​John Driver leads a Seminario Anabautista Latinoamericano (SEMILLA—Latin American Anabaptist Seminary) course in Managua, Nicaragua, in 1987. Photo from MCUSA archives.

By Lynda Hollinger-Janzen
Wednesday, March 23, 2022

The memorial service for John Driver, who taught, preached and lived God’s shalom on three continents with Mennonite Mission Network, will be held March 25 at East Goshen (Indiana) Mennonite Church.

John Driver is warmly remembered for his more than six decades of teaching, preaching and living the gospel of peace on three continents through Mennonite Board of Missions (MBM), a predecessor agency of Mennonite Mission Network. John, 97, died March 17, at Goshen (Indiana) Hospital.

Peter Stucky, pastor of the Teusaquillo Mennonite Church in Bogotá, Colombia, wrote, "John Driver was unquestionably a great influence on the theology and practice of the Colombian Mennonite church, as well as on the Central American churches. He taught a powerful message in his humble, unpretentious way."

Cindy Alpizar, from Costa Rica, a co-coordinator for the Central American region of Movimiento de Mujeres Anabautistas hacienda Teología desde América Latina (MTAL — Movement of Anabaptist Women Doing Theology from Latin America), paid tribute to John, for his love for the church, by quoting him: "In the process of cosmic reconciliation, the church is both demonstration and proclamation of God's reconciling intention."

Alpizar wrote that John "unselfishly and with much charisma, shared the revelation that our Lord put in his heart." She rejoices that his impact lives on through his many books, which permit those who didn't have the privilege of learning under John's tutelage to carry on his teachings.

"Today, we are left with the challenge of going towards a spirituality of peace," Alpizar wrote. "It falls to us to preach the gospel of peace that transforms lives — to live in true discipleship, cultivating the tradition of Jesus and to be conscientious objectors. We must also be the counter-cultural community that rereads the biblical text with a vision of justice, reconciliation and shalom."

Olga Piedrasanta, the coordinator for MTAL's Education and Materials Commission, credits John with helping lay the foundations for a dynamic movement of Latin American theologians.

Linda Shelly, Mission Network's Regional Administrator for Latin America said, "As I travel throughout Latin America, I frequently hear reference to John Driver's books as foundational for igniting a love of the church and Anabaptist theological perspectives. He was able to communicate profound concepts in understandable language, making his books popular within the congregations, in addition to serving as texts for theological education."

Biblioteca Anabautista Digital (Anabaptist Digital Library) includes 21 of John Driver's books in Spanish, freely available for download.

Born to Cora (Schrock) and Daniel Driver in Newton, Kansas, March 28, 1924, John studied at Hesston (Kansas) College, before serving as a conscientious objector assigned to Civilian Public Service during World War II. His introduction to the Spanish-speaking world, where he spent most of his years in ministry, came in 1945, when Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) invited him to serve in a community development project in Puerto Rico.

One year later, John married Bonny Landis. In 1951, shortly after their first child, Cynthia, was born, Bonny and John began serving in Puerto Rico with MBM. In addition to ministries in community development, church planting, and leadership formation, the Drivers pastored five congregations in Aibonito, La Cuchilla, La Plata, Palo Hincado and San Juan. The Drivers had two more children while serving in Puerto Rico, Fred in 1953 and Jonathan in 1956.

In 1967, the Driver family was invited to Montevideo, Uruguay, to work at the Mennonite seminary, Seminario Evangélico Menonita de Teología (Mennonite Evangelical Theological Seminary).

Eight years later, the Drivers were called to Spain, where they walked alongside congregations in
Barcelona, Burgos and Madrid, and helped build a residence for seniors in Barcelona. In Spain, Bonny and John discovered the importance of living in community and doing mission within and outside of the church.

John earned degrees from Goshen (Indiana) College, Goshen Biblical Seminary (now Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary) and Perkins School of Theology. He taught and served as academic dean at the Seminario Evangélico Menonita de Teología in Montevideo, Uruguay. He also taught for Seminario Anabautista Latinoamérica (SEMILLA — Latin American Seminary) in Guatemala, Instituto Bíblico de Buenos Aires (Bible Institute of Buenos Aires) in Argentina, Seminario Menonita de Colombia (Mennonite Seminary of Colombia) and the Hispanic Ministries department at Goshen College.

John's books have been published in English, French, Japanese, Portuguese and Spanish.

John's obituary, prepared by his children, reads that his pilgrimage of six decades in the Spanish-speaking world defined his life of mission:

"[This pilgrimage] shaped his vision of the world, his ideology, and his understanding of the gospel and mission. For his intellectual and spiritual growth, he owed more to his brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico, Uruguay, Argentina, and Spain (as well as many more throughout Latin America), than he did to his own Swiss-German biological and spiritual ancestors."

From 1980-94, the Drivers served on assignments in Argentina, Uruguay and Spain. After their official "retirement" in 1989, the Drivers' work with Mission Network continued in the form of short-term assignments that lasted several months from their home base in Goshen. They were active members of East Goshen Mennonite Church and the Goshen community.

An avid cyclist, John was often seen around town pedaling to meetings and packing groceries into his bike paneers.  He was memorialized in his bike helmet, among other illustrious Goshen personalities, with large banners lining the town's Main Street. He continued to author books, garden and work with wood until his death.

John was predeceased by Bonny; his parents;  sister, Rachel; and brother, Vincent. He is survived by brother, Donald; children, Cynthia (James Rempel), Fred (Joyce Meyer), Jonathan; and grandsons, Daniel (Jane Brannen) and Jacob.

A memorial service will be held at East Goshen Mennonite Church, March 25. Visitation will begin at 6:00 p.m. EDT, with the service following at 7:00 p.m. EDT. Masks are required for those attending in person. Click here to livestream the service.

Memorial gifts may be given to Mennonite Central Committee and Maple City Health Care Center.

 

 

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​Lynda Hollinger-Janzen is a writer for Mennonite Mission Network.



 

 

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