Of Mennonites and Powell River

One of life’s most wonderful experiences is enjoying two things that fit perfectly together like romance and a sunset, popcorn and a movie, or a favourite of my wife and I:  summer heat and the Shuswap.  Another one of these perfect combinations is Powell River and MCC (Mennonite Central Committee).

Powell River is my hometown located on the beautiful sunshine coast.  I do not make it over there as often as I would like but the place has a huge piece of my heart—even though I only lived there for the first six years of my life.  The beauty of the town is captivating to me and if any of you have ever watched the sun set in Powell River or spent long summer days at Palm Beach you will know what I am talking about.  Natural beauty aside, the primary reasons why the town of 15,000 remains so dear to me are because it was the place where my brothers, my mother, and I were born and it is the place where my maternal grandparents and many other relatives continue to live.

Even as Powell River holds a piece of my heart, so too does MCC.  The MCC is an international organization involved in many wonderful projects around the world which aim to help the world’s most marginalized people in a sustainable and environmentally responsible way (you can read about some of those projects in a previous blog or on MCC’s website).  My connection to the MCC comes through both my family background and through my personal experience.  My grandmother comes from a Mennonite ethnic background; she was raised in the small town of Yarrow located in the Fraser Valley.  Several of her siblings have volunteered at MCC stores in Vancouver—an opportunity not afforded to her as she has lived almost her entire adult life in Powell River.  As a Mennonite pastor I am very proud of my family’s heritage and I also delight in the obvious benefits of having a Mennonite background—rollkuchen anyone?  My personal connection to MCC is through the two summers I spent working in their thrift shops.  My time in those stores not only gave me the opportunity to learn about what MCC is doing to reach the vulnerable but also gave me an amazing experience of community which has shaped who I am as a pastor today.

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My love for MCC and Powell River therefore has me incredibly excited about tomorrow.  Tomorrow the MCC thrift store will be having its grand opening in Powell River and I have the privilege of travelling there for the day to participate in the grand opening.  Now you must understand that an MCC store opening in Powell River is an incredibly unlikely event for one very obvious reason:  there are virtually no Mennonites in Powell River.  The town does not have a single Mennonite church and although you can find the odd Mennonite last name in the phonebook no one will ever confuse Powell River with Abbotsford, Chilliwack, or Winkler. Nevertheless I am confident that this new store will thrive.  The people of Powell River know a good thing when they see it.  The MCC will offer them a chance to buy items otherwise headed for the landfill and in the process their purchase will be a gift for the world.  This is exactly the type of the thing that a community striving for local and global sustainability will latch on to.  I am also excited that my family gets the opportunity to support MCC first hand.  My grandmother will be helping out in the book department and my aunt will be sitting on the board of directors.  It brings a smile to my face to know that sometimes the most unlikeliest of combinations can go together even one as unlikely as Powell River and MCC.

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