Volume 24 Issue 10

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Some things that need to be said

‘Much of Canada is still practising measures to hold COVID-19 at bay. Fatigue has set in; we’re tired of thinking about it, talking about it and praying about it.’ (Image by cromaconceptovisual/Pixabay)

As this issue goes to press, much of Canada is still practising measures to hold COVID-19 at bay. Fatigue has set in; we’re tired of thinking about it, talking about it and praying about it. Yet some things still must be said:

God did not cause this pandemic

Anxiety

People coping with fear and anxiety swing back and forth between responses as the situation, and perceptions of it, change. We panic. We grasp for assurances and control. We deny. We try to understand. (photo © istock.com/wildpixel)

As the effects of COVID-19 grow, I am observing a variety of emotional reactions in myself and others. COVID-19 touches everyone’s life. If it isn’t personal illness or loss, we contend with separation, loneliness, deep uncertainty, inconvenient grocery shopping and accessing services that used to be readily available. Children are at home, incomes are at risk.

The presence of Christ

‘Let us receive the blessing of the presence of Christ yet again.’ (Image by MikesPhotos/Pixabay)

Although our world is facing the challenge of COVID-19, I am so glad for the parts of life that remain unchanged. Every day brings press conferences with appalling numbers of the losses we endure, talk of restrictions and life that seems like it’s in a state of flux. Yet, peanut butter, Netflix, and, of course, the Revised Common Lectionary remain. 

Canadian Foodgrains Bank meeting

Photo: Robb Nickel / Mennonite Heritage Archives / MCC collection

The Canadian Foodgrains Bank had its beginnings in 1975 as the Mennonite Central Committee Food Bank. In November 1982, representatives of 10 Christian denominations met to discuss plans for an inter-church foodgrains bank. Among those at the meeting, pictured left to right facing the camera, were Frank H. Epp, J.M. Klassen and C. Wilbert Loewen.

Holy curious living

Life for Eric Harder ‘was a mystery to savour rather than a load to carry,’ Ed Olfert writes. (Photo illustration by Betty Avery)

In late January, Eric Harder died at age 74. He was my friend.

I became acquainted with Eric 25 years ago, when I moved to Prince Albert to begin my ministry work. Both he and Velma were strong presences in the church. They offered leadership and encouragement in all the ways that a new pastor desperately needs.

What I learned from Ramadan

A decorative lantern crafted specifically for Ramadan in Egypt. (Image by Ahmed Sabry/Pixabay)

We were in the midst of the Christian season of Lent as I wrote this. Shortly after Lent ended and Easter came, Muslims began the season of Ramadan. The month-long period of daily fasting launched on April 23. The couple of years I have observed the season of Ramadan have been of stunning benefit for my Christian faith.

‘You listened to my cry’

‘I’m reading the story of Jonah, one of your servants who also left you behind, or tried to… I think I can share in his prayer.’ (Image by Jeff Jacobs/Pixabay)

Dear God:

I’m really not sure what to pray or how to feel these days. I’ve become a strange blend of anxious and relaxed, concerned and content, grateful and restless, ambitious and listless.

CBC graduates class online

Ken Esau, professor of Old Testament at Columbia Bible College, blows a ram’s horn as he addresses the graduating class on what it means to seek first God’s kingdom. (Screen grab of Columbia Bible College 2020 commencement ceremony (YouTube))

Graduation for Columbia Bible College’s class of 2020 looked a little different this year. Rather than proudly walking across the stage in cap and gown to receive their diplomas, the graduates took part in a virtual online commencement ceremony on April 18. The college had dismissed classes earlier in the year due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

‘We are one body’

Leah Reesor-Keller, the incoming MC Eastern Canada executive minister, is pictured at her computer while participating in the regional church’s annual gathering, this year via Zoom. (Photo by Luke Reesor-Keller)

Delegates to the MC Eastern Canada annual gathering voted electronically on motions presented as poll questions in the meeting held on April 25, through Zoom, a videoconferencing application. After the voting was completed, results were immediately available onscreen. (Photo by Virginia A. Hostetler)

“We are one body in Christ . . . even when scattered. We are members of one another. We can still encourage and pray for and learn from each other.”

Deepening their walk with each other in spite of social isolation

Terry Stefaniuk, Mennonite Church Saskatchewan’s moderator, welcomes delegates and guests to the regional church’s 2020 annual delegate sessions. (Screenshot by Donna Schulz)

Ryan Siemens, Mennonite Church Saskatchewan’s executive minister invites congregational representatives to share how their churches are coping with and adapting to social isolation. (Screenshot by Donna Schulz)

After a year spent exploring the theme, “Deepening our walk with each other,” Mennonite Church Saskatchewan continued, inadvertently, to ponder what this means during its annual delegate sessions (ADS).

When COVID-19 forced the postponement of the regional church’s annual general meeting, slated for mid-March, planners scheduled a virtual meeting, via Zoom, for April 25.

Kids talk COVID-19

Matoli and Zavi Braun deGroot enjoy the rhythms of farm life during the pandemic. (Photo by Will Braun)

COVID-19 has permeated the collective psyche. And although kids may not be watching The National or spending their coveted screen time on the Health Canada webpage, COVID-19 is on their minds. I asked several parents to ask their kids—aged 5 to 13—about the new reality. Below are some of their responses, verbatim. 

A new kind of ‘whiteout party’

The home windows of Moses Falco, pastor of Sterling Mennonite Fellowship in Winnipeg, who started the #whiteoutMB movement with Karen Schellenberg. (Photo by Moses Falco)

Tracy Enns, Carman Mennonite Church, joined in by decorating the windows of her workplace with hearts. (Photo courtesy of Karen Schellenberg)

Karen Schellenberg, Interim Pastor at Charleswood Mennonite Church, came up with the idea for #whiteoutMB. (Photo courtesy of Karen Schellenberg)

Over the past two years, thousands of Manitobans have gathered in the streets of Winnipeg to cheer on the Winnipeg Jets in the hockey playoffs. Many were hoping to don their all-white outfits and join these “whiteout parties” again this spring, but the novel coronavirus prevented that.

The gift of giving time

After 46 years, Margie Steingart still works at the Christian Benefit Thrift Shop in St. Catharines, Ont. (MCC 100 stories for 100 years photo)

Many people have given their time to volunteering, but few have a record of volunteering for the same organization for 46 years. Margie Steingart has that distinction. She has volunteered for the Christian Benefit Thrift Shop in St. Catharines, Ont., since it opened in January 1974, making her, at the age of 93, the oldest volunteer there.

Immigrants in crisis

Lule Begashaw is a psychotherapist and team lead at the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers. (Photo by: Nafkot Begashaw)

According to Lule Begashaw, psychotherapist and team lead at the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers, the mental-health team is seeing a big increase in requests for help since the COVID-19 outbreak. She says that “newcomers are a vulnerable population that has definitely been overlooked.” 

Choosing to be present

Andrew Ardell brings a global perspective to his work at Communitas Supportive Care Society. (Photo courtesy of Andrew Ardell)

Andrew Ardell is a friendly person who smiles readily and is thoughtful in his conversation. He cares deeply about the people he serves and is aware of how much he gains from the relationships he has made through his work with the Communitas Supportive Care Society. This positive perspective is borne out of years of service experience around the world and here at home.

We are all created wonderful

New Dawn Educare Center caregivers and clients make dumplings. (Photo courtesy of New Dawn)

A New Dawn Educare Center resident cares for a pet. (Photo courtesy of New Dawn)

Health work first brought Mennonites to Taiwan in 1948 through Mennonite Central Committee’s relief work, but there was also local interest in starting a church. The Mennonite presence in Taiwan today—the Fellowship of Mennonite Churches in Taiwan—has its roots in both health and church planting.

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