Linda Gehman Peachey and Titus Peachey (from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, East Chestnut Mennonite Church); Andrea Bontrager Unzicker and Thomas Unzicker (most recently from Newton, Kansas, Lorraine Avenue Mennonite Church)
The Peacheys (P) served as MCC representatives, overseeing MCC’s work in Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Laos) from 1980 to 1985; the Unzickers (U) began as MCC representatives in Laos in 2018.
P: Experiencing the generosity, warmth and unpretentious, fun-loving ways of Lao people. How could we not be charmed when a village elder welcomes our arrival with a newly created song?
U: Open and welcoming people. Though our work is primarily in the capital, Vientiane, we enjoy visiting projects and staff in rural areas. Lao take pride in being gracious hosts, and we have been fortunate to have experienced that hospitality.
Sharing food and conversation with our Lao colleagues on the floor of the office each day has been one of the unexpected joys of the job.”
Andrea Bontrager Unzicker and Thomas Unzicker
As we began
P: It was humbling and meaningful to learn to know people that our country had viewed as enemies and had bombed for nine years. Learning the language was essential and a sign of respect.
U: Being from the U.S., we were prepared to be met with some skepticism. What we found is quite the opposite; people are very willing to educate us about the impacts of the war without a sense of resentment related to our nationality.
We soon learned
P: To be patient and go with the flow. Partnership was the key to our work.
U: That communication tends to be far more indirect. What we would consider speaking frankly and honestly might be considered rude by our Lao counterparts.
We were struck by
P: Raw, visible signs of war — fields punctured with bomb craters; bomb casings and shrapnel everywhere; people blinded or left without a limb from an exploding bomb; eyes that welled with tears.
U: The continuing problem of injuries and death due to unexploded bombs 45 years after the war ended; the more subtle effects of endemic poverty and high rates of birth defects from Agent Orange.
We were among the very first U.S. citizens in the country who had the opportunity to travel to the villages, and we felt a tremendous responsibility to share what we learned.”
Linda Gehman Peachey and Titus Peachey
Because of serving in Laos
P: We have become much more aware of our complicity in systems of violence and war and steadfast in our resolve not to pay taxes for war. We want to prevent this type of devastation as it is so difficult to clean up after the fact. Advocacy and activism to prevent war and injustice are part of our Christian calling.
U: It’s hard not to feel that as U.S. citizens, we’ve left a trail of forgotten conflicts which continue to churn out misery, and we seem largely unaware of this fact.
Find your place