Bonita Driver practiced God's welcoming love in Argentina, Puerto Rico, Spain, Uruguay and the United States, through Mennonite Board of Missions, a predecessor agency of Mennonite Mission Network.
GOSHEN, Indiana (Mennonite Mission Network) — Bonita (Bonny) Catherine Landis Driver embodied God's welcoming love on three continents. She and her husband, John, served through Mennonite Board of Missions (MBM), a predecessor agency of Mennonite Mission Network, from 1951-1994. Bonny died in her home at Greencroft Retirement Community in Goshen, Indiana, surrounded by her family, on Dec. 24.
María Martinez Garcia saw Jesus reflected in Bonny and John, as they walked alongside Anabaptist communities in Spain. María later worked as a nurse with Bonny at Hogar de Paz (House of Peace), a Mennonite hospice in Barcelona for people living with HIV/AIDS. Upon hearing of Bonny's death, María imagined her cradled in the arms of God — in the same way Bonny welcomed all who came to the Drivers' home.
"When you leave the university [with your nursing degree], you only have theory. I learned to practice [my faith] from you, dear Bonny. I've always believed that you are the pure reflection of the Lord here on earth," María wrote in a note of gratitude and love to Bonny. "God blessed us by sending us flesh-and-blood angels."
Born May 16, 1924, to Ethel (Garber) and Noah Landis in Estherville, Iowa, Bonny grew up in Alpha, Minnesota, as one of nine children. She attended Hesston (Kansas) Academy (now College), where she met John Driver.
In 1946, Bonny completed her nursing studies at the Mennonite Hospital School of Nursing in La Junta, Colorado. That same year, Bonny married John, and they went to Puerto Rico with Mennonite Central Committee for a three-year community-development assignment. There, Bonny worked as a registered nurse at the Mennonite Hospital in La Plata. She assisted with surgeries and carried a wide range of clinical responsibilities.
In 1951, shortly after their first child was born, the Drivers returned to Puerto Rico, this time with MBM. In addition to serving in other ministries, Bonny and John pastored congregations in five locations: La Plata, La Cuchilla, Palo Hincado, San Juan and Aibonito. Their other two children were born in Puerto Rico.
In 1967, the Driver family moved to Montevideo, Uruguay, to work at the Mennonite seminary, Seminario Evangélico Menonita de Teología.
Eight years later, the Drivers were called to Spain, where they walked alongside congregations in
Madrid, Burgos and Barcelona, and helped build a residence for elderly people in Barcelona. In Spain, Bonny and John discovered the importance of living in community and doing mission within —and outside of — the church.
From 1980-1994, the Drivers served in Argentina, Uruguay and Spain. After their official "retirement" in 1989, the Drivers' work with Mission Network consisted of short-term assignments for several months, from their home-base in Goshen. Bonny was also active at East Goshen Mennonite Church and in the community. She volunteered at Mennonite Central Committee's Depot, Maple City Health Care Clinic, Center for Healing and Hope and Greencroft.
Tom Rutschman first met the Driver family in Uruguay, as a missionary kid.
"We would often find our way to the Drivers' [home] where Bonny would give us refreshments," Tom remembered. "We were jealous of Cindy, Fred and Jonny [the Drivers' children] who had such a cool mother."
Tom and his wife, Disa, later became MBM colleagues with the Drivers and lived with Bonny and John for a year in Barcelona, where a Mennonite community was forming around the Drivers' ministry. As part of the community's outreach, Bonny worked at the evangelical hospital. Her presence was appreciated when the first Rutschman child was born.
"Bonny broke the rules and smuggled new-born Joel out of the nursery, so Disa could begin breast-feeding, which wasn't promoted at that time," Tom remembered. "I was in the delivery room as well, and [was informed] that it was the first time a husband wanted to be in on the birthing process at that hospital!"
Linda Shelly, Mission Network's director for Latin America, said that though the Drivers' official ministry closed three decades ago, partners continue to express appreciation for how they lived the gospel and welcomed people into their home. Bonny played a key role in practicing the theology that John taught and wrote about so prolifically, she said.
Bonny was preceded in death by her parents and her stepmother, Katie (Gascho) Landis, and five siblings: Ruth Erb, Wilma Landis, Elmer Landis, Eldon Landis, and Paul Landis. She is survived by John, her husband of 74 years; her children: Cynthia (James Rempel) Driver, Fred (Joyce Meyer) Driver, and Jonathan Driver; two grandsons Daniel and Jacob; sisters Bernice Nafziger
and Vivian Murray and brother Fred Landis.
A virtual memorial was held Jan. 4, at East Goshen Mennonite Church, with burial at Clinton
Union Cemetery. Memorial gifts can be made to Maple City Health Care Center or Center for Healing and Hope.