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Like other scholars of his generation, Edgar Lin ’67 came to the United States in the 1960s and ’70s to study. When he returned home, he found that Taiwan was, as before, still in the grip of martial law and political dissents were not tolerated.
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Liz Nofziger ’96 found art early in her Goshen College career and is making a career out of what she continues to find.
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Finding one’s place in the story

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While Beth M. Miller, a history major from Danvers, Ill., was researching the influence of Moody Bible Institute and fundamentalism on Illinois Mennonites between 1920 and 1960 for her senior paper this semester, she uncovered a bit of information in the Mennonite Historical Library (MHL) that not only advanced her research but also suddenly connected her to the topic in a way she couldn’t have imagined.
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A Tale of Two Roommates:

When Mennonites talk of “foreign service” they usually don’t mean embassies. For these two economic officers, it all began in college.

By Wally Kroeker

It’s a long way from Smithville, Ohio, to Port-au-Prince, Haiti – in more ways than one. Growing up in Ohio, David Reimer ’84 never had to think about curfews or the possibility of being kidnapped.
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A Tale of Two Roommates:

When Mennonites talk of “foreign service” they usually don’t mean embassies. For these two economic officers, it all began in college.

By Wally Kroeker

It’s a long way from Smithville, Ohio, to Port-au-Prince, Haiti – in more ways than one. Growing up in Ohio, David Reimer ’84 never had to think about curfews or the possibility of being kidnapped.



- David Reimer -
class of '84
Today he is an economic and commercial counselor in the U.S. Embassy in Haiti, a beleaguered country consumed by poverty and strife. If he ventures out after work he observes a 9 p.m. curfew. If he wants to sit out on his balcony overlooking the city, he does so in daylight, as stray bullets can come with darkness. Last summer, colleagues were shot at while driving in an embassy van.

Across the globe, in Jakarta, Indonesia, Graham Shantz ’83 also lives in stark contrast to his southern Ontario upbringing. He too is employed by an embassy in a commercial role, but his is Canadian.

This kind of foreign service isn’t all that common for Mennonites. A quirky coincidence for this pair is that their career paths began in the same place. Both attended Goshen College in Indiana; both got their first overseas exposure through the Study-Service Term (SST); both credit some of the same professors for broadening their international economic outlook.

What’s more, they were roommates.

In those days Reimer never envisioned the course his life would take. After Goshen he went on to graduate studies in public and international affairs, did international work with the Department of Agriculture, and joined the U.S. foreign service in 1991.
His first posting was Belize, where he had served on SST in college. As vice consul he issued visas and assisted American citizens who had lost passports or needed other help. He later went on to Germany, Washington and Italy, and worked on issues like debt rescheduling and forgiveness for impoverished countries.

His move from a plum posting in Milan to Haiti was at his own choosing.

“I wanted to come here,” he says.

His office is in charge of all the economic relations between the U.S. and Haiti. Policy matters and economic messages to the Haitian government go through Reimer who relates directly to the country’s minister of commerce or finance. His department also reports on the economy of Haiti, promotes trade and looks after the interests of U.S. businesses and investors.

Graham Shantz’s career path likewise has a strong Goshen flavor.

 

- Graham Shantz -
class of '83
“Although I used to believe I stumbled into the Canadian foreign service, I now believe it was almost inevitable,” says Shantz, who was initially drawn to Goshen by its SST program in China.

He studied with economics professors Carl Kreider and Del Good, who were “a fantastic set of role models who taught me of the link between economics, public policy and social justice.”

After teaching English in Japan he decided  to continue his China studies and spent two years on a scholarship exchange program in Beijing. When he returned to Canada he joined the foreign service.

Today Shantz heads up the commercial section at the Canadian Embassy in Indonesia. He manages a team of 13 people (local and Canadian) to support clients of Canada’s Trade Commissioner Service in their efforts to enter and succeed in the Indonesian (and Timor Leste) markets. There’s a high level of Canadian direct investment in this market (more than $5 billion, according to Statistics Canada), and Shantz sometimes gets involved in helping Canadian companies navigate difficulties related to the shifting legal and regulatory environment and other issues such as corruption.

Did rooming together at Goshen influence their similar careers?

“This was a complete coincidence,” says Reimer. “Graham and I never talked about this kind of stuff when we were roommates.”

They do now, however.

A few years ago a debt issue arose in Indonesia that touched on both their governments. It fell to Shantz and Reimer to work out some understandings so they spent some time in telephone discussions. The former roommates had turned into diplomats negotiating weighty matters across the wires.

They stay in close touch on economics, diplomacy and sports (Shantz is a Toronto Blue Jays fan; Reimer likes the Cleveland Indians).
Shantz says he trusts Reimer’s judgment implicitly – on matters other than baseball. “The debt issue was pure coincidence as we happened to both be on the same file for our respective governments while a third government was going through debt negotiations with us. I needed a frank judgment on something unrelated to baseball and I knew where to turn.”

 

Professor of Economics Del Good, in class with (left to right) David Reimer, Graham Shantz and Rebecca Rittgers, in the fall of 1982

Their positions give them a unique perspective on poverty, foreign aid and investment. In Haiti, Reimer has watched a downward economic spiral, fueled by political unrest and violence. Last year the country’s economy shrank by almost four percent, a recession it can ill afford.

“Nobody wants to open a new store, nobody wants to expand a factory, nobody wants to hire more employees if there’s so much upheaval,” he says.
Even apparel assembly (making T-shirts and so on for export to the U.S.) is suffering. Some 20,000 Haitians are employed in this sector, one of the largest in the country. This is down dramatically from close to 90,000 in the early 1990s.

“They’re losing jobs, a lot of it because of competition from China, where some people will work for even less,” Reimer says.
A glaring need is capital. Rural banking, for instance, is vital – “one of the keys to development.”

Another critical area is education. Employers say it’s difficult getting educated people who can read simple instructions or operate machinery.
“If you’re looking for reasons to be encouraged about Haiti, or at least think that the future might be brighter, it’s the spirit of the people,” Reimer says. “They really hustle, and they really work hard.”

For both men, the mix of economics and public service resonates well with the encouragement they received at home, in church and throughout their formal education to “make a difference.”

“Although called the dismal science, economics is at the center of many of the problems and solutions governments face,” says Shantz. “In Asia, home to the majority of the world’s poor, I’ve seen firsthand tremendous poverty-alleviation from the unleashing of entrepreneurial energy and increased trade, capital flow and flows of people and ideas.

“A colleague of mine describes government’s role as balancing equity and efficiency. As a public servant for 15 years in the Canadian federal government I am proud of efforts made both domestically and internationally to find the right balance between sustainable economic growth and redistributive social justice.

 “What I love about this job is that there is no typical day,” says Shantz. “In my career I have worked in development at the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), in trade policy, in the department of finance, the foreign ministry and three times abroad. From managing staff in a completely different culture to international negotiations to poverty alleviation, there’s never been a dull moment.”

Adds Reimer, “You really have a chance to have a positive impact not just on the community but the whole country if you can get some changes made.”

What does the future hold in the exotic world of foreign service?

Reimer’s Haiti term is up in the summer of 2006. “Where next? I have no idea,” he says. “At this point I don’t rule anything out.”

As for Shantz: “My wife, Melanie, and the kids tell me Ottawa. Plus the Toronto Blue Jays are on a 15-year World Series cycle which means we better be home to see them win in 2007.”

Wally Kroeker is editor of The Marketplace, a publication of Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA), in which this article, used with permission, first appeared. See www.meda.org.



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