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Economic justice: Even small changes make a difference

Zach Stefaniuk on fair trade economy - Economic justice: Even small changes make a difference

Use your imagination for a second. You are a young Canadian. You have recently graduated from high school and feel inspired to travel the world. During your travels you come upon an intriguing building. You go closer to investigate. As you approach the building you see it is unusually unstable. There are next to no windows, but you manage to find one. On the other side of this window are bars and endless lines of tables which locals are working at. The locals seem very tired and unhappy. It almost seems as if you recognize what they’re making. Then you realize they’re making your favourite brand of t- shirts. How do you react?

The building I just described is a factory.

Do you know where your clothes are made? Most people don’t know where their clothes or other possessions come from. It wasn’t that long ago that people were more dependent on their local community and their own skills to survive. Now, most everything is made internationally.

The Bible tells us that God wants everyone to be part of an equal economy. In the Old Testament, that meant helping your neighbour with harvest when need be. In the New Testament, the radical teachings of Jesus known as the Beatitudes, say that the Kingdom of God is for the poor – those who are not of high economic standing. 

So what can we, as part of the wealthy western world, do to change this? Becoming aware of our surroundings and how we interact with them, is one step. Understanding how our economic choices impact the environment and people in our community, allows us to rethink which brands may be best for ourselves and other people. 

Many big box stores have a policy to try to match the lowest price, which is great for our immediate needs, but is it great for the long-term needs of the workers in foreign countries?

An alternative is to shop fair trade. Organizations who sell fair trade products, ensure the workers receive a wage that they can live on. When we buy products from fair trade companies, we make a difference. It may be a small difference, but God cares when we make a positive difference.

We can also use more locally sourced products or make more of our own products. There was a time when people would simply make what they needed. These days, many of us have lost these skill, and depend on the rest of the world to supply absolutely everything.

Zach Stefaniuk on fair trade economy - Economic justice: Even small changes make a difference

If you live in a small town, it’s a safe bet that you can find most of the food you need within your community. The same is true for cities. In Winnipeg, there are many family-run businesses, we can support, and probably gardeners and small scale farmers that would be more than happy to share their produce.

Our relationship with products should be more personal. Once these relationships are more personal, we can start to connect with those who make them. There is no doubt that when we build a relationship with the growers and makers of our food and clothes, and other products, we will treat them with more care. Knowing how much work goes into them makes a difference. 

Use your imagination again. How can you impact this change? How will you welcome people into God’s economy of equality?

Zachary Stefaniuk is a second year Biblical and Theological Studies student from Hague, Saskatchewan. This blog post is adapted from a speech Zachary presented at the C. Henry Smith Peace Oratorical Contest at CMU.

Diversity and Connection: Environmental Studies at CMU

For the pasGraham Peterst two years, I have been enrolled in the Environmental Studies program at CMU, and it has been an exciting time in my education.

My first year started with general biology courses designed to cover as much information as possible. These courses opened a window into the fascinating world of life. From cells to basic body structure, we learned the complex inner workings that make up all living things, and how closely all life is interconnected. I was introduced to a world with many similarities between living things, that is still astoundingly diverse.

As my studies become more focused on particular subjects, the learning becomes more difficult, and more intriguing. The world that I was introduced to in first year biology has become more complex, and the continuity between classes is fascinating. Each class seems to complement the other. Learning about genes and how they are handed down in one class, blends into another on how diversity within a species is possible. As the classes become more focused, topics begin to fit together more clearly.

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All this is enhanced by the work that is done in the lab. Classroom learning suddenly becomes real, as we are able to observe the characteristics of different plant, animal, and bacteria species right before our eyes. The lines between the textbook and the lab became blurred. Both are learning environments in their own right, but together they enhance my understanding experience. Each setting offers new insights into an ever expanding area of study, and it probably helps that the professors in the classroom also teach in the lab.

Maybe more helpful than the classroom learning and the time spent in the lab, is the time spent in the field. Classes are encouraged to go out and experience the nature that we are learning about. We are constantly encouraged to learn within the natural spaces around us. The Assiniboine Forest offers a unique space to learn and observe. This opportunity makes lessons and experiments tangible.

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Unique to CMU are the integrative classes that teach about the Bible and the natural world, in which students can explore the environment from a theological and ethical perspective. We learn how people ought to live with creation and learn the beauty of it through both science and theology.

Every aspect of my education at CMU is connected to a larger whole. It’s  less a collection of pieces of knowledge, but the formation of a whole, giving me a glimpse at the bigger picture of creation. Each course offers a unique exploration of a subject within environmental studies, and at the same time, they all are closely interconnected. The labs and diverse classes have helped me build my own knowledge of the environment, and I plan to take it forward with me as I continue learning.

Graham Peters is a third year Environmental Studies student from Winnipeg, Manitoba.

3 things I wish I’d known: Advice from a first year CMU student

Nicole Ternowesky

“Do you have to wear a skirt and bonnet there?” “Are you allowed to listen to music and watch TV?” “Don’t you have to be a Mennonite to go there?” These were some of the questions my shocked friends and families asked last year when I told them I’d decided to go to Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) in the fall. Once I had reassured my family that I was going to an open-minded, welcoming, Christian university, I began to wonder what life at CMU might look like for me. Below is some advice I wish I had known before coming here, and I hope it will help you prepare all you prospective students for your first year at CMU.

1) Your faith will be challenged and nurtured.

Coming to CMU, I thought I knew ‘enough’ about the Bible, the creation story, Exodus, birth of baby Jesus, and His death and resurrection. I wasn’t prepared to read or discuss the tough stuff in the Bible, like violence, oppression, and pain. Often your Bible and Theology courses will leave you with many questions to wrestle with. But CMU is also a place that will nurture and strengthen your faith. As you grapple with these difficult truths, you will have the opportunity to worship God and experience his presence in new ways. Some places where my faith has grown is the prayer room on north, the Chapel on south and in the Poettcker Hall first floor lounge. Addressing the questions that threatened to weaken my faith in God actually helped me to deepen my understanding and relationship with Him.

2) Community is valued and promoted at CMU.

It is very important to participate in the fun events that are planned for the first week of school. This gives you an opportunity to meet other students and make new friends. At this early stage in the year, everyone will be feeling awkward, so don’t worry! I was very nervous coming to CMU that I would have difficult making friends, but I am now in a Snapchat group chat with 20 of my closest CMU friends. But honestly, I have made a some true friends here at CMU who have become like sisters to me. I now believe what people say about forming friendships at university that will last a lifetime.

Nicole Ternowsky - A student slides down a slip and slide during CMU's GO Olympics!

3) Now for the most important part: school.

My first piece of advice is to put yourself out there! Seriously, your professors will notice and remember you. CMU is unique because there is much more opportunity for class discussion and debate due to the smaller class sizes. My second piece of advice is choose classes, projects, and essays you are interested in, because when paper season comes around, you will be exhausted, but you will have learned about material you care about and have gained knowledge you can use in the ‘real world’. My last piece of advice is to invest in a good agenda or day planner. Seriously. Organization is key in university because it allows you to schedule enough time for studying, while still making time for friends, and other events at CMU.

At CMU you will grow as a Christian, a friend, and an intellectual. Looking back at my first year here, I am extremely grateful for the opportunities I’ve had at CMU, for new friends I’ve gained, and for my growing relationship with God.

Nicole Ternowesky is completing her first year at CMU.


CMU’s next open house is happening on March 27, 2018. Drop in and find out if CMU is the right place for you after high school!

How to manage your fridge…and university

University is all about management. You have to manage your classes, social time, and sleep. But if you choose to move away from your parents’ house and onto CMU’s campus, you need to manage life on your own as well, which includes feeding yourself. If you are in dorms and on the meal plan at CMU, that will basically be taken care of for you. But if you choose to live in an apartment on campus, you will need to learn how to manage a refrigerator.

vintage fridge

It’s trickier than you think. Fridges don’t automatically stock themselves with your favourite meals, and it’s very easy to lose food in the far reaches of your fridge. Just ask some of the students who live in CMU’s Katherine Friesen Apartments.

Two roommates in a CMU apartment spoke to the difficulty of not only losing track of food in your fridge, but losing track of whether the food is yours or your roommate’s.

“Last week I asked my roommate what he was doing with the rice and meat dish that had been in our fridge since I moved in back in September,” noted one CMU student. “He responded by telling me that he thought it was mine. To this day we don’t know whose dinner it was in our fridge for almost six months.”

That’s not an isolated case. One student has managed to house a jar of sweet and sour sauce in their fridge from the start of the year, and another set of roommates noted that they forgot a bag of chilli in the back of their fridge for several weeks. Upon discovering that it had turned fuzzy, they decided to keep it as a science experiment.

Not all fridges contain months-old forgotten food though. One student noted that a pack of organic flax meal was the strangest thing they could find in their fridge, which is quite impressive.

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But fridges don’t just contain bizarre items; they also carry items of food that you just can’t get enough of. For current CMU students, it seems as though dairy products (or at least dairy-inspired products) were at the top of the list to have in their fridges at all times.

For one student, a big jug of chocolate milk is the most important thing to have on hand at all times. Whether for breakfast, or after a sports practice, it was essential to have. Another student couldn’t live without a container of yogurt in the fridge. Yet another student remarked that, “Life is good with a block of cheese.” Even a lactose intolerant student said a block of lactose-free marble cheese is an integral food for her to have around.

All of this is to say that university is a time of learning. You’ll no doubt learn how to organize your classes and notes, and possibly how to organize a fridge too. But you’ll also learn what things are important to you…both with respect to what’s important to have in your fridge, and what’s important to have in your life in general.

CMU’s next Campus Visit Day is this Friday, March 9. Spend the day with us, and find out if CMU is the right place for you.

A change of universities and a change of heart

This past year I made the transition from playing USport soccer to playing at the MCAC level here at CMU. After my third season of varsity soccer I realized that soccer had become my whole life, and that it was changing me into a person that I didn’t like. I found myself compromising on values I believed in and had grown up following.

Camille Plett

My faith had always been a huge part of my life, and in the past couple years, I have really grown in that aspect. By being connected with Athletes in Action, serving on tours (sports based ministry trips), and participating in Bible studies, I was able to really see what matters in life, and how to balance my faith and sport.

After I was able to humble myself enough to make this realization, I knew something had to change, so I left my team. I had no idea what I wanted to do, but I knew I had to grow close with God again and go wherever He wanted me. Letting go of what I had always imagined for my life was tough, but God showed me clearly where I should be. And that was CMU.

Camille Plett

Originally I had thought I wouldn’t play soccer for a school again, but God granted me the freedom play again when I joined a CMU practise about a year ago. The coaches invited me to train and immediately I felt welcomed. I had so much fun playing without the pressures I had put on myself previously, and the team’s positive attitudes were encouraging.

After playing my first outdoor soccer season with the team, the team environment really stood out to me. The girls come to practise ready to train, work hard, learn, and have fun. They wanted to be there, and to me that was refreshing.

The support from other students who come watch is also incredible. During Futsal season, I love that we have such a home field advantage. Full stands of loud fans is definitely motivating during games. The community of the sports teams and students supporting each other was something I looked forward to since committing to coming to CMU.

Camille Plett

I strive for success on the soccer field or futsal court, but I also have academic goals. Being an academic All-Canadian is important to me, along with taking the most that I can out of my courses, and applying what I learn to my life. CMU has allowed me to continue working towards my goal of graduating with a Bachelors of Physical Education, by letting me complete my minor of history. The smaller class size makes this goal so much more attainable. I have had many experiences interacting with my professors that would never happen elsewhere, and I am so thankful for the support and love they have shown me.

All my past life experiences and soccer experiences lead me here. I have a moment of peace every day as I walk the halls of CMU, knowing this is where I need to be. This is testament to God and how He has worked in my life to prepare me to come to CMU. 

Realizing I needed change in my life, and then giving up the dreams I had growing up was humbling for me, but it has been worthwhile to pursue my current dream of being the best team mate, friend, and follower of God that I can be.

Camille Plett is a fourth year student studying Physical Education and History, and is from Winnipeg, Manitoba.

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