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Two new Mennonite Voluntary Service locations
November 21, 2002
Winnipeg, Man.Seven weeks of prayer from one church, raising $1000 in a month for another are some of the investments that Danforth and Ottawa Mennonite Churches have committed toward the creation of a new MVS unit lodged with each congregation respectively.
Both Toronto and Ottawa should have Mennonite Voluntary Service units by next fall if all goes according to plan.
MVS participants spend 1-3 years living in community and volunteering in service projects or charity organizations. Presently MVS Canada has five units, in Edmonton, Hamilton, Montreal, Riverton and Winnipeg; its partner organization, MVS USA, has 30 units.
“These new units will really expand the range of Canadian service opportunities,” said Brad Reimer, MVS Canada director. “I expect they’ll also have a transforming effect on their hosting congregations.”
MVS units are initiated at the request of congregations wanting to host them. Once established, the units receive prayer, hospitality and financial support from the hosting congregation.
Linda Redekop, member of Ottawa Mennonite Church, said Habitat for Humanity encouraged the congregation to consider setting up a unit. A visit from Reimer also “really inspired us with the possibilities.” A committee put a plan together and brought it to church council.
“It’s hard to say no to something that good,” said Redekop. The council approved the plan and in one month the church raised $1000 of the anticipated $6000 startup costs, impressive considering it is also paying for a church expansion and recently purchased three homes for refugee families. Once established the unit should be financially self-supporting.
Redekop says they were also inspired by Montreal Mennonite Fellowship, which has had an MVS unit for three years. Service opportunities in Ottawa might include working with organizations like Canadian Food for the Hungry, Canadian Council for Refugees or Habitat for Humanity, though nothing is formalized yet.
Asked how an MVS unit might impact the congregation, Redekop said “I think the idea of the MVS unit is to live a very simple lifestyle… Our world is so driven by consumerism and I think this anti-consumerist stance could really help us.”
Tim Reimer, Pastor of Danforth Mennonite Church, is excited about his church’s decision to host an MVS unit. “We wanted to think of ways to make an impact on our neighbourhood with the Gospel,” said Reimer. Danforth wants to respond to the challenging question of “What difference does it make that Danforth is in this neighborhood?”
The decision to host an MVS unit came from an exploration led by the churches Outreach committee, and a sharing exercise at a church retreat that revealed how many church members had voluntary service as an important formative experience.
Opportunities through the Toronto unit could include work with community centres or a daycare or other options being explored.
As part of preparing for hosting the unit, the church committed itself to seven Sundays of prayer for the initiative. “Brad [Reimer] seemed pretty thrilled to hear that we wanted to pray for our unit every Sunday for seven weeks,” said Tim Reimer.
“The MVS committee is a new committee… it represents the edge where God can do something new, so there’s always a bit of a risk there.” Both Danforth and Ottawa have evidently decided that the risk is worthwhile.