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The Persecuted Church: India
Mission Central: the context of discipleship
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By Donita Wiebe-Neufeld
David and Rita Penner share coffee and talk about the cancelled 2020 Relief Sale and how it affected them as a Robin flits in and out of their garden, catching insects to fill the little beaks popping out of a custom nesting box on their deck.
The Penner’s garden cascades in glorious waves of colour down from the deck toward Half Moon Lake near Sherwood Park. The couple is well known for having green thumbs, and many people enjoy the results of their work. Neighbours stop by to admire the flowers or ask for fresh herbs, wedding photos happen among the plants and trees, various groups use the deck area for coffee and meetings, and artists have come to paint on site. Every third year, when the Alberta MCC Relief Sale is held in Sherwood Park, there is a table full of bedding plants, annuals and perennials, organized and largely stocked courtesy of the Penners and their love of sharing their garden. The cancellation of this year’s sale meant there was a living room full of plants with no place to go.
Early in the Spring of 2020, the Penners set up a grow light in their upstairs living room and planted numerous seeds and cuttings in preparation for the Sale which was to happen on May 22-23. When asked how many plants they had, Rita said; “I wish I could say it was 100…the magic number this year, but we didn’t count.” When it became obvious the Sale would be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they had to come up with a plan for all those plants. “We were so disappointed we couldn’t do it for MCC, so we decided we would have a yard sale and donate the money.” Rita said.
She posted a sale notice on the community Facebook page and put a sign out by the road two days before the sale. In the close community, word of mouth took care of the needed advertising. “Our neighbourhood doesn’t know about MCC,” Rita said, but they liked that the money would go to charity. The sale was an opportunity to let them know about the good work being done by MCC. The Penners gave free plants to children and talked about what MCC does around the world. Their neighbours responded. Some gave, even though they didn’t need plants. Others threw in a bit of extra cash after paying for what they wanted. Rita was impressed that even young parents, who likely had little discretionary money, would toss in extra money in order to support a good cause.
At the end of the day, the plants were gone and, with a bit of a top up from the Penners, $1000 went to the GO! 100 campaign, MCC’s centennial event to replace needed revenue the Relief Sale would have brought in. Through matching funds donated by Flaman Fitness and the Penner family in Calgary (no relation), the plant sales grew to equal $2000 worth of funding for the relief, water, sanitation, and hygiene work that is so needed right now.
The garden that feeds the Robins in 2020, will also feed and comfort the world.
The GO! 100 challenge continues throughout the summer. To date, compassionate participants have helped raised over $200,000 in combination with a $70,000 match from sponsors Flaman Fitness and the Penner family. Proceeds support MCC’s response to basic and emergency needs of vulnerable and displaced people in over 50 countries, where needed most. To learn more about GO! 100, visit mccab.ca/go-100.
By: Darrel Heidebrecht
Restorative Justice is rooted in a belief system that holds to the dignity of all people and creates pathways to healing, reconciliation, and hope. Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) has played an important role in promoting and creating Restorative Justice programs for over 50 years in Canada, the United States, and many other countries around the world.
The reality is Restorative Justice practices have been part of human civilizations for a very long time. Tribal societies had to figure out how to live together and how to manage harmful behaviour within their communities. Because it was virtually impossible to survive outside of the community, it was essential to figure out ways to deal with this behaviour and at the same time create a way for people to remain part of the community. Harmful behaviour was not simply tolerated nor did it necessarily lead to punitive and harsh responses. Indigenous and other tribal societies relied on Restorative Justice values and practices to ensure the survival of their communities.
MCC Alberta has engaged in many restorative justice programs and activities for nearly 40 years. These have included prisoner visitation programs, chaplaincy, support of high-risk offenders, and mediation programs with youth.
A common question often has to do with the effectiveness of these programs, which usually means; do these programs stop people from continuing in a life of crime? It is almost impossible to answer that question with any degree of certainty. Some would suggest that restorative justice holds the answer to all that is wrong with the criminal justice system. A system based more on punishment and deterrence than on relationships and healings, like restorative justice.
I would like to suggest one measurement of the effectiveness of Restorative Justice that may be more important than whether these programs lower the rate of criminal and harmful behaviour. This is the impact, or change, that participating in restorative justice programs has on those from the community.
I am thinking of Peter who volunteered for many years visiting in prison. When he began, he felt it important to tell me that he believed in capital punishment even though it was not part of the Canadian Criminal Justice system. Despite this, he agreed to visit with a man serving time for murder. He learned to respect this man but to the best of my knowledge never changed his view on capital punishment. After a few years of visiting every month, that didn’t seem to be a consideration or a factor in their relationship.
When young people agree to participate in a mediation program and meet face to face with their victims, we also see stereotypes and assumptions cast aside. Many victims enter this process with assumptions about the parents of the youth responsible for harming or wronging them in some way. They may assume that youth just don’t care. Young people often assume victims are just angry and want to yell at them. Bringing these people together, for what is known as a community conference, creates opportunity and space for understanding and empathy to enter what was initially an unwanted, and underserved, victim-offender relationship. Victims see youth for who they really are and often reach out compassionately and hopefully – while also sending the message that the harmful behaviour has to stop.
The real impact of restorative justice is found in this new space people can move into. Perhaps the real question should be, what sort of society would we create if there was no consideration, and opportunity, for Restorative Justice experiences in situations of crime and harmful behaviour? I once read a sign that said, “those who are only just, are cruel.”
As Christians, we lay claim to the grace of God through Jesus Christ. Restorative Justice activities can be one way of extending that grace into our world.
Darrel Heidebrecht has worked with MCC in the area of Restorative Justice for over 30 years. The past 20 years has been with Restorative Actions For Transformation (RAFT). This program works with youth offenders and their victims, bringing them together for Face-to Face meetings when possible. Darrel and his wife have 2 children and 4 grandchildren.
By John Hall
Mission Central will be initiating more conversations about what it means to be a disciple in the coming years, as we try to bring about a shift in our understanding of mission. We are interested in discipleship because it is fundamentally tied to mission.
What we mean is that we serve a God who is on mission. His love compels him to reach into creation and redeem and reconcile it. In turn, he sends us, his children, to participate in his mission alongside him. As God’s children, we should be filled with the Holy Spirit and love for our father. This inner joy should lead us to proclaim loudly, in word and deed, that the Kingdom is at hand. From this perspective, mission isn’t something we do, it’s an outcome of knowing that we’re loved as a son or daughter. This knowledge contributes to our being healthy vibrant disciples.
So how do we raise up healthy vibrant disciples? Well, that would be through discipleship.
When Mission Central uses the word discipleship, we want to make sure that the context for discipleship is not misunderstood. We can never view discipleship as something that takes place completely outside of the Church, or more specifically, outside of a local worshipping community. The local worshipping community is where disciples experience and learn the Kingdom culture and our family history. It is a place where spiritual gifts and talents are identified and nurtured and most importantly where the disciple gets released into the world to use their gifts and talents for the glory of God. This community plays a role in shaping us into the image of our Lord. This means, of course, that discipleship will only work well if the local worshipping community is healthy.
Mike Goheen, in The Church and Its Vocation, offers a great insight into what makes a local worshipping community a healthy part of the Church. He says, “Ecclesiology is first of all about the church’s identity – who we are and who we serve. And if the biblical story is not the place where our identity is forged, then by default this place will be somewhere else, almost certainly in our cultural story and social location.”
Covid-19 has caused many of us to pause and think about how we’ve been doing things. I see an incredible opportunity for Christians in North America to use this forced pause to consider how we’ve been doing church. If our communities are not forming people into a redeeming and reconciling missionary people, then we need to ask why?
Expanding on this idea, we could take another cue from Goheen, and ask two questions. First – Are we making people who look like Jesus? For me, this means that we would have a family resemblance to Jesus. It used to bug me that people I didn’t know would come up to me and say, “You remind me of your father” (or mother – I got both.) As time has passed, my appreciation for my heritage has grown more and more. Do you get mistaken for Jesus? And since we’re talking about the Church, can you connect that likeness to the influence of your community?
And second – Is the way that we “do community” presenting Jesus as King to the world? Certainly, we need to make sure that our worshipping communities are not just “come and see” gatherings, but that they are also “go into all the world” communities. But, more importantly, we need to be a people who, as Paul says, are no longer conformed to the way of the world (Rom 12:2). We have to take the time as a people to discern together how God is calling us to live as a community, a family, in a way that aligns with Kingdom values and our identity as sons and daughters of the King.
It is possible to get the right answers to the above two questions in theory, but we need to do more than understand with our head, we need to embody the answers. In other words, we need to behave like Jesus and live like we’re citizens of his Kingdom. Darrell Guder in the book Missional Church puts it this way. He says, “The aim of the church is not simply to make a given culture more just or more caring, but to shape a people into an alternative way of life. Missional communities representing the reign of God will be intentional about providing the space, the time and the resources for people to unlearn old patterns and learn new ways of living that reveal God’s transforming and healing power.” (p152)
But this won’t happen without at least one more puzzle piece. We need to be a people on mission with Christ. Mike Goheen, quotes Jürgen Moltman who says, “the mission of Christ creates its own church.” Alternatively, you could say, that if the church doesn’t take mission seriously it’s entirely possible that we could cease to be the church. That seems a little harsh but consider Jesus’ words, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” (Mt 5:13) Or just as sobering, the words of God to the church of Laodicea, “So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” (Rev 3:16) Note the sanction applies to the whole community.
So, in this season of Covid-19, let’s take the time to pause and reflect on whether the identities of our local worshipping communities are being forged by the biblical story or by the culture we live in. There’s a lot at stake, not just for us, but for the world too.
John Hall is the Executive Director of Mission Central.
Mission Central is a catalyst that inspires churches to be missional communities and individuals to become mature disciples of Jesus. Visit us at: www.missioncentral.ca
Scattered throughout the jungles and mountains of Peru are some 45 tribes, each with a distinct language and culture. Many are still unreached with the Gospel, and some live in Stone Age conditions. Some have been exploited or persecuted by those around them, and now live in hiding. But missionaries with Segadores (an Intercede International partner) have been reaching out with love in a focused and faithful way to the unreached tribes of Peru for 57 years.
Segadores (Spanish for “Reapers”) was founded in 1963 by Peter Hocking, the son of American missionaries. Today its work is carried on primarily by indigenous Peruvian workers. Over the years, Segadores missionaries have planted dozens of churches in unevangelized areas. First, an investigative team is sent to make contact with unreached tribes, establish peaceful relations with them, and gather information about them so that Christians can learn about the tribes, pray for them and go to them as missionaries.
“Since the focus is unreached people groups, we have found it very important to do field research – missionary expeditions to seek out unreached tribes in Peru,” explains Hocking.
Once churches are planted, they are turned over to local Peruvian evangelical churches. Segadores believes that the key to the evangelization of Peru lies in the training of indigenous missionaries. Ministry leaders spend much of their time and energy traveling to remote areas to hold Bible training seminars for tribal missionaries and believers.
“For missionaries to go to unreached peoples, they cross cultural barriers,” says Hocking. “Many mistakes can be made if one isn’t properly trained to understand another culture and how to adapt. So, we have a cross-cultural missionary training program which builds on the Bible institute, and Bible training that trainees get in other Bible institutes and seminaries in Peru. This course is two months long, once a year, and in three years they can cover all the courses of the program. Five weeks of intensive studies, and then three weeks out in a tribe in a cross-cultural situation. Trainees go to live with a Christian family. We have seen the Lord bring not only Spanish-speaking missionaries to us from Peru, but we are seeing tribal missionaries and Quechua missionaries in training.”
One tribe Segadores works among is the Yaneshas, who live in the central mountainous jungle region of Peru. The mission runs a Yanesha Bible Institute, which now has a Yanesha director.
Segadores’ cross-cultural training program is offered to 15 students at a time. The second stage of training involves living with the Yanesha tribe in the jungle. Several leaders accompany the trainees as disciplers. A Yanesha Christian couple gives practical training in language, tribal customs, and how to live and work in the jungle. The tribal believers teach the trainees how to hack out a farm in the jungle, how to plant, fish, make and use a balsa raft, cook over a wood fire and prepare native foods.
This coming September and October, Segadores plans to offer intensive missionary training courses at its missionary base in the jungle town of Atalaya, Peru.
Community development is one way that Segadores missionaries help Peru’s isolated tribes. Missionaries help them to come out of their poverty and improve their quality of life. They provide wells and improve their nutrition by teaching them how to plant vegetables, raise chickens, and introducing them to fish farming. Segadores missionaries also help tribal people with medical emergencies and health concerns.
The ministry encourages churches to form prayer groups praying exclusively for missions, and for unreached people groups. Segadores provides them with information and news bulletins.
Segadores also provides supplementary training of pastors in rural areas, so that churches can be stronger, and send out and support missionaries. Native churches are encouraged through seminars on Christian family life, basic youth conflicts, how to face persecution, and how to awaken missionary vision among church members.
Open and closed doors
“God has opened many doors for missionary work that we must take advantage of before they close,” Hocking explains. “Uncontacted tribes are coming out of hiding. The Spirit of God is drawing some of the tribes out of hiding to contact neighbouring tribes that have Christians. This now makes it easier for missionaries to find them and work with them. However, hardly anyone wants to go as a missionary to them. Meanwhile, lumbermen continue to invade their territories for illegal lumbering, killing these primitive nomads when they oppose their work.”
Segadores also runs into struggles sometimes. In March 2012, Hocking relates, “we had a sad setback in the work with the Ashaninka tribe where four Segadores missionary couples have been working for years. In Buenaventura, the villagers requested that our missionaries leave! The natives declared that they did not want to hear more of God because they preferred to continue with their drunken feasts. This was a shock to all of us, but our missionaries had to leave, moving out all their things to the other mission base further down the river.” Sadly, one missionary couple decided to discontinue working with Segadores because of this incident.
“Pray for the inhabitants of Buenaventura, that they might realize what a big mistake they have made in rejecting the Gospel, and might turn to God,” urges Hocking. “The chief acknowledged that we have helped his village in many ways (schools, feeding program), but that the village did not want to hear more of the Word of God. We leave that in the Lord’s hands, and press on, seeking to serve the Lord better than ever.”
“We thank the leadership of Intercede and Christians in Canada for giving us a helping hand for many years in the ministry of reaching the unreached tribes in Peru,” Hocking wrote to Intercede. “Without your help we would not have been able to make the progress that has been made.”
Please intercede for Segadores’ missionaries as they faithfully reach out to the unreached tribes of Peru.
- Intercede News Service
by Jason Dueck
Alida Thomas has been thinking about food differently lately. She didn’t get a new cast iron frying pan or start working her way through a whole cookbook; she’s been thinking about the way community is shaped around shared meals. How we centre weddings and funerals, happy times and sad times, around eating together. This has been on her mind since she started giving through Share Your Table.
A new monthly giving program from MCC Canada, Share Your Table (http://mccshareyourtable.ca) provides food for displaced families around the world. Nearly 71 million people are displaced around the planet – the highest than at any point in history. While the causes and solutions to displacement are complicated, generosity isn’t. With a donation starting from just $7 a month, MCC provides food where there isn’t any. Each month, donors receive a story from a family helped by donations like theirs, along with recipes shared from dinner tables in that family’s region.
One such recipe is beef wat. This rich hearty stew is a common staple on dinner tables in Ethiopia, where Nyadieng Gach Gatkouth lives as a refugee since being displaced from her home in South Sudan. Thomas says the thought of sharing a meal at someone’s table, being a distant dinner guest, added a layer of personal empathy to her giving
“What stood out to me from the very beginning was the holistic approach,” says Thomas. “Share Your Table
is thinking about people as whole people—not just people who need food. They’re full people aside from their immediate needs.”
Thomas says if she could share a meal from her table with someone like Nyadieng, there is no doubt what would be on the menu.
“I come from a Dutch background, so it’s this dish called stamppot,” she says. “Mashed potatoes, carrots and onions all smashed together—some people do it with kale. You can add farmer sausage or rookworst. It’s lik
e Dutch comfort food that always reminds me of being a kid. I also remember eating it a lot during university and grad school.”
After receiving her master’s degree with focuses on refugee and forced migration studies and international human rights, Thomas has worked in international development and relief. She says it’s easy to feel helpless when faced with such daunting numbers of people in need. She’s often asked herself what can ever be done to help that many people. But hope, she says, is worth working for.
“Those are 71 million stories, 71 million dreams, 71 million networks of relationships, 71 million people with unique skills, capacity, and agency, and 71 million people made in the image of, and dearly loved by God,” she says. “If we each do our part – individually, communally, nationally – to generously care for and walk with as many of those 71 million as we can, we can transform that number.”
White Rock resident Sheila Vicic, 57, is back home after spending almost two months (March 17-May 12) in Cremona, Italy at the Samaritan’s Purse emergency field hospital.
Sheila was there serving as finance manager dealing with contracts, arranging services, looking after payroll and procuring supplies. She stayed out of the hospital’s patient treatment zone but was able to safely visit with patients who were able to go for brief walks.
The Samaritan’s Purse emergency field hospital was set up, at the invitation of the local government, because the number of coronavirus victims overwhelmed local medical facilities.
Sheila said her time in Cremona “was amazing. We saw an entire community go from fear to hope when we arrived.”
This is Sheila’s seventh international deployment with Samaritan’s Purse. Her previous deployments, usually with our emergency field hospitals, include:
- Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas, 2019
- Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, 2017
- The ISIS-Iraqi government battle for Mosul, 2016-17 (the emergency field hospital was 20 kilometres from the fighting)
- The Bangladesh Rohingya refugee crisis, 2017
- The Greece refugee crisis, 2015
While she has definitely been in some risky deployments, Sheila said her husband and three adult daughters are okay with it. “It’s what they would expect me to be doing. They’re pretty chill with it because they know it fits with me.” In each case, she serves as a short-term Samaritan’s Purse employee. In Canada, Sheila deployed with Samaritan’s Purse after flooding in Windsor, Ontario, the Williams Lake BC wildfire (2017), flooding in Ontario and Quebec, and the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire.
Sheila shares some thoughts on serving:
Q. How did you see God moving in the midst of the fear and chaos caused by this pandemic?
A. There are two aspects of God at work that stick with me. Unity and Providence. In every deployment, we have unique needs to get operational – a hospital in tents still requires power, water, sanitation, assembly. And the team needs gear and climate-appropriate clothing and food and shelter. In the midst of fear and chaos, our Italian partners assigned by the region to help us were the conduits to the resources we needed, and when we asked – where can we get winter clothes – they knew who to call.
Miracle after miracle of provision of accommodation, clothing, food, oxygen supply, drinking water were facilitated by these co-workers; but God had prepared the hearts of the donors / owners. He had pre-positioned exactly what we would need in and near Cremona in the months leading up to our arrival. That provision, which I can confidently say exceeded €1 million, was from God’s storehouses, through the local owners, through our Italian co-workers who didn’t volunteer for this role, but were assigned it by their regional government. All these people and businesses being used by God to provide for our facility day-by-day decreased the chaos into orderly operations. To know, from the business perspective, that God was in the very minute details of clothing the team, oxygen systems for patients, housing and food for the team; brings confidence that God is present and near in the work we are doing in Cremona.
Unity among the local churches of all denominations often arises in crises. In Italy, we were able to see servants from every church, including monastery and convent, join us in serving the sick and supporting our team. I see God desiring unity in His people worldwide and if I was looking for meaning in a pandemic, I would clearly see God bringing unity to His churches, no matter how they express their faith in Jesus.
Q. Is there one particular person, or story, that still lingers in your memory?
A. There are two moments that I will share – among many that will stay with me and motivate me to serve again. The first was as an observer of a ‘fence’ visit where family members could stand about 10 ft apart and visit their recovering family member. A lady who had been very ill and who hadn’t seen her son in about 6 weeks since entering the hospital system, put on her lovely pink housecoat, had her hair combed through and then told her son about her stay at the camp hospital. It was her first time staying in a tent and so she told her son that her first ‘camping trip’ was totally lovely, the people were like family and she was having a good time and he wasn’t to worry about her. He was to go home and eat better and she was fine. What I loved was her resiliency to a relatively harsh hospital environment, and a brutal disease and her optimism and positivity about being in a cot, in a tent hospital in a parking lot. To see her turning her concern to her son, for his well-being, allowed me to see that she is indeed on the mend, even though still frail and sitting in a wheelchair for this visit
Our first intubated patient that survived and was released from the tent hospital was a miracle recovery by every definition. This man arrived in our care 100% on life support and on a beautiful sunny April day, he walked out to a waiting taxi, carrying his own duffle bag and waving and calling out his thanks to God and to his caregivers. As we stood 1-2 metres apart, masks, gloved hands clapping and cheering for him, overwhelmed by the miracle we were watching, an Italian co-worker turned to me with tears in her eyes, and we hugged. All our protocol and PPE aside – humans and miracles need hugs and so we had a brief embrace – but an important release of all the beauty of God’s miracles that we were witness to. Subsequently this co-worker prayed for the Lord to be her Saviour and I know that tender moment allowed her to be vulnerable in an extremely anxious and fearful environment.
Q. What motivates you to serve in this way?
A. Although the title within SP is called Finance officer or Finance manager – I prefer to think of myself as Stewardship Manager. We have been given so much by God and through our donors, but we have a lofty responsibility to manage it wisely in the field, to carefully consider what we are doing from start to finish on a deployment and to apply the God-given resources with wisdom and avoid waste. Not many accountants, CPA’s, are inclined to be in these unpredictable, risky work situations. I think by nature, accountants are risk averse and prefer order to chaos. For me, it is safer to be obeying God’s call on my life than to be seeking safety away from risky situations – those factors of risk and chaos don’t weigh heavily on my mind while I do my work. I’m a person who can get it done no matter what and likes to bring order out of chaos or reduce the sense of risk by bringing reason and a principled stewardship perspective to situations full of crazy variables. I know that God has made me this way (able to process a ton of information from different sources and perspectives and see the commonality or the priority) and that He has called me to serve in tough places where these skills are needed. By doing the relatively routine, yet decisive tasks of a finance (stewardship) role that are the necessary business end of meeting the needs of those facing crisis and disaster, I allow others to also serve in their area of strength and not have to stress over the matters of finance and payments, contracts and securing funds.
by Jason Dueck
Things like frequent handwashing and social distancing have become the new normal. This is life during the COVID-19 pandemic. These measures help reduce the spread and keep everyone safe. We’re all in this together.
But the hardships we bear are not the same. Some of our neighbours will be faced with impossible choices like staying home safely or earning enough to pay rent. Others have no one to call when they need help buying groceries. This virus is not an equalizer. It’s especially true for the tens of millions around the world who were already vulnerable before this crisis began. They face even greater risks during this pandemic.
Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) knows this well. For over a century, MCC has cared for people who are vulnerable around the world. We know there’s not just one answer to a crisis. However, there are areas of MCC’s work that are vital to supporting people who are particularly vulnerable in situations like this.
Temporary shelters, close quarters and a lack of hygiene supplies – this is where disease and infection spread. It’s also the reality in the Mubimbi and Poste displaced persons camps in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo). MCC is partnering with the ECC-MERU (Church of Christ in Congo) to provide healthcare to displaced people there. A clinic provides treatment for the hundreds of people living in each camp.
Water and hygiene
Now that you’re washing your hands what seems like a dozen times a day, it’s easy to see the importance of clean, safe water. Many people around the world don’t have access to it. MCC supports water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programs that drastically reduce the spread of diseases. Clean water, effective hygiene practices and proper waste management keep people healthy.
Two remote Haitian communities, Wopisa-Gabriyèl and Kabay, saw 291 deaths from cholera in 2016. In 2017, MCC began public hygiene training, providing water purification equipment and building latrines. The result? Cholera was eliminated from the two communities.
In southern Chad, tens of thousands of refugees who’ve fled Central African Republic have virtually no access to resources. Living in camps and nearby villages, they often rely on unsafe open-pit wells for water. MCC partner SECADEV (Catholic Relief and Development) is working to install new sealed water pumps, build latrines and provide education on proper hygiene practices. This ensures waste doesn’t contaminate the local water supply.
It’s not unusual to hear reports of stores with empty shelves and restaurants closing in recent days. Feeling unsure of secure food is a new feeling for many of us. But millions around the world can’t walk to a nearby supermarket or order takeout when they are hungry. MCC provides emergency food and helps farmers grow food to feed their families.
After Cyclone Idai hit southeastern Africa in 2019, many families had no access to food. MCC and local Brethren in Christ churches worked to provide emergency food to thousands. This urgent work continues across the globe including places like Syria, DR Congo and Colombia.
In rural Cambodia, it’s common for families to run small-scale rice farms and vegetable gardens. But many don’t produce enough to sustain their homes. MCC partner, Organization to Develop our Villages, invests in farmer-led co-operatives, which bolster families’ ability to feed themselves and sell their surplus to pay for things like medical care.
The constant stream of news updates about the spread of COVID-19 has caused fear and anxiety for many. MCC’s peacebuilding tackles the difficult work of creating peaceful dialogue in areas of tension and conflict while also educating people about how to prevent the spread of the virus.
In 2006, Issa Ebombolo started Peace Clubs in three schools in Zambia to help students build peace and speak up for their rights and safety. Now, more than 650 peace clubs exist in 14 African countries, not just in schools. Communities, churches and refugee camps have also adopted this nonviolent method of building peace.
MCC is well positioned to respond to the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis in the places we work. Together, we can care for our neighbours, whether across the street or around the globe. Thank you for your support.
As MCC celebrates 100 years, in the coming months we will look at how MCC has expanded beyond its beginnings. We will explore the many ministries serving locally, nationally and globally.
by Laureen F. Guenther
“If it wasn’t for MCC, I wouldn’t be here,” says Renita Hamm. “My grandparents were starving. MCC saved their lives.”
In 1918, Sara Reimer and Heinrich Kornelsen, Hamm’s maternal grandparents, lived with their parents in what was then Alexanderkrone, Ukraine.
The Russian Revolution had occurred in 1917, and anarchy reigned. The Red and White Armies engaged in a civil war, and the Reimer and Kornelsen families lived near the warfront. Soldiers moved in and out of the villages, stealing or destroying whatever they wanted.
During the 1918-1919 winter, Sara Kornelsen wrote in her memoirs, their family had overnight ‘guests’ – soldiers from the Red Army, or the White – every night for five months. Soldiers of both armies, and bands of robbers, demanded food and stole belongings, destroyed property and assaulted girls and women, and murdered hundreds of people.
“The invasion of the (soldiers) also brought lice and an epidemic of typhus, which caused many deaths,” Sara remembered. “We had no choice. The soldiers made themselves at home in our homes.”
Then famine added starvation to their sorrow. The summer of 1919 brought total crop failure. “The sun was so hot the grain burned before it could fill out,” Sara wrote. “Our vegetable crop was poor too.”
At the end of the summer, when Sara and her mother harvested their half-acre of potatoes, they carried the entire harvest home in one trip.
They started the winter with some flour and barley, but not enough to bake bread. In the attic, where they’d stored grain, they swept up the left-behind kernels, mixed with roof plaster and mouse droppings. They sorted out the grain, washed it and boiled it, then mixed that with ground beets to make flat loaves of bread. It wasn’t enough, but it was all they had.
“When we were sitting at the table with our meager rations, Russian children from the villages looked in the window and begged, ‘For God’s sake, a piece of bread,’” Sara remembered. “It was so hard to say no. We were all so hungry too. We took to drawing the window shades so no one could see when we were eating.”
Sara’s brothers found crows’ eggs, which were baked into the bread. Then they all ate the family cat.
After Easter, Sara’s oldest brother, who’d emigrated to Chicago, sent a package of flour, rice, sugar and tea. “How delighted we all were when that parcel arrived and we could, for once, all satisfy our hunger,” Sara wrote.
In spring, the hens began to lay again, and the perennial herbs began to grow.
In summer of 1920, four Mennonite men from Ukraine went to western Europe and North America, to tell their fellow Mennonites of Russia’s troubles and to plead for help. At that time, small local Mennonite relief commissions were working in various locations. When they heard the stories from Russia, they decided to join forces.
The Mennonite Central Committee held its first official meeting in September 1920, but it was more than a year before the Soviet government allowed MCC to enter Russia. Hamm says her grandfather, Heinrich Kornelsen, was on the committee distributing the first food and clothing. MCC also set up soup kitchens and fed thousands of starving Russians. Later, they brought in tractors to replace the Mennonites’ horses, lost to war and starvation.
In 1923, Sara Reimer and Heinrich Kornelsen were married. There was food again, and relative peace, but Russia was still unsettled. That same year, Heinrich left his parents and siblings and emigrated with his new wife to Canada, settling in Coaldale, Alberta. Hamm’s mother Elvira was their second daughter, born in 1926.
Elvira Kornelson married John J. Dueck. Renita (Dueck) Hamm is their seventh child.
At family and church gatherings throughout Hamm’s childhood, she heard her grandparents begin every prayer with a heartfelt outpouring of, “Dear Heavenly Father, we thank You again that You brought us here (to Canada).” “Those prayers were heard every Sunday in church,” she says. “It resonated (with me) for a long time.”
Hamm’s mother, Elvira Dueck, never forgot what her parents had suffered, and how MCC had helped them. She volunteered at the MCC Thrift Store in Lethbridge, for over 50 years. She also volunteered at her church, the hospital and other community organizations. She passed away in 2019, at the age of 92.
Hamm and her husband Bill have four grown children and two grandchildren. As her mother did, Hamm still supports MCC. Recently, she participated in an MCC quilt-making project that provides comforters for displaced persons. And like her mother, Hamm gives to her church and community.
“Thank you for listening to the Spirit,” she’d like to say to the MCC founders and volunteers who rescued her grandparents. “Thank you for (paying attention to) the news. Thank you for caring. Thank you for getting organizations like CPRail and International Harvester to come onboard and help, and for providing ways for Canada to welcome us. Thank you for asking everyone to pay attention. Thank you.”
To those of her children’s and grandchildren’s generations, she hopes to pass on another message. “We’re all God’s children,” she says. “The world is just a big, inter-connected community and we’d better pay attention to all its members. We’re not alone in this world. There’s a debt that must be paid forward. In doing that, we honour our past and our future.”
by Frank Dabbs
After his resurrection, Jesus met his disciples on a Galilean mountain and asked them to spend the rest of their lives proclaiming the gospel. He promised to go with them to the ends of the world.
The history of Christianity for 2,000 years was shaped by the obedience of these eleven apostles to Jesus’ great commission. What do Jesus’ words mean today in the context of thousands of languages and cultures on the globe?
For two years beginning in 2017, World Partners, the mission leadership arm of the Evangelical Missionary Church of Canada, listened to and learned from the leaders and members, and worked with them to reset the EMCC missions’ paradigm. The result is a church that belongs to no nation and has no borders or boundaries.
“We work with individuals and churches in pursuing how God is nudging us all to participate in His mission in the world,” says Joel Zantingh, the executive director of World Partners.
Most of the world’s Jesus followers live south of the Tropic of Cancer (latitude 23.5 degrees north).
The new paradigm recognizes that the rebalancing of Christianity southward is fundamental to missions.
No longer are Christians from Europe and North America sent out to proselytize the heathen.
Rather, Christians across the globe are now walking together to proclaim the good news.
“We work with individuals and churches in pursuing how God is nudging us all to participate in His Mission in the world through learning, connecting and mobilizing,” says Zantingh.
The World Partners assistant director, Nicole Jones-Qandah says, “we are brothers and sisters in Christ, walking together, learning together, mutually enabling and encouraging each other, praying together and and giving spiritual and financial aid where needed.”
Three words, Learn, Connect, Mobilize, summarize the re-envisioned work of the World Partners, the EMCC ministerial leadership and the church membership.
The discovery assessment process to determine the new paradigm permeated the EMCC at the congregational, ministerial, regional and national levels.
“The buy-in to the reset paradigm is encouraging because it will affect the posture and strategic direction for the churches’ relationship with global partners, for global workers, and for development initiatives,” Zantingh says.
Learn, Connect and Mobilize has five core values.
It is commission-driven, living out the way of Jesus by listening, trusting and obeying the Spirit of Jesus, and practicing sacrificial love.
It puts relationships first by fostering mutuality with Canadians and global partners.
It is cooperative, collaborating with like-minded partners in Canada and internationally.
It is integrated, engaging churches and individuals in Jesus’ mission, offering experiences that integrate development with disciple-making.
It is culturally aware, increasing the ability of all partners to serve each other with cultural awareness and sensitivity.
“We are opening a new chapter in global missions, journeying with the body of Christ together around the world, says Zantingh.
For example, in a Latin American country, EMCC is facilitating the church in enabling Christians to train and support medical workers to be sent elsewhere on the globe.
In North Africa, a Tunisian woman who considers the EMCC to be her spiritual heritage because she met Christ through EMCC missionaries, is leading house churches and aiding women in crisis because they face violence and fear due to their faith.
World Partners is meeting with EMCC pastors, members and leaders across Canada to share the new paradigm.
Zantingh says, “There are things we cannot see. What does God want to teach us? We need to develop a learning posture.
“We need to learn from one another. We need to be inquisitive, to slow down our pace of actions, to set aside the North American results-oriented culture and patiently listen and learn.”
According to Zantingh, “followers of Jesus can be more engaged in international missions because the globe has shrunk, due to ease of travel.
“There are many more opportunities for short term teams and mission assignments.”
He says, “the EMCC is shifting its mindset to develop a global heart that knows that senders and receivers have been replaced by mutuality. Christians are a global family of equals.”
“Although the church’s paradigm has change, the scriptural mandate hasn’t.” says Jones-Qandah.
She cited Micah 6, “What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
And Isaiah 61, “the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
For more information on the Evangelical Missionary Church of Canada World Partners, check the website at www.emcc.ca/world-partners/wp-profile.
edited by Al Coats
In just over a month, four Christians, including two women, a teenager, and a pastor, were killed in India because of their faith. These killings, may indicate a deadly new trend in the persecution and violence facing India’s Christian community.
On May 25, the body of Bijay Mandavi, a 38-year-old Christian woman, was found in the jungle near Baddi village, Chhattisgarh. Ever since she became a Christian three years ago, she went through constant harassment and death threats, but despite this, Bijay, the mother of three children, remained steadfast in her newfound faith.
On June 4, Sombura Madkami, a 14-year-old Christian boy from Kenduguda village, Odisha state, was brutally murdered. Local extremists had been harassing the Christians of Kenduguda for years, and more recently had threatened to kill the Christians if they continued to hold church activities in the village.
On June 7, Kande Mudu, a 27-year-old Christian, was killed after he was dragged out of his house by extremists in Bari village, Jharkhand. Mudu’s wife Bindu said, ” My husband was my everything. I cannot think of life without my husband. I do know, however, that I will continue to follow Jesus. Nothing more can be taken away from me.”
On July 10, Pastor Munsi Thado, age 35, was murdered in the forest near Badpari village, Maharashtra. He was killed because of his faith, life, and ministry to the Adivasi people in the area. He led more than 20 families to Christ since he was thrown out the village by some Hindu radicals.
In 2014, there were documented 147 violent attacks on India’s Christians community. In 2019, the latest data available, 366 attacks were documented.
In light of these recent killings, some Christians fear that a deadly new trend is emerging. Historically, incidents of persecution in India have been generally limited to physical assaults, threats, social boycotts, and the destruction of property. However, the recent killings may indicate that the severity of persecution is also increasing in addition to the frequency.
Aftercare Ministries (ACM) Society is a not-for-profit Christian outreach ministry that exists for the purpose of faithfully and prayerfully proclaiming the good news of the cross of Jesus Christ to those incarcerated in prison. We are grateful when God allows us to witness as the seed of His word bears the fruit of a transformed heart. We work in the prisons to share this message of hope and assist in transition from prison to society.
Through involvement in the prison ministry following incarceration, ACM has become more familiar with the plight and special circumstances of offenders, ex-offenders, and their immediate and extended families. The aftercare needs are numerous and significant, and the opportunities for Christian service are virtually unlimited. They include: pointing individuals to the transforming power of Christ, assisting the new believers in one-on-one, ongoing long-term friendships, mentoring, connecting to a biblical community, and providing discipling and guidance through incarceration and the transition to freedom.
ACM works with other agencies and Christian ministries to access appropriate community resources for participants. This is the joy and privilege of this type of ministry and if you would like to volunteer or support our work, please contact us at 403-540-5736.
Rather than being a source of joy, your marriage can destroy your quality of life, causing silent frustration and catastrophic disappointment. But every couple is entitled to a meaningful marriage filled with passion, intimacy, and shared purpose. The All-for-Nothing Marriage by Daniel Zopoula is a highly practical tool designed to help couples identify a path for achieving just those things.
Drawing in his experience and a guiding faith, Zopoula will walk you through the philosophy underlying his unique take on today’s marriage solutions with brilliant insights, personal reflections and practical advice to show how any marriage can be better.
The book is divided into two intuitive sections: Part One explores the internal workings of a marriage; Part Two challenges readers to implement four practical steps to rekindle the core connection which results in phenomenal love and ultimate fulfillment in life.
Here is a step-by-step guide for neutralizing your marital problems with a redemptive mindset, one that will turn a mediocre marriage into a remarkable one. Here is a paradigm-shifting approach to recalibrate your expectations, increase intimacy and emotional togetherness, make the most of your relationship, live a better story and experience a meaningful life.
Whether you are married, or, just looking for illuminating advice, The All-for-Nothing Marriage will forever transform your understanding of the anatomy of marriage, and the unique value you bring to a relationship that’s critical to so many people’s lives.
Nothing is more frustrating than having a calling or passion for a cause but not knowing how to move forward in doing it. Over the last twenty four years, Bridges of Hope has seen many leaders wrestle with this exact scenario.
“Creating a not-for-profit is not easy,” Daniel Zoppoula, CEO of Bridges of Hope, said. “There are many loopholes you have to jump through just to help people. That’s why we’ve seen a need to help equip leaders to make a difference in the world.”
We believe that leaders should be able to simply focus on the cause they care deeply about instead of the complexities that come with it. By joining Bridges of Hope, leaders maintain all of the benefits of personal branding but gain the support of a global network and a full time staff to support CRA compliant donations, legal and accounting. This opens up possibilities for anyone who sees a need, whether it is here in North America or across the globe in Africa, Asia and beyond.
We make it easy, according to Shawn Mehler, Marketing Director of Bridges of Hope. “All you need to do is apply and share your vision.” Bridges of Hope is not new to uniting charities together. In fact, there are over 100 projects active in several countries around the world.
Some of the key benefits of starting a partner project with Bridges of Hope are:
Reduced administration costs
Access to payroll and benefits
Donations and receipting
Bridges of Hope has leaders locally and abroad running orphanages, health clinics, churches, youth centers, child sponsorship programs and more. Bridges of Hope is a great organization for anyone who feels passionate about making a difference but can not see a way forward.
Financial supporters of Bridges of Hope are also passionate about giving to such a cause. Many donors know that their contributions reach much further with such a connected and robust organization like Bridges of Hope.”
If you would like to learn more about starting a partner project with Bridges of Hope or becoming a passionate financial supporter please visit www.bridgesofhope.ca.
It’s August and time to start planning our fall ministries, but with this world of COVID, plans are always changing. It doesn’t mean that we don’t plan. It means that we seek God and plan according to His Leading, recognizing that He knows the future. And while our plans may come to nothing, He will use them to build us in other ways. How is your planning going?
Brigade is having a huge online Kickoff on Wednesday, August 26. It is for boys and their families, Brigade leaders and their churches. Two 45-minute sessions are being put together by two teams of experienced CSB staff and Brigade leaders for Stockade and Battalion. They will be presented twice that same night to allow participation from all across North America.
Check it out at www.csbbc.org/brigade-kickoff. Serving our children and youth for Christ is different today. CSB can help your men and boys.
Christianity Explored (CE) is an outreach ministry which was developed in a church in London, England, in the early 2000’s by evangelist Rico Tice, under the leadership of John Stott. It involves a seven week journey through the Gospel of Mark to look at Jesus from three perspectives: Identity (Who is he?), Mission (Why did he come?), and Call (invitation to follow him and what does it mean to do so.) It uses the format that has proven effective in communicating the Gospel message to todays, lesser-churched culture – invitation, food, talk, discussion – where guests are welcomed unconditionally and encouraged to ask any question or offer any opinion without ridicule or condemnation.
CE has resources not only for leading people to a first-time relationship with Jesus Christ, but for discipling and deepening the faith of those God has brought to that new relationship through other means.
God’s Littlest Angels is a Haitian orphanage. It was founded by John and Dixie Bickel in 1994, when a nearly two-pound baby girl was born at the hospital in Fermathe. Because of her size, she was not given much of a chance of survival. However, through the efforts of the Bickels, Angel Noel went home to her parents after four months. Today, GLA offers short-term assistance to children needing a place to stay due to bad health or the death of a parent, but who are not up for adoption. These children will return to their families once their circumstances improve. Some cannot return to their families and are waiting for adoptive parents.
Sign up today for a “Donate your change round-up giving account.” When you make an everyday purchase using your chequing or PayPal account (credit/debit card), you will be giving your spare change to help GLA. It is rounded up to the nearest dollar.
Your donation of $1 per day will help GLA cover the basic expenses so we can focus on other supplemental services. glacanada.donateyourchange.ca
What a picture – Jesus is kneeling before His disciples to wash their feet! I know it does not sound right, especially when we think of Him as the object of our exclusive praise. It is, however, a part of Jesus as a servant. He came to serve.
He also took time out with His disciples and taught them to serve too. They talked about who would be the greatest. This teaching of leading by serving continues to have an unfamiliar ring in an age that calls for us to be recognized for doing great things. How do I respond to the word of God that describes what the kingdom of God looks like – to lead is to serve?
Erwin van Laar is the President of MECO Canada – called to serve those in and from the Middle East – www.mecocanada.ca.
Our missionaries are active across Canada in evangelism, discipling, and ministering to the needs of the whole person. We do these within the framework of the bigger picture – we believe that establishing local fellowship groups and churches is central to the Great Commission and the building of God’s Kingdom among Canada’s First Peoples.
There are still many Aboriginal communities without a healthy Bible-based church. Can you imagine anything more rewarding than seeing, firsthand, a church planted where there previously wasn’t one?
We have career church multiplying opportunities, as well as short- and long-term ministry openings in Bible camps, publishing, television, office, and facilities maintenance.
Visit our website (www.ncem.ca) or call 306-764-3388. See how God is working among Canada’s First Peoples when you tune in to our TV program Tribal Trails … or watch anytime online at www.tribaltrails.org … and come see us at Missions Fest Alberta, Feb 21-23.
People International Canada serves in greater Central Asia often referred to as the Stans. Our friends and those we minister to are shop keepers, teachers, bakers, taxi drivers, grandmas, farmers and business people. Our goal is to invest in local believers and build up the local churches. In one country we work in, a “Gypsy” or Roma ministry has begun. One of our team members has a special interest in Gypsies. He ministers in a gypsy community where many have now come to Jesus. Not only have they decided to follow Jesus, but the decision has changed their lives: they have registered their marriages, put their children in school, and started working! No one has ever heard of such life changes before in this country. This is the real ou come of sharing Jesus in hard-to-reach places. People’s lives are transformed. Communities are changed for the good.
There could be many reasons why an individual looks at pornography, yet, there are 3 which become prominent in conversations at Rock Solid Refuge. These are:
1) I need connection
2) I need intimacy
3) I need value
I need connection
People need to be connected; they cannot exist without it and if they do not receive this, they will seek it out digitally or through social media. How are their relationships and what relationships matter to them?
I need intimacy
People need intimacy and this is not strictly physical, it is far deeper and even reaches to the core of who we are. We have been told that intimacy is at one level, yet, this encompasses all of who we are and the relationships that we have.
I need value
People need to feel value; that their lives matter and they have worth. If they do not feel this then they will seek other means to receive it.
How to engage with your teen?
1) Communicate with them
2) Listen to your teen
3) Speak about solutions
4) Understand and do not criticize
Exhausted flood victims receive vital help from Samaritan’s Purse and people like you Volunteers provide physical, spiritual aid in Jesus Name to grateful northern Alberta family
By Frank King
The situation at Gerry Gaunt’s home in Fort McMurray, Alberta was bad. So bad, that the 53-year-old machinist didn’t step off his property for a week after the Clearwater River flooded in late April, depositing almost four feet of water in his shop and nearly two feet in his house.
“I wasn’t expecting the water to breach the house,” he said quietly while sitting on a garden tractor. Once the floodwaters receded, Gerry used that tractor to move dirt around the house and encourage the water underneath his home—which doesn’t have a basement—to finally drain away.
“I didn’t realize the gravity of the situation; I was concerned, but optimistic,” he said.
The gravity of the situation became frighteningly clear when Sheri, Gerry’s wife, and their three dogs had to be kayaked out of the property by one of their sons, as rising water cut off the home from rescue vehicles.
An overwhelming amount of work
After the floodwaters disappeared, the amount of work ahead of Gerry and his family was overwhelming. He felt he had no choice but to stay on the property, sleeping in an RV so he could spend as much time as possible cleaning up.
That’s when an army of orange-shirted Samaritan’s Purse volunteers arrived to offer a welcome light at the end of a long, dark tunnel that was looming ahead of the Gaunt family.
Thanks to prayers and support from people like you, the team was able to bring in specialized recovery equipment and spend two days removing waterlogged furniture and belongings, tearing away soaked drywall and flooring, and spraying to stop mold growth. All this at no cost to the Gaunt family.
As Samaritan’s Purse volunteers respond, the organization is investing extra resources and taking special precautions, while coordinating with government officials, to protect them and those they serve from COVID-19.
Offering stability in an unstable time
“This is a big help,” Gerry said gratefully as he watched volunteers coming and going from his home, many of them carrying tools or removing damaged drywall. “It would take me a long time to get this work done.”
The timely help and professionalism of the Samaritan’s Purse volunteer team also impressed Gerry. “Everyone’s polite and courteous. They offer stability in an unstable time,” he said.
The Gaunts are just one of more than 90 Fort McMurray families that reached out for help after the ice-jammed Clearwater and Athabasca Rivers drowned their homes.
Please continue to pray for them. Many are still recovering from the devastating wildfire that ripped through Fort McMurray in 2016, while also dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and very challenging economic times.
In times of disaster, you can continue to bring stability, help, and hope in Jesus’ Name to hurting Canadian families. As you do, you “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2, ESV). Please visit SamaritansPurse.ca to learn how you can help.