The story begins - 1920s
MCC’s first relief kitchen in southern Russia opened in Khortitsa on March 16, 1922. The photo above, circa 1922, is from Trans-Volga, Russia. MCC worker Arthur Slagel noted that the neediest in the area were chosen to receive a daily ration of, as nearly as possible, 778 calories. The menu varied with supplies available but consisted, for the most part, of bread every day, cocoa twice weekly, beans once or twice weekly and the rest of the time corn grits or rice cooked with sugar and milk.
Our food since last spring has been black tea and herring, and now dear friends, all of this is gone. If you can’t help, then we will die of starvation.”
- Letter from southern Russia, Dec. 25, 1921, (from Feeding the Hungry, a 1929 book about MCC’s response)
In 1923 in Platovka, Russia (above), Mennonites load wagons with emergency food, including tins of milk. Several hundred wagons were needed for some larger transports. In addition to providing food, MCC sent two shipments of 25 tractors (below) to help replace the horses that had died or been taken during a time of war and hunger.
Like wildfire, the message went through our village. The American food had arrived at the railroad station . . . we rejoiced in our hearts, and when I came home and told my family what my eyes had seen we resolved that we would never forget this day.”
– Gerhard Schroeder, 1922 (from his book Miracles of Grace and Judgment)
A witness of love and peace - 1930s to 1940s
MCC’s work stretched across Europe and helped thousands devastated by war, including feeding 72,000 children at sites in eight German cities in the late 1940s, such as this school (above). In London, England, MCC worker John Coffman (below) finds warm winter clothing for Mary, 11, last name not known, whose home was bombed the previous winter and whose family slept each night in an underground shelter.
Aiming to live out a Christian mission in word and deed, Coffman and his wife Eileen made a suggestion that would shape MCC for decades to come. In April 1941, they wrote to MCC leaders in Akron to say that including a label on donated clothing with a “little slogan such as: In the Name of Christ” might “be useful in promoting the cause of Christ, as we administer the clothing which is made and donated by our people.”
In the U.S., Mennonites in Virginia (above) and in Kansas began experimenting with mobile meat canning, launching efforts that helped families in Europe in the 1940s, and today generate nearly a million pounds of canned meat for families in need worldwide every year.
Your willingness and eagerness to share your blessings . . . the thousands of tons of food, clothing, shoes, soap, medicines and tools . . . it has rekindled hope, faith and interest and created new purpose and courage for the future.”
– Report from Berlin, MCC’s “European Relief Notes,” October 1947
The work expands- 1950s to 1960s
Fueled by the efforts of volunteers in Canada and the U.S., including the sewing circle (below) at Mellinger Mennonite Church in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the ministry of sending MCC comforters, food, clothing, Christmas bundles and other assistance expanded far beyond Europe. MCC assistance brought hope and comfort not only in Japan (above) and in South Korean communities devastated by the Korean War, but also in Africa, Latin America and the Middle East.
Because there are both emergency and long-term needs and because even in emergency situations food and clothing are not the only answer to the problem, it is important that self-help projects be developed . . . such as sewing classes.”
– 1957 report to MCC Executive Committee
MCC worker Geraldine Ebersole (below; names of others not known) worked with Palestinian refugees in Jericho, West Bank, in 1951. MCC workers began a layette project for pregnant women, teaching them to sew baby items. When her baby was born, each woman received the layette she made and other items added by MCC.
Wars, violence and a call to care - 1970s to 1990s
MCC works alongside local people, churches and partner organizations, striving to provide emergency relief to people in need regardless of nationality, religion or political beliefs. MCC partnered with Honduran Mennonites to respond to the needs of refugees from the war in El Salvador (above) in the late 1980s. In Lao People’s Democratic Republic in 1976, farmers returning to areas heavily bombed by the U.S. military needed tools. The ones that MCC provided (below) were made in the only foundry in the country that was melting down expended shell, mortar and bomb casings. This assistance was followed by years of work to help clear unexploded ordnance posing a still deadly threat beneath farmers’ fields and homes.
In 1985 in Mozambique (below), during a civil war that took more than a million lives through fighting and starvation, MCC and its partner, the Christian Council of Mozambique, distributed 5,800 metric tonnes of corn from the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, and 1,000 metric tonnes from the U.S.
Gifts of love - 2000 to present
Today, with more people displaced from home than ever before and disasters becoming more frequent, MCC — in addition to longer-term work in development and peace — continues to meet urgent needs and help communities rebuild, often over years. In India, MCC helped construct 450 houses (below) to relocate a village declared uninhabitable after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Amid continuing conflict in Syria, MCC partners with the Rev. Ibrahim Nseir in Aleppo (above) and others to respond.
And in each gift of hope and love — such as this comforter embraced by Rosette Aime (below) in a temporary shelter after the 2010 Haiti earthquake — MCC strives to carry out the call of Matthew 25:35 (NRSV): “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 . . . .”
You have suffered with us and rejoiced with us. And your presence with us today is a sign of hope that God is not far from us.”
– Rev. Ibrahim Nseir, 2018, Aleppo, Syria
A world on the move: How you can help today
Around the world, more people today are displaced from their homes than ever before. As MCC marks 100 years of ministry in the name of Christ, responding to those who have fled home is a priority. And MCC invites you to take part. Learn more and explore how you can make a difference for those forced from home.