Married in

Essence of Anabaptism

May 10, 2024 | News | Volume 28 Issue 7
A. S. Compton |
Nicole and Josh Weber with their daughters. Supplied Photo.

Mennonites, they love sweet things,” Nicole Weber says with a laugh. “Mennonite stores make the best desserts, and if you go to a [Mennonite] party or event and bring sweets, they will love it.”


Nicole is married to my cousin Josh. We attend the same family gatherings, and at those gatherings the dessert table is usually larger than the main dish table. Our family is Swiss Mennonite; Nicole is Chinese.


Josh, who taught English in China, introduced her to Mennonite theology and values when they met there in 2016. They have been back in Canada for over two years.


Nicole was raised by Buddhist grandparents. When she was about 20 years old, she was introduced to Christianity by Taiwanese missionaries. She was baptized at 23. 


Though she is the only Christian in her family, her parents respect her choices.


When she and Josh married in 2018, they went to the International Church in Xiamen. People from about 65 different countries attended. The church was not part of a denomination, and differences in denominational backgrounds of those who attended weren’t important for the most part.


Josh shared many of the fundamentals and history of Anabaptism with Nicole over the years, and when another member of the International Church called Mennonites weak, she confronted them.


“I said I think they are a group of people trying to live more like Jesus, trying to be peaceful, kind, loving, humble, content,” she recalled. “Lots of Christians in China want God to bless them with things; I see Mennonites as content.”


Nicole says key values she admires about Mennonites are their commitment to peace, the belief that everyone is equal andthe belief that God’s love can bring everyone together.


During their time in Canada, Nicole and Josh have lived in one town and two small rural communities in Southwestern Ontario, attending various Mennonite churches.


She has observed that Mennonites accept people regardless of appearances, race, intelligence or economic standing. “They will accept you and love you because you are a person,” she says. “They will love you and let you know love from Jesus.”


Her encounters with the more traditional thinking found in some Mennonite circles have been difficult. Nicole says most people in churches here are “very nice,” but she feels that some people wonder why she is there, given that she is Chinese and everyone else is white.


Finding a church that accepts and empowers women in leadership has been important to both Nicole and Josh, but this has been a challenge in the areas where they have lived.


Family connection, Nicole says, is one of the oddities of Mennonite communities. “They care about your background; where are your grandparents; who are you?” Her husband often works with Old Order Mennonites, and they always want to know where he belongs in the Mennonite family tree. After being gone in China for well over a decade, Josh is proud to be able to make the family connection; everyone knew his grandfather.


But Nicole is an outsider, even though married to an insider. 


Mennonite families, she observes, can be very tight-knit. That’s a good quality, Nicole says, but it is difficult for her and for her young daughters to make the deep connections they desire with other people when she feels like others are always committed to spending time with their siblings or at family events. Josh’s only sister lives on the other side of the country. Nicole has no siblings, and the rest of her family are in China. It can be lonely.


She sees deep blessings in being raised surrounded by faith in Christ, something Josh experienced but she did not. Nicole says that for people raised in faith, prayer is often a first reaction to bad thoughts or hard situations. Not being raised with those practices, she says it can be a struggle to make prayer a first reaction to adversity.


“Some people, you just know they have peaceful minds, peaceful souls. When you talk to them you just know they love Jesus, love God,” Nicole says. “[They’re] joyful,” she says of the Mennonites she is surrounded by. “That was something I did not find much in Chinese society, and even Chinese churches, they don’t have that joyful or peaceful mind.”

Nicole and Josh Weber with their daughters. Supplied Photo.

Share this page: Twitter Instagram

Add new comment

Canadian Mennonite invites comments and encourages constructive discussion about our content. Actual full names (first and last) are required. Comments are moderated and may be edited. They will not appear online until approved and will be posted during business hours. Some comments may be reproduced in print.