Hasliberg / Reuti, Switzerland 

Richard Kennel studying the map with Wilmer at Frankfurt Airport

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.

Ross & Richard Kennel at the Belgrad sign.

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.

Group at Augsburger Homestead

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.

Group eating Scucurt in Riquewhir

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.

Esther Lewis & Muriel Coultes walking the 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.

~ Wilmer Martin

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

Rothenburg on der Tauber, Germany

 

Bob Kelly sharing with the Group in Worms at Luther momument
Bob Kelly lecturing at Reformers Monument

 

Visiting the section of the Heidleberg Castle destroyed by the French during the occupation
Janet Walther, Carol and Lorne Smith visiting the Heidleberg Castle

 

Nancy & Robert Mann ; Judy & Bruce Wilson inside the Walled City- Rothenburg
Nancy & Robert Mann ; Judy & Bruce Wilson inside the Walled City- Rothenburg

 

Lorne & Carol Smith in Rothenburg
Lorne & Carol Smith in Rothenburg

 

Group at the Steinsfurt cellar
Group at the Steinsfurt cellar

 

Wilmer and driver JP Weber
Wilmer and driver JP Weber

 

William Berczy Historic plaque, Wallerstein, Germany
William Berczy Historic plaque, Wallerstein, Germany

Prior to the tour group members arriving, Lorne and Carol Smith and I were able to fit a visit in a with our long-time friend and historian Aksel Rink, who recently celebrated his 96th birthday.  We had a wonderful visit with him in his gardens, as you can see from the photo at the top of the post.

Meeting in Nordlingen, Germany with Mayor Herman and Peter, Staff and Historian Aksel Rink
Meeting in Nordlingen, Germany with Mayor Herman and Peter, Staff and Historian Aksel Rink

Read the blog on Tourmagination’s website.

~ Wilmer Martin

Message from John and Michele Sharp

Altar at church for MJ Sharp’s funeral

John and Michelle’s home is a gathering center for people from all over the world today. This morning there were over 60 persons here. MJ’s collegues from the UN , the State department granted Visa’s for two of MJ’s. Congolese fellow workers to enter the US to attend the funeral. Family and friends. Everyone needs to be together to encourage one another in order to find meaning in the death of their friend.

Michele said, “his death seems to soon. However, we want his friends to carry forward MJ’s Vision. It is important that they can be together to talk and mourn.”

I gave John your greetings and shared we are so sorry for their loss. As he hugged me he said “ it means so much to me that you came to be with us. It is a long journey for a short time. It is comforting and encouraging to know that my friends in Europe and other parts of the world have been talking to you and are remembering us. Thank you”

Reserved seating for UN representatives and MJ's Collegues
Reserved seating at the church for UN representatives and MJ’s collegues

The Hesston College Mennonite Church is open to welcome everyone today, with a video beginning at 3:30pm and the service live-streamed at 4 PM. UN officials and other of MJ’s friends will be in attendance.

Michelle, John and the family appreciate your prayers on their behalf. They ask that you also remember in your prayers the continued work left by MJ in the Congo.

~ Wilmer

Asunción, Paraguay

Yesterday we visited Mennonite Hospital Km 81. This hospital ‎was founded as a thank you project to the citizens of Paraguay in 1951 by the Mennonite settlers. It was built as a thank you for welcoming them when other countries closed their doors. Sponsored by a union of the 32 German-speaking Mennonite churches in Paraguay, the treatment and care of leprosy, tuberculosis and patients with HIV / AIDS is partially free.

KM81 Hospital plaque
A plaque celebrating the 50th anniversary of the hospital.
Ross, Dr Carlos Wiens and Wilmer talking at the hospital.
Ross, Dr Carlos Wiens and Wilmer talking at the hospital.
meeting with Diaconia ADT micro-finance program
Judh, Albert and Mary’s son in law, operates Diaconia ADT, a micro-finance program. We were able to visit one of the groups meeting in Asunción, with 15 women and 1 man as members. We were impressed with the program’s training, organization and focus.
Dinner ‎with Albert and Mary, and their daughter Mary and her family.
Dinner ‎with Albert and Mary, and their daughter Mary and her family.

This morning Albert and Mary took us on a tour of Asunción‎ before we went to the airport for our flight back to Canada. Ross and I are eager to return home to our families. However, we both agree that our time went very quickly and we saw so much. It was wonderful to experience the hospitality and love of the Hildebrand family.

Presidential palace
Presidential palace
by the river in Asunción‎
By the river in Asunción‎

Visiting Chaco, Paraguay

The Sun is coming up here in the Chaco. We are having breakfast with our pilot and the head rancher, who oversees the 50,000 hector ranch of 6,000 head of cattle with a staff of roughly 20 cowboys. Very interesting! Later today we fly to Menno Colony and then back to Albert’s home. Enjoy the photos.

Plane parked in hangar at ranch in Chaco
We took a plane to visit Albert’s ranch in the Chaco. The plane ride was 2 hour 15 minutes. By car it would have take 12 to 15 hours.
Albert's Cattle at Montenegro, Chaco
Albert’s Cattle at Montenegro, Chaco
One of the cowboys working at Montenegro Ranch
One of the cowboys working at Montenegro Ranch
Albert with the ranch's logo
Albert with the ranch’s logo
Dinner with the cowboys at Montenegro Ranch. It was delicious!
Dinner with the cowboys at Montenegro Ranch. It was delicious!
Santa Gertrudis Cattle, Albert's favourites
Santa Gertrudis Cattle, Albert’s favourites
Wilmer and Albert with the famous Bottle Tree
Wilmer and Albert with the famous Bottle Tree (palo borracho), whose bottle-shaped trunk conserves water
Wilmer sitting in the back seat of Albert's Beechcraft plane, a 6-seater.
Wilmer sitting in the back seat of Albert’s Beechcraft plane, a 6-seater. Ross was co-pilot.
Wilmer and Ross with Wilmer's long-time friends, Rosie and Gerhard Penner, at Menno Colony.
Wilmer and Ross with Wilmer’s long-time friends, Rosie and Gerhard Penner, at Menno Colony.
Mennonites built this the beautiful New Jerusalem Hospital in Loma Plato.
Gerhard took us to visit the beautiful New Jerusalem Hospital, built by Mennonites in Loma Plato.
Ross in conversation with a nurse and Gerhard at New Jerusalem Indian Hospital. Menno Colony
Ross in conversation with a nurse and Gerhard at New Jerusalem Indian Hospital. Menno Colony
Wild pigs (Carpincho) at Menno Colony
Wild pigs (Carpincho) at Menno Colony

Sommerfeld, Paraguay

It is a privilege to be in Paraguay visiting Friends Albert and Mary Hildebrand. Janet and I have been friends, visiting in each other’s homes and traveling together for more than 17 years. Janet and I had hoped to visit Albert and Mary this year. When my friend Dr Ross Kennel learned I still desired to come to Paraguay after Janet’s death he said I never visited Paraguay. I will travel with you. He lost Jan his wife earlier this year. We are having a wonderful time. It is great introducing Ross to my friends, the history, industry and life of this area of South America.

Albert Hildebrand welcomed us on our arrival in Asuncion. On the beautiful drive to Sommerfeld Ross continued to talk about the lush countryside. We stopped and bought a traditional snack, Chipa. It was still warm and brought back memories of previous trips.

Wilmer, Ross and Albert at Igazua Falls
Wilmer, Ross and Albert at Igazua Falls

Mary welcomed us to their home with a delicious meal. We also enjoyed exercising in the pool and meeting some of their Grandchildren who also enjoyed the pool and playing with each other.

Thursday was our day to visit Iguazu Falls in Brazil. Wilmer told Ross and Albert that the falls is running stronger than on many previous trips. Many of the smaller falls were also running full. During the 1.8 Killometer walk along the falls we got spectacular pictures.

Soybean harvest
Soybean harvest

We visited Itaipu Hydroelectric Power plant, the largest in the world, is a bi-national joint venture between Brazil and Paraguay. Ross teased Wilmer for getting so excited when we visited the Hildebrand farm and watched the Harvesting of Soybeans. I guess you can take a boy away from the farm but you are unable to take the farm from him.

Today was a special day for Ross. We visited the Modern Mennonite Hospital, Luz Y at Campo 9. Albert and Mary were instrumental in it beginning. Dr Orlando Epp took us on a tour of the Hospital. We learned that Dr. Carlos Wiens was working at the Hospital. At the end of the tour we learned that he wanted to meet us. Dr Wiens is a deeply respected Dr in Paraguay having spent most of his Career at KM 81 Leprosy Hospital. He developed a way of assisting Leprosy Patients with plastic surgery.

Dr Ross with Dr Wiens and Dr Epp at Hospital Campao 9
Dr Ross with Dr Wiens & Dr Epp at Hospital Campao 9

Ross asked Dr Wiens if he misses serving the Government (he served 5 years as Director of Health Service). He said “no, I feel I can make a greater contribution serving as doctor at KM 81 and here at this hospital. This is my calling.”

We are feeling enriched having the opportunity to visit the Hospital, Schools and industry. The conversations are enriching.
We look forward to worshipping with Albert and Mary at their church tomorrow.

~ Wilmer Martin

A Time to Stand Up and Be Heard

“A brutal massacre at a Quebec City mosque has left Canada in shock but also unified the country in solidarity with Muslims,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at the funeral service for three of the six victims this past Thursday. “It is with heavy hearts that we come together this afternoon to grieve the loss of these innocent lives,” he told the solemn crowd. “As a community and as a country, together we will rise from this darkness stronger and more unified than ever before – that is who we are.”

Adrienne Clarkson, the 26th Governor-General of Canada (1999-2005), wrote in the Globe and Mail newspaper, “How does one explain to ourselves or to the world that people were killed, shot in the back while they were praying to the one God who created us all. Are any explanations possible? This horror that has happened in Quebec City does not reflect what we as Canadians believe. It makes us feel terrible. It makes us feel unworthy that this should have happened on our soil. How could this have happened?”

This morning during worship service at St Agatha Mennonite Church, Pastor Len Rempel spoke about this tragedy and reminded us that it is “time to stand up and be heard!” He quoted from Jesus’ words, “Let your Light shine. We do good not for our own benefit but to give glory to God.” (Matthew 5:16) He expressed that when tragedy happens it may seem that God is silent. However, God is still in control. This is the message he shared with an Imman he knows, on behalf of our congregation.

This week our political and spiritual leaders reminded us of our heritage. Canada has always been a country where we were able to adjust, where we let people be. We must let people wear what they want to wear. We must always be the kind of country that understands that other people have brought different stories and different narratives to this country. We must respect their stories, as we ask them to respect ours. We must remember we are one family, everyone created in God’s image. We have one God and we are called to love and respect one another.

It is time for all of us to Stand Up and follow the examples and words of Jesus.”Do unto others as you would have them do to you” and “love your neighbor as yourself.”

~ Wilmer Martin

A Principled and Persistent Leader

Last evening I learned that my friend, former Waterloo MP, Andrew Telegdi died at the age of 70. His death came as a shock – we have lost a voice that was strong, principled and persistent.

When I was Pastor of Erb Street Mennonite Church, Andrew, Roy Snyder and I would go golfing. At the time Andrew served as a Councillor for the City of Waterloo. There were always issues he wanted to discuss. Our conversations on the golf course often were intense. Roy and others were known to tell Andrew he was stubborn! Yesterday, on Facebook, Mark Yantzi shared about Andrew’s tireless work in support of persons in conflict with the law.

During my tenure as President & CEO of Habitat for Humanity Canada, Andrew – now a MP representing Waterloo and parts of Kitchener in Canada’s Federal Parliament, joined me in Budapest, participating in the Jimmy Carter work project. We built 10 homes in 5 days. Andrew was born in Hungary and immigrated to Canada with his family at age 10, making this a project very close to his heart.

Andrew was a principled and persistent leader. His death is a reminder our time on this earth is short. Recently at a restaurant Andrew stopped by my son Alan’s table to ask how I was doing, making Alan the last member of our family to talk to Andrew.

Today I read an article that Andrew would have thoroughly enjoyed reading. Local leadership blogger Wayne Townsend today posted “Intelligent Leaders Demonstrate A Heart For Humanity,” a blog about the work Learning For Humanity is undertaking. I hope you will take a moment to read this article. As I read it, I could hear Andrew’s voice in my head asking about the leadership I’m providing to this project. He was determined to make the world brighter and kinder. This continues to be my goal also. I hope it is yours too.

THANK YOU Andrew for your leadership. You demonstrated this quality in everything you did.

~ Wilmer Martin

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Beautiful happy couple from Trai Mat Village
Beautiful happy couple from Trai Mat Village
Ruth Martin talking to 83 year old at Cao Dai Temple
Ruth Martin talking to 83 year old at Cao Dai Temple
Women gardening in Da Lat
Women gardening in Da Lat
Beautiful garden city of Da Lat
Sue Miller and Mary Elaine Byler in the beautiful garden city of Da Lat
Sue and Mary Elaine with a family of fabric vendors at the Chicken Village
Sue and Mary Elaine with a family of fabric vendors at the Chicken Village
Taking bananas to market
Taking bananas to market
Transporting Rice Husk on the Mekong River
Transporting rice husk on the Mekong River. Do you see the eyes?
Choir at the quadrennial conference of the Vietnam Mennonite Church
Choir at the quadrennial conference of the Vietnam Mennonite Church
Wonderful art at a workshop employing handicapped indivdiuals
Wonderful art at a workshop employing handicapped individuals
Learning from workers at the rubber plantation
Learning from workers at the rubber plantation

Click here to read the stories behind the pictures.

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