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CMU Students Help in Minot, North Dakota

March 27, 2013 – In June, 2011, the Souris River—which divides the city of Minot, North Dakota in half—experienced record flooding. More than four thousand homes were destroyed in a disaster that displaced 12,000 people. On Saturday, February 17, eight Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) students as well as two staff, Sandra Loeppky and Rick Unger, left for North Dakota. Instead of relaxing, catching up on classes, or spending time with their families, the volunteers were willing to spend their reading break working in the community.

Clockwise, from bottom left: Sean Göerzen, Desiree Penner, Glen Torrie (from Orillia, ON), and Sandra Loeppky
Clockwise, from bottom left: Sean Göerzen, Desiree Penner, Glen Torrie (from Orillia, ON), and Sandra Loeppky

The students are being sent to Minot to help with the large-scale, multi-year MDS response to the flood, which is currently in its second year. CMU students were also sent out last year, and it is clear that their efforts made a difference. “In an interesting twist, we slept in the church that we helped build last year, on beds and bunks that we helped move,” says Sandra Loeppky, Coordinator of Commuter, Disability, and International Programs who helped plan both trips.

This year marked the first time in a while that Witness Through Service, a CMU Student Council Committee, was involved with the planning. Both of the leaders of the group, Christie Bueckert and Arlana Muller, joined the team in Minot this year. The committee helped with the organizing as well as the promotion of the trip. Bueckert says that she really enjoyed the experience because of the people she met in the community as well as the change of pace from the more mental work of school.

Students this year were involved in the construction of multiple homes, and worked in various roles, from painting to insulating to helping finish up drywall. At the end of the week, they were involved in a house dedication at the end of the week, giving the house they helped build to a couple, their daughter, and the daughters’ three children who lived with them. “Our students were asked to lead the singing for the dedication,” Loeppky says, calling the experience very touching.

Desiree Penner is a first year student at CMU. Recounting her experience, she said that “the hands on time spent repairing the homes affected by the flood was very worthwhile, but on top of that, I made amazing new life-long friends.” She was working on the team that helped repair the basement in a home. Desiree emphasized that she would love to go on the trip again next year. “It was definitely an experience that everyone should put on their bucket list!”

General News

CMU Student Volunteers Work with MDS in Tennessee

MDS Service Trip Reminds Students They Can’t Take Life for Granted

As recent events in Japan have shown, for many in our world, natural disasters can shake our lives to the core. Such was the experience in May 2010 for the people in Lyles, TN, when their town was decimated by flooding and three tornadoes. The events of that day killed dozens of people and damaged or destroyed thousands of homes.

During CMU Reading Week 2011, nine CMU students under the leadership of CMU staff member, Rick Unger, put homework and rest behind them to participate instead in a Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) trip to Lyles. CMU student volunteers in Tennessee were David Attema, Raya Cornelsen, Raquel Epp, Karen Jantzen, Christina Janzen, Esther Klassen, Brittany Kroeker, Brad Muller, and Nia Rogers.

“The purpose of the trip,” said Sandra Loeppky, CMU Coordinator of Commuter, Disability and International Programs, “was to expose students to MDS as a volunteering option, to serve where there is a need, and to network and meet people from all over Canada and the United States.”

MDS Volunteer Nia Rogers

Their time spent dry-walling, siding, and insulating honed their construction skills and their sense of service, and allowed them to get to know people from the area.  But it was a rewarding experience for many more reasons.

According to Nia Rogers, the MDS trip taught her that “life is fragile; you can’t take anything for granted.  You never know when things can get ripped out from under you,” she said.

For Brad Muller, intergenerational communication was a benefit of the MDS trip. “There were predominantly retired people working there.  We learned that young people don’t always have to stay with young people. That was a huge realization,” he said.

Finally, for Unger, who had participated in last year’s reading week MDS service trip to Dulzura, CA, going to Tennessee was important as a way “to get out there and see the world outside of CMU, the greater community.”

He also enjoyed getting to know the students whom he sees on a regular basis but doesn’t generally get the chance to spend time with. Unger was thrilled that the student participants gave up their reading week break in order to pay money and work hard all week long as MDS volunteers.

Loeppky agrees and believes that “unique things happen when you travel and serve with a group of people.”

All students asked would undoubtedly go on another MDS service trip.


Front, l-r: Rick Unger, Nia Rogers, Karen Jantzen, Brittany Kroeker, Esther Klassen. Back l-r: Raya Cornelsen, Brad Muller, David Attema, Christina Janzen, Raquel Epp

Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) is a Christian university in the Anabaptist tradition, offering undergraduate degrees in arts and science, with courses and programs in such disciplines as disaster recovery studies, business and organizational administration, communications and media, peace and conflict resolution studies, music and music therapy, theology, and church ministries. CMU offers graduate degrees in Theological Studies and Christian ministry. CMU is a Member of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC).

For further information, contact:
Nadine Kampen
Communications and Marketing Director
Tel. 204.487.3300   Toll free 877.231.4570
Canadian Mennonite University, 500 Shaftesbury Blvd.
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada R3P 2N2