I was the third of four children, two brothers, and one sister. My birth happened in 1947 on the hottest day of the year, 104 in the shade. Less than a year later she delivered my baby brother. My mom said she was sweating during those days. I can’t imagine why.
Since I was born during the last century, would that make me over 100 years old? Nah, probably not. Some folks have referred to me as old, and at times I feel my age. On my last birthday, it’s official, I’m older than dirt. Dad’s farm resided thirty miles west of Des Moines. Maybe that’s why I wanted to be a farmer because I was outstanding in the field. (An old joke)
Attendance was expected at our rural Anabaptist church. Memories of events float through my mind: Fourth of July picnics, where, regularly, the ‘Married men’ trounced the ‘Unmarried men’ in softball, youth meetings and parties, singing in the choir, and lots of volleyball, Four-Square, and ice cream socials. A whole bunch of farm work, school, and 4-H kept me busy for the rest of the time. During thirteen years, the local school put up with my crazy antics. It makes me wonder if the teaching staff held a rollicking shindig at my departure.
College came next in the scheme of things. With my interest in agriculture, I figured Iowa State University would be the place to attend. Wrong! The place was much too large. I don’t much care for crowds of people, therefore, after one year I skedaddled to McPherson College in Kansas. I crammed the remaining three years of study into … three years with a whopping GPA of a C+. Okay, I messed around a bit.
To be a farmer, that was my goal, so Agriculture took up my time, including working at a local farm with a wonderful family. Via their friendship, love, and prayers, God found me. That story you can read elsewhere. But because of the Almighty, my priorities changed, as did my vocation.
I met my future bride during my last year, though I didn’t know it at the time. After graduation, Uncle Sam wagged his finger at me, but because I’d registered as a conscientious objector, I could work two years in mission work. The Christian Service Corps (the Christian Peace Corp) accepted my application and shipped me off to southwest Tanzania, WAAAAY out in the boondocks. Those experiences are for another time. (Sounds like there’s a bunch of material for a story) While at Tatanda Station, I wrote to that lovely gal I’d met to ask if she’d be my blushing bride. There was one condition, we would return to Africa as missionaries. Amazingly, she agreed to put up with me. There is an adage, Marriage isn’t a word, it’s a sentence. I was hooked.
After a whole bunch of deputation, my wife and I trekked off to Swaziland in southern Africa. Mhlosheni aspired to be our home for the next five years, and somewhere along the way, two little ones joined the Emmert crew. Teaching agriculture at the school, and maintaining the mission station, nibbled at my time of being a husband and father.
The house we lived in had a fireplace. One day my wife was kindling a fire and needed more wood. She asked our three-year-old daughter to fetch more logs.
Our daughter didn’t move. She just sat and watched.
A second request was given, a bit more forceful this time. Again unanswered. My wife finally faced the girl, a bit exasperated. “Would you get more firewood!”
Our daughter spoke two words. “Please, Momma?”
Out of the mouth of babes.
After a furlough, we settled on the border of Zululand. Names like Ingwavuma, Injasuti, and Mangwazana soon entered our vocabulary. In a couple of years, our family size doubled with the arrival of twin boys. I won’t take time to tell the stories of when as infants they slept in dresser drawers, or when they reached a year and a half, they climbed a wire gate and couldn’t get down, or when they teamed up to steal a snack of bread from the kitchen table, thinking no one was looking.
People talk of a culture shock when traveling to a different country. But culture shock shoots two ways. Upon returning to the United States, I had a harder time adjusting to home. Things that were displayed on TV, innuendos in advertisements, slippage of people’s values, and materialism sitting center-stage in churches: all of these made it difficult to re-adjust.
The decision was made for us to not return to Africa, and since my wife held an interest in the Indians of the Southwest, we joined a mission working among the Navajos. We settled on the reservation just a hop, skip, and jump from Monument Valley. Though residing within the US, it seemed like we were on foreign ground.
After three years, God led us to an amazingly different ministry.
Through the next nine years, working with two Ohio MRDD facilities, my eyes opened to the tremendous need of those who are challenged. I no longer taught or preached the Bible, but I was forced to live in ways that stretched my faith to greater limits. While painting, cleaning carpets, waxing floors, fixing plumbing, and repairing wheelchairs, I befriended amazing and beautiful people.
The rise of the PC industry soon entered the workplace, and the staff was clambering for those little goodies. By default, I inherited the title of resident guru to those electronic toys. In my regular duties, because of hard labor, over time my physical abilities declined, and out of necessity I sought other employment.
Making my fourth career change, I jumped with both feet into the computer world. Training classes and certifications entered my life. I can now place letters after my name. Things such as MCP, MCSA, MCSE, and Cisco are commonplace. One of my favorites is “ID10T”.
Uncle Sam isn’t my employer, but I do work for a company that has contracted out to one of the large government agencies. I enjoy my work, but I’ve grown to love writing too. That’s for another story.
When my last IT job completed, my wife and I could settle down and enjoy life, giving us time for ourselves. I’m able to write more, enjoy making wood projects, and pal-around with the grandkids.