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Write it Out: Life abroad expanded world view

Janet Yoder poses next to a termite mound in Africa.
Janet Yoder poses next to a termite mound in Africa.

Instead of protesting, dropping out, and getting high, I spent the mid-to-late 1960s abroad, learning more about our world and different cultures and discovering the delights and hardships of teaching school in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

I did protest, marching against (then governor of Alabama) George Wallace when he visited northern Indiana near where I was in college. I also marched in several protests against the war in Vietnam.

However, for me being a pacifist meant more than being passive. So my fiancé, John C. Yoder, who was not vulnerable to the draft because he was in seminary, and I volunteered to serve for three years in the Teachers Abroad Program.

At 21, I took a leave from my graduate studies, married John, and sailed off to Europe, where we spent an entire year studying French as preparation for teaching in the Congo.

After 14 months of language classes five days a week and often more tutoring at night, we were deemed ready to teach high school, first for a year in the capital city, Kinshasa, and then for a second year at Mulungwishi, in the “boot” of the eastern Congo.

We missed the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, and all the hippie frolicking, but we gained a new worldview, which changed the course of our adult lives.

In spite of hepatitis, malaria, and other risks, I have returned to Africa many times, sometimes to teach, other times to accompany my husband as he did research, and once to share with my children a part of the world which had so drastically shaped my life and theirs as well.

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