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“Everyone is excited—there’s a buzz in the air.”

That’s what Dana Feltmate, the Minister at Sydney River Protestant United Church in Sydney, Nova Scotia said about hosting the Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) response to Hurricane Fiona in Cape Breton.

“Hosting MDS is another way for us to do our mission,” he said of the church, which was founded in 1952 by people from Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran and United Church denominations.

Last fall, and again since March this year, MDS has been hosted by Camp Bretrondean, an Anglican Church camp 19 kilometres south near Albert Bridge. Since the camp needs its facilities back for summer programs for children and youth, MDS needs to move starting in July.

“We are very appreciative of the camp for being such a great host,” said Roman Heuft, who directs MDS’s response in Cape Breton. “We have really enjoyed being here.”

Heuft decided to ask the Feltmate about using the church after a Sunday morning visit in spring. In May, he was informed the church would be happy to be the host.

To make it suitable as a base of operations, MDS will convert four Sunday school classrooms into accommodations for long-term volunteers. The gym will be divided into double rooms for weekly volunteers and meals will be made in the church’s commercial kitchen.

Samaritan’s Purse is providing a shower trailer, while a large parking lot will provide plenty of room for MDS vehicles, tool trailers and RVs.

“Everyone is excited—there’s a buzz in the air.”

— Dana Feltmate

“We are blessed,” said Heuft. “It’s going to be a great summer home.”

For Feltmate, the feeling is mutual.

“We are glad to share what we have with MDS, especially since MDS seeks to serve the most vulnerable,” he said. “That’s what we want to do as well.”

Everyone who is part of the church was impacted by the hurricane in some way, Feltmate noted. Some had damage to their homes, trees knocked down in their yards or were without power for a few days or weeks. “It was nothing like we had ever seen before,” he said.

The entire community is so appreciative of MDS, he went on to say, including the local police who use the church’s parking lot for shift changes between vehicles.

“When the police heard MDS would be here, they told me they’d keep an eye on the tool trailers and RVs and for me to tell them anything they need, to let them know,” he said. 

Where possible, MDS seeks to partner with local churches in communities where it is serving. In 2018 in Williams Lake, B.C., it was hosted by the Cariboo Bethel (Mennonite Brethren) Church. In 2019 in Grand Forks, B.C., it was the River Valley Pentecostal Community Church. In 2021-22 in Princeton, B.C., the Princeton Baptist Church was its partner.


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