Winkler couple takes time to help others through Mennonite Disaster Service

Heather and Curtis Funk at work with Mennonite Disaster Service in Marianna, FL. The link takes you to a video of them at work and with additional thoughts about service. Photo by Paul Hunt

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Submitted by John Longhurst

Heather and Curtis Funk enjoyed running their own flower business in Winkler – but not all the time it took.

“I miss the flowers, not the hours,” says Heather, 32, of the 100-plus hours a week the couple spent at the shop during the seven years they owned it.

“There wasn’t enough time to do other things we enjoy,” adds Curtis, 30. “It really tied us down.”

One thing their busy lives as business owners prevented them from doing was more service with Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS), an organization that repairs and rebuilds homes for people affected by natural disasters.

“We really enjoy doing service with MDS,” says Heather. “We love traveling, and we like having time to help others.”

The Funks, members of the Winkler Sommerfeld Mennonite Church, are just back in Manitoba after travels in the southern United States that included two weeks with MDS in Marianna, Fla and one week in Pollocksville, N.C., where they worked on homes damaged by hurricanes Michael and Florence.

Before that, they did four other stints with MDS, including in New Orleans in 2006 after Hurricane Katrina.

Along the way, they’ve made many new friends with other volunteers, and with homeowners.

“We tell our friends that we have so much fun, that we meet the most interesting people,” says Heather. “You never know who you’re going to meet.”

As for the homeowners they’ve worked for, they’ve come away impressed by what it means when volunteers come to provide them with assistance.

“Even if it’s a small job, it’s a huge thing for them,” says Curtis, “especially if they don’t have the funds or the health to fix it themselves.”

“It feels good to hear their stories, and to know we were able to be of help when they needed it most,” adds Heather.

Plus, Curtis says, they’ve also picked up some valuable skills.

“I always dreaded mudding but my MDS crew leader showed me how to do it correctly,” he said. “We’ve actually been able to redo the whole main floor of our house ourselves.”

As Christians, the couple also appreciates the way MDS enables them to show God’s love.

“I’m not a stand up and preach kind of person, more a get out and do,” says Heather. “MDS gives me a chance to show what being a follower of Jesus means to me as I serve others.”

Curtis feels similarly. “Volunteering with MDS gives openings for conversations about the purpose of life,” he says. “When people give up time, it means a lot to homeowners.”

Along with their service with MDS, having more time enabled the Funks to enjoy travels in the U.S. to places like Nashville, Tenn., the Great Smoky Mountains, and other places.

They’re off for another southern adventure for four months in early January, after which they hope to do more service with MDS in summer.

“I would tell anyone with extra time they should do service with MDS,” says Heather. “You don’t need special skills, just willing hands.”

As they reflect on the past number of months of travel and service, Heather recalls meeting an older man at a rest stop.

“He came up to us and said ‘Life is an adventure. You gotta do things when you’re young. And then when you get old, you can tell your stories and relive your memories,’” she says.

For the Funks, that includes good memories of their service with MDS. The organization has volunteer openings for more people like the Funks; call 204-261-1274 for more information.

To see more about the Funk’s time with MDS, click here.

-With files from Susan Kim

About MDS

Founded in 1950, MDS is an organization of the United States and Canadian Mennonite churches that specializes in repairing or rebuilding homes for marginalized and vulnerable people affected by natural disasters. This includes people with disabilities, the elderly, and others living in poverty. In 2018, 5,203 MDS volunteers, including about 700 Canadians, built 74 new homes and repaired 272 houses at 15 project sites in six states, and in B.C. and Ontario. The total value of the work was over $12 million.