On realizing what it means to be a Mennonite

Aldo SiahaanTo Mennonite Blog #12

by Aldo Siahaan, Philadelphia Praise Center

In the past week, Muslims around the world ended their 30 days of fasting for the month of Ramadan.  It was around this time of celebration, five years ago, that I realized that I am a Mennonite.

The church I pastor, Philadelphia Praise Center in South Philly, officially became part of Franconia Mennonite Conference in the middle of 2007. The leaders and I were still learning to know more about Mennonites that year and what our membership in the Conference might mean.

I am originally from Jakarta, Indonesia, where Christians are the minority.  In Philadelphia among Indonesian immigrants, however, there are more Indonesian Christians than Indonesian Muslims; still, I have Muslim friends.

In the month of Ramadan 2006, knowing the feeling of being a minority, I offered the Indonesian Muslim community the use of our worship space for prayer during their holy month.  I spoke with one of the leaders but she never called me back with an answer.

A year later, Ramadan 2007, the same leader called me and asked, “Aldo, do you remember that last year you offered us your church so we can pray? Is the invitation still open?”  I told her that for me personally the answer would be yes, but that I would need to talk with our congregation’s leaders first.

After I shared my conversation with the leaders and members of the church, no one objected. The leaders and I remembered, though, that we were now part of Franconia Mennonite Conference and we didn’t know if opening our church building would be the right thing to do according to Mennonite values.

In conversation with Conference leadership, I asked carefully, “Is opening the church building to Muslims a Mennonite way?”

Steve Kriss, our conference minister, responded, “Aldo, that’s what Mennonites do. We build relationships with people, our neighbors, even other faiths.  We forgive.  We share what we have.”

I realized that that this was Mennoniting—following Jesus’ command to love one another (John 15:17).

Next week, Franconia Conference Director of Communication and Leadership Cultivation Steve Kriss will reflect back on the summer of blogs.  Have there been any insights that have touched you, made you think, connected with your experience?  How do you “Mennonite”?  Join the conversation on Facebook & Twitter (#fmclife) or by email.

Who am I?  (To Mennonite Blog #1)
Serving Christ with our heads and hands (To Mennonite Blog #2)
Quiet rebellion against the status quo (To Mennonite Blog #3)
Mennoniting my way (To Mennonite Blog #4)
Generations Mennoniting together (To Mennonite Blog #5)
Body, mind, heart … and feet (To Mennonite Blog #6)
We have much more to offer (To Mennonite Blog #7)
Mennonite community … and community that Mennonites (To Mennonite Blog #8)
Observing together what God is saying and doing (To Mennonite Blog #9)
Simple obedience (To Mennonite Blog #10)
To “Mennonite” when we’re each other’s enemies (To Mennonite Blog #11)