Tag Archives: MCC

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

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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

 

MCC Canada AGM delegates gather under the ‘big tent’

Diverse Anabaptists called to work together to address global needs

by Rachel Bergen

WINNIPEG, Man.—The staff and delegates who make up MCC Canada’s constituent boards gathered at Bethel Mennonite Church in Winnipeg from Sept. 23 to 24, 2016, for the MCC Canada annual general meeting.

For many supporting denominations, MCC is like a big tent, MCC Canada executive director Don Peters said. “It’s the place where the Anabaptist Community works and serves together.”

However, the question on many people’s minds has been can we stay under the tent together? The board decided to use its yearly forum time to facilitate a conversation around the issue.

In this metaphorical tent there are many people with different backgrounds, gifts, challenges and perspectives.

MCC was formed 96 years ago as a cautious contract born of necessity between these divergent, sometimes conflicting groups to help Ukrainian Mennonites caught in the aftermath of the First World War and in the midst of post-revolutionary Russia.

“The magnitude of the suffering and the urgent need for action compelled the groups to collaborate,” Peters quoted from Mennonite Central Committee in Canada: A History by Esther Epp-Tiessen.

In this way, these churches who make up MCC were and are like a stalk of wheat, Mary Anne and Jon Isaak said during a worship session, as they asked participants to strip kernels of wheat from the stalk, grind them in a mortar and pestle and contribute the flour to other ingredients to make bread. Mary Anne is pastor of River East Mennonite Brethren Church in Winnipeg and Jon is director of the Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies.

“If we’re separate from each other, we do not serve our purpose to nourish and sustain one another,” Mary Anne said. MCC is one body, but a body of diversity, she added, referring to Romans 14 which participants used as the basis for a Bible study on the Friday.

Although MCC has historically been an organization around which different groups have come together to nourish and sustain others, both the church and MCC are experiencing shifts due to ideological and theological conflicts which threaten both institutions in their present form.

Peters cited MCC’s participation in interfaith dialogue, its work in Palestine and Israel, and the ongoing conversation surrounding inclusion in the church of members who are in committed same-sex relationships as issues which “have the potential to fracture the Anabaptist body in Canada and, potentially, to erode support for MCC,” Peters said.

In the midst of these shifts, suffering persists globally and there continues to be an urgent need for MCC’s relief, development and peace work.

“The reasons for MCC’s coming together still apply today,” Peters said, calling on leaders and members of these groups to put aside their differences for the greater good of humanity. “We want a commitment (from constituent churches) that the needs out there are so great, they compel us to work together to address them,” he added.

During this meeting, participants discussed MCC’s work worldwide, its collaboration with church groups, and the challenges associated. In the afternoon, participants broke into discussion groups to uncover the relevant past lessons from such challenges as the 1979 southeast Asian refugee crisis and the current conflict in Syria and Iraq.

Pam Peters Pries, MCC Canada’s associate program director, reported back on her group’s discussion about how these disasters appeal to one’s humanity, regardless of religious views. “There’s been a tremendous response from a diverse group of people,” she said.

But MCC Canada board chair Peggy Snyder expressed worry people with differences sometimes don’t come together until there is a crisis, rather than addressing problems before they escalate. “How do we address the situation before it becomes a crisis? How do we come together around some of that?” she asked.

At the close of the day, participants were invited to share a message either for MCC or the church regarding “big tent thinking.”

Several participants shared messages to the churches that make up MCC’s constituent base to embrace the diversity within. “We can work together with differences and our diversity can help us see things we wouldn’t see,” MCC Alberta board member Kris Peters said.

Other participants called on the churches to persevere in their work with MCC and to recognize MCC is not meant to be a faith leader, nor to mediate issues of theology, but to continue to carry out its relief, development and peace work.

Coming together to sustain MCC’s work can mean the difference between life and death, peace and violence, justice and injustice. MCC’s work around the world runs the gamut from relief assistance for Syrian refugees, to camps that promote peace in Zambia, to food security projects in Nepal, to advocacy work in Canada and the United States.

MCC works with 528 partners in 54 countries worldwide. In the 2016 fiscal year, MCC spent $110.6 million CAD on 761 projects and affiliated costs and earned $113.7 million through donations, relief sales, Thrift shops, grants, material resources, and other sources

MCC hopes its church owners will continue to walk alongside one another as we continue our relief, development, and peace work in the name of Christ.