Making peace in all its forms
MAKING PEACE: With business
When food banks in Northern Indiana accepted 25 tons of chicken at the height of the economic crisis last winter, they may not have realized that this generosity was business as usual for Galen D. Miller. “He’s a very generous person and he’s an excellent business person,” said Gordon Yoder ’52, a lifetime friend of Miller’s who nominated him for the Culture for Service Award.
Miller lives out “Culture for Service” in his compassionate treatment of others – from his employees right down to his baby chicks, which are raised in small flocks and healthy conditions primarily on Amish farms. “He applies his faith to running his business and integrates his values into his work,” said Don Yost ’72, another friend. Miller works with about 350 employees, who include many Hispanic immigrants. “He understands and adapts to both the Amish culture and Latino culture,” said Yost. “His employees exhibit a loyalty and work satisfaction that is inspired by a leadership style based on Christian principles of humility, honesty, candor and compassion.”
Miller’s ethical business practices have led to a product that is widely popular throughout the Midwest. “We do an all-natural, all-vegetable fed, antibiotic free, hormone-free chicken program, and there’s been a lot of interest in that kind of product,” Miller told the Goshen News in a January 2009 article. Yoder explained that Miller seeks out the latest technology that “decreases environmental stress and increases safety over the industry standard.”
Miller’s faith also is reflected in his generosity and in service to the community. “His support of a wide variety of causes is low-key and responsive to need,” said Yost. “He seeks to understand where help is needed and asks for no recognition. …Galen not only promotes peace and justice through the causes that he supports, he also manages his business in ways that promote peace and justice.”
– By Julie Weirich
MAKING PEACE: With government
John Martin’s two years at Goshen College served as a precursor to a lifetime of service to his family, the state of Ohio and to people
Martin completed his bachelor’s degree in special education at Illinois State University and earned a master’s degree in community psychology at Temple University. Throughout his career he has been a tireless advocate for the disabled, serving as a special education teacher, as director of Sunshine Inc., an Ohio Mennonite agency serving individuals with disabilities, and since
2007, as director of the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities.
With Martin as executive director, Sunshine Inc. gained a statewide reputation as a religious-based agency that offered the highest quality services. “His choices and decision-making reflect a mindfulness of the need to not only profess faith in God, but to put that faith in action,” said friend and board member of Sunshine, Inc., Karen Rich Ruth ’76. “Those around him could sense Martin’s fairness, respect and acceptance of people no matter who they were.” During Martin’s 23 years there, Sunshine grew tremendously, adding 17 group homes and a variety of programs including a spiritual life program and a Fair Trade coffee shop staffed by persons with disabilities.
Martin helped to resolve conflicts between the state of Ohio, service providers, and county boards and advocated with the Ohio state legislature on behalf of individuals with developmental disabilities. His reputation as a peacemaker drew the attention of the Ohio governor. In 2007, he was appointed to the cabinet-level position of director of the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities. At the state level, said Ruth, Martin “has helped to resolve some longstanding conflicts … and sought input during this time of fiscal crisis. His Christian faith is the foundation of all he does.” The Martin family came to know the issues of people with
disabilities in a personal way when their second child, Joel, was born. He was diagnosed at nine months of age with cerebral
palsy, a seizure disorder and developmental disabilities. Joel lived with his parents until he was an adult.
– By Julie Weirich
Cristina Hernandez is living in Kabul, Afghanistan – what some consider the most dangerous place on earth – but says that she and her friends and neighbors have adjusted to the bombings and threats by the anti-government Taliban. “If there is an explosion in the city, people don’t go to that side of the city, but every morning little girls get up and go to school and people get up and have breakfast as a family. People go to work and go to the market or the bazaar. There is normalcy amid the chaos,” she said. “Millions of people see Afghanistan as their home. And now, it’s my home as well.”
How Hernandez ended up in Afghanistan – helping women learn design skills and run successful export businesses – is a story of servant leadership and global citizenship. She followed the footsteps of her sister, Carla, and graduated from Goshen College with a major in art and a minor in business. After graduating, she returned to her native Honduras to become a potter and to help artisans develop sustainable small businesses through two U.S. groups – Partners of the Americas and later, Aid to Artisans.
When the project ended, Hernandez spent a year in Vietnam as a volunteer with Mennonite Central Committee, helping
artisan partnerships with Ten Thousand Villages. After her one-year assignment, she stayed for another three years to teachEnglish and work with artisans. In 2007, she returned to work for Aid to Artisans, but this time in Afghanistan. She helped start
a center to help women learn about product design, and business export development. She now works there for the Turquoise
Mountain Foundation, and helps women fulfill their dreams by starting family businesses specializing in jewelry, embroidery,
textile, felt and wool rugs.
Hernandez said she is committed to helping the Afghan women and cannot imagine leaving, even if the Taliban regains control of the country and again subjugates women. “Most of the husbands of the women I work with are supportive of having their daughters have an education, of having their wives have a business,” she said. “If the Taliban came back into power, they would continue supporting their wives and their daughters.”
Hernandez said that she is sustained by the lessons she learned at Goshen College – and by her faith. “The wonderful thing is I
can see God everywhere. He is everywhere and is not limited to my church or my little community,” she said. “Muslim people
and Christian people love God and they want to serve God and they take joy in family and in unity. For me, those are the commonalities and they create very strong ties between my culture and their culture.”
– By Richard R. Aguirre
MAKING PEACE: With the arts
Carrie Newcomer has a passion for making a difference in the world one song at a time. “I think often in regards to peacemaking,
immediately people think of a certain kind of activism. But I’ve come to believe that our most potent activism comes out of what
we love most deeply,” she said. “I am a songwriter and an artist, so some of my most potent activism comes out of the arts.”
Newcomer recently returned from a fall trip to India as a cultural ambassador where she performed concerts on her own and with Indian musicians, taught songwriting workshops and visited slum programs for women and children. “Music can be a language deeper than words. I love our differences,” said Newcomer about her impressions of India. “Cultures are rich, and what makes each culture unique should be celebrated, but I was also powerfully moved by what we share as a human family.”
This musician, who has toured with Alison Krauss and Union Station and been praised by Rolling Stone magazine, returned home to prepare for the Feb. 23 release of her 12th solo album, Before and After (Rounder Records), a recording that celebrates change and transformation. Ten percent of the profits of the album sales will go to a health, hunger or social justice organization, a practice Newcomer has had with every new album for the past decade.
“What we are and what we believe should be evident in our daily lives,” said Newcomer, whose albums combine her musicwith stories from her own unique spiritual lens. Peace and hope are often themes in her songs – which combine the sacred and the ordinary – but often with a bit different approach. “It is really hard to write about world peace. You just can’t get your arms around it,” said Newcomer, who first encountered Quakers on Study-Service Term in Costa Rica and now attends a silent Quaker meeting. “But I can write a small story that gets to the bigger idea. And peace happens on a daily, personal level.
She added, “Hope is an unstoppable phenomenon in my estimation. I chose not to write Disney songs a long time ago. We know when someone is candy coating it and that doesn’t go very deep. When someone speaks the truth clearly and simply, it changes the world just a little bit. I’m not closing my eyes to what’s wrong or the cruelty we are capable of, but I am choosing to open my eyes to what’s right and really possible.”
One of the lyrics on her new album speaks to this: “The greatest revolution is a simple change of heart.” Though Newcomer went on to graduate from Purdue University, she said her two and a half years at Goshen “had the largest impact on me at that time in my life.” She didn’t grow up in a family of artists and musicians, so it was at Goshen that she earned to embrace that passion and consider the possibilities.
– By Jodi H. Beyeler
Steve Thomas, a pastor at Walnut Hill Mennonite Church in Goshen, said he was inspired to study and eventually teach martial arts by a somewhat unlikely source: John Howard Yoder ’47, the world-renowned Mennonite theologian and ethicist who advocated nonviolence and pacifism. While studying for his master of divinity degree at Associated Mennonite Biblical
Seminary, Thomas recalled that Yoder delivered a lecture in which he encouraged Mennonites to learn aikido, a Japanese art of selfdefense based on principles of nonresistance.
“As a student, that made no sense to me – to learn this art for nonviolence and to teach others,” Thomas said. “Too often in our
witness, we have been very clear in what we don’t do, but we have not been as clear in what we do, such as in terms of responding to
violence and how to teach our sons and daughters how to respond to violence.”
Popular movies and TV shows have given martial arts an inaccurate and bad reputation, Thomas said. “I typically remind people that historically martial arts originated as systems to teach a philosophy of peace and a way of peace.” Thomas said most traditions of martial arts have as their essence nonviolence, empowering people with a philosophy of peace, and a system for counteracting violence. More than just restraining violence, martial arts offer a proven way to reduce aggression, increase self-control and form respect for others. The only “fighting” that martial arts encourages, Thomas said, is conquering the enemies within – fear, anger and inner conflicts.
After becoming a pastor, Thomas said he started taking classes in Tae Kwon Do, a Korean art of self-defense. By the mid-1990s
he was teaching it to others. Eventually, Thomas, his brother Phil Thomas ’87 and Wes and Karen Higginbotham, both gifted
instructors of Tae Kwon Do as well as members of Thomas’ congregation, developed the Peacemakers, Inc. program. Its mission: to empower people to live in peace by training children, youth and adults in verbal and physical skills for preventing violence and transforming conflict. The program served nearly 700 children, youth and adults in the community in 2009 and now is being offered at two local elementary schools – Parkside and Chamberlain.
Besides his work as a pastor and with Peacemakers, Thomas teaches the core Goshen College course “Transforming Conflict
and Violence” as an adjunct professor of peace, justice and conflict studies. Among the goals of the course are to try to link
the college with the community and to explore the effective application of nonviolence in daily life. “We explore how to
extend the way of Jesus and be peacemakers in our family, community and the world,” he said.
– By Richard R. Aguirre
MAKING PEACE: With bracelets
With 2,000 bracelets, one Goshen College student and dozens of Peruvian women, a town struggling with drugs, gangs and poverty is using art to slow that cycle.
When Rachel Halder returned home to the United States in 2008 from her Study-Service Term in Peru, with about 200 colorful hand-woven bracelets made by a group of Peruvian teen-age girls, she was amazed at how quickly they sold, and how much the money she collected would be able to help the people of the poor Peruvian coastal town Chimbote, where she spent six weeks serving at a local parish.
“I was definitely surprised at how much it took off and how much people were sincerely interested in the project,” Halder said. “It’s obviously a passion of mine because I have the personal connection to the area, but I’ve been surprised at how supportive others have been.”
The parish serves the community through many programs, but when Halder was asked how she wanted to help at the parish, there was one group not being served – young women. She told the parish she wanted to start a group like one created to keep young boys off the streets. The first day, eight girls, ranging in age from 12 to 18 years old, agreed to meet with her regularly.
“Our original goals were to prevent the girls from falling into the traps of other people in the community, like prostitution and teen-age pregnancy, and give them motivation and encouragement to not give into sexual and drug pressures,” Halder said, “but also to give them something to do”
Then a fellow at the parish introduced Halder to a group of women who make souvenirs for tourists, and suggested they teach the girls how to make hand-woven nylon thread bracelets. At that moment, her support group found an entrepreneurial niche and a new source of income.
So far since returning Halder has been able to follow through with her vision. Selling the $5 bracelets to family and friends, and at music festivals, farmer’s markets and the Mennonite Church USA Convention, she has sent more than $6,000 directly to the community in Chimbote and has sold about 2,000 bracelets. The money is used to buy more supplies to keep making bracelets and has also been used to start chocolate-making, hair cutting, cooking and artisan businesses. “It’s to help show them they’re worth more than their society tells them they’re worth,” Halder said. “It’s to show them a future other than what they see around them.”
– By Tyler Falk ’09
MAKING PEACE: With song
Anthony Brown is not just transcending language through his music. He’s also transcending nationalities and religion
while promoting peace and goodwill around the world.
An accomplished baritone and artist-in-residence at Hesston (Kan.) College, Brown brings people together across divides of race, nationality, religion and culture through musical events sponsored by his Peacing It Together Foundation, which is based in Hesston.
Brown said his years at Goshen College left an indelible imprint on his life and served as a foundation for his career of peacemaking as a licensed psychotherapist, musician and teacher. “The theological understandings I gained at Goshen College are to some extent impacting my current work for peace in the world,” he said. “There are so many people at Goshen who helped to shape my understanding of Jesus and his call for compassionate service to others.”
Brown’s work has taken him to such political hot spots as Bosnia, Northern Ireland, China, Japan, Moldova, Ukraine, Russia, Uganda, South Korea and Ethiopia. Through each performance, Brown connects people and helps them focus on how all are part of the family of humanity. He also partners with other musicians who share his passion for peacemaking.
“In my international travels, while on stage, I often say that the earth is my house and in it are many rooms. I tell audiences that I discover that the people of this room are very much like people in other rooms I have visited. They have the same fears, hopes and dreams,” Brown said. “Music is an effective tool in creating conditions where people can think in new ways about themselves and their adversaries. Music speaks the universal language of the heart and can touch and change us in profound ways.”
Brown, who has appeared widely as a soloist, recorded his first compact disc of African American Spirituals in 1995 and his second in 2002. His compact disc “Embracing American Song” (1999), offers a wide array of American songs from the romantic ballad to classic American folk songs. And he released his fourth recording in 2006, titled “Each Other’s Light” with songs of peace, hope and justice.
Brown said he hopes to continue his work throughout the world. “Surely, we all need to be involved in the sacred work of peace building on the local, national and international levels,” Brown said “Our civilization needs all of its citizens to be involved in this creative process.”
– By Richard R. Aguirre