‘She cared a lot about everybody’

Members of Gail Schellenberg’s family gathered at IJC’s new training centre named in her honour, for its dedication. Pictured from left to right: Bob Schellenberg, Jesse Wolfe, Selenna Wolfe, Kim Thiessen, Byron Thiessen and Brenda Schellenberg. (Photo courtesy of Initiatives for Just Communities)

A newly renovated training centre at Initiatives for Just Communities was dedicated to its former executive director and lifelong educator, Gail Schellenberg. (Photo courtesy of Initiatives for Just Communities)

Gail Schellenberg influenced the lives of thousands of people during her career as a teacher and principal in Mennonite high schools across Canada, and later as executive director of Initiatives for Just Communities (IJC). She died from cancer in 2020, but her legacy lives on in people’s memories.

Rural remnant, earthy sensibilities

Ernie Hildebrand on his farm south of Crystal City, Man. (Photo courtesy of Ernie Hildebrand)

Ernie Hildebrand, standing, with his brother David and the farm dog on Cypress Creek. (Photo courtesy of Ernie Hildebrand)

Ernie Hildebrand intended to spend his life farming along the banks of the Cypress Creek, where he grew up in south-central Manitoba. And while Hildebrand, now 80, and his wife Judy currently live less than a mile from where Ernie played as a boy, a pastoral calling took them on a 23-year journey away from those creek-side sheep pastures.

‘A positive presence in Montreal’

Luke Martin (left) hears accolades from Dora-Marie Goulet, whom he has mentored at Maison de l’amitié in Montreal.

In the middle of Montreal’s Plateau-Mont-Royal neighbourhood is a small and much-loved community centre, the Maison de l’amitié (MA) or House of Friendship. This unassuming brick building is a bustling place, fueled by the desire for community and social change. On any given day you will see people wandering in to volunteer or to benefit from the variety of services that this centre offers.

Two MKS graduating students share their stories

Tinsae Negusu is graduating from Meserete Kristos Seminary this year. (Photo by Joanne De Jong)

Graduating student Ermako Awano enjoys bringing shalom to Meserete Kristos Seminary by tending the seminary’s garden. (Photo by Joanne De Jong)

Mennonite Church Canada Witness worker Werner De Jong teaches at Meserete Kristos Seminary (MKS); his classes are mostly made up of third- and fourth-year students. Fourth-year students in the English program are required to do a research paper, which they must defend at the end of the term. Two of the graduating students are profiled below.

Ermako Awano

Peacebuilding and relationship building go hand in hand

For Ben Borne, his work is not only professional, it’s also deeply personal, as he is both Saulteaux from Yellow Quill First Nation and Mennonite. (Photo courtesy of Ben Borne)

It’s hard to imagine when Ben Borne finds time to sleep.

“I have four jobs,” he says with an easy laugh. “It’s busy, but I love what I do.”

Borne works for Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Saskatchewan, teaches at First Nations University of Canada, and is the co-president/co-founder of Symmetry Public Relations.

Pastor reaches out to young adults using social media

Members of the ‘40 Minutes’ group include Pastor Anna-Lisa Salo, top left, Danika Peters, Cassidy Brown, Taylor Derksen and Dayna Goerzen. (Screenshot by Anna-Lisa Salo)

Anna-Lisa Salo, pastor of Bergthal Mennonite Church in Didsbury, has taken advantage of Zoom’s free 40 minute limit. Two years ago, she reached out to four young women from her congregation who were heading off to post-secondary institutions.

Local artists make Stations of the Cross public

(Photos by Nicolien Klassen-Wiebe)

(Photo by Nicolien Klassen-Wiebe)

(Photo by Nicolien Klassen-Wiebe)

(Photo by Nicolien Klassen-Wiebe)

(Photo by Nicolien Klassen-Wiebe)

(Photo by Nicolien Klassen-Wiebe)

(Photo by Nicolien Klassen-Wiebe)

(Photo by Nicolien Klassen-Wiebe)



During Holy Week, bright pops of colour appeared in a downtown alley amid the brown slush and litter of a Winnipeg spring.

Deborah Lynn Sprunger

Deborah Lynn Sprunger (1950-2022)

Deborah Lynn Sprunger, 71, of Lancaster, Pa., passed away on March 27, 2022, at Lancaster General Hospital surrounded by her loving family. Deborah was the loving wife of Rev. JW Sprunger.

She was born in Presque Isle, Maine, on April 17, 1950, to Clayton and Lynette Coffin.

International Witness workers arrive in Ethiopia after delays

Werner De Jong enjoys coffee with his students. (Photo courtesy of Joanne De Jong)

After a number of delays, Werner and Joanne De Jong arrived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in mid-January in order to begin their work as Mennonite Church Canada International Witness workers at the Meserete Kristos Seminary (MKS). The road has been rocky for the couple, as they navigate restrictions, visas and an encroaching civil war.

Nah Yo-dle: Low German Wordle

Jared Falk created a Low German version of Wordle, the newest word puzzle craze racing around the world. (Photo by Nicolien Klassen-Wiebe)

You may have just done a double take, but no, this is not a Daily Bonnet article. A Manitoba Mennonite really did create a Low German version of Wordle, a word puzzle craze whose popularity skyrocketed in December 2021.

Doug Klassen’s contract renewed

Doug Klassen looks forward to beginning his second term with planning for meaningful fellowship, worship and discernment at Gathering 2022 in Edmonton. His first term began in June 2019. (MC Canada photo)

Doug Klassen’s term as executive minister of Mennonite Church Canada has been renewed for a second three-year term beginning June 1.

“We received strong affirmation for Doug’s renewal from Joint Council,” says Calvin Quan, moderator for Mennonite Church Canada.

Leonard Doell receives lifetime achievement award

Leonard Doell speaks at a City of Saskatoon event honouring residential school survivors. (Photos courtesy of Leonard Doell)

A group of leaders from the Stoney Knoll Band, and the Mennonite and Lutheran communities meet to share stories, information and connection. Doell is pictured in the back row, left.

In 2017, Senator Lilian Dyck invited members of the Stoney Knoll Band, as well the Mennonite and Lutheran communities, to share their story with MPs and senators at Parliament Hill in Ottawa. They are gathered outside the Parliament Building to commemorate that event. Leonard Doell is pictured second from left.

A Saskatchewan man was recently recognized for his decades-long work in peacemaking and community building, especially between Mennonite settlers and Indigenous Peoples. Leonard Doell was honoured with the 2022 Global Citizen Lifetime Achievement Award from the Saskatchewan Council for International Cooperation.

Growing a business during the pandemic

A floral arrangement designed by Lydia Rekrut. (Photo by Lydia Rekrut)

Lydia Rekrut sets up a floral arrangement. (Photo courtesy of Creekview Floral archives)

It was at the end of February 2020 that Lydia Rekrut shook hands with the owner of a floral shop in Thorold, Ont., and bought the business, which included the stock and equipment. March was spent relocating to another building and doing renovations. The official opening was to be April 1, 2020.

In praise of small churches

Eyebrow Mennonite Church members participate in a sunrise Easter morning service. (Photo by Sharon Schultz)

Eyebrow Mennonite Church hosts a Christmas Eve service for the community. (Photo by Sharon Schultz)

Throughout the pandemic, many Mennonite church congregations have faced the challenges of lower attendance, shrinking budgets and uneasy questions about the future.

Saskatoon cyclist encourages year-round active transit

Stephanie Siemens snaps a selfie while cycling along the South Saskatchewan River. (Photo courtesy of Stephanie Siemens)

Stephanie Siemens takes in the prairie scenery on one of her cycling adventures. (Photo courtesy of Stephanie Siemens)

Winter BYXE Week, an event designed to promote winter cycling in Saskatoon, was held from Feb. 14 to 21. Saskatoon residents were encouraged to try cycling for winter transportation, exercise and leisure.

For Stephanie Siemens, two-wheeled transit in the city is a year-round passion.

Couple reflects on 30 years of ministry in China

Tobia and George Veith, who recently completed a term of service in China, enjoy the ice festival in Harbin, China, the largest snow and ice sculpture festival in the world. (Photo courtesy of Tobia Veith)

Reflecting on three decades of service in Asia, Mennonite Church Canada Witness workers Tobia and George Veith say that, while their time of service has at times been hard, it has also been one of the richest blessings of their lives.

Moses Mugisha’s gift of song to God

Moses Mugisha began his music career at age seven. (Unsplash photo)

‘I want to serve God with the gift that he has given me,’ says Moses Mugisha, a 21-year-old gospel singer/songwriter living in Ottawa. ‘Without God I wouldn’t be me. I wouldn’t have this talent. I owe it back to him.’ (Photo courtesy of Moses Mugisha)

Born in the African country of Rwanda, Moses Mugisha and his family moved to Tanzania, because of poverty and other circumstances. They lived there as refugees for almost six years.

‘A tremendous honour’

Ryan Siemens ordains Susanne Guenther-Loewen in June 2021. (Photo courtesy of Ryan Siemens)

Ryan Siemens, third from left, along with his wife, Sandra Sinnaeve, left, help lead music for an MC Saskatchewan virtual service during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo courtesy of Ryan Siemens)

“I’m very grateful for my time with Mennonite Church Saskatchewan,” says Ryan Siemens, current executive minister of Mennonite Church Saskatchewan. “It’s been wonderful getting to know the congregations, the pastors, the denominational leaders and just to connect with people who want to do the work of the church.”

Church planter-entrepreneur leaves rich legacy in France

In the late 1990s, Robert Witmer served as a consultant for the Giving Project in Mennonite Church Eastern Canada. (Canadian Mennonite file photo)

Robert Witmer, who served in France from 1956 to 1984 with the Mennonite Board of Missions (MBM), helped to plant the Châtenay-Malabry church in Paris and was instrumental in opening doors for people with disabilities. He died on Dec. 2, 2021.

Working in a life-giving job is the silver lining

Jeff Nickel, right, has served with Communitas Supportive Care Society for 25 years. He is pictured with his friend Richard. (Communitas photo by Krista Petrie)

There are not many people these days who can say they have been in a job they love for 25 years, but Jeff Nickel says exactly that. As he celebrates his silver anniversary working with the Communitas Supportive Care Society, he reflects on the many reasons he has stayed.

Physical appearances don’t reveal what’s inside

‘I am fine with not being able to walk, but I want to make a difference in the world, and a difference in the lives of people I meet,’ says Matt Ferguson, who attends Sterling Mennonite Fellowship in Winnipeg. (Photo courtesy of Matt Ferguson)

Matt Ferguson is smart, likes rocking out to music such as the Tragically Hip, is a big fan of the Winnipeg Jets and Winnipeg Blue Bombers, and has cerebral palsy. He relies 100 percent on other people to attend to all his bodily needs, such as putting food and liquids in his mouth.

This is your family

Tany Warkentin, left, is pictured with Adolphine, Marie and Hélène José, supervisors of the literacy program run by the Mennonite churches in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Literacy teachers are trained and provided with basic teaching supplies, and they then offer classes in their own village to women and children who haven’t had opportunities to attend school. (Photo by Lynda Hollinger-Janzen)

Laurent, left, is a part of a youth association in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, created by a group of 10 incredibly motivated young people looking for work in a country with high unemployment rates. Each member contributes 25,000 francs ($12) at the end of each month, and then they take turns receiving 90 percent of the money for personal agricultural projects. The group uses the remaining 10 percent to collectively plant, harvest and sell peanuts, with the profit being added to the collective fund. As this fund grows, the youth association will invest in larger and more long-term agricultural projects. (Photo by Tany Warkentin)

The Grade 4 students at the Mennonite school in Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso, send their enthusiastic greetings. (Photo by Tany Warkentin)

Pastor Ambeké, left, prepares to help Daniel take his place as the general secretary of one of the Mennonite conferences in Angola. This is the first time this conference will have had a peaceful leadership transition since it began in 1983. Ambeké said, ‘Some of our young people have grown up thinking that the only way to change leaders is through tension and force. Usually, new leaders are selected from senior leaders who are not leading good lives. But this time, the church has called this “Little David” because he has the right character. He is humble and he is the one we want, even if he is young.” (Photo by Tany Warkentin)

This young woman learned to read in one of the Congolese literacy centres, and she is reading the Bible in her own language. Despite her physical disability, learning to read and write has boosted her self-confidence and opened new job opportunities. (Photo by Tany Warkentin)

Josué, standing, is a young electrician called by the Mennonite church in Burkina Faso to start a hardware store in the village of Mahon. Many business owners in Burkina Faso have set up hardware stores or bookstores in villages where there are no churches. Through their positive Christian witness, neighbours have come to know Christ and churches were planted. This is the prayer and hope of the Burkina Faso church for Josué’s store in Mahon. (Photo by Tany Warkentin)

Have you ever been introduced to a distant relative for the first time—maybe you didn’t even know that person existed—and yet you immediately felt a connection with them? After all, they are family!


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