August 3, 2012, will be the 110th anniversary of Cornelius Krahn's birth in the village of Rosenthal in Chortitza, Ukraine. To commemorate that long-ago event, it is fitting that we create the Cornelius and Hilda Krahn Mennonite Life Endowment Fund to support Mennonite Life, which Cornelius founded in 1946.
Cornelius always had a passion for church history, and the birth and success of Mennonite Life was one of his greatest accomplishments. I was about three years old when he began to spread the dining room table with the most strange papers, cut-out columns of print and photographs in black and white, which he lined up and glued down. He called this a "dummy," which certainly made no sense to a 3- or 4-year-old. When I could write, I made my own rendition of Mennonite Life, cut out and pasted onto sheets of paper.
My father would be amazed that 66 years later, the journal is informing and inspiring Mennonites, Anabaptists and others, although the format has changed in a way he could not have imagined and the articles reflect a church and culture that has both diminished and grown. He would also be most thankful that others among the Bethel faculty have been drawn to the rewards and challenges of editing and putting out Mennonite Life throughout the years. I, with my sisters Karla Drake and Cornelia Krahn, have also been grateful that the flame of Mennonite Life has not been extinguished.
Cornelius left Tabor College for Bethel in 1944 because Bethel was interested in beginning a historical library where Mennonite history, books, publications and artifacts could be collected. As a young child, I was eager to go with my dad to the old Historical Library in the classroom just to the right of the stairs in the basement level of the old Science Hall. It had a vault with a heavy door under the steps that intrigued me. When the "new" library was built, the Historical Library got a brand-new library with a huge (so it seemed) vault for its valuable collections. It was like a new and clean castle to me, a wonderful place to explore, from tunnels under the lower-level floor to flat roofs outside the attic. The Mennonite Library and Archives soon outgrew that one-level space and began to fill up the attic. Now it takes up the whole of the old library.
Except for the schools in Rosenthal and Molotschna, my father was educated in only one religious institution, the Missions Schule in Wernigerode, Germany, which had a connection to Russian Christians and Mennonites. He received his higher education from the Universities of Berlin, Amsterdam and Heidelberg, which gave him the background he needed for Mennonite history and fueled his fascination for it. At Bethel, he was always supportive of students who were interested in Mennonite church history and the Mennonite-Anabaptist church as a whole. He was enthusiastic about encouraging his students and colleagues to explore the Mennonite and Anabaptist faith and its diversity. Mennonite Life gave him a forum to do that.
To continue this legacy, we encourage others to contact the Development Office at Bethel College to contribute to the Cornelius and Hilda Krahn Mennonite Life Endowment Fund.