Last year many commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of PAX. PAX was a Mennonite service venture from 1951 to 1976 that provided many with splendid opportunities to contribute to God's Kingdom. Not much has been written about PAX. In fact, much more could and should be written about various Mennonite service ventures before, during, and after World War II. In 1969 Uri Bender wrote a PAX story entitled Soldiers of Compassion, but not much has been written after that date. Bender's book can still be read with great profit. It contains much anecdotal but also very useful statistical information. However, it is not complete and contains a number of errors and strange omissions. For instance, Bender does not include the first twenty PAXmen who went in 1951 unless they decided to stay beyond one year of service. They are sometimes referred to as the "lost Paxmen." Fortunately, Redekop does not omit them.
Redekop's work is not anecdotal but consists of a brief history of PAX. It discusses the origins of PAX which grew out of post-World War II Mennonite relief experiences such as Mennonite Voluntary Service (MVS). In fact, Redekop who served with MVS in Europe was one of the first to suggest PAX. Soon after PAX was launched, the Selective Service allowed young men to fulfill their military obligation by "doing PAX." Many eagerly seized this opportunity, and in the course of time some 1100 men served. Yet, PAX also accepted non-draftees. Among them were many Canadians. It would be interesting to know what motivated them.
As Redekop pointed out, PAX started in Germany where PAXmen helped build refugee homes, but in a short period of time expanded its scope to other parts of Europe such as Austria, France, and Greece, and to the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Next, the author discusses briefly major PAX projects such as the road building in Peru and Paraguay, PAX's organizational structure, and its impact on MCC and the church and participants. Not all PAX projects required considerable physical labor or mechanical skills but consisted of providing relief to those in need.
The author views PAX as a very positive experience for all those who were in some way involved with this service venture. This reviewer would wholeheartedly agree. Almost all former PAXmen with whom he has communicated considered PAX as one of their most important, life-changing experiences. Yet, he has also heard a few discordant notes.
Redekop does not tell us much about individual PAX experiences. Bender's book provides that element. Nor does he tell us much about the "support system" which consisted of many matrons and others who looked after the physical and spiritual welfare of the men. PAX consisted of much more than 1100 PAXmen. We would also like to know more about PAX's administrative structure, its impact on MCC and local churches. For instance, it would be interesting to determine how many ex-PAXers later served their local churches, with MCC or other Mennonite organizations. In fact, a "complete," more inclusive history of PAX still has to be written.
Yet, this is a very useful, brief survey of and introduction to the life and work of PAX. Today MCC offers many service opportunities, but many ex-PAXers might feel nothing can ever compare with their experiences! We can be very thankful for those who had the vision to launch such a unique program.
Gerlof D. Homan