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.
Students were recipients of care packages delivered to their homes by Menno Office chaplain Mark Von Kampen. The care packages, based on the theme “Mind, body and spirit” were filled with a variety of comfort items like dried soup mix in a jar, cake mix in a mug, favourite snacks, a grocery gift card, hand-written note of encouragement and more.
“It is a tangible way for churches, our board members and the people who support us to show students we love them and care about them,” says Von Kampen. “It is also a good opportunity for me to meet personally with students during this time of remote learning.”
Amid the ongoing uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic, the added stress of the 35-day strike at the U of M, and new challenges of transitioning back to classes following the strike, Menno Office continues to focus on building and maintaining a strong and vibrant campus ministry that supports students from all walks of life.
During the 2021 spring term, students participated in a video to talk about how the E-Menno Office is making a difference in their lives.
“What they appreciate is relationships,” says Von Kampen. “They talk about Menno Office being a place to make friends and describe it as a place of refuge and sanctuary. We know that university campuses can be lonely places for students. It is a privilege for me to journey alongside students and offer hope and encouragement in a Christian context.”
Pre-COVID-19, Menno Office and other chaplaincy ministries operated out of a space on the main floor of the University Centre, but these offices sustained fire damage a few days before the university transitioned to remote learning. The university is planning to resume in-person classes for the winter term and work is underway to develop a space on the fifth floor of the University Centre for spiritual-care services.
Regardless of whether Menno Office is in a physical space or virtual space, Von Kampen strives to offer students an inviting place where they can find a sense of belonging, support and care.
Menno Office is supported by Inter-Mennonite Chaplaincy Association, a partnership of Evangelical Mennonite Conference, Evangelical Mennonite Mission Conference and Mennonite Church Manitoba, various church congregations, Menno Office alumni and individuals.