'Christian love' fuels Mennonites to rebuild houses for free

Published: Friday, Sept. 6 2013 1:54 p.m. MDT

Mennonite Disaster Service coordinates volunteer efforts to rebuild homes.

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An article in Friday’s New York Times, “Months After Storm, Mennonites Stay and Rebuild,” highlights the countless hours of volunteer service a certain subset of Pennsylvania Christians is humbly rendering on behalf of New York families who lost their homes to Hurricane Sandy.

“Since (Hurricane Sandy), over 1,300 Mennonites have come into the city,” Edna Ishayik reported for the Times. “Volunteers from the conservative sect of Protestant Christianity that includes the Amish, known for their skillful carpentry (as well as their beards and bonnets), have already returned dozens of low-income, hurricane-struck families to their homes. They have another 80 projects in various stages of rehabilitation.”

The extensive volunteerism is coordinated by Mennonite Disaster Service, a group that describes itself on its website as a “volunteer network of Anabaptist churches that responds in Christian love to those affected by disasters in Canada and the United States. While the main focus is on cleanup, repair and rebuilding homes, this service touches lives and nurtures hope, faith and wholeness.”

Last month the New Jersey Star-Ledger reported the American Red Cross had awarded Mennonite Disaster Service an $800,000 grant to be used toward rebuilding homes in New York and Maryland.

Even though the Mennonites are based in Pennsylvania and do much of their service in the Northeast, they occasionally travel considerable distances to rebuild houses. On Wednesday the University of Texas at Austin’s Daily Texan newspaper reported about Mennonite Disaster Service’s continued involvement in rebuilding houses at a cost of $45,000 to $50,000 per unit in central Texas locales where the Bastrop wildfires of 2011 destroyed more than 1,500 homes.

“Assisting with the recovery program is the Mennonite Disaster Service, an organization that sends volunteers from the northern states and Canada to build homes at no cost to the families or the (local) organization,” Reanna Zuniga wrote for The Daily Texan. “These volunteers make it possible for houses to be built at such a low cost because they do not accept payment for their work.”

Email: jaskar@desnews.com

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