Three former staff members of Mennonite Pioneer Missions and Native Ministry, the predecessor organizations of Mennonite Church Canada Indigenous Relations, passed away in April and May of this year. Ronald Peters, Jacob A. Wiebe and Cheryl Fisch all based their lives and ministries on strong relationships, say former co-workers Neill and Edith von Gunten. Their relationships extended to people across the various communities in which they lived and worked, as well as to the broader church.
In the 1960s, Ron Peters and his wife Doris accepted an assignment in the Lake Winnipeg community of Bloodvein First Nation, where they moved with their young daughter, Terri. After their tenure in Bloodvein, the growing family settled in Aberdeen, Sask., and remained in that area until retiring near St. Anne, Man. Peters’ life of ministry included pastoral work, social work, serving in various elected offices, and—his great love—farming.
His title always mattered less to him than his relationships, say the von Guntens, former co-directors of Native Ministry. “He strove to live with integrity and compassion, and he earned people’s respect and affection for it.”
In his obituary, Peters’ children wrote: “Dad had a desire for justice that ranged from ensuring the scoreboard was correct at high school volleyball games to railing against the inadequacies of Canada’s criminal justice system. His early career experiences in northern Manitoba and Saskatchewan fueled a lifelong passion for justice for aboriginal people. While Dad often lamented his own failings in working for justice, he never stopped urging himself and others to pursue it.”
Peters passed away at the age of 71 years after a short, intense journey with pancreatic cancer. He is survived by his wife Doris; their children, Terri Peters (Darren Oleksyn), Pam Peters-Pries (Albert) and their children Benjamin and Matthew, and Jody Peters (Tara Faris) and son Noah Chelsom; and by four sisters and their spouses and families.
Jacob A. Wiebe
Jake Wiebe and his wife Helen were involved with Mennonite Pioneer Mission and Native Ministry in several ways over many years, from teaching in Loon Straits, Man., to serving as pastor and supportive wife at Elim Mennonite Fellowship in Selkirk, Man. During the years in Selkirk they did extensive chaplaincy work in community personal care homes and hospitals. Wiebe also served as itinerant pastor in Pine Dock and Loon Straits for several years from his base in Selkirk.
Over the years, Wiebe also found other forms of employment, from painting and packing groceries, to carpentry, log cabin construction, farming and baking. Living in a variety of locations taught his family to call many different places home. After retirement, and with his wife’s teaching, Wiebe sewed and donated 1,950 blankets to Mennonite Central Committee.
Wiebe passed away at the age of 90. He is survived by his lifelong sweetheart and best friend, Helen, whom he married in 1948; their children, Brent (Romie), Margaret (Garnet), Naomi (John), Salome (Eric), Viola (Dave), and Orlando (Barb); grandchildren, Raymond (Rosa), and Amanda (Dave); and two sisters, two brothers and their families.
Cheryl Steifel Fisch
Cheryl Steifel was originally from Bucyrus, Ohio, where she graduated from Ohio State University and met her husband, Roland Fisch. With their young daughter, Charlott, the couple lived and worked on the Hollow Water First Nation in the 1970s under the auspices of Native Ministries. They built many relationships in the community and area in those years.
The rest of her adult years were spent in the Florida Keys, where she found great joy working as a teacher. Steifel Fisch helped create a recreation program that allowed students to actively engage with arts and science during summer months.
The couple moved to northern Florida in recent months to be close to their children and grandchildren. Steifel Fisch passed away after struggling for several years with health issues.
She is survived by her husband Roland; daughter Charlott (Pete Cadiz) and their children, Keegan and Mallory; son JR (Robyn) and their children, Connor and Lily; as well as a sister and brother.