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A short history of Lao Christian Fellowship

Lao Christian Fellowship in St. Catharines officially became a Mennonite congregation in 1983. (Photo by Maria H. Klassen)

After many years of war in and around Laos, the Laos PDR party took over in 1975, and hundreds of thousands of Laotians escaped to Thailand. Under Canada’s Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program, and with the help of individuals and groups under the leadership of Mennonite Central Committee, many families settled in Canada.

Hope in a dark world

Suzanne Gross, right, of First Mennonite Church in Edmonton, hangs out with Joanne Moyer, who biked to the Interfaith Climate Change Prayer Vigil on Sept. 22 in Edmonton. (Photo by Brian Ladd)

“Beefier barley: Climate change will boost Alberta’s barley yields with less water, and feed more cattle,” said a big billboard appearing to promote the benefits of climate change. It was produced by the University of Alberta last month. Jacqui Tam, vice-president of university relations, resigned, with the school announcing that it had not approved the ad.

Striking for the future

From left to right: Laurel Smith and Juniper Giesbrecht, both of Charleswood Mennonite, Lena Klassen of First Mennonite, and Alayna Smith of Charleswood Mennonite, attend the Winnipeg climate strike. (Photo by Nicolien Klassen-Wiebe)

The Westgate Mennonite Collegiate Concert Choir performs at the morning prayer service at Broadway Disciples United Church. (Photo by Nicolien Klassen-Wiebe)

More than 12,000 people take part in the climate strike in Winnipeg. (Photo by Nicolien Klassen-Wiebe)

Kyle Penner, associate pastor of Grace Mennonite in Steinbach, and Paul Loewen, a member of Douglas Mennonite in Winnipeg, with Penner’s sign of Dirk Willems with an environmental twist. (Photo by Nicolien Klassen-Wiebe)

Mennonites Matthew Rempel, left, Kelsey Wiebe, Marta Bunnett, Marika Veith, Michael Veith, Sarah Janzen and Maya Janzen all strike for the climate! (Photo by Nicolien Klassen-Wiebe)

Mennonites from many different churches in Manitoba gather at the Manitoba legislature for the global climate strike. (Photo by Nicolien Klassen-Wiebe)

Andrea De Avila, associate pastor of Sargent Avenue Mennonite Church, and Moses Falco, pastor of Sterling Mennonite Fellowship, both Winnipeg congregations, volunteer as marshals for the rally. (Photo by Nicolien Klassen-Wiebe)

A sign made by a Canadian Mennonite University student is carried during the march along the streets of Winnipeg. (Photo by Nicolien Klassen-Wiebe)

Mennonites took to the streets of Winnipeg on Sept. 27 with more than 12,000 others to strike for the climate. The rally was one of thousands happening around the world as part of the global youth-led movement that has seen millions protesting the climate crisis and advocating for environmental justice.

KGB archives in Ukraine now open

Peter Giesbrecht was one of thousands of Mennonites detained and never heard from again in Ukraine under Stalin. (Photo courtesy of the Centre for Transnational Mennonite Studies)

Family members of the tens of thousands of Mennonites detained in Ukraine during the 1930s and ’40s can now request further information through a new program at the Centre for Transnational Mennonite Studies. 

Imperilled world, imperfect choices

‘So I must state that, for all the good reasons to fly, there is one good reason not to: We’re cookin’ the place,’ states Will Braun, as rising sea levels and melting glaciers and icebergs attest. (Photo © Mennig)

I interviewed five people who care about climate, yet, like many of us, they take actions not backed by their beliefs. I wanted to gently pull back the veil on the inner tensions with which many of us contend. 

Planting trees, nurturing a dream

Wayne and Carry Dueck appreciate the wild beauty of the place they have come to call The Land. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

Wayne and Carry Dueck walk across the property they refer to as The Land. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

Wayne Dueck admires how the Scots pine trees he planted over 30 years ago have grown and proliferated over the years. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

Wayne Dueck is dwarfed next to the Scots pine trees he planted on The Land over 30 years ago. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

Wayne and Carry Dueck hammer a cedar shake into the ground in front of a pine tree. This marker recalls a special friendship. Other markers over the years have commemorated loved ones who have died, or recalled distant friends. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

The names on this cedar shake will disappear with time, and the marker itself may disappear, as deer seem to find them tasty, says Wayne Dueck. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

Wayne and Carry Dueck wander through the trees on the property they call The Land. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

‘Is there cell reception here?’ Wayne Dueck wonders as he sits in a former campfire circle on The Land. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

Wayne Dueck notes the proliferation and size of second-growth conifers that have sprung up in recent years on The Land. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

Wayne and Carry Dueck examine a small burr oak tree planted in the late 1990s. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

Wayne Dueck laughs when he sees an ironically placed detour sign. Spending time on The Land has been a detour of sorts for the Duecks as they have re-evaluated what is important to them. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

Carry Dueck marvels at the many second-growth trees that have sprouted over the years since her husband Wayne planted thousands of trees in the late 1980s. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

Wayne Dueck examines a burr oak tree he planted in the late 1990s. He expects that, if the tree survives, it may outlive many of the surrounding conifers. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

As they walk the length of their 32-hectare (80-acre) property, it is evident that Wayne and Carry Dueck share a deep love for the place they simply call The Land.

Church garden provides produce for soup kitchen

The garden at Grace Mennonite Church in Steinbach, Man., donates its produce to local soup kitchen, Soup’s On. (Photo by Larry Friesen)

Larry Friesen, garden coordinator, shows a harvest of potatoes from the garden. (Photo courtesy of Larry Friesen)

Sharon Reimer picks cucumbers from the garden. (Photo by Larry Friesen)

Betty Koop showcases the garden’s tall tomato plants. (Photo by Larry Friesen)

In the summer of 2004, Joy Neufeld opened the first soup kitchen in Steinbach. Fifteen years later, Soup’s On is still serving its community and is thriving.

Neufeld, a member of Grace Mennonite Church in Steinbach, started the project because she loved working in the kitchen. “I just love cooking and baking, but the last thing Steinbach needed was another restaurant,” she says. 

Rearranging pews a symbol of deeper discernment

The Waterloo-Kitchener United Church congregation rearranged its sanctuary in a more communal way around a central space. The church’s summer theme was ‘Building community around a shared table,’ with food to share at the end of the service. (Photo by Karl Dick)

In what church member Karl Dick calls a “bold summer experiment,” the congregation at Waterloo-Kitchener United Mennonite Church decided to unscrew some of its hardwood benches and re-arrange them in “a more communal” way.

Duet bikes an opportunity for young and old to connect

Volunteers take two residents out for a ride on the duet bikes. (Photo courtesy of Menno Place)

Bruce Marshall, a resident of Menno Place, is pedalled around by rehabilitation assistant Dale Carlisle, who took part in the 2018 MCC B.C. Pedaling for Hope cyclathon. (Photo courtesy of Menno Place)

Emily Pfannschmidt and Dale Carlisle pedal for Menno Place residents Lex Smid and Bruce Marshall. (Photo courtesy of Menno Place)

People walking around Abbotsford, B.C.’s Mill Lake might have caught an odd sight of seniors riding on duet bikes this summer.

Duet bikes are wheelchair tandem bikes that enable people who have little mobility to get pedalled around by someone who has that ability. 

Exhibit features professor’s paintings of historic Anabaptist sites

Gareth Brandt, an Anabaptist history professor at Columbia Bible College, stands beside ‘Strassbourg,’ one of his ‘simple folk art’ works at the Mennonite Heritage Museum, where his ‘Stories of the Anabaptists’ collection is on display until Nov. 1. (Mennonite Heritage Museum photo by Julia Toews )

Patrons at Mennonite Heritage Museum view the paintings of Gareth Brandt depicting ‘Stories of the Anabaptists’ that are on display through Nov. 1. (Photo by Amy Rinner Waddell)

Paintings of Gareth Brandt depicting ‘Stories of the Anabaptists’ that are on display through Nov. 1. (Photo by Amy Rinner Waddell)

A love for the arts, combined with an interest in Anabaptist history, has inspired a professor at Columbia Bible College in Abbotsford to create paintings depicting early Anabaptist history. The exhibit of Gareth Brandt’s water-colour paintings, “Stories of the Anabaptists,” was introduced Sept. 11 at the Mennonite Heritage Museum in Abbotsford.

MMI golf tournament aids Edmonton Mennonite Guest Home rebuild

Pictured from left to right: Rudy Koop; Garth Wideman and Dave Lefever, both of Holyrood Mennonite, Edmonton; and Herman Neufeld of Edmonton First Mennonite, formed a team to raise money for the Edmonton Mennonite Guest Home at the first-ever MMI golf tournament in September. (Photo by Marguerite Jack)

The Edmonton Mennonite Guest Home, a non-profit subsidiary of the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite, is rebuilding one of its two houses in south Edmonton. Completion is expected to be in the spring 2020. (Photo by Brian Ladd)

Mennonite Mutual Insurance (MMI) in Alberta had its first-ever golf tournament fundraiser at the Eagle Rock Golf Course in Leduc County, just south of Edmonton, on Sept. 7. Chosen as its beneficiary was the Edmonton Mennonite Guest Home that provides short-term residential accommodation for patients and families of patients being treated in Edmonton’s medical facilities.

Building relationships with residential school survivors

Geronimo Henry, a survivor of the former Mohawk Institute Residential School in Brantford, Ont., says of his experience at the school, ‘I find it hard to forgive. It took my childhood from me.’ He is sitting at one of the new tables built by MDS volunteers from Mennonite congregations in Ontario and British Columbia. (Photo by John Longhurst)

Mennonite church youth groups from Kitchener, St. Jacobs, Listowel and Elmira, Ont., and Abbotsford, B.C., helped MDS restore this longhouse at the Woodland Cultural Centre over the summer. (Photo by John Longhurst)

The former Mohawk Institute Residential School in Brantford, Ont., is currently being refurbished. Over the summer, MCC, MDS and Mennonite congregations from Ontario and British Columbia helped with the work. (Photo by John Longhurst)

Carley Gallant Jenkins, the coordinator of the Woodland Cultural Centre’s Save the Evidence fundraising campaign, sits at a newly minted desk made by MDS volunteers from Toronto Chinese Mennonite Church in July. (Photo by John Longhurst)

Stella and Rebecca Liu of Toronto Chinese Mennonite Church help file documents and shelve books in the former Mohawk Institute Residential School in Brantford, Ont. (Photo by John Longhurst)

Timothy Khoo of Toronto Chinese Mennonite Church stains a table top. (Photo by John Longhurst)

Jason Deng of Toronto Chinese Mennonite Church sands a tabletop built by members of his congregation and MDS volunteers. (Photo by John Longhurst)

Matthew Deng of Toronto Chinese Mennonite Church sands the base of a school desk built by members of his congregation and MDS volunteers. (Photo by John Longhurst)

Survivors of the former Mohawk Institute Residential School in Brantford, Ont., have returned to scratch messages into the bricks. There are hundreds at the back of the building where former students have left their marks, like this one from Franke, who served time at the school—‘11 years too many.’ (Photo by John Longhurst)

Crew leader Andrew Thiessen, right, of Columbia Bible College in Abbotsford, B.C., and helpers from St. Jacobs Mennonite Church and Stirling Avenue Mennonite Church in Kitchener, Ont., help move documents and books around the former Mohawk Institute Residential School in Brantford, Ont., this summer. (MDS photo by Nick Hamm)

Ontario volunteers from Stirling Avenue Mennonite Church in Kitchener, St. Jacobs Mennonite Church, and Avon Mennonite Church in Stratford. (MDS photo by Nick Hamm)

Markus Schroeder Kipfer and Jonah Willms of St. Jacobs Mennonite Church, Ont., sift for historical artifacts on the grounds of the former Mohawk Institute Residential School in Brantford, Ont., this summer. (Photo by Nick Hamm)

Aidan Morton Ninomiya and Jonah Willms of St. Jacobs (Ont.) Mennonite Church, front row, and Christian Albrecht and Steve Manske of Stirling Avenue Mennonite Church, Kitchener, Ont., back row, sit in school desks they helped build at the former Mohawk Institute Residential School in Brantford, Ont., this summer. (Photo by Nick Hamm)

Ontario volunteers from Grace Mennonite Church in St. Catharines, St. Jacobs Mennonite Church and Stirling Avenue Mennonite Church in Kitchener help MDS build school benches at the former Mohawk Institute Residential School in Brantford, Ont., this summer. (Photo by Nick Hamm)

“It’s personal, there are names and faces. It’s not just textbook information now.”

That’s how Timothy Khoo, 16, describes what it was like to meet residential school survivors while volunteering with Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) at the former Mohawk Institute Residential School in Brantford in July.

Picnics galore!

Springridge Mennonite Church tug-of-war at its annual picnic. (Photo by Del Willms)

Springridge Mennonite Church boot toss at its annual picnic this June in Pincher Creek. (Photo by Del Willms)

Springridge Mennonite Church egg toss with Chris Marten and granddaughter Claire. (Photo by Del Willms)

Springridge Mennonite Church traditional sack race. Pictured from left to right: Tany Warkentin, Kyle Janzen, Riley Diesty, Danika Warkentin, Andrew Janzen, Karl Janzen and Asher Warkentin. (Photo by Del Willms)

Springridge Mennonite Church sack race with Riley Diesty, left, and Jonas Anjo. (Photo by Del Willms)

Children participate in the sack race at this year’s church picnic at Trinity Mennonite Church in Okotoks, Alta. Pictured from left to right: Cole Schellenberg, Nate Lopaschuk and Ruby Loewen. (Photo by Jenna Hunsberger)

Springridge Mennonite Church congregants at their annual picnic this June in Pincher Creek, Alta. (Photo by Del Willms)

Many church programs eventually come to an end, but there’s one event that still remains after many decades—and that’s the church picnic!

‘Beyond expectations’ with the help of God

Children make planets at the VBS craft station, on the theme of ‘To Mars and beyond.’ (Photo by Barb Burkhard)

The intercultural Vacation Bible School planning committee from First Hmong and First Mennonite churches in Kitchener included, from left to right: Griselda Bevenborn, René Baergen, My Yang, Tina Heu, Charity Friesen, Dao Her and Gao Hlee; absent: Julie Lee. (Photo by Janet Bauman)

“I’m so sad that it’s over!” said one young participant after a week of high-energy Vacation Bible School (VBS) activities at First Mennonite Church in Kitchener last month. 

That is just what the eight-member intercultural planning committee wanted to hear after its first joint venture of leading VBS for children aged 2 to 11 each morning from Aug. 12 to 16.

West Hills congregation tries ‘messy church’

Children prepare to go for a tractor and wagon ride at a local farm for one of the West Hills congregation's ‘out’ Sundays. (Photo courtesy of West Hills Fellowship)

The West Hills congregation gathers for worship in a home on their ‘in’ Sunday. (Photo courtesy of West Hills Fellowship)

Two years ago, West Hills Fellowship, in Baden, Ont., faced up to its small-church realities. It had lost some families for a variety of reasons, and found it challenging to run programs and Sunday morning worship services.

That’s when the congregation tried a “messy church” model. 

Auction raises funds for Amish private schools

Horses were among the items for sale at the Amish school auction. (Photo by Se Yim)

Quilts were an important part of the Milverton Amish school sale held on July 20. (Photo by Se Yim)

Sprawled across a recently harvested hayfield on the Kuepfer farm, north of Milverton, Ont., the Amish school sale included lots of farm implements. (Photo by Se Yim)

The local Amish in their straw hats made up a big part of the crowd, but there were also lots of other bidders and onlookers. (Photo by Se Yim)

Rows of quilts wait to be auctioned. (Photo by Se Yim)

Each summer, on the third Saturday of July, the Milverton Amish communities organize a large auction to raise funds for their parochial schools. Hosted on Amish farms throughout the community, this year’s sale, held on July 20, was sprawled across a recently harvested hayfield on the Kuepfer farm north of Milverton.

Singing, serving and studying

Members of North Star Mennonite in Drake pack relief kits for Mennonite Central Committee as part of Sunday worship devoted to service. (Photo by Heidi Martens)

Members of Regina’s Grace Mennonite Church spent the month of August studying a single Scripture text. Using Lectio Divina, they listened to the text, meditated on it and responded in table groups. (Photo by Rose Graber)

Members of North Star Mennonite in Drake build picnic tables for a nearby hospital and seniors residence as part of Sunday worship devoted to service. (Photo by Heidi Martens)

Three congregations sing together as Eigenheim Mennonite Church hosts its neighbours from the Tiefengrund and Zoar Mennonite congregations. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

Congregants from Tiefengrund and Zoar Mennonite churches enjoy a potluck lunch hosted by Eigenheim Mennonite Church. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

When summer comes, many churches experience a drop in attendance. But being fewer in number can be an opportunity to try new forms of worship.

Singing together

This summer, several Mennonite Church Saskatchewan congregations chose to worship in creative and perhaps less conventional ways.

12 organizations worth recognizing during Mennonite Heritage Week

Jasem Mohammed carries a food package distributed by MCC partner Zakho Small Villages Project at the Garmawa displaced persons camp in Iraqi Kurdistan. MCC is an example of an organization that expresses values important to Mennonites. (Photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler)

At the end of May, Parliament passed a motion declaring the second week of September as Mennonite Heritage Week. 

The motion, put forward by Abbotsford MP Ed Fast, cited the role Mennonites have played “in promoting peace and justice both at home and abroad” as one of the reasons for the recognition.

‘We became Mennonites’

Lydia Grigoryevna, second from left, gets a birthday hug after worship at Nikolaipolye Mennonite Church on June 16. (Photo by Paul Schrag)

Ivan Kapelushniy, pastor of Nikolaipolye Mennonite Church, greets Mary Raber, who serves in Ukraine with Mennonite Mission Network. (Photo by Paul Schrag)

Welcoming visitors from North America, Ivan Kapelushniy, pastor of Nikolaipolye Mennonite Church, led his congregation of about 15 people in singing “For God So Loved Us” in Russian.

“There are no born Mennonites among us,” Kapelushniy said on June 16 as mission worker Mary Raber translated. “We became Mennonites.”

MCC partner serves people ‘society doesn’t want’

Natalia Mezentseva, second from left, director of New Life, a Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) partner in Ukraine, accepts an MCC centennial paperweight from North American visitors. Looking on are MCC board member Robert Enns of Calgary, left, and Viktoria Rab­chen­yuk, second from right, and Tatiana Yorzh, right, New Life women’s house residents. (Photo by Paul Schrag)

Natalia Mezentseva oversees a household of “women in difficult circumstances.”

With an affirming and instructive place to live, thanks to a Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) partner, their circumstances are better already.  

A group of visitors on an MCC learning tour heard their stories, cuddled a baby, applauded a child’s poetry recital and prayed with them on June 21.

Shackled together in perfect unity— ‘Blame it on God’

‘It takes every ounce of . . . love to cope with the success of God’s gathering,’ Tom Yoder Neufeld told delegates at this year’s MC U.S.A. conference in Kansas City, Mo. (Photo by Vada Snider)

God’s success is our problem. But it’s a good problem. From these thoughts of Tom Yoder Neufeld came a catch phrase of MennoCon19: “The church is a mess. Thanks be to God!”

Who was Mary Magdalene?

Organizer Martha Smith Good, left, chats with Amanda Witmer, instructor and lecturer who led a group of women in exploring biblical and Gnostic references to Mary Magdalene, at an event held at Wilmot Mennonite Church on July 22. (Photo by Janet Bauman)

Who was Mary of Magdala? What impressions do people have of her, and where do those impressions come from?

Fairy tales at the Fringe

The play’s five-member cast performed The Mennonite Fairytale 13 times in under three weeks. (Photo courtesy of Real Live Entertainment)

Hansel and Gretel—I mean Peter and Tina—enter the woods and end up at a house made entirely of waffles and white sauce, where they are led by their evil stepmother to pick rhubarb. And when they need to find their way home, they follow Peter’s trail of knaczot (sunflower seeds).


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