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Hearing stories dispels fear

Glad for an opportunity to relax after a week of exams, Saskatchewan youth listen to Cory Funk’s presentation at this year’s SMYO senior high retreat.

God at work in the Church | By Donna Schulz | Today

Retreats present opportunities for building relationships and hearing one another’s stories. Saskatchewan Mennonite Youth Organization’s senior high retreat, held January 29 to 30 at Shekinah Retreat Centre, was just such a retreat.

Evangelical Anabaptist Network generates hope and frustration

Left to right: Ryan Jantzi, pastor of the Kingsfield-Zurich Mennonite Church, John Troyer of EVANA, Ron Weber from the Listowel Mennonite Church, and Dianne Roeder from Calvary Church, an MCEC congregation in Ayr, visit during a break at the EVANA workshop at Maple View Mennonite Church on Jan. 22.

God at work in the Church | By Dave Rogalsky | Today

On January 22 to 23, Maple View Mennonite Church, with its pastor Brent Kipfer, sponsored the first Canadian workshop of the Evangelical Anabaptist Network (EVANA). Located west of Kitchener/Waterloo, Ont., the church is a member of Mennonite Church Eastern Canada (MCEC).

Reconciliation requires an end to guilty white inhibition

Chief Ellis Ross of the Haisla Nation shows Rich Coleman, B.C. Minister of Natural Gas Development, the site for a liquefied natural gas terminal near kitimat, B.C. Chief Ross favours this project but was strongly opposed to a Northern Gateway crude oil pipeline.

© “Minister Coleman Tours Northwest LNG Sites” by Province of British Columbia Licensed under CC BY 2.0

God at work in the World | By Will Braun | Today

The door to reconciliation is open further now than ever before in Canada. From Trudeau to church organizers I speak with, interest in improving relations between indigenous and non-indigenous people is far greater than even a few years ago. Yet most of the discussion leaves me feeling hollow.

If we are to seize this moment, which will likely start to fade in a few years, the discourse will need to be more practical, creative and nuanced than much of what I see.

Young entrepreneur balances profit, community and faith

Matthew Penner (right) meets with clients.

God at work in Us | By J. Neufeld | Today

Matthew Penner loves airports. Sometimes he rides his bicycle to the airport in Steinbach and simply sits next to the runway. “I would call it a sacred place for me to go and experience God’s closeness,” he says.

Penner, a pilot and a 29-year-old entrepreneur who founded his own marketing company called Three Six North, was recently among 20 young professionals honoured by the business-focused development organization Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA).

More than just punchlines

Falk talks with acclaimed novelist Miriam Toews about the humour in her work.

Young Voices | By Aaron Epp | Today

What makes Mennonites funny, and what does their sense of humour say about them?

Those are the questions at the heart of That Mennonite Joke, a new documentary from Prairie Boy Productions. Written and directed by Winnipeg filmmaker Orlando Braun, the documentary follows Niverville, Man., comedian Matt Falk as he traces the roots of Mennonite humour.

“I’m not trying to figure out what makes them funny so I can laugh at them,” says Falk, 26. “I’m trying to figure out what we’re already laughing at so I can bring other people in on the joke.”

Set up to succeed

‘I began university more prepared than most.’

Young Voices | By Amy Matychuk | Today

I paid for my undergraduate degree with scholarships and my own savings, and graduated without student debt. I am touchy about this. I tell anyone listening about how expensive it was, how I kept my grades high and earned scholarships, what weird part-time work I did and the imaginative ways I found to save money. I’m proud of myself, and I want other people to recognize the hard work and sacrifice that went into this achievement.

What people want to know about Mennonites

Erwin and Angela Rempel serve as volunteers at Third Way, a portal to information about Mennonites and Anabaptists. They respond personally to questions that the website doesn’t answer directly. (MennoMedia photo)

Web First | Feb 08, 2016

The Third Way website was re-launched last April, and by late 2015 daily visitors were averaging 750 or more. Many are seeking information about Mennonites, their beliefs and practices.

Mennonites active in Ukraine

The Mennonite Centre in Molochansk, Ukraine. Personnel from various Mennonite organizations are active in Ukraine, in economic support, education, health and social organizations, peace and justice concerns, seniors care, and evangelistic programs. (Photo courtesy of Victor Kliewer)

Web First | By Victor Kliewer | Feb 08, 2016

Various Mennonite groups and agencies have been working in Ukraine since the late 1980s, and representatives of eight organizations met in Winnipeg on Jan. 25, 2016, for an annual review of their activities. Most of the work has been done in the area of Zaporizhzhya—the area of the former Mennonite Chortitza Colony—and in the area of the former Molotschna Colony.

Mennonite heritage tours of Ukraine during the past 20 years have made North American Mennonites aware of the great social needs.

Project Ploughshares begins a new furrow

Executive director Cesar Jaramillo sits in his Project Ploughshares’ office, located at the Mennonite Savings and Credit Union Centre for Peace Advancement at Conrad Grebel University College, Waterloo, Ont. (Photo by Dave Rogalsky)

Web First | By Dave Rogalsky | Feb 08, 2016

Cesar Jaramillo, executive director at Project Ploughshares since last July, knows first-hand the need for new ways of dealing with conflict and violence.

He and his wife Paula Cardenas arrived in Toronto in January 2005 as political refugees from Colombia. Cardenas’s father was kidnapped by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas and held for ransom, and Jaramillo was the one who was sent to a remote mountain location with the money to secure his father-in-law’s release.

Video: Christ at the Coffee Shop

Pastor Kassa Lemma stands outside his “office,” a Toronto coffee shop. (Photo by D. Michael Hostetler)

Web First | Feb 03, 2016

In the spring of 2015, Pastor Kassa Lemma of Rehoboth Evangelical Church in Toronto invited Mennonite Church Canada Executive Director Willard Metzger to speak at an Ethiopian evangelistic conference. Metzger admits that his first response was hesitant. “We don’t do that anymore as Mennonites.” But he says the more he thought about it, the more he realized that Mennonites do engage in evangelism—they just go about it in different ways.

Are congregations up to it?

Dick Benner
Editorial | By Dick Benner | Jan 27, 2016 | 1 comment

With the Being a Faithful Church (BFC) process, congregations across Canada were wisely and prudently given seven years to discern the important issues confronting them in an increasingly post-Christendom era of the 21st century: multiculturalism, the state of our peace and justice beliefs and practices, and sexuality, to name the high-profile ones.

Witness workers bring forth concerns about ‘Future Directions’

Feature | Jan 27, 2016

The following is an abridged version of a letter sent to the Future Directions Task Force and Mennonite Church Canada leaders that was signed by all 24 Witness workers in light of the Task Force’s concluding report ( The report focusses on two central questions: “What is God’s Spirit calling us to in the 21st century?” and, “What are the best ways (programs, structures, strategies) for the church to thrive and grow?”

Witness workers’ concerns acknowledged

Feature | By Aldred H. Neufeldt | Jan 27, 2016

On behalf of the Future Directions Task Force I express sincere thanks for the thought and time you’ve put into the open letter received last week from Norm Dyck, Mennonite Church Canada’s Witness Council chair. (See an abridged version of the letter at “Witness workers bring forth concerns about ‘Future Directions.’ ”)

Readers write: February 1, 2016 issue

Viewpoints | Jan 27, 2016 | 1 comment

Evolutionary theory attacks Christianity

Some time ago there was a letter to the editor promoting evolutionary theory as strengthening faith. This is not Christian or scriptural.

Since evolutionary theory is atheistic, we as Christians do well to believe in God as our creator. True science does not support evolutionary theory, even though evolutionists have hijacked the word “science.”

Do we need saving?

Tim Froese
Viewpoints | By Tim Froese | Jan 27, 2016

The word “saviour” doesn’t often come up in conversation. Could it be that we are not in need of saving? Perhaps we face no imminent danger. Or perhaps there is nothing in recent history that reminds us of rescue, liberation, redemption or salvation. Maybe we can save ourselves through our own devices. Or maybe we are so inclined to view everything in shades of grey that a concept like salvation draws a line where we think there shouldn’t be one.

A transformational moment

Melissa Miller
Viewpoints | By Melissa Miller | Jan 27, 2016

“I wonder where my wrapping paper is,” my mother mused. “I know I’m not supposed to go to the attic, but I did. Maybe it’s up there.” (The attic is a garage loft, accessible by a pull-down ladder.) I was the only witness to my mother’s “confession” as we sat together in her home; at the time, I had been savouring a sweet little dish of ice cream.

Busted budget

Darren Pries-Klassen
Viewpoints | By Darren Pries-Klassen | Jan 27, 2016

There once was a congregation called Peach Blossom Community Church. It was approaching the end of the year with a significant financial shortfall, needing $60,000 to meet its annual budget. The finance committee jumped into action. Bulletin inserts used graphs and charts to illustrate the shortfall. Weekly announcements encouraged people to give generously to avoid a deficit. There was much concern. And then, at the 11th hour, several members of the church offered sizeable cheques to cover the shortfall.

The pursuit of truth (Pt. 1)

Troy Watson
Viewpoints | By Troy Watson | Jan 27, 2016

I’ve had a number of conversations recently where the topic of truth has come up. Without exception, someone inevitably says, “There is no truth with a capital T. You have your truth and I have my truth. But there is no absolute Truth.”

Funk family goes to church

Photo: Katie Funk Wiebe Collection

Viewpoints | By Jon Isaak | Jan 27, 2016

This is a photo of Mennonite writer Katie Funk Wiebe and her family driving to church circa 1940. Katie’s father, Jacob J. Funk, took the picture in front of Eigenheim Mennonite Church in Saskatchewan. Pictured from left to right: Jakie, Katie, mother Anna with her Sunday hat, Frieda, Annie and Susie. The Eigenheim church began services in 1892 and formally organized in 1894. Its first meetinghouse was constructed in 1896, and then rebuilt in 1902.

Do church and journalism mix?

Will Braun
God at work in the Church | By Will Braun | Jan 27, 2016

Journalism is a tense and often misunderstood business, especially within the church. Readers get riled, interviewees feel gypped, church leaders squirm. But in many ways the tension is the essence.

I distinguish between “newsletterism”: straight up churchy news with no probing of deeper layers (“Relief sale has record year”); devotional articles (“How relief volunteering deepened my walk with God”); opinion articles (“Why I think relief sales need to be reinvented”); and journalism (“Experts debate pros and cons of relief sales”). The latter is the diciest.

No dust gathering here!

Ralph Dahl and Ted Regehr are pictured in the vault at the Mennonite Historical Society of Alberta Archives in Calgary. The temperature- and humidity-controlled room with the light blue boxes is jokingly referred to as ‘heaven’ by the Archives’ volunteers. (Photo by Donita Wiebe-Neufeld)

God at work in the Church | By Donita Wiebe-Neufeld | Jan 27, 2016

Hearing the word “archives” may conjure sneeze-worthy stereotypes. However, a visit to the Mennonite Historical Society of Alberta Archives in Calgary quickly dispels any dusty images.

A crowd of lively volunteers surrounded by history laugh around the lunch table, sharing discoveries made during their weekly volunteer stint to preserve the history of Mennonites in Alberta.

Another necessary conversation: Mental illness and addictions

Wilf Yantzi, an elder from the Poole Mennonite Church, left, makes a point to Brice Balmer, one of the presenters at ‘Mental wellness,’ the 2016 Mennonite Church Eastern Canada annual pastors, chaplains and congregational leaders event held at Steinmann Mennonite Church, Baden, Ont., on Jan. 16, 2016. (Photo by Dave Rogalsky)

God at work in the Church | By Dave Rogalsky | Jan 27, 2016

Helping those in lay and paid pastoral care roles better minister to their congregations, some of whom deal with issues of mental illness and addictions, was the goal of “Mental wellness,” Mennonite Church Eastern Canada’s annual pastors, chaplains and congregational leaders event held Jan. 16, 2016, at Steinmann Mennonite Church in Baden.

A town that welcomes refugees

Hasan Hamam receives a stuffed animal at the Winnipeg airport. He arrived with his mother, father and his 10 siblings on Jan. 18. The Hamam family is the fourth family of Syrian refugees to arrive in Altona. (Photo by Cindy Klassen)

God at work in the World | By J. Neufeld | Jan 27, 2016

The Manitoba Prairies have a reputation for icy winters, but they should also be known for their warm hearts. This winter, the town of Altona, Man., embraced 45 new refugees from Syria, increasing its population by 1 percent.

It has been a community effort. An Altona-based charity called Build a Village spearheaded the project by sponsoring five families. Four of them have already arrived and a fifth family is expected any day.

Remade from the inside out

Josh Wallace, the new pastor of Warman (Sask.) Mennonite Church, his wife Cindy and daughter Miriam enjoy a meal out. (Photo by Richard Rich)

God at work in Us | By Donna Schulz | Jan 27, 2016

When Josh Wallace survived a serious car accident at age 10, his father said, “God saved your life in that accident, and he must have done so for a purpose.” Since then, he has tried to figure out what that purpose is.

 Josh grew up near Bozeman, Mont., in a conservative Christian milieu. As a teenager, he tasted leadership in his youth group and in the Bible club at school. These experiences helped him overcome awkwardness and focus on the needs of others. He remembers thinking, “Instead of being fearful about what everyone else thinks, I’m going to take care of other people.”

Students in STEM programs thrive at Grebel

STEM students Charly Phillips, left, Katrina Sikkens, Sonya Dyck and Amanda Enns find themselves thriving at Conrad Grebel University College and the University of Waterloo.

Focus On Education | By Jennifer Konkle | Jan 27, 2016

Conrad Grebel University College is home to a diverse mix of students studying in all six faculties at the University of Waterloo (UofW) in Ontario. In partnership with UofW, Grebel aims to boost female student participation in Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) programs, thereby increasing the potential for future female leaders. Grebel is well-positioned to support students in these traditionally male-dominated disciplines.