More than 20,000 people attended the annual Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) British Columbia Festival for World Relief in mid-September, raising more than $1 million to support uprooted people locally and around the world.
Mennonite Central Committee
Manitoba native Annalee Giesbrecht is serving a three-year term with MCC in Haiti. (Photo by Elizabeth Peters)
A view of the Caribbean Sea outside the city of Jacmel on Haiti's southern coast. (Photo by Annalee Giesbrecht)
Jean Wesley blows bubbles at MCC partner Sakala, a community centre in the historically marginalized Cité Soleil neighbourhood of Port-au-Prince. At Sakala, kids learn about building peace through urban gardening and soccer. (Photo by Annalee Giesbrecht)
The sun rises over the mountains of Haiti's Artibonite Valley, where MCC has been working in reforestation, agriculture and community development since 1982. (Photo by Annalee Giesbrecht)
Members of an agricultural collective in Haiti's Central Plateau start a meeting with a song. This agricultural collective, orgwoupman, is supported by PDL (Partnership for Local Development by its initials in French), an MCC partner that provides training on conservation agriculture and community development. (Photo by Annalee Giesbrecht)
Annalee Giesbrecht is getting more than she bargained for when she agreed to serve with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC)—and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
When she arrived in Haiti to work with the relief organization, she planned to be away from Canada for a year. A few months later, however, she was offered the opportunity to extend her term to three years.
Peace campers practise their listening skills by responding to commands during an ice-breaking session. (YSPP photo by Alouny Souvolavong)
Lydia Cheung was a participant in MCC’s Summerbridge program last year. She helped with children’s programming, including a carnival and two weeks of day camp at her home church, South Vancouver Pacific Grace Mennonite Brethren Church, where she also helped with youth devotions and worship. (MCC photo by Rachel Bergen)
Rorisang Moliko, 27, is a former IVEPer currently working as the demonstration farm manager at Growing Nations Trust in Maphutseng, Lesotho. (MCC photo by Matthew Sawatzky)
Participants from several African countries are pictured at the 2017 Africa Peacebuilding Institute in Johannesburg, South Africa, at the eMseni Christian Conference Centre. (MCC photo by Zacarias Zimba)
People often say that young people are the future. Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) is working with partners in Canada, the United States and around the world to invest in opportunities for young people to serve. It is committed to nurturing and developing the leadership skills of a new generation, with a focus on Anabaptist values such as peacebuilding and servant leadership.
I was born in Santander in north-central Colombia. My husband and I married when he was 17 and I was 15, and we decided to come to Bogotá to look for a better life.
Sisters Jessica and Samantha Friesen enjoy having their faces painted in the children’s entertainment area at the MCC Alberta relief sale. The sisters are from Abbeydale Christian Fellowship in Calgary. The congregation donated half of the pies needed for the sale and the Friesen family delivered them to Didsbury. (Photo by Donita Wiebe-Neufeld)
Friday night’s auction opened with bids for a special peace quilt which cannot be taken home. The winning bid went to Rudy Wiens who made a $2,200 donation to MCC. He intends to display the quilt at Camp Valaqua this summer before it returns to MCC to be sold again next year. Wiens is a repeat camp volunteer who has warm friendships with staff and campers. He likes to offer a listening ear and encouragement to young people. “I connect well with the kids…they are ready to tell an 80-year-old things,” he said. (Photo by Donita Wiebe-Neufeld)
Three years ago Joyce Doran was working for Ten Thousand Villages in Calgary when she heard Abe Janzen (then MCC Alberta director) share some of his stories. “I was so touched by the work that was being done and I knew it was an organization I wanted to get involved with,” Doran said. In April 2018, Doran began working as thrift shop coordinator for MCC Alberta. (Photo by Donita Wiebe-Neufeld)
Two years ago, Bergthal Mennonite Church worked through MCC to sponsor a Syrian family, the Al Husseins, to come to Canada. On June 2 the family volunteered at the sale, wiping tables in the dining area and sorting coins. Pictured are: (from left) Nasayem, Delores Peters (Bergthal church), Mothana, Mariam, Jawaher, and Hatem. (Hatem was sponsored through the Trinity Mennonite Church in Calgary). (Photo by Donita Wiebe-Neufeld)
Sarah Neufeld of Didsbury (left) and Neve Jeffery of Calgary met and visited while tying knots in a comforter. (Photo by Donita Wiebe-Neufeld)
Doris Veirgutz made a double donation when she had her hair cut. “God has given me this long hair, I can donate it for wigs for people [Locks of Love] and raise money for MCC.” Stylist Brittany Derksen donated her talents to the effort. (Photo by Donita Wiebe-Neufeld)
For almost 40 years, John Wiebe’s welded art has raised thousands of dollars for relief work. The dove candle holder was inspired by well-known pastor Menno Epp (1932-2011). In the mid-1990s, Epp sent Wiebe a sketch of something he saw in Guatemala, asking if Wiebe could make it as an MCC project. Wiebe’s unique bookends, candle holders and other items can be found in many homes and churches across Alberta and beyond. (Photo by Donita Wiebe-Neufeld)
Matthew (5) and Aaron Friesen (6) are two of the youngest volunteers, taking turns pulling the school bus to collect change. Asked why they are helping, Matthew said, “because I like it.” Aaron added, “it is going to donate to other people.” (Photo by Donita Wiebe-Neufeld)
Sisters Irene Baergen (left) of Edmonton and Hilda Baergen of Coaldale, along with siblings Alice Klassen of Coaldale and Margaret Froese of Canmore, have an eight-year tradition of getting together to make a quilt for the sale. “The highlight is to get together and have a project and a cause,” said Irene. (Photo by Donita Wiebe-Neufeld)
Pianist Phyllis Geddert remembers singing with her father when he asked her to “promise me that you will help people to remember the old songs.” Ten years after he passed away, friends helped Geddert record favourite hymns from old Mennonite hymnals. Her condition was that any money raised would be donated to MCC in memory of her parents, Frank L. Friesen who always supported MCC, and Katherine Zacharias Friesen, one of the people who began the Thrift store in Morris, MB. The CD is entitled Joyful. (Photo by Donita Wiebe-Neufeld)
Josh Poland and Greg Sanderson of The Rosehill Auction Service pose with Bob Janzen (middle). Sanderson, who grew up in the Didsbury area, said; “I love selling and helping people, it’s fun to watch their face when they’ve got something.” Poland was keen to donate his time to the sale saying; “Everybody knows where the money is going.” (Photo by Donita Wiebe-Neufeld)
The Mennonite Central Committee Relief sale is a more than a fundraiser for Alberta Mennonites, it is an anticipated social event. Creating an atmosphere of fellowship and common purpose, the annual sale unites Mennonites from LaCrete to Pincher Creek (a distance of 1,176 kms) as well as inviting local communities to join the fun.
Mushiya Christine, left, Kayaya Lulula Clementine and Veronique Lumba Misenga take part in a support group for refugee seniors in Durban, South Africa. (MCC photo by Matthew Sawatzky)
Jean Pierre Mpiana and Yabu Miadi carry a sack of corn flour, oil and beans they received during a distribution by the Evangelical Mennonite Church in Congo, an MCC partner. They were among 180 households of displaced people who received a three-month supply of food. (MCC photo by Mulanda Jimmy Juma)
Reverend Riad Jarjour, president of the Forum for Development, Culture and Dialogue, holds some of the contents of monthly food packages for Syrian families. (MCC photo by Emily Loewen)
There are more than 65 million displaced people worldwide—nearly double the population of Canada. The United Nations says this number is unprecedented and the need for humanitarian assistance is only growing.
MCC holds regular tours of the border between Arizona and Mexico to raise awareness of increasing migrant deaths, militarization, environmental degradation and effects on habitat and sister communities across the border. In this 2015 photo, a Borderlands Learning Tour saw three Romanian migrant women and a baby processed as asylum seekers. (MCC photo by Jorge Vielman)
Cindy Cumberbatch, an attorney from College Hill Mennonite Church in Tampa, Florida, works part time with the church, providing legal advice to immigrants in the area. (MCC photo by Andrew Bodden)
These cards and pen distributed by MCC immigration staff are practical resources that help immigrants know their rights. (MCC photo by Brenda Burkholder)
As the U.S. government increases immigration enforcement, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) U.S. has been expanding its legal training, resources and educational opportunities for immigrants and advocates.
The private sponsorship group welcomes Christian and Esperance Manwengwe to Calgary last December. (Photo courtesy of Daria Soltysiak)
There are 23 million refugees around the world, with 1.2 million in need of resettlement outside of their home country or region.
In 2017, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) helped groups resettle 442 people through the Blended Visa Officer Referred (BVOR) program. That was about one-third of all people who arrived in Canada in that category.
A Grade 3 class at Hagar Association made signs for International Tolerance Day to promote ethnic and religious tolerance in the region. Hagar is a bilingual MCC-supported school educating 330 Arab and Jewish children from age 1 to Grade 6 in Be’er Sheba, Israel. (Photo courtesy of the Hagar Association)
Walk into Hagar Association, a school in Be’er-Sheva, Israel, and it looks like almost any other school. But if you listen closely, you’ll hear children speaking both Hebrew and Arabic, and see them playing together—uncommon sounds and sights in the region.
MCC Canada board member David Chow grew up believing that the current state of Israel is a continuation of the biblical people of Israel, and that building up the state of Israel is a sign that Jesus is returning. Chow visited the West Bank with other members of MCC’s board in September and October of 2016. The learning tour shifted his perspective on the region and what the kingdom of God looks like. (MCC photo)
Daoud Nassar is a farmer living in the West Bank who is committed to nonviolence. Nassar lives at the Tent of Nations, a farm and educational centre near Bethlehem, where his family has lived for more than 100 years. The farm is surrounded by five Israeli settlements collectively called Gush Etzion. In 1991, the Israeli government declared the Nassar’s farm to be state land, and there were plans to expand the settlements onto the Nassars’ property. The family hired a lawyer and took the case to court. It is still unresolved. The family opened the Tent of Nations on their land in 2000, hosting international guests to work on their farm and to learn more about their life in Palestine. (MCC photo)
David Chow recalls sitting in Sunday school as a child and learning about what the nation of Israel meant for Christians in a traditional Christian Missionary Alliance congregation in Calgary, Alberta.
Chow grew up believing that the current state of Israel is a continuation of the biblical people of Israel, and that building up the state of Israel is a sign that Jesus is returning.
Fatumo, left, and Sahro, right, (last names are not used for security reasons) are just a few of the children who received MCC school kits at a distribution in Kismayo, Somalia. Lutheran World Federation, an MCC partner, provided the school kits to displaced and refugee children who are returning home to Somalia. (Photo courtesy of Lutheran World Federation)
Students at Wamo Primary School in Kismayo, Somolia, show school supplies they received as part of MCC school kits distributed by Lutheran World Federation. The students are returning home to Somalia with their families as the Daadab camp in Kenya is being closed. (Photo courtesy of Lutheran World Federation)
Many Somali refugee families returning home after years in refugee camps lack basic items, like blankets and school supplies.
In the summer of 2017, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) shipped 10,120 school kits and 2,930 comforters to Somalia, which were distributed by Lutheran World Federation (LWF), an MCC partner, at five schools in Kismayo, the capital of Jubaland State.
“If one member suffers, all suffer together with it” (I Cor. 12:26).
In February, we were part of a Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) delegation to Syria, including Damascus, Homs, Hama and Aleppo. We witnessed the devastation of war and heard testimonies of faith from people who have been living in difficult circumstances now for seven long years.
MCC supports a community school program at a girls’ hostel run by Lee Memorial Mission in Kolkata, India. Pictured are students Priya Biswas, foreground left, and Srilekha Das. (MCC photo by Dave Klassen)
Maheshwar Pujari, pictured with his wife Shakuntala Pujari of Sinisingi village in India’s Orissa region, has seen an increase in rice yields now that he follows the system of rice intensification method of rice cultivation, and after a diversion-based irrigation system was installed in his village in 2013. (MCC photo by Pabitra Paramanya)
Children aged three to five attend an MCC-supported preschool in Andulgaria village, India, in a child-friendly environment to prepare them for primary school in the formal education system. (MCC photo by Dave Klassen)
This year, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) is celebrating 75 years of relief, development and peace work in India, making it one of the oldest international aid organizations in the country.
Seminar participants and Mennonite Central Committee staff gather in front of the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa. (Photo by Nadia García)
Right before winter reading break, 30 university students from across Canada gathered in Ottawa to learn about the current conflict in Palestine and Israel at a seminar hosted by the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Canada Ottawa Office. From Feb. 15–17, students attending “Palestine and Israel: Let no walls divide” explored issues of advocacy, peace and justice.
In early February 2018, Ten Thousand Villages (TTV) began the process of permanently closing nine stores in four provinces. They include:
It’s been a long trek for eight small bags of medical supplies. They have been packed and re-packed, crossed an ocean, passed through three countries and numerous airport security checks. On this day, the bags have reached their destination—a small medical clinic on a farm near Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea.
Opening of the MCC Ontario building in 1964. Pictured from left to right: MCC executive secretary William Snyder, Fred Nighswander, Henry H. Epp and Abner Cressman. (Kitchener-Waterloo Record file photo / Mennonite Archives of Ontario)
When Kathy Hildebrand attended the 1969 annual MCC meeting, she commented to executive secretary William Snyder, ‘I didn’t come to shop at Marshall Field! I came to hear what MCC is doing.’ (Burton Buller photo / Mennonite Archives of Ontario)
When the indomitable Orie O. Miller retired from Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) in 1958, there was a lot of speculation about who would fill his big shoes. In Miller’s mind, though, that question had been settled years earlier, when he chose, out of the rich Civilian Public Service (CPS) talent pool, the unpresumptuous William Thomas Snyder to be his associate.
Thomas Coldwell, pictured in Kampala, Uganda, this past July, learned about the Anabaptist faith as an undergraduate. (Photo by Leah Ettarh)
Thomas Coldwell replaced Abe Janzen as executive director of MCC Alberta last month. (Photo by Angela Bennett)
‘We want to be thoughtful in the way we do our work,’ says Thomas Coldwell, pictured talking with Cecile Sanou. Sanou volunteered with an MCC partner in Soroti, Uganda, during 2016-17. (Photo by Leah Ettarh)
Five years ago, Thomas Coldwell knew very little about Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). Today, he’s the executive director of MCC Alberta.
Jacqui Block, left, Peter Guenther and George Epp enjoy a light-hearted moment as they reflect on what they learned about Mennonite Central Committee’s disaster response. (Photo by Donna Schulz)
“There’s no such thing as a natural disaster,” according to Bruce Guenther. But Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Canada’s disaster response director wasn’t in denial.
Mennonite Central Committee’s 2015 Go Purple postcard
As we celebrated Peace Sunday at my church this week, a friend of mine got up during the time of sharing and prayer. He told us that November has been designated Domestic Violence Awareness month in Manitoba, and that in response, Mennonite Central Committee’s Voices for Non-Violence is involved in the “Purple Lights Campaign” to shed light on domestic violence and work on prevention. You can learn more about it and find ideas on how to get involved here: http://mcccanada.ca/media/resources/1639
Lizette, co-director of MCC, was an excellent translator. (Photo by Linda Shelly)
MCC volunteers and staff took part in a quarterly, two-day fellowship and planning retreat. They are a spirited group! (Photo by Cesar Flores)
We met repeatedly in groups of three to process and apply what we were learning. (Photo by Linda Shelly)
Bolivia, named after its first president, Bolivar, is about 4,500 miles south and one time zone east of Kitchener. It is a beautiful country with lots of tropical foliage, including 1,200 species of fern and 1,400 species of birds. This land-locked country is south of the equator, which means that we need to look north to see the sun. In the distance are 6,000 meter (21,000 feet) mountains that settle down into the Amazon Basin. Weather is warm, with a tropical downpour every day or two.
Harley Eagle, right, Mennonite Central Committee Canada’s co-coordinator of Indigenous Work with his wife Sue, speaks with other MCC staff and partners at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. (Credit: courtesy of MCC UN office)
Vincent Solomon, the Aboriginal Neighbours coordinator for Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Manitoba and a priest for the Anglican Church of Canada, says a blessing for the many MCC infant care and relief kits donated by Native Assembly 2014 participants this summer. (Credit: MC Canada/Dan Dyck)
Tension gripped my gut as I drove to a Mennonite church in Altona, Man., with an indigenous friend. We were doing a joint Sunday morning presentation about hydropower impacts.
I wondered if an indigenous person had ever been in that church. I debated making excuses for whatever suspicion, or worse, my people might direct toward him. I tried to muster grace.
The MCC revisioning process seeks to address the tension of being rich Christians in an age of global inequality—an age in which golf tournaments in Manitoba (as shown by the cover of MCC Manitoba’s annual report, left) fund hurricane recovery efforts in Haiti. (MCC file photo by Ben Depp, right)
At a time when relief supplies can be purchased in countries close to disaster sites—providing stimulus to their often hard-hit local economies—does it make economic or environmental sense to continue making blankets and relief kits of all kinds in North America and then ship them around the world?
Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) is the largest and most influential Anabaptist organization in the world. It has nearly 1,200 workers and an annual budget of $82 million.
Students attending one-room village schools in this Mennonite colony 60 kilometres south of Santa Cruz use slates instead of notebooks.