One hundred years ago, calls for help came from Mennonites in southern Russia where war, disease and famine had left them in desperation.
“Brethren! Help us, we are perishing!” wrote one man to Mennonites in the United States. “The famine is raging more and more, and suffering is increasing daily, yes, hourly.”
Mennonites and Mennonite Brethren groups formed a “central committee” in July 1920 to co-ordinate their responses to this crisis. Together, they pledged to help hungry people, including those who were suffering in southern Russia (present-day Ukraine).
Over the next several years, the committee, which took on the name Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), provided food for as many as 25,000 people at times, as well as shipped in tractors and seeds to plant for the future.
One century later, MCC is celebrating the ministry that grew from that first endeavour. Throughout 2020, the public is invited to explore MCC’s history by participating in commemoration events, comforter making, giving opportunities, storytelling and more.
Today, MCC serves in more than 50 countries, including the U.S. and Canada, providing humanitarian relief, encouraging sustainable development and strengthening peacebuilding initiatives.
“The origins of MCC are rooted in a desire to see God’s justice and peace brought to those being oppressed or harmed,” says Rick Cober Bauman, executive director of MCC Canada. “It is a privilege to celebrate all those who began this work and all those who supported it.”
The Great Winter Warm-up
One of the ways MCC and its supporters show their compassion for people in crisis is to send comforters. Every year, MCC distributes more than 50,000 comforters and blankets made or donated by volunteers.
On Jan. 18, the public is invited to be a part of The Great Winter Warm-up, a comforter-making event held across Canada, the U.S. and Europe. Volunteers will attempt to complete 6,500 comforters in one day. Details can be found here.
MCC photo/Colin Vandenberg (2016)
“Comforters are an excellent metaphor for the nature of our work around the world at MCC,” says Cober Bauman. “One square of fabric alone cannot keep the cold away, but many pieces connected together produce warmth against the cold. When our volunteers and supporters come together to create comforters for The Great Winter Warm-up, they will make a difference in the lives of people affected by conflict and disaster.”
Buckets of Thanks
On Thanksgiving, we take the time to recognize what we’re thankful for. During MCC’s centennial year, we invite you to fill a Bucket of Thanks with valuable relief and hygiene supplies and provide something for a family experiencing hardship to be thankful for.
MCC photo/Mark Beach (1999)
Last year, MCC shipped more than 22,000 buckets (or relief kits) to families experiencing conflict or disaster all around the world. For more information on how to pack a bucket or who receives them, click here.
The Great Winter Warm-up and Buckets of Thanks are just some of the exciting events MCC is holding to celebrate our 100 years of service. For information on all the other events happening this year, check out the centennial events calendar.
100 stories for 100 years
No anniversary is complete without stories, photos and videos. MCC’s 100 stories for 100 years online collection provides glimpses of the people and ministry of MCC over the years.
The collection shares stories about remarkable people such as Lois Gunden, who protected Jewish children from death camps, and Issa Ebombolo, who started hundreds of peace clubs in schools all over Africa.
They describe how simple resources like canned meat and tarps give vital support to vulnerable people facing the devastation of disaster, and how MCC and partner organizations have developed new farming techniques over time, right up to today’s initiatives that help farmers cope with climate change.
Stories will be added throughout the year at 100 stories for 100 years, where you can also sign up for monthly email alerts about the collection.
Your stories and gifts
Thousands of people have served with MCC at home or in other countries; contributed to vital efforts such as meat canning, relief sales, thrift shops and material resources centres; supported MCC with gifts of money, kits and comforters; and in other ways experienced MCC’s work firsthand.
They have stories to tell, too. Anyone who wants to share a photo, video or a short vignette about their MCC experience can do so on the share your story page.
Saulo Padilla, MCC U.S. immigration education co-ordinator, shares how he arrived in Calgary, Alberta, in 1986 as an immigrant from Guatemala and the son of a political refugee. Later, he signed up for an MCC skills training, which he called “a window to self-awareness and a path to new life opportunities.”
“As I work with immigrant communities in the U.S., I am reminded of how new opportunities can heal past trauma and provide life-giving opportunities. I am eternally grateful for the people at MCC who offer recent immigrants an opportunity to have a new hope.”
MCC photo/Frederick Yocum
Looking to the future
To continue MCC’s work and to expand it beyond this centennial year, MCC is encouraging people to give an extra financial gift through the Our Faith, Our Future centennial fundraising campaign.
MCC was called into being to help people who had been forced to leave their homes. Supporting displaced people has been a central part of our work for 100 years. Your support for this centennial campaign will help expand that work, reaching even more people who have been uprooted by conflict and disaster.
To donate, visit Our Faith, Our Future or call 1-888-622-6337.
“There would be no MCC without each person who has supported us in any number of ways these last 100 years,” says Cober Bauman. “Every prayer, every dollar, every minute offered has been absolutely essential to the continued success of MCC’s mission.”