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Mennonite Relief Commission for War Sufferers (MRCWS) was organized in December 1917 with headquarters at Elkhart, Indiana, its stated purpose being "to solicit, receive, hold and dispense or distribute funds or supplies for the relief of war sufferers." From the beginning of World War I the periodicals of the Mennonite Church (MC) stressed relief for war sufferers as an essential part of the Gospel message for nonresistant Christians. Following the entrance of the United States into the war, funds for this purpose began to flow into the treasury of the Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities. The Mennonite Relief Commission for War Sufferers was then organized for the effective administration of a work which had begun in a more or less spontaneous manner.

The Commission was made up of one representative each from the district mission boards of the Mennonite Church (MC) plus three members appointed by the Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities. It was organized with Aaron Loucks president, E. G. Reist vice-president, Levi Mumaw secretary, and G. L. Bender treasurer. Since the treasurer was also the treasurer of the Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities, and the vice-president an officer of the Eastern Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities, the relief program of the Mennonite Church was thus closely associated with its mission program.

In January 1918 the MRCWS took action to support the work of reconstruction in France under the administration of the American Friends Service Committee, and also the work of the American Committee for Armenian and Syrian Relief, later known as the Near East Relief. This action was followed by regular monthly contributions to these two organizations. The MRCWS also organized among the women's sewing circles of its constituent congregations a program of sewing and knitting for the support of the relief work. The Eastern Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities coordinated its relief efforts with those of the MRCWS as did also the Nonresistant Relief Organization, organized in 1917 by the Mennonite and Brethren in Christ congregations of Ontario.

By 30 April 1919 the receipts of the relief agencies of the church under the leadership of the Mennonite Relief Commission for War Sufferers had amounted to more than $463,000. A report of the secretary-treasurer of the Mennonite Central Committee, summarizing all Mennonite relief activities for the decade 1917-1927, showed total contributions of approximately $2,500,000 for this period, of which amount approximately one half was contributed through the MRCWS and the agencies closely associated with it. The report showed a total of $339,000 contributed to the Near East Relief and $291,000 to the French reconstruction program. Of these two amounts all but $45,000 was contributed through the MRCWS and its affiliates. Most of the remainder of the contributions of the MRCWS were for relief work in Austria, Germany, and Eastern Europe, and (after the organization of the MCC in July 1920) for the support of Russian relief.

More than 50 Mennonites gave terms of personal service to the French reconstruction work. Some thirty served in the Near East Relief. These with others who served in Eastern Europe and in Russia made a total of nearly 100 men and women who served in foreign relief work under the auspices or sponsorship of the MRCWS.

Soon after its organization efforts were made to open foreign work to be administered directly by the Mennonite Relief Commission for War Sufferers. As early as 1918 inquiry was made into the possibility of opening such work in Serbia or in Russia. When the first Mennonite contingent sailed for the Near East in January 1919, it was accompanied by William A. Derstine and Aaron Loucks, the president of the MRCWS, who explored the possibilities of an independent work in that region. When this proposal was found inadvisable the Mennonite workers entered service directly under the administration of the Near East Relief.

In the summer of 1920 the Mennonite Relief Commission for War Sufferers cooperated with the relief agencies of other Mennonite groups in organizing the Mennonite Central Committee as a central Mennonite relief agency which then became responsible for the relief program in Russia. In May 1926 the MRCWS came to an end as an independent organization, when its work was taken over by the Mennonite Relief Committee, later known as the Mennonite Relief and Service Committee, a committee of the Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities.


Author(s) Guy F Hershberger
Date Published 1957


Cite This Article

MLA style

Hershberger, Guy F. "Mennonite Relief Commission for War Sufferers (Mennonite Church)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1957. Web. 29 Aug 2014. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Mennonite_Relief_Commission_for_War_Sufferers_(Mennonite_Church)&oldid=92757.

APA style

Hershberger, Guy F. (1957). Mennonite Relief Commission for War Sufferers (Mennonite Church). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 29 August 2014, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Mennonite_Relief_Commission_for_War_Sufferers_(Mennonite_Church)&oldid=92757.




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Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, pp. 636-637. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.


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