More Close Encounters

Nathan Hege

Nathan Hege

After our close encounter with Paul and Mary Zehr, My Joy and I went a short distance on the Landis Homes campus to an encounter with Nathan Hege. Nathan is about our age, a second cousin who grew up in the Marion Mennonite Church with me. I knew he had contracted polio at an early age, but I did not know that it attacked him at three weeks of age, nor that he was given milk by medicine dropper because he was unable to suck. I did not ask how many operations he had as a child, but I know surgeons worked their best to restore muscle and movement. He walked with a limp throughout life. Moving around his home in a wheelchair, he cheerfully told me that while I am losing strength at one percent per year, he is losing strength at two percent per year.


Raymond Martin

Nevertheless, Nathan served for about twenty years with wife Arlene as missionaries in Ethiopia and apparently became an accomplished linguist. His present interest is translating a book by an Ethiopian evangelist from Amharic into English. He said it sometimes reads like the life of the Apostle Paul.  Since being with Nathan there are many questions I should have asked him.  But we were eager to move to a close encounter with Raymond and Alice Martin who had elected to live in a retirement home operated by the Church of the Brethren not far from Landis Homes.


Alice Martin

Many times I was a guest of Raymond and Alice when he served as voluntary service director and pastor of the Homestead Mennonite Church. When I retired from conference work, Raymond succeeded me as Conference Minister. The story of his work in the Southeast spans both volumes of my series: Roots and Branches.  My Joy talked with the women during these close encounters and assured me that they were “sweet.” That I knew!

We had made an appointment for a late afternoon encounter with Chester and Sara Wenger. Our GPS insisted on taking the shortest route that required the most time.  So we were late, and the Wengers had given up on our coming. Chester apologized as he led us to their table. We ate the best, he said.  He offered us what was left, and it was tasty and sufficient.


Chester shows My Joy a picture album

Chester served for years in Ethiopia and then was appointed Home Missions Secretary by EMM. I was superintendent for Peninsular Florida, Georgia and South Carolina so he became my supervisor in mission strategy. But I was the bishop.  So we had to be a team.  He was responsible for the development of a sabbatical system for home mission workers and he chose me for the first sabbatical year of study at Eastern Mennonite College and Seminary with the privilege of taking courses of my choice.


About Martin Lehman

I was born 92 years ago, the son of a Mennonite pastor and organic gardener in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. At age 10 I was baptized as a member of the Marion Mennonite Church. I own the "Old Fool" moniker because I want to walk the Jesus Way even though the world and much of the church takes me as a fool for doing so. In my life I have moved from being a young conservative to an elderly radical. I tell that story in My Faith Journey posted on my website.
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2 Responses to More Close Encounters

  1. Sam Troyer says:

    Thanks again for sharing. I knew Nathan but did not know Raymond Martin. Sounds you and Joyce had a wonderful trip, we’re so glad you had the opportunity. Betsy and I feel very blessed by our years in Pennsylvania. I remember we had Raymond Charles at Slate Hill for meetings; his cancer was so bad I worried about him making it through the weekend. But he seemed more energized as his meetings progressed. We were literally listening to a dying man. I will always remember the Sunday afternoon we shared around our dinning room table. He died shortly after that weekend.

  2. Donald Blosser says:

    I learned to know Chester Wenger when I was pastor at Akron Mennonite. I can’t remember the exact committee, but we served together on something that had to do with education. I quickly came to admire this man’s faith commitment, his love for the church, his intelligence and his willingness to learn. (Ah I remember…it was a continuing education for pastors committee that brought seminary profs to Lancaster for several days of instruction/discussion.) Chester’s letter sounds exactly like the man I once knew. It is a peaceful, deeply spiritual expression of faith and growth in his own faith journey without being judgmental of others. I would pray that more of us might have his courage matched with his obvious compassion.
    Thanks Martin for alerting others to this modern spiritual epistle.

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