When MCC was formed in 1920, Mennonites and Mennonite Brethren were in great need in southern Russia (present-day Ukraine). People like you, from congregations across the U.S. and Canada, rose up to help.
Offerings flowed, church sewing circles stitched, piles of donations grew. People gave to save the lives of families they’d never met, to live out their faith as Christ’s disciples.
That tide of compassion is how MCC’s ministry of relief, development and peacebuilding began.
In the decades that followed, young men and women boarded ships and airplanes, crossing oceans to serve with MCC and partner with local churches and communities. As they did, they found new ways to help communities meet their own needs and live out Christ’s call to peace.
“Truly magnificent was the outpouring of love and generosity on the part of our churches in Canada and the United States of America,” write Peter and Elfrieda Dyck in their book, Up From the Rubble.
Or, in the words of MCC worker A.J. Miller, writing from southern Russia in 1921, “It was Love reaching out its strong hands across the waters and the plains, across oceans and continents.”
Through the years, you and so many others — from supporters to MCC workers to local partners here at home and around the world — have kept this legacy of service, compassion and commitment alive.
We invite you to join with us in giving thanks to God for the difference we’ve been able to make together.
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”
- Matthew 25:35 NRSV
“I do not remember when we had read so much from Lamentations as at this time. It seemed to me the same experience we had in Russia during this time had been the lot of those living at Jeremiah’s time,” writes Gerhard Schroeder, describing the misery of hunger and need in the 1920s in southern Russia.
MCC answered not only with food but also many tons of clothing. “We thank God that He gave you the will to help and prepared the way,” writes Jacob Reimer, in a letter to “The Mennonites in America,” dated Oct. 11, 1923.
Assistance from MCC poured across Europe in the years after the Second World War. “Relief work is a particular duty and privilege in time of war, when human sin and destructiveness are doing their worst. To build where others destroy, to heal where others kill, to love when all men hate,” noted Harold Bender, assistant secretary of MCC, in 1941.
Elfrieda and Peter Dyck served in the Netherlands in 1945 and 1946. In their book Up from the Rubble, Peter Dyck recalls standing on the docks one winter morning watching a ship of supplies being unloaded.
“The director of the Dutch Red Cross turned to me and said, ‘I didn’t know that almost half the people of the United States and Canada are Mennonites.’ I laughed and asked what made him say that? ‘Because almost half of all the relief supplies coming to Holland these days are from the Mennonite Central Committee,’ he replied.”
Through the decades, MCC has continued to respond in times of war, storms, earthquakes or other crises.
Meat canned by volunteers in the U.S. and Canada brought hope to refugees in Austria in 1959 and in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.
MCC photo/Ben Depp
In 2016, in the midst of conflict in Syria, heaters offered winter warmth. “Through the viciousness of war, marked by anxiety, distress, homelessness, hunger, pain and insecurity, breaks through a ray of light: humanitarian assistance,” writes Boutros Melki, a Syrian Orthodox priest in Hama, Syria, in 2020.
Photo courtesy of Syrian Orthodox Church
And the towels tucked into relief kits were signs of hope and comfort for Honduran families recovering from 1998’s Hurricane Mitch.
MCC photo/Marlisa Yoder-Bontrager
But that’s only the start. From tractors in southern Russia in the 1920s to training masons in earthquake-resistant construction in Nepal in the 2010s, MCC has a long tradition of helping people rebuild their lives, homes and income over months and even years. And when families are forced to flee home, MCC follows the call of Christ to welcome those making their way in a new land.
Learn more about MCC's relief work through this video.
“Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.”
- 1 Thessalonians 5:11 NRSV
A key aspect of MCC’s work over decades has been to empower people to improve their own lives and overcome the challenges they face, from not having enough food, adequate healthcare or clean water, to needing to earn more income.
In the 1950s and 1960s, MCC’s work began to stretch to new corners of the globe and into new types of work. Hundreds of teachers were sent to schools in newly independent African nations. Doctors, nurses and other health workers served in countries from Bolivia to Vietnam.
MCC agriculture workers began to experiment with simple but innovative technologies. Some of these, like the rower pump developed in Bangladesh, would go on to change the lives of countless people. New strides in cultivating vegetables or raising animals gave families new opportunities for income.
Around the world, MCC partners with churches and organizations to help people find the opportunities they need to support themselves.
In Colombia, that has included supporting Mennonite Brethren efforts to help farmers grow cacao for chocolate rather than coca for cocaine.
“We want to see people living differently, to see agriculture being strong here in this region, big rice crops or cacao crops, and know that people have the income they deserve and that they are able to live better lives with dignity,” says Jose Rutilio Rivas Dominguez, president of the regional council for the Mennonite Brethren Church in Chocó, Colombia.
In South Sudan, MCC efforts included helping women develop sewing skills and start their own tailoring businesses. “If I acquire good skills here, then I can send my children to school,” says Jerisa Muro, who was taking classes through the program in 2012.
Water projects help communities build wells and sand dams that save women and girls from spending hours hauling water from often-unclean rivers or streams. “No water, no life. We see every new well with clean water as a victory,” says Betanico Fernando Dique of MCC partner Christian Council of Mozambique said in 2015.
And education efforts promote learning that can lead to a breadth of changes. “When we see a student get a job after years of struggle through schooling and training, that brings satisfaction and joy to our work and the change we see in the family later is remarkable,” notes Ayesha Kader, who was supported in her education by MCC and then served as a longtime MCC education co-ordinator in India.
MCC photo/Dave Klassen
Today, MCC and its partners continue to take on the growing challenges of today’s world—helping farmers adapt to climate change; ensuring access to safe, clean water; increasing the quality of education and training; and helping people lead healthier lives. And, as people in MCC-supported programs find new ways to grow and thrive, many, like Victoria Mamani Sirpa, who benefited from training in using greenhouses in Bolivia, go on to share what they’ve learned.
MCC photo/Matthew Sawatzky
“My favourite thing is seeing the families start to produce their own vegetables and how it changes their happiness. Every time I go visit them, they tell me what they’ve eaten and how happy they are,” says Sirpa, who now works with MCC’s partner Fundación Communidad y Axión (Community and Action Foundation) to teach other families to grow vegetables. “When they have questions, we work together to find the answers.”
Learn more about MCC's development work through this video.
“. . . and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
- Micah 6:8 NRSV
Efforts to build peace and work for justice are cornerstones of MCC’s work and witness through the decades.
MCC workers served throughout Europe in the 1940s and 1950s, in the Republic of Korea (South Korea) in the 1950s, in Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s and in Latin America through conflicts in the 1980s and 1990s. They put their faith into action while striving to meet urgent needs in unsettled times.
“I believe that Christ was telling the truth when he proposed that loving your enemies and blessing them that curse you was the way of God,” stresses MCC Pax worker Jim Juhnke in 1959.
And MCC's efforts and workers sowed seeds of peace — sometimes in unexpected ways.
In 1947, with a church building, homes and lives devastated by German attacks during the Second World War, a small Mennonite congregation in the Netherlands, in the midst of rebuilding its own community, donated to MCC’s work, directing it to be used to meet needs in Germany.
“It was just the week after the distribution of more than 100 of the most lovely Christmas packages from MCC to our children. And we all agreed that we should like so very much to give something ourselves to help others ‘in the name of Christ,’” a letter from pastor M. (full first name not known) de Boer in Vlissingen states. “The young people did the work and almost all the members of the church gave something. For a few it was too difficult, still to help the German people but the others all agreed that they did want to do just that ...”
MCC photo/Melissa Engle
Over the decades, MCC has invested in helping people develop skills in peacebuilding and conflict resolution that they can put to work in their own communities.
Trauma healing training gives people tools to move past the horrors they have experienced through violence and war.
MCC photo/Matthew Sawatzky
The peace clubs that Issa Ebombolo developed in Zambia, with support from MCC, grew from after-school activities in one country to initiatives in churches, schools, prisons and refugee camps on three continents. Today, they continue to, in Ebombolo's words, help “a young generation develop new ways of thinking about peace.”
Here in the U.S., MCC gives people a chance to put their faith in action by speaking up for justice at home and around the world.
The MCC U.S. Summer Service program helps develop not only leadership skills but also gives participants chances to reflect on the links between their faith and their work for peace and justice.
“My commitment to working for the church was strengthened and my interest in peace and justice work within the church found a place where I could learn and explore more,” Saulo Padilla, MCC U.S. immigration education co-ordinator, says of his MCC U.S. Summer Service experience.
MCC photo/Saulo Padilla
And MCC U.S. provides resources to congregations and individuals to help them advocate to lawmakers, offers training on welcoming newcomers to the U.S. and encourages work for racial justice and anti-racism. “As Christian churches look to understand and confront racism, we can build the body of Christ by ‘speaking the truth in love,’” notes Dina Gonzalez-Piña, MCC U.S. ethnicity and gender equity specialist.
Learn more about MCC's peace work through this video.