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Young Voices

Rebuilding lives and languages

St. Michael’s Residential School was open for 50 years. It now stands empty and decrepit, serving as a dark reminder of past abuses, awaiting its final demolition. (Photo courtesy of Janna and Jon Janzen)

Young Voices | Mar 11, 2015 | 2 comments

Jon and Janna Janzen stood in front of St. Michael’s Residential School in Alert Bay, B.C., in February and they say they felt darkness in its presence. During the half-century its door were open, it was the largest residential school operated by the Anglican Church of Canada, charged with “taking the Indian out of the child.” Survivors say it is haunted and pray for the day it would be demolished.

Top marks for CMU

Brian Froese, CMU’s assistant professor of history, teaches a class. According to a recent Maclean’s Magazine report, students at CMU in Winnipeg are very satisfied with their education and their experience at the Christian liberal arts school. (Photo by Rachel Bergen)

Young Voices | Mar 11, 2015

According to a recent Maclean’s Magazine report, students at Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) in Winnipeg are very satisfied with their education and their experience at the Christian liberal arts school.

A feature published in February gave a snapshot of the 2014 Canadian University Survey Consortium’s findings. CMU placed in the top four out of 28 universities in four categories, reflecting how students feel about their professors and how comfortable they feel at the university.

Reaping the whirlwind

Rev. Dr. David Widdicombe, rector at St. Margaret’s Anglican Church in Winnipeg, speaks about Just War theory at CMU last month. (Photo by Jonas Cornelsen)

Young Voices | By Jonas Cornelsen | Mar 11, 2015

Late arrivals had to find their own chairs as students, academics and commu-nity members filled Marpeck Commons at Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) on Feb. 26 to hear Rev. Dr. David Widdicombe explain what it means to “sow the wind” by misusing Just War theory.

If people go to war for any reason other than restraining evil, the consequences will be worse than their actions, according to Widdicombe, saying, “You reap the whirlwind.” He went on to critique the West’s response to Islamic State, and invoked Pilgram Marpeck, the venue’s namesake.

Saskatchewan youth speak out

Members of the Saskatchewan Mennonite Youth Organization, from left to right, front row: Marcus Kruger, Kirsten Hamm-Epp and Jesse Neufeld; middle row: Dannica Funk, Gabby Martin, Brandon Jantzen and Robyn Martens; and back row: Zachary Stefaniuk, Anna Epp and Hailey Funk.

Young Voices | Feb 25, 2015 | 2 comments

Mennonite youth in Saskatchewan are raising their voices and offering a perspective on some of the controversial issues facing the denomination.

The Saskatchewan Mennonite Youth Organization (SMYO) is made up of all the youth in the province that are part of, or connected to, a Mennonite Church Saskatchewan congregation. That comes to roughly 120 youth. SMYO wrote a report at its 2014 retreat, discussed it as a group, and all signed it.

‘God was there’

Although she was diagnosed with cancer at the start of her Grade 12 year, Allegra Friesen Epp graduated on time last June.

Young Voices | By Aaron Epp | Feb 25, 2015

Making plans for university and picking out a graduation dress are typical activities for teenage girls in Grade 12, but Allegra Friesen Epp had something extra to contend with as she did those things last year: battling cancer.

Five reasons young adults may leave the church

Harrison Davey, left, and Danielle Morton participate in a panel discussion at CMU exploring why young adults choose not to attend church.

Young Voices | By Emily Loewen | Feb 25, 2015

For years, congregations have searched for a secret that will keep young people in the pews. Debates are had around worship style, young adult groups and the role parents play.

At “You lost me,” a recent Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) event, four young adults—Kirsten Hamm-Epp, Harrison Davey, Danielle Morton and Lukas Thiessen—thought out loud about why their generation might be leaving the church.

Glimpses of God’s kingdom

Working with people with disabilities has given Mike Wiebe a glimpse of the kingdom of God. (Photo courtesy of Mike Wiebe)

Young Voices | By Mike Wiebe | Feb 11, 2015

Last semester I took a class at Canadian Mennonite University entitled Anabaptist-Mennonite Theology. The course aims to analyze the works of contemporary Anabaptist-Mennonite theologians to gain an understanding of what Anabaptist-Mennonite theology looks like in the church and world today.

On the final exam, Professor Paul Doerksen decided we were educated enough to answer the question: “What constitutes good Anabaptist-Mennonite theology?”

Where is God at the gym?

Honouring God with our bodies can be difficult sometimes, but ultimately it’s worth it, says Amanda Zehr. (Photo courtesy of Amanda Zehr)

Young Voices | By Amanda Zehr | Feb 11, 2015

I am not a huge fan of going to the gym. I know exercise is good for me, but so is eating vegetables, and I’m not really into that either. At the end of a work day, even though I know a trip to the gym will be good for me, it’s just so much easier to sit down with some Cheetos and watch Netflix.

‘Keeping it Riel’

The Riel Gentlemen’s Club are pictured at the forks of the Red and Assiniboine rivers in Winnipeg. Jesse Krause is pictured carrying the flag. (Photo courtesy of The Riel Gentlemen's Choir)

Young Voices | Feb 11, 2015

If an outsider were to walk into a Riel Gentlemen’s Choir practice, it would seem to be a combination of an alternative choral experiment, a boy’s club, a Manitoba fan club and a Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) reunion.

It may be like that in many ways, but it’s also a supportive environment for men looking to break free of traditional ideas of masculinity, and a way for these twenty- and thirty-something men to exercise their creativity.

MCC establishes first on-campus student club

Kaytee Edwards, left, David Epp and Myriam Ullah form the leadership committee of the first MCC-run student club in Canada. It is on the University of Saskatchewan campus in Saskatoon.

Young Voices | Jan 28, 2015

Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) has never had a presence in student clubs on Canadian university campuses. Until recently, that is.

On Jan. 15, an MCC-run student club was ratified on the University of Saskatchewan campus. It was started by MCC Saskatchewan community engagement coordinators Myriam Ullah and Kaytee Edwards. Ullah and Edwards are pursuing higher education at UofS and took the opportunity to encourage faith in action among their fellow students.

What’s so funny?

When forming the idea for his latest documentary, Winnipeg filmmaker Orlando Braun turned to his Mennonite background for inspiration. (Photo credit: Aaron Epp)

Young Voices | By Aaron Epp | Jan 14, 2015

Orlando Braun has always been fascinated by filmmaking. He recalls being a child and making detective films with his father’s camcorder, but never thought he could one day make a living making movies.

“It didn’t even occur to me this is what people do as a job,” the 33-year-old Winnipegger says.

Following high school, Braun enrolled at the University of Manitoba to study architecture. After discovering it wouldn’t be a good fit, he dropped those classes and picked up film and drama ones instead.

‘An even bigger vision’

Kristina Toews, pictured outside of Bogotá, Colombia, where she works for Mennonite World Conference, encourages young adults to attend the Global Youth Summit in Mechanicsburg, Pa., this summer. (Photo courtesy of Kristina Toews)

Young Voices | By Aaron Epp | Jan 14, 2015

If you are a young adult considering going to the Global Youth Summit that will immediately precede the Mennonite World Conference (MWC) assembly in July, Kristina Toews thinks you should do it.

From Macau to Manitoba

Chris Karasewich, a local entrepreneur with ASAP Marketing, left, and Matt Veith, a Mennonite graphic designer, centre, are presented with a provincial tech award worth $7,500 by Kevin Chief, Manitoba’s minister of jobs and the economy, at last November’s Ramp Up festival for entrepreneurs. (Photo courtesy of Innovation Manitoba)

Young Voices | Jan 14, 2015

Winnipeg graphic designer Matt Veith stepped out of his comfort zone last November and helped develop a business idea at Ramp Up Manitoba, an entrepreneurial festival. It paid off. He and his project partner, Chris Karasewich, were presented with a provincial tech award worth $7,500 by the province’s minister of jobs and the economy.

A ‘small protest’ they call home

“We know our lifestyle in North America far exceeds what the rest of the world enjoys. Building a tiny house is a small protest against that," say Jared and Rachel Regier. (Photo courtesy of Rachel and Jared Regier)

Young Voices | By Rachel Bergen | Nov 05, 2014

Newlyweds Jared and Rachel Regier are building a new home in Saskatoon . . . and it’s no bigger than a garage.

The couple, who attend Nutana Park Mennonite Church, call it their “tiny house.” Jared, 35, designed it, and he and Rachel, 29, are building it from the ground up, all 14 square-metres (150 square feet) of it.

The Regiers’ new house will feature solar panels to generate all their power. Jared calculates that it will produce about double the amount of energy they will need, which will allow them to sell the excess energy to Saskatoon Light and Power.

Clarity and confusion in the Middle East

Hearing the stories of both Israelis and Palestinians was a highlight of the Middle East learning tour Seth Ratzlaff participated in two years ago. (Photo by Seth Ratzlaff)

Young Voices | By Seth Ratzlaff | Oct 08, 2014

It’s easy to get fed up with talking about things while studying in college or university; the desire to do something hands-on can be overwhelming. When my religious studies professor told me about a three-week learning tour of Israel and Palestine called Yella, organized, by Mennonite Central Committee Ontario and Mennonite Church Eastern Canada, I didn’t hesitate to sign up.

Rape culture from a Mennonite perspective

A march against rape culture and inequality (Credit: Chase Carter,, CC by ND 2.0)

Young Voices | Aug 27, 2014

On Friday, May 23, 2014, Elliot Rodger killed six people at the University of California Santa Barbara before he turned the gun on himself. In his manifesto, he stated he did so because women wouldn’t sleep with him.

The murderer was active on men’s rights awareness forums, where women are often highly objectified. They are seen as non-human by many in such groups, and, at the very least, less than men.

Live in colour . . . eat chocolate

Film reviewer Vic Thiessen sees a connection between the films Pleasantville and Chocolat, and how God is working in Mennonite Church Canada today. (Photo by Rachel Bergen)

Young Voices | By Rachel Bergen | Jul 23, 2014

Many churches have an inherent aversion to change, according to Vic Thiessen.

The same is true for the characters of the film Pleasantville (1998). Thiessen, Mennonite Church Canada’s executive minister of church engagement and chief administrative officer, as well as Canadian Mennonite’s resident film critic, used Pleasantville to talk about how liberating change can be in film and in the church in one of Assembly 2014’s many seminar sessions.

‘There is a community of young people here’

Alyssa Bender, from Ontario, was one of the young adults who attended Mennonite Church Canada's Assembly 2014.

Young Voices | By Story and Photos by Aaron Epp and Rachel Bergen | Jul 23, 2014

The work being done by the Future Directions and Being a Faithful Church (BFC) task forces were the focus of the plenary sessions at the 2014 Mennonite Church Canada assembly, and so those topics were on the minds of many of the young adults at the event.

More than 50 people between the ages of 18 and 30 attended the four-day event, nine of whom were interviewed about what they saw and heard:

Alyssa Bender, 24

Living Water Community Christian Fellowship, New Hamburg, Ont. Delegate for Mennonite Church Eastern Canada

Marching to Zion

The Upper Room in Jerusalem, where Jesus was said to have eaten the Last Supper with his disciples. (Photo by Vanessa Snyder-Penner)

Young Voices | By Vanessa Snyder-Penner | Aug 29, 2012

The streets are packed. Hordes of people move at once, criss-crossing over the smooth stone streets and deftly navigating down many stairs. Vendors shouting in Arabic call from all sides, selling vegetables, clothes, toys, herbs and household goods. The air is heavy with the smell of people and spices. Occasionally I get a whiff of something sweet rising off a platter of Baklava sitting temptingly outside a bakery, other times it’s the nausea-inducing smell of raw meat from the butcher that meets my nostrils. The whole experience amounts to a veritable symphony of the senses.

Swords and ploughshares

Graffiti painted on the Wall surrounding the West Bank. (Photo courtesy of Vanessa Snyder-Penner)

Young Voices | By Vanessa Snyder-Penner | Aug 29, 2012

“To live in the Holy Land, you must be crazy, or you must believe in miracles,” farmer Daoud Nassar tells our group assembled in a cave just outside of Bethlehem. He is sharing the story of his family’s land and their struggle to keep it. Yet the man sitting in front of us does not seem crazy. He has quiet, intense eyes and a resolute tone. There is fire behind those eyes, but not insanity.

Nursing the soul

Nurse Carly Penner says, “Trust is a really big part of nursing.”

Young Voices | By Rachel Bergen | May 28, 2012

It takes a special kind of person to be a nurse. It takes someone who will stay up all night rocking and singing to a screaming child. Someone like Carly Penner who will respect diverse faith traditions and care for a child while their mother goes to say her prayers five times a day as required by the Islamic faith. Someone who will go out of their way to care for a patient, even if they have different ideas of care based on culture.

Going all the way

Youth gather in the Timber Lodge main worship space at the senior high retreat at Shekinah Retreat Centre.

Young Voices | By Ben Borne | Feb 20, 2012

Love, sex, and baptism are seemingly unrelated topics, but according to Irma Fast Dueck, they each involve a deep commitment.

Roughly sixty youth, youth pastors, and youth sponsors gathered on the last weekend of January 2012, at Shekinah Retreat Centre near Waldheim, Sask., to hear Fast Dueck, share her insight into what seems like a strange union of topics on the surface. To relate these ideas and shape the weekend’s conversation, Fast Dueck asked question during the opening session, “What does it take for us to go the whole distance? To go all the way?”

Learning through serving

Chris Frey is thankful for the many learning opportunities he had during his SALT experience.

Young Voices | By Chris Frey | Nov 09, 2011

Last year, during my last few months of university, I started thinking about what to do after graduation. Like many people my age, I wanted to travel and experience something different before settling down and joining the job market.

I decided to apply to the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Serving and Learning Together (SALT) program. My placement was at a computer lab in Kenya, where I helped with maintenance and teaching computer skills to young adults.

Political dialogue 101 for Mennonites

Young Voices | By By Susan Guenther Loewen | Jun 08, 2011

This spring’s federal election rekindled my interest in Canadian politics after I’d experienced disillusionment with the whole process. Several elections changed nothing and the candidates I voted for always seemed to lose.

Printing places

Winnipeg printmaker Miriam Rudolph at work.

Young Voices | By Emily Loewen | Jun 08, 2011

Growing up, Miriam Rudolph always said she wanted to be an artist . . . or a gardener. Now, only 28 and working as a full-time printmaker, she gets to live out one of her childhood dreams.

Unsure when her creative drive began, Rudolph believes she always had an intrinsic desire to create. Her parents, both teachers, encouraged that desire, and a steady stream of art supplies for her mother’s early childhood education class gave her lots to work with.