Joel remembered

Featured image: Red-tailed hawk, spotted along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park at Great Falls, Maryland.

Cornwall Cogitation (North America) #8 Saturday 18 November 2017   Washington DC abounds in languages. Walk along the National Mall and you’re surrounded by many tongues. It makes for an invigorating  cosmopolitan vibe.

A voice among voices


Joel Kauffmann brought a creative voice to this city of many tongues. The final chapter of his professional work was as a co-creator of the Museum of the Bible. A segment on the museum appeared on NBC news Thursday evening, decently done in the short versions of television news. The Grand Opening is today.

On November 11, many of Joel’s family, friends and colleagues gathered at the museum for a preview of his work and learn about a scholarship that will continue his legacy of engaging the creative edge of faith.

One hundred and twenty of us from the US, Canada and England gathered for lunch, generously provided by the museum. We heard from Museum President Cary Summers who unveiled and dedicated a plaque in memory of Joel, and spent the rest of the afternoon absorbed in the biblical story.

Joel died two and a half years ago, the result of a blood clot and resulting fall. His creative voice lives on, not only in DC, but from Mennohof in Shipshewana, Indiana to Nazareth Village in Israel. Here in DC, I was drawn into a deeper appreciation for his life and work.

Everyone at the event would have had stories of Joel’s impact on their lives and vice versa. He and I were colleagues in the Information Services department of Mennonite Board of Missions in the 1970s, he the graphic designer and I one of the writer-editors. What a creatively collaborative spirit he was. The museum people in a plaque properly chose to call Joel a  “creative genius.”

Maybe we took Joel’s multifaceted gifts too much for granted. Bare words alone do not fully describe him: graphic artist, photographer, screenwriter, film buff, author, cartoonist, museum mastermind, advocate for the less fortunate, humorist, creative genius. His deep faith, passion for communicating, and joy for living remain hallmarks of his legacy.

Goshen College has established The Joel Kauffmann Scholarship. In a brochure distributed at the November 11 event, the planners write, “Joel Kauffmann was a dreamer, an artist, a cartoonist, a writer, a humorist, a screenwriter.

“He was a true pioneer. His career contributed creative brilliance to the way people think about faith. . . . Joel brought creative imagination, humor and faith together, leaving lasting marks on the world. His impact will live through his distinctive work and the people it touched.”

One thing was clear from our meeting. Joel’s legacy lives on in the life he lived, the work he left behind, and his influence on family, friends, church, and a wide-ranging public. Others are left to journey on in engaging the creative edge of faith. Thank you Joel! Thank you Nancy, Justin, and Julian and family!


It took 40,000 crafted rocks to create an authentic Nazareth Village. Foreground: Marty Bender, Alice (seated) and Willard Roth. Willard was Joel and my boss at Mennonite Board of Missions in the 1970s.

One of the areas we visited was Nazareth Village, a true to form replication of the restoration of Jesus’ hometown that Joel and many others worked on in Israel. This innovative, global, educational institution invites all peple to engage with the Bible.

Thanks to Barth Hague, Ron Byler, Cary Summers, Nancy, Justin and Julian Kauffmann, and others for shepherding all the details for our time together.

More information

Look up for more information on this fresh voice that seeks to tell the story of “the book that shapes history.”

A walk along the C & O Canal

We stayed two nights with Michael and Alice Bender and two nights in a hotel close to the National Mall. Michael had a day off from his work at the National Institutes of Health and took us on a walk along a section of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal that parallels the Potomac River. Gorgeous, with emphasis on the gorge-like waterfalls on the Potomac. Alice works in nutrition education for the American Institute for Cancer Research.

Other DC doings

Other museums we visited were the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. The nation’s capital is richly endowed with museums, galleries and monuments. My wish is that elected officials, appointed officials, and people of many tongues and nations pay heed to the vision for a better world right under our noses in the nation’s capital.

The train trip and visit to DC has given us a taste for future such forays. In the meantime, we forge ahead with being and doing at home.

Follow your creative spark. Let your voice be heard. See the world through the eyes of another. Find humor, just find it. Be happy. Smile. Give thanks. Thank God for grace, peace and love.


8 thoughts on “Joel remembered

    1. Thank you Marlene. It was both fun and inspirational to be part of the group gathered around Joel’s last professional endeavor. Lasting legacy. Happy Thanksgiving!


  1. John, thanks for the report. I remember riding in the U-Haul truck with Joel the day you and Marty moved into your house on Marine Avenue.


    1. Yes, indeed, John, 41 years ago next January, in a blizzard, with loads of helpers, we made the move to the house that called our name when we saw the For Sale sign. You did an inspection that helped assure us that we were making the right move. Thanks again, 41 years later!


  2. Thank You John for taking us along on your trip which honored our dear friend Joel Kauffmann, Your gift of writing and your words of description maing the journey pleasant and helpful. Thank You GOD for the gifts you gave John, who so generously shares with us.

    On Fri, Nov 17, 2017 at 11:04 AM, It’s About Now wrote:

    > John Bender posted: “Featured image: Red-tailed hawk, spotted along the > Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park at Great Falls, Maryland. > Cornwall Cogitation (North America) #8 Saturday 18 November 2017 > Washington DC abounds in languages. Walk along the National” >


  3. Hello John,

    How exciting that you and Marty could be part of the opening of the Museum of the Bible! Our local paper had a good article about it. Is Michael your brother? Nice that you could have a visit with them while you were in DC.

    Monty & Ginger

    My iPad says that a smile always increases your Face Value!



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