Sunday, July 13, 2014

John M. Drescher, A Saint For All Seasons

John Drescher, one of my most valued mentors
I just received word Friday that my friend and mentor John Drescher had died early the previous morning.

John would strongly object to my use of the word "saint" in connection with his life. "That word doesn't even appear in the Bible," he always insisted, "It's always 'saints', in the plural. No one can be a saint by himself."

But John, with his good wife Betty, came close, and yes, always as a part of a committed congregation. I grew to deeply appreciate him during the several years he was a member of the Zion Mennonite Church where I served as pastor for two decades. And Betty was her own special kind of woman--warm, hospitable and never complaining. She did a lot of the typing and proof reading of John's manuscripts., and he clearly could never have accomplished what he did without her.

With John being the gifted and acclaimed preacher, writer and editor that he was, I could easily have found it intimidating having him and Betty in the congregation. He was both older and far more experienced that I, having served as a pastor in three congregations, bishop or overseer in three conferences, a one term moderator of the Mennonite Church in North America, the editor of 'Gospel Herald', and as a college pastor and seminary teacher at EMU. But he was always a most loyal and supportive member of our congregation, frequently writing me an affirming note or otherwise taking the time to encourage me.

John was almost surely the most prolific and widely read Mennonite author ever, having had 37 books and countless articles published, as well as serving as editor of the Gospel Herald (now The Mennonite) for twelve of its most successful years. One book alone, "Seven Things Children Need" sold over 125,000 copies and was translated into over a dozen languages. 

"Spirit Fruit" also went through several printings and was read by thousands, as was his widely read book "Why I am a Conscientious Objector". And in addition to all of his work as an author, Drescher wrote scores of articles published in over a hundred magazines, including Christianity Today, Reader’s Digest, and Catholic Digest, and I'm told these have been translated into in at least seventy languages. Can any other Mennonite writer seriously compete with that?

But I will always remember John not just for his greatness, but for his genuineness as a good man of God and a servant of the church. We owe him and his Lord a large debt of gratitude.

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