Archive for PMC-Powhatan Mennonite Church

Celebrating Bob and Marie Hertzler

This is the story of Bob and Marie moving to Powhatan in June 1960 that I shared at Powhatan Mennonite on June 26, 2022 when we reflected on and celebrated their move from Denbigh (Newport News), Virginia to Powhatan where they knew no one.

Today we want to recognize Bob and Marie Hertzler for moving from the close knit Mennonite colony in Newport News to Powhatan 62 years ago.  Because of that move, a seed was planted for a Mennonite church, our church, right here, five years later.

Bob met Marie when he went to Eastern Mennonite High School. He recalls the day clearly. He was standing in line with his cousin to register as a junior. A beautiful girl with big brown eyes opened the door and looked in. It was a heart pounding, wow moment for Bob. He turned to his cousin and said, “Who is that girl?”  His cousin said, “Marie Kuhns”. It didn’t take long for Bob to meet Marie!

I have to tell one story from their dating.  On one of their dates Bob stopped the car on the bank of the James River. He turned to Marie and said, “Do you mind if I kiss you?” Marie responded, “I don’t care.” Bob said, “Then I won’t!” Marie said, “I never said that again!!!”

Bob was raised on a dairy farm in Denbigh and was working there when they got married. They soon moved to Fishersville, VA where he served his IW (Military Alternate Service). Moving back to Newport News, he drove a milk route. He kept smelling the earthy farming smells of tilled land, mowed hay and cows and he longed to get back into farming.

It was no longer feasible to farm in rapidly growing Newport News and those with interest in farming were setting their sights on more rural land to the west.  Bob found acreage on Mill Quarter Rd. called Fighting Creek Farm where he could build a dairy.  In June 1960, he and Marie with their two sons, Bobby and Tony, left the close-knit Mennonite Colony of Newport News and settled in a very rural Powhatan County where they knew no one. Bob said he was always impressed that Marie was willing to leave her new three-bedroom brick rancher that they built. Bob says they were very welcomed into the county and soon began to build friendships with neighbors and became an integral part of community life.

Tucked back in the woods with an almost mile long driveway they set up housekeeping in an 1800’s style Plantation House. Marie never liked the house. She felt isolated and the driveway would get very muddy. The house had very high ceilings and was impossible to heat. That fall Bob sent Marie to Richmond to buy a heater. She found a deal on a used Sieger heater with a blower. It only really kept one room somewhat warm. It was so cold in the winter and very hard with two little boys to keep warm.  

A first they alternated between First Mennonite Church in Richmond and May Memorial Baptist Church in the village where they felt very welcomed. But they longed for a local Mennonite church fellowship.  It wasn’t long until other Mennonites began moving into the area. 

Jim and Miriam Tennafoss Family

About the same time that the Hertzlers were settling in Powhatan, Jim and Miriam Tennafoss from Chesapeake moved to Amelia. They became close friends.

 In 1957, newlyweds Wally and Dorcas Schaefer had already left Denbigh and settled on a farm in Middlesex County, east of Richmond. They often traveled to Powhatan in their white Cadillac to spend the night and visit with Bob and Marie. They, too, were longing for a church fellowship. Wally was also feeling the urge to try his hand at dairy farming.

Wally, Dorcas, Trish and Carol Schaefer

In early 1961 Lloyd Weaver bought a farm on Brauer Rd and Byron and Mary Alice Hertzler moved up to farm.  The farm later was managed by the Ranck family.  In 1962, Bob’s brother, Ray, who had been in volunteer service in Florida, came to help on the farm. He later bought into the business and became a faithful, loyal partner.  By 1962, baby Cheryl had joined their family and the number of families had increased to four when Wally and Dorcas decided to move from Middlesex to Powhatan. This was an exciting time for Bob and Marie. Marie says they planned their lives together; it was wonderful to have the fellowship of kindred spirits and playmates for the children.   It became a natural thing to want to fellowship together in church.

In April of 1962 Bishop Truman Brunk from in Newport News visited the community to investigate plans to start a church. Truman was encouraged and appointed a local committee, Bryon Hertzler, Bob Hertzler and Jim Tennefoss. Marie Hertzler was appointed to keep records of the proceedings. They now had the blessing of their home church, Warwick River Mennonite, to move forward.

They found a plot of land across the road from our current location but when they went to the lawyer to sign the papers, the seller said that an addendum would be added that no black person would ever be allowed to attend the church. This was still during the time of racial segregation and tension. Bob in his wisdom and foresight said, “That will not work” and the men walked away from the purchase.

A short time later Bob was telling a neighbor about the ordeal and the neighbor said that he thought the plot across the road, our current location, might be for sale. The owner, Warner H. Ragland lived in New Jersey and had planned to move to Powhatan, but those plans fell through. They contacted Mr. Ragland and he agreed to sell. The deed was signed August 23, 1962.

On March 31, 1963, a group of 29 people including children met at Byron Hertzler’s’ home for the first Sunday School. This was a momentous occasion for the group and was the first official meeting of PMC.  At first, they rotated in homes but were anxious to have a permanent place to worship.

Drawing with names of the above picture. #1 name that is cut off is Mary Alice Hertzler.
First meeting place on Schroeder Road.

In May 1963 the group started meeting in a small cinderblock building on Schroeder Rd. owned by Bob’s dad and grandpa Hertzler. Lewis Burkholder Jr. was appointed pastor. He was a dairy farmer in Newport News and he and Helen could travel to Powhatan on Sundays between milkings to pastor the congregation. Later (June 15, 1966) they purchased a farm on Rocky Ford Road and the Burkholders moved to Powhatan.

Digging the foundation for the first church.
The women also helped.
First service was held March 28, 1965

It would be a year and a half (September 4, 1964) until the foundation was dug and construction begun. In that period of time, numerous other families had arrived; Marvin and Fern Hertzler, Nathan and Laura Layman, Sam and Dorothy Powell and their children, and Harold Alderfer. Seven months later, on March 28, 1965, the first service was held in their new building which consisted of a meeting room and six Sunday School classes. Bob and Marie’s longing and vision for a church fellowship had become a reality.

In the next three years more families and their children arrived including Art and Phoebe Ranck, Bill and Bertha Schaefer, Eli & Irene Miller, Sylvanus and Mildred Moyer which included Ronnie and Dave, and Gene Hertzler creating a vibrant, growing congregation with children and youth.

The next two pictures showing the growth and building additions of PMC.

1982: The new addition totally enclosed the original structure and included a new sanctuary, three additional classrooms, pastor’s office and bathrooms.
2013: Atrium and Gym were added.

Fortunately, Bob and Marie had the blessing and support of their family, friends, and home church, and it was natural for others to be attracted to their community. Bob and Marie, today we thank you for sensing God’s leading and following your dream. It is because of your daring and adventuresome spirit we can worship together as a church community here in Powhatan.

Bob finally got to have that kiss! He never dreamed on that long ago day that he would have many opportunities to sit on the banks of the James River with his sweetheart, just 100 miles upstream and also have a cabin there.

 I would like to end with the verse on the front of your bulletin. I think it very fitting as we reflect on the impact of Bob and Marie’s life and the future of PMC. This is not their church and I have never heard them claim it to be. They had a longing and vision, and that vision will continue long after they are gone.


He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.

Philippians 1:6

Powhatan County Labor Day Parade-2018

The Powhatan County Labor Day Parade….Powhatan patriotism and community unity at its best.

11 a.m. sharp….Siren’s wail announces the start of the parade.

Honks blowing, sirens shrieking, motors reviving,  cycle rumblings, bands marching, hands waving, neighbors chatting and candy throwing…. Powhatan County spirit in full display….the modern, the antique, the young and the older!

A few pictures….

These guys had a blast doing doughnut circles all over the road.

Powhatan Mennonite Church float featured Operation Christmas Child Shoe Boxes. Our church is the drop-off location for Powhatan County. It is almost time to start think about filling shoe boxes again. You may get instructions on how to participate at the Samaritans Purse website or call the church (804-598-3365) to pickup empty shoe boxes and labels. Information will also be on our church website ( very soon. Collection week will be November 12-19, 2018.

Pre-parade…ready to roll.

Here we come!

Chick-Fil-A mascot





Recycling Plastic Bags = Mats for the Homeless

Plastic Bag

Would you like to do something useful with the stash of plastic bags you carry home from the grocery store, Wal-Mart, Target and many other places besides stuffing them into drawers or putting them in the trash and filling up landfills?  I have a very useful and creative idea for you.

Wanda Starke and plastic mat

Several of the ladies at our church are crocheting plastic mats for the homeless to use as a moisture/warmth /comfort barrier between the ground and their sleeping bags.  It can make the difference between life and death for these folks. And yes, it is made out of plastic bags. It is amazing how soft and durable they are, plus they are washable.  Each mat takes approximately 375 bags-depending on the size of bags.

You can use any lightweight plastic bags including the yellow bag they stuff your newspaper in on rainy days.  The short video clip below shows how to cut the bags and join them together into a long yarn.  Our ladies use size “N” to “P” crochet hooks.  With the “P” hook you start with a chain of 40 stitches across and make it 6′ long.


A completed mat, ready to be delivered.

If you are interested in crocheting mats, you can google “plastic bag crochet” and find numerous websites that tell you how. Here is one:



I Love My Church

It always makes me smile when I see someone wearing a t-shirt that says, “I love my church”.   In four words I have just learned that this person belongs to a church fellowship that cares about them and is dynamically invested in people and faith.

David, the Psalmist, said, “I was glad when they said to me, let us go into the house of the Lord” (Psalms 122:1).  In Old Testament times, there was only one place to worship. Jerusalem.  At the appointed times, as directed by God, people would gather and travel together in large groups to the tabernacle to worship. For many the pilgrimage covered many miles and as they walked they would be joined by others.  It was a fun, festive time of talking, reconnecting and singing.  Their love for their church was showed by the spring in their step and the joy on their faces as they set their faces towards Jerusalem.

Recently our pastor preached a sermon on “Thankfulness for the Church”.  This Thanksgiving season I want to express my gratitude for my church, Powhatan Mennonite.  It is that one special building whose doors I pull open every Sunday and walk inside. It is a haven that refreshes my spirit after a week of work. It is a community where I can share my joys, fears, concerns and grief. It is a fellowship where I am comfortable to worship with other believers and seekers. It is a church family that I know and care deeply about and they for me.  But most importantly, my church is a place where I meet God.

For me going to church is something I look forward to every week.  I anticipate and prepare for Sunday.  It has been a part of my weekly routine since I was born 63 plus years ago. I am blessed that my parents always went to church; we never missed a Sunday unless we were sick or it snowed. It was not a “negotiable” activity. If the doors were open, we were there.   When Gene and I were married we had to make a conscience effort to keep this a priority for our family also.  Going to church may be a habit but it is a good habit. We know, without question or discussion, that this is what we will do every Sunday. We are not legalistic about it but we have determined not to let anything become a routine excuse not to go.

Paul gave believers a challenge to preserve in gathering together….


Together at our church we worship, learn what it means to be people of God,  pray, fellowship, and care for others. Sometimes we laugh, cry, grieve, help, play, and even eat together.

Today our church sign reads….


This Thanksgiving season I want to say, “Thank you God for my church. You are good and I have experienced Your love through my church family”.

Honoring Helen Burkholder

Sometimes there are special people and sometimes there are SPECIAL people. Today at church we honored the legacy of Helen Burkholder before she leaves our midst and moves to Virginia Mennonite Retirement Center.


Mother and daughter: Bev Kennell and Helen Burkholder

In June 1965, Louie and Helen moved their dairy farm from Denbigh to Powhatan. For about a year the Burkholders had been traveling every Sunday to Powhatan where Louie had been asked to preach to a fledging congregation.  The Burkholders had four young children and they faithfully and willingly traveled 2 hours between the morning and evening milkings. Louie was our first pastor, serving from 1964-1982 and 1984-86.

Helen always had a love for music, especially hymns.  Today we sang several that were very special to her. Two groups also had special music in her honor.


Ladies Group: “Sweet Are the Promises”

(Sorry, I only got the last verse on video)


“Be Still My Soul”



IMG_8088 Marie Hertzler shared some memories about the early days of Helen’s ministry in our congregation.


Connie Lancaster shared about Helen’s prison ministry.

Helen and Louie, were involved in prison ministry for many years.  They would go weekly for Bible study; Helen to the women’s prison in Goochland and Louie to the men’s unit in Powhatan/Goochland.  Numerous persons in the congregation helped with that ministry for which they had a passion. For over 25 years, Helen graded Bible studies and counseled the women in prison.

Helen loved to sew and was a gifted artist. She started the women’s sewing circle which has continued to this day although it has gone through numerous name changes.

For many years our congregation was blessed to have two past, retired, pastors and their wives (Louie and Helen Burkholder, Pres and Carolyn Nowlin) in our midst. They added so much to our congregational life and were never a hindrance or threat to new leadership. Now, that era in our church has officially come to an end…there will be no past pastors or wives. It is interesting that two of them are at VMRC where Helen will be; Paul & Bertha Swarr and Pres & Carolyn Nowlin.

The ladies group closed with “Blest Be the Tide That Binds”, a very fitting song that reflects the feelings of the congregation.


We love you Helen and thank God for your faithful service through the past 51 years. Your gracious and gentle spirit has truly blessed our congregation.

Evening on the Lawn-2014

Last evening (September 7)  we had our 5th annual Evening on the Lawn. It is a church (Powhatan Mennonite Church) sponsored event for the community featuring a Christian professional music group. This year we had Southern Grace Country Gospel Band from the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.



Pictures of the evening.


 Scott Crickenberger


Larry Kyger


Kenny Williams


 Scott Crickenberger


 Tim Nicely


 Joe Shifflet






























































 The calves came up to check out what was happening.









Karla Hostetter has a birthday in a few days and we sang “Happy Birthday” to her.





Everyone had a fun time.  Thank-you Southern Grace.

They can be contacted at



Church League Veterans: Gene & Tommy

Recently Powhatan Mennonite and Red Lane Baptist played against each other in a spirited, tic-for-tac, modified fast-pitch softball game.  There was some chatter on the sidelines about something very special and unique about the game, the pitchers; Gene Hertzler, pitcher for the Mennonites, and Tommy Mann, pitcher for the Baptists.


At one point during the evening, Tommy meandered to our side of the field and was chatting with some of us.  He said, “That is the old man out there (referring to Gene) and I am Methuselah!”  I don’t think of Gene or Tommy as old, but in terms of softball pitchers they are well-seasoned veterans!  Even at the age of  65 and 72, respectfully,  the love of softball and pitching still flows through their veins.

Tommy doesn’t pitch much any more. Instead he has taken up professional umpiring in his “twilight years” for the JV, travel ball and high school baseball teams.  But when the young guys get in a pinch and need a pitcher, they know who to call. Even though his speed has slowed, he can still pitch a winning game!


Gene on the other hand still plays every game and is often recruited for other tournaments such as the Robby Green tournament in the fall.  A number of years ago he thought his body was telling him it was time to give up the game and retire but after two and half years his team coaxed him back onto the pitcher’s mound. I still remember that first night back.  Even though he had not picked up a softball or attended a game during his break he had a dynamite night and gave the opposing team (Lambs) a run for their money. He was back in the game.


The church league started in the late 50’s. Tommy recalls going to the games as a youngster with his Dad and Mom. It was a big deal back then as there were not a lot of other entertainment options.  They played on Lonesome Oak field behind the Village Building (old school house) in the Village.   There were no lights on the field and sometimes in the fall when the days were shorter they would have to all pack up and go to the field behind the War Memorial building where there were lights to finish the game.  At that time there were 7-8 churches in the league; Red Lane, Mt. Moriah, Methodist, Old Powhatan, Graceland, May Memorial, and several from Amelia.  Graceland was the “un-beatable” team. Their pastor, Coen Agee, could pitch windmill or anything he wanted  and you could not hit his balls. Red Lane would occasionally work some of the younger boys in for a game. He could hardly wait until he was old enough to play on the team. He clearly remembers his first game on the Red Lane Baptist team when he was about sixteen.  They were playing Graceland and he was playing second base.  He caught the ball but the rest is just a horrible memory.  When you are on the side lines watching, the game doesn’t move as fast as when you are playing!  Needless to say, he sat on the bench a good bit at first.   A few years later he started pitching and became a valuable member of the team.

Sometime in the mid to late 70’s, the school had to put in a new septic field and the church league field was dug up to put in the laterals. For about 5 years after that they played in a pasture field called Fuller Field, just off of Route 60 west of Plain View.  There were no bleachers, no lights, no manicured field and no concession stand. It was pure country with a slightly sloping  field and a sand pile for the children to play on but  everyone had a good time.   It was during this time that the Mennonite team started playing.

As the league grew it became time to find a better and safer place to play.  The Lions Club, county and churches stepped up to the plate and each provided 1/3 of the cost  to fix Ace’s Field on Skaggs road. Now the league had lights, a scoreboard, outfield fence, bleachers, dugouts, paid umpires,  a properly manicured field and a real concession stand.

Some of the earliest pictures of Gene show him with a ball and bat in his hand.  In his adolescents, he spent hours and hours each summer throwing the ball up against the concrete block barn. When he was thirteen he started playing on the church league in Newport News. Five years later he moved to Powhatan and it wasn’t until about 10 years later that his church finally started a team.  Ocassionally Gene will play first base but his love is pitching.

Gene-3 years old


12 years old

Gene play ball-1960

Tommy says they didn’t take many pictures when he was young!  He searched but could not find any pictures of his younger playing days.

Both men remember their “battle wounds” and can point to the knee, shin or spot where the ball left a big black bruise and the imprint of stitching from the ball.  One time Gene had stitches in his upper lip when it was split open from a ball.   Tommy’s worst incidence happened when a hard line ball was hit straight to the pitcher’s mound and nailed his fourth finger on his right hand.  The finger jammed and is forever crooked as a result of the impact.  Gene also remembers that incident well, he was the batter!

When Tommy started playing, the Goodwyn brothers (Pal, Art, Royce,  NB), Percy Webb, Richard White, Fred Gregory, Ted Adams, Tippy Hamilton, the Reams brothers (James & Dickie) among other old-time Powhatanians were playing. Now some of  the grandsons and great-nephews of these fellows are helping to carry on the sport.  He is glad to see the younger generation keeping the league going strong.  There are a lot of really good players and it is also a time of fun and fellowship.  Both men have weathered some turbulent times in the league with pitching rules and are very glad they have gone back to wooden bats.  It puts the teams on a more competitive and even playing field.

How long will Gene and Tommy continuing playing?  Who knows!  Sitting on the sidelines it is neat to watch them play with the young bucks and still make an honorable contribution. Tommy’s wife, Kay, said, “Because of their love of the game, these two old men just don’t know when to stop!”

A Unique Bridal Shower

I would not normally write about a bridal shower but Friday evening we had a very special, different and unique bridal shower at church for one of the upcoming brides, Marie Landis.  I decided to share a little bit about it as you gals out there might like the idea-I’m sure this will be of no interest to the guys!


The bride-to-be, Marie Landis, enjoying the evening.

The bridal shower invitation said to bring the gifts unwrapped but with our names clearly labeled on it.  Immediately I was in love with the idea. I really do not enjoy wrapping gifts and don’t have that professional touch that makes the gift look like a million dollars.  Also wrapping paper and especially the pre-made bows are expensive.  You can easily spend $5-10 dollars wrapping a gift to watch it become trash and worth 0 cents in a matter of seconds.

The gifts were displayed on  tables and the bride and guests browsed the tables, admiring the gifts.  You could look as much or little as you liked.





After a hilarious “most embarrassing” marriage episode shared by one of the ladies and prayer we were invited to refreshments. Chairs were set up in small circles where ladies could visit as they snacked on a delicious array of food.





A comforter for the new couple was in a quilting frame and everyone was encouraged to put in a least one knot.




Bertha  Schaefer helping her great-granddaughter put in  a knot.


Marie watching her future mother-in-law put her knot on the quilt.

By the time the evening was over, everyone was chattering about the the lovely, extra special evening.  I don’t know who’s idea it was to bring unwrapped gifts but it is an idea I hope becomes the norm!

Just a few other pictures of ladies having a good time.










Today was an overcast, warm, foggy, misty, moist day.  We really didn’t think it was going to rain and the forecast only predicted a 30% chance.   5 PM and all was ready. All the props were in place and all the last minute details were attended too. Even the pigeons were on their loft. 45 minutes and my crew of  actors would arrive. Count down had begun! The only thing left to do was start the bonfire for the shepherds.  I was sitting in my lazy boy chair with my feet propped up relaxing for a few minutes after a bowl of chili soup and cornbread.  The phone rang and the voice on the other end wondered what we were going to do since it was raining.  Raining?  I jumped up and went outside. The very, very, light mist was becoming a steady, light rain.

What do we do? Will the rain stop?  The first quick order of business was to cover the sound equipment,  hay wagon and other items that could not get wet.  Decisions had to be made quickly as some of the actors live 30-45 minutes away.  Things such as safety on the roof  and for the horses had to be taken into consideration.  Will people come or will they assume we aren’t having it?  A quick glance at the weather radar and it just showed light mist in the forecast.  It was a hard call but the biggest concern was the equipment and hay that could not get wet.   Nativity cancelled!

Over 2000 years ago heaven rendezvoused with earth.  There was no rain date, no looking at the weather radar, no sound equipment to protect, no bonfire to start.  The shepherds did not rehearse their trek to Bethlehem and no one had marked the upcoming event on their calendar. Joseph and a very pregnant Mary were on a lonely, difficult journey to pay their taxes in Bethlehem which was bustling with other out-of-town guests.   Joseph knew “the time” was pressing and it was urgent that he find shelter for the night and a place for Mary to rest. Shepherds were in the fields protecting their sheep.  Heaven was astir.  The Son of God had mysteriously disappeared  and a multitude of angels were preparing for their divine mission.

“And when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman….”

Galatians 4:4a

In the stillness of the night….Nativity happened!!

When We All Work Together

This past weekend we had a huge yard and bake sale as a fundraiser for our church building program. The gals in charge did a fabulous job coordinating the event which turned out to be massive as load after load after load of stuff came in. By the way, our homes are now all clutter-free!!!!  When the take-in from a yard sale is $4300+ dollars you know you have sold lots of “stuff”.  Oops…”treasures”!

It took quite a few evenings of pricing, sorting, cleaning, organizing, and boxing in preparation for the big sale. And then the frantic plea went out…..”we need help, lots of help to finish pricing and putting the goods out on Saturday morning at 6 AM”.  6 AM  is before the crack of dawn when most (some) of us are still asleep!!!

It was neat watching and helping it unfold. Like soldier ants going after food a steady stream of people; men, women and young adults, set up rows of tables, laid tarps on the ground, hung clothes on the racks,  and carried box after box out to be unpacked on the tables.

By 8 AM we were selling stuff to a steady crowd of bargain hunters.

Most of the volunteers stayed and helped with whatever needed to be done.  Fresh, hot, homemade doughnuts made on the premises were to die for and a huge hit.  The bake sale itself yielded $800.

And then it was over and cleanup began.

I, along with several others, worked at boxing the unsold clothing to be taken to Goodwill.  Glen and I were chatting about the day and I mentioned the huge amount of man-hours that went into the sale.

Glen said, “But you know, it was so neat watching people work together and we had fun doing it.”  As we chatted I realized how special it is to work together  for a common cause.  We could each have donated money and saved ourselves lots of work and time.  But we also would have missed a huge blessing.  As we worked we laughed, chatted, played a few tricks and had a grand time.  I will have to tell one on Glen…. he bought a pair of sassy, bright red boots with skinny high heels to take home to his wife as a gag gift.  It was fun and we laughed with him as we envisioned Carol in those boots!  The sale united us towards accomplishing a goal;  working together for a cause-our building project. It helped to make the church addition one that belongs to all of us. We have invested a part of ourselves in it.

I thought of the children’s song we sometimes sing…”When we all work together, together, together. When we all work together, how happy we’ll be….When your work is my work and our work is God’s work, when we all work together, how happy we’ll be.”

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