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
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.
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