I traveled into the past this morning.
Figuratively, of course.
We are working on a video to be shown during Diakon’s 150th anniversary celebration next year.
The script I wrote includes scenes of the Rev. Philip Willard—essentially the founder of Lutheran Church operation of what would become the Tressler Orphans Home in Loysville, Pennsylvania—coming to the small Perry County hamlet and meeting with the Tressler family. For ease of filming and availability of horse and carriage, those scenes were shot just outside Gettysburg on two other dates.
Today, we were permitted onto the grounds of the former Tressler home, sold to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in the early 1960s for use as a youth development center, to film exteriors of some of the historic buildings.
I had heard the name Virginia “Ginny” Ebersole numerous times after the 2000 creation of Diakon that brought The Lutheran Home at Topton into my work-life, typically as the guardian of The Lutheran Home’s history as an orphanage.
Because I had a similar role in safeguarding the records of the children’s home operated by Tressler Lutheran Services—my former organization before the Diakon merger—I felt a sort of kinship with Ginny, even though the similarities ended there.
Ginny, after all, had actually grown up in the children’s home and then returned in retirement to the place of her childhood, living in one of independent-living cottages at The Lutheran Home, now a senior living community.
Although I had the privilege to work with Ginny the past two years, I wish I had learned to know her personally sooner because her commitment to protecting and preserving the history of the home was both outstanding and amazing. When someone wanted to know the history of a child who had been served by the home, everyone immediately turned to Ginny for that information.
But no longer. Virginia B. (Baer) Ebersole passed away last Sunday, July 24, at the age of 88.
Ginny lovingly told stories of her time at the home, to which she moved in 1933 when her mother passed away; her father’s work schedule made it difficult for him to take care of his family.
(Part 1 of this story is posted here)
As I boarded the flight to Tanzania and an orphanage there, I knew all of us—three representatives of Diakon Youth Services—were eager and excited to experience a part of the world new to us, while also—in some small way—helping children in need, just as we do daily in our work within Diakon.
The experience was one we will never forget—one we continue to process.
Earlier this year, participants and staff of the Flight Program had the opportunity to participate in a Haiti mission trip. They took care of the needs of orphanage children and spent time playing, coloring, writing letters to sponsors, opening gifts, making bracelets and assisting the nursing staff with the kids’ annual physicals. They stayed very busy in the hot, muggy weather! Along with working with the children, Flight participants had the opportunity to work alongside other missions team members in a variety of ways. They assisted the nurses, worked with the builders and even went door-to-door in a tent city to hand out supplies and pray with families. The Flight participants were moved outside of their comfort zones and, through that process, learned a lot about themselves. They learned how strong, resilient and capable they are. They left a lasting effect on Haiti and with the kids of the orphanages, and Haiti left a lasting impact on all of them. One of the participants shared about his experience:
Between Dec. 28 and Jan. 4, several of us from the Diakon Flight Program, including students, took part in another trip to Haiti to assist with orphanages there. Here are some of my reflections upon returning from our trip.