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Monday, July 27, 2015

Stauffer Family History

Mennonites from eighty nations gathered in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, last week for Mennonite World Conference. The crowd of about 7,500 that assembled there were largely from more liberal branches of the church. If the local conservative branches of the church had attended, the crowd could easily have doubled.
Although this was seen as a historic event and in my back yard, I had no desire to attend. However, one of the benefits the event brought was that it drew some of the people we met when we toured the Netherlands (Holland) and Germany in 1997. One of these was the Daniel Bergholdt family who live in the ancestral Stauffer home in Ibersheim, Germany.
The Stauffer story begins in the village of Eggiwil in the Emmental, Switzerland.

Niclaus Stauffer owned Luchsmatt farm in 1547, and the property was passed down to several more generations of Stauffers.
The Stauffers were Mennonites who were persecuted for their faith. Near the end of 1671, a group of 450 Mennonites were rounded up and exiled from the country. They were put on boats on or near this spot on the Aare River and shipped north into Germany.
Ninety-year-old Christian Stauffer and 66 of his family members were part of this large group of refugees who fled to the Palatinate and were aided by the Mennonites already living there. In 1672, Christian Stauffer and his family were reported to be living in Ibersheim, Germany. (The country was not unified into a nation until much later, but we know it as Germany today.) The records show he had left large possessions behind in Switzerland and brought nothing with him.
This plaque, which hangs in the Stauffer ancestral home in Ibersheim, was carved by a descendant of Christian Stauffer. It depicts him leading his family into Ibersheim. The names carved above the people are the places his descendants have gone from there.
This old building in Ibersheim dates to the early 1700s and was used as an inn for poor travelers. It was probably not yet built when the Stauffers arrived in the village. They slept in barns or wherever they could find a place to lie down at night. Christian Stauffer's family were reported to all be living in one large house with 21 children among them.
Eventually, the Stauffers found a place to live in Ibersheim. This is the German ancestral home of the Stauffers as it appears today. The oldest section is the part with the red roof which was built in 1747. The newest section on the opposite end was added in 1902. The last surviving person in Ibersheim who bears the Stauffer name lives here. She is a 102-year-old widow of a Stauffer and the grandmother of Annette Bergholdt who also lives here with her husband and two children.  
Some of the Stauffers emigrated to Pennsylvania in the early 1700s but others stayed. This home has been passed down through many generations of the descendants of Christian Stauffer. It stands next to the Mennonite church in Ibersheim. The Bergholdts are members of this church.
When we were there in 1997, they were expecting their first child. When we saw them this weekend, that baby is now almost eighteen years old. Time passes as rapidly on that side of the ocean as it does here! It was good to connect with them again and know they are doing what they can to preserve their Stauffer family history.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Forty-eighth Anniversary

Yesterday was the forty-eighth anniversary of our wedding. There are a couple amazing facts about the occasion. First, my best friend and I were both married on the same day, at the same time, and at the same place. Is that rare or what? Second, I never would have believed then that forty-eight years would pass by so rapidly.
In the ceremony the bishop used the phrase, "share the joys and sorrows of life" and we have certainly done that. Sometimes (as when we buried two sons) both were mixed together at the same time. There was sorrow in grief but joy in the hope of eternal life.
We started out forty-eight years ago, full of joy and hope. A year later we added a child to our family and began making mortgage payments on the house we built. We lived hand-to-mouth for many years as the size of the family increased steadily. It takes a lot of work and food to raise six children, especially when five of them are boys whose stomachs are bottomless pits.
When I look back now I wonder how we did it. The garden covered about a third of an acre. I canned fruit in two-quart jars and needed six cups of corn for one meal. We used a gallon of milk and large loaf of bread every day. Laundry was done every day from Monday through Thursday. To get everyone ready to go somewhere in the evening, the line started marching through our one-bathroom home as soon as the children came home from school.
My daily schedule revolved around providing transportation to and from school twice a day. When the youngest was in kindergarten it was three times a day with the extra run at noon. Sending children to private school required paying tuition on top of the local tax which supported the public school we used only for kindergarten. The money I earned writing Sunday school quarterlies for twenty-five years helped to pay tuition. How did I find the time to write?
We added two bedrooms and a half-bath upstairs as our family grew. At one point it was crammed with five boys and our only daughter slept downstairs across from our room. The unfinished basement was a rec room in the winter with swings, bikes, roller skates, and a wood stove which heated both the basement and main floor. We still live in the same house but the two bedrooms upstairs are now guest rooms. The basement has been finished and is a large family room where Christmas dinners and parties are held.
We took short trips on our tenth and twentieth anniversaries, but most years we didn't take a vacation or do anything significant to celebrate our anniversaries. We were too busy and couldn't afford it. In recent years we have been going out to eat on our anniversary, always on a gift card from Leroy's employer. But our marriage hasn't suffered because we don't go to a fancy motel or other exotic place to celebrate each anniversary. Our bond is as tight as ever and increasing as the years pass.
I was surprised yesterday when the florist delivered a beautiful bouquet. Leroy has brought me flowers more than once but never had the florist deliver them so I didn't think they were from him. Right! I thought perhaps they were from one of our children or a sister. Wrong! They were from someone in our church family, Dennis and Naomi Risser! Totally unexpected and much appreciated.

I remember when my grandparents celebrated their 50th anniversary. I thought that was a really long time and something that rarely happened. We have only two more years to go to reach that. Fifty years isn't as long as I thought nor is a 50th anniversary as rare as I thought it was. Joys and sorrows, bumps and mountaintops, we've had a good life and I'm in it for the long haul.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Show Time

Leroy went to a tractor show tonight. He knows me so well he didn't even ask if I want to go along. My philosophy on tractors is simple. If you've seen one you've seen 'em all. Why should I throw money away to go into a tractor show when my time and money can be used more profitably? I was happy to stay home and find my own entertainment.
I pulled weeds for awhile but then took a ringside seat on the patio and watched the sun go down. Our enclosed patio is not heated so it isn't useable in the winter. But I love to sit in my hammock chair on a summer evening and meditate as I enjoy the sights and sounds of nature. The sunset this evening wasn't as spectacular as sometimes but it is still a beautiful world and I am blessed to live in the country where the show is the best.

There IS a God in heaven
But there are you who doubt
No further proof is needed
You just need to look about.

Only He can paint the sunset
And the beauty of the rising sun
No human hand can match it
Though millions of paintings are done.

If you've ever seen the rolling hills
And the little babbling brooks
The beauty of flowers blooming
It's splendor, just take a look.

If you've ever been to the seashore
And gazed across the ocean
And heard the breaking of the waves
It's like poetry in motion.

If you've ever walked through forests
Amid all the plants and trees
And caught a glimpse of small creatures
He too created these.

If you've sat outside on a starry night
And gazed at the beauty above
Or seen the moon begin its rise
It's His way of sharing His love.

The majesty of the mountains
The green valleys in between
The deserts and the rolling plains
It's almost like a dream.

When summer turns to autumn
And leaves begin to change
Such beauty you can't imagine
But God has it all arranged.

Then autumn turns to winter
As the weather begins to turn cold
See the beauty of snowflakes falling
Like a blanket of white to unfold.

My friend, if you are one who doubts
Whether God does really exist
Just look at the marvels around you
No human could have given you this.

To feel, to touch, to smell, to hear
God gave these senses to you
Along with the sight to see all that He made
Look in a mirror, He created you too.

Emily McAdams