A Unique Family with a Mission


The Amish “boys” and their 1919 Reo Speed Wagon

In December, 1923, twenty year old Will Overholt in Ohio, invited five other young men to go with him on a trek to Florida. They drove down Florida’s west coast and up the east coast and back to Ohio. They met no other Amish or Mennonites in Florida.


Will Overholt trimming roses at Sunnyside Nursing Home

Forty two years later Will Overholt bought a Florida home. He founded the Sunnyside Nursing Home. On Sundays the Beachy Amish congregation met in the nursing home. When church and nursing home outgrew each other, the Beachy Amish built a church across the street for themselves.

OverholtJohn J Overholt was another of the Overholt clan that settled in Sarasota. He was a singer and leader of the Hartville Singers that toured France, Belgium, Switzerland, Poland, Romania and Russia. As he traveled he collected hymns as a hobby. In 1972, he published a hymnal of over 1000 songs.  You can view and hear his descendants singing by clicking here.

While Rhoda and I lived in Sunnyside Village I worshiped one Sunday in the church across the street. John J. Overholt’s son, Nathan, welcomed me to the adult Sunday School class and assured me that I could ask questions and add my thoughts to the class discussion. They were open to all points of view.


Sunnyside Beachy Amish Mennonite Church and School in Sarasota, Florida

That seems to be the spirit with which Nathan and his brother Mathias advise the Anabaptist Identity Conference. In March 2015, the conference met in nearby Nappanee, Indiana.

The conference’s mission statement is as follows: (Ponder it’s implications)

  1. To propose the truth of the good news of Jesus (gospel) in subjects that are   relevant for our times.
  2. To hold forth the ancient, radical faith of those who’ve gone before us, as examples for ourselves.
  3. To provide a forum where questions can be asked without fear of reprisal.
  4. To be too conservative for the liberals and too liberal for the conservatives, hoping thereby to stir up the apathy that each camp contains.
  5. A forum to be able to think outside of the box and question that which we’ve been told.
  6. To assist Anabaptist groups in strengthening the things that remain and sending them back to their camps to build up and encourage.
  7. To provoke Anabaptist groups to thoughtful consideration of the Biblical truths lacking in their individual congregation settings.
  8. To provide fellowship for conservative Anabaptist groups.
  9. To respect all groups, bashing no one and not encouraging sheep stealing; but rather, encouraging a building up of the church of Jesus.

This morning, I shared the mission statement with the Samhedrim. The retired professionals puzzled over possible definitions, like what are the meanings of conservative and liberal.

We ended the morning by remembering the wonderful worshipful experience on Easter morning at College Mennonite Church, and the pastor’s sermon that ended with an emphasis of the value of humor in the Christian’s life. Experience it by clicking here.  We ended our morning by telling jokes, and laughing.

LogoSeriously, I wonder what miracle might happen if the conferences of MCUSA would adhere to the mission statement of the Anabaptist Identity Conference. 

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 A Unique Family with a Mission

  1. Carl Metzler says:

    I wonder how points #4 and #8 interact, and where do other-than-conservative Anabaptists go for fellowship.

  2. Can the other than conservative worship with the conservative anabaptists and ask questions and tell their faith stories, and not be bashed? That is my question. I’d like to think I would be respected by the people who live by their mission statement.

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