Loreena Thiessen: Ten Things for Which to be Thankful

By Loreena Thiessen

It’s October and time for Thanksgiving. You regularly give thanks before each meal. It has become a habit. But you have much more to be thankful for.

Like shelter, a house that keeps you dry and warm when it rains or when temperatures drop. It’s a safe place to eat, sleep, hang up your clothes, and store your collections. It’s peaceful. You’re in charge. You can lock the door, or open it.

Millions of people around the world do not have a home, they are homeless because of floods, or war, or because they lost their jobs. Be thankful for your house.

What about clean drinking water? You’re thirsty. You go to the fridge, open a bottle and take a sip. You expect it to be clean and safe. Millions of people do not have clean water to drink. They collect water from puddles or streams. Dirty water makes them sick.

When you’re hungry you get a snack or a sandwich. At supper you have a good dinner. You eat as much as you want. Food is fuel for the energy you need each day. Millions of people all over the world do not have enough food to eat. Constant hunger causes pain. They become weak and fall ill.

Are you healthy? To keep healthy you must eat healthy, get enough sleep and exercise. Being healthy you are able to listen and think better, you enjoy playing and working. Be thankful for your health.

Do you have good friends who share your fun, feel your sadness or excitement, spend time with you, are fair and kind? And don’t forget your family. They love and support you no matter what. You can depend on them. Be thankful for them.

At times you meet someone new who becomes a friend. Now you have another person to share and have fun with. You learn new things. Be thankful for that new person.

Are you thankful for technology? Do you have a PlayStation, Nintendo, Game Boy, or a phone? These are luxuries you may think of as necessities. You learn skills and have fun. Your phone keeps you connected. Remember to be thankful for these.

There are many ordinary things you enjoy. Sunrise and sunset give colour and light to your day. The sun warms you and makes things grow. Trees give you clean air. The ocean cools and provides you with salmon, tuna and lobster. Rivers and streams give you opportunity to go fishing with your Dad or Grandpa. Flowers make parks beautiful. Don’t forget to give thanks for these.

loreena-thiessen
Loreena Thiessen

What happens when you face a difficulty? Overcoming a difficulty you may learn something new or grow stronger. Be thankful. Every morning when you wake up, be thankful for another new day to enjoy all that you have.

Read Psalm 104:1, 10–25. See how God provides for the earth and all its inhabitants.

Heartland: Two Amazing Stories

by Brigitte Toews

LANDMARK, Man.—In May we had the pleasure of listening to Tim Hague’s amazing story. He was born of a white mother and black father during a time when racial tensions in the USA were at their peak and where inter-racial children were neither black enough nor white enough to be wanted for adoption.

He was placed in an orphanage with little hope of ever finding a family. After he was shuffled around from church to church in the southern states, a white Christian couple heard the call and took to heart James’ definition of pure religion: “to look after the orphans and widows in their distress” (James 1:27) and so took action.

Tim’s distress, however, continued while growing up. Once the family adopted him, their own church disowned them. He was then bullied as a child and ultimately rejected by the parents of potential girlfriends. Tim persevered in his trials; and he eventually met and a married a blond, blue-eyed woman named Sheryl and moved to Winnipeg where they raised four children and he became a registered nurse.

In early 2011, Tim was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Instead of accepting the disease as a curse, he said he decided to embrace the next stage of his journey with joy and expectancy. After starting treatment, Tim trained and ran his first triathlon and continued to be open to whatever God planned for the rest of his life.

Through the encouragement of Sheryl, Tim and his son Tim Jr. auditioned for the Amazing Race Canada. Underdogs from the beginning, the pair pulled off a miraculous win on the very first season of the show.

As Tim Hague’s race continues, he shares his story and inspires others to “live their best.” He has become an advocate for Parkinson’s and an ambassador for Compassion Canada, continuing the legacy of his parents.

Early this year Gary and Mavis Unger (Heartland) also heard the call to look after the orphans in their distress. They went to Haiti on a short-term mission trip four years ago and carried back with them a burden for the orphans at the Maison Orphanage in Port Au Prince.

With much prayer, the couple quit their jobs and left their home and family for a time to pursue what God had planned for them. In the short term, they have taken on the role of working directors for the Orphanage.

Under their guidance, many projects have been planned and funded by their supporters back home. I look forward to their future reports to hear the rest of the story.

In the meantime, we are in this amazing race. Like a winning marathoner we must train and cast off everything that hinders us. And we must fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, enduring patiently so we too will finish well and receive the prize and give God the glory.

Mennville: Seven baptized in August

By Luella Brandt

Mennville, Man.—Seven young people were baptized on the confession of their faith and to publicly show their desire to follow Christ on Aug. 21. The church was packed with supporters as we heard their touching testimonies, witnessed them get baptized, prayed with them as they were surrounded by people whom they chose to pray for them, and later greeted them as brothers and sisters in the Lord. We want to continue to uphold them in prayer as Mitch gets married and the rest of them start Grade 10 this month.

Crestview: Ribbon-Cutting, VBS Held

By Sharron Straub

Winnipeg, Man.—There’s been a lot happening around here this summer.

Melvin and Kari Peters, who serve with Mission Aviation Fellowship in Africa, were with us on July 10 to report on the work they are doing in starting up and developing the new sub-base in Marsabit; they bring the love of Christ to those living in isolation in northern Kenya.

Darrell Thiessen from Jesus People USA joined us on July 17 to share about his work in the Uptown neighbourhood on the north side of Chicago, Illinois.

A huge praise item: a long-term project has finally been completed. Our church building has been equipped with an elevator so now those who have been finding the stairs a bit difficult will be able to get to the basement easily and with dignity. Hallalujah! A ribbon-cutting and dedication was held on Sunday, July 24. Thanks to the men who devoted a lot of time to seeing this project through to completion.

Kingdom Rock: Where Kids Stand Strong For God was the theme for VBS week August 7—11. It was an amazing five days with about 20 children attending. Each evening started with a barbecue supper that was a great way to connect with both the parents and the children. The children learned that prayer, family and friends, God’s love, the Bible and trusting God help us to stand strong.

Youth Pastor Kevin and Lee Pauls welcomed a daughter, Lucy Devona, on Aug. 24, a sister for Desmond. Congratulations!

A potluck breakfast was held on Sunday, Sept. 11, to start the fall season. Sunday School resumes on Sept. 18.

Vanderhoof: VCF Reaches Out to Community Through VBS

by Krista Giesbrecht and Shannon Hall

VANDERHOOF, B.C.—Following Jesus, The Light of the World, was our theme for this year’s Vacation Bible School held at our church on July 11-15. We were blessed by 100 kids, ages four to 11, who attended.

Cave Quest was the program we used; it was a great deal of fun for kids and adults alike. Throughout the week we learned how God’s love takes us through dark times in our lives. Thanks to a lot of hard work, our church was amazingly decorated with caves all throughout to have a fun experience.

There were different stations to rotate through daily: singing time, Bible quests, cinema, games, imagination station (always a favourite), and, of course, snack time. Throughout the week lessons taught that Jesus gives us hope, courage, direction, love, and his power.

By the end of the week kids had brought in 500-plus items of non-perishable food items to donate to out local Neighbor Link, which helps those in community who need it.

None of this could have happened without all of the hard work and dedication of 49 volunteers, 13 of which were our youth, who had a heart to serve. “Praise God for volunteers and for the opportunity to reach out into the community to churched and non-churched kids,” said Kim Giesbrecht, VBS committee leader.

Kim works hard year after year to bring this to our community and her effort doesn’t go unnoticed. We are very thankful for a leader with such a big heart for serving God.

Redcliff/Medicine Hat: 2016 Gospel Music Jamboree serves hundreds

by Abe Bueckert

REDCLIFF, Alta.—The Redcliff Gospel Music Jamboree on July 22 and 23, 2016, was a wonderful success.

The whole process started a bit slowly, but then began to gain momentum. We ended up having eight music groups participating, four from Man., two from Alta., one from Sask., and one from Mexico. Needless to say, it was a very full and busy weekend. Continue reading Redcliff/Medicine Hat: 2016 Gospel Music Jamboree serves hundreds

Microloans: beneficial to me and my family

By Fabe Traore

Burkina Faso—Souleymane Traore was in great difficulty. He had a wife and three daughters to support, but he was seriously ill, and he was living in the capital city of Ouagadougou, the most expensive place in Burkina Faso.

He decided to return to his home village, Samogohiri, where most of his larger family resides and where he thought his immediate family would be taken care of while he continued to fight his illness.  When they arrived, they joined the local Mennonite church.

Continue reading Microloans: beneficial to me and my family

Heidi Plett: Mon Cours de Français (My French lessons)

By Heidi Plett

Canada—News from July: My French studies are going well. I have learned a lot of vocabulary and grammar over the past six months and look forward to internalizing and using these concepts and much more in the months ahead.

I thought a year of language study would be sufficient but I’m realizing that it is really too short a time for absorbing so much information. It is just the beginning, providing a foundation on which to build.

I am very happy to inform you that God has provided me with a host family to live with and learn from during my last term of studies in fall. I am very thankful for this opportunity to not only improve my French skills, but to strengthen my bond of friendship with them. Thank you very much for your prayers regarding finding a suitable host family. Maybe now my stuttering French will become a little more fluent.

Student numbers have dwindled as several couples have completed their language studies and are about to embark on their journeys to new places of work and ministry. It is an exciting time for them but also a stressful time of transition. Three of us, however, are carrying on with our studies until the end of July at which time we will have completed the intermediate level.

The school will be closed for August so I look forward to returning to Manitoba for that month to spend time with my family, reconnect with my church and friends, and work at raising my financial support level. Then I will return to Sherbrooke for my final term of study in fall.

Heidi Plett (Prairie Rose), formerly of Namibia, is studying French in Quebec prior to serving in Chad with Africa Inland Mission.

Letters October 2016

Seeking Peace in Israel-Palestine

Thank you to Senator Don Plett for raising his concerns about justice in Israel and Palestine [An Ill-Advised Resolution Against Israel]. It is important to discuss these matters if—and perhaps especially when—our views do not agree.

It is important for readers to know some background to the resolution that was affirmed by delegates. Mennonite Church Canada has been engaged in understanding the Middle East conflict for decades. We were asked by Christian Palestinians to advocate on their behalf in their plight. In this regard, it is important to know that we are not conflating all Palestinians into one category.

Certainly there is Palestinian violence against Israel that we do not support, but these acts do not represent the Palestinian Christians we know. We would challenge leaders of other Mennonite conferences and churches to also consider how they would respond to such a request from fellow Christians in light of the Bible’s over-arching call to the faithful for justice and mercy.

We are not seeking to deny Israel or its people the right to exist. Rather, we seek to make Israel the best country it can possibly be. Our own Canadian government and the United Nations have called for human rights for Palestinians. Canada’s own policy statement in regards to Israel states, “Canada does not recognize permanent Israeli control over territories occupied in 1967” (http://tinyurl.com/ygtd6p2).

It is important to not conflate all Israelis, their government, and the Jewish people into one homogenous group acting in unity. There are numerous groups of Israelis and Jewish people who support justice for Palestinians, including Rabbis for Human Rights, Jewish Voice for Peace, and others.

These are undoubtedly complex issues. Readers wishing to learn more about the issue in general and the Mennonite Church Canada resolution specifically (http://tinyurl.com/zrotfxq) have vast resources available to them, such as the Kairos document by Palestinian Christians at http://tinyurl.com/jxz9d7h. Mennonite Church Canada encourages Mennonites belonging to any conference to become deeply acquainted with the subject matter, and to listen with openness.

– Dan Dyck, Director,  Church Engagement-Communications Mennonite Church Canada


Do We Love the Whole Church?

Layton Friesen’s article “Is Your Congregation the Real Church?”(July-Aug.) encouraged us to accept para-church partners under the umbrella of “The Church,” thus broadening our idea and practice of Church. I would like to extend his idea a little.

Christ left no blueprint for the Church save His “walk” and command to “love one another.” Differences in visions of the Body of Christ has splintered the Church into Syriac, African, Roman, Eastern Orthodox, and a myriad of Protestant denominations—all who consider themselves the “true” Church.

Even the earliest Church was split into two camps. The early Jewish believers waited in Jerusalem for the imminent return of the Lord. Ready acceptance of the gospel caused the Hellenistic Jews to be received as equals. Philip who loved the Samaritans also reached out to an Ethiopian eunuch. Jewish purity was being eroded!

Saul, the Great Persecutor, was commissioned to preach to the Gentiles of all things—fodder for early schism. Indeed, Paul had to visit Jerusalem 12 years later to counter the Judaisers and address the growing rift. He later returned to fulfill an oath to the Temple knowing that it would lead to his death.

He literally willingly sacrificed his life for the love and unity of the Church. Not just the Gentile Church that he loved, but the whole Church, the True Church.

Do we love the whole Church? How would that affect our prayers, words, and actions? What are we willing to sacrifice for its unity?

– Ray Hill, MacGregor, Man.

Verna Doerksen, Fred and Stella Neff: They Served by Grace Despite Weakness

by Terry M. Smith

BLUMENORT, Man.—An once exuberant child along with a pastor having roots in Germany and his wife were the centres of attention on Sept. 8, 2016, at Blumenort EMC as friends and family, and Board of Missions and national office staff gathered to honour Verna Doerksen and Manfred (Fred) and Stella Neff. Continue reading Verna Doerksen, Fred and Stella Neff: They Served by Grace Despite Weakness