Volunteers repair homes and hopes

Fort Garry Mennonite Brethren Church volunteers with MDS long-termers: (back, l–r) Ruth Kolman (MDS), Ashley Mayberry, Tyson Gross, Carly Penner, Tyler Friesen, Kevin Thiessen, (middle) Ashley Janzen, Janessa Giesbrecht, Sarah Turner, Michelle Hoeppner, Kayla Friesen, Kelby Friesen, Doug Janzen (MDS), (front) Ron Bushman (MDS), Doug Boyes (MDS), Jacob Dettweiler (MDS). PHOTO: Courtesy Janessa Giesbrecht

Fort Garry Mennonite Brethren Church volunteers with MDS long-termers: (back, l–r) Ruth Kolman (MDS), Ashley Mayberry, Tyson Gross, Carly Penner, Tyler Friesen, Kevin Thiessen, (middle) Ashley Janzen, Janessa Giesbrecht, Sarah Turner, Michelle Hoeppner, Kayla Friesen, Kelby Friesen, Doug Janzen (MDS), (front) Ron Bushman (MDS), Doug Boyes (MDS), Jacob Dettweiler (MDS).
PHOTO: Courtesy Janessa Giesbrecht

HIGH RIVER, Alta.

Ashley Mayberry has no regrets about giving up her spring break to sand, prime and paint newly installed drywall in High River, Alta.

The University of Manitoba student and 10 others from Fort Garry Mennonite Brethren (FGMB) Church’s college and career group spent one week assisting long-term Mennonite Disaster Services (MDS) volunteers with restoring homes damaged by the June 2013 floods.

“The best part was meeting the families,” says Mayberry. “We glorify God by reflecting God’s love to others and letting them know they are not alone. We are all neighbours on this earth and responsible for each other.”

Janet Plenert, director of MDS’s Canadian operations, says one of the strengths of MDS is having a constituency of Anabaptist churches who support the work of MDS as it helps people in Canada and the U.S. recover from disasters. This past year, 559 MDS volunteers have cleaned and restored homes in High River, a community whose 13,000 residents were ordered to evacuate last June. Many have not yet been able to return to their flood-damaged homes. Over summer 2013, MDS volunteers cleaned and sanitized 47 homes in preparation for work.

A Fort Garry volunteer works on a flood-affected High River, Alta., house. PHOTO: Janessa Giesbrecht

A Fort Garry volunteer works on a flood-affected High River, Alta., house. PHOTO: Janessa Giesbrecht

Since January 2014, volunteers have been repairing and renovating houses – primarily basement living spaces and bedrooms. To date, 28 residences have been completed.

MDS anticipates staying in High River through 2015. “We will keep on working until there is a reason to end,” says Plenert.

Janessa Giesbrecht, FGMB pastor of youth and college and career, sees a lot of value in “Canadians helping Canadians” – just like Jesus was involved in meeting needs in his community.

“Only a few people in our group had construction experience, but we had a willingness to learn and a willingness to do what was asked of us,” says Giesbrecht. “We went with the attitude that we are here to serve. What is needed, we will do.”

Mayberry has been part of FGMB’s college and career since November. On her first mission trip, she wanted to put her faith into action. “Just like people are sharing God’s love with me, I want to share it with others,” she says.

She returned to Winnipeg with a greater awareness of the trauma and chaos that families face when their homes are damaged by natural disasters, such as floods.

Mayberry loved sharing the excitement of two teenage boys as they selected the colour of paint for their newly renovated bedrooms in the basement of their home. The boys had lost their rooms and most of their possessions when six feet of floodwater rushed into their basement. This past year, they slept on couches in the living room on the main floor.

“It’s nice to know the boys will soon have their bedrooms back and their own space again,” Mayberry says. “We hear on the news that there was a flood but we don’t hear the stories. Hearing the stories made our work more meaningful.”

—Gladys Terichow, CCMBC writer

 

Karen Orser, Community Partnership Coordinator for the Town of High River:

“MDS continues to be an important part of High River’s recovery. The leadership, energy and capacity of the MDS teams have inspired hope and healing in a community that one year ago, lost so much. Having MDS in High River has meant help for those families and individuals who are falling through the cracks and still struggling to recover from this flood.

By sharing their wisdom and experience, volunteers and resources, MDS has been a leader in the recovery of High River and a model for collaboration and community engagement. Thank you for sticking with us, thank you for not forgetting us, and thank you for your commitment to our recovery. From the bottom of our hearts…thank you MDS for helping for High River.”

MDS partners in High River with World Renew, Samaritan’s Purse and Habitat for Humanity-Southern Alberta under the umbrella of High River Renew.

—Mennonite Disaster Service release

Updated June 25, 2014: MDS release added.

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