One month after its launch on Feb. 1, the 2021 Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) Canada Spirit of MDS Fund approved $54,900 in grants for 24 Canadian congregations and church-related organizations.
Ten of the recipients are part of Mennonite Church Canada, seven are Mennonite Brethren churches, and there is one each from the Evangelical Mennonite Conference, Evangelical Mennonite Mission Conference and Be In Christ Canada. Four other organizations or ministries also received funding.
Centre Bethésda Mennonite de Quebec, an MC Eastern Canada church plant, will use its grant to help members who need assistance with groceries and medications. “Having this fund will allow our church to assist our members financially for food and medications not covered by Medicare,” says Charles Tebena, the church’s pastor.
At Westview Christian Fellowship, an MC Eastern Canada congregation in St. Catharines, Ont., the money will be used to provide food for low income and homeless people. “Since COVID-19, our numbers have more than tripled,” says Jane Lavaca, executive director of the church’s Centre4Women. “We are seeing people we have never seen before. And we are seeing more homeless people than ever before, asking for food, blankets and warming kits.”
For the Mennonite Japanese Christian Fellowship, an MC B.C. congregation in Surrey, B.C., the grant will allow it to help people who have “lost jobs or had employment reduced because of the pandemic and money is now tight,” says Gerald Neufeld, the congregation’s pastor. “Some seekers connected with our church now struggle financially, since they were not eligible for the special government pandemic support since their income was already too low.”
Many of those being reached by the church don’t know a lot about Mennonites, Neufeld says, adding, “If they could receive some help from MDS, they could learn that Mennonites are more than just an organization looking for more people to join their churches. We believe in an active faith that shows practical care for others.”
For Ross Penner, MDS’s director of Canadian operations, hearing how the fund is helping local churches and church-related organizations shows its importance at this time. “Although we can’t do our regular service through volunteers due to COVID-19, we can serve those who need assistance through congregations and other groups on the frontlines of the pandemic, especially as needs continue to rise,” he says.
For more information about the fund, or to apply, visit bit.ly/spirit-of-mds.
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