Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Brethren Service Center - New Windsor, MD

It happens often. Visitors from overseas arrive in the United States and are puzzled because the first persons they meet here have never heard of New Windsor, Maryland. Later they understand - when they finally locate the small town on a road map or find their way to the quiet village tucked away in the Maryland hills. How does it happen that a town of only a thousand residents has a worldwide reputation?

The explanation rests with a cluster of buildings on a former college campus at the edge of New Windsor - the service center operated by the Church of the Brethren and utilized by Church World Service, Lutheran World Relief, and many other world service agencies.

Don't be surprised if overseas visitors are confused. They may have lived in Europe in the harsh years after World War II when food and clothing given by Americans came by way of New Windsor and the town name appeared on bales and packages. A daughter or son may have participated in an international youth exchange that began with orientation in the Maryland town. The medical supplies so important for a missionary doctor or nurse likely reached their overseas recipients by way of a warehouse in New Windsor. Refugee families often found the Service Center a temporary home while waiting to be received in American communities. For many artisans and craft persons overseas the New Windsor address is their doorway to a market for their "self-help" products in international gift shops.

Americans with a little elementary geography do not expect New Windsor to be as conspicuous as Baltimore; but they, too, marvel that such a modest country town welcomes around 35,000 visitors each year. Some come as volunteers to help in the humanitarian programs at the Center, others to participate in retreats, and many as tourists attracted by its unique gift shop.

More about the Brethren Service Center tomorrow.

Source: "Introduction" to New Windsor Center by Kenneth Morse, 1979