BUILDING A SCAFFOLD TO SUPPORT A VISION by Mel

Posted on Apr 17, 2019 in Featured, Projects | Comments Off

BUILDING A SCAFFOLD TO SUPPORT A VISION A review of the brief history of Canadian Resources for Missions Foundation Prepared by Melvin Wiens Secretary of CRMF February 2019

SHAPING THE VISION 2009-11 John and Evelyn Wiens were nearing retirement age from a lifetime of Christian ministry. In 2006-7 a number of factors came together which moved them towards ministry in Ukraine. They thought they had perhaps ten more years to offer in service to the Lord. Why not serve in Ukraine, where John’s grandfather had been ordained to ministry in the Mennonite Brethren Church, and for whom he had been named? You see, John had been born in Beechy SK, the same week that his father had moved his grandfather from Beechy to Herbert in retirement! So with the enthusiastic agreement of his wife Evelyn, John and Ev were in Zaporozhe Ukraine in September 2007, as missionaries under assignment with MB Mission. One of the target groups that John and Ev wished to minister to, was the aged out orphans who had been in institutional care. They began by establishing a drop-in centre in Zaporozhe for these students in attendance at Trade Schools in the city. John’s farming background and his experience with street ministry in Vancouver influenced him towards the goal of using a farm as a retreat and recovery centre for those who were disadvantaged and had suffered abuse or addiction. Garry and Teresa Verhoog, USA born dairy farmers, with a 700 cow dairy farm in southeast Manitoba, had moved to Ukraine as self supporting missionaries with the Evangelical Free Church Canada Mission. They had taken residence in Nikolai Pole, a former Mennonite village, and had set up a small dairy farm to serve as a demonstration farm for the many small dairy farmers in the scattered villages of Ukraine. They desired to use the farm as a springboard or launching pad for further Gospel outreach. Teresa had first come to teach English at a Summer English Institute, organized by EFCCM in Dneipro. In 2009 John and Garry first met. Over time they blended their visions together. The model of a Not-For-Profit Dairy Farm operated to support a residential Trade School was the result. The village of Nikolai Pole offered a good potential location. Across the pond from the village stood the abandoned barns of the former collective farm. One barn, still in fairly good shape could accommodate up to 180 dairy cows with renovations and re-electrification. There were also a number of Mennonite era houses in the village, that could be renovated and modernized into student residences. The only obstacle was the up front capitalization to get the vision rolling. By December 2010 both Garry and John were in Canada. A meeting was called for December 10 in a hotel in Calgary, to share the vision of the Dairy Farm/Trade School and to create a foundation in support of the project.. In attendance were John and Garry, Darryl Porter of EFCCM, John’s brothers Dale and Mel, from Beechy SK, Henry Wall, (Evelyn’s brother-inlaw), of Calgary, and Dr. Lawrence Olfert, of Drumheller.(Lawrence’s wife Agnes is a cousin to Evelyn) . Later over supper Calvin Warkentin of Calgary joined the group. (Cal is married to Evelyn’s niece). The outcome was that Lawrence, Cal and Mel agreed to begin to establish a charitable foundation. In the new year work was done to establish charitable objectives, choose the name and register it, with assistance from the legal firm Anderson and Company, in Swift Current. Needing further expertise we were referred to Drache Aptowitzer and specifically Yvonne Chenier, in Calgary. Many documents were drafted and submitted prior to registration in Alberta Dec 2011 and the granting of charitable status by CRA in June 2012. In the interim John did a fundraising tour in Nov.-Dec. 2011. With the gracious permission of Canadian Friends of the Mennonite Centre in Ukraine, our Trade School was accepted as one of their projects and the funds raised until June 30 2012 were channeled through them. The CRMF scaffold was now intact and the vision was supported by donors and friends. No longer was it just a vision, that was in John’s words – “so large that only God can bring it to pass”.

THE SCHOOL OPENS 2012 On September 11, 2012 the Trade School opened, with the blessing of Education officials, and with seven orphans plus a few other students enrolled. Much work had gone on in a short time. Funding from MB Mission and Dorcas, a Dutch charity plus other donations, had been used to renovate two residences. Also a room in the local MB church building had been renovated and furnished as a temporary classroom. To meet projected operating costs some funds were advanced by CRMF directors. CRMF entered into an Agency Agreement with New Hope Centre in Zaporozhe, to administer funds towards the Trade School project, as a requirement of our registration as a charity with Canadian Revenue Agency. The official recognition of the school brought with it various outside staffing requirements, which in themselves would have proven useful to the students, but increased the operating costs so that the school would be difficult to sustain. The farm was not yet generating a positive income stream. We were in effect “running before we could walk”. TAKING A BREATH 2013-14 The decision was made not to take on students for the 2013-14 school year. A new model was developed which would essentially set aside the official government recognition as a Trade School. The students would be paid to work on the farm, but deductions would be made for tuition and board and room. The “house parents” would either pay rent and have outside employment or work as instructors in the classroom. It had been observed that there had been signs of ‘entitlement’ by some staff. The adoption of this lean model’ had some unintended consequences as we would find out later. Significant donations came to support barn renovations and milking parlor. Jack Stefanyk organized a work team from Salmon Arm EFC and added a small classroom, milk cooler room and washrooms to the barn in March 2014. DIFFICULT TIMES 2014-15 Classes only re-opened in the fall of 2014 as John and Ev returned to Canada in August with intentions to return to Ukraine in January 2014. In September – October John toured western Canada to raise funds, in spite of having undefined health issues. In November he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. He received some treatment but passed into glory on January 14, 2014. With John’s passing a big hole was left in MB Mission ministry in Zaporozhe as well as a gap in the link with the Dairy Farm Trade School. Max Oliferovsky and Garry Verhoog now had to learn how to manage what was formerly done by John. There was a growing reluctance on the part of New Hope Centre to have financial accountability for funds designated to the Farm /Trade School project yet lacking any managerial control. This would become evident a bit later. A significant issue for CRMF was the registration of various properties in Ukraine. Although the Agency Agreement with New Hope specified (as per CRA requirements) that all property be registered in the name of a Ukrainian entity, various properties were temporarily registered in different individual’s names. It was explained that many of the Ukrainian taxes favored individuals over corporations, and so many additional costs would be incurred. CRMF secretary Melvin Wiens attended a New Hope Centre board meeting in Zaporozhe in July 2014 where these matters were discussed. The matter was resolved by agreement to attach notes to these registrations, that the properties were held in trust for the benefit of New Hope. The thought was expressed that the regulations might soon be changed. In November 2014, CRMF became aware that Jack Stefanyk was working in BC to send a container of supplies to the farm in NikolaiPole. CRMF agreed to accept a donation of a used skid steer and yard tractor, and to purchase a mower conditioner. Tools and supplies as well as humanitarian aid such as clothing, mattresses, and bicycles, from other sources, were shipped as well as Gleaner’s soup mix. New Hope Centre was reluctant to receive the container of equipment on the basis that it felt it did not have the legal capacity to acquire farm equipment. This problem was eventually overcome when a new Ukrainian charity was formed, ‘Hope For Each’ and CRMF signed an Agency Agreement with HFE. The net result was that Max managed the work begun by John in Zaporozhe and Garry managed the project in NikolaiPole. It resembled the Paul and Silas thing in the New Testament! The container was finally unloaded in Kiev by the Ukrainian Philanthropic Society, in exchange for 35% of the humanitarian aid on board, which included mattresses, clothes and Gleaner’s soup mix, in late fall of 2015 and delivered to the farm. Global Emergency Missions Society of Abbotsford (GEM) handled the logistics for us. Jack Stefanyk and crew handled the procurement of all the items and stuffing of the container. Another obstacle for CRMF in 2015 resurfaced. Back in 2012 John had connection to a man in the United Sates who seemed eager to assist John with fund raising. John signed a document on the understanding that it would only come into effect if there were sufficient funds. It was at the time when it was necessary for directors to advance funds so that the first classes could start. The CRMF board had taken the position that no contract had been entered into by CRMF since John was not on the board and had not been authorized to sign on it’s behalf. In summer 2015 directors of CRMF were served summons to appear in court in the USA on breach of contract charges. The amount sought was greatly increased from the original. A lawyer was engaged in the US and the matter was settled out of court by paying a mutually agreed amount, much less than what had been demanded. The result is such that no further claims can be made. MOVING FORWARD 2015-16 With the arrival of farm equipment, and a working agreement with Hope For Each things began to move forward more smoothly. Work teams from Lacombe, Salmon Arm and Steinbach brought significant funding as well as expertise and energy to renovate a large house and build a shop near the big barn. The house has a large room for classes and activities and three small apartments for students who continue to work on the farm. The shop facilitates storage of tools and supplies as well as space to repair machinery.

ESTABLISHING A SOLID FOOTING 2016-18 Another work team built a small building on the original farm to house a potential cheese making area and a honey room to accommodate extraction and storage of honey. These are alternate farm products which will expand work opportunities and experience and add value to production. A new larger tractor was purchased from donated funds outside of CRMF. CRMF funded equipment that was installed to drip irrigate some corn acres. The yield improvement was significant and will help to provide a more secure feed supply for the dairy and increase acreage for cash cropping. A quonset was constructed with on farm labor. This serves as grain or fertilizer storage and enables the farm to obtain better prices for grain and lower prices for fertilizer. The house adjacent to the one Garry and Teresa live in was purchased. Another work team did renovations in spring 2018 in preparation for Scott and Shannon Crawford’s arrival in November. Scott and Shannon are a farming couple from Saskatchewan with pastoral experience. They have been accepted as missionaries with EFCCM. They will assist in pastoral and counseling work with the students. They will help to carry the burden of administration and problem solving as well as relieve Garry and Teresa to spend more time back in Canada. Right now they are focused on learning Russian. More irrigation equipment has been acquired to permit more corn to be irrigated as well as irrigating the alfalfa for multiple hay crops, again freeing up acres for cash crops. God has blessed with good growing conditions in 2018 and good crops. The price of milk, which dropped when Russia stopped buying from Ukraine, has now increased. The farm appears to have matured sufficiently to capitalize future expansion. It may then be possible to expand the scope of ministry to more young adults, who face a very bleak future unless they gain life skills and learn about Jesus who loves them and died to give them abundant life and hope for eternity.

MOVING THE SCAFFOLD With the maturation of the Dairy Farm Trade School project to self-sufficiency the question of ‘what next?’ — became a prayer of: “ Lord what do you want us to do?” The answer came soon after. CRMF had asked MB Mission and EFCCM if CRMF and it’s specific charitable objects had a place in their ministries. They indicated in the negative. “Now what?” we wondered. At the very beginning of January 2019 we received an inquiry of interest from Multi-Nation Mission Foundation from Abbotsford, to have CRMF roll over to them in continuation of developmental type projects in areas around the world where they are involved. A process to facilitate that rollover is now underway. You may learn more about them here: multinationmissions.org As Lawrence, Calvin and myself reflect back on CRMF and what has taken place in eight years we stand amazed at what God has accomplished. A vision received from the Lord has materialized before our eyes. The Lord has brought many people from different churches and denominations together to offer their resources of time, money, gifting and wisdom to contribute to this project; this brings life and hope to a few of the many disadvantaged youth in Ukraine. A monument to God’s faithfulness exists in the brick, concrete and steel in NikolaiPole, but more importantly in the lives of the young people in Ukraine, who are now followers of Jesus, and reflect that life and hope in their eyes. CRMF is only part of God’s story here. Many groups and agencies have been involved. We just say thank you to all: for your gifts; your sweat; your prayers; your interest; your support and encouragement. As the scaffold is moved to another location may it continue to be useful to the Lord Jesus Christ as He builds His church.