Tag Archives: Millersburg Ohio

Alice always made me smile

By Bruce Stambaugh

Alice.

Alice always made me smile. Oh, she could be annoying. Even when I’d kindly caution her to keep her voice down, that didn’t stop Alice from being Alice. Nor did that stop me from liking her.

I got to know Alice at our little church in Millersburg, Ohio. I can’t even remember how long I’d had the privilege of being Alice’s friend. She was a friend to many, to whomever she met really. Alice just had that kind of outgoing, unabashed personality.

Nothing held Alice back. If she wanted something or wanted you to know something that she knew, she’d share, any place, any time. Tact and appropriateness of timing were never part of Alice’s arsenal. Ironically, consideration of others most certainly was. It’s what motivated her, drove her, caused her to fearlessly blurt out her innermost feelings with no compunction.

Alice could be a pill, even a pest. If she had your number, especially your phone number, Alice would find any old excuse to call you. Alice often rambled on and on if you would let her. That’s how much she loved you.

Alice attended church whenever possible. Other good folks went out of their way to provide transportation for her.

Alice loved Helen Steiner Rice poems. She’d read them aloud every chance she got in church, often in honor of someone’s birthday. Of course, Alice did so long after other announcements had already been made. Spitfire that she was, Alice didn’t need a microphone. She would just shout out her comments, prayer requests, and recitations as the spirit moved.

Alice could pull this off because everyone knew her situation. It wasn’t toleration mind you. It was admiration for her unequivocal love for others and her fierce desire to share whatever was on her mind. Nearly 99 percent of the time, her thoughts and concerns were for others, not herself.

Alice receiving communion.

As Alice did her readings or made her proclamations, knowing smiles radiated from all around the congregation. Every worship leader graciously acknowledged her comments and the service continued without a hitch.

In addition to poems, Alice loved a good joke and prank. Though often silly and uncomplicated, Alice laughed her wicked laugh as she told and retold the punch lines. Once when our infant granddaughter squeezed Alice’s index finger and wouldn’t let go, Alice was in heaven. She joyously reminded me of that incident whenever she could. That was Alice.

Several years ago, I escorted Alice to Texas to visit her only living brother, whose health was failing. People thought I was crazy to take on that formidable task.

Though dependent on a wheelchair, Alice traveled with no problems. The further we got from Millersburg, the quieter she got. The return trip proved just the opposite.

Alice listened to my every instruction. Deep down, she and I both knew just how much this journey, paid for anonymously, meant to her. Witnessing Alice embrace her brother Floyd was one of my lifetime thrills.

Quixotic as she was, Alice married late in life on the most romantic day of the year, Valentines Day, Feb. 14, 1970. She and her husband Charlie lived right behind our church. In recent months, Alice was confined to a nursing home, substantially reducing her mobility. Alice recently died there at age 95.

Alice’s unbridled love for life was an excellent gift to us all. In her memory and in her honor, I hope that same devotion becomes an exemplary measure of living out our own lives.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2018

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The extraordinary benefits of a beneficial Saturday

sunrisebybrucestambaugh

Benefit Saturday began with a beautiful sunrise.

By Bruce Stambaugh

This was to be benefit Saturday for my wife and I. I simply couldn’t have projected just how beneficial it would end up being.

Before dawn a delightful aroma wafted across the landscape from the Amish farmstead behind our rural Millersburg, Ohio home. A congregation of people was barbequing chicken on portable grill wagons. A generator cast a harsh, artificial light upon the busy group, creating predawn silhouettes.

The benefit barbeque was for a couple that needed financial assistance due to extreme medical bills. She had cancer, twice. He had had surgery that kept him off of work for six months. To help out, we ordered six quarters of chicken to be picked up after 11 a.m.

mongolianhutbybrucestambaugh

A Mongolian hut is called a ger. (Photo by Kim Kellogg)

That was but one of three different fundraisers in which we participated that day. The first began at 7 a.m. with sausage, ham and pancakes. My wife ate the meat. I ate the pancakes. The breakfast was held to raise money for a mission project in Mongolia. An authentic, completely furnished Mongolian ger, a felt lined hut, had been erected in the church fellowship hall for all to inspect.

As tasty as the food was, the fellowship that buzzed around our table was even better. We reminisced with old friends about how our lives had intersected during the ups and downs of life. Breakfast doesn’t usually come with dessert, but that’s what this conversation ended up being.

Though the chicken cooking was literally in our back yard, we had to pick up our order at a residence a mile up the road. For lunch, Neva and I each downed a quarter of the flavorful hinkel, as the Amish refer to it. We enjoyed the chicken so much I returned to buy more, only to be told that they only had enough to fill the presale orders.

barbequingchickenbybrucestambaugh

Our Amish neighbors hosted the grilling of the barbequed chicken.

I drove back my neighbors’ long graveled lane to where the chicken was being grilled. I got the same answer there, but discovered the full measure of devotion of this gracious act of charity.

More than 80 friends, family and extended family members gathered to do the chicken. A total of four tons or nearly 8,500 quarters of chicken had been barbequed to sell on behalf of this family in need. The charcoal was lit at 5 a.m. The grilling began at 6 a.m. and finished up at 2 p.m. It was an all day deal.

From the looks on the workers faces, they were both elated at the success of their selfless efforts and fatigued from their long hours of hanging around the smoky grill pits. A total of 36 Amish churches helped sell the chicken, and they indeed sold it all. They may have barbequed lots of chicken, but in the process they also cooked up a liberal batch of compassion.

honeytownbybrucestambaugh

The band, Honeytown, performed at a local coffee shop to help raise money for our church youth group.

In the evening, Neva and I headed into town for a concert by a renowned, local quartet. Honeytown sang and played as a fundraiser for our church youth group. The kids were raising funds to attend a church wide conference in Arizona this summer. Only Mennonites would hold a gathering in the desert in July.

Each of these three benefits had a specific purpose, and each achieved success. Love comes in many shapes, sizes, and means, pancakes, barbequed chicken, and inspirational song among them. Though independent of one another, a common purpose and generous acts of human kindness bound the benefits as one.

We had been thrice blessed. Beneath an umbrella of golden sun and cloudless coral sky, this benefit Saturday had truly been extraordinary.

© Bruce Stambaugh

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Churches ready for another candlelight walk

musicatmillersburgbybrucesgambaugh

Brooke Hershberger entertained participants of last year’s church walk at Millersburg Mennonite Church.

By Bruce Stambaugh

The event has such a straightforward name. Yet, participating in the annual Millersburg Candlelight Church Walk is so much more than that.

Yes, it is a walk, unless you choose to drive from church to church. This year six churches within walking distance in and close to Historical Downtown Millersburg, Ohio are set to host visitors on Friday, December 14 from 6 to 8 p.m. Millersburg is located 35 miles southwest of Canton, 75 miles south of Cleveland or 80 miles northeast of Columbus.

The churches are chosen for the proximity as well as their historical significance, according to Kate Findley, who is the volunteer coordinator for the event, now in its third year.

katefindleybybrucestambaugh

Kate Findley (left), coordinator for the church walk, shared about the Presbyterian Church at last year’s church walk.

“We want those who can do so to be able to walk from church to church,” Findley said. “Those who cannot walk are welcome to drive to each church.”

Besides the physical exercise, people who participate in the tour will also learn about the history of each church. Findley said representatives from each congregation would be available to share about their church and answer any questions. For example, some of the church buildings have housed different denominations over the years.

In addition, the various churches in the walk have unique architectural features that people should find interesting. From ornate bell towers to stained glass windows to intricate pulpits, each church has its own structural story.

“This is an opportunity for people who might drive by these churches frequently without ever being inside them to see what they look like,” Findley said.

specialtreebybrucestambaugh

Participants in the church walk can view special Christmas decorations and traditions at each of the participating churches.

The six churches included in the candlelight walk include Faith Lutheran Church, 187 S. Clay St.; First Presbyterian Church, 90 S. Clay St.; Grace Pointe Community Church, 164 N. Washington St.; Millersburg Christian Church, 125 N. Clay St.; Millersburg Mennonite Church, 288 E. Jackson St., and St. Peter’s Catholic Church, 379 S. Crawford St.

“The walk committee is really excited to have Grace Pointe Community Church join the walk this year,” Findley said. The building formerly housed the United Methodist Church. Findley emphasized that participants can visit the churches in any order they choose. Maps of church locations will be available at each church.

“There is no starting or ending place,” Findley said. “We are encouraging people to participate in the special music and Christmas carol singing after the walk.”

A special music presentation and singing of carols at Millersburg Mennonite Church will begin at 8:15 p.m. Members of Millersburg Mennonite will perform vocal and instrumental pieces as well.

Each church will be decorated for the holidays according to the particular traditions of each congregation, Findley said. Luminaries will decorate the path to each church. Participants are also invited to relax at each church and enjoy the music presented. Participants will also have a chance to taste the culinary skills of the various church parishioners. Refreshments, including homemade Christmas cookies, will be available at each church building.

adventcandlesbybrucestambaugh

“The Millersburg Candlelight Church Walk is an excellent time for families to get in the holiday spirit,” Findley said. “It’s fun for everyone.” During the first two years of the church tour, participants represented several generations. Findley said that the church walk gained such notoriety in its first two years that people from other counties contacted her about starting one in their communities.

“I think that says a lot about the quality of the Millersburg Church Walk,” she said.

Findley noted that participants should be aware that the Grace Pointe Church is not handicapped accessible, and that parking is across the street from the church.

The walk is free and open to the public. Besides county residents, several persons from outside the Holmes County area attended the previous two walks.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

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Leaves may change, but appreciation for them does not

Rural leaves by Bruce Stambaugh

By Bruce Stambaugh

When I was a youngster, each fall my father would pack the family into the old jalopy and head to Holmes County, Ohio from Canton to view the leaves.

The trees were gorgeous, the pastoral vistas delightful. It was like stepping back in time once we crossed the county line. I suppose some people still feel that way today.

Amish country by Bruce StambaughLike my father, I loved coming to Holmes County. The colorful leaves, the tangy Swiss cheese, the horse and buggies, and the images of a simpler life left a lasting impression on me, even as a juvenile.

The air was crisp and clean, the views splendid, the people quaint. With Mom a landscape artist, Dad kept pointing out scenes she could paint, as if Mom needed any help noticing.

Before entering the county seat, Millersburg, we always stopped at the same place. Dad would pull off to the side of the road by the golf course so we could all admire the giant, vibrant sugar maple tree that stood on the course near the highway. It was a stately fixture to be sure, aglow with yellow, orange and red leaves. Against the manicured green fairways, it was a picture of beauty.
Bucolic by Bruce Stambaugh
Dad would pull out his pride and joy eight-millimeter movie camera and film away. He loved to show the home movies over and over again at family gatherings. I don’t need to view the old footage to recall the moment. The memories are as vivid as the leaves on that old maple.

Perhaps that’s because irony of irony I ended up spending my adult life here. I pass by the memorable spot frequently. The natural beauty is a nice reminder, especially in autumn.

I don’t have to pile in the car and drive 35 miles to see the living artistry. I just have to look out the window. With the leaves at their peak, the real life painting outside our door is ever changing.

Fall sky by Bruce Stambaugh

Of course, I do like to tour the hills and valleys of our county to take in the complete show. I have my favorite routes.

I especially enjoy traveling around taking digital photographs on partly cloudy days. One minute everything seems dull, then the sun breaks through, and I can’t snap the camera shutter fast enough. My father would probably tell me to get a camcorder.

I love the brilliant fencerows dotted with burgundy ash, yellowy white oak, crimson red oak, sunny sassafras, and red, green, yellow and tangerine sugar maples. The hardwood rainbows highlight emerald hayfields and stands of brittle corn shocks.

White farm by Bruce Stambaugh

I also enjoy occasional drives through the heavily forested Killbuck and Black Creek valleys. The steep hillsides are loaded with the same mixed hardwoods as in the eastern end of the county.

White clapboard farmhouses and weathered barns, surrounded by lush green lawns, lay at the feet of the dappled hills. More often than not chocolate soybean fields fill in the narrow bottoms.

By Millersburg by Bruce StambaughEven with that much splendor, I still return to the side of the road by the golf course. Though the old tree my father loved is gone, time has matured others nearby.

Buoyed by the beauty and the memories, I snap a few shots of the delightful scenery. I am keenly aware of being in both the present and the past. Like the changing seasons, the ebbs and flows of life’s ironies have that everlasting effect.

The column appeared in The Bargain Hunter, Millersburg, OH.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

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Bible antiquities on display

By Bruce Stambaugh

Antiquities by Bruce Stambaugh

Dr. Rev. Kenneth Walther showed some of the antiquities that will be on display at his church near Millersburg, OH.

During October, Holmes County, Ohio area residents have a unique opportunity to view firsthand biblical antiquity items dating back to 2,000 B.C.

The church’s pastor for the past 15 years, the Rev. Dr. Kenneth Walther has arranged for multiple items representative of the first five books of the Bible to be viewed by the public and members of his congregation. All of the items are on loan from Ashland Theological Seminary in Ashland.

How was a church of 100 parishioners in Millersburg able to acquire such a collection, even on a loan basis? The answer is easy. In addition to serving as the pastor of the church, Walther is also an adjunct professor at the Ashland Seminary. He had taught Bible courses there for 33 years prior to his retirement in 2009.

“Really, the reason the artifacts are here is in conjunction with The Story Bible study project we are holding in the church through April,” Walther said. “The entire church, youth through adults, is studying the same scriptural passages each week.”

Walther said the antiquity items, which range from samples of parchment writing to clay vessels, are part of a 1,500-item collection at the seminary. He said he gives tours on a regular basis there.

“This was really a spontaneous idea,” he explained, “to give people a firsthand look at what some of the Old Testament Bible characters would have used in their everyday life.”

Items will be on display each Sunday in October at the church from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. On Oct. 28, a special open house will be held where additional artifacts can be viewed between noon and 5 p.m. Walther will be available from 3-5 p.m. that same day to take questions.

Walther said the items span the lives of Abraham, Joshua, David and Solomon. He said the items represent three specific cultural areas, Cuneiform tablets from Mesopotamia, pieces from Egypt and artifacts from the land of Canaan.

“Mesopotamia is the land from where Abraham originated,” Walther said. “We have pieces of colored mummy wrapping from Egypt, and various practical items like jugs from Canaan.”

Specifically, Walther said, the display includes clay tablets from Ancient Mesopotamia, scribe boxes, stone inscriptions in hieroglyphics, and fragments of pottery from Egypt. Items from Canaan include water jugs, lamps, bowls, pilgrim flasks and a variety of cosmetic items that were used thousands of years ago.

Walther said the church decided to share both the study and the artifacts with the general public. He said people could participate in The Story, which is an international study, each Sunday.

“We will discuss the lessons including some of the objects during Sunday school, which begins at 9 a.m.,” he said. His sermon will expand on the themes presented each Sunday.

Walther said the seminary purchased all of the items from private collections and antiquities dealers. All items were obtained by those sources prior to the 1967 six-day war in Israel. Since then, he said, such items are prohibited from being taken from the country.

Walther said The Story is an attempt to introduce people to the Bible, history, and background and interpretation of the cultures of biblical times. He said study materials are available for entire families. The Story was written by scholars from various denominations and published by Zondervan Press.

“We even have a special New International Version Bible to accompany The Story materials that focus on particular events of the Bible,” Walther said.

He said the sampling of items on display at St. John’s Church provides a physical handle on the picture of the Bible. The church is located at 8670 state Route 39 west of Millersburg.

Church by Bruce Stambaugh

St. John’s Church of Millersburg, OH.

The story appeared in The Bargain Hunter, Millersburg, OH.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

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A most unusual birthday gift

The donkey by Bruce Stambaugh

Robert Troyer, Millersburg, OH, received this unusual birthday gift from friends.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Out of town friends of Robert and Edna Troyer of rural Millersburg, Ohio kept promising him a donkey. When his birthday arrived this summer, he finally got it, sort of.

Around the time of his July 25th birthday, a group of friends from Ottawa, Ohio came to visit. Robert, 67, and Edna, 66, were sitting with about a dozen people in a circle on their concrete driveway when some of the visitors excused themselves to check on the “donkey.”

Robert and Edna are Amish, and their “English” friends thought they could use a donkey even though the couple owns a business, not a farm.

“I was a little suspicious,” Robert said. “I got curious when people started to disappear.” In fact when Robert went to see what was going on, he was politely told to sit back down.

Cement pad by Bruce Stambaugh

The “donkey” was delivered to Robert Troyer on the cement driveway in front of his home.


Soon, the oldest in the group, Leo Schroeder, came riding down the drive on the “donkey.” In truth, the contraption was a jerry-rigged bicycle and hand push lawn mower. To add to the joke, Schroeder wore Robert’s straw hat for effect.

And what an effect it had, too. Everyone burst out laughing.

“You can actually ride the thing,” Robert said, “but it doesn’t turn very well.”

A rotary blade mower head serves as the front wheel with its handle attached to where the front bicycle wheel should be. The rest of the “donkey” is a regular push pedal bike.

About 20 years ago, the group was looking for a harness shop. One of the group members needed harness items for some ponies.

Originally the group consisted of seven couples. In their search, they stopped at a home near Walnut Creek and asked about a harness shop. They were told to keep driving north on state Route 515 to Indian Hill Harness, just north of Trail. They found what they were looking for at Robert’s shop, and they have been friends ever since.

“Robert was a work,” Edna said. “I waited on them and they later told me that they took to us because I was handicapped.”

Edna suffered a spinal cord injury when she was 18.

“I fell through a hole in a barn and onto concrete,” she said. “I was paralyzed at first, but later could walk.” Edna said that as she aged and after an unsuccessful knee surgery, she needed a wheelchair full time.

“They are all members of the Farm Bureau,” Edna said of the group of friends. “They meet here in February, July and August.” Edna said that none of the group farms anymore, but they stay interested in farming.

Harnesses by Bruce Stambaugh

The harnesses are just a sample of some of the custom horse harnesses Robert Troyer makes.


Robert and Edna, who have been married for 46 years, have become such close friends with the group that they go on overnight outings with them, including to other states.

“One of the members even bought a big van so I would be able to accompany them,” Edna said. “It is just he and his wife, so he didn’t really need a van.”

With their gregarious and easy-going personalities, it is easy to like both Robert and Edna. They said they enjoy sharing their hospitality with others.

When she learned that one of the group members likes pineapple pie, Edna baked one for him.

“He liked it so much,” she said, “he ate the whole pie in one day.”

Edna said that the group has even hosted them in Ottawa, located in western Ohio. She and one of their friends, Sharon Lammers, even share the same birthday, August 16.

Edna keeps busy painting scenes and decorating cups, glasses and wooden plaques with flowers and birds. She said she taught herself to paint, and her paintings are available to purchase at Behalt!, on County Road 77 near Berlin.

Robert said most of his business is supplying the Walsh Company in Brookfield, Wis. with fine show harnesses. He had worked for Mast Leather in Walnut Creek, Ohio until Walsh bought the business in 1990, the same year he started his harness shop.

Edna appropriately summed up why their friendship with the group has lasted so long.

“Despite your situation,” she said, “you have to keep going. Life is too short.”

Paintings by Bruce Stambaugh

Edna Troyer’s paintings are available at Behalt! near Berlin, OH.


This article appeared in The Bargain Hunter, Millersburg, OH.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

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Candlelight church walk success continues

Advent candles by Bruce Stambaugh

The Advent candles at Millersburg Mennonite Church.


By Bruce Stambaugh

Try as it might, the chilly, snowy night couldn’t dampen either the inviting luminaries or the spirits of those who participated in the second annual Candlelight Church Walk held in Millersburg, Ohio on Dec. 9.

By all accounts, the evening of touring five Millersburg churches went well, according to Kate Findley, who coordinated the event. She said with entertainment and refreshments provided, and genuine good cheer among the participants it was another successful evening.

“Despite the weather, we had a very nice evening,” Findley said. “Attendance was up from last year, and we were really pleased with the number of people from out of town who came.”

Sharing details by Bruce Stambaugh

Sharon Burgett shared details about Millersburg Christian Church with Jsaon and Melissa Raber of Millersburg.

Bill and Nancy McMann of Indianapolis, Ind. were typical of those who came from a distance. They said they came specifically for the church tour and to shop.

“We stayed at the Hotel Millersburg in October,” Nancy McMann said, “and saw a pamphlet about the church walk.”

Bill McMann said he and his wife visit Holmes County once or twice a year.

“We enjoy the people and the history here,” he explained.

Local residents, like Jason and Melissa Raber of Millersburg, concurred.

“We love Millersburg,” Melissa Raber said. “We wanted to visit some of the churches that we haven’t been in.”

Viewing the tree by Bruce Stambaugh

Julie Brewer and Pam Bores, both of Glenmont, Ohio enjoyed the tree at Faith Lutheran Church.


That seemed to the sentiment of many who attended for the first time. “We missed it last year” was heard time and again. Judging by their enthusiasm and smiles, those who attended weren’t disappointed.

Luminaries that lined the sidewalks at each of the five churches, each decorated for Christmas according to their particular church tradition, greeted tour-goers. Inside, visitors could view the church sanctuary, obtain information about the history of each church, and enjoy refreshments. Musicians and singers performed for appreciative visitors throughout the two-hour event.

Greeting by Bruce Stambaugh

Dave Findley greeted Pam Leach and Becky Chenevey, both of Wooster, Ohio at First Presbyterian Chruch.


Visitors were free to tour the quintet of churches in any order they wanted and at their own leisure. Millersburg churches open for the walk included Faith Lutheran, First Presbyterian, Millersburg Christian, Millersburg Mennonite and St. Peter Catholic Parish.

The tour concluded at Faith Lutheran with a concert of Christmas selections by the Walsh University Chamber Choir from North Canton. The 40-member choir attracted a standing room only crowd at the hour-long performance.

Director Dr. Britt Cooper said the troop performs one concert outside the Stark County area each year, and that they like to sing in the home community of one of the choir members. In this case, the member was Jenna Baker, who attends First Presbyterian, where her father, Jed Baker, is choir director.

Pianist by Bruce Stambaugh

Pianist Brooke Hershberger entertained particpants of the candlelight walk at Millersburg Mennonite Church.


Cooper taped Jenna Baker to sing a soprano solo in the performance of True Light, one of several sacred songs sung. The packed congregation rose spontaneously during the singing of Handel’s Hallelujah chorus from Messiah.

Cooper had the audience participate in the singing of several verses of traditional Christmas carols. Cooper said the chorus sang in an unfamiliar formation. Due to the limited space, the group sang in the round, standing along the walls and in front of the pulpit area of the church.

At the concert’s conclusion, the choir received a standing ovation. The crowd filed out with spirits warmed by the inspirational music, the tour and the inviting hospitality that again highlighted the Millersburg Candlelight Church Walk.

Findley said she was overwhelmed with the choir’s performance.

“After this performance, we’re not sure what we’ll do for an encore next year,” she said.

Walsh Chamber Choir by Bruce Stambaugh

A concert by the Walsh University Chamber Choir concluded the candlelight church walk.

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Ready for another stroll? Millersburg’s candlelight church walk set for Dec. 9

Nativity scene by Bruce Stambaugh

Millersburg, Ohio, Christian Church held a live nativity scene at last year's church walk.


By Bruce Stambaugh

The initial Millersburg, Ohio, Candlelight Church Walk last year was so successful the event’s planners decided to make it an annual affair.

The 2011 church walk will be held on Friday, Dec. 9, from 6-8 p.m. in Millersburg, according to Kate Findley, who coordinates the event. Millersburg is located in the center of Holmes County at the intersections of US 62 and SR 83.

“We had so many compliments on it last year,” Findley said. “The participants made the decision for us to hold it again.”

Similar to last year, five Millersburg churches will be featured in the tour. They are Faith Lutheran, First Presbyterian, Millersburg Christian, Millersburg Mennonite, and St. Peter’s Catholic Church.

“People can either walk or drive to the churches,” Findley said. Maps will be available at each church, and participants may begin and end their self-guided tour at any church they choose.

Findley encouraged people of all ages to come to the walk.

“It’s an event for the entire family,” she said.

The five churches, which were chosen for their close proximity, will be open for visitors to tour. Representatives from each participating church will be on hand to explain the history of their church.
Church walk by Bruce Stambaugh
In addition, the churches will be decorated for the holidays and music will be provided during the visitations. Refreshments will be served at each church.

This year the walk will conclude with a special program provided by the Walsh University Chamber Singers at 8:15 p.m. at the Faith Lutheran Church.

The walk is free and open to the public. Last year, several persons from outside the Holmes County area attended along with many county residents.

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Jeanty family is ready to return to Haiti

Fritz Jeanty family by Bruce Stambaugh

Mamie, Samuel, Fritz and Benjamin Jeanty will return to Haiti after spending a year in Millersburg, Ohio following the devastating earthquake January 12, 2010.

By Bruce Stambaugh

There is no place like home. In this case, for Fritz and Mamie Jeanty and their two young sons, Samuel and Benjamin, home is Haiti.

A year after their miraculous exit from earthquake ravaged Port au Prince, Haiti, to Millersburg, the Jeanty family is ready to return.

“From what I understand, it will be like it happened yesterday,” Fritz Jeanty said. “Friends and family tell me that almost nothing has been cleaned up.”

Fritz, 36, has been in regular touch via cell phone and e-mail with friends and relatives in his native Haiti. He knows it won’t be the best situation.

But he said thoughtfully, “It’s time to go home.”

Fritz understands the huge physical obstacles he and his family will face. His grocery store business was destroyed, and will never be reopened. Their home was damaged to the point of being unlivable. The cholera outbreak is yet another concern.

Nevertheless, Fritz and Mamie, 31, are ready to return home, ready to face the devastation and mourn the loss of life of friends, neighbors and family.

“Mamie lost two sisters,” Fritz said. “And right after the earthquake occurred, her 18-year-old brother disappeared. No one has seen him since.”

Fritz said he knows it will be hard to return. But he also knows it is the right thing to do.

“The people here have been wonderful to us,” Fritz said. “We are very, very grateful for all that has been done for us.”

A week after the massive trembler that leveled most of Port au Prince, Fritz used his resourcefulness to get his family to his father-in-law’s home in Orlando, Florida. From there he made contact with people with whom he previously worked in Christian Aid Ministries, based in Berlin, Ohio.

Within days the Jeantys were settled into a home in Millersburg, and donations of money, food, furniture and clothing were made. A Haitian Relief Fund was established to help the displaced family during their stay in Holmes County. At that point, the length of their stay was undetermined.

Fritz Jeanty by Bruce Stambaugh

Frtiz Jeanty volunteered five days a week at Save and Serve Thrift Shop during his year-long stay in Millersburg.

Fritz spent his time volunteering at Save and Serve Thrift Store in Millersburg five days a week, while Mamie cared for the boys. Samuel enrolled in Head Start preschool and soon learned English. Once the family adjusted to their temporary home, Mamie also volunteered at the store.

With his family safe, Fritz began thinking about their eventual return to Haiti. While assisting at Save and Serve, he marveled at the efficiency and goals of Save and Serve.

Knowing the need for good, inexpensive used clothing would be great in Haiti, Fritz imagined starting a similar store in Port au Prince using Save and Serve as a model. He shared his plan with the Save and Serve board of directors and they were supportive of his desire to help his fellow citizens while establishing a business to help his family survive, too.

Encouraged by their response, Fritz moved ahead with his plan. His father-in-law donated some land, and construction for the clothing store was begun.

A 26-foot box truck was donated to Fritz, and it was filled with clothing and shoes, which were also donated. Fritz and a driver, Ed Yoder of Millersburg, left for West Palm Beach, Florida. on January 10. Once there, the truck was loaded onto a cargo ship headed for Haiti.

“I need to be in Haiti when the truck arrives,” Fritz said.

He and his family plan to leave January 25. But it won’t be easy either for the Jeanty family or for those with whom they have worked.

“Fritz has been a tremendous help to us,” said Eric Raber, co-manager at Save and Serve. “He will definitely be missed, but we also wish the family well.”

Fritz plans on restocking his used clothing store in Haiti through the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) thrift store operations based in Akron, Pennsylvania. Such outreach businesses are part of MCC’s mission.

The Jeantys will live with family until Fritz can restore a room in their damaged home to a point where it is inhabitable.

“We will get one room ready,” Fritz said with his usual confidence, “and work on the rest as we can.”

As for the cholera, Fritz said that they would take the necessary precautions.

“We will only drink clean water,” he said. “We will wash our hands and make sure everything is clean before we eat it.”

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Christmas isn’t about hustle and bustle

Snowy decorations by Bruce Stambaugh

Snowy decorations always add to the Christmas celebrations.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I don’t watch much television. But what little I do, I can’t help but notice how the torrent of holiday-oriented commercials focuses on the urgency of buying something really nice for that special someone in your life.

Celebrating Christmas in our advanced society seems distorted. A brand new car wrapped with a huge red ribbon and bow sitting in the driveway, a sparkling diamond ring and a gold necklace cannot supersede the original gifts of the Magi.

Eager for customers, the ads have managed to push their way to the forefront of the holiday season much too early. Growing up, the countdown to Christmas started the day after Thanksgiving, now known as Black Friday. Today, it seems to start the day after Labor Day.

Watching for buggies on Christmas Day by Bruce Stambaugh

Watching for buggies on Christmas Day.

Even here in the heart of Ohio’s Amish country, we feel the hustle and bustle of the season. Without admitting it, we might even add to it. It’s always easier to see the fault of others than your own.

Wreath on frosty window by Bruce Stambaugh

A frosty holiday decoration.

I don’t want to be negative about Christmas. It’s my favorite holiday of the year.

I just think that given all the commercialization of Christmas, we need a different approach. As I reflect on the historical account of the Advent season that I learned early in life, it seems more and more obvious to me that Christmas really is more about patience than it is presents.

I have many fond childhood memories of readying for Christmas, and the excited anticipation of Christmas morning. My brothers and sisters and I couldn’t wait to raid the pretty packages strewn beneath the tree on Christmas morning. That scene was not the model of patience.

Mom and Dad had stayed up late assembling and wrapping the gifts for us kids. We always pushed our luck at getting up before the crack of dawn to undo what it had taken Santa and our folks hours to prepare.

But what a happy morning it was, with the excitement of surprise with every unwrapping. Those days were simple compared to what passes as season’s greetings today. I find the entire holiday hubbub of shopping, buying and spending exhausting.

Opening gifts by Bruce Stambaugh

Exchanging gifts at Christmas is part of the family tradition.

I long for the true peace and quiet of Christmas, with the family gathered, the fireplace blazing, the tree’s lights sparkling. Of course, we maintain the gift-giving tradition. We have just toned it down so that reason rules. We want the gifts to represent personal quality instead of absurd quantity.

The stockings hang by the chimney with care. They are filled on Christmas Eve, and emptied on Christmas morn. Just like when I was a child, an orange will be the last to tumble out of each.

The grandkids will watch The Polar Express over and over until the DVR wears out. We’ll play games, eat, and bask in the glow of the moment and the season.

Decorating the tree by Bruce Stambaugh

The grandchildren enjoy helping to decorate the Christmas tree.

Our modern society may rush the Advent season and judge it by its economic success. But as for me and my family, we will enjoy each others company, joyously share our humble appreciation and rejoice that it is Christmas once again.

Those are Christmas gifts worth waiting for.

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