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Reclaiming dignity after leaving sex work

As of March 2017, 169 women who formerly worked in Bangladesh’s sex trade have graduated out of Pobitra’s vocational training program. Pobitra, a partner of MCC, helps women recover from trauma, become literate in Bangla and learn job skills. (MCC photo by Elizabeth Derstine)

Web First | By Rachel Bergen, with files from Elizabeth Derstine | Apr 18, 2017

Barsha, whose real name isn’t being used to protect her identity, was 11 when her mother started forcing her to traffic drugs between India and Bangladesh. She was caught several times by police and was afraid of her mother, so she ran away from home and lived in a railway station. During that time she was forced into sex work and raped numerous times.

Reading the Bible with ‘the other’

Janna Hunter-Bowman, left, an assistant professor of peace studies and Christian social ethics at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, and Loren Johns, professor of New Testament, right, visit with Hans de Wit, centre, AMBS’s Theological Lectureship guest speaker, on March 2, 2017. (AMBS photo by Annette Brill Bergstresser)

Web First | By Rich Preheim | Apr 18, 2017

Mary Magdalene’s Easter discovery of the empty tomb is the greatest news possible for Christians. But for one group of Peruvians studying the account in John 20, it came shrouded in tragedy and terror.

Thousands of people “disappeared” in the 1980s and ’90s, when the country was devastated by armed conflict between government forces and insurgent groups. That left countless families and friends, including the Bible study group, echoing Mary’s question: “Where have they taken our loved one?”

Mennonites, Lutherans, Catholics discuss baptism

Mennonites, Lutherans and Catholics gathered for the fifth and final Trilateral Dialogue on Baptism (left to right): Alfred Neufeld (co-chair, Paraguay), Theodor Dieter, Luis Augusto Castro Quiroga, Marie-Hélène Robert, Larry Miller, Friederike Nüssel (co-chair, Germany), Fernando Enns, John Rempel, Luis Melo, Kaisamari Hintikka, Musawenkosi Biyela, William Henn, Avelindo Gonzalez. (Photo by Wilhelm Unger)

Web First | Apr 18, 2017

Representatives of the Catholic Church (Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity), the Lutheran World Federation, and Mennonite World Conference met in Augsburg, Germany, February 9-14, 2017, for the fifth meeting of the Trilateral Dialogue Commission on Baptism. The meeting in Augsburg concluded a five-year dialogue process.

Senator urges friendship and solidarity

The Peace Tower in Ottawa is the backdrop for the group photo of participants in MCC Canada’s 2017 student seminar. (Photo by Thomas Coldwell)

Web First | By Esther Epp-Tiessen | Apr 18, 2017

We had gathered in Ottawa—eight MCC staff, along with 30 students and young adults from across the country—for our annual MCC Canada student seminar. The topic of the seminar was Gender, peace and conflict: Exploring the intersection.

One of our guest speakers was Senator Mobina Jaffer. Jaffer has been active in promoting the women, peace and security agenda for many years, and she spoke about that work for several minutes. Then she asked permission to go “off topic.” She wanted to discuss what was really on her heart.

‘I’m pretty earnest about living responsibly’

Creation care is an integral part of Brenda MacDonald’s faith. She sees it as people relating not just to nature but also to one another and to God. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

Web First | By Donna Schulz | Apr 07, 2017 | 2 comments

“I’m kind of anti-passion,” says Brenda MacDonald. “I don’t feel I have a passion. I have a lot of interests, and I’m interested in living responsibly. I’m not goal-oriented, but I’m pretty earnest about living responsibly.”

For the retired schoolteacher and her husband, Wayne, living responsibly means doing what they can to protect the environment and reduce consumption. “We try to grocery shop carefully, we bike wherever we can, and we have a garden in the summer.”

But lately, that commitment has gone deeper.

Living with a carbon footprint conundrum

Every year the Canadian Foodgrains Bank supports programs that help poor farmers in the developing world—like Yvette Nicholas of Haiti—deal with the effects of climate change. (Photo courtesy of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank)

Web First | By John Longhurst | Apr 07, 2017

Jane Fonda received lots of criticism last year for travelling to Alberta to criticize future pipeline construction.

Media outlets, including the Winnipeg Free Press, noted the apparent inconsistency between her comments about fossil-fuel extraction and how she flew to Alberta, used a helicopter to tour the oilsands, had her voice amplified by a microphone powered by electricity, and spoke in a building heated to keep out the cold of a Canadian winter.

Creation care in action

Bob Lebold, 50 Kent Avenue’s physical resources coordinator, checks the output on one of the 10 banks of solar electric panels on the roof. In spite of the cloudy day, the system was producing electricity. (Photo by Dave Rogalsky)

God at work in the World | By Dave Rogalsky | Apr 05, 2017

Building to green standards using cutting-edge technology is a significant expense.

After nearly four years in its 50 Kent Avenue building, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Ontario is pleased with the choices it made and feels that its constituents can be satisfied that the extra expenses have paid creation-care dividends. Most initiatives have met or exceeded expectations, especially with the rising price of electricity in the Ontario market.

‘Not just an activist political group’

Byron Rempel-Burkholder, second from right, and Carolyne Epp-Fransen, right, co-lead a workshop at the MC Manitoba annual general meeting in early March in Winkler focussing on the Israel-Palestine resolution passed at last summer’s national church assembly. (Photo by Beth Downey Sawatzky)

God at work in the World | By Beth Downey Sawatzky | Apr 05, 2017

Mennonite Church Canada’s resolution on Israel and Palestine took centre stage during an informative workshop in early March 2017 at the Mennonite Church Manitoba annual general meeting.

Church opens doors to exercise club

Retired physician Arnie Nickel, wearing the headset, is one of five volunteer trainers who lead the Forever in Motion Club that meets at Nutana Park Mennonite Church in Saskatoon. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

God at work in the World | By Donna Schulz | Apr 05, 2017

Everyone’s welcome, it’s free of charge and refreshments are served. Those selling features should attract Mennonites by the dozen. Surprisingly, though, most participants in Nutana Park Mennonite Church’s seniors exercise club aren’t Mennonites at all.

Five-and-a-half years ago, Walter Wall approached his congregation about starting an exercise program for seniors. The Saskatoon Health Region offered training for volunteer leaders for a program called Forever in Motion. Wall and Arnie Nickel took the training and became the first leaders of the church’s Forever in Motion Club.

Serving up social justice

God at work in the World | By Amy Dueckman | Apr 05, 2017 | 1 comment

More than just food will be on the menu when the Abby Eats Café opens here next year. The non-profit eatery, according to founder and proprietor Kyle Dyck, will focus on social justice and food insecurities and offer a culture of welcome for customers of all socioeconomic groups. The unique twist is that this restaurant will be “pay what you can.”

‘A season of change and a search for vitality’

Leng Thang of Calgary Chin Christian Church addresses the MC Alberta annual delegate sessions on March 18, 2017. (Photo by Tim Wiebe-Neufeld)

God at work in the Church | By Donita Wiebe-Neufeld | Apr 05, 2017

Both challenge and blessing were in evidence at the 88th annual Mennonite Church Alberta delegate sessions on March 17 and 18, 2017, at Trinity Mennonite Church in DeWinton.

In comments preceding the business session, moderator Dan Jack was clear in naming some of MC Alberta’s challenges for the coming year: “[We are] expecting a difficult year and a deficit budget. The economy and the [Being a Faithful Church (BFC)] process has had some impact with involvement.”

Be not afraid

‘To a litany for survival & lisa’ by Laura Tait. In an artist statement, Tait said that this piece is a response to her relationship and experience with the poem, ‘A Litany for Survival’ by feminist and civil rights activist Audre Lorde.

Young Voices | By Aaron Epp | Apr 05, 2017

“Fear[full]: We shall [not] be consumed” was the theme at this year’s Mennofolk, an annual event that celebrates art and music made by people associated with the Mennonite community in southern Manitoba.

More than 30 artists submitted artwork to the event, held on March 25, 2017, at X-Cues, a café and lounge in Winnipeg’s West End. Local bands Rosebud and Darling Twig performed.

A personal pilgrimage

Topics like indigenous-settler relations and land rights issues became real for Erin Froese, middle, while working at Mennonite Church Manitoba’s Camp Koinonia. (Camps with Meaning photo)

Young Voices | By Aaron Epp | Apr 05, 2017

For Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) student Erin Froese, taking a break from studying in the classroom has allowed her to pursue her interest in healing broken relationships between indigenous and settler peoples.

‘I like how we roll’

Christina Bartel Barkman and her son Cody ride non-motorized scooters to Cody’s school each morning to avoid heavy Manila traffic. (Mennonite Church Canada photo)

Web First | By Deborah Froese | Apr 05, 2017 | 1 comment

For Christina Bartel Barkman and her son Cody, switching from a car to scooters has pumped new energy and insights into their morning commute.

Mother and son used to endure an hour-long, stress-filled drive through “crazy” Manila traffic to cover the 1.3 kilometre distance between home and school. They tried walking, but it was equally agonizing. Cody wasn’t keen on it, and they had to travel along C5, one of Manila’s main thoroughfares, with eight lanes of traffic and loads of dust and noise—so much noise, in fact, that they couldn’t carry on a conversation.

Catalysing mission

Bernard Sejour, left, Mennonite Church Eastern Canada’s mission catalyst in Ottawa and Quebec, toasts the 10th anniversary of Refuge of Peace Mennonite Church in Sherbrooke, Que., with Pastor Lucy Roca and area church minister Henry Paetkau last fall. (Photo by Dave Rogalsky)

Web First | By Dave Rogalsky | Apr 05, 2017

Chemistry uses the concept of a catalyst to describe a substance that, when added to another substance, promotes a reaction without being used up itself. Bernard Sejour is Mennonite Church Eastern Canada’s mission catalyst in Ottawa and the Province of Quebec or, as he puts it, area church mission minister “Brian Bauman’s representative.”

Sharp among confirmed dead in DRC

Michael J. Sharp addresses the UN Security Council in August 2016. (Courtesy of the Sharp family)

Web First | By Lauren Jefferson | Mar 28, 2017

Michael J. “M.J.” Sharp, a United Nations official kidnapped with five others in the Democratic Republic of Congo two weeks ago, has been confirmed as deceased by the Congolese government, according to Reuters. 

The bodies of two Caucasians, a male and female, were found in the Central Kasai region, where Sharp and a female colleague went missing. A third body, later confirmed as their Congolese interpreter, was also found.

It’s time to do ‘something constructive together’

Worship band members from Elmira’s Zion Mennonite Fellowship lead singing at the Evangelical Anabaptist Partners worship gathering at Community Mennonite Fellowship in Drayton, Ont., on Jan. 15, 2017. (Photo by Dave Rogalsky)

God at work in the Church | By Dave Rogalsky | Mar 22, 2017

Evangelical Anabaptist Partners (EAP) is a loosely affiliated group of pastors and lay people from Mennonite Church Eastern Canada who have been gathering regularly for worship, mutual encouragement, fellowship and discussion about their mission in the world.

At a recent monthly Sunday evening gathering at Community Mennonite Fellowship in Drayton, Ont., Craig Frere, the host pastor, challenged the 90 people present to have a faith that extended beyond Sundays into the whole week, “being good news to others” and “being the church on the way” through life.

MC Saskatchewan ‘extends the table’

The Gospel According to Food, a play written and performed by members of Pleasant Point Mennonite Church, encourages MC Saskatchewan delegates to re-examine their relationship with food. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

God at work in the Church | By Donna Schulz | Mar 22, 2017

“Extending the table: Enough for all.” That was the theme chosen for Mennonite Church Saskatchewan’s annual delegate sessions this year, and as delegates and guests broke bread together, literally and metaphorically, they found there was indeed enough for all.

Held March 10 and 11, 2017, at Nutana Park Mennonite Church in Saskatoon, the sessions were co-hosted by the Nutana Park and Pleasant Point Mennonite congregations.

MEI student dies on ski trip

Julian Osis

God at work in the Church | By Amy Dueckman | Mar 22, 2017

A school outing turned to tragedy on March 3, 2017, when a student from Mennonite Educational Institute (MEI) in Abbotsford died during a ski trip to Whistler Blackcomb ski resort.

Reports said an unresponsive male was found at the bottom of Blackcomb Mountain after he was reported missing in the afternoon. The student’s name was not officially released to news media, but links on the MEI website identified him as Julian Osis, 14.

‘Being like a family’

Byron Rempel-Burkholder, centre, leads a workshop at the MC Manitoba annual general meeting in early March in Winkler focussing on the Israel-Palestine resolution passed at last summer’s national church assembly. (Photo by Beth Downey Sawatzky)

God at work in the Church | By Beth Downey Sawatzky | Mar 22, 2017

Mennonite Church Manitoba gave its final comments on the Being a Faithful Church (BFC) 7 process, which has dominated public attention since last summer, at the area church’s annual general meeting held the first weekend in March 2017, at Winkler Mennonite Church.

In an official statement, “Responding to BFC 7,” the area church “recognizes and endorses the recommendations” of the BFC Task Force, commending local congregations to continue in prayer, study and humble mutual respect:

A ‘manufactured narrative’?

Dick Benner
God at work in the Church | By Dick Benner | Mar 22, 2017

“Moral selectivity is worse than immorality,” insisted Omar Ramahi, a Muslim Canadian invited to address an adult Sunday school class at Waterloo (Ont.) North Mennonite Church recently, to give his perspective on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. He was referring to the biblical narrative that justifies occupation and injustice as a “manufactured narrative.”

A voice from ‘outside the gate’

Victor and Rebecca Fast, left, and Martha and Paul Snyder meet to share the story of the Parents Group (of LGBTQ children), which they had been members of for 30 years before disbanding it last fall. (Photo by Dave Rogalsky)

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

“We are exhausted.”

So say members of a group of Mennonite parents of LGBTQ children, who met together for 30 years to worship, pray, exchange stories and support each other and their children, of their decision to call it quits last fall, as age and changing times have taken their toll.

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.

Step back in history

Brubacher House was built in 1850 in a style typical of Pennsylvania German architecture. (Photo by Jennifer Konkle)

Young Voices | By Aaron Epp | Mar 22, 2017 | 2 comments

Joshua Enns goes through less than two kilograms of flour each week baking bread for himself and his wife Laura. By comparison, the original inhabitants of the house they live in went through 45 kilos.

Playing for fun and credit

Anna Lysack has played the violin for 15 years. (Photo by Aaron Epp)

Young Voices | By Aaron Epp | Mar 22, 2017

Legendary rock ‘n’ roll drummers Keith Moon and Neil Peart inspired Matt Schellenberg to get into percussion, but it’s Bach and Beethoven that he will be playing when he performs next month.

Schellenberg is one of a handful of young adults who are members of the Mennonite Community Orchestra (MCO) in Winnipeg. The MCO is the orchestra-in-residence at Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) and consists of more than 50 professional and amateur musicians; it will perform its annual spring concert on April 9, 2017, in the chapel at CMU.

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