A Mother’s Reminder: ‘To Whom Much is Given…’

January 13th, 2016


Lois M. Martin '62 on her family farm in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, with a photo of her mother Esther Metzler Martin.

Lois M. Martin ’62 on her family farm in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, with a photo of her mother Esther Metzler Martin.

Born and raised on a Lancaster, Pennsylvania, farm, Lois M. Martin ‘62 has always loved the agricultural life. “It was hard for me to leave,” Martin says about enrolling in Eastern Men­nonite College in 1959.

However, her mother, Esther Metzler Martin, stressed that living into one’s potential was a facet of giving to the com­munity. Martin’s mother set early examples of charity, taking flowers to nursing homes and filling school supply kits for Mennonite Central Committee.

Esther encouraged her daughter to ­­­­ beyond high school. Lois Martin taught classes at a one-room schoolhouse in Lancaster County to pay for col­lege. When she visited home, she always found a handwrit­ten note from her mother on her dresser quoting Luke 12:48: “To whom much is given, much is required.”

After earning her degree in elementary education, Martin moved to the Washington D.C. area and continued teaching.

“I knew I wanted to live somewhere that the Washington Post would be delivered to my door every day,” says Martin. At this time, rates of substance abuse and drug-related crimes were on the rise. Martin saw the effects on her students – many of whom had older siblings and parents incarcerated or dying as a result.

“It was always the children who suffered with little or no understanding of what was happening,” says Martin. These experiences motivated her to pursue a master’s degree in counseling from the University of Maryland.

Martin’s counseling career in the Prince George’s County, Maryland, public school district spanned more than two decades. “I would like to believe we made a difference,” says Martin. “I loved my work and will forever miss those children.”

After retiring from her counseling profession, Martin returned to the family farm, which her grandparents had purchased in 1912. She came back to a property surrounded by housing developments. The Martin family strongly supports keeping the farm intact and productive: “We feel what’s happened to the land is immoral,” she says.

Working the farm includes the cooperative efforts of Martin, her sister, and her nephew and his family – garden­ing, herding sheep, tending her “Mr. Lincoln” rose bushes, and selling seasonal crops such as pumpkins and Christmas trees. In the coming months, Martin can be found in the 200-year-old springhouse, mulling cider for customers.

The notes from her mother have “become a sacred mantra throughout my life,” says Martin. She manifests this mantra by donating to MCC relief, Church of the Saviour, Joseph’s House (a Washington D.C. nursing and support organization for homeless people with AIDS or terminal cancer), and her church, Community Mennonite Church of Lancaster. In 2010, she established the Esther Metzler Martin Endowed Scholarship at EMU in honor of her mother.

“Wherever she is, she’s probably pleased,” says Martin. Receiving letters from beneficiaries of the scholarship and seeing the work of Center for Justice and Peacebuilding students and graduates affirms Martin’s investment in the university. “The people there have a real commitment to the kinds of beliefs I have.”