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Connecting kids with Witness


Imvu sporting his trusty backpack

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Andrew and Karen Suderman, with Imvu

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Imvu during the World Cup Soccer Tournament in June/July 2010

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September 3, 2010
-Deborah Froese

Winnipeg, Man.  A passion for writing children’s stories and a desire to engage children in church life gave birth to Imvu, a small knitted sheep who connects Mennonite Church Canada ministry in South Africa with children around the world.

Imvu – whose name is also the Zulu word for “sheep” – is the creation of Mennonite Church Canada Witness worker, Karen Suderman. From their office in Pietermaritzburg, Karen and her husband Andrew are developing relationships and an Anabaptist Network in close collaboration with Mennonite Mission Network (USA) and Mennonite Central Committee colleagues, through teaching, editing workshop and seminar materials, and providing support to partner churches in South Africa.

Each prayer letter they send out to supporters includes insights from Imvu’s perspective and a related photograph of the small white and black sheep wearing a knitted red backpack.

“Imvu is my attempt at making overseas church work more than an adult thing, allowing children to enter the world in which Andrew and I work,” Suderman writes in an email exchange. “Imvu can hopefully be a device to distil some of the simple joys and profound truths that we discover as we live here.”

In one prayer letter, Imvu confides; “Often people put clothing and supplies into their backpacks. I am putting memories and thoughts into mine.” In another, he says, “The thought I am putting into my backpack is to remember to be thankful for the gift of learning at school and for the gift of learning at Church. I know sometimes I forget to be grateful for these things.”

Imvu has been captured posing with a soccer ball during the World Cup Soccer Tournament that took place in South Africa during June/July2010, and with Marmite, a stuffed monkey about Imvu’s size, who travels with Wayne and Lois Hochstetler of Mennonite Mission Network.

Those who look carefully will also find Imvu “hiding” in other photographs in the Sudermans' prayer letters.

Suderman has found that Imvu is a good icebreaker with people of all ages.  “There is one pastor in Mthatha that asks us about Imvu and where Imvu is every time we see him.”

A collection of letters from a Grade Seven Sunday School class in Niagara, Ont. (Niagara United Mennonite Church) revealed Imvu’s impact among children. “Almost each one of the letters mentioned Imvu and how they like to find the hidden sheep in each letter. Some even drew their own Imvu in the letters they sent to us,” Suderman writes.  The Sudermans have heard from others too. “My favourite message was from our niece – she was three at the time it was sent – it said ‘Dear Imvu, Andrew and Karen are in South Africa. I love you, sheep. That's all done."

Karen Suderman has knit a number of sheep over the past couple of years.  “Most of them have ended up in the hands of babies that our friends have had.  Imvu is the first sheep that I knit that didn't find a new home.  Come to think of it, I think Imvu was the first project I knit in South Africa,” she writes.    

If you would like to write to Imvu, you can reach him at