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Note: The following letter has been shared with our volunteers, informing them of our decision to close all MDS project sites due to COVID-19.

Dear MDS Volunteer,

This is not a note I expected to have to write. But given the rapidly changing situation with COVID-19 (also known as coronavirus), we are closing all MDS project sites as of March 13. Projects will remain closed at least until April 24. We will continually assess the project status and will provide updates as needed.

Please cancel your travel plans. I realize this poses a challenge for you as you need to change your travel plans at short notice. Fortunately, airlines have adopted new flexible rules to allow cancellations; call the airline or travel agent you used to make your changes. If you are driving, we ask you not to go to the project site. If you are from Canada and driving to a project, we recommend you return home as quickly as possible.

This was a difficult decision to make, but we believe it is the right one. We made it out of an abundance of caution; the health and safety of our volunteers is paramount, as is the health and safety of people in communities where we serve. I realize the virus isn’t a problem everywhere in the U.S. and Canada, but it is spreading fast. we don’t want any of you to become sick or bring back the virus to your homes and communities where others—especially the elderly—might be put in danger.

We also want to be good, responsible citizens by restricting travel and movement so as to try to slow and limit the spread of the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and the Public Health Agency of the Government of Canada are calling on people to practice social distancing to keep it from spreading. This includes not gathering in larger groups and travelling. Whatever we can do to keep everyone healthy, and out of hospitals, is the right thing to do.

And, of course, we do this because we are followers of Jesus. Jesus calls on us to care for the well-being of others, and especially for the sick, weak and vulnerable. As people who want to show God’s love to the world, we want to make that love visible in all we do—including being careful during a time of pandemic.

Again, this is not a note I ever expected to have to share with you! I’m sure you are disappointed; we are, too. But I also hope you understand this is an unprecedented and challenging time. All across the U.S. universities are cancelling classes, churches are suspending services, and sporting events are being shelved. Since your safety and health is our number one concern, we feel we should do the same thing by telling you to stay home.

The project leaders at the site where you are serving know you are not coming; you don’t need to contact them.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to call. 

Thanks for your willingness to serve with MDS! When the pandemic passes, we expect to get back up and running and look forward to having you serve with us again. We will keep you informed for future service opportunities.

I close with this prayer by Carol Penner, a professor in theological studies at Conrad Grebel College in Waterloo, Ont., from her blog Leading in Worship.

Great God,

you are an ever-present help in times of trouble,

and that’s why we’re praying now.

We are troubled and we’re worried

things are going to get more troubling.

This virus is spreading around the world:

so many are seriously ill

or will be seriously ill,

so many health care systems are stretched

or will be stretched.

Be with front line medical workers,

give them courage to do their work

and keep them safe.

Be with public health officials

as they make decisions for the common good,

and politicians as they roll those decisions out.

Help us to be kind to one another,

because anxiety can make us snappy.

Help our communities to be resilient

and expansive as we reach out to help

all who are isolated and afraid.

In these times of shutdowns and slowdowns,

when travel is restricted or banned,

as routines are disrupted and we spend

less time together or more time together,

help us zero in on what is essential.

Thank you that love is also contagious

and stronger than any virus.

You will be with us,

and we will be with each other

in sickness and in health.


Your servant,

Kevin King  |  Executive Director

Mennonite Disaster Service

583 Airport Road, Lititz, PA 17543

direct: 717.951.3286  |  main: 717.735.3536

toll-free: 800.241.8111



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