She grew up dirt poor and now loves to give gifts

Juliana Gneiting

Juliana Gneiting 1932 –

Juli came to Primavera, the Bruderhof’s South American community, at fourteen, through a well-to-do family who had taken her in as a maid (a member of the family joined the community, and thought she’d be interested too). She herself was dirt poor, and grew up sleeping in a hammock – out of reach of snakes – in a windowless hut. Juli never knew her parents but was raised by her Italian grandmother, who had married an indigenous Paraguayan.

Generous to a fault, Juli caught the eye of her future husband, Jakob, on an outing to Asunción when she impulsively took off her only jacket and gave it to a shivering young woman right on the street.

Juli is still giving things away. Describing shopping trips with her, her granddaughter Denise says, “She’ll have a whole list of people in her head who need something: a candle, a pack of stationery, a tablecloth, a box of chocolates. In February, she’s already thinking of the old friend who has a birthday in April. But it’s not about shopping. It’s about having a heart for others. If a child is crying in the supermarket, she’ll say, ‘Poor thing!’ and then engage the child and mother. Barriers don’t exist for her.”

Juli’s love extends beyond people, to birds and animals and insects: “No squishing spiders: you take them outside. Ants? Why poison them? They also need food!” Nor is she one to put aside special things for special occasions: “What if we’re dead tomorrow? Then you’ll regret not sharing it!” 

The communal dining room in Sannerz

Your Turn

Enter your questions or reactions here and we’ll pass it on to author Clare Stober.

The Book

A Window into a Christian Community at 100 Years

With photography by British photojournalist Danny Burrows, this 300-page hardcover book celebrates what is possible when people take a leap of faith. It will inspire anyone working to build a more just, peaceful, and sustainable future.

Book Cover in blue

Get a Sneak Preview

Sign-up below to download a free sampler of this book. You'll also be notified by email as new stories are posted.

We will never share your email address with unrelated third parties. Read our Privacy Policy.