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    Farewell to a Peacemaker

    Johann Christoph Arnold, 1940–2017

    By Sam Hine

    November 14, 2021

    Available languages: Deutsch, Español

    • Bridget Hickey-Williams

      I never met this beautiful man, but thanks to Davic and Becky Paul and Carol and Tom Kleinassere, I've been blessed to know Pastor Christoph Arnold through his inspiring books, and shall continue to delve into them for the wisdom they share. Many blessings on his family and all the brothers and sisters of the Bruderhoff for whom he was a Father. What a day to go through death to life with our Risen Lord!

    • metin erdem

      Everytime when I look at your picture with Verena, I hear your voice . I miss you very much and thank you that you lived a life for others. You taught us the meaning of life and God. You taught us love and peace that we feel in our hearts. You are in heaven in the hands of God. May God be with dear Verena and protect your family.

    • Moira Steven

      I have been dipping into "Seeking Peace" for the past 6 months, at a very difficult and stressful time in my life. I feel alienated from church due to its unwelcoming attitude to those who have made mistakes in life, but this book continues to give me real hope and purpose.

    • David Breen

      Celebration of a life well lived and of the grace and blessing that flowed from it is appropriate and must always be part of how we approach the passing of brothers and sisters in Christ. They are still part of us and continue to be members of the body of Christ, albeit it in glory, so in some mysterious way remain in communion with us. Yet none of that saves me from the sense of loss and grief that is also part of human experience. The two reside together and God's grace enables us to both rejoice in the former and journey through the latter with hope and comforted by his presence, assurances and promise.

    • Geraldine Hennessy

      May Dylan, Joey & I, offer our sincere condolences on the news of the sad passing of Johann Christoph Arnold. What an insightful, wise, inspirational man he was & his writings brought me so much comfort, peace & hope as a Christian & Parent. I will keep you all in my thoughts & prayers.

    • Teresa O'Dea

      My sympathies and prayers go to you all on the death of this great Elder. May he rest in peace and may peace be with his wife and family. I have read Cardinal Dolan's impressive tribute. Good wishes to you all.

    • Sister Carmen Lee, Missionary Sisters, Servants of the Holy Spirit

      oh dear. I am so shocked to hear this news but I know that he was so welcome in heaven and had millions whom he helped to greet him.

    • Candy Lovett

      My name is Candy Lovett and I am so devastated to hear that Christoph has passed. Truly one of the most amazing, gentle, man I've ever met. The fact that he allowed my son Leon White to be buried at the Woodcrest was amazing. But the things he had to say about my son, never physically meeting him, to this day is locked within my heart. I still have the video of that day and the heartfelt words he spoke about my son. My thoughts go out to Verena and the family, as well as to all who knew him and are feeling his loss.

    • JIm Dowling

      I think "Why Forgive" is one of the best books written carrying perhaps the most important message of our age. A great writer and a great man. Jim Dowling Catholic Worker Australia

    • Thomas Cogdell

      I read the book Why Forgive? on a plane ride from Houston to Moscow, and I was weeping the whole time. Thank you, Lord, for such an important voice in our generation. May You use his death like a seed, to raise up many more such voices. Amen ...

    • Alfred and Tina Du Bois

      Dear Bruderhof family, I am sorry for the loss of Johann – I read many of his books – he will be missed by many. I had the opportunity to hear him speak at a couple of book signing events – very inspirational. I also had the privilege to meet him and Verena once to share and get advice on one of my daughters. His last words to us were “the last chapter hasn’t been written yet…” He was a man called by God to help build the Kingdom and pass on the faith – in these “troubling times.” I will miss him –however his writings and words will be live on.

    • Felicity Shaw

      Thanks for the opportunity to share what Christoph's writing meant to me. In 2010 God broke into my life, convicting me of sin and turning me around. At the end of that year, as part of my restoration, I had the privilege of going to live in the Danthonia Bruderhof for 8 months. I shared such a lot with the brothers and sisters there including being part of global meetings where we heard Christoph speak directly but always with Christ's love. While in Danthonia, I read all of Christoph's books. I wrestled terribly with being sure of God's forgiveness. Reading his book on forgiveness was like a light to direct my eyes off me and onto Jesus. It was the beginning of a road toward self-forgetfulness and living a thankful life. I am especially thankful for all my dear brothers and sisters in the Bruderhof and for the wisdom in the pages of that book.

    • JR Fontaine

      I can say with certainty that he touched my late wife in some of her darkest hours. She was facing death and she was scared. His books, especially "Be Not Afraid" comforted her in her pain and suffering in the last few months of her life. There was a tear in my eye after she passed away and I found the books she was reading. I myself had to come to grips with a lot of pain caused by others. A friend who was in the Bruderhof gave me "Why Forgive." It has meant that I have to realistically look at my life and deal with it honestly. Go with God Pastor Arnold and may God Bless You. I'm sure we weren't the only ones that were helped by his deep spiritual insights. Please accept my deepest condolences.

    • Hilda Leparachao

      Am sorry for your loss, i wish the family God's strength during this hard time. Tell the family to take courage God will comfort them. I remember Johann through his books forgiving and overcoming fear and despair. May Good Lord rest his soul in peace.

    • Akhil

      You have lost a very Nice Soul. I had joined the Plough Family in 2000 and since then intermittently I have been having access to thoughts from Plough and the Daily Prayers. In this sad time on the passing away of our Dear Johann Arnold please accept my condolences and prayers, and may his wisdom and love guide the Plough family in all our future endeavors and life.

    • Nancy Libertini

      My heart is so sad, selfishly so, for I will miss the wisdom of this precious life. I rejoice though that he is in the arms of our God, our faithful and loving Lord. Can you imagine the grace and mercy that Pastor Johann Christoph Arnold is experiencing as he sits before our God? He used his life’s journey as an example of servanthood and touched so many. I first learned of his work through purchasing children’s chairs from the Community. Soon after my purchase, I began receiving copies of The Plough, then a paper booklet. I devoured each copy and hungered until the next one arrived. I saved and guarded each one for years, but many have been shared. Such wisdom cannot stay as a blessing if kept it to oneself. I have purchased several copies of his book, Seeking Peace, as I end up giving the book to others to read and they ended up keeping it. How can I ask for it back…. it is obvious that the message he has written is still needed for their hearts to grow and mature. I have read just about every book he wrote. With tears in my eyes, I bid farewell to a man who has enriched my life by challenging me to trust God to walk with Him through storms and to emerge in the presence of rainbows. What a holy man…. We never met, but yet I always felt I knew him personally. He touched my heart and empowered my spirit. Farewell my friend. I will meet you in heaven, and there I will have the opportunity to thank you for gently, yet powerfully loving me in this life.

    • John

      I had the privilege of walking along with Johann on a country road near the Woodcrest community in the early 90’s while my family and I were visiting interested in community. He was warm and gracious toward me and I truly appreciated being with him for that short time. I also remember how the community gathered around the sick and dying loved ones and sang so beautifully and it brought me to tears . I want to extend our sympathy and prayers to Johann’s family and the whole community. This is Pascha and one Orthodox refrain is: Christ is risen from the dead, Trampling down death by death, And upon those in the tombs Bestowing life! My prayer is this is indeed what Johann Christoph is experiencing now.

    • Ray Timmermans

      I was very moved by Cries from the Heart. He was a real blessing.

    • Rev. Michael Gruhn

      As chaplain of a prison unit in Texas, I used Pastor Arnold's books in classes and had the entire collection added to the prison library. The full impact of his teaching will not be known in our lifetime.

    • Christina St. Clair

      Rich in Years became the source of community within two groups I led, one in a Presbyterian church, and the other in a Disciples of Christ church. Johann's anecdotes, wisdom, and gentleness permeated the groups and brought us all together in mutual respect, peace, and love. He was a blessing and will continue to be so through his wise words.

    • Giles Daubeny

      Just love love love to YOU ALL at this desperately sad time. Grace carry you ALL, the Blood of Jesus & His Angels, Archangels & very arms hold you ALL completely safe, & one day we'll all spend a wonderful time in heaven with Johann. Jesus be very close, second by second to you ALL, & carry you through this time.

    • Pastor Jay T. Francis

      Johann Christoph Arnold had a devotional heart that enabled him to present biblical principles in a convincing manner. The impact of life and writings will ripple out to countless hearts desiring more. I will continue to cherish lessons from him. Psalm 133

    • Richard Gatjens

      I hope you don't mind if I share a story with you. I listened on Tuesday to the interview and All Saints sermon of an Episcopal priest on Day One, a podcast site that has interviews and sermons by mainline Protestant preachers. I was particularly impressed by her suggestion that when eating out, she recommended telling the waitperson you were going to bless your meal and ask what Blessing they would like you to offer them. She said the stories you hear are incredible and inspiring. I thought to myself, perhaps that is something I can do, if I'm not too shy. It is something I would like to do. Yesterday morning, I took the train to work, and, as usual, I was doing Morning Prayer with my Book of Common Prayer in hand. A gentleman came and sat next to me, and looking at me, said, "Ah the daily bread ... would you like to share the daily bread?" I wasn't certain what he wanted, and then he said, "The Living bread". I understood what he meant by the bread, but I still wasn't sure what he wanted. Did he want me to read from the scriptures? So I just said, "Ahh, yes," and went back to my praying. He pulled out a book of his own and read. When I finished my prayers, I still had time on the train, so I pulled out another book I had just started--Escape Routes by Johann Christoph Arnold. A friend had sent me (and others) the book, and it seemed relevant to my condition right now, so I have been reading it. As I was sitting there in silence, I read the following: "'s deepest fulfillment comes from valuing every human encounter, and showing love to everyone we meet, especially if they are lonely, despairing, or beaten down. What excuse can there be for not conquering our shyness in loving? ... As the novelist Alice Walker writes, "Our last five minutes on earth are running out. We can spend those moments in meanness ... or we can spend them consciously embracing every glowing soul who wanders within our reach." Now in general I don't think God is that interested in speaking to me, but I thought I can't ignore this! I waited until the train to come to our stop. We both began to gather our things and I reached out my hand to him. He took it, and I said, "Have a good day. May God bless you and keep you. I'm sorry, but I'm a shy person." He looked at me and said, "That's okay," and he handed me a card for an evangelical gathering. I don't think I'm going, but I'm glad I reached out. I owe that in part to your words. So thanks, Johann, for a still very memorable moment in my life.

    • Michael O'Callaghan

      I have read Cries from the Heart and Why Forgive a few times. They are powerful books that have helped me a lot on my journey through life.

    • Patrick and Debbie Murray

      The Nehemiah Community of Springfield, MA is deeply saddened to hear of the death of Christoph. We have been richly blessed through his writings and most certainly by his words when we visited your community at Woodcrest. Please extend our deepest sympathies to his widow, Verena, and their family and assure them that your community is in our prayers as you grieve the loss of this wonderful peacemaker. To God be all of the glory!

    • Fr. Laurence Mayne, Lancashire, UK

      Dear Verena, my thanks to your husband, Johann, and to yourself for the richly rewarding spiritual books written by Johann Christoph and published by Plough. And what a lovely time to go to his eternal reward on the vigil of Jesus Christ's resurrection Easter Sunday. As Pope Saint John XXIII used to say when told someone was dead: "Dead? He's not dead. He's alive. He's gone home. He's waiting for you. In death, our life is changed, not ended." We will offer a Mass for Johann Christoph and for the consolation of you and your family.

    • Esther

      "Rich in Years" by Johann Christoph Arnold changed my life. Arnold helped me to see what a precious child of God I am and since i read his book 4 years ago i have been able to tell everyone i know how precious they are too. Blessings to Eternity, Arnold. And to his grieving family I extend much love and comfort as in John 14:18

    • Arla Clouser

      I have been blessed many times by Johann Christoph Arnold's books, by the hope and faith he has embodied in his writing. I tend to be anxious, and to know there is a man of faith who lived the radical Christian Life was an inspiration. Thanks to the Woodcrest community and to Johann Christoph Arnold for inspiring me to walk more closely with Jesus.

    • Janet Reale

      My deep condolences on the death of this extraordinary man who gave so much healing wisdom to the people who knew him or read his works.

    • Fr. Rick Malloy, S.J

      How blessed we are to have had Johann Christoph Arnold with us for so long. His service to the world is beyond exemplary. We look forward in hope to meeting him again in the new creation. His book “Why Forgive” should be added to the Christian canon. The real life examples of courageous and compassionate forgiving of people who have done terrible wrongs are moving, heart rendering and thought provoking. They call us to conversion on many levels and in many arenas. It is a book that has provided me with much material for homilies, and reading material for classes I teach. Bless all at Plough Publishing at this time as they mourn the loss of Johann.

    • Tom strickler

      I've only recently become aware of Johann Christoph Arnold and his writings. His book Escape Routes was a gift for subscribing to Plough Quarterly magazine. The book is very moving, thought provoking and even more meaningful now for people seeking happiness in today's troubled world. It's sad to learn of his passing. I'm just glad I got to know him.

    • metin erdem

      See you in the promised land , dear dove of peace. You showed me the light of Christ 25 years ago. You gave me the your books and you were like a father for me. Especially the book of '' SEEKING PEACE '' affected me and Lord Jesus touched my heart. I have learnt a lot from you and your books. The meaning of the love and life . You were always with me when I was alone. You lived a life for your family and a life for others. It is real life. I wish everyone of us may live a life as Christoph lived. You went to the promised land alone and wait for us and we will meet you there. This is not a farewell but meeting into the hearts. You will live in our hearts.

    • Robert Ellsberg, Orbis Books

      My condolences for the loss of such a great friend and pastor. A true companion of Jesus, he was an inspiration to me and so many others. His message of community, family, forgiveness, and persistence in the cause of peace have enriched the world.

    • Rick Warren, Saddleback Church

      On Holy Saturday, April 15, the world lost a giant of the faith, Johann Christoph Arnold. Christoph was a passionate leader and author of 12 books that sold millions, including Why Forgive? his most famous book. He always went right to the root of life’s problems - whether writing about marriage and family, racism, peacemaking, death and dying, forgiveness, faith, and moral purity. I met Christoph in the most unlikely place for both of us: in Rome at the Vatican. Pope Francis had invited both of us as non-Catholics to speak on the biblical meaning of marriage at his Vatican conference on marriage and family. Although I had already loved reading many of his books, meeting Christoph made me love him even more. His quiet humility, his contagious smile and laugh, his deep love for both Jesus and people, and his passion for peacemaking evidenced the true spirit of Christ. I look forward to long discussions with him in Heaven one day. I thank God for the life of Christoph Arnold. If you have not read any of his books, start with Why Forgive. Our love and prayers go out to sweet Verena, all the family, and all of our dear brothers and sisters of Bruderhof. We thank God for you all.

    This article was originally published on April 19, 2017.

    Here at Plough, we’re still getting used to the world without Johann Christoph Arnold – pastor and peacemaker, author and editor, mentor and friend – who died Saturday, April 15, 2017.

    Christoph led Plough’s publishing efforts in the 1960s, and we became his publisher in the 1990s when he turned to writing books to share wisdom and stories gleaned from decades of peacemaking around the globe and of pastoral service at Woodcrest, the Bruderhof community he called home for over half a century. His books have helped over two million readers navigate the turbulence of marriage and parenting, aging and grieving, forgiving and overcoming fear and despair.

    johann christoph and verena arnold_embed

    Johann Christoph and Verena Arnold

    Those of us privileged to work alongside Christoph will never forget how he challenged us to have more faith: to believe in redemption for the most depraved, hope for the most intractable conflicts, an end to every injustice. He taught us to speak plainly to the widest possible audience, using the power of stories to open hearts and minds – true stories of amazing people he knew and had befriended.

    Has Johann Christoph Arnold’s life or any of his books touched you personally? If you have a story or thoughts, please leave a comment and we will share it with his family.

    Christoph used his stature as a public figure to inject a note of reason into the national conversation. He reached out to people of every political persuasion and faith to find common ground and, where possible, to make common cause. When there was tragedy on the news, local or global, we could expect a call within hours; he would have already drafted a thoughtful response, comforting the victims’ families while tackling the roots of the problem. On TV, radio, editorial pages, and countless online outlets he called for peace and understanding when the drums of war rolled, for forgiveness when the public wanted blood, for courage in the face of fear-mongering, solidarity in the face of hate, faithfulness in a world of infidelity, and sanity in a culture warped by technology and consumerism.

    Johann Christoph Arnold’s gift will go on giving in his many books, which Plough will continue to make available, and in the example he left us to be peacemakers, believers in the spark of God in every human heart just waiting to be fanned into flame.

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    From Seeking Peace:

    Peace demands struggle. It is found by taking up the fundamental battles of life: life versus death, good versus evil, truth versus falsehood. Yes, it is a gift, but it is also the result of the most intense striving. In fact, several verses in the Psalms imply that it is in the process of striving for peace that peace is found. Such peace is a consequence of confronting and overcoming conflict, not avoiding it. And rooted as it is in righteousness, genuine peace – the peace of God – disrupts false relationships, disturbs wrongful systems, and debunks the lies that promise a false peace. It uproots the seeds of unpeace.

    From Escape Routes:

    Just as loneliness arises out of our alienation from self, from people we meet, and from the world around us, so also the process of healing must touch all these areas of our life. Paradoxically, the deed we dread most, unveiling our hidden self with its loneliness and failings to another person we trust, is usually the one that brings people right to the door of freedom. The positive results of sharing are often instantaneous: walls crumble as we realize that we are not alone in our feelings of isolation or guilt. Simply realizing that another person cares about our burdens can release us to see beyond them.

    From Why Forgive?:

    Most of us will probably never be faced with forgiving a murderer or rapist. But all of us are faced daily with the need to forgive a partner, child, friend or colleague – perhaps dozens of times in a single day. Perhaps the hardest thing about practicing forgiveness in daily life is that it requires us to confront the reality of our feelings toward those we know best. It is difficult enough to forgive a stranger we might never see again, but it is much harder to forgive a person we love and trust. Our family, our friends, the people we feel closest to at work – they not only know our strengths, but also our weaknesses, our frailties, and our quirks.

    From Rich in Years:

    Even as we come to grips with the knowledge that our earthly life could end at any moment, we can live with the certainty that there is a life after death. As Scripture hints, eternity is not about unending life as we know it; what we know here will soon be over. Eternity is a new life, free of death’s destructive powers, a fullness of life where love reigns supreme. The promise of everlasting life has less to do with duration of time and more to do with a certain kind of life – one of peace, fellowship, and abundance – and such a life can begin now.

    From Be Not Afraid:

    The best way – the only way – to truly overcome the fear of death is to live life in such a way that its meaning cannot be taken away by death. This sounds grandiose, but it is really very simple. It means fighting the impulse to live for ourselves, instead of for others. It means choosing generosity over greed. It also means living humbly, rather than seeking influence and power. Finally, it means being ready to die again and again – to ourselves, and to every self-serving opinion or agenda. … Unless we live for love, we will not be able to meet death confidently when it comes. I say this because I am certain that when our last breath is drawn and our soul meets God, we will not be asked how much we have accomplished. We will be asked whether we have loved enough. To quote John of the Cross, “In the evening of life you shall be judged on love.”

    a girl in a pink dress with a bamboo fishing pole by a pond

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    Contributed By Sam Hine Sam Hine

    Sam Hine is an editor at Plough.

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