Art Smucker
Photo courtesy of Art Smucker

Art Smucker of Goshen, Ind., served with MCC in Europe for two years following World War II.

For Art Smucker, his time serving with MCC in Europe following World War II focused on rebuilding the infrastructure decimated by the war. But he soon found that relationships were also being built in the process.

Smucker, a member of College Mennonite Church in Goshen, Ind., served with MCC in Europe from 1946 to 1948. He spent his first year in Alsace, France, where he was part of a group of 18 young men working together on repairing buildings damaged by the war, including a lot of roof repair.

Smucker was the local director of the group, since he was the most fluent in French. This meant he handled the paperwork and permits, but it also included a lot of physical labor alongside the other volunteers.

“We grew very close together and cared for one another,” remembers Smucker. In fact, after the group returned to the United States, Smucker would collect letters from each person, combine them all together and send a newsletter to each member of the group. They also got together for reunions every couple of years.

And their work in France was much-appreciated by the local people. “Forty years after we left, we were all invited to come back,” said Smucker. “And of the 18 men, 17 of us and our spouses did make that trip. We were welcomed and had a great time.”

His second year of service, Smucker was transferred to Amsterdam where he was the first full-time representative for Menno Travel Service when it was an arm of MCC. He arranged the coming and going of relief workers and planned and directed Mennonite and other religious-affiliated colleges who sent American students.

When asked why he volunteered to serve with MCC Smucker said, “A number of us just thought it was the thing to do. People needed help.”

Prior to his two years in Europe, Smucker was part of a three-year program for conscientious objectors with MCC through Civilian Public Service in mental hospitals. Participants received training in relief work, took college-level courses and studied language in preparation for their overseas assignments.

Following his service in Europe, Smucker went on to teach chemistry at Goshen College for 35 years. After retirement, he spent a year with Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) in Akron, Pa., helping to re-work the computer database. He has also volunteered with MDS at sites across the country.

“I think MCC is doing very much-needed work,” said Smucker. “There are many needs, and they are fulfilling some of those needs. My personal feeling is that MCC and MDS are the most effective outreach that our church has.”