MCC, a Perceptive Organization
Helen Wieler talks about how Mennonite Central Committee was create and how it is impacting our world today. An Anabaptist story of hope, help and peace.
In 1920, the conditions in post-war Russia made life very difficult for the Mennonites living there. Instead of the peaceful village there was famine, murder, rape and pillage. While their Mennonite relatives living in America sent what they hoped would be the right things to the right people, they had no recent information. Letters were months old, postal services very unreliable. The Study Commission from Russia was invited to attend a meeting of Mennonites in Pennsylvania. They brought recent, accurate information. AA Friesen, the Chair, brought facts and figures: Who, What, Where and How. When :was right now. Who: could be trusted. What :was food, then means of producing the food. How: With this recent, accurate information as a guide, they organized the Mennonite Central Committee: MCC. MCC established policy and procedure, hired the appropriate staff and, now, a highly organized and motivated group, sent people and resources to those who so desperately needed them. My grandmother, aunt and uncle owed their lives to the food offered by MCC. This has remained the policy for almost 100 years: get the right information, send the right people and get the job done: all this according to Anabaptist principles of faith in God and love for fellow man.
What and how has changed over the years. What has not changed is the mandate to get the right aid to the right people at the right time in the most effective way. One survey of not-for-profit agencies listed administrative costs and cost of materials actually delivered. MCC was second from the top, which means donations go where they are needed, not to administration. What and How MCC works depends upon the needs presented at that time. The question is asked: what is needed, is MCC the best agency to meet this need, or is some other agency the better one in this instance? Here are a few examples. My sister and her husband were sent to Mennonites in Mexico to assist in two areas. One was to improve agricultural practise, the other was to advance education. My friend was sent to Jordan where he was involved with fruit juice. Other friends organized restoration following flood and storms. Others just went to help. MCC got the help needed to those who needed it because they worked with the people in the area who knew what was needed and how to get it there.
When emergency aid becomes a long-term project, MCC splits into specific organizations, leaving MCC to render fast, effective assistance in emergency situations. For instance, in BC there was ongoing need for long-term effective care for those with mental health issues. MCC Supportive Care, now Communitas, was organized. Here in Kelowna an office co-ordinated this care. For some it was full-time, skilled nursing care. For others it was supervision. Here is the story I like.. An apartment building, under construction, was looking for buyers. A group of parents purchased apartments for their sons, MCC bought one for ”Mom”, a lady who actually acted as a mother for them, to make sure they were safe. This group soon functioned as a family. The sons” owned” their apartments, paid the mortgage, kept it clean and neat. They went to work on time, came home to a meal Mom had prepared, shared their stories and felt safe and welcome. Families felt their sons were safe and happy. Another example was housing. MCC, now” More Than a Roof”, has established safe housing. In East Vancouver, right in the heart of all most of us would prefer to avoid. MCC has an apartment, safe, clean, and available.
MCC Thrift Shops started in a garage in the prairies. A group of ladies collected clothes and other items, decided these could be sold and the money given to MCC. The organization and management of the shops varies from province to province, but the concept is the same. Now MCC Thrift is not only a great source of money, but also a place to meet the community. For the donors there is the satisfaction of knowing they are helping others. For the ecology, it is recycling to keep materials out of landfill. For the shopper, not only goo d stuff for a reasonable price, but the challenge of finding a real treasure. Many shoppers come in regularly, they are almost family. It also gives us the opportunity to let others know what MCC does.
MCC is only one of the organizations of the Mennonite community. The Thousand Villages grew out of MCC assisted projects which helped small groups produce goods which could be sold. MEDA is another organization, mostly concerned with business opportunities. Then there are the educational facilities, music groups, camps ,and local groups which share Anabaptist values with the community. Each of these groups could tell a story.