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Suspended and the art of forgiveness
Andrew Wall, writer director
Refuge 31 Films

This documentary about the father of a murdered teenager is punctuated with a surprising amount of laughter.

To call it light-hearted would suggest a flippancy does not seem possible for someone who has gone through such pain.

Yet, the spontaneous laughter of this man who has endured so much is not harsh and cynical but gentle and free.

And that is the true purpose of forgiveness. It’s not about the other person; it’s about freeing yourself from bondage to the other person’s actions.

It’s ironic the film is called “suspended,” for that suggests a kind of captivity that is absent from this story.

Cliff and Wilma Derksen are local celebrities. In 1984, their 13-year-old daughter Candace didn’t come home from school one winter’s evening. The whole sleepy, provincial city stirred with fear and speculation.

When Canadace’s body was found 7 weeks later, the Derksens, steeped in Mennonite teaching, declared…
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Grunts, bellows, and moans.
That characterized the commute home from CMU during a spring blizzard at the beginning of bike month.
The weather folk had mentioned it’d be less nice this evening than it had been yesterday, and the weather app indicated there’d be some snow this evening but despite having my eyes pelted with snow pellets that turned to gentler flakes just as I arrived, I really wasn’t expecting full-on spring blizzard on my way home.
So the grunts came from rumbling over crusty icy chunks concealed under fresh snow, the bellows from jarring into huge curbside potholes that couldn’t be avoided without veering into traffic, and moans from the misaligned parts of my shoulder grinding together.
April biking is always interesting; I maintain that whoever chose April as “get out and ride your bikes, everyone!” month does NOT live in Manitoba.

Calls to action and the mountain before us: Stories of hope and challenge

Mennonite farmers

Is there an intrinsic connection between being Mennonite and being a farmer? The question may not have been raised by Ode Production’s documentary, 7 Points on Earth, but I heard an answer. Paul Plett’s film rooted in a multi-year research project of the Centre for Transnational Studies had its world premiere screening at the Winnipeg Reel to Real Film Festival Feb 21, 2018.

Being a Christian is far less about believing the right things – or even doing the rights things/living the right way, as Mennonites are often tempted to think – than simply about trusting God. To take a page from Islam, to be a follower of Christ is about submission.

Farming, said featured subjects Dave Yoder of Iowa and Jeremy Hildebrandt of Manitoba, is also about trust. It’s a risky business, but you keep going out there and doing it, hoping and believing that should it all go to pieces, someone will be there to help you pick them up.

“We don’t pray about the weather,” said Hildebrandt. He and his wife pray…

Refugee resettlement

This is a moral issue. 

That’s how panellist Tom Denton, longtime refugee advocate and co-executive director of Hospitality House, responded to the audience question, “Why are you here tonight?”

The panel of experts speaking on “Refugee Resettlement in Canada: Moving Forward from Lessons of the Past” was convened by Menno Simons College.

It started with MSC professor Stephanie Stobbe sharing her own story of risk and danger, leaving Laos to come to Canada, and facing a very unhappy first 6 months (living in a three-room house without running water or electricity, next to a graveyard [terrifying for a Buddhist family with deep belief in spirits of the dead]) in an unnamed rural location before being discovered by concerned friends and moved to a town where they were much better supported.

She also shared some shocking facts that were new to me. For example, the U.S. dropped bombs on Laos every 8 minutes 1964–1973, and there remain some 80 million unexploded cluster munitions in Laos to…

The Bible tells me so

An appeal for humility and diversity characterized the respondents at tonight’s Face2Face community panel event entitled “The Bible Tells Me So...Or Does It?” But what stood out to me most – what, in fact, surprised this cynical girl the most – was the love of Scripture that emanated from the various respondents.

“I cannot separate my academic study of Scripture from my devotional work through it,” one panelist beautifully framed what the others also hinted at.

Each of the students on the panel had an Anabaptist connection – one or more of the following: a current affiliation with a Mennonite (or Hutterite) church, a name that could be classified as ethnoculturally Mennonite (or DGR/S, as Bruce Guenther likes to say), or a childhood spent in a Mennonite church (because I’m getting old and I know their parents) – but they represented a diversity of traditions: MB, MC, Catholic, Pentecostal (and Anglican dilettante). And each spoke of the importance of wrestling with Scripture, in so…

A different centre

A half-baked revelation:
The idea of a centred set instead of a bounded set was a revelation and a helpful re-orientation: belonging isn’t about being in or out of a certain boundary but about all of us drawing toward a centre. We quickly made it another way of judging right and wrong. It still was a measure of relative rightness – in some ways perhaps worse than bounded where as long as you’re inside the box you’re safe.
The problem with centred set is it still creates the idea of something in the middle, a one truth we are all trying to get close to, still creating ins and outs.
But consider that Jesus was generally found at the margins. He wasn’t in the middle. Should we reach “the centre”, that is, where Jesus is, we’ll find ourselves out on the edges where he actually is. 
Maybe the truth of centred set is lost on us because we’re coming at it from the wrong direction.
Maybe the centre is within us. Maybe we need to orient our centres to be attuned to where Jesus is in the…