A Mennonite Church Eastern Canada congregation is among five Canadian churches that received grants this fall from the 2022-23 Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) Canada Spirit of MDS Fund. The purpose of the fund is to assist churches in Canada as they serve and support people in their communities.
The Centre Bethesda Mennonite de Quebec congregation in Quebec City, will use the funds to provide food assistance for people in the community, both members and non-members.
“The recession and post-pandemic financial situation doesn’t allow some people to properly feed themselves and their families,” says pastor Charles Tabena. “Many members of the community are poor and others are newcomers to Canada.”
The church will respond by creating food baskets and bringing them to needy families, and also by offering food and fellowship at the church.
“There will be some days when we invite homeless people from the community for hot meals,” he says.
Other churches that received funds include Soup’s On Inc., which works out of Grace Mennonite Church in Steinbach, Man. It will use a grant to support families living with food insecurities in that community through its school lunch program.
“We are currently providing several schools with 70 lunches per day with growing interest from other schools wishing to participate,” says John Kroeker, treasurer for Soup’s On.
The families helped by the congregation, which is part of MC Manitoba, are “living in poverty and often send their children to school without a lunch,” Kroeker says, adding that the grant will enable the church to purchase lunch supplies.
Hope Mennonite Church, an MC Manitoba congregation in Winnipeg, is part of a shared space called Crossways in Common where five partners share a commitment to serve the local community.
One of Hope’s partners is 1JustCity, an organization that serves a full evening meal four days a week, and provides support programs for seniors, emergency food, mentoring around housing security, and access to social services and Indigenous cultural programming.
1JustCity has seen an increase in demand for meals, says Hope’s pastor, Lynell Bergen, up from 80 people on average per day to 100 or more
“This is putting a strain on their resources,” she said, adding the Spirit of MDS Fund grant will be used to help 1JustCity upgrade its kitchen to make it easier for them to meet the growing demand. This includes upgraded countertops, a new dishwasher and perhaps a new commercial freezer.
The Spirit of MDS Fund was created in 2020 as a way for MDS Canada to support Canadian congregations responding to increased needs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2022, it was made a permanent part of MDS Canada’s program to assist churches that want to serve people in their communities. Since being launched, the fund has made 164 grants worth more than $350,000 to congregations and organizations.