Informing the family that I would be leaving on another administrative trip of several weeks was often the hardest part of being an MCC global program administrator.
This time, in December 1961, it was doubly difficult because I would be departing the day after Christmas, leaving my wife Gladys and our young children to finish celebrating the holidays without me.
Photo courtesy of Edgar Stoesz
To draw our children deeper into my work and to plant the seed of service in their hearts, I told them about the children I would be visiting and the poverty they faced.
This led me to ask them if they would like to select one of the gifts we had just given them for me to give, on their behalf, to a child in Haiti.
I am surprised now that I asked that of them. There was no threat or promised reward. Just an invitation to give a gift to a needy child.
Within hours, our son Dean came with his little yellow car and offered it without comment. I received it with mixed feelings, knowing how much he had wanted that car. I thanked him and promised to bring home a picture of the car and its new owner.
MCC photo/Dr. John Bender
Upon arrival in Haiti, I asked MCC workers to suggest who the recipient should be. Without hesitation, they suggested a boy, maybe eight years old, almost blind and not expected to see another Christmas.
With my camera at the ready, I presented the yellow car to him. He received it reluctantly, hardly knowing what to do with it. Before long he was seen clutching it to himself after having played with it in the dry ground.
When I returned home, I was anxious to share the picture with our son. He appeared to appreciate it but offered few comments.
Twenty years later though, that son and his wife launched into a life of service, beginning with a three-year term of MCC service in Haiti. The seed of service had been planted and bore good fruit.
"The seed of service had been planted and bore good fruit."
- Edgar Stoesz
Edgar Stoesz served with MCC from 1954 to 1988, first as a service worker and then as an administrator for varied areas of MCC’s work around the world. In addition to his time with MCC, Stoesz has also been a leader of numerous non-profit boards and authour of at least 10 books.
In reflecting on this story, he notes that in that time, an administrative trip of three weeks was considered ideal. Some trips lasted four or five weeks. This was before the era of cell phones, and there was sometimes little or no communication home.
As much as administrators were serving MCC, spouses and families also made sacrifices, he stresses, urging that their contributions be recognized.
"We fared quite well, credit to Gladys," he says of his family. But it wasn't easy on her, he says. "I recall the time Gladys came to get me from the airport after a trip of three weeks in Newfoundland. I was shocked to learn that during my absence all three of our children had completed a bout with smallpox. For emphasis, she lifted the shirt of three-year-old Randy to show that the pox had almost disappeared from his belly."