said “Dad our garden is part of Kitchener in Bloom.” I am so proud of Janelle. I so much enjoy gardening at her home and at her brother and sister-in-law’s home. I call it my opportunity to farm.

So congratulations Janelle. Your neighbors also enjoy your garden.

~ Wilmer