The bread of the Lord's compassion

We get our bread at the peril of our lives. – Lamentations 5:9
In Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine at the Mennonite Family Center, we hear Boris Letkemann share his family’s story of exile and homecoming. There was so much suffering and so much death.
Boris remembers, they took his father and his father never returned. Years later, in a camp in Siberia, the family is reunited and they make their way back to Zaporizhzhia. Today, Boris works at the Center and helps provide food, shelter and support for people like him who need what he needed those many years ago.

As Boris shares his story, the elderly women across the hallway, a few of the 120 women who receive home health care from the Mennonite Family Center, plaintively sing the old hymns of the church. Later, we sing back to them, and then we sing together, How Great Thou Art.
In Russia, between 1914 and 1923, millions of people lost their lives to war, disease and starvation. Mennonites were among those who suffered. And Mennonites were among th…

God multiplies our efforts

The jar of meal will not be emptied and the jug of oil will not fail. – I Kings 17:14
Ana Hinojosa remembers growing up on the Texas-Mexico border near Brownsville in the late 80s. Her family’s house was a mile from the border wall and she remembers the extended family gatherings in her back yard. Ana, an MCC immigration staff person, says border patrol agents would rest in the shade of the trees near the front of her house and, in the same day, it would be possible for a family from Mexico to knock on her front door to ask for food or directions. Her family turned no one away.
Life on the border can look quite different today.
When we enter the Catholic Charities respite center in McAllen, Texas, it is startling to see the contrast from the serenity of the neighborhood outside to the chaos inside. Cesar Matta tells us that, today, the center is hosting 350 people who have just arrived to be processed for asylum. Most of these people are fleeing violence and poverty in Guatemala or Hondu…

We can become one again

Only when Babylon’s seventy years are completed will I visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. – Jeremiah 29:10

Just after the Korean War In the 1950s, Hyung Gon Lee was a farm manager for the Mennonite Vocational School in Taegu, South Korea established by MCC relief volunteers.
Following the war, Korea was one of the poorest countries in the world. Food, fuel and electricity were scarce and there was massive unemployment. A third of all the houses in the entire country were destroyed, as well as almost half the industrial facilities.

Beginning in 1952, MCC set up feeding stations and distributed clothing and bedding. Hyung Gon says MCC provided a serving of milk and rice to 5,000 people each day. The vocational school trained hundreds of orphans for jobs in post-war South Korea.
I heard second-hand from one of these orphans who is now a successful businessman in Chuncheon, “Every Thursday the MCC truck would come in and we were so excited becau…

People are dying out here

The son of man will be handed over to be crucified. – Matthew 26:2
Artist Alvaro Enciso builds beautiful crosses from empty tin cans he finds on the migrant trail in the desert on the Mexico and Arizona border.
Alvaro says he had no idea people were dying out here in the Sonora desert, but the deaths of 3,000 people have been documented and 2,000 more people are still missing. He works with a group of older adults called Samaritans who provide water stations for migrants who are crossing the border searching for a better life.

He remembers seeing a map with red dots where people have died in the desert. Sections of that southern Arizona map had so many red dots that it was simply a mass of red. Every week, Alvaro walks out into the desert to mark the places with one of his crosses where people have died.
Each Tuesday, his goal is to mark at least one more grave. So far, he’s marked 800 graves with crosses. He knows his task will never end because more people keep dying out here.
Each cros…

We will not stop

Come to me, all you that are weary . . . and I will give you rest. – Matthew 11:28
“I always pray, God, please protect us today.”
Rima Absi is speaking about the rocket fire in Damascus, Syria. She is telling those of us from MCC who are visiting our partners about the participants and staff of the Al-Safina community for people with disabilities who have to navigate the shelling each day.
Al-Safina was founded 22 years ago in the old city of Damascus. A house provides a home for eight women and men with disabilities. And workshops in the morning and afternoon provide work and activity for 60 additional people with disabilities each day. MCC has been a partner with Al’Safina since it began.

The next morning, we visit His Holiness Patriarch Mor Ignatius Aphrem of the Syrian Orthodox Church. His Holiness tells us that the best way MCC can show its support is to come and be with people in their struggle during the war here in Syria, as we have done with this trip.
The Patriarch shares his vi…

God is not far from us

I thank God through Jesus Christ for all of you. – Romans I:8
“Faith makes you act crazy.”
Rev. Ibrahim Nseir is pastor of the National Presbyterian Church in Aleppo, Syria. He is speaking about the apparent foolishness of staying in Aleppo and believing he can make a difference in his community during the war.
We MCC people who are visiting our partners in Syria are meeting with a roomful of people who are displaced because of the war and are part of the church’s ministry.
Fatima tells us about her son who was kidnapped by the gangs four years ago. She and her family had to flee their house in order to pay the gangs to release her son, and now her family is homeless. It was only this church, she says, who would help them with cash payments supported by MCC.
Hussein and his family were also displaced when gangs targeted his home. The church has helped his family with food boxes, blankets and some cash. “Without you, we could not live day to day,” he tells us.
Maryam was recently divorced…

Our hearts are full

All ate and were filled. What was left over was gathered up. – Luke 9:17
In the village of Ayo near Hama in Syria, we enter a room filled with internally displaced people (IDPs) living nearby.
We are people from MCC visiting Syrian partner organizations. There are some host community families here, too, but all the people in the room have one thing in common – the war in Syria has left them with very little.
The village is only 15 kilometers from the front lines between government forces and the opposing militant groups, so there is a constant stream of IDPs arriving.
This is a farming community, but it has not rained for some time and water has been cut off from the dam by the rebels.  We arrive as the rain also arrives and community leaders tell us that is a good sign!
Person after person in the room tells us about villages destroyed and families depleted. All of these families receive food boxes from MCC through the Syrian Orthodox Church. They tell us the food is nutritious and is an…