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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 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 alternate rites of passage for African girls

Ana Laizer, right, poses with Paulina Sumayani, director of TEMBO. Laizer participated in the Sara and Juma program at her school and decided she didn’t want to undergo female genital mutilation or be married at a young age. (MCC photo by Tiffanee Wright)

Web First | By Rachel Bergen | Yesterday

Ana Laizer is a grade nine student in Longido, Tanzania, and she dreams of going to university to become a successful businesswoman.

For many girls Laizer’s age, this dream might never become reality. Access to education isn’t just limited by school fees and uniforms, but also by cultural expectations that girls stop attending after grade six and instead take part in cultural rituals to prepare them for marriage.

Anti-racism is a ‘lifelong pursuit’

Drew Hart discusses his public presentation with Noramy Gonzalia Diaz, the youth worker at First Mennonite Church in Kitchener, during Rockway Mennonite Collegiate’s 2017 Spiritual Emphasis Week. (Photo by Dave Rogalsky)

Web First | By Dave Rogalsky | Yesterday

“It’s taken us four hundred years to get to here,” said Drew Hart at Rockway Mennonite Collegiate’s 2017 Spiritual Emphasis Week, held over three days in late September 2017. The assistant professor of theology at Messiah College, a private Christian college founded in 1909 by the Brethren in Christ Church, in Mechanicsburg, Pa., was speaking of his lived reality as an African-American man in a racially divided country.

Dru Hart is the author of the Herald Press book Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism. 

MCC responds to Irma’s devastation in Caribbean

Osa Jonmarits, a community health organizer in La Chapelle, Haiti, receives a comforter, a Mennonite Central Committee relief bucket and water purification tablets after his home and property were damaged by flooding from Hurricane Irma. (MCC photo by Annalee Giesbrecht)

Web First | Oct 03, 2017

Haiti 

Osa Jonmarits and his family were awakened in the middle of the night as water rushed into their mud-and-stone house on the mountains of La Chapelle, Haiti, and covered them in their beds.

The flash flooding came from Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 hurricane that passed to the north of Haiti on Sept. 7. It caused flash floods and heavy winds from the country’s northern shores to its deep interior, where La Chapelle is located.

Viewpoint: Why we change hymn texts

Each new hymnal committee assesses and edits hymns. Pictured are notes concerning textual changes for the 1969 Mennonite Hymnal. (Photo by Adam Tice)

Web First | By Katie Graber | Oct 03, 2017

Should hymns be sung in their original form or should they be updated? This is a more complicated question than it may seem. Take “Be Thou My Vision,” for instance. Hymnal Companion discusses three versions of this song: the Old Irish poem from the eighth century, a 1905 English translation, and a later “versified” or metered version. If someone wanted to be true to the original, which version would they believe we ought to sing? Or, if someone wanted to update the language, could they do so without losing the stately poetry?

Annual relief festival raises $1 million

More than 1,200 volunteers of all ages help make the MCC B.C. Festival for World Relief possible. (Photo by Katrina Grabowski)

Web First | Oct 03, 2017

More than 20,000 people attended the annual Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) British Columbia Festival for World Relief over two days in mid-September at the Abbotsford TRADEX, helping to raise more than $1 million to support MCC’s relief, development and peace work locally and around the world.

The annual Bread of Life auction, which raises funds for food security projects, contributed more than $230,000 to the festival’s fundraising total. This year, these donations will support food security projects in Kenya, assisting more than 9,000 households.

Mennonite helps Lutherans commemorate the Reformation

Mennonite Willard Metzger shares a sermon with delegates to the 16th Biennial Convention of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada. Metzger is executive director of Mennonite Church Canada. (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada photo)

Web First | By Deborah Froese | Oct 03, 2017

Serving communion at the 16th Biennial Convention of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) was a profoundly humbling experience for Willard Metzger.

“I felt as though I was surrounded by a huge cloud of Anabaptist witnesses from the past,” says Mennonite Church Canada’s executive director.

The significance of that statement is deeply rooted in history.

General Board confession

Web First | Sep 29, 2017 | 11 comments

As the General Board of Mennonite Church Canada anticipates potential change following the Special Assembly, we are reminded of things done, and not done. We are deeply aware of weakness and strength. We are aware of successes and failures. We are aware that the journey is not over, and significant challenges remain.

Great Day of Singing planned for October 22

Mennonite congregations are invited to plan a worship service on Oct. 22, 2017, using sample resources from the new Resonate project.  (Photo courtesy of MennoMedia)

Web First | Sep 19, 2017

A 16-page sampler of the new Mennonite worship and song collection is available for free congregational download. Called the “Great Day of Singing,” the sampler is designed as a resource to plan worship for October 22, 2017.

This one-day event is planned by the Mennonite Worship and Song Committee as a way for individuals and congregations to sample some new music and worship resources, and to provide feedback to the committee.

New award brings diversity to Grebel campus

The Mennonite Diversity Award is designed to make an educational experience at Grebel accessible to Mennonite students from culturally diverse backgrounds. (Photo courtesy of Conrad Grebel University College)

Web First | Sep 19, 2017

Living in Toronto for 46 years, Mary Groh was increasingly surrounded by a multicultural society. As an active member of Danforth Mennonite Church there, following the closure of Warden Woods Mennonite Church, she witnessed the growth of various Mennonite congregations in the east end of Toronto.

A cry for home

Reverend Ashraf Tannous, pastor at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Beit Sahour, in Palestine’s West Bank, is working for peace in the Middle East. (MCC photo by Emily Loewen)

Web First | By Laura Kalmar | Sep 19, 2017

Everyone needs a home where families are safe and secure, where their basic needs are met, where they can come and go freely, and where they can imagine a future. 

But that is not the reality for most Palestinians, or even for some Israelis.

In September 2017, Mennonite Central Committee Canada (MCC) is releasing its first collection in a series of videos featuring stories of people who make their home in Palestine and Israel. Some may be surprising. Some may prompt questions. And some may compel you to action.

Overdue dictionary

The online Dictionary of African Christian Biography aims to collect, preserve, and make accessible biographical accounts and church histories to foster an understanding of African Christianity.

Web First | By John Longhurst | Sep 18, 2017

He was known as southern Africa’s Billy Graham.

His name was Nicholas Bhengu, and he was an evangelist with the Assemblies of God in South Africa from the 1940s until his death in 1985.

During his ministry, tens of thousands of people attended his crusades, and thousands were converted. He started more than 50 churches. More than 20,000 people attended his funeral. And yet, Bhengu is almost completely unknown to Christians outside Africa.

Jonathan Bonk, a member of Fort Garry Mennonite Church in Winnipeg, Man., is on a mission to change that.

Relief efforts underway to address flooding, displacement in South Asia

Women collect dry rations from the government relief camp in Naihati, West Bengal, India. Millions of people in India, Nepal and Bangladesh have been impacted by the recent monsoon flooding. In West Bengal, Mennonite Central Committee’s partner Nabarun Seva Niketan is providing food assistance to 1,500 flood-affected families. MCC is also partnering with Economic Rural Development Society to provide a food basket for 1,520 families in Malda district, West Bengal. (MCC photo)

Web First | By Hannah Heinzekehr | Sep 08, 2017

At the same time that Tropical Storm Harvey was making landfall in Texas, people in Bangladesh, India and Nepal were experiencing devastating floods that have left millions of people displaced and killed over 1,200 people.

South Asia is prone to flooding during monsoon season, from June to September each year, but authorities have said “this year’s floods have been much worse,” according to reporting by The Guardian. Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) is joining partners in all three countries to help with relief efforts.

Helen’s Bean Sprouts

Web First | By Ken Reddig | Sep 06, 2017

This recipe is a family favourite for Ken and Willa Reddig and was regularly served in Willa’s home when she was growing up in the 1950s and 60s. While on their honeymoon, 50 years ago, Ken and Willa made a surprising discovery about the recipe’s origins. To see that story, go to “Midwestern recipe has surprising origin.” 

Meat Sauce
1 lb. round steak or stewing beef, cubed
1 tablespoon oil
1½ cups water
2 tablespoons flour

Surrey church embraces Karen refugees

Living Hope Christian Fellowship, of Surrey B.C.,  likes to have fun during worship services, including an installation service for youth pastors Derek Dovale and Bless Len. (Living Hope Christian Fellowship photo)

Web First | By Amy Dueckman | Sep 06, 2017 | 1 comment

For Living Hope Christian Fellowship of Surrey, hosting Karen refugees from Burma is not a movie plot, it’s reality.

Beginning in 2006, Karen refugees started moving into low-income housing near Living Hope, including the Thein family, who were first part of Cedar Hills Mennonite Church, Living Hope’s predecessor. The Theins had first settled in Yarrow and were part of the Yarrow United Mennonite Church before moving to Surrey.

MDS volunteers heading to Bloomington, Texas

Mennonite Disaster Service workers and county officials speak with an unidentified homeowner in Bloomington, Texas, about the damage to his home by Hurricane Harvey. MDS volunteer project coordinator Carl Dube, left, speaks with the homeowner, along with Victoria County commissioner Danny Garcia and Wayne Stuckey, MDS Region 3 board chair. (MDS photo by Nate Schlabach)

Web First | Sep 02, 2017

The Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) assessment team moved deeper into the devastating footprint of Hurricane Harvey on August 31, 2017, as they visited the town of Bloomington, Texas, southwest of Houston in Victoria County, U.S.A.

The impact of Harvey suddenly became more intense for the team as the damage was evident “block after block” in the town, according to MDS executive director Kevin King, who is leading the assessment team. “There is hardly anyone here right now, but of those who are, some are sleeping outside on sofas under tarps.”

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 | 3 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.

MC USA acknowledges ‘suffering’ of Jews, Palestinians

Web First | Jul 15, 2017

Culminating a three-year process, delegates at the Mennonite Church USA assembly in Orlando earlier this month adopted a resolution entitled “Seeking peace in Israel and Palestine,” with approximately 98 percent voting in favor. The resolution addresses the injustices of military occupation as well as the suffering caused by antisemitism.

The resolution notes that “the suffering of [Palestinians and Jews] has too often been set against the other. We recognize, rather, that the legacy of Jewish suffering is intertwined with the suffering of Palestinians.”

A man worthy of his calling

Darrell W. Fast

Web First | By Ross W. Muir | Jul 15, 2017

Darrell W. Fast, born in Mountain Lake, Minn., passed away at the Leamington (Ont.) Mennonite Home, leaving Loretta Fast, his wife, his children Douglas (Michelle) Fast and Larissa Fast, two grandchildren, and many friends, relatives and former colleagues to mourn his passing.

After graduating from Mennonite Biblical Seminary (now Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary), Elkhart, Ind., in 1966, he began a life of service to the church on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border for the next 40 years.

MWC says farewell to a faithful servant

Glenn Fretz is pictured with the initial planning map and some of the hallway signage he designed for Assembly 16 in Harrisburg, Pa., in 2015. (Photo by Byron Rempel-Burkholder)

Web First | By Karla Braun | Jul 15, 2017

You may not have heard of one of the longest-serving workers for Mennonite World Conference (MWC) who is retiring this year, but many will be familiar with his work.

Glenn Fretz was at the beginning of his career as a designer when Paul Kraybill, a former MWC general secretary, contacted the resident of Waterloo, Ont., to do all the design work related to Assembly 10 in 1978. He designed the publications in multiple languages, created signage that features pictorial symbols to communicate across cultures without using words, and he created the organization’s logo.

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