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.
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.
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 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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”
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.
“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.”