Mennonite Disaster Service

MDS volunteers begin cleanup in Nova Scotia

Volunteers from Bethel Mennonite Church in Waterville, N.S., drove three-and-a-half hours to Antigonish, to cut down fallen trees in the coastal town of 4,300 in the northeast part of the province. (Photo by Shannon Long)

Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) Canada began cleanup work in Antigonish, N.S., on Sept. 30 in response to Hurricane Fiona.

That’s when volunteers from the Bethel Mennonite Church in Waterville, N.S., about a three-and-a-half hour drive from Antigonish, arrived to start cutting down fallen trees in the coastal town of 4,300 in the northeast part of the province. 

MDS provides meals, camps, blankets and more

A leader and camper at the Urban Promise camp in Toronto, made possible with support from the Spirit of MDS Fund. (Photo courtesy of Urban Promise)

Meals and blankets for homeless people, helping low-income kids go to camp, support for refugees—these are some of the ways the Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) Canada Spirit of MDS Fund helped Canadian congregations and organizations serve their communities.

Applications open for MDS Canada summer youth group program

Making trails, building a new rope course, repairing cabins and enjoying a week in beautiful New Brunswick: These are the things awaiting youth groups that want to do service with Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) Canada this summer. “We are inviting youth groups to come to Atlantic Canada to help us fix up a Bible camp,” says Murray Bunnett of the MDS Atlantic Unit. “It’s a great opportunity to see another part of the country and do something to help others.” Youth will be serving at Camp Shiktehawk, located northwest of Fredericton near the Maine border.

Mennonites, Catholics reunite Ontario family

Marc, Carole, Marie-Ange and Jean-Dominique Jobin are pictured in Carole and Marie-Ange’s temporary quarters while MDS partners with the Knights of Columbus to build a medically sterile and temperature-controlled addition to their home in Barry’s Bay, Ont. (Photo by Osiah Horst)

A family separated by illness is being reunited through the joint efforts of the Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) Ontario Unit and the Roman Catholic Knights of Columbus.

MDS responds to flooding in Princeton, B.C.

Alvin Klassen, Keith Rudance and Joy Dougans take a load to the dump in Princeton. Read about the efforts of Mennonite Disaster Service to help clean up the town in December, a month after severe flooding and mudslides wreaked havoc in British Columbia. (Photo by John Longhurst)

As part of the clean-up in Princeton, B.C., Mennonite Disaster Service volunteer Alvin Klassen emerges from a basement with a damaged chair.(Photo by John Longhurst)

Joy Dougans, left, Alvin Klassen, right, and Keith Rudance, in the back, discuss their next move in the cleanup operations. (Photo by John Longhurst)

The MDS trailer parked in Princeton, B.C. (Photo by John Longhurst)

A sign in Princeton, B.C., lists the locations where the water is contaminated and should not be consumed. (Photo by John Longhurst)

“The Mennonites are coming!”

That was the buzz around the town of Princeton, B.C., in early December 2021, when the first 16 Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) volunteers arrived to help residents hard hit by flooding in mid-November.

People in the town are “so exhausted,” said Spencer Coyne, Princeton’s mayor. But knowing help was arriving put “a glimmer of hope in their eyes.”

MDS calling for volunteers to help in B.C.

A home in Princeton, B.C., with damaged possessions piled outside. (Photo by Ross Penner)

Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) Canada is calling for volunteers to help with cleaning out homes in Princeton, B.C. following the catastrophic flood that hit the town in mid-November.

Around 20 volunteers are needed by Dec. 6 to help people in that interior community clean out their flooded homes.

Mennonite Disaster Service monitoring flood situation in B.C.

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.

MDS unit helps couple after severe windstorm

Bonnie and Dan Lapointe in front of cut-up trees from their yard after a September windstorm along the eastern shore of Lake Huron. (MDS Ontario photo by Lester Weber)

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.”

MDS in Shenandoah Valley celebrates creativity of volunteers during pandemic

MDS executive director Kevin King thanks volunteers from the Shenandoah Valley MDS Unit at an outdoor picnic. (Photo by Phil Helmuth)

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.

During the pandemic, MDS-MCC project ‘shows God’s leading’

MDS volunteers work on renovations at the Mennonite Central Committee Indigenous Neighbours office in Timmins, Ont.

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.

Helping ‘active faith’ across Canada

Pastor Gerald Neufeld (back row in the green long-sleeved shirt) and some of the members of the Mennonite Japanese Christian Fellowship in Surrey, B.C. (Mennonite Japanese Christian Fellowship website photo)

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.

Watch: MDS looks back at 2020

Mennonite Disaster Service personnel present a homeowner with keys after rebuilding her home. (Photo courtesy of YouTube)

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.

MDS Canada offering Spirit of MDS Fund again

Bob Ratelle does cleanup in the kitchen at Scott St. Church in St. Catharines, Ont., after making meals made possible by support from the MDS Canada Spirit of MDS Fund. (MDS photo)

After a successful first year, Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) Canada has announced a new round of funding from its Spirit of MDS Fund.

The 2021 round of funding started Jan. 31 and runs to April 30. It will provide grants up to $2,500 to Canadian Anabaptist/Mennonite congregations.

Spirit of MDS Fund launched by MDS Canada

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.

MDS receives grant from Canadian Red Cross

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.

MDS launches online scheduling system

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.

Building relationships with residential school survivors

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)

Timothy Khoo of Toronto Chinese Mennonite Church stains a table top. (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)

Ontario volunteers from Grace Mennonite Church in St. Catharines, St. Jacobs Mennonite Church and Stirling Avenue Mennonite Church in Kitchener help MDS build school benches 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.

Hurricane Dorian: MDS is “ready to respond”

MDS Canada is “ready to respond” when Hurricane Dorian is over, says Ross Penner, the organization’s executive director. (Photo courtesy of Facebook.com/MennoniteDisasterService)

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.

Canadian faces of MDS in Texas

Brianna Wiebe of Austin, Man., helped paint doors in Bloomington, Texas. (Photos by John Longhurst)

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. 

Mennonite organizations help Montreal church with renovations

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)

Silvain L’hereault, Hochma Mennonite Church’s shelter coordinator, gives a thumbs-up in thanks for the 30 quilts from Mennonite Central Committee Ontario that will be enough to carry the ministry through the season and allow it to discard some of its threadbare bedding. (Photo 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. 

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