Number 20

Listening or doing?

Mainstream Mennonites tend to be doers. We have been taught to work hard and take satisfaction from getting things done, whether that is fixing up houses through Mennonite Disaster Service or sending relief kits and food aid through Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) to places where people are destitute. We like to feel that our hard work is getting results.

MCC B.C. ‘refocusses’ Aboriginal Neighbours program, releases staff

As part of a relationship-building event at Peace Mennonite Church, Richmond, B.C., Darryl Klassen, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) B.C.’s Aboriginal Neighbours program coordinator, presents local elder Ruth Adams with an MCC blanket. In Salish culture, this is an expression of adopting someone into the family. (Credit: MCC BC)

Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) British Columbia has decided to dismiss long-time Aboriginal Neighbours program coordinator Darryl Klassen. The decision, which was made early this year, will take effect at the end of December. Klassen, 64, has worked with MCC B.C. for 25 years. 

Can we talk?

Harley Eagle, right, Mennonite Central Committee Canada’s co-coordinator of Indigenous Work with his wife Sue, speaks with other MCC staff and partners at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. (Credit: courtesy of MCC UN office)

Vincent Solomon, the Aboriginal Neighbours coordinator for Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Manitoba and a priest for the Anglican Church of Canada, says a blessing for the many MCC infant care and relief kits donated by Native Assembly 2014 participants this summer. (Credit: MC Canada/Dan Dyck)

Roland Ray, left, of the Mathias Colomb First Nation, Sandy Bay, Sask., shows Les Hurlburt how ancient rock paintings depict the land that once belonged to the band, at the fifth annual Spruce River Folk Festival this summer. (Credit: Donna Schulz)

Tension gripped my gut as I drove to a Mennonite church in Altona, Man., with an indigenous friend. We were doing a joint Sunday morning presentation about hydropower impacts. 

I wondered if an indigenous person had ever been in that church. I debated making excuses for whatever suspicion, or worse, my people might direct toward him. I tried to muster grace. 

Creating beauty out of randomness

Participants at the Shekinah Retreat Centre’s Quilting and Scrapbooking Retreat gather for a group photo on their final day together. Many of the women are holding items they crafted during the three-day event.

As part of a ‘get acquainted show-and-tell’ at the Shekinah Retreat Centre’s Quilting and Scrapbooking Retreat, Edna Balzer of Rosthern, Sask., shares her story of cancer diagnosis, treatment and recovery using a quilt block she created depicting a butterfly.

Quilting instructor Anne Madden of Osler, Sask., seated, admires a Christmas stocking pieced and quilted by Becky Wiebe of Outlook, Sask., at the Quilting and Scrapbooking Retreat held recently at the Shekinah Retreat Centre near Waldheim, Sask.

Sharon Schultz, pastor of Eyebrow Mennonite Church, speaks at the Quilting and Scrapbooking Retreat held recently at the Shekinah Retreat Centre. Schultz uses quilting as a metaphor to illustrate God’s creative work in the lives of his people.

Assembling random pieces of fabric or paper to create something beautiful is what quilters and scrapbookers do. And they do it with gusto at the Shekinah Retreat Centre’s annual Quilting and Scrapbooking Retreat. This year, “Random pieces into beautiful creations” was also the theme chosen for the retreat by speaker Sharon Schultz.

Committed, supportive. . . and ‘just plain tired’

Volunteer exhaustion and the difficulty recruiting more and younger volunteers are a big part of the reason the Morris MCC Relief Sale is shutting down after 33 years, but George Klassen, chair of the now defunct board, identifies other reasons as well: ‘People do not need “stuff” as much as they used to.’ (Credit: Kristian Jordan)

Mennonite Central Committee relief sales began in Manitoba in 1963, and for the first 18 years they moved from one rural community to another before finding a permanent home in Morris. (Photo: Kristian Jordan)

“It almost felt like a huge sigh of relief coming from the volunteers,” said George Klassen as he closed the books of the Morris (Man.) Mennonite Central Committee Relief Sale. On Sept. 13, about 250 volunteers served their last perogies, knitted their last slippers, baked their last pies and directed traffic for the very last sale in Morris. 

‘The way of harmonious energy’

Kevin Peters Unrau, right, sits with Stephan Barton, his teacher, on the day Unrau achieved his first-level black belt in Aikido. (Photo courtesy of Kevin Unrau Peters)

Kevin Peters Unrau, in white, takes his test to achieve his first-level black belt in Aikido. (Photo courtesy of Kevin Unrau Peters)

Kevin Peters Unrau thinks that the Mennonite Church has gotten Jesus wrong. When Jesus calls on his followers to “not resist evildoers” in Matthew 5:39, many Mennonites have turned to nonviolent resistance. Unrau, however, has turned to Aikido, the martial art of using someone else’s energy to move past them.

The whole truth

The At-Tuwani Muslim women’s co-op leader talks to tour group members about her life beside an Israeli settlement. (MennoJerusalem photo)

“Have you ever watched those TV court programs where a witness is brought to the stand and asked to raise his hand and swear to tell the truth?” I ask my Israel-Palestine tour groups. I get knowing nods all around and inevitably someone completes the courtroom scenario by adding, “. . . the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”

Mennonite Church Canada Peace Audit: a long procession

The General Council Peace Commission of Mennonite World Conference (MWC) requested a response from Mennonite Church Canada to the question, “How is your church doing in its desire to be a Peace Church?” The two key phrases of this request to our church is, “desire to be” and “Peace Church.” “Desire to be” strongly suggests a process, a pursuit and a passion.

Ethiopian Church grows in maturity

Church leaders pray for Steve Brnjas and Fanosie Legesse (kneeling) before they began their teaching tour in Ethiopia in May. (Photo courtesy of Fanosie Legesse)

Fanosie Legesse poses with the child hit by their car while travelling in Ethiopia. (Photo courtesy of Fanosie Legesse)

Wanda and Doug Roth Amstutz with (from left) Abigail, Sophia and Amani. (Photo courtesy of Doug Roth Amstutz)

(From left) Doug Roth Amstutz, Tewodros Beyene (MKC Church Chair), Kenna Dula (MKC General Secretary), Wanda Roth Amstutz. (Photo courtesy of Doug Roth Amstutz)

(From left) Yeshiareg Yohannes (MCC Ethiopia office administrator, secretary), Yeshiareg Yohannes (MCC Ethiopia office administrator, secretary), Solomon Teferi (MCC Ethiopia Assistant Program Manager), Don Peters (MCC Canada Executive Director), Mekonnen Dessalegne (Program Manager). (Photo courtesy of Doug Roth Amstutz)

As Fanosie Legesse and Steve Brnjas were driving through a small village in rural Ethiopia, their car slowed to pass through a narrow street when suddenly a boy darted into the car’s path, and was hit. His body flew and landed a few feet away. The driver stopped, though hesitantly, sensing there might be trouble. The passengers got out to see how they could help. It didn’t look good.

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