Saturday, June 15, 2013

A Decision My Father Made That Radically Changed My Life

Father's Day is a good time  to remember all of my parents' good qualities I've appreciated and have tried to pass on, like kindness, generosity and a strong commitment to a life of faith and faithfulness.

But lately I've thought a lot about a major decision my dad and mom made nearly 70 years ago that has made a huge difference in my life.

In 1946 they moved our family from Anderson County, Kansas, to Stuarts Draft, Virginia, a major relocation. They did this not to get a better farm and or to have more income, but because they wanted a better church community for their eight children, which then included several teenagers.

I was six then, their youngest, and my parents were concerned about the kind of negative influence the young people in their Amish community near Garnett would have on all of us, especially when it came to some of the dating practices and use of alcohol and tobacco among our Kansas peers. Dad and mom knew about the Amish Community in Augusta County, Virginia, some 1300 miles away, through one of my mother's uncles, who graciously offered to help them finance the purchase of a 120 acre farm for our family just north of Stuarts Draft.
The view north of our former Amish church near Stuarts Draft. Our farm was on the left.

So in March of 1946 my father sent my mother and us children by passenger train to far off Virginia. Meanwhile he traveled in a freight car packed with our household furniture and other belongings in one end and some farm machinery and several horses in the other, for a slow trip that took several days half way across the continent.

I've often wondered how many fathers and mothers today would be willing to take that kind of risk and to make that kind of sacrifice primarily for their family's benefit, based on the conviction that it takes a whole congregation to raise a strong family.

That decision, made many years ago, has paid off well. The children they brought with them, their most valued assets, all married well and formed strong families of their own. I personally have felt blessed by the good friends I made who mostly represented solid values, and by good adult mentors who were the kind of role models that supported my parent's faith and way of life.

One of the many good adult influences I had growing up was my seventh grade elementary teacher, Paul Wenger. Besides also being a farmer and a school bus driver, he was also an ordained minister in one of the Mennonite churches in our area that my father occasionally took us to for some of their revival meetings and other special services, not a typically Amish thing to do. It was Mr. Wenger who encouraged me to consider going to college some day, which I did soon after turning 21, with the somewhat guarded blessing of my parents.

Had my parents chosen to remain in their eastern Kansas community, I would almost certainly not have had all the opportunities I've been blessed with. One can never know about such things, of course, but my life would have been quite different, without a doubt.

Just another reason I thank God for giving me great parents.

Here's a link to a post on leaving the Amish.
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