It’s 2020 and Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) has entered its 100th year of serving those who need it most locally and around the world.
MCC’s work has always been rooted in the participation of thousands of people as volunteers serving at home and around the world. That activism has led to MCC programs becoming established across North America with offices that support and encourage volunteers who work in relief sales, thrift stores, material resource centres and organizational boards and committees to enhance this worldwide ministry. It has also led to the cultivation of over 500 global partnerships with local schools, clinics, churches, agricultural and public health projects, who value the commitment of assisting people in need within their neighbourhoods and countries.
MCC Alberta is one of those local MCCs, born out of the interest and commitment of local churches and individuals working together to support people in Alberta and around the world. Officially incorporated as an organization in 1967, the work of MCC in Alberta had begun years before that as men and women from churches in Central and Southern Alberta got together to raise funds, make comforters, host auctions for relief work, and share stories and testimonials to support the broader and growing mission.
Anne Neufeld was one of those early leaders. Anne was instrumental in the beginnings of an MCC Thrift Store in Lethbridge, the first MCC Relief Auction that happened in 1975 in Coaldale, and for many years she was a pillar in mobilizing support for the work of MCC in Southern Alberta. But Anne is only one of many who have worked often without salary or support on behalf of the needs of others.
There have been hundreds of people over the years, initiating programs in Alberta with MCC. Programs such as restorative justice, refugee sponsorship and migration, and material resources. Two large Newcomer Centres with hundreds of staff members now operate independently in Calgary and Edmonton, helping refugees and new immigrants settle into Alberta. Momentum, in Calgary, has worked for almost 30 years with employment development needs in Calgary. Ten Thousand Villages until recently had stores in a number of urban centres selling fair-trade products from producer groups in developing countries. Four Thrift stores now operate in Edmonton, Calgary, Lethbridge and Taber, providing opportunity for volunteerism and recycling clothing, household items and furniture while raising funds for the ministries of MCC. Mennonite Disaster Services, also independent from MCC has a well-established network that recruits and sends volunteers to work sites around North America to help people who have lost homes or other property in natural disasters. Canadian Foodgrains Bank (CFGB), of which MCC is one member, has ‘growing projects’ in many parts of rural Alberta, raising grain which is turned into cash for food and water projects. Grow Hope is one of those growing projects that help support MCC food programs around the world through the MCC account with CFGB.
MCC has become a complex well-established organization, and at its centre is the initiative and commitment of people, individuals, and church groups who go out of their way, willing to interrupt their lives to live out the commandment of Jesus to love our neighbour. A century is a long time, but the call of Jesus to be kind to each other, to show up wherever we are needed, remains the same. Our prayer and effort is that MCC will be continue to be faithful to that calling.