Sunday, July 14, 2013


It was over 20 years in the making...this trip to Brazil. 

In 1969, Sam's oldest sister, Anna and her husband, Daniel Kramer, said 'good-bye' to their families and moved to Goias, Brazil with their 6 children. They and 5 other Holderman families decided to pioneer their way in this far and distant land of opportunity. Around 7,000 acres of bush land was bought from the government. There was much clearing to be done and roads to be paved. The first several months were lived in tents. There were snakes and tapirs and treefrogs and......tropical whatnot.

Over the years, travel became easier and more common. Uncle Sam made the trip several times as did more relatives.  The aging parents, Elam and Edna Kauffman, who thought they would never see their daughter again when she left, also travelled to Brazil. By this time, there were 4 more Kramers added to the family. More Americans moved in and native Brazilians joined the church and colony.  There were large tracts of land being farmed.


The Kramer family settled along the river bottom and built their homestead. The 6 sons married and set up their own homes in close proximity. A few married lovely Brazilian ladies. The ingenious brothers generated their own electricity from the local river. Every time their single Uncle Sam would visit, a new project was being worked on. He made the trip every few years. Then Sam married and he 'stopped going.....' He had taken a wife!

Sam was beginning his own home. There were children coming and the nieces and nephews in Brazil were wondering if their uncle had abandoned them. The children started going to school. We started making plans but there was either a pregnancy to consider or school to work around. There were several tours to Europe and annual trips made to the midwest to visit the Bender family. There were Mattie's brothers' weddings to attend. And still the trip to Brazil did not materialize.

After finalizing the Ukrainian adoption in 2008, we decided now we will plan to visit these relatives we don't even know. Christmas vacation seemed to be a good option. We obtained David's US birth certificate and updated passports for all. The call was made to the travel agency for airline tickets.......and ugh! We didn't expect it to be this expensive! Our hearts sank and once again the trip was delayed......when will the timing be better? We didn't know. A month or two later we got the call to go to Kenya. There was no reason not to. After all we had our passports.

After serving 2 1/2 years in Kenya, we returned back to life in these United States. Once again, the subject of traveling to Brazil arose. January, 2013, found us leaving Dulles International airport heading for Goianna, Brazil via Sao Paulo. At last!

It was well worth the wait! By now, the Kramers numbered 101 people.

In the home of Stephen and Dete Kramer (on right). This was one nephew I had never met during the 23 years we were married. Sitting on the left is Sam's sister, Anna and her husband, Daniel.

Down by the river, cousins as strangers getting acquainted.

The moped is a basic mode of travel within the colony. The roads were graded and are maintained by the Mennonite men. Son Daniel took full advantage of this opportunity and his mom just hoped for the best.

These are 3 daughters of Sam Kauffman and 3 of Stephen Kramer. They are age mates and have been pen pals for approximately 6 years.
In this photo, the girls had switched dresses, one of those silly things girls do for fun. And fun they had, finally getting to meet each other.

Living in an apple orchard made visiting an orange grove interesting for us. Monica is intently trying to see if she can peel an orange in one piece.

One of the church families is raising an abandoned baby anteater. David is feeding it a bottle....note the long nose plus the long drooping tongue. Fascinatingly ugly creatures they are..... 

Nelson Unruh (right, husband of Ruth Kramer) and his father branding their cattle. There are many of brahma mix grazing the vast plains. 

A new outreach started in Mata Grossa, about 500 miles west of Goias.  A few of the ambitious Kramer brothers relocated to this even more remote area. We couldn't miss visiting this place. The last 100 miles or so was dirt road heavily travelled by over loaded grain trucks. This resulted in a more challenging passage of huge ruts. Here there are rattle snakes and tapirs and even larger fields of crops and cattle and endless sky. 

Martina and David helped Ivan Kramer round up cattle with their young one day.

Myrna and David spent a lot of time on horses, David especially has the horseman knack of staying glued to the horse. You just get on and go, full tilt with no saddle. Nothing to get in the way or to hit for the most part. Again mom just took a deep breath and looked the other way.....

Claudio and Susan (niece) and their children poring over an old photo album Uncle Sam brought along.

Cute little Ellen

A farmer teaching Daniel and David how to blow their shofars.

A rescued conure parrot from the church house attic sitting on Aunt Mattie's shoulder. Itsty bits lived in the home of Stephen and Dete and got much attention.

After almost 3 weeks, we arrived back to our Lancaster PA home much more aware of what is happening in Brazil. Much more could be said.

There are seven dangers to human virtue.

1. Wealth without work.
           2. Pleasure without conscience.
             3. Knowledge without character.
    4. Business without ethics.
         5. Science without  humanity.
       6. Religion without sacrifice.
      7. Politics without principle.

Mattie Kauffman

Sunday, April 28, 2013

                                       ORCHARD SNEAK PEEK

It's a lovely time of year! Spring brings new hope and energy! Allow me to show you what we see and smell living in an orchard every year. Seems a pity not to share it. :)  Each fruit blossom is similar and yet uniquely different.

One of the first signs of Spring. Robins are rather cute...really. They are such ladylike birds even though they sit on the wash line and poop on our nice clean sheets.

Plum blossoms with a pollinating bee

Plum orchard

                                       More plum blossoms

                                        Pear blossoms

Peach trees in full bloom beside our garden.

                               Peach blossoms

Future apples

Apple blossoms are still prettiest of all.

Apple blossoms next to the barn.

....and of course, these dandelions are everywhere. They are such a happy yellow and very pretty until their gray heads blow all over the place. But that makes for even more happiness next year....

Mattie Kauffman

                  (just realized I forgot the cherry blossoms)

Thursday, April 11, 2013


 Bender Update

When we were born we were surrounded by family and when we die we are again surrounded by family. (for most of us that is) Family is special and I believe very close to God's heart.

But in life as time goes on it gets difficult to keep family connections. We Bender siblings are scattering and God calls us to different projects and locations. When we do gather again, it's not difficult to pick up where we left off.

Because of our time in Kenya, it's been a few years, but our family finally arranged to meet at Camp Moses in Linwood, NE. This is located in the northern part of the state along Platte River. It was a beautiful place, lovely facilities and wonderful service.  The June weather was gorgeous!  What a great time we had... cousins playing and reconnecting.... it's interesting watching the athletic bent being passed on to the next generation. We siblings tried as well but we stumbled around more stiff-legged than ever and got weak laughing at each other. We are getting more content to sit around and gab....ah yes, some things are changing but other things never change. We do, however, look at each other with a new appreciation since one of us almost left this life.

Camp Moses - a Christian facility in northern Nebraska we would highly recommend.  

Here we are folks, Mom and Dad and all 9 of us. Somewhere along the line we have become downright middle-aged.

It all started here:
Glenn and Anna Bender, now in their 70's.  
Auburn, NE

Standing according to age, for those of you who could never quite get the birth order straight, ages 50-34.
left to right: Mattie, Nelson, Miriam, Merlyn, Martin, Dwight, Marcus, Everett and Roger.  (yes, Dwight is standing in his place, though somewhat awkwardly)

Sam and Mattie (Bender) Kauffman 
Martina, Monica, Daniel, Miriam, Myrna and David
Lancaster, PA

Merlyn and Lois (Yoder) Bender
Tyler, Jana, Joshua, Bethany, and Cody
Auburn, NE 

Martin and Kristy (Byler) Bender
Amanda, Alex, Derek, Clark and Franklin 
 (not pictured: Nicholas born in Jan)
currently in Kisumu, Kenya

Dwight and Rachel (Yoder) Bender
Caleb, Megan, Emily, Luke, Isaac and Heidi
LaMonte, MO

Marcus and Janet (Byler) Bender
Dorian and Michael
(expecting in May)
Bonners Ferry, ID

Everett and Ruth (Yoder) Bender
Wyatt, Leah, Travis and Zachary
Auburn, NE

Roger and Rhoda (Harnish) Bender
(expecting in Sept)
 Lancaster, PA

(not pictured are Nelson and family and Miriam)

Platte River bottom
 the cousins horse back riding

-camp fire sharing time- 
We were all present except Nelson's wife, Kathy, and their 2 children, Michael and Krissy. 

Sitting in his wheelchair, Dwight is sharing some memories and what family means to him.

 Dwight continues therapy with 'Project Walk'  in Kansas City. Slowly he keeps getting stronger and is taking longer walks with the walker.  Spasms also keep being a problem and in time we hope he will be able to over ride them. 

Being the oldest, I am rather intrigued watching Merlyn and Martin do something I have never seen before.  :)

All good things come to an end and duty called us all to our homes again.

In closing, I would like to share an inspiring commitment of a pastor in Africa. We need this commitment if we are not going to drift. We need it if we will be a separated and non conformed people to God. 

"I am part of the fellowship of the unashamed. I have Holy Spirit power. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I am a disciple of His. I will not look back, back away or be still. My past is redeemed. My present makes sense. My future is secure. I am finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tame visions, worldly talking, cheap giving and dwarfed goals. I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I do not have to be first, tops, recognized or rewarded. I now live by faith, lean on His presence, walk by patience, am uplifted by prayer and labour by power. My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven. My road is narrow, my way is rough. My guide is reliable. My mission is clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured or lured away, be turned back, deluded or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity. I will not give up, let up, until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, preached up for the cause of Christ. I am a disciple of Jesus. I must go until He comes. Give till I drop. Preach till all know and work until He stops me. And when He comes for His own, He will have no problem recognizing me-my banner is clear."

May this be ours to claim, for you, my family and my friends.

Mattie Kauffman

Monday, March 18, 2013

We have had requests to continue this blog to keep friends and relatives updated with our activities and whereabouts (and opinions). So here goes....


After leaving Kenya and traveling in Europe for 3 weeks, our family landed on US soil on November 4, 2012. 

We were gone for 2 1/2 years and were quite impressed with the American roads! They were wide and smooth. Wow!  It almost seemed like wasted space. There were no goats or cows, or bikes or people walking and we drove much too fast. There was lots of firewood to be gathered but no one around to gather it....

With eyes wide open, we arrived at our home along South Weavertown Road. Do we really have this many buildings?  We could fit at least 7 or 8 Kenyan families on this property. Everything looked so big and cluttered. Why do we have so much stuff???? But how good it felt just to be home good it felt to just rest.

Good old Princess, our white German Shepherd, remembered us. She wiggled with glee and kept rolling on the grass after we exited the van. The next morning I stepped outside the door for our customary walk to get the newspaper at the end of the lane. She was eagerly awaiting and then I knew that she really DID remember. We have had her for 9 years and we raised a total of 64 pups from her (that's a lot of babies). We kept the youngest one, another female named Sheba. Princess funded most of David's adoption which makes her rather special.

Dwight holding his youngest son, Isaac. Our son David, Dad and brother Roger looking on.

We were home long enough to unpack our luggage and put things halfway into place. A few days before Thanksgiving, we left for Missouri/ Nebraska to see the Bender family. I was quite eager to see brother Dwight, who was recovering from injuries due to a truck accident. He had broken his neck and for 3 weeks we didn't know whether he would live or die. His heart rate had flatlined 5 times.  Dwight had just turned 40 and he and Rachel were expecting their 6th child. At this point Dwight was paralyzed from the waist on down with limited movement in his arms and hands.
It was so good being with family again after not seeing most of them for 2 1/2 years. Marcus and Janet from Idaho didn't make it, neither did Martins still in Kenya.
From Missouri, we traveled to Auburn, Nebraska, the new outreach home my parents had moved to. This was new turf and we had never been there before. I loved the big blue sky and wide open spaces. But traveling comes to an end and it was time to head for our PA home and settle down.

The adjustment back from the mission field has been difficult; much more than we expected.  We had orientation to prepare us for life in Kenya, but how we floundered trying to adjust back to life in America! Did our view change so drastically? Life in a third world country was so simple; food, clothing, and shelter were the basic needs and things were either good or bad, black or white. Even though they are poor, the Kenyans are in general a happy, more relational people.  Returning home, we discover technology escalating rapidly, too many activities, too much money and so much obesity. People are so involved in electronics and hardly have time to speak to each other. There are so many gray areas and we want to live in THIS environment? It made us feel like taking our family back to Kenya where it's safe......

After a couple months, I felt myself going down and many of you know I went through a depression....being a positive person by nature, it was quite an unexpected experience. I was concerned about preparing the family for our re-entry not thinking much about myself. I also discovered that if Mom is out of commission, most things come to a grinding halt. For what it's worth, let me tell you a little about it.

 I felt tired and burned-out but couldn't sleep. My eyelids were heavy but it seemed the brain wouldn't shut down. I couldn't handle crowds and didn't want to go anywhere. I wasn't driving because I couldn't remember which side of the road to drive on. (In Kenyan we drove on the left side.) Once or twice a day, I took walks in the orchard with tears streaming down my face. The dog always went with me and seemed to be the only one who understood. What was wrong? This just isn't like Mom who usually has everything together. My family was getting alarmed, especially Sam and Daniel who wanted to fix the problem.....and I didn't care less.....

After 2 months of this and no improvement, Sam finally dragged me to the medical doctor, tears and all. The doctor took one look at me and said, "YOU are depressed!" He prescribed antidepressant and told me not to feel bad about it. People take medicine for high blood pressure and other things. This time I just happen to have 'pneumonia of the brain'. A few days later, Sam took me to the Atlas chiropractor. At least the medication had me dried up till then.

Dr. Keaton Amin, a chiropractor 'specialist',  has 18 years of experience.

Since a child, I had constant neck and shoulder issues. This also reached into the right lower back area. Having lived in numerous states, I went through a long line of 'neck-crunching' chiropractors.  They would treat the symptoms but never seemed to be able to get to the source of the problem. More recently, the rough, 'pot-holed' Kenyan roads had really irritated my neck/shoulders and I lived with a constant dull headache.

A family friend directed us to Dr. Keaton Amin. Dr. Amin soon discovered an atlas misalignment in the neck area. This caused the entire spine to be put into a curve or twist. With his skill and expertise, he soon had this problem corrected. It took some time for the correction to stay in it's place, but now year later,  I feel better structurally than I have in 20 years. The physical also affects the emotional and the spiritual, so maybe the latter half of my life will be better than the first. :)

If this sounds like you, please consider Dr. Keaton Amin. His office is located:  223 Hartman Bridge Road
Route 896
Ronks, PA 17572
For those of you out of the area, google Atlas Orthogonal and see if you can find one close to you.

For an emotional healing project, son Daniel-18, built this grape arbor in our little back yard garden. I poured a lot of energy into planting flowers and early vegetables and called it our "Prayer Garden".  The girls also had a lot of fun with this.

The mailbox was another project in sore need of repair. I followed the urge to be creative and painted apples on it. After all it seemed appropriate for orchard living.

Since we lived several miles from the equator in Kenya, we experienced very little wind. Springtime in PA proved to be a little frustrating. One extra windy day, Miriam decided to really pin down this fluttering bed sheet. It worked!

In retrospect, life looks a little different now, but we will never quite be the same. We are finding our niche in life in America, but some things will remain a bit disturbing! It doesn't seem right that most of the world is starving and dying without hearing about Jesus. It doesn't seem right that we have the resources and the people to go share the gospel, but here we sit more interested in making money and being educated. We see Christians becoming lukewarm and lethargic and more interested in following styles and fashions. SHOULD this feel right?  Will God judge us for this?

I also discovered depression, except for clinical, is largely caused by anger. A counselor friend encouraged me to go to a little coffee shop (Panera Bread) weekly and 'write out' my feelings. I did discover a lot of anger. Anger I didn't know was there. I was told to categorize the different points and then deal with them individually. I learned some sharp lessons. Dealing with anger is indeed humiliating.....sigh....oh well.....eating humble pie never did kill anyone.

More positive input later-

Mattie Kauffman