My Home is Where I Am

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Arriving in Sarasota flying over the Sunshine Skyway Bridge

On Saturday, December 3, 2016 I flew by Delta from Indiana to Sarasota. Florida.  I cried when I saw Sarasota’s rich landscape and felt the warm breeze. I lived in Florida for 56 years and Florida was my home.

My son-in-law Eldon Stoltzfus and I flew together from  South Bend to Sarasota.  My daughter Rachel had been in Sarasota on business for the week preceding our arrival, but business was over so she met us in a rented car.  The three of us went to a home available to us in the Tameron subdivision to rest a little and to recover from the trip.

Then we drove to Tampa and to College Hill Mennonite Church.  The church was

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Walter Crawford holding a granddaughter; Eldon with back to us; Rachel in background

celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the ground breaking for the church building in 1956.  I was a pastor of another church in Tampa at the time of the ground breaking and later became the bishop of the congregation.  I am remembered by the congregation as Bishop Martin Lehman.  Associate Pastor Walter Crawford  was in charge of planning the event and he asked me to speak on the church’s history for about 25 minutes. There were many  testimonies. songs and poems.

 

Rachel and Osa Russell

As old  preachers do, I divided my speech into three segments.  First I told of the coming of Charles and Anna Byer to Tampa through 1907 to 1957.  In the second segment I detailed the love and the fruit of the white missionaries as I knew it. Ed Taylor, a black preacher from Cleveland, Ohio, was hired by the Mennonite Church to bring cultural wisdom to the denomination as we tried to integrate congregation.  He told me that the church will really grow only if the all white missionaries  are gotten rid of.  Taylor recruited John Moore in 1983 as the first black pastor and  Moore recruited the first pastor, Roy Williams, and his associate, Walter Crawford. John Moore and Charles and Anna Byer are buried side by side in the Orange Hill Cemetery in Tampa. The third segment of my speech was meant to be an encouragement and to show how we all should live in the Trump era.  Walter and Hattie Crawford hosted us for the night in their home.  Rachel and Hattie are Facebook friends.

Home is where I am
peace and joy-filled memories
in present moment

 

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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3 Responses to My Home is Where I Am

  1. Thank my Brother Martin. So glad you could return to visit Tampa and to share with the congregation there! Happy for you so good Eldon and you could travel together. I treasure our reconecting from time to time. Perhaps on Tues. I will try to get to greet you if you and I are both at the Sam Hedron mt.?! 🙂

  2. Lloyd Gingrich says:

    Martin, your mention of Charles & Anna Byers brought back memories of my stay in Florida back in 1952 with a volunteer builders group. Lloyd

  3. Marilyn Slabach says:

    So good you could join the celebration at College Hill. Sixty years! Does bring back lots of memories about people, gatherings and the work we all did in the Southeast Convention (later Conference). I have lived in Naples about 20 years. Proclamation (Email) continues to keep me informed about Southeast Conference activities. What a good group of people!

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