In the early 2000s, I sat in the church office of Pastor Wang in southern China. He was lamenting the fact that 300 people from his congregation had signed up to take baptismal classes during services over the Christmas weekend. I tried to encourage him by saying that that number was beyond a Canadian congregation’s wildest dreams.
“You don’t understand,” he said. “We are growing so fast that we are already a mile wide and an inch deep.”
A few years later, Pastor Wang visited my home province of Saskatchewan with a group of pastors from China, an exchange facilitated by Mennonite Partners in China. After visiting ministries in my rural community, he worshipped with a congregation on Sunday. The local pastor apologized for the few people at the service, knowing about Pastor Wang’s large congregation in China.
Pastor Wang exclaimed: “Exactly! These few people are doing all those ministries! If half of my congregation put their faith into action the way yours does, my city would never be the same. This is what we have been teaching Jeanette, in China. You are the roots and we are the leaves. We feed each other. We cannot grow and mature without each other.”
Historian and missiologist Andrew Walls writes: “None of us can reach Christ’s completeness on our own. We need each other’s vision to correct, enlarge and focus our own; only together are we complete in Christ.” Walls calls the time we live in right now an “Ephesian Moment” for the church. Just as the church in Ephesus was a gathering of traditional (Jewish) believers and new (Gentile) believers, God is bringing us together from different cultures to strengthen and form us into the likeness of Jesus.
I see many opportunities for roots and leaves to grow through relationships between our nationwide community of faith and our global brothers and sisters. Through International Witness, our Canadian congregations could:
- Walk alongside Indigenous neighbours as Joji and Dann Pantoja do in the mountain areas of Mindanao in the Philippines.
- Assist Korean and Chinese Mennonites developing resources for Anabaptist teaching in their contexts.
- Commit to restorative justice like the Bonmae Community Peace Centre in South Korea, founded by Witness worker Bock Ki Kim, where police and educators from local schools facilitate conflict resolution between students and their families.
- Speak out boldly against violence just as the Colombia Mennonite Church did in its public statement on Oct. 24.
- Meet the daily needs of folks in your midst through income-generating ministries modelled after those practised by Thai believers in the Issan region.
This year has taught us that we are not alone. We approach the throne of God holding hands with brothers and sisters worldwide.
Roots and leaves do feed each other.
Jeanette Hanson is director of International Witness for MC Canada.