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Housesitting nothing new for Hillsboro couple

Staff writer

Retired pastor Loyal Martin and his wife, Rosella, have a history of taking care of other people’s households while they go on vacation.

They babysat three Armenian cats in Washington, District of Columbia for a month, occupied a house in North Carolina, and oversaw kids in Fresno, California while their parents were away.

Now in their 80s, the couple recently returned from Corn, Oklahoma, where they took care of three children who were born in Thailand.

Ert, a seventh grader; Annie, a fifth grader; and Sonya, a kindergartner, are children of Russell and Da Schmidt.

Russell Schmidt, a relative of Loyal’s, was a missionary in Thailand when he met his wife. The children all learned to speak English before Russell moved his family to his hometown.

The Martins learned all over again what it was like to be parents of young children. They got them up at 6 a.m. every school day, fed them breakfast, and got them to the bus stop by 6:30 a.m. Their school was in a neighboring town.

Rosella said she spent a lot of time thinking about food. She learned to know the children’s preferences.

A flock of chickens and two ducks in a pen in the backyard provided fresh eggs in abundance. Toast, scrambled eggs, and orange juice was standard breakfast fare.

Evening meals were another matter. The children wanted rice — lots of rice — and no breads or sweets. The rice was Jasmine rice, native to Thailand, bought in large bags, and prepared using the family’s rice cooker. Rosella usually made a stir-fry dish to go with the rice. She said it was delicious.

The children also liked soup, fish, and chicken.

Rosella had brought along a bunch of zwieback, but since the children didn’t eat bread, she toasted the German Mennonite dinner rolls for a crispy treat for Loyal and herself.

One morning, Ert asked, “Would you mind if I made my own breakfast?”

He heated cooked rice with chicken broth and topped it with scrambled eggs.

“It looked good,” Rosella said.

It was Ert’s responsibility to feed the chickens and gather eggs after school. Annie washed the supper dishes.

Evenings were spent helping the children with homework. Rosella and Sonya read together, a total of 10 books in two weeks. Rosella said Sonya was smart and picked up on things quickly. They spent a lot of time on arts and crafts.

Loyal, an English major in college, helped Ert use the right spelling for words when he was doing writing assignments on his laptop. Annie, a shy girl, occasionally needed help in spelling a word. Loyal made extra effort to spend time in conversation with her.

The Martins said the children were well behaved and supported each other.

“Ert was the father of the family,” Loyal said. “He was always telling the others to behave.”

“He was my biggest assistant,” Rosella said.

After homework was done, the family gathered for devotions. Loyal led a give-and-take session, applying the lesson to everyday living. The children then made notes about what they had learned on heart-shaped cards Rosella handed out.

The children took showers every night, and Rosella did laundry every day.

The Martins were grateful for assistance from their Grandma Joan, who lived a block away, and Auntie Jeanette, a neighbor.

The children had made paper chains, each link representing a day before their mother and father would return. Every night, they would remove one link.

“I miss my mommy,” Sonya often said.

She sometimes went to sleep on Annie’s lap.

Loyal was happy to spend time in Corn, his hometown. While the children were in school, he visited his alma mater, Corn Bible Academy, several times. He and Rosella met daily with men and women from the town at a local café. The men and women sat at separate tables.

On Sunday, Loyal preached at a small church, and Rosella taught Sunday school in another church.

The Martins have spoken with the children a few times since they returned home Jan. 18.

“I miss you,” Sonya told Rosella. “I miss you, too,” Rosella said.

The experience is one the Martins will remember as a good time.

“We just had a wonderful two weeks,” Rosella said. “The children were awesome. I hope we had an impact on the kids. That was our goal.”

Last modified Feb. 1, 2018

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