People

‘This is my learning, my journey’

‘As a settler, I know very little,’ says Kim Thiessen of Winnipeg. ‘But I am trying. . . . I have a burning desire to set things right and do what I can.’ (Photo by John Longhurst)

Like many Canadians, Winnipegger Kim Thiessen was devastated when she learned about the 215 unmarked graves of children at the Kamloops, B.C., residential school earlier this year.

“I didn’t know what to do with the sadness, despair and rage I felt,” says the 57-year-old mother and grandmother.

Entrepreneur takes leaps of faith to become a ‘Mennonite called into business’

Employees of Boxbrite Technologies—pictured from left to right: Aaron Neufeld, Enes Demirsoz, Joseph Olmez, Lori-Ann Livingston, Niloofar Abbasvandi, Alina Kehl, Shirin Talaei, Seyma Nur Ozcan and Leon Kehl—attend a rally against Islamophobia. Kehl, who started the company, intentionally hires newcomers to Canada, and fosters a sense of community among his employees who work from home. (Photo by Aaron Neufeld)

It has happened more than once. Someone approaches social entrepreneur Leon Kehl with the name of a highly qualified person who needs help getting a start in Canada. Kehl has learned these nudges often have “God’s fingerprint all over them,” so he takes a “leap of faith” and hires the person. “People come into my life. . . . How do you not see God in that?'' he asks.

Peace award recognizes young artist

Dona Park designed the cover art for Mennonite Church U.S.A.’s study program, ‘Defund the Police? An Abolition Curriculum,’ meant to help Christians think about police abolition within a biblical context and as a practical alternative to policing. (Artwork by Dona Park)

Dona Park is an illustrator who lives in Abbotsford, B.C. (Photo courtesy of Dona Park)

Dona Park, a young Korean-Canadian artist, is one of the first two recipients of Mennonite Church U.S.A.’s #BringthePeace Award, sponsored by the denomination’s Church Peace Tax Fund. Park, who affiliates with Emmanuel Mennonite Church of Abbotsford, B.C., and Michelle Armster of Wichita, Kan., received the awards, recognizing the work of denominational peacemakers.

Working on different ends of the agriculture spectrum

RJC High School’s outdoor education class brings back fond memories for alumni Emily Hand, left, and Ian Epp (holding son Peter Isaac), who are now making their living in the agricultural sector. (Photo courtesy of Emily Hand and Ian Epp)

For many students, the outdoor education class at RJC High School was fun, memorable and character building. But for most, the skills aren’t ones they now use in their everyday life. For Emily Hand, a 2002 graduate, however, that is exactly what happened.

MC Manitoba ordains first spiritual director for service

Laura Funk wore a blessing cloak made of more than 100 handprints at her ordination service, since COVID-19 prevented her community from gathering in-person for the laying on of hands. She received handprints from people aged six months to 93 years old, across three countries and at least five denominations and two faiths. (Photo by Gilbert Detillieux)

Laura Funk is the first person to be ordained for the ministry of spiritual direction by Mennonite Church Manitoba. She is also the regional church’s first spiritual director in residence.

‘It’s obvious!’

Ed Janzen, middle, meets with students Kenzie Thielmann, left, and Cameron Warren as part of his role as chaplain of Conrad Grebel University College. (Photo courtesy of Conrad Grebel University College)

Ed Janzen, right, meets with the Grebel chapel committee members: from left: Rebekah Lindsay, Suomi MacCarthy and Andre Wiederkehr. (Photo courtesy of Conrad Grebel University College)

Ed Janzen will retire at the end of July after 23 years as Conrad Grebel University College’s chaplain. (Photo courtesy of Conrad Grebel University College)

Ed Janzen says, “It’s obvious!”

It’s obvious why he would want to serve as chaplain of Conrad Grebel University College in Waterloo, Ont., for 23 years. Janzen, who is retiring at the end of July from a job he loved, names several things that inspired his work.

Grebel chaplain leads cycling tour of early Black settlement

Ed Janzen, left, Grebel’s retiring chaplain, recently led a group of students on a learning tour in Wellington County, Ont., exploring sites from early Black settlements in the area, including this cemetery. The cycling tour was part of his commitment to making learning real. (Photo by Adrien Neufeld)

Ed Janzen, retiring chaplain of Conrad Grebel University College in Waterloo, Ont., liked to provide students with the chance to engage their faith with real-life experiences.

During his 23 years as chaplain, he led many summer canoe trips and service opportunities with Mennonite Disaster Service.

On being a musician during COVID-19

Matthew Boutda conducts the choir at Leaside United Church’s hymn festival in June 2019. (Photo by Murray Fenner)

Matthew Boutda playing the organ. (Photo by Matthew Boutda)

Matthew Boutda

For some musicians during COVID-19, the landscape of music making, performance and choir conducting transformed into environments for community resilience. As a recent graduate from Emmanuel College at the University of Toronto, with a master of sacred music degree, Matthew Boutda reveals the ways musicians are conductors of human connectedness.

‘The frontlines are where history is being made’

The CPT-MC Canada accompaniment team spent a month at Unist'ot'en camp in unceded Wet'suwet'en territory in northern B.C., learning from Indigenous land defenders and helping wherever they were needed. (Photo by Steve Heinrichs)

The healing centre at the Unist'ot'en camp provides cultural teaching, runs youth camps and reconnects people with the land. (Photo by Josiah Neufeld)

The Wedzin Kwa (Morice River) in Unist'ot'en territory, where life is deeply interconnected with creation. (Photo by Allegra Friesen Epp)

Allegra Friesen Epp did a six-month joint internship with CPT and MC Canada this year, doing Indigenous solidarity work. (Photo courtesy of Allegra Friesen Epp)

Allegra Friesen Epp is wrapping up a six-month internship with Mennonite Church Canada and Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), but she is already brainstorming ways to continue doing solidarity work.

Living ‘in a prophetic way’

Donna Entz, right, and Doaa Ajani, a Syrian translator, at the “Under Wraps” event held at Lethbridge Mennonite Church in 2017. Mennonite and Muslim women shared about their experiences with head coverings. (Photo courtesy of Suzanne Gross)

Loren and Donna Entz, centre and right, receive an invitation to the home of Iranians Behrouz Delavari, left, and his wife, Mehri Davar (not pictured). (Photo courtesy of Suzanne Gross)

English-as-a-Second Language students celebrate Canada Day with Donna Entz (wearing red ball cap) at the end of the class term in 2018. (Photo courtesy of Suzanne Gross)

Donna Entz, centre, receives the Community Animator Award from the Edmonton Multicultural Coalition in November 2018. Pictured are volunteers from Palestine, Lebanon, Ivory Coast, Lithuania, Somalia and Pakistan. (Photo courtesy of Suzanne Gross)

Mennonites across Alberta know her. Her heart for Muslims and those who are newcomers to Canada is well known. She has fed hundreds of refugees and immigrants over the past decade in her little apartment, which is situated in a low-income, multi-ethnic neighbourhood in North Edmonton.

T-shirts encourage Mennos to get vaccinated

Ryan Polinsky holds up one of the T-shirts he designed in support of Mennonites getting vaccinated against COVID-19. (Photo courtesy of Ryan Polinsky)

When Ryan Polinsky designed T-shirts emblazoned with the words “Menno & Vaccinated” at the beginning of June, he intended to sell only a few to his family. He has since sold around 50 shirts, plus other merchandise like mugs, buttons and hats. Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead for the Manitoba Vaccine Implementation Task Force, even highlighted the shirts in a provincial press conference.

‘Woodworking is my meditation’

A miniature set of drawers. The wood is carved basswood, painted with milk paint and then burnished to allow the undercoat to show through. (Photo by Gerry Giesbrecht)

Gerry Giesbrecht of Foothills Mennonite Church in Calgary, in his woodworking sanctuary. (Photo by Pamela Giesbrecht)

Serving tray. (Photo by Gerry Giesbrecht)

Bent wood quilt rack, made to resemble thick blades of grass. (Photo by Gerry Giesbrecht)

Steam-bent plant stand resembling cathedral windows. The bottom and top are poplar and the middle column is birch. (Photo by Gerry Giesbrecht)

Two antique style ceramic burr coffee grinders. The left one is black walnut and the right is cherry. (Photo by Gerry Giesbrecht)

A 17th-century style chest with hand-carved gothic arches and Tudor roses. The wood is aspen with a pine base. The pins are black walnut. (Photo by Gerry Giesbrecht)

When looking for a spiritual activity, a mental-health strategy, or a chance to reflect and see things from a new perspective, woodworking may not immediately come to mind.

‘It was a wake-up call’

This is where the girls lined up to brush their teeth at the former Blue Quills Indian Residential School. Children were referred to by numbers, not by names. (Photo by Suzanne Gross)

A 2018 learning tour sponsored by MCC Alberta at the University nuhelot’įne thaiyots’į nistameyimâkanak Blue Quills, formerly a residential school. (Photo by Suzanne Gross)

A look inside the University nuhelot’įne thaiyots’į nistameyimâkanak Blue Quills, formerly a residential school, during an MCC Alberta learning tour in 2018. (Photo by Suzanne Gross)

Tour guides were Sherri Chissan, Blue Quills’ president, and Karl Quan led the 2018 learning tour, sponsored by MCC Alberta. (Photo by Suzanne Gross)

At the end of May, the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Kukpi7 First Nation discovered the grave site of around 215 children at a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C. Like many people, Jim Shantz, former Indigenous Neighbours coordinator for Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Alberta says, “It was shocking but not surprising.”

Public-health nurse postpones retirement to work in northern Ontario

Lily Hiebert Rempel inside the nurses station at Sandy Lake First Nation in northwestern Ontario, where she worked as a public-health nurse on three different occasions during the pandemic. (Photo courtesy of Lily Hiebert Rempel)

The nurses station at Sandy Lake First Nation, where Lily Hiebert Rempel worked during her three, four-week rotations as a public health nurse in the community. (Photo courtesy of Lily Hiebert Rempel)

The nurses residence at Sandy Lake First Nation, where Lily Hiebert Rempel and other nurses stayed during their four-week rotations in the community doing public-health work. (Photo courtesy of Lily Hiebert Rempel)

Lily Hiebert Rempel took a chartered flight with other health-care workers bound for northern Ontario communities. (Photo courtesy of Lily Hiebert Rempel)

After more than 40 years as a nurse, Lily Hiebert Rempel was starting to ease into retirement. That is when COVID-19 hit, and the health-care system needed more nurses, not fewer. She was not prepared to go into full-time critical care nursing but, with her public-health experience, she did have much to offer.

Making space for grief

Kari Miller recently graduated from CMU with a degree in thanatology – the study of death. (Photo courtesy of Kari Miller)

When Kari Miller tells people her major in university, they either look uncomfortable and walk away, or begin sharing deeply personal stories. That’s because she studied thanatology—the study of death.

Artist explores faith through scrap-metal sculpting

Don Engbrecht has built around 200 works, including this Easter sculpture. (Photo courtesy of Don Engbrecht)

Don Engbrecht has been sculpting and welding scrap metal for 20 years. (Photo courtesy of Don Engbrecht)

This special Easter sculpture now sits in Whitewater Mennonite Church in Boissevain, Man. (Photo courtesy of Don Engbrecht)

The outer circle of the Shalom sculpture indicates wholeness, while each segment represents an aspect of shalom: physical wellness, right relationships and healthy spirituality. The pattern of threes symbolizes stability and harmony. (Photo courtesy of Don Engbrecht)

One of the sites in the Engbrechts’ Anchorage Gardens. (Photo courtesy of Don Engbrecht)

Old agricultural equipment left to languish in junkyards or alongside highways gets a second life in Don Engbrecht’s workshop. He has created approximately 200 works over the 20 years he has been sculpting in Boissevain, Man., with scrap metal and welding tools.

‘Covid composition’ wins Chronos competition

Leonard Enns conducts a DaCapo Chamber Choir rehearsal in a Waterloo parkade during COVID-19 restrictions. Enns won a recent composition competition with a piece called “A Little More Time,” which he wrote as part of a personal challenge to write a short choral work each week during the early part of the pandemic. (Chestnut Hall Music screenshot)

When the novel coronavirus pandemic broke out last spring, shutting down so many activities, Leonard Enns gave himself a challenge: to write a short choral work of three to four minutes in length each week. It is a commitment he kept up from April to June 2020. 

Spontaneous joy in this time of pandemic

Take two exuberant Mennonite Church workers, give one a bunch of balloons and the other a camera, and what do you have? Spontaneous joy on the streets of Calgary. (Photo by Ruth Bergen Braun)

(Photo by Ruth Bergen Braun)

(Photo by Ruth Bergen Braun)

(Photo by Ruth Bergen Braun)

Louisa Adria, Foothills Mennonite Church’s congregational support worker, and Ruth Bergen Braun, communications coordinator of Mennonite Church Alberta, sparked joy when they spontaneously decided to do a photo shoot on Feb. 26, next to a brightly painted shipping container near downtown Calgary.

Communicating at the table

International friendships develop. (Photo by Virginia A. Hostetler)

An impromtu soccer game. (Photo by Virginia A. Hostetler)

A neighbourhood work project. (Photo by Virginia A. Hostetler)

A formative experience for me was a youth work camp I participated in during my teenage years. The event was organized in connection with the ninth assembly of Mennonite World Conference, held in Curitiba, Brazil, in July 1972.

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