MDS: Investing gifts and talents to share the love of Christ

Karla Friesen lives in Washington, Iowa, as a stay at home mom and community volunteer. She enjoys baking, hospitality, walking, traveling and spending time with her family. Karla represents Mennonite Church USA on the Mennonite Disaster Service Delegate Board.

Mennonite Disaster Service is a living example of people using the God-given gifts with which they have been entrusted.

The mission of Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) is to respond in Christian love to those affected by disasters in Canada and the United States. While the main focus is on clean up, repair and rebuilding homes, this service touches lives and nurtures hope, faith and wholeness.

I am the MC USA representative from the church on the MDS delegate board. Many volunteers from MC USA churches serve on project sites with MDS. The yearly MDS bi-national meeting was held in Winkler, Manitoba, Feb. 9-10. This event is a time for board members, staff, units and constituents of the Anabaptist churches to gather for board meetings, to worship, renew friendships, enjoy delicious food, listen to stories of MDS at work and be encouraged by the purpose of serving others.

As a delegate board member I have found the bi-national meeting to be spiritually energizing and refreshing for three reasons:

  • It is a time to see people gather from all backgrounds of the Anabaptist faith.
  • The stories about MDS clients are a reminder why MDS serves. These stories bring hope amidst such dark and evil news today.
  • Client lives are enriched, but so are the lives of those who volunteer and work with MDS.

The theme verses for the MDS All Unit Meeting was Mathew 25:14-29, the parable of the three servants, and how each servant chose to use the talents given them. As I sit back and listen, fellowship and meet new people, I am thankful for the gifts God has brought together in this organization.

To me MDS represents what we as a church have been called to — using our gifts for God’s glory and recognizing the daily need to depend on God to provide for our needs as we serve others.

I have always been amazed to see the Holy Spirit providing the right people at the right time and hearing people’s stories about why they have chosen to serve with MDS.

Here is just a sampling of the skills and people God has brought together.

Steve and Kathy Wiest serve as the California Unit co-vice chairs. Kathy also serves on the bi-national board. She and Steve operate a remodeling company. Kathy does the bookkeeping, runs human resources and marketing while Steve works with the sales, estimating and overseeing the construction crews. They use their business and construction experience to serve with MDS on boards and committees.

Steve Campbell is a general handyman with a willing heart and hands from Pennsylvania. He has helped on the construction site, helping transport Amish and moving vehicles to projects.

Then there is Jordan Miller whom I met in Apache, Oklahoma on an MDS project site in 2000 as a long-term volunteer. Today he serves as the Kansas Unit chair, taking time from his schedule as a commercial builder to work on a home their unit helped build.

Donelda Friesen, a nurse from Winnipeg, Manitoba, has worked at an MDS construction site cooking and doing construction. She will be taking the leadership and office manager training this year.

These are just some of the faithful servants responding to use their gifts.

MDS in return is providing opportunity for people to gather and invest their gifts, whether they be trades, hobbies or skills developed, to share the love of Christ. It takes all of us — skilled, unskilled, staff, board members, delegates, donors — to be able to respond to this great need.

We want to respond wisely as we ask God to continue to guide MDS.

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant!  You have been faithful with a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”  (Mathew 25:21).

As MDS responds to God’s work, the Holy Spirit leads. Are you willing to choose to take a week, a month or two and see how God can use your talents for the kingdom together with MDS?