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

Annie Brandt (nee Barkman)

Editors’ Note: We have republished this obituary to guarantee its continued viewability. We thank the family for giving us this look into their loved one’s life. 

 1936-2016

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Annie Brandt

God answered Mom’s prayer at 12:35 p.m. on Wed., Aug. 10, 2016, to be released from her suffering and enter her eternal home. The last six months or so had been filled with increasing pain. She was hospitalized and diagnosed with metastatic pancreatic cancer two months before her home-going. She was just a few weeks away from her 80th birthday.

Our mother, grandmother and great grandmother, “Annie” Anna Reimer Gertrude Barkman, was born on Sept. 5, 1936, to Peter JR and Gertrude Barkman in Hanover, near Steinbach, Man.

She was pre-deceased by her husband, our dad, Abe P.  Brandt; her granddaughter Katelyn Friesen, her father Peter JR Barkman, her mother Gertrude; her step-mother Anna; her sisters Mary, Margaret, and Minna; her brothers Peter and Albert; many brothers- and sisters-in-law; and two nephews.

Mom is survived by her children, Larry, Laureen, Stanley, Delbert, Gerald, Anita, Elaine, Julia. Sandra, Robert and Theresa; their spouses and children; her sisters, Helen, Kathy and Trudie; and brothers Frank and Abe.

Mom’s early childhood memories were of living on the farm in Blumenort with her parents and siblings. When Mom wrote her memoires, her first recorded significant life event was the death of her mother (when Mom was at the age of eight years) and the year that followed. She was grateful when her father remarried and she got her new mother.  She wrote, “I thank God for giving us such a good and loving mother.”

In the spring of 1952 she began her journey with God, believing in Jesus for the forgiveness of her sin and for her eternal life. She declared her faith in Jesus through baptism on June 1, 1952, in the Blumenort EM Church. Also, that summer the family moved to north of Riverton to start a new farm. Mom and Dad were married on July 21, 1956, at the Mennville EM Church north of Riverton. They started their own homestead in the area where they raised their 11 children.

Almost six years ago Mom lost Dad, her loving and faithful husband of 53 years, whom she missed very much. She was quite lonely these last few years, but held to the fact that she was never really alone as God had promised to “never leave or forsake her.” The only real work left for her now was to pray for her children and grandchildren, and pray she did.

– Her Family

Northern Canada: ‘Camps’ were a joy and a win

by Albert Martens

NORTHERN CANADA—“How happy are those who fear the Lord—all who follow his ways! You will enjoy the fruit of your labour. How happy you will be! How rich your life!” (Psalm 128:1-2).

Our Athletes in Action Baseball “camps” in the three First Nation communities of Tadoule Lake (July 1-8), Pauingassi  (July 29-Aug. 4), both in Man., and Poplar Hill, Ont. (Aug. 14-20), were such a joy and “win” for everyone involved.

We did experience some very encouraging, happy and sad moments in our ministry in these communities. We enjoyed several moments of “fruit of your labour.”

A few fantastic highlights were:

To be called upon to do a double baby dedication for a young couple.

To hear the youth and children call upon us: “When are we playing baseball again?”

For the children to listen so attentively to Bible lessons and learn new songs from our workers.

To speak to several men individually at the men’s breakfast.

To pray with a young mother who had just lost her son in a traffic accident. She looked for us, and asked, “Where is Albert?” She wanted prayer and comfort in a very sad time of sorrow and loss.

To be able to encourage young runners in the community of Tadoule Lake to train for the upcoming Polar Bear Marathon. To connect Tadoule Lake Dene runners to Churchill using the avenue of the sport of running.  The Tadoule Lake/Dene has experienced a sad history with Churchill.  Just this summer an apology came from the Manitoba government in respect to the forced relocation of the community.

To continue to encourage men and women in these communities, building more personal and deeper relationships each year.

To be invited into private homes to discuss difficult questions about the gospel, about Christianity, and about the personal faith in Jesus.

To help out and assist in their community church services.

To give them some gifts, love and care for them, listen to their questions and try to help.

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Albert Martens

During the past 12 years of ministry, there have been tremendous changes in lives. More and deeper relationships have developed. Continual communications throughout the year having an impact on the many lives of these communities. As well, volunteer lives have changed and grown in deeper relationships in the Lord Jesus.

Albert Martens (Steinbach EMC) serves with Athletes in Action.

A Big Change

By Darren Pries-Klassen

Mennonite Foundation of Canada is about to make a big change. In October, MFC will become Abundance Canada.

This decision did not come easily. Our process was both cautious and comprehensive. Long before we considered rebranding, the Board and Management began strategizing for the future. Through this process we affirmed a number of core values. Among them is our commitment to serving the Church with biblical stewardship education and the facilitation of charitable giving.

We also challenged ourselves with a bold vision that our stewardship ministry is not only for the churches and adherents of our seven founding conferences but for the wider Christian community in Canada. A broader, more ambitious ministry would allow us to assist more people with charitable giving and also to increase awareness of God’s generosity and the biblical message to share with others.

With a bold vision before us, we began an 18-month process that analyzed the market, evaluated similar service providers, held conversations with clients and potential clients and gathered input from a sample of the Christian population across Canada. With the help of a branding agency with experience in the faith-based, not-for-profit sector, we also learned there is a real desire and a need for our ministry and services which match our vision to work with the wider Christian church.

We also learned, through our research, that serving a wider Christian community would be difficult with a name that reflected a specific denomination. This meant we needed to entertain a rebranding of the organization.

It was imperative that our new name be welcoming and inclusive to the wider Christian community and support our faith-driven approach to our ministry. It also needed to reflect our four principles of biblical stewardship: 1) God is generous, 2) God owns, we manage, 3) God asks for our whole selves, and 4) God invites us to share.

After a rigorous creative process, we chose Abundance Canada, and we are delighted with it. Abundance Canada inspires thoughts of God’s abundance. It reminds us of the importance of gratitude. It is open and invitational. In short, Abundance Canada helps people share God’s abundance with those in need and more accurately reflects our service, our ministry and our spirit of generosity.

Let me assure you that while we are changing our name, the Board and Staff are committed to ensuring our services and level of client service will not change. Our research showed that our satisfaction rating among existing clients is more than 90%. Clients cited our financial stability, our knowledgeable and courteous staff, our honesty and integrity, and our values as important factors in their overall satisfaction.

Over the years, we’ve heard from many clients who have said, “We love working with MFC. You make giving so simple and easy.”  The same will be true for Abundance Canada. And just as it was with MFC, Abundance Canada will be a donor-advised charitable foundation.

If you have questions, please give us a call. We would love to tell you more about our expanding ministry, introduce you to our services and help you experience the joy of generosity.

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Darren Pries-Klassen

Abundance Canada … because generosity changes everything.

For more information on impulsive generosity, stewardship education, and estate and charitable gift planning, contact 1-800-772-3257

Jocelyn R. Plett: Incomprehensible

by Jocelyn R. Plett

Praising God in a language I don’t understand helps me remember that God is infinitely bigger than the breath of my vocabulary and scope of comprehension. There is something mysterious and utterly marvellous in understanding the essence of what is being said—apart from the meaning.

When I stand in worship with the Malagasy believers, singing in their own language, the words and syllables trip up my tongue, so I just close my eyes and listen with my heart. I hear the love they sing to our Father.

I sense the submission and the expectation they have for Him to stir up the Spirit within their midst to change and guide them. I perceive the belief that He will provide for them even as He has done just recently with the new land that has been provided at just the right time for His church in Antananarivo.

I used to join the church in Liepaja, Latvia, on weekends to escape the confines of dormitory life in Lithuania. Sitting in the back of the draughty church building, the soothing sounds of Latvian praise and worship settling over me, I would ask with the utter conviction that it could happen for God to bestow upon me the gift of tongues—specifically those of Latvian, Lithuanian, and Russian.

Now I pray for the gift of French fluency and Malagasy comprehension. Yet even as I struggle to learn and absorb the vocabulary of these languages I marvel at how vast God is that He would create so many divergent people with multitudinous ways of perceiving and articulating the world around them.

I have grown to appreciate, even require, these friends of diverse cultures to show me more of who Jesus is, because I cannot comprehend the immensity of God with my own limited understanding. To quote Timothy Keller:

C.S. Lewis argues that it takes a community of people to get to know an individual person. Reflecting on his own friendships, he observed that some aspects of one of his friend’s personality were brought out only through interaction with a second friend. That meant if he lost the second friend, he lost the part of his first friend that was otherwise invisible. “By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets.” If it takes a community to know an ordinary human being, how much more necessary would it be to get to know Jesus alongside others? By praying [and worshiping] with friends, you will be able to hear and see facets of Jesus that you have not yet perceived (Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy With God, Tim Keller, Dutton, 2014, 119).

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Jocelyn R. Plett

We are the church within our local communities, joined to the global church. She is a deep pool of wisdom and understanding of our Lord and Saviour revealed by the Lord Himself to his Bride of many cultures. She is so beautiful. He is making her beautiful for Himself, and it is glorious in my eyes.

A publication of the Evangelical Mennonite Conference