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God at work in Us

A leader of leaders

Ralph Lebold

God at work in Us | By Dave Rogalsky | Nov 15, 2017

Born into a Western Ontario Mennonite Conference (WOM)—formerly the Amish Mennonite Conference of Ontario—family, Ralph Lebold grew up with strong leaders in a congregational polity. Each congregation had a bishop, minister and deacon working together, although with separate roles. While ordained, these leaders were unpaid and often untrained, although many Amish Mennonites attended the Ontario Mennonite Bible School and Institute held in Kitchener, Ont., for many years, with sponsorship from the Mennonite Conference of Ontario.

‘Participation, not performance’

Brandon Leis, the new music director for Menno Singers, in his studio in the Music Building at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont. (Photo by Dave Rogalsky)

God at work in Us | By Dave Rogalsky | Oct 18, 2017

Like most musicians and artists, Brandon Leis uses his gifts in many places and in many ways to make a living.

Most recently, he was appointed as the new music director of the Menno Singers, a Waterloo Region choir founded in 1955 by Abner Martin. Besides that, since 2003 he has been the music director at Stirling Avenue Mennonite Church in Kitchener and a voice instructor at Wilfrid Laurier University. He also has a private studio of students, consults with congregations about “music problems,” and is an avid promotor of “community arts,” particularly music.

Principal hits mid-life, takes to pulpit

Cheryl Braun (Photo courtesy of Cheryl Braun)

God at work in Us | By Will Braun | Sep 20, 2017 | 2 comments

After 23 good years as a teacher and principal, Cheryl Braun asked herself a simple question: “What does the last part of my career look like?” Would she stay the course or risk change?

As Braun (no relation to the author) considered this over several months with a small support group, she eventually asked herself, “If I’m going to make a change, why not explore a big change?”

Last January, she resigned as principal of Mennonite Collegiate Institute (MCI) in Gretna, Man., effective in July. She was excited, nervous and committed. Possibilities and uncertainty lay ahead.

A life well lived

God at work in Us | By Joanna Reesor-McDowell | Sep 06, 2017

A large group of family members and friends gathered in Markham, Ont., on March 18 to remember the life of Harold Reesor, who died at the age of 86, six days previous. Although his early and later years were lived in the Markham/Stouffville area, where his Reesor ancestors settled 200 years ago, he lived in Quebec for more than four decades, working as a mission worker and farmer.

A man of ‘Christian faith and its joys and struggles’

Eleanor and Alan Kreider are pictured at an event co-sponsored by Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in honour of Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January 2013. (Photo by Joe Raymond)

God at work in Us | By Annette Brill Bergstresser | Jun 14, 2017

Tributes and testimonials in honour of Alan F. Kreider, Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) professor emeritus of church history and mission, and a long-time mission worker in England, have been pouring in via the seminary’s Facebook page and alumni Facebook group since his death on May 8, 2017. Kreider, 75, died peacefully in the presence of his family at his home in Goshen, Ind., after having been diagnosed with multiple myeloma last December.

Transformed life leads to Transfigured Town

Nathan Swartz in character as Sirius Black from J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series of books and movies. (Photo courtesy of Nathan Swartz)

God at work in Us | By Dave Rogalsky | May 03, 2017

Some might wonder about a Mennonite elder running public events about Hogwarts, a school for witches and wizards. But Nathan Swartz of Kingsfield-Clinton Mennonite Church in southwestern Ontario has thought about this deeply.

Evangelistic work still paying dividends today

Bible study in the Martins’ basement apartment in 1958. Pictured from left to right: Pauline Reesor, Marc Reesor, Christian Chano, Deborah Martin, Harold Reesor and Mr. Chano from France, their first contact. (Photo courtesy of Tilman Martin)

God at work in Us | By Dave Rogalsky | Mar 22, 2017 | 1 comment

Tilman Martin turned 90 on Jan. 3, 2017. He is the last of the four original church planters sent from Ontario to Quebec in 1956 whose work continues to pay dividends to this day. The other original planters were the late Harold (d. March 12, 2017) and Pauline (d. April 6, 1980) Reesor from Wideman Mennonite Church in Markham; and Janet (Mills) Martin (d. July 29, 2002) from St. Jacobs Mennonite Church.

A kidney for a guitar

Gerald Neufeld prepares to donate one of his kidneys in the Paired Kidney Exchange Program last year. (Photo courtesy of Gerald Neufeld)

God at work in Us | By Amy Dueckman | Feb 22, 2017

Gerald Neufeld of B.C. and Russ Sawatsky of Ontario have several things in common: they both served as missionaries in Japan, where they met their wives; and they both attended Canadian Mennonite Bible College in Winnipeg at the same time. But the donation of a kidney for one and the receiving of a kidney for the other gives the two a life-transforming connection like no other.

Mennonite missionary served with hands-on attitude

With his hands-on approach, Ken Schwartzentruber kept an old Volkswagen van in good running order to transport goods for the bookstores he managed and for use as a family vehicle. He is pictured with two of his four children, K. Daniel and Michele. (Photo provided by Schwartzentruber family)

God at work in Us | By Deborah Froese and Kelsey Hochstetler | Dec 21, 2016 | 1 comment

From seafaring cowboy to Christian book publisher, Ken Schwartzentruber embraced life and adventure with a hands-on attitude and a commitment to God. Born to the late Allen and Elizabeth (Wagler) Schwartzentruber in Petersburg, Ont., on April 30, 1928, his light flickered out on Nov. 17, 2016, in New Hamburg, Ont., at the age of 88, with his family by his side.

Before he died, a photographer captured images of Ken’s thin, fragile hands resting on a blanket, touched by the hands of his family members. For them, the images are symbolic.

Missionaries’ influence spans the generations

The Derksen and Higashiguchi families celebrate together during a visit in 2007. Picture from left to right: Junko and Masaki Higashiguchi, Peter and Mary Derksen, and the Higashiguchi children and grandchildren. (Photo courtesy of Mary Derksen)

God at work in Us | By Barb Draper | Dec 07, 2016 | 1 comment

Missions is not a very popular word in some circles these days, but when Masaki Higashiguchi visited Emmanuel Mennonite Church in Abbotsford, B.C., on Oct. 30, 2016, it was a reminder that missionaries of the past have made an impact. Masaki is a high school teacher in Takachiho, Japan, who is taking a study leave in Canada. After spending a year in Prince Edward Island, he moved to North Vancouver in July, and he and his family plan to return to Japan in January.

Long-time missionary served around the world

Peter Kehler

God at work in Us | By Amy Dueckman | Nov 16, 2016 | 1 comment

Peter Kehler, long-time Mennonite missionary, pastor and church worker of Abbotsford, B.C., died Oct. 5, surrounded by his family. He was 89.

Kehler was born in St. Anne, Man., on June 20, 1927, to Cornelius Peter and Margareta (Epp) Kehler. His early years were spent on farms in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. In 1945, his family settled in British Columbia, where he assisted his father on the farm and completed high school.

Serving at the centre

Pictured with Mario Marchand, third from left, at his licensing toward ordination service at Église Mennonite Ichtus in Loretteville, Que., on Oct. 16, are, from left: Bernard Sejour, Mennonite Church Eastern Canada’s mission catalyst in Ottawa and Québec; Henry Paetkau, MC Eastern Canada’s area church minister; his children Felix and Lily-Ann Marchand; his wife, Line Lemieux; and son Joel Marchand. (Photo by Dave Rogalsky)

God at work in Us | By Dave Rogalsky | Nov 02, 2016

Church planter Mario Marchand responded to being licensed toward ordination on Oct. 16 by reciting his vision for the church in Québec: “Jesus, the centre of faith; the community of faith, the centre of life; and reconciliation, the centre of our mission.”

A friend to the larger church

Janet Ranck Martin

God at work in Us | By Doug Snyder | Oct 19, 2016

As a young girl in Pennsylvania, where she was born, Janet Ranck’s interest in missions and supportive missions was nurtured by her family. Her father gave a house to the Eastern Mennonite Board of Missions to house missionaries on furlough in the United States. These missionaries shared many stories of their work in East Africa, which impacted her as a child and teenager.

Pastoral transition in Ontario - David Lewis

Dave Rogalsky
God at work in Us | By Dave Rogalsky | Oct 19, 2016

David Lewis began as the intentional interim minister of Niagara United Mennonite Church in Niagara-on-the-Lake on Sept. 4, 2016. Lewis has a bachelor of theology degree from Canadian Bible College (now Ambrose University) and has also completed several courses at Canadian Theological Seminary and Tyndale Seminary. He is certified in leadership coaching and is trained as a transitional coach. Lewis has served in pastoral and denominational leadership roles in Canada, as well as an international posting in Warsaw, Poland.

‘Whatever you want, God’

Doug Snyder, left, sits across from his brothers Don and Peter Etril at Coffee Culture in Waterloo, Ont. Now all in retirement, they have kept this practice for of weekly coffee for more than 30 years. (Photo by Dave Rogalsky)

God at work in Us | By Dave Rogalsky | Oct 05, 2016

Doug Snyder retired (again) on Aug. 28, 2016, this time as pastor of St. Agatha Mennonite Church, west of Waterloo.

Born in 1941, Snyder remembers going forward at a Brunk tent meeting in 1952 and being baptized that year at Erb Street Mennonite Church in Waterloo by his pastor, Bishop J. B. Martin, who was also principal of the Ontario Mennonite Bible School and Institute held each winter in Kitchener, Ont. Throughout his life, Doug has held Martin as a “model of ministry.”

Making room for God to work

Willard Metzger (centre) with Ryan Siemens (l), Saskatchewan area church minister, and Calvin Quan, the new moderator of MC Canada, at the end of the MC Canada assembly in Saskatoon on July 9.

God at work in Us | By Dave Rogalsky | Sep 21, 2016

Willard Metzger’s mother was the janitor at the Glen Allan Mennonite Church (now closed) northwest of Waterloo, Ont. Now executive director of Mennonite Church Canada, he remembers being in the parsonage with his mom and going into the pastor’s study. Barely able to look over the edge of the desk where a beam of sunshine shone on its surface, he thought, “Someday I’m going to be a pastor.”

‘An easy way to profess faith’

Cooking celebrity Darryl ‘ChefD’ Fletcher, left, celebrates with Trevor Herrle-Braun, right, after Herrle-Braun makes his 50th blood donation on Aug. 11, while a Canadian Blood Services volunteer looks on. (Photo courtesy of Trevor Herrle-Braun)

God at work in Us | By Dave Rogalsky | Sep 07, 2016

In Waterloo Region, “Herrle’s” brings to mind sweet corn, melons, gelato—and blood. Yes, blood.

Herrle’s Country Farm Market in St. Agatha has been well-known since 1988 as a “go-to” place for fresh produce and baked goods. Less-well-known, though, is that Trevor Herrle-Braun, the store’s operations manager and a member with his family of Shantz Mennonite Church near Baden, made his 50th blood donation on Aug. 11, 2016.

Jake and George

George, left, a child who attends Edmonton First Mennonite’s Southview Child Care program, is all smiles when photographed with his ‘hero,’ Jake Baergen, who mows the church’s lawn. (Photo by Fran Aarnoutse)

God at work in Us | By Fran Aarnoutse | Aug 10, 2016

George and Jake are great friends

George, 3, is a child who attends Southview Child Care, located in the First Mennonite Church building. Jake Baergen is a member of First Mennonite and 77 years George’s senior.

Jake can often be seen on the church grounds operating the riding lawn mower, pruning trees and doing other odd jobs. George loves machines of all sorts: tractors, diggers, dump trucks and any other industrial vehicle. The first time George saw Jake mowing the lawn, he was entranced as Jake went around and around on the mower.

On the path to wellness

Pete McAdams rests beside the road during a long-distance bike excursion in southern Manitoba. (Photo by Hal Loewen)

God at work in Us | By Will Braun | Jun 28, 2016

Popular wisdom suggests the way to deal with mental health issues is to talk them through. Pete McAdams, an uncomplicated, 43-year-old, Hutterite long-distance cyclist, has discovered a quieter path.

‘This profession found me’

Betty Pries leads a recent workshop for Mennonite Church Eastern Canada called ‘Pastors in the 21st century.’ She is pictured showing how the polarities of ‘open’ to God at work in the wider world and ‘centred’ on Jesus can speak past each other, rather than complementing and building on each other. (Photo by Dave Rogalsly)

God at work in Us | By Dave Rogalsky | Jun 15, 2016

Growing up in an immigrant family prepared Betty Pries to see God’s presence in the struggles of life. Her grandmother’s “story-based faith” came to her through stories from Russia under communism, fleeing the Soviet Union during the Second World War and homesteading in Paraguay. In spite of struggles, and perhaps even because of them, there was a pervasive sense of God at work in the world and of being dependent on God.

Friesen began first Canada-wide English paper for Mennonites

Ted Friesen

God at work in Us | By Margaret Loewen Reimer | Jun 01, 2016

Theodore (Ted) Friesen of Altona, Man., who died at the age of 95, left behind a rich legacy of service to Mennonites in Canada. A partner with his two brothers in D.W. Friesen and Sons (Friesens Corporation since 1976), a printing and stationery business founded by his father, Ted was also deeply committed to the church and its institutions.

Coffin maker overcomes evil with good

Tulio Pedraza

God at work in Us | May 04, 2016

When missionaries arrived in Colombia to establish the country’s first Mennonite congregations, Tulio Pedraza and his wife Sofía became two of their first converts. They were baptized in June 1949.

Only a year earlier, Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, a liberal political candidate, had been assassinated; his death ignited a civil war that would last for 10 years. Because Protestantism was seen as another threat to Colombia’s already strained unity, Colombian Protestants faced significant opposition from municipal authorities, Catholic priests and their own neighbours.

‘I am proud of my roots’

‘Within the appropriate accountability structures of our democracy, [public servants] animate their action with their beliefs, with their faith,’ says new senator Peter Harder who was a former public servant himself. (Photo courtesy of Peter Harder)

God at work in Us | By Dick Benner | Apr 20, 2016

Peter Harder, a retired senior bureaucrat and high-level corporate advisor with Mennonite roots, was named by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as the Liberal government’s leader in the Senate on March 18. Having led Trudeau’s transition team following last fall’s election, Harder’s new job will be to move government legislation through a divided Senate in which the new Liberal appointments are no longer part of the Liberal caucus.

A Red Sea kind of life

After a long journey, Canadian Scott Eyre has found a home at Eastern Mennonite University, where he is a residence director and sports photographer. He will also graduate this spring with a degree in photography, while wife Sarah and son Nolan cheer on his accomplishment. ‘Most people would try to do that before they’re 34,’ he jokes. (Photo courtesy of Scott Eyre)

God at work in Us | By Randi B. Hagi | Mar 23, 2016

Scott Eyre, residence director of Cedarwood Hall at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU), sports photographer for the Royals, and soon-to-be-graduate, says the journey to the present day has included “a lot of Red Sea parting stuff.” Despite a circuitous route through one hardship after another, the waters have repeatedly parted, and Eyre has not walked through them alone.

“It’s really our story,” he says of his wife Sarah and son Nolan. “Sarah’s the curator of my gallery, but in a lot of ways she’s really the curator of my life.”

Former soldier leaves legacy of Christian pacifism

Siegfried Bartel

God at work in Us | By Amy Dueckman | Feb 24, 2016 | 2 comments

Siegfried Bartel, the former German army officer who became an ardent advocate for peace and an influential Mennonite figure in Canada, died at the age of 101.

Siegfried Wilhelm Bartel was born in Prussia, now Poland, into a successful Mennonite farming family. Pacifism had ceased to become important to the Prussian Mennonites, and Bartel voluntarily enlisted in the German army in 1937, before the start of the Second World War. He moved up the ranks quickly. During the war, he was wounded twice and was awarded the Iron Cross for bravery.