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Web First

Small actions create powerful witness in Venezuela

People in Venezuela wait in long lines for the chance to buy basic food staples. (Photo provided by Marisa Smucker.)

Web First | By Danielle Klotz | Sep 21, 2016

While cheap gas prices were celebrated in the United States, in Venezuela the low cost of oil has led to painful shortages in everyday needs, such as food, electricity and medicine.

The once-thriving Venezuelan economy depends greatly on exporting oil. Previously, when oil prices were high, this income stream allowed for low national production, permitting the government to increase imports and maintain large subsidies for its citizens.

‘Mennonites are serious about climate change’

Donor Ray Martin gestures while holding grandson Troy during the launch celebration for The Center for Sustainable Climate Solutions on Aug. 11 at Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, Va. Martin’s $1 million U.S. donation funded the Center, which will be housed at EMU in partnership with Goshen College and Mennonite Central Committee. (Photo by Andrew Strack)

Web First | Sep 21, 2016

Holding his 19-month-old grandson, Ray Martin told the audience gathered at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) on Aug. 11 why he had made a generous donation to study and combat the issues of climate change.

“We’re playing fast and loose with God’s creation,” Martin said. “I feel as if I owe it to him,” nodding toward his grandson, “to leave our planet, our earthly home, in good shape.”

Youth and children drink in curriculum’s ‘faith vitamins’

The creation team of Rut Atarama, left, Fabiola Arango, Diana Suárez, Rosa Triana and Amanda Valencia officially presents ‘Aguapanela!!!: A Christian curriculum for childhood and adolescence.’ (Photo courtesy of Rut Atarama)

Web First | By Rut Atarama | Sep 21, 2016

“There is no path, Pilgrim. The path is made by walking.”

This lovely phrase by the poet Antonio Machado epitomizes my life journey, particularly the two years I sojourned in Colombia.

Each person’s identity is marked by their family and social contexts, and other histories. To tell the truth, my identity as Rut Atarama, a Peruvian and a Mennonite Brethren, was redefined during my time of service with Mennonite Central Committee Colombia’s Seed program.

‘Paws’ for worship

Cecilia Erb gives Wunder, a future guide dog with the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides program, a big hug. (Photo courtesy of Cecilia Erb)

Web First | By Leona Dueck Penner | Sep 06, 2016

Erb Street Mennonite Church not only welcomes all people who enter its doors, as its vision statement indicates, but it also extends that same welcome to “future guide dogs.” These animals are being fostered and given basic training during puppyhood by two church families, before entering intensive training with the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides program. After that training they will serve as companions for people with various disabilities.

MCC supports education improvements in South Sudan

Mary Akol Ghor works on artwork as part of the ‘big sister/little sister’ mentoring program that uses art therapy to help children resolve issues and manage their behaviour and feelings. (MCC photo by Candacia Greeman)

Web First | By Emily Loewen, with files from Candacia Greeman | Sep 06, 2016

When South Sudan became an independent country in 2011, hopes were high and the future looked bright. But conflict broke out in 2013, and violence has ebbed and flowed ever since then.

Education levels remain consistently low. Only half of the primary school teachers have more than a primary school education themselves. The national literacy rate is only 27 percent, and for women it’s only 16 percent. According to the United Nations, a 15-year-old girl in South Sudan is more likely to die in childbirth than finish secondary school.

Mennonite song collection project launches website

The home page of the newly launched website dedicated to fundraising for the new song collection of Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church USA, at

Web First | Sep 06, 2016 | 2 comments

A dedicated fundraising website for the new song collection for Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church USA has been launched at MennoMedia is taking leadership of the new hymnal development. A digital version of much of the music is also anticipated.

Bethany Manor marks 30 years

Bob Neufeldt, Ron Peters and Lynn Driedger, from Nutana Park Mennonite Church, entertained the large audience gathered to celebrate Bethany Manor’s 30th anniversary. While many braved the unseasonably cold weather, some Bethany residents preferred to watch and listen from the comfort of their balconies. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

Web First | By Donna Schulz | Sep 06, 2016

Cloudy skies and a cold wind weren’t enough to keep a large group of people from gathering in the parking lot at the Bethany Manor seniors’ housing complex to celebrate the facility’s 30th anniversary. With the help of warm jackets and, in some cases, blankets, residents, family and friends enjoyed music, visiting and a barbeque supper to mark the event.

First woman to direct Mennonite Bible school in Congo

Bercy Mundedi was one of the first three women ordained by the Mennonite Church of Congo in 2013. Here in the chapel at Kalonda Bible Institute where Mundedi has taught for 10 years, Adolphe Komuesa Kalunga, national president of the denomination, presides over her ordination. (Photo by Sandy Miller). 

Web First | By Lynda Hollinger-Janzen | Aug 23, 2016 | 1 comment

Holy Spirit fire dances in Bercy Mundedi's eyes. It sets aflame the ministries to which she has been called—the most recent being to lead the Kalonda Bible Institute in Democratic Republic of Congo.

‘This is not the end of life’

Feryal, right, now leads a team of young volunteers sharing their own stories about being displaced with other displaced families in Iraq’s northern Ninewa Governorate. She, her parents Fatima and Elyas, and her sister Jandar live in a camp for displaced people after fleeing from the Islamic State group. (MCC photo by Matthew Sawatzky)

Web First | By Marla Pierson Lester | Aug 23, 2016

By the time Feryal arrived at a camp for displaced people in Iraq’s northern Ninewa Governorate, she had little desire to leave the security of the tent she shared with her parents and sister. And for the first four months, she mostly stayed put.

“I didn’t like to talk to anyone, just be silent,” recalls the 22-year-old, whose last name is not used for security reasons.

The months before had been harrowing. Fleeing the Islamic State group, which killed her uncle, she and her family were among the thousands trapped on Sinjar Mountain without shelter two summers ago.

Finding God at work in the city

Web First | By Ardell Stauffer | Aug 23, 2016

God is at work and the gospel is alive in our cities, towns and communities. This is the message Marty Troyer wants to share in his new book, The Gospel Next Door, released by Herald Press.

As a pastor in Houston, Tex., Troyer has found the gospel to be thriving in the city. “People are sharing Jesus, pursuing shalom in the city,” he says, adding that the old division of evangelism and social justice breaks down as Christians combine these in life-giving ways.

Veterans’ needs provide an opportunity for learning and ministry

Matthew Stearn speaks at Eastern Mennonite Seminary about his research into post-traumatic stress disorder and veterans. (Eastern Mennonite Seminary photo by Joaquin Sosa)

Web First | By Walt Wiltschek with Lauren Jefferson | Aug 23, 2016

A conversation about the needs and issues facing military veterans has been arising in an unexpected place this year: the halls of Eastern Mennonite Seminary (EMS).

The dialogue has grown as several graduate students recently focussed their research projects for their master of divinity degrees on veterans’ concerns. They include Matt Stearn, who looked at how Mennonite denominations can provide healing communities for combat veterans, and Darin Busé, a Methodist pastor and former combat veteran who named spiritual trauma as another casualty of combat.

TREE receives Hallman grant for peace education

TREE director Katie Gingerich teaches peace education to a class at Bridgeport Public School, Kitchener, Ont., in 2015. (Conrad Grebel University College photo)

Web First | Aug 09, 2016

The Ripple Effect Education (TREE), a peace education initiative based out of the Frank and Helen Epp Peace Incubator in the MSCU Centre for Peace Advancement on the campus of Conrad Grebel University College, is the beneficiary of a $150,000 grant from the Lyle S. Hallman Foundation over three years (2016-19).

Grace New Life Mennonite turns 25, looks to future

Pastor Sririsack Saythavy stands in the entrance to Grace New Life Mennonite Church in Hamilton, Ont. (Photo by Dave Rogalsky)

Web First | By Dave Rogalsky | Aug 09, 2016

After a quarter-century of shepherding Grace New Life Mennonite Church, Pastor Sririsach Saythavy—now in his late 50s and working two full-time jobs—is hoping a younger leader will arise to take on the Hamilton, Ont., congregation. His day job is making custom doors for homes, and his evening and weekend job is pastoring the congregation.

Already a pastor in Thailand in 1990, Saythavy was sponsored by a Christian Reformed congregation, along with other Lao people, to come to Canada that year; the denomination supported him to begin a congregation in Hamilton in 1991.

Mennonites in Brazil face diversity and challenges

In 1972 Mennonites in Curitiba, Brazil, hosted the assembly of Mennonite World Conference—the first time it was held in the global south. The theme chosen for the conference, “Jesus Christ Reconciles” was ironic because cultural and theological differences stirred up controversy around the gathering. However, this assembly resulted in major changes in the conference structure to allow greater representation, especially of Third World Mennonites, in conference planning. (Photo from the Mennonite Heritage Centre archives/Mennonite Archival Image Database)

Web First | By Peter Siemens and Gladys Siemens | Aug 06, 2016

The first Mennonites arrived in Brazil in 1930, coming as refugees from Russia/Ukraine, where their property, churches and schools were taken over by the state during the Stalin years.

A refugee finds a home

Peter Krause as a young man. (Photo courtesy of Stephen Fielding)

Web First | By Stephen Fielding | Aug 04, 2016

Soviet Ukraine was a traumatic place for a Mennonite kid. Peter Krause, born in 1935 and the youngest of four brothers, had to look after himself as a preschooler. Supervision was a luxury few could afford. His parents were working in the fields, and his brothers were at school. Once a day a gracious neighbour lady would check on him.

Action seeks solution for Israelis and Palestinians

Delegates vote on Israel-Palestine resolution at the Mennonite Church Canada assembly in Saskatoon, Sask. (Photo by Matt Veith.)

Web First | By Dan Dyck | Jul 23, 2016 | 2 comments

On July 9, 2016, a clear majority of delegates to Mennonite Church Canada’s Assembly 2016 voted in favour of a resolution seeking non-violent solutions to injustices in Israel-Palestine. Only one of 343 registered delegates voted against the resolution. (The resolution can be seen below.)

A similar resolution arose at the 2014 assembly, but was tabled for further work. A motion at the 2011 Assembly encouraged congregations to become more aware of Palestine-Israel issues.

Exploring tough subjects and intense spaces

‘Tough subjects and intense spaces’ seminar leader David Driedger enjoys challenging stereotypes, pushing boundaries and making people think. He led a seminar at Assembly 2016 in Saskatoon. (Photo by Donita Wiebe-Neufeld)

Web First | By Donita Wiebe-Neufeld | Jul 20, 2016

David Driedger enjoys challenging stereotypes, pushing boundaries and making people think. “[He] often pushes against established practices and the beliefs of the church from the inside,” Ben Borne said, introducing Driedger as a speaker who loves the church and engages with tough subjects and discussions.

Driedger said, “I sign up to lead [seminars] because I want to learn a topic . . . to build capacity and find the tools to engage.”

Good news sometimes comes in small packages

Lois Siemens, centre, and Sharon Schultz present a seminar entitled “Proclaiming the good news in town and country: Stories from the rural church” at Assembly 2016 in Saskatoon. Looking on is Erwin Warkentin. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

Web First | By Donna Schulz | Jul 20, 2016

Someone once asked Sharon Schultz if she became pastor of Eyebrow (Sask.) Mennonite Church in order to help the church to die well. Schultz did some soul-searching and came to the conclusion that “I don’t think that’s why God brought us here.”

Schultz and Lois Siemens, who is pastor of Superb Mennonite Church near Kerrobert, Sask., led a seminar entitled “Proclaiming the good news in town and country: Stories from the rural church.”

As Schultz pointed out, “There are differences between rural and city churches. These are some of the ways we share good news in our context.”

‘Partnering with God’s healing and hope’

At an Assembly 2016 seminar Daniel Horne and Jason Martin invite attendees to participate in the work of Mennonite Church Canada Witness by making donations that would uncover photos of MC Canada Witness workers. By the end of the assembly, the poster was completely uncovered, and, with matching donations, more than $10,000 was raised for Witness work around the world. (Photo by Matt Veith)

Web First | By Dan Dyck | Jul 20, 2016

That 14 people out of 38 who registered showed up for the “Partnering with God’s healing and hope” seminar may have indicated some wearying of Assembly 2016 participants. But those who came paid close attention to the presentation and asked good questions about what a mission partnership with a Mennonite Church Canada Witness worker or ministry means.

Presenters Daniel Horne and Jason Martin shared a roundup of all 30 current workers in ministries and pre-emptively addressed the most common questions: What is a partnership and how does it work?

Seeing dystopian heroines as prophets

Vic Thiessen presents an Assembly 2016 seminar exploring the prophetic nature of popular dystopian films. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

Web First | By Donna Schulz | Jul 20, 2016

Readers of Canadian Mennonite know Vic Thiessen as a writer of thoughtful film reviews—an interpreter, as it were, of pop culture for Mennonites in Canada. In that same vein, he presented “The Divergent Mockingjay: Female prophets, dystopian films and life on earth in 2016” for Assembly 2016 participants.

According to Thiessen, dystopian films have the potential to be great discussion starters. They can be a way “to share with the world that there is a purpose to living, and to challenge the world, as Jesus did, to care for the poor and for creation,” he said.

‘God’s gonna trouble the water’

Doug Amstutz, right, interim pastor at Riverdale Mennonite Church at Millbank, Ont., and Susan Beaumont discuss her presentation at the MC Canada ministers’ conference on July 6. (Photo by Dave Rogalsky)

Web First | By Donita Wiebe-Neufeld | Jul 20, 2016

“Wade in the water. Wade in the water, children. . . .”

Susan Beaumont had Mennonite Church Canada ministers sing the well-known spiritual at their “Leading in a season of change” conference preceding this year’s assembly on July 6, 2016. She invited them to stop, though, with the line, “God’s gonna trouble the water.”

“God is troubling the water during these times,” Beaumont said, telling the assembled ministers that they “are going around trying to calm the waters, while it is the troubled waters that will bring about the adaptations we need.”

Moonlight musings and redemption

Donita Wiebe-Neufeld
Web First | By Donita Wiebe-Neufeld | Jul 20, 2016 | 2 comments

Despite the standing ovation, I cannot imagine I was alone in having mixed feelings about the play we had just experienced. My mind was a full cup of queasiness and a dollop of laughter stirred with hard questions as I boarded the stuffy school bus with a crowd of other Mennonite Church Canada Assembly folks for the trip back to Saskatoon.  

Mennos march for ‘Steinbach Pride’

A ‘Mennonite’ placard at the inaugural ‘Steinbach Pride’ parade on July 9. (Photo by Beth Downey Sawatzky)

Web First | By Beth Downey Sawatzky | Jul 16, 2016 | 1 comment

The march was set to begin at 11 a.m. on July 9, 2016. But at the top of the hour, Michelle McHale, whose fight for civil rights in Steinbach recently brought the city into the national spotlight, asked the crowd to indicate by applause whether they would mind “waiting for the folks on the highway,” as traffic was backed up to St. Anne, nearly 20 kilometres out of town. Steinbach’s E.A. Friesen Park erupted with clapping.

Decision roundup: Assembly 2016

At Assembly 2016 Mennonite Church Canada delegates made decisions about future directions for the church, the church’s response to the Israel/Palestine conflict, the Doctrine of Discovery, and beliefs about same-sex relationships. (Photo by Aaron Epp)

Web First | By Dan Dyck | Jul 11, 2016 | 1 comment

Assembly 2016 may become known by delegates as a watershed event.

By turns intense and emotional, joyful and worshipful, the gathered delegates made significant decisions that will impact the Mennonite Church Canada body for years to come. They met in Saskatoon, Sask., July 6 to 10, 2016.

What you need to know about Assembly 2016 discussions

Web First | Jul 04, 2016

About 500 Mennonites from across Canada will gather in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, July 6 to 10, 2016, for the Mennonite Church Canada Assembly. This event, which happens every two years, brings together people for worship, fellowship and to make decisions for the national church. (See here for the schedule, documents, and a video.)