COVID-19

What is nature to you?

The shortest route from Wopisa-Gabriyèl to get medical assistance requires descending this waterfall. (MCC photo by Ted Oswald, 2017)

If you’ve ever invited me to go camping with you, you’ll know I’m not exactly what you would call “outdoorsy.” I enjoy nature, but I don’t really see the need to sleep in it, much less in a stuffy tent with sticks and rocks poking into my back. I feel the same about hiking—I’m just fundamentally unable to understand the appeal of walking for hours through the woods, tripping on rocks and being pestered by insects, just to turn around and walk back again, having accomplished nothing but getting myself exhausted and sweaty?

B.C. thrift shops open again for business

Despite the rain, customers line up patiently to enter the Mennonite Central Committee Centre thrift shop in Abbotsford on re-opening day, May 25. Thrift shops in B.C. had been closed since mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Amy Rinner Waddell)

After more than two months of being closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most of the 10 Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) British Columbia thrift shops were reopening with limited hours by the end of May.

COVID camp closures

Camps across the country are cancelling their summer programs. (Photo courtesy of Facebook.com/CampSqueah)

B.C. children will not be able to attend Camp Squeah this summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Amy Rinner Waddell)

Camp Squeah of Hope, B.C. has cancelled its 2020 camping season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In a May 15 statement, camp director Rob Tiessen wrote, “In order to best ensure the health of our campers and staff, we have made the difficult decision to cancel our 2020 summer camp session. This applies to all day and overnight camp programs, including Family Camp.”

MennoMedia: Do not sing together if you are gathering physically for worship

(Image by 微博/微信:愚木混株/Pixabay)

With stay-at-home orders being lifted across much of the U.S. and Canada, churches are thinking about what it will look like to open their doors again. Yet because the COVID-19 pandemic is still very much with us, it is up to churches to consider how to do so safely. 

Watch: Quarantine viewing ideas

"Everyone has their own needs, their own ways of engaging with film..." (Image by Jan Vašek/Pixabay)

Looking for a movie to watch? Sue Sorensen has some suggestions for you.

Sorensen, an English professor at Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg, is featured in a series of five short videos CMU posted to its YouTube channel earlier this month. 

Each video features a film that Sorensen recommends watching, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Death toll

The cover of the Sunday, May 24 issue of the New York Times.

I started Sunday morning in tears as I read through the heartbreaking list that blanketed the front page of the New York Times. To mark the deaths of (at that point) nearly 100,000 American citizens, the paper listed the names of a thousand of them. 

MCC announces program cuts, changes due to COVID-19

Tha Thi Ke stands in her family’s first cornfield in Vietnam’s Phu Tho Province. In 2001, MCC encouraged farmers to grow winter corn crops and find other ways to supplement income from their rice yields, helping them remain on their land rather than being forced to migrate. (MCC photo by Jack Leonard)

Mushiya Christine, Kayaya Lulula and Veronigue Lumba Misenga took part in a support group for older refugees in 2017, run by MCC partner Refugee Social Services in Durban, South Africa. These elders can feel isolated and stressed, but home visits and support groups help them feel connected. (MCC photo by Matthew Sawatzky)

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) has scaled up its work to respond to the global crisis, increasing projects related to water, hygiene and sanitation (WASH), local health initiatives and food relief.

On staying safe

'Stay safe. You hear these two little words a lot these days.' (Image by Mohammad Fahim/Pixabay)

Stay safe. You hear these two little words a lot these days. They serve as the tag at the end of the phone call, the coda for the email, the last words before signing off yet another Zoom meeting, the wary exhortation as you watch your son head off to a shift at the grocery store. These two words have become part of the furniture of our leave-taking, virtual or otherwise, during the days of COVID.

Open to us a door

‘. . . that God will open to us a door for the word, that we may declare the mystery of Christ . . .’ (Colossians 4:3) (Photo by Jane Grunau)

(Photo by Jane Grunau)

(Photo by Jane Grunau)

(Photo by Jane Grunau)

(Photo by Jane Grunau)

(Photo by Jane Grunau)

(Photo by Jane Grunau)

(Photo by Jane Grunau)

(Photo by Jane Grunau)

(Photo by Jane Grunau)

When Hymnal: A Worship Book came out in 1992, “What is This Place” was chosen to be the lead hymn in the collection. The first line describes the church building as “Only a house, the earth its floor, walls and a roof . . . , windows for light, an open door.” But when the people enter, “. . . it becomes a body that lives when we are gathered here . . . .” 

A column about plague columns

Plague columns, like this one in Linz, Austria, are a reminder that the source of salvation is God. (Image by Alfred Stier/Pixabay)

If you’ve travelled in central or eastern Europe, you may have come across a plague column holding a prominent place in a town square. Plague columns were constructed in the 17th and 18th centuries as a display of public faith in the church and in God.

Sunday morning on Zoom

'I grieve the real faces and the real touch, yet I’m also thankful for this very real community.' (Image by Armin Schreijäg/Pixabay)

Church is about to start and the Zoom link doesn’t work! For some reason it keeps sending me to a YouTube video of “Seek Ye First,” and I can’t find my church!

Too much news?

'These are days of information overload.' (Image by Steve Buissinne/Pixabay)

These are days of information overload. There is so much news to follow! Local, regional, national, international, from this part of the country and from that part of the world. 

The ‘sewists’ of Waterloo Region

Bev Suderman-Gladwell, right, and her son Nathan model some of the gowns sewed for frontline workers by a group of volunteers in Waterloo Region. The group has also added scrub caps and masks to the lists of supplies its members are sewing. (Photo by Andrea Deering Nagy)

When Bev Suderman-Gladwell was asked by a physician friend to “leverage her Mennonite connections,” to respond to a time-sensitive need, she had no way of knowing an “extraordinary project” would grow out of that request.

To death’s door and back

Vic Winter is back at home with a new outlook and a new beard. He says he is keeping it. (Photo by Marilyn Winter)

Vic and Marilyn Winter wave as 130 cars filled with well-wishers pass by their house to welcome his return after a lengthy hospitalization for COVID-19. (Photo by Zach Charbonneau)

Vic Winter was admitted to hospital in Leamington on March 20. In short order his wife Marilyn was sent home while he was sent to the intensive-care unit at the Windsor Regional Hospital, where he was diagnosed with COVID-19 and placed unconscious on a ventilator to help him breathe as he fought for his life. He wouldn’t see his wife again for six weeks.

Moving with the times

Arnie Nickel leads a 45-minute exercise session for seniors on Zoom. (Screenshot by Howard Giles)

After their exercise session, seniors remain online to visit. (Screenshot by Howard Giles)

Three times a week, Arnie Nickel leads a 45-minute exercise session for seniors on Zoom, a virtual-meeting app. Participants are enthusiastic and their numbers are growing.

Offline life during COVID-19

Many offline Mennonites are staying connected by phone. (Image by Alexas_Fotos/Pixabay)

When the novel coronavirus pandemic hit, life went online. From school classes to fitness workouts to worship services, everything started streaming on the web. But what happens if you don’t have internet access? How are those Mennonites staying connected with their churches?

The climate context of a global virus

(Image by stokpic/Pixabay)

At first, I was irritated that travel plans were interrupted. Then I was frustrated that the markets leaked stored wealth. And finally, I was angered that separation from family and friends was mandated. Eventually I was weighted with the depressing context of self isolation. 

Quite a journey within a few short weeks. This sudden change of atmospheric emotions was like a roller coaster. But eventually, it lent itself to some important reflection.

My CERB story

‘While Mennonite history and theology also show hesitance around state politics, we cannot let theological hang-ups stop us from actively supporting measures that could change so many lives,’ Jonas Cornelsen writes. (Photo by Christina W. Kroeker Creative)

Does the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) mean the federal government is paying people to not work during the COVID-19 pandemic? Does this prove that a universal basic income would cause a mass exodus from workplaces and weaken our economy?

Web of connections

(Photo courtesy of Mennonite Church Canada)

In these days of pandemic responses we are continually reminded by public health officials that our individual actions affect our neighbours and that we are responsible for protecting those around us. We are connected.

This reminds me of the web of connections I witnessed during my ministry with Mennonite Partners in China (MPC).

Some things that need to be said

‘Much of Canada is still practising measures to hold COVID-19 at bay. Fatigue has set in; we’re tired of thinking about it, talking about it and praying about it.’ (Image by cromaconceptovisual/Pixabay)

As this issue goes to press, much of Canada is still practising measures to hold COVID-19 at bay. Fatigue has set in; we’re tired of thinking about it, talking about it and praying about it. Yet some things still must be said:

God did not cause this pandemic

Anxiety

People coping with fear and anxiety swing back and forth between responses as the situation, and perceptions of it, change. We panic. We grasp for assurances and control. We deny. We try to understand. (photo © istock.com/wildpixel)

As the effects of COVID-19 grow, I am observing a variety of emotional reactions in myself and others. COVID-19 touches everyone’s life. If it isn’t personal illness or loss, we contend with separation, loneliness, deep uncertainty, inconvenient grocery shopping and accessing services that used to be readily available. Children are at home, incomes are at risk.

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