First published on this site: February 2007
REUNION OF THE SALZBURG, AUSTRIA, PAX UNIT
September 8-11, 2006 Asilomar Conference CenterMonterey, CA
Fifteen of the former PAX volunteers who served at the Salzburg project,along with 13 of their spouses, reunited at the beach-side convention center located at Asilomar on Monterey Bay Peninsula in California from Friday evening, September 8, to Monday noon, September 11, 2006. David Gerber,current MCC representative located at Newton, Kansas, himself a former Greece PAXer, was invited as a special guest. Arrangements were capably handled by John Loewen, Reedley, CA, and Merle Bitikofer, Dallas, OR, and their spouses, with Merle Brenneman developing the program.
As other units do as well, the Salzburg Unit members have enjoyed a special close association with each other over the years since the late 1960’s. In the early years, we attempted to meet every five years, including one time in 1995, when we met at the project site in Austria. However, recently we have met every three years. Each one would testify to the profound impact that our experiences of working and living together intensely during formative years of our lives has had on us. It is the memories, the values instilled in us, and the purpose given to our subsequent lives that draws us to each other still, perhaps even more in our advancing years.
The Salzburg project was a lesser known effort lasting just three years from the spring of 1961 to the winter of 1964. In the waning months, the unit dwindled to just a few men as wrap-up and finishing tasks brought it to a close, but it had reached as high as a dozen men at times. Both the
Enkenbach project and the Karlschule of Vienna project were concluding in1961. PAXers working on those projects were then brought together to start the Salzburg project. Six houses, some of them single family dwellings and some for multiple occupants, and a church were constructed on land donated by Church World Service. The land was gravelly river bottom at the convergence of the Koenigseeache and the Salzach rivers and nestled among the first of Austria’s majestic alps, “Sound of Music” country. The recipients of these houses called themselves Nazarenes, an Anabaptist group with roots in Switzerland not unlike Mennonites but coming to Austria as refugees out of then Yugoslavia during WWII. For 16 years they had lived in barracks built for the German army, unable to afford proper housing. Their leaders learned of MCC and requested help. Peter Dyck was instrumental in arranging for PAXers to provide the labor while the Neutauefer offices in Switzerland provided funds for materials. PAX men lived among the families in those army barracks during the first 18 months of the project, then moved into the new houses as guests of the families until all work was done.
In 2003-4 major renovations and expansion was done to the church building.Four of our group were privileged to attend the dedication of the new assembly building and participate in festivities in June, 2004. Frequent contact with families of the community occurs yet today, as a close familial affinity with them has persisted over the years.
As all ex-PAXers will testify, reunions draw out stories of fun and escapades of every color from participants. Nearly forgotten events and attitudes are refreshed and sharpened. A strong sense of brotherhood had developed. Even our spouses have bonded together in unusual ways. That is why we meet.
Attendees are pictured in the photo that accompanies this writing. They are:
- John Arn, Lansdale, PA
- Lowell Bender, Bittinger, MD
- Merle Bitikofer, Dallas, OR
- Richard Boshart, Lebanon, PA
- Merle Brenneman, Arvada, CO
- John Driedger, Gowanstown, ONT
- Gilbert Friesen, Mountain Lake, MN
- Ervie Glick, Harrisonburg, VA
- Corney Klassen, Jordan, ONT
- David Kulp, Pottstown, PA
- John Loewen, Reedley, CA
- Allan Mast, Hesston, KS
- Robert Unrau, Boise, ID
- Lester Yoder, Belleville, PA
- David Gerber, special guest, Hesston, KS
These fifteen represent approximately 70% of those who spent significant time at Salzburg, not a bad representation.
Key sessions began with a meditation and singing followed by sharing from four couples about significant events and developments in their lives. Blocks of free time on Saturday and Sunday allowed for special activities,including whale watching on Saturday and a stroll through Cannery Row and the marina of Monterey Bay on Sunday. Of special importance to all of us
was input from David Gerber on Saturday evening on “MCC Today: Challenges in a Broken World,” and on Sunday evening on “45 Years Later: What is Our Current Peace Witness?” In the first, David reported with the aid of photos about his MCC work in response to the tsunami of 2004 that devastated the coast of India.
At another session, Ervie Glick reported about discussions held in March of 2006 at Akron regarding a possible launching of a kind of “PAX II”, more than likely to be called “International Voluntary Service” in response to a gift from the Bob Histand estate. Al Keim, Calvin Redekop and Ervie Glick met with David Worth and Ron Flaming of MCC, as well as Orval Schmidt and Owen Hess of Goshen, and John Lapp, former MCC executive. MCC executive director, joined via conference telephone. A feasibility study will be conducted by Mennonite World Conference. Much work remains to be done.
Ervie L. GlickHarrisonburg, VA firstname.lastname@example.org