Canadian Mennonite
Volume 11, No. 03
February 5, 2007



This section is a forum for discussion and discernment. Letters express the opinion of the writer only, not necessarily the position of Canadian Mennonite, the five area churches or Mennonite Church Canada. Letters should address issues rather than criticizing individuals and include contact information. We will send copies of letters referring to other parties to them to provide an opportunity to respond in a future issue if their views have not already been printed in an earlier letter.

Please send letters to be considered for publication to or to Canadian Mennonite, 490 Dutton Drive, Unit C5, Waterloo, ON, N2L 6H7, “Attn: Letter to the Editor.” Letters may be edited for length, style and adherence to editorial guidelines.

Bottom line of any debate is love

Amen from Newfoundland to the words of Peter Dueck in the Dec. 18 issue (“Klassen lends credence to ‘creation’ debate,” page 13). He writes that the bottom line for the creation debate is that people can hold many different theories and still be equal in their faith in a creative and omnipotent God.

Now there is a bottom line worth getting obsessed about! Imagine if all the debates of our church and our world could be hashed out in the spirit of this bottom line of love, respect and equality? The kingdom of God would flourish in ways we have never seen before.

So often, our debates on thorny issues harken back to the time when the disciples argued about which was the greatest. What a sad waste of kingdom-building energy! How many machetes, automatic rifles and vitriolic pens have been wielded in the battle over whose interpretation of God’s will is best? All of this tears at the foundation of the kingdom of love, and human equality and dignity.

I believe that, as Mennonites, our key message to the world is our obsession with the bottom line of love that Dueck is talking about. Let us put our energy as a church into that obsession and by doing what we already know how to do—and do it better. Our church’s efforts at peacemaking, justice-seeking and dialogue-opening are our true missions in this world.

—Scott Morton Ninomiya, St. John’s Nfld.

God is above all human reasoning

The way to a joyful, happy life yesterday is past—gone forever, never to return; and power, joy, freedom and contentment for tomorrow are not attainable today. So why worry?

Accept God’s everlasting abundant love for complete forgiveness. Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Set your mind on Christ Jesus, who is our true light and salvation. He meant to be our example because he was—and is—sinless.

A positive mind and attitude give us our true reward. He is our creator and is aware of our every thought and action. His Holy Spirit is constantly watching over us. What better guardian can we hope for? He is real. Simply by believing in his death and rising again from the grave make it possible for us to be free from sin and death.

You need no longer feel bound. You are set free to rejoice. I believe that Christ Jesus wants us to continually rejoice and share with as many people as possible. We need not worry about tomorrow; it will take care of itself.

John 3:16 and II Timothy 3:16-17 tell us there is simply no room for doubt in the believer’s mind, for Christ came to be the light of this sinful world. He is indeed the true reason to rejoice and be truly grateful for everlasting and unexplained love.

There is really no need to try to prove his existence because he is always about us. He causes the rain, the sun and the night. Man cannot create night and day. He is the power above all human reasoning.

—Aiden Snyder, Kitchener, Ont.

‘Pen’sive in Egypt

When is the last time your pen ran out of ink? I ask because this happened to me recently. In Canada, I don’t know if “my pen” ever ran out of ink. Sure, I sometimes grabbed a dud on my way to class or a meeting, but rarely did I use a single pen from new to empty. Pens are too cheap, too interchangeable, too insignificant. But last week in Egypt my pen ran out of ink. I’d known it was coming, so I had a spare along, but I couldn’t switch until I was sure it was completely empty.

Before you continue reading, take a minute and think about your own pen supply. How many pens do you have? In your office, purse, backpack, junk drawers, on the kitchen table, in your glove compartment? I bet if you took the number of pens and divided it by the total number of hands in your house, you’d get a number greater than one. That is, you probably have some extra pens.

Now some of you may be thinking that the hot Egyptian sun has addled my brain if all I can write about is pens, but I do think there is a lesson to be learned from these everyday items.

However, although they provide a compelling subject, I am going to leave the topic of pens for now. Believe it or not, life in Egypt has presented me with an even greater challenge than losing a loved writing instrument.

It is this: As I get to know Egyptians, a fairly consistent theme that arises in conversation is emigration. Almost every educated, English-speaking Egyptian dreams of emigrating to Canada or the U.S.

As an aid worker, I sometimes feel discouraged by this. I am trying to work with Egyptian people to empower them to improve life in their country. But they want me to empower them to leave their country! Still, it is not hard to see why they want to live in Canada. In Egypt, there is too little land, too little water, too little space. Egyptians see the abundance of all of these things in North America and want to share in that lifestyle.

Reality, however, interferes. It is expensive and difficult to qualify for emigration. But there is an even greater reality than this merely bureaucratic problem: The world cannot sustain all its six billion people living like Canadians (even with a reduced emphasis on hockey). Just like the ink in my pen, the world’s resources would run out! But, unlike my pen, there is no backup handy. So what do we do?

In Canada, I would say that my pen supply was beyond abundant. I had more pens than Mennonites have committees. My pen situation had gone beyond abundance to excess.

When God led the Israelites into Canaan, he promised them abundance—in food, material wealth and spiritual blessings. Our Lord still wants us to live in God’s abundance. But “us” is not limited to privileged North Americans. God set some pretty clear guidelines for the Israelites to ensure that the abundance was shared justly among all of the people, and that people would not replace spiritual blessings with material wealth. Excess was not part of the plan.

This brings me back to my pen. I paid 60 cents for it. The Egyptian teachers I work with could perhaps buy two pens like mine with a day’s salary. It is obvious that their pen supplies are not quite as abundant as mine. Seeing their lack has opened my eyes to the “beyond abundance” of pens—and other things—in my life. So, rather unconsciously, I have made the decision to be intentional about simply having “enough” pens. Through seeing their shortage, my eyes have become more attuned to the distinction between abundance and excess.

So as you consider how you will enjoy the abundance you have, think of this. The Egyptians who wish to emigrate want to do so because of the disparity between their lives and ours. But since it is unrealistic for all people to live as we do in North America, it seems that part of the way to narrow the gap is for North Americans to live with less than we currently do.

Maybe it means giving your Tim Horton’s money to your favourite Central Committee (MCC) for a week. Maybe it means giving your power mower to your neighbour and cutting the grass by hand this summer. Or maybe it means selecting one of your pens and using it exclusively until it runs out.

—Barrette Plett

The author and his wife Sandy are currently working in Assiut, Egypt, with MCC. You can contact the Pletts and read more about their Egyptian experiences at and click on the “Egypt” link.

Berries, cold gravy and generosity

God, money and me

—Mike Strathdee

The power of example is a much more potent influence than is generally understood. Several incidents involving the Strathdee children have reinforced that principle for me.

We had a bumper crop of raspberries last year, the most abundant crop during the 15 years that Carolyn and I have had a house and a patch to pick.

Ella, our daughter, is keen to help with outside work, but less excited about the scratches or the mosquito bites that accompany berry picking expeditions. When the bite count went past her tolerance level, and when she realized that the job was not nearly done, she apologetically headed for the house, taking along what we had harvested together. Some time later, she returned to the edge of the patch, carrying the same berries in a series of plastic containers, and explaining which neighbours she had chosen to bless with the first fruits of these seasonal treats.

Humph! I muttered under my breath. Couldn’t she wait until the picking was done, so we could see the bountiful yield all in one place? And where did she come up with the crazy idea of giving away everything, anyway? Further reflection provided the answer. Until a few years ago, when the combination of regular varmint raids and the demands of a high needs younger child led us to abandon vegetable gardening efforts, we routinely passed on tomatoes, beans and zucchini to neighbours. Ella saw enough veggie sharing that the idea stuck with her, even after our practice had lapsed.

That’s a much happier influence than another scene witnessed recently. Both of our daughter Kate’s therapists, young women in their mid-20s, are fond of colourful, flashy clothes purchased from a retail chain that rhymes with “cold gravy.” For months, every time we drove past a certain plaza, Kate would ask when we could go shopping there.

When their grandfather gave Kate and Ella birthday money, clothes shopping at a certain store quickly became the consensus on how the cash should be spent. They made good choices in their purchases. But their excitement around the experience of buying sparkly logos—and their persistent questions about when the next trip will be—left their parents somewhat ill at ease.

Thankfully, the social epidemics that such emotions can spawn isn’t restricted to the consumer realm. A few years ago, Sam, a young boy who lives a few houses away, decided that for his birthday party, instead of bringing gifts, guests should make a donation to a local men’s hostel. When Ella heard about that, she decided that for her party, kids should bring materials for MCC school kits. Her friend Beth, for a party a couple months later, asked for donations to help an environmental charity save the tigers.

How can we, as parents, grandparents, mentors or friends in the church community, help to channel excitement and the enthusiasm of the next generation in the life-affirming direction of good deeds, as a counterbalance to the deadening consumerism that is all around us?

It’s an important question, and certainly worth a few boxes of berries.

Mike Strathdee is a stewardship consultant at the Kitchener, Ont., office of Mennonite Foundation of Canada (MFC). For stewardship education, estate and charitable gift planning, contact your nearest MFC office or visit

Family Ties

Break out of the valentine box

—Melissa Miller

In spare moments during mid-winter I am often occupied with a favourite ritual that has its source in one of my most cherished family roles. I am blessed to be an aunt. My nephews and nieces, and the spouses and children they’ve added to the family, are an unending source of liveliness, play and delight. Each February, I celebrate these younger family members and my “aunt-ness” with—what could be better?—valentines and chocolate.

Much of North American Valentine’s Day celebrations are geared to romantic love and the people who find themselves so coupled at this time of year. Many other people, especially single adults, are excluded by the holiday. I like using the holiday for this alternative celebration as a way of expanding the language of love. I offer my valentines as a counter-cultural message in a world that promotes love as primarily available to those who are flawlessly beautiful, young and sexually engaged. What a lie!

While making valentines this year, I was also preparing a sermon based on I Corinthians 13, Paul’s exquisitely penned poem of the love that God gives. Typically, a card shop valentine greeting does not contain the expansiveness and generosity of the love Paul describes. Often the heart-bedecked card contains the words, “Be mine!” suggesting possessiveness and control on the part of the sender.

Contrast that message with Paul’s use of words like patience and kindness. Weigh the qualities Paul says are not a part of love: envy, boasting, arrogance or rudeness. Mid-stride, Paul waxes, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” Might we yearn for and aspire to such love? Might we open ourselves, as Paul did, to a vision of a love that we tap into and share with everyone, not just those with whom we’re coupled, or those in our circle of friends and family?

Consider the love of one mother. Linda Bremner’s “valentines” started with her young son’s cancer. Each day, as her son faced illness and death, she sent him an anonymous note, intending to encourage him in his struggle. Shortly before he died, he let her know that he was clued in to her secret, and that her notes had been very meaningful.

Bremner took the hard experience she’d gained and became a great love letter writer. As she learned of other children facing life-threatening illnesses, she wrote letters to them, and enlisted other adults in her mission. Ten years after her son’s death, Bremner had founded an organization with 65 volunteers writing more than a thousand notes a week to children they don’t know.

She invites people she meets to join in the campaign. If they decline, she tells them to go home and write a letter to somebody in their life, to let the recipient know they’re being remembered with kindness.

Break out of the valentine box. Pen a letter or note, or send an expression of love to an unexpected valentine this year. Open yourself to the love of I Corinthians 13—a love that never ends.

Melissa Miller ( is a pastor, counsellor and author from Winnipeg. She is currently serving as interim pastor of Arnaud Mennonite Church.

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