​Ethel Yake Metzler, a former mission worker in Nepal, died on July 27, 2019. Photo provided. 

By Carol Duerksen
Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Ethel Yake Metzler, a passionate lover of travel and a compassionate lover of people, traveled to her eternal home on July 27, 2019. She was 95.

Ethel's life journey began Dec. 19, 1923, in Scottdale, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Martha Erb Eby Yake and C. F. (Clayton Franklin) Yake. She graduated from Goshen (Indiana) College in 1946 with a double major in chemistry and religion. Although she was accepted at four medical schools, her plan to be a psychiatrist was thwarted by sudden hearing loss. Her scientific curiosity and passion to help others, however, continued to be expressed in a myriad of ways throughout her life.

On June 10, 1951, she married Edgar Metzler, and their family grew to four children over the next seven years. In addition to caring for her growing family, Ethel worked as a writer and editor for Herald Press, and wrote a chapter called "In Praise of Little Things" in a book of daily meditations. In that chapter, she expressed her spirituality and biblical knowledge by weaving her vivid perceptions of family and natural life into reflections about Scripture.

In 1962, when Ed accepted a position as director of Peace Section at Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) in Akron, Pennsylvania, Ethel added "training MCC volunteers" to her writing and editorial work, along with teaching Sunday school and leading a Girl Scout troop. She started wearing "Jackie O" hats to church instead of the customary covering over her neat bun.

In 1967, she literally and figuratively "let her hair down" as Ed was appointed by the Peace Corps to be a director in Nepal. She truly lived into the description given by her high school yearbook as one who "seeks unbeaten paths of thinking ... original ... unpredictable ... with poetic, artistic and musical abilities ... to study people is her hobby."

The years in Nepal permitted Ethel to explore a wide variety of her passions, and when they returned to the States in 1974, she started graduate studies that led to a lifelong practice of individual and family counseling.

Ethel accepted a position at Family Counseling Services in Elkhart, Indiana, for 12 years, where she developed a program for families who experienced sexual abuse, working with both victim and abuser. Her compassion, skill and ability helped people to heal and grow. As a therapist deeply committed to the health and safety of children, Ethel was invited by the Japanese foundation, Arigatou International, to be a consultant at conferences in Japan and Switzerland on the theme, "The Welfare of the Child." 

She and Ed returned to Nepal where they served from 1988 to 1999 with United Mission to Nepal (UMN). They were appointed by Mennonite Board of Missions, a predecessor agency of Mennonite Mission Network. Mennonite partnership with UMN remains vital to this day.

Ed served as UMN's executive director, and Ethel continued to work in her private practice as a psychotherapist and consultant. In that role, "she served a multicultural population of expatriate and Nepalese residents with a sensitivity grounded in diversity and experience with others," according to a UMN obituary.

UMN staff members have fond memories of Ethel's cross-cultural relationship-building gifts. "Ethel was like my granny – full of warmth, caring and encouragement," wrote Khemraj Shrestha, a former UMN administrative assistant during the Metzlers' decade-long tenure in Kathmandu.

Former mission administrator Ron Yoder remembers Ethel's strong advocacy for justice, particularly for women in Nepal. "Ethel used her well-honed professional skills to … counsel and mentor marginalized Nepali women who experienced emotional and physical abuse by a highly patriarchal culture," he said.

Dale and Bethsaba Nafziger, former coworkers in Nepal, hold a special memory of Ethel and Ed hosting their wedding brunch on Nov. 27, 1994, in Nepal. "They did that totally on a gratis basis, wanting nothing in return," Dale Nafziger wrote. "That typified their lives here in Nepal."

In addition to her psychotherapy practice, Ethel was active in Mennonite Church discussions and committees regarding women – their empowerment, sexuality, ministry opportunities, and concerns over sexual abuse and incest. In 2001, she received the "Keep the Faith, Share the Peace" award from Mennonite Church USA, and in 2006, Goshen College honored her with its Culture for Service Award.

Ethel delighted in the vibrant food, art and cultures of southeast Asia. She brought beauty and warmth into her home, and her generous spirit provided comfort and pleasure for people from all walks of life who gathered around her table. Wherever she lived, Ethel cultivated plants and flowers. She loved walking beaches looking for treasures of nature and swimming in the ocean. She loved to share her traveling adventures in richly descriptive correspondence to family and friends. 

Remembering her journey on earth are Ethel's husband, Edgar; children, Michael (Maaret Koskenalho); Mary Martha (Gordon Prieb) and their son, Eli; Peter (Kathryn Rowedder); and Philip (Sandra Anstaett) and their children, Noah, Christopher, and Rachel; and her brothers, Stanley and Byron. She was preceded in death by siblings Lois (Kenagy), Marnetta (Brilhart), and Clayton Paul.   





​Carol Duerksen, a freelancer from Hillsboro, Kansas, writes for Mennonite Mission Network.



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