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MDS perhaps perfectly encapsulates the Mennonite spirit; practical and generous.

One widow who received a new house after losing everything in the Fort McMurray fires of 2016 expressed her gratitude, "I didn't know there were still people in the world like you... can I become a Mennonite?"

Ross Penner, Director of Canadian Operations says the story speaks to the heart of their mission, "who we are and how we serve is because of Christ."

And the Pembina Valley continues to be the strongest area of support in Canada for Mennonite Disaster Service.

"Manitoba is one of the strongest areas, especially the Pembina Valley," Penner says. "The volunteers that have come out and said "yes, we want to help" from Southern Manitoba are just tremendous."

mds rossRoss Penner, Director of Canadian Operations also thanked the Winkler community for hosting the event

Monetary donations also continue to pour in from the region, "we are so thankful to people who have enabled us in the mission of showing Christian love to those who have been deeply impacted by disaster."

Penner explains the support allows them to help disaster-stricken communities around the world.

More than 400 people gathered in Winkler this weekend for the Mennonite Disaster Service All Units Meeting.

Penner explains they were busy this year helping clients rebuild their homes after the Fort McMurray fires in 2016. The horrific wildfire burned through thousands of square kilometres in Alberta, sweeping through the community of Fort McMurray causing more than 88,000 residents to flee their homes. Other response areas included Ontario, Atlantic Canada, Saskatchewan, and B.C.

mds crowdMore than 400 MDS supporters gathered in Winkler this weekend

Volunteers also responded to the U.S to the swathe of Hurricanes in Texas and Puerto Rico.

In the coming year, MDS anticipate ramping up response to fires in the B.C interior, as well as the Gulf Coast and Puerto Rico. Penner explains it can take up to a year to begin operations after an initial disaster.

Penner says they looking for more volunteers willing to be the hands and feet of Christ to those in need.

"We take people of all skill levels, from those who know building to those with no experience," he says. "It's life-changing."

mds cindyAlong with updates on the latest MDS relief projects, participants also heard from guest speaker and six-time Olympic medalist Cindy Klassen. She says the Steve Bell song 'I will not be shaken' helped settle her nerves during high-pressure races, reminding her "God already knew the outcome."

Guest speaker and six-time Olympic medalist Cindy Klassen addressed those gathered on Saturday. She also grew up in a Mennonite church and spoke on using her gifts to honour God.

She described her heartbreaking journey through being cut from the Canadian women’s hockey team ahead of the 1998 Olympics.

"My question was, "why God?'"

However, she says experiencing a broken dream as a 17-year-old instilled a dependency and trust in God.

Skating up to 60 km/h Klassen would later find herself making history in the sport of speed skating, saying she felt God’s calling to the sport, "and I was going to follow with all my heart."

While she’s grateful to God for the accomplishments, she notes the gold medal has already begun to tarnish, reminding Klassen, "If Christ is my treasure then my focus will be on Him."

Even as her career wound down, she says her identity remains in Christ, encouraging those gathered with MDS, "what is done for God will last."

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