Volume 21 Issue 16

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Readers write: August 28, 2017 issue

National church needs to continue leading the way to reconciliation
The following letter was originally written to Mennonite Church Canada’s Interim Council and is reprinted at the authors’ request.

As walkers on the Pilgrimage for Indigenous Rights, we write to share our gratitude for the leadership and vision offered through MC Canada that made this walk possible. However, we also express our hope and concern for the future as the church continues to work towards reconciliation and just relationships between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples.

A community with a sense of ‘we’

The interior of Sarah’s house is somewhat plain but very practical. (Photo by Barb Draper)

Sarah’s new house accommodates four generations of Old Order Mennonites. (Photo by Barb Draper)

There is no sense that a car is evil; it is rather that sticking to the old ways helps to keep them on the straight and narrow way. Refusing to adopt the latest fashion in dress or transportation keeps their lives simple and humble. (Photo by Barb Draper)

Old Order men wait their turn at the Old Order Mennonite meetinghouse in Elmira, Ont., to pick up their womenfolk. (Photo by Barb Draper)

I was humbled and challenged when I spent the day with some of my Old Order Mennonite relations recently.

God’s heartbreak

While training as a family therapist, I learned the term “emotional cut-off.” It was not a dynamic I was personally familiar with; my particular family tends to be on the opposite side of the spectrum. We are often so closely entwined in each other’s lives that a little more breathing space would be desirable, healthy even. As it suggests, emotional cut-off refers to ruptures in families. Relationships become so heated and painful that one or more persons cut off contact with others. A realistic metaphor is that of amputation.

Sieburg women

Photo from the Mennonite Archives of Ontario

Who are these five women from Siegburg, Germany, in 1919? We don’t know for certain, but on Jan. 13, soldier Gordon Eby wrote that he and an army buddy “called at the home of the Krohn family—Hubertina, Maria, Lena, Katie and Bettie.” Eby was a long way from his home and Mennonite roots in Kitchener, Ont., when his battalion was quartered in Germany after the Armistice. Speaking German helped open doors for him to the warmth of German hospitality towards former “enemies.” This is the kind of war story that seldom gets told. Why is that?

Simple but not easy

Catching up on Witness worker reports, I came across an update from Mary Raber, who teaches at the Odessa Theological Seminary in Ukraine, a country continuing to experience turmoil despite the absence of stories in the mainstream news media.

In a class she taught about women in church history, she invited students to tell a story about a woman who had influenced their spiritual lives. Although the particulars of each story varied, three common threads emerged: hospitality, prayer and faithfulness.

I’ll melt with you

Our family was fortunate enough to see an iceberg this summer near Twillingate, N.L. It was a surreal experience for me. Everything around me paused for a brief transcendent moment, frozen in time, with the ironic exception of the massive spire of ice in front of me. “I’ll Stop the World and Melt With You” by the 1980s band Modern English began playing in the back of my mind.

Vietnamese Fellowship drops ‘Mennonite’ name

Pictured at the recent meeting of what is now the North American Vietnamese Evangelical Fellowship, are from left to right, front row: Nhien Pham, pastor of the Vietnamese Mennonite Church in Vancouver and chair of the newly named organization; and his wife Lien; and back row: Garry Janzen, MC B.C. executive minister; and Tim Wiebe-Neufeld, MC Alberta area church minister. (Photo courtesy of Garry Janzen)

A name change, effective immediately, heralds a time of direction-setting for the former North American Vietnamese Mennonite Fellowship.

Best practices begin with prayer

Louise Campbell poses with the New International Version Student Bible and a copy of the most recent ‘Season of reading guide’ used by Leamington (Ont.) United Mennonite Church to increase biblical literacy in the congregation for the past two years. (Photo by Dave Rogalsky)

While many congregations are shuttering or repurposing their education wings, Leamington United Mennonite Church built a whole new addition in 2011, replacing a 1959 building that had been linked to their new worshipping and office space when they were built in 1984. The new wing includes a dedicated prayer space as well as a suite of offices and a board room that is in high demand for adult study and discussion groups.

No longer ‘a repository of artifacts’

Oliver Friesen displays a ribbon found in a hatbox that likely belonged to Elder Peter Regier of the Rosenort Mennonite congregations. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

This interactive digital installation features a tour through Mennonite history by an animated historical tour guide. The old book lying on the table is a computer mouse used to advance the program. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

Pages in the digital installation link viewers to the display in the room around them. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

The Anabaptist Mennonite story is told on a series of chalkboards at the Mennonite Heritage Museum in Rosthern. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

Some museum visitors are unfamiliar with Anabaptists. This framed poster helps explain what Anabaptists believe. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

The Mennonite Heritage Museum’s oldest artifact is this pewter communion goblet. The initials ‘G.E.’ and ‘H.W.’ are engraved on the side of the goblet, along with the year, ‘1797.’ (Photo by Donna Schulz)

The Mennonite Heritage Museum has a growing library of community and family history books. Visitors may use the books to research their own family histories. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

Mennonite Heritage Museum board chair George Epp points to the family register in a Bible once owned by Elder Peter Regier of the Rosenort Mennonite congregations. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

Oliver Friesen’s face lights up when he talks about history. “There’s something about the past,” he says. “It’s alive and so interesting.”

For the past two summers Friesen has been making history come alive for visitors to the Mennonite Heritage Museum in Rosthern. A student of history at the University of Saskatchewan, Friesen has been helping to develop one room of the museum into a Mennonite interpretive centre.

Camp Moose Lake now sold

After 51 years of youth camping at Camp Moose Lake, a deal for the Mennonite Church Manitoba facility will close on Sept. 29, 2017. (Photo courtesy of Mennonite Church Manitoba)

Camp Moose Lake, one of Mennonite Church Manitoba’s three Camps with Meaning (CwM) locations, has been sold to the Division Scolaire Franco-Manitobaine. Possession date for the camp, located in the southeast corner of Manitoba near the community of Sprague, is set for Sept. 29, 2017.

Lamenting the ‘discovery’ of North America

Ted Swartz and Michelle Milne play a variety of characters throughout Ted and Company’s latest production, Discovery: A Comic Lament. (Photo by Josh Kraybill)

Clockwise from top: director Phil Weaver-Stoesz, performer Ted Swartz, playwright Alison Brookins and performer Michelle Milne are the creative team responsible for Discovery: A Comic Lament. (Photo by Josh Kraybill)

An American theatre company with Mennonite roots performed its newest production, which explores indigenous-settler relations, to a capacity crowd in Winnipeg earlier this summer.

‘Colombia fever’

David Fehr, left, and Klaas Wall in the middle of a rice field not too far from Puerto Gaitán, Colombia. (Photo courtesy of Kennert Giesbrecht)

Seeding a field. (Photo courtesy of Kennert Giesbrecht)

The yellow pin shows the location of a new Mexican Mennonite colony in Colombia. (Photo courtesy of Kennert Giesbrecht)

A new road and hydro line in the Liviney Colony. (Photo courtesy of Kennert Giesbrecht)

Despite warnings from Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), Low German Mennonites from drought-prone regions of northern Mexico have bought over 20,000 hectares of land in Colombia.

Kennert Giesbrecht, long-time editor of Die Mennonitische Post—a newspaper for Low German Mennonites throughout the Americas—notes the Liviney Colony and another 12,000-hectare parcel as two examples of land acquisitions. Another group is currently considering a 10,000-hectare plot. The lands are all in the Eastern Plains of Colombia, about 200 kilometres east of Bogotá.

Pollution in the Heavenly Province

Vanessa Snyder-Penner recently spent a year in China’s Sichuan province. (Photo courtesy of V. Snyder-Penner)

Vanessa Snyder-Penner, left, spent her time in China serving with MCC’s SALT program. (Photo courtesy of V. Snyder-Penner)

Living in Canada affords Vanessa Synder-Penner luxuries that her Chinese friends don’t have, she writes. (Photo courtesy of V. Snyder-Penner)

A nearly constant haze hangs over the city of Tianjin, China, making blue sky a rarity. (Photo by Dan Draper)

The first thought that struck me when I arrived in China’s Sichuan province was how green it was.

Somehow, perhaps from tales of air pollution and reading “Made in China” stamped on most goods, I had formulated an image of China as a grey, smoke-filled country. This image might represent some parts of the country. China is so massive that images as diverse as coniferous forests, tropical beaches and wind-swept deserts are all accurate snapshots of certain parts of the nation.

A very special relationship

Mekiah Yonda, left, and Amber Muskego have been friends since 2010, when this photo was taken. (Photo courtesy of Mekiah Yonda)

 

Amber Muskego, left, and Mekiah Yonda in Cross Lake, Man., this past July. (Photo courtesy of Mekiah Yonda)

Mekiah Yonda goes for a walk with Amber Muskego’s son Oliver. (Photo courtesy of Mekiah Yonda)

Amber Muskego and Mekiah Yonda, back row second and third from left, pose with, from left to right: Yonda’s mother, Kristi Grunsten-Yonda; Musekgo’s son Oliver (in her arms); and her brothers Rondell and Arlo Muskego. (Photo courtesy of Mekiah Yonda)

Dancers from Cross Lake, Man., perform a jig for the group from Winnipeg’s Sterling Mennonite Fellowship. (Photo courtesy of Mekiah Yonda)

This summer, Mekiah Yonda helped lead a sports camp in Cross Lake. Man. (Photo courtesy of Mekiah Yonda)

A relationship between a Winnipeg church and a community in northern Manitoba has resulted in a special friendship between two young women.

Mekiah Yonda and Amber Muskego met when members from Yonda’s church, Sterling Mennonite Fellowship in Winnipeg, travelled to Cross Lake in 2010 to run a Vacation Bible School (VBS) program for children in the community. Today, the two describe each other as sisters.

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