Family thankful for changes since coming to Canada

Challenges, adaptations not easy

by Helen Bergen

When Maria and Heinrich immigrated to Canada with their seven children in June of 2011 they looked forward to working together with their children and earning enough to feed their family.

“We’re just so very thankful,” Maria says in Low German, “coming to Canada and working together on the farm allowed me to get to know my husband again.” In Mexico he’d been too busy trying to make ends meet.

Having grown up on a farm in Mexico, Maria and Heinrich were especially interested in continuing to work in the agricultural sector in Ontario.

At the beginning there were many challenges and becoming accustomed to the way of life here in Canada took some time. Going to the store to shop for groceries and other supplies perplexed them because the brands were all different and neither Maria nor Heinrich spoke much English. They quickly realized how important it would be to learn English. Learning the language wasn’t just about finding the right words and phrases, but about changing their way of thinking.

In their village in Mexico the men of the community often learned Spanish in order to do business. But women and children usually learned only enough of the official language to get by. Their home was located on a large tract of land purchased by her church community and all of their neighbours attended the same village church and school. The government permitted them to teach their native language and religious traditions in the schools and they maintained their own roadways so that their interaction with Spanish-speaking Mexicans was limited.

But in Canada not only were they now living right next door to people from a different ethnicity, but interacting daily with English-speaking Canadians. Thinking back to five years ago, she remembers her surprise at how accommodating and helpful everyone had been.

Her children quickly picked up the language. And she is encouraged to see them making friends, but wonders about how much they will lose from their faith tradition. She would like them to do well in school and grow up to be good workers, but to not forget everything from their heritage. She wants them to cook, sew traditional dresses, and be able to understand their grandparents.

Not having an Ontario Driver’s Licence or health coverage at the beginning was equally challenging as the cultural adjustment. They’d had to rely on others to take them from place to place making her feel less independent. And since they decided to apply for the immigration sponsorship from within Canada, it also meant there was period of time when they were not covered by the provincial health care plan. It was a full year after arriving that the children were finally eligible for the Ontario Health Insurance Plan.

The biggest surprise came after Maria and Heinrich began to relax into their life here in Ontario. Maria and Heinrich had known there would be time of waiting, but after Heinrich was issued a Work Permit so that he could earn a decent wage and their children were in school everything seemed to progress fairly well. And when the day finally arrived that Heinrich and their children were granted Permanent Residence everyone was excited.

Since Maria was already a Canadian, they applied for a citizenship card for their children shortly thereafter only to be informed by Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada that Maria had, in fact, been subject to loss of her Canadian citizenship at the age of 28. This news puzzled Maria and Heinrich since she had gone to some lengths to investigate the possibility of this loss when her fourth oldest was born in Mexico in 2004.

“Once a Canadian always a Canadian,” officials had told them after examining the citizenship card and failing to see an expiry date on it.

As it turned out, a little known section within the Citizenship Act deemed her to have lost her citizenship status on her 28th birthday since she had not submitted an application to “Register and Retain” her citizenship. (Many people turning 28 between Feb. 14, 2005, and April 17, 2009, lost their citizenship because of section 8 of the Citizenship Act, regardless of where they lived.)

Now as she sits looking at the beautiful citizenship documents for herself and her children and the Permanent Resident Card for Heinrich, Maria smiles at how nervous they’d felt during the citizenship ceremony in London. During the ceremony their family had been called up first to shake the hand of the citizenship official. This had intensified her nervousness, but again everyone had been very helpful.

Moving to Canada has altered their family. It has opened doors for them. It has brought them closer together not only to Maria’s siblings and parents, who were already living in Canada, but also to each other as husband and wife.

“Working in unity together with our children,” Maria reiterates, “is what I’ve always longed for.”

Helen Bergen is with Mennonite Community Services, Aylmer, Ontario.


With MWC’s help, church in Tanzania is built for mission

Global Church Sharing Fund helps construct church building in Muslim area

by MWC

TANZANIA—Budget constraints prevent many church buildings in Tanzania from being completed. Mennonite World Conference’s Global Church Sharing Fund is helping to assure that a mission church in a predominantly Muslim area won’t be one that stands unfinished.

Church-planting efforts of the Kanisa La Mennonite Tanzania (Tanzania Mennonite Church, or KMT) Eastern Diocese have produced three congregations in the Muslim area. In Msikisi, the largest of the three, MWC has contributed $10,000, and the KMT Eastern Diocese has given $15,000, to compete the church building.

MWC has contributed $10,000 toward completion of a church building in Msikisi, Tanzania. “It is a great joy to partner with MWC to meet the needs of our people,” said Bishop Steven W. Mang’ana.

The Msikisi congregation’s goals are reaching unreached people, providing a space to worship God and fellowship together, establishing social services and strengthening new Christians by equipping them with biblical principles.

“A church building is a space to encounter God,” Mang’ana said. “This encounter is one of the most basic acts of drawing the kingdom of God into the heart of a community. When we build a church building, we set a place for God. People go there to seek God together, to pray, mourn, celebrate, ask and seek God’s blessing. God responds.”

Mang’ana sees the building of a church as an imitation of biblical characters who built structures for worship, including the Shunamite woman (2 Kings 4:10), Moses (Ex. 33:7-11), David (2 Sam. 6:17), and Solomon (1 Kings 5:4-5).

“The partnership with MWC gives KMT the assurance of working with an organization that shares our values of faith, integrity and dignity,” he said. “This collaboration with MWC strengthens networking, results in sharing gifts and blessings.”


Herald Press launches new More-with-Less cookbook

Author Rachel Marie Stone updated content and recipes

by MennoMedia

KITCHENER, Ont.—How do you update the holy grail of thrifty and thoughtful cooking? Doris Janzen Longacre’s More-with-Less cookbook, compiled from hundreds of recipes submitted by Mennonite cooks around the world, has almost a million copies in print. But it’s four decades old.

The beginnings for the original cookbook were humble. Two families gathered around a picnic table and discussed global hunger and the world food crisis of 1974.

MCC had asked constituents to examine their food habits and challenged people to “eat and spend 10 percent less—both as an act of voluntary simplicity in solidarity with people who were poor, and as a practical move toward actually consuming less of the world’s limited resource” writes Longacre in the book’s original preface.

Rachel Marie Stone, who updated the book, writes of Longacre’s death from cancer at age 39, just three years after More-with-Less was first published. “She could not have known that eating locally and seasonally would become a mark of hipness, and that many people would begin to spend more time watching cooking shows than actually cooking,” reflects Stone. The book champions “simple food, well prepared from whole, fresh ingredients, eaten with gratitude,” she writes.

Filled with colourful pictures of people and food from around the world, as well as recipe photos, the volume still includes much of Longacre’s writings, including chapters on having less with more, making changes as an act of faith, tips on building a simpler diet, and eating with joy.

More-with-Less ($22.99 USD) and the entire World Community Cookbook series is commissioned by MCC. All royalties benefit MCC.

MCC: Did You Know?

by MCC Canada

  • 1 in 9 persons worldwide do not have enough food, and 70 percent of them are food producers?
  • Almost half of the developing world’s farmers  are women, yet they receive only 5 percent of farmer education and farm support?
  • Supporting women farmers in their access to land, seed, and credit could increase yields on their farms by 20–30%, lifting 100-150 million people out of hunger?


Famine ‘a tragic reality’ in South Sudan, according to UN

Cornelius: CFGB ‘deeply troubled,’ responding; donations welcome

by  CFGB

SOUTH SUDAN—Famine has been declared in parts of South Sudan, where about 100,000 people are facing starvation, says a United Nations release dated Feb. 20. In addition, a further one million people are on the brink of famine.

The ongoing civil war in South Sudan, now in its third year, has devastated the country’s economy, disrupting normal food transportation chains, and preventing countless small-scale farming households from growing their crops and tending their herds.

This is the most serious hunger crisis there has been in South Sudan since the conflict began. The UN news release notes that 4.9 million people—or about 40 percent of South Sudan’s population, are in need of urgent food, agriculture, and nutrition assistance.

“We are deeply troubled by what we are seeing in South Sudan, and responding as we are able,” says Canadian Foodgrains Bank executive director Jim Cornelius. “That the food crisis has led to famine conditions for so many is devastating.”

Since the beginning of the recent civil conflict in December 2013, the CFGB has committed over $6 million dollars to providing emergency food and nutrition assistance to over 114,000 people.

Currently, the CFGB is providing emergency food assistance to conflict-affected people in and around the capital city of Juba, where many people have sought safety.  That response is through CFGB member World Relief Canada.

In neighbouring Uganda, where roughly 700,000 South Sudanese have fled in search of safety, the CFGB is responding through its member ERDO to the needs of 2,500 pregnant and nursing mothers who have arrived in the country severely undernourished.

This type of support is exceptionally critical, as children who do not receive proper nutrition while in the womb or as infants can bear the effects for the rest of their lives, long after the initial crisis has long passed.

“The women, men and children in South Sudan are not forgotten, and they need urgent help,” says Cornelius, noting that further immediate assistance is needed to ensure the famine does not spread. “Please consider making a donation, and also praying for peace in South Sudan.”

 Donations to the Foodgrains Bank response through its members in South Sudan are welcome at


Review: Menno Simons, Dutch Reformer Between Luther, Erasmus and the Holy Spirit

Menno Simons: Dutch Reformer Between Luther, Erasmus and the Holy Spirit (A Study in the Problem Areas of Menno Scholarship), Abraham Friesen (Fresno, CA: Xlibris, 2015), 397 pp. $31. ISBN 9781503562813. Reviewed by Dr. Lawrence Klippenstein (formerly of Steinbach EMC), retired historian-archivist. A longer version of the review appeared in Mennonite Historian (March 2016).

This volume is challenging, timely, and to the point. Theology is not everyone’s “bag.” The part on Menno himself (141 to 388) is an easier read.

The introduction sketches the content and provides a more detailed composite portrait of the main actors of the drama. The list begins with Augustine and continues through eighteen brief biographies to assist in the long, sometimes tortuous journey of theological discussion.

The main text begins with a chapter on the social, economic, and political aspects of society in need of reform. Then follows a longer section on the effort to set up the Muenster “kingdom,” directed by persons, also known as Anabaptists in those days, seriously dedicated to carrying on God’s work as called for in Scripture “alone.”

Jan van Leyden and associates believed they were led by the Holy Spirit to storm the city and become His servants helping to usher in God’s reign on earth. It was a moment of extremes and violence that came to a tragic end, including the death of Menno’s brother Peter. The impact on Menno was life-changing and led to intense study of Scripture that turned him to his lifetime work for God as a man of non-violence and peacemaking.

Was Menno’s theology “derivative ” and dangerously revolutionary or did it go beyond that? Friesen says that Menno learned a lot from others, including Luther and Erasmus, but found his personal direction and guidance for leading the church in his own Spirit-led studies of the Scriptures.

Depending on your interests, give parts—or all of it—a go. Some might read the last section first and then decide what to do with the rest.

Loreena Thiessen: Celebrate February!

What do you like about February? Groundhog Day? Valentine’s Day?

A rare day in February is Leap Day. It’s so rare it comes only once every four years, a collection of the extra minutes in each of those years.

February has important birthdays. One is the birthday of a famous man, Abraham Lincoln, a president who allowed slaves to go free. Another is the birthday of Paul Bunyan the giant lumber jack, a hero in folktales of early Canada.

In February you have been in your class for 100 days. How can you celebrate 100?

Using a hundreds chart count from 1 to 100; then do it again, but count backwards starting from 100 all the way back to 1. Count by ones, going back and forth across a row; the tens stay the same and the ones move. Count by tens going up and down a column; the ones stay the same and the tens move. See the pattern?

Take a walk, down your school hallway, on the playground, or as you walk to and from school. Count your steps. Can you count your steps all the way home? How many steps did it take?

How many happy words can you think of? Can you write them? How many friends can you name? What about friends, family, teachers, and neighbours? Don’t forget your pets. Make a list of each.

Do you like to help people who may need it? Collect 100 items, food cans, boxes of breakfast cereal or macaroni. You can donate them to a foodbank, or a kids’ lunch program. Do this with your classmates and the help of your teacher.

Collect your favourite recipes and put them in a recipe book. You will need an adult to help you organize them and put them together. Get your friends’ favourites too. How many have you got?

Read the book 100 Hungry Ants by Elinor J. Pinczes, or another book you like. How many pages in the book?

Loreena Thiessen

What are you thankful for? Can you make a list? Write them on strips of paper and stuff them in a jar. Take them out later to read again.

Celebrate by reading Psalm 100. It is a psalm of celebration.

Activity: Do an act of kindness

Need: note paper, sticky notes, pencil, colored pencils and pens, candy kisses or wrapped chocolates

Do: Choose one act of kindness for each day in February.

For example:

  • write an encouraging note, or a note of appreciation
  • give a small gift like a candy kiss, or a single wrapped chocolate
  • clear the table, load the dishwasher
  • vacuum; dust; straighten up a room
  • shovel the walk
  • visit someone in need of company

Keep a record:

  • Make a list in a notebook with the date
  • Write your act on sticky notes and stick them on a banner

Read Ephesians 4:32