Home Life & Faithinspirational Fraser Valley Festival of Praise is proof that we never retire from God’s ministry

Fraser Valley Festival of Praise is proof that we never retire from God’s ministry

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Herb Neufeld and the Festival of Praise choir.

Herb Neufeld is part of a group he calls “the retired ministry leaders and spouses gathering” that brings together 60-70 retirees to share in fellowship over a devotional, a meal, and a musical performance. It sounds like a pretty nice way to enjoy retirement but the more we talk with Neufeld, the less this group sounds like they are partaking in “retirement”.

Neufeld, along with John H. Redekop recently chaired the planning committee of the Fraser Valley Festival of Praise, which brought 2,000 people together over three performances to raise a quarter of a million dollars in support of Ukranian refugees. Putting together an event of that size and impact is no walk in the park.

“It seemed only evident that with the new challenges that the present war in Ukraine and Russia has generated that we should do something to help them.” Neufeld shared. “I threw the idea out just as a little dream, a little thought, and our committee embraced it.”

What started with a small team of Neufeld and Redekop, along with Redekop’s wife, quickly turned into a community effort to put on this event.

Neufeld talked about a desire from the community to hear older songs and hymns we don’t hear in our churches much these days. So, he used this as a launching point for the event and reached out to Fred Ekkert, who leads the Clearbrook MB Church choir. Ekkert agreed to lead the choir and many of the choir members were excited to take part, but not everyone had the exuberant energy levels Neufeld was running on.

“Something we underestimated, which we shouldn’t have…being of the same age, was that the program schedule we planned was very intense.” Neufeld explained further that the Saturday was at least an eight-hour day of travelling, rehearsing, and performing for many of the choir members.

Once the choir was secured, the planning committee decided they wanted the concerts to be free to anyone who wanted to attend. The generosity of the community had the first $30,000 raised within a few weeks, and in the months to follow another $100,000 was raised before the event even happened.

The three concerts themselves brought in over $100,000 in donations, bringing the grand total to $250,000. After covering the costs of the event, the funds will be divided roughly 50/50 between ministry efforts in the Fraser Valley and ministry efforts in Ukraine. MCC graciously volunteered to help administer the funds on the ground in Ukraine.

On top of the choir performances, the program included four powerful video testimonies from Ukrainians who had fled to Canada during the war in the 1940s.

“We have been blessed as a result of the hardships they went through when they came out of the revolution and war as immigrants. They learned a new language, were able to etch out a living on the prairies, and most of them started as farmers,” said Neufeld. “It’s amazing how Mennonites have prospered and are now involved in almost every profession in significant ways.”

This event will have a great impact on those affected by the war in Ukraine and Russia, and it will leave a lasting impact on the 2,000 people that took part in the Festival of Praise. And it all goes to show, you are never a retiree of the plans God has for your life.

“Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise…. One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts” (Psalm 145:3-4).

If you would like to contribute to ministry efforts among Ukrainian refugees in the Fraser Valley and for people in Ukraine, visit mcc.org and select “BC Festival of Praise” as your choice of support.

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Linda Vogt Turner June 20, 2024 - 11:38

Peace between Russia and Ukraine would make my heart and soul sing! As Christians we know that Peacemakers are blessed (Matthew 5:9). We also know that Jesus said, “Do not assume that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:35). The Psalmist’s soul sings out from long ago…Psalm 34:14 “Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” And Peter lifts up the Psalmist words centuries later in 1 Peter 3:9-11 Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. ” In short…Jesus cannot bring peace or mandate Peace on Earth unless you and I love our enemies and seek and pursue ways to live in peace with them. And one way is to bridal our tongues and build walls with gates and bridges that allow people the space and time to build up a contingent of peacemakers to help both parties (who hate and fear one another) feel safe enough to sit down with one another and work out a way to life in peace with one another.


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