C. Nelson “Nels” Hostetter, 92, the first full-time executive coordinator for Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) died May 18.
Hostetter led MDS for 15 years, from 1971 to 1986. He was based in the Akron offices of the international relief and development agency, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). At the time, MDS was part of MCC.
In a 2010 MDS video celebrating 60 years of MDS work, Hostetter said MDS reflected one of the most important Anabaptist tenants, “servanthood”.
“I saw MDS being the model for servanthood,” he said.
Not long into his term, Hostetter experienced that servanthood first hand. In 1972 Hurricane Agnes slammed into the U.S. East Coast, becoming one of the largest disasters during his tenure.
In response to Agnes MDS organized some 8,200 volunteers, the largest volunteer response in the first 50 years of MDS.
Given the reality of the growing number of disaster response agencies in the U.S. and Canada, Hostetter realized that there was need for focusing the MDS mission as so not to compete with other church, civic and national response groups.
With the blessing of the MDS board Hostetter carved out an MDS niche in disaster cleanup and rebuilding. That focus remains today as MDS continues to respond, rebuild and restore after natural and manmade disasters.
“In recent years when I would visit Nels, I would come away amazed how MDS stands on the shoulders of caring and passionate leaders such as Nels,” Kevin King, MDS executive director said. “I am grateful for his leadership and service to the wider church through MDS and for providing the opportunity for servanthood to be part of our witness as a church.”
Updated: MDS monitoring Alberta Fires
May 12, 2016
An Update from Ross Penner, Director of Region V Operations
As the fires subside and the smoke clears from Fort McMurray, Alberta, the devastation is becoming apparent. Some 2,400 buildings have been destroyed, almost 10 percent of the structures in the community are gone. Tens of thousands of residents evacuated last week are waiting to return. Those ready to assist in cleaning and rebuilding the community are waiting as well.
Waiting is hard.
The response to the Alberta Fires has resulted in a groundswell of financial gifts from across Canada and the United States to Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) as well as many other disaster response agencies. For this MDS is grateful and blessed.
Still, it remains too early to know the specific nature of the MDS response. We will focus on cleanup, repair, and rebuilding. There are two needs to address first.
The need to investigate. The community of Fort McMurray is still not open to residents, let alone those who are waiting to respond to this disaster. As of today, speculation is that this is still a couple of weeks away. We must be on the ground to see and assess the needs and where best to apply human and financial resources.
The need to cooperate. We will work together with other organizations such as the Canadian Red Cross to coordinate our efforts. We also offer our help to government or non-government organizations who have lead roles and wait for an invitation to be involved.
These two steps highlight that MDS is watching closely and waiting. We are waiting to be who we are in Fort McMurray: a network of volunteers ready to show the love of God to those affected by disaster. We will update this website as information is available.
To make a donation to the Alberta Fires in
Canadian dollars: click here or send cheque to MDS, 6A-1325 Markham Rd, Winnipeg, MB R3T 4J6
US dollars, click here or send check to MDS, 583 Airport Rd, Lititz, PA 17543
Read the article in Canadian Mennonite about a family fleeing from the fires: Fleeing the Fort McMurray fires