Thursday, September 22, 2011

"Financial Diary of a 20something - My Debt Story"

If you do nothing else with this blog post - do yourself a giant favour and read the full story here.
It's the story of a young woman in her twenties who slid into a dead-heavy lifestyle and battled back to reclaim her finances.  Here's the thing: it can happen to any one of us.  Though her compelling essay relates a lot to what she calls "lifestyle inflation", a part of her story is about easy credit and how it can swallow you up in no time.

If you are a young person just beginning university/college or work life - you will have PLENTY of opportunity to pile on debt. Credit card companies will practically throw themselves at your feet and say "Please! Spend our money!".  There will be credit card vendors giving away "free gifts" - all you have to do is apply for their credit card.

To which you should say: "Cease and desist!"

A credit card does not equal free money.

For too many young people, especially if you're going to university or college, it is assumed that you will incur debt - big debt.  And yet I see these debt-ridden students spending big on nights out, trips abroad, etc... I guess the idea being "what's another thousand dollars when I already owe 30 grand?" .. and maybe, "Everybody's graduating with debt, it's fact of life - why not spend some extra now and have fun while the cash is available to me?".

But another real fact of life is that though some debt might be unavoidable, making smart living lifestyle choices can save you thousands of dollars and not only keep your debt manageable, but to free yourself up to be generous towards others.

Read Elsa's story and see if you need to make any adjustments to your spending. As one commenter wrote, "Great article! Where were you when I went through the SAME experience 12 years ago? If only we knew now what we knew then….."

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Samurai, a Monk, and Peace.

A soldier named Nobushige came to the Zen master Hakuin, and asked: "Is there really a paradise and a hell?"
"Who are you?" inquired Hakuin.
"I am a samurai," the warrior replied.
"You, a soldier!" exclaimed Hakuin. What kind of ruler would have you as his guard? Your face looks like that of a beggar."
Nobushige became so angry that he began to draw his sword, but Hakuin continued: "So you have a sword! Your weapon is probably much too dull to cut off my head."
As Nobushige drew his sword Hakuin remarked: "Here open the gates of hell!"
At these words the samurai, perceiving the master's discipline, sheathed his sword and bowed.
"Here open the gates of paradise," said Hakuin.

"You're familiar with the command to the ancients, 'Do not murder.' I'm telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother 'idiot!' and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell 'stupid!' at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill" - Jesus Christ, in Matthew 5: 21-22, The Message.

Rage is not good.  Whether you're a samurai about to chop someone's head off or a driver yelling at the guy who just cut you off in rush-hour, anger is not cool.  I like to think of myself as an even-tempered, slow-to-anger kind of guy but there are times when anger gets the better of me.  It should slip off like water off a duck's back... but sometimes it's like grease on a white shirt: it sticks, and it's ugly.

I always feel embarrassed afterward, like a petulant child that didn't get his way. Because I am surrounded by gracious people, I am forgiven and humbled. 

I pray that God continues to work at me, an imperfect person, so that I can speak Peace instead of War.

...and that God also endows those around me, especially my fiancee (ha!), with supernatural patience.  

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

East Africa drought response

MCC is appealing for donations in response to a critical drought and food crisis in East Africa, which has affected about 11 million people.

To donate, click here. (*The Canadian Government will be matching donations)

For more info check out MCC's "East Africa drought response"

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Go Big... or Go Small (or anywhere in between, really).

If you haven't already heard...

MCC Ontario has entered the Watt's Next video contest to win a 10kW solar panel (valued at $70,000!) and all we have to do to win... is WATCH IT.  Easy.  

Most views = WIN.

We have until September 24 to rack up as many views as we can so please:
1) Watch this video a couple times a day every day until Sept 24th. When you get sick of my voice, please utilize the mute button (I love that mute button).
 2) Share this video on your facebook pages, blogs, and email lists to any and all ... and encourage them to do step 1)

 MCCO is committed to caring for our creation and winning this solar panel would really help put a boost to our eco-initiatives ... already we're doing a lot of small things:
- biking to work
- installing programmable thermostats
- utilizing the green bins (one of the very few companies in Waterloo Region to have one!)

It has never been easier to REALLY help out MCC... no work, no donations, no volunteer hours... all it takes is a bunch of clicking and sharing.

Thank you all!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Young Adult Volunteer Opportunities with MCC

Want to get involved with MCC?  Click on the image below and try out this great new tool to help you find your fit.  Search according to the various criteria at the top of the webpage.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Welcome an IVEPer

International Volunteer Exchange Program (IVEP) is a a vocational and cultural exchange program that connects international young adults with host families and volunteer placements in Canada and U.S.

To learn more, watch this video and check out the website.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

I'm loaded. It's official.

Based on my annual income, I found out I'm in the top 3% percent of the most wealthy people in the world [Global Rich List].  Oops.  How did that happen?  I always thought I was "middle class", middle of the road, doing okay...

The Global Rich list provides perspective.

It is easy to find ways of making money disappear, then to assume that we don’t have much.  It's to easy to compare myself to the 3% of the people in the world that have more than I do.  But, as Scotiabank's tagline says, "You are richer than you think."  [Banks will say that sort of thing so that you borrow and spend more – good for them, not so much for you.  But you are most likely richer than you think].  Just because you don't have any money in the bank account doesn't mean you aren't rich.  It might just mean you spend too much, or don't make good financial decisions.

You want to know something crazy (besides me being in the top 3% of the wealthiest people on earth)?  Research has shown that the wealthier I am, the less money I am likely to give in proportion to my income[1] (likely connected to the problem of comparing myself to the 3% that have more, not recognizing how wealthy I am).

I wonder if a early step towards being generous requires accepting that I have more income that 97% of the world.  Looks like its official: I'm loaded.


I just read a recent stat that claims Canadians give 0.73% of our income.  Less than one percent?

I think it is time that we start giving.  For real.  I am going to pick a random number that feels like it is achievable, reasonable, and biblical.  Let's say 10%.  What would it look like if Christians in Canada gave 10% of their incomes.  Well, in fact, it would look like many, many, many billion dollars.

What would it look like if Mennonites (MWC members) gave 10%?  There are about 135,000 of us in Canada.  Multiply that by 10% of the per capita Canadian income of $43,000 and you get $580,500,000.  That is more than half a billion dollars.  To put that into context, If Canadian Mennonites gave 10% of their income, they could support the worldwide ministry of Mennonite Central Committee 7 times over. [Don't quote me or pay too much attention to the exact numbers here, this wasn't a scientific study...this was only to make a point].

How close are you to giving 10%?

[1] Sider, Ronald.  The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience.  2005. Page 20.  The research was focused on giving patterns of church members in the US over a 30 year period.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Two kinds of people...

"There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, 'Thy will be done,' and those to whom God says, in the end, 'Thy will be done.’ ” 

~ C.S Lewis

Friday, May 13, 2011

Doing development: Ideal vs. Reality

By: Miriam Papps

The Leaving Eden Series: The One

I really do like Brandon Heath – his music, that is. He's cute too, but that's not the point. He comes across as a real person and doesn't sugarcoat following God while living in a broken world.

After hearing this song however, I asked myself: does it really just take one to turn this all around? I am skeptical. I do believe we need The One (Jesus) to help us, but thinking of ourselves as single people who can change this world I think is slightly unrealistic. Let me try to explain.

I recently came back from Colombia, serving with the first 'round' of MCC's SEED program. SEED focuses on education, service and advocacy in a 2 year MCC term ( This program is unique in many ways.  I was part of a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and theologically diverse team from 5 different countries and had a unique 3-month orientation to Colombia – its politics, economics, the state of the churches there, and the social situation and ongoing armed conflict. After the 3 months, we divided up and each went to a different church or community across the country. We served individually with a local community or congregation, then met every 3 months to reflect on these experiences and deepen our understanding of community development, peacebuilding and advocacy in Colombia and in our home countries.

All this sounds pretty neat? I think so. It was a very grounding experience, but throughout the 2 years, my expectations didn't match up with the reality 'on the ground'. Perhaps a few examples would help: