“Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us” (Mark 9:38, NIV). John’s exclusionary attitude remains a prevalent attitude in our churches: “You are not one of us!”
Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) began work in Thailand in 1960, but from 1963 to 1975 it had no programs there. In 1979, MCC started working with Indochinese refugees coming into Thailand with job creation, social services, agriculture and education programs. This is a photo of MCCer Victor Neumann of Abbotsford, B.C., with refugee workers processing mail at Songkhla camp, Thailand.
My husband and I have been married for 13 years; long enough to have weathered some difficult seasons. We’ve walked alongside other couples in turmoil lately, causing us to reflect together on what makes our marriage work and how we will continue to grow stronger and closer. My grandparents were married nearly 70 years so, in light of that, we anticipate years ahead of us growing closer!
I’ve been a “church-goer” my whole life. I remember my dad polishing our shoes on Saturday evening so we would all look bright and shiny for church on Sunday morning. I remember Sunday evenings watching Walt Disney on TV, getting changed for church during the last commercial, and leaving for church just before the show ended. Going to church is what we did on Sundays.
What does Jesus mean when he says “Do not judge”? How do we respond to injustice, oppression, racism, sexism and prejudice without judgment? I’ve contemplated this for years, and here is where I’ve landed, for now at least.
Ever since the arrival of the coronavirus, there have been segments of the church that have been criticized for not taking the pandemic seriously. Christian sceptics and those who criticize them are well-represented on my social media feed.
Participants in a Festival of Peace at Stirling Avenue Mennonite Church in Kitchener, Ont., embrace during a small group session.
It can probably be said, with a reasonable helping of truthfulness, that the family that I was born into didn’t put big energy into teaching social niceties. Certainly we were taught respect, but “No, no, you take the biggest piece,” didn’t figure prominently.
We don’t talk about mental health much in the church. When we do, we tend to see it as deviation from a presumably healthy “normal.” This is deficit thinking. Maybe our standards of “normal” are a problem. Maybe we could see the diverse ways that minds and bodies function as gifts.
In late August, my wife and I became first-time homeowners. There had been many times we wondered if we would ever be able to afford a house, ever save up enough for a down payment, or if we even wanted to do the traditional homeownership thing. But, after 16 years of marriage, we bought a house.
As I finish off another growing season on the farm, I reflect on how things grew, what went well, and what to tweak for next year. Aside from our various pastured livestock, I also grow a market garden and, after nine years, I still feel that I have so much to learn.
Within this Mennonite hearth, we can read an environmental history. By 1850, when John E. and Magdalena Brubacher built this house, the forest stands of southwestern Ontario were well on their way to being transformed into farmland. The harvesting and sale of wood and its products was the engine of the economy.
Since living in a pandemic that has suddenly limited indoor socializing, I have been particularly thankful for the neighbourhood friendships we’ve created. In March and April, when we were all isolating, we actually got to know our neighbours far better.
As a young adult I entered a Mennonite college knowing little about Mennonites. I grew up (mostly) Baptist. I was astonished to hear people say over and over again, “You must be a Mennonite!” I sputtered that just because my last name is Klassen does not make me Mennonite, and that, in fact, I was a Christian who happened to be a member of a Baptist congregation.
My focus on growth may seem strange during this difficult season we’re in, but I believe that the best way to get through this pandemic is by growing.
My understanding of growth is simple. It’s the process of becoming who someone (or something) was created and designed to be.
There are many ways for us to grow during even the most-challenging times. We can grow by:
The youth of the Mennonite church are often on my mind, and over the years, they have secured a place in my heart. It has been total joy and privilege to share time and space with them at national gatherings, regularly in my ministry within Mennonite Church Manitoba, and through the sharing of stories in Canadian Mennonite.
LaVerna Klippenstein (1934-2014) fulfilled many roles, including mother, wife, teacher and author. After her marriage to Lawrence Klippenstein in 1956, the pair began working in the Métis community of Matheson Island, Man., for two years with Mennonite Pioneer Mission. She is pictured hanging laundry on Matheson Island.
The first story is as recent as a week ago last Sunday. As I stood to sing a somewhat familiar hymn in the morning worship service, the words came off the page to grasp my attention with unusual urgency. The song was “There’s A Wideness In God’s Mercy,” and the verse that snared me was the third.
Whether you know the word or not, shalom is central to the way most Mennonites think of what it means to be disciples faithful to Jesus. “Peace” is how the Hebrew word shalom is often translated.
I was sitting at the kitchen table, trying to read amidst my children having breakfast and building with Lego, and I read this verse: “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people, Your sons and daughters will prophesy. . .” (Joel 2:28).