Mennonite Disaster Service
Winnipeg, MB—Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) is monitoring the situation in British Columbia, where torrential rains have caused flooding and mudslides that have affected many communities and residents. With the water still yet to recede, and some communities still cut off from access due to damaged or destroyed roads and bridges, "it’s too early to be doing any kind of assessment on what we can do,” Ross Penner, who directs Canadian operations, said in a news release yesterday.
When Bonnie Lapointe saw the damage caused by the severe windstorm that struck her southwestern Ontario property on Sept. 7, she cried.
“I had never seen anything like that,” she said of all the fallen trees that littered her small acreage near Kingsbridge along the shores of Lake Huron. “Some of those trees were over 200 years old.”
Dozens of Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) volunteers in Harrisonburg, Virginia gathered for a picnic in May to celebrate the creative ways they had responded to community needs during the pandemic.
Doing Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) volunteer work in Canada during a pandemic isn’t easy—as members of the MDS Ontario Unit know only too well.
Volunteers in that province were excited last December to start working with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) to renovate its Indigenous Neighbours office in Timmins, Ont., about seven hours north of Toronto.
One month after its launch on Feb. 1, the 2021 Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) Canada Spirit of MDS Fund approved $54,900 in grants for 24 Canadian congregations and church-related organizations.
Mennonite Disaster Service didn’t let the COVID-19 pandemic stop it from having a banner year.
In a seven-minute video released on YouTube last Saturday, the binational organization—which cleans up, repairs and rebuilds homes that have experienced a disaster—outlines the unexpected opportunities and unexpected blessings that 2020 brought.
Twenty Mennonite Church Canada congregations are among the first 40 churches that have received grants from the Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) Canada Spirit of MDS Fund.
The fund was created by MDS Canada in April to help Canadian churches respond to people in their communities facing hardship due to COVID-19.
Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) Canada’s operations may be suspended until fall due to the pandemic, but the organization still wants to be active in responding to COVID-19. To do that, the organization has created The Spirit of MDS Fund to help Canadian churches respond to people in their communities facing hardship due to the virus. Through the $100,000 fund, which received unanimous support from the MDS Canada board at its April 15 meeting, Canadian congregations can apply for grants of up to $1,000 to help with various COVID-19-related needs.
Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) Canada's efforts to assist people whose homes were damaged by spring floods in the Minden, Ottawa and Renfrew, Ont., areas will be enhanced by a grant from the Canadian Red Cross’s community partnership program. The program, which provides funds for local community programs and support, will be used by MDS for volunteer support—transportation, food and housing—and to purchase a new tool trailer to help with this and other disaster responses in the province, says Nick Hamm, chair of MDS's Ontario unit.
Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) has launched a new online scheduling system for volunteers. Anyone interested in serving with the Anabaptist disaster response organization during the fall season (September through December) can register at mds.volunteermatrix.com and then submit a request to serve. “A greater number of weekly volunteers are needed this fall to respond to storm, flood and fire damage across Canada and the United States,” MDS told its supporters in the Sept. 4 edition of its biweekly email update.
Geronimo Henry, a survivor of the former Mohawk Institute Residential School in Brantford, Ont., says of his experience at the school, ‘I find it hard to forgive. It took my childhood from me.’ He is sitting at one of the new tables built by MDS volunteers from Mennonite congregations in Ontario and British Columbia. (Photo by John Longhurst)
Mennonite church youth groups from Kitchener, St. Jacobs, Listowel and Elmira, Ont., and Abbotsford, B.C., helped MDS restore this longhouse at the Woodland Cultural Centre over the summer. (Photo by John Longhurst)
The former Mohawk Institute Residential School in Brantford, Ont., is currently being refurbished. Over the summer, MCC, MDS and Mennonite congregations from Ontario and British Columbia helped with the work. (Photo by John Longhurst)
Carley Gallant Jenkins, the coordinator of the Woodland Cultural Centre’s Save the Evidence fundraising campaign, sits at a newly minted desk made by MDS volunteers from Toronto Chinese Mennonite Church in July. (Photo by John Longhurst)
Stella and Rebecca Liu of Toronto Chinese Mennonite Church help file documents and shelve books in the former Mohawk Institute Residential School in Brantford, Ont. (Photo by John Longhurst)
Jason Deng of Toronto Chinese Mennonite Church sands a tabletop built by members of his congregation and MDS volunteers. (Photo by John Longhurst)
Matthew Deng of Toronto Chinese Mennonite Church sands the base of a school desk built by members of his congregation and MDS volunteers. (Photo by John Longhurst)
Survivors of the former Mohawk Institute Residential School in Brantford, Ont., have returned to scratch messages into the bricks. There are hundreds at the back of the building where former students have left their marks, like this one from Franke, who served time at the school—‘11 years too many.’ (Photo by John Longhurst)
Crew leader Andrew Thiessen, right, of Columbia Bible College in Abbotsford, B.C., and helpers from St. Jacobs Mennonite Church and Stirling Avenue Mennonite Church in Kitchener, Ont., help move documents and books around the former Mohawk Institute Residential School in Brantford, Ont., this summer. (MDS photo by Nick Hamm)
Ontario volunteers from Stirling Avenue Mennonite Church in Kitchener, St. Jacobs Mennonite Church, and Avon Mennonite Church in Stratford. (MDS photo by Nick Hamm)
Markus Schroeder Kipfer and Jonah Willms of St. Jacobs Mennonite Church, Ont., sift for historical artifacts on the grounds of the former Mohawk Institute Residential School in Brantford, Ont., this summer. (Photo by Nick Hamm)
Aidan Morton Ninomiya and Jonah Willms of St. Jacobs (Ont.) Mennonite Church, front row, and Christian Albrecht and Steve Manske of Stirling Avenue Mennonite Church, Kitchener, Ont., back row, sit in school desks they helped build at the former Mohawk Institute Residential School in Brantford, Ont., this summer. (Photo by Nick Hamm)
“It’s personal, there are names and faces. It’s not just textbook information now.”
That’s how Timothy Khoo, 16, describes what it was like to meet residential school survivors while volunteering with Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) at the former Mohawk Institute Residential School in Brantford in July.
As Americans follow updates about Hurricane Dorian, Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) Canada is keeping an eye on the storm, too.
The organization, which rebuilds and repairs homes destroyed or damaged by natural disasters in the U.S. and Canada, is “ready to respond” when the storm is over says Ross Penner, executive director of MDS Canada.
The folks who volunteer with Mennonite Disaster Service are “gettin’ it done.”
What do you get when you put Mennonites from all over Canada, and from all sorts of different Mennonite conferences and churches—along with Christians from other denominations—in the same place? A Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) unit—that’s what.
In February, I visited volunteers in three communities in Texas hit by Hurricane Harvey in 2017—La Grange, Bloomington and Wharton.
Peter Kroeker, a Mennonite Disaster Service volunteer from Vineland (Ont.) United Mennonite Church, works on the exit stairs during renovations at Hochma Mennonite Church to bring its basement homeless shelter up to code. (Photos by Nicholas Hamm)
Every night, from November to April, volunteers from Hochma Mennonite Church in Montreal open its doors as a warming centre for some 40 people who are experiencing homelessness. The church wants to become a licenced shelter operating year-round, but its building needs roughly $200,000 worth of renovations to bring it up to code.
Volunteers raise the timbers of the second timber-frame cabin to be built this year at Shekinah Retreat Centre. (Photo courtesy of Priscilla Epp)
From left to right, volunteers Ryan Siemens, Curtis Wiens and Gord Siemens cut a board to be used in the timber-frame cabin constructed during the MDS Family Project held at Shekinah in August. (Photo courtesy of Priscilla Epp)
The families pictured here volunteered from Aug. 5 to 10, 2018, during Week 2 of the MDS Family Project at Shekinah Retreat Centre. They helped assemble wall units for the timber-frame cabin. (Photo courtesy of Priscilla Epp)
These volunteers helped with construction of the second timber-frame cabin at Shekinah Retreat Centre from Aug. 12 to 17 during Week 3 of the MDS Family Project. (Photo courtesy of Priscilla Epp)
Ike and Priscilla Epp aren’t quite sure how many people volunteered to help build the second timber-frame cabin at Shekinah Retreat Centre, but they know there were many.
The project took place during the month of August at the Mennonite Church Saskatchewan-owned camp north of Waldheim, and was designated a Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) Family Project.
Cutting the ribbon at the dedication of Mennonite Disaster Service Canada’s new office on June 15 are: (from left) Harold Friesen (MDS Canada board chair), Ross Penner (director of Canadian operations), Kevin King (MDS executive director), Grace Loeppky (MDS Canada board secretary and volunteer) and Gerald Loeppky (MDS volunteer). (Photo by Kelsey Friesen)
On June 15, 2018, Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) Canada hosted a dedication for their new office space located on the second floor of 600 Shaftesbury Blvd. at the Canadian Mennonite University campus, followed by a lunch and open house.
MDS Canada decided to move to a bigger space when they added several staff to their team and their lease at 1325 Markham Rd. was coming to an end.