With only 15 congregations, Mennonite Church Alberta is a small area church. What I find significant is that only 10 of our churches are of traditional European origin. We need to pay attention to this changing demographic.
Last March at our annual general meeting, we received Calgary Chin Mennonite Church as a member into MC Alberta and listened to a group of men from Edmonton South Sudanese Mennonite Church sing as the membership hummed along. These two powerful and emotional moments are indications of our area church’s future. We could not help but be impacted by their energy, humility, commitment and thankfulness.
A number of years ago, I had the privilege of visiting my mother’s birthplace north of the Sea of Azov in southern Ukraine. The fields looked much like a prairie scene at Rosemary or Boissevain. As I quietly sat in that field and looked at the richness of the soil, the rolling hills and green bluffs of trees, I wondered about the turmoil there nearly a century ago. My ancestors fled that land of conflict and violence to live in a place where life would be difficult but where there was always hope and faith. I can remember my mother singing with thankfulness as she worked to build a new life in a strange land.
I see many similarities in these two stories nearly a century apart.
We have a responsibility to help our brothers and sisters in the same way as our ancestors were helped when they came to this country. We have a mission field right here in our front yard. We can build on the energy these newcomers have brought with them. We can assist them not only with their physical needs, but also support them as they learn more about the Anabaptist faith. Witnessing the commitment of these new congregations can renew a spirit within us.
Other exciting MC Alberta news comes from Camp Valaqua, which has experienced two consecutive years of more than 10 percent growth in camper numbers. Although encouraged by the numbers, the camp leadership has not been content to rest on its success. Eighteen months ago, the area church commissioned a committee to find ways to talk to all the stakeholders of Camp Valaqua in the hope of helping us form a vision for its future.
I believe that it might be helpful for our area church to carry out such an exercise as well. Perhaps we need to imagine what our work would look like if we were to start from scratch and work at filling needs within our churches and in the mission fields right here in our local communities.
This is an exciting time to be God’s people and we need to take advantage of all opportunities to build our church and further God’s kingdom.
Ernie Engbrecht has been moderator of Mennonite Church Alberta since 2012; he is a member of Lethbridge Mennonite Church.