Hispanic MB churches participate for first time
By Rachel Bergen for MCC
Thousands of people gathered on the Fresno Pacific University campus in Fresno, California, April 7-8, 2017, to mark the 50th anniversary of the West Coast Mennonite Relief Sale and Auction.
People have been working together to organize 50 sales and auctions since 1967 when the first one took place in a fruit-packing shed between Reedley and Dinuba, with attendees parking in the nearby orchards, says Bill Braun, 50th Anniversary Sale committee chair. It moved to Fresno Pacific College (now University) in 1981.
“The focus has always been supporting the work of MCC and international relief,” Braun says. “This is a place where family gathers, where you go to see friends you haven’t seen in a while. It’s a festive atmosphere. People have other reasons to be there, certainly, but underneath all that is the good work of MCC.” Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) is an inter-Mennonite agency that provides peace, relief and development in the name of Christ.
This year, a special 50th anniversary quilt was auctioned off for a record-setting $7,500, helping to raise the overall total of the sale to about $215,000.
The 50 stars on the quilt are all unique. Each person who made a star used some sparkly gold and dark cream fabric that was provided and combined it with her own fabric of different colors and prints to make a star. One person made several stars using fabric from Africa and Indonesia as well as stars with Native American and Latin American motifs.
“That quilt brought in the most money of any quilt at the sale by far,” Braun says.
Nine Hispanic Mennonite Brethren churches from as far as Los Angeles—some of whom had never heard of MCC before—volunteered at the sale or offered to make 50 school and infant care kits to mark the occasion. Together the churches made nearly 500 kits.
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.”
“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 added.
Iglesia de la Comunidad West Park and its church plant in Raisin City, California, each brought 50 kits to the relief sale. Church members who attended the sale said they want to volunteer in the coming years, according to Dina Gonzalez-Piña, who recently became MCC U.S.’ ethnicity and gender equity specialist and coordinated the kit making.
One of the things attendees can always expect from the relief sale is good food.
Aside from the traditional Russian-Mennonite food, tacos and burritos usually found at the Fresno sale, this year Salvadoran food was on the menu. More than 50 church members from Comunidad Cristiana City Terrace Hermanos Menonitas in Los Angeles drove four hours to sell pupusas—fried, flattened dough filled with savory meat and cheese—for the first time.
“Whatever your ethnic background, the sale is still the place where everyone comes together. Mennonite Brethren, Mennonite Church USA folks and Brethren in Christ all come together, so I think it’s terribly important,” Braun says.
Thumbnail: The special 50th anniversary quilt was sold for a record-breaking $7,500. MCC photo