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.
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.
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 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.