In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, stories poured in from Mennonite World Conference (MWC) member churches about job losses and hunger in their congregations and communities due to shutdowns. MWC began collecting funds to respond to pandemic-related needs within and through the household of faith.
A year into the pandemic, MWC is blessing and affirming Mennonite-Anabaptist mission and service agencies as they continue their efforts to respond to the pandemic in partnership with Anabaptist churches around the world.
“We recognize the expertise and infrastructure our agencies have to be effective in long-term response to the pandemic,” says César García, MWC’s general secretary.
At the beginning of the pandemic, Anabaptist mission and service agencies were dealing with their own crises of relocating international service workers, and closing or adapting programs to new conditions, while also providing needed support to Anabaptist churches in the Global South struck hard by COVID-19 and its economic fallout.
MWC gathered a task force to bring Mennonite agencies together to share information and expertise in response to the pandemic. The task force oversaw MWC’s effort to accompany Anabaptist churches globally in ensuring that pressing humanitarian needs related to the pandemic were met. This task force considered proposals for grants of up to $10,000 for COVID-19 responses—mainly for emergency food, hygiene and education resources.
Cooperation between partners through the COVID-19 response was evident not only in the task force, but also between national churches applying with proposals.
In Mexico, five national Anabaptist churches worked with Mennonite Central Committee on a coordinated COVID-19 response.
“First I want to give thanks to God, and then to all those who made the arrival of this ‘good portion’ in our lives possible,” says Patricia Torres Guerrero of Hacedores de Paz (Mennonite) Church in El Salto Jalisco, Mexico, a recipient of COVID-19 aid. Their barber shop was closed due to the pandemic and her husband’s pension was taken for the month. “We went to the church and we were crying out to God for help.”
The next day, the pastor called to invite Guerrero and her husband to visit the church’s food pantry.
“After going to the distribution centre, I went home and ran to my bedroom, where I began to cry,” she says. “I thanked God for being so good to us. It’s all I can do to thank my brothers and sisters in faith, who were God’s instrument in blessing us.”
“In this second phase, we will continue walking together, supporting each other in prayer and sharing information,” says García. “We are one family: we invite supporters to continue giving through these mission and service agencies.”
Until the end of December 2020, a total of US$444,711 flowed to nearly 50 COVID-19 response projects in the Anabaptist-Mennonite family.
“We are thankful for the generosity of so many people who gave as an expression of “equality” within the MWC family, as is the goal of the Global Church Sharing Fund according to II Corinthians 8:13-15,” says Henk Stenvers, chair of the MWC Deacons Commission.
“Through this COVID-19 response, MWC fostered information-sharing and collaboration among Anabaptist churches and mission and service agencies, calling together a global response to meet the challenges posed by a global pandemic,” says Alain Epp Weaver, chair of the task force and MCC U.S.’s strategic planning director.
MWC will continue to convene mission and service agency representatives to share information about COVID-19 response projects from each agency and follow up on reports from previously funded projects.
“Vaccines are unevenly distributed around the world, and will continue to be for the next few years,” says Arli Klassen, MWC’s regional representatives coordinator. “The church must have a voice in caring for those most negatively impacted by COVID, by lockdowns and by vaccine distribution.”