When Leonard Dow thinks about the sweep of MCC’s history, he sees the Good Samaritan, out treading the forgotten Jericho roads of the world and sharing God’s love and compassion there.The power of the Good Samaritan, stresses Dow, is that he makes a conscious decision to gaze with Christlike eyes on the need he encounters, to respond with compassion.
Photo courtesy of Mennonite Church USA
“What I’ve appreciated about MCC is the willingness to see those Jericho roads and then to see those who are most harmed,” says Dow, a former MCC staff member and longtime supporter, board leader and pastor who now serves as stewardship and development specialist with Everence Financial.
That’s been the case, Dow notes, from southern Russia (present-day Ukraine) in the 1920s; to Central America in the 1980s; to isolated locations like the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea); to the streets of cities like Philadelphia.
Dow is a member of the steering committee for MCC’s New Hope in the Name of Christ centennial campaign. As prayer coordinator for the campaign, he is working, he says, to “bathe” MCC, its mission, supporters and current and future efforts in prayer throughout 2020 and encouraging others to pray as well.
We all want to be part of something greater than ourselves. That’s what MCC is doing.”
- Leonard Dow
Born and raised on what he describes as the Jericho road of North Philadelphia, that commitment to reaching out to marginalized communities drew him to MCC — not in the sense of giving back, he stresses, but as a way of following the biblical call to come alongside those who are vulnerable.
As a student at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, he’d heard about MCC’s work in the midst of Central American conflicts and suffering.
Working as a banker at Univest in Souderton, Pennsylvania, he began to hear how MCC was formed — and how churches were willing to act on needs they learned about across the globe, gathering money, clothing and workers to send to southern Russia.
In those years, his commitment to faith was taking him on a mission of his own — out of the banking world and into more time, commitment and leadership with his congregation, Oxford Circle Mennonite Church in northeast Philadelphia.
By the late 1990s, he was a half-time pastor at Oxford Circle and began serving as a half-time program coordinator for MCC as it sought new ways to minister in Philadelphia.
MCC wanted a full-time coordinator, Dow recalls, but was willing to hire him half-time, a sign to Dow that MCC was serious about investing in local voices.
MCC photo/Tony Siemens
Coming from a banking world where resources were plentiful, he moved into the world of the church and MCC, seeing daily where resources were sorely needed and the good they could do.
A Summer Service worker provided through MCC made it possible for Oxford Circle to offer summer children’s programs, a new service in a neighborhood that had asked for help.
And, as a pastor, he saw that young people were struck by the tangible efforts the church and MCC were making to improve lives in the community; they would tell him they could hear the Bible message because they saw it lived out Monday through Saturday.
At some point those dollars started a movement that has lasted and thrived 100 years later. I’m part of that.”
- Leonard Dow
“We all want to be part of something greater than ourselves,” he says. “That’s what MCC is doing.”
He began to donate to MCC then. With two half-time jobs and a young family, the amount he was able to give wasn’t huge, but regular giving to MCC was a commitment he maintained through the years.
No matter the dollar amount, Dow stresses, every bit counts. Gifts multiply. It’s a principle he knows as a banker, compounding interest — and as a pastor, the five loaves and two fish.
His gifts combine with all the others given to MCC, making a bigger dent in meeting needs, a deeper impact in bringing opportunity. “That’s exciting to be able to know you’re participating in that,” Dow says.
Today, as a stewardship and development specialist for Everence Financial, Dow works to build better banking opportunities for marginalized communities beginning in Philadelphia.
But giving to MCC remains important to him — one way that he can take action on some Jericho roads far from home, making a difference in places or contexts across the globe.
“I am participating in kingdom work when I’m not able to be there,” Dow says.
By the beginning of April, that felt especially relevant as needs related to COVID-19 grew in Philadelphia and around the world. He’s able to continue working from home and has health insurance. “That’s not the case for the majority of the world for sure, and that’s not the case for many in the U.S.”
And in under-resourced communities, in a time of crisis, “difficult situations become even more precarious.”
That underscores the importance of MCC’s long-term commitments — both in providing clean water and other necessities and in forging long-term partnerships that help people sustain themselves and their families.
The needs today are overwhelming, he says. But he urges people to look back to 1920 when MCC was founded. The needs of those starving in southern Russia far overshadowed the size and resources of Anabaptist communities in the U.S. and Canada.
The situation, he says, “would have been as overwhelming as some of the modern-day challenges where we say, ‘What can our dollars do? What can our prayers do?’”
But they persevered — giving what they could — and that’s what he hopes will happen today, even in the face of growing challenges.
“Whatever I can do is more than not doing anything. If I participate at the level I can, I’m part of this movement,” Dow says.
He looks back at those early supporters and notes they didn’t give because they felt guilt about the state of world or about how many resources they had. They prayed, seeking to discern what God was asking of them, then took joy in sharing what dollars what they could.
“At some point those dollars started a movement that has lasted and thrived 100 years later. I’m part of that.”
An invitation to share New Hope for generations to come
You can invest in the work of MCC now and for generations to come by giving to the New Hope in the Name of Christ centennial fundraising campaign. And we invite you to watch Dow’s invitation to share New Hope and his reflection on Psalm 102 below, a psalm where the writer even in the midst of a lament for his community and himself calls us to persevere now and prepare for generations yet to come.