Our Mission

Mennonite Disaster Service is a volunteer network of Anabaptist churches that responds in Christian love to those affected by disasters in Canada and the United States.  While the main focus is on clean up, repair and rebuilding homes, this service touches lives and nurtures hope, faith and wholeness.

Vision Statement

To inspire and equip every Anabaptist congregation to respond in Christian love with volunteers to those affected by disaster.  

Mennonite Disaster Service is a volunteer network of Anabaptist churches dedicated to responding to natural and man-made disasters in Canada and the United States. Our aim is to assist the most vulnerable community members, individuals, and families who would not otherwise have the means to recover. MDS volunteers – men and women, youth and adults – provide the skills and labor needed to respond, rebuild and restore in the wake of a disaster. MDS is known for having a collaborative spirit, and we work with other groups including faith-based organizations, local recovery committees, and both governmental and non-governmental agencies. MDS is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

Our Logo

The MDS logo displays a handshake in front of a cross.

The cross is a the center of our logo because Christ is at the center of our work. MDS volunteers serve in the name of Christ.

The handshake in the MDS logo represents the primary relationship between MDS volunteers and the clients we serve. Effective disaster response begins with working partnerships between organizations, agencies and individuals. Many of these partnerships begin and end with a handshake.

Our History

For generations of Mennonites and other Anabaptist groups, mutual aid has been an informal practice of expressing their faith in the day-to-day actions of caring for one another. Through spontaneous gestures of assistance, such as the well-known barn raising, the Anabaptists put their faith into action when fellow church members or neighbors faced calamity.

In 1950 a Sunday School class in Hesston, Kansas held a picnic with the hope of bringing a bit more formality to their mutual aid efforts by expressing the common desire to “seek opportunities to be engaged in peaceful, helpful activity… just where we find ourselves.”

Meanwhile, further north and across the Canadian border in Manitoba, the Mennonites were also talking of how they could further organize their mutual aid efforts.

Following significant response efforts to disasters in the mid-West, two Sunday school classes from the Pennsylvania Mennonite Church of Zimmerdale, KS, and the Hesston Mennonite Church formed a joint committee in Kansas to respond to disasters. The Mennonite Service Organization (MSO) was born. Through a series of “picnics in the park,” the group began to define itself and to widen its circle of interest. They took into consideration things such as who was available to help, what skills they had, and how quickly they could respond to disasters.

Soon, the MSO was expanding out of the Midwest to Anabaptist communities across the United States and Canada. By 1952 MSO became Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) and in 1955 MDS became a part of part of the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), an inter-Mennonite relief agency. Training schools for field directors began. A mobile office was added in1956. A film was produced in 1958. Rescue teams were trained and assembled in 1959. Radio equipment was added in 1960. By 1966 Red Cross officials expected MDS to show up at the scene when natural disasters occurred.

In 1993 MDS was incorporated as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization and amiably separated from MCC.  Now on its own, MDS relies on some 4,000 volunteers from Mennonite, Amish and Brethren in Christ churches to annually carry out its ministry to respond, rebuild and restore communities and families hit by disasters in the U.S. and Canada.  The MCC continues to respond to international disasters.