Photo courtesy of Edith Alemán

Edith Alemán, who attends Iglesia de la Comunidad West Park, a Mennonite Brethren church in Fresno, California, sews bags for 50 school kits the church is bringing to the West Coast Mennonite Relief Sale in April. Iglesia de la Cumunidad West Park is one of several Hispanic churches who are participating in the 50th anniversary sale for the first time this year. 

More Hispanic churches will participate in this year’s West Coast Mennonite Relief Sale than ever before, bringing at least 50 school kits per church to mark the 50th anniversary of the sale that benefits the global work of MCC.

MCC sends the school kits, which contain notebooks, pencils, rulers, erasers and colored pencils to children around the world whose parents cannot afford school supplies.

Last year, less than five Hispanic churches participated, but already this year, without calling all the churches to confirm their plans, more Hispanic churches have committed to bring a minimum of 50 kits.

Edith Alemán, who attends Iglesia de la Comunidad West Parkshows the supplies people at the church donated to make 50 school kits.Photo courtesy of Edith Alemán

Iglesia de la Comunidad West Park, one of about 33 Mennonite Brethren Hispanic churches, is committed to giving 50 kits to the relief sale, which will take place at Fresno Pacific University on April 7 and 8.

Christóbal Alemán is the pastor of Iglesia de la Comunidad West Park, Fresno, California. He explained through a translator that his church hadn’t really engaged with MCC prior to this.

“We had known about the work of MCC and had learned about what it was doing in the world, but it’s different knowing more about it and becoming participants. I think it’s really important for us to be participating in the world in this way.”

In fact, he thinks it’s a calling.

“It’s carrying out the mission the Lord has for us, to give something that we have to people who are in need,” Pastor Alemán said.

Iglesia de la Comunidad West Park and its church plant in Raisin City, California, are each bringing 50 kits to the relief sale.

During the Pacific District Conference Hispanic Convention in the summer of 2016, churches were introduced to how a simple school kit can be transformative for its recipients, said Dina Gonzalez-Piña, who recently became MCC U.S.’ ethnicity and gender equity specialist. Some of the churches had little knowledge of MCC before the convention, she said

“My church, Iglesia La Gran Comision (Hanford, California), has been doing the burrito booth for the last 15 years. My church is aware of the value of the MCC sale and where the resources go, but there’s very little exposure in the other Hispanic churches,” Gonzalez-Piña said. “It’s because they’re in communities where there isn’t a thrift shop, there isn’t an MCC office and their churches don’t make quilts. That’s not part of the culture of the history of that church.”

Kit making is a simple, tangible way the Hispanic churches can get involved, Gonzalez-Piña said.

“They are a gift to MCC and to the global community. It comes from a community that’s not economically wealthy, but one that gives out of their desire to help others. We hope this will start a movement, a commitment and a deeper relationship.”

Nate Yoder, West Coast MCC’s executive director, says this renewed relationship is important because the people who make up MCC’s constituency are more than just Mennonites from European descent.

“These churches are a part of our constituency, and making kits is a significant way they can contribute. The default is we engage with our historic Anglo-Mennonite constituency and the minority groups aren’t as proactively engaged, so this was a fresh way to say, ‘You’re part of MCC. We want to partner together.’ I think it’s very important.”

Pastor Alemán hopes this experience will inspire more Hispanic churches in the area to get involved with MCC.

To learn more about the West Coast MCC Relief Sale, visit westcoastmccsale.org.