Spirit of MDS Fund to offer grants for responding to community needs
WINNIPEG, Man. – Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) Canada’s operations may be suspended until fall due to the pandemic, but the organization still wants to be active in responding to COVID-19.
“MDS normally responds to natural disasters like hurricanes, floods, fires, and earthquakes,” says Ross Penner, Director of Operations for MDS Canada.
“But the pandemic is a disaster for many people in Canada. Since we aren’t able to respond in the usual way, we want to do it through local congregations that are on the front lines of responding to needs.”
To do that, the organization has created The Spirit of MDS Fund to help Canadian churches respond to people in their communities facing hardship due to the virus.
“We recognize many churches today might be cash-strapped because of the pandemic,” says Penner. “Yet they want to respond to needs in their communities. Through the Fund, we want to come alongside to help them be the hands and feet of Jesus for those impacted by COVID-19.”
Through the $100,000 Fund, which received unanimous support from the MDS Canada board at its April 15 meeting, Canadian congregations can apply for grants of up to $1,000 to help with various COVID-19-related needs.
According to Penner, this could include replenishing a church’s food pantry, helping a family with emergency bills or rent, assisting seniors to connect with family members, or other practical forms of service.
Preference will be given to congregations that are part of an Anabaptist-Mennonite denomination that supports MDS Canada, Penner says, but applications from other churches will be considered.
“I deeply appreciate how MDS is offering to support local congregations with this proposal,” says Doug Klassen, Executive Minister of Mennonite Church Canada. “This models beautifully how the arms of the church can pull back in to help sustain the torso. This is truly in the Spirit of MDS.”
For Cam Priebe, Provincial Director for the Mennonite Brethren Church of Manitoba, the Fund is a “creative and generous way to partner together.”
The Fund is “creative and visionary,” adds Elton DaSilva, National Director of the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches. “I favour this initiative.”
Through the Fund, Penner says “we want to help local congregations respond in the spirit of MDS—of faith in action, caring relationships, service to those in need, and compassion. It’s a way for us to continue to do our mission through local congregations, the ones who are active on the ground during this time of need.”