Who would have imagined that God would use pacifist Canadian Mennonites to bring revival in Germany?
The Janz Brothers, who lived on a Saskatchewan farm, began as Country & Western singers. Hildor, together with his brothers Leo and Adolph, and Adolph’s brother-in-law Cornelius Enns, formed the Janz Quartet in 1946. They had a passion to serve God through singing, and to bring others into a relationship with God. Being eager to learn more about God, they went to Briercrest Bible Institute/College in Caronport, Saskatchewan. Then they finished their education at Prairie Bible Institute in Three Hills, Alberta.
At Prairie (PBI), they had a radio studio, connected to CFCN in Calgary, where they did live broadcasts every day. The Janz Brothers used to travel with E. L. Maxwell, the Prairie Bible College President. They really gave a big boost to Prairie. There were 2,000 students attending Prairie at that time.
In 1951, the German branch of the mission organization Youth for Christ invited the Janz Quartet to minister as part of a three-month nationwide crusade in Germany. After that trip to Europe, they said ‘We’ve got to go as missionaries.’ The mother of their nephew Jim Janz ran the home office for them in Calgary. The Janz team would usually come back at Christmas time for a Janz family reunion. Jim and Sharon Janz supported them for over 50 years. They were definitely like Billy Graham in their massive impact on German-speaking people in Europe. The crowds were standing room only. Once in a while, they had to move venues to get everyone in. Thousands of people came to Christ during that time. Like Billy Graham and his team, the Janz Brothers would work together with local churches in Germany. They would go for several months, sometimes a year in advance, doing training sessions. Jim Janz said: “This is where their ministry really took off. Because of their Mennonite heritage, they spoke fluent German; so, they decided to go to Germany just to see what the lay of the land was like. They went over there for a couple of months and had a tremendous response. They ended up with 20,000 people attending each rally. They came back, all fired up, and decided to move there with their families. This kicked off a 50-plus year ministry that was tremendously successful.”
Their record label, Songs of Life Records, produced singles that were popular throughout the German-speaking world as well as in Canada, the USA, and South America. They even released a Black Spiritual album in Germany.
Beginning in 1965, the Janz Team made several evangelism trips to Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina. The ministry also established what eventually became known as the Black Forest Academy in 1956 which still thrives to this day.
Jim Janz commented: “The Janz Uncles were regular menschen. (Yiddish/German: a person of integrity and honour) They had two offices, one in Germany and one in Switzerland right across the river from each other. This allowed them to connect with the Swiss German people.”
Dr. Ed Penner noted that many German people were so distraught by what happened with Hitler that they became atheists, losing all hope. Jim Janz agreed, saying “They lost their hope, but they also felt lost and needed to find solid ground again. They were looking for truth, for the gospel to be preached. So, they were ready.” Ralph Shareski, who served as an Alliance missionary for decades in Germany, commented: “It was certainly a time of harvest. We’ve met several Germans in our time who came to Christ through the Janzs’ ministry, including a pastor in Heidelberg.”
The Janz Team has now changed its name to TeachBeyond. George Durance was the President of the Janz Team School for over twelve years in Germany. Then he became the President of TeachBeyond. They now have over 1,000 teachers around the world. TeachBeyond’s vision is to serve our Father’s world, to love Jesus Christ, and to see individuals and societies transformed by His Spirit through education. Jim Janz’ daughter is the chairwoman of the TeachBeyond board. As opportunities grew, the original Janz Gospel Association established various national Janz organizations to serve needs in Europe and South America.
Thank God for how God used Canadian Mennonites to transform the German-speaking world. How might God want us to be more like the Janz team in their passion for global transformation?