I appreciate the art of discovery: taking an idea and running with it without knowing every step of the path. In discovery is adventure: stories waiting to be told and places ready to be explored. For me, this appreciation naturally translates into day trips, weekend adventures, and action-packed vacations.
Yesterday, alongside my husband and daughter, I explored one of Georgia’s Mennonite communities located in Montezuma, GA. My husband and I woke up fully rested – a rarity these days thanks to our 8-month old daughter. As we drank our morning coffee and contemplated our day, the desire for adventure hit. My husband suggested, “Let’s drive to Montezuma and try Yoder’s, this restaurant I heard about.” Since that day I already was planning on visiting Lane Packing in Fort Valley, GA for peaches and to learn about their “Farm to Family” program, I was up for the adventure. With a quick “yes,” the car was packed and off down I-75 we went.
We rolled up to Montezuma, and were greeted by a quaint downtown settled along the railroad tracks.
Seeking out Yoder’s Deitsch Haus Restaurant and Bakery, we took a left turn and circled around the square, meeting up with Georgia Highway 26. The country road revealed miles of open farm land with scenes of harvest.
Nestled among strawberry farms, a fabric shop, wood-working shop, and country market was Montezuma Mennonite Church. To be clear, you might be visioning a huddling of identifiable buildings with parking lots and “yes, we’re open” neon signs. Not the case. We’re talking about roads (some dirt) with farms and small farm buildings. Modest houses and personal driveways. Driving up to the wood-working shop where you can order a custom-made gazebo, for example, is like driving down someone’s private driveway, and knocking on their front door. We weren’t that adventurous… this time. I have to admit, though, while we were exploring this Mennonite community, I was at ease. Calm, relaxed, and open to the space set before me. I couldn’t help but image how uncomplicated life would feel to me if I had grown up in this culture. Then, I realized how restless I would be and tempted to test the barriers… question the traditions. Regardless of my own upbringing, I was interested to learn and appreciate the way of life for the people I had the opportunity to experience that day.
Along our adventures, we stopped at the Montezuma Welcome Center, where I picked up a brochure about the Mennonite Community titled, “Faith, Family, and Farming.” Here is an excerpt from the narrative:
All Mennonites pay property tax to support public schools they’ve never used, since their children go to the same school where local Mennonite children have been educated for almost half a century – the same little flat-top, yellow-brick schoolhouse that many of their parents attended. The discipline and study habits that children take to school are instilled at home before they reach school age. The cornerstone of this seemingly perfect lifestyle is their upbringing, which is grounded firmly in strict religious beliefs.
I re-read this paragraph a few times during our ride around Montezuma’s farming community. A few lessons tucked between those lines stood out to me, with one sentence in particular standing out: “The discipline and study habits that children take to school are instilled at home before they reach school age.” I couldn’t help but imagine what our school system in Macon would look like if every parent believed that preparation started from home. Would this make a difference in the classroom, and maybe even lead to a better public school experience for our community’s children? My daughter isn’t old enough for school yet, but my husband and I already contemplate her future education.
Despite cultural differences, common threads bind us all. And these commonalities oftentimes are what “makes” a community. I enjoyed spending a day in Montezuma’s Mennonite community.
So, a couple hours after crossing over the railroad tracks in downtown Montezuma, I enjoyed my carrot soufflé, squash casserole, and creamed corn followed by blueberry AND pecan pie at Yoder’s. We once again piled in the car and travelled north along I-75 back to our home with a new sense of appreciation for all the blessings in our life.
by Jennifer Bucholtz at Navigating the Journey