Village News

It's gearing up to be another busy spring at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV). Despite this week’s snow, we are just about ready for the May 1 opening of our village for another season. Besides getting our outdoor village ready, we are hard at work preparing one of this summer's gallery exhibits, Storied Places, which will open on July 1. Storied Places uses artefacts to explore the stories Mennonites tell about themselves and about what it means to call Manitoba “home.” Stories about “place” shape who we are as people, and this exhibit encourages our visitors to think about the stories that have shaped them.

   For the last couple of years, we have been working to involve local schools and institutions in designing and producing our exhibits. This year we welcomed the new Advanced Photography class from Landmark Collegiate to participate in our Storied Places theme. The Advanced Photography teacher, Todd Peters, explained that he was looking for opportunities to apply his students' learning outside of the classroom. We were all too happy to partner with them so that the students could exhibit their theme-inspired photographs beyond their school setting.

   Curator Andrea Dyck and I went to Landmark Collegiate in the fall and spoke about the concept behind Storied Places. We talked about how Mennonites made Manitoba "home" when they first migrated here in the 1870s, and we told some stories connected to our own favourite places. We then asked the Advanced Photography students to think about places that were special in their personal lives. This pondering inspired the photo essays they created to exhibit at MHV, which was their final assignment for the class.

   Teacher Todd Peters and I installed the exhibit over spring break, and Andrea and I were excited to see how well the students' assignments had turned out. Each student in the class had taken photos of places that were important to them, and then explained why by telling the stories behind them. For example, some students wrote about their childhood home, their grandparents' house, or their family's cottage. One student based his assignment on his dad's workshop. Another focused her assignment on the field outside her house; where we might see an empty space, she sees a place full of memories. The students appreciated the opportunity to create and display their own exhibit as well. One student says, "Not only did I get to explore themes in photography, in this case ”places,” but through this, my work can be displayed in a public place for others to see."

   We are also currently partnering with Paul Reimer's Advanced Photography class at SRSS to create their own photo essays to go with our Storied Places theme. Their exhibit doesn't go up until later this spring, but in the meantime you can still view their exhibit from last year, Beyond Tradition: The Lives of Women We Know, on the west side of our auditorium.

   Landmark Collegiate's Storied Places will be on display in the east-side cases of the MHV Auditorium through our summer season.

Calendar of Events

April 27: 7:00 PM – Volunteer Orientation

May 1: 9:00 AM – Outdoor village opens for the season

May 1: 11:00 AM – Livery Barn Restaurant opens for the season

May 6: 7:30 PM - Local History Lectures – Family, Food and Spirituality

May 12: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM - Manitoba Day

 

 VN 2017 04 27 Mikayla Ps assignment

 

 PHOTO: VN 2017-04-27 - Mikayla P's assignment.jpg

CAPTION: Mikayla's photo essay for Storied Places, on display in MHV's auditorium. She took photographs around her yard and explained why each place was important to her by telling the stories behind them.

Village News

Storied Places

  One of the heritage buildings I especially enjoy visiting at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) is the Barkfield School. It’s the public school located just west of the Windmill. The large windows, wooden desks and floors, large blackboard,and displayed textbooks all remind me of the Burwalde School between Winkler and Morden where I attended classes from grades one through eight.

  We normally had about 30 students in the school. I spent all those years in a grade with two other boys. In fact, during the years I attended the school the boys generally outnumbered the girls, which was fine with me because I grew up in a home with two sisters and no brothers, and most of my cousins who were close to my age were also girls.

  The Burwalde School was the place where I learned to read, write and do arithmetic. I learned about English grammar as well assome German grammar. I learned about health and geography, history and music. This was my foundation for much future learning.

  To get my schoolwork done, I needed to learn to focus on my assignment and not be distracted by the other activities in the classroom. This was not always easy because there were usually eight grades in the room, and the teacher was addressing at least one of these grades all the time. The room was rarely silent.

  I learned to enjoy stories and reading. In the back of the classroom there was a library. By today’s standards it was very small, but it had a variety of interesting books including at least one about the Boxcar Children. I may have read that one more than once. Our teacher would usually read to us after lunch, and because we had such a high percentage of boys in the class, we were often able to convince the teacher to read Hardy Boy books.

  On the school yard I learned a lot about sports. I learned to play softball, soccer, football and hockey. Most winters one of the local farmers would level a patch of snow on the school yard, haul truckloads of water with his three-ton truck, and flood a patch of ice. When it snowed he would bring his snow blower and clear the snow off the ice. On this makeshift rink we learned to play hockey at recess. Fortunately it was not highly competitive hockey, because most of us had no safety gear.

  Softball was our school’s competitive sport, where we would regularly play against five other country schools. Often on a Friday afternoon our teacher would borrow a farm truck from one of the farmers so that the entire student body could climb into the truck box and ride several miles to the next school for a ball game. This is where I learned about teamwork and sportsmanship and how to win and lose. I guess I didn’t learn these lessons particularly well, because I find I still don’t really enjoy losing.

  At Christmas time, our school would prepare a program for the broader community. This involved learning songs, poems and individual parts in short plays or dramas. This was my first introduction to choir participation and public speaking. I recall that on one occasion we even did a Low-German play.

  Beyond these numerous educational opportunities, I also learned how to make snow forts and tunnels, hunt gophers on the school yard, make whistles from Caragana seed pods, and play board games inside at recess on cold or rainy days.

  Not all the things we learned have beencritical to ensuring a successful and meaningful adult life, but in many ways the experiences of those eight years in the Burwalde School played a major role in shaping who I am today. Curiously, althoughI don’t remember ever being excited about going to school in those years, my memories of school experiences are largely positive.

  I now enjoy my visits to MHV’s Barkfield School because of the stories from my past which this school brings to mind. We at MHVare interested in hearing your own stories about places that are meaningful to you,particularly stories that are represented by an artifact or heritage building. What can you share with us?

Calendar of Events

April 27: 7:00 PM – Volunteer Orientation

May 1: 9:00 AM – Outdoor village opens for the season

May 1: 11:00 AM – Livery Barn Restaurant opens for the season

May 6: 7:30 PM - Local History Lectures – Family, Food and Spirituality

 

 

Village News

New Life at Easter

   Easter is a harbinger of new life. Maybe that’s why some of our celebrations include baby chicks and bunnies. When I was a child, my mother would plant oat seeds in an indoor container about a month before Easter in order to have new oats growing on that weekend. She would also follow the popular custom of boiling eggs for us to paint. All of these symbolize new life.

   We celebrate Easter in spring when the earth is coming back to life after the long, cold winter. I remember years where it was warm enough on the Easter weekend for my sisters to wear socks with their spring dresses, leaving the leotards in the drawer. It’s the time of year when we see birds building nests to hatch new life; flowers pushing up through last year’s dead foliage, preparing to present a wonderful floral display; and grass starting to grow on the south side of buildings where the sun has begun to warm the soil.

   Easter itself is a celebration of new life and new beginnings. The Christian community rejoices in the resurrection of Jesus and the resulting availability of new life for all who believe. That first Easter also marked a significant change in the worship practices of believers. Up to that time, the sacrifice of a living animal was required for one’s sins to be forgiven. Considering the large number of animals being brought to the priests for this ceremony, one can only imagine the sights, sounds and smells that prevailed in the temples of the day. Surely those buildings bear little resemblance to the churches in which we worship today. Jesus’ personal sacrifice fulfilled the forgiveness requirements once and for all.

   It was only after that first Easter that the opportunity for “new life” was extended beyond the Jewish people. Until that time, Jesus was viewed as the Messiah for the “Children of Israel” and not necessarily for the world. Through a series of vivid dreams, God led the Apostle Peter to understand that Jesus’ death and resurrection was on behalf of all people and all nations.

   Five hundred years ago Martin Luther initiated what is today known as the Reformation. One of the offshoots of the Reformation was the Anabaptist movement, which ultimately gave rise to the Mennonite church. This period of significant change resulted in new churches and new life, spiritually and practically.

   The Mennonite people have fled persecution and sought to retain lifestyle and values over most of the last five hundred years. In pursuit of the latter, each migration - from the Netherlands to Prussia to Russia to Canada to South and Central America - brought new life, along with significant change, to many Mennonite people.

   Those who chose not to migrate beyond North America also experienced changes and new life as they adapted to their local environments, learning to use the English language, establishing careers that required a significant education, involving themselves in government, and learning to sing with instrumental accompaniment in their churches.

   As we celebrate Easter this spring, let’s be reminded that Jesus’ resurrection and new life followed death. Similarly, the “new life” that Mennonites have experienced at various times in their history has often come at considerable cost. Although we should realistically expect some struggle with any major change in our lives, we can always anticipate and rejoice in new life.

Calendar of Events

April 27: 7:00 PM – Volunteer Orientation

May 1: 9:00 AM – Outdoor village opens for the season

May 1: 11:00 AM – Livery Barn Restaurant opens for the season

May 6: 7:30 PM - Local History Lectures – Family, Food and Spirituality

Village News (April 6, 2017)

Annual General Meeting

   Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) is incorporated in the province of Manitoba and owned by its members. To comply with provincial law and our bylaws, MHV conducts an Annual General Meeting (AGM) every year at this time. This year’s AGM was held on Tuesday, March 28.

   MHV members can contribute to our museum in several ways, such as volunteering for tasks that need to be done, donating toward our annual operations and specific projects, encouraging friends to attend museum events and to become museum members, and helping to make decisions about the museum’s future.

   Before we ask our members to make decisions at the AGM, we provide relevant background information. The report book which is distributed at the beginning of the meeting contains reports that address MHV activities and highlights of the past year and also begin to cast some light on plans for the coming year. Both written and oral reports are provided, and members are invited to address questions and comments to both. This year members heard oral reports from Willie Peters, President and Board Chair; Barry Dyck, Executive Director; Linda Schroeder, MHV Auxiliary President; Allan Kroeker, Finance and Audit Committee Chair; Victor Bergmann, auditor with Deloitte; and Carol Kroeker, Nominating Committee Chair. The report book contained written reports from each of these areas as well as the various functional departments at MHV.

   One of the highlights of the meeting was Victor Bergmann’s report that our museum had no bank debt at the end of 2016. It was very exciting to see that positive number after many years of seeing a negative number there. Our constituency has really stepped up to the plate and made a big difference. We do still have access to our line of credit for those times when operations and project expenses may require temporary cash-flow support.

   Lawrence Klippenstein, well-known and respected Mennonite historian, has served our museum as a director on the board for approximately 15 years. At our AGM last week, Lawrence was recognized for his contributions to the work of MHV. He also provided some insights about AGMs in general, about the MHV Board of Directors, and about story telling. History is so much about story telling.

   The members attending this meeting made several decisions on behalf of MHV. After reviewing the audited financial statements for 2016, they decided to accept the statements and the auditor’s report. Following that, they decided to accept the 2017 budget presented by Allan Kroeker and to appoint Deloitte as the auditor for the current calendar year. One of the most important decisions the members made was to elect Matt Wieler and Jeremy Peters as new board members - one to fill the vacancy created by Lawrence Klippenstein, and the other to replace Scott Reimer who resigned from the board after the previous AGM. Our board now has a full slate of members, with a healthy range of ages and professions represented.

   Membership in MHV is a real and interesting way to serve our community. There is more to be learned about membership by checking our website or by calling 204-326-9661.

Calendar of Events

April 6: 7:00 PM - Auxiliary Film Night - The Last Objectors

April 27: 7:00 PM – Volunteer Orientation

May 6: 7:30 PM - Local History Lectures – Family, Food and Spirituality

Village News

Why bother with history?

As we near May 1, the unofficial start date of 2017’s tourist season at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV), I’ve been asking myself why people should care about what MHV has to offer. As a curator, someone whose working life focuses entirely on history, this is an uncomfortable question. Of course people care about their history…right? But the reality is that many good and wonderful people don’t care about history, which leads me to ask an even more uncomfortable question: Why should people bother with history at all?

We are busy people who lead lives full of family, friends, work, Facebook, Netflix, cooking supper – the celebrations, the setbacks, and the grind of daily life. Where does history even have room to edge its way into our thoughts, much less our lives, in any meaningful way?

As a curator, I think the key to answering that question is in the word “meaningful.”  If we don’t care about history, perhaps it’s because we don’t see it as significant or relevant to our lives. Indeed, romanticized stories about the past, or supposed “lessons” that we are told we should learn from history, rarely are personally meaningful. But what if history wasn’t made up of stereotyped, two-dimensional characters but of people who led lives full of good and bad choices and decisions; who were bold and cowardly, victims and perpetrators; who sometimes rose above their circumstances and at others caved in to the crippling status-quo? In other words, would history be more meaningful if we acknowledged those who lived in the past as real and complex people?

I recently read a challenging article on the purpose of history written by Paul Kramer, a U. S. history professor at Vanderbilt University, entitled “History in a Time of Crisis.” He quotes Joan Wallach Scott, Professor Emerita at the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, who said that the purpose of history is “to open the possibility for thinking (and so acting) differently.” Taking this approach, the point of history is not to learn a lesson (and to dodge the trite threat that “history will repeat itself” if we don’t), but to continually grapple with our understanding of ourselves and each other, our lives, and our world. This struggle to understand and to think differently about the past can be uncomfortable and requires much more of us, I think, than simply memorizing the dates of historical events. This view of history, however, gives us the opportunity to come face-to-face with people who are different than us, who might have held beliefs that we don’t share, and who made decisions with which we may not necessarily agree. In these encounters with history there is the potential to understand more fully what it is to be human, to have empathy for others, and to see things from a different perspective. In a world that’s often divided between “us” and “them,” these are valuable skills to cultivate.

As a museum curator, I am continually challenged to find new ways to encourage people to think critically about both the past and the present. In particular, though, I get excited about my work when I think of the opportunities our exhibits, museum tours, and artefacts provide for connecting with people who don’t currently care about history and opening the possibility for them to think about the past in a new way. This challenge is a guiding principle in the creation of our 2017 exhibits. Two of them, on the theme Storied Places, will see MHV partnering with the arts community through the Steinbach Arts Council and with high-school students at Steinbach Regional Secondary School and Landmark Collegiate. I hope you’ll join us and accept our challenge to think again about history.

Calendar of Events:

April 2: 7:00 PM – Vespers Service

April 6: 7:00 PM - Auxiliary Film Night - The Last Objectors

April 27: 7:00 PM – Volunteer Orientation

May 6: 7:30 PM - Local History Lectures – Family, Food and Spirituality

 

Village News

The Last Objectors

   Usually once a year the Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) Auxiliary stages a Film Night as a fundraising event for our museum. These films typically cover a particular aspect of Russian Mennonite history. The next such event will take place on Thursday, April 6, at 7:00 p.m. in the MHV Auditorium.

   The Last Objectors is a 45-minute documentary film written and produced by Andrew Wall, with input by Conrad Stoesz and Korey Dyck from the Mennonite Heritage Centre. This venture was a collaboration between Refuge 31 Films, the CBC, MTS Stories from Home, and the Mennonite Heritage Archives, with financial support ($36,000 grant) from Heritage Canada through the World Wars Commemoration Fund. It has won numerous awards, including Best Feature Film Documentary at the 2017 Winnipeg Real to Reel Film Festival and Best Documentary at the 2016 Views of the World Music and Film Festival in Montreal.

   This film tells the story of more than 11,000 conscientious objectors who resisted engaging in armed combat during World War II and rather chose to perform alternative service for their country. Many of these men spent several years working in hospitals, asylums, forestry camps and various other service locations. They were required to donate much of their pay to the Red Cross.

   Angeline Schellenberg provides further information in an MB Herald article: “Since October 2015, Wall has interviewed more than 15 COs from Ontario to B.C. During WWII, these men did everything from working in mental hospitals to building roads. A few are Hutterite and United Church members; most are Mennonites. [. . .] Some interviews were highly personal: about how CO service affected them and their families. Other segments contained deep theological reflection.”

   In a column on the Mennonite Church Canada website, writer Deborah Froese quotes Korey Dyck, Director of MHC Archives and Gallery, as stating, “The Last Objectors  acknowledges these men’s experiences as both important and valid. [. . .] For some, this is their only chance to tell their story about serving Canada in a peaceful way during the Second World War.”

   As reported in an earlier column, eight Southern Manitoba COs attended the unveiling of a new cairn commemorating conscientious objectors here at MHV in November 2016. While none of them spoke publicly at that event, this film records segments of interviews with these men and reveals the sentiments behind their profoundly difficult decisions many years ago. Hearing the perspectives of these and other COs can lead to reflection on one’s own values. 

   Admission to view The Last Objector on April 6 is just $12. The evening will also include stories from the perspectives of women who had to manage at home in the absence of husbands, sons, and brothers; a music segment; and refreshments and conversation to close the event. Opportunity will also be given to make donations. Come for an evening of thought-provoking stories from a portion of our Mennonite history.

Calendar of Events:

March 28: 7:30 PM – Annual General Meeting

April 2: 7:00 PM – Vespers Service

April 6: 7:00 PM - Auxiliary Film Night, The Last Objectors

April 27: 7:00 PM – Volunteer Orientation

May 6: Mini Conference, Food, Family and Spirituality

Village News

The Flag Story

   Several years ago one of our faithful volunteers approached me on the grounds of the Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) and reported that our Union Jack flag at the Barkfield School was being flown upside down. This greatly concerned me, because I had been trained about the importance of handling flags appropriately and flying the Union Jack the correct way. During my student days at the Burwalde School between Winkler and Morden, the older boys (which at some point included me) were required to raise the flag on the outdoor pole in the morning and take it down at the end of the school day. We were instructed to position the wide white border above the diagonal red line on the pole side of the flag. Since that’s also the way our flag at the Barkfield School has been flown during my tenure at MHV, I have always understood it to be correct.

   But after the conversation with our volunteer, I started to question the accuracy of my memory. So I went to the internet to check how this flag should be flown. Reassuringly, I confirmed that my memory had not failed me, but how was I to inform this volunteer, whom I respected so highly? I think it may have been a year or two later when I finally told him I had researched the correct way to hang that flag and had confirmed that ours was flying correctly. He graciously informed me that he too had done some research and that indeed our Union Jack was flying as it should be.

   Mennonites have historically had a prickly relationship with national flags. In 16th century Europe, Mennonites suffered severe persecution in an era where church and state were virtually one and the same. Viewing themselves as citizens of God’s kingdom, they placed a high value in separating themselves from the state. Permission to operate their own schools free of all civic trappings was guaranteed in the Immigration Privilegium when they came from Russia to Canada in the late 1800s. However, the School Attendance Act of 1916 restricted the freedom of Mennonites in Manitoba to provide their own education to their children, requiring adherence to certain government standards such as flying the national flag at their schools.

   Canada actually had several national flags at the time but no “Canadian” flag. The Canadian Red Ensign was used in some situations as early as 1868. This flag was the British Red Ensign modified with an emblem representing various Canadian provinces, which therefore changed from time to time as more provinces were added. The Union Jack, the national flag of the United Kingdom, was also a national flag of Canada and was used in various public settings, such as public schools.

   As multiculturalism grew in Canada, the need for a uniquely Canadian flag was realized. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson, the current red Maple Leaf became Canada’s national flag and was first flown on February 15, 1965.

   As we prepare to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary this year, we realize how privileged we are to be living in Canada. On July 1, MHV will welcome all guests free of charge and invite everyone to join us in the raising of Canada’s national flag and celebrating Canada Day.

Calendar of Events:

March 28: 7:30 PM – Annual General Meeting

April 2: 7:00 PM – Vespers

April 6: 7:00 PM - Auxiliary Film Night, The Last Objectors

April 27: 7:00 PM – Volunteer Orientation

May 6: Mini Conference, Food, Family and Spirituality

Village News

The Flag Story

   Several years ago one of our faithful volunteers approached me on the grounds of the Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) and reported that our Union Jack flag at the Barkfield School was being flown upside down. This greatly concerned me, because I had been trained about the importance of handling flags appropriately and flying the Union Jack the correct way. During my student days at the Burwalde School between Winkler and Morden, the older boys (which at some point included me) were required to raise the flag on the outdoor pole in the morning and take it down at the end of the school day. We were instructed to position the wide white border above the diagonal red line on the pole side of the flag. Since that’s also the way our flag at the Barkfield School has been flown during my tenure at MHV, I have always understood it to be correct.

   But after the conversation with our volunteer, I started to question the accuracy of my memory. So I went to the internet to check how this flag should be flown. Reassuringly, I confirmed that my memory had not failed me, but how was I to inform this volunteer, whom I respected so highly? I think it may have been a year or two later when I finally told him I had researched the correct way to hang that flag and had confirmed that ours was flying correctly. He graciously informed me that he too had done some research and that indeed our Union Jack was flying as it should be.

   Mennonites have historically had a prickly relationship with national flags. In 16th century Europe, Mennonites suffered severe persecution in an era where church and state were virtually one and the same. Viewing themselves as citizens of God’s kingdom, they placed a high value in separating themselves from the state. Permission to operate their own schools free of all civic trappings was guaranteed in the Immigration Privilegium when they came from Russia to Canada in the late 1800s. However, the School Attendance Act of 1916 restricted the freedom of Mennonites in Manitoba to provide their own education to their children, requiring adherence to certain government standards such as flying the national flag at their schools.

   Canada actually had several national flags at the time but no “Canadian” flag. The Canadian Red Ensign was used in some situations as early as 1868. This flag was the British Red Ensign modified with an emblem representing various Canadian provinces, which therefore changed from time to time as more provinces were added. The Union Jack, the national flag of the United Kingdom, was also a national flag of Canada and was used in various public settings, such as public schools.

   As multiculturalism grew in Canada, the need for a uniquely Canadian flag was realized. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson, the current red Maple Leaf became Canada’s national flag and was first flown on February 15, 1965.

   As we prepare to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary this year, we realize how privileged we are to be living in Canada. On July 1, MHV will welcome all guests free of charge and invite everyone to join us in the raising of Canada’s national flag and celebrating Canada Day.

Calendar of Events:

March 28: 7:30 PM – Annual General Meeting

April 2: 7:00 PM – Vespers

April 6: 7:00 PM - Auxiliary Film Night, The Last Objectors

April 27: 7:00 PM – Volunteer Orientation

May 6: Mini Conference, Food, Family and Spirituality

Village News

It’s March!

   I asked my colleagues at coffee break this morning if anyone had an idea for a Village News column. One of them astutely said, “Well, it’s March!” My first response was that I might need just a little more information to make this work. But I was left to my own creativity to develop the theme.

   There are some unique elements to life at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) in March. One of those is the return of Canada geese. Actually, this year they arrived in February already, but March is normally when we see increasing goose activity in the pond and on surrounding fields. This morning a news reporter came to photograph the geese on our pond, so it seems they have our attention.

   March is also the time of year when the snow in our yard begins to melt, although this year we saw some melting somewhat earlier. This means keeping our eye on our drainage ditches to ensure that the water can drain off our property without getting into any buildings. We also keep our eye on the Village Centre roof to ensure that leaks are attended to before anything is damaged inside the building. There is currently a bucket on my office floor, catching a very slow leak that is waiting for attention.

   Our Annual General Meeting (AGM) takes place at the end of March. This year it’s on Tuesday, March 28, at 7:30 p.m. in our Auditorium. Members and guests are all welcome to attend. In advance of this meeting, we are putting together a report book, preparing our 2017 budget, and working with our auditor to produce the audited 2016 financial statements. Our Nominating Committee has been at work for several months already and now has a slate of nominees ready for the election of directors to our board, which will take place at the AGM. And most importantly, we have also arranged to have a snack served after the meeting.

    Staffing needs are also being considered in anticipation of our summer season. Our outdoor village and the Livery Barn Restaurant will reopen for business on May 1. That’s also the time when our Education Program gains momentum and the grass on the yard begins growing. All this necessitates the hiring of summer staff for food services, facilities maintenance, and the Education Program. We need senior staff who can provide strong leadership, as well as support staff who are eager to learn as they work. Watch for job ads on our MHV website as well as local employment websites.

   The planning of MHV festival and fundraising events is well underway. We will again collaborate with the City of Steinbach to host a part of the July 1 Canada Day ceremonies and festivities. As usual, Pioneer Days will take place over the August long weekend, and Fall on the Farm will be held on Labour Day. We are currently planning our annual Tractor Trek fundraiser with Eden Foundation, as well as a vintage tractor show with the Southeast Implement Collectors and the sale of waffles at Summer in the City. There are also a few new initiatives on the planning table.

   This year, March also finds us busy with the planning, fundraising, and administration required for a variety of construction projects. Our new Summer Pavilion is nicely taking shape; the Waldheim House is scheduled to get a new thatched roof this summer; and the windmill will get another thorough checkup by a Dutch millwright and have a new deck installed.

   As the days get longer, we can almost feel the “busy season” approaching. We look forward to that time when we will again be actively serving our community and the tourists who will come to visit.

Calendar of Events:

March 28: 7:30 PM – Annual General Meeting

April 2: 7:00 PM – Vespers

April 27: 7:00 PM – Volunteer Orientation

Village News

Community Generosity

   News stories in the Steinbach media this week reported that in 2015 Southeastern Manitoba communities have once again demonstrated particular generosity by way of charitable giving. According to a Steinbachonline article, there are nine communities in the Southeast which recorded higher rates of tax filers claiming charitable donations than the provincial average. The same article reports that during the same time period there were ten communities in the Southeast whose median donation was higher than the provincial average. We’re in good company.

   While Mennonites are only one of the faith groups represented in this Statistics Canada information, we at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) know that community spirit has long been a part of Mennonite history. During a time when Mennonite faith, life and culture were still thriving in Russia, the Waisenamt (orphans office) was developed as a means to look after orphans, and later widows as well. This Waisenamt was funded and administered by the Mennonites as a trust fund for the needy. The Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online states: “The Waisenamt, however, established before the mutual credit bank, was most characteristic of the village community and its mutual aid practices. It was in fact a trust organization formed to assist minors who were orphaned, and to administer their inheritance funds. The money could be invested, saved, or distributed according to the best interests of the parties concerned. Evidence that the Waisenamt  satisfactorily served a need is the fact that it was still in existence in the 1950s in a number of Mennonite communities of Russian background, especially in Canada and Paraguay.”

   Mennonite Central Committee had its beginning in 1920 as a response to the extreme needs of Mennonites in the Russia. Esther Epp-Tiessen, in her book Mennonite Central Committee in Canada, records the following story: “On 17 August 1920, Mrs. John Schultz of Milverton, Ontario wrote to Levi Mumaw, secretary-treasurer of the newly-formed Mennonite Central Committee in Scottdale, Pennsylvania. She was responding to a call for contributions of clothing and money for Mennonites in need in what was now the Soviet Union. In her cryptic four-sentence letter, Mrs. Schultz wrote that no one in her community had clothes considered good enough to send overseas. However, she enclosed a donation of $34.08 which she designated “for Russia.”

   In our past and in our present, MHV has been a beneficiary of the community generosity in Southeastern Manitoba. While not all our support comes from this region, most of the approximately $250,000 in donations we receive annually comes from local donors. In the last 18 months, our constituency has also pledged and donated over $2,100,000 toward our Foundations for a Strong Future development initiative. We are blessed to be established in a community where generosity is part of our DNA.

Calendar of Events

March 5: 7:00 PM - Vespers Service

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About the Author

Barry is the Executive Director of the Mennonite Heritage Village. While he does not consider himself to be a historian, he places a high value on the preservation and interpretation of the Mennonite and pioneer stories that help people of all ages understand and appreciate their heritage. Learn more about the MHV.

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