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Congolese Mennonites suffer atrocities amid displacement of 1.4 million

Menno Simons’ favourite verse was chosen for the cloth commemorating the centennial of Communauté Mennonite au Congo (Mennonite Community in Congo). Mennonites in the Democratic Republic of Congo are currently facing violence and displacement in the conflict-plagued Kasai region. (Photo by James Krabill)

Web First | By Will Braun | Aug 21, 2017

WARNING: This story contains graphic descriptions of brutal violence.

Dozens of Congolese Mennonites have been killed, hundreds of their homes have been burned, and thousands of them have fled, as violence consumes the Kasai region, birthplace of the Mennonite church in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) reports 36 confirmed deaths of Mennonites, 12 church schools destroyed or attacked, 16 churches destroyed or attacked, and 342 homes destroyed. Those numbers may rise in the coming days.

Supporting women’s education with a party and a quilt

Martha Wiens stands in front of a quilt she made to raffle off at her 80th birthday party. Proceeds will support a scholarship for a young woman to attend Meserete Kristos College in Ethiopia. (Photo by Michael Wiens)

Web First | By Deborah Froese | Aug 18, 2017

When retired teacher Martha Wiens of Leamington (Ont.) United Mennonite Church turned 80, she threw herself a birthday party with purpose. She auctioned off a specially made quilt to raise money in support of a young woman’s education at Meserete Kristos (MK) College in Ethiopia. But she didn’t stop there, pledging to pay for a full four-year scholarship to make sure the lucky recipient has no interruptions in her study.

B.C.’s wildfires affect large region

The sun sets in Oliver, B.C., against a hazy sky during the first week in August 2017. Smoke from fires in B.C.’s interior spread throughout the province this summer. (Photo by John Dawson)

Web First | By Amy Dueckman | Aug 15, 2017

Haze lingered over a wide area of British Columbia in early August, a reminder that wildfires in B.C.’s interior were affecting residents several hundred kilometres away. An air quality advisory index was issued in Metro Vancouver on July 31, 2017, and 10 days later was still in effect, the longest ever recorded.

Review: Mennonite-Nazi connection unconvincing

Web First | By Barb Draper | Aug 15, 2017 | 2 comments

Ben Goossen argues that German-speaking Mennonites of the 20th century had a sense of Mennonite nationality and that this concept of Mennonites as a “chosen nation,” a people with a distinctive heritage, culture and ethnicity, was influenced by the racist ideas of the Nazis. He says he began this study in an effort to understand his grandfather, a retired Mennonite minister from Kansas, who was devoted to the church but who also identified himself as a “proud Prussian.”

Committee invites input for Resonate music project

Web First | Aug 11, 2017

The Mennonite Worship and Song Committee in inviting congregations and individuals to give input toward a new hymnal scheduled for release in 2020.

“We want to hear what is giving life to worship across the denomination,” said Bradley Kauffman, project director. “It is essential to hear from these voices – people whose investment will deeply inform our work toward a successful collection.”

A witness for nonviolence from Nigeria

Rev. Daniel U. Mbaya (centre) was the first candidate to successfully complete research in the doctoral program of the World Council of Churches Ecumenical Institute at Château de Bossey. (Photo by Michel Grandjean)

Web First | Aug 11, 2017 | 1 comment

A doctoral thesis focusing on the nonviolent witness of a peace church in Nigeria was recently completed at the Ecumenical Institute of the World Council of Churches (WCC). The candidate, Rev. Daniel Y. Mbaya, who is general secretary of the Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (Church of the Brethren in Nigeria, or EYN), defended his thesis on the witness of nonviolence of the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria.

Obituary: ‘Dan has left us’

Web First | By Donita Wiebe-Neufeld | Aug 02, 2017 | 2 comments

The four short words of this obituary’s title, sent to Mennonite Church Alberta’s area church minister Tim Wiebe-Neufeld, heralded a large impact for the province’s churchgoers, for the Jack family, and for the many friends of Dan and Marguerite Jack.

Jack, the moderator of MC Alberta, died peacefully on July 17 after a medical emergency precipitated by a 15-year struggle with Crohn’s disease.

Is there a future for missions?

Virginia A. Hostetler
Editorial | By Virginia A. Hostetler | Jul 18, 2017 | 1 comment

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about missions. The feature in this issue is Part 2 in a series focussing on partnerships between congregations and Witness workers. These workers were sent by Mennonite Church Canada on our behalf, to use their skills and their passions alongside local Christians for the work of God in those unique settings. (See Part 1 here and Part 2 here.)

Going further together, Part 2

Russ Friesen, right, visits Jeanette Hanson in China during a China-Canada pastor exchange. The visit helped to strengthen the mission partnership between the Hansons and Friesen’s church, Tiefengrund Mennonite. (Photos courtesy of Lorena Friesen)

Feature | Jul 18, 2017

‘I thought this type of support was normal’

Jeanette and Todd Hanson

By Donna Schulz, Saskatchewan Correspondent, Rosthern, Sask.

Although they have had other mission partnerships over the years, Jeanette Hanson marvels at the support she and her husband Todd have received from their two home congregations.

Readers write: July 24, 2017 issue

Viewpoints | Jul 18, 2017

Millennial wants to sing a variety of music in church
Re: “What music rankles you?” column, March 13, page 8.
I couldn’t agree with this article more. As a millennial teenager, I am mixed in with the generation of people who only like church if it’s like a concert. My opinion is that there should be a mixture of music in church every Sunday. We have to find a middle ground between hymns and contemporary music to help the church grow.

Serving up your inner scapegoat

Coreena Stewart
Viewpoints | By Coreena Stewart | Jul 18, 2017

One late Friday afternoon when the office was nearly empty, two clean-cut young men showed up at the Mennonite Church Canada reception desk to inquire about pension benefits for their widowed mother. Assuming they were sons of a pastor, the receptionist sent them my way. As chief administrative officer, helping such people out is part of my job.

A spacious year

Melissa Miller
Viewpoints | By Melissa Miller | Jul 18, 2017

A year ago, I said goodbye to my job and stepped into an unknown future. In truth, the future is always unknown, or beyond certainty, as my father would qualify when he spoke of plans, concluding, “Lord willing.” The same acknowledgement comes from our Muslim friends who say inshallah with a similar meaning.

Continuous pruning

Harold Penner
Viewpoints | By Harold Penner | Jul 18, 2017

With the arrival of summer, my wife and I have been enjoying more time outside. Our yard contains many different fruit trees, shrubs and grapevines that provide shade, beauty, and a harvest of berries and fruits. The trees and shrubs are easily managed. However, the grapevines are another story.

Edward Beatty

Photo from the Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies

Viewpoints | By Conrad Stoesz | Jul 18, 2017 | 1 comment

Edward Beatty, front row right, and John Dennis, behind him, speak with Mennonite girls. Dennis was a young man in 1874 who witnessed the Mennonite immigration to Manitoba. Over the next decades, he observed that the Mennonites were honest, hardworking and trustworthy farmers. By 1922, he was a commissioner of the Canadian Pacific Railway. He convinced Beatty, his boss, to extend credit of $400,000 to bring Mennonites from Russia to Canada based on a handshake with Bishop David Toews and the Mennonites’ good name.  The amount grew to $1.7 million.

Wisdom, where art thou? (Pt. 10)

Troy Watson
Viewpoints | By Troy Watson | Jul 18, 2017

Someone once said to me, “The problem with Christians is they are all mental!”

As I reflected on his disparaging comment, I realized he had a point. Not the point he was trying to make, implying all Christians suffer from “a psychiatric disorder,” which is the second definition of the word “mental.” My epiphany came to me when I considered his statement in light of the first definition of “mental,” which means “of, or related to, the mind.”

Constants in the context of change

John H. Neufeld

Viewpoints | By John H. Neufeld | Jul 18, 2017

If I were to give a 14-minute TED Talk in our church context before the restructuring assembly for Mennonite Church Canada and its area churches in October, this is the gist of what I would want to communicate. I would like to ask and give an answer to an important question: What is it that is more important for all of us than our current and necessary restructuring? Or, to put it another way, what is the core vision for the church that undergirds whatever structures we create and is foundational for the life of every congregation?

Immersive experience

Jim Brown, Tavistock (Ont.) Mennonite Church’s intentional interim pastor, emerges from the dunk tank during the congregation’s 75th-anniversary celebration on June 25, 2017. (Photo by Dave Rogalsky)

God at work in the Church | By Dave Rogalsky | Jul 18, 2017

On June 25, 2017, Tavistock Mennonite Church’s intentional interim pastor, Jim Brown, got his feet—and more—wet, as the congregation acknowledged three-quarters-of-a-century of worship and mission in the village, and had fun dunking him in the process.

The congregation also offered a free chicken dinner to the first 400 who signed up. While some of those were former members and from neighbouring churches, the hope was to open the doors to the community at large. A service filled with music and trivia helped celebrate what God has done over the years.

Creating a we-centred world

Cassie Bobbitt, Richella Li, Olivia Atherton-Reimer and Kate Boyer bag dehydrated vegetables at Okanagan Gleaners in Oliver, B.C. (Photo courtesy of Rosthern Junior College)

God at work in the World | By Donna Schulz | Jul 18, 2017

As far as David Epp is concerned, the 2016-17 school year was “a real success.” His first year of teaching at Rosthern Junior College (RJC) was also the first year of the school’s Imagine program for Grade 10 students.

A social-justice initiative offering integrated learning in English, history, Spanish and Christian ethics, Imagine also provides experiential-learning opportunities both in and outside the classroom.

‘Your joy becomes my joy’

Muslim students from the University of Waterloo sit with Conrad Grebel University College students as they participate in an interfaith fast-a-thon, ending in an iftar dinner. (Photo by Jennifer Konkle)

God at work in the World | By Jennifer Konkle | Jul 18, 2017

For Muslim students at the University of Waterloo, long spans of fasting during the longest days of the year are over and may already feel like a distant memory. However, it was just a few weeks ago that students were stretching the limits of their bodies as they refrained from eating or drinking each day while the sun was up. This religious practice during Ramadan becomes even more difficult for university students living away from the support of their families for the first time.

World Refugee Day celebrated in B.C.

Children of the Kabala and Djumaine families of Mission, B.C., perform a dance at the celebration of World Refugee Day in Abbotsford’s Mill Lake Park on June 24, 2017. (Photo by Amy Dueckman)

God at work in the World | By Amy Dueckman | Jul 18, 2017

“We are here to celebrate with you,” said Melissa Giles, director of programs for Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) B.C., as she praised the strength, courage and perseverance of millions of refugees around the world at a World Refugee Day event held in Abbotsford’s Mill Lake Park on June 24, 2017, that included speakers, song and dance.

“At MCC, refugee sponsorship is so important to our work,” she added, lauding newcomers to Canada and those who have welcomed them.

Audience finds CO play deeply moving

Although conscientious objectors were pacifists, they organized boxing matches at the alternative service camps. Pictured, Alvin Bender (played by Johnny Wideman) spars with Rudy Enns (played by Ben Wert). (Photo by Barb Draper)

Artbeat | By Barb Draper | Jul 18, 2017

Glenn Martin’s voice was deep with emotion as he expressed appreciation for Yellow Bellies, a drama that describes the experiences of Mennonite conscientious objectors (COs) during the Second World War.

What does the past mean for the present?

Artbeat | By Max Kennel | Jul 18, 2017

The past two years have seen the publication of two interesting new collections of academic writing on Mennonite themes, one theological and the other historical. While other reviewers such as Jamie Pitts and Ben Goossen have reviewed these books in detail elsewhere, I would like to reflect on them in much broader terms and ask what they might mean for Mennonites today.

CM honoured by national church press association

Dec. 12, 2016 issue, designed by Ross W. Muir and Dan Johnson (Edition Layout and Design-Magazine-Circulation Above 10,000, honourable mention).

Artbeat | By Ross W. Muir | Jul 18, 2017

Canadian Mennonite executive editor Virginia A. Hostetler attended the Canadian Church Press (CCP) awards banquet, held in Quebec City on June 22, at which she received writing and layout/design certificates for work published in 2016. CCP, an association of 62 publications, exists to “encourage higher standards of religious journalism and a more positive and constructive Christian influence on contemporary civilization.” CM’s seven awards of merit are:

Breaking the silence

While living in Cambodia, Jaymie Friesen, centre, coordinated a therapeutic photography course for women exiting the sex trade. (Photo courtesy of Jaymie Friesen)

Young Voices | By Rachel Bergen | Jul 18, 2017

For Jaymie Friesen, responding to abuse and preventing it in communities of faith is a personal calling. As the abuse response and prevention coordinator at Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Manitoba, Friesen supports churches and individuals, and works to raise awareness of abuse and trauma.

Prior to beginning her position with MCC, Friesen worked with survivors of abuse in Southeast Asia through an organization called Daughters of Cambodia, where she coordinated a therapeutic photography course for women exiting the sex trade.

The odd couple

Mike Wiebe, Raya Cornelsen, Rebecca Klassen-Wiebe and Lauren Harms visit with Erwin Cornelsen in his kitchen. (Photo of Jonas Cornelsen)

Young Voices | By Aaron Epp | Jul 18, 2017 | 1 comment

When Jonas Cornelsen tells people he spent the last year living with, and caring for, his grandfather in Vancouver, they often praise him.

While Jonas appreciated his time with his grandfather, the praise makes him uncomfortable.

“The set-up sounds pretty [idyllic], like a good family movie,” says the 23-year-old, who returned to his home city of Winnipeg last month. “You know, the grandson spends time listening to his wise old grandfather, and they go to church together and do all these wholesome things. But internally I was struggling with anxiety and loneliness.” 

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