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‘This is not the end of life’

Feryal, right, now leads a team of young volunteers sharing their own stories about being displaced with other displaced families in Iraq’s northern Ninewa Governorate. She, her parents Fatima and Elyas, and her sister Jandar live in a camp for displaced people after fleeing from the Islamic State group. (MCC photo by Matthew Sawatzky)

Web First | By Marla Pierson Lester | Aug 23, 2016

By the time Feryal arrived at a camp for displaced people in Iraq’s northern Ninewa Governorate, she had little desire to leave the security of the tent she shared with her parents and sister. And for the first four months, she mostly stayed put.

“I didn’t like to talk to anyone, just be silent,” recalls the 22-year-old, whose last name is not used for security reasons.

The months before had been harrowing. Fleeing the Islamic State group, which killed her uncle, she and her family were among the thousands trapped on Sinjar Mountain without shelter two summers ago.

Finding God at work in the city

Web First | By Ardell Stauffer | Aug 23, 2016

God is at work and the gospel is alive in our cities, towns and communities. This is the message Marty Troyer wants to share in his new book, The Gospel Next Door, released by Herald Press.

As a pastor in Houston, Tex., Troyer has found the gospel to be thriving in the city. “People are sharing Jesus, pursuing shalom in the city,” he says, adding that the old division of evangelism and social justice breaks down as Christians combine these in life-giving ways.

Veterans’ needs provide an opportunity for learning and ministry

Matthew Stearn speaks at Eastern Mennonite Seminary about his research into post-traumatic stress disorder and veterans. (Eastern Mennonite Seminary photo by Joaquin Sosa)

Web First | By Walt Wiltschek with Lauren Jefferson | Aug 23, 2016

A conversation about the needs and issues facing military veterans has been arising in an unexpected place this year: the halls of Eastern Mennonite Seminary (EMS).

The dialogue has grown as several graduate students recently focussed their research projects for their master of divinity degrees on veterans’ concerns. They include Matt Stearn, who looked at how Mennonite denominations can provide healing communities for combat veterans, and Darin Busé, a Methodist pastor and former combat veteran who named spiritual trauma as another casualty of combat.

TREE receives Hallman grant for peace education

TREE director Katie Gingerich teaches peace education to a class at Bridgeport Public School, Kitchener, Ont., in 2015. (Conrad Grebel University College photo)

Web First | Aug 09, 2016

The Ripple Effect Education (TREE), a peace education initiative based out of the Frank and Helen Epp Peace Incubator in the MSCU Centre for Peace Advancement on the campus of Conrad Grebel University College, is the beneficiary of a $150,000 grant from the Lyle S. Hallman Foundation over three years (2016-19).

Grace New Life Mennonite turns 25, looks to future

Pastor Sririsack Saythavy stands in the entrance to Grace New Life Mennonite Church in Hamilton, Ont. (Photo by Dave Rogalsky)

Web First | By Dave Rogalsky | Aug 09, 2016

After a quarter-century of shepherding Grace New Life Mennonite Church, Pastor Sririsach Saythavy—now in his late 50s and working two full-time jobs—is hoping a younger leader will arise to take on the Hamilton, Ont., congregation. His day job is making custom doors for homes, and his evening and weekend job is pastoring the congregation.

Already a pastor in Thailand in 1990, Saythavy was sponsored by a Christian Reformed congregation, along with other Lao people, to come to Canada that year; the denomination supported him to begin a congregation in Hamilton in 1991.

Mennonites in Brazil face diversity and challenges

In 1972 Mennonites in Curitiba, Brazil, hosted the assembly of Mennonite World Conference—the first time it was held in the global south. The theme chosen for the conference, “Jesus Christ Reconciles” was ironic because cultural and theological differences stirred up controversy around the gathering. However, this assembly resulted in major changes in the conference structure to allow greater representation, especially of Third World Mennonites, in conference planning. (Photo from the Mennonite Heritage Centre archives/Mennonite Archival Image Database)

Web First | By Peter Siemens and Gladys Siemens | Aug 06, 2016

The first Mennonites arrived in Brazil in 1930, coming as refugees from Russia/Ukraine, where their property, churches and schools were taken over by the state during the Stalin years.

A refugee finds a home

Peter Krause as a young man. (Photo courtesy of Stephen Fielding)

Web First | By Stephen Fielding | Aug 04, 2016

Soviet Ukraine was a traumatic place for a Mennonite kid. Peter Krause, born in 1935 and the youngest of four brothers, had to look after himself as a preschooler. Supervision was a luxury few could afford. His parents were working in the fields, and his brothers were at school. Once a day a gracious neighbour lady would check on him.

Action seeks solution for Israelis and Palestinians

Delegates vote on Israel-Palestine resolution at the Mennonite Church Canada assembly in Saskatoon, Sask. (Photo by Matt Veith.)

Web First | By Dan Dyck | Jul 23, 2016 | 2 comments

On July 9, 2016, a clear majority of delegates to Mennonite Church Canada’s Assembly 2016 voted in favour of a resolution seeking non-violent solutions to injustices in Israel-Palestine. Only one of 343 registered delegates voted against the resolution. (The resolution can be seen below.)

A similar resolution arose at the 2014 assembly, but was tabled for further work. A motion at the 2011 Assembly encouraged congregations to become more aware of Palestine-Israel issues.

Exploring tough subjects and intense spaces

‘Tough subjects and intense spaces’ seminar leader David Driedger enjoys challenging stereotypes, pushing boundaries and making people think. He led a seminar at Assembly 2016 in Saskatoon. (Photo by Donita Wiebe-Neufeld)

Web First | By Donita Wiebe-Neufeld | Jul 20, 2016

David Driedger enjoys challenging stereotypes, pushing boundaries and making people think. “[He] often pushes against established practices and the beliefs of the church from the inside,” Ben Borne said, introducing Driedger as a speaker who loves the church and engages with tough subjects and discussions.

Driedger said, “I sign up to lead [seminars] because I want to learn a topic . . . to build capacity and find the tools to engage.”

Good news sometimes comes in small packages

Lois Siemens, centre, and Sharon Schultz present a seminar entitled “Proclaiming the good news in town and country: Stories from the rural church” at Assembly 2016 in Saskatoon. Looking on is Erwin Warkentin. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

Web First | By Donna Schulz | Jul 20, 2016

Someone once asked Sharon Schultz if she became pastor of Eyebrow (Sask.) Mennonite Church in order to help the church to die well. Schultz did some soul-searching and came to the conclusion that “I don’t think that’s why God brought us here.”

Schultz and Lois Siemens, who is pastor of Superb Mennonite Church near Kerrobert, Sask., led a seminar entitled “Proclaiming the good news in town and country: Stories from the rural church.”

As Schultz pointed out, “There are differences between rural and city churches. These are some of the ways we share good news in our context.”

‘Partnering with God’s healing and hope’

At an Assembly 2016 seminar Daniel Horne and Jason Martin invite attendees to participate in the work of Mennonite Church Canada Witness by making donations that would uncover photos of MC Canada Witness workers. By the end of the assembly, the poster was completely uncovered, and, with matching donations, more than $10,000 was raised for Witness work around the world. (Photo by Matt Veith)

Web First | By Dan Dyck | Jul 20, 2016

That 14 people out of 38 who registered showed up for the “Partnering with God’s healing and hope” seminar may have indicated some wearying of Assembly 2016 participants. But those who came paid close attention to the presentation and asked good questions about what a mission partnership with a Mennonite Church Canada Witness worker or ministry means.

Presenters Daniel Horne and Jason Martin shared a roundup of all 30 current workers in ministries and pre-emptively addressed the most common questions: What is a partnership and how does it work?

Seeing dystopian heroines as prophets

Vic Thiessen presents an Assembly 2016 seminar exploring the prophetic nature of popular dystopian films. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

Web First | By Donna Schulz | Jul 20, 2016

Readers of Canadian Mennonite know Vic Thiessen as a writer of thoughtful film reviews—an interpreter, as it were, of pop culture for Mennonites in Canada. In that same vein, he presented “The Divergent Mockingjay: Female prophets, dystopian films and life on earth in 2016” for Assembly 2016 participants.

According to Thiessen, dystopian films have the potential to be great discussion starters. They can be a way “to share with the world that there is a purpose to living, and to challenge the world, as Jesus did, to care for the poor and for creation,” he said.

‘God’s gonna trouble the water’

Doug Amstutz, right, interim pastor at Riverdale Mennonite Church at Millbank, Ont., and Susan Beaumont discuss her presentation at the MC Canada ministers’ conference on July 6. (Photo by Dave Rogalsky)

Web First | By Donita Wiebe-Neufeld | Jul 20, 2016

“Wade in the water. Wade in the water, children. . . .”

Susan Beaumont had Mennonite Church Canada ministers sing the well-known spiritual at their “Leading in a season of change” conference preceding this year’s assembly on July 6, 2016. She invited them to stop, though, with the line, “God’s gonna trouble the water.”

“God is troubling the water during these times,” Beaumont said, telling the assembled ministers that they “are going around trying to calm the waters, while it is the troubled waters that will bring about the adaptations we need.”

Moonlight musings and redemption

Donita Wiebe-Neufeld
Web First | By Donita Wiebe-Neufeld | Jul 20, 2016 | 2 comments

Despite the standing ovation, I cannot imagine I was alone in having mixed feelings about the play we had just experienced. My mind was a full cup of queasiness and a dollop of laughter stirred with hard questions as I boarded the stuffy school bus with a crowd of other Mennonite Church Canada Assembly folks for the trip back to Saskatoon.  

Mennos march for ‘Steinbach Pride’

A ‘Mennonite’ placard at the inaugural ‘Steinbach Pride’ parade on July 9. (Photo by Beth Downey Sawatzky)

Web First | By Beth Downey Sawatzky | Jul 16, 2016 | 1 comment

The march was set to begin at 11 a.m. on July 9, 2016. But at the top of the hour, Michelle McHale, whose fight for civil rights in Steinbach recently brought the city into the national spotlight, asked the crowd to indicate by applause whether they would mind “waiting for the folks on the highway,” as traffic was backed up to St. Anne, nearly 20 kilometres out of town. Steinbach’s E.A. Friesen Park erupted with clapping.

Decision roundup: Assembly 2016

At Assembly 2016 Mennonite Church Canada delegates made decisions about future directions for the church, the church’s response to the Israel/Palestine conflict, the Doctrine of Discovery, and beliefs about same-sex relationships. (Photo by Aaron Epp)

Web First | By Dan Dyck | Jul 11, 2016 | 1 comment

Assembly 2016 may become known by delegates as a watershed event.

By turns intense and emotional, joyful and worshipful, the gathered delegates made significant decisions that will impact the Mennonite Church Canada body for years to come. They met in Saskatoon, Sask., July 6 to 10, 2016.

What you need to know about Assembly 2016 discussions

Web First | Jul 04, 2016

About 500 Mennonites from across Canada will gather in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, July 6 to 10, 2016, for the Mennonite Church Canada Assembly. This event, which happens every two years, brings together people for worship, fellowship and to make decisions for the national church. (See here for the schedule, documents, and a video.) 

Assembly 2016 bits and pieces

The logo for Mennonite Church Canada’s Assembly 2016, designed by Ryan Roth Bartel, reminds the church that Faith is our connection between God and the People (Jeremiah 31:33). The dove of peace is the common symbol across MC Canada and of the peacebuilding work to which the church is called. The segmented globe reveals the cross at the centre. The hands reaching to each other symbolize how God yearns for people to love, support and join one another in the redeeming work of Christ. The colours reflect the harmony members of the church seek in the midst of diversity. 

Web First | By Canadian Mennonite staff | Jul 04, 2016

Five hundred Mennonites from across Canada will gather in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, July 6 to 10, 2016, for the Mennonite Church Canada Assembly. This gathering brings together people for worship, fellowship and decision making for the national church.

Go to the MC Canada website for information about Assembly 2016, schedule, discussion documents, a video and more. 

See here to learn about key topics the delegates will discuss.  

Assembly 2016 speakers to focus on God’s covenant

Safwat Marzouk

Web First | Jul 04, 2016

One of the highlights of Mennonite Church Canada’s assemblies are the times of worship and spiritual enrichment. The theme of Assembly 2016 (July 6-9), God~Faith-People, is paraphrased from the Old Testament text Jeremiah 31:33: “This is the covenant . . . I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”

The plenary sessions will focus on how God is creating a community of covenant that bears God’s compassion in making peace and in doing justice within the faith community, with the world beyond the faith community, and with creation.

Songs of hope and struggle

Web First | By Dave Rogalsky | Jun 30, 2016

Bryan Moyer Suderman released a new CD, I’m Glad You’re Here: Songs of Hope and Struggle, on May 6, 2016, in Stouffville, Ont. The concert was also a fundraiser for the “Welcome the Stranger” initiative for refugee support (an initiative of the Mennonite and Brethren in Christ churches in the greater Toronto area), and on the night of the concert raised almost $10,000.

Suderman describes the CD as “a kind of sound track for the church engaged in hard conversations,” and so it is pertinent to what MC Canada is doing this summer in Saskatoon.

Committee selected for Mennonite song collection

Web First | Jun 30, 2016 | 1 comment

Six women and six men from across North America have been chosen to serve on the committee for the new song collection for Mennonite churches planned for release in 2020.

The committee selections were announced by Bradley Kauffman, recently named project director for the collection, and Amy Gingerich, editorial director for MennoMedia, the agency managing the project on behalf of Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada.

Nigerian peacemaking efforts recognized with Sattler Peace Prize

Ephraim Kadala, of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria, and Hussaini Shuaibu, of the Christian and Muslim Peace Initiative, receive the Michael Sattler Peace Award from the German Mennonite Peace Committee, on behalf of their respective organizations. (Photo courtesy of the Church of the Brethren/by Kristin Flory of the Brethren Service Europe Office)

Web First | Jun 30, 2016

The 2016 Michael Sattler Peace Prize has been awarded to the Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN) and EYN’s “Christian and Muslim Peace Initiative” (CAMPI), founded in 2010 with Muslim partners.

On May 20, 2016, the German Mennonite Peace Committee (Deutsches Mennonitisches Friedenskomitee, or DMFK) presented the prize to Ephraim Kadala, EYN pastor and peace coordinator, and Hussaini Shuaibu, lecturer, mediator and Muslim partner of CAMPI, who were representing their organizations.

Loving the enemy in Burkina Faso

A woman prepares food for her family in Burkina Faso. (Mennonite Church Canada photo by Deborah Froese)

Web First | Jun 20, 2016

In a land that closely resembles the place Jesus lived more than 2,000 years ago, his words still prove true. The people of Sidi, Burkina Faso, plant their fields with the tools and methods described in the New Testament. They draw water from wells, and feed their families with crops they harvest. Some of them live by Jesus’ teaching, recorded in Matthew 5:44: “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.”

What I learned while walking the Camino

Alvin Thiessen completed the 800-kilometre pilgrimage along the Camino de Compostela. He reached the Cape of Fisterra, on the Atlantic coast, 90 kilometres past the city of Santiago de Compostela. (Photo by Alvin Thiessen)

Web First | By Alvin Thiessen | Jun 20, 2016 | 1 comment

After 10 days of walking, I come to a small town in Spain called Belorado. The day before, I had walked a gruelling 31 kilometres up and down hills, in warm and sunny spring weather. Maybe it’s the long walk and my feet are tired, or, maybe it’s the constant climbing up and down the hills, but something feels different under my left foot. I get to my hostel and take my walking shoes off to find a blister has formed under my foot. It’s a bad one!

Into the woods

Elmer Martin of Floradale, Ont., is pictured with a fawn found in the woods near Koksilah Alternative Service Work Camp on Vancouver Island, B.C., in 1942. For many COs, serving in alternative service was their first time away from home. (Mennonite Archives of Ontario photo by Jesse B. Martin)

Web First | By Laureen Harder-Gissing | Jun 15, 2016 | 1 comment

In June 1942, 3,000 Mennonites gathered at the Kitchener, Ont., train station to bid farewell to conscientious objectors (COs) bound for forest-fire fighting and tree-planting camps in British Columbia. The local newspaper noted that the crowd, larger than any that had gathered for military troop departures, “was swelled by hundreds of curious citizens, who were attracted by the singing of hymns.”