Striking gold at Poustinia

Volunteer Coordinator makes an unexpected discovery

By Ed Kauffman | November 2021

Ed and Gay Kauffman of Elkhart, Indiana, are in their fourth year as Volunteer Coordinators at AMBS. They attend Hively Avenue Mennonite Church in Elkhart. (Credit: Jason Bryant)

“So, what exactly do you do in your role at AMBS?” That’s a question I often hear when I tell people that my wife, Gay, and I are the Volunteer Coordinators at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary. We’re now in our fourth year in this role, and it’s hard to describe all the various things we have done. 

One response to that question is, “We do whatever needs to be done.” That can be as mundane as making coffee for meetings, shredding papers, setting up for breaks, or checking off names for meal participants. Runs to the airport — usually South Bend but even to Chicago — offer interesting opportunities to meet people coming to campus. Keeping track of Anabaptist Short Course participation, making frames in the workshop for table displays, maintaining the coffee machine in the lounge, and coordinating the free book table are among other tasks we are involved with.

Of course, as our title suggests, when AMBS holds events that require more volunteers (such as the annual Pastors & Leaders conference), or when people volunteer for a period of time, one of our jobs is to assign them tasks and integrate them into the programs that are happening. We also oversee the Spouse Volunteer, a student’s spouse who assists in the Church Leadership Center.

But once in a while, something unique comes along. One such occasion happened as we were cleaning out Poustinia, the cloverleaf-shaped house that Clarence Bauman (1928–95), a former professor at AMBS, and Alice Bauman (1928–2019), his wife, had lived in on campus. After the estate had taken everything they wanted following Alice’s death in 2019, I wandered over to see what was left and found several containers of photographic slides. Having had Clarence as a professor and knowing a bit about his life, I was curious. So I gathered them up and, as time permitted, scanned through them.

There were some family pictures, which I managed to pass along to the family. There were many pictures from The Hermitage that Clarence and Alice built in the mountains of British Columbia.  Knowing that this was on the property of Camp Squeah, Mennonite Church British Columbia’s camp near Hope, British Columbia, I contacted them and passed quite a few slides on to them.

But most intriguing were about 50 slides from the Goldstream Gold Mine, outside Fairbanks, Alaska. It was clear that Clarence had worked for a summer at this gold mine, probably in the summer of 1952 or ’53. There were slides along the Alaska Highway on the journey up, and a final one of his lodging in Goshen, Indiana, when he attended school there. Being curious, I did a Google search for the gold mine and discovered that it was a well known mine, with a rather famous dredge that Clarence had taken pictures of. Indeed, I found a picture online from the Alaska and Polar Regions Collections and Archives of the University of Alaska Fairbanks. 

A quick email to those archives to inquire whether they would be interested in these slides prompted a reply that, yes, they would be interested if I could verify that it was indeed the Fairbanks gold mine. Since Clarence had written out a rather detailed description of each slide, that was easy to verify, and so there is now a collection entitled “Clarence Bauman Photographs” in the archives of the University of Alaska Fairbanks. And I have the pleasure of a letter thanking me for the donation that will further research and interest in the Goldstream mine. 

I can’t promise you’ll find a project that’s this unique, but if you are interested in volunteering at AMBS, I’m sure we can find things for you to do! Contact us at [email protected].


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