June 23, 2022
Students serving with MDS “friends for life”
Scholarship recipients serving in Monte Lake
They call themselves the “three amigas”—Spanish for “friends.”
The three—Betty Ramones, 31, Lindsay Hofer, 20 and Shannon Lang, 27—are longer-term Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) Canada volunteers in Monte Lake, B.C.
All three are in the interior B.C. community with MDS on scholarships.
Ramones and Lang are recipients of the MDS Canada Sheep and Goats scholarship, given annually to students who are preparing for ministry at Canadian Mennonite colleges and universities. Hofer is being supported by a scholarship from Canadian Mennonite University.
In return for the support, they are required to do eight weeks of service with MDS.
Ramones is a biblical studies student at Steinbach Bible College. Originally from Monterey, Mexico—hence the term “amigas”—she came to Canada in 2019 to study outdoor leadership. In 2020 she began taking biblical studies courses at Steinbach Bible College.
For her, MDS is “a hands-on ministry experience.” At the same time, it’s also an opportunity to see “how diverse the body of Christ is” and be mentored and discipled.
What really impressed Ramones, part of Emmanuel Evangelical Free Church in Steinbach, is the resiliency of homeowners who lost their homes to fire.
“They are still here and standing,” she said. “It gives me motivation to give everything I have to help them.”
She’s also enjoyed getting to know Hofer and Lang.
“We three have become fast friends,” she said.
Of her time with MDS, she said “it has pushed me out of my comfort zone in the best possible way. I’m texting all my friends and saying, ‘You have to do this!’”
Learned so much
Hofer, a 4th year psychology major at Canadian Mennonite University, appreciates how well project directors and crew leaders have patiently trained them to build houses.
“I’ve learned so much in such a short time,” she said.
She is also impressed by homeowners.
“What stands out for me is when they tell us their stories about the fire and what they lost,” she said, adding that as a psychology student she looks at the experience through the lens of trauma.
“Telling stories is a way for them to come to terms with what happened and construct a meaningful narrative to help them cope with their loss,” she said.
Through that process, “they are working out their trauma and finding out what a meaningful life looks like now.”
MDS is a part of that process, said Hofer, who is part of Soul Sanctuary in Winnipeg. It “provides support and hope.”
If, as is said, “love is a verb, then MDS is one of the best ways to do it,” she added.
Friends for life
Lang didn’t have to go far to get to Monte Lake—it’s just about three hours from her home in Penticton, B.C.
In her fourth year of biblical studies at Columbia Bible College in Abbotsford, B.C., Lang had hoped to serve with MDS in 2021. But COVID shuttered most projects in Canada.
“Now I look back and see how God worked things out so I could come to Monte Lake and meet Betty and Lindsay,” she said.
Serving with MDS “is an incredible experience,” she said, including hearing from homeowners about their experience.
“We step into their lives for a brief moment, but during that time we are able to listen and become friends,” she said.
Like Ramones and Hofer, Lang, who attends a house church in Penticton and Central Heights Mennonite Brethren Church in Abbotsford during the school year, had no construction experience prior to joining MDS.
“I did house painting, and thought maybe I’d be doing that,” she said. Instead, she’s been learning about foundation work and framing as three new houses get started.
“It’s been a great experience, learning and doing new things,” she said, crediting MDS leaders for being kind and patient.
“I once made the same mistake while measuring three times in a row, but Dave Wiebe, the project director, said it must have been the tape’s fault,” she said with a laugh.
All three will be sad when their eight weeks of service are done and they go home.
“We’re friends for life,” said Lang.
Since starting in 2015, 42 students from the three schools have received funding from the Sheep and Goats scholarship to serve with MDS.
MDS Canada needs more weekly volunteers in Monte Lake. If you can help, check out the volunteer opportunities!
John Longhurst, MDS Canada Communications