Russlaender 100 Tour: MCC, MB, GC, oh my!

Yes, MORE about the Russlaender 100 Tour. Wow I’m really dragging this out. There’s gonna be a lot to tell you about this day (July 24, 2023). My camera roll helps.

My first photo of the day was taken at 8:11am, depicting my cup of hotel coffee to-go, and we see a rainy Abbotsford day through the bus window. I was excited. (Finally some inclement weather!)

By 8:18am we were inside the giant MCC building in Abbotsford.

On the heels of Steinbach’s Ten Thousand Villages closing, it was jarring to see Abbotsford’s TTV doing so well. (I have since been made to understand that MCC BC is completely separate from whatever we see in Manitoba — and I’m sure this was explained on this day as well but my memory is dangerously sieve-like.)

By 8:48am we were in the back of the MCC thrift shop, seeing how everything is sorted. It was pretty impressive.

I feel like this picture is chaotic and that’s kind of an accurate representation of my brain by this point in time.

By 9:06am we were released into the legendary thrift shop itself…

…and by 9:07am I was taking a picture of the collection of local history books which I later showed to MHA archivist Conrad Stoesz and he studied with interest, the books that got away.

I feel I prefer Steinbach’s MCC thrift shop, but maybe that’s just because I hadn’t taken the time to truly go through the racks with intent to purchase. (We were in a hurry and for me, thrifting cannot be rushed.)

I was most interested in the MCC Quilters storefront (or whatever you call it) and took a picture to show my mother-in-law (because she is a volunteer quilter at the Mennonite Heritage Village and I knew she’d be interested).

I wasn’t in there for very long before we were told to get back on the bus. At 9:17am I have a photo of Lynn Shire posing beside the bus in the rain outside the Abbotsford MCC.

And we were off!

By 9:41am we were arriving at the Arnold Community Church.

I was somehow under the impression we were going to see three churches — one in each of these three Mennonite settlements that had been established on the Sumas Flats — which had been “created” by draining Sumas Lake. That was very wrong, as you might imagine. After all, everyone knows there can’t be just one Mennonite church in a Mennonite community. (Because church splits.) It’s a long running joke but also a tragedy. A foible? A very human thing to do, anyway. I tried very aggressively to take careful notes and figure out what was unique about each one. (Friends… I failed.)

Photo courtesy of journalist John Longhurst.

By 10:37am we were all outside the building, and the rain had become an easy mist. It was a really beautiful day in the Sumas Flats.

By 11: 06am we were arriving at Greendale MB Church.

The pastor was waiting for us in front of the church. I wondered if we were late, haha

By 3:08pm we were outside the Yarrow MB Church.

Somewhere around this time, we all ended up in a blackberry patch. It was a highlight for many. (For some reason for me it was giving Picnic at Hanging Rock vibes as exhaustion was taking over the group and the blackberries magically appeared and our tour group was losing itself and sight of the buses in devouring the fruit… so I weirdly refused to taste any and also did not take pictures!) (Okay, I did taste one small berry but that was IT! I think when I’m tired I get afraid or something, it was irrational, yes.)

By 4:04pm we were at Yarrow United Mennonite Church.

By now it felt like we had seen 18 identical churches. I don’t really know how else to put it.

And by 4:32pm… we were all in a cemetery. Theo wanted to find his grandmother’s grave (or was it his great-grandmother?) so this extra stop was added. As we all piled out of the bus, I was amazed to see Conrad walk directly over to a specific headstone. He had found Theo’s grandmother! (Archivists, dude. They know stuff.)

At 4:52pm, we were nearly there. Almost at our final stop: Sumas First Nation.

Blurry pic from the bus. It’s raining and beautiful.