by Terry M. Smith
Here are my votes for two Christians, unknown to many, whose stories bear the likeness of their Lord. They are part of the expanding crowd of Hebrews 11.
Gunden honoured for rescuing Jewish children
WASHINGTON, D. C.—Lois Mary Gunden Clemens, a Mennonite woman from Goshen, Ind., was honoured posthumously by U.S. president Obama and Israeli officials on Jan. 27, 2016, at the Israeli Embassy for risking her life to save Jewish children during the Holocaust.
Gunden Clemens sheltered Jewish children at a home she established in 1941 in southern France, working with MCC and another aid group. She took in Spanish refugees, as well as Jewish children, many of whom were smuggled out of a nearby internment camp. On multiple occasions she told German officials who came for children that they were unavailable.
She was detained by German forces for more than a year in 1943-44 before being released in a prisoner exchange. Gunden Clemens later had a teaching career and earned a doctorate in French. She died in 2005.
A coffin maker overcomes evil with good
Tulio Pedraza imitated his Lord
COLOMBIA—When missionaries arrived in Colombia to establish the country’s first Mennonite congregations, Tulio Pedraza and his wife Sofía became two of their first converts, baptized in June 1949. Only a year earlier, Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, a political candidate, was assassinated; his death ignited a civil war. Protestantism was seen as another threat to Colombia’s strained unity.
Tulio was a coffin maker in the town of Anolaima. He was blind, but, as its only coffin maker, successful enough to provide for his family.
When the local Catholic priest learned about Tulio’s baptism, he declared his coffins unfit for Catholic use and refused to officiate at any funeral with such a coffin. Business plummeted.
The priest even convinced a carpenter to move to Anolaima to begin a rival coffin business. Tulio could no longer pay his suppliers and closed his business.
Tulio never abandoned the love and decency he learned by imitating his Lord. When his business collapsed, he sold his competitor his tools. Through this kind gesture, he helped establish the business of the man whose presence finished his.
Tulio and his wife tried to start a bakery, a chicken farm, and a candle-making business, but with little success and not enough income to provide for his family. Yet his faith gave him the strength to persist despite his children being humiliated in the public school, the family and property threatened, and shunning by people and businesses.
Tulio died peacefully in 1964. The rival carpenter donated a coffin for Tulio’s burial and
attended the Mennonite service, risking his reputation to honour a man who had shown him such unusual love, born from a deep faith.
—Mennonite World Conference. Tulio’s excerpt is from Bearing Witness: Stories of Martyrdom and Costly Discipleship (Plough Publishing House, 2016). Used with permission.