Saturday, October 15, 2016

Blog # 2 - A Day to be Thankful

Last weekend Canadians celebrated Thanksgiving Day and this Sunday, some churches in Ukraine will celebrate Harvest Day.  And in the middle of this week, we had a day to remember the 15th anniversary of the opening of the Mennonite Centre here in Molochansk.  It was our own version of Thanksgiving.  
The Sudermans, Ira, and Ben Stobbe
Alvin and Mary Suderman received a challenge from the Ambassador of Canada to the Ukraine to have an event celebrating the return of Mennonite organizations to Ukraine after independence.  Our head cook Ira, and her staff made a delicious calories-beyond-counting lunch for the 90 plus guests.  The guests included the Ambassador Roman Waschuk, his assistant Anne Mattson Gauss, Senate leader Peter Harder, who represented the government of Canada, and Senator Don Plett.  Ukrainian officials included the mayor of Molochansk and church leaders from the various church groups of Molochansk. After lunch, several Mennonite organizations gave reports.  All of us who were seated on the wooden benches prayed for brevity in light of the cold gusty winds.  During a break, we went inside and had Ira's famous blini (crepes with cottage cheese filling, and a delicious sauce.). The Faith and Life choir from southern Manitoba sang several selections between the reports.  They were very well received.  This day gave a great opportunity for all Mennonite organizations to meet with the Ambassador and other dignitaries.

Mennonite Centre as a cake
At 6:00 pm, we moved to the Centralschule for a Ukraine evening of celebration.  Here we had a program that included a traditional Ukrainian welcome with bread and salt followed by dancing, a welcome from the mayor, adults singing, including Rhapsody, and the Faith and Life choir. The Ambassador addressed the crowd of over 500 in Ukrainian.  Walter Unger closed the evening with acknowledgements of key Ukrainians who helped Mennonites in returning to Ukraine.

After all the talking and singing, children and adults alike were hungry for the cake portraying the Mennonite Centre. They quickly ate up the green grounds and were soon laying siege to the building.  Attendees also received a gift package of goodies and a 2017 calendar with a picture of the Mennonite Centre, hand drawn by Gallina Pensarova, a Ukrainian artist who paints scenes depicting German colonists.

The finale of the evening was a fire show put on by two daring, non-insurable young people.  They had fire dancing around them, over them, and under them.  The audience was filled with oohs and ahs, and people went home happy.

Mementos of a wonderful evening

Last Monday, October 17, our Ukrainian friends gave us a big surprise.  We had been deceived into believing that Ira was planning a small dinner for the Sudermans and us.  When we arrived, we noticed several other friends that seemed to be anxiously awaiting our arrival for our entry into the centre.  Only after stepping into the lobby did we realize that this was an after-wedding party for us.  Ukrainians often look for any excuse to have a party, and our wedding in June was an event that they were happy to celebrate in October.  And celebrate they did.  Some kindergarten children, formally dressed in wedding attire, danced a type of classical waltz. Another more informal dance was provided by a local pair who had amazing energy.  Fortunately we were not required to join them.  After these introductory events, we had a great supper with about 30 close friends.  The after dinner party included a poem, wishes for a good life, solos and other songs by the Rhapsody singers.  Ben has come here for 15 years and this was Lil's first time here.  However, for both of us it was an evening of heartfelt joy and love.  This is a community that has given us far more than we have ever provided.

To contribute to the work of the Mennonite Centre in Ukraine, you can make your donation to "Friends of the Mennonite Centre in Ukraine". All cheques should be mailed to George Dyck, Treasurer, 3675 North Service Road, Beamsville, ON  L0R 1B1.

If you wish to donate online, go to the website, key in "Mennonite Centre Ukraine", and click on the search button.  Then click on "View Profile" and then "Donate Now".

We thank you,
Ben and Lil Stobbe


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