JUNE 2021 MBHERALD.COM
Power to do the impossible The transforming power of the Holy Spirit
VOLUME 60, NO. 6
I W I L L N O T L E AV E Y O U A S O R P H A N S T R U E G R I T, B U N G E E C O R D S A N D R E S I L I E N C Y W H AT D O Y O U D O W I T H T H E M A D Y O U F E E L?
Sixty years of sharing the life & story of the Mennonite Brethren in Canada
Q: How do you speak well about marriage with your neighbours, knowing that marriage can be difficult? A: Check out the Faith and Life online pamphlets about marriage and family. www.mennonitebrethren.ca/ nflt-resources
Mennonite Brethren Herald Digest is digitally published monthly by the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches, primarily for the use of its members, to build a Canadian MB community of faith. We seek to 1) share the life and story of the church by nurturing relationships among members and engaging in dialogue and reflection; 2) teach and equip for ministry by reflecting MB theology, values, and heritage, and by sharing the good news; 3) enable communication by serving conference ministries and informing our members about the church and the world. However, the opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of the church as a whole.
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ONE CHURCH, ONE BODY
WHAT DO YOU DO WITH THE MAD YOU FEEL?
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14 Sixty years
POWER TO DO THE IMPOSSIBLE
Fred Rogers and the little red trolley.
2021 QUARTER ONE FINANCIAL REPORT
into life struggles provide a model of
Fred's profound and honest insights resiliency and perseverance. See the story on page 10.
of sharing the life and story of Mennonite Brethren in Canada
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A rich history of supporting ministry For over 40 years, your financial investment in the MB Conference has facilitated ministry growth in practical and profound ways. Your investment helps provide mortgages to MB churches and pastors that may otherwise be unavailable. This enables churches and pastors to have a presence in the communities they serve. Income generated by CCMBC Investments is directed to ministry to help grow God’s Kingdom by supporting activities such as church planting, pastor leadership training and other church-led ministry efforts.
Earn a return while investing in ministry You can now earn 1.40%* annually on your
investment while helping God’s Kingdom to grow by providing churches and pastors with mortgages. *Rates are adjusted semi-annually on January 1 and July 1 each year.
Contact CCMBC Investments or Capstone Asset Management to learn more or to make an investment in a cash account, RRSP or TFSA.
The discovered remains of 215 children in Kamloops, BC, reminds us again of the atrocities committed against Canada’s First Peoples. Christ-followers are sure that crimes committed in the name of progress grieve the heart of God. Knowing that this occurred under the oversight of the Christian church is shameful. These acts should grieve us to the point of action. We mourn with our Indigenous brothers and sisters, and we commit ourselves to peace and reconciliation in the name of Creator God.
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From the editor ost months, I have no idea what to say in the editorial column. Up until a year ago, the task fell on more qualified writers. We, as conference and family, miss their contributions and voices. Just days before sitting down to write this month’s piece, news broke of the discovery of a mass grave on the grounds of a former residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia. Two hundred and fifteen children were denied their culture and separated from their parents, never to return. How does one find words in the face of such devastating injustice? In this instance, I turn to the kindness of friends. Kathy Rieder Heppner (Fort Garry MB Church, Winnipeg) made a list of ways to take action and learn more about the history of residential schools in Canada. With Kathy’s permission, we posted that list to our Facebook page here. The Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action Learning and Prayer Guide is an initiative of The Christian and Missionary Alliance in Canada. You can download a copy of the interactive prayer guide on their website here.
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When words fail, we fall to our knees. Pray for and stand in support of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation and Canada’s First Peoples. Pray for healing in our land: Father God, Creator, forgive us and lead us in ways of peace, justice and reconciliation. This month’s contributors are Nikki White (page 5); Shauna Caldwell (What do you do with the mad you feel?); Pierre Gilbert whose cover story appears on page 14; and Philip Gunther (True Grit, bungee cords and resiliency, page 17). My gratitude to each of them. We present a snapshot of CCMBC’s first-quarter financial standings on page 20.
hen Maxym and Anya Oliferovski first met John and Evelyn Wiens, missionaries with Multiply, they knew that they shared with them a calling to serve the brokenhearted. It was out of this calling that together they founded the New Hope Center in Zaporozhye. “That was ten years ago,” said Max. “Today we are celebrating ten years of God’s faithfulness.” “Our first burden was for the orphans,” Max went on. “Children in the public orphanages age out of the system as teenagers. There is nothing for them to do, no future but the streets. We started a drop-in center in downtown Zaporozhye to give them a place where they could find community and hope.” For two years, the Oliferovski and Wiens families provided a safe space for youth at risk. Teenagers would come for the hot meal, only to find themselves unexpectedly among friends. As this ministry grew, so did the vision. In 2012, the two couples launched a licensed dairy farm in the village of Nikolay Pole, and opened two group homes for aged-out orphans in Zaporozhye. Their goal was that these children would learn life skills and a means of supporting themselves. “But it was we who learned the most,” Max said. “We learned about the incredible hardships faced by children who have not known the love of a mother or father. We learned how vital it was to provide
a sense of family and belonging. We learned the importance of helping children in government orphanages to have good Christian friends.” They learned what it was like to be orphans. Then, they themselves became orphaned. When John Wiens passed away in 2014, Max and Anya felt like children who had lost their father. There was comfort to be found in applying to themselves some of the very words of Scripture that had inspired them to care for orphans in the first place. Jesus told his disciples, “I will be with you and will not leave you as orphans” (John 14:18). The team at New Hope Center held strongly to that promise and kept going. It was a painful year, as in that same year the war in eastern Ukraine began, bringing violence, economic devastation and bleak despair to the populace. Continuing in ministry was hard, both financially and emotionally. They had to stop the training program on the dairy farm, and they focused their efforts on providing other forms of vocational training for the orphans and youth at risk in Zaporozhye. These young people would need every advantage they could possibly give them, if they were to survive in Ukraine. Max and Anya kept praying and asking God to give them a new vision and an expanded ministry focus, and to bless their dreams
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I will not leave you as orphans
for the future. “God answered our prayers,” Max declared. “Our Spirit-led dreams became – DreamKIDZ!” In 2016, the Oliferovskis and their team launched this program, serving to reach families in crisis. In ministering to whole families, they hoped to prevent a generation of children from becoming orphaned themselves, through abandonment or neglect. God tremendously blessed this ministry, and within a year several families began to attend their Bible studies. They began to run summer camps with a Gospel focus, and in 2018 the first three people received Jesus and were baptized. “It was in this way,” explained Max, “that our God’s Family Church was born.” As the church grew, so did the need for training and resourcing. In 2019, they began hosting weekend renewal retreats for new Christians to allow them to experience God’s touch and healing. One year later, they were responding to requests to provide training for workers in the government social services, and for workers in Christian non-profit organizations. They felt privileged to be sharing what God had taught them about helping families in crisis. This year, they are celebrating. They look back with humble, grateful hearts on all that God has done for, and through, their ministry. “It was God who provided us with the desire, vision, and opportunity to serve the brokenhearted,” Max acknowledged. “And it is our friends and partners,” he added, addressing those who have supported the New Hope Center, “who have provided the prayer and financial support to continue with this ministry. Together we have touched and healed so many lives, showing them the new hope they have in Jesus.” NIKKI WHITE
Multiply Ukraine Team
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# E V E RY B O DY LOV E S S U RV E YS
We have questions, you have answers. This is a reminder that this summer, we will be inviting you to participate in a survey to help us to understand better how our community members have been navigating their relationship with the church throughout COVID-19 and how church engagement post-COVID might look. The 10-12 minute survey will explore the values, causes, and issues most important to our members. Look for the survey invitation and provide feedback to ensure we can continue to engage with you in a meaningful way.
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2021 Spirit of MDS Fund issues 11 grants to MB congregations and ministries It’s been a busy few months at Living Word Temple, a Mennonite Brethren congregation in the north end of Winnipeg, with over 100 lunches given out each day. Along with the food, the church has given out a large number of food hampers and clothing, said Senior Ministry Director Steve Klassen. “COVID-19 has created a very significant challenge for many of these people,” he said, adding the church also distributed food for 40 families a week using a donated van. The church was able to serve people in the community with help from a grant from the Spirit of MDS Fund, provided by Mennonite Disaster Service Canada to congregations and ministries in Canada to help them serve people during the pandemic. “The majority of our clients require delivery and so this van has been a great help for our volunteers,” said Klassen. “Our food bank is able to operate because of donations like this.” Click here to read the full story.
M B S E M I N A RY PA N E L N A V I G AT E S S O C I A L M E D I A W H AT W O U L D J E S U S T W E E T ?
We are in the final stretch of National Assembly planning and preparation. The only thing missing now is you! Are you joining us for the 2021 National Assembly on June 10-12? This year, we are doing things differently: churches must register their delegates for the National Assembly, not individuals. We encourage you to register your delegates today by using the red button below. 2021 SCHEDULE (CDT) Thursday, June 10, 7 pm. Decision point information sessions Friday, June 11, 7 pm. Worship service Saturday, June 12, 10:30 am. Annual General Meeting YOUR REGISTRATION GIVES YOU ACCESS TO ALL THREE EVENTS.
REGISTER YOUR CHURCH DELEGATES BEFORE JUNE 9
Social media holds pervasive influence on our lives and in our culture today. Much of this influence has been good, revolutionizing how we communicate, transforming how we get our information, and helping us connect with one another like never before. Yet social media has also impacted our attitudes, relationships, sense of community, and mental health. On May 18, MB Seminary hosted an open online conversation to examine how Christians can interact with social media in positive ways, while at the same time navigate its dangers and pitfalls. The discussion considered how followers of Jesus can thrive in this media-saturated world and nurture and shape families and friends to experience healthy interactions that bring about God’s intention of flourishing communities. Three presenters examined the topic from different perspectives. Bruce Guenther, Professor of Church History at MB Seminary, provided a macro-perspective and a cultural analysis and illustrated how social media has fundamentally changed the way we experience life. Brian Cooper, Associate Professor of Theology at MB Seminary, considered how social media has impacted our discipleship, relational expectations, and community engagement. And Alisha Stobbe, a registered clinical counsellor, offered fascinating correlations between social media and mental health, underscoring how unmet personal needs and one’s sense of identity are impacted. These presentations were followed by a panel discussion with responses to questions submitted by online participants. >> A video recording of “What Would Jesus Tweet?” and an accompanying study guide are available online at www.mbseminary.ca/navigate.
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ONE CHURCH, ONE BODY AN INTERVIEW WITH ICOMB CANADA MB Herald had the privilege of sitting down on Zoom with the four directors of ICOMB Canada, a fledgling local expression of the International Community of MB Churches. The following is an abridged version of the conversation. The full interview is available on our podcast.
T H E P L AY E R S : [RP] Rudi Plett, ICOMB executive director since 2017. Rudi is from Asuncion, Paraguay. From 20112017, he served as the Chairman of the Executive Committee of ICOMB while serving in a pastoral role at Mennoniten Brueder Gemeinde Concordia, Asunción, Paraguay. Rudi and his wife have five children. [DW] David Wiebe, Former ICOMB executive director and CCMBC national director. David now volunteers for ICOMB and other MB groups. He and his wife Val attend Westwood Church in Winnipeg, Canada. [EDS] Elton DaSilva, current CCMBC national director. Born to missionary parents in Brazil, Elton and his wife Ana live in Winnipeg with their three children. Their eldest is married. Elton jokes that he is proof that God has a sense of humour by uprooting him from near the equatorial line to frigid Winnipeg, Canada. [VW] Vic Wiens, ICOMB equipping coordinator. Victor is from British Columbia, Canada. Vic, Marty and their family were missionaries in Sao Paolo, Brazil, for over 25 years. Vic is currently filling a handful of roles with Multiply as they search for a new general director.
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Many are familiar with ICOMB, but for anyone who may not be, please tell us who ICOMB is and where and how ICOMB serves the MB family. RP: ICOMB is the connection or the channel between MB conferences on a global level. Right now, there are 22 conferences around the globe. More than that, ICOMB is also a community you belong to and a family with whom you identify. I would go one step more and say that we want to be a global church. When you commit to being part of a worldwide church, you commit to being one member of a body. Each member community wants to grow and mature and serve each other. But as a community, family and church, we want to serve also the world. We want to be a testimony to the commitment of Jesus to reach into—and live among—the world. We recently spoke with Mennonite World Conference (MWC). They described themselves as a global congregation, not dissimilar to how you just described ICOMB. As a point of clarity, how are these two organizations similar, and how do they differ? Describe the relationship between the two organizations. DW: MWC started earlier in the 20th century, whereas ICOMB is around thirty years old. I'd say MWC is a fellowship with a statement of shared conviction—the idea of one global congregation is right—these shared convictions unites all the Mennonite groups. ICOMB has a little bit more authority, I think, within our body because we can call our members forward into mission. Pointing out our similarities, both of us function globally. I'd say most of ICOMB's national church members are also MWC members. So the Canadian Conference, for example, is a member of both ICOMB and MWC. Both of us try to resource our churches through crises. That might include
Why ICOMB Canada? What is this new local expression of ICOMB? EDS: ICOMB Canada exists to highlight the work of ICOMB internationally, creating awareness and inviting involvement in the work that ICOMB international is doing. We ask global partners to come to Canada, share their stories and speak to the goodness of God in their parts of the world. The invitation to get involved is in giving and going to places where the need is great. We felt that a presence in Canada—similar to a legal embassy— was needed to carry out these services. What are ICOMB Canada's first steps? VW: The first thing I'd like to say is ICOMB is a dynamic, growing movement. We want to put ICOMB international on the map, so to speak. To that end, ICOMB Canada exists to serve ICOMB international. That's our end goal. We will utilize the different communication tools available in Canada, such as the Harald, our website, and events such as provincial conventions. We want to raise the level of information, but we also want to work at inspiration. There are so many wonderful stories, faith-building stories. And, you know, we have a lot to learn from our brothers and sisters in other countries about faith, about suffering, about perseverance, about just a and enthusiasm and a passion for the kingdom of God. Inviting participation would include prayer. We have many faithful prayer warriors in Canada. We also ask people to give to meet our financial needs. For example, I coordinated a scholarship program every year. We have more requests than we have funds. ICOMB requires volunteer service too. We're taking baby steps right now, but we aim to ramp up the awareness and the participation.
We want to be a testimony to the commitment of Jesus to reach into— and live among—the world.
calls and visits, provision of money if needed, and sometimes we work together.
How can churches and individuals connect with ICOMB and get involved? RP: One way is by subscribing to our monthly email newsletter. It's full of stories and profiles of leaders and churches across the globe. Another way is by inviting members of our international family and those connected with ICOMB to speak at your church. I think face-to-face contact with people of the global community makes a big impact. And please pray for us. This is all about Christ's kingdom. It's about healing. It's about sharing the gospel and leading people to Christ. ICOMB is also about helping people accept forgiveness. Please pray for all the leaders, many of who are feeling very lonely. If they know there is a global family to pray for them, that can make a huge difference.
>> Tune into the MB Herald Podcast this month to hear the full-length interview. >> Click here to donate to the ICOMB global scholarship.
MENNONITE BRETHREN HERALD
What do you do with the mad you feel? PA R T T H R E E I N A S E R I E S O N G R I E F BY S H AU N A C A L DW E L L W I T H G . N EI L PA R K E R . I N T H E P R E V I O U S ARTICLE SHAU NA E XPLORED THE EMOTION OF FE AR , WHICH IS OF TEN PROTEC TED BY ANG ER . SH E WROTE A B O U T T H E V A L U E O F TA K I N G A N I N T E N T I O N A L P O S T U R E : “ L E A N I N G ” A N D “ E M B R A C I N G ” G R I E F. IN THIS ARTICLE, SHAUNA EX AMINES THE U N C O M F O R TA B L E E M O T I O N O F A N G E R .
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ecently, Jason and I watched the touching biopic movie about Fred Rogers: “It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood.” Woven into the fabric of the film was Fred’s gentle, personal, positive and endearing nature. It contrasts that of the cynical and jaded journalist, Tom Junod. Roger’s persistent kindness, spirituality, patience and calmness disarms Tom’s crippling anger. “What do you do with the mad you feel?” was a familiar song on Mr. Roger’s TV show in the 1970s. His iconic cardigan and the little red trolley were not the only notable things about him. Fred had profound and honest insights into our life struggles, mirrored by his Christian faith. Anger is an uncomfortable topic for me - one I’d rather avoid. I am not an expert on the subject. All I can offer is my personal experience with anger and loss. Let’s back up the little red trolley. As Mr. Rogers shared: “life is unfair, and there is no normal life that is free from pain.” Being mad is an expression of one’s pain – the sum of hurts, losses, feelings of helplessness, and sadness. It is a way to express the frustration in answering the question: “why has this happened to me?” My anger scares me and threatens to take me places that I do not wish to go. I’ve found it helpful to interrogate my rage with the “5 W’s and an H”: who, what, when, where, why, and how. I want to take anger captive so that it doesn’t take me hostage. By frisking my thoughts with these six questions, I uncover my deeper feelings and ultimately how I chose to respond to others, God and myself. At WHOM am I angry? I can project my anger onto others. Here are a few unhappy recipients: an innocent store clerk, the driver who cut me off, or those who may open their email and read a terse response. Often, the people closest to me are the ones I may hurt the most because that feels “safe” to me. I can be angry at the person I’ve lost. I can be mad at people in authority: a boss, a nurse or doctors, a bank employee, institutions, politicians, even entire governments. Likewise, I can be
Fred Rogers' iconic cardigan and the little red trolley were not the only notable things about him. Fred had profound and honest insights into our life struggles, mirrored by his Christian faith.
MENNONITE BRETHREN HERALD
angry at myself. Some unintended outcomes are relaI feel so angry?” Don’t ignore the answers because they tional ambivalence—I don’t care, or alienation—I get cut will reveal you aren’t so much angry as you are experioff. In essence, no one understands my frustration. encing the more gentle and vulnerable emotions. Those WHAT is my anger all about? Anger is unpredictvulnerable emotions may scare you more! able. It can simmer under the surface then explode. On I may only be able to reach down inside myself to the other hand, it can be shoved down inside and draw it up and take a peek and then nestle anger back implode - then physical distress becomes an unwelinside. Over time though, as I reach within and examcome addition to my emotional pain. Anger can get ugly. ine the feelings behind the anger, those feelings stay Remember, anger is a secondary emotion. The priawhile longer. Examine your anger from different mary emotions, like fear, rejection, and abandonment, angles: write lists and journal your discoveries. You find a safe harbour while my anger unleashes its stormy may weep or have a revelation. It’s okay to have angry fury. Anger keeps my prifeelings as companions. They mary emotions out of reach, are teachers as we grow. Let both for myself and others, them educate your character stopping me from being as you discover the layers of It’s okay to have angry feelings as whole and happy. It’s hard to more genuine and tender admit I feel anger. When feelings beneath your anger. companions. They are teachers as losses and changes happen, HOW is anger affecting we grow. Let them educate your anger can become a defenme? Collateral damage character as you discover the laysive response that seeks to occurs when anger is conprotect my more vulnerable trolling me. If I allow it, ers of more genuine and tender feelings. anger can destroy my relafeelings beneath your anger. WHEN is my anger at its tionships, making me and worst? When depleted: physthose around me miserable. ically tired, emotionally I can push people away spent, and spiritually empty, because of my unresolved I can feel utterly inconsolable. On the flip side, I get in anger. Don’t be quick to fly off the handle. Anger boomertouch with my anger when I feel safe around a small angs. You can spot a fool by the lumps on his head. number of people who understand. Because God accepts Ecclesiastes 7:9 MSG me unconditionally, I can safely vent with him. Now back to Mr. Rogers. In the movie, Fred loves WHERE does my anger find expression? Anywhere! to take photos of everyone he meets. Let’s turn the camThe believer’s challenge is to admit that they are angry. era around and take a snapshot of him. What makes The scriptures do not say “don’t be angry,” but rather, Mr. Rogers tick? when you are angry, do not act independent of God. There was a moment in the movie that startled (Ephesians 4: 26ff). me. Fred was all alone on the TV set. He sat down at a WHY am I feeling angry? The most important quesgrand piano (both he and his wife were concert piation I ask myself when feeling emotionally off-balance. nists), and he started to pound on the piano keys. Loud, It is a necessary discipline to ask “why.” I need to stop sinister, unsettling sounds. Somehow, Fred seemed myself and ask, “Why did I respond like that? Why do much more “real.” The calm, happy man struggled with
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anger too. It was surprising and, frankly, refreshingly encouraging. It’s hard to overlook the fact that Fred genuinely desires to get close to people. He makes a concerted effort to get people talking at a deeper level. Fred listens. He wants a relationship. Why? I think it is because he cares about people becoming whole. Mr. Roger’s reflects the character of Jesus in the following ways: Acceptance: When journalist Tom Junod realizes that Fred is genuinely interested in him, he begins to lower his guard. Fred’s ease with an angry person was born out of years of personal growth. Acceptance is a life-long process that starts with knowing how delightfully acceptable you are by God, who fashioned you in his image. Kindness: Tom is surprised by his second encounter with Fred because he remembers Tom by name. It becomes a reflection of knowing Tom more and more deeply. Fred’s gentle voice had a calming impact. It surprised Tom that Fred would deeply listen and then nurture vulnerability in Tom’s story. As was the nature of Jesus. He stopped everything for an individual in need. Availability: Fred was more than willing to meet with people. It didn’t matter if it was an inconvenience; Fred never felt rushed. Much to the chagrin of his production staff, there was no way to keep Fred on a tight schedule. Individuals were more important than anything else. You are a priority to Jesus. Forgiving: Fred practiced forgiveness. He could let go of offences, keeping a generous attitude toward others because he forgave and forgot. When we know we’ve been forgiven a great wrong, we lavish others with forgiveness. As Jesus instructed, “whoever has been forgiven little, loves little” (Luke 7: 47b NIV). Jesus is the friend of sinners. Loving: On the TV set, we see Fred’s compassion toward an emotionally shut down child. Fred kneels to the child’s level, patiently drawing him out of seclusion. The child lights up, is attentive and fully present.
Jesus is “God with skin on” who gets down eye to eye with us in the mess of life. Seeking out others: Tom’s family is celebrating a birthday party when the doorbell rings. Fred shows up at the party with a cake, camera in hand. Within a short time, Fred is relating through stories. Fred consistently pursues others in love. Sometimes called the “Hound of Heaven,” Jesus pursues us in love. I need these qualities to companion with me in the mad that I feel. I need to feel safe, supported, cared for, loved, accepted, and forgiven. I have someone who is patient with me when I am angry—a gentle soul comes after me and brings me out from my anger. We all need a “Fred” in our lives! We all need Jesus in our lives. I need to work on my anger. I can be disappointed by those around me, but Jesus is the companion who doesn’t give up on me, especially when I don’t know what to do with the mad I feel. Next month we will explore what it means to lament.
lives in Calgary with Jason, her husband of 26 years. In one calendar year, they were gifted with three children – Katie, Jordan and Evan. Parenting “Irish triplets” provided opportunity to learn to cling to Christ for needed daily strength. Katie is now a medical school student. Shauna’s twins graduated to heaven in 2016, after a dreadfully public accident. The Caldwells own a small IT company. Shauna serves on two boards: Cornerbend Ministries and Youth for Christ. Shauna is grateful to her Uncle, G. Neil Parker, for his significant editorial assistance with her writing.
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Power to do the impossible X X X X
ne of Jesus’ most startling statements is found in John 14:12: “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”1 How can that possibly be true? If we only had this verse to go on, the question would forever remain an unsolvable enigma. Fortunately, John does not leave us in the dark. Jesus’ departure would open the way for another agent, the Holy Spirit, to burst on the scene and offer supernatural help to the disciples. The Spirit would be a new helper (an “advocate”), who would remind them of all the things Jesus taught during his ministry, convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment, and guide them into all truth (John 14:1617,26; 15:26; 16:7-8,13-15). And that is not all. We also know that the Spirit takes residence in the hearts of men and women who have accepted Christ. The Spirit helps us resist sin, empowers for ministry, assists in prayer. The Spirit ennobles the human soul, transforms us into the image of Christ, and enables us to love and to serve others (Rom 8:26; 15:16; 1 Cor 6:11,19; 2 Cor 1:22; 5:5; Gal 3:2; 1 Thess. 1:5-6, etc.)
1 Unless otherwise indicated, Bible citations are from the New International Version (2011).
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Many will counter that their experience of the Spirit does not even come close to what Jesus may be hinting at. For them, these words seem foreign, unreal, and deeply inconsistent with their own lives. Who are the people doing these “greater things?” Where are the signs of such manifestations today? I have always been impressed by Charismatic Christians. They seem to have and live with an awareness of the Spirit that is, frankly, puzzling to someone like me. About thirty years ago, I had lunch with Rev. Canon Dr. Michael Green, a self-declared Charismatic, New Testament scholar, and prolific author. In 2004, he published I Believe in the Holy Spirit, a book that offers extraordinary insights into the ministry of the Spirit. Green, who recently passed away at the age of 79, was the kind of person who had a powerful impact on every person he met. Though he was not a man of large stature, he was bigger than life. He was an exceptional teacher and a compelling preacher. Above all, he was an evangelist who delighted in engaging people about Jesus. He used his many talents and effervescent personality to train countless people in how to defend the Christian faith and lead others to Christ. He was filled and energized by what can only be described as the power of the Spirit. I was so inspired by Michael Green that I wondered whether I could experience more of the elusive presence of the Spirit if I tried to be a little more like him. But I soon realized that any attempt to emulate this great man would result in abject failure, as I did not have Green’s outgoing personality nor did I possess his intellectual and oratory skills.
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I AM MORE CONVINCED NOW THAN E V E R T H AT I N T H E S E T R O U B L E D T I M E S , W H AT W E N E E D M O S T I S T H E ABILIT Y TO DISCERN TRUTH AND P E R S U A S I V E LY P R O C L A I M I T. D O E S THIS SOUND LIKE AN IMPOSSIBLE TA S K ? A B S O L U T E LY !
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So where does that leave us? Does the Spirit energize only those men and women who have the Michael Green personality profile? The Old Testament offers an important insight into this question. In the few instances where the Spirit is linked to specific individuals, the Spirit is given to enable them to complete tasks that were humanly impossible but necessary for the advancement of God’s project. In Samson’s case, for instance, the Spirit manifests himself by giving Samson superhuman strength to harass the Philistines who were at that time oppressing the Israelites (Judges 13:25; 14:6; 14:19; 15:14). While Samson’s experience of the Spirit may seem strange to us, it is important to remember that the manifestation of the Spirit is always adapted to the cultural and historical context in which it occurs. The key to identifying how the Spirit will manifest himself lies in determining what needs to be done to advance God’s project in any particular situation whether it pertains to an individual or a community. On a personal level, we all need the power of the Spirit to live with moral integrity and courage, two qualities that are desperately needed but are in short supply these days. It is always easier to go along with whatever the predominant culture is peddling than to challenge it. Deception and falsehood only take center stage when good men and women remain silent. Churches also need to think carefully about how they respond to the world’s (as the apostle John would say) relentless colonizing impulse. Secular humanism, an ideology that reduces men and women to the level of smart
animals, leaving them without a meaningful past and no hope for the future, is doing irreparable damage to our society and especially so to our young people. While I do not expect Christian leaders to become professional philosophers, the time may well come for them to become a little more savvy with respect to understanding and challenging the destructive ideological shifts we are witnessing. Those who feel that the world is spinning out of control may well be right. Human beings cannot live without a deep sense of the transcendent and the conviction that there is a personal God who loves them and has a future for them. Men and women live and die by the ideas they hold to be true. If we believe humanity is strictly the outcome of a mindless evolutionary process, we will see people as parasites to be eliminated or as tools to be used for the so called Greater Good. In that respect, it is worth noting that in the 20th Century, atheistic regimes caused the death of nearly 100 million people. If, however, human beings are, as the Bible proclaims, the most precious of all the creatures God made, created in his image, that will entail entirely different implications for how we build our communities and treat each other. If the Kingdom of God is to expand despite these destructive trends, these issues must be addressed by men and women who are filled and energized by the Spirit of God. The importance of truth cannot be overstated. Truth provides an indispensable insight into reality and produces life. Falsehood creates chaos and generates death. Nothing is more important than proclaiming truth, for it is the source and sustainer of everything that is good. Little wonder it occupies so much real estate in Scripture. Jesus describes himself as the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). In John 3:21, he states that “whoever lives
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T H E I M P O R TA N C E O F T R U T H C A N N O T B E O V E R S TAT E D . T R U T H P R O V I D E S A N I N D I S P E N S A B L E I N S I G H T I N TO R E A L I T Y A N D P R O D U C E S L I F E . FA L S E H O O D C R E AT E S C H A O S A N D G E N E R AT E S D E AT H . N O T H I N G I S M O R E I M P O R TA N T T H A N P R O C L A I M I N G T R U T H , F O R I T I S T H E S O U R C E A N D S U S TA I N E R O F E V E R Y T H I N G T H AT I S G O O D .
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by the truth, comes into the light…” In 8:32, he adds, “Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” When Jesus tells his disciples about the helper who will come, he describes him as the “Spirit of Truth” (John 14:16-17, see also 15:26; 16:13; 1 John 5:6). While no aspect of the Spirit’s work should be neglected, I am more convinced now than ever that in these troubled times, what we need most is the ability to discern truth and persuasively proclaim it. Does this sound like an impossible task? Absolutely! And there lies our hope, as this also signals an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to act. What about those who express skepticism about the reality of the Spirit today? First, we must remember that the work of the Spirit is not the stuff of headline news. While it is real, it is rarely visible to the casual observer. Second, we should never lose sight of the importance of human free will when it comes to the work of the Spirit in our lives. The Holy Spirit does not compel. His influence is subtle, more like a light breeze than a hurricane. The Spirit gently invites and graciously nudges us to act. Christians who choose to feed the dark impulses of human nature will grieve the Spirit and seriously curtail his ability to express his presence (Eph 4:30). To be effective, the Spirit
requires our constant cooperation. Michael Green had a most remarkable impact for the Kingdom of God, not primarily because of his extraordinary skills and personality, but because he allowed God’s Spirit to fill his heart and his soul. By doing so, the Spirit not only heightened his sensitivity to the spiritual world around him but also amplified the effectiveness of the great talents God entrusted to him. Be very careful, then, how you live— not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 5:15-20).
P I E R R E G I L B E R T, P H . D.
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M B H E R A L D.C O M
is Associate Professor of Bible and Theology at Canadian Mennonite University
TRUE GRIT, BUNGEE CORDS AND RESILIENCY
“ LET US NOT BECOME WE ARY IN DOING GOOD, FOR AT T H E P R O P E R T I M E W E W I L L R E A P A H A R V E S T I F W E D O N O T G I V E U P. ” G A L A T I A N S 6 : 9
“ FA L L S E V E N T I M E S , S TA N D U P E I G H T. ” JA PA N E S E P ROV ER B
he 2010 movie True Grit stars Jeff Bridges as the crotchety Rooster Cogburn. The drama’s narrative follows Cogburn and his fiery sidekicks as they traverse the American wild west in order to track down an outlaw. During their pursuit, this spirited band faces personal demons, hardships and injuries. Their character, convictions and relationship are tested. The band’s troubling experiences on this venture test their true grit. My favorite line from the movie occurs when Cogburn, after yet another failure, muses, “Well, that didn’t work out.” The statement was not resignation to defeat, but rather acceptance of reality in order to move forward – resilience. Sometimes I feel like the pandemic is a real-life version of True Grit for disciples of Jesus. We are on mission in our own ‘wild west’ to bear witness of the Gospel. The fallout from COVID-19 appears to be testing the mettle of virtually every facet of our spiritual formation and expression. We have often been frustrated, have faltered, failed and fallen. This season of the contagion has tested our true grit. Will we be resilient? In his latest book, Tempered Resilience, Tod Bolsinger defines resilience as, “...the capacity to remain
steadfastly committed to wisely discerned goals and values when the forces in front of us and around us would seek to compromise both – and we become stronger through the challenge.” Resilience is having the ability to adapt to, and bounce back from, distressing experiences. It is the emotional strength to cope with trauma and adversity. Dr. Amit Sood, Executive Director of the Global Center for Resiliency and Well-Being, claims: “Resilience is the core strength you use to lift the load of life.” French philosopher Alain de Botton maintains, “A good half of the art of living is resilience.” I have been on a personal quest to better understand resilience, both as a disciple of Jesus and as a person called to vocational ministry leadership. There is a plethora of helpful resources one could explore to understand, measure and foster resiliency. There is much I’ve learned; too much to unpack in a piece like this. Perhaps my most memorable insight comes from Tod Bolsinger who suggests that a resilient disciple can hew stones of hope out of a mountain of despair. A resilient disciple can courageously forge a pathway to growth through troubles and trials.
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Bungee cords Bungee jumping has never ever interested me. The idea of jumping from a deathly height, entrusting my rescue to a cord of elastic strands, just seems, well, unwise. But that’s just me. However, in spite of my hesitancy to trust a stretchy band to support me as I leap from the heights, I find the bungee cord useful as a metaphor for resilience. Individual elastic strands, braided together in some fashion and covered with a synthetic sheath, make up a bungee cord. Think of the bungee cord as resilience – the means by which a person bounces back from the possibility of destruction. In my life there are several key principles and practices (the elastic strands) that comprise my resiliency (the bungee cord). When someone or something throws me off a metaphorical precipice, it is these elastic strands – this bungee cord – that allows me to bounce back.
“ R E S I LI EN C E IS TH E CO R E S TR EN G TH YO U USE TO LIF T TH E LOAD OF LIFE .” DR. AMIT SOOD
(Colossians 3:2). In short, we must look past ourselves and our troubles to the One who is our ROCK eternal and SAVIOUR (Isaiah 26:4; Matthew 21:42; Psalm 18:46; Luke 2:11). The most resilient people of faith in my life are those who daily abide with Jesus, consciously seek to hear from Him and respond in faith and obedience. These resilient followers are Christocentric in their worldview and approach to life. They see hardship and suffering as an expected, if not integral, aspect of following the One who suffered on the cross for them. They resonate with Christian author Brennan Manning’s sentiment that “There is no discipleship without the cross.” In one’s pursuit of resiliency, focusing on Jesus is paramount for a disciple. In the same vein, practicing the spiritual disciplines is foremost in fostering one’s resiliency because they are the tangible vehicles which help us focus on Jesus. Spiritual disciplines are habits of devotion; they foster godliness, they create a means by which we are renewed, reinvigorated, reenergized, reshaped and refreshed. The spiritual disciples are key to coping with the hard things in life. We become increasingly resilient as we create space in our lives to connect with Jesus in various forms. Richard Foster once wrote: “The disciplines allow us to place ourselves before God so that He can transform us.” For me, this inner transformation includes becoming increasingly resilient in faith and ministry.
SELF-AWARENESS and SELFCARE
My elastic strands FOCUSING ON JESUS and practicing the SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES.
The first of these elastic strands are focusing on Jesus and practicing the spiritual disciplines like prayer, meditation and fasting. The author of Hebrews counsels disciples to fix their thoughts and eyes on Jesus, especially during times of trouble (Hebrews 3:1; 12:2). The apostle Paul instructs disciples facing hardship: “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things”
M B H E R A L D.C O M
A second set of elastic strands are self-awareness and selfcare. As I navigated my personal quest to a deeper understanding of resilience, it quickly became apparent that in order for me to foster resiliency in my walk with Jesus and in my vocational ministry, I needed to do the deep and difficult work of self-examination. “Nothing changes until we are brutally honest with the person in the mirror,” writes Andy Stanley. I believed that I couldn’t bolster my resiliency if I did not know myself. What were my strengths weaknesses, inclinations and habits? What were my virtues and shadows? I needed to explore my emotional, physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing. It was also critical to assess my environmental contexts (work, family, recreation, stressors, etc.) to see how I was being impacted by them. From this over-arching inventory I was able to pinpoint what elements of my current life bolstered resiliency and those that undermined it. I sought to transform or eliminate the latter. Once I better understood myself, I began to make incremental personal changes toward selfcare. I increased my resilience regarding personal challenges that came my way simply by knowing myself and what healthy options were at my disposal. One of the best outcomes of self-awareness and selfcare is that I seem
to have a greater capacity to support others in their hardships. A growing resiliency is necessary for me to serve in strength. American anthropologist Eleanor Brown stated, “Selfcare is not selfish; you cannot serve from an empty vessel.” Rabbi Dr. Jonathan Sacks writes, “No one is stronger than the person who knows who and what he is.” I must add here that participation in a healthy community circle is an essential aspect of selfcare. Resilient people generally have solid support from family, friends and their faith community. Resilient people share their burdens and troubles, inviting counsel, prayer and hands-on help in other tangible ways. Psychologist Dr. Jill Suttie writes, “How resilient we are may have as much to do with our social milieu and circle of support as it does with our personal strengths.” Bolsinger adds, “What often gets overlooked in discussions of grit and perseverance is how pervasively important is the power of relationships to help us develop tenacity.” Numerous studies demonstrate that having a community support system increases individual resiliency by lowering stress, decreasing the risk of depression, increasing confidence, and generally helping people face difficulties. The church has a vital role to play in developing resilient disciples. In sum, resilient people know themselves and grasp how to take care of themselves.
“NO ONE IS STRONGER THAN THE PERSON W H O K N O W S W H O A N D W H AT H E I S .” R A B B I D R . J O A N AT H A N S A C K S
Knowing one’s IDENTITY and CALLING
My last set of elastic strands include knowing one’s identity and calling. Resilient individuals know who they are because they know whose they are. Identity and calling are foundational pieces for resiliency. Confidence in one’s place and purpose provide the courage needed to bounce back from troubles. For the purposes of this article, l will keep my thoughts on identity and calling at a macro level. I understand that I am the beloved of the Heavenly Father – known, loved, forgiven, empowered, protected and made righteous. My calling is to be a disciple of Jesus; to live life in a manner that brings glory to Him through worship, witness and service. A disciple who increasingly becomes like Him in thought, words and actions. My calling is also to be a vocational minister; to equip and lead others to be impactful disciples. In both spheres
I am called to make disciples and to love God with all my heart, mind and strength. How does knowing my identity and calling foster resiliency? My best response is to have you consider Viktor Emil Frankl’s thoughts in Man’s Search For Meaning (1959). His work has sold more than ten million copies worldwide and is listed as one of the top ten most influential books in the United States – a remarkable feat! Frankl was an Austrian Holocaust survivor whose father, mother and wife perished in German concentration camps. Frankl lived through perhaps the worst of human experiences in these Nazi camps of death. Frankl was stripped of absolutely everything. Out of his experiences in this cauldron of evil, Frankl wrote, “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’... Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.” Other than the biblical Job, Frankl is perhaps one of the most resilient people that I can think of. His secret? He knew his identity and purpose (calling). Knowing my ultimate purpose keeps me from imploding when life becomes turbulent, when burdens become brutal, and when a way forward seems impossible. In such circumstances, knowing what I am about in this world and why I do the things I do keeps me in play and able to bounce back. This knowledge allows me to accept the troubles I face as part of the purposes God has for my life. It gives me the resolve to persevere in believing that I will bounce back and become more like Jesus in the end. Here the counsel of James rallies me: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:4-6). Knowing my identity and calling (purpose) are foundational for resiliency.
Surviving and thriving
Winston Churchill once said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” Churchill’s sentiment was simply that one should not give up because something is difficult. I am convinced that it is truly in the battle where tenacity is birthed and matured. A fundamental truth about resilience is that one is not born with it; one develops it. Resilience is all about surviving and thriving; it is in the thick of the fight where one is able to acquire the toughness to keep on keeping on. The good news is that there is a blessing for the resilient disciple. The Apostle Paul sums up this blessing best based on his own hardship: “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept
MENNONITE BRETHREN HERALD
the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:6-8). My friends, resiliency in faith and life, as a disciple (and for me, as a vocational ministry leader) is not a fait accompli. I am under construction on multiple levels and will continue to be so on this side of heaven. What I have shared here are simply my learnings about being a resilient follower of Jesus. My learnings have been tested but are not the be all and end all. It is my prayer that you may be encouraged to test these findings in the lab of your own spiritual formation, adopting what fosters wellbeing and refining what falls short. May your true grit in hardship be like Christ in His own suffering and journey to the cross. May your resilience be as flexible and strong as a bungee cord.
CANADIAN CONFERENCE OF MB CHURCHES
2021 QUARTER ONE FINANCIAL REPORT JA N UA RY- M A R C H 2 02 1
$350,000 $300,000 $250,000 $200,000 $150, 000 $100,000
R E V. P H I L I P A . G U N T H E R
is director of ministry for the Saskatchewan Conference of MB Churches
ONE-STREAM FUNDING Next issue, in To change or not to change, Gunther presents ten mustask questions every church should ponder before making big changes.
$2 19, 732 Y T D AC T UA L $ 2 3 3 ,9 2 5 Y T D B U D G E T T O TA L R E V E N U E $ 3 1 7, 5 9 5 Y T D A C T U A L $320,850 YTD BUDGET
WELLNESS IN A COVID -19 WORLD
On May 26, 2021, the National Ministry Team hosted CCMBC's second wellness workshop, featuring a panel of MB church leaders and keynote speaker Chuck DeGroat. Chuck shared from his book, Leaving Egypt: Finding God in the Wilderness Places, presenting participants with five side effects of living in times of disruption and disorientation. In his second presentation, Discovering God in the disorientation, Chuck examined the three questions God asked Adam and Eve in the garden in Genesis 3, prompting participants to consider them in light of their personal contexts and circumstances. >> Click here to view the wellness workshop and access resources from the previous workshop.
M B H E R A L D.C O M
T O TA L E X P E N S E S $ 28 4 ,96 4 Y T D AC T UA L $320,850 YTD BUDGET
Please send questions and comments to FAQ@mbchurches.ca.
GEORGE HENRY LOEWEN
George was born in a Mennonite community in Ukraine. After his father was taken to a labour camp in Siberia, George made the trek across Europe, the Atlantic, and Canada with his mother, brothers, and sister – arriving in Chilliwack, B.C., in 1948. George attended East Chilliwack Bible School, was baptized at Broadway MB Church, and worked throughout the Fraser Valley in farming and construction (stucco). In 1959, he married Herta Thielmann, a pastor’s daughter, and the newlyweds joined Clearbrook MB Church and raised their family. In the late 1960s, the Loewens had an extended visit from George’s father; he died in 1978 in the Soviet Union. A decade later, George buried his dear mother in Vancouver. George and Herta served within congregational life in Lake Errock and South Abbotsford before joyfully returning as seniors to Clearbrook MB. George’s aptitude for numbers opened up a career in bookkeeping and administration. His penchant for neatness and detail rendered beautiful ledgers. In addition to joining church finance committees, he served community associations at Tabor Home, Canadian and American Mennonite Health Associations, Clearbrook (now Envision) Credit Union, Clearbrook Waterworks, Abbotsford Diabetes Association, Association of Christian Schools International–Budapest Office, and Canadian Volunteer Income Tax Program. He was equally comfortable meeting with a board of directors or pouring coffee with the South Abbotsford Church catering crew. George was humbly ready to contribute anything he could to make life better for others. He loved nature: looking out over mountain ranges, oceans, and colourful gardens. He took pleasure in travel, golf, hot springs, walks, a tasty sandwich and friendly conversations over coffee. In his retiring years, his two granddaughters were a particular source of pride and joy. He generously encouraged them with his time, personal attention, and resources. Fun-loving friends and relatives enriched his years. During his final days in hospital, he repeated how thankful he was for their friendship and love. They will miss his companionship and cherish the example of true discipleship he gave. George expressed immense desire to enter eternal life with Jesus – knowing he was richly blessed and dearly beloved. Birth: November 1, 1931 Birthplace: Alexanderwohl, Ukraine Death: April 22, 2021 Parents: Heinrich & Elizabeth Loewen Married: Herta Thielmann, June 26, 1959 Family: Herta; children Evelyn, Leona, Ruth (Matthew) Sherwood, George; 2 granddaughters; sister Helen Church: Clearbrook MB, Abbotsford, B.C. Baptism: Broadway MB, Chilliwack, B.C.
COLIN BRUCE JOHNSTONE Colin lived out his values and beliefs by supporting and loving others in a myriad of ways. He was deeply committed to his faith and family. After graduating from University of B.C. in 1962, he volunteered to teach English at a high school in a remote jungle village in Sarawak, Malaysia. He proposed by mail, and his sweetheart Audrey came out to marry him in South East Asia in 1963. He worked with Brazilian college students for 8 years, partnering with Audrey who provided healthcare in the favelas of urban São Paulo, Brazil (1967–1975). For 25 years, Colin extended kindness and support to patients, colleagues, and students as chaplain at the B.C. Cancer Clinic (1976–2002). Colin and Audrey retired to Harrison Hot Springs, B.C., in 2011. In his last years, in his struggle with Alzheimer’s disease, Colin received support at Agassiz Senior Community care home. Colin lived faithfully and loved his Lord, family, friends, and strangers—who often became friends. His loved ones are sad, but have peace knowing he is now part of the biblical “cloud of witnesses” (Hebrew 12:1) cheering them on. Birth: December 6, 1940 Birthplace: Vancouver Death: May 16, 2021 Parents: Joseph & Olive Johnstone Married: Audrey Lee, Oct 12, 1963 Family: Audrey; children David (Heather), Lyanne (Rick) Eggert, Andy (Sandy); 8 grandchildren (1 in-law) Church: Harrison Gospel Chapel, Harrison Hot Springs, B.C.
O B I T UA R I E S H AV E LO N G B E E N A VA LU E D PA R T O F T H E M B H ER A LD. FR O M T H E F U N E R A L B U L L E T I N S , EU LO G I E S , A N D N E WS PA P E R O B IT UA R I E S YO U S EN D, O U R ED ITO RS C R A F T LIFE STORIES OF OUR MEMBERS TO INSPIRE A N D E N C O U R A G E O U R R E A D E R S , C R E AT I N G A MEMORIAL OF MB SAINTS. CLICK HERE TO SUBMIT AN OBITUARY
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A moment in time
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Anna Fast (right) standing with two others in front of her newly-constructed sod house in 1951. The three were part of a large group of Mennonite refugees from West Prussia and Poland fleeing the upheaval in Europe following the Second World War. With the help of MCC, these Mennonites were able to settle in Uruguay. For more on this story, see the GAMEO article here. It is a classic story of refugees leaving everything to start all over again in a new country, a story repeated in Canada today. Courtesy of the Mennonite Archival Information Database
M B H E R A L D.C O M
S U B S C R I B E T O M B H E R A L D D I G E S T W W W. M B H E R A L D . C O M / S U B S C R I B E -V I A - E M A I L