An MB pastor-turned-TV producer who volunteers with people who have Alzheimer’s is among the four recipients of Canadian Mennonite University’s (CMU) 2014 Blazer Distinguished Alumni Awards.
CMU President Cheryl Pauls is pleased to present the awards to Kathy Bergen, John Neufeld, Lorlie Barkman and Odette Mukole on Sept. 27, 2014, during the university’s Fall Festival.
The Blazer Awards are presented annually to alumni from CMU and its predecessor colleges: Canadian Mennonite Bible College (CMBC) and Mennonite Brethren Bible College (MBBC)/Concord College. The awards celebrate alumni who, through their lives, embody CMU’s values and mission of service, leadership and reconciliation in church and society.
“We are humbled and inspired by the honour and care all four of these alumni extend to people who are often marginalized,” Pauls says. “We give these awards to thank them for the example of their lives.”
2014’s CMU Blazer award recipients:
- For the past 32 years, Kathy Bergen (CMBC ’72) has dedicated her life to working for justice in Israel-Palestine. Bergen lived in Jerusalem from the time of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 until after the Gulf War in 1991, working with MCC. Her career includes seven years as the program coordinator for the Friends International Center in Ramallah, a Quaker ministry in the West Bank, and 12 years as national coordinator of the Middle East Program of the Peacebuilding Unit for the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania that works for peace and justice around the world.
- A 1995 graduate of CMBC, John Neufeld earned a Master of Social Work at the University of Toronto and worked for 11 years in foster care. After completing a Master of Business Administration at Wilfrid Laurier, he took on his current role as executive director at House of Friendship, a Kitchener, ON-based organization whose mission is to serve low-income adults, youth, and children in need of support. “I think it’s critical to our common humanity that we all feel we belong, so I want to be engaged in work that makes people feel they belong,” he says.
- Pastor and television producer are two titles on Lorlie Barkman’s resume. Barkman (MBBC ’90) spent 15 years with Family Life Network, a communications arm of the Mennonite Brethren Church of Manitoba, where he co-created a family TV series called “Third Story” that aired across much of Canada. Before and after his time in TV, Barkman worked as a pastor. Now retired, Barkman enjoys volunteering in seniors homes, where he does a form of art therapy for people with Alzheimer’s by drawing pictures of memories that they share with him. “The Lord has kindly provided many mercies – guidance, forgiveness, encouragement, love,” Barkman says. “I’m very grateful to God.”
- Concern for her family’s safety motivated Odette Mukole to move to Canada from the Congo with her three daughters in 2000. She graduated from CMU in 2007 with a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Social Science and currently works as a case coordinator at Family Dynamics, a not-for-profit, community-based agency in downtown Winnipeg that helps newcomers to Canada adjust to life in a new country. “I really like what I’m doing, helping people and making sure they get what they need,” she says. “And when I talk to clients, it’s from my own experience.”
The public is invited to meet and interact with Bergen, Neufeld, Barkman, and Mukole during an event at 4:00 PM in CMU’s Laudamus Auditorium. During this hour, the award recipients will reflect on their personal and professional journeys. There will be time for questions and interaction.