Readers write

August 14, 2013 | Viewpoints | Number 16

Movie ‘gave me something to rankle against’

Re: “A new low for Hollywood” review by Vic Thiessen, July 8, page 24.

Thiessen’s review echoes my own feeling of unease watching Man of Steel in the theatre last month. I, too, was bothered by the false connections between Superman and Jesus. I did not know about the Christian marketing angle.

Unlike Thiessen, I did enjoy the film, almost in spite of how untrue its message struck me. The forwardness of its religious theme gave me something to rankle against. Thanks for calling it out in this review.

Michael Turman, Waterloo, Ont.

Short-term mission trips have great value

Re: “Dispelling the myths of ‘microwave ministry,’” June 24, page 34.

While I generally agree with Bethany Daman about short-term missions, I think she missed an important aspect of the short term missions experience: the personal spiritual formation that occurs at the same time.

Short-term mission team members may not be able to build a lasting relationship with the people they are serving, but they can provide the human power needed to complete important ministries, ministries that allow long-term missionaries to continue to build relationships after the short-termers are gone. Very rarely do short-term mission teams go somewhere where there isn’t a local partner.

And while it would be more efficient to send our finances to the communities and hire local workers, which often does happen, the fact that we also send short-term missionaries shows that we are willing to walk alongside them.

And while we may not be able to learn everything about a culture in a week, that doesn’t mean that we can’t learn anything. We can begin to become aware of the issues in that area, and share what we’ve learned with our congregations.

One of the most formative experiences I had while a teenager was a short-term mission trip to Guatemala. No, I didn’t learn everything about the culture, but I could see how Canadian mining companies were ruining it. And, no, I am not maintaining relationships with people in Guatemala, but I know that the work I did there, like building a greenhouse, and running children and youth programming, helped continue to build relationships between the long-term workers who were there and the community.

While my trip might not have been the most efficient way to do development work, it did work towards the growing of the kingdom of God in a way that sending a cheque would not.

Tim Wenger, Kitchener, Ont.

Teaching, prayer, witness must not be lost in changing church

Re: “Finding new paths through the wilderness,” June 24, 2013, page 4.

I welcome Evelyn Petkau’s significant article of the church in postmodern society. I affirm other Canadian Mennonite writers who have dared to comment in recent issues on the same theme. “Wilderness” is an appropriate term.

I quickly remind readers that the church in the decades of the 1940s to the ’60s was also the New Testament church. Missions, prayer and Scripture had high prominence. I recall, as a camp instructor in the mid-’50s, at times being asked in the morning by the camp director, “What was your QT [quiet time] learning this morning?”

Petkau identifies key points to consider, and shows a few cases of how this has been effective. I appreciate the openness, and the spirit of seeking a reality that works. We search. We ask. We do need change.

There are three areas, however, where we, as a people of God, need further renewal and serious consideration. How will believers in or outside the church:

  • Be taught faith and Scripture without teachers?
  • Cry, communicate and further the kingdom of God in prayer?
  • Witness fully to God’s mercy and goodness?

Our deeds and our actions, as indicated by Petkau, will be evident among believers in the postmodern era. Jesus and Paul urge us to give verbal voice to our faith at appropriate moments.

Call for volunteers

John Peters, Waterloo Ont.

New evidence challenges ‘gay choice’ idea

Re: “A reflection of a rebellious people” letter, July 8, page 13.

I grew up with a strong biblical bias, and, like Kathleen Rempel, I have pondered the verses about homosexuality which she quotes. My guess is that the writers of those verses were convinced that people who practised homosexuality were free to choose whether they would be gay or straight.

However, recent developments have made it more difficult to persist in the belief that being gay is a choice. It seems more likely that being gay is part of a person’s given nature, just as it is with being straight.

The most recent event indicating this is the disbanding of Exodus International, a Christian ministry in North America whose mission was to change gays into straight people by prayer and conversion therapy. In closing down the ministry, Alan Chambers, the organization’s president, apologized and acknowledged that its mission was “misguided and even harmful.”

According to a June 21 Globe and Mail report, after treating gays for 37 years, the ministry found that some people “spent years working through the guilt and shame [they] felt when [their] attractions didn’t change.” Some were driven to suicide. Chambers admitted that he had never overcome his own same-sex attractions. “Today,” he is quoted as saying, “I accept these feelings as parts of my life that will likely always be there.”

Evidence like this is a challenge to the belief that being gay is a choice. It challenges us to change our thinking about homosexuality and our attitude towards gays. However, for some of us who hold a particular view of Scripture, this can be difficult to do. And yet Scripture itself set us a precedent for changing our thinking even when we have based that thinking on Bible verses.

In the story of the early church in Acts, Christian leaders who were Jews made a revolutionary change in their thinking and attitudes towards uncircumcised gentiles. Their previously held attitudes had been based on the Scriptures, yet they abandoned those attitudes. The change began when Peter had a vision (Acts 10) in which God said, “What I have cleansed, do not call common or unclean” (King James Version).

I wonder what the Holy Spirit is saying to us now about our gay brothers and sisters.

Joyce Gladwell, Elmira, Ont.

A different take on ‘a very different world’

As representatives of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) in Latin America, and specifically in Mexico, we would like to broaden the story told in “Ministry in a very different world,” July 8, page 4.

We affirm the perseverance that Dave and Margaret Penner demonstrated throughout their four years serving in the Mennonite colony in Durango. They carried out their work in a very difficult environment, where colony members face multiple challenges, including hostage-takings and violence connected to drug trafficking.

These factors create a context where speaking out and promoting change not only goes against tra-ditions, but can also cost one’s life.

Low German-speaking Mennonite communities in Mexico are characterized by people who value strong family and community ties, and church authority. Their commitment to keeping tradition has held their communities together over many generations.

This also means that decisions to adopt technologies, or change how things are done, occur at a community level. It takes much time and dialogue before the community moves together towards new ideas, new forms of education or new relations.

Gradually, there are local initiatives in Durango and elsewhere to address the consequences of an extremely limited education system: alcoholism, drug abuse, intra-familial violence and the stigma attached to disability. Community interest in more information, literacy and written resources is one of the things that led to MCC’s involvement in resource centres in the Cuauhtémoc, Nuevo Casas Grandes, Durango and La Honda colonies in Mexico.

Before the Penners arrived in Nuevo Ideal Colony in Durango, the resource centre was run by a local woman, Margie Giesbrecht. She recognized that people were calling for support that could be better provided by a combination of male and female workers, so she requested that MCC send a couple. The Penners were the first to fill this role. They will be followed by Helena and Johan Guenther from Ontario, who will be seconded to Servicios Integrales Menonitas (SIM), a social service organization of Low German Mennonites from various colonies and church conferences, including the Old Colony. As of this year, SIM will be administrating all of the resource centres mentioned above.

In coming years, MCC, through its office in Mexico, will continue to support health and education work with Low German-speaking Mennonites in Mexico by providing resources in the form of personnel and funds to local organizations such as SIM, the Blumenau Mennonite High School in Cuauhtémoc, Steinreich Bible School and Centro de Rehabilitación Luz en mi Camino (a substance-abuse rehabilitation centre that also works at addiction prevention).

MCC, in all its work, respects the dignity of individuals and communities, and takes into account local decision-making structures and practices. The work that MCC supports arises from the openness and desire of local people to promote healthy communities, and embraces specific new ways of doing things. MCC Mexico is grateful to the many Low German-speaking Mennonite leaders across Mexico who give their counsel and trust.

Ricardo Torres and Marion Meyer, Mexico City, Mexico

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