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Year-end donation numbers tell story of healing and hope


The leader of the central Vietnam district of the Mennonite Church, Pastor Nguyen Minh Sang, reported that Christians celebrated joyous Christmas services at all the churches in Quang Nam and Quang Ngai provinces, despite difficulties with authorities in some other places. The church here followed the standard practice of reporting in advance to authorities that they were planning to meet, and they met with no difficulty. Services were held at six places in the Quang Nam province, and local authorities cited people at two places for having a large gathering without permission. This sometimes happens even if permission is requested.

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Feb 18, 2005
-by Dan Dyck

Winnipeg, Man. — On Feb 17, Mennonite Church Canada sent an announcement to all congregations that said in part, “The financial picture has improved considerably compared to information released at the end of January.”

As the 2004-05 fiscal year ended, preliminary figures showed a donation shortfall of $118,000 – an amount that is expected to be made up by lower than expected expenses.

On the heels of this news came a “Generosity Report” from Al Rempel, MC Canada’s director of resource development.

“Members are not becoming less generous. Rather, they are growing more particular about how they want their dollars directed,” said Rempel, noting that almost $370,000 was designated to ministries beyond MC Canada’s core programs. Of that amount, $152,000 was directed by donors to 20 new initiatives and new MC Canada ministry partnerships in Latin America, Asia, Europe, Canada, and Africa. While Rempel expresses concern for the need to continue developing support for the core program that makes ongoing ministries possible, he said, “I celebrate the generous hearts for responding to God’s prompting in their lives.”

Out of total donation income of $3.8 million, $832,000 came from individual and corporate donors – up slightly from last year – and the remainder from congregations. “This is admirable given the economic factors in some regions and for some individual and corporate donors,” said Rempel, citing the impact of mad cow disease and drought in farming areas, and some business owners who have experienced downturns in revenue.

Council, board, and staff members gave just over $39,000 in individual contributions – about 5% of the total individual and corporate donation amount of $832,000. This was in addition to what they contributed through their churches, and their time, talent, and energy, noted Dan Nighswander, general secretary.

Regardless of how the numbers break down, Rempel is most encouraged by the stories he hears from some of the recipients of MC Canada’s donation dollars.

An email appeal to congregations in the fall of 2004 seeking support for persecuted Mennonites in Vietnam generated a strong response, said Rempel. He notes how gratifying it was to receive a report from Vietnamese ministry leaders outlining how they used the money and how helpful it was.

The report thanked MC Canada for the additional gifts which helped them pay many of the fines imposed on church leaders by the government. In addition, the Vietnamese church shared how for “… $1,000, around 60 pastors were able to gather together for a retreat in July, 2004. In this retreat, the pastors were encouraged. They also learned about Mennonite doctrine, and the new ordinance on religion of the government. With such a preparation, the pastors were able to endure the wave of severe persecution that followed. Many of them were brought to the village meetings and were pressured to recant their faith and to abandon their flocks. But none of them yielded to the wish of their persecutors.”

In addition, the Vietnam appeal helped to support students who were evicted because of their association with Vietnamese Mennonites, purchased a motorcycle enabling one pastor to visit her congregation which had been forced to split up into eight groups, and helped pay medical bills for two pastors who were ill when released from prison. Despite ongoing difficulties with authorities, the report says, “Mennonites in the area were encouraged because they know that they were not forgotten,” as a result of the gifts they received.

“It’s very important to share how the generosity of the church is making a difference in the world,” said Rempel. “The Vietnam story is just once slice of the healing and hope pie the church can offer. There are additional stories of healing and hope in our own native communities, in the midst of the AIDS crisis in Africa, and in Latin America where poverty and violence constantly push people to the edge of society."