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Fall 2002 · Vol. 31 No. 2 · pp. 234–35 

Book Review

The Pax Story: Service in the Name of Christ, 1951-1976

Calvin W. Redekop. Telford, PA; Scottdale, PA: Pandora Press U.S.; Herald, 2001. 160 pages.

Reviewed by Gerald C. Ediger

In the decades after World War II, Mennonites, especially Mennonites from North America, spread across the globe to offer a wide range of ministry in the name of Christ. In retrospect, it can be seen that the post-war generation of mission and service workers significantly extended the global reach of Mennonite ministry and expanded the scope of the Mennonite family worldwide. Calvin Redekop’s The Pax Story is a reflective documentation of one important dimension of this phenomenon.

Writing as one who made a significant contribution to the original shaping and implementation of “the Pax idea,” Redekop offers an insider’s analysis that is tempered by the passage of time. His book is an important sequel to Urie A. Bender’s Soldiers of Compassion (Herald, 1969). This present volume emerges out of an obvious passion for Mennonite voluntary service and the ministry of peacemaking as well as Redekop’s professional expertise as a senior Mennonite scholar and sociologist. His stated objective is to provide “a brief, basic review of the various factors contributing to the origins of the Pax idea and a survey of how the Pax idea was realized” (12). Redekop also celebrates the sacrifice of the Pax volunteers. He preserves the essential story of the Pax experience so that Pax volunteers can revisit their own experience in the context of the movement as a whole. Other readers will learn about the Pax volunteers’ contributions and the values that motivated them. Finally, Redekop wishes also to raise the profile of the Pax story as an instructive and inspiring moral example for contemporary readers. {235}

This important latter dimension finds its fullest expression in Redekop’s last two chapters as he reflects on the meaning of the Pax experience for the Mennonite Church itself and its larger social and global context. In his closing challenge, Redekop leaves his readers with a hopeful question about the possibility and relevance of a new International Mennonite Pax Corps. Redekop grounds “the Pax idea”—that is, to harness voluntary service as “a perfect way to combine the promotion of peace and [the] practice of service” (42)—in the phenomenon of voluntary service as it emerged at mid-century in both faith-based and secular agencies. For Redekop, the sacrifice of several years in practical service by more than 1,100 Pax volunteers stands as a vital counter statement to the waste and destruction of violence and war. He believes that the need for such a witness persists into the future.

Overall, Redekop provides a welcome and significant account of a vital and potentially prophetic episode in the story of Mennonite volunteerism. As the more global history of Mennonite experience is now coming ever more sharply into focus, Redekop’s helpful insider’s analysis hopefully will be augmented with other perspectives grounded in the emerging and re-emerging communities the Pax volunteers loved and served so well.

Gerald C. Ediger
Assoc. Prof. of Christian History
Canadian Mennonite University, Winnipeg, Manitoba

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