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Salzburg Pax Jubilee
Eight Paxers, seven American and one German, returned to Austria to celebrate a 50-year reunion of the Salzburg Pax unit that began in April 1961. The four-day jubilee event was on September 7-11, 2011, and included the Pax boys and wives, a group of sixteen. (Thanks to Ervie Glick for making arrangements!) Lodging was in Landhaus-Wenger and Brückenwirt hotels, both located in the village of Niederalm just two kilometers from the Pax-built settlement. The project site is approximately ten kms south of Salzburg, in Rif, not far from Hallein.
Salzburg Pax was a 3½ year work of building six houses (10-12 dwelling units) and a church house for a group of Anabaptist refugees who had come from Yugoslavia in the 1940s. They had been living in vacated German military barracks in Salzburg since the War. The Pax group also lived in these barracks among the people while building permanent housing for them. In these circumstances, a close rapport was established that exists for some of us to this day.
Our days together included first a walk through the old town of Salzburg and across the Salzach River to Mirabell Garden. From there we walked the same route that we walked those 50 years ago to the barracks location, which today requires some imagination as to just where the barracks had stood. High rise apartments have taken their place; however, one of the two sentinal poplars that stood guard at the entranceway still stands, we were told. We dined together for evening meals in the Brückenwirt and afterwards sang and shared our individual stories. We were glad for the presence of Klaus and Gudrun Froese. Klaus was the first European Mennonite Pax boy who was at the Salzburg unit in 1961 for four months on his way to Greece and Crete where he served for several years. Gudrun, too, had served as Pax matron in Greece at that time. On Friday afternoon we visited the Philipp and Trudi Haas woodworking business just across the German border in Bad Reichenhall, after which Herr Hass treated us to extravagant Kaffee und Kuchen. On Saturday morning we all rode the cable car to the top of nearby Untersberg mountain for a marvelous view of the area, including the Pax project site below, and a short hike.
The festive reception and celebration at the small Rif Gemeinde (church community) began around 4:00 p.m. Saturday. With servings of grilled meats and delicious carry-in dishes, under a tent, we experienced warmth, openness, and gratitude from these dear friends that far exceeded our expectations. We too could let them know just how much we had gained by having lived among them. Later in the evening Ervie Glick showed slides of those impressionable days we had spent with these people, including many slides of the Siedlung children. Those children are now the 60 year olds who occupy the houses, their adult children being a third generation. A pair of one year old twins was held up and acknowledged as representing even the fifth generation living in “our” houses or nearby. All but four of the original recipients have passed on. Each of us was given a memorial appreciation gift, votive candle holders made of salt crystals from a local mine, symbols or our having been “salt of the earth” to our hosts.
The Sunday 10 a.m. meeting included lively singing and a sermon by Marcus Hass, a sermon on loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself. Our group sang a couple songs as well. All this was followed by another common meal in their fellowship room. I should mention that recently the Rif community changed its name to “Evangelische Taufgesinnte Gemeinde.” We always knew them as “ Nazarener,” which has no connection to Nazarenes in America, but rather is associated with the Christian Apostolic church in America. They share the Anabaptist tradition and history with Mennonites. On Monday morning we headed in different directions throughout Europe, still pondering what had happened to us, but realizing we had had some kind of mountaintop experience.
Wayne J. Yoder
Mennonite Game goes Internatioonal
Here is a testimonial to PAX legacy From Harold Miller:
The Hege Encounter
When we boarded British Airways flight No. 66 on Sept. 20, 2010. destined to fly from Heathrow, London to Philadelphia, we found ourselves sitting next to a man who was mumbling something in German as he settled into his seat. “Sprechen Sie Deutsch,” I queried. “Jah wohl,” he replied. From that brief introduction we moved quickly to more queries and soon discovered that he was Theo Hege, a French Mennonite, and the last-born member of the famous 16-member Hege family from Weissomburg, France. Though we had never met—indeed I had never met any of the Hege family members--we discovered during the 7-hour flight that our common reference points were many.
(H) ‘Where is this journey taking you?’
(T) ‘To Cleveland, Ohio’.
(H) ‘Oh, that is my home state.’
(H) ‘Who is meeting you there?’
(T) ‘Someone by the name of Daniel Bontrager.’
(H) ‘Oh, his Mother was my Mother’s best friend.’
(H) ‘Where do you go from Cleveland?’
(T) ‘To Uniontown, Ohio.’
(H) ‘Oh, that is my home town.’
(H) ‘Who are the other people you know in the Uniontown area?’
(T) ‘Elmer Gingerich—he worked on our farm after World War II.’
(H) ‘Oh, I know him; in fact I remember the slides he showed of your farm—with all the modern harvesting equipment.’
(H) ‘We saw you stashed a large package in the hold above our seat.’
(T) ‘Yes, those are posters depicting biblical scenes, painted by a Sudanese African artist. They were ordered by Beryl Forester, an Eastern Board Mennonite missionary in the Gambia who happens to be in Lancaster on furlough.’
(H) ‘Oh, Beryl Forester was in Annetta’s high school class. And we know the African artist who painted the posters; we interacted with him in Nairobi in the process of getting several books on Sudan published. His uncle—Abel Alier, a prominent Sudanese lawyer--served as the Vice President of the country after the 1972 Addis Ababa Peace Agreement and the President of the High Executive Council of the semi-autonomous South Sudan. With MCC funds, we helped to publish the third edition of his book: ‘Too Many Agreements Dishonoured.’
(H) ‘Like Elmer Gingerich, I also spent time in Europe after World War II. I was a PAX boy with MCC, building houses for Mennonite refugees in Backnang, Germany.’
(T) ‘Oh, I have been there and know the place well.’
(H) ‘On my first Christmas in Germany (1955), we PAX boys were farmed out to Mennonite families in the Heilbronn area. I landed, under awkward circumstances, on the Launtenbacher Hof, operated by the Christian Landis family.’
(T) ‘Oh, the Hege family took refuge during war time in the basement of the Lautenbacher Hof—we lived there for some months.’
(H) ‘On Christmas morning, I joined the Christian Landis family for a church service. There I met the Walter Landis family who remonstrated, good-naturedly, with all concerned that they had not received their PAX boy for the Christmas holiday. [I had been dropped off at Lautenbach without proper checking with the host! But by now it was too late, the Christian Landis family was quite happy for me to stay with them.]
(T) ‘Oh, two of my brothers married two of the girls in the Walter Landis family—thanks to our proximity during the stay in the basement ‘refuge’ of the Lautenbacher Hof.’
(H) ‘Let me check something with you; from a New Order Amish man near Berlin, Ohio I learned that some beginning point in the current-ongoing reconciliation process between Swiss Reformed churches and Mennonites was occasioned by Swiss Television; I was told that the crew of Swiss Television was commissioned to fly a hot-air balloon over Swiss countryside, land randomly somewhere and then report on what they found. On one such venture they landed on a farm where the lady of the house recounted how the farm had functioned as a refuge for persecuted Anabaptists in the 16th century. Subsequent publicity on this story by the Swiss Television crew apparently ignited public and Swiss Reformed church interest in the reconciliation process. Is that not a most unlikely story?’
(T) ‘Oh, I have been on the farm and I talked to the lady. It is all true.’
(T) ‘And where are you going?’
(H) ‘To Lancaster, PA to visit Annetta’s Mother.’
(T) ‘Oh, my sister Erica is married to a Lancaster Mennonite Bishop by the name of Frank Shirk’.
(H) ‘Do you happen to know Omar Lapp who also lives in the Lancaster area?’
(T) ‘Omar and Sarah Ellen just visited us in France not so long ago.’
(H) ‘Omar was a PAX buddy in Germany and his wife is a cousin of mine’.
Thus was the conversation for most of the 6+ - hour flight from London to Philadelphia.
When we reached Annetta’s Mother’s apartment in Landis Homes near Lititz, she told us, among other things, that Beryl Forester was at that moment making a presentation in a room immediately below us. [We could have delivered Theo Hege’s package of posters with aplomb!]
Later on our sojourn we were with relatives in Hartville, Ohio, recounting this meeting with Theo Hege. My first cousin immediately said:
(L) ‘I was on the Hege farm years ago, thanks to a bonus trip to Europe, sponsored my plumber boss.’
So my cousin promptly called his former plumber boss and put me on the phone with him. After recounting the meeting with Theo, the plumber boss recalled:
(M) ‘Two of Theo’s siblings were in my bridal party.’
While in the Harrisonburg, Virginia area, we met a friend who was good friends with the daughter of Bishop Frank and Erica (Hege) Shirk. Together with the Shirk daughter, our friend had visited the Hege family farm in France, with lots of photos to prove the connection.
Back in Lancaster we became acquainted with and read the book noted below, written by Erica (Hege) Shirk.
The moral of this encounter? Here are some possibilities:
-A large family is potentially more influential than a small one!
-Ethnic Mennos are ‘family’—you meet one, you meet them all!
-International air travel follows very narrow tracks—like safari ants. One is bound to meet an acquaintance on one of these narrow passages.
By Harold Miller November, 2010 Nairobi, Kenya
Title: One Farm, Two Wars, Three Generations: The Hege Family Story
Author: Erica Hege Shirk Publisher: Masthof Press Date: 1996 Pp. 88
The 'happening' as described in your note was also recounted in the local press here in Nairobi and on BBC. Fascinating.
Here is one to PAX memory: On this past Sat. I did a quickie visit to my 'office' to check on my email traffic. That check was made at about 12:20 p.m. One of the email messages had come from a Michael Horsch saying he would be at the Mennonite Guest House at about 12:30. So I called the Guest House receptionist and told them to tell Michael that I would love to meet him, but would be arriving some 40 minutes later.
So about 40 minutes later I drove to the Guest House and met this guy. Who is he? He is a German Mennonite from Bavaria, member of one of the old Mennonite congregations there. He grew up in a farm family, was himself a farmer for some years, but eventually got into machinery manufacturing. Check his website: www.horsch.com Amazing. This guy runs a multinational company with factories scattered around several countries, including the US, Poland, Russia. Obviously a multi-millionaire. His mother [my generation] was an active member of the Bavarian Mennonite youth group during my PAX days at Backnang. Somewhere along the way we must have met, though I don't specifically recall that person; there were repeated contacts among the Mennonite youth groups of southern Germany. For some reason my name as an 'old' PAX boy from Backnang has done the rounds among these folks in Germany. So this Michael got hold of my email address from someone [I am still trying to identify the contact route] and made that contact last Sat. We had a great conversation. Michael is very intelligent, travels all over the world, designs farm equipment--he has amazing lap top software which allows him to design equipment while travelling, manufactures it through his half dozen factories in various parts of the world. He is a member of MEDA and is right now in the process of trying to get a MEDA Germany established.
As a good ethnic Mennonite, he knows all the other south German Mennonite luminaries, including that Theo Hege about whom I wrote earlier--we had encountered Theo on a BA flight from London to Phila. Michael also knows Lenamarie Funck from Bamberg, Germany who happens to be in Kenya at the moment. We will be seeing the Funck lady tomorrow evening at the Mennonite Guest House. She is part of the south Germany Mennonite network that has somehow kept my name [as erstwhile PAX boy] and email address in their 'cross-hairs'. We will find out what her mission is Kenya is; in her introductory email she had mentioned something about visiting a project related to genital female mutilation.
As it happens, Funck's present domicile is Bamberg, Germany. And that happens to be the town where a Catholic priest by the name of Anton Schneider also lives. Schneider was a missionary in Kenya for many years. One day he walked into a local Nairoibi bookshop and saw Annetta's book: 'Sharing Boundaries: Learning the Wisdom of Africa'. He bought a copy, was very impressed and determined, almost immediately, to translate Annetta's book into German. Some time later, after enduring a heart attack and a heart transplant, the German version of her book was published in Bamberg, Germany under the title: Begegungen und Fremdheit: Von Afrikas Weisheit Lernen. [Encounters and Strangeness or Foreigness: Learning from Africa's Wisdom] Eventually he sent Annetta several copies of the book. I gave one of the extra copies to Michael Horsch last Sat. and tomorrow evening we will give a second extra copy to Lenamarie Funck of Bamberg where the book was published!
Now what I will need to figure out with Lenamarie when we meet, are two issues: Where does she fit within the fairly large and prominent Mennonite Funck clan of South Germany--I knew several of them--and how did she get onto my PAX boy identity and my email address! [One of the Funck family (Helmut) was a missionary in Vienna when Annetta and I scootered through there in 1964 on our way to Hungary. We met and interacted with Helmut and his family on that occasion.]
How often does this kind of thing happen? It is the kind of stuff that makes the world go round.
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