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SEE KIT X #10 PART I FOR THE PREVIOUS SECTION
Tim Domer MD to Ramon Sender, 9/10/98: I just want to add some more words of encouragement. I sincerely appreciate your efforts in trying to deal directly with the Bruderhof in good faith. As a newcomer to the whole situation I also felt that if only we said the right thing or stated a cogent, truthful, heartfelt case, appealing to basic decency and Christian values, JCA would have a change of heart. What has become clear to me, though, is that he basically does not care what those he has branded "enemies" think or feel. I am not sure how he justifies the things he has done, or things that have been done with his blessing, but somehow he does.
How he, and others have acted toward you over the years is particularly despicable. How you have been hurt, by the B'hof using the love you have for your daughter and grand children as a pawn in some "spiritual" game, is just beyond comprehension. It is the meanness that JCA and those who do his bidding, shows in the way they treat family relationships, that convinces me most that they simply do not care how they hurt people. They have not changed from the cold-heartedness they showed by not telling you of your daughter's illness and subsequent death until one month after she died. I see deep significance in that act -- particularly since that behavior continues today.
It is the way the Bruderhof leadership deliberately keeps people from reconciling with loved ones, and in fact deliberately makes it impossible for such a reconciliation to occur while life exists on this earth, that convinces me that they do not truly believe in the teachings or life example of Christ as a reality. Their attitude is "it's our way or the highway".
I believe the most fundamental principle of Christ's teaching, in practical terms, is forgiveness and reconciliation. How can we love one another if we do not reconcile our differences. Isn't "do unto others..." actually reconciliation? When the Lord's prayer says "forgive us as we forgive those who transgress against us", it means basic reconciliation, or at least the attempt. The way the B'hof leadership responded to the whole forgiveness discussion, after they dropped the suit, showed me how insincere they are. When JCA sent my parents across the country unannounced to "call Tim's bluff," it showed how insincere his words of "love" and "reconciliation" were.
Unfortunately JCA, CD and my father have made it clear that they do not want any kind of dialog. When CD said "what negotiations"? on the phone, it was as if he thought that even to suggest such a thing was absurd. The unspoken line was "we don't negotiate."
I outlined where I think we should put our efforts. As long as the B'hof leadership claims to be "Christian" they should be held to what should be universal Christian principles. There are some things which really are not open to much interpretation. Jesus spoke very clearly about some of these issues and gave clear guidance. It is only when one adapts "Christianity" to some other agenda that these basic principles become blurred. Eileen and I will continue to support the fight to expose the truth. I will continue to speak out when I see an injustice or hypocrisy. I do not think, however, that there is any use in wasting time and effort in making direct appeals to JCA. I agree with Mel that pressure must be brought from without until there is a change within. At present I think that pressure will be the Internet, the press and the Law.
I am attaching the letter I sent to CD with the article I returned. Even though I know in my head it is probably fruitless, I still hold hope in my heart. There must be a spark in there somewhere. Best,
Tim Domer MD to Christian Domer, 9-8-98: Dear Christian, I am returning the article you sent. The New York Times is not one of the medical or scientific journals to which I subscribe. The "science" in this article does not even pass the "giggle test". (Please see highlighted portions). The theme of this particular article does not apply to my situation. Perhaps it spoke to you in some way. Perhaps it was another epiphany.
I am not interested in playing games with you. Sending this article comes from the same dishonest approach you have taken with your postings as 'BC3000' or 'Kingston32'. As I have said before, if you are sincerely interested in a genuine dialog I am willing to dialog. However, as long as you treat other people's anguish and pain as some kind of a joke or a game, or want to compete with me in some way, I am not interested in playing. You once said you "love it" when "KIT" people say or write things about you. In my ignorance at the time I thought you were doing something good. Now that I have seen the other side I find your attitude arrogant, conceited, loveless and misguided. It also hurts people.
You used to be an honorable, clear-thinking, trustworthy person. You used to think for yourself. There was a time when you would have looked at the kind of things you have been involved in, all in the name of serving the Bruderhof, and said "that's wrong". Now, it seems, power and a misguided, corrupt leader have clouded your heart and mind. You have said many times that you have "given your life...." What is to which you have given your life? What has it cost you? The Bruderhof's writings and literature indicate that the purpose of living in community is to live out the teachings of Christ -- to be an example to others of what Christ taught. I cannot believe that Jesus sacrificed His life so that his professed followers would do the kind of things you, Christoph, Joe Keiderling and others have done to "KITfolk". You take cover behind the power and money of the Bruderhof to lash out at people you dehumanize as "enemies". Is this the example Jesus gave with His life?
If you wish to talk, in a humble, honest way, speaking for your self and speaking to what you believe, I will do the same. Otherwise, I am really not interested.
Tim Domer MD, 9/18/98: The couple referenced in the posting of 8-13-98 [see Tim Domer in KIT V #8-9 Part II under 'Bruderhof Bullyings'] has now received a second letter from the Bruderhof regarding a medical bill they had received. In a letter from the Bruderhof Elder, J. Christoph Arnold, dated one day after that posting, Mr. Arnold wrote to them saying that this was the first time he had heard that the couple was having difficulty paying the bill and that he had instructed his office to pay it. As outlined in that posting the couple, former members of the Bruderhof, had been sent a medical bill for a test that had been performed on one of their children while they were full members and living at the Bruderhof.
The child's uncle, a close advisor to Mr. Arnold and a man who once described himself as the Elder's "hitman", had taken personal interest in the bill after the couple left. He made two documented calls to the billing company to ensure the bill was sent to them, rather than the Bruderhof. The bill is clearly the responsibility of the Bruderhof, a group that claims to follow Christ's teachings, hold "all things in common" and care for one another's needs. The test was performed more than a year before the couple left. The bill was sent purely as a form of harassment and as a vendetta.
As instructed, the husband sent the bill back to the Bruderhof. One week ago the couple received a letter from this self proclaimed Bruderhof hitman. He wrote that the Bruderhof had received an invoice for the medical test and that it had arrived without any other communication. He was making the assumption that it was sent in reply to the letter the couple had received from the Elder. He further writes that "as your brother I have taken the liberty of following up on this matter". He states that he is "appalled" that there was no acknowledgment of gratitude for the way the Bruderhof has offered a "hand of support".
He then goes on to say that "under these circumstances" he had no interest in paying the bill and that the couple was sure to find some other way to pay it. If, however, the husband would "have the decency" to write a letter of gratitude, this Bruderhof Official would "gladly make arrangements" for the bill to be paid.
There is a PS in which the Official writes that the money spent on the postage would have been "better spent" on the purchase of a copy of J. Christoph Arnold's latest book -- "Seeking Peace". This self-proclaimed hitman seems to be confused about the dynamics of this situation. The bill is clearly the responsibility of the Bruderhof and should never have been sent to the couple in the first place. In fact it is he who owes the couple an apology for harassing them. In addition he ought to consider why the Bruderhof has not paid a bill that is now two years old. Is the Bruderhof in the habit of reneging on it's responsibilities in cases where members have fallen into disfavor, are under "church discipline" or have left?
This couple had no health insurance or other income while members of the Bruderhof. The Bruderhof, a legal Corporation, is morally and legally responsible for the health and welfare of its' members. For bills not covered by various medical plans in which the Bruderhof enrolls members, it is the responsible payer. I do not send my insurance company a letter of gratitude when it pays bills for which it is responsible. To demand a letter of appreciation in this case is further harassment and is demeaning to this couple.
The letters from J. Christoph Arnold and his advisor seem to indicate that the Bruderhof thinks it is involved out of the goodness of their heart -- as an act of charity. Jesus spoke very clearly and specifically about the issue of giving a "hand of support". "When you give something to a needy person, do not make a big show of it as the hypocrites do. They do it so that people will praise them. They have their reward already. When you give let not the right hand know what the left hand is doing and your father who sees what you do in private will reward you".
This couple will follow the proper, legal channels to make sure that this bill gets paid. This is the second time the Bruderhof has reneged on agreements with this couple since they left the Bruderhof. They have six children and at the time they left the parents had no jobs. The Bruderhof signed a rental agreement which states that they would pay the couple's rent for one year. After three months, with the couple near penniless, they received a letter saying the Bruderhof would no longer pay the rent. This family has been able to survive only because of the US government social safety net and the donations of people outside the Bruderhof.
Much has been written about the Nigerian men who have been severed from their children. The Bruderhof, however, has a long history of tearing apart families and abusing those who either leave or decide not to join. The litmus test that the Bruderhof uses to determine "friendship" or to decide who "outside" may have contact with family or loved ones, is the degree to which an individual praises the Bruderhof and whether or not that individual questions the Bruderhof leadership -- particularly the "leading" of J. Christoph Arnold.
---- alt-support.bruderhof excerpts ----
Betty Chesley, 7/20/98: Paul C Fox wrote, regarding the Amish and the Bruderhof: "I would add that the similarities are primarily on the superficial level (distinctive dress), and the differences are profound. First, and most obvious, the Bruderhof practices total community of goods, and the Amish don't. Second, and more important, the Amish take the Bible more seriously and more literally than the Bruderhof does."
To add on here, the Amish practice non-resistance in the Biblical and Anabaptist sense. They do not go to the courts or law and would suffer material loss first by "turning the other cheek." They come out the (spiritually) richer for this practice. The Bruderhof, however, has used the court system and sued those whom it has considered to be its enemies and even sued against its own mission church in Nigeria "To protect our interests." They can no longer claim to be Anabaptist.
Which brings us to the third major difference: the Bruderhof emphasis on unity as, in practice, the highest virtue... To the Bruderhof, the idea of any split is simply anathema. Unity is paramount, and "divisiveness" is perhaps the greatest of sins. Because splitting is not an option, and because members are totally financially dependent on the community, the pressure to conform is enormous.
This was our experience with the phone-call campaign against the (now defunct) Children of the Bruderhof. We know of one brother who told us he laid awake all night struggling with whether or not to go along with making the phone calls. He ultimately agreed because he did not "want to be a conscientious objector against the brotherhood" -- his own words to my husband. There just isn't room for a personal conscience in the Bruderhof. In contrast, the Amish would never be lining up at a phone booth to make harassing phone calls to a help-line number!
While the outside world honors (or pretends to honor) those who have the courage of their convictions, and who live by their principles, the Bruderhof treats such behavior as a form of "spiritual pride" and "divisiveness." Therefore on any given issue it does not matter much whether you are objectively right or wrong: what is important is whether or not you are "in unity with the brotherhood."
This is quite true of Bruderhof practice.
Ultimately, the Bruderhof demand for unity comes down to "conform or leave." And since leaving means starting out in the world with no material assets and no spiritual support, it is scarcely any wonder that most opt to conform. Those who do not will sooner or later find themselves "sent away" to manage as best they can in the cold, cruel world until they "come to repentance," and return, much chastened, to the fold. Or, as in our case, until they come to their senses.
Amen! But it is very sad. Still, God is so much bigger than all of us and can redeem even the Bruderhof in its off-kilter direction. Thank God we can have that hope, whether in this earthly walk or after. Blessings,
Blair Purcell, 8/31/98
What have they done?
Four Nigerian fathers have not been allowed to visit their children at the Bruderhof Communities, Inc. These men came to the United States from the Palm Grove Christian community in Nigeria several years ago; they were encouraged by Bruderhof officials to marry and create families within the Bruderhof.
Each of these black men, over time, has been expelled from the Bruderhof into an alien culture (very difficult to make a reasonable living as green-card residents) and denied access to their children. The Bruderhof claims the importance of family but continues, as in this case, to tear families apart. They know these men are poor and unable to mount any effective legal effort to pursue their parental rights against the deep pockets of the Bruderhof.
There are dozens of families within the Bruderhof cut-off from those who have left. Many hundreds of people are directly affected. There is probably no other single religious group with a greater proportion of family members isolated one from the other as a matter of church policy.
Tim Domer MD, 8/30/98: I received a call from a Bruderhof official yesterday. This individual said he had seen a lot of activity on this Newsgroup site and thought maybe we could talk about it. He said there are things that are not true or have been taken out of context. He mentioned the situation with the Nigerian members and child visitation specifically. I asked him to tell me what I or others have written that is not true. I did not receive a straight answer.
I asked if it were true that the Bruderhof was keeping the Nigerian members from seeing their children. He replied that the Bruderhof was not keeping them from their children -- rather, it was their wives and the children's mothers "because of what they have done". I asked what they had done and again did not get a straight answer. The call branched off into other things, however I think this issue needs a little more scrutiny.
The Bruderhof emphasizes their "complete unity", yet when it is convenient for the organization it seems that perhaps the unity is not so complete. Are the wives and mothers doing something the Bruderhof does not condone? If so, is the Bruderhof helping the Nigerian men gain access to their children? Has the Bruderhof helped the wives and mothers hide the children by moving them from place to place, including moving them overseas? Since no one in the Bruderhof receives a wage, where did the mothers get the money to effect these moves? Was it Bruderhof money?
The comment was "because of what they have done". Does this mean that these men have done something illegal, immoral or have placed these children at risk? If so, were the authorities called as the law demands? Have any of the wives and mothers sought a court injunction against visitation? If so, what were the grounds? Has a judge ruled in this case? Denial of visitation must come from a Court.
There are just grounds to keep a parent away from a child, such as endangerment, unfit parenting, spouse abuse etc., however these are ruled upon by a judge. Visitation/custody is then limited or denied through official channels. If changes need to be made these are guided by the Court. To unilaterally deny a father visitation or custody would seem to be placing one's self outside the law. No citizen, person or group living in this country, is above the law or may operate legally outside the law. The reports we have received indicate the Nigerian men are the legal fathers of these children and are exercising their legal right to have contact with their children.
Blair Purcell, 9/2/98: Bruderhof official Randy Gauger mailed a letter to Ebong Ebong in late June or early July (in anticipation of a visit by Ebong to his children in Farmington, PA) stating that Mr. Ebong would be arrested if he stepped onto Bruderhof property. That letter was not written by Mrs. Ebong; that letter was not written by his children Maureen and Terrance. That letter was written by a Bruderhof official on behalf of the Bruderhof.
The conversation reported (above) by Dr. Tim Domer indicates (so he was told) it is not a Bruderhof idea to keep the men from their children. The man who told that to Dr. Domer is a inveterate liar and this letter proves it. And, Christian, you can quote me.
Margot Purcell, 8/30/98: Tim, you have asked some very important questions here. I, for one, would like to hear the answers to them. I hope they have not all disappeared off the Internet and that JCA, Christian, Joe or someone is reading this, and can respond. Children need their fathers, and fathers need their children. Unless the fathers have committed a crime they must be able to visit with their children and know where they are. And only a court of the country can have the power to separate them -- not the Bruderhof.
Betty Chesley, 9/18/98: Maybe that "Official" should read the book himself or, better yet, he should read the Bible and see how Jesus said to treat others. Come to think of it, maybe JCA should read it himself to address the Nigerian fathers prevented from seeing their children in the community.
A letter of *gratitude*? Buy the book? That is appalling!!!
For anyone interested in seeking at the Bruderhof -- don't!!! This type of treatment is what happens to people "in the name of love". This is not just one isolated situation. You become enslaved to a dehumanizing system that forbids independent thinking and is no longer based on following Christ. If you disagree, you can be put out, penniless, like so many others before you, and struggle to make your way and make sense of it all. Been there, done that.
Blair Purcell, 9/18/98: Tim Domer wrote: "One week ago the couple received a letter from this self-proclaimed Bruderhof hitman."
Since all is done at the Bruderhof in the name of "unity," one presumes, accurately I am sure, that hitman Christian Domer is in unity with the "courageous" Elder J. Christoph Arnold. Therefore the hitman is carrying out the bidding of the Elder (he could not act independently -- that's a no-no).
By this reasoning, of course, to use the word "courageous" in the same sentence as the Elder's name is basically flawed; JCA has had his 'hitman" act on his behalf. Takes real courage, that!
Just as it takes courage to tear children from the arms of their black fathers. The only thing for which JCA has shown an inadequate amount of courage is the courage required to take responsibility for all the pain caused by the Bruderhof on a continuous basis. Real leaders don't cause pain
What does the leadership do there? Sit around thinking of new ways to be just plain mean?
Notes from Memory Lane
by Dave Goodwin, 9/19/98
Around 32 years ago my mom was sent by "the brothers" to live and work in Johnstown, PA, for some extended period of over 6 months. I don't recall seeing or hearing anything from her that entire time, but then I was only 6 or 7 years old at the time. I do recall that we were told she worked for some lady. I assumed that she was doing some special job that required her special talents. The youngsters in our family were very kindly cared for by Pete and Sarah Hofer during noon and evening family time until Dad finished his work. I think he was a "brotherhood member" throughout that exclusion for Mom. Since I had such lofty ideas about why Mom was away, I don't have any bad memories of that separation that seemed so long at the time. I can't think of the Hofers without many fond memories, including Sarah's good snack time popcorn.
10 years later
It is easy for me to remember that morning about 22 years ago when Mom announced to our family at breakfast time that she had been asked to take a "time of consideration" away from the brotherhood. The reason was that she had not followed the servant's advice that she should not have any contact with her daughters who were not bruderhoffians at that time. I was about 16 at that time and I admired her greatly for "doing the right thing", even though all she had done was answer phone calls in a kindly manner that one of them had made to her.
Dad had died when I was 13 so Mom was the authority, spiritual leader, close friend, and advise giver in our home for those teenage years. She often read a psalm or other short Bible passage to us at breakfast time. I marvel at how well she filled that roll while her age advanced into the sixties. It did always seem to me that she would have loved to have a freer relationship with my older siblings who were away from home, if it had been allowed by the bruderhof leaders.
I left my home at New Meadow Run when I was 20 to seek my fortune. I am extremely thankful for the guidance I received from Mom as well as many other bruderhof friends and associates. God has blessed me above what I am able to ask or think by giving me a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, a wonderful family, and friends and fellow believers in His Church; which is His great and glorious building which men simply cannot mar or detract from, although we are all well able to give it a bad name in the eyes of men.
10 years later
Over the years I had many very good visits with my family circle both in and out of the bruderhof. After learning the visiting protocol, which I actually knew very little about before I left, my bruderhof family visits have given me and my wife many cherished memories. Those were always wonderful visits and I could talk with Mom openly about most anything, even touchy subjects which we both knew we did not agree on. I know we were both thankful for this in spite of the fact that I did not live at the Bruderhof and I'm sure she realized that I had no plans to.
Roughly 12 years ago I was visiting my Mom after she had moved to Pleasant View Bruderhof (NY). During one chat she shared with me that the brotherhood had realized some errors and made a decision to correct them. I remember clearly the joy on her face as she shared with me that they had recognized the grave mistake of causing or encouraging family separations that had occurred in the past, and that this situation had changed. Mom also told me how glad she was that our family had drawn a little closer together during the last few years of her life. She even thanked me for helping that happen. I told her all I had done was visit and talk with my sisters who I had not seen for years, and that anybody who could pick up a phone or take a short trip could have done that years ago. I'm still glad that she had tried, even though she sacrificed the "brotherhood meetings" on that account.
Mom died over 6 years ago and her memories will live on for our family and many others. I also am struck by the fact that God blessed me with good family relationships that I did not earned, and many others are only hoping for. Since the time I left home I can recall only the slightest rifts of fellowship between Mom and I, due mainly to normal human failings, and those were very easily mended by a kind discussion. It may have served to some advantage that I chose a walk of life that has many similarities to my upbringing, but I see that the smoothness of my relationship with Mom was largely providential due to a window of opportunity in the Bruderhof's history, as well as Mom's strong desire to keep healthy family relationships at a time when that was possible. I for one am deeply thankful that God called her when He did, several years before the Hutterite-Nigeria splits which surely would have caused her pain of spirit. Mom had openly shared with me her deep concern about a loving relationship with the Hutterites even though the larger problems were not yet under way in 1992, and even though I as an "outsider" would not have needed to discuss that with her.
I am more than thankful for my memories of Mom and all that she meant to me above and beyond the rather temporal matter of family relationships. My prayer is that many more may experience the goodness of God, and that the families that have been separated by human divisions will find God's healing.
10 years later
About 10 years after my Mom told me that things had changed for the better several Nigerian fathers find themselves cut off from their families including wives and small children. This results mainly from the collapse of a kind relationship between Palm Grove and the bruderhofs, along with other resulting unkind deeds. I believe many Bruderhof-Hutterite intermarried families find them selves similarly cut of from family on one side or the other. Fortunately or unfortunately as the case may be these families have stuck together better within a framework which they find comfortable or at least familiar. I'm very curious as to how the Western Hutterites who are married and at the bruderhof put up with such action. Perhaps they have chosen the "least worst" choice in order to keep a family intact.
From the facts surrounding these and other recent family separations, caused at least in part by bruderhof actions, it is clear that any change for the better was short lived if it even was real. I know Mom felt the change was genuine (or she would not have so gladly informed me about it) and I think many other bruderhof families had the same hope.
There was "great rejoicing in the brotherhood" when the lawsuits were dropped. I believe there would be even far greater rejoicing if the issue of family friendships could be resolved by the Bruderhof once and for all. I'm convinced most people there must long for it even if the desire has been buried rather deep. As an optimist, I believe that the Bruderhof has made great and sudden changes in direction before and could well do so again. With God all things are possible. Let's pray together to that end.
Let us Lord be so united,
as the Father is with thee,
Till at last no separation
even here on earth shall be.
And alone from Thy fire burning
May our light reflected shine,
Then the world will know quite surely,
We are followers of thine.
("Herz und Herz vereint zusammen", N.L.Zinzendorf)
"And the woman which has a huband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him." (1Cor 7:13)
Blair Purcell, 9/20/98: This is the first time Margot and I have heard Dave's story of exclusion and separation in some detail. We suspect it is not the whole story because it has become clear that telling the whole story for anyone who leaves the Bruderhof takes a lot longer. Dave and his wife Starla, as many know, joined Wayne and Betty Chesley and us in approaching the Mennonite Conciliation Service and asking them to invite the Bruderhof to mediation. The Bruderhof refused. Prior to that, Dave had visiting "privileges" at the Bruderhof -- to some degree. Dave has family in the Bruderhof. He is no longer welcome there as a result of his seeking mediation. Speaking out takes courage and faith.
------- end of alt.support.bruderhof excerpts -------
Elizabeth Bohlken-Zumpe, 9/16/98: It is a wonderful idea that so many of you are in such good contact almost daily. I wish I could be a real part of it, but will have to get better in controlling this computer, before I take on more. I see that there was some discussion about the dog Waldi. As far as I remember, there was just one dog in Loma Hoby called "Mopsie" left by the former owner of Primavera Mr. Ruttenberg. He was a little mongrel dog, black and white, and usually roamed around the Loma kitchen, with no particular owner.
Then one night, it was very stormy and raining hard. All of us Zumpe children in the care of old Ria were awake and frightened by the thunder and lightning. Between the thunders and gusts of wind we suddenly heard a little howl just beneath our window and there was this little dachsdog all wet, shivering and cold. Ben (at that time still known as "Budia", put a towel over him and brought him inside. From then on, Waldi was "our dog" as much' as the dog of all the schoolchildren, but my brother Ben cared for him. Waldi would go to school with us and stay outside the schoolroom until we came out and then would happily run home with us. We just loved him and as Ben was the only one allowed to feed him, he listened to him best.
One Saturday morning, Ben took Waldi to Isla. Ben was still a little boy, I think about 10 years old, as Charius was not even born. Together with Stefan Barth he went to the Isla Ouelle to pick oranges for Moni. All of a sudden, from behind a tree trunk a large rattlesnake attacked the boys. Waldi was scared and jumped up against Ben's knees, where the rattlesnake caught him. and bit him on his back. Stefan, who had a big stick with him and was about 14 years old, I think, bravely killed the snake. Together the boys went home to Moni's house, Stefan carrying the dead rattlesnake and Ben the dog, whose hind end was immediately paralyzed. Ben came home to Loma with Waldi on the back of Cyril's horse. He was heartbroken. Cyril "admitted Waldi into the hospital and said:" He saved the boys' lives, so we will give him the best treatment we can think of!" I remember that all of us Zumpe children as well as our best friends, went to the hospital where little Waldi lay in a basket, unconscious. He had been given an antiserum. We cried our eyes out. Next morning Papa came down to the Hunerwald, where we lived next to the Johnson family and told us, that Waldi had died during the night. That day there was no school, and all of us children prepared to bury Waldi. We buried him under the bamboo at my Mum's house. For us children, this was, like Barnabas said, a sacred moment with many tears and praising the bravery of little Waldi. Where he came from we never knew, but we were convinced that he saved the boys' lives. We planted lilies on his grave and Evie went to get Mopsie so that he could be at the funeral as well.
Maybe after this first "Waldi" there were more, but I only remember this one as a very special and brave little dog!
The KIT newsletter was very good again, and I am thankful that the Nigerian brothers finally came out with their story so that we can all do something about this. Blair's letter is very much to the point, as I also feel that it is a racial question. In the first place, to give the Bruderhof an extra dimension by having "black brothers," and finally not accepting their special input and special character. I hope the letter of the four Nigerian fathers will be in the newspapers soon (Clinton should not have taken the front pages of the world news with his personal activities!)
Tim Domer, I am very thankful that you have joined us in trying to make the Bruderhof see how very unchristian they really are. I think we are very much in the same situation, with no access to our aging and sick mothers. For many, many years I have tried to find a way with the family on the inside. I wrote long letters to Heini and Annemarie while they were still alive, and also to my family members, Christoph and Verena. At one point they wanted me back on their terms. Christoph phoned me and said, "We have three options for you:
1) Go to Darvell, be excluded for at least three weeks and find true repentance for your sins. You will then receive the "Kopftuch" and Hutterite dress. You can return to Holland, BUT your house will then be a Bruderhofhouse where people can come before they go to Darvell.
2) You come to Woodcrest, three weeks exclusion and then full membership. We will find work for Hans on the outside, but you can live as a family.
3) You try and help Hans to see the light also, and then all of you come to the Bruderhof together as we really need a Physical Therapist.
I said that I had not asked for three options. All I wanted was to be accepted in my marriage and life in Holland, and able to see my family and have their acceptance, love and respect also. This does not seem possible.
When I came to the KIT conference in 1991, I stayed with Monika and Balz, and phoned Woodcrest from there to ask if I could see my mother, and if Hanna, my daughter, could spend some time with her grandmother. Martin and Burgel actually came to pick us up, but when we arrived at Woodcrest, my mother had just left for Darvell. Her room was still in a mess, and my sisters told me, "This is what Mama wanted!" I did not believe that at all. Next day, a fax came from Darvell in which my sister Emmy said that they really had done the right thing. And she sent a fax copy of the latest KIT in which I had said that my grandparents Eberhard and Emmy were by no means "Holy People," but just had those normal human qualities that made them so lovable. I said that they had heated arguments about 'the boys' and their future roles in the Community. Emmy said that everyone was shocked. For me, the shutters fell from my eyes and I thought, 'Let me remember how my Mum really was before the brainwashing. What is the use of seeing Mum if you speak a different language -- if she is scared of me and afraid of what I might say next? What is the use of being with her if we cannot really express what we truly feel in our hearts? Is it worth all the trouble if we can only exchange superficial talk about the weather, flowers, sun and clouds? Undoubtedly we have loving mothers, but our presence brings them into difficulty and torment. I strongly believe in a Hereafter, and I am sure we will see our loved ones again in a different way and a closed understanding. Naturally I still feel the hurt, and when I read what you wrote about my mother when she heard of my dad's death, how she sat there and cried and no one seemed to comfort or reach out to her -- well, my heart seemed to break. I read the same thing in a report from Uncle Albert (brother to Gertrud Arnold, who lives in Canada) about the funeral of Hans Herman Arnold. He wrote, "...we all followed the coffin which was decorated with Advent branches, stars and candles, and walked down the hill to the burial ground. Gertrud with her sons, Monika (who was invited also) between Hardi and Heini. Only Emi-Margaret I could not see anywhere until I spotted her somewhere on the side, all alone. She looked so sad, so lonesome. Then I looked for one of her children and asked them to take care of their mother." All this makes my heart ache.
The latest thing is this new book from JCA called "Seeking Peace." Pages 152-154 are about my mother and how it took her some twenty years to realize that she is really guilty for my father's sins. It was she who wanted prestige, power and attention from all the people who admired her social standing... All of this is an evil lie! I wrote to JCA and I numbered every passage and then answered the way I see the truth [see p. X in this issue]. His answer was five lines: "Read the book again from cover to cover and you will be able to answer with a few lines. You have not understood anything at all, and such a letter, even though I respect your effort, is fruitless."
So what can you do? Stay in conversation with these people who crushed my mother's mind and heart, who turned them against me, my children and my family? I find this very difficult! My son Jurgen has just returned from the States. He stayed with his cousins, Ben's son Eb, Chris, Dieter, Johannes and Daniel. He wrote a letter to JCA asking him if he could se his grandmother while in the States. He had a friendly letter in return saying: "Jurgen, I would really love to see you but this is up to your family and whether your grandmother wants to see you." He then had a very nasty letter from Martin Johnson (Burgel's husband) saying that his mother is so aggressive against the Bruderhof and getting even more aggressive with the years, that there was no way that a son of hers could visit with her mother. Honest to God, I am not aggressive at all, but I do not like to see the Bruderhof history twisted in such an evil way, and I do not like my grandparents to be worshipped in the manner in which we should only worship God.
Mel, it was truly wonderful to meet you at Friendly Crossways, and I will write to you as promised. Wayne and Betty and the Foxes, I would love to meet you one day, as I do feel that really we are quite close at heart. So for now, Much Love,
Bill, Tif, Jessie and Rose Peters, 8/26/98:
(Blake is with his mom, first day of school)
In March, this year we received a query from Nick Maas. He wanted to know if we would welcome a visit from a couple of folks from the Bruderhof. We were facing some uncertainties and planning to move at that time, so we suggested that since we would be mobile during this summer, that it would be better if we went to New Meadow Run. Our feeling was that we would get to visit more of the family there. Preparing to move might have interfered with our enjoyment of a visit in Colorado. Besides, I had never been to a Bruderhof. It turned out that we were more than right.
On April 18, Elaine Peters, my children's mother, died suddenly after a ten year illness from encephalitis. I was her legal guardian and Tif and I had been watching over her as she passed through various institutions. She had beaten the odds and had passed every "final" plateau that her medical crews predicted. We thought that she was just a step from assisted living. We had her at our home in Alamosa for many long visits this last year and we were grateful to have had that opportunity. Nevertheless, the combination of moving and grieving, including all the formalities, company and expenses, would have made a visit during that time a bust. We still are dealing with it a little at a time.
I was also deeply immersed into a desperate appeal for my VA claim, which has been rejected again at this level and is now on the way to the Board of Veterans' Appeals in Washington. I get one more hearing here, which will not change much. I am not likely to outlive the appeal process exactly because of my cancer. What should become a postmortem award (case proved), will actually terminate my appeal and force my family to get in line back to square one and request compensation based upon my death if they can prove that my death was actually caused by Multiple Myeloma. Nuts, huh? In February, the VA had cut my disability because I am in "remission". This means, of course, that our finances are a bit austere at this time also (part of the moving decision). So, to make a short understatement we were not in the best position to entertain.
To our delight, the idea to go east was accepted graciously and we agreed to pursue a convenient date. Our first date, June 4, was canceled by a respiratory infection and tests to be done in San Antonio. Our next choice, June 20, was not convenient for the brothers. We finally decided on Sunday, June 28th. Since we were in Texas, we drove on down to Fort Myers, Florida to greet our new grandson, Joshua Tate Zecheriah Smith (Tater), born June 23rd. We babysat and kept house while daughter, Theresa, was in the birthing center, or whatever they call it now. I did take a few hours to go check on the Enchanted Fling. My friend, Crad, is now the director of marketing for the paint manufacturing company for which I used to work. He offered to "comp" all my paint and materials for the final deck and freeboard finish. He offered some new product, also, for the interior, sigh, again. Combining this with the help of some of my PTSD sailing brothers from Bay Pines, the Fling may actually get her full restore yet.
From Florida we zoomed up all those busy roads toward New Meadow Run. We stopped for a very nice oriental dinner and evening with the Goodnights. We stayed the night. In the morning we got up and drove on to the New Meadow Run Bruderhof. We called about an hour out and let them know we were close.
We arrived at the parking lot of New Meadow Run at around 5:00. Bill Button came out of the visitor office to introduce himself and greet us especially warmly before we were even out of the car. As we emerged, I looked up and all the Maas family appeared. We greeted each other and then the family walked to our quarters while Nick guided me to drive around. I was impressed by the low speed limits and resultant confidence in safety of even children within the compound.
We parked above the building about the same time as the walkers arrived and carried our bags down to a spacious suite of rooms. Everywhere were flowers and other treats and cards of greetings. Blake had his own room near us. The girls, Jessie and Rose, shared a room in an adjacent hall.
We had a delicious chicken dinner at Nick and Patrice's apartment in the main building. I believe the chicken came from the Bruderhof chicken projects, but I am not sure. A fruit salad, and plenty of it, was only delightful. Patrice suggested a song that Tif knew, so the girls and Blake and I quietly enjoyed the singing, after which I, (yahoo that I am) went "Alright! that was beautiful!" Uh? Oh! This was followed by rolled eyed smiles. I had to check my applause many times during our short visit. I was happy that I made my first blooper with the in-laws. After Dinner we walked to a pond area where the children, including niece, Sheila, performed a "Fairy Dance"
In the morning we had breakfast with Nick and Patrice. There were bacon and waffles and more of that yummy fruit salad. Afterward, Sven took me to the school. He is in the middle of a wood project where several of the kids his age are crafting some very high quality bows. They are also making their own arrows. The girls went with cousin Suzanne and other seventh and eighth graders. They helped mix concrete for poles for a new pagoda at the new swimming beach. They had a good time swapping stories and comparisons of lifestyles. Blake went with some children his age and overcame his shyness by taking on fearlessness. He swung from bridge railings, among other adventures, challenging the persons tending him. Only those who know Blake can imagine what a chore that must have been.
Later Tif and I visited the woodworking shop. Wow! I was dazzled by the organization, control and cleanliness and especially the user-friendly work benches. I got to talk to some folks during a break. Lunch was early, so the men could sing to George Burleson, who has bone cancer. This was the first week that he couldn't work. At lunch the story of Stewball was being read. The cliffhanger left me wanting to finish the story. We also walked to Spring Valley going under US 40. We visited Rolf and Mary in the book distribution center. This apparently used to be the metal shop. We returned to the wood shop and did some packing and labeling of finished products (not too difficult). Just when we were getting good, it was done. After a rest and family visit we went to dinner. The meals were delightful composed of much garden fare and eggs and cheeses. They were perfect and filling for soft core vegetarians as us. The actual time at the meal seemed very short, especially considering the amount of entertainment or community information passed on during the eating. There was no time to dally. If one was hungry between meals (not often the case) there was milk, eggs, fruit, and various other foods stocked in our suite. Also, sometime Monday, we played with jaw harps and dulcimers.
I talked to some folks here and there at meals and other places where they would introduce themselves and greet us. Many names meant nothing to me, but Tif knew almost everyone and their families. I did talk a long while the first evening with Steve Wiser, who lived in the same building as we. He was interested if any of my stories were in Dan Hallock's new book, Hell, Healing and Resistance (Veterans Speak) I said I was certain not, but I was looking forward to the publication. Steve said that there were galley proofs and found me one next morning. He also asked me if I would talk to some of the high school youngsters about my experiences in the military. I agreed and we planned to do it on Tuesday evening, after an outing to Ohio Pyle with the family. During a break Monday afternoon, I read the intros and the first chapter of Dan's book. I was spellbound! Whether one agrees with the political theme of this book is immaterial. It is a breathtaking string of tales.
I have read a lot of material produced by the Bruderhof. This was not typical. I have been reading it very slowly and carefully, rereading many parts to test and verify their personal impact. I found many triggers to flashbacks, some pleasant, some disturbing. In some ways it was like medicine, bitter, but good taken in small doses. I have always enjoyed Rambo, Chuck Norris type movies. The reason to me had been a humorous mystery till now. The reason I like those movies is simply because I enjoy the vicarious experience of the successful expenditure of pure rage acquired honestly. The persons in this book as well as many others have not had that opportunity.
The trip to Ohio Pyle was exciting. We walked one of the trails that went over a train trestle and you could see the yakkers plying the whitewater below. We also went on an adventuresome and sometimes muddy trail to the bottom of some waterfalls. The weather broke perfectly for a picnic and weeny roast. After lunch we returned to Farmington and stopped at a lovely restaurant for some ice cream. It was late afternoon and storming when we finally returned to New Meadow Run.
I laid down for a short rest while a thunderstorm rocked the little valley. When the rain came to an end Steve Wiser and I walked to the schoolhouse where a group of young men and girls assembled in a semicircle before a fireplace. Steve asked if they could tape my talk. I said yes and so was forced to speak holding a microphone. I had no idea what was about to happen. I introduced myself and asked if there was anything in particular that would interest anyone there. Silence condemned me to speak, so I winged it. People who know me also know that once I get started, it is hard to shut me up, so there I was with a delightfully attentive audience for the next two hours.
We quit for dinner at 7:00. It turned out that we were expected to be at Spring Valley for dinner, a "love meal" celebrating an impending wedding, so we rushed there just in time for the beginning of entertainment. Some youths, including our niece, Naomi, performed some folk dances. Another group followed with a comedy orchestra routine, and then Don Alexander led a Clarinet quartet including his son Ken, the groom. I tried to keep my hands on something all the time to resist applauding. I guess with all the local talent, applause would soon callous the hands.
After dinner everyone walked a short distance to another building. All sang and paraded past two newborn babies behind glass doors. We stayed to watch the youths take part in folk dancing for a while. Blake fell asleep and Nick had to carry him all the way back to his room. We slept well after such a busy day and then rose to breakfast and packing and farewells. We stopped at the coffee shop/bookstore and picked up a few items and then were off to the rest of the summer's adventures. We visited Gettysburg on the 1st of July, the anniversary of the battle. We had studied the civil war during the winter and had spent much detail on Gettysburg. It was humbling to stand at the site of Pickett's charge, a desperate mistake that caused 12,000 men to march to their doom within the space of a few hours. It was also a desperate effort to find a room.
The next day we visited the Purcells for a too short lunch and veered our direction towards the great smoky mountains. We came off the Blue Ridge Parkway to visit the Buttons and then the Goodnights for the best 4th of July in years. Following this we scurried back to Texas for some more medical stuff and then to Colorado. We gathered all the nephews and a niece from Denver and headed for the mountains with a complement of eleven. We spent the first week at the Great Sand Dunes National Monument, did some scouting and preparation the next and then spent two beautiful weeks at Twin Lakes just under the base of Mount Elbert, the highest mountain in Colorado (second in the US). This is the head waters of the Arkansas river. We launched the intrepid Flop II, our inflatable, and the kids caught trout till they couldn't eat any more. After two weeks we moved our camp to just down river from Salida, so we could raft the white water in the Flop. After a briefing and inspection by a helpful ranger, we began a challenging 8.5 mile exhilarating adventure that left us with only minor injuries (three bruised knees). Following all this, we moved down to the Pueblo Reservoir (A yuppie campground) for showers, electricity and bass fishing. We took all the kids home for school Friday. Now we are sitting in the San Luis Valley beginning to assimilate the last months of experience.
Nick and I spoke some about issues and we, Rolf, Nick, Patrice, Mary, Liz and myself talked about Bruderhof/KIT relationships with hope that things would become better. Some topics were awkwardly and tacitly approached. This is typical for families who have reunited across a huge gulf. We are still getting to know one another again. Maybe we will talk more freely another time. Meanwhile, we have put all of our past differences and offenses into the past where they belong. This is how it should be with family. I hope others will find the same peace.
It has been almost 2 months since our visit. We have been camping in the Rocky Mountains for most of that time. It is very easy to be contemplative sitting here at the top of the world. I have thought much about KIT and the Bruderhof. Mainly I have felt a great puzzlement. There are many things here that seem out of sync. Separate civil realities appear to crash destructively against each other. True, the individuals I have met both inside and out of the Bruderhof have been extraordinarily and consistently above the norm. This seems to be a fact that is not lost to the incumbents. This elitist mindset may contribute to a lot of hyperbole in relationships. More good is expected and the betrayals, debts and trespasses are amplified. Most of the things y'all have done to each other is not any different than what the rest of us ignorant gentiles are doing to each other. Y'all just seem to take it more seriously. I am seeking an answer from my own teachers (long dead), to my puzzlement. If I should ever find that answer, I will be glad to share it.
Susan Johnson Suleski, 9/29/98: I have had a wonderful summer, highlights being the graduation from Stirling University of my youngest daughter, several days with my sister-in-law, Lowry, visits from old friends from my USA days, KIT, the wedding, a walking holiday in Ireland with my sister Rebecca, and a wonderful Fungi Foray weekend at Lower Shaw Farm, which I would like to recommend to everyone! The delights of Andrea and Matt's Farm have been described in the last KIT, especially well by Joanna (Patrick), and I endorse the suggestion that it become EuroKIT's permanent venue, if they will have us. Last but not least, I have been offered a new job as training manager for Hertfordshire Social Services. The challenge should keep me young! I have enjoyed the Paraguay stories in Kit, and it was reassuring to learn that at least some of the 'Paraguay Boys' treated their horses with affection. When others came to Forest River, they treated the horses so badly they became almost unfit for us to ride, though previously 11-13 year old girls could ride them bareback with just baler-twine halters. Best wishes to all,
Elizabeth Bohlken-Zumpe to J. Christoph Arnold, 7/21/98: Lieber Christoph, thank you for your letter from 7/14/98 and your book Seeking Peace, a very appropriate title. We too want peace, not only for the world-at-large or in our own homes, families and friends, but especially with those people who gave us a childhood home and our families and friends there. Many efforts were made in the spirit of peace and a willingness to understand! Sadly all our efforts failed, because you have demonized all former children of the Bruderhof who have joined hands in the round robin letter: KIT. Our families and friends are made to believe that we are out to destroy the Bruderhof! Believe me, Christoph, nothing is further from me or anybody else's mind! All we want is an honest, open and respectful relationship with all of you and our families.
Together with your secretarial team, you have written many books lately under very good and current titles, such as Seeking Peace, I Tell You A Mystery, Forgiving and others. The first thing that strikes me when I see these books is that they are all written in the "I" and "Me" form. Not the "We" of the Gemeinde, the brotherhood. This is something I personally find strange. You write about "a member of my church," "my aunt," "my parents" "my grandfather Eberhard Arnold." Do you think Opa would like that? Even though many anecdotes and stories you tell are good, they come from the "communal experience, the communal life," and are not mere stories of some minister's personal tributes or experiences.
Also I feel so little of a peaceful, forgiving and loving spirit! All I feel is a hardening of hearts, of building even higher fences around you to keep out the evil world. How can it be that a peaceful community now goes out to vote in order to get people in the government that appreciate the Bruderhof? How come you visit murderers, child abusers and child killers in prison and sing songs for them while at the same time you bring one of the Bruderhof children to trial and prison? How come your children will sing at every cell and pass by the one where the ex-Bruderhof person is locked up? Is that the forgiving spirit?
How come that you have weapons in your possession, use electric controls and hard-trained dogs to watch your property? Where is the open door we used to be so happy with? How is it possible that to engage in $15 million dollar lawsuits for such small things like printing a letter which was given to us by the recipients to print? Even if you retracted the lawsuit, the idea of a Bruderhof leader being responsible for such acts is absolutely incomprehensible to me, who grew up in Paraguay where the Paraguayans threatened us daily and stole our property, but we would not be afraid or take up a rifle. Think about this, Christoph -- the books should be in harmony with the life you want to live as a true follower of Christ! How is it possible that you trick a person like Ramon into meeting with his son-in-law in the hope to find a solution to meet his grandchildren only to have him served with a lawsuit? All these things are not good, Christoph.
You write that it must have been special for me to see my brother and sister-in-law at the conference in Amsterdam. To tell the truth, I felt more than overcome with surprise. I have not seen or heard from any member of my family for many years. All my mail was returned years ago, and when my children sent announcements of their babies' birth to their grandmother -- the babies great-grandmother -- they never had any response at all. A surprise like that at a conference is enough to give a person a heart attack! You always ask people to announce their visits and ask if they can talk to their family members, even away from the community in some old diner. Well, I think you should honor and respect our feelings as well.
I have read part of your new book and feel deep sadness about the way my parents' lives are brought into this chapter about "Repentance." You were too young to really know my Dad, and what you write about him is the "hearsay" of the past 38 years! Yes, Papa died 25 years ago. Through the decades, Hans Zumpe has been made the scapegoat of all evil, the personification of the devil! Yes it is true, Papa committed adultery, and that this fact changed him a lot during the last years on the Bruderhof -- the Wheathill years. To be exact, from 1956 onward. He was always stressed out and had no time for anyone, least of all his children and his wife! Does than mean, though, that his whole life was bad? Let God be the judge of that and do not blame my mother for things she had not part in. I will enclose a copy of your story and number the passages so that you will understand what I mean.
1. It was not admiration, but love that united my parents. Opa saw this and was very thankful to have Hans as a son-in-law, who would be able to help him and correct him, if needed. Sure he cared for the welfare of the Bruderhof and was more "down to earth" when it concerned financial matters. Most of all, though, he felt called to this life of dedication and discipleship. He had experienced a conversion to Jesus Christ and was looking for ways to live the life of the Sermon on the Mount. When he heard Opa speak in Dresden, he came as an 18-year-old and decided to stay, which meant leaving his old widowed mother alone with only a very small income.
2. It was a happy marriage, but you forget that Mama was separated from the family for seven years, difficult years. Mama had contracted active tuberculosis from Tata while sharing a room with her for many years. We only started living as a family when I was 11 years old. That is why I spent so much time in your family when I was a child. You write, "Children arrived one after the other." This sounds sarcastic to me, as though my father had been an adulterer all his life. I also do not believe that he had this "insatiable desire for power." He was afraid that the community would lose sight of the most important things in communal life and lose itself in endless squabbles. It was a hard and difficult beginning in Primavera, and the ultimate goal for true discipleship in a Gemeinde for God was what we had taken on all these hardships for.
3. You make my father sound like a wild beast when you write, "To criticize Hans meant to open yourself to his sarcastic tongue-lashings," and my mother for seeking the easy way out. This too, you have from hearsay or from forced confessions. Mama always fought him if he was hard in his outspoken way. He always said what he felt bluntly, and then everyone knew where they stood. If he was wrong, he accepted that also, as I have seen many times.
4. He was not distrustful of almost anyone. How could he have been a Servant from 1931 to 1959, with a break of a year in 1939, hold Gemeindestunden, Lord's Suppers, marry and bury members? Yes, he fell into sin in the late 1950s, but that does not wipe away the good a man has done in his life. He was hard on himself and expected the same from his brothers. His brothers-in-law, who were too young when Opa died, did not make it easy for him. I have letters in my possession written by Hardy and Hans-Herman in 1946 to the Hutterites in which they admit to have almost caused the break-up of the community by talking behind Georg's and Papa's back, and tried to take over the leadership. Papa felt very bad about those exclusions in 1944. He said, "We should never have done this, especially in a country like Paraguay." This was the opening for the tragedy in 1960 when 623 people were sent away penniless. Georg had wanted to send all the pregnant women away also, but Papa managed to hinder this. But let the matter rest. Both our father and Georg are dead and we cannot make the past undone. He was not an effective dictator and he never silenced or expelled anyone who questioned him! He felt strongly against cliques and talking behind a person's back.
5. I feel there is no seeking peace in what you write about my parents. It was not that my mother discovered my father's adulterous affair -- no, he admitted this in a personal letter to her while in exclusion in the workshop in June, 1960. He was so absolutely devastated to have to hurt Mama that way that he saw no other way than to [try to] commit suicide. No helping hand was stretched out to the repentant sinner. No, he was put on a plane with $20 t0 start a life for himself in Germany. You write, "Hans had left her and the community at the time his sin was revealed." This is thus a lie. He never wanted to leave Woodcrest and his wife and children, and would have taken any form of exclusion to find his way back. The break was made by the leaders of that time. He never saw his children Charius and Emmy again, and I saw him crying at night with pain and anguish. My mother is not to blame for anything my father did! She was loyal to the core, but in such bad health that she often had to trust Papa's judgment. In Paraguay she was not allowed to attend the meetings because of infectious TB, but in later years was allowed to see us in the evenings outside. There, under the bamboo, she would tell us about her childhood, Sannerz, Opa and Oma -- that is how I know so much. Papa used to come to our beds at night and pray with us.
6. So when you write that my mother hung on to prestige, power and attention of people that admired her "social" standing, you are wrong, Christoph. My mother was timid and very unsure of herself, and felt to be a burden on the Gemeinde. She never had ambitions to be a housemother like the Servants' wives do today. She was thankful to be able to attend meetings in Wheathill. She was never disloyal to the Bruderhof, but I am sure hoped and prayed that a reuniting with our father would be given.
Why this did not happen is not for me to judge. He wanted to return to the Bruderhof with every ounce of life in him -- I have his diaries -- but as time went by and no letters or news from the family reached him, he drowned himself in hard work at the mental hospital in an aim to help people who were worse off than he was. For a long time he worked on the death ward and I am sure was able to help people in his own way. When news reached him that Balz, Bruce, Hanz Meier, Gwyn, Hans Boller and Roger Allain had all left, he was sure the Bruderhof was no longer what he had given his life to. Some asked him to get together and confront Woodcrest with all the evil deeds, but Papa did not want to get involved and hurt Mama more in the process. But he did go to everyone he knew "outside the Bruderhof," like Dorle Bolli, to ask forgiveness for his hardness of heart.
Look, Christoph, a long time has passed and the Bruderhof has changed a lot in the last years. I will not judge you, but you should also not judge us without hearing us. In life everything seems to repeat itself and we tend not to learn from the experiences of our parents. My father saw danger in the secret meetings in the woods between the Arnold sons and some friends, and they were excluded. He regretted this action deeply. Have you not done the same when your sisters tried to warn you about some things?
Let us not stand in judgment of each other and we will find a way of peace, I am sure.
About your book again, you say on page 11: "Writing on the eve of World War Two, my grandfather.... " Either it is World War One or the quote is from someone else. Also you write that Opa was so brave to go to Gestapo headquarters. That is partly true. But mostly my father was sent, and after November, 1935, he had to risk his life daily.
Christoph, I would like an answer from you, as this letter is written to you. I do not wish to receive an answer from either Christian Domer or Joe Keiderling. Those two have caused irreparable damage to many former Bruderhof children and members. Also I would like you to leave my mother in peace and not show her this letter, which might open old wounds again. I really do love my mother and wish her peace and serenity in her old age. If you do want to do something for her, you could let her meet her only sister, Monika, who has celebrated her 60th wedding anniversary this year. They are both old and the last children of Opa and Oma alive.
I might share this letter with some old Bruderhofians who have helped me to understand the past. So, Christoph, let us not stand in judgment towards each other, but let us try and look for the things that still unite us. In this sense I greet you and Verena,
NOTE: Christoph responded to Bette's letter with a few lines, stating that if she would read his book Seeking Peace again, she would be able to reply in just a few sentences.
As I have no idea how much you know about the Bruderhof, I will start with a short history. After the First World War, Germany was in a malaise. Unemployment and poverty caused frustration on the one hand and a wish for a better world on the other hand. My Grandfather Eberhard Arnold, who had studied theology and philosophy and had experienced a personal conversion to Jesus Christ, felt convinced that the time of preaching was over and the time of living God's Word had come. [here follows a history of the early years of the Bruderhof]
After the war [World War II] the Community yearned for contacts outside Paraguay and brothers were sent to the States and Europe and other countries in South America. My uncle Heini (Heinrich, third child of Eberhard Arnold) was sent to the States and managed to find many people interested in communal life. Most of them came from the Quakers, the Brethren church, Methodist and Baptist churches. The first Bruderhof to be founded in the States was Woodcrest. Also they had managed to take over a very productive business from one of the communes who joined them, "Community Playthings." This financial stability made Primavera in Paraguay more and more dependent on their brothers in the States, while the States group in turn felt they were doing things better and had the Holy Spirit on their side. They became arrogant, looked down on their brothers in the back woods, and soon adopted the role of the "Mother Community"!
My father went to Europe, where a Bruderhof had started during the war in England, and a new one was built in Germany. The Europeans though, had been through a war and were much more skeptical than the Americans about living in community. Also the English bruderhof they had given so much financially to Paraguay that they themselves had trouble making ends meet. Then something terrible happened! In their "We know everything much better" attitude, the overzealous new American members went down to Paraguay, and judged their brothers and sisters for not having the "right" spirit. They closed all the five communities in South America and continued their revolutionary path to Europe where they closed the three Communities there.
My father, together with 623 members and their children, were just sent away penniless to find a new life of their own. They could not understand this after 20 years of hard work in the back woods of Paraguay. The new parole was: "God is speaking through Heini and God wants all his loyal children together in one country!" It was very much "the end of the world" idea! This was in the late 1950s and early 1960s. It was the ultimate reach for power on my uncle Heini's part and his followers! He had always resented my father and others being spiritual leaders and "Elders," feeling that he as the son of E. A., had more spiritual insight! Now he had the chance to take complete control and he took it! When a person is baptized, they have to promise that all they have and everything they will receive in the future is for the communal life. That is why everyone who was sent away was left without financial means! This was the worst time ever in the communities, and since then, nothing is the same. Heini had a strong grip on people and for the first time fear took the place of faith amongst members -- fear of being sent away from home, community and loved ones. My father never saw my mother again and died 13 years later in an air crash. My mother and brothers and sisters stayed in the Community but had no contact with him or me, after I was kicked out in 1961 for loving a not member.
I believe that during those years a Jonestown or Waco experience could have been possible. Heini made his only son Johann Christoph" the Elder" for the Communities before he died. Last year during a TV interview Johann Christoph was asked whether the Community was believed in democracy. He answered, shocked, "Oh no. we are not democratic, although we are thankful to live in a democratic country. No, we are under the dictatorship of the Holy Spirit." If then you remember that the Holy Spirit only descends on the leaders, this makes it a rather difficult thing to accept! In the Communities today, not much is left of the early spirit, but the use of the language and the songs they sing.
It is now the fourth generation since Eberhard Arnold. Often I think it is like "Animal Farm" of George Orwell: "We are all equal, but some are more equal than others." Or the other book, also by George Orwell, "1984," where "Big Brother is watching you!" The things, that happen in the Community today are absolutely indescribable! They are quick with putting a lawsuit against you, they use electronics to watch you and their property. Yes, they did not even hesitate to buy weapons for protection -- this for a pacifist, Christian community! Unthinkable! They are wealthy, own their own "Gulfstream jet plane" and my cousin Johann Christoph has no respect for any ex-communitarian. I am worried about the Bruderhof today, as their actions are against everything my Grandfather wanted. They have also split up with the Hutterites and try to make lawsuits against them. Going back to the theme of this conference, "Utopian Community and sustainability," I strongly feel that under the given circumstances the original faith has no durability, and in fact is lost and cannot be sustained. I think that any Community can only sustain truly, if the whole group is filled with the same spirit, belief or ideal and not one man in power over the rest! I also feel that rich people make bad Christians. If life is no longer in harmony with God and faith is dormant, it will lead to a Godless life in which men can use their power! I am not saying that there are no individual faithful people on the Bruderhof, but if the leadership is godless, the life which was built on faith can no longer be sustained.
------ A Primavera Report ------
Phil Hazelton, 6/22/98: The answer [to the name of a particular fruit known as 'guama' in Colombia] is "Ing." There are several species of these legumes in the tropics; some of the sheathes reach a foot or two in length. In Primavera the best supply was along the Tapiracuai River, where Ing trees overhung the water and one could slide under them with a boat and load up on fruit. Unpicked fruit fell into the water and was carried downstream to be deposited somewhere they would one day germinate and fruit. The Friesland Mennonites put stop to all that by shaving all the surrounding forests to the water's edge in order to grow soya beans. Now they are having serious soil erosion problems and are, gradually, introducing zero or minimum tillage as a counter-measure. The forests, however, will never return. All of you out there need to imagine Primavera without any forests except the Isla School wood, Ibate without all but the gate house, Isla without all but the old baby-house (absolutely nothing else) and Loma Hoby is simply not there, it seems. The Mennos had no use for communal infrastructure and disarticulated every structure into its component parts. If Primavera is still a dream for some of you, think of it as a mega soya bean field in the summer and rather second rate wheat fields in the winter. The low campos still are what they were: extensive cattle range. In Isla the Campo Dolores is owned by the Friesland Cooperative ranch and contains descendants of our breeding herds: mainly zebu of the Brahma and Nelore variety. But the dark green framing of the Tujango, Monte-Jaime and Abe-bo-i are not there. Gone shamigo, forever. In fact the deforestation madness went so far in eastern Paraguay that the country has only one sample of original eastern rain forests left (really the western extension of the Mata Atlántica of Brazil) and that in the Mbaracay reserve run by the Fundacion Bertoni and now also the home range for the almost extinguished Ache Guyaki Indians. Otherwise, think of Paraguay as looking a little like a scruffy Pennsylvania Dutch country with strips of low campo with the usual smattering of skinny (and probably very tough) zebu cattle. Ohu ko Ka! Que lástima! (What a pity!)
Hans Zimmermann, 6/22/98: Phil, thanks for the update on Primavera's past forests and Paraguay in general -- for me personally most depressing. I had formed a special attachment to the woods, trees, bushes, grass and animal life. Your description of Ingas and how they grew is correct. When the fruit fell into the water at the river, one could see the fish feasting on them as well. Was the Inga a type of mangrove? I have a few chapters about the trees and woods which I have as yet not published. I would love to compare notes with you.
Another question if you can answer it. Why were all the trees cut down? Along the river Tapiracuay the soil was virtual sand and unsuitable for most agricultural products. Did the Mennos cut down the trees for fuel? Like the small wood islands scattered over our campos? What do they use for fuel today? Everything electric now? I'm curious,
Phil Hazelton, 6/23/98: There is no logic in cutting the forest down in the way the Mennos did, and as taught by the Brazilians from Paran and Santa Catarina. The credits went to soy bean production and wheat as a filler winter crop. The Mennos never were serious farmers/agriculturalists and would have happily continued being wagoners (with lorries in the modern context) if there had been much to haul from that part of the country (one of the forgotten quarters of Paraguay). You are right about the sandy soils; again something Mennos knew nothing about. Nor did they have any faith in secular agricultural science. Only now the young and technically more cool generation is looking for answers from elsewhere than from the elders; the latter, like in the B'hof, have very little useful knowledge to impart to new generations. Finally, Mennos everywhere seem to have a manic need to colonize frontier lands; from the Ukraine to Mexico, from the Volga to Volendam and into the Boreal Forests of northern Canada. They spent 300 years in the Russian plains/steppes and now the only landscape they seem to tolerate is one without a single tree from horizon to horizon (they thrive on the prairies!).
This landscape they reproduce faithfully and predictably wherever they move; Saskatchewan and Santa Cruz Bolivia, from the Paraguayan Chaco to tropical forests of Belize. It all goes in a huge wave of crashing timber, pulled over and windrowed in a thundering partnership between to D-15 bulldozers linked by a massive chain and ball. Windrowed and burned, it quickly disappears. Two guys can pull over a square kilometer in a week (1000 hectares). The precious wood (mahogany, lapacho, curupa-i, etc.) is pulled out first and sold, and this pays for the land and the clearing. The rest is gravy! This is the pattern all through the humid tropics and is what I have been fighting and up against for the past two decades straight. The push is farther and farther into the last precincts of the humid forests and. recently, the great Cerrado plains (where I currently live in Brazil's capital). Soya and soya and soya and the demand for the damned crop never stops, to be fed into the bellies of European swine and other beasts and shat out as dung for which there is no place nor room and which is polluting the fields, streams and ground water of Germany, Holland and Denmark.
The product is surplus, and in the end is sent as food aid to the fouled-up former socialist states in Eastern Europe. El Capitalismo en su forma más destructiva. The Mennos always were and always will be highly successful capitalists and, in the end, individualists. Of the care of the planet they have heard but will not listen, except in the Filadelfia area of the Chaco where German technical assistance has made some rational inroads. In the state of Santa Cruz, Bolivia, to which some of the Friesland relatives (originally from Loma Plata, Chaco, Paraguay) emigrated, has experienced dust bowls such as were common on the North American prairies in the 1930s and which gave rise to new technologies and an awareness of the need to steward the soil.
From this arose the technique of minimum or zero tillage which we now try to promote and which is the only practice that can stop Primavera (with its sandy and transporable soils) from turning into a virtual desert under the current farming regimes. I wrote a paper on the agricultural and natural resource issues of the Chaco some years back and, once in DC, would be glad to send it along to anyone interested. I am no longer interested in promoting anything but conservation farming, but mainly I am becoming more and more strident a defender of every bit of natural forest we can hold on to, wherever it is. Next chapter is "What of the small holder in Paraguay?" Another and equally tragic story. Cheers,
Hans Zimmermann, 6/22/98: Dear Phil, one can hardly cheer when reading your depressing report on the destruction of the South American forests. I literally find it painful to accept that everything we had and knew has been so willfully destroyed. I remember only too well when my father told me while we were planting the trees in his Cedar wood in Isla Margarita. "We are cutting down the forests too fast, without replanting them, this will come back to haunt us this could possibly bring deserts and it would be very difficult to reclaim." It pains just as much to know that all the habitat for the wild animals and birds has been destroyed an infinite number of species must be extinct by now. Lo siento mucho! (I'm so very sorry!) Saludos,
Phil Hazelton, 6/24/98: This is the war which is being waged against nature here in central South America. Of the Atlantic Forests (which Primavera was literally the western extension of, in a way) an area known as harboring mega-biodiversity, only around 2% is left. We are working on a project at this time to start to rebuild the forests through conserving the scraps and, over time, reconnecting some of the lager scraps with each other. We are starting in the States of Bahia and Espiritu Santo and working south. It will take centuries to rehabilitate a semblance of forests in this and in the interior areas (Sao Paulo; Parana; Santa Catarina). Meanwhile, in Mato Grosso and in Rondonia and Acre and Maranhao and Roraima and Tocantins the forests come crashing down by the hour. We have also established that the Amazon rain forests are literally drying out. The soil moisture content is well below what it ought to be to sustain long-term viability and fire resistance.
We are working on an emergency fire response in anticipation that, as farmers and cattle men burn their new and old fields in the Amazon this year, the whole southern Amazon could go up in flames. You have already seen on TV what happens when rain forests burn (Roraima); it's not a pretty sight. In Paraguay, alas, there is nothing much left to burn. What we are now pushing there is watershed management (to at least re-establish some reasonable water quality and erosion control) and improved conservation measures in the farming cycles. Meanwhile, the world is still hooked on pork, and soya beans, an excellent human food and versatile protein, is grown in astronomical amounts to be shoved down the gullets of pigs and other animals, which we then eat. Cheers,
Melchior Fros, 9/26/98: From our Primavera days:
Wach auf, wach auf, du Handwerksgesell!
Du hast schon lang geschlafen!
Da draussen, da singen die Voeglein so hell,
Der Furhmann laermt auf der Strasse.
Was gehen mich die Voeglein an?
Und was des Furhmann's Klatsche?
Ich bin ein freier Handwerksgesell,
Und wandere auf freier Strasse!
Wake up, wake up, you laborer!
You slept long enough!
Outside, the birds are clearly singing,
The wagoner is making a noise on the street.
What do I care about the birds?
And what about the wagoner's whip?
I'm a free laborer,
And hike along a free road!