A getaway full of warmth


Editor’s Note: Dorcas Raber, Gloria’s Mom, is guest-writing this week.

By Dorcas Raber

Daughter Gloria is super busy getting ready for a wedding held in their shop next week. And now, dear little Joshua is sick, so she has her hands full. It’s a blessing how people come and help them out with preparations. From what I hear, their home is glistening, inside and out. I am looking forward to going and helping her some next week. Right now, my husband David and I are in Florida. We arrived on Feb. 1, and I plan to return home on March 11. David has some health issues, and we thought a getaway and warm sunshine could be beneficial.

Come along with me to Pinecraft – a one-of-a-kind Plain community! It’s nestled in Sarasota, Florida, and throughout what we call “winter months,” it’s brimming with a vast multitude of hundreds and hundreds of people, all kinds of Amish and Mennonite people. Many of these people arrive on large charter buses. The most I ever heard of buses coming in was 15 in several days!

I had the opportunity to join a flock of onlookers one day as a bus rolled in, and people from the “north” exited the bus to beautiful Florida sunshine!

Transportation, for the most part, is walking or biking.

At the peak season, there are bikes all over, literally! Cars creep along on the streets, finding their way through the maze of people on bikes, etc. The three-wheeled bikes are especially lovely. They have a large basket in the back and have a wide comfortable seat. Because it is on three wheels, you can stop, stay on your seat, and the bike stays balanced whenever you get an urge to stop for a chat with someone along the way.

This morning, I hopped on a bicycle and traveled on one of the bike trails. There are real nice paved biking/hiking trails. These trails cross some busy four-lane highways. Even the oft times heavy traffic is ever so considerate. All I needed to do was push a button when I wanted to cross a road, then a traffic light overhead turned red, and with a grateful heart, I crossed the four lanes safely.

The most widely used, famous place in Pinecraft is Pinecraft Park. It’s not that it’s a fancy place at all, and there’s a large pavilion where people gather to chat, play corn hole, or have meetings. Another highlight is that programs (singers) and services are held there on designated evenings.

David and I attended some such programs/services. I just loved it! All kinds of plain people gather – lots are under the pavilion, and often lots are standing outside, sitting at picnic tables, or on their 3-wheeled bikes. I will give you an example of one evening. We arrived at the park for a benefit meal and programs. As we went through the food line, some African missionaries sang (proceeds went for a mission).

Supper was so good. Grilled chicken, rice and beans, tossed salad, and ice cream was on the menu. We found seats at a picnic table outside and ended up having a conversation with a Mennonite couple that sat across the table from us, whom we had never met before (“Strangers are friends you haven’t met yet”). After supper, we found seats in the pavilion. A man (who grew up in an old colony Mennonite setting in Paraguay) played his harp and his wife a keyboard. Awesome! The harp was giant, and the music was beautiful. The man told us interesting stories of his childhood, etc. He made it real; we “went with him” as the stories were told.

Beside the pavilion to one side is a play-around area with swings, etc for children.

Beyond that is an area where Bocci Ball gets played. The shuffleboard arena is another side of the pavilion, with eight large shuffleboards. Besides the ones playing shuffleboard, many other people are often in that area, those who lounge around, watch, and chat.

Some stand by the fence, soaking up Florida sunshine. I find it intriguing to meet up with old-time acquaintances at the park and catch up a little with each other, or at least smile and say hi. This morning, David played two shuffleboard games, and he was paired up with our good friend Elmer, who is 86 years old. Another area at the park has several volleyball nets, where youth and young at heart gather.

But we have also discovered that Florida is not just about “fun and sun.” We have met lonely people, grieving people, people who have lost their partner, people who have gone through the tragedy of an unfaithful partner, etc. And so, I would sum it up, that yes indeed, there are many warm friendships, sunny skies, and smiles, ice cream and soft pretzels, fresh fruit that can’t be beaten, “Amish” cooking, etc. And yes, there are also tears and heartaches. For wherever there are people, there is the reality that life is real. And there is only one Answer to life’s perplexities and problems. One word. Jesus! He heals the brokenhearted.

We ate at Yoder’s Restaurant, and I ordered chicken, mashed potatoes with gravy, and stuffing. A big fat piece of garlic bread was served with that, along with bread, butter, and apple butter. Whew! What a meal! I want to share a stuffing recipe with you.

Simple Stuffing

1 loaf homemade bread

3 cups milk

4 beaten eggs

1 small onion, chopped

1 tsp salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon Chicken soup base

1 1/2 cups cooked, shredded potatoes

1/4 cup cooked, shredded carrots

1/2 cup cooked, shredded celery

Sage seasoning, optional

4 tablespoons butter

Cut the bread into cubes.

Toast in a skillet with a little butter

Mix everything together, and let set for 1 to 2 hours

Melt butter in a skillet. Once butter is browned, pour stuffing into skillet.

Flip occasionally until ready.

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