Young Voices

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Messages to the Class of 2017

Valedictorian Anika Reynar addresses the crowd during Canadian Mennonite University’s 2017 graduation ceremony last month at Immanuel Pentecostal Church in Winnipeg. (Photo by Paul Little)

Ryan Newman, left, and Jenna Song are the valedictorians at Columbia Bible College this year. (Photo by Stephanie Jantzen)

CMU Class of 2017 valedictorian Anika Reynar is the first student to graduate from the university’s interdisciplinary studies program. (Photo by Paul Little)

Rachel Trites challenges her peers to think about how they can take what they have learned with them as they move on from Conrad Grebel University College. (Photo by Jennifer Konkle)

Canadian Mennonite spoke with the 2017 valedictorians from the three Canadian post-secondary institutions affiliated with Mennonite Church Canada, to find out who they are, what their undergraduate experience has been like, and what wisdom they hope to impart on their peers.

Jenna Song and Ryan Newman
Columbia Bible College

Abbotsford, B.C.

Walking forward changed

Brandi Friesen, second from left, stands with some of the people she travelled through Nigeria with as part of a World Council of Churches program called the Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace. (Photo courtesy of Brandi Friesen)

A woman leads Sunday School at First Baptist Church in Gbagyi Villa, Kaduna, Nigeria. (Photo by Brandi Friesen)

‘As I return home, I carry with me the pain and suffering of those I have met,’ Brandi Friesen says. (Photo courtesy of Brandi Friesen)

For the last two years in February, I have been on a pilgrim journey to different regions of the world in need of peace and justice, and I will be doing the same for the next several years. This year, I made my way to the hot, complex and beautiful country of Nigeria.

With a little help from her friends

Originally from Hong Kong, Crystal Lau graduated from Rosthern (Sask.) Junior College in 2013. (Photo courtesy of Crystal Lau)

Crystal Lau, right, has been involved with a dozen student and commu-nity groups on and off campus. She is pictured, from left to right, with Nickol Alejandra, Robbie Mohrbutter and Jazmin Evers. (Photo courtesy of Crystal Lau)

Crystal Lau, back row right, is looking forward to her new role as vice-president of student affairs for the University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union. (Photo courtesy of Crystal Lau)

If it were not for the time she spent studying at Rosthern (Sask.) Junior College (RJC), Crystal Lau might not be making a difference on campus at the University of Saskatchewan (U. of S.) the way she is now.

Be not afraid

‘To a litany for survival & lisa’ by Laura Tait. In an artist statement, Tait said that this piece is a response to her relationship and experience with the poem, ‘A Litany for Survival’ by feminist and civil rights activist Audre Lorde.

This piece by Stephen Kang takes its name from two quotations from the 2005 film Batman Begins: ‘Took quite a fall, didn’t we, Master Bruce?’ and, ‘And why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves back up again.’

An acrylic painting by Jen Kornelsen. In an artist statement, Kornelsen said that she ‘comes from a family of creative people and has always enjoyed adding beauty to whatever blank space she has.’

‘Adult Dipylidium caninum’ by Jillian Reimer. Reimer, a biology student at the University of Manitoba, created this depiction of a tapeworm using ink on paper. ‘The alien beauty of tapeworms . . . challenges us to re-examine our fear of disease and death,’ she said in a statement.

A piece by Haeon (Grace) Kang, who is an immigrant from South Korea.

Sarah Ens contributed a series of images from an Instagram account she runs that is dedicated to photos of Balto, her cat. The account ‘began as a silly idea born from the recognition and admiration of Balto’s obvious star power, but quickly became an experiment in creative discipline, vulnerability and confidence,’ Ens said in a statement.

‘Vague Orange Man’ by Jon Owen; acrylic paint on canvas, 2017. Owen is an American studying art in Winnipeg. ‘A Mennonite by choice instead of culture, I’m inspired by the low peaceable folk’s smoldering action,’ he said in a statement.

‘Crafty Minions’ by Andrew Hiebert. ‘The work is based on the lure and potential dangers in travel, adventure and pushing the boundaries, with an assumption of God’s presence throughout,’ Hiebert said in his artist statement.

“Fear[full]: We shall [not] be consumed” was the theme at this year’s Mennofolk, an annual event that celebrates art and music made by people associated with the Mennonite community in southern Manitoba.

More than 30 artists submitted artwork to the event, held on March 25, 2017, at X-Cues, a café and lounge in Winnipeg’s West End. Local bands Rosebud and Darling Twig performed.

A personal pilgrimage

Topics like indigenous-settler relations and land rights issues became real for Erin Froese, middle, while working at Mennonite Church Manitoba’s Camp Koinonia. (Camps with Meaning photo)

Historian James A.M. Ritchie is one of two people who taught Erin Froese the history of the land that Camp Koinonia sits on. (Photo courtesy of Erin Froese)

Erin Froese is co-organizing MC Canada’s upcoming Pilgrimage for Indigenous Rights. (Photo by Aaron Epp)

For Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) student Erin Froese, taking a break from studying in the classroom has allowed her to pursue her interest in healing broken relationships between indigenous and settler peoples.

Step back in history

Brubacher House was built in 1850 in a style typical of Pennsylvania German architecture. (Photo by Jennifer Konkle)

Joshua and Laura Enns took over as hosts of Brubacher House in Waterloo, Ont., on Feb. 1, 2017. (Photo by Aurrey Drake)

Laura and Joshua Enns were inspired to work at Brubacher House after volunteering with the Iona Community in Scotland.(Photo by Aurrey Drake)

Joshua Enns goes through less than two kilograms of flour each week baking bread for himself and his wife Laura. By comparison, the original inhabitants of the house they live in went through 45 kilos.

Playing for fun and credit

Anna Lysack has played the violin for 15 years. (Photo by Aaron Epp)

Originally a rock drummer, Matt Schellenberg is one of two percussionists in the Mennonite Community Orchestra. (Photo by Aaron Epp)

Dayna Wiebe had never played in an orchestra prior to joining the Mennonite Community Orchestra. (Photo by Aaron Epp)

Legendary rock ‘n’ roll drummers Keith Moon and Neil Peart inspired Matt Schellenberg to get into percussion, but it’s Bach and Beethoven that he will be playing when he performs next month.

Schellenberg is one of a handful of young adults who are members of the Mennonite Community Orchestra (MCO) in Winnipeg. The MCO is the orchestra-in-residence at Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) and consists of more than 50 professional and amateur musicians; it will perform its annual spring concert on April 9, 2017, in the chapel at CMU.

Field of dreams

Kalynn Spain's  interest in agriculture led her to visit 130 small farms throughout Manitoba. (Photo courtesy of Kalynn Spain)

Jedidiah Morton has worked on a dairy farm for the past eight-and-a-half years. (Photo courtesy of Jedidiah Morton)

‘I’m a dairyman, and that’s never gonna change,’ Jedidiah Morton says. (Photo courtesy of Jedidiah Morton)

Kalynn Spain spent a summer raising pigs at Camp Assiniboia. (Photo courtesy of Kalynn Spain)

Owning a farm is a dream come true for Nathan Klassen. (Photo courtesy of Nathan Klassen)

What are the risks and rewards for people who choose a life on the farm? Young Voices spoke with three young Canadian Mennonites who work in agriculture to find out.

Jedidiah Morton, 23
Didsbury, Alta.

Jedidiah Morton isn’t the first person in his family to work in the dairy industry. His great-grandfather, Abram Lowen, settled in the Beaverlodge area in northern Alberta in the late 1920s and shipped cream.

“I guess you could say I’m bringing dairy back to my family,” Morton says.

Finding belonging

Katrina Woelk is looking for a new church home in Winnipeg. (Photo courtesy of Katrine Woelk)

Finding a new church to belong to can be difficult. Just ask Katrina Woelk.

Woelk grew up at Emmanuel Mennonite Church in Winkler, Man., but now lives in Winnipeg, where she is studying social work at the University of Manitoba. After four years of commuting home for weekends, the 22-year-old is ready to deepen her roots in Winnipeg, and that includes finding a church home in the city.

‘I eat your garbage’

This meal brought to you by dumpster diving. (Photo courtesy of Nathaniel De Avila)

Thanks to dumpster diving, Nathaniel De Avila hasn’t had to purchase groceries in the past year. (Photo by Aaron Epp)

Nathaniel De Avila and his fellow foragers found all this food in dumpsters. (Photo courtesy of Nathaniel De Avila)

Growers trash 30 percent of their products because grocery stores won’t purchase blemished fruits and vegetables. (Photo courtesy of Nathaniel De Avila)

I am a thief. I steal our food system’s waste.

Let’s be clear. Grocery stores throw edible food into their dumpsters. I go to those dumpsters and jump in. I dig through boxes and bags, and salvage everything I can find. I take it to my house and painstakingly sort through it. I cut and clean vegetables and fruit. I repackage damaged and open packages of dry goods. I rinse and re-label canned goods. I dry herbs and peppers. I freeze bread, meat, cheese, vegetables, fruit and almost everything else.

Passion for reconciliation leads to recognition

Allison Goerzen has worked for Mennonite Central Committee Alberta for the past year-and-a-half. (Photo courtesy of Allison Goerzen)

Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi, back row, third from right, poses with some of the Alberta Council for Global Cooperation’s 2017 Top 30 Under 30, including Allison Goerzen, front row, middle. (Photo courtesy of Allison Goerzen)

The Blanket Exercise invites participants to experience Canadian history from indigenous perspectives. (MCC photo courtesy by Alison Ralph)

The work of Allison Goerzen, bottom left, includes participating in things like Uprooted, a three-week learning tour for young adults through Mexico, Guatemala and Arizona. (Photo courtesy of Thomas Coldwell)

An organization that works toward ending poverty and achieving a better world has recognized a young Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Alberta employee for the reconciliation work she does with indigenous peoples.

The Alberta Council for Global Cooperation named Allison Goerzen to its annual Top 30 Under 30 list of young people who are creating a more just and sustainable world. The 2017 list was announced at the beginning of February in a special magazine the Council published.

Bringing courage and hope to Burundi

Jackson Nahayo started a clinic in the East African country of Burundi that helps thousands of people. (Photo by Aaron Epp)

The Ubuntu Medical Clinic is a 32-bed hospital that also includes supporting agriculture projects. (Photo courtesy of Jackson Nahayo)

The staff at the clinic includes three medical doctors, one midwife, two lab technicians and 13 registered nurses. (Photo courtesy of Jackson Nahayo)

Jackson Nahayo knows a thing or two about turning tragedy into triumph.

Left for dead as a child in the jungles of his native Burundi by the rebel soldiers who kidnapped him, he eventually made his way to Canada. After receiving his education, he returned to the East African country from which he hails to start a community hospital.

“When I came back [to Burundi] . . . I asked myself, ‘How can I help with issues like malaria? How can I bring courage and hope?’ Because no one was doing anything,” he says.

Songs about growing up, climate change and empowerment

Zach Rempel and Nathaniel De Avila recorded parts of Rosebud’s debut album at Sargent Avenue Mennonite Church in Winnipeg. (Photo by Aaron Epp)

Zach Rempel wrote the 11 songs on Night after travelling abroad for a year.

Jamison Isaak came up with the Teen Daze moniker while studying at Columbia Bible College. (Photo by Sharalee Prang)

Themes for Dying Earth marks Teen Daze’s return to ambient electronic music.

Alexa Dirks released her solo debut as Begonia this month. (Photo by Adam Kelly)

Alexa Dirks released her solo debut as Begonia this month. (Photo by Brittany Deck)

Alexa Dirks co-produced Lady in Mind with two members of acclaimed experimental pop sextet Royal Canoe.

In the last issue of Canadian Mennonite, we introduced you to Sparky and the Plugs, a bluegrass quartet from the Saskatoon area that got its start playing music in church. Read about three more music acts with Mennonite roots who have new albums out.


You guessed it. Winnipeg music duo Rosebud takes its name from the sled belonging to the titular character in Orson Welles’ classic 1941 film, Citizen Kane.

Carving a new peace path

Teachers want to integrate peace education into their classrooms but don’t always have the time or resources to do so, Katie Gingerich says. (Conrad Grebel University College photo)

Katie Gingerich is director of The Ripple Effect Education (TREE), an elementary-school peace-education initiative. (Conrad Grebel University College photo)

TREE facilitators like Perri Termine led six-week workshops in 10 different Grade 6 classrooms last fall. (Conrad Grebel University College photo)

A young woman in Waterloo, Ont., is using her passion for peace to positively impact students.

Katie Gingerich, 24, is director of The Ripple Effect Education (TREE), a peace-education initiative that integrates conflict resolution and social-justice concepts into social studies curriculum in elementary school classrooms.

‘Sparky’ music

Jill Wiens, left, Curtis Wiens, Zac Schellenberg and Clay Buhler are Sparky and the Plugs. (Photo courtesy of Zac Schellenberg)

Sparky and the Plugs recorded their debut album live off the floor in two days last August. (Album art courtesy of Zac Schellenberg)

Jill Wiens, left, Curtis Wiens, Zac Schellenberg and Clay Buhler have been friends since they were teenagers. (Photo by Aleta Schellenberg)

They might perform at cafes, bars and festivals throughout the Saskatoon area these days, but bluegrass quartet Sparky and the Plugs got their start playing music in church.

Guitarist Zac Schellenberg says that doing special music and accompanying hymns at Mount Royal Mennonite Church gave the group a safe place to get their feet wet.

Caring for the forgotten

Jared Redekop has seen and done a lot in just over a year of working as a spiritual health practitioner at the Children’s Hospital of Winnipeg.

One experience that most sticks out is when a family asked him to say a prayer at their teenage daughter’s interment. He had journeyed with the family, which was not religious, for the six weeks from when their 14-year-old was in an automobile accident to when she died.

“I have a special spot in my heart for that family,” he says. “I’m grateful that they allowed me into their lives.”

Voices singing ‘Let’s be jolly’ . . .

Nolan Kehler knows a thing or two about music. In addition to studying vocal performance at Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg, the 22-year-old works part-time as an AM radio DJ and also as a producer for CBC Manitoba.

Kehler has played drums for a number of Winnipeg musical acts, including Pocket Change, Kenzie Jane, and Rhia Rae and the Rubies. If that weren’t enough musical involvement, he is also the founder and editor of a blog that is posting reviews of each album on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of 500 greatest albums of all time.

Painting as problem-solving

For Winnipeg artist Megan Krause, painting is a process of problem solving.

“I never plan a piece ahead of time. Not anymore, anyway,” the 32-year-old says. “It’s all intuitively done.”

Krause starts her paintings by playing and experimenting with how to apply the paint, dripping here and splattering there to see what happens. Then she begins to shape the painting.

On plausibility structures and faith

From 2011 to 2013, I was a resident of the Menno Simons Centre, a not-for-profit student residence located near the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver. At Menno, I found a tight-knit community, a sense of home in a new city and inspiring Christian friendships. I also found my wife Cara.

In June 2014, Cara and I moved back “home” to be the residence coordinators of the Menno Simons Centre. Since then, we have experienced tremendous joy in helping others find the same things that we found there.

Reaching out to help other people

For Johise Namwira, being a student and being an activist go hand in hand.

During the 2015-16 school year, the 19-year-old was involved with a variety of different groups on campus at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg. She served as the women’s liaison on the Arts Student Body Council, ensuring that all of the group’s events were inclusive of women. Namwira was also a member of the Justice for Women student group, as well as the university’s Oxfam group, which organizes events to raise awareness about global poverty and injustice.

Self-discovery through improvisational theatre

Winnipeg filmmaker Brad Leitch’s next project is a deeply personal one.

The 30-year-old, who attends Hope Mennonite Church in the city, is making a documentary about “playback theatre,” a form of performance art that involves audience members sharing a story from their lives and an acting troupe immediately playing back that story using a variety of improvisational techniques.

Shaping life on campus

For many people, studying at college or university is about more than just going to classes. It’s about connecting with peers at social events, service projects and forums that happen outside the classroom.

Often, these events are planned by the student council. To find out more about the young leaders who are helping to shape life on campus, Canadian Mennonite spoke with the student council presidents from the three post-secondary institutions affiliated with Mennonite Church Canada about their hopes for the 2016-17 school year.


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