“It was help from heaven. When I talk about it, I want to cry. Nobody has ever helped me like this. They are like angels.”
That’s what a homeowner in Grand Forks, B.C., said in 2019 about Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) volunteers who had come to the community to repair and rebuild following a devastating flood a year earlier.
That homeowner was not alone.
During my four years as communications manager for MDS Canada, I heard other homeowners use the same word many times to describe the volunteers who had come from across Canada to repair their homes, damaged by floods, fires or hurricanes: Angels.
The volunteers didn’t have the same lofty view of themselves. They never used that word. They were just doing what they believed God called them to do: Help a neighbour in need. No big deal.
But I find myself agreeing with the homeowners. The thousands from across Canada and the U.S. who volunteer with MDS each year are angelic as they give up a week, a month or more of their time to be the hands and feet of Jesus for those who have been impacted by natural disasters.
As I prepared to leave my role at MDS Canada in late October, I thought a lot about the many volunteers I had interviewed and photographed.
What kind of tribute could I create for them? How could I tell them what they meant not only to homeowners, but to me?
They are, after all the heart and soul of MDS.
When I heard the song “All Around Me There Are Angels,” by Canadian singer-songwriter Mark Lalama, I knew I had found it. This video, which I created with the help of my colleague, Paul Hunt, is the result:
Mark wrote the song about doctors, nurses and first responders who sacrificed and served during the early parts of the pandemic, but the lyrics also apply to the many who have served with MDS.
This video is dedicated to them.
To all who have volunteered with MDS, thanks for being an “angel.”
And if you haven’t volunteered yet, you can be an “angel” too! Visit mds.org.
John Longhurst was the communications manager at MDS Canada for four years.