On two separate occasions this week, the EMU Campus had the opportunity to hear and visit with Dann and Joji Pantoja, MCC Canada Witness workers hosted locally by Virginia Mennonite Mission. In these chapels, the couple gives witness to Jesus’ influence on their lives and peacebuilding.
As a young man raised in a church planting family, it was the radical communism sweeping through the Philippines that fired Dann’s imagination; later, it was a purge within those ranks that led to Dann’s emigration from the Philippines to Canada. After 911, God led Dann to eschew violence and embrace a theology of peace. A gifted communicator and effective organizer, Dann has returned to the Philippines, founding Peacebuilders Community in conflict ridden Mindanao. When asked what fuels his excitement and positive outlook in life despite the negative stuff happening around him, he responds, “It’s the positive influence of Jesus—a 1st century Palestinian carpenter who was executed by the imperial power of his time. He said: “Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” He defied death—the ultimate negative factor in our cosmos.”
Dann’s wife Joji left a successful career in the investment and financial industry to join Dann in ministry in Mindanao, realizing that sustainable economic development is crucial to her people’s search for just-peace. She says, “I can’t imagine having a summary of my life printed on my tombstone as: “Spent her life managing rich people’s money.”I want to be remembered as: “A person who walked with the people as they find dignity through sustainable economic development.”