Welcome to the KingZoo and Funny Farm, where we learn to live, laugh, and love together. Here you'll find snippets of life in our zoo, parenting tips we've learned along the way, reflections on shining God's light in this world, passions in the realm of orphan care and our journey as parents of a visually impaired child. Have fun!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Serving speech, part 1

We were blessed to attend the chapel service at Christopher Dock Mennonite High School on Monday morning to listen to my dad speak to the students there.  Here's the first part of his story:


This past weekend was my “Class of ‘63” 50th year reunion”.  Unbelievable!  50 years since graduating from high school. 
My wife has saved a lot of stuff from our high school years.  I have the ninth annual handbook in my hand.  1962-63 School Term.   Page 13, Dress Regulations.  It says:

Principles of Christian Modesty and simplicity shall be applied to practices of student attire.
Boys shall be neatly dressed.  Dungarees are not to be worn for regular classes.  Sleeveless jerseys are not to be worn for gym classes.
Girls’ attire shall be modest in appearance, with three-quarter length sleeves, full skirts which go well below the knees, and without low neck lines or sheer materials.  Gym clothing recommended is skirt and blouse.  (Girls, can you imagine wearing skirt and blouse for gym classes?)  Long hose shall be worn at all times.
Jewelry shall not be worn by boys or girls.

Yes, those days were unbelievable, but so memorable also.  The days when friendships were developed and for some of us our life time companions were found.  Six of us found our spouses in our high school class.  Some of us left CD knowing exactly what we wanted to do next in our lives but for some of us, especially me, we didn’t have any direction in what we wanted to do or where we wanted to go.  Sitting in our classes at Christopher Dock, none of us could have imagined where God would take us.  But looking back, I can clearly see that God was always directing my life so that I could be the person He desired me to be, a person who served others so that they would be pointed to Christ.
My father was the principal here at CD, my older brother and sister were in college at EMC, now EMU, so I did feel the pressure to continue my education but had no good high school record to do so. In the summer of ’63 I took on a painting job while deciding what was “out there” for me. Soon after graduation I received a call from a stranger, Mr. Philip Swartley of Swartley Bros. Eng., Inc in Lansdale, saying that he had called CD and asked them who he could call for an open position in his firm.  Mr. Swartley said he told CD that he wanted a “Mennonite boy” because he had a hired man on his farm that was Mennonite and he felt that his work ethics were something that he wanted in an employee for him.  Not knowing Mr. Swartley from Adam, and still not knowing what I wanted to do in life, I told him “no”.  
Two days later Mr. Swartley called again and said that “you don’t know me but I don’t take ‘no’ for an answer”.  He was right.  45 years later at the end of 2008 I retired from my one and only full time job.  That summer of ’63 was a good example of how my life has been a life of learning to realize who was really in control and that God had a plan for my life even when I didn’t know where or what I was doing.  God has in numerous ways showed me the direction that He wanted me to go.   I am indeed thankful and indebted to God for His knowing what was best for me and for Him being so direct and sending the “Mr. Swartley’s” into my life in so many ways.
Three years after starting at Swartley Bros I was drafted.  This was during the Vietnam War.  I  needed to make plans to give two years of my life to the US government. I did register with our government when I was 18 that I was a “Conscientious Objector” to our military and was granted a chance to go through Mennonite Mission and Charities in Elkhart, IN through their Voluntary Service Program. Christine, my girlfriend at the time, and I were planning on committing our lives together but needed to bump our wedding day by three months so that we could spend my two year commitment together. And yes, like all young people we desired to go either to Florida, Colorado, or Arizona.  But again God had other plans.  We ended up in Eureka, IL in a retirement community called Maple Lawn Homes.  The middle of Illinois, nothing but corn fields and more corn fields. 
In those two years Chris and I were “unit leaders” of a voluntary service unit of between 9 and 13 young adults.  When we first got there we were 20 years old and I was the youngest of the whole group, but leader to all of the others.  My other assignment was part time office assistant to the CEO and his wife who was the secretary.  In those two years I learned so much about leadership. That knowledge has been beneficial to my career and still continues.  Earl Greaser, who was CEO was a great mentor of mine. In these two years I also developed a keen passion for the elderly which I never lost. You’ll hear more about that later.  Again, God was directing my life.  I may have thought I was just spending 2 years in service to my country, but God was giving me skills for my future career and giving me a passion for a population I would later serve.
When my years of service were over, I returned to Pennsylvania and to Swartley Bros.  Mr. Swartley had been in contact with me many times during those two years making sure that I did return. Mr. Swartley had often asked me to start taking Correspondence Courses in Business Administration but I felt like doing a lot of reading and studying was not for me.  Now looking back over my life I realize how much I could have used that education but back then I never saw myself as getting into business leadership.  On the other hand, God had given me hands-on experience and excellent role models during those two years of service. I did let Mr. Swartley know that I was interested in the electrical side of the business so he recommended to me that I take night school classes in Electrical Technology at Penn State’s Ogonze Campus in Abington, which I did for several years before and after my Voluntary Service commitment.
When I returned from my two years of service, Mr. Swartley died of a heart attack at age 62.  This was quite a shock to the business because Phil Swartley was the older of the three brothers and he was the brother who really ran the firm.  In his passing this became a great opportunity for me in that I was much more acquainted with the operations of the inside business then the two remaining brothers.  The two brothers saw strong character and a Christian witness that they respected and trusted me to help them run and lead their business.  After council from a business mentor, I got the courage to ask them if I could become more directly involved with the business, and because of a good working relationship with them they told me that they would begin yearly bonusing me shares from the business.  In the 80’s, the company bought out the one brother who ran the retail side of the business.  After becoming a partner with Bud Swartley we put all of our effort into the Industrial Electrical Contracting business, which in the late 80’s had 17 electricians.  God blessed this business and when I retired at the end of ’08 we had 84 electricians. 
The Swartley family was a joy to work for.  They treated me like a son and always made me feel welcome.  Well, most always.  When the next generation came into the business I needed to deal with a partner who felt threated by me, seeing me as a threat to his family.  But after several years he realized I just enjoyed working for the family and did not have any interest in taking over the business.  Bob Swartley, Bud’s son, and I became a very trusting team until my retirement. Once again I realized that God was directing my life.  My honesty and character in business allowed God to direct my life into becoming part of the Swartley family, and a part of the business.
Through my 45 years at Swartley Bros. I learned the importance of loyalty, honesty and relationships.  By God’s help I tried to always be fair and honest in all relationships, whether with employees or the Federal government.  Two things that stand out as very rewarding to me.  At our company Christmas Dinner it was a delight to have spouses of our employees come up to me and say “My husband really enjoys his job and the way he is treated at Swartley Brothers”.  And when I had my first experience with a tax audit and after having them there for two days say, “We normally stay for 3 days and on the average take $30,000 dollars back on unpaid taxes, but with you, we only found $300”, and that was because we had just purchased a bucket truck and I didn’t realize we needed to charge tax for the rental of that equipment.

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