89 and shooting for 100

My Joyce and I have had wonderful times together such as described in the most recent AARP magazine’s article:  “The Power of Touch.”  It tells of nonsexual but touching encounters for all ages, but especially for those who are 45+.  We recommend the article. But Joyce and I do have different personalities.  This morning she asked me about my plan for the day.  She had a plan, but I didn’t.  She is enjoying her planned day, and I am enjoying my unplanned day. The temperature was up to 50 today so I am sure her plan included a walk out of doors.

The cottage we left behind as it is now.

The house we left behind as it is now.

First, I turned to memories. Only Sixty-six years ago Rhoda, Rachel and I were ready to leave Pennsylvania to enter pastoral/missionary service in Tampa, Florida. We were prepared for this venture by our past life and six weeks of intensive missionary training in the city of Philadelphia.  We left behind our families, house and land, and a dog.

The trunk of our 1931 chevrolet coupe was filled to capacity with our meager belongings. A suitcase, Rhoda, Rachel and I occupied the front seat. We were ready to leave when Jonas Hege’s car blocked our way. He had a slab of bacon to give us which we slid under the front seat.

Raymond Rotz, the Marion mechanic, assured us the coupe would take us to Florida, but on the first day the distributor (or something) stopped working.  This limited our travel to day-light hours. On our third day of travel we arrived at Citra, Florida.  Large citrus trees were in bloom on both sides of highway 301.  The exotic fragrance was powerful.  The forenoon of February 4 was spent at Silver Springs the oldest tourist attraction in Florida. That afternoon we arrived at 1409 E. Ida St, Tampa, the parsonage that was to be our home for ten years.


Parsonage on left, church on right, parsonage and church separated by drive way. Rhoda and coupe in front.

We didn’t know that Florida would be our home for 56 years. In my unplanned day I discovered that the Southeast Mennonite Conference was meeting this very weekend at the Bay Shore Mennonite Church in Sarasota.  I was one of the many who planted and watered the conference in its beginning.  I rejoice in the conference’s vitality today under the leadership of Conference Minister Marco Guete.

I was pleased to learn today that more than 100 Mennonite church planters, coaches and leaders involved in planting the seeds of God’s reign across the United States will gather for a national church planting summit March 31April 2, 2016, in New Orleans, Louisiana. Dreamers, risk-takers and testifiers are invited.  I wonder who will be there from the Southeast.  Coould I go?  I’ll only be 90 years old.  What could keep me from dreaming, taking risks and testifying?  I was prepared for the next encounter for my unplanned day.

The Bay Shore Mennonite church was the only fully organized congregation in Florida under the leadership of Timothy Brenneman when we arrived in Tampa.  I had heard little recently about this historic church. But my unplanned day led me to Bay Shore Mennonite website.


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.
This entry was posted in Biblical Interpretation, Church, Faith, Family, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to 89 and shooting for 100

  1. Grace Miller says:

    The picture of Ida Street Mennonite Church, Rhoda, and your home brought back a flood of many wonderful memories! I accepted Jesus as my Lord & my forever best friend in that church and was baptized there by Brother Lehman (as we called our pastors back then). I remember fondly my “Instruction Classes” in the living room of the parsonage around a small table with the others who were desiring to be baptized. I still have my little yellow instruction book. And another time, Rhoda invited a couple of us little Sunday School girls to bake cookies with her in her kitchen and when she took us home, we each carried a big plate full with us for our families. I also enjoyed growing up with Rachel and playing with the other children at our church. I can still remember how the wooden floor and benches creaked and the wonderful old bookcase with sliding glass doors that held our church library. And the Brotherly Aid Offering Box. So many, many memories from such a small church.
    Thank you for sharing your unplanned day! God bless you Brother Martin!

  2. Wilmer says:

    That first house of yours as I remember it was unpainted block. I often ate lunch in that house with you in summers 1946-1948 according to my memory as I picked berries, pulled weeds etc. The first summer I rode my bicycle there from Marion. Mary Louise and I also ate some meals in the 1409 E Ida St. The one I remember best was the one we caught crabs then put bibs on in order to eat them after Rhoda fixed them. All pleasant memories of our lives intersecting.

    • Your memory is correct, Wilmer. The house was unfinished when we left it. It eventually feel into the hands of a family of master architects and they completed it to look as it is now. When we visited the house in which I was born we could not see it. It was surrounded by bushes and trees, though lived in by the father of the family of architects.

  3. Marilyn Slabach says:

    This does bring back lots of memories of working in Southeast Mennonite Convention/Conference doing lots of good work in ministering to ALL people. Reminds me of a meeting in Elkhart once a long time ago when the leader was referring to Southeast Conference enough to cause me to ask him about that. We were just doing the work set before us, but his response made me stop and think about the growing diversity in our conference and our ability to manage that. The two volumes of ROOTS AND BRANCHES that you wrote are so important in telling the story. And reading Proclamation every month now shows me the work just goes on and on. Thank you for allowing God to use you in all of this and providing good common sense leadership. And through this Blog it goes on and on. Blessings.

Leave a Reply to Wilmer Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.