I deeply appreciated Edgar Stoesz’s article in Mennonite World Review showing how God has used Mennonite Central Committee over the past 100 years to not only reach out to a needy world, but to also transform the Church in North America.
As MCC volunteers returned from overseas assignments, they brought with them a deeper understanding of the issues facing humankind, new intercultural relationships and competencies, and broader worldviews. MCC has provided several generations of Mennonites with opportunities to serve and learn in ways that would not otherwise have been possible.
When my uncles and aunts served with MCC, their letters provided fodder for our family conversations and prayers. Their stories, pictures and gifts from around the world fired my imagination. I learned about refugees, the plight of displaced people and the pain of hunger and disease. They described how they distributed relief supplies, helped rebuild broken institutions and facilitated the process through which communities searched for sustainable solutions to their own problems.
Through these visceral and deeply personal stories, I learned about poverty as well as the nature, diversity and resilience of the global Church. In this way, MCC helped shape my vocation and call to service.
One of my most powerful memories of Africa came from opening a carton of MCC beef in 1968 at the feeding center where I served in Kajiji, Congo. The bold yellow label on the can proclaimed that this food was being given In the Name of Christ. In smaller print, it noted that the meat had been canned by the Mennonite churches of Mountain Lake, Minn.
It was a gift from my family, friends and neighbors that I could now distribute on their behalf to those in need. That powerful moment was part of a process through which I learned that giving In the Name of Christ is more than a slogan or act of mercy; it’s a theological statement.
MCC not only helped me understand the holistic message of the Gospel through its integration of word and deed, it also gave me a global network of friends, role models and mentors who taught me about development and helped shape my vocational journey. Edgar Stoesz was one of them.
From his administrative desk in Akron, Pa., Stoesz responded to my field reports, inspired me with his notes, sent books and articles for my enrichment and opened doors that expanded my professional network. (He even brought me a new carburetor for my motorcycle!)
Those of us who served with MCC received much more than we gave, and learned more than we taught. For 100 years, MCC has demonstrated the love of Christ to the world but also transformed us as well. For this, I am profoundly grateful!
D. Merrill Ewert was president of Fresno Pacific University from 2002 to 2012.