May 15, 2024

Hi Lisa,

Last week I had the privilege of attending an MDS (US) Board retreat in Pennsylvania. During one of our devotional times, attendees were asked to share a “life verse” with some explanation as to why the verse was significant to them. Our diversity was reflected in response. Some indicated they had never heard the phrase “life verse” before, and others were familiar with this reference to a verse or passage that guides one’s life journey. 


I have such a verse. It comes from The Message (a paraphrase version of the Bible) in Matthew 11:28-30. One line in The Message has guided me for a good few years now: “Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.” I shared that verse on a Friday morning.


On Sunday morning, I got a call from my sister Carol. We are planning the memorial service for our younger sister Kathryn, who after a long journey with muscular dystrophy, left her earthly home for her heavenly one. Carol informed me that the passage Kathryn requested for her memorial was from Matthew 11:28-30, and it was to be from The Message. I hadn’t known that this was also a favourite passage of hers.


On Sunday afternoon, Carol texted me. She had been in church that morning and was surprised that the sermon was… from The Message… and Matthew 11:28-30.


When I observe MDS volunteers, I observe a faith in action that is well described in this passage; rest, work, grace, keeping company with Jesus, living freely and lightly. I love this about our volunteers. My invitation is to continue to pursue a life of service that looks like this:


“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30, The Message)

Ross Penner

Executive Director

MDS Canada

Small town volunteer effort snowballs

Jessica Lawrence wasn’t sure how things would come together when she agreed to coordinate volunteers for a Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) Alberta Unit response.

While she entered the role with administrative experience, it was her first time volunteering with the organization.

“I’m really not one to spearhead and herd people and draw them in. That’s just not my personality,” said Lawrence.

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Reflections on saying goodbye

in Jennings, Louisiana

Closing down the longstanding MDS response in Jennings, Louisiana, wasn’t easy.

MDS Project Director Rollin Ulrich had the tough job—both logistically and emotionally—of moving MDS volunteers and equipment out of the Jennings Church of Christ, which had served as the base since October 2020.

Ulrich had closed a project before—but this one was different.

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MDS has volunteer opportunities for you!

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call 1-866-261-1274 with any questions or to schedule a week. 

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MDS Canada Office

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