Mennonitischer Freiwilligendienst (Mennonite Voluntary Service), usually known as MFD, is an international European Mennonite organization whose purpose is to give young people, on a Christian and Mennonite basis, opportunity to render aid to needy persons or communities in the name of Christ and thereby to give a testimony of their desire to serve sacrificially in the cause of peace and construction. The organization was composed in 1957 of the following official conference representatives: Germany - Richard Hertzler; France - Jean Jacques Hirschy, Netherlands - Lenie de Groot, Switzerland - Samuel Gerber, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) in Europe - Milton Harder. Mennonitischer Freiwilligendienst arose out of the voluntary service work of the MCC in Europe in building houses after World War II, which in 1948-1951 operated an average of four short-term summer work camps annually in a total of seven different countries with a total of 1,537 participants. In 1950 the MCC created a council for the summer work out of representatives appointed by the conferences, which then became an independent organization, the MFD. The Mennonitischer Freiwilligendienst also joined AIG (Arbeitskreis Internationaler Gemeinschaftsdienste) and UNESCO.
The work of MFD is carried on through an executive secretary who was Lamarr Kopp in 1954-1957, an American Mennonite loaned by the Mennonite Central Committee, with headquarters at Kaiserslautern after 1956. Finances for the organization are provided by appropriations from the participating conferences. Direct support of the summer work camps was given by the MCC through relief food shipments and by appropriations from the German government through its Bundesjugendplan (Federal Youth Plan). Although the camp leaders are Mennonites, most of the participants are non-Mennonites. In 1956 one third of the 256 participants were Mennonites, the rest being from 24 denominations and 15 countries. In the 1950s the following have been among the work projects: clean-up work (1) in the Swiss Alps following an avalanche catastrophe and (2) in Holland following the coastal fiood disaster; construction of homes for refugees in Germany, construction of children's homes in France, and reconstruction of a damaged Protestant high school in Austria.
The significance of MFD for the Mennonite brotherhood lies first of all in the fellowship of Mennonite youth from various countries, then further in the opportunity for contact with Christian youth from other countries and circumstances, but also in the privilege of putting into practice the command of Christ to love one's neighbor as himself, and to give an example to others of this spirit.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, p. 649. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
©1996-2013 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.
MLA style: Hertzler, Richard. "Mennonitischer Freiwilligendienst." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1957. Web. 25 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/M4753.html.
APA style: Hertzler, Richard. (1957). Mennonitischer Freiwilligendienst. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 25 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/M4753.html.