With strands of black and gray hair combed obediently over the curve of his head, my pastor saw the world and his place in it clearly through wire-rimmed glasses, a fixture on his nose. Even now, I cannot imagine he took many sideways glances. He always seemed to focus on the road right ahead, straight and narrow. Strangely, though I revered him, he did seem accessible to me. Whenever I approached him, his right hand sprang out to greet me with a firm, hearty handshake. Brother Martin Kraybill’s lips seemed constantly curled in a smile, though they seldom showed his teeth. At church, his Bible remained clutched under his arm, close to his chest and zippered up, except in the pulpit, where his frequent quotations inscribed biblical texts on my young mind.
I can still hear Brother Kraybill quoting John 13:17 after we observed the ordinance of Communion: “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.” His open face brightened at the word “happy,” blessing the whole congregation, from the women’s to the men’s side, a middle aisle separating them.
His plain coat was a sheath of black, the stand-up collar accentuating the buttoned-up shirt underneath that sometimes featured a little gold bead in the middle like a tiny, timid cufflink. The only place on his body that appeared soft was where suspenders and a belt held his black-and-white wardrobe in place over his belly.
. . . , as I open The History of Bossler Mennonite Church, published in 2011, . . . , I can see Brother Martin dressed like this with his wife, Suie, posing in front of the church, apparently holding hands. He referred to Suie as his companion — not wife, not partner — his companion. Looking back, I never sensed anything hypocritical in his demeanor or in his life. Like the description of Chaucer’s parson in the Canterbury Tales, “I’m sure/You could not find a minister more pure/He was a Christian both in deed and thought/He lived himself the Golden Rule he taught.”
Mennonite ministers were bi-vocational in those days because the Church thought its pastors should not receive a salary. “They should work like everybody else,” some members thought, dismissing preacher’s duties as not work. Thus, he was a farm seed and fertilizer salesman, along with pastoral duties preparing sermons and visiting his flock. He did not have the soft hands of many clergymen.
~ excerpt from Mennonite Daughter, The Story of a Plain Girl, chapter 29, “Prayer Veiling Goes Missing”
Do you know?
The story continues with an embarrassing exposure. I feel the humiliation to this day.
Writer’s Tip: Photos are helpful in writing detailed description in memoir or fiction.
Did you know Brother Martin and Suie Kraybill?
Is there a kind person — a religious figure or someone else — you revered in your early life?
Lovely description of you pastor. I am not religious, but loved most of my teachers. My love for languages, Art and Literature was born in school and I often remember those who taught me such wonderful things.
Fatima, they taught you well as evidenced in your own expressions of art. I admire your command of languages too. Many who grew up in the States have only a textbook knowledge of other languages, often Spanish or French. Thanks, my friend, for starting the conversation here!
Good morning, Marian! Thanks for sharing an excerpt with the photos. I don’t think I had a figure like that in my life.
Though you probably didn’t have a “faith” figure, I imagine that you have derived artistic talent your mother and (perhaps) business instincts from your father, thinking of his antique enterprises. I’m always happy to see you here, Merril.
Wonderful description, Marian. I could see the two of them even without the photo……..
What a kind compliment, Jack. I wonder if you ever saw them – however briefly – in person, having grown up in the area. Thanks so much!
Although my grandfather, a Methodist minister died while preaching a sermon to his congregation when I was only a year old, his wife, my grandmother, instilled a strong faith in me to overcome life’s challenges.
Jill, people often comment about loved ones dying in their sleep (passing away peacefully) or doing what they love best. I’m guessing your grandfather was the latter. He would be so proud of your publishing faith-based romances. Thanks for this!
Yes, he was doing what he loved. Thanks for this wonderful post, Marian. <3
A lovely character sketch, Marian, and a deep reminder of a heritage we share. My own minister had a calling and a companion also. And his favorite word was “love.”
If you are referring to Melvin and Mary Lauver, I do remember them in BLUSH, a wise and loving pair. Back them, the church would probably not have called them a ministry team, but so they were.
My memories of Martin Kraybill are just as you stated. His brother-in-law, Henry Garber, our pastor at Mount Joy, was much like Martin. For certain there were among us some fine, exceptional warm, faithful, brilliant mentors and I feel blessed.
Surprise – These days of COVID-19 during “stay home, stay safe” along with a specil new friend… I am pouring hours into a 20-30 page thesis on Lindemuth Family: Germany to Mount Joy PA, Genealogy Details, Ten Farms by Bossler Road – 1820-1899. It will likely be published in October 2020 in PA Menn Heritage.
The Kraybills and the Garbers figured large in my girlhood church history. Each knew the value of cultivating our love for the Bible and stewardship of the land.
A few weeks ago, you mentioned working on the Lindemuth family farms booklet, even sending a few photos along with mentioning a new reader of Mennonite Daughter. Best wishes as you “birth” a new book. I know it’s a labor of love. Thank you, Joanne.
I like your tip to use photos to bring back memories and even personalities. I loved that in several photos of my mother’s of the family, my daughters noticed Mom and Dad holding hands, which always spoke volumes to us all.
Here I loved your addition of your pastor breaking into a smile on the word happy. What a great way to bring that passage–and your pastor–to life. Blessings!
It’s the little details that matter. I remember Maya Angelou mentioning that people may not remember much what you say, but they will always remember how they made you feel. I felt cared for by Brother Kraybill.
Ah, the remembered body language: couples who hold hands after so many years inspire us all. I’m glad you and your girls have these precious memories, Melodie.
Oh Marian how I a city girl loved and still love Bossler church. I loved the simplicity of the church and people and extremely loving.
I remember a man came to the service who wasn’t Mennonite but was a man who loved God and would shout out hallelujah amen brother preach. You know that no one did that in a Mennonite church I would chuckle inside wondering what people thought inside, Because they dare not show outward emotion to not offend anyone. Oh how I loved brunch Sunday’s where everyone brought a covered dish to eat together, something that many churches lost today. I praise God for loving me enough to give these lovely memories. I thought my grandchildren would not like the church or no electronics when we went to visit Mom but they also loved it. They asked why can’t we live here. They played with the wooden marble roller for hours. So glad they too had the experience I had. God is so good.
You must have heard me chuckle too when I read about the non-Mennonite man who “would shout hallelujah! amen, brother, preach” listening to a message at Bossler Church. I’m sure the members may have thought it a little exuberant, but wouldn’t have mentioned it or made him feel embarrassed. You may have known Brother Fred Garber, who officiated at Mother’s funeral, died in March. I’m not sure who is occupying the pulpit now. He and Linda were such a caring pastoral couple.
That marble roller has had quite a history. My children enjoyed it immensely too. Now one of my nieces has it and will pass it on to future generations, I’ve no doubt. Thanks for popping up here again, Gloria!
Yes I do know pastor Fred Garner, no I didn’t know he died. I’m thinking of going to PA as soon as we can travel. I intend to go to Bossier Church when I do. Thank you for letting me know.
You’re welcome, Gloria.
Lovely description and tip, Marian. Yes, photos are so helpful! Even in fiction, I need them or at least a sketch, so I know how to describe something.
Your description of your pastor who was always ready with a handshake reminds me of my pastor growing up, who would do the same thing. 😀
How lovely that your pastor remained true.
You are the first to mention using photos for descriptive detail in fiction as well as in memoir.
I’m glad too your pastor was a person you could admire, L. Marie. 🙂
How fortunate to have had this father figure in your life Marian! He sounds like a father to all … sound, consistent, loving. I can discern it in his face and of his companion Suie.
I agree. Aging couples bear witness to a life of love and caring. The Kraybills are good examples of this.
And, yes, Susan, I have been fortunate. Thank you!
Yes! Brother Kraybill reminds me of several elderly ministers I know and love.
We have a similar heritage, Luci. I’m glad this post reminded you of other examples of godly ministry. Thanks!
Marian — Your engaging description is wonderful. That you are able to fully flesh out a person in so few paragraphs takes tremendous skill.
Well, Laurie, I knew Martin and Suie Kraybill very well during my impressionable years. Also, I took courses in the craft of writing, which prompted me to consider visuals while writing description. Thanks for the compliment!
You are a skilled, descriptive writer, bringing life to the characters. Enjoy Mornings with Marian🥰
I am happy to count you among my favorite Southern Ladies Who Read Blogs. Another blog reader/writer who posts every day publishes a special summary of the preceding week entitled “Monday Morning Musings.” I’m glad you enjoy mine on Wednesday, Carolyn.
Odd, I don’t remember reading that in your book, and yet it’s such a vivid description of a man who lived what he preached, and so refreshing when so many don’t. I do remember the men who criticized your appearance! Will have to go back and check it out. Great quote from Chaucer
It’s true – negative examples often make a deeper, darker impression than the true and faithful. The critical bishops were also featured during a pivotal moment in my memoir, which is another reason why they may stand out.
Brother Kraybill emulated Chaucer’s description of the Parson, for sure. Thanks for consistently reading and commenting, Elfrieda. 😉
I rely on photographs when writing my books as well. You did a great job of describing Brother Martin Kraybill. I was blessed with some wonderful religious leaders in my life as well.
Darlene, I’m sure ministers in your Canadian upbringing fed your soul well, peppering their sermons with scripture.
Yes, I can’t imagine writing well without visuals as prompts. And, in your case, traveling to the lands featured in the Amanda books would boost your recall and reflect in vivid description, always outstanding. 🙂
What a lovely description of a fine man! How wonderful that he seemed to be genuinely happy, and he shared that joy with you and others in his life. Sharing happiness is a gift; he had that gift, as do you, dear Marian!
Happiness and joy are gifts to pass on, as my minister knew well. And thank you for the compliment, dear Victoria. By the way, as a frequent commenter, I hope next time your reply will be posted right off the bat! 🙂
Well done, Marian. Beautiful writing. Men like that seem so rare these days. No artifice, just simple souls without pretension. I will share this with our congregation in Honey Brook on our church Facebook page. We’re close to Mennonite country and many come from or live in Lancaster County.
Thank you for your generous offer to post this on your church’s Facebook page. In these uncertain times, people need to reflect on the good and true. There’s enough of the other in the news and on social media. So appreciated, Susan! 🙂
Marian, I feel like I’ve met your characters in person by your vivid descriptions! Beautiful writing.,
Thank you, Kathy, for appearing here with such a sweet compliment. You also know the value of vivid description; I see it in your characters as well. Kathy latest book: https://www.amazon.com/Just-Way-He-Walked-Mothers/dp/1733225307/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1577073527&sr=1-1
When I saw the picture of Martin Kraybill……..my mind went way back to when our family lived in E-town Pa. in 1955 & 1956
We (the Robert Sauder family) attended Bossler’s Menn. church, for only one year then we moved to Gap, Pa. Was Martin Kraybill a teacher at LMS in the late 50’s ??
Yes, Bertha, I remember you and where you lived close to the church. I’m glad we can re-connect after all these years here on my blog. I don’t remember that Martin Kraybill was a teacher at LMS in the late 1950, although he may have filled in for another teacher at the time.
Thanks for your comment!
Bertha I, Leona Kraybill Myer.
remember you. When asking about Martin being a teacher at LMS you may be referring to his brother John who was a deason at Bosslers. He taught at LMS. He lost a hand in a farm accident and had an artificial gloved hand.
I only know Brother Martin through you, from Mennonite Daughter. 🙂 I agree photos (and blog posts and diaries) are helpful tools to write memoir. In my case, I skipped the photos and diaries when writing my book, as I had plenty of material from memory and blog posts!
Your book has a different theme and purpose from mine, and that’s okay. Yes, indeed, you do have lots of material from memory and blog posts – and probably a longer book, Liesbet!
A lovely post, Marian I also grew up in the church and Father Wainwright had that same joyful look, Sunday school and then I progressed to the church choir I was so proud when my oldest son followed in my footsteps…My parents also rang the bells I remember my mother being pleased as punch when she rang her first quarter peel…your posts often revive forgotten memories for me and for that I thank you, Marian xx
I’m glad this post prompted fond memories of your British childhood with church bells and a lovely choir. Interestingly, I have a friend at my church whose name is just like that of your priest, Father Wainwright. Thanks for commenting, Carol!
A wonderful look at someone who influenced you positively. For me it was Mrs. Eamons, the pastor’s wife, who ran preschool and kindergarten in the basement of the church. She was kindness personified, with a sense of humor about how little kids are just who they are. Nothing seemed to fluster her the way it did for some of the other [fussier] teachers. She made me feel everything was ok.
Lucky you to have an adult early on that made you feel full acceptance. People like Mrs. Eamons and the Kraybills provide us with something like a true North to set our moral compasses by.
Nice to reminisce now but several times today I’ve felt bored, not very content with #stayhome. So I ventured out. How ’bout you? %-)
Amazing photographs to have. And your description of these people were seemingly accurate. 🙂
As a seasoned writer yourself, you know well how to flesh out a character with description and action. I know, I’ve read some of your books. 😀
Have a great weekend, Debby!
You are lovely 🙂 Happy and safe weekened Marian x
Thanks for describing this influential spiritual guide and bringing him to your blog as well as your book. I didn’t have spiritual guides as a girl but met my first spiritual teacher when I was 22. After studying with him, I studied, meditated, prayed, and did ritual with many others of various faiths. The Dalai Lama is the only close teacher still living, and he would get along with Brother Kraybill the way he gets along with Br. David Steindl-Rast and Desmond Tutu. He’s interested in the other person’s spiritual ideas and never tries to convert anyone to Buddhism. He says, “Kindness is my religion.”
As you know from reading my memoir, my Mennonite ancestors left European persecution and embraced Wm. Penn’s invitation to till the soil and practice their faith without government interference. I saw my family being kind to all regardless of their religion: Phuong, Aunt Ruthie’s “daughter” from Vietnam told me once, “Because of her, I know God.” I am certain she was never pushed into Christianity; that’s not the modus operandi of my family or my church. Loving kindness paved the way for her to make her choice. Thanks again for posting your views, Elaine. 🙂
I think you are right Marian , a photo does help you to describe someone but like like many have said here , we would have seen that face vividly through your description without the photo .
I didn’t grow up in a religious background therefore am amazed at the commitment of one who is .
We had an elderly next door neighbour who had a mentally handicapped son . She was always chatty and smiling as she gardened and yet her life can’t have been easy . In all the years I knew her there was never one hint that Ken ( her son ) was a burden to her . She had about four or five other grown up children but we rarely saw them and there wasn’t a husband , he’d possibly died .
I can still see that smile and yet we never truly knew what lay behind it .
Thanks for all this, and especially your mention of your next door neighbor. I have noticed that mentally handicapped children, while they may require more attention than others, are often kind and loving. Maybe that’s the case with Ken.
An interesting side note. A friend I invited to my book signing asked if she could bring her grandson who has Down’s Syndrome. “Of Course” I told her. Why ever not!” I would never dream of her not bringing him. He lit up the room with his smile. I’ve seen him a time or two later – and there’s that smile. :=)
I suppose I’m talking 1960’s / 70s , Marian , things were very different then . Now anybody whatever their disability can do whatever they want life and yes I totally agree with what you are saying . I ‘m sure that lovely boy lit the world with his smile .
Thanks for the follow-up, Cherry! He comes from a loving, understanding family too. xox ((( )))
Wonderful sketch of Brother Craybilll, Marian… I feel as though I’ve just been warmed by his smile.
Thanks, Bette! That’s the idea. Though he and his wife Suie been gone for decades, the example of their lives live on.
Lovely to hear about your pastor.
Thank you so much, Fiona!
Thank you Marian for this lovely description of my grandparents. You wrote it as it was. Grandpa Kraybill had a loving, accepting attitude, a hearty belly-shaking laugh and he did love to laugh. He stood at the pulpit Sunday after Sunday and usually started with “We greet you in the loving name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” When it was time for “testimony meeting” he would say “Quench not the Spirit.”