[This article was found and placed on a browsing table at the August 2009 Menno Nepal reunion by Kathy Martin. It had been printed on MCC News Service stationery, written by Samuel R. Burgoyne, Director of Personnel, United Mission to Nepal, and dated January 2, 1970.]
MEN AT WORK
We shall miss Ben when he leaves us next week on the completion of a three-year period of service. His name could be Dick or Ed or Jim or a score of other names, for his is typical of the pleasant, hard-working youths whom we bunch together as Paxmen.
They come, usually a little shyly, into our language school in Kathmandu, eager to study Nepali, to learn about the country and people from the orientation lectures and reading materials, and to prepare for work in close touch with the people of the Himalayan Kingdom. In moments of leisure they cycle through the narrow streets of the capital. They are intrigued by the friendly people and the bewildering differences of types and dress. All these, against a background of tiered pagodas and gold-covered stupas, form an exotic and colorful picture.
Three months of concentration on Nepali soon pass, and Tom, Ken or Stan moves out to the low-lying terai [sic] area or the mountains on his assignment. It may be back-breaking work in a rock tunnel, part of a power project for the growing town of Butwal. His duties may involve him in training nationals in auto-mechanics. There is a hospital being built in a remote mountain area, four hours climb from a primitive airstrip; and our young man may be responsible for supplies, planning, training of local farmers as masons or carpenters and the actual building work.
Yes, we shall miss Ben and all his tribe, for they have made a tremendous contribution to the work for God in a challenging situation. Quiet, cheerful and industrious, they have often lived hard under difficult conditions. Their dedicated service has been true Christian testimony, and a demonstration of deep faith in Jesus Christ. The United Mission to Nepal shall welcome more such committed Christians to follow in their footsteps.
Since 1956, 21 Paxmen have served in Nepal. The board of the United Mission is happy and thankful for these men and their work. There has been a unique situation of need in Nepal for just this kind of man and, fortunately for us, they have been present to do it. We believe God had led and sent them here and we pray He will continue to do so, for the need of their kind of work continues.
While the modern movement of missions has been spreading widely across the vast coastal countries of Asia, the inner countries of central Asia have remained closed to them. Nepal, in the Himalayan Mountains, was one of these closed lands until 1951. At that time a change of government altered the picture completely, and along with governmental agencies and other foreign groups, Christian missions were also able to enter the country to undertake various forms of Christian service and witness. The entrance was with a rush, in a mounting tide of people and resources. Many societies and boards joined to form the United Mission, to work as one body for one church. Among them is the Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities.
Workers in the United Mission have been going into the country at the rate of ten to 15 a year. One year there were over 20. They have spread out in a virgin country to start from scratch and create, build up, manage, and give content to ten projects of service and witness. These have been dispensaries, hospitals, schools, institutions, development projects, and offices. This has required much work in such practical matters as remodeling and equipping rented buildings for quick use, obtaining equipment and putting it to use, erecting new buildings, keeping accounts, and transporting goods.
Almost from its beginning the United Mission has been very fortunate to have a steady crew of Paxmen to assign to these supporting jobs. We just haven’t had the missionaries to do all of these things, especially with this rapid growth in a new situation. It is hard to imagine a better persons [sic] for these practical jobs than the Mennonite young men who volunteer to work under the Pax program.
The American way of life has developed a “breed of young man” that is hard to find anywhere else in the world: part farmer, part mechanic, practical, free thinking, improviser and inventor. Something of the pioneer spirit is still in them. They are able to put their hand to almost anything, and still remain friendly. Put into that mixture a sound Christian faith and experience, and you have just the young fellow to help build up a new mission in a new land.
They have volunteered for three-year terms in Nepal, bringing along a change of clothes, some bedding, and sometimes a tool kit. We have had as many as six at a time. Two of them, on our request, extended their terms in order to finish up a job. One returned to North America, finished school, married, and returned to Nepal on a missionary basis.
Our largest project is a hospital of 135 beds. To create this institution we have rented two old palaces and remodeled them into a hospital. For a number of years we had Paxmen helping with the practical side, working with crews of men constructing added rooms and wings, putting in more plumbing and toilets, doing electrical work, repairing and maintaining machinery and cars; welding, making and mending hundreds of small and large items necessary for this institution. Some worked in the office keeping the accounts, ordering, and buying. These were jobs that needed immediate attention until we could find, process and place long-range missionary personnel to carry this work. Now we have a missionary business manager and a missionary maintenance supervisor, with national staff managing these departments. The Paxmen no longer are needed here.
The girls’ high school started and has continued for eight years in an old palace building. It has needed constant repairing or fixing, such as unplugging the water pipe, fixing the lights so they work, making a new proper toilet, stopping the leak in the roof, acquiring more furniture, putting in plumbing for the science lab. Paxmen have been able to help with much of this.
In the mountains, a five- or six-day hike from the high school, the Mission sent workers to open schools, a dispensary, and a hospital. They began in tents and in tight little village houses made of thatch or bamboo. New buildings had to be constructed. It took full-time workers to manage crews of villagers hired to build, to carefully supervise, teach, and help with the construction of buildings. Paxmen have gone into these primitive conditions and lived for months or years with the missionaries to help build. They have assisted with the construction of over 20 buildings in the mountains of Nepal.
Our biggest use of Paxmen currently is in our Butwal Technical Institute. Here they work with crews of men in construction to erect the dozen buildings for this project, handle accounts and equipment necessary to transport goods from India to the project, teach trainees in the shops, and run machines.
It’s been mostly hard, sweating work for them in these pioneer and difficult situations.
There is also the lighter side, too. Paxmen have grown beards, owned pet dogs, collected weapons, trekked widely through the mountains, experienced close friendships, and joined in church activities. They have learned the language and worked closely with the people. On one occasion villagers offered a Paxman a plot of land if he would marry, return, and live and work among them.
Years of this kind of living and working have their effects on the Paxmen, too. They change, grow, mature, and become able, responsible adults. Many of their letters express these sentiments: “Yes, my time has swiftly come to an end here in Nepal. It has been a great experience working in the United Mission in the different parts of the country. I’m very glad that I have had this opportunity to work here and to work with the many different people in the mission, helping to carry forward God’s mission. This has been a time of maturing and deepening of faith for me. My prayer is that God may continue to keep His guiding hand upon everyone who is serving Him here in His mission.”
Reports from many parts of our United Mission are sprinkled with statements like these: “A Paxman of great service has returned home.”
“Most of the years we had four Paxmen working. Without their help it would have been impossible to carry on our work. Two of them left after three years of dedicated service to the mission.”
So it goes. These are standby, temporary, fill-in men, doing a job with their limited but helpful skills and hands until the Mission catches up and can proceed with their long-range missionary personnel and trained nationals.
We haven’t come to a plateau or standstill in our work in Nepal. We are still expanding and pushing out at many points, and as long as this goes on we need Paxmen to help in His mission in this land. Mostly, in general, we need practical “Jack-of-all-trades” men, who can help to build a house, work with concrete, make some furniture, put in plumbing, fix a car, tune up machines, oversee a few men, put their hand to construction maintenance, and mechanical work.