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Re:View: Back to the future: Christ is still foundation

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Thirteen people have occupied the driver’s seat at the MB Herald. Each person brought a unique perspective and a distinct voice to a particular time in the life of the magazine and the Canadian MB Conference. To celebrate our 50th year in print, “Re:View” welcomes back each of those men and women to reflect on their experience in the editor’s chair.—Eds

What was it like 50 years ago? My wife Dorothy and I travelled down memory lane in an exciting journey into my past, like the one portrayed by Michael J. Fox in the classic movie Back to the Future.

I was editorial director for a western Canadian publishing house. The circumstances were ideal to accept the temporary editorship of the budding MB Herald. It was a natural and easy transition, as I had written numerous stories for Les Stobbe, editor of the previous publication (an English companion to Die Mennonitische Rundschau) called the Mennonite Observer.

We packed our car, and with a makeshift playpen in the backseat for our six-month-old daughter, hit the road. We had a blast – a blessed time – visiting pastors, churches, and lay people, building relationships in Saskatchewan, Alberta, and B.C.

Welcome mats were out. We were particularly able to relate with young married couples. At times, I joined in an afternoon or evening of music making and sharing the vision of the new conference publication. Our daughter would sleep, romp, play, and make people laugh wherever we went. They would stop to chat. Often a friendship would result.

Many of the churches we visited in urban centres such as Edmonton, Calgary, and Burnaby were in their infancy. Most of the members in these churches were transplants from rural or other Mennonite Brethren congregations.

Much has changed since the inception of the MB Herald. Mennonites are no longer predominantly engaged in agriculture, but can be found in all facets of society. Technology has dramatically altered how we communicate. It’s encouraging to see the contribution Mennonite writers and journalists are making, in both secular and Christian media.

In recent years, I’ve revisited a number of these early urban MB churches with the “WHY Encounter.” It’s encouraging to see congregations now reflect the multicultural diversity of society.

Unchanging base

Today, nations are in turmoil. Fear and uncertainty are evident as core values are questioned or abandoned. It’s as though the very foundations of our societies are being washed away. Churches have not escaped the impact of the prevailing culture. Concerned clergy and lay members are struggling to adapt to the ever-changing trends in efforts to reach their communities.

Wherever I travel, I meet people searching for the meaning of life, trying to understand our times. Our foundation in Christ is an unchanging base. We have the opportunity to uphold the core values that can provide stability even in desperate times, and to live out our calling in Christ, whatever our life’s work may be.

May God give us wisdom to use the tools of communication effectively to convey the good news in our time. The MB Herald – as I saw it then and see it now – is a positive force in the lives of many, encouraging them to maximize a positive Christian witness in our society.

Regardless of where my life’s work takes me, my challenge is the one my first managing editor gave me. Years after I had moved on from the Brandon Sun, a news release about my former editor caught my attention. I went to the hospital, hoping to see him before he passed on. However, the lieutenant-governor was waiting to see him and my editor could only see one person. The attending nurse announced the two visitors; to my surprise, he asked to see me.

He had one message: “George,” he uttered weakly, “I know what you stand for. Use your opportunities as a writer to share your values, and your message.”

George Derksen was interim editor of the MB Herald in 1963. A writer and publisher for nearly 60 years, his business and religious publications have won numerous awards. Almost one million copies of his Why am I on this earth? books have been printed and distributed during 150 “WHY Encounters,” held in as many cities and towns from coast to coast across Canada.  

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