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“Blessed interruptions.”

That’s what Andrew Wiens called the times when a homeowner in Cape Breton wanted to talk while he was trying to repair his home as a Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) volunteer in Cape Breton.

Speaking at the August 24 closing celebration of MDS’s response in the region, Wiens—pastor of the Nordheim Mennonite Church in Winnipegosis, Man.—said those interruptions reminded him of Jesus while he was on earth.

“He had a ministry of interruptions,” said Wiens. “People were constantly interrupting him, keeping him from getting to where he was going and doing what he wanted to do.”

But Jesus always stopped. “He always wanted to know what he could do for the person who interrupted him,” Wiens said. “He knew the most important person in the world at that moment was the person in front of him.”

Similarly, at an MDS project site—where there is so much to be done—it can be easy to see questions from homeowners as keeping volunteers from getting the job done.

But for Wiens, taking time to talk to homeowners is a big part of the job.

“It could be easy to think of the people we work for as interruptions when they want to talk,” he said. “But it was always important to stop, listen, learn, understand and connect with them.”

It wasn’t always easy, he acknowledged; MDS was in its last week in Cape Breton, and there was a sense of urgency about getting things done.

“I wanted to go, go, go,” he said. “But I knew it was important to also stop to visit, to sit and talk together.”

Reflecting on Wiens’ comments, Ross Penner, Executive Director of MDS Canada said interruptions like that are at the heart of MDS.

“We know from experience that homeowners often have a need to talk, to share the story of the disaster that upturned their lives,” he said. “Putting down our tools to talk, to have a coffee, to hear their stories might mean the job of fixing their house takes longer, but in the big picture it is one of the most important things we can do.”

John Longhurst, MDS Canada Communications


A total of 458 volunteers from across Canada provided over 32,000 hours of service for 272 families and community organizations in Cape Breton in response to Hurricane Fiona. This included repairs to 44 houses, 28 new roofs or roof repairs and 179 tree-cutting and clean up jobs. Read about the August 24 closing celebration.

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