… continued from March 23, 2012…
My feet clinked across the rough wooden floor as I left the cool, musty, dampness of the dungeon below me and entered the freedom of the sunny world outside.
All I know for sure about the end of Grossdaudy Andrew Martin’s story is that in 1745, about eighteen years later, he docked in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. And in an old graveyard in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, a grave stone is inscribed “A.M. 80 1759.”
How did he get free? Is there some harrowing escape story that he never told? Did he recant in desperation to gain his freedom? Where did that idea come from? I had never considered that possibility before. I shook that uncomfortable thought from my head. The most likely possibility is that the states of Germany had once more changed kings and religious freedom had returned.
Once released, how did Andrew manage to find his wife and children? Was he imprisoned the entire eighteen years or did he spend some of those years tracking down his family? Did he have the finances to come to America? Did a friend pay his way or did he indenture himself out for a passage fare? As an indentured servant he might have spent the first five years in America working for his freedom rather than finding his family. I do not even know what his wife’s name was? I do not know why it has not been recorded. Perhaps it was Amanda.
“Have you heard any news of my wife, Amanda Martin, or perhaps one of my son’s, Jacob, Henry or David?” Did that same faith that carried him through those years of imprisonment and possible torture also give him the assurance that he would eventually be reunited with his family again?
He survived with the help of caring Mennonite families, working here and there for his keep, until one day while walking down a hot dusty road in Weaverland, Pennsylvania, a farm in the distance his destination, he saw the familiar shape of a woman draping laundry across the bushes. Could it be? Was she still alive? His heart beat faster at the thought of once more seeing his beloved. His feet quickened their pace as he saw her turn to watch this stranger bearing a familiar shape making his way up the road. As he neared the farm he stopped and called out, “Amanda? Is it you?”
She stood frozen for a moment then dropped the shirt she had been ready to toss across the next bush and ran into his arms. Eighteen years had been a long time, but for this brief moment it was forgotten.
I sit in my house in Elkhart, Indiana holding a book titled The Family History of John W. Martin 1852 – 1975 imagining how the ending of Andrew’s story might have played out.
According to the book Andrew had a son David. David’s first wife, Barbara, and their three sons sailed with the family to America in 1727. Barbara died on the ship during the journey to America. Was she buried at sea? What heartache did they experience watching her body sink. The book doesn’t give any details.
Later David was remarried to Anna Groff. George was the second of David and Anna’s children, born in 1742. George had a son Abraham who had a son John. The book in my hands lists the family tree of the thousands of descendants of John and Susanna Eberly Martin. John had a son Elias who had a son Phares who had a daughter Irene who had a daughter Aleta. That’s me. I sit here two hundred fifty years later marveling at the faith of my forefathers.
Because my Grossdaudy Andrew Martin and his family of ten generations ago had the strength to live what they believed, endure the persecution for their faith and courageously venture into the unknown to give hope to their future generations, I live in peace and freedom in Elkhart, Indiana. But that strength does not just come from Andrew Martin. Every branch of my family tree that has been traced reaches back to these same roots of Anabaptists willing to risk their lives for the God they loved.
Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations; Deuteronomy 7:9
The blessings go for a thousand generations and mine have been handed down through only ten. I have inherited a tower of strength.
I get up each morning and go to bed each night in comfort, ease and safety. I do not feel guilty for this luxury. It is a gift from God. But there is a responsibility that accompanies this gift. During this time of peace and safety I need to learn to live by faith, to put on the full armor of God. I cannot rely on the faith of my forefathers. It is this armor that provides me with the confidence I need, the confidence to live like my forefathers- fully in faith, fully in Christ.
10Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 1Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. 13Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Ephesians 6:13
I put on Christ by reading his Word. He becomes my armor. In him I am strong. In him I stand.