The world’s oldest ocean-going passenger ship, Operation Mobilisation’s Doulos, built just two years after the Titanic, was retired Dec. 31, 2009. OM Ships executive leadership determined the cost of repairs needed outweighed the ship’s ministry functionality in the future. Doulos has operated as an OM ship for 32 years, making more than 600 port visits in more than 100 countries.
—OM Ships International
A 7.0-magnitude earthquake Jan. 12 in Haiti, the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, killed thousands of people and left the capital city, Port-au-Prince, in ruins as aftershocks continued to rattle the region, according to preliminary reports. The International Red Cross estimated 3 million people in the country of 9 million may be affected. Buildings and infrastructure sustained heavy damage, and basic services such as water and electricity collapsed almost entirely in Port-au-Prince. Mennonite Central Committee – whose work in the country has focused on reforestation and environmental education, humans rights, and food security advocacy – is preparing for the long haul in offering material and financial resources.
Neal Blough, a long-time worker with Mennonite Mission Network, was named one of the 100 most influential Protestants in France by La Vie, a Catholic weekly magazine. Blough and his wife Janie have been working in France for 34 years, presently teaching at Vaux-Sur-Seine Evangelical Seminary in Bienenberg, Switzerland, and at the Catholic University of Paris. He trained at Bluffton University, Ohio, Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Elkhart, Ind., and the University of Strasbourg, France.
—Mennonite Weekly Review
In anticipation of the Canadian military pullout of Afghanistan in 2011, the Canadian Council of Churches, representing 22 church traditions, called on prime minister Stephen Harper to turn diplomatic efforts toward ending the war, and to facilitate Afghan-led solutions and support reconciliation programs.
—Canadian Council of Churches
Storyteller, pastor, author, and lifelong servant to people in need, Peter J. Dyck died of cancer Jan. 4, 2010, at 95. Dyck was well-known in Mennonite communities for his work with Mennonite Central Committee. After World War II, he directed a massive relief effort of feeding and clothing in the Netherlands, for which he was knighted by Queen Juliana, then set up refugee camps in Germany for thousands coming out of the Soviet Union. He co-authored Up from the Rubble with his wife and shot films about refugees. During the Cold War, his position with MCC allowed him to make numerous trips to Russia and Central Asia to encourage Baptist and Mennonite congregations. At 90, he could still pack auditoriums eager for his inspiring stories and engaging way.
European Mennonite and Brethren in Christ conference leaders met in Italy Nov. 2009 to discuss their identity as a peace church, working with youth, and having churches work together more. Concerns were raised about the low profile of European Mennonites in Mennonite World Conference and Mennonite Central Committee. Mennonites in the Netherlands are looking forward to several anniversaries in 2011: 200 years of the Algemene Doopsgezinde Societeit, 450 years since Menno Simons’ death, 275 years for the seminary in Amsterdam, and 100 years since the first induction of a female pastor.
The Evangelical Press Association chose human trafficking as the cause of the year for 2010. A special “higher goals” award will be presented for the best article on that theme published during the 2010 calendar, to encourage publications to write about this human rights issue. “The ongoing tragedy of human trafficking is an offense to God, who values humans so highly that he sent his own son to die for them,” said Doug Trouten, executive director of the EPA.
—Evangelical Press Association
Following a controversial court ruling Dec. 31 granting a Catholic weekly the right to use the word “Allah,” Malaysian Islamists are suspected of firebombing 8 churches (Assembly of God, Brethren, Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, evangelical) in early January. Though the buildings sustained damage, there were no casualties. Malaysia’s Home Ministry appealed the high court ruling and the decision has been frozen pending hearing in the court of appeal. Malaysia’s population is about 60 percent Muslim, 9 percent Christian.
An inter-Mennonite group of volunteers is sponsoring a “prayer and lament” evening service for women and girls who have been victims of sexual assault and abuse in Manitoba Colony, Bolivia. Held Feb. 7 at Morrow Gospel Church, Winnipeg, the service is open to all and is expected to include music, litanies of prayer and Scripture, and stories of Bolivian women. A collection will be taken for a women’s shelter being constructed at Pailon, Bolivia.
—release from Abe Warkentin
A coalition of four denominational and 3 nonprofit groups working in Toronto’s St. Jamestown neighbourhood formalized their existing partnership with a memorandum of understanding Jan. 19, during the week of prayer for Christian unity. MB church plant 614 St. Jamestown is one of these partners who participates in afterschool programs at two area schools in the racially diverse and economically challenged neighbourhood. The St. Jamestown Ecumenical Coalition hopes the formalized relationship will help strengthen existing partnerships and expand the group’s ability to initiate new programs.