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K. Schroeder remains thankful for the positive effect CO service
had on his life.
CO experience, even with its hardships and disappointments, was
a positive experience for me. It tested my values and thrust me
into areas of service I would never have experienced otherwise.
It brought me a new outlook on serving the country that was my
home, namely that every able-bodied young person should give a
year of “free” service to the nation in times of peace. Christians
especially, need to volunteer such a year's service to the nation
in areas of human welfare.
felt that God had shaped the events of my CO experience and guided
me and my family through the time of serving the nation in positive,
constructive ASW during a time of war.” [ASP, 177]
E. Klassen also points to his time as a CO as a life-changing experience.
I reflect on this time of some three and a half years, I do not
consider them to be wasted years. Camp days were a time of personal
spiritual orientation and growth, building and preparation for
going into full-time ministry. God has used that in my forty years
of ministry and I thank him for it.” [ASP, 109]
H.R. Baerg spent a year in alternative service work camps. He gives
a candid evaluation of the CO experience.
Service constituted for us a program of submission. Ours was not
to reason why, or to ask why, to argue or denounce. We were conscripted
to spend the same amount of time under similar regulations as
the boys in other branches of the Service. We now had an opportunity
to confirm our faith by rendering a sacrifice, not of our lives
but of our time. For some, time spent in camp was indeed boring
and monotonous; however, for most of us this was a chapter in
our lives when we could learn many lessons and gain worthwhile
and meaningful experiences.
citizens of our country could not understand our singular stand
and mistrusted our motives, thinking that a lack of loyalty and
courage was at the base. It was our duty to resolve the misunderstanding
by living up to our message of love… A number of working projects
were unrealistic and not exactly of ‘national importance'; some
of the foremen were unlearned, unprincipled, and unsocial loggers
or ‘bushwackers' a few of the superintendents were prejudiced;
some of the fellow draftees were partisan, obstinate, and obtuse.
Under these circumstances it was imperative that we who were attempting
to give an affirmation of our faith be buoyant, courageous, resourceful,
was an enlarging experience to maintain personal love and to create
close friendship with the various individuals of different background
and training … It was indeed an experience requiring self-discipline,
self-understanding, and inter-personal and inter-group understanding.”
experience of American COs was similar. Long time minister in the
American Mennonite Brethren circles, Marvin Hein said “I shall never
be sorry I spent those years in CPS. Much of what I am today is
a result of those 33 months in CPS.”
Hein, My Lines Have Fallen in Pleasant Places: An Autobiography
, (Fresno: Marvin Hein, 2005), 67.
confronted with war, young Mennonite men had to make a choice. For
those who became COs, that choice led to intense experiences and
personal transformation. The alternative service work program was
not perfect, but as the COs above know, good things can come out
of difficult situations.
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