Whenever I go back home to the T-dot (Toronto), it’s always a surreal experience. I notice how I’ve changed in many ways. For one thing, I no longer say T-dot (although I don’t think anyone else does either). Maybe I’ve changed because I moved, but maybe it's because I've grown up. Either way, I feel like I’m now immersed in a totally different culture in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Nowhere is this change more evident to me than in my language. I think if anyone were to spend a day in a high school in Winnipeg and then in one in Scarborough, they would notice a huge difference. Things aren’t “cool,” the are "lit." You’re not my “bud,” you’re my “fam.” We don’t ask “What are you up to?” but “What you sayin’?” It’s not that one is better than the other, but they represent different cultures.
So what’s with the title of this blog? The name “Mennonite” is one that very few of my friends in Toronto would understand, perhaps having heard the word but not really knowing what it means. “Been doin’ that since time” is a phrase that many of my Winnipeg friends would raise their eyebrows at. It’s not grammatically correct, but most people could probably guess what it means. Yes, Mennonites have been doing that for a long time.
In the last few years, as I’ve become more and more immersed in the Mennonite church, I've noticed that many things mainstream culture has adopted, and now loves, Mennonites have been doing for a long time. New fads emerge and people get so enamoured with how cool, “sick,” or “lit” it is, and Mennonites shake their heads and say “We’ve been doing that forever!”
So, in an attempt to bring my two world a little closer, here are my top three things Mennonites have been doin’ since time.
Mennonite Couch Surfing
Remember when Airbnb and other couch surfing platforms first came out? Remember what a great idea it was to, instead of spending a fortune at a hotel, stay with someone in their home? It’s cheaper, you get to meet nice people, and sometimes you even get to have a meal together. Well, Mennonites been doin’ that since time!
Opening their homes to people has been a long standing practice, but in 1976, a Mennonite couple began Mennonite Your Way. Leon and Nancy Stauffer started a directory that would collect information from people all over the world who would be open to having people stay in their home. After 31 years, it’s still going strong; not as a way to make money, but as a way for people to practice and receive hospitality. Jess and I have stayed with many families so far and have loved the people we’ve met.
How do you join or find a place to stay? Well, after 31 years, this directory is only put out in paper copy! So you actually need to buy the book.
What do you think of when you hear the word “hipster?” Maybe it’s not all that positive. Maybe you think about the fashion and the facial hair. Well, more than that, I think of a millennial movement that is asking questions about what they wear, what they eat, where they live, and how they shop. They are thrifty, even to the point of dumpster diving. Well, Mennonites been doin’ that since time!
Well, okay, maybe not the dumpster diving, but Mennonites are known for living simply. As Mennonites have moved from place to place, they have often had to flee from people who wanted to hurt them. They lost everything they owned and had to start life new again. They learned to survive in poverty and were thankful for the places into which they were welcomed. Today, Mennonites aren’t caught up in the consumeristic habits of popular culture. They are okay with spending less so that they can save more and give more to people in need. It’s learning to do more with less. Just check out More with Less, or the More with Less Cookbook. They even have their own thrift stores!
Relief and Aid
It’s difficult to watch as children die of hunger, countries are devastated by hurricanes, and innocent lives are lost in war. But the more we watch, I believe the faster we may realize that things won’t change without our involvement. It seems like the world is dependent on organizations and people to make a difference. Change doesn’t just happen. Mennonites (along with many others) been doin’ that since time.
Mennonites are known around the world for their aid and relief work. Although they aren’t large in number, they are global leaders in peace and conflict transformation (see Christian Peacemaker Teams). Mennonites were refugees when they came to North America, and their work of helping others has never stopped (see Mennonite Central Committee). They believe in practical rebuilding help after disasters (see Mennonite Disaster Service). They also believe in solving poverty through economic development (see Mennonite Economic Development Associates). Mennonites have set a high bar, and I’m constantly impressed.
Well, thanks for letting me toot the horn of my adopted people. Because I’m still new to the Mennonite church, I’m still in awe of our history and lifestyle. I haven’t become bored of it yet.
But we are not much different from other groups. I believe we all have something to offer and we all have something to learn from the other. While Mennonites have done a lot of really cool things, we have also learned from others and still have more to learn. So celebrate your people, your history and your culture. Share with the world around you and be brave enough to open your heart to the gifts that others bring you.