Sunday, October 07, 2007

Weekly Report, Oct. 7

Most Mennonites coming to visit the Molotschna area use the services of the Mennonite Heritage Cruise. They get the opportunity to sail on the Dnieper River and visit the specific villages of their ancestors. For many it has been an opportunity to see the roads, fields, rivers, schools, and homes of their parents/grandparents. It brought reality to the many stories they heard in the kitchens and living rooms.

This year participants on the cruise were given the opportunity to not only go to their villages but to see the programmes supported by the Mennonite Centre Molochansk (MCM). Three buses full of North Americans came to the villages of Lichtenau (Svyetlodolinskoye), Schoenau (Dolina), Ohrloff (Orlova), Halbstadt (Molochansk), Prieschib (a neighbouring Lutheran village), Petershagen (Kutuzovka), and Rueckenau (Balkovo). But they didn’t just drive through the villages and see the remaining Mennonite houses. Students in Svyetlodolinskoye and Dolina put on school concerts, children in the Sanitorium school in Molochansk demonstrated their crafts, and the orphanage in Prieschib took many by the hand and showed them their crafts rooms, gymnasium, and put on a concert. Gymnasts who receive some travel funds from MCM put on a wonderful display of acrobatics in the sports school (formerly the Credit Union building), and the Rhapsody Choir, an award-winning choir from the Orthodox Church sang spiritual, folk and Christmas songs in the “Zentralschule.” In fact, not since the increase in the savings account funds in the Halbstadt Credit Union at the beginning of the last century, did you see so many cartwheels and flips! At the end of the day Pastor Jakob Thiessen explained the programmes at the Kutuzovka Mennonite Church,. We also had two farmers proudly displayed the equipment they purchased with loans from MCM. One group even had the benefit of having the wife of the farmer demonstrate her accordion skills! It couldn’t get any better.

This was far more than visiting the past—this was a tour which also showed the future. And the children and adults of these former Mennonite villages were proud to lead us into the future. The future is much brighter in these villages since Mennonites have shown an interest to come back.

This was our 1st experience at trying to coordinate and shepherd a tour. We had the benefit of the good services of Intourist to provide translation services. We also gained a fresh appreciation of their skill in trying to deal with enthusiastic North Americans who want to talk to every child, visit every class and take lots of pictures. And who can blame them, for the kids were in performance mode, sometimes decked out in costume. At times we realized that when the interests of the kids and the enthusiasm tourists intersected, we were no match, and had to go with the flow.

Ben and Linda

PS The North Americans have gone downstream and Linda soared out of here this afternoon. It’s a bit quieter now but maybe this week I will slip out to one of the orphanages, give them a thank you letter, and let the kids re-charge me. Ben


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