Amalgamation deepens faith roots

Menno Homes joins Christian Horizons

Menno Homes

Menno Homes participants find friendship and meaningful work in community. PHOTO: Ben Raine

In his first year in Waldheim, Sask., MB pastor Greg Wiens recalls seeing youth from church walking with a teen who’d just moved to town. As they passed a man from Menno Homes, a ministry to people with disabilities, the newcomer yelled, “What a loser!” the other students said, “We want you to know they are our friends. We don’t do that here.”

“In Waldheim, Menno Homes is part of the community,” says Wiens.

The 53-year-old Mennonite Central Committee-initiated ministry will deepen its faith emphasis and broaden its reach by amalgamating with Christian Horizons, July 1, 2016.

“We are becoming a national organization with a provincial reach,” says Jordan Varey, executive director of Menno Homes, which currently supports 70 individuals with disabilities in Waldheim, Saskatoon, Warman and Martensville, Sask.

“Like Menno Homes, Christian Horizons is led by people passionate about supporting individuals impacted by disability. Together, we are able to pool our passion and resources for even greater results,” says Varey.

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A Menno Homes resident. PHOTO: Ben Raine

The new organization will be called Christian Horizons. Menno Homes’s current services will continue – 11 homes and numerous day programs, including woodworking, recycling and golf course maintenance – with a new capacity for growth.

Founded in 1965, Christian Horizons supports 2,000 people with developmental disabilities and their families through residential, employment and supported vacation programs. With 200 residences in Ontario, Christian Horizons expanded their work into Saskatchewan in 2015.

“Menno Homes brings our long history in the province, a strong relationship with MCC and Mennonite denominations and our expertise in the province- speci c aspects of our sector,” says Varey. “From Christian Horizons, we are gaining structures to help us to thrive: HR support, training, technology and programming support.”

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A Menno Homes resident. PHOTO: Ben Raine

“The amalgamation will help sustain and strengthen the Christian faith within Menno Homes,” says Peter Guenther, Menno Homes board chair. In June, all Menno Homes staff received training about how Christian Horizons’s faith impacts every aspect of the work.

Through the merger, Menno Homes also gains a worldwide connection: Christian Horizons Global supports people affected by intellectual or physical disabilities, HIV/AIDS, abandonment or extreme poverty in 60 communities across Uganda, South Sudan, Kenya, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Haiti.

Menno Homes

A Menno Homes resident. PHOTO: Ben Raine

Empowering the church

“We will continue to support people to be active in their local faith communities and in their personal devotional lives,” says Varey. Drawing from Christian Horizons’s camp experience, Menno Homes is hosting the first Christian Horizons family retreat at Camp Elim in August.

To empower local church partners, Varey hopes to bring Christian Horizons’s faith and disability conferences to Saskatchewan. He is excited about working with the local church “as they develop inclusive spaces of belonging for the people we support.”

At Waldheim MB, a Sunday school class builds up 15–20 individuals from Menno Homes. To gain work experience, Menno Homes participants clean the church every Monday.

When a new Menno Homes residence goes up, Wiens hears only positive comments from neighbours. Participants from Menno Homes are at every sporting event – cheering for both teams.

“I have a cousin with a developmental disability, and I wish he could live in a town like this with an organization that cares like Menno Homes,” says Wiens. “It’s an extension of the gospel.”

“The opportunities for people impacted by disability across the nation have been increasing with the government and
the disability support sector’s emphasis on inclusive employment and full citizenship,” says Varey.

“With God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26), says Varey. “I can’t wait to see what role we will play in those developments.”

—Angeline Schellenberg

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