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About Administrator

Pax Germany '55-'57, MCC Akron '57-'58. Currently "retired" in Asuncion, Paraguay -- freelance projects -- music, theater, church, schools & Kansas Paraguay Partners

Re: Horst book plus

Harrisonburg, VA

March 28, 2019

Dear Pax survivor,

I have just finished reading “Eight Little Words: How God led a Mennonite farm boy to a remote town in Nepal” by Fern Horst and Alyssa Reitz (daughter and grand daughter).

Like Ervie, I could not put it down until I got to the end, which is not often the case for me. I will not attempt to review it here. It has too many interesting aspects and levels of information and meaning. But I will say that this is the first Pax book I have read where the story is told from being born on a rural Maryland farm in 1933 until the present moment where Otho is 86, living close here in Virginia! The story is a transcription by a daughter and granddaughter of Otho’s apparent amazing story telling ability. It rings true—many of the persons, names, places, events, and institutions I experienced, and thus it is especially helpful and meaningful for me. This is in part because his Pax term (1956-1959) was relatively close to my Pax life (1950-1952). It is virtually a textbook, with unlimited references and details. Sadly, it lacks an index; I predict the second edition will have one.

Otho’s book is available on at or directly from Otho at 7725 Botha Rd, Bealeton, VA 22712, for $22, including shipping.

How might Otho’s book be used to encourage others to write their Pax stories? That someone of the next generations should pick up the story and present it in a loving and enthusiastic manner for present day readership leads one to think that more could follow. Who might write a review of the book and submit it to Mennonite World Review and The Mennonite? Introductory material has been posted to the website Do you know of a student who could develop a bibliographic survey and annotated bibliography of extant Pax literature as a senior project? Or of a PhD researcher who would focus on the tremendous variety of persons and the various roads they have taken subsequently to Pax? That would be most interesting.

Talk it up among your family and acquaintances, and send us your ideas.

Calvin Redekop                                Ervie L. Glick

1520 Hawthorne Circle                1532 Hawthorne Circle

Harrisonburg, VA 22802               Harrisonburg, VA 22802

540-564-3641                                   540-564-3658

Eight Little Words: . . . .

I thought you may be interested in knowing about the book that my daughter Fern Horst  and granddaughter Alyssa Reitz wrote about my life — Eight Little Words: How God Led a Mennonite Farm Boy to a Remote Town in Nepal. They used information from my diaries and the letters I wrote to my mother (who kept each one of them). They also asked me many, many questions as they wrote the book.

It is available on at or directly from me for $22 (includes shipping).











Otho Horst                                                                                                                                                        7725 Botha Rd.                                                                                                                                                        Bealeton, VA 22712





Greetings plus a new book

From: Otho Horst 

Subject: Happy New Year                                                                                                              Date: January 1, 2019 at 11:20:18 PM EST

Dear Friends,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         It has been several years since I wrote my last holiday letter. Dorothy was the writer and I still miss her every day. But I also thank the Lord every day for the 50 years we had together.

I also thank the Lord that at 85 I can still get around and do things. I’m glad I can do some of the housework so my daughter Fern, who lives with me, can do her work. I also enjoy doing the grocery shopping. It gives me a chance to get out of the house and I get exercise walking around the store.

I also still enjoy working outside, especially mowing the yard with my John Deere riding lawn mower. It takes me about two hours to mow the whole yard at one time.  It reminds me of farming, which I enjoyed as a boy when I wanted to be a farmer all my life. But the Lord changed that in 1956 when He sent me into Pax service in Germany and Nepal.

I thought you may be interested in knowing about the book that my daughter Fern Horst and granddaughter Alyssa Reitz wrote about my life — Eight Little Words: How God Led a Mennonite Farm Boy to a Remote Town in Nepal. They used information from my diaries and the letters I wrote to my mother (who kept each one of them). They also asked me many, many questions as they wrote the book.                                                                                          It is available on at or directly from me for $22 (includes shipping).   [See photo in category Publications]

My grandchildren are almost all grown up now. In my son Myron’s family, Joel is living in his own apartment in Frederick, Maryland, and is a delivery truck driver for Rainforest Distribution. Nathan raises Texel sheep. Kara and Melody are both on staff at a retirement home in Frederick. Daniel just completed a road trip from coast to coast and will now be looking for a new job. And Luke is working at Morven Park, a historical site in Leesburg.

In my daughter Carna’s family, Tim works for a local building contractor, married Suzanne Miller last summer, and they are looking forward to the birth of their first child this spring. Ranita works in customer service at a local bank and will be pursuing a Social Work degree at Lancaster Bible College next year. Alyssa is a manager at The Ole Country Store in Culpeper and will be marrying Spencer Raley in April. Ben is working for the Aim Right ministry in Phoenix, Arizona. And Valerie is a freshman in High School.

I’m grateful to know that Jesus is with each one of us all the time, day and night. Fern helped me write my Life Purpose Statement, which is what I determine to do every day:

“My life purpose is to experience joy and contentment trusting in Jesus and yielding full control to the Holy Spirit, so that with integrity I can help others and encourage them spiritually.”

God bless each of you in this New year. Let us continue to pray for each other.

Otho Horst                                                                                                                                                            7725 Botha Rd, Bealeton, VA 22712                                                                                                              email <>                                                                                                                          Tel: 540-439-4842

Honor Pax with donation to MCC

A new giving registry “Honoring Pax” has been established with Mennonite Central Committee.   Contributions are tax deductible and will be used “where needed most” in MCC’s worldwide relief efforts.  For online giving, directly to the page.  Or mail check, menu Honoring Pax, payable to MCC, PO Box 500, Akron, PA  17501. 

Passing comfort on to others

[Pax vets, especially Espelkampers, note reference to 1953 in the following, plus an alert to this story from ex-Paxer Harold Miller stating, “Karin was the daughter of Pastor Albert Bartel of the Espelkamp Mennonite Church during my time in Espelkamp.”]

Passing comfort on to others

[Reprinted with permission from MCC website]

At the age of eight, Karin Gerber-Bartel fled her home in Prussia as a refugee. She remembers the harrowing journey and what it was like to live in a refugee camp. MCC relief supplies brought her family joy then, now she makes comforters to pass on that feeling to other displaced people. MCC representative Naomi Enns visited Karin in March to hear her story and learn what motivates her to give back. 

March 24, 2018 – by Naomi Enns

Naomi Enns is MCC’s representative for West Europe together with her spouse Doug Enns. They traveled to Switzerland to meet with Karin Gerber-Bartel who has made comforters for MCC for several years. The Ennses previously served as MCC representatives for Syria and Lebanon.

On a Sunday in April, I drove to a small rural village called Tramelan in the mountains of Switzerland. My husband Doug and I were driving to meet Karin Gerber-Bartel, an 81-year-old woman who makes comforters for MCC after having experienced life as a refugee herself.

I was curious about the story that was waiting to be told, how one woman’s own refugee story would impact her desire to help others displaced in countries at war. Karin has been part of the Mont Tramelan quilting group for five or six years. The women get together once a week in an old rural schoolhouse to make comforters they donate to MCC for distribution. 

Fleeing violence is an experience that’s familiar to Karin. She was eight years old in January of 1945 when she fled her home in Unterberg, Prussia on a horse and buggy with her mother, siblings and grandparents. First, they traveled towards Danzig but the violence followed them on the road. “One day we were outside, and a bomb fell on us,” she told us. “I was eight years old. My finger, hand and hip were wounded by shrapnel from it. My three-year-old sister was with me.” Her young sister died from the injuries of the explosion. Today Karin still carries the scars from the bomb, she reached out her left hand to show me her fingers, the tips are missing, and they still bear the old scars.

Her family desperately wanted to get away from the fighting, so they got on a small boat without knowing where it was headed. “We had no idea where we were going—we just wanted out of there,” she told me. That boat took them to a larger ship in the middle of the Baltic Sea, eight-year-old Karin climbed a ladder up the side of the bigger ship which took them to Denmark. They lived in Denmark for the next three years in five different refugee camps without her father who was a prisoner of war at the time.

It was while living in those camps her family received relief supplies from MCC; it was a big joy every time Karin says. She remembers the “camp cake” her mom would make with the food they received, they would invite others to come share the cake and have some coffee. “I remember we made it, the coffee, very thin like water so it would last,” she told me.

In 1953, reunited with her father, her family moved into a home in Espelkamp built by participants in MCC’s PAX program, an alternative service option for people who didn’t want to serve in the military.

Years later, Karin now lives in Switzerland, and she helps give back by making the comforters for MCC. Recently she saw proof those comforters were making a difference. In a presentation I did to Mennonites in Switzerland, I had shared a photo of Rev. Ibrahim Nseir, one of the partners I worked with in Syria, holding up a quilt the Tramelan group had made. Karin has a copy of that photo printed out in her home that she shows us, smiling with pride. She can relate to the experience of the Syrians receiving the comforters she makes. “When I look at [the news about Syria], I see their pain, I see their suffering—I see the individuals in the reports and I ask myself, ‘what did this person experience?’”

Fullscreen capture 6102018 95529 PM.bmp

When I asked her how it felt to see a photo of her group’s comforter being received in Aleppo and distributed by the MCC partners there, she was excited, she said “It feels so good, so nice to pass it on. I have learned in life that what we have we don’t waste and we must share …we are called to give back.” That is part of why she participates in the comforter group.

There are approximately 15 quilting groups that meet throughout Switzerland, Germany and Netherlands; together they made 364 comforters in 2017. Those comforters are then shipped around the world to support people displaced by conflict.

I told Karin that in my work in Lebanon in Syria I learned that sometimes the blankets are used to bring beauty to homes where people have lost much, maybe they put it in the living room, on the bed, or use them as wall partitions in collective shelters, the comforters bringing beauty and dignity to their space. Karin recalled similar situations from her own experience, “we made wall partitions in Denmark—there were so many people there too. We had simple partitions of thin cardboard.”

MCC, with the assistance of West European Mennonites and others, is sending another shipment to Syria filled with comforters, relief buckets and school kits. It was packed together by representatives from many countries during the Mennonite European Regional Conference in Montbéliard, France in May.

As I listened to Karin share graciously from the history of her life and deeply of the losses she has experienced, I could only think to myself, war is a terrible thing. It separates people from that which they love, it forces people to flee homes, friends and family, it leaves many lost. 

Yet, I also felt the glowing embers of resilience in the human spirit, one that had survived her own terrors of life as a refugee and now passes comfort on to others. And I thought to myself, we have been given much. In the end, life is about giving back. About being faithful and focusing on what matters most.


Hosted as “other” by “others”

By Harold Miller  [Recently relocated from Kenya to Virginia, USA.  __–A.K., Admin.]

After completing a three-year (1955-58) alternate-to-military service stint in Germany with the Mennonite Central Committee-sponsored PAX program, I was on my way home. It took the form of a road trip in my Volkswagen “beetle” from Espelkamp–the “refugee city” in northern Germany, to the sea port of Le Harve, France where the “beetle” was processed for shipping to the US, then an overnight venture by ferry to Harwich, England, on to London by train and from London by hitch-hiking to the British port city of Bournemouth where I boarded the ship from Le Harve for the ten-day onward voyage to New York where I was met by my father.

Some months prior to my departure from Germany, my father had lent me $1300 to buy a Volkswagen “beetle”. I had entertained this bit of vanity in part because of a general obsession with cars and partly because of the odd expectation that my siblings and youthful colleagues in Illinois would be impressed by a slightly larger-than-pocket-size souvenir from Germany. The purchase of a two-year old 1956 beige Volkswagen “beetle” had been facilitated by a member of Espelkamp’s Mennonite youth group whose brother managed a dealership in the not too distant city of Bremen.

Before the final ‘good-byes’ were said in Espelkamp, I had made two excursions with my “beetle”. One was a farewell sprint southward to youth-group friends in the Mennoniten Siedlung (Mennonite Settlement) in the Sachsenweiler suburb of Backnang, some 30 kilometers from the south German city of Stuttgart. There for a period of more than one and a half years I had participated in the construction of houses for Mennonite refugees who had come from the “east” in the waning days of World War II. Sachsenweiler had been my introduction to Germany, to the south German Schwaebisch dialect similar to my own Pennsylvania Dutch, to war stories from Mennonite refugee friends, and to the ravages of history.

A second excursion was pointed north-northeast from Espelkamp in the company of two friends from the Espelkamp Mennonite youth group. Our youthful excursion took us past medieval “fachwerk” farmsteads in lonely rural areas, through vast expanses of heather in the region approaching the North Sea. We stayed overnight in youth hostels and once or twice in open camp grounds. At one memorable moment we drove up to the East German border, fronted by a huge sign indicating its history and circumstance. Parents of my fellow travelers had fled to West Germany from regions far to the east of this border. They lived now in houses built by PAX boys. How long would this border reality serve as a post-war configuration?

Many years later (1990), only months after the East German border had been removed, my wife Annetta, our oldest son Keith and I motored from Brussels, Belgium to Berlin, Germany. As we crossed what had been the fenced and, in sections, the walled border strip stretching to the northern and southern horizons, we were reminded of the follies of hostile human initiative and its physical consequences .

For the home-bound section of travel from Espelkamp to Bournemouth, I had sensed a strong need to travel completely on my own, for reasons which I can no longer recall. Except for the necessary formalities at the Le Harve seaport and several pre-arranged overnights with a family living in Wilton near Britain’s famous Stone Henge monument, every other aspect of this brief venture in Britain was unplanned, open-ended.

After disembarking from the overnight Le Harve, France-to-Harwich, England-ferry-trip, I was making my way toward the train station when a tall African American man approached me and asked in kindly fashion; “Are you headed for London?” After my answer in the affirmative, he offered: “Can I show you around; I am well acquainted with the city?” My answer again was in the affirmative; an unexpected question and an equally spur-of-the-moment answer.

After boarding the train together, the gentleman began to recount his past experience in London. After his birth and early childhood in the United States, his mother had determined that the country’s racially segregated education system was inappropriate for her children. So she packed up her children together with necessary belongings and moved to Britain. There he and his siblings attended school, grew to adulthood and variously married. As an adult, my friend found his way back to the US where he landed a job within the New York harbor area in the import/export sector. At the time of our encounter he was retired, retracing some of his childhood trails and visiting siblings who had married and settled in Britain.

True to his word, my newly-found guide to London showed me around the big city, paid for my ‘teas’ and ‘tubes’ (underground railway) and took me to the home of his sister for overnight lodging. There I became acquainted with family members, some of them clearly of African American and others of Caucasian British origins. Their careers and life stories reflected, in many ways, readily recognizable North Atlantic middle class trajectories. Except for one striking feature. My guide explained in considerable detail that he was an adherent of the Muslim faith and that his family’s Muslim-African ancestors had been subjected to the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

During the several days we spent together exploring London, I kept wondering just why he was extending such generosity toward me. When his comments regarding his religious commitment and its origins reached my ears, there were no ready slots within which to lodge or to digest what seemed to be highly unlikely information. We corresponded for some years after this unexpected encounter, but did not touch any further on the religious theme.

To this day I try to comprehend why a tall African American gentleman, of Muslim-African faith, would choose to bestow random generosity onto a youthful Mennonite Christian stranger, like myself. I could not have imagined at the time that 50 years of my adulthood would be lived out on the African continent where wanton generosity crossed my path repeatedly and where the Islamic faith was much in evidence.

In the reception area of the New York harbor I was embraced by my father who had made a special trip from Arthur, Illinois to welcome and accompany me on the road trip to our home. Along the way there was an overnight stay on my Amish aunt’s farm near Middlebury, Indiana. My “beetle” was parked, for the night, in one of the farm buildings. On the following morning the “beetle’s” battery was too weak to ignite the engine. So my Amish uncle harnessed up his team of horses and towed the “beetle” into a “kick start”. That little episode had the effect of removing some of the shine off my “beetle”. Between Indiana and Illinois, the weather was cold; I discovered that the heating system of the “beetle” was severely deficient. Another dent in my German souvenir.

Upon arrival in Illinois, I quickly discovered that mine was one of the very first “beetles” to appear in the community. I learned as well that it was considered to be only slightly more than a pocket-size souvenir from Germany, not really to be considered as a car. I was warned, furthermore, that such mini pretend vehicles tended to get sucked into the exhaust systems of real cars!

Months later, I made my way to Harrisonburg, Virginia in the “beetle”, for purposes of embarking on a four-year academic venture at Eastern Mennonite College/University. In addition to my packet of clothing and toiletries, the “beetle” was carrying the hand tools associated with the drywall trade. I was prepared to embrace a full schedule of courses at the College, interspersed with drywall jobs to cover the annual tuition costs.

In addition to earning a BA in History at Eastern Mennonite College, I met the wonderful lady who agreed to become my wife. Beyond the substantive values and aspirations that brought us together, there was the subliminal factor of the mini flower vase mounted on the dash of the “beetle”. The scent and sight of a fresh rose on our dates was delightful.

After several years of marriage and teaching at Eastern Mennonite High School, Annetta declared: “I want to go home.” She had been born and raised in the little village of Mugango on the shores of Lake Victoria in Tanganyika (Tanzania after 1964). After due processing, we moved in mid-1965 to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania to take up our respective assignments. Thus began a 50-year sojourn on the African continent.

One day, many years after arrival in Tanzania, I was traveling on assignment from Liberia via Congo, Brazzaville to Nairobi, Kenya where we lived at the time. In Brazzaville there was a day-long layover before the evening departure by air to Nairobi. So rather than sitting in the airport waiting room all day, I made my way into the city center by public transport and then walked to the shore of the River Congo, in full flood at the time. Kinshasa, the capital city of what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo could be spotted on the far horizon. I stood on the riverbank mesmerized by the astonishing vista.

Suddenly my reverie was interrupted by a tap on the shoulder. When I turned to see who was touching me, my eyes met a young man who asked: “Are you ok? Do you need any assistance?” My reply: “I am just fine, I am a one-day tourist enjoying your city and this beautiful river.” Apparently satisfied with that answer, he left.

Later I was again tapped on the shoulder by the same young man, but this time he said: “The gentleman sitting in the car over there wants to talk with you.” As I sauntered over to the gentleman in the Peugeot car, I noticed that he was dressed as a policeman, in full uniform. My mind raced quickly in search of any offence that I might have committed. The man greeted me with a friendly hello and asked: “Are you ok; do you need assistance of any kind?” Again I replied: “I am just fine, I am a one-day tourist enjoying your city and this beautiful river.” Then he responded: “Can I show you around town?” “I would be delighted,” I replied.

The uniformed policeman then took me on a tour of the city of Brazzaville, explaining the sights and sounds, all in excellent English [in a French-speaking city]. After an extensive circuit through the inner city, including a state house drive-by, he invited me to lunch at his house in the suburbs, served by his fine-spirited Romanian wife. After lunch he returned me in his car to the point on the Congo River where we first met. With a friendly farewell wave he said: “Have a good day in our city.”

Over the intervening years, those two gestures of random unsolicited and totally unanticipated generosity, offered respectively in London and Brazzaville, have returned again and again in my memory. Indeed, they seem to become more poignant with each recall. With those gestures, the two gentlemen, separated by geography and history, exercised the loftiest of human values; a welcome and an acknowledgment of the stranger, of “the other” on the periphery.

Harold Miller

September, 2017

Nairobi, Kenya









Hoffnungsträger in der Not

As published in Neue Westfälische newspaper, Germany

[See English translation by Ervie Glick and commentary by Calvin Redekop below this page from the newspaper — possible enlargement of page yet to be posted.]

Espelkamp article[With permission of Neue Westfälische as published March 19/20, Saturday/Sunday, 2016.  Texts and photos in Neue Westfälische newspaper are copyrighted.]


Espelkamp Yesterday and Today (28): When the Pax boys helped to build the city

The foundation stone for the present day Mennonite congregation was laid

By Manfred Steinmann

Espelkamp. The church was never a peripheral structure, but rather an initiative for the establishment of the town following the trauma of World War II. Faced with great need in post War Germany, the town and church together agreed to take on responsibility for building a town, and on October 4, 1949, they founded the “Aufbaugemeinschaft GmbH” (construction society) as supervisor of construction and planning. From the beginning, the Mennonites belonged to it, and they functioned as bearers of hope during war-time need as is described in “Mennonite Church of Espelkamp, John Gingerich Street.” It is the oldest Mennonite congregation in Espelkamp.

“You may believe it or not, the most difficult problem in Espelkamp was how to make clear to the people who we were. It was most difficult among the workers.

Many had lost so much in the war, their children, women and parents, their homes and possessions. For many of them, we were the hated Americans.”

These words from John Gingerich articulate well the problems that the so-called Pax Boys had to deal with when they arrived in December, 1948. They were young Americans of the Mennonite faith whose members had rejected military service ever since the founding of their movement during the Reformation, and now they, without pay, had committed themselves to love of their neighbor.

Among the 15 European voluntary service projects, Espelkamp was the only one in Germany, and it was included in the building program for two years. Equipped with trucks and the required tools, which in the post war years were extremely hard to come by, these young men went to work helping to renovate the existing war munitions halls into dwellings for refugees.

In the evenings, they gathered for Bible study. Most popular were the Bible retreats, the first ever vacation programs in Espelkamp, which attracted children in droves. The selflessness and commitment of these Pax boys underpinned the work in Espelkamp both ideally and materially.

It gave John Gingerich special joy and pleasure to be able to bring his family, which came in 1949 to Espelkamp and remained until 1967– with short interruptions—dedicated to the building of Espelkamp. At the initiation of the town, a segment of Stolper Weg, where the buildings of the Mennonite church now stand, was renamed to John Gingerich-Straße.

Men and women took turns washing and cooking

The first Mennonites lived in the barracks of Hedrichsdorf. Since the Pax boys lived in equally primitive conditions as the German refugees and displaced persons, they contributed significantly to the development of positive relations among them. The local Germans were astonished to find that the huge amount of laundry, food preparation, and housekeeping done in such primitive conditions was accomplished by both men and women in alternating shifts. The house parents were William and Ruth Dick, affectionately known as Uncle Bill and Mommy Ruth. Long after their return to the States, these dear “early Espelkampers” nurtured friendships and acquaintances in Espelkamp.

An example of the value bestowed on the Pax boys and their work, Mennonite Central Committee’s main office in the US decided to end the volunteer work in Espelkamp after two years in order to perform the same kind of service for refugees elsewhere in Europe. However, at the urgency of Pastor Plantiko of the Evangelical Church office, which was in intensive conversation with Mennonite Central Committee in Frankfurt, the service in Espelkamp was extended for another two years.

The number of Pax boys had grown to about 25, so the Munahalle (munitions hall) MH 37 on the corner of Isenstedter Straße/Kantstraße (the central bus station today) was used from December, 1950, for housing them. However, that arrangement lasted only a short time, as the hall was intended to become the Evangelical (Lutheran) prep school for Espelkamp-Mittwald (later the Söderblom-Gymnasium) with boarding facility. So they moved to Munahalle MH 56 “Under the Oaks” on Stolper Weg.  Here the new center for the Espelkamp Mennonites was created in two decades of intense construction activity.

Captions to Photos
Photo top left:  The Hedrichsdorf Barracks. The first Pax boys lived here. During the day
they helped with clearing the land and remodeling the munitions halls into
apartments. Evenings and Sundays they invited the town’s residents for Bible study.

Photo top right:  John Gingerich with his “matchbox.” Since practically no one in Espelkamp owned a car, this vehicle was a great help in remodeling the munitions halls.
It was used not only for hauling building materials, but also for clearing tree stumps.

Center photo:  Bible Study. John Gingerich with his flannel graph in Sunday School. Here
he relates the Passion story.

Bottom center photo:  Munitions Hall 37.  Here on the corner of Isenstedter Straße and Kantstraße stood the home for the Pax boys.

Translated by Ervie Glick,  4/14/ 2016

                                                – – – – – – – – –

Response and commentary  by Calvin Redekop

“Bearers of Hope in Time of Need” is a charming story of a significant period for many of those living through World War II and post war reconstruction. By now having been almost totally forgotten, it revives the nostalgia of that period for those volunteered in the Espelkamp story. It is a unique and helpful perspective provided by those who were the beneficiaries and witnesses of the commendable service the Espelkamp Voluntary Service program provided. This is a story of how one community interprets the motivations and actions of another set of total strangers.

One of the perspectives of the essay is the close connection between the MCC voluntary program which began in Espelkamp in 1948 and the Pax program, whose origins in 1951 are closely tied to the Espelkamp experiment. The article, however, understandably has factual errors and inferences of the relationships of MCC Voluntary Service and Pax which I will not correct, because it would become a bit tedious and detract from the essay’s positive view — namely the fresh, positive, and naive (in the good sense) perspective the local community experienced of voluntary service in early post-war German recovery.

For a a more expansive perspective on the early Espelkamp history, several sources are of signal importance:

First, Emily Brunk: Espelkamp: The Mennonite Central Committe shares in community building in and Settlement for German Refugees, (Karlsruhe: Heinrich Schneider, 1951). The Voluntary Service office in Frankfurt, Germany directed by Paul Peachey, and Calvin Redekop, assistant director, agreed that the basic events of the Espelkamp experiment were too important to leave in MCC files, possibly to be forgotten. Among many volunteers, Johnny Gingerch and Milton Harder loom large as very important leaders. Harder survives and resides in Oklahoma. The photos in the book are priceless, depicting the “cultural and social” milieu” of those pioneer times.

Another work, entitled Espelkamp on the German Frontier (ed. by Ruth Abraham, self published, 2005) is by William O. Dick (who is pictured in the Brunk book). It traces the story of William and his wife Ruth’s arrival at Espelkamp with the challenging, if not appalling, primitive situation that confronted them. Partly composed of daily diary entries and topics such as the almost totally despondent refugees they learned to know as neighbors and then friends, even with understated emotions it is moving even to today’s readers. Interspersed are 58 pictures which give the story a concreteness that words alone can not provide.

Finally, several sources by this author provide fuller context for the story of Espelkamp, the early origins of European Mennonite Voluntary Service and an early source of the Pax Program. One is The European Mennonite Voluntary Service: Youth Idealism in Post-World War II Europe (Telford, Cascadia, 2010). This begins with MCCs voluntary service program at Akron and the exportation of the concept via the Council of Mennonite and Affiliated Colleges summer study-work activities. Espelkamp was one of the first sites of MCC voluntary service in Europe, headquartered at Frankfurt. A personal example illustrates: Not knowing what to do with unmarried volunteers for foreign service, MCC sent Redekop to help Peachey run the emerging summer work camps in Europe. “I arrived (from the US) in Espelkamp, Germany on January 28, 1950. It was a cold, primitive and austere introduction. Espelkamp was in a deep forest, hidden from other German villages. The army barracks got so cold at night ice formed on our faces. Sleeping in bunks two tiers high, we hit the floor in the dark, tiptoed to several wash basins….and to the kitchen area, where a fire was already roaring.” (Footnote 44, p. 114). The voluntary service connection with Pax began casually and episodically but cooperation continnued, with volunteers switching to serve in activities of either.

The other source is The Pax Story: Service in the Name of Christ: 1951-1976. (Telford: Pandora 2001) This book, initiated by the Pax editorial group which was preparing for the 50th anniversary of Pax, also describes the variety of times and places where Pax and European MVS collaborated and exchanged personnel.

With respect to the fine recent essay [in Neue Westfälische newspaper] about German WWII victims and refugees at Espelkamp, there are undoubtedly many additional sources describing the emergence and evolution of the Pax idea with voluntary service and how it affected the beneficiaries.  But testimonials by participants in an event are usually the most authentic and convincing.

Calvin Redekop,  April 15, 2016