Tag Archives: Material Resource Center

Conference youth participate in interfaith initiative

by John Stoltzfus, Franconia Conference Youth Minister 

“We pursue peace and tolerance through dialogue and mutual understanding. We want to teach honesty and sincerity of purpose amongst the different religious groups in Nigeria. We want to teach respect of each other’s language, culture, and faith.”

Musa Mambula, who serves as the national spiritual advisor for Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), spoke these words in a recent chapel at Christopher Dock Mennonite High School in Lansdale, Pennsylvania. He spoke movingly about how Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN) remains committed to nonviolence, peacemaking, and forgiveness while suffering much violence perpetuated by radical groups, specifically Boko Haram.

Despite the violence which has cost many their lives, Mambula’s message is one of healing. He described a coming together of different faiths to face violence with understanding and love. Further, he encouraged the students to pursue peace in their own contexts through building relationships of understanding and compassion with people of other faith traditions.

Youth assemble MCC hygiene kits.
Youth assemble MCC hygiene kits.

On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day this past January, a group of Mennonite youth representing three conference churches did this very thing by participating in a new initiative of the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadephia called “A Day of Walking the Walk.” Nineteen youth and thirteen adults representing four different faith traditions and ten different faith communities came together for a day of building bridges through dialogue, exploration of sacred spaces and community service.

During the day each faith tradition had the opportunity to give a presentation on the values, beliefs and worship practices of their respective communities. When it came time for the Mennonite tradition, many of the questions from the participants of other faith traditions dealt with what is more typically attributed to the Amish such as questions of electricity use and horse and buggies! Evan Moyer, from Souderton Mennonite Church, remarked that he was not expecting to answer questions related to the practice of rumspringa (a term that often refers to an Amish rite of passage when a young person explores the outside world and makes a decision whether or not to remain Amish).

One of the interesting questions that came out of the discussion of whether or not

Emily Rittenhouse and a fellow participant from the interfaith dialogue.
Emily Rittenhouse and a fellow participant from the interfaith dialogue.

Mennonites have a particular style of dress was this: “If you look the same as everyone around you, what distinguishes you as Mennonites?”

Marjorie Scharf, who serves as the director of youth initiatives, remarked that a key impact of these interfaith encounters is an increased appreciation and commitment in one’s own heritage and faith identity.

Another important component of these interfaith encounters is service learning. For this event, the youth provided and put together sixty hygiene kits through the Mennonite Central Committee Material Resource Center in Harleysville. The Mennonite youth gave explanation as to why service and compassion for the poor and needy is a key value to their understanding of what it means to follow in the way of Jesus.

The day ended with participants filling out a sign that read “I will continue to Walk the Walk by…” Responses ranged from “having our church become involved” to “reaching out to other students across faith lines and creating a welcoming environment.” Emily Rittenhouse, from Salford Mennonite Church, was inspired to educate herself more about other faith traditions and to love others unconditionally.

Christopher Dock joins clothing drive to assist Syrian refugees

syrian clothing drive
Christopher Dock senior Johnathan Capp, left, and assistant principal Martin Wiens with some of the collected clothing. (The Reporter/GeoffPatton)

Adapted from an article by Jennifer Lawson, The Reporter (original article)

TOWAMENCIN — The number of Syrians who have fled the violence in their country has surpassed two million, creating a humanitarian crisis in the countries that have set up refugee camps.

Christopher Dock Mennonite High School and the Mennonite Central Committee’s Material Resource Center in Harleysville launched a short-term, intensive clothing drive last month to help the refugees, with assistance from the local community.

About a dozen bags of clothing had already been donated over the weekend before assistant principal Martin Wiens and senior Johnathan Capps announced the effort during the school’s chapel hour on September 16.

“It’s become so politicized, but people want to know, ‘What can I do to help?’ ‘What’s something tangible we can do?’” Wiens said. The students collected blankets, coats, sweaters, long pants, ankle-length skirts, long-sleeved shirts, shoes, backpacks, and toys.

This is part of a larger effort — the clothing drive was coordinated by the Material Resource Center’s headquarters in Ephrata, Pa., and other church communities across the country are also holding drives.

Dock’s involvement seemed fitting because juniors and seniors are learning about the refugee crisis in Bible class and social studies class, Wiens said, and school leadership thought it was important to get students invested in the movement to help.

“They seem pretty interested,” Capps said, adding that he heard from some classmates over the weekend who wanted to know more about the clothing drive and how they could help.

In total, the drive collected nearly 50 cubic feet of donations, which were then sent to Ephrata and processed, then sent to Lebanon, said Sharon Swartzentruber, director of the Material Resource Center in Harleysville.

“We’re trying to get everything to Lebanon before the weather turns too cold, and it takes a long time for shipments to arrive — five or six weeks,” she said.

Although the clothing drive has ended, the Material Resource Center is still collecting hygiene kits and relief kits, which are distributed in areas of crisis around the world, including the Middle East. For more information, please call the MRC at (267) 203-8074.

East Coast Activity Center Workshop

Ron Smucker, October 24, 2010

The annual meeting of the MCC East Coast Material Resource Centers was hosted at the new facility of the Material Resource Center at Souderton on September 30 and October 1, The purpose of the workshop is to inform, inspire and challenge centers in their ongoing missions. Participants from the local center were joined by representatives from Cumberland Valley Relief Center, Puerto Rico, Buena Vista Sewing Center, Ephrata and Philadelphia Urban Presence.The program was opened with greetings from one of the co-founders of the MCC Material Resource Center of Harleysville, Norman Good. Following a devotional period, a tour of the new facility was conducted by Sharon Swartzentruber, Coordinator for the center.Participants were reminded of the global ministry and impact of MCC through presentations by MCC workers who have served in various places. Highlights included presentations by Daryl Yoder-Bontrager, Darrin Yoder, Ken Sensenig and Larry Guengerich. An historical perspective of the 70 year partnership of the Brethern in Christ Church and MCC was given by Curtis Book. A sense of the Urban Presence in Philadelphia was shared by Fred Kauffman.After sharing dinner together at a local restaurant, several members presented some MCC stories at the Souderton Mennonite Home.Friday included devotional time by Paul Godshall who summarized MCC work involvement in Indonesia. All of the centers were invited to share some news of interest along with their challenges. Lunch for both days was provided by local volunteers and overnight out of town visitors were hosted in homes in the community. Participants were inspired and affirmed as they left to return to their own mission.

Conference Related Ministries

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Below is the list of Franconia Conference Related Ministries. Click on the name of a CRM below to read an update on their ministry. (Currently, not all ministries have submitted reports.)

Bethany Birches Camp
Camp Men-O-Lan
Care and Share Shoppes
Christopher Dock Mennonite High School
Community Home Services
Crossroad Gift and Thrift
Delaware Valley MEDA
Germantown Mennonite Historic Trust
Indian Creek Foundation
Liberty Ministries
Life with God Ministries
Living Branches – Dock Woods Community and Souderton Mennonite Homes
Mennonite Historians of Eastern Pennsylvania
Mennonite Disaster Service
MCC Material Resource Center of Harleysville
Peaceful Living
Penn Foundation
Penn View Christian School
Philadelphia Mennonite High School
Quakertown Christian School
Rockhill Mennonite Community
Spruce Lake

MCC to help build infrastructure in rural Haiti

by Linda Espenshade

Mennonite Central Committee’s (MCC) response to Haiti’s devastating earthquake will gradually shift from the capital city of Port-au-Prince to rural communities that are expected to play an integral role in rebuilding the country.

By 2011, MCC’s work will center in the Artibonite Valley, about 1½ hours north of Port-au-Prince. Eight MCC staff members live in Desarmes, a town in the Artibonite Valley, where MCC already has program.

The Haitian government estimates that 162,500 of the 600,000 people that fled Port-au-Prince after the earthquake sought shelter in the Artibonite Department, where the Artibonite Valley is located. The movement of displaced persons to the rural areas puts an economic strain on those communities, but it also presents an opportunity to change some of the underlying problems that made the earthquake so devastating.

MCC Haiti staff and international program development leaders embraced the decentralization approach when they met in Haiti in late March to develop a long-term plan for MCC’s earthquake response. They were acting on the advice of MCC’s partners, MCC Haiti national staff and international workers and Haitian political leaders.

“The majority of our work needs to be outside the city,” said Virgil Troyer, an MCC regional disaster management coordinator, “so the rural areas can have the infrastructure to support the people migrating there and to keep people from moving back into the city.”

Decentralization is a concept espoused by the Haitian government and many international aid organizations, Troyer said. According to The Miami Herald, Haitian President René Préval told President Barack Obama in a March meeting that Haiti needs to adopt decentralization by offering healthcare, education and jobs across the country to avoid overcrowding in Port-au-Prince.

The infrastructure in Port-au-Prince was never set up to handle the population that was living there, Troyer said. Even before the earthquake, the systems for water, electricity, roads and housing could not handle demand. People built houses in ravines and hillsides and on top of each other, which resulted in massive damage during the earthquake, he said.

Yet the capital city has been the center around which the country revolves, Troyer said. It’s the primary place Haitians go to conduct government business, attend universities and good secondary schools and get care at respected hospitals.

As a result, the essential services kept enticing people to move to the capital — until the earthquake. Then about 600,000 people fled the city to find shelter in the country, the Haitian government estimates.

“What the provinces lack is the services of the state,” said Garly Michel, an MCC worker who is from Haiti and works in Port-au-Prince. “If they can get roads, health centers and schools, people could stay there.”

To encourage people to stay there, the government is appealing to international governments and nongovernmental organizations to help establish that infrastructure.

Yoline Jules, a resident of Desarmes, lost three daughters in the earthquake because they were in Port-au-Prince for education.

“There must be decentralization in each region, in each neighborhood so the youth that are still here… can go to school and at least find something to learn about so they don’t leave home,” Jules said in an MCC video interview. “If this was done already, many people that died wouldn’t have died,” she said.

The provinces already have resources for work, said Michel, who is always called Garly. They have water, land and a labor force.

However, in recent years production has dwindled because trade agreements have made imported food cheaper to buy than food grown in Haiti. MCC is focusing some earthquake response money toward increasing profitable production and encouraging local production and consumption.

“For the long vision, there must be a development plan that allows for more food in the provinces,” said Jean Remy Azor, an MCC staff member in Desarmes. “If there is no such vision to augment local production, there will come a time when we depend too much on imports…. Our stomachs will be in the hands of foreign countries.”