A former Marine searches in vain for an alternative to Christian community

Paul Pappas

Paul Pappas 1924 –

Paul joined the US Marine Corps in 1943 and spent the next two years in the Pacific. After the war, he earned a degree in electrical engineering. Inwardly, he raged:

I was cynical, bitter, and didn’t see any hope anywhere. We’d supposedly been fighting to save the world for democracy, but I felt it was going to hell. I felt I’d been swindled and manipulated. I saw no reason in living; nothing really interested me. I wish I could say I was looking for something different, but I wasn’t. Luckily for me, my wife, Mary, was.

Mary heard about the Bruderhof at a 1952 peace conference, and convinced her unwilling husband to visit. Paul recalls: “To her, it was a place where love ruled. She said, ‘This is what I want.’ I told her, ‘It’s not what I want, and you’ll never make me a member.’”

Determined to find an alternative to living in Christian community, he begrudgingly left Mary at the Bruderhof and set off on his own search, through “everything from psychology to the occult – anything that was not Christian.” In 1955, he visited again. This time, it was different:

Little by little, the experience of living with people who practiced what they preached changed me, and my resistance melted. God had his hand on my shoulder. I was too stubborn to be led, but he closed in on me from behind. Meanwhile, it dawned on me that the evil I hated in society was also in me. And I saw that the answer was to live as Jesus teaches us to. That’s what I’m still trying to do, after all these years.

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