John E. Farner
April 19, 1912-March 15, 2008
Pam Ferguson March 2002
My grandmother, Treva Nofziger, attended the Franklin Presbyterian Church (also referred to as the Franklin Community Church) as a young child with her mother, DeLitha. Her father, John, attended Nampa Mennonite Church where his first four children were members. Treva first accepted Christ as her savior as a young child of five or six at the Presbyterian Church and attended church there on a fairly regular basis, including youth meetings called Christian Endeavor. It was in these weekly Christian Endeavor meetings she became more than just acquaintances with my Grandfather, John Farner. The Farner brothers, Virgil and John, also began attended Christian Endeavor in the late 1920’s and Treva said that she remembered the first time they came to one of the meetings. They arrived with their hats on and she wondered about those new boys who didn’t know enough to take off their hats in a church. In spite of that, John and Treva became friends and their relationship grew during those years attending Christian Endeavor together. The Franklin Church today is still a Presbyterian Church and stands in the Franklin Community, North of Nampa, close to the original Nofziger farmstead.
John, Virgil, and their youngest brother, Ken Farner grew up in Nebraska with no formal association with church. John does remember that his Mother’s sister, Faith Tibbetts Colton, lived 2 or 3 miles from them in Nebraska and attended a Community Church. Virgil and John attended there 2 or 3 times with their cousins. Although John’s parents, Carl and Flossie, did not make church attendance a part of their lives, they always taught their boys that God was supreme and they had a large family Bible in the front parlor during their growing up years. The Virgil Farner clan have this Bible today.
Virgil Farner married Mabel DeCoursey (she also was a member of the Franklin Presbyterian Church) in December of 1930 and they moved to the ranch in Melba. There they began attending the Baptist church in Melba town. Shortly after their marriage the Friends Meeting had revival services. From that revival, a number of couples (including the Burton’s, the McClintick’s and Virgil and Mabel) left the Baptist Church and joined with the Friends, becoming regular attendees.
Also in December of 1930, Treva finally talked John into announcing their engagement at an engagement dinner at Treva’s parents home. Actually the story goes that Treva wrote a letter to John while he was at the University of Idaho in Moscow saying that she was going to have an engagement party and wondered if he would like to attend. He decided that he had better attend and they celebrated their engagement with Virgil and Mabel, Elmer Tiegs and Lois Grim. John was several months into his degree at the University of Idaho in Dairy Manufacturing and he didn’t have much money. He talked his father into letting him have access to some of the money he saved from the sale of hogs and with $25 he bought a diamond engagement ring for Treva. John spent most of their engagement in school at Moscow and Treva spent her time working in exchange for piano and voice lessons. Treva and her mother, DeLitha, wanted to plan a church wedding but Treva’s older sisters, Mildred and Oleta, didn’t feel it was fair for Treva to have one when they didn’t. They felt pressured to marry and were not allowed to have a church wedding because their father wanted them to leave home. So John and Treva went to Caldwell one Saturday morning and were married in the home of the Presbyterian minister with Virgil and Mabel as witnesses. They had a three day honeymoon in Boise and they began married life in Nampa where John was employed at the Nampa Dairy.
In March of 1933, Ed Harmon and Fred Baker, two young college students of Pacific College in Newberg, Oregon (later to become George Fox University) were sent by Oregon Yearly Meeting to hold evangelistic and revival meetings in the Snake River Valley of Idaho. They held meetings for the Greenleaf and Melba Friends Meetings. Because of Virgil and Mabel Farner’s connections to the Franklin Community, these evangelists were invited to hold services at the Franklin Community Church.
It was DeLitha Nofziger who invited Treva and John to attend the meetings. After being in the service for several nights, there came a point when Treva and John looked at each other and they knew without discussion that God was asking them to make a commitment to Him, and they went forward.
Of that experience, John said:
“I was like a Hottentot from Africa when I went to the altar. I was met there by Ed and Fred and they asked why I came forward. I told them that I wasn’t really sure but felt like I needed to be there. At that point they explained repentance and salvation to me and helped me pray and ask God for forgiveness and to receive Christ as my savior.”
John believes it was the prayers of Virgil and Mabel during that 10 day revival meeting that prepared the ground for their salvation. John remembers watching Virgil and Mabel spend many hours in those revival meetings praying at the altar with people who were coming forward to be born again.
John Farner’s parents, Carl and Flossie Farner, were also saved at this revival meeting in Franklin Community Church. After this experience, John and Treva and Carl and Flossie attended the Franklin Community Church for about a year. John was working at the Nampa Dairy at the time and could only go to church every other Sunday. During that year there were 3 couples about the age of Carl and Flossie (in their mid forties) who were wanting to begin a Friends Meeting in Nampa. Although John and Treva were invited to attend the Melba Friends Meeting, they decided to wait until the Nampa Meeting was established and in 1934 John and Treva and Carl and Flossie became Charter Members of the Nampa Friends Meeting. This newly formed Meeting bought a Mennonite Church on 13th Ave. South close to 7th Street to be the place where they worshipped. (This church may have been the first Mennonite Church - Antioch - that was built west of Nampa and tore down in 1912 when the congregation moved to North Nampa.) John and Treva worshipped there from 1934 until they moved to Melba in fall of 1939 and transferred their membership to Melba Friends Meeting. The Nampa Friends Meeting was laid down in the late 1990’s and the building sold.
Several years later when John and Treva were living on 7th Ave. in Nampa and Frances was just a small child, John remembers one day being overwhelmed with the problems and struggles of life. In his words “things just weren’t working right”. In frustration he went into their back yard and hung his arms over their clothesline and began to pray. In those moments of confession and of unburdening to God he knew that there needed to be more to his life with Christ than just accepting Christ as His Savior and he told God that he would take anything and everything that God would give him. In those moments of prayer, God put a “new thing in my conscious and I knew that I felt different and I walked back into the house with a new feeling that I can’t hardly explain. I walked back into the house a changed man and refreshed by the spirit of God and ready to be the man that God wanted me to be.” In the next weeks and months he learned more about the Holy Spirit and about testifying.
Over the next 60+ years of worship at Melba Friends Meeting, Treva participated by teaching Sunday School for a young girls class, she played the piano for worship, choir and special functions such as weddings. Treva loved to sing and often sang for church. Treva also organized social outreach through the church kitchen and funerals. She organized all the donated cookies for Vacation Bible School for many years. It is because of her love for cooking and outreach through the church kitchen that the family requested memorial money given at Treva’s death to go a fund to install a dishwasher for the church kitchen. Treva’s older sister, Mildred sent $1000 for this memorial and in addition to the dishwasher, a refrigerator and coffee makers were added to the Meeting’s kitchen.
John was asked to teach a young class of boys at Nampa Friends in the 1930’s and eventually taught an adult Sunday School Class there. When they moved to Melba, he served as clerk of the Monthly Meeting for many terms. He also taught an Adult Sunday School Class, was a member of the Ministry and Oversight Committee (now called the Spiritual Life Committee), was clerk of Quarterly Meeting and a member of the George Fox College Board in Newberg, Oregon. John spent incalculable hours and days working on the physical plant of the church, the parsonage and the yard.
This is an account of the spiritual heritage we’ve been given through the lives of John and Treva Farner. In the words of William Charles Braithwaite in 1909: “Every child ought to understand not only something of the world in which they live, but something of the inheritance from the past to which he is born......that his/her life is a part of a great stream of life that has been running for a thousand years. They need to feel the organic relation of life today with the life of the past. If heritage is born in a child, it is a permanent enlargement of his/her life, kindling imagination, enriching experience, and inspiring character.”
I am who I am today because of the lives of John and Treva Farner. I asked my Grandfather in February of 2002 what was his favorite hymn and he said “Amazing Grace.” It seems to fit his life and I know it is his testimony to what God has done in him and through him. He asked that we sing that his memorial service. Hymns and music were and are a special part of my Grandparents life. My Grandmother loved to sing and my Grandfather commented about how he often came into the house and found Treva singing at the kitchen sink. One day several years ago they were talking about what they thought heaven would be like, and Treva’s comment was she thought she would be singing in the heavenly chorus. Although Treva made it quite clear to John that he couldn’t carry a tune, my Grandfather did whistle and some of my best memories are of listening to him leave the farm house, carry buckets to the hogs and whistling as he went. In moments in my own life when I feel out of sorts with the world, hymns (specifically “He Leadeth Me”) come into my heart and mind and bring me comfort. These hymns I’ve heard time and time again whistled by my Grandfather or sung at Melba Friends Meeting and they’ve become a part of my inner life.
I remember helping my Grandmother in the old Melba Friends kitchen each summer for Bible School during my Junior High School years and early High School years until I was asked to teach a nursery class in the last year of High School. I loved those times of working with my Grandmother at Melba Friends. It was in the small, cramped basement of the old white frame Meetinghouse that I first began to discover Quakerism. I attended a Sunday School class when I was in Junior High and they were discussing different denominations. When I learned Quakers began 350 years ago, it changed how I viewed this little white frame church. I appreciate history and for some reason I knew that I wanted to be a part of that Quaker heritage. I grew to love Melba Friends and it’s community, I grew up wanting to marry a Quaker and to marry a Quaker at the Melba Friends Meetinghouse. I consider this the foundation place of my spiritual heritage.
I count it a gift that Ron and I were able to pastor Melba Friends from 1988 to 1991. My Grandparents were at the point in their lives where they were less involved in the Meeting, but I still was able to spend many hours in worship and prayer meeting with them and the rest of my family. In those years and in the years since I believe that one of the hallmarks of my Grandfather’s spiritual life has been his gift of intercessory prayer. Not only have I experienced it in prayer meetings, but I’ve also stood in his presence and had him pray for me. It was as though he had one hand on God’s shoulder and one hand on mine and I was an observer to a conversation between my Grandfather and his dear Friend and Savior. I know he spends many hours each day asking God to watch over and protect his family. I believe his purpose on earth these last years has been to make God’s presence and spirit tangible to our earth and our family in a way I hope we feel long after the day he walks from this life into God’s presence.
Probably one of my most vivid memories of my Grandparents is the day the Melba Friends Meetinghouse burned down in December of 1972. It was my Grandmother who called very early one morning, sobbing, telling us that the church was on fire. Later that day I remember walking around the charred remains of the building hearing about how members and friends of our family went in before the sanctuary was engulfed in flames to carry out the pulpit and the old piano in the basement that DeLitha gave Treva. This piano now sits in the Fellowship Hall. The old white frame Meetinghouse held an important part of my grandparents spiritual heritage and it held many memories of their life together. Two of their daughters were married in the Meetinghouse and it was there my Grandmother played the piano and my Grandfather clerked Monthly Meetings. The new Meetinghouse holds new memories and is the place where many of the grandchildren were married and the place where we held the Memorial service for my Grandmother. While the real estate on the corner at Melba holds a special spot in our lives, all of us know our spiritual journey through life comes from the foundation laid before through the lives of our Grandparents. I have a deep appreciation and love for their lives and for the consistent way God has spoken to and through our family since 1933. A spiritual heritage has been given, it enlarges our lives today, it kindles our imagination, it enriches our experience and inspires us all to be God filled people like those who walked before us. It is nothing but Amazing Grace.
In the front of my Grandfather’s Bible there are four handwritten pages of Bible verses. These verses are ones that he read and felt God spoke especially for him at that time in his life. I have included only a few of the hundreds he had written.
Rest Exodus 33:14 Wisdom Proverbs 9:10
The word’s power Isaiah 55:11 Friendship Proverbs 18:24
Obedience 2 Chronicles 7:14 Pride Proverbs 16:18,19
Peace Isaiah 26:3 Thankfulness Ephesians 5:20
A Promise Psalm 91:1 Life Luke 17:33
Act justly Micah 6:8 Loving God Romans 8:28
Thy word Psalm 119:11 Eternal Live I Timothy 6:12
Our Promise Psalm 23 Doing good James 4:17
Walking in light I John 1:7 Worry Matthew 6:25-34