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A photo of a food pantry worker handing box of food to a client.A photo of a food pantry worker handing box of food to a client.

For the Scott St. Mennonite Brethren Church in St. Catharines, Ont., money from the MDS Canada Spirit of MDS Fund was “a great encouragement to our congregation and a catalyst for ministry,” says pastor Rob Patterson.

“It made us feel that we are part of the larger Mennonite cause, both in St. Catharines and around the world.”

Over at Peace Church on 52nd, a Mennonite Church Canada congregation in Vancouver, B.C., support from the Fund “allowed us to help people on the ‘margins’ of our community,” says pastor Lydia Cruttwell.

It meant “we didn’t have to choose who to help, but could assist in a more open-handed, generous way.”

In Edmonton, Alta., the South Sudanese Mennonite Church used their grant to help those who lost jobs due to the pandemic.

“The grant helped people pay their bills and gave hope to the whole congregation in this time of difficulty by showing there are those who care about them,” says pastor Reuben Tut.

“It was a blessing to our church, and to the South Sudan community in Edmonton in general.”

Bob Ratelle washing dishes in the kitchen of the Scott St. Mennonite Brethren Church in St. Catharines, Ont., one of 46 churches to receive support from the MDS Canada Spirit of MDS Fund.

The three churches were among 46 congregations in Canada that received $1,000 grants from the Fund, established at the outset of the pandemic to help Canadian churches respond to COVID-19 needs in their communities.

“It was our privilege to come alongside Canadian churches to help them serve people impacted by the pandemic,” says Ross Penner, who directs MDS operations in Canada. “Due to the virus, we were unable to do our work as usual in Canada, but we could still help people through local congregations.”

At Scott St., they used the grant to provide 500 nutritious meals for families experiencing food insecurity due to the pandemic.

“Our volunteer kitchen staff have been working hard and safely in this era of COVID,” says Patterson. “The MDS Canada grant allowed us to get the program up and running, helping with food purchasing and promotion.”

Peace Church on 52nd used the funds to assist a homeless man who has been sheltering on the porch of their facility every night—they bought him camping equipment including a new sleeping bag, mat and dry bag.

They also used funds to help a Syrian refugee buy a new laptop so he could participate in his online Masters of Divinity classes. Money was also used to support people experiencing food insecurity.

The homeless man, “was very grateful to have a warm sleeping bag and a more comfortable mat and was especially happy about having another dry bag so his belongings wouldn’t get wet when it rains,” says Cruttwell.

The refugee student was also “very touched by the gift and is grateful to have a church community that attends not just to his spiritual needs, but his practical needs as well,” she adds.

Other ways churches used grants from MDS Canada included upgrading technology so more people could participate in worship services; buying tablets for a senior’s residence so residents could interact with their families; purchasing materials for a virtual summer day camp; and helping a ministry for refugees reconfigure and upgrade their office to make it safe for use.

One church, the Toronto Mennonite New Life Church (Iglesia Menonita Nueva Vida), used a grant to pay their building insurance.

Due to the pandemic, the church—which serves a congregation made up mostly of refugees, saw a drop in giving since people could no longer meet for services. To pay the insurance by the deadline, they borrowed money from another congregation. But they had no way to pay it back.

Then the church applied to the Spirit of MDS Fund. “Right after receiving the grant, we were able to pay back the loan,” says assistant pastor Hyung Jin (Pablo) Kim Sun. “Through MDS Canada, God provided our needs in a perfect timing! Thanks for your support!”

John Longhurst, MDS Canada Communications Coordinator 

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