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Young Voices

Helping students see beyond stereotypes

Students eat sticky rice, stir fry, spring rolls, dumplings and more on Hong Kong Day at RJC. (Photo courtesy of Valerie White)

Young Voices | By Aaron Epp | Mar 09, 2016

When Naomi Chan moved from Hong Kong to Rosthern, Sask., for school, the only thing she knew about the town is that it’s small.

Chan, an international student at Rosthern Junior College (RJC), went from living in one of the world’s most densely populated metropolises, to living 40 minutes north of Saskatoon in a town of just 1,600 and attending a school with a student body of 75.

Savvy students scrutinize ‘digital citizenship’

Micah Neufeld, left, pictured with Aidan Morton Ninomiya, says Rockway’s digital citizenship event reinforced the importance of communicating with care online. (Photo by Charles Kruger)

Young Voices | By Aaron Epp | Mar 09, 2016

For Ruth Charette, spending time online is a good way to both get her homework done and have fun playing games and watching funny videos. Using social media apps like Instagram and Snapchat, meanwhile, allows her to connect with her friends through pictures and videos, so they can keep each other updated on what they’re doing.

For all the benefits that the Internet and social media provide, Charette knows it is important to be safe. Her parents have taught her to be careful online, and to never give out personal information.

Making a Mennonite

‘Not going back to camp will be tough,’ says Andrew Brown of his experiences at MC Manitoba’s Camp Moose Lake. (Photo courtesy of Mennonite Church Manitoba)

Young Voices | By Andrew Brown | Feb 24, 2016

I did not grow up attending a Mennonite church. Growing up two hours southeast of Winnipeg in Piney, Man., I attended International Christian Fellowship, a small congregation that includes an interesting mix of people and theological backgrounds. It is an international amalgamation of American and Canadian churches on the U.S. border, officially under the Evangelical Church, led by a Dutch Reformed pastor and including people from Lutheran, Baptist, Evangelical and Mennonite backgrounds.  

Cohabitation focus of discussion event at CMU

Rebecca Steiner and Paul Peters tell stories that reflect the diversity in the relationships of young couples. (Photo by James Christian Imagery)

Young Voices | By Amelia Warkentin | Feb 24, 2016 | 2 comments

What is the significance of youth pastors living with their partner outside of marriage? How do young people respond to this information? Sexuality, spirituality, marriage, cohabitation and the church community all pertain to this conversation. The reality of cohabitation questions long-held views of marriage.

More than just punchlines

Falk talks with acclaimed novelist Miriam Toews about the humour in her work. (Photo courtesy of Prairie Boy Productions)

Young Voices | By Aaron Epp | Feb 10, 2016

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,’ says Amy Matychuk. ‘However, it’s important for me to acknowledge that I was set up to succeed.’ (Photo by Aaron Epp)

Young Voices | By Amy Matychuk | Feb 10, 2016

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.

Youth invited to join #thecovenantcrew

Organizers hope that youth who gather in Saskatoon in July for Mennonite Church Canada’s Assemby 2016 are inspired to participate in future gatherings of the wider church. (Photo courtesy of Mennonite Church Canada)

Young Voices | By Aaron Epp | Jan 27, 2016

UPDATE: Youth Assembly 2016 has been cancelled, due to a shortfall in the number of registrations. See here for more information. 

Kirsten Hamm-Epp has fond memories from past Mennonite Church Canada assemblies. When she was growing up in Altona, Man., her family planned their summer vacations around such gatherings.

Stop hiding behind the jokes

Although there is a growing awareness of the negative effects of sexism, conversations that make jokes at the expense of women still abound. (Photo illustration by Timothy Joel Dyck)

Young Voices | By Darian Wiebe Neufeld | Jan 27, 2016

During high-school band camp last fall, I was in a cabin with a bunch of teenage guys who discussed stereotypical teenage-guy things. They began talking about all the “b**ches” at school—relationship gossip, who’s got a better booty than who—things along those lines.

Sharing his gifts to help others

The calendar Where I Belong features 24 photos by Jay Siemens, a self-taught photographer. (Photo by Jay Siemens)

Young Voices | By Aaron Epp | Jan 13, 2016

When Manitoba photographer Jay Siemens partnered with Friesens Corporation to create a 2016 calendar to benefit Syrian refugees, he had no idea they would print 1,000 copies and raise $20,000 for the cause in a matter of weeks. But that’s exactly what happened last month in the lead-up to Christmas. Siemens, a 23-year-old based in Altona, Man., says it was amazing to see people come together to support the project.

The geek shall inherit the earth

Kyle Rudge and Allison Barron are the founders of Geekdom House, in Winnipeg. (Photo by Aaron Epp)

Young Voices | By Aaron Epp | Jan 13, 2016

Allison Barron developed an interest in computer games and science fiction at an early age. Reconciling her pop culture interests with her Christian faith has not always been easy, though.

“I’ve never felt very ostracized or pressured because of my [interests],” says Barron, 26. At the same time, “I did not feel like that was something I could bring to church, either.”

Kyle Rudge can relate. As he was growing up, his interests in science fiction, comic books and particularly video games made him feel like an outsider at church.

Celebrating embodied incarnation

The Pieta, a Renaissance sculpture by Michelangelo, located at St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City, reminds us of Jesus’ physical body. (Photo: ©

Young Voices | By Kim Penner | Dec 23, 2015

Who delivered the baby and laid him at Mary’s breast, skin upon skin?
Was it the Innkeeper’s wife?
Who cut the cord tethering him to the womb, birthing a new kind of attachment?
Was it Joseph?
Without words, the WORD becomes flesh, God with skin on!

- Don Penner, “A Christmas Eve Poem,” 2013

Secret songs

“I’ve never met anybody who works as hard as he does on his songs,” a friend says of singer-songwriter Paul Bergman. (Photo courtesy of Paul Bergman)

Young Voices | By Aaron Epp | Dec 23, 2015

It doesn’t seem right that more people aren’t familiar with singer-songwriter Paul Bergman.

Over the past 12 years, Bergman has quietly released five albums. Steeped in the tradition of songwriting legends like Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits, the 32-year-old’s music is carefully crafted and displays a unique voice reflecting on rural life, death and the ways people connect—or fail to connect—with their surroundings.

Why I go see Santa every year

1988 was the year all three Epp brothers first appeared in a photo with Santa. (Photo courtesy of Aaron Epp)

Young Voices | By Aaron Epp | Dec 09, 2015

As Christmas approaches, one of the things I’m most looking forward to is heading to a local mall with my siblings so we can have our picture taken with Santa.

I have had my photo taken with Santa each December since I was a year old. My brother Thomas joined the fun in 1986, our brother Daniel followed two years after that, and when Daniel got engaged to his now-wife Anna-Marie in 2012, she joined us, too.

All members of one family

Mim Harder of Rouge Valley Mennonite Church, Stouffville, Ont., and Steve Heinrichs, director of Indigenous Relations for MC Canada. (Photo by Rachel Brnjas)

Young Voices | By Ally Siebert | Dec 09, 2015

Over a period of seven years, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) heard more than 6,000 survivors of residential schools tell their painful stories of injustice and abuse. With the TRC’s work in hand, Christian churches can help write a better next chapter.

 A group of us from across southern Ontario started this new chapter at a retreat held from Nov. 12 to14, 2015, at Six Nations of the Grand River, near Brantford. Indigenous and non-indigenous participants gathered for the weekend to talk, eat, dance and work towards reconciliation.

Challenged, changed, rewarded

We spent a lot of time on the road, travelling to meet with different partner organizations. This road is in the Drakensberg Mountains. (Photo by Aaron Janzen)

Young Voices | By Aaron Janzen | Nov 18, 2015

My partner Suzanne Braun and I spent three years as Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) service workers in South Africa, Swaziland and Lesotho from 2011-14. As the connecting peoples coordinator and planning, monitoring and evaluation coordinator, we worked to support a wide variety of MCC partner organizations throughout the SwaLeSA area. Much of what we did was unglamourous, computer-based work. However, we were also privileged to have the opportunity to travel frequently around the SwaLeSA area.

Being Mennonite 101

Nineteen-year-old Katie Steckly has been posting vlogs (video blogs) on YouTube for seven years. A number of her videos discuss Mennonites. (Photo by Daniel Penner)

Young Voices | By Aaron Epp | Nov 04, 2015

It could be that thousands of people have learned about Mennonites from Katie Steckly.

Early last year, the 19-year-old, who grew up in Milverton, Ont., and is a member of Riverdale Mennonite Church near Millbank, uploaded a short video to her YouTube channel entitled “Being Mennonite 101,” in which she listed five characteristics of North American Mennonites. Since then, the video has been viewed more than 19,500 times.

Solace in a subculture

Family and friends didn’t understand Anna Chemar’s interest in Lolita fashion at first. (Photo by Aaron Epp)

Young Voices | By Katrina Brooks | Nov 04, 2015 | 1 comment

It takes Anna Chemar almost two hours to dress in her favourite style. The elaborate makeup alone requires 45 minutes. Carefully slipping into the clothes—bell-shaped skirt, blouse and corset—takes another 20 minutes. The rest of the time is devoted to final touches: wig, headdress and painted lips. When finished, she looks like a Gothic-styled doll.

Chemar developed an interest in Lolita fashion after graduating from high school. She was fascinated by the development of the style in Harajuku, the fashion district of Tokyo.

A prophetic voice for the excluded

Theatre of the Beat artistic director Johnny Wideman took 14 months to research, write and workshop the play This Will Lead to Dancing. He is encouraging people who see the play to submit feedback. (Photo courtesy of Theatre of the Beat)

Young Voices | By Ally Siebert | Oct 21, 2015

“Mennonites talking about sex? That would probably make world news!”

So observes the latest original production by Ontario-based theatre company Theatre of the Beat. The hard-hitting play, This Will Lead to Dancing, tackles this “taboo” topic and encourages Mennonites to talk about lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender/queer (LGBTQ) inclusivity at least in our congregations.

Finding the strength to keep going

While Colleen Thiessen’s rheumatoid arthritis has prevented her from sticking with her career as an elementary school teacher, she has become heavily involved at her church. (Photo courtesy of Brighton Thiessen)

Young Voices | By Brighton Thiessen | Oct 21, 2015

My mother Colleen Thiessen and I were out for a walk when I visited her a few months ago and we passed our church. I asked how she could attend every Sunday morning. She replied, “I don’t. That’s the problem. I barely even have enough strength to just get out of bed.”

Even walking is an obstacle for her these days.

My mother walked through her early years with cautious optimism. She grew up in Winnipeg and, at 22, she struck out on her own to Winkler, Man., to become a teacher. It was her passion.

Ready to take a leap of faith

Chic Gamine’s new album, Light a Match, marks a musical departure from its previous releases. (Photo courtesy of Chic Gamine)

Young Voices | By Aaron Epp | Oct 07, 2015

With its propulsive rhythm and alluring harmonies, “Light a Match”—the new single and title track on Chic Gamine’s latest album—seems like a simple pop song at first. That simplicity is deceptive.

Cutting, burning, starving and forgiving

Upneet Bala was tormented by a bully who sent her hateful e-mails. (Photo courtesy of Upneet Bala)

Young Voices | By Rachelle Girard | Oct 07, 2015

Upneet Bala was bullied online to the point that she attempted suicide, but she rose above the hurt by meeting her tormentor and relying on two foundations of her faith: forgiveness and love.

Bala, who graduated this past spring from a private high school in Abbotsford, B.C., received her first e-mail stuffed with hate three years ago. “At the time I had the confidence to delete them, ignore them even,” Bala says. “I didn’t even consider the possibility that something like cyber-bullying could happen to me.”

Goodbye, Young Voices

Rachel Bergen is leaving Canadian Mennonite to complete a term with Mennonite Central Committee’s Serving and Learning Together (SALT) program. (Photo courtesy of Rachel Bergen)

Young Voices | Sep 23, 2015

I always knew growing up that I wanted to leave home and see the world. The thought of one day volunteering overseas, listening to people’s stories and learning new languages excited me all through my adolescence and young adulthood.

That’s now a reality.

By the time you read this, I’ll be halfway around the world and sadly no longer a Young Voices co-editor. I’ve accepted a year-long position as a writer and editor in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, through the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Serving and Learning Together (SALT) program.

Making the time together good

Peter Warkentin’s physical and mental abilities are gradually declining, but his faith remains strong. (Photo courtesy of Amelia Warkentin)

Young Voices | By Amelia Warkentin | Sep 23, 2015

Sleeping soundly with his legs pulled into his hunched frame, my grandfather was comfortable before I woke him.

He made a statement about it being early for me to be there and then proceeded to unbutton his shirt. His effort to prepare himself for a new day by changing his clothes showed his detachment from the setting sun outside his window. This was also an indication of his mental state.

Time and reality are altered concepts for many people living with dementia.

Beholding the grey area

Yella participants hike on the Jesus Trail in the Galilee. The trail traces a route from Nazareth, Jesus’ hometown, to Capernaum, the base for his adult ministry. (Photo by Emily Hunsberger)

Young Voices | By Emily Hunsberger | Sep 09, 2015

The Tent of Nations is a family farm situated in the Palestinian hills near Bethlehem in the West Bank, owned by the Palestinian-Christian Nassar family since 1916. The farm overlooks the valley of a small Arab village.

When our group visited the farm for a tour this past spring, the environmental and educational farm seemed idyllic. However, it is surrounded by five illegal Israeli settlements, one of which has a population of more than 45,000 people.

Seniors and youth find common ground at Friendship Manor

Beverley Winter has lived at Friendship Manor in Altona, Man., for the past eight years. (Photo by Paige Mierau Friesen)

Young Voices | By Paige Mierau Friesen | Sep 09, 2015

For Beverley Winter, the Friendship Manor community includes teenagers from the Altona Mennonite Church (AMC) youth group. Winter looks forward to monthly Sunday morning breakfasts with the youth group, a tradition started in 2011.

 “We become a ‘nutcase’ when we’re isolated,” Winter says. “But it’s been so nice since [the youth group] have been here.”