River of Life Mennonite Brethren Church is a small church, with about 60 people attending services at the Riverview Lion’s Club every Sunday. But one small congregation has had a big impact over the years collecting kits for MCC since 2004.

The congregation first started with relief kits after the tsunami in Thailand, since then they have responded to major disasters (Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti) and have also given school or hygiene kits each year. Last year they donated 28 hygiene kits and 20 school kits. 

Kits collected by River of Life in 2016. Photo/Sam Reimer

“A church working on an MCC project together provides an opportunity for those who feel like they don't have the resources or ability to do something on their own,” says Marybeth Reimer who has been organizing the kit drive for many years.  “The fact that many can contribute a few items each to put together a number of kits hopefully provides the opportunity and motivates everyone to participate.”

Once the kits are donated, they’re sent overseas to those facing disaster, crisis or who struggle to afford basic school supplies.

In recent years Reimer has been inviting church members to a kit bag sewing event at her home. All ages get involved, with everyone adding items to their shopping lists, adults and youth helping sew bags and the children putting the kits together. 

Marybeth Reimer and Mitch Mealey are working on the bags during a kit bag making party at Marybeth's home. Photo courtesy of River of Life. 

“Since the school and hygiene kits involve making cloth bags to put the items in, those who may not have financial resources can contribute by using their abilities in make the bags,” Reimer says. “When we have all the items together and the bags made, I love getting the kids at church involved in putting the kits together, having them actually put the items in the bags. They, too, can be a part of helping provide for the needs of others.”

After having participated in a few kit drives at River of Life, Emily Boyle had the opportunity to see some kits in use in an orphanage in Kenya while serving there with MB Missions.

It felt surreal to see kits that I have helped pack actually being used. By the looks of the tattered bags themselves, the kits were certainly appreciated and well-loved. I think in a way I hadn't spent much time really considering the impact such a simple act from such a small community can have in lives of others across the globe. It's one thing to talk about it, but something entirely different to see.”

- Emily Boyle

Abadaye, 4, received and MCC school kit at Amani Primary School in the Dadaab refugee camp complex in northeast Kenya. MCC Photo/Allan Juma

Pastor Brent Hudson appreciates the opportunity for the church to contribute; "As a small church in Atlantic Canada, we believe creating MCC kits is a way for us to connect with our larger Anabaptist family while taking seriously the global nature of Christ's call to compassionate service."

MCC is very grateful for River of Life’s long-standing commitment to sharing God’s love and compassion with those around the world who have experienced great upheaval. These kits remind those who receive them that their needs are not forgotten, and that people in a distant country are thinking of them and praying for them.