MCC re-imagines future in Western Europe
One hundred years ago, Mennonite Central Committee's (MCC) story began in southern Russia (present-day Ukraine). Diverse Mennonite groups came together in the U.S. and Canada, despite their differences, to help brothers and sisters who were suffering in the wake of revolution.
In the name of Christ, they offered bread, porridge and warm cocoa to starving families, some who had been eating nettles and gophers just to stay alive. The group understood that to be "biblically faithful, we must relieve human suffering."
This "central committee" was only expected to last a few years. But requests for service continued. Following the devastation of the Second World War, MCC's work expanded, stretching across Europe.
In the 1940s, MCC provided food, warm clothing, millions of pounds of canned meat, festive Christmas "bundles" and other relief supplies in places like Germany and England. During this time, MCC also began its refugee resettlement efforts, helping some 5,500 Mennonites travel from Europe by boat to South America, predominantly Paraguay∙.
In an October 1947 report from Berlin, the impact of these gifts was clear: "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."
Then in the 1950s came a massive rebuilding effort, led by MCC's Pax "boys" (as most were young men). Offering an alternative to military service, Pax arranged for young Mennonites to serve in post-war Europe, helping rebuild war-torn areas and offering a bright spot of hope in places like Germany, France, Austria and Greece.
The shape of MCC today
Today, MCC continues to respond to the most urgent needs in more than 50 countries worldwide.
Our attention has shifted from countries in Europe to places like Syria, Jordan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan. People in these locations are particularly vulnerable, especially those who have been forcibly displaced. MCC is prioritizing the allocation of resources to help those who need it most.
Over the decades, our relationship with European Anabaptists has remained strong. But, today, our partnership looks quite different from what it did 100 years ago.
Now, MCC supports local peacebuilding projects through a small grant fund and round-table meetings. We also offer young adult service programs, such as the International Volunteer Exchange Program (IVEP) and Young Anabaptist Mennonite Exchange Network (YAMEN). These are opportunities for young people to serve in other parts of the world, or to come to Europe to serve while being hosted by local families.
Today, rather than offering relief projects for European families, we are partnering with you to serve vulnerable families in other locations. You are sewing comforters, building relief kits and raising funds to help others in need. You are also praying fervently for the work of MCC around the world. Through these acts of service, you reflect the Apostle Pauls' words in 1 Thessalonians 3, demonstrating your overflowing love for each other and everyone else.
Shifts in Western Europe
In the past months, COVID-19 has brought some financial challenges to MCC, forcing us to reduce budgets for MCC country programs everywhere, including Canada and the U.S. With an overall reduction of 25% to our international program budget, these cuts have deeply impacted projects and personnel alike. These have been difficult - but necessary - decisions.
We understand the announcement of MCC's decision to close our physical office in France and discontinue the MCC representative role in Western Europe is difficult news to hear. We know you are wondering what these reductions will mean for MCC's work with Anabaptists in Europe. We trust these current financial challenges will bring new opportunities and deeper connections.
MCC area directors for Europe and the Middle East are committed to listening to Anabaptist partners across Europe to imagine what the next 100 years could look like. We believe our century-old relationship will carry us through to a new way of working.
Our relationship will look different than it has before. But we know that, together, we will continue to serve the world's most vulnerable in the name of Christ. While some of our administrative structures are changing, our mission remains the same.
As we listen and imagine a new future together, we are deeply grateful for your faithful support.
With you, our worldwide ministry continues. And, today, this ministry is more critical than ever.
A new focus
Almost immediately following the outbreak of COVID-19, MCC began to reshape its projects to address new realities. In southern Malawi, MCC added a handwashing component to a planned food distribution and distributed soap, along with maize, beans and oil to 400 families who had already been deeply affected by Cyclone Idai last year.
In Cambodia, MCC is partnering with local churches to distribute food relief to allow poor households to safely survive a two- to three-week COVID-19 lockdown. Cambodian border closures have resulted in food shortages and dramatic price increases even as the garment, construction and tourism industries lay off workers.
In Lebanon, an MCC partner is distributing COVID-19 hygiene kits to community members who are residents of a low-income neighbourhood, the majority of whom are Palestinian and Syrian refugees. The kits are packed with sanitizing products essential to helping families keep themselves safe from COVID-19. The hygiene kits are critical in these areas because of the density of population and because living arrangements make social distancing difficult. In addition, quality healthcare is limited or is not provided to refugees in this area.
And, of course, MCC's ongoing work in other areas like food security and education are as critical today as they ever were. The director of the UN World Food Program recently said that "the world could face multiple famines of biblical proportions within a few short months."
"How can we thank God enough for you?" says the Apostle Paul to the church in Thessalonica (3:9) in response to their overflowing love. Paul's sentiments match our own, as MCC thinks of each of you and how you are supporting MCC and facing challenges with love in your communities throughout Europe.
Mennonite Central Committee: Relief, development and peace in the name of Christ
MCC communique, 3. Juni 2020
Auszug in deutscher Sprache
Das MCC-Büro in Strassburg wird im Juli 2020 geschlossen.
In den letzten Monaten hat COVID-19 schwere finanzielle Herausforderungen für das Mennonitische Zentralkomitee (MCC) gebracht und uns gezwungen, den Finanzplan für die MCC-Länderprogramme überall zu kürzen, einschließlich der Projekte Kanada und den USA. Die Kürzungen des internationalen Programmbudgets um insgesamt 25 %, hat tiefe Auswirkungen auf Projekte und Personalbestand. Dies war für uns eine notwendige und schmerzliche Entscheidung.
Unsere physische Vertretung in Westeuropa, das Büro in Frankreich, wird deswegen geschlossen. Wir verstehen, daß die Ankündigung dieser Nachricht, eine schwere Kost ist. Das viele sich Fragen was diese Schließung für die Arbeit von MCC mit den Mennoniten/Täufern in Europa bedeutet. Aber wir vertrauen darauf, daß die aktuellen finanziellen Herausforderungen neue Möglichkeiten und tiefere Verbindungen bringen werden.
Die MCC-Regionaldirektoren für Europa und den Nahen Osten verpflichteten sich, den täuferischen Partnern in Europa zuzuhören, um eine gemeinsame Vorstellung zu bekommen, wie die nächsten 100 Jahre gemeinsam aussehen könnten. Wir glauben, daß unsere jahrhundertealte Beziehung uns zu einer neuen Arbeitsweise führen wird.
Unsere Beziehung wird anders aussehen als bis jetzt. Aber wir wissen, daß wir gemeinsam im Namen Christi weiterhin den Schwächsten der Welt dienen werden. Auch wenn sich unserer Zusammenarbeit ändert, bleibt unser von Jesus gegebene Auftrag der gleiche.
Wir werden einander zuhören und gemeinsam eine neue Zukunft erarbeiten, wir zutiefst dankbar für eure treue Unterstützung. Mit euch geht unser weltweiter Dienst im Namen Christi weiter — und dieser Dienst ist heute wichtiger denn je.
Mennoniten, Mennonites, Täufer, Mennonitische Zentralkomitee ein internationales Hilfswerk