Behalt’s story of faith touches nearly every nation

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They come from Nepal. They arrive from Denmark. The visit from Egypt, Rwanda and Scotland. Folks from Abu Dubai, Chile, Norway and Sri Lanka have come.

The drawing power of the story of the Anabaptist people and the mesmerizing tale of. Their journey depicted in the cyclorama mural created by Heinz Gaugel has helped bring people from all over the world to Behalt, also known as the Maish & Mennonite Heritage Center.

As 2023 began, out of the 195 nations in the world, people representing 187 of those nations have graced the facility of Behalt in Berlin. That means 96% of the nations of the world have been represented at one of Holmes County’s most important destinations.

According to Behalt director Marcus Yoder, that number could be a tick higher since they have only been charting the global progress since 2013.“

Most of the missing nations are small, maritime nations in the South Pacific with very small number of people,” Yoder said. “It’s really remarkable to thing that we’ve had visitors from so many nations.

”His reasoning for this incredible blessing of international visitors is simple.

“I tell people, God in his providence smiled, and said ‘You’re not doing a good enough job of taking the message of peace into the world, so I’m going to send the whole world to you.’ What’s happening here with global visitations is inspiring,” Yoder said.

If 2003 is any indication, Behalt could be on its way to paring down the missing nations. In the opening week of 2023, Behalt had visitors from nine states and four countries.

Many of the people who visit from other nations speak English as a second language, but Yoder said it isn’t unique to hear people speaking in their native tongue in the center.“I’m not even surprised any more to hear people speaking in different languages,” Yoder said. “We don’t even think about it anymore. I love the multicultural atmosphere.

”Yoder said one of his most touching moments was this past December when he gave a tour and one woman continued to cry throughout the tour. It turns out she has come to the United States from the Ukraine one month prior to her visit to Behalt. In experiencing the cyclorama for the first time, seeing the suffering the Anabaptist people have gone through over the centuries struck home as she connected that pain with the struggle of her homeland.

Another experience several years ago saw a group of Jewish rabbis pay a visit to the center while a group of Palestinian Arabs were visiting from the West Bank.

“They ended up doing the tour together in what was a really incredible tour,” Yoder said. “You can’t plan those things. On any given day we don’t know who we will encounter here, and that is exciting to me.

”He added that while visitors come from around the globe, around 20% of. The Behalt visitors are Plain people, seeking to learn more about their own history.

Regardless of where they are from or their faith background, Yoder said Behalt’s ability to speak to people on many different levels continues to be its most important asset.

As for the remaining eight nations yet to grace the center, the countries of Gaban, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kiribati, Marshall Islands Micronesia, Monaco and Nauru are welcome to visit any time.

Yoder said for his staff and himself, connecting with people from all these different nationalities is a blessing. He said the main reason they enjoy sharing is hearing from people about why they visit. He noted it often comes down to one central theme.

“There are the obvious reasons people visit, like the food, or quilts, or sweeping Amish farmland, but when you drill down past that and hear their stories, we continually hear the message that this group of people has something to offer that they are missing,” Yoder said. “I think that central theme is our Anabaptist people’s deep faith, our family structures and our sense of community. People can’t believe that we live in a community that takes such great care of one another. There’s a peace here that they want to experience. A big part of our story is how our people have embraced the way of Jesus as he relates to non-resistance. We’re an anomaly and people see that and want to learn more about it.

”While that story and the history depicted in Behalt paints a vivid and mesmerizing journey of faith, Yoder said the staff has heard incredibly uplifting, touching and sometimes painful stories of the plight of others who come from around the world to visit.

He said getting a chance to understand their stories is as important as sharing that of Behalt.

One such story was that of a man from Sudan who has been ostracized from his country for his faith in Christ. Yoder said there is a huge price on the man’s head for being a Christian, but he escaped and regularly returns to share the Word of God to as many people as he can.

“He can so identify with the Anabaptist story, especially “Martyr’s Mirror” where so many people were killed for their faith,” Yoder said. “I’ve been truly struck and blessed by so many incredible stories like his.

”He said recent visits from many Ukrainians has been especially touching because their shared stories of the horror of war are so deeply moving.

Like the many stories intertwined in Gaugel’s Behalt cyclorama, the people of the world continue to paint their own real-life portrait, and their visits to the center have helped Yoder and the staff gain insight into the importance of Behalt.

“It’s this sense of peace,” Yoder said. “We always hear people talk about how peaceful this community is. We hope they understand that we are just humans, with struggles and hopes like everyone else. The message we hope to give people is that we choose this culture and our embracing of this historic faith and the theme of peace. The stories of Behalt are part of our world.

”With a sense of community, anchored by faith, people around the world have come to Holmes County to experience a peace and calmness born from fire.

Behalt is located at 5798 County Road 77 in Berlin (Holmes County). Ohio.