Coronavirus leads to new connections around the world

From Belize to the U.K., livelihoods disrupted, aid given, events postponed

Jun 1, 2020 by and

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The COVID-19 pandemic is prompting Anabaptists to respond to challenges locally and around the world as they connect in new ways.

Die Mennonitische Post reported Mennonites in Cuauhtémoc, Mexico, initiated a food bank that is seeking to give groceries to 20,000 families for at least two months, at a cost of roughly $875,000.

Under the name Activación Ciudadana (Citizen Activation), the initiative is led by Ed Heide. Supplies such as beans, rice, coffee, flour, noodles, milk, oil, sugar and toilet paper are purchased in bulk and repacked for distribution to families.

About a third of the needed funds had been raised by early May. Heide is confident support will grow among churches, business and other organizations.

In Belize, quarantine precautions “paralyzed” the Low German Mennonite Spanish Lookout Colony, with many shops and factories closed.

Supply chain disruptions took a toll on agricultural sectors. Farmers raising chickens had to sell them very cheaply or even give them away. Some dairy farmers had to pour out their milk.

Many residents temporarily lost the jobs before “everything became more ‘normal’ again at the beginning of May,” the Post reported.

Old Colony Mennonite church leaders in Cuauhtémoc, Mexico, met with the city’s mayor at the beginning of May to discuss the possibility of returning to holding worship services. Although the mayor said he would not ban it, he requested the church wait longer before resuming worship together.

Masks and medicine

Mennonites in France responded to the crisis by gathering roughly $5,400 to purchase masks and medicine for The Good Shepherd Hospital in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo.

Earlier, French Mennonites sent more than $13,000 to south India for subsistence relief.

While there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 at Shirati Hospital in Tanzania, an unused building was remodeled into a ward for 20 COVID-19 patients due to a government mandate. Friends of Shirati, an Ana­baptist nonprofit organization that supports the hospital, funded the project.

Friends of Shirati also supplied masks, gloves and gowns for possible use by staff in the case of an outbreak.

In 2016 and 2017, a solar water project and solar electricity project enabled the hospital to have a constant supply of water and freedom from the country’s unreliable power grid.

“Given the full supply of water 24-7, the hospital is in a much better position now, during a pandemic, than it would have been previously,” said Friends of Shirati executive director Dale Ressler.

Expanding interest

In the United Kingdom, the Anabaptist Mennonite Network has delayed a June visit by Bruxy Cavey, a Canadian Be In Christ pastor, and colleagues. The current plan is to postpone the visit until there are fewer restrictions on traveling and meeting, but online connections may also take place later this summer.

AMN is no stranger to connecting by internet, using online tools for conversations and study groups before the pandemic. A monthly online study group has had so many people join, AMN chair Stuart Murray Williams said in a May 21 email newsletter that a new online group will be added June 3.

The network hosts an Anabaptist theology forum twice a year in connection with the residential portion of a program at Bristol Baptist College. The forum normally involves 12-15 people, but more than 60 people registered for online sessions in April and May. Further online forums may be held in the fall, especially if restrictions on gatherings continue.

Sessions will continue in the summer, addressing why Ana­baptists were persecuted and how Anabaptist convictions have impacted church and society. More information is available at ­amnetwork.uk.


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