Category: faith life (Page 2 of 4)

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.

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!

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.

More Than We Can Ask or Imagine: A Poetic Reflection

Amelia Pahl - More Than We Can Ask or Imagine: A Poetic Reflection

I see that moment of grace when the sun breaks through a murky sky.
I see the little spark of hope that flairs when someone asks just the right question – and then cares to listen.
I see a new sort of possibility appear amidst the mundanity of daily life. 
I see a dreamer who counts the stars and still only fathoms a drop of water in the ocean of the universe.

“More than we can ask or imagine” evokes a sense of absolute grace, a hope that, whatever our shortcomings,
whatever our mistakes,
whatever our inconsistencies
we’re part of a vast, bold, extravagant universe that is endlessly giving birth to itself.

I don’t know about you, but that’s a wee bit more than I can imagine on a typical day.

I’ve been writing poetry since I was at least seven, and words have come intuitively to me for as long as I can remember. I don’t really write poems, and I hardly ever think them – it’s more like I suddenly find myself bleeding words onto a page and all I have to do is get my self out of the way. For me, poetry is an act of grace, a moment when emotion, intuition, and words come to a head and explode into written form.

Often, in these moments, I feel an enormous sense of relief when I can find just the right words in just the right place on the page to express what normally can’t be expressed in words. It’s a moment of birth after what is usually weeks of growing and churning inside of me; suddenly I am given words for my experience of life – and it’s miraculous.

I like poetry because it doesn’t have to make sense. It allows us to give up our need to understand – if only for a little while – and instead to sit with life exactly as it is. And I’ve found that, in the sitting, life actually starts to make a little more sense. This is grace. This is more than we can ask or imagine. 

Poetry doesn’t have to make sense, and that’s why it can glimpse an unimaginable God.

Here is a poem.

The poet Adi al-Riga, as quoted by Rumi:

“I was sleeping, and being comforted
by a cool breeze, when suddenly a gray dove
from a thicket sang and sobbed with longing,
and reminded me of my own passion.

I had been away from my own soul so long,
so late-sleeping, but that dove’s crying
woke me and made me cry. Praise
to all early-waking grievers!”

Here ends the poem, but the grieving still runs thick in my veins,
I am up to my eyes in unknowing, swimming in the sluggish questions of my waking life,
Wondering where my awkward dance fits in with the graceful grace-filled folly of my world,
            your world, our worlds colliding and
            never quite knowing what to do about the wondering.
Each day I step out in trust
            – or maybe it’s stupidity, I can’t remember which –
And I hold on for dear life, never really sure
            who knows, who cares, who loves, who dares to question with me
            this spinning, half-sleeping place we call home,
            or life, I can’t remember which.
I am alone and never alone
I am known and unknown
I am strange and I am familiar
I am water I am air I am breathing universe I am ancient sleeping tree
I am the early-waking griever.

I died
Once or twice while writing this,
But death is dawn in Rumi’s books, and I tend to agree, though
            not in so many words.

I don’t know anything; I know that much.

Amelia Pahl is in her second year at CMU. 

Ordinary Angels: A reflection for Advent

“Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to all on whom Gods favor rests.” —Luke 2:13-14

Angels.

My life is far too commonplace, routine, normal, conventional, standard, typical, and well, ordinary, for an angel.

Anna Epp - Ordinary Angels: A reflection for Advent

I grew up being an angel in Christmas pageants at church, dressed in white with tinsel on my sleeves, moving as though I had wings. I never thought of angels any other way. And I knew for certain that one of these extraordinary angels had never appeared to me bringing good news of great joy.

As I grew up, angels became different, hard to think about, and maybe even hard to believe in. It’s not that I didn’t want to believe in them, but they became what was unknowable for me, but not for God.

My expectations of angels have changed since the days of tinsel trimmed sleeves, and running as fast as you can in the hopes that your feet may lift off of the snow-covered ground and fly.

Theologian Rowan Williams reminds us that angels are more than what fits into our annual church Christmas pageants; that “it is worth thinking about angels as a short hand description of everything that is around the corner in our perception, the things that are not a part of our understanding of the universe – including the universal song of praise that surrounds us always”.

Anna Epp - Ordinary Angels: A reflection for Advent

An angel may never appear to me as to the shepherds who watched their flock by night. Instead I wonder if angels are there in between my comings and goings, complemented by the universal song of praise of God’s presence that surrounds me always.

Angels are but ordinary friends who, around each corner of our perception accompany us along the journey, and whom we have the pleasure of never knowing.

“For nothing is impossible with God” the angel said.

May this season of advent heighten our awareness to all that is just around the corner in our perception.

May we be open to the possibilities of angels in our lives, and the way that God works in the ordinary.

May the unexpected nature of God continue to surprise us in this time of waiting.

Amen.

Anna Epp is in her third year of a BTS degree.

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