All posts by emcmessenger

Picture Butte: Child Dedication Ceremony Held at PBMC

by Desiree Krahn

PICTURE BUTTE, Alta.—Lately, it seems our congregation, Picture Butte Mennonite Church, is overflowing with brand new babies! It seemed only fitting to hold a child dedication ceremony on Oct. 2, 2016.

Lay minister Ben Dyck, together with his wife Maria, prayed for each child and their parents. His prayer was that the children would grow up to have a personal relationship with the Lord, and that their parents would know how to lead them in a Christ honouring way.

Preventing Prodigals

by Mike Strathdee

A man had two sons. When the younger told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now, instead of waiting until you die!’ his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons. A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and took a trip to a distant land, and there wasted all his money on parties and prostitutes. About the time his money was gone a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve” (Luke 15:12-14).

Many of us are familiar with the Parable of the Prodigal Son. There are great lessons about grace and forgiveness, but I’ve never heard it used to warn about giving children gifts before they are emotionally or spiritually mature enough to handle them properly.

We aren’t told how old the prodigal was when he made his disrespectful demand of his father, but clearly he wasn’t ready to handle money responsibly. I wonder if the story could have been different if the father knew what we now know about human brain development. What was the father thinking? Could he have had any idea how poorly equipped his son was to handle the premature inheritance?

Science has taught us that, even in well-adjusted people, it can take up to age 25 before the prefrontal cortex is fully developed. This part of the brain helps people appreciate the consequences of their actions. In her book Payback–Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth, Margaret Atwood argues that knowing what we now understand about brain development, giving people access to credit cards too soon could be considered a form of child abuse.

Similarly, parents should consider whether allowing their children to potentially inherit more money than they’ve ever had before, as soon as they attain the age of majority, would be a blessing or a bane.

About 15 years ago, I was trying to make this point in an end-of-life planning seminar at a church in a small town. A young woman stood up and said that she agreed with me completely.

Later I heard the sad family story. Her father died when she and her brother were 19. Their mother had passed away earlier. They each inherited $60,000. It was way more money than either of them knew what to do with. Her brother chose particularly poorly, burning through all the cash and ringing up considerable debt in only 18 months. She is now determined to ensure her children have a better understanding of money.

Another scripture relevant to the topic of inheritances is Proverbs 13:22: “A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children, but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous.”

At first glance this passage seems to skip a generation and leave everything to the grandkids. But when taken in context with other advice in Proverbs, we see that wealth can only be successfully transferred between generations if a values transfer comes ahead of the money.

Part of me wonders if we might have fewer prodigal children and grandchildren if we were more explicit in modeling generosity and explaining our beliefs and habits. We can transfer good values to our children by educating them about responsible spending, good habits, and about giving throughout our lives.

We can model generosity in our estate plans by including charitable gifts as if they were an extra child in the list of beneficiaries. Let your kids know what values are important to you and how you hope they will continue them with their inheritance.

Mike Strathdee

Abundance Canada can help you design and carry out a generosity plan. Ask us how.

Mike Strathdee is a gift planning consultant at Abundance Canada serving generous people in Ontario and eastern provinces. For more information on impulsive generosity, stewardship education, and estate and charitable gift planning, contact your nearest Abundance Canada office or visit

Review: Very Married: Field Notes on Love and Fidelity

Very Married: Field Notes on Love and Fidelity, Katherine Willis Pershey (Herald Press, 2016). 224 pp. $21.49 ISBN 9781513800172. Reviewed by Rebecca Roman (Stony Brook), BA (SBC), wife and mother.

Various descriptors spring to mind when reflecting on Katherine Willis Pershey’s book Very Married. Among them are honest, authentic, real.

If you’re looking for a how-to book on marriage, this is not the book for you—although Willis Pershey does at times stray into the territory of how-not-to in describing the history of her own marriage. With no seeming attempt to gloss over her flaws, she openly shares of the struggles and beauty that come from two attempting to become one in a marriage relationship.

Particularly poignant is one scene where Willis Pershey and her husband, Benjamin, work together to scrub a kneeler in preparation for a wedding ceremony. While Willis Pershey is feeling sorry for herself that this is how they are spending their wedding anniversary, Benjamin says, “This feels very marital.” In our society where so much of the focus on marriage is on romance, this brief glimpse allows readers to be reminded that much of the joy and satisfaction in marriage is to be had in the everyday moments of working together.

Very Married also includes Willis Pershey’s thoughts on the state of marriage both as it is today and as it should be. Chapter 17 includes some sociological research on the decline of marriage within black communities in the U.S., and how socioeconomic disadvantage contributes to this. (I wonder how these statistics would compare to First Nations communities in Canada.) Willis Pershey concludes these reflections by saying, “If we want to wax poetic about the virtues and benefits of marriage, we must also advocate for policies and benefits that empower people to access those virtues and benefits for themselves.”

While some readers may be put off by Willis Pershey’s views on same-sex marriage (she is in favour of it), this is worth setting aside to gain benefit from the insights she brings to the timeworn, yet exciting, institution of marriage.

Jocelyn R. Plett: Mere Humans

by Jocelyn R. Plett

The person who does not require validation from anyone is the most feared individual on the planet” (Mohadesa Najumi).

“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and song” (Isaiah 12:2).

Fearsome isn’t a word that Christ followers would take for themselves, I’d wager. Generally speaking, we are taught to take on characteristics like: Servant. Meek. Submissive. Obedient. Kind. Loving. Gentle. Joyful. Self-controlled.

Yet I am suggesting that to embody these things, as Christ did, is to become fearsome. It’s knowing that the Fearsome Glory of the Almighty God dwells within me, in this un-fearsome-looking human body, and within yours, although our faces are beginning to droop with the evidence of age. My body is no longer as strong as I’d like it to be. Yet in my mind’s eye, to be filled with the Spirit of God, and exhibit His fruit, is to be fearsome.

Not fearsome with intent to scare others or intimidate our siblings in Christ, but fearsome in ever increasing sanctification. Fearsome in appropriating true meekness without selfish motives. Fearsome in pure submission and obedience as Jesus did with his Father.

Why is that fearsome? To me, the image of Christ walking in perfect submission and humble obedience while facing suffering and death evokes tremors of ultimate power. The kind of “incomparably great power” for those of us who believe. “That power is the same as the mighty strength God exerted when He raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 1:19)!

That is fearsome! It is ultimate power cloaked in the so-called “drab” garments of what the world sees as weakness. The world does know this weakness-cloaked power, but mostly through works of fiction. It is hidden from them.

Yet this is the kind of power and elusive fearsomeness that we have in Christ. Feel powerless? Draw nearer to Him. Feel sinful or like a failure? Draw nearer. Feel as though you’ve got nothing to offer? Offer your “nothing” and see Him multiply it a thousandfold. That’s fearsome!

As “Christ in me, the hope of Glory” and as “He becomes more and I become less” becomes manifest, this fearsomeness is released in me. What was once a rabble of thieves, sinners, weaklings, and the sick, is now a well-trained army of fearsome warriors under the command of the Lord! (1 Sam. 22:2).

Jocelyn R. Plett

In Christ I am fearsome in such a way that I don’t need to compare myself to others. We walk as one, this Church made up of us. Uniformly unique, all keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus. Because, golly, all that jealousy and quarreling among the Bride of Christ, that only betrays us as less-than-fearsome! As “mere humans” (2 Cor. 2:3).

If Paul calls us “mere humans” in that instance, what are we if that sort of behaviour is eradicated from our own minds, from our collective midst? More than human? Fearsome, perhaps?

Loreena Thiessen: A Lion or a Lamb

by Loreena Thiessen

March is a fickle month. The weather changes suddenly and without warning.

In one day it can feel like summer in the sunlight and winter in the shade. When the month begins it’s still Winter; at the end it’s more like Spring. This is the reason we say, March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.

On the 20th day of March it’s official, spring has arrived. So what changes? Every day after Christmas Day is longer than the one before.

Each day the sun appears earlier, more to the north.  During the day the sun is directly overhead. And each day the sun sets later.

With more sunlight temperatures rise and snow piles shrink. Birds return from their winter home. The first to arrive are Canada Geese and Mallard ducks. They sit on frozen ponds and wait for the ice to thaw.

Soon robins are back. There are no bugs for them to eat so they peck at last year’s apples still hanging on tree branches. Chickadees sing louder. Crows return to the trees where they hatched last year. They caw loudly and begin to collect twigs to rebuild the old nests.

The sun warms the earth. New green shoots poke through the snow. Buds form. Yellow and red tulips and blue crocuses burst into bloom. Velvety buds on tree branches begin to swell. Under the snow the grass begins to stir and turns green. Rabbits wake up and bound after each other. All are signs of gladness that winter is over.

People change too. They exchange their winter jackets for lighter ones. Ball caps replace toques and mitts are left at home. They walk straighter and their steps bounce. They turn their faces up to the sun to feel more of its warmth. They are smiling. Something new is happening.

Why is Spring important? Spring is the queen of seasons. Green, red, and yellow colors replace the drab white of winter. New plants grow picture-perfect. Birds sing cheery songs. There are new baby animals.

Spring brings hope. You feel its warmth. You run outside, your arms and legs free. You hop on your bike. You dig in the sand and play in the park. You feel happy.

Loreena Thiessen

With Spring comes a promise, a promise God gave Noah in Genesis 8:22:
While the earth remains,
Seedtime and harvest,
Cold and heat,
Winter and summer
And day and night,
Shall not cease.
All of the earth and its seasons belong to God. Read Psalm 24: 1, 2.

Activity: Journal into Spring

Need: Note paper, pencil, pencil crayons, binoculars.

Look in your back yard, on your way to school, in the park.
Write down, or draw, what you see each time you notice some new clue that spring is starting.
Write down the date and what you observe.
Use words that tell how it looks, sounds, or smells.
Make drawings to show what is new or what has changed.
Take note of which birds appear, when and where, how their songs sound.
Check where buds first appear, which flowers bloom, what people are doing differently.
Write something every day even if you think nothing new has happened.
Share your findings.

Henry Nick Epp


Henry Nick Epp

After a courageous battle with cancer, Henry Nick Epp of Portage la Prairie, Man., went to his eternal home with Jesus on Nov. 15, 2016. He was born on Aug. 23, 1936, in the Portage hospital to Henry and Helen Epp, the fifth of six children.

He grew up on the mixed family farm, nine miles south of Newton in the Wingham area, with his four older sisters and one younger brother.  There was a sign at the end of the driveway that said “Honey fo

r Sale,” which prompted teasing from his classmates asking, “Which honey is for sale?”

After graduating from high school, Henry attended Winkler Bible School for a year. This led to an opportunity to work with MCC’s summer relief program at the Manitoba Developmental Centre in Portage. After his summer of volunteer service, the MDC asked him to stay on and he took Psychiatric Nurse’s training, graduating in 1959. After 35 years of service, he retired in 1991.

Henry met the love of his life, Catherine Thiessen, while working at the MDC. They were married on Oct. 8, 1960, and enjoyed 56 years together. Their two daughters, Denise and Sharon, eventually brought in two sons-in-law and then six grandchildren.

Family was very important to Henry. He loved spending time with each member—family holidays, trips to the zoo, hiking, motor home camping, and visiting the Klassen farm were favourite ways of doing so.

Henry grew up and was baptized in the Newton Mennonite Brethren Church. After marriage, Henry and Cathy attended Westview MB Church. Since 1979 they were active in the Portage Evangelical Church.

Retirement brought a renewed commitment to Henry’s walk with God. He spent much time in daily prayer and Bible reading, and loved talking to people about Jesus.

Henry will be remembered for his teasing, generosity, determination, and exemplary work ethic. Sideline jobs included farm labour, a school bus route, carpet laying, and volunteering at the Portage MCC Thrift Shop.

Interests included snowmobiling, five-mile walks, garden and yard work, table games, and coffee with his retired friends. His lawn was the best in town—cut twice a week in different directions.

In September 2014, Henry was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer and given three months to live. We are grateful for the two-year extension of his life, and for the wonderful care received during his last months of life. He often said he wasn’t afraid to die and wanted to go to his heavenly home.

Henry was predeceased by his parents, Henry and Helen Epp; his sister and brother-in-law, Anne and Fred Friesen; his brother-in-law Art Klassen; and his grandson Andrew Klassen.

Left to cherish his memory are his wife Cathy, children and grandchildren, Denise (Nika) Klassen with (Maggie Kent-Klassen), Jon (Lynette), and Neil; Sharon (Les) Kroeker with Scott (Brittany), Jessica (Jamie) Fox, and Kenton. Also cherishing his memory are his sisters, Rita Klassen, Helen Friesen, and Mitzie (Ernest) Quapp; his brother Abe (Sally) Epp; and his extended family.

– His Family

Rev. John K. Reimer

1919 – 2016

Rev. John K. Reimer

Rev. John K. Reimer went to be with his Lord on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016, at the age of 97, at Steinbach Bethesda Hospital only a few miles from where his life began.

John was born on Feb. 18, 1919, to Isaac W and Margaretha (Kroeker) Reimer, the 11th of 17 children. His childhood and youth were spent working hard on the family farm. As a young man he dedicated his life to serving God and attended Steinbach Bible Institute in preparation for a lifetime of ministry.

John married Leona Reimer on Oct. 8, 1945. Together they served the Lord in various places in Canada as well as internationally.

John will be lovingly remembered by his children: David (Katharine) Reimer, Jonathan (Kalie) Reimer, Molly, Russell (Amber) Reimer, Emmett, Natalie (Scott) Reimer Anderson, Seth, Max; Lucille (Jim) Pfeifer, Dustin (Kaylee) Pfeifer, Camdyn, Rory, Megan (Jeff) Lundy, Lennon, Lincoln; Rod (Debbie) Reimer, Caleb, Josh and Jael; Arvella (Mike) Lucas, Matt and David Lucas; Jennifer Reimer, Ella, Huelwen, Bridget Hainsworth, Dylan Reimer. He is also survived by one sister, Elma Wiebe, of Lethbridge, Alta., and two sisters-in-law, Edna Reimer and Elsie Reimer.

John was predeceased by his beloved wife Leona and his son Samuel Wayne.

The family wishes to acknowledge the excellent care given to our dad by the staff at Cedarwood Apartments, his last place of residence. We wish to thank the medical staff at Steinbach Bethesda Hospital.

The viewing took place on Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016, at 7 p.m. with a devotional at 7:30 at Birchwood Funeral Chapel, Steinbach, Man. The funeral service was held on Monday, Nov. 7, 2016, at 2 p.m. at Steinbach EMC with the interment at Heritage Cemetery, Steinbach, Man. Donations were gratefully accepted for the EMC Board of Missions.

– His Family

Melvin Barkman


Melvin Barkman

With great sadness, we announce the sudden passing of Melvin Barkman on Dec. 10, 2016. Melvin was born on July 16, 1944, to Jacob and Anna Barkman in Blumenort, Man. In 1952 the Barkman family moved to the Washow Bay area when he was eight years old.

As a child he attended school and helped on the family farm. Melvin was baptized in the Mennville EM Church as a young adult. He took on work doing road construction as a bulldozer operator in Northern Manitoba for several years. Wanting to settle down, Melvin returned to the Washow Bay area and purchased land to begin his farming career as a hog farmer and beekeeper.

On April 4, 1970, Melvin married the love of his life, Arlene Reimer. They made Mennville their home. He loved his life as a farmer and enjoyed his many trips to Winnipeg delivering hogs and barrels of honey. Melvin and Arlene welcomed five children into their family. As a proud father he spent many hours on the floor playing with his children and feeding them whipped cream and ice cream.

He set a good example to his family by working very hard. He ensured that each one of his children would have music lessons. Melvin loved babies and spoiled each and every one of his grandchildren. He had a special way of drawing them in and enjoyed their attention. He loved nothing more than having his family come visit him on the farm. He enjoyed giving skid steer rides and lawn tractor rides.

Melvin had a strong faith and was committed to his church at Mennville EMC. He served many years as a Mission Board Member and had a passion for Vacation Bible School in Grindstone. He supported his family as they spent many summers at Beaver Creek Bible Camp. He served God through supporting family and friends in his own quiet way. He remained a steady rock when his children walked through difficult journeys in their personal lives.

Melvin persevered through life challenges, including health and farming difficulties. In September 2016, Melvin and Arlene retired from the family farm. He continued to enjoy daily visits to the farm and helping out wherever needed right up to his last day.

Melvin is survived by his wife Arlene; daughter Bonnie (Wes), Katrina and Mikayla; son Brian (Tara), Gabrielle, Austin and Alysse; daughter Wendy (Arnold), Zachary, Annika, Kyanna and Averi; daughter Andrea (Phil), Jackson and Parker; son Dahlen (Coralee), Elizabeth and Zane; his brothers, Ben, Cornie and Jake; his sisters, Elma, Tina, Margaret, Anna and Orla and their families. He is predeceased by his parents Jacob and Anna, sister Adeline, and brothers Abe and Werner.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Mennville EMC Missions program.

– His Family

Terry Smith: About the Widow’s Coins

by Terry M. Smith

Jesus “saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. ‘I tell you the truth,’ he said, ‘this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on’” (Luke 21:1-4).

Two misunderstandings are common with this passage. First, some Christians think they can equally honour Christ by giving small coins. Certainly, small coins do add up and can make a difference; but giving them is not the same as this widow’s act unless it empties our bank account (“all she had to live on”).

My wife Mary Ann enjoys telling the story of Tony Campolo, who was asked by a women’s group to pray for funds for a project. He refused, saying that if the women stepped forward to empty their purses, the need would be met. The women were unhappy with his counsel, but stepped forward and met the need.

Terry M. Smith

Second, as others have said, that the Lord honoured the widow doesn’t mean he endorsed her giving away what was required for her basic needs. Jesus rebuked pious children who thought they were excused from caring for their parents (Mark 7:9-13), families and the Church are to care for widows in need (Acts 6:1, 1 Tim. 5:3-8), and the Church is to seek justice for widows (Mark 12:40, Deut. 27:19). Sometimes pious widows need protection from others, misguided teaching, and even themselves.

Layton Friesen: It’s Hard to be Good When Everyone Else is Doing It

And now the moment we have all been waiting for, when Layton comes out on stage and tells you the theme of his doctoral dissertation. The flesh is weak and one can only take the suspense so long, so I will bend to the crowds and say a few words.

I am trying to answer the question: how can the Church be gospel pacifists, people who refuse violence in the name of Christ, in a world seething with nonviolence? We live in an incredibly nonviolent world.

Our children learn anti-bullying strategies. They protest racism, sexism, homophobia. Many pass on the filet mignon because eating animals is violent. They attend We Day—arenas filled with thousands of children listening to teenaged Kielburgers who change the world in the name of peace.

War and violence are declining around the world. Figuring deaths per capita, the twentieth century was the most nonviolent century in human history. In the 1950s, there were almost 250 deaths caused by war per million people. Now, there are less than 10. With the end of the Colombian war, for the first time in human history the western hemisphere is free of war. Anti-war protests are common, anything but counter-cultural.

These are glory days for Mennonite pacifists. But two major problems arise for those who desire not only to be nonviolent, but to follow Jesus in peace. As the world rejects violence, some Christians conclude that nonviolence need not concern us. Nonviolence, they think, must be for secular, humanist, or liberal people. This is the mistake of many Evangelical Mennonites. But if society adopts some of his message, does that make Jesus wrong?

Nonresistance is still at the core of his life, his prayer, and his atonement. Rejecting nonviolence just because the world has caught on is like rejecting nursing as Christian service just because some nurses are Hindu and polio is defeated.

The second mistake is to decide that we don’t need Jesus in order to be good people. Secular methods work better. The Church is today blamed for violence. Many leave, thinking they can achieve nonviolence better outside the Church. When nonviolence becomes the civil religion, the idol of the day, people reject the Church as they reject Jesus, who in the end, seems too barbaric for our civilized standards. This is the mistake of more liberal Mennonites.

So how can we be gospel pacifists in world full of nonviolence?

I gambled my fortune and five years of work on the answer to this question being Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-1988). As a Roman Catholic pastor he struggled with a Church that he felt had lost the unity of spirituality, theology, and ethics. He also criticized Catholic liberation theologians who had reduced the gospel to a political agenda.

Balthasar envisioned believers steeped in the Church, formed by baptism and the Lord’s Supper, to surrender into the mission of Jesus. Christ became nonresistant to an evil, yet beautiful world out of surrender to his Father. The Spirit now takes Christ’s submission to the Father and brings the Church to live inside this obedience. Living inside Christ’s beautiful, costly surrender, we love and forgive our enemies because that is what Christ is doing.

Layton Friesen
Layton Friesen

In Christ the Church becomes fruitful out in the world, even spawning offshoots within the world that look remarkably Christ-like even in their wild state. But whether the world catches on or not, we surrender into the nonresistance of Christ to the Father and to the world. This is where gospel pacifism is nourished.