Although a rich history of Mennonite/Anabaptist presence is evident in South Africa, Mennonite Church Canada workers Andrew and Karen Suderman discovered a lack of good quality Anabaptist resource materials for churches.
The Sudermans, who work in collaboration with Mennonite Mission Network (USA) and Mennonite Central Committee colleagues to develop the Anabaptist Network in South Africa (ANiSA), decided to remedy that. Together, they came up with the idea to build the ANiSA Peace Library through donations of books from friends and partners.
“This was one practical way that we thought our partnering congregations and others could participate in our work here in South Africa,” Andrew wrote in an email message.
With the help of many congregations and individuals, 1,000 print resources about Anabaptism made their way from Canada and the US to the ANiSA Peace Library and Resource Centre in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.
As a result of such generosity, the Peace Library has quadrupled in size.
The project began with a poster describing the project and an invitation for Mennonite Church Canada congregations to donate books or other lending materials, or funds that would help cover the cost of shipping to South Africa. Erb Street Mennonite Church in Waterloo, Ont. served as a collection point. From there the materials were packaged and shipped to New York City. After several weeks of sailing across the Atlantic and up the south coast of South Africa, the cargo arrived at the Durban harbour where it was loaded onto a truck and driven to the Suderman’s office in Pietermaritzburg.
Resources came from numerous individuals – including retiring or retried professors – and from churches in Canada and the US. Contributing congregations came from a wide area that included Winnipeg and Brandon Manitoba; Kitchener/Waterloo, St. Jacobs, and Niagara on the Lake in Ontario; as well as US locations in Indiana and Pennsylvania.
Andrew admitted there was some risk with issuing such a request; it opens up the possibility for receiving less desirable resources. “What was amazing about this was just how useful all of the books were…they were all treasures.”
Donations included complete sets of some materials, such as the Mennonite Encyclopedia, the Conrad Grebel Review, Mennonite Quarterly Review and MennoMedia’s Concern pamphlets. The library also received a copy of Martyrs Mirror, almost all of the work of French philosopher and lay theologian Jacques Ellul, many books by Christian theologian and ethicist Stanley Hauerwas and a number of the Believer's Church Commentary Series; published by Herald Press, the book publisher of Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church USA. In addition, the library received a set of Gather Round Sunday School Curriculum, and approximately 30 children's books.
“[We received] many, many wonderful books that range from theological to practical and anywhere and everywhere in between,” Andrew said. “People are excited to get their hands on these books.”
Although Karen is still cataloguing most of the new materials, 7 copies of the Politics of Jesus by John Howard Yoder have already left the shelves. Yoder’s work serves as the primary textbook for Andrew’s course on The Theology of Peace and Justice.
“Even thoughyou are a hemisphere away you have taken an active part in our work here in a very meaningful way,” Karen wrote in a report. “So, there is only one thing left to say….” referencing a photo of books laid out to spell “Thank you.”
--Nov. 15, 2011
Imvu, a knitted white and black sheep clad in a red backpack, is a familiar face to those who regularly read the prayer letters of Mennonite Church Canada workers Andrew and Karen Suderman. In the latest prayer letter, Imvu shares with young friends his perspectives on the growing Anabaptist Network in South Africa Peace Library and Resource Centre