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Jacob Shantz

Mennonite Heritage Archives Photo

Jacob Y. Shantz (1822-1909) of Berlin, Ont., (now Kitchener), with his family. Shantz was involved in fruit growing and maple-sugar production. He was a building contractor and industrialist, but is also remembered for his role in the establishment of Mennonite communities in Manitoba. The Manitoba village of Shantzenfeld is named in his honour.

A huge challenge

It’s a big year for Lutherans—the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. So it struck me as significant that I was invited to present a sermon and serve communion alongside a synod bishop at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada’s national convention in July.

Paddling down the river

To celebrate our wedding anniversary, my husband and I canoed on our neighborhood river. Due to extremely low water levels, the first stretch was quite challenging, not unlike some stretches of marriage. This was abundantly clear when the stern yelled, “Draw!” and the bow replied, “What’s a draw?” Immediately after, the canoe lodged on a rock.

Mary Ann Cressman

 (Photo by James Reusser / Mennonite Archives of Ontario)

Do you recognize this “Mennonite centre”? Mary Ann Cressman, second from left, her husband Menno C., and others stand outside the family’s dry goods store at 82 King Street East, Kitchener, Ont., circa 1905. Mary Ann lost an arm in a buggy accident, but that did not deter her from becoming the “founding mother” of the Mennonite Women’s Missionary Society in Ontario during the First World War.

A legacy of giving

A few weeks ago, we welcomed our first grandchild into the world. Amid my great joy, I have recently found myself reflecting on the incredible responsibility of raising children. Scripture advises that if we “train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6 ESV).

When coffee replaces swords

Five hundred years ago, our spiritual ancestors were on the cusp of an extended bloodbath of religious violence. In marked contrast, I just enjoyed a three-hour conversation over coffee. Our time was filled with laughter, joy and mutual sharpening. We parted ways with warm hugs. What a difference half a millennium has made. Thanks be to God!

Midwestern recipe has surprising origin

Willa and Ken Reddig (Photo courtesy of Ken Reddig)

The intercultural migration of foods is very interesting. My mother-in-law, Helen (Faul) Fadenrecht, who lived in North Dakota, regularly made a recipe she called Bean Sprouts, because that was the primary ingredient. Helen was a good cook, considered one of the best in the community, and her Bean Sprouts dish was unusual and delicious. It became one of her specialties.

Bill Koop

Bill Koop sits on a stack of Mennonite history books, leaning against the Fort Garry (Man.) Mennonite Brethren Church sign. Recently deceased Canadian storyteller and broadcaster Stuart McLean wrote in Vinyl Café Turns the Page: “Choosing a hero is a delicate business, one that shouldn’t be undertaken frivolously.

Embracing traditions

Mel Harms takes a selfie on Vancouver Island this summer. (Photo courtesy of Mel Harms)

A four-generation game of cribbage. From left to right: author Mel Harms; Mel’s grandmother, Karla Svendsen; Mel’s daughter Mya; and Mel’s mother, Wendy Desmarais. (Photo courtesy of Mel Harms)

Tubing on the Cowichan River in B.C. (Photo courtesy of Mel Harms)

Have you ever wondered about your family traditions? What are they and when did they come to be? That’s been me this summer. Every summer we have our “must do” plans, and my girls go along without question because it’s tradition. This year, it became clear that some of our habits have become family traditions.

God’s heartbreak

While training as a family therapist, I learned the term “emotional cut-off.” It was not a dynamic I was personally familiar with; my particular family tends to be on the opposite side of the spectrum. We are often so closely entwined in each other’s lives that a little more breathing space would be desirable, healthy even. As it suggests, emotional cut-off refers to ruptures in families.

Sieburg women

Photo from the Mennonite Archives of Ontario

Who are these five women from Siegburg, Germany, in 1919? We don’t know for certain, but on Jan. 13, soldier Gordon Eby wrote that he and an army buddy “called at the home of the Krohn family—Hubertina, Maria, Lena, Katie and Bettie.” Eby was a long way from his home and Mennonite roots in Kitchener, Ont., when his battalion was quartered in Germany after the Armistice.

I’ll melt with you

Our family was fortunate enough to see an iceberg this summer near Twillingate, N.L. It was a surreal experience for me. Everything around me paused for a brief transcendent moment, frozen in time, with the ironic exception of the massive spire of ice in front of me. “I’ll Stop the World and Melt With You” by the 1980s band Modern English began playing in the back of my mind.

A spacious year

A year ago, I said goodbye to my job and stepped into an unknown future. In truth, the future is always unknown, or beyond certainty, as my father would qualify when he spoke of plans, concluding, “Lord willing.” The same acknowledgement comes from our Muslim friends who say inshallah with a similar meaning.

Continuous pruning

With the arrival of summer, my wife and I have been enjoying more time outside. Our yard contains many different fruit trees, shrubs and grapevines that provide shade, beauty, and a harvest of berries and fruits. The trees and shrubs are easily managed. However, the grapevines are another story.

Edward Beatty

Photo from the Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies

Edward Beatty, front row right, and John Dennis, behind him, speak with Mennonite girls. Dennis was a young man in 1874 who witnessed the Mennonite immigration to Manitoba. Over the next decades, he observed that the Mennonites were honest, hardworking and trustworthy farmers. By 1922, he was a commissioner of the Canadian Pacific Railway.

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