For the first time ever, EMU’s annual Distinguished Service Award will go posthumously to an alumnus: Glen Lapp ’91.
Glen’s life was cut short on August 5, 2010, when he and other aid workers with International Assistance Mission, a Christian charity, were gunned down in northern Afghanistan. Glen was a volunteer with Mennonite Central Committee, assigned to IAM, where he was an executive assistant and manager of its provincial ophthalmic program.
The medical team – six Americans, three Afghans, a German, and a Briton – were returning to Kabul from an arduous service trip to northern Afghanistan, when the team was ambushed and robbed. All except for one Afghan were left riddled with bullets in a remote wooded area of Badakhshan Province.
Glen was 40 years old.
Glen graduated from EMU as a math major. Four years later, in 1995, he earned a BS in nursing at Johns Hopkins University in the school’s second degree accelerated program.
“His life exemplified selfless service,” said Duane Ringer, Glen’s former colleague at Lancaster Regional Medical Center.
In nominating Glen for EMU’s Distinguished Service Award, Trina Trotter Nussbaum ’99 wrote: “What a fitting way to honor his life’s work! He offered his life up for service like Jesus did and ended up losing it, like Jesus did. Who knows how people have been touched and inspired because of Glen’s witness and sacrifice?”
EMU President Loren Swartzendruber said: “As with many of our alumni around the world, Glen was fulfilling EMU’s mission of serving and leading in a global context, which often involves great personal sacrifice.”
Lisa Schirch, an EMU professor who became friends with Glen during her visits to Afghanistan on peace-related work, told a newspaper reporter that Glen was compassionate, humble and “devoted to using his life to serve others.”
Ruth Zimmerman ’94, MA ’02 in conflict transformation, was Lapp’s direct supervisor for MCC in Asia. She said Lapp’s interest in Afghanistan emerged while visiting a friend there in 2004.
“Glen loved the adventure of it,” she said. “I’m sure this last trip to the outer reaches of Afghanistan – places where hardly any other people on earth have ever gone – was the dream of a lifetime for him. The team travelled by Jeep for several days, and then they walked and rode on horseback over mountain passes just to get there. They had to carry all their equipment with them. It was terribly hard to reach, and in the end, it was also dangerous.”
Zimmerman added, “Glen was the ideal nurse, very self contained and capable, as well as extremely compassionate – and above all, humble about it.”
Before working in Afghanistan, Glen provided care to an underserved population of the Havasupai Nation on a reservation in Supai, Arizona. When Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, Lapp went to help in New Orleans.
Lapp’s perspective was recorded in a report he filed for his supervisors at MCC:
“Where I was [Afghanistan], the main thing that expats can do is to be a presence in the country,” he wrote. “Treating people with respect and with love and trying to be a little bit of Christ in this part of the world.”
Glen Lapp was a member of Community Mennonite Church in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where his parents Mary and Marvin Lapp ’72 live. They will be accepting Glen’s award on his behalf.
Published Aug. 2011.