Tag Archives: MCC

MCC partners in Ukraine work to meet physical and spiritual needs

By Jason Dueck, MCC

In the silence that lived between the deadly warnings of air raid sirens, the sound of a small choir, singing a song of praise, echoed out of a church sanctuary in western Ukraine. Just the night before, Anna*, administrative coordinator for MCC Ukraine, had absent-mindedly hummed a few bars of the song during an evening tea break at the church. Continue reading MCC partners in Ukraine work to meet physical and spiritual needs

MCC releases research findings on historical entanglements with National Socialism

by MCC Canada

Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) has released the findings of its research on the organization’s historical entanglements with German National Socialism (or Nazism) and its legacy before, during and after the Second World War. Articles examining this history are available in the Fall 2021 issue of Intersections: MCC Theory and Practice Quarterly. Continue reading MCC releases research findings on historical entanglements with National Socialism

The Great Mwenezi Cook-Off

Men Can Cook competition transforming a community in Zimbabwe

By Jason Dueck

All of Joseph Gudo’s hard work was summed up in one small plate of food. He’d laboured for months in the field and uncountable hours in the kitchen all in service to this dish—a neat pile of mashed cowpeas (or black-eyed peas), buoyed by a bold pinch of cayenne pepper and dressed up with pops of colourful diced tomatoes and green peppers. This was everything he’d been working for, his heart and soul on a plate.

That simple meal was the dish that won Gudo and his teammates the top prize in the very first Men Can Cook competition. It also cemented what he’d been learning all year—that cooking wasn’t solely a job for women. Continue reading The Great Mwenezi Cook-Off

MCC Turns Challenges into Ministry

by Linda Espenshade/MCC

One hundred years ago, Mennonite Central Committee’s (MCC) initial efforts to help people in dire need of food in southern Russia did not go as planned.

Clayton Kratz, Orie O. Miller and Arthur Slagel, the first representatives of MCC, travelled from the U.S. in the fall of 1920 to deliver food and clothing to people in southern Russia (present-day Ukraine). The three men were responding to Russian Mennonites’ pleas for help, which led to the creation of “a central committee” to co-ordinate responses from Mennonites and Mennonite Brethren. Continue reading MCC Turns Challenges into Ministry

Two countries, one mission: MCC’s efforts to support all people on the Korean Peninsula

Cober Bauman: ‘Deep importance of ongoing peacemaking’

By Jason Dueck

It’s been more than 60 years since the ceasefire that ended the Korean War, but to this day the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, or North Korea) and the Republic of Korea (South Korea) do not have an official peace and the divide remains great. Continue reading Two countries, one mission: MCC’s efforts to support all people on the Korean Peninsula

MCC: Syrian Church Partners Continue to Provide Relief and Hope

By Emily Loewen

In the old city of Aleppo, Syria, Pastor Ibrahim Nseir stands on the pile of rubble that used to be his church. What was once a building where his congregation worshiped is now a pile of broken stones and dust. It’s a sunny February day, the bright sky a stark contrast to the destruction on the ground.

Though its church building has crumbled, the faith of the National Presbyterian Church of Aleppo has held strong through seven years of war. In its new building in another part of the city, the congregation fills the sanctuary on Sunday mornings. Pastor Nseir says the conflict has actually helped the church grow stronger. “Because of the crisis the people started to regather and rethink their priorities,” he says.

Churches in Syria, like Pastor Nseir’s, have been strong partners for MCC in helping provide relief during the conflict. They reach out to their communities and provide support to those in need, both Christians and Muslims. “During the crisis people forgot their religion and remembered one thing: we are all human beings,” Nseir says.

His congregation is one of the churches helping distribute shipments of MCC comforters and kits, and cash allowances coordinated through the Fellowship of Middle East Evangelical Churches.

Susanna, her husband and three children rely on the cash allowances, the equivalent of $65 CDN per month. In 2013 her only son was kidnapped by armed groups and held for ransom. The family sold their two-bedroom house for the money to get him back. She estimates the allowance covers approximately half of their monthly needs, paying for things like medication or electricity. “I always thank God for the ministry of the Presbyterian church of Aleppo,” she says. “And I ask the Lord to bless those who are giving. The assistance is sustaining us.”

For people who have lived through seven years of war and continue to see a country full of conflict, the support also brings hope. In distributing relief, Nseir tells those in Aleppo that it is a sign that “God is doing a lot in the country. God is not absent.”

In Homs, Bishop Selwanos Boutros Alnemeh of the Syrian Orthodox church says the role for the church in this crisis is to give people hope, strength and a light to move forward. Providing the community with much-needed supplies helps provide that hope. The Syrian Orthodox Church distributes MCC monthly cash allowances, and we provide financial support for orphans at the SOC orphanage and their host families (where the children moved after the orphanage was damaged). MCC also helps the church provide families with winter supplies each year like heaters and fuel, and in some locations the churches help with MCC’s monthly food distribution project.

Bishop Selwanos says the partnership the Syrian Orthodox Church has with MCC means the church can meet the needs of the community. “This light helps them cross step by step through this dark time,” he says. “Our hope came from [MCC]; because of you we bring hope to others.”

MCC: Supporting maternal and newborn nutrition in Afghanistan

by Rachel Bergen, MCC

AFGHANISTAN—It’s every parent’s worst nightmare to be unable to provide for their child.

For 35-year-old Omar, whose last name isn’t being used for security reasons, that nightmare was a reality. His son Shakeb was under-nourished and very small for his age because of chronic drought and persistent conflict in their area. “I wasn’t able to sleep because every night my son was crying the whole night,” Omar explains.

Omar brought Shakeb to Medair’s mobile clinic every two weeks to receive a progress check-up and enough Plumpy Nut, a high-energy nutritional supplement, for the following two weeks. The difference is remarkable, he says.

For the last year, Medair, an MCC partner in Afghanistan, with support from the Government of Canada’s Global Affairs department, has delivered maternal and child nutritional supports to people like Shakeb to address the high levels of malnutrition and preventable illnesses in Afghanistan.

“Since he was admitted into this program he is becoming better and my mind is now at ease. I’m very thankful for these services,” Omar says.

According to Jacob Hale, one of MCC’s representatives in Afghanistan, this project addresses different needs in different parts of the country. In Kandahar, where the ongoing conflict is most severe, Medair and MCC are focusing on providing nutritional supports for mothers and babies.

“Food costs are noticeably higher in Kandahar because of the difficulty in getting food to the markets there. Traders are less likely to want to take the risk to move goods to the area and when they do they have to pass through armed opposition group-controlled areas where they are taxed,” Hale explains.

Shakeb is just one of more than 62,000 children screened for malnutrition in rural Kandahar and Kandahar city and nearly 6,500 children admitted into Medair supported treatment centers. In the last year, more than 5,000 were discharged as cured.

Part of the three-year project includes education. More than 26,000 men and women across the country were reached with messaging about good family nutrition, especially for pregnant or nursing mothers, infants and young children.

In the Central Highlands area where there is relative peace, but the land is arid and sanitation is a problem, Medair is able to work towards long-term solutions.

Nearly 2,000 women took part in a gardening class where they learned about seed planting, irrigation and management of pests and diseases. MCC and Medair are providing seeds, shovels, fruit trees and watering cans to get them started.

This project also addresses sanitation. Through the partnership with Medair, MCC constructed 25 safe water supply systems benefitting more than 3,500 people in rural Central Highland villages and areas of Kandahar city previously without a safe water source.

In the Highlands region, MCC constructed 22 household latrines and eight school latrines, providing improved access to sanitation facilities for 176 people and 300 school children.

MCC’s partnership with Medair, an organization with years of experience in the region, is vital to earning access into Afghan communities.

“Afghanistan is a complex place to work. After decades of war, trust is hard to build. These are places where Medair had already done the challenging work of building relationships and making connections,” Hale says.

MWC and MCC: The way of the open palm, peacebuilding at the UN

Intern moves from depression to hope

 by Thien Phuoc Quang Tran

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Thien Phuoc Quang Tran is from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. His sign reads “Arriving, I feel hopeful.” Photo: MCC/Diana Williams

NEW YORK, NY—Growing up as a preacher’s son, I was immersed in Christian values. Every memory I have revolves around Vietnamese Mennonite Church (VMC) in Ho Chi Minh City. I learned the way of Christ—to love my neighbours and to give to the poor.

In Vietnam, we have a philosophy called “the way of the open palm.” The palm facing up is a non-threatening gesture, reminiscent of the pleading gesture of a beggar. The person being addressed will not feel threatened by the gesture, and it is used universally as a way of greeting. As a Christian, I am also familiar with the image of God’s open hands.

When I first came to New York to start my one-year internship as the MWC/International Volunteer Exchange Program intern at MCC United Nations office, I had a reality check.

At the UN people talk about imposing sanctions on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), also known as North Korea, military interventions in Syria and conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I was depressed; there were too many atrocities and they were too horrific.

I realized, unfortunately, that the people in power often find it easier to destroy than to build, to oppress than to understand. When we turn on the TV, we see an arms race, conflicts and nuclear threats. Most people think that military strength ensures peace, but, in reality, it only brings fear and destruction. Major countries find the idea of exercising their power alluring: with power and wealth, they can protect the weak, help the poor and bring “security to the world.”

Little do they know, the more they try to impose their will on others, the more resistance they will create.

But there is hope.

There are many people who yearn for peace, and they are working hard, day in and day out, to bring real peace to the world. The people of MCC are a part of this group, as am I. And our method is the way of the open palm.

I’m inspired by Doug Hostetter, the director of MCC’s UN office, who has lived this philosophy of peace all his life, including during the Vietnam War. Instead of bearing guns and bullets, like many soldiers, he came to my country with MCC, bringing books and pencils to help Vietnamese students learn how to write and read their language. He lived in the community, and earned the trust of the Vietnamese people whom he met.

Today, when most of the people tend to stay away from DPRK, MCC is there to bring food and medical supplies to people in need. We try to be the voice for displaced people from Latin America and war zones in the Middle East. Our presence, though small, is vital to encourage dialogue.

This is what I believe being a Christian means. With open minds we welcome people. With open hearts we share their pain and suffering. And with open hands we work with them to bring peace to this world. It’s not easy, but I’m pleased to be a part of this effort to help “God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

MWC and MCC

MCC Canada appoints Cober Bauman as executive director

by Laura Kalmar, MCC Canada

Brings almost 30 years experience with MCC

Rick-Cober-Bauman-206x310
Rick Cober Bauman Credit; MCC

WINNIPEG, Man.—After much prayer and discernment, the board of MCC Canada is pleased to welcome Rick Cober Bauman to the role of MCC Canada executive director, effective Oct. 10, 2017.

“As MCC approaches its centennial celebration, the board is confident that Rick, with his unique gifts and abilities, will lead us well into our next century of ministry,” says board chair Peggy Snyder. “Rick has been with MCC for nearly 30 years. He brings with him a rich understanding of our work and constituency, as well as heartfelt compassion for those we serve. Rick is a team builder and motivator, and is able to relate well with diverse communities.

“We invite you to pray for God’s blessings on Rick and all of MCC,” says Snyder, “as we continue the work of relief, development and peace in the name of Christ.”

Cober Bauman has served with MCC since 1989. For the past nine years, he has given leadership to MCC Ontario as executive director. Prior to that, he served in the roles of MCC Ontario program director and Aboriginal Neighbours program coordinator.

From 1989–1992, he was an MCC voluntary service worker, overseeing education, advocacy and community development work in Sheshatshiu, Labrador.

Cober Bauman and his wife Louise Cober are members of Tavistock (Ontario) Mennonite Church and have three adult children, Nicole, Jesse and Jared.

Cober Bauman will be based out of Ontario, while making regular trips to Winnipeg and other locations related to the work of MCC Canada. He replaces Don Peters who retires at the end of September following 16 years as MCC Canada executive director.

Living the message of peace in a conflict zone

by Julie Bell

ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine—When armed men arrived at a Light of the Gospel church in the Donetsk region of Ukraine they searched the basement for weapons. There were no weapons; instead one of the men found a file with the names of people the church is assisting.

“He saw that we help veterans, disabled people, and large families,” says Pavel, the bishop of Light of the Gospel group of Baptist churches. “I think that touched the hearts of these fighters,” he says. Pavel’s last name is withheld for security reasons.

Light of the Gospel has about 20 churches, some of them in areas where MCC is currently providing humanitarian and other assistance.

In the summer of 2014 a conflict that began in Kyiv spread eastward to the Donetsk area. Pavel calls it a “scary time,” as criminals and people with weapons roamed the streets. Many residents fled. But Pavel, and many other church leaders, stayed.

“I felt God’s quiet voice saying you have to stay for the Christians and the citizens,” he says. “You had the feeling that your life could end at any time, but there’s also a feeling that God protects and is near.”

About half of the Light of the Gospel churches are now in territory under Ukrainian government control. The other half are in a self-declared independent republic. That’s where Pavel lives; he says the armed groups controlling the area often send people in need to his churches.

“They say, go to the Baptist churches if you are hungry,” Pavel says. “Those people know that we are peacebuilders, people of non-violence.”

Pavel’s commitment to peacebuilding, and MCC, began many years ago. As a young man he refused to carry a weapon during his mandatory service with the Soviet Army. For many years MCC supported a charitable organization that Pavel helped establish.

More recently, he has taken part in peacebuilding sessions organized by MCC. The last one, in the fall of 2016, brought together MCC partners to talk about peacebuilding during Ukraine’s ongoing conflict. Andrew Geddert, MCC’s representative in Ukraine, calls Pavel’s participation “extremely valuable.”

“He brings first-hand experience of living and ministering in non-government controlled territory and he represents a group of churches with commitments to a peace position,” Geddert says. “This has been essential to maintain unity between churches on both sides of the front line.”

Fedir, whose last name is withheld for security reasons, lives on the other side of that line; he is pastor at a Light of the Gospel church about 80 kilometres from Pavel’s area. This government controlled territory is home to thousands of people fleeing from the conflict. Fedir’s church provides food, clothing and other necessities to those people.

“We believe in non-violence; this is our understanding of our faith and we hold to that,” Fedir says. “We are testimony that believers don’t hide in the bushes.”

Fedir and Pavel say the value of that testimony will outlast the current conflict. They say by living their faith during difficult times, they are demonstrating that non-violence and peacebuilding are the path to reconciliation and unity.

“The fighters haven’t destroyed us because they see we are a peaceful people,” says Pavel. “This is a critically important message. We pray that God will have mercy and give grace to Ukraine so we can resolve this conflict.”

MCC