A half-century of service: Remebering Kenneth L. Seitz, Sr.

In June Kenneth L. Seitz, a key church planter in Mexico City from 1958-1978, died. During their years in Mexico, Kenneth and his wife, Grace, established five congregations. Their ministry left an invaluable impression of the lives of many in Mexico City and in Franconia Conference. The following are a handful of tributes from those touched by Kenneth’s life and work.ken_grace_b.jpgMy earliest memories of Kenneth Seitz and his family include being their neighbors. While our families traveled different paths, we intersected at numerous points along the way. At his father’s funeral, Ken Jr. likened his father’s story to a series of migrations – from Pennsylvania farmer, to college/seminary student, to pastor in West Virginia and, at age 42, a move to Mexico City as a pioneer church planter. Later years included pastoral assignments, at Line Lexington and Finland, then chaplaincy and retirement in Virginia.This hardly represents the typical story for Mennonite people born in 1916. But in the words of a tribute by Richard Benner, Kenneth and Grace Seitz represent an Anabaptist version of Tom Brokaw’s “greatest generation.” A greatness achieved not through military service but through loving, dedicated service to Christ and the church. Why else would they attempt at mid-life to learn a new language and adapt to a strange culture, risking significant impact on their family of six children?Franconia Conference is deeply indebted to Kenneth and Grace for their service, making sacrifices we would today consider excessive and unnecessary. But as he looked back on their service in Mexico City, which is foundational to all our Conference’s involvement in that city for the past 50 years, Kenneth wrote:That the Lord so clearly called us to this twenty-year term of church planting in Mexico City we could never doubt. This certainty is what carried us through so many testing times and experiences. I thought of this as our most important contribution to the Lord and to the church, these twenty years in midlife, forty-two to sixty-two years of age….For the little or much that was accomplished to God be the glory. To which I can only say “amen,” and give thanks to God for Kenneth and Grace and the example they left for future generations.James M. Lapp, Preaching PastorSalford Mennonite ChurchThe reason I am writing is to tell you thanks. I want you to know that your missionary labor has changed the life of many people that you don’t know (like me); that your prayers for the congregation, El Buen Pastor (The Good Shepherd), that you founded because of the love of Jesus has been a great blessing. The congregation still exists and blesses not only the families that are a part of the congregation who find the love of Christ and receive discipleship. It is not only the families who receive this blessing but also those who know us.I am a doctoral student at the National University of Mexico. I want to tell you that my life is very different; being a part of El Buen Pastor church fills my life with the light of God, of hope in salvation, the love that I can share with all those around me. My family does not attend but I know the moment will arrive when they will yield their hearts to Christ.I give thanks to God for your life, for having renounced yourself to follow Christ to the Pantitlan colony to found the congregation that today has taken me in as a loving family; the congregation through which Jesus has supplied all my needs and has restored in miracle form much of what I lacked due to my faults.Lastly, I want to tell you that you have given a double gift to the Lord: In love you gave your life to his service and with that you have produced much: Thanksgivings, praise and many lives that are now living for His glory. Be joyful!II Cor. 9:12-13: This service you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of praise to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God.Areli Rosas NavarreteEl Buen PastorI believe the first time that I met Kenneth and Grace Seitz was in Mexico the summer of 1959. That summer I sang in a group called the Hartville Singers. We traveled from Ohio to Oregon to Mexico City to Florida and back to Pennsylvania. We spent about a week in Mexico City where we had several programs.Those days in Mexico City left an impression on me and in 1966 I, with Emma, was back, this time to form part of the missionary team. Kenneth became a mentor to me as a young 24 year old. I consulted with him on cultural items, personal struggles and theological reflections. I remember the intensity with which he would speak of calling people to faith and of the church. He was an evangelist, pastor and Bible teacher and a man of prayer. I will never forget when our second daughter was born and was on the verge of succumbing to the infection with which she was born, how Kenneth interceded for her as the missionary families gathered together in Puebla. That evening our daughter began to gain strength for what has been a wonderful life.I had the opportunity to work with Kenneth in the Bible Institute as well as in planting a church in the area in which he and Grace lived. I learned to appreciate his caring and loving spirit so much so that when he and Grace terminated their service in Mexico I desired that his “mantel” be wrapped around my shoulders for my ongoing ministry in Mexico. The Lord has blessed my life through Kenneth. I count myself as one of many who have been privileged to be “graced” by God’s servant, Kenneth Seitz.J. Mark Frederick, Jr., Intentional Interim PastorPerkasie Mennonite ChurchI got to know Kenneth in a new way soon after our arrival in Mexico in 1959. He went along on an investigative trip to an isolated area of Mexico where the indigenous group, the Triquis, lived. We needed to decide if that place was where our family would settle. At the end of the bus route we hitched a ride on the back of the pickup of the road engineer who was working on the new road into the Triqui area.We were told that when the engineer got to a certain cave in the road building, he was met by the devil and told that he could not proceed, because beyond that point was the devil’s territory. They came to an agreement that he could go ahead, with the stipulation that the devil could do what he wants with the drivers using the road. When the machinery moved in the Triquis assumed their lights were the eyes of the “monsters.”We got to the end of the newly built road and started out on foot for several miles to where the Triquis lived. Kenneth was a big help in making the decision that this was a good place to work (the Triquis were considered one of the more difficult groups to work with). After introducing ourselves to the leaders we spent the night in a rustic cabin. The next day we climbed a mountain on foot then went down to a lower altitude to the tribal home of two Wycliffe women. It was an exhausting trip.mexico.jpgOnce we as a family were settled among the Triquis in that rustic cabin, Kenneth and Grace visited us. We only found out later that their sleep was disturbed by the mice (or perhaps rats) running around. We are grateful that they were uncomplaining guests.Claude Good,Worm Project CoordinatorSouderton Mennonite Church