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, https://donate.mcc.org/registry/honoring-pax directly to the page. Or mail check, menu Honoring Pax, payable to MCC, PO Box 500, Akron, PA 17501.
Within category Publications find the newspaper page plus an English translation and commentary. [For those without magnifier app — or old-fashioned magnifying glass — watch for our expected/hoped enlargement of the page. –Admin.]
I just finished reading a new book by two Pax men who went to the Congo 1957-
59 (at the same time I was in Pax Europe). They are John M. Janzen from KS
and Larry B. Graber from OR. The title is Crossing the Loagne — Congo Pax
Service and the Journey Home. Its publishing date is 2016. It is large, 8.5 by 11
inches and 237 pages printed on glossy white paper. It consists mainly of letters
John and Larry wrote home regularly to their parents who kept them. There are
scores of photos many of them in color.
They served with Congo Inland Mission, building, repairing, teaching, and
assisting missionaries and doctors. I was somewhat surprised at their
comfortable living arrangements and accommodations of the CIM personnel.
They of course suffered hardships of various sorts the two years too. They are
observant and interested in the culture of the African clans they encounter. This
was in the era of great unrest on the African continent and movements for
independence. It is interesting to note that these Pax guys were thinking that the
natives may be too impatient and not aware of the benefits they receive from the
colonists, although they agreed that national independence was coming and saw
exploitation everywhere. Most of their time in Africa was spent in rural and out of
the way places where political movements were less visible. But they went to
cities on business too. Because they were trustworthy, much of the time they
were on their own in assignments with little supervision. My impression is these
were two young men with high standards, conditioned by family and church,
ethical and hard working and with great motivation. A Christian witness, and true
“service in the national (and world) interest in lieu of the military.” They at times
took risks as youth tend to do.
The last third or so of the book tells the tales of their Sept. to Dec. 1959 travel
home by their Citroen car, and by ship; to East Africa, Egypt, Lebanon,
Jerusalem, other Near East countries, Greece, Austria, Germany, Italy, Paris,
Brussels, N. Europe, across to London, then sailing home from South Hampton.
They often sleep in their car, and whenever possible visit or stay at MCC or Pax
locations. Being used to Congo climate they didn’t bring enough warm clothes.
They knew more what to expect in Europe and found it more like home, so
conclude that the African and Asian portions of their trip were the best. They
both have returned to Europe and other overseas places many times, after Pax.
One question I have is how they managed to fly straight home from New York,
without stopping at Akron for debriefing which I thought all MCC workers
did en route home.
A word about the authors from page 232: Larry Graber, who I know, is from Dallas, OR, has
a B.A. from Willamette U., an MSW from U. of Utah, worked in Family Therapy, was
Manager of Family Based Services for the State of Oregon. Since retirement he and
his wife Karen have volunteered in over 30 overseas projects. Larry was a
speaker at our 2002 OR Pax conference.
John Janzen is from Newton, KS, has B.A. from Bethel, and a Ph.D. in anthropology
from the U. of Chicago. He is an author and taught for 45 years at U. of KS and other places.
They both credit Pax with influencing their career choices. Both have children and
grandchildren to whom this book is dedicated.
We are indebted to Larry and John for writing this gem. Anyone who served in Pax or MCC
will find it fascinating reading. And many others will too.
Jan. 30, 2016
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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
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.
At the the age of 85, Artur Regier vividly remembers the night he fled his family’s West Prussian farm.
It was 1945, and he was 15 years old. With gunfire from the Russian army less than two miles from their home, he, his mother and two brothers galloped away on horseback.
It would be nine years before they had a home of their own again.
They sailed on the Baltic Sea with more than 2,000 refugees on a boat built for 250, then spent three years living in a Danish camp.
Finally, in 1954, they moved into their own home in Enkenbach, Germany.
That home was built by young volunteers in Pax, an MCC program that provided Mennonites in the U.S. an alternative to military service and, in post-war Europe, helped to rebuild war-torn areas and to offer a bright spot of hope.
In Enkenbach alone, the efforts of Pax built 115 housing units and a building for the Mennonite church.
Enkenbach is full of stories like Regier’s — accounts of people who were forced to flee as youth and built new lives with the assistance of MCC and its Pax program.
There was Louise Sauer, who lived in a camp in Russia for two years, then in wooden barracks in Germany with no bathroom or running water. When her family moved into the new home, she says, “It was like heaven for us children.”
Or there’s Edith Foth, who left home with her family when she was just 10. “We thought in two days we’d be back home, but we never made it back,” she says.
Her family moved into a new Pax-built home on the first Sunday of Advent in 1954. “That was a great moment for us, and without MCC’s help, it would have never been possible for us to own a house again after World War II,” says Foth, who worked alongside Pax volunteers for several months.
Between 1953 and 1961, approximately 120 Pax “boys” went through Enkenbach. (Almost all participants were men, mostly young men, but a handful of women also volunteered in Pax locations.)
Their legacy lives on in more than just the physical homes they built. Children gathered at the Pax house for snacks and Bible study, listening to the radio and playing games of table tennis in the basement. Pax participants started their own choir, and refugee youth joined in—forming the seeds of what today is the Enkenbach Mennonite Choir.
Ervie Glick of Harrisonburg, Va., was a member of that choir while he served with Pax in Enkenbach, and he also remembers playing hockey in the winter with the youth from the Mennonite church. But his most vivid memory from that time is of Monday evenings when the Pax members went in groups of two to spend the evening with a family who had moved into one of the new houses.
The families would share photos and stories from the homes they fled and of the journey to Germany. “Airplanes would strafe their columns of refugees, their horses and wagons, and they would dive into the ditches and run to escape them, the airplanes. It was just awful,” he says. So families were very thankful once they could move into the homes built by Pax. “With the new homes, once they got established they could find meaningful employment and get their feet on the ground.”
MCC relief in Europe wasn’t only in Enkenbach. Shortly after the war, food, clothing and relief supplies were distributed across Germany, and in the 1950s Pax built homes in several areas around the country.
France also received help rebuilding damaged areas. Many in the small town of Geisberg remember 1946 to 1949, when MCC relief workers built houses as well as a nearby home for orphans.
Here too, the memories are of more than construction. Though Théo Hege was only seven when the MCC workers arrived, he remembers having them at his family’s home on Sundays and receiving candy or stamps for his collection. “They introduced us to Christmas carolling as well as the sunrise service on Easter morning,” he says.
Now that he’s older, that relationship with MCC remains — though Hege is on the other side of the equation.
When Geisberg Mennonite Church collected relief supplies for Syrians, he helped contribute. “I think that program is an expression of Christian love to those who have less than we have,” Hege says. “We share what God gave us in his mercy.”
Sisters Agnes and Emma Hirschler, whose home was built by MCC, also helped put together kits and through that, Hege says, they “encouraged the younger generation not to forget the help we got when we were in need.”
The shipment, sent through MCC, was coordinated by the relief committee of the Swiss Mennonite Church (Nothilfe Gruppe, or Emergency Group) along with French churches. It contained 1,500 hygiene kits, 65 handmade comforters, 294 purchased blankets, 791 relief kits and 144 pairs of handmade socks along with supplies like towels and sheets.
In Germany, the Enkenbach Mennonite Church, where Regier, Sauer and Foth attend, also has donated money and supplies to MCC’s relief work through Mennonitisches Hilfswerk (Mennonite Relief), an organization of 60 Mennonite churches in Germany.
Now, 70 years after the war’s end, it’s a way that many whose communities received help through MCC can give back — passing on the blessing that they received to others whose lives have been upended by conflict.
“When Mennonitisches Hilfswerk calls for special offerings for MCC projects, I am always ready to give,” Regier says. “I always remember that I have received help from MCC when I was in need after World War II.”
Emily Loewen is a writer for MCC Canada. Nina Linton is a photographer from Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.
From EMU News – Eastern Mennonite University website
By Steve Shenk
Cal Redekop, co-founder of Mennonite Central Committee’s alternative service organization Pax, accepts the Mahatma Gandhi Center for Global Nonviolence Community Service Award from James Madison University Provost Jerry Benson (left) and Gandhi Center director Terry Beitzel (right) on behalf of MCC and Pax. (Photo by Ervie Glick) Posted on May 4th, 2015
In 1951, Jay “Junior” Lehman, then a 21-year-old farm boy from Ohio, sailed by freighter to Antwerp, Belgium. He was among the first wave of conscientious objectors to participate in a new alternative service program called Pax. Reaching their eventual destination in Germany, Lehman and about 20 draft-age men labored to turn Nazi poison-gas bunkers into housing for World War II refugees.
In late April, Lehman, now 85, made another trip – not quite so far – from his home in Ohio to James Madison University (JMU) in Harrisonburg, Virginia, where he and nearly 60 other “Paxers,” including organization co-founder and former leader Cal Redekop, received a community service award from JMU’s Mahatma Gandhi Center for Global Nonviolence.
Pax, a program of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), was created in response to the reinstatement of the military draft in the United States after the start of the Korean War. Mennonites, Quakers, Brethren and other conscientious objectors could perform alternative service in Europe, and later in Africa and South America. Pax continued until 1975, three years after the draft ended. By the time the program closed, nearly 1,200 young Americans, and some Canadians, had served in 40 countries.
An ‘influential’ program
Nearly 300 people packed a reception hall at JMU to celebrate the organization’s legacy. Terry Beitzel, director of the Mahatma Gandhi Center, noted that Pax was receiving only the fourth award in the center’s 10-year history. The center gives a global nonviolence award, which has been presented to former President Jimmy Carter and first lady Rosalynn Carter and South African anti-apartheid leader Desmond Tutu, and also the community service award, past co-recipients of which include restorative justice pioneer Howard Zehr, a professor at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU), and JMU nursing professor Vida Huber.
“Pax was chosen for the award because of its contribution to establishing alternative service programs and influencing the formation of the U.S. Peace Corps, but primarily because of the emphasis on service to others,” said Beitzel, who has taken courses and taught at EMU’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding and earned a PhD in conflict analysis and resolution from George Mason University.
“Pax serves as an example of service and peacemaking for all of us today,” said JMU Provost Jerry Benson.
Redekop, now 89 and living in Harrisonburg, accepted the award on behalf of Pax and its volunteers.
“I’m only the handmaiden for Pax or handlanger – German for lackey,” he said, before calling up Ann Graber Hershberger ‘76, who chairs the MCC U.S. board. Hershberger, a nursing professor at EMU, spoke of the Pax legacy and how it affected her own MCC work, with husband Jim ‘82, in Central America.
‘Paxers’ still connected
Redekop and Paul Peachey ‘45 dreamed up the new organization while the two were in Europe serving in post-war relief efforts with MCC. (Both Peachey, who eventually taught at EMU, and Redekop went on to academic careers in the field of sociology. Redekop is also a former business executive who has written widely on Christian ethics in business.)
Inspired by the Latin word for peace, the Pax program began in Europe with housing projects for war refugees, including German-speaking Mennonites from Ukraine, who were caught between the German and Soviet armies. Redekop, raised in the Midwest in an immigrant community of German-speaking Mennonites from Russia, was able to communicate in the low-German dialect.
The cultural exchange between Paxers and the people they helped was rich and rewarding. Lowell E. Bender ’67, current MCC board member and the evening’s master of ceremonies, was a Pax worker in Germany, Austria and Greece from 1961-63, where he witnessed the long-term devastation caused by the war while constructing new houses for families whose homes had been destroyed years before. Bender came back to the United States after his service and enrolled at EMU.
“We were all changed by our experiences,” he said, of the Paxers.
“Many of the Pax veterans still stay in touch with the people they served,” says Ervie Glick ‘62, whose interest in the German language and culture began with his Pax tour and eventually led to a teaching career as a German language professor (he retired from EMU in 2004). Reunions of the Salzburg Paxers, the unit Glick served in, have been held nine times since 1970, including once in Salzburg, Austria.
Paul M. Harnish ’64, of Doylestown, Pennsylvania, visited a large, modern chicken processing co-op that he helped start years ago in an impoverished area of Greece. His little hatchery began with 500 chicks imported from the United States. Harnish remembers his delivery being complicated by the need to spend the night in a hotel with the chicks before he could return to the village.
Editor’s Note: The history of the Pax program is featured in two books: Urie Bender’s Soldiers of Compassion (1969) and Cal Redekop’s The Pax Story: Service in the Name of Christ (2001). A 2008 award-winning documentary Pax Service: An Alternative to War was produced by Burton Buller, Cal Redekop and Albert Keim, a former EMU history professor.
More photos here by Ervie Glick:
Former Pax men and spouses gathered around tables to reminisce. Standing are Loyal Klassen, Mt. Lake, MN, and Henry Fast, Winnipeg, MB. Seated are Menno Riehl (PA) and Paul Harnish (PA), all having served in Greece.
Special Pax Event
Mahatma Gandhi Center for Global Non-Vilence
James Madison University
Terry Beitzel, director
Dear Pax men. The page you see reprinted from the Mennonite Historical Bulletin(July, 2011), the official journal of the Mennonite Historical Committee, tells us that Pax is considered one of two important events that began in 1951. What more can be said abut that it was your labors that allowed it to thrive and make such an impact. Please tell others about at this recognition and to check the Pax website.
If you can’t read it the lower 1951 article reads “Mennonite Central Comittee starts the Pax program, sending volunteers to Europe to work on post-war reconstruction projects. Pax soon expands to Africa, South America and Sougheast Asia. ( with an arrow pointing to Pax worker Dean Hartman at Bechterdissen, Germany
Dear Pax men:
My hope is that you will not be irritated with my insistent pleadings. Roger Hochstetler’s call some days ago triggered this letter. He asked me if I knew Howard Landes, of the first Pax group had died. I had heard of his passing, but the question Roger raised points to a major item. It seems Pax men are not immortal, and all of us will die but what we are doing with our pictures, letters and other evidence of the experience now becomes doubly important. Roger indicated that Howard had intended to write a history of the Greece Pax, but did not get it done. Howard had collected numerous sets of letters from Greek Pax men, but the statues of these is not clear but need to be made available to others interested in Pax, which illustrates the urgency of the problem.
As you know, Mennonite Archives at Goshen College is the official custodian of Pax materials, it is already large, and is being heavily used. The issue is, how can we get Pax men to send their letters, pictures, documents etc. to the archives? The Pax website is the best way to share information, but how many of our Pax Men use it? Tom Sawin, (bless his soul) is servicing the site, and Arlo Kasper is paying for the costs, (bless his soul as well) So we need to inform Pax men to check it, for all the information it contains. What are your suggestions. Can you help in this? Should we make this mailing list simply the general mailing list? If so, you have to help expand it, etc.. I do not have time to do this, plus other things pertaining to it….
Apropos, the Mennonite Historical Bulletin for July cites the Pax program, started in 1951 as the major event for that year. With Pax men going to the great beyond in increasing numbers, we need to act.
Lets make the Pax web site a major source of information. Have you all seen the wonderful account of the Pax activities at MWC in Asuncion last year? The pictures are great.
Cal Redekop (Harrisonburg, VA)
HARRISONBURG, VA – Pax Service: An Alternative to War, produced by Third Way Media, was honored recently for its depiction of veterans of peacemaking through service to humanity. The Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals (AMCP) Videographer Awards recognized the 2008 Mennonite documentary with an Award of Distinction.
The program features the story of an alternative service program from the 1950’s to 1975 which sent 1200 young men around the world, serving their country and their faith through humanitarian projects. It premiered on Hallmark Channel, November 23, 2008.
The Videographer Awards is an international competition designed to recognize excellence in video productions, TV commercials/news/programs and new media. The mission of the Videographer Awards is to provide meaningful recognition from the AMCP, an organization that consists of several thousand marketing, communication and video professionals.
Burton Buller, director of Third Way Media was producer and Cal Redekop, author of a book The Pax Story: Service in the Name of Christ, (Pandora Press, 2001) and the late Al Keim were executive producers. Walter Schmucker, Orville Schmidt, Arlin Hunsberger, Arlo Kasper and Jim Bixler also participated on the planning committee. Wendy McFadden, Executive Director of Brethren Press also consulted on the documentary.
Pax Service began as a way to address the housing crisis in Europe after the destruction of World War II, and was one of the alternative service programs available to conscientious objectors when the U.S. began a draft in 1950 for the Korean War (and subsequent Cold War and Vietnam War eras). The TV show covers work in Germany, Austria, Greece, Paraguay and Congo.
Pax volunteers assisted in funding the program along with Church of the Brethren, Odyssey Networks and Third Way Media. A DVD of the documentary with bonus material and a discussion guide for adults or youth groups is available from 800-999-3534800-999-3534 or store.ThirdWayMedia.org. Third Way Media is a division of Mennonite Mission Network.
Burton Buller, director
Third Way Media
1251 Virginia Ave
Harrisonburg, VA 22802
(540) 574-4871(540) 574-4871
It was very rewarding for me to return to Paraguay for MWC and to observe the progress that has been made following my two years of service 54 years ago.
The Mennonites have not only progressed themselves, but more meaningful to me was the way they have reached out to the Paraguayans [most of Spanish heritage]and indigenous people in terms of education, health care, welfare and evangelism.
Having worked on the Trans Chaco Highway, it was a highlight to travel the highway built by MCC personnel. It not only provides a market road for the Mennonites but for the Paraguayan ranchers. We heard several comments that if the road had not been built, the existence of the Mennonite colonies would be questionable today. Following my presentation at the conference a number of people came forward and expressed gratitude for what the PAX boys had done for their country. One person told me that his Dad, Jacob Penner, used to cook for PAX boys who were building the highway.
Following the conference, we traveled to the Chaco on the Trans Chaco highway. We saw semis coming to Asuncion, the capital city, with loads of beef cattle, dairy products and other products from the Mennonite colonies. On one occasion while stopping enroute, I observed dairy products on display racks in a store. They all indicated the product was manufactured in “Colonia Menonita”.
To build the Trans Chaco highway was not easy task. There was the rainy season, swamp areas, jungle, the difficulty in obtaining parts for machines, intense heat, and the morale was not always positive. It is rewarding to look back and see the accomplishment and forget some of the struggles we went through.
Parguayan officials questioned the possibility of such a task. But MCC moved forward and followed the progress of the highway to its completion. I am grateful to the Harry Harder family who left their comfortable home in Mountain Lake, Minnesota and moved to Paraguay to be in charge of the highway and the PAX boys. Harry was engineer for the project. Ann, his wife, an excellent support person, gave home schooling to their children, Martin and Margaret. They were missionaries in a non-traditional way.
Although the Trans Chaco highway was a major project of MCC in Paraguay, may we not forget other PAX boys who served there. Inner colony roads were built by PAX prior to the Trans Chaco to connect villages within a colony and to connect colonies with each other. Those PAX boys were under the leadership of Vern Buller of Bloomfield, Montana, who with his family lived in the Chaco during construction of those roads.
PAX boys also served with MCC in agricultural extension, experimental farms, etc
I am very grateful for my experience in Paraguay, and affirm the work and mission of MCC.