Naomi Lederach ’54: Life lessons in love and forgiveness begin with ‘we’

By Ariel Ropp for Goshen Commons

Naomi Lederach rarely says “I.”

Whether she’s describing her time as a peace worker in Northern Ireland during the Troubles or her experience as a nursing professor at Hesston College in Kansas, Lederach, 79, habitually begins her sentences with “we.” The other half of Lederach’s “we” is invariably her husband, John, who has been her co-worker, best friend and partner for the last 58 years.

Together, Naomi and John have moved from Goshen to Oregon to Kansas—even to Israel and Northern Ireland during periods of great political conflict—always going where they feel called, Naomi as a nurse and John as a pastor and professor. No matter where they live, Naomi and John model for others how to have a lasting, loving marriage and have in fact led marriage workshops together for over 25 years.

Lesson number one? You’re never too old to hold hands, a practice Naomi and John demonstrate regularly.

Their affection for each other was immediately apparent on the sunny spring morning that I visited their Goshen home to interview Naomi. As she and I sat down at the kitchen table, John took drink requests and promptly prepared coffee for me and chamomile tea for Naomi.

“Would you like sugar or sweetener with your coffee?” John asked me politely.

“She wants sugar,” Naomi answered with a wink. John gave her shoulder a small squeeze as he handed her the tea.

Once John left the room, Naomi took a sip from her white mug and said what would become the first of many “we” statements: “We tell each other every day how lucky we are to have found each other. What a wonderful life it’s been.”

Although John has indeed been an integral part of Naomi’s personal narrative, the stories she proceeded to share were still uniquely and unequivocally her own. As she spoke, themes of reconciliation and forgiveness continually emerged as defining values of her life.

These are three of her stories. …

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