On a radical journey

November 5, 2014 | Young Voices
Tim Wenger | Special to Young Voices

As a student at Rockway Mennonite Collegiate, Kitchener, Ont., I was taught to care about the well-being of others. When I graduated in 2009, I originally planned to pursue social development studies at the University of Waterloo, Ont., since I figured that working towards societal change would be a good way of doing that.

There was something missing in this plan, though. When the opportunity arrived for me to participate in Radical Journey, a gap-year program of Mennonite Church Canada Witness and Mennonite Mission Network (MMN), I readily accepted.

Following a month of orientation and service in Chicago, I and four other young adults travelled to Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, for 10 months of service. We lived and worked at Breakthru Church International, a partner congregation of MMN, as well as served at a variety of other partner organizations. Each of us young adults was connected with specific areas of ministry.

While some of my teammates were given work in HIV/AIDS awareness or environmental protection, I decided to work with Breakthru’s youth program. While a lot of what I did was data entry and connecting new attendants with small group leaders from their part of town, I also had the opportunity to participate in actual ministry. Every week, we saw people making commitments to follow Christ.

While I was not always comfortable with the specific forms of evangelism I was participating in, I found that I was passionate about seeing people experience the love of God and committing to follow Christ. I also saw how Breakthru’s work led them to a variety of community-outreach programs.

During the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, children were given time off from school. Breakthru moved its Holiday Club, similar to our Vacation Bible School, to the week of the World Cup to give the community’s children a safe place to play while their parents were at work.

Watching Breakthru’s combination of evangelism and social outreach, I began to see greater possibilities in ministry. I realized that the good news of Jesus Christ covers both spiritual and social realities.

As I worked at Breakthru, I also became friends with Karen and Andrew Suderman, Mennonite Church Canada Witness workers in Pietermaritzburg, who had studied at Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) in Winnipeg. The Sudermans demonstrated to me ways in which some of the things I was learning could be practised from a Mennonite perspective. As I spoke with them, I saw their faith in Christ lived out in their lives. They encouraged me to pursue theological education at CMU.

Initially, I was reluctant to travel to Winnipeg. Even though I had just travelled halfway around the world, I did not want to attend a school that was so far away from my home in Ontario. I had decided to go into ministry and attended an ecumenical university in Toronto the year I returned home. When I realized I was not financially able to continue studying at that school, I remembered my conversations with the Sudermans and looked seriously at CMU as a place to continue my studies.

When I came to CMU in my second year, I discovered a community of believers whose faith led them to theological studies as well as to disciplines focussed on the well-being of others, like international development or disaster recovery. I discovered a community in which my interests in faith in Christ and social outreach collided together into something wonderful.

I have since completed a bachelor of arts degree at CMU, and this past September I started a master of arts program there with the hope of eventually serving the church. My dream job is one at which I can connect the members of a congregation to all of the fantastic organizations in their community and encourage them to participate in the work God is doing to transform the world.

Tim Wenger, 23, attends Sargent Avenue Mennonite Church, Winnipeg.

—Posted Nov. 6, 2014

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