– John Longhurst, MDS Canada Communications
When students from Columbia Bible College (CBC) in Abbotsford, B.C. signed up to volunteer with Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) in Paradise, California in mid-February, they were anticipating sun and temperatures in the mid-teens Celsius (high 50s Fahrenheit) along with some hard work.
They weren’t expecting snow.
But that’s what they got February 24 when a winter storm hit the state, dropping snow as far south as Los Angeles. About a 30 centimeters/one foot of snow fell in Paradise, where they were responding to help people affected by the 2018 Camp Fire.
Before the snow hit, the students worked on several houses, putting on a complete roof, putting up siding, installing kitchen cabinets, painting trim, and digging a few holes.
The storm gave the students a snow day on Feb. 24, giving them time to play in it and rest from their work.
Henry Zukowski is chaplain at CBC, which is jointly operated by Mennonite Church B.C. and the British Columbia Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches.
For him, “it was a great week. We were very much blessed by the MDS Project Directors, Crew Leaders and the cooks who fed us exceptionally well.”
“Everyone on our team would agree that it was a very good week and felt good about contributing to the rebuilding of this hard-hit community. We look forward to a continued partnership with MDS.”
Also on the trip was Bryan Born, President of CBC.
“The trip was a great opportunity to connect with students as we spent time working, travelling, eating and socializing together,” he said.
It was also a great way for the group to meet Mennonites from other denominations. “It was fun to connect with them and learn about them,” he shared.
Like the students, Born said he was “not overly skilled” when it came to construction. “But everyone worked hard,” he said, adding they got great support and direction from MDS Crew Leaders.
“The students did things they had never done before,” he said, noting he was impressed by how hard they worked.
A highlight of the trip was meeting one of the homeowners and to “hear the story of his harrowing escape from the fire in his truck with his dog,” Born said.
As for other Mennonite colleges and universities, Born would encourage them all to consider taking students on a service trip with MDS.
“MDS makes it so easy,” he said, taking care of accommodations, food, program and providing expert direction.
He would also encourage presidents from other colleges and universities to consider going on such a trip.
“I had lots of really good conversations with students while we served together and learned together,” he said. “It was great to be with them in a different environment and connect on a deeper level.”
MDS, he said, “is an important partner for CBC.”
Katie Wray, Shilo Taetz, Brayden King play in the snow in Paradise