Sign of God’s Eternal Covenant: The Rainbow

Photo by Luanne Johnson

It was a beautiful evening. Late afternoon storm clouds darkened the sky to the west and north over the James River. The gentle breeze that blew all day became brisk and the yellowing leaves on the birch trees fluttered to the ground. A gentle rain watered the earth.

Just before dusk, the sun burst through the clouds and the sunlight glistened off the still falling raindrops creating a stunning huge, tall, full rainbow in the east. There actually was a double rainbow although the second one was not as brilliant. I didn’t see it at first as I was more focused on the sun reflecting on the roofs of the silos.

If you look closely you can see the faint rainbow to the right of the brilliant one.

I remembered God’s promise and the sign he gave us a reminder. I said aloud, “God I remember”.

Genesis 6-9 tells the story of Noah and the great flood that destroyed every living creature and all humans on earth except for Noah, his wife, their three sons, and their wives. Why would God do such a drastic, awful thing? It was judgement for the violent, evil, and godless culture that had turned against him. Noah and his family were saved because they were righteous, the only ones in the whole earth. It took them one hundred years, but they built an ark with God’s direction and they along with two of every kind of animal that God brought to the ark were saved. It is a fascinating true story.

One hundred and fifty days later, the flood had subsided and the ark came to rest on Mount Ararat. Noah and his family along with all the animals came out of the ark into the clean, fresh earth bursting with lush green plants and trees. Noah immediately built an alter and worshipped God. God set a brilliant rainbow in the sky-probably the first ever seen. God told Noah that he was establishing a covenant with him and all future generations and living creatures. Never again would the earth be totally destroyed by a flood. God gave the rainbow as a sign of the covenant. And God said, “When I see the bow, I will remember my covenant.” The rainbow is not only a reminder for our benefit but also for God to see and remember.

I turned to walk back into the house and behind me the west was also blazing with God’s glory of a different hue, the stunning beauty of the setting sun.

Several years ago we visited the Ark, a full-scale replica of Noah’s ark in Williamstown, Kentucky. It was an incredible experience to see, feel and think about what it really was like for Noah. I highly recommend this adventure.

Noah’s Ark

A Story: An Awful Day That Ends Well

Some stories you just can’t make up! Yesterday felt like one of them.

I spent yesterday (Monday) afternoon sitting at my desk doing computer work. I stood up to file some papers and wham. I was hit with excruciating, piercing, disabilitating pain shooting through my right knee. I fell back into my chair and almost passed out. I couldn’t believe what just happened. I tried getting up again but couldn’t tolerate the pain. I felt nauseous and faint. I could only sit with my head down trying to hold myself together. I could not straighten my knee or put any weight on it. The last weeks and months flashed through my mind. This can’t be happening. Why? Why? Why? Am I going to have to go through another spell of therapy and rehabilitation? Can I not even stand up without getting hurt?

Summer tried to help me to no avail. I finally called Gene and asked him to bring me my crutches which were stashed in the bedroom waiting to be returned to the person I had borrowed them from. I thought I could use them to get myself to the golf cart to go up to the house. That did not work. For one thing, I could not bear standing or straightening my leg and it also meant I had to use my left leg to bear my weight and that is the one with the broken ankle that is almost healed. I could not get my brain to tell my legs how to make that happen.

Gene ended up going over to our church and getting a wheelchair to get me in the car to go the house. That was quite the ordeal-it took two of them. I then decided I wasn’t even going to try to get out of the car but go straight to Ortho Emergency. I first tried calling Dr. Kerr, my Ortho knee doctor, to see what I should do and if by chance he could see me this afternoon. I got their answering service so I left a message. On the way to Ortho Emergency, Dr. Kerr’s office called. He was not in the office that day but they scheduled me an appointment for the next day (Tuesday) at 9:45.

At the Ortho Emergency Gene went in and they brought out a wheelchair to get me. As they started processing me, they discovered from my chart that I had an appointment with Dr. Kerr in the morning. I had to make a choice, I could see them and cancel my appointment with Dr. Kerr that I had made 15 minutes prior and be charged a $50 cancellation fee or wait and go to him the next morning. I couldn’t do both. I had figured they would treat me and send me to him and I would just already have the appointment. So much for thinking! We decided to go home. Gene’s concern was how he was going to handle me.

When we got home I decided to try my crutches again and see if by chance I could get into the house. I opened the car door and put my feet out. There was no pain. I stood up. There was no pain. I walked to the house totally unaided and with no support. There was no pain. It was as if it all was a bad dream and had never happened. I could not believe it. What in the world was going on?

We both plopped into our chairs and tried to figure out what had just happened. Finally, Gene came up with the idea that maybe I had scar tissue in my knee that tore loose. That made a lot of sense to me. I have heard that is really painful when it happens. Because of all the trauma to my knees with my fall on the wet grass in March that tore my ham string and calf muscle on my left leg, and then the fall down the two steps in May that broke my ankle, my knees, shoulders and back have suffered. I have been a little concerned about the tight band that developed over my kneecaps. I stood up again to make sure and walked around the living room. My right knee is totally fine. The tight band in my right knee is gone and it feels looser and freer.

I went ahead and kept my schedule with Dr. Kerr this morning since I had the appointment scheduled and thinking it was probably a good idea to have a chat with him about all that I have been through. He affirmed that decision. They did x-rays and the knees look fine. He thinks it was my back that reacted and it reflected in my knees. I am not sure I agree with him, but I have been having some back pain with all I have been through. He felt the symptoms were classic and to just be aware of my back and if I develop more pain to come back to see him. It is hard to diagnose something like this when you don’t see it while it is happening.

For now, I am good to go! All is well. That’s my story and I am sticking to it! I am so grateful I did not injure my knee and have to tell you about another ordeal I have to go through. That would be horribly embarrassing, and I am not sure I could face therapy with another story! I am so grateful to God for His mercy and protecting hand.

A story about my ankle ordeal: “When Life Throws A Curve Ball”.

Our Elisha House: Janet’s Story

Even though this story happened thirty-three years ago, it is as fresh in my mind as if it had happened yesterday.  As I share it, it is my desire for the focus to be on the faithfulness of God and the power of His protective hand. It is a story worth sharing.

In the early spring of 1989, Tom, a customer who shopped at our business and I only knew on a name basis, approached me, and asked if we would consider taking a woman from a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in Petersburg where he worked into our home. Immediately my brain said no.  I did not have to even think. As he began to list reasons our family farm would be the perfect place for this troubled 40-year-old woman, I was mentally composing a list of why it would not be a good idea to take her in. I had no experience with drugs or alcohol addictions and had no desire to take on someone with that kind of problems, plus we had two adolescent children.  Tom explained that this woman had twice tried to commit suicide by jumping into the James River and was recovering from a severe drug/alcohol addiction. But then he threw in the clincher. As her counselor, he wanted this special woman to have one more chance at life.  He knew we were Christians and hoped we could share our faith with her. That evening at supper I told Gene about the conversation and to my surprise he was open to the idea.  With Tom’s support and encouragement, Janet entered our home and lives about a week later.

Janet lived in our small upstairs apartment that we called our “Elisha House” based on the story in II Kings 4.  She helped with the outdoor farm chores, milking and in our retail farm supply store.  Because we would not allow her to smoke or have her large black poodle dog in the house, she got a small camper that was parked out back which became her smoking room.

For six weeks things went exceptionally well.  She seemed to blossom in the warm spring sunshine, took pride in her work and wormed her way into our hearts.  She even went to church with us once!  Occasionally we learned tidbits about her sordid past, but it was mostly a closed door.  It had been years since she had contact with her family and was deeply bitter and resentful about her upbringing in the Mormon faith.

One Sunday while we were at church, she stole our truck and fled. We were stunned.  We had guests that Sunday and we didn’t miss her or the truck until about 3 in the afternoon.  We called the sheriff. He put out an AP bulletin and within the hour she was stopped near Charlotte, NC for drunk driving.  She was arrested for driving without a license and possession of a stolen vehicle.  The next morning, she posted bond with the money she had stolen from us and became a “wanted” missing person.  Gene and one of the men from church, Bill Schaefer, drove to North Carolina and picked up the truck.  We were shocked at the load of stuff that she had stolen from us, and we had not even missed it.  Her intentions were to disappear into the wild west and return to a life of homelessness, drifting and self-indulgence.  I began to pray and ask God to literally stop her feet, turn them around and bring her back. I began to sort through her belongings she had left behind, looking for a clue to her family, past or where she may be headed.  I had no clue. Amazingly, I found her birth certificate, which gave me the names of her parents and the city in which she was born.  After a word of prayer, I called information for Pocatello, Idaho and asked if they had a listing for this family. They did.  With a pounding heart, I called the number, and a man answered the phone.  He affirmed he was Floyd and, yes, (his voice faltered) he had a daughter, Janet.  Yes, that was her birth date.  This sad father had not heard from his troubled daughter in years. We had a sad but wonderful talk.  He was so relieved to know something about his daughter and that she was still alive even though she was in trouble with the law. 

Two days later the phone rang, and it was Janet.  She didn’t know why she was calling but …..   Gene got on the phone and talked with her, and she agreed to not run and to let us come get her. She gave us the address of a street corner she would be at.  The next day, with the local sheriff’s permission, Gene and Tom drove back to North Carolina to pick her up.  The sheriff allowed her to stay with us that night before turning herself in the next morning.  It was a night of much talking, tears, and laughter.  I shared with Janet how I had contacted her parents and their deep concern and love for her.  For the first time in years, Janet picked up the phone and tearfully called her mom and dad.  It was a night of reconciliation I will never forget.  Janet ended up spending three months in jail and then because of our desire to forgive her and to give her another chance, the judge allowed her to come back to us on probation.

Several months later, Janet decided to fly home and spend the Christmas holiday reuniting with her family.  But flying back to Virginia, she yielded to the lure of alcoholic beverages being served on the airline.  Her breath reeked with a sweet sourness when I picked her up from the airport. That began a tailspin that she could not pull out of.  We learned that the bondage of alcohol is an evil taskmaster, even stronger than drugs and caring friends become the enemy.  I remember one particular night when Janet was severely depressed, drinking heavily and had totally closed us out. She was breaking all our guidelines, refused to eat supper with us or allow me to enter to camper to talk. Things were not going well, and we did not know what to do.  I awoke in the wee hours of the night with a heavy sense of evil foreboding that I was unable to shake.  I got up and checked on the children, prayed for them, laid hands on the doors of our house, and asked for protection over our family and home.  Janet was still in her camper, so I knelt in prayer, lifting Janet to our Heavenly Father before returning to bed.  The next day Janet was much improved, smiling and talking; it seemed that life was returning to a sense of normalcy. With counseling, she seemed to be getting her drinking under control.  One evening, several weeks later, while we were playing a game, Janet suddenly paused, looked at me and said, “Do you remember that night when …….  I was going to take your gun, go the back pasture and shoot my dog and then myself.  But something would not let me do it.”  Stunned I said, “Yes, I remember.”  I was then able to share with her my side of the story and how God had protected her because I had prayed!  It was a powerful God moment.

Several weeks later on Super Bowl Sunday, the lure of alcohol again ensnared her. We awoke early Monday morning to the sound of our pickup speeding out the driveway.  Gene leaped out of bed and called the sheriff.  When we contacted our insurance company, we discovered-much to our horror- that the insurance company had accidentally removed the truck from our policy almost a year prior when we added another vehicle. We again began to pray that Janet would stop and call home. After three days, she contacted Tom, who told her to give up the truck immediately.   She stopped at an AA Group in Amarillo, Texas and they turned the truck in to authorities while she disappeared into the big wild west.  This time Gene flew to Texas and drove the truck home.

Numerous times through the years Janet has called or emailed, but she is always very careful to not reveal her location.  She is living the life of a fugitive, hiding from the law, scared she will get caught, and ensnared to the evil taskmaster she has chosen to serve.  A year or so after fleeing, she had a powerful, short-lived, conversion at a street church she was drawn into from the street. She called and asked for our forgiveness.

In 2004, Gene and I decided to fly west and drive to Alberta, Canada.  After debating between flying into Seattle or Salt Lake City, we chose Salt Lake. It was almost a straight shot north through Utah, Idaho and Montana to Canada.  When we were plotting our route on the map, we realized we were going directly through Pocatello, Idaho, Janet’s hometown.  We wondered, what would be the chances of connecting with her!  It was a week before we were to leave, but I decided to try and make email contact and see if by chance she was in her home area. Each time she had emailed through the years she had a different email address. I decided to use her last contact info from a year previous.  I wrote expressing our love for her and our desire to see her again.  I assured her this was not a setup but a desire to see “our” Janet.  As I sat at the computer I prayed, asking God to miraculously send the email to her.  I pushed the send button.  I left the internet on as I worked at the computer to see if the email would balance back to me.  I was stunned when about 30 minutes later I had a response from Janet!!!!  I didn’t expect God to work that fast!!! She sent a newsy letter about herself and a man she was living with from Uganda, but her answer was no, she could not run the risk of seeing us– she was afraid we would betray her.  As I continued working at my computer and debating about how to respond, I got the second letter.  It very simply said, “My friend says if you are the people, I say you are, I should not be afraid.”  And she named the city she was in.  I could hardly believe it. It was the other city we had chosen not to fly into.  It was too late to change our plans and we did not get to see Janet.  Apparently, it was not God’s timing.  We did stop along the road at the Pocatello sign and took a picture of the sign and the narrow valley of houses along beside the mountain ridge. I figure probably one of the houses we were looking at was her home. I know that God desires to draw Janet to himself.  My email caused her to reflect on and remember her time spent with us.  It caused her once again to have to deal with her past and verbally process it with another person. 

I have often wondered what has happened to Janet. Is she still alive? She would now be in her mid 70’s. Is she still living as a fugitive, hiding in fear of the law? Was she ever able to make something of her life and have a purpose for living? Was she ever able to overcome the demons of alcohol and drugs? I do know for a while she went back to her home but that did not go well and she again hit the road, living as a tramp.

Janet stretched us, and we had to put our faith into action in a way we had never experienced before.  We experienced God’s supernatural protection, faithfulness, and divine intervention.  We learned about forgiveness- not once but many times over. God wrapped his arms of peace around us and gave us the opportunity and the grace to continue to open our Elisha house through the years to numerous other persons. Gene would always state that he had just one request, “Just don’t steal my truck!”

Celebrating 50 Years of Marriage

I can remember celebrating my parents and their peers 50 years of marriage and it felt like they were old. It seemed like quite an accomplishment for older folks and in reality it was. I could hardly fathom that some day I would be there but suddenly, here we are, our time has come and I wonder, where has time gone?

I remember back to our big, highly anticipated day-June 24, 1972. The week of our wedding Hurricane Agnes, the largest June hurricane recorded in US history and the costliest at the time with an estimated $2.1 billion dollars in damage hit the entire east coast. The effects were widespread, from the Caribbean to Canada. Wikipedia

The James River begins in the far western corner of the state near Lexington and meanders 344 miles, slicing the entire length of the state through the middle and emptying into the Chesapeake Bay at Hampton Roads. The mighty James borders Powhatan County on the north edge. Powhatan is on the upper edge of the lower half of the state. To get to the upper half of the state where I lived, you have to cross the river at some point. Just weeks before the storm hit, Powhatan completed a brand new two lane bridge over the James at Maidens replacing the one way trestle bridge. The river flooded with the rushing water lapping the underside of the roadway on the new bridge, washing out the approaches. The flood waters gushing through downtown Richmond, 30 miles to the east, were devastating.

The water in the area of this bridge is typically about knee deep.
The old one-way trestle bridge. You could not pass on the bridge. If someone was on the bridge you had to wait until they crossed.

Gene called me with concerning news. He didn’t know if or where he could cross the river. After evaluating the situation, he left Powhatan early Friday morning, winding his way west trying to find a way to cross the river. He was coming to me regardless of how far west he had to go to get there! At Lynchburg the bridge was open and he headed north to Harrisonburg.

Our wedding day was beautiful and sunny. We could not have asked for a more gorgeous day and it was perfect in every way. And so our marriage began! Little did we know some of the other life storms that were raging to come ashore in the sea of life.

As our 50-year anniversary approached, our daughter and granddaughters decided to plan a celebration party for us. That’s what you do at 50 years, right? Well a little life storm disrupted our plans and we had to postpone it a month when several in the immediate family got Covid, just days before the event!

We finally got to celebrate this past Sunday evening and it was a lovely time with friends and family. We reminisced, took pictures, cut the wedding cake, and ate food. The family had set up a lovely memorial to our fifty years and three of the wedding party were present; Sharon Swartz Kisamore (maid of honor) and Elva Bowman Miller (bridesmaid) two of my attendants and Bob Hertzler (groomsman), one of Gene’s. My sister, Evelyn Heatwole Borntrager, also a bridesmaid, had family visiting from Indiana and two of Gene’s attendants; Oliver Hertzler, Jr and Ray Hertzler are deceased. It is a reminder that we are getting older and life moves on.

Below are pictures from the evening.

Memorial table representing our life.
Representing Gene: he enjoyed woodworking and made the bread box, played fast-pitch soft ball and was/is a farmer.
Representing Pat: Crocheting, sewing, homemaker & storekeeper. I combined my love of writing and family history and published a book on the Heatwole family history; “The Story of Melvin Jasper Heatwole and Mollie Grace Coffman”.
On each table was a vase of wildflowers and a copy of one of my printed blog books (Country Chatter) and my facebook Social Media books.
Karla Hostetter made the cupcakes
Thanks to everyone who came.
Pat and Sherill Hostetter-we were high school classmates and she is the mother of our son-in-law.

Story…. I was not allowed by my parents to attend any of our class socials or sporting events even though we were a Christian school. I was not one to disobey my parents-I was afraid to, but one time I decided to go behind their back and attend a roller skating party. I planned to go home from school with my best friend to spend the night. My guilty conscience bothered me and I decided to talk to someone about it and for some reason I chose Sherill. We were not friends but I admired her. I spilled my heart to her and she gave me wise advice, “do not do it”. Several days after I decided to cancel my deceitful plans, one of the guys in my class who went to my church approached my dad following the service and told him he was going to ask me to go skating. Dad was put on the spot and gave permission. I got to go with a free and clear conscience and with my daddy’s permission. I learned a valuable lesson that night. I never dreamed that Sherill would someday be the mother of my son-in-law. Isn’t God good!!!

Elva Bowman Miller (bridesmaid), Sharon Swartz Kisamore (Maid of Honor), Pat and Gene, Bob Hertzler (Groomsman)
The original picture of the wedding party.
Talking to my bridesmaid and maid of honor. Elva, Sharon and I have some good memories and stories!!!
Getting ready to cut the cake made by Lauren. She used my original cake topper.
Story time!
Folks that is a very mischievous laugh with a naughty thought!!! Would you believe he is being encouraged to smear my face!
He is still debating!
He was a dear and even resisted the encouraging chants of the group!
The cake was delicious.
Darrel Hostetter praying a prayer of blessing over us. Darrel and Sherill have been special to us. They were in my graduating class at EMHS and their son Obe married our daughter Jill.
Karla made the cupcakes.
Ryan, Poe Powell and Jill.
Jill and Gene talking with Lowell and Mim Haarer.

You could have a root beer ice-cream float or an ice-cream cone.

There was a story behind the ice-cream floats….. on our first date we went bowling and afterwards stopped at the food court to get something to eat and drink. I have never liked soft drinks, maybe detest them is a better description!!! Our family never bought soft drinks unless we were sick and the doctor ordered Ginger Ale. (Remember I was born a long time ago!) The only thing on the list was soft drinks and because our family also never ate out I was not very comfortable ordering. I didn’t know I could ask for water! I was to embarrassed to admit to Gene my dilemma so I bravely ordered root beer hoping I could handle it. It did not work and Gene learned my secret! So in memory of that first date, we served root beer floats but I settled for an ice-cream cone.

Cindy Rosen and her mother.
Mom and daughter
We call these two the Troublemakers,
or is it the Bobbsy Twins?
No, it is the Wonder Twins!

How many more years will we have? We do not know. We have weathered some tough storms in life; the hardest was the death of our two children. Each storm we have dug in deep and dropped our anchors in the depths of God’s care and faithfulness. It reminds me of the song, “I don’t know about tomorrow, but I know who holds our hand” by Ira J. Stanphill.

I don’t know about tomorrow,
I just live from day to day.
I don’t borrow from its sunshine,
For its skies may turn to gray.
I don’t worry o’er the future,
For I know what Jesus said,
And today I’ll walk beside Him,
For He knows what is ahead.

Many things about tomorrow,
I don’t seem to understand;
But I know who holds tomorrow,
And I know who holds my hand.

A video of our 50 years!

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

When Life Throws A Curve Ball

Sometime life reminds me of the games we used to play. Remember in “Monopoly” how we tried to buy and improve our status in life and not go to jail! We even borrowed money from the bank!!! In “Candy Land” we rolled the dice to move forward and then, oops, we’d slide backward. In “Uncle Wiggly” we moaned when we had to go back to the start. “Rook” betted on a successful partner and being dealt a good hand or having the skill to make a bad hand good. In “Sorry” you joyfully moved forward by pretending you were so sorry to send the other players back to home base. In all games your goal is to win, come out the champ, even at the expense of others! How we win depends on a strange mixture of skill and luck.

In baseball, a pitcher throws a curve ball in the middle of a series of good pitches to throw the batter off balance. It is slower than a fast pitch and curves downward before reaching home plate making the batter swing too early or over the top of the curveball. It usually does not end well for the batter. Life is full of curve balls. Sometimes they come out of nowhere catching us off guard and sometimes we see it happening and try to stop the ploy. Sometimes it is easy to go with the swing and other times it sends us sprawling.

Our Curve Balls

Gene Got Covid:

This has been a difficult spring for us. It started mid-January with Gene getting covid. It didn’t go well for him and he ended up with pneumonia in the hospital. He is still dealing with some long-term covid issues but is steadily improving.

Pat’s First Fall:

In mid-March on a rainy Saturday morning, I stepped out of the house with my umbrella to walk to our store to work. I usually ride the golf cart but it was raining to hard and I thought I’d stay drier walking with an umbrella. I slipped on the wet grass and after a few very undignified acrobatic maneuvers stumbled over my umbrella which had ended upside down in front of me. My left foot flew forward, hyper-extending my leg and tearing my ham string and calf muscle. It was an extremely painful fall and I had to have help getting up and back into the house. That fall resulted in a trip to the Ortho Emergency Center, a full leg brace, two huge black bruises and weeks of therapy.

On May 12 (Thursday), I completed my physical therapy with a certificate from my therapist. I had spent most of the winter in therapy due to issues with my arthritic feet. Their last words to me as I went out the door was “We love seeing you, but be careful and don’t come back”! I happily walked out the door, never to return.

Mother’s Day

Three days later on Sunday, May 15, (Mother’s Day) my husband planned a surprise for me. We went to Charlottesville after church and ate lunch with our daughter Jill and family at the Michie Tavern on the road leading up the mountain to Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello. It was a cold, fun day filled with a delicious buffet lunch and family time. I felt loved and blessed.

Michie Tavern

Pat’s Second Fall:

Arriving home I had a few things to carry into the house; a grocery bag full of puzzles, a stack of empty egg cartons and two small packages that were in our mailbox. Nothing heavy, just an arm full of stuff! I proceeded to take them straight to the laundry which is down two steps from the kitchen so that they would be ready to take to the store in the morning.

Life threw a wild curve ball and I did not see it coming. I am not sure exactly what happened but I fell down those steps with my legs straight out in front of me. Gene heard the commotion and said, “Did you fall?” What was I too say? I am laying there on the floor moaning!

The pain was excruciating and my ankle immediately swelled. I could not stand for him to touch the skin on my foot. He finally was able to get me up to sit on the bottom step. I instantly felt sick on my stomach and passed out. I awoke to him saying, “Are you awake”?

It was quite the ordeal to get me to my lazy boy in the living room. He thought my ankle was badly sprained because of the way it swelled so fast but I wasn’t so sure. The ortho practice that we go to has an emergency center twelve miles down the road. We really wanted to go there instead of the ER at the hospital. They are so much more efficient and they have access to my history and ortho doctor. After checking the hours on the internet we discovered they had already closed for the evening so we decided to wait until morning and I hopped with a broom handle to bed.

Long story short, I broke my ankle and needed to have two screws surgically implanted. The pictures below are the before and after surgery.

Break is to the right of the plus sign on the left
Look at those two long bad boy screws!

I have six weeks of non-weight bearing and four additional weeks of a walking boot. To my great embarrassment I had to contact my physical therapist and let him know I would be coming back to see him.

My real cast after my post -op surgery visit.

Fall Risk:

I was laying on the bed being prepped for ankle surgery and the nurse asked, “Have you fallen any other time in the last six month?” After my answer, she quickly left the room and came back with a bright yellow arm band that said, “Fall Risk”! Fall risk-now I am labeled and banded along with being handicapped! I wonder if it will help to wear it all the time?

The Restrictions:

I am to prop up my leg as much as possible and no weight bearing for six weeks. That means the injured foot is not to touch the ground. That has taken some figuring out. I can not use the leg buggy as I had a double knee replacement three years ago and I can not bear to kneel or put weight on my knees.

The Consequences:

How was I going to deal with such a handicap during our busy season in the store, a newly planted garden, a yard to mow, a house to care for and all the other things I do???? After some trial and error, I finally got it figured out. I use a combination of walker and crutches in the house but when I go to our store or away from the house I use the wheelchair. I have two wheelchairs; one I keep in the trunk of my car and the other in the store.

Gene built me a ramp into the side of the store. I can drive the golf cart up the ramp and into the feed room where I have a wheelchair parked and waiting. I do not have to navigate steps inside the store which would be impossible for me. A few other adjustments had to be made but it is a very workable situation and I can do it by myself.

Those who have experienced this can identify. When you can’t put weight on one foot, you can’t carry things or do steps. The walker and crutches is extremely tiring and makes my arm muscles ache.

Caring Family and Friends:

I have been blessed with caring family and friends who have come to my aide. I suddenly have felt very needy. There are so many things that I need help with or that need to be done. Our church family and friends have brought food. Our daughter Jill came for several days and worked on the flower beds and garden. My brother Rich Heatwole came twice for several days and so did friends Dwight and Linda Burkholder. They helped to make deliveries, fix a concrete dock, replaced broken stair trend in the house from where I fell, fixed meals, went grocery shopping, replaced my bird feeder, and numerous other projects. Gene had a to-do-list and every single thing on it got done!

Jill hoeing the garden
Dwight replacing stair tread that broke when I fell.
Rich and Dwight fixing a dock at the store that needed repairs.
Dwight replacing a broken bird feeder post
Fixing supper

Memorial Day:

Over Memorial Day week, Obe and Jill and most of the grandkids came and pulled weeds in the garden, flower beds, trimmed the roses, weeded the blackberries, weeded, picked and mulched the asparagus, mulched and pruned the tomatoes, picked strawberries, mowed the lawn, got the patio furniture out of the storage building and power washed it. It was a good day and so much got done.

Jill trimming the roses.
Obe power washing the patio furniture
Ryan working on the blackberries
kitchen crew
More kitchen crew
Grandkids and someone special!
Jill wanted some railroad ties.
The Hostetters went home with a trailer load of railroad ties to redo her raised garden beds.
All I could do was haul the gang around and watch!

Karla Hostetter stayed for the week and helped me in the store and did a thousand other small jobs. When you have to have someone else do everything you do, it seems like so much work; water the plants, pick up stuff, take out trash, pick strawberries, lettuce, onions and wash them, go to the mailbox, run to the grocery store, run Gene Hertzler between fields with equipment , empty the dishwasher, do the laundry, fix a meal, gather eggs, wind the grandfather clock, and the list goes on and on. It is things I just do and don’t give it a second thought. I don’t consider it work but as I watched others do it, it felt different!!!!!

One evening Karla and Lauren make chocolate truffles, a family favorite.

Grandson Ryan

Four days after I broke my ankle, Ryan broke his big toe playing soccer. I could hardly believe it when I got the call! The break looked very similar to mine but he only has to wear a walking boot as it is not weight bearing. I am very jealous of him. It hasn’t slowed him down except he can’t drive! For him, that is a real big bummer!!!

Another Curve Ball Complication:

In the midst of my ordeal, my main and faithful employee, Summer, had to have surgery to remove her thyroid. This was a much needed, must do surgery that had been scheduled for several months. This really had us scrapping for help. Two of our granddaughters, Lauren and Karla, and a friend Amy have graciously come to help in the store. It is working out well and we are making it. Fortunately I had ten days after surgery to recuperate before Summer had her surgery.

From A Grandma’s Perspective:

When our grandchildren were little they said and did the cutest things. I wrote some of them down and called them “Grandma’s Perspective”. I applied a spiritual perspective to most of them. This reminded me of “The Game of Life” post I wrote about our granddaughter Karla on February 15, 2004. It is a different take than the above but I felt this was a good time to share it.

“The Game of Life”

Jill and I were playing a game and Karla did not want to play with her toys on the floor or sit in her musical swing. She did however want to be on our laps where she was in the middle of the activity and was very intrigued with the colorful houses and cards.    At four months of age, she has no concept of a game or the ability to play in a grownup way.   Houses are to throw on the floor and cards are intended to be low calorie food. Karla is learning and does not miss much her observant eyes. 

Children learn from what they are taught, observe what they see and repeat what they hear. Habits are acquired, attitudes learned, morals developed, and values imitated. 

Life is like a game.  Sometimes my game plan does not work.  Sometimes my move sends me back to go or down a slide. Sometimes the throw of dice is not what I wanted.  Sometimes I draw the winning card.  The important thing is not the game but how I played.

Did I have fun?

Did I rejoice when someone else succeeded?

Did I cheat?

Did I get mad if I lost? 

Did I have a good attitude when things did not go my way? 

Did I get arrogant when I won?

Want to know how you are doing?  Watch your children play.

May I say with the writer of Proverbs 4: 10-13….. “ Hear, my son (child), and receive my sayings, and the years of your life will be many.  I have taught you in the way of wisdom; I have led you in right paths.  When you walk, your steps will not be hindered, and when you run, you will not stumble.  Take firm hold of instruction; do not let her go; keep her, for she is your life.”

Pickles is a Mommy

This morning was the anticipated day. Pickles became the mommy of three little kittens. We had been watching her full, rounded belly and knew it would be any day.

One is yellow and looks like Pickles, one is a calico with spots of yellow on its head and the third one is mostly black. It is obviously that she had a visit from the neighbors male cat!
One is yellow and looks like Pickles, one is a calico

She had snuck into one of the feed rooms in the store, found the perfect spot-a narrow box sitting on its side on the top shelf. When Summer opened up the room this morning and turned on the light she made herself known. Bubble wrap in the box made a soft cushiony pillow for her little fluff balls.

Pickles was obviously pleased with herself and wanted us to know about the kitts. She let us hold them with some fussing, meowing that we be very careful and under the glare of her watchful eye. Gene was going to turn her box over so that she had more room and put it on the bottom shelf but she made it clear that she was not going to allow that.

For now she is in a safe place and at a spot we can keep watch over her and love on her kittens. That is until she decides to move them!

Congratulations Pickles. You did a good job.

David and Goliath

Earlier this week (February 23, 2022) Fox News had a very insightful comparison between the military might of Russia and Ukraine. The graph speaks for itself, but I instantly thought, this is like David and Goliath! All week I have been praying with that thought in mind. Today I have heard several news reporters use the same comparison and at church today one of the men shared his concern for the situation and asked for prayer, referring to it as like David and Goliath.

The story of David and Goliath in I Samuel 17 is fascinating. David was anointed king of Israel by Samuel at a very young age, but it would be fifteen years before he was inauguration King of Israel. In the meantime, he tended his father’s sheep and went to Saul’s palace to play the harp whenever an evil spirit came over Saul. The Israelites were preparing for war as the Philistines had surrounded their nation and was threatening to attack.

One day Jesse, David’s father, sent him to check on his three older brothers who were in Saul’s army and deliver a care package from home of dried grain and ten loaves of bread and ten cheeses for the captains of the army. When David arrived, he found the army hyped, shouting, and ready to attack in battle formation with the Philistines on one mountain and the Israelites on another with a valley in between.

The champion of the Philistine army was a tyrant, a giant named Goliath, who stood between 9-10 feet tall. He stood on the Philistine’s side of the mountain dressed in a full body bronze armor yelling taunts and challenging the Israelites to a fight. His spear was approximately 13′ long and weighed about 33 lbs. Whoever lost would be the servants of the other. The Israelites were dreadfully afraid and quaking in their army boots.

The young lad David saw Goliath’s insults as defying the armies of the Living God. David’s words were reported to Saul who asked to speak with David. David presented his case and said, “Let no man’s heart fail because of that giant. I will go and fight him.”

Saul was horrified. He said, “You are a youth and this man has been a warrior since his youth”. I don’t know how David managed to convince King Saul but God was with David and Saul finally let him go. Suddenly the whole future of Israel was squarely on the shoulders of a young lad versus a menacing giant.

David took his shepherd’s bag, staff and sling and on his way stopped by a brook and picked up five smooth stones.

Gebhard Fugel (1863-1939), “David and Goliath” (photo: Public Domain)

When Goliath saw David coming, he was filled with rage and disdain. Goliath yelled, “Am I just a dog that you come to me with a stick. Come on, I will feed your flesh to the birds and wild beasts”. And David said, “I come to you in the name of the Lord of host, the God of the armies of Israel whom you have defied. This day God will deliver you into my hand and I will strike you.”

I think of the song we sang as children…. “Only A Boy Named David”. David put one little stone in the sling and it went round and round and the giant came tumbling down. It only took one stone!

Is this a David and Goliath situation? I am praying for the people of Ukraine to trust in God and stand even when it seems impossible. I saw a picture of Christians in Ukraine kneeling in front of their capital praying.

I saw a video on fb of Ukrainian Christians in Kiev who sought protection in an underground subway tunnel singing hymns. I read a clip on that said Ukraine sends out more missionaries to other European countries and Eastern Asia than any other country.

The military facts are startling and there seems no way Ukraine can humanly win against the haughty, mighty Russian army unless…. unless they (we) call on the name of the Lord against the one who has defied Him before the whole world.

David versus Goliath. It’s not just a cute children’s story. We know Ukraine is a corrupt country but so is every nation in the world. What if the impossible could happen and the name of God could be lifted high for the world to see. What if the tyrant could fall because of the prayers of Christians? What if….

Some things I ponder:

  • What is the heart of Jesus in all this conflict and aggression.
  • How do I respond to and pray for the Russian people who are against the position of their leader and the aggression against the Ukraine?
  • How would I respond to war in my land, against our home and government?
  • As a Christian who believes Jesus taught peace respond when a tyrant boldly attacks innocent people and destroys their homes and livelihoods?

These and others are hard questions. We need to seek the heart of Jesus, maybe not so much to seek our answers but to seek his response. I pray especially for the Christians on both sides of the conflict.

Kat Has A New Name

Kat is developing the habit of getting herself into pickles, precarious situations that she can’t get herself out of that are usually high off the ground. Today Summer again heard the distressed call…”meow, meow” and went looking for her.

And there she was, up in the eaves of a shed with no way to get down. She kept looking for a way down but the rafters prevented her from going to the next eave. Poor pitiful Kat was meowing for help!

Again we got the ladder out and rescued our the little fraidy cat! She really wasn’t up that high-maybe seven or eight feet but it was high enough she wasn’t going to jump. The only way we could see that she got up there was to climb one of the posts but she appeared unable to go to the next eave and there was no eave close to her!

When Kat appeared at our doorstep we couldn’t figure out what to call her and until we could up with a name we called her Kat. The name has stuck until today. I have now decided she is Pickles. Pickles Kat.

We had a book when the children were little called “The Fire Cat” by Esther Averill. It was about a cat named Pickles that climbed a tree and couldn’t get down. His owner, Mrs. Goodkind, had to call the fire department to rescue him. He ended up going to the fire house to live. He learned to slide down the pole, ride on the fire truck, helped unroll the fire hose and rode on the seat with the fire chief. The children loved the book and I read it many, many times. I think the name seems rather fitting to me!

Other adventures of Kat:

The Pecan Man

This was a good pecan producing year. Some years are, some years aren’t. We picked up buckets and buckets of pecans. Summer and I shelled at least one 5-gallon bucket full. Over Christmas a bunch of the family went out and in a short time gathered six more 5-gallon buckets full. Suddenly the task looked overwhelming.

We have one tree that produces small pecans. They are good and meaty but difficult to crack. Years ago I had gotten an electric table top cracker which I liked but back then we had three trees and the nuts were larger. The cracker can not be adjusted down for the small size of these nuts.

When mama starts thinking watch out! I have some cousins in South Carolina who grow grooves of pecans and have a large nut cracker. I talked to them about paying them a visit and cracking my nuts. But before I got that accomplished, a friend (sales rep) from North Carolina was here and mentioned one of his neighbors has a nut cracker and did some nuts for him. Wilson, NC is a lot closer than Denmark, SC.

So today my friend, Donna, and I took a road trip to Wilson, North Carolina to the “Pecan Man” with 111 pounds of homegrown pecans in tow. It was a fun day and made for an interesting “field trip”.

Jr. Etheridge has two crackers. One for large nuts and one for small. Surprisingly, mine qualified for the large cracker.

He poured the nuts into metal baskets and then set them into hot water for a few minutes until they came to a full boil.
After boiling, they set the basket aside to drain a few minutes before pouring them into the cracker.

I found it very interesting that they boiled the pecans before cracking. They said it makes them crack better. I had never heard that in all our years of raising pecans.

The inside of the cracker. A motor turns the shaft and the beaters break open the nuts. It is amazing they leave the nuts whole.
The Pecan Man’s helper. The crackers are inside those wooden boxes. Large on the left, small on the right.

The pecan’s drop into the chute after they are cracked and take the elevator ride up to the sifter which separates most of the shells from the nut. I still will have to sort out the rest of the shells-every tiny little piece.

Cracked pecans coming out the chute.
Beautiful. The Pecan Man said the end yield is about 60%.
The trash!
I ended up with three of these boxes almost full. 65 pounds of nuts.

There are still pieces pf shells in the nuts and we will have to pick through them and clean out the trash. It was suggested to pour the nuts on a bath towel to sort out the trash from the nuts. The little pieces of shell will stick to the towel making it easier! Oh how sweet those little tidbits of info were! When I was cracking the nuts at home, we had a hard time getting them out as halves. I was amazed how big my halves looked!

They told me a true story, just in case I didn’t know! One person took their nuts home and made a pie just like you see them in the box! They discovered the horror of shells in their pie!!!

The Pecan Man’s waiting bench. It really did not take long. We were probably there an hour.
Jr. Etheridge the Pecan Man!

I enjoyed our short visit with these two guys. They were interesting characters and had a funny sense of humor. It was obvious they love what they do and their hangout was full of interesting signs.

It was obvious we were in Dale Earnhardt country.

Going home Donna got thinking and asked me how much these pecans ended up costing me. It was two hour, 20 minute ride one way so my gas bill was $39.00. He charges 50 cents a pound to crack. I also had to feed Donna! I figure they ended up costing me about $1.50 a pound. We had a fun day, I went home happy with 65 pounds of shelled nuts and I was saved a lot of work. It was so worth it and I will go back again next pecan harvest!

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