About eight years ago, Daniel Pantoja shared the approach he and his wife Joji employed as Mennonite Church Canada Witness Workers in the Philippines: “Toss aside western church culture and rhetoric.” By shaping their approach from a Muslim context, they bridged the gap between perception and Jesus.
Marriage has always been, and continues to be, a perplexing reality for Christians. From the Apostle Paul’s confusing advice to the more recent agonizing over divorce, Christian marriage has been plagued by anxiety and confusion. The conflicts in the church today are only the most recent chapter in millennia of struggle.
The following is an abridged version of a letter sent to the Future Directions Task Force and Mennonite Church Canada leaders that was signed by all 24 Witness workers in light of the Task Force’s concluding report (commonword.ca/go/469).
I was driving from Calgary out to Rosemary, Alta., to attend Bill and Bob Janzen’s mom’s funeral. As I drove I recalled hearing of times when everyone lived in large homes in long rows in Russian villages, each on five-acre plots. The farming was done all around the village and the Mennonites became very prosperous.
I still think of myself as a shepherd. Every day, actually every night, I’m out there. I look for the lost, the wanderers and the weary, and I bring them home. It’s a living. At times, it’s easy; they know the way and I just help them along. Other times, it’s dark and cold, and I worry about predators in the shadows. My lost ones might—or might not—be in good shape.
When I was a small child, my parents took our family on assignment to Chile as church workers. In a country which at that time had no Anabaptist-Mennonite churches, our ties to the Mennonite community took other forms. Among these, my parents’ use of Doris Janzen Longacre’s More-with-Less Cookbook was perhaps the most tangible.
While in the West Bank city of Hebron, Hannah Doerksen, left, Naomi Peters and Jenny Sawatzsky were approached by local students. The Canadians are students at Mennonite Brethren Collegiate Institute in Winnipeg. (Photo by Ramon Rempel)
During a recent trip to the Middle East, Ramon Rempel’s students met many people, learned about their lives and deepened their knowledge of the world. (Photo by Ramon Rempel)
Not long ago I returned from a trip to the Middle East, where I led a group of ten students from Mennonite Brethren Collegiate Institute (MBCI) in Winnipeg through many parts of Palestine, Israel and Jordan. We met many people, stayed in local homes, saw many sights of biblical and recent significance, and I trust the world of my students grew a little wider and deeper than it was before.
(The following article discusses a difficult topic in story form. All characters are fictional, although the events referred to are based on an amalgamation of true experiences.)
She went to her pastor for advice, not sex.
Another woman accepted her pastor’s invitation to chair a committee he oversaw, not an invitation to be sexually preyed upon.
Morning and evening worship services featured songs from various cultures and countries. Many people found the music inspiring. (Photo by Jim Cheng)
More than 250 friendship groups allowed MWC assembly participants to become friends with believers from around the world. (Photo by Dale D. Gehman for Meetinghouse)
Martin Junge, executive secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, was among the guests from other world churches who addressed the assembly. He said he was “amazed and humbled by the gift of reconciliation and forgiveness” in the Anabaptist-Lutheran dialogue. (Photo by Dale D. Gehman for Meetinghouse)
A group of five from Kenya sang on Thursday evening. Of the choir of 30, only these five received visas to come to the U.S. For a report from the visa task force, go to canadianmennonite.org/mwc-2015-visas (Photo by Dale D. Gehman for Meetinghouse)
The assembly was a “green” event with strong encouragement to compost as much as possible. (Photo by Dale D. Gehman for Meetinghouse)
In his friendship group at the Mennonite World Conference assembly, Francis Ojwang found that getting to know fellow believers from distant places brought an unexpected blessing.
Worship rises to the rafters as Mennonites and Brethren and Christ join their voices in music from around the world at PA 2015 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Differences exist in theology and culture, yet music is a unifier at the conference, even when it stretches comfort zones.
Natasha Neustaedter Barg gets some tips on playing a gamelan instrument from player Andrew Beltaos, as part of an evening youth event. (Photo by Doreen Martens)
Megan Breidigan may be only 16, but she’s already figured out there’s nothing quite like a Mennonite World Conference assembly.