September 19, 2020 • Posted in

Bowman’s Workmanship a Sight to Behold

by Jim Bishop

Daniel L. (Dan) Bowman, 79, of Harrisonburg may be blind, but is very much in touch with the world around him.

Having completely lost his sight at age 12, Bowman has not let that physical disability hamper an aggressive pursuit of personal and career endeavors over the years – vocational rehabilitation counselor, piano tuning technician for 36 years, accomplished pianist and organist and skilled wood craftsman, and above all, devoted husband to wife Ferne and three adult daughters and their families.

Longtime friend Harvey Yoder terms him “an engaging conversationalist and extraordinary human being.” 

Dan’s commitment to using his God-given talents to helping others extends to contributing the works of his hands to the annual Virginia Mennonite Relief Sale. This year’s event will be held Oct. 1-3 at the Rockingham County Fairgrounds, with many activities taking on a different form due to COVID-19.

Completely without the gift of sight, Dan has fashioned and donated woodworking pieces to the relief sale auction over an 11-year period, where they’ve invariably drawn high bids.  A wooden marble roller that he donated his first year brought $3,700. 

He has made and donated five marble rollers, a set of wooden tops, a cherry study desk, a bedside stand made of ash wood, a Victorian style wash stand, a utility/clothing rack and as assortment of wooden footstools, and with all of his fingers still intact.

In all, his work has raised approximately $13,035 for the relief sale. 

Currently in progress, a working model of a water-powered grist mill, scaled at one inch to the foot.

From its inception in 1967 to the present, all sale funds raised go to Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), a worldwide ministry of Anabaptist churches that share God’s love and compassion for all “in the name of Christ.” MCC works with people at home and around the world to ease oppression, poverty and conflict and leads natural disaster relief efforts, community development and peace work in more than 50 countries. 

“Mennonite Central Committee has long been my favorite charity,” Dan said. “I have a brother and several friends who have served with MCC; I thrill at their stories.

“MCC is a solid, hands-on expression of the Kingdom of Jesus in the world,” he continued. “The relief sale is a tangible expression, a ‘festival,’ if you will, of our Anabaptist-Mennonite heritage.”

With the relief sale just two weeks away, preparations have shifted into high gear, seeking to work around the obstacles brought on by the continuing coronavirus.

A “Sharing Our Surplus” (SOS) refugee relief walk took place Aug. 23 in Harrisonburg spearheaded by Harvey Yoder and his committee.  Some 100 people walked a 2.3-mile self-guided route through downtown Harrisonburg, while others walked at other times and distances or gave on-line, raising a total of $15,000 for MCC.

The annual “My Coins Count” project has been under way for weeks. Area congregations and businesses are finding different ways to collect coins and currency in large plastic jugs (normally done during Sunday worship services). The funds raised will be divided between MCC and local causes through Virginia Mennonite Missions. Last year’s drive raised $24,804

The main sale event, the annual auction of handmade quilts, wall hangings, knotted comforters and afghans, artwork and wooden handcrafted items will take place online only starting at 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 3. Once an item is bid on, others will have one minute to continue bidding until the bidding is final.  

Registration for a bid number, which begins Sept. 20, is required and can be done by going on line to

This tasteful note – several popular food items will be available on a pickup basis, including barbecued chicken, Mississippi catfish dinners and homemade potato chips. Baked goods will be on sale at the fairgrounds at specified times. 

This well-orchestrated event simply can’t happen without the yeoman and woman efforts of a battery of volunteers.  Many are already hard at work behind the scenes, but according to relief sale chair Dave Rush, more help is needed, especially with preparing, packaging and delivering the take-out meals on Friday night and Saturday . . . and, of course, with cleanup.

“Even though the thousands of people who usually come from all over to attend this event aren’t able to get together this year, I still believe they will give generously to aid others around the world,” Dave said.

So, you live out of town or are otherwise unable to participate in this gala affair? No problem – donations are gladly accepted on line at or by mailing a check to Virginia Mennonite Relief Sale, 601 Parkwood Drive, Harrisonburg VA 22802. 

MCC, as it celebrates its 100th anniversary, will appreciate your lavish response to this worthy cause – and so will Dan Bowman. 

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