‘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.

Brazilian beans

A meal of rice and beans makes a frequent appearance on every Brazilian table. (Photo by D. Michael Hostetler)

I grew up in Brazil, a child of missionary parents. One regular item on our family menu was the traditional Brazilian rice and beans meal. These are the daily staples of cuisine throughout Brazil, a wholesome and inexpensive combination eaten by people of all economic classes.

Lecture-recital highlights women composers

Sisters Joanna, left, and Anneli Loepp Thiessen presented several hymns in the Voices Together collection by women composers, at a recent lecture-recital. (Screenshot by Janet Bauman)

Celebrating the contribution of women composers in Voices Together means reclaiming the voices of historical women whose work has been overlooked and also to “elevate the voices of women who are living,” said Anneli Loepp Thiessen.

Church members enjoy ‘snail mail’ during pandemic

Angelika Dawson of Abbotsford, B.C., has been corresponding by mail with some members of her church during the pandemic. She is surrounded by some of the many cards and letters she has received. (Photo courtesy of Angelika Dawson)

In this time of isolation, some members of Abbotsford’s Emmanuel Mennonite Church are discovering the delights of a relationship based on the old-fashioned medium of handwritten letters.

Picturing her calling

Superb Mennonite Church, near Kerrobert, Sask., where Lois Siemens’ ministry began. (Photo by Lois Siemens)

Her peers in ministry surround Lois Siemens at her ordination in 2011. Pictured behind Siemens, from left to right: Patrick Preheim, Claire Ewert Fisher, Garth Ewert Fisher, Pauline Steinmann and Jerry Buhler. (Photo courtesy of Lois Siemens)

Friends and family surround Lois Siemens at her ordination in 2011. (Photo courtesy of Lois Siemens)

"Finding surprises along the way: friendship, questions, allies, teachers, beauty, resources, answers to prayer, places to live, financial resources, extra jobs." (Photo by Lois Siemens)

Witnessing transformation in others and myself. (Photo by Lois Siemens)

“Times of waiting and stillness . . . and times to take off and go!” On the 10th anniversary of her pastoral ordination on Jan. 9, Lois Siemens went for a walk by the South Saskatchewan River and began taking photographs. (Photo by Lois Siemens)

"Thankful for the times I received support." (Photo by Lois Siemens)

There were celebrations of death and life. (Photo by Lois Siemens)

Always looking for signs of hope. (Photo by Lois Siemens)

Lois Siemens’s ordination Scripture verse, Psalm 86:12. (Photo by Lois Siemens)

What she really wanted was a party, but pandemic realities prompted Lois Siemens to find another creative way to celebrate the 10th anniversary of her ordination.

A tribute to Menno Wiebe (1932-2021)

Menno Wiebe, left, presents a riding crop to renowned Lubicon Cree chief Bernard Ominayak in Little Buffalo, Alta., in 1993. Wiebe’s presentation was accompanied with the words, “Ride on, sir!” (Photo: Michael bryson / mennonite heritage archives)

Menno Wiebe with Steve Nosky at Checkpoint 4 of the Lubicon Cree blockade in 1988 in northern Alberta. (Photo by Elaine Bishop)

Upon entering the home of Menno and Lydia Wiebe at 10 Concord Avenue in Winnipeg, where they lived for 48 years, one would likely be met not with conventional niceties but with a bright-eyed, depth-probing question, possibly relating to birds and theology, or gardens and ecclesiology, or something else that would never otherwise cross your mind but regularly occupied Menno’s. 

There is no peace without Christ

Youth from Addis Ababa and surrounding areas come for discipleship and leadership training by Pastor Mezgebu A. Tucho. Tucho’s son, Zecharias Abdissa, centre, also preached. (Photo courtesy of Pastor Mezgebu Tucho)

Pictured from left to right: Pastor Mezgebu A. Tucho of Bethel International Church-Edmonton Oromo Congregation; Bruce Buckwalter, Ethiopian representative for Mennonite Central Committee; and Joanne and Pastor Werner De Jong of Holyrood Mennonite Church in Edmonton, met at the MCC Ethiopia compound in November 2018. Pastors Tucho and De Jong went together to the Burayu Bible College to do leadership, peace and spiritual formation training. (Photo by Joanne De Jong)

What was so important that an Ethiopian Mennonite pastor would go back to Ethiopia with his family during COVID-19 and a war?

Teachers learn lessons, too

Linda Bartel, centre, volunteers at the Good Neighbours Food Centre in Rosthern, Sask., every week. She is pictured with fellow volunteer Rachel Wallace, left, and Good Neighbours community catalyst Pristine Chabaylo. (Photo courtesy of Good Neighbours Food Centre)

Linda Bartel taught Kindergarten at Stobart Community School for 20 years. She’s pictured with her last class in 1994. (Photo courtesy of Linda Bartel)

It’s not uncommon for Linda Bartel to meet former students while volunteering, and she’s always delighted to see them.

‘What will happen to us now?’

Jake Buhler’s mother, Maria, top left, is pictured with her family before tragedy struck in 1918. (Photo courtesy of Jake Buhler)

COVID-19 has given Jake Buhler pause to reflect on his family history and how it has been shaped by pandemics.

In 1918, when both the Spanish flu and tuberculosis were wreaking havoc in South Russia, Buhler’s mother Maria was an 11-year-old girl growing up in the Mennonite village of Grigoriewka. She was the second of seven children born to Helena and Heinrich Pauls. 

When change is your only option

Chris Mullet Koop’s son Timothy works on the family farm, packing 30 eggs to a tray, that get stacked on skids. Six skids of eggs are picked up once a week. (Photo: Chris Mullet Koop)

When the pandemic hit in March, Chris and Laura Mullet Koop, who own and operate Elmwood Farms Inc., were profoundly impacted. Their farm, located in Jordan, Ont., in the designated green belt area on the Niagara escarpment, is an egg production and grape-growing enterprise, started by Chris’s family in 1932.

Mennonite milestones through an artist’s lens

Lynda Toews painted “Psalm 19” to commemorate the launch of Voices Together. (Photo courtesy of Lynda Toews)

Unintentional figures, like a fish and an eagle, appear in Lynda Toews’s painting. (Photo courtesy of Lynda Toews)

Lynda Toews created a quilt with Cheryl Warkentin, in honour of Mennonite Central Committee’s 100th anniversary. (Photo courtesy of Lynda Toews)

Lynda Toews is Bethel Mennonite Church’s artist-in-residence for 2020-21. (Photo courtesy of Lynda Toews)

The year 2020 featured some big moments in the Mennonite world. MennoMedia launched Voices Together, the new worship and song collection; and Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) celebrated its centennial.


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