Monthly Archives: February 2016

Category added: ‘Publications’

Today’s News:   Announcing the addition of a significant category of postings.  With the advent of the Janzen and Graber book, it became obvious that the site has failed to highlight new and earlier publications relevant to Pax.  Several previous works will soon appear in the ‘Publications’ category also.  Please send notice of any additional books or articles, past and future, to <>. 

Note:  To be automatically notified of each new posting on the site, fill your name and email address in the ‘Comment’ location below any article and check the box requesting such notification.    

Thanks, –Arlo

Pax Work in Congo


Initially published in
Mennonite Life, April 1961, 16, 2, p. 96

The Congo Pax program was originally
organized to relieve the missionaries of the
voluminous amount of incidental work that
had become necessary. During the pre-Pax
years the Congo missionaries had become
involved increasingly in building programs,
automotive mechanics, agricultural projects,
and other secondary, yet necessary, tasks. At
the same time the primary efforts of
education, medical work, and evangelism
had become more complex and involved.
In answer to this problem four young men
were sent to the Congo in 1953 under
Mennonite Central Committee auspices to
pioneer the Congo Pax program. It was an
immediate success. They were able to take
charge of many building projects, mechanic
duties and maintenance chores, so that the
full-time missionaries could concentrate
more thoroughly on their main work.

More Pax workers went out during the
following years till eventually an established
group of eight to twelve were distributed at
most of the eight Congo Inland Mission
stations. The East Africa Mennonite Mis
sion in Tanganyika also employed a number
of Pax workers. The schools, churches, and
hospitals built after the inception of the
Congo Pax program were largely a tribute to
efficient supervision by the young American
and Canadian fellows. Such things as
upkeep on mission vehicles and
bookkeeping also became their work.

As the program developed beyond the structure
and intent, the distinction between the
full-time missionary and the two-year Pax
workers became one of title rather than
effectiveness. John Hesse, experienced in
printing work, became the manager of the
Charlesville print shop. Larry Graber,
because of an interest in medical work, had
the opportunity to assist Dr. Jim Diller at the
Nyanga hospital. I found a chance to work
in the Kamayala school system as part-time
superintendent of the primary schools.
Robert Schmidt spent much of his time at
Kamayala in literature and educational
work. Others found unique opportunities
to fill in as ambulance drivers and at times
played the role of makeshift midwife by
necessity. Larry Bartel and Alan Siebert
lived in an African village for nine months
while constructing primary schools. More
recently, Paxmen Abe Suderman and Alan
Horst assisted in the combined United
Nations-Congo Protestant Relief Agency
food handouts following the civil war be
tween the Baluba and Lulua tribes. In short,
the Pax- men in the Congo could expect any
sort of assignment. Much of the
effectiveness of the program lay in this
flexibility, I think.

Specific skiffs were generally required to do
some of the more technical jobs such as
printing and mechanics. But all of the
fellows, I feel, contributed to an essential
quality in the effectiveness of the program
through prolonged personal acquaintances
with Africans in work and leisure. Often I
remember, the Paxmen had time to spend
with the Africans doing little things such as
hunting, swimming, and playing ball. Unlike
the senior missionaries, the Paxmen had no
family obligations, and could spend
evenings in African homes, chatting with
them around the fire. The real, though
intangible contributions of the Pax program
came through the long discussions with
Africans in their native languages, and
through a sincere empathy with their form of
life. Often this meant enjoying a meal of
grasshoppers or caterpillars; but at the same
time it meant vastly more. Such,
a seemingly insignificant gesture, was
evidence of a firm belief in their individual
value as human beings. The Paxmen who
got into the inner orbit of African affairs
through personal acquaintances, and became
noticeably interested in the culture of the
African peoples, contributed profoundly to
the cause of Christian brotherhood.
Incidentally, the Paxman who did this was
not at all homesick, either. One Paxman,
Larry Kaufman, gave his life for the cause.

Tentatively the program is reduced to a few
men because of the independence struggle.
Pax work of the future, however, will surely
create confidence and serve as a personal
expression of Christianity. I am convinced
that it is an effective one.

[See the following introduction of a related new book. –Admin.]

Crossing the Loange: Congo Pax Service and the Journey Home

Introducing a new book by

John M. Janzen & Larry B. Graber

“Congo Pax” is today the name of an online chat group of Congolese, based in London, who are interested in peace in their country. It would be neat if these global citizens of Central Africa were in touch with those of us who associate Congo Pax with alternative service in the 1950s and 60s in the same country.

Two former Pax-boys, Larry Graber and I, decided, in the years after our retirement, to re-visit our Congo experiences of fifty years ago and to share them with our families and anyone else who might be interested. Our sources, beyond our memories, were our
letters home kept by our mothers, and our photographs. During 2015 we read, selected and
transcribed excerpts, and reconstructed chronologies.
The result is described in one blurb:
[In this book] Two young Mennonite Pax men chronicle work, adventure and travel in the
Congo from 1957 to 1959, and their journey home through Africa, the Near East, and
Europe. Their letters provide a poignant look into late colonial Congo on the eve of
independence. Eye-opening experiences changed their attitudes about the Africans with
whom they worked, and set the course for their futures in anthropology and social work.

Crossing the Loange shows a slice in time in the Southern Savanna, the Congo, and the Pax
program there. We write about our work in carpentry, bookkeeping, radio transmissions,
mechanical upkeep of vehicles, work in the schools, medical assistance, ambulance runs, and in the later stages of our term, heading up construction teams and serving medical assistant for a missionary doctor.

The final section of the book is about our journey home, a four-month trip by
car and boat across East Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. Our letters reflect our youthful puzzlement at the culture and customs we encountered, the friendships we made with the Africans with whom we worked, and most importantly, our significant maturation through adventures, crises, and responsibilities. These are themes that emerge in most Pax memoires.

The Congo Pax story (or stories) are few and far between in the overall writing and filmmaking about the Pax program’s existence from 1951 to 1976, considering that we account for more than sixty of a total of 1,200 volunteers.

The Congo Pax story can be readily divided into several phases:
1. Paxers as missionary aides with some remarkable responsibilities (1955-60); 2.
carrying on amidst the chaos and opportunity of independence (1960-64); 3. working with the independent church and development programs (1965-1970s); 4. forging links and relations with Congolese and on-going programs (1980s to the present). Our book is definitely of the first phase of Congo Pax, although it echoes the 4thphase of ongoing relationships. We trust that it will find interested readers and stimulate further public recollections by more of you who surely have many stories to tell.

John M. Janzen

For a preview of the book, see ./docs/crossing_the_loange

The book is available at Newton bookstores: Faith & Life, Kauffman Museum Shop, and Book ReViews, which handles it for online orders through ISBN: 978-0-692-50291-4