Regardless of whether social conscience is just now arriving for most evangelicals, it is nothing new to the Mennonites.

The Mennonite Central Committee, founded in 1920, is the granddaddy of American relief and development agencies, evangelical or otherwise. But more important, the MCC holds a reputation for progressive enlightenment among specialists in the field. Differences between the MCC and others can often be traced to the Mennonites’ greater experience. The leaders seem less taken with endless talk, and the constituency is more informed and involved.

To Edgar Stoesz, MCC associate executive secretary for overseas, the terminological gulf fixed between “relief” and “development” is not nearly so useful as it appears to be for other R and D leaders.

As Stoesz says, “The MCC sent wheat to Russia in 1920, and then tractors, plows, and seed to the Ukraine in 1921. People today would call the wheat ‘relief’ and the equipment ‘development’. In both cases our people were doing what they thought would help most.”

Stoesz adds, “Our people came upon their involvement in these matters rather easily because in many of those early projects they were aiding friends and relatives of Mennonites who had emigrated to the U.S. and Canada.” They learned to resettle on this same basis in the twenties when they helped friends and relatives to relocate in places like Paraguay after they left the Soviet countries following the 1917 revolution.

In 1982, the MCC will operate on a budget of $10 million in funds and another $5 million in material aid. It is currently active in 44 countries.

In no element of relief work is the Mennonite performance more noteworthy than in fund raising. Largely this is because the constituents are self-starters. While ...

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