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Training course helps navigate difficult COVID-19 conversations

Mediation Services in Winnipeg launched a new training program on Dec. 6 to help people learn how to navigate difficult conversations and maintain relationships when they disagree. (Unsplash photo by Graham Ruttan)

Right now it feels hard to believe, but eventually the COVID-19 pandemic will end. What will last longer are the strained and hurt relationships the virus has created.

Mediation Services in Winnipeg launched a new training program on Dec. 6 to help people learn how to navigate difficult conversations and maintain relationships when they disagree.

Pandemic parameters during the fifth wave

Fill the Bus campaign was held in December 2021 when the United Mennonite Home residents, families, staff, suppliers and community members filled the home’s bus with toys, personal-care items, non-perishable food, clothing and gift cards to support the local Community Services Village of Hope. (United Mennonite Home archives photo)

At the beginning of this pandemic, long-term-care homes were hit hard, with residents contracting the COVID-19 virus and many of them died of it.

Walter Sguazzin, executive director of the United Mennonite Home in Vineland, Ont., is happy to declare that not one resident had contracted, or died, of COVID-19 and its variants during the first four waves of the pandemic.

MCC sends food and relief to Cubans in crisis

Clara Rodríguez holds two cans of MCC canned meat that she received through the Brethren In Christ Church of Cuba. (BICCC photo by Ramon Guisa)

Rafaela Fuentes Duarte with the items from the MCC hygiene kit and canned meat she received through the Brethren in Christ Church of Cuba. (BICCC photo by Ramon Guisa)

The situation in Cuba was incredibly dire when a shipment of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) relief kits and canned food arrived.

Thriving at Thrift on Mill

Alfred Driedger, 87, refurbishes the sewing machines at Thrift on Mill. (Photo by Charleen Jongejan Harder)

Cindy Epp, general manager of Thrift on Mill in Leamington, Ont., assumed her role three weeks before the pandemic hit in early 2020. (Photo by Charleen Jongejan Harder)

It may be a pandemic, but Thrift on Mill in Leamington, a Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Thrift store, had its highest grossing month of all time in November 2021.

Hands-on learning

Jess Klassen sews her own clothes. During the pandemic she also picked up crocheting and punch needle skills.

Nadya Langelotz displays one of the pottery pieces she created. (Photo courtesy of Nadya Langelotz)

Tara Epp, left, Anna Goertzen Loeppky and Katrina Woelk Balzer worked together to create clothing using only local fibres and dyes.

Matthew Froese’s paska follows his grandmother’s style: loaf pan, glazed with rainbow sprinkles and served with cheese spread. (Photo courtesy of Matthew Froese)

During the pandemic, Emily Stobbe-Wiebe is learning how to quilt.

Matthew Froese

Throughout COVID-19, schools and universities across the country have moved between learning in the classroom and online remotely. But what about education happening outside of traditional academic settings?

Many people have taken the different rhythm of life the pandemic has created as an opportunity to start learning and teaching in new ways.

Building connections in Japan

Gerald and Rie Neufeld, pictured at his ordination celebration at Mennonite Japanese Christian Fellowship in 2019, are seeking to build reciprocal relationships with churches in Japan and Canada. (Photo by Amy Rinner Waddell)

Finding ways to help Japanese and Canadian churches connect with each other is one goal of a pastoral couple serving in Japan after years of ministry in British Columbia.

When Gerald Neufeld, pastor of Mennonite Japanese Christian Fellowship in Surrey, B.C., and his wife Rie felt a call to return to Japan, their family moved there last year.

MDS responds to flooding in Princeton, B.C.

Alvin Klassen, Keith Rudance and Joy Dougans take a load to the dump in Princeton. Read about the efforts of Mennonite Disaster Service to help clean up the town in December, a month after severe flooding and mudslides wreaked havoc in British Columbia. (Photo by John Longhurst)

As part of the clean-up in Princeton, B.C., Mennonite Disaster Service volunteer Alvin Klassen emerges from a basement with a damaged chair.(Photo by John Longhurst)

Joy Dougans, left, Alvin Klassen, right, and Keith Rudance, in the back, discuss their next move in the cleanup operations. (Photo by John Longhurst)

The MDS trailer parked in Princeton, B.C. (Photo by John Longhurst)

A sign in Princeton, B.C., lists the locations where the water is contaminated and should not be consumed. (Photo by John Longhurst)

“The Mennonites are coming!”

That was the buzz around the town of Princeton, B.C., in early December 2021, when the first 16 Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) volunteers arrived to help residents hard hit by flooding in mid-November.

People in the town are “so exhausted,” said Spencer Coyne, Princeton’s mayor. But knowing help was arriving put “a glimmer of hope in their eyes.”

Baptism in a barrel

Pastor Desalegn Abebe, president of Meserete Kristos Church, baptizes a new believer in a barrel during a ceasefire in the Ethiopian civil strife. (Photo courtesy of Mennonite World Conference)

It is very difficult to go to the northern part of Ethiopia after the war broke out. Despite the security concerns, when I heard that members of our church in western Tigray were in difficult conditions, I organized a team. We would go there to show our love for Meserete Kristos Church (MKC) members in the area.

‘Courageous Imagination’

Cathrin van Sintern-Dick, MC Eastern Canada’s regional minister, centre, talks with Faith Glover, left, and Rielly McLaren at at Faith Mennonite Church in Leamington, Ont., at one of eight regional ‘Courageous Imagination’ gatherings last fall. (Photo by Yeabsra Agonfer)

Leah Reesor-Keller, MC Eastern Canada’s executive minister, standing at the mic, addresses a ‘Courageous Imagination’ regional gathering held at Ottawa Mennonite Church last fall. (Photo by Mollie Moua)

Participants discuss draft MC Eastern Canada vision and mission statements and priorities at Meheret Evangelical Church in Kitchener, Ont., at one of eight ‘Courageous Imagination’ regional gatherings held last year. (Photo by Yeabsra Agonfer)

It is “progress report” time, partway through Mennonite Church Eastern Canada’s year-long discernment process.

“Courageous Imagination: A journey together listening for God” was initiated last spring by the executive council of the regional church, noting that the last strategic plan was developed in 2014, and the current vision and mission statement was written in 2005.

Exhibit explores the meaning of head coverings

A variety of Mennonite bonnets are on display at an exhibit at Schneider Haus in Kitchener, Ont., that explores the symbolism and meaning of women’s head coverings. (Photo by Janet Bauman)

A variety of Muslim veils form part of the exhibit at Schneider Haus in Kitchener, Ont., entitled, ‘Un/Coverings: Mennonite & Muslim Women’s Heads and Hearts.’ (Photo by Janet Bauman)

The vast majority of North American Mennonite and Muslim women do not wear any sort of veil or head covering. Why then do head coverings receive so much public attention? Do Muslim head coverings and Mennonite bonnets provoke the same response?

Menno Office offers tangible support through care packages

Inter-Mennonite Chaplaincy board members Helen Wang, left, and Susan Reynar, centre, and Mark Von Kampen, E-Menno Office’s chaplain, pack “Mind, body and spirit” care packages for University of Manitoba students who connect with Von Kampen through the E-Menno Office.

University of Manitoba students who gather online for peer support, topical discussion and spiritual guidance in the E-Menno Office had an unexpected surprise during the fall term.

A small effort is ‘making a difference’

‘Whether stretching our bodies for fitness, or stretching our spirits in worship, we experienced the empowering sabbath rest of God as we pulled “away from the crowds” for this short time,’ says Rudy Dirks. (Photo courtesy of Rudy Dirks)

Abigail is the niece of the key leadership couple, Leonard and Antoinette Kiswangi. Through the help of some friends in Canada, it was possible to get her special eyeglasses for her unique optical needs. (Photo courtesy of Rudy Dirks)

Mama Germain, the wife of a Mennonite pastor in Kikwit, prepared one main meal each day for the leadership coaching group that came to her home every afternoon. (Photo courtesy of Rudy Dirks)

Members of the Africa Leadership Coaching Network, pictured left to right: Antoinette Kiswangi, Leonard Kiswangi, Andre Kalenga, Maria Gomes, Daniel Canganguela, Berci Mundedi, Rudy Dirks, Albert Mulamba, Gomez Miranda, Charles Buller and Abertine Mulamba. (Photo courtesy of Rudy Dirks)

Travelling from Canada to meet with Congolese and Angolan church leaders in Africa, Rudy Dirks is struck not by the cultural, social and economic differences between himself and those he meets, but rather their similarities.

Mennonite Heritage Village donates season passes to Steinbach community

Gary Dyck, left, MHV’s executive director, is pictured with Carolyn Peters, Steinbach Community Christmas hamper’s co-ordinator.

In response to a fundraising appeal letter from Steinbach Community Christmas in October, Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) determined that it didn’t have any money to give, but decided that it could give of itself.

Shekinah Retreat Centre installs electric vehicle charging station

An electric vehicle ‘fills up’ at the charging station at the Shekinah Retreat Centre near Waldheim, Sask. (Photo by Jared Regier)

The Shekinah Retreat Centre, located near Waldheim, Sask., is now home to an electric vehicle (EV) charging station.

Shekinah, which is one of Mennonite Church Saskatchewan’s camps, had the station added to the grounds this fall.

Art project brings congregation together

Pastor Rachel Navarro, left, and Angelika Dawson, right, reveal the finished artwork that members of Emmanuel Mennonite Church in Abbotsford, B.C., worked on collaboratively in fall. (Photo by Amy Rinner Waddell)

A new art project on the subject of “journey” that members of the Emmanuel Mennonite Church congregation took part in painting is now hanging above the building’s front doors.

The idea for the collaborative art project came from member Angelika Dawson, who has spearheaded previous art displays at Emmanuel, and Rachel Navarro, the new family pastor.

CMU music students break pandemic ‘fast’

Two CMU students offer musical talents to community orchestra in Winnipeg. (Photo by Stanley Wiebe)

The Mennonite Community Orchestra (MCO) broke the pandemic silence with a concert featuring two Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) students on Nov. 14 in Winnipeg.

The concert was the ensemble’s first since November 2019, after which the novel coronavirus postponed all further productions.

A little SALT goes a long way

In December 2018, Sophie Tiessen-Eigbike and her husband Christopher Eigbike visit the church she had served at while with SALT in 1982. (Photo courtesy of Sophie Tiessen-Eigbike)

Members of Brethren in Christ Church in Mpopoma township, Zimbabwe, gather to bid farewell to Sophie Tiessen-Eigbike at the Bulawayo Airport as she ends her SALT term there on Sept. 1, 1983. (Photo courtesy of Sophie Tiessen-Eigbike)

Sophie Tiessen-Eigbike, bottom right, poses with some of the second SALT cohort of 1982 during orientation in Akron, Ohio. (Photo courtesy of Sophie Tiessen-Eigbike)

In the summer of 1982, 20-year-old Sophie Tiessen-Eigbike was about to get on a plane bound for Zimbabwe. She didn’t know it yet, but this trip was going to change the trajectory of her life.

She was going to Zimbabwe for a year-long term with Serving and Learning Together (SALT), a Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) program that was in just its second year.

Foodgrains Bank continues to feed hungry with help of local community

The Common Ground Growing Project near Rosenfeld, Man., harvested 12 hectares of wheat in August. (Photo by Gordon Janzen)

The coronavirus has intensified a multitude of world issues, including hunger. The United Nations’ State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report revealed a big increase in the number of people facing hunger in 2020.

Warm but not fuzzy in 2050

Highway 1 in B.C. washed out by severe rain on Nov. 17. (B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure photo (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0))

Flooding in B.C. on Nov 22. (Province of British Columbia photo (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0))

Climate change has been on the agenda of our global village for a generation. The science, the discourse and the mood have shifted over time. As has reality. What was once a dark cloud in the distance has become an atmospheric river overhead.

MCC reverses decision to close Plum Coulee warehouse

Pictured above is a Mennonite Central Committee relief kit filled with towels, shampoo, soap and other essential items. (MCC photo by Paula Holtzinger)

In January 2021, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Canada and MCC Manitoba declared that they would close their warehouse in Plum Coulee, Man., about 100 kilometres south of Winnipeg, and move material resource operations to New Hamburg, Ont.

Speakers announced for Amplify! youth gathering

Christine Kampen Robinson, left, and Christy Anderson. (Photos courtesy of Canadian Mennonite University)

Christine Kampen Robinson and Christy Anderson, both on the staff of Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg, have been named as the keynote speakers for Amplify!, the nationwide youth gathering happening next summer at Camp Valaqua, near Water Valley, Alta., from July 31 to Aug. 4, 2022.

Massive B.C. flooding affects Menno community

The Sumas Prairie is pictured in the beginning stages of the refilling of Sumas Lake. At this point in time, the worst flooding was further to the west but, after the dike was breached, this area filled up with more water. (Photo by Elaine Binnema)

The submerged interchange of Highway 1 and Whatcom Road in Abbotsford. (Photo by Elaine Binnema)

A member of Yarrow United Mennonite Church was among those working through the night sandbagging to help save the Barrowtown Pump Station. (Photo courtesy of Darnell Barkman)

The Barg farm just east of Chilliwack was spared from flooding, and was able to take in the cows from this flooded barn. The Bargs attend Eden Mennonite Church in Chilliwack. Mary reports, ‘We are holding up okay, finding a rhythm with our new herd, working hard to coordinate with and support the efforts to continue to evacuate cows that are stranded.’ She says the farmer was ‘pretty thankful to be able to save all of his animals, including the chickens, and he even was able to leave some food for the barn cats in the hayloft.’ (Photo by Mary Barg)

Eden Mennonite Church in Chilliwack had its basement flooded in mid-November. Pictured squeegeeing up is Calvin Patterson. More than 90 percent of the basement was covered in a few inches of water. Since the basement has been the site of two local food-based ministries to seniors and students during the pandemic, there was a lot of food to quickly move to safety after the flood. (Photo by Aaron Roorda)

Aaron Roorda, pastor of Eden Mennonite Church in Chilliwack, took this photograph on his commute home from Abbotsford along Highway 1 on the evening of Nov. 15. The highway was closed 15 minutes later. The river of water to the right of his truck was the centre of the roadway between the east- and west-bound lanes. (Photo by Aaron Roorda)

As catastrophic rains pummelled the Lower Mainland of British Columbia in mid-November, causing massive flooding and mudslides that deposited debris over local highways, Mennonites in the community experienced both uncertainty and loss, and they responded with compassion and a willingness to help others.

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