Personal Reflection

Actively watching

(Pixabay photo by PublicDomainPictures)

“I spy with my little eye, something . . . .” Most of you probably know the game. It’s one that has become a fun and important little ritual for me and my three-year-old daughter while I drive her and her sister to daycare in the mornings before work.

Lament for Sunday school

Sunday school children, 1989-90. (Faith Mennonite archive photo)

Sunday school children, 1980. (Faith Mennonite archive photo)

Christmas concert, 1995. (Faith Mennonite archive photo)

Angel choir, 2007. (Faith Mennonite archive photo)

Picnic pie-eating contest, 2008. (Faith Mennonite archive photo)

Sara Garnet with Christmas angels, undated. (Faith Mennonite archive photo)

Sara Garnet and I were cleaning out the Sunday school classrooms of Faith Mennonite Church in Leamington, Ont., with heavy hearts one Wednesday afternoon. We had put it off for a long time. It felt like we were cleaning out a home after a death had taken place.

Large bequest ‘threatened to swamp us’

A drone photo of the old red brick and the new Shantz Mennonite Church. Erb’s Road goes east to St. Agatha and Waterloo, Ont. (Photo by Chad Bender)

Lukas Winter introduces a slideshow chronicling the two-and-a-half-year construction process underway during COVID. (Photo by Ken Ogasawara)

Mike Shantz, co-chair of the build team, speaks to the congregation in the new sanctuary of Shantz Mennonite Church. (Photo by Ken Ogasawara)

Dwight Baer, Mae Baer and Norma Shantz enjoy the celebratory lunch in the new church gym. (Photo by Ken Ogasawara)

Kathy and Andy Oja receive food from Liz Plumtree, at the celebratory lunch in the new gym. (Photo by Ken Ogasawara)

The new Shantz Mennonite Church building as seen from Erb’s Road. (Photo by Chad Bender)

Shantz Mennonite Church held a dedication service on Sunday, June 5. It was intended to be for our new facilities, but in truth, it was primarily a rededication of ourselves. Like other followers of Christ, we have been aware that God is calling the church to a new beginning—one that reestablishes its centeredness in a way of life where all are beloved, welcome and authentically known.

Be at peace?

(photo © istock / jeff kingma)

I once memorized Romans 12, and verse 18 always stuck with me: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” As Christians, shouldn’t we be at peace with everyone? Shouldn’t we make all efforts to mend relationships and right wrongs?

Well, maybe it doesn’t always work out that way.

Expanded belonging

“There is a form of belonging and connection that is intended to not only transcend our capacity to imagine it, but also the boundaries of exclusion that are so fundamental to all these other ways of imagining belonging. . . .” (Photo by Mireia B L from

I’m not naturally a morning person; it usually takes a lot to get me started at the beginning of my day. But this last Wednesday, I set my alarm a little earlier and bounced up from bed like a child on Christmas morning.

The Damascus Road Initiative

Katherine Kandalaft and Samih Saltah are pictured in Byblos, Lebanon, in December 2018. (Photo courtesy of Katherine Kandalaft)

This year marks a devastating milestone. It is the 10th anniversary of the war in Syria. This dreadful war has resulted in the deaths of a half-million people and is the largest displacement crisis since the Second World War.

Walking together at a distance

Al Friesen, left, Marlene Friesen, Charlotte Siemens and Jon Nofziger, who all attend Emmanuel Mennonite Church in Abbotsford, B.C., take part in the Walk in the Spirit of Reconciliation. (Photo by Al Friesen)

Following current physical-distance guidelines, the fifth annual Walk in the Spirit of Reconciliation was held in various parts of British Columbia over the final weekend of May.

Although we walked apart, we did so in solidarity with our First Nations brothers and sisters whose families have been affected by the residential school system for many generations.

Strangers become friends at college

Katrina Steckle, left, is pictured with her first-year Grebel roommate, Madeleine Graham. (Photo courtesy of Katrina Steckle)

My older sister met her best friend at Conrad Grebel University College in Waterloo, Ont., in 2013. They were paired together as roommates for their first year, and lived together in their second and fourth years as well. I remember my sister coming home from school on the weekends and telling amazing stories about the fun she and her roommate were having at Grebel.

Their stories showed me how to be brave

Hannah Larson of Vancouver, Wash., serves with SALT in Siliguri, India, with the West Bengal Voluntary Health Association. (Photo courtesy of Hannah Larson)

In the last few months with Mennonite Central Committee’s Serving and Learning Together program, I have thought often about how we all use stories to communicate. And how sometimes I have found myself wishing I could politely use a bookmark to pause someone’s story when I wasn’t that interested in it. 

We’re all in debt⁠—and it’s not a bad thing

"We all carry more profound debts than car loans and credit cards." (Image by Mohamed Hassan/Pixabay)

One of the terms I heard repeatedly at Gathering 2019 from June 29 to July 1 in Abbotsford, B.C. was “institutional church.”

As in, “The institutional church would do things that way, but I’m different.”

Or, “The institutional church is dying, but thankfully my friends and I have our own thing going.”

Or, “Don’t blame me, I’m only on the fringe of the institutional church.”

Summer vacation

‘Just because we take a vacation from ordinary daily life does not mean that the events of ordinary daily life vacate us,’ Gareth Brandt writes. (Image by David Mark/Pixabay)

To “vacate” means to “leave a place once occupied.”

In North America, summer is the time many people choose to leave home and travel somewhere else in order to rest and relax from ordinary work and home responsibilities. This summer we did our usual trip to Manitoba to visit extended family but we added 12 days on the east coast to explore Cape Breton Island and Newfoundland.

Gathering 2019 is for the whole family

Among the tour options at Mennonite Church Canada’s assembly in 2016 in Saskatoon was a bus trip to the Shekinah Retreat Centre. (Photo by Irma Sulistyorini)

I have many fond memories of attending our annual national events over my lifetime, beginning in my youth at Great Treks and then as a young adult at assemblies. I remember creative and inspiring worship; animated, even heated, business meetings; and, most significantly, making personal connections with my faith community from across the country.

A most excellent Christmas

Remembering a Christmas homemade gift exchange: ‘I presented my brother Thomas with a jar filled with 150 encouraging notes.’ (Photo by Aaron Epp)

‘My brother gave me a pillow inspired by my favourite movie, Ghostbusters, that he sewed himself.’ (Photo by Aaron Epp)

The author, dressed as Santa Claus in 2006. (Photo by Timothy Dyck)

I love Christmas. The tree, the lights, the music, the food, gathering with family and friends, special church services. I look forward to all of it. 

I still go with my siblings to the mall so that we can have our picture taken with Santa, and I’ve even dressed up as the jolly old elf a time or two (or three) myself.

Waiting watchfully ends well

Flowers hang in the former backyard of Peter and Leona Dueck Penner in Winnipeg. (Photo by Leona Dueck Penner)

‘Heidi’ enjoys the flowers in the former backyard of Peter and Leona Dueck Penner in Winnipeg. She made the move to Waterloo, Ont., and now enjoys the view from the balcony. (Photo by Leona Dueck Penner)

“Wait watchfully,” wrote Rainer Maria Rilke in a prose poem he penned around 1895, which my husband and I read on an autumn morning during our quiet time a couple of years ago.

To serve and to give

Sandra Luna assists Jimmi Bedoya, 3, at Centro de Capacitación del Niño (Children’s Training Centre) in El Progreso, Soacha, outside Bogotá, Colombia, where Luna teaches Grade 1 and acts as one of the coordinators of the school. (MCC photo by Colin Vandenberg)

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.

Learning to be human

Working with enVision Community Living clients like Joanne, centre, profoundly changed Daniel Rempel’s life. (Photo courtesy of Jo-Anne Dalton)

‘It is my hope and my prayer that [we] continue to welcome and engage people with intellectual disabilities,’ Daniel Rempel writes. (Photo courtesy of Daniel Rempel)

When I was first hired as a disability support worker at enVision Community Living in Steinbach, Man., I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t know many people with intellectual disabilities and I certainly didn’t know what it meant to support someone with intellectual disabilities.

Faith leads to composting

Anna Kuepfer (aka Teka) is pictured in her role as Hidden Acres' environmental services coordinator. (Hidden Acres Mennonite Camp photo)

A camper at Hidden Acres Mennonite Camp 'takes aim at summer.' (Photo: Anna Kuepfer, Hidden Acres Mennonite Camp)

Donning my biology lab coat and goggles, I push through the bustling crowd of eager campers who are anxiously waiting to sing for their lunchtime mail delivery, and I raise my hand in the air. “Ready?” I ask. “One, two, three!” And the crowd of 80 bursts into an enthusiastic, barely organized uproar.


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