Orie Wenger

My Uncle Orie, my dad’s youngest brother, passed away two weeks ago (June 6, 2009) at age 55.  I happened to be home in South Carolina for a visit.  Uncle Orie had been diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer in February.  He had been sick for a while before that, but they thought it was something else.  My uncle was never a big man, and this type of cancer makes it impossible to digest food, so he got smaller and smaller every time I went home.  It was so hard to see him suffering and in pain.  In spite of my concern for him when I saw him, he had a good attitude even on the last day.  I am so thankful that I was able to pray with him on that Friday evening. 

To describe my uncle to someone who didn’t know him is an interesting task.  Dad and Orie grew up on a farm in Iowa, in a family of six boys and two girls.  They worked hard and moved quickly.  There was no such thing as slow with them.  I don’t like slow much myself, but the way they paced themselves makes me look like a turtle.  Possibly as a result of the constant rush they were in, Orie developed a bit of a stutter.  He always seemed to be in a hurry to get his words out and unable to slow down long enough to let his brain and mouth work together. 

Orie was missing a finger.  I’ve heard the story before but don’t exactly recall it.  I think it had something to do with accidentally shooting oil into his finger (I can’t explain how that might happen…) and not going to the doctor until a bad infection had set in.  Anyway, it was a farming accident and certainly made him unique! 

He grew up Mennonite and was good at making things with his hands – especially with wood.  He liked to drive cars and run anything with a motor.  (By the way, Mennonite is not Amish.  They were simple, but drove cars and had modern appliances.)  When some of my boy cousins reached age 18, he took them to fill out their “conscientious objector” papers with the government so they would never be forced to fight in a war.  (Mennonites are pacifists.)  I don’t know how he stood on war in his later years though.

When I was a kid, he fed me fried calf brains for dinner.  Mom about died.  Not only did I eat them, but I kept telling Mom that it was “the best chicken” I’d ever had.  I’ve never had them since then and have no intention of ever trying them again. 

When Orie lived in Iowa, he built a cabin out in the woods.  Our family went out there often for get-togethers.  There are around 100 of us now if you count all the spouses and children.  Having all those people at his cabin made him really, really happy.  If Orie was anything, it was hospitable.  He had such a gift of mercy and compassion, and he loved to have people in his home.  The house he built in South Carolina is three stories.  On the first floor, there are two apartments – one for Grandma and Grandpa; one for a single mom who needed help.  On the second floor is their main living area – master bedroom, big kitchen, living room, office, and bedroom.  On the third floor are more bedrooms and bathrooms, a large living area with a pool table and big screen TV, and a kitchenette.  If you’re counting, that makes four kitchens, three laundry rooms, and I think six bathrooms.  Why in the world would he build such a house?  He NEEDED it.  That house has been constantly filled with people ever since the day it was built.  That was just who he was.  There were always more cars at Uncle Orie’s house than parking spaces.  I think over the years my brother may have spent more time over there with our cousin who is his age than he did at our own house. 

He cared about my ministry and always asked how things at my church in Nashville were going.  He had faith until the very end that God would heal his body and he would be a testimony to others of miraculous healing.  He was a friend to me when I was struggling to communicate with my dad.  He has been a friend to my brother.  There are many other things I could write about my uncle here, but these are my main memories of him.  It’s hard to imagine the world without him.

On the day before he died, Dad called me and my sister to let us know that he wasn’t doing well.  He said we should go over there and see him.  My sister and I quickly drove over, uncertain about arriving unannounced or what to say, but sure that we wanted to see him one last time.  The man I saw that night was much too thin and suffering, but his heart was turned toward God.  He was so glad to see us.  He called us by name.  Without a conscious thought, my hands reached out to touch him and prayers started out of me.  I wanted so badly for God to take away his pain.  I prayed that he would have comfort, strength, and healing.  I felt so helpless and insignificant in the face of his pain.  And I kissed his hand before I left, trying to get out before the tears I knew were coming spilled out. 

My grandmother, Aunt Bev, and cousins David, Lydia, and Joseph will miss him the most.  They have been by his side through this battle, caring for him and supporting him.  My Aunt Bev is truly a woman of God.  She ministered to Orie all of his life, but in these past months she cut out all distractions and focused on him and their family.  Please pray for them as you read this blog.  Their lives have been shockingly altered by his passing and they need our prayers as they grieve and try to figure out how to go on from here.


Filed under My Crazy Family

9 responses to “Orie Wenger

  1. Amy LaRosa

    This is very beautiful.

  2. Lilly Bekele Piper


    Hi friend. First let me say that our hearts are broken over Orie’s passing. He meant so much to us – he married us, we were on staff at MTZ, he dedicated our first child, ordained Ben and sent us off to Boston and Ethiopia. Orie meant so much to us and as I write this I am fighting back tears. We loved him dearly. He was a father figure and friend who pulled the best out of us as ministers and people. This year Ben and celebrate 10 years of marriage and it is Orie’s blessing, second to our vows, that I remember most from that day. I cannot believe he is gone and continue to grieve with you. I have asked God why so much and don’t understand at all but try to have faith that He will be glorified somehow in the end. I miss him, Kim – eventhough we were not family and didn’t talk to to him often – he played a role in our lives that no one else played. He pastored and loved, cared and ministered, cried and laughed with us. Before we had our first child, Selah, we had a miscarriage and for a year, the doctors were not sure if the miscarriage was a result of cancerous cells in my body. I had to go to weekly and monthly testing and during that time Orie covered us with love and prayer. And when we did conceive and give birth to Selah, he rejoiced as though sje was his own child. And when he held her and dedicated her, it was through his own tears that he spoke blessing over her life.

    I am holding all of you close. Your dad, pastor Sam, means a lot to me to as my childhood pastor and to see you all hurting breaks my heart.

    Thank you for your memories and for sharing them so eloquently.

    Blessing and peace,

    • kimberlywenger

      Oh Lilly, thank you for sharing! It’s so good to hear from you. Even in the middle of our sadness and difficulty understanding His ways, there is a testimony of God’s goodness. He heard Orie’s prayers and not only blessed you with one child – but four! I’m sure Orie rejoiced over that.

  3. Annette (Wenger) Goetsch

    Thanks for writing your memories. Although I have not been close to Uncle Orie for many years, I was blessed to have had him in my life when I was in high school. He was the major mentor in my life at that time. He was always there the countless times I needed to talk, even when I was interrupting him from his sermon preparation or other church work. He provided me with Godly advice countless times. I often stayed with him and Bev overnight to be closer to school and I have wonderful memories of our times together. I don’t know many people who have had such an incredible impact on the lives of others as Orie did. He was blessed with incredible wisdom and compassion for others. I picture him now with our Lord, completely healed, dancing on the streets of gold. He is in that “cloud of witnesses” that is in heaven now cheering us all on in our walk here on earth. May God give his remaining immediate family here on earth incredible grace, strength and comfort through this time.

  4. Kevin Marner

    Though we have never met we both were blessed by God in the same way, …. Your uncle Orie. I just learned of his passing a few minutes ago but with no details, so I googled his name and found your blog. My name is Kevin Marner and I am 47. I first knew Orie as my youth leader, then friend , mentor and pastor. I can not express how sorry I am for you and your family at the loss of such an incredible man. I want you to know that I am just one of an unimaginable number of people challenged by Orie to believe that God can make a difference in the world around us , through us. I have often thought of the impact he had in my life at the age of 17, as God has now blessed me with the opportunity to work alongside my wife , son , and daughter-in-law in ministering to the youth of our church and community in north St. Louis . May you be encouraged to believe and know that there must be hundreds of other similar stories because of Orie’s love for the Lord. May God greatly bless you and all your family as you grieve your loss and His gain. Kevin

  5. Pingback: Sex Sells? « Kimberly Wenger’s Blog

  6. Kimberly, for some reason I just thought of your Uncle, looked to see how he’s doing in the world, and then discovered your post.

    I’m so sorry.

    Orie was a trustworthy friend when I needed one. It pains me to think that he died so young, so GOOD. He was just one of those people who are so kind, so full of integrity that you can hardly believe it.

    The world is poorer without him. All we can do is to make the most of the time we have left.

    Rest in peace, Orie. You are missed.

  7. Jill Kennel

    I don’t know why but I was thinking of Orie the other day and wondered if I could find him on the Internet. I think he’d be humbled that he is out there. I am so sad to hear of his passing. He and Bev were my MYF (Mennonite Youth Fellowship) leaders in Harrisonburg, VA in the 70’s. They were there for me during those harsh years and I am so glad and humbled that I was allowed to know them, even if for a few short years. I’m sorry for your and Bev’s loss. He was a great man.

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