Has the summer taken you on any adventures this year, even to a low key local museum?
As MennoMedia’s Director of Development and Church Relations, one of the joys of my job is to travel to new places and meet interesting people. Recently I traveled to Iowa, the “heartland of America,” where I attended the Central Plains Mennonite Conference’s (CPMC) annual assembly. While there I also visited with many pastors and donors. CPMC is comprised of about 50 congregations in seven states. The annual meeting was held in Mt. Pleasant in southeast Iowa at Iowa Wesleyan College (IWC). For such a small institution, just 650 students, IWC boasts several notable alumni including astronaut Peggy Whitson who in 2007 became the first female commander of the International Space Station.
In 1958, another distinguished IWC alumni, James Van Allen , discovered the earth’s radiation belts which now carry his name.
None of the people I met on this trip had quite the same credentials as Whitson and Van Allen but one couple was doing some particularly interesting things. Larry and Mary Lou Roth, combined their faith, with a love for dairy farming and history to create a fascinating mini-museum called Midwest Memories situated in Wayland, Iowa. Larry operated a feed business and a dairy farm for many years. In 2009, after several years of retirement, he opened the Midwest Memories Museum to display his extensive collection of glass milk bottles and other dairy farming paraphernalia. The museum showcases a rich collection of agricultural antiques including:
• Milk bottles from the lower 48 states
• One-room school memorabilia
• Historic milking machines, cream separators, butter churns, milking stools, etc.
• Model farm tractors and unusual farm implements
• A cast iron watermelon hog oiler
In 2012 he combined his collection with the Wayland Museum, which specializes in local history such as that of Wayland High School before it closed in 1963. It also houses artifacts from local servicemen killed in World War II. It is now called the Wayland and Midwest Memories Museum.
However, the museum isn’t just about dairy farms and local history. It is also about the Roth families’ faith. One section of the museum is called “Family” and highlights wedding certificates, a family Bible, and scripture plaques.
Larry, as well as his grandparents, Ed and Lizzie Wenger, and parents, Elmer G. Roth and Minnie F. Wenger, knew the importance of passing faith on to their children. Likewise the museum isn’t just about farming traditions but also about family and faith traditions. Larry and Mary Lou are active at Bethel Mennonite Church, one of four Mennonite Churches in Wayland, the others being Sugar Creek, Wayland, and Eicher Emmanuel.
Likewise, MennoMedia knows the importance of passing faith on to the next generation. We recently published a book by Elsie Rempel titled Please Pass the Faith: the Art of Spiritual Grandparenting. This is an important book for biological as well as honorary grandparents who want to pass their faith on to their offspring.
Like Larry Roth, MennoMedia is the guardian of a rich history. But rather than the history of dairy farming we curate a bounty of Anabaptist literature. We have contemporary titles and others dating back centuries including the Martyr’s Mirror, first published in 1660 and The Complete Writings of Menno Simons, who lived in the Netherlands in the 1500s and from whom Mennonites derive their name.
If you’re ever in Wayland, Iowa, check out the Wayland and Midwest Memories Museum, located on Main Street. It is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 9 and 4. Larry would be happy to give you a tour by prior arrangement if you call his cell phone at 319 331-5986.
Likewise, if you want to learn more about Anabaptist History check out An Introduction to Mennonite History by Cornelius Dyck, or Up From the Rubble, the harrowing story of the rescue of Mennonite refugees and their migration from Russia to Canada by Peter & Elfrieda Dyck.
For those more interested in music than reading, or who enjoy traditional four-part a cappella singing, MennoMedia has a vast library of CDs derived from the music of the Mennonite Hour. All of these books and CDs can be ordered on-line through the MennoMedia store.
How do you share your faith with your children?
Is Mennonite history important to you?
Is your family’s history something you enjoy?