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International day of remembering in cradle of MB faith

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The Kutuzovka Church is a small fellowship made up mostly of Ukrainians from Molochansk and Tokmak; friendly people who are accustomed to the visits of nostalgic Canadian Mennonites who talk about a relative who lived here, owned a mill there, who spoke German and planted trees. Imagine their surprise at seeing Moriki Hatakenaka, a Japanese man, stand in front of the church saying he was Mennonite.

On May 16, a small international celebration in Molochansk and Rueckenau, Ukraine, commemorated the birth of the MB church 150 years before. Local believers were joined by delegates from Japan, Germany, Brazil, and Canada, who prayed in their own languages and brought greetings. Representatives from the Zaporozhye oblast and Tokmak region also gave greetings and spoke to the historical Mennonite contribution to the area.

In addition to Hatakenaka’s address, Canadian conference executive director David Wiebe and MB Mission and Service International representative Ike Bergen spoke on growing, and knowing your purpose. Marina Romanovna, a local school principal and Mennonite promoter and historian, sang in German and Russian, and three local women in national costume sang two songs, accompanied by accordion.

At a sunflower oil factory, formerly the first MB church building, in Rueckenau, Heinrich Vogt, a Mennonite from Brazil whose parents were born in Ukraine, unveiled a plaque in Ukrainian, German, and English, reading: Mennonite Brethren Church 1860–2010, Celebrating 150 years of God’s Faithfulness, Rueckenau Church, Dedicated 1863.

—with files from Ben Stobbe and Rudy and Hildegarde Baerg of the Mennonite Centre in Molochansk (formerly Halbstadt), Ukraine

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