The collected words of a prophet

Last week, in a reflection on John 4 in the daily devotional Rejoice!, Melanie Zuercher of Kansas said, “I’ve known at least one prophet: Gene Stoltzfus, the founding director of Christian Peacemaker Teams… From my experiences with him and from examples from the Bible, I’ve learned that prophets aren’t always easy to be around. However, my strongest memories of Gene are of integrity, passionate commitment to Christ’s justice and peace, a deep love for his work and for his coworkers, and a joyful spirit.”

This prophet she knew, Gene Stoltzfus, died suddenly in March 2010. Now, near the anniversary of his death, a book of his writings — Create Space for Peace: 40 Years of Peacemaking — is about to be launched. Gene’s widow Dorothy Friesen, who is a friend of mine from a former writing group, as well as CPT colleagues and others have been working on the collection. Here’s a short introductory video clip to his life, and a blog post with further information about the book.

Gene Stoltzfus: celebration of life service

Last Thursday, I attended the celebration of life service for long-time peace activist and founding director of Christian Peacemaking Teams for 16 years, Gene Stoltzfus (1940-2010), which was held in Emo, Ontario.

The service was relatively small, as Stoltzfus and his wife Dorothy Friesen now lived in Fort Frances, Ontario, some distance from family roots and former places of work such as Chicago, where they resided for many years. (Memorials will also be held in Goshen, Indiana, and other places.) So it felt intimate and informal, with some of his favourite songs (including multiple singings of “Ubi caritas et amor” – “where charity and love are found, God is there”), Scriptures upon which his work was based, words from his writings, and many personal remembrances.

We sat in a kind of oval shape around a table with flowers, candles, a twig basket he had fashioned, and the copy of the Martyrs Mirror passed on to him by his father, which was so significant in shaping who be became. He spoke of this in his last article at his blog, Peace Probe, but also a May 4, 2006 column called “Beyond Imagination.” Continue reading