Not many Canadian architects can say they’ve built a school in the Guatemalan cloud forest, but Charles Olfert can. A member of Wildwood Mennonite Church and a partner at AODBT Architecture and Interior Design, Olfert speaks enthusiastically about the project.
God at work in the World
Mennonite Church Canada congregations are taking the words of Deuteronomy 10:18-19 to heart by caring for Syrian refugees. The passage shares God’s desire to clothe and feed strangers. It’s a rather fitting way for Mennonites to express God’s love, as many were once refugees to Canada themselves.
A reader of this magazine sent an e-mail admonishing me not to associate our Mennonite faith with the “fear narrative” of climate change. He provided some links to seemingly credible people who refute the common global-warming argument. My impulse was to either delete or politely—or impolitely—sidestep it. Instead, I took it seriously.
Across the parking lot from Altona Mennonite Church stands a long, yellow brick building with narrow halls and tiny bachelor suites that rent out for $285 per month. Friendship Manor is a government-run housing facility for people on social assistance.
The door to reconciliation is open further now than ever before in Canada. From Trudeau to church organizers I speak with, interest in improving relations between indigenous and non-indigenous people is far greater than even a few years ago. Yet most of the discussion leaves me feeling hollow.
The Manitoba Prairies have a reputation for icy winters, but they should also be known for their warm hearts. This winter, the town of Altona, Man., embraced 45 new refugees from Syria, increasing its population by 1 percent.
Late last month Canadian Mennonite University president Cheryl Pauls signed an unusual document, one that commits CMU to bringing indigenous knowledge and history into its classroom as well as creating a racism-free campus and working to better serve the needs of indigenous students.
Thanks to a question from Tom Roes, Mennonites in Botswana are thinking creatively about launching small businesses to support their families and the local church.
Manitoba, which leads all provinces in putting people behind bars, also wants to lead in restorative justice programming.
“I wanted to see what God can do with me and how he might use me,” said Gao Hlee Vang of First Hmong Mennonite Church, in Kitchener, Ont., reflecting on her congregation’s mission trip to Thailand last summer. Twenty-three people participated in the trip.
The first three times their house flooded, John and Mary Webb managed to make repairs. But in 2011, after the Red River filled it with water for the fourth time, they were broke.
“We’d put our retirement money into this house,” says Mary. “We didn’t have any funds left. We were poor.”
Sandra and Harold Friesen of Calgary and Linda and Jim Dyck of Pincher Creek spent the last two years volunteering as project coordinators for Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) work in High River, Alta., cleaning up after a summer 2013 flood in Calgary and area—the worst in the province’s history—that displaced more than 100,000 people and caused an estimated $5 billion in property damage.
A Mennonite church is not a typical venue for a Remembrance Day service, but on Nov. 11, 2015, members of several Mennonite Church Saskatchewan congregations came together at Osler Mennonite Church to pay tribute to those whose lives have been turned upside down by war.
Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) made headlines this fall when it was revealed that workers at its CMU Farm had successfully grown an ancient variety of squash from seeds shared with them by the White Earth Seed Library in Minnesota. The squash was grown in collaboration with members of Manitoba’s Métis community.
When a provincial election brought a wave of optimism to Manitoba—or at least parts of it—in 1999, a colleague said, “Yep, the reign of God should descend upon us any time now.”
“You maybe can’t save all the lives, but you can save some.” With these words, Doha Kharsa encouraged her audience to sponsor refugees. Kharsa, herself a Syrian refugee who arrived in Canada a year ago, spoke at Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Saskatchewan’s Encounter and annual general meeting, held Nov. 7 at Parliament Community Church.
An interactive blanket exercise on Missions Sunday, Oct. 25, 2015, shows members of Emmanuel Mennonite Church in Abbotsford, B.C., a different way of looking at Canadian history. Indigenous representatives had participants—including Pastor April Yamasaki, front left—stand on blankets representing the land of North America in the years before European settlers came.
People who want to love their indigenous neighbours must first learn to love themselves, according to Dr. Patricia Vickers, a psychotherapist and Tsimshian theologian. Vickers spoke at an event organized by Mennonite Church Manitoba on how churches can respond to the calls to action made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
She is a novelist and world traveller, speaks Mandarin and has a brown belt in karate. Shaimaa Kraba also wears a hijab and is a Sunni Muslim. At the third annual Christian-Muslim dialogue in Edmonton on Oct. 17, 2015, emcee Miriam Gross humorously addressed the issue of stereotyping when she quipped, “There is more to her than a ‘scarf-clad’ girl. After all, it’s a hijab, not a halo!”
Gregory Rabus and Jennifer Otto, Mennonite Church Canada Witness workers in Germany, are finding ways to respond to the needs of refugees flooding into the country from Syria and Iraq.
While the physical space has been there since the Mennonite Savings and Credit Union (MSCU) Centre for Peace Advancement was inaugurated a year ago, the Frank and Helen Epp Peace Incubator got its official opening on Sept. 22, 2015, at Conrad Grebel University College.
Forty years after refugees fled Vietnam and communist oppression for Canada’s shores, the Vietnamese community in B.C. expressed gratitude to God at a celebratory evening on Aug. 30, 2015.
The event was co-sponsored by Vancouver Mennonite Church and Abbotsford’s Emmanuel Mennonite and Vietnamese Christian churches, and was hosted by Emmanuel.
For years, Leon Kehl of Floradale (Ont.) Mennonite Church, has been working to build understanding and friendship between Christians and Muslims in Waterloo Region.
Participants and instructors at NARPI’s summer peacebuilding training session in Mongolia gather for a group photo. Scott Kim is on the far left, wearing a light blue shirt, and Cheryl Woelk is standing behind the banner, holding her infant son. For more photos, visit facebook.com/narpipeace or narpi.net.
“Conflict isn’t something we should avoid,” says Cheryl Woelk, “because there are good things on the other side.”
Recently, Woelk and her husband, Scott Kim—members of Wildwood Mennonite Church in Saskatoon—served as instructors at the Northeast Asia Regional Peacebuilding Institute (NARPI) annual Summer Peacebuilding Training.