BELLEVILLE - When historian S. Duane Kauffman started digging through local Amish and Mennonite history, he uncovered the adventures of a small-town boy named Solomon "Sol" Yoder.
At the time - 1990 -Kauffman was researching information for another book, but he never forgot the letters and diary he found detailing Yoder's life and experiences in post-World War I Europe.
Kauffman was so inspired by Yoder's story that he decided to share the young teacher's past with others. Recently, he published the book "Your Son and Brother Sol," a collection of Yoder's writings paired with Kauffman's research about the Yoder family and the time period.
This book edited by S. Duane Kauffman shares letters and diary entries from Belleville man Solomon Yoder, who volunteered for reconstruction work in Europe after World War I.
"As a teacher, I felt called to keep these kinds of stories alive," said Kauffman, who taught history for more than 40 years. "I saw this as a story of a really remarkable man, a country boy."
Because Yoder was a Mennonite, he was a conscientious objector and did not serve as a soldier in the war.
After the battles ended, though, he joined Quakers and other pacifist groups to volunteer for reconstruction in France and Germany through the American Friends Service Committee.
These groups of volunteers rebuilt houses, helped farms return to production, removed barbed wire, filled in trenches and more, Kauffman said.
Because Yoder knew the German language, he supervised German prisoners of war for about five months in France, Kauffman said.
During the next seven months, he worked in Germany, attempting to contact families of the POWs and give them information about their brothers and sons, he said. The quest to find these families was challenging, and Yoder often traveled 10 to 12 miles on foot through fields and forests, Kauffman said.
While he was doing that he realized what it was really like to live in post-World War I Germany, Kauffman said. Yoder saw the civilians caught in the crossfire, the human suffering because of war, he said.
"His letters were so poignant as he describes the poverty as a result of the war ..." Kauffman said.
The Belleville man saw the negative impact of allied forces' post-war policies on civilians, often crushing them even deeper into poverty, Kauffman said.
Yoder made friends with German families during his travels, and he continued to write to them after he returned to the U.S.
At home, the young man motivated his home community to help families in Europe by donating care package shipments through the food draft, Kauffman said.
Later, Yoder became a doctor and worked in Lancaster for 54 years, he said.
Kauffman's book begins and ends with biographical information about Yoder, but the meat of the content is letters and diary entries reproduced with edits by Kauffman. He also included several translated letters written by German families to Yoder.
"I thought his story needs to be told," Kauffman said. "It shows Mennonite pacifistic approach to peace and justice. I was impressed because he took a lot of risks.
"But I also see hope, that one dedicated man can make a difference against overwhelming odds," he said.
The best place to purchase "Your Son and Brother Sol" is the Mennonite Heritage Center in Belleville. However, people also may order a book by sending a check for $23 plus $2 shipping to S. Duane Kauffman at 1411 W. Schwenkmill Road, Perkasie, PA 18944.