Tag Archives: intercultural

A Catalyst for Transformation

By Jennifer Svetlik, Salford congregation

Chantelle Todman Moore loves it when individuals or congregations are getting curious and imaginative about what the church can look like.  She sees this work as integral to discipleship, “when people begin to think really deeply about their own identities like they’ve never had to before; this is the first step to transformation.” 

Chantelle Todman Moore is the Intercutural Leadership Coach for Franconia Conference. Over the past year and a half of her time on staff, Chantelle’s work has focused on organizing spaces and conversations for pastoral and lay leaders in the conference who are part of the “global majority,”* though not part of the majority culture of Franconia Conference. 

These conversations are opportunities to pray together, fellowship, share dreams, and express laments. A primary example is the annual Nations and Generations gathering that Chantelle is helping to organize this fall. The gathering is a time of prayer, worship, visioning, and connecting a diverse group of ministers. This year’s gathering will take place on November 1 just before Conference Assembly.

Chantelle is one of the staff leaders of the conference’s Intercultural Team, which seeks to identify what the needs and skills are in the conference for intercultural capacity, and how the conference can more effectively invest in global majority leaders. 

The work that excites Chantelle most is coaching congregations seeking to grow in intercultural capacity and become anti-racist.  Recently, the elders from Plains congregation asked the Intercultural Team to help them think through their next steps in their ongoing movement toward intercultural competency.  “I enjoy working with congregations that are ‘doing the work’ and when I can help them be a catalyst for deepening those efforts,” Chantelle shared. 

Chantelle grew up in south Florida in an Assemblies of God church and received an undergraduate degree in International Community Development and an MBA in International Economic Development. It was in graduate school at Eastern University that she encountered Anabaptism through books by Eloise Meneses as well as the work of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). She began attending Oxford Circle Mennonite with Sam, whom she later married. Chantelle was drawn to the centrality of social justice as a sign of faithfulness within Anabaptism. 

Chantelle quickly began to take leadership roles in Mennonite institutions: working as the Philadelphia Program Coordinator for MCC, serving on the board of Eastern Mennonite Missions (EMM) and getting involved with the Women in Leadership steering committee of MC USA to co-plan  the Women Doing Theology conferences, helping to organize the Future Church Summit at MCUSA Convention 2017, and speaking at the Hope for the Future conferences. 

Entering into the wider Mennonite Church after her experience in the intercultural reality of Anabaptism in Philadelphia was a bit of cultural whiplash, Chantelle reflected.  This is what makes her work so important.  “Jesus modeled crossing the bounds of what the world labeled as ‘other’ and we should be doing the same. Those who encountered Jesus in the scriptures were transformed but Jesus was also transformed as he crossed boundaries,” she continued. “So yes, it’s about justice and doing what’s right but, most of all, it’s about following Jesus and allowing our whole being and worldview to be transformed.” 

In addition to her work with Franconia Conference, Chantelle is the co-founder of Unlock Ngenuity, a consulting, coaching and therapy business. 

Chantelle and Sam have three daughters. When she’s not coaching and supporting individuals and communities in developing intercultural understanding, she loves to grow food through gardening and dabbling in aquaponics. 

*The term global majority seeks to recognize that the vast majority of the people in the world consider themselves non-white. 


Bridge Fatigue

by Chantelle Todman Moore, Intercultural Leadership Coach

(left to right) Hendy Matahelemual, Marta Castillo, and Chantelle Todman Moore, Franconia Conference’s core intercultural team.

The three people in this photo look happy and hot and we are both.

We are also tired, myself in particular.  After I arrived late to our meeting and plopped myself into my chair with a big sigh, I was immediately encouraged to get a coffee by my dear colleagues.  As our conference’s core intercultural team, we are both energized by the work and exhausted by the work.  This mix of energy and exhaustion is part of what it means to be a bridge person or to be doing intercultural bridge work.

What is a bridge person or bridge work, you ask?  Let me unpack this further. First, it would be helpful to define the term “intercultural.” I like the definition given by the Spring Institute:

Intercultural describes communities in which there is a deep understanding and respect for all cultures. Intercultural communication focuses on the mutual exchange of ideas and cultural norms and the development of deep relationships. In an intercultural society, no one is left unchanged because everyone learns from one another and grows together.

There’s another helpful description of intercultural on the conference website. The thing I want to underscore is that to be intercultural is to be grounded in mutual transformation and, if you have ever experienced transformation, you know that it includes work and disruption.

Part of deepening your intercultural work is beginning to function as a bridge between two or more cultural realities or groups. One of my mentors, Dr. Calenthia Dowdy, so wisely told me that one of the challenges of being a bridge person is being walked on by both sides. I would also add that, much like an actual bridge, a bridge person carries and holds a lot of tensions within intercultural work and settings. We are often the ones in the room who first notice the ways we are talking past or at each other, the need for a cultural or linguistic translator, and the creative insight and energies needed to co-create new ways of being together.

Being a bridge person comes with its frustrations and joys; it is at times exhilarating and, when it all comes together, it is a beautiful mosaic. Other times it is disorienting, the challenge of staying firmly grounded in your own sense of identity while being open to and creating spaces for mutual transformation across cultures. My encouragement and reminder for myself and anyone embarking on intercultural work is to tend to your fatigue; don’t try to keep pushing yourself when you are clearly at your limits. 

Here are some signs that you might be experiencing “bridge fatigue” and some ideas on how to restore yourself:

  • Sign: Increase in frustration and irritability and a decrease of enjoying intercultural spaces/work. Restore: Spend time with an intercultural colleague/friend who can encourage and commiserate with you; reconnect to an aspect of your own culture that you value and enjoy; rest—take a break from the work so that you can return with energy.
  • Sign: Increase in apathy or lethargy about the need for and your role as a bridge work/people. Restore: Listen to a podcast or music or read a book or article that celebrates the multi-hued tapestry of humanity and inspires your values for diversity, inclusion, and an intercultural society. REST. Engage something that brings you pleasure just by its existence. 
  • Sign: Increased disconnect between your spirituality and your intellect. This type of spirit and mind/body duality encourages us to see our intercultural work as merely an intellectual exercise instead of as a holistic transformative process. It also cuts off our ability to ground our intercultural work in ways that nourish and replenish us.  Restore: Create a rhythm that ensures time to connect your faith and spiritual life to the interpersonal and systemic intercultural work; take time for practices that ground you in your faith, whether that be prayer, working in your garden, cooking, creating art, or reading a sacred text. 

How to Pray for our New Churches

by Jeff Wright, Leadership Minister

“I desire, then, that in every place [we] should pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or argument…” – 1 Timothy 2.8 (NRSV)

Franconia Conference is amid a lot of transition.  New congregations from across the US are aligning with the traditional core of Franconia congregations in Eastern Pennsylvania.  A merger with Eastern District is in process.  Churches from California and perhaps even Florida are joining the conference or at least exploring relationships.  Ties with international partners are expanding.  These are wonderful days to be a part of this historic body of believers.

Of course, the challenge is always one of communication across the human barriers of language, culture, and geography. Those from the center of conference life in Eastern Pennsylvania might wonder, “What can I do to encourage this growing movement?” It might sound trite, but I believe our prayers are the most powerful and effective offering we can make on behalf of the new expressions of Church that God is aligning with us in Franconia Conference. 

So, how ought we to pray for these new and emerging Franconia Conference congregations?

Wayne Nitzsche (right) prays for Jessica Miller at her installation service, November 2016

First, pray in the simple language of the Lord’s prayer that the Kingdom of God will come to Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Sarasota, Tampa, San Francisco, Mexico City, and elsewhere, just like it does in Souderton and Harleysville and Heaven.  In every place, God is at work.  Knowing that a dedicated band of Jesus-followers are simply praying, “Thy Kingdom Come…” is an amazing encouragement. 

Second, as you pray, remember that many of our new Franconia congregations have experienced significant trauma in recent years.  For example, the church in California came to Franconia out of a painful process.  Furthermore, they live with a constant anxiety regarding immigration status—even though most of our California members hold legal standing in the US.  Other new congregations aligning with Franconia have also experienced trauma of various kinds.  Praying for healing and increased empathy are gifts of hope for our new congregations.

Third, when you pray, be open to the changes God is putting in front of you.  Restoring the 175-year rift between churches in Eastern Pennsylvania will be transformation for Franconia Mennonite Conference.  A new name for this God-movement is coming.  As a conference of churches, we speak many languages.  While, in my experience, Franconia has done an outstanding job in learning to be intercultural and multi-linguistic, we still have room for growth.  New congregations from across the country and around the world will change the way we do church in our local congregation—and that is a blessing!  May we receive it as such.

Finally, pray for our pastors.  A small team of three friends, who encourage me in my work as a Leadership Minister (and pray for me in my role!), join with me in praying each day for a different Franconia Conference pastor that I am privileged to walk with in ministry.  We pray for their health and well-being.  We pray for their marriages and their families.  We pray for them to be resilient and tough.  We pray for them to be tender and broken.  It is the singular honor of my work to offer regular and sustained intercession for the pastors I serve with in Franconia Conference.  Your intercessions on behalf of the pastors and the staff of Franconia Conference are a treasured gift.

Perhaps in our postmodern, busy, overscheduled, hyperactive world, prayer has become a relic of a season past and gone from us.  I hope not!  May we, as an old/new conference of churches from New England, to Florida, to California, and beyond, be linked together by the simple, powerful proposition of praying for one another.

Standing in the Gap at the Border and at Home

by Emily Ralph Servant, Director of Communication

For the last month, Philadelphia Praise Center pastor Aldo Siahaan has been reminding his congregation of their rights during each Sunday morning worship service.

In expectation of, and response to, a recent wave of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids, immigrants in Philadelphia and other US cities—both documented and not—are living in fear.  “I’ve been like them,” reflects Siahaan, who migrated to the United States in 1998 after riots in Indonesia: “I know what they feel like, living like this.”

Questions and concern around immigration have become increasingly important for members of Franconia Conference, which has seen a increase in immigrant congregations over the past decade.  Currently, close to fifteen percent of the conference are first-generation immigrants, many coming from Indonesia, Mexico, Tanzania, Myanmar, Hong Kong, and India.

Some of Franconia’s Latin brothers and sisters originally entered the US by way of the southern border.  Recent news reports have highlighted tragic conditions in detention camps there, where some families are separated, and others are turned away before they can even apply for asylum.  Many Franconia congregations have been asking what they can do to help.

A Direct Response

MCC is collecting Immigrant Detainee Care Kits with supplies that will provide immigrants who are being released from detainment centers along the US’ southern border with basic hygiene supplies. Photo provided by MCC Central States.

“Having been to the border several years ago to see key Mennonite partners there, I recognize that there are some basic practical needs that people require after they’ve been released from detention,” reflects Franconia’s executive minister Steve Kriss.  Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) is meeting some of these needs by making and distributing Immigrant Detainee Care Kits.  “The kit response feels hands-on and important as the kind of thing Mennonites do to directly respond to human needs,” observes Kriss.

In order to provide additional kits, Franconia’s board has allocated a $5000 grant to match contributions from Franconia and Eastern District congregations to the MCC East Coast’s Material Resource Center (MRC) in Harleysville, PA.   The MRC will make the care kits to send for distribution in Texas and New Mexico through MCC Central States.  The grant will also match gifts given by Franconia congregations to MCC West Coast for transporting kits distributed in California and Arizona.  The deadline for matching is August 31.

Already at Work

Even as Franconia and Eastern District congregations raise financial support around the border crisis, we remember that the struggle continues closer to home. “We ARE immigrant communities,” Kriss acknowledges.  “We are communities that are responding on a regular basis to the challenges of receiving people who are seeking safety and asylum in places across the country.”  Many pastors in our congregations are regularly responding to crises of migration, he observes.  In these cases, these are not programs of the church; they are pastoral responses to real needs in our communities.

The border fence between Tijuana and California adjoins a city neighborhood and is covered in lively artwork and graffiti. Photo by Steve Kriss.

When a large migrant caravan began making its way through Mexico in 2018, the Conferencia de Iglesias Evangélicas Anabautistas Menonitas de México (CIEAMM), a Franconia Partner in Ministry, decided to open their arms and hearts to the “temporary refugees” in Mexico by providing aid.  “We take seriously the teaching of Jesus, who invites us to the [kind of] love and solidarity that feeds the hungry, dresses the naked, gives water to the thirsty, protects the helpless, takes care of the sick, and visits the incarcerated,” described moderator Carlos Martínez García at Mennonite World Conference’s Renewal 2019 event in Costa Rica.  “We did a work of compassion, putting ourselves in the place of needy migrants, and acting to bring some accompaniment and comfort.” (Read his full remarks.)

Fernando Loyola and Letty Cortes pastor Centro de Alabanza de Filadelfia, a congregation of Latinx immigrants, and have seen a recent wave of immigrants from Guatemala arriving in their neighborhood.  Their congregation provides food, clothing, funds, and help navigating the new American culture.  They refer families to immigration lawyers and to Juntos, a community-led immigrant non-profit that fights for human rights in South Philly.

Philadelphia Praise Center has been renovating its building to become a sanctuary church, where immigrants fearing deportation can live safely during ICE raids.  Siahaan has walked with many individuals and families who need help navigating the complex legal channels involved in applying for visas or green cards.  Just this last week, he was called to help someone from the community who was picked up in an ICE raid.

Unfortunately, once someone has been detained by ICE, there isn’t much that can be done, he explains—within a couple of weeks, they’ll be deported.  The need is greater before that happens; what immigrants need most, he suggests, is for their Franconia brothers and sisters to be their voice: “Call or write to your congressperson and say, ‘Hey, you need to do something about this situation, these immigration raids!’”

Advocacy to Prevent Tragedy

Advocacy work includes contacting representatives on both state and national levels.  Steve Wilburn, teaching pastor at Covenant Community congregation in Lansdale, PA, has been involved with International Justice Mission (IJM) since he traveled to Cambodia and Vietnam in seminary and saw IJM’s work in battling human trafficking.  Currently, he’s partnering with IJM to advocate for the “Central American Women and Children Protection Act of 2019,” which is legislation that commits US funds, in partnership with the governments of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, to help them restore their justice systems in order to protect women and children from abuse.  Several Franconia Conference leaders have signed a letter in support of this legislation.

Most US government efforts in those countries have been focused on drugs and gang violence, Wilburn explains, but that doesn’t help protect children and women: “Those are some of the reasons that people are leaving and trying to escape violence there, becoming refugees,” he says.  Most would rather stay home if home were a safe place for them and their children.

Real People, Real Suffering

Siahaan recently went on an MCC borderlands tour to meet migrants and see the situation for himself.  On his trip, he met a young mother with two children who were waiting to apply for asylum.  They had fled Colombia after her husband had been shot by a gang.

It was eye-opening for Siahaan.  He had read books and heard stories but meeting real people on the border face-to-face affirmed for him that the work the South Philly congregations were doing mattered.  It encouraged him to keep going.

Beny Krisbianto, pastor of Nations Worship Center in Philadelphia, is a member of the conference executive board.  The decision to allocate the funds for the matching grant was easy for him when he considered the children who are daily affected by both the “border crisis” and the local ICE raids.  It’s not a political issue, he emphasizes, but a call to care for real children who had no control over the decision to come in the first place.  “These are real people, who are already here, who are suffering and may die,” he says.  “These kits will help.”

His congregation supports conference advocacy for migrants at the southern border because they, too, are daily experiencing the fear and uncertainty of the country’s broken immigration system.  It’s not just a story you see on CNN or ABC News, he reminds the conference community; for immigrants in South Philadelphia, “It’s our everyday life.”

Ways to Help

  • Pray for migrants on the southern border, for immigrants living in our communities, and for those who are working alongside them for health, healing, and wholeness. Pray for just immigration laws, merciful immigration practices, and a path to citizenship that will keep families together.
  • To receive a matching grant for the making and/or transporting of Immigrant Detainee Care Kits, send checks labeled “Immigrant Detainee Care Kits” directly to the MCC Material Resource Center of Harleysville, 737 Hagey Center Drive, Unit C, Souderton, PA 18964 OR directly to West Coast MCC Office, 1010 G Street, Reedley, CA 93654. For West Coast donations only: email Conrad Martin (ccmartin@franconiaconference.org) at the conference office with the date and amount of the gift.  Deadline for matching funds is August 31.
  • Read the Churchwide Statement on the Abuse of Child Migrants passed at Mennonite Church USA convention in Kansas City (July 2019) and Carlos Martínez García’s full reflection on CIEAMM’s ministry caring for some of the migrants traveling through Mexico.
  • Advocate with your legislators to support asylum seekers and the American Dream and Promise Act and to restrict ICE raids.
  • Sign a faith leaders’ letter of support for the “Central American Women and Children Protection Act of 2019” or become an IJM volunteer by contacting Steve Wilburn at swilburn@ijmvolunteers.org. Register for a 2-day advocacy summit in Washington D.C. in October.
  • A significant focus of MCC East Coast’s domestic work is related to immigration advocacy: in Miami, through the New York Mennonite Immigration Program, and in direct services to those who have been trying to find a legal pathway to stay in the US. Find out moreWest Coast MCC is in the process of offering “Know Your Rights” trainings for Franconia’s West Coast congregations.

Abrir Los Brazos y El Corazon Los Migrantes / Open Arms and Hearts to the Migrants

(scroll for English)

por Carlos Martínez García

Un decenio de celebración y ejercicio reflexivo. El Congreso Mundial Menonita eligió la década 2017-2027 para evaluar tanto la Reforma protestante como la Reforma radical y la influencia de ambos movimientos en el surgimiento del anabautismo constructor de paz. Durante el mencionado decenio, cada año, ha tenido y tendrá lugar en distintos lugares del mundo el ejercicio llamado Renovación. En el 2017 la reunión se llevó a cabo en Augsburgo, Alemania; el año pasado en Kisumu, Kenia; y en el presente la sede es San José, Costa Rica.

 El tema para el evento en Costa Rica es “Justicia en el camino: migración y la historia anabautista-menonita”. Los anabautistas/menonitas del siglo XVI, y subsecuentes centurias, debieron migrar constantemente en búsqueda de libertad para difundir y practicar sus creencias. Estas migraciones se hicieron en condiciones muy adversas. Además del marco histórico y bíblico teológico que se presentará en Costa Rica, se solicitó a distintos ponentes referir experiencias sobre el tema migratorio actual y cómo están respondiendo las comunidades de fe identificadas con el anabautismo. En mi caso me requirieron para compartir “cómo mi iglesia, o iglesias en mi región, han experimentado la migración o formas en que están respondiendo a las necesidades de los desplazados”. A continuación reproduzco lo compartido en Renovación 2019:

A finales del 2018 llegaron en caravana miles de migrantes centroamericanos a México. Aunque desde hace muchos años el país ha sido ruta de paso para quienes migran de América Central con la esperanza de llegar a Estados Unidos de América (EUA), por primera vez grupos organizados demandaban se abriera la frontera mexicana para que pudieran entrar y transitar por el país con seguridad.

En términos generales la población comprendió las razones de los migrantes para huir de sus países y buscar un mejor futuro. Históricamente millones de mexicanos han migrado hacia EUA. En la actualidad un alto porcentaje de ellos y ellas viven allá con temor ya que no tienen papeles de residencia. Su contribución a la economía estadounidense es importante, cálculos de hace dos años mostraron que diez por ciento de la economía depende de la fuerza laboral de los migrantes mexicanos. Además de su contribución económica, estos migrantes aportan diversificación cultural a los EUA. La segunda ciudad con más mexicanos, después de la ciudad de México, es una urbe norteamericana: Los Ángeles, California.

Aunque hubo sectores que tuvieron pensamientos y acciones hostiles hacia las caravanas de migrantes que llegaron a México a finales del 2018 y primeros meses del presente año, el sentimiento más amplio fue el de solidaridad y la realización de campañas para levantar ayuda y proveer a los migrantes de ropa, alimentos, medicinas, atención médica y acompañamiento en su caminar hacia el norte.

En la Conferencia de Iglesias Evangélicas Anabautistas Menonitas de México (CIEAMM), por medio del ministerio Sendas de Justicia, se hicieron llamados a coordinarse con otras organizaciones e iglesias que deseaban dar ayuda en las necesidades expresadas por los migrantes. Este es un punto importante, es necesario escuchar a quienes se quiere servir para que la solidaridad sea relevante y centrada en las carencias de los migrantes y no en la buena voluntad de las personas que a veces dan ayuda pero no es la que necesitan los migrantes. Una vez que se detectó qué tipo de ayudas requerían los refugiados temporales en México, por distintos medios se compartió la información y direcciones de centros de acopio para hacer llegar los paquetes de ayuda.

El coordinador del ministerio Sendas de Justicia de la CIEAMM es miembro de la Iglesia Fraternidad Cristiana/Vida Nueva, en la que soy pastor junto con Óscar Jaime Domínguez. Su nombre es Fernando Sandoval, él invito y animó a la comunidad para levantar fondos y poder adquirir productos que necesitaban los migrantes. Para conocer dichas necesidades visitó el lugar que abrió el gobierno de la Ciudad de México para albergar a miles de desplazados centroamericanos, principalmente de Honduras y El Salvador.

 Fernando conversó con hombres y mujeres de distintas edades. Les solicitó permiso para grabar su testimonio con el teléfono celular, con el fin de compartir la grabación en Fraternidad Cristiana/Vida Nueva. Lo que escuchó y vio nuestra comunidad fue conmovedor, ya que cada historia contada era una tragedia de sufrimiento que permitía comprender por qué las personas decidieron abandonar su hogar con el fin de intentar cruzar hacia Estados Unidos. Además de la pobreza como causa para salir, mencionaron la violencia padecida y el miedo a ser víctimas de todo tipo de abusos que denigran la dignidad humana.

La hermandad dio aportes que Sendas de Justicia llevó a los migrantes. Fue sorprendente la respuesta de la comunidad que decidió abrir sus brazos y el corazón a quienes estaban vulnerables en su paso por México. Tomamos en serio la enseñanza de Jesús, quien nos invita al amor solidario que alimenta al hambriento, viste al desnudo, da agua al sediento, protege al desvalido, cuida al enfermo, visita al encarcelado (Mateo 25:35-36). Hicimos un ejercicio de compasión, ponernos en el lugar de los migrantes necesitados y actuar para llevar algo de acompañamiento y consuelo.

En la tarea de llevar ayuda a los migrantes tuvo lugar una linda cooperación entre Sendas de Justicia y un grupo de profesores y estudiantes del Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary de Elkhart, Indiana. Allá se enteraron de lo que estaban haciendo la CIEAMM y la Iglesia Fraternidad Cristiana/Vida Nueva para servir a los migrantes, entonces el profesor Jamie Pitts compartió la información y el resultado fue una ofrenda que enviaron a Sendas de Justicia para que se usara de la manera que se considerara más conveniente. El ministerio Sendas de Justicia compró implementos que entregó a los migrantes e informó a los donantes de cómo se usó el donativo. Creemos firmemente que en la mayordomía cristiana es indispensable la rendición de cuentas y el buen uso de los recursos que hermanos y hermanas en la fe nos confían.

La solidaridad con los migrantes tiene antecedentes en la Iglesia Fraternidad Cristiana/Vida Nueva. Desde hace algunos años la comunidad contribuye con donativos en especie (alimentos, artículos de higiene personal) a la Casa Tochán, que es un refugio y lugar de defensa legal de migrantes que buscan protección mientras están en México y tienen por objetivo ingresar a Estados Unidos. Los hermanos y hermanas llevan distintos productos que se entregan a Casa Tochán, son muestras de que entendemos que somos seguidores de un migrante como Jesús, quien nació en condiciones muy similares a las vividas por familias que emprenden el éxodo obligadas por los poderes que tienen el corazón duro.

Abrir los brazos y el corazón a los migrantes es parte del discipulado cristiano. Entre ellos y ellas viajan personas que, como la mujer sirofenicia, nos ayudan a descubrir dimensiones de la fe que solamente vemos cuando somos frágiles  y marginados. De ésa mujer Jesús dijo que era muy grande su fe y la puso de ejemplo de confianza en Dios (Mateo 15:28). Y hemos encontrado esta fe en los migrantes.

by Carlos Martínez García, CIEAMM

It was a decade of celebration and reflective exercise. The Mennonite World Conference chose the 2017-2027 decade to evaluate both the Protestant Reformation and the radical Reformation, and the influence of both movements in the emergence of peace-building Anabaptism. During the mentioned decade, every year,  Renewal will take place in different parts of the world. In 2017 the meeting was held in Augsburg, Germany, last year in Kisumu, Kenya, and right now the headquarters are in San José, Costa Rica.

The theme for the event in Costa Rica is “Justice on the Way (Road): migration and Anabaptist-Mennonite history”. The Anabaptists / Mennonites of the sixteenth century and subsequent centuries had to constantly migrate in search of freedom to spread and practice their beliefs. These migrations were made under very adverse conditions. In addition to the historical and biblical theological framework that will be presented in Costa Rica, different speakers were asked to share experiences on the current issue of migration and how the communities of faith identified with Anabaptism are responding. In my case they asked me to share “how my church or churches in my region have experienced migration, or ways in which they are responding to the needs of the displaced.” Please find below what I prepared to share at Renovación (Renewal 2019):

Caravans of thousands of Central American migrants arrived in Mexico at the end of 2018. Although for many years the country has been a transit route for those who migrate from Central America with the hope of reaching the United States of America (USA), for the first time organized groups demanded that the Mexican border be opened so that they could enter and travel safely through the country.

In general terms, the Mexican people understood the reasons of the migrants to flee their countries and look for a better future. Historically, millions of Mexicans have migrated to the United States. Currently, a high percentage of them live there with fear because they do not have residence papers. Their contribution to the US economy is important; calculations two years ago showed that ten percent of the economy depends on the labor force of Mexican migrants. In addition to their economic contribution, these migrants bring cultural diversification to the USA. The city with more Mexicans, second only to Mexico City, is a North American city: Los Angeles, California.

Although there were sections of Mexico that had hostile thoughts and actions towards the caravans of migrants that arrived in Mexico at the end of 2018 and the first months of this year, the broadest sentiment was solidarity. There were campaigns to raise aid and provide migrants  with clothes, food, medicines, medical attention and accompaniment in their walk to the north.

In the Conference of Anabaptist Mennonite Anabaptist Churches of Mexico (CIEAMM), through the Pathways to Justice Ministry, calls were made to coordinate with other organizations and churches that wished to give assistance to respond to the needs expressed by the migrants. This is an important point; it is necessary to listen to those who we want to serve so that solidarity is prevalent and focused on the needs of migrants and not on the goodwill of people who sometimes give help when it is not what migrants need . Once the type of aid required by temporary refugees in Mexico was determined, the information and addresses of collection centers were shared by different means to send the aid packages.

The coordinator of the Ministry of Justice of the CIEAMM is a member of the New Life Christian Community Church, where I am a pastor along with Óscar Jaime Domínguez. His name is Fernando Sandoval. He invited and encouraged the community to raise funds and purchase products needed by migrants. To meet these needs, he visited the place opened by the government of Mexico City to house thousands of displaced Central Americans, mainly from Honduras and El Salvador.

Fernando talked with men and women of different ages. He requested permission to record his testimony with the cell phone, in order to share the recording in New Life Christian Community Church. What he heard and saw moved our community, as each story told was a tragedy of suffering that allowed us to understand why people decided to leave their homes in order to try to cross into the United States. In addition to poverty as a cause to leave, they mentioned the violence suffered and the fear of being victims of all kinds of abuses that denigrate human dignity.

The church community gave contributions that Pathways to Justice (Sendas de Justicia) took to the migrants. The response from the community was surprising as they decided to open their arms and hearts to those who were vulnerable in their passage through Mexico. We take seriously the teaching of Jesus, who invites us to the love of solidarity that feeds the hungry, dresses the naked, gives water to the thirsty, protects the helpless, takes care of the sick, visits the incarcerated (Matthew 25: 35-36). We did a work of compassion, putting ourselves in the place of needy migrants and acting to bring some accompaniment and comfort.

In the task of bringing the help (materials) to the migrants, there was cooperation between Pathways to Justice (Sendas de Justicia) and a group of teachers and students of the Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana. There they found out what CIEAMM and New Life Christian Community Church were doing to serve the migrants, and Professor Jamie Pitts shared the information with the group at AMBS.  The result was an offering that they sent to Pathways to Justice to use in a way that would be most effective and convenient. The Sendas de Justicia ministry purchased the items that were given to migrants and informed donors of how the donation was used. We firmly believe that in Christian stewardship, the accountability and proper use of the resources that conference and brothers and sisters in the faith entrust to us is indispensable.

Solidarity with migrants has a history in the experience of New Life Christian Community Church. For some years, the community has contributed donations in kind (food, personal hygiene items) to Casa Tochán, which is a refuge and legal defense for migrants whose goal is to enter the United States and are seeking protection while in Mexico. In the past, the brothers and sisters have collected different products that are delivered to Casa Tochán.  These are a product of our understanding that we are followers of a migrant like Jesus, who was born in conditions very similar to those lived by families that undertake the exodus, forced by the hard-hearted powers of this world.

Open arms and hearts to migrants is part of Christian discipleship. Among the migrants, people travel who, like the Syrophoenician woman, help us discover dimensions of faith that we only see when we are fragile and marginalized. Jesus said that that woman’s faith was very great and she set an example of trust in God (Matthew 15:28). And we have found this great faith in migrants.         


Sebuah cerita mengenai masakan Indonesia / An Indonesian Food Story

(scroll for English)

oleh Hendy Stevan Matahelemual, Indonesian Light Gereja

Makanan adalah unsur penting dalam budaya Indonesia. Ada lebih dari 300 kelompok etnik di Indonesia dan setiap kelompok etnik memiliki makanan khasnya masing masing. Ketika kita berbicara makanan Indonesia maka variasinya sangat banyak sekali.

Pastor Beny Krisbianto dari Nations Worship Center sedang mengantar makanan. Kebanyakan Pastor2 Indonesia di Philadelphia juga melayani sebagai pengantar makanan ketika ada festival makanan.

Hubungan makanan dengan komunitas sangat erat sekali. Dan tidak berlebihan jika budaya komunitas di Indonesia sangat memperhatikan makanan yang disajikan. Dalam Suku batak Kristen misalnya, jika ingin menghormati seorang yang memiliki sebuah kedudukkan yang lebih tinggi maka makanan yang disajikan dalam pertemuan tersebut adalah babi. Menyajikan makan tanpa babi akan dianggap tidak sopan.

Liwetan di Bethany Elevation Community Church, New York

Bukan Cuma jenis makanan saja tetapi cara penyajian juga beraneka ragam. Dalam budaya Jawa dan Sunda makanan sangat erat dengan kebersamaan, sehingga timbulah tradisi yang dinamakan liwetan. Di mana, dalam melakukan kegiatan ini, semua orang duduk melingkari sajian yang ditaruh di atas daun pisang dan menyantapnya. Rasa kebersamaan yang muncul sambil menyantap makanan lezat, semakin membuat suasana menjadi hangat  

Berangkat dari tradisi dimana makanan menjadi bagian penting dalam budaya Indonesia, khususnya untuk menjangkau orang, dan menjalin hubungan. Gereja-gereja Indonesia di Franconia di Selatan Philadelphia setiap tahun mengadakan festival makanan Indonesia. Nations Worship Center, Philadelphia Praise Center dan Indonesian Light secara rutin mengadakan festival makanan Indonesia. Hal ini dilakukkan bukan saja untuk menggalang dana, tetapi juga untuk membuka pintu hati dalam menawarkan keramah-tamahan dan rasa kekeluargan kepada orang lain khususnya yang berada di luar komunitas gereja. Bukan saja kita membuka gereja kita untuk menjadi semacam rumah makan, tetapi kita juga menyediakan sarana delivery. Dimana biasanya yang mengirim makan adalah pastor2nya sendiri.

Pempek dari Palembang

Menu menu yang ditawarkan beraneka ragam, mulai dari Saksang khas Suku Batak, Pempek dari Suku Palembang, Berbagai Mie Suku Tionghoa, Ketoprak dari Suku Jawa, Rendang dari Suku Padang, dan Sate dari Madura, dan banyak lagi makanan2 lainnya.

Sate Indonesia

Saya percaya bahwa makanan adalah pintu masuk menuju kepada hati dan jiwa. Tidak hanya kepada komunitas Indonesia saja tetapi juga kepada orang orang dari suku bangsa lain dalam lingkungan sekitar dimana Tuhan tempatkan kami. Ketika kita bisa berbagi makanan khususnya makanan khas Indonesia, maka kita membawa sebagian dari kehidupan kita untuk dibagikan kepada orang lain yang memiliki budaya yang berbeda dengan kita. Dan juga tentunya membagi hidup kita menjadi saksi akan Kristus dengan makanan yang disajikan penuh kasih dan doa.

Indonesian Light Church mengundang gereja tetangga, St. John Baptist untuk makan bersama, dengan menu soto Betawi.

Makanan Indonesia terkenal dengan rempah rempah, kepedasan dan keasinannya. Dan saya percaya melalui kehidupan meski kami adalah minoritas di negara ini, melalui kuasa Roh kudus kami bisa garam dan terang, di negara ini. Kami ada disini untuk menjadi nasi hidup, sebagai saksi Yesus bagi bangsa bangsa dan bagi generasi. Ada istilah dalam Bahasa jawa “mangan ora mangan asal kumpul”, makan tidak makan asal kumpul. Saya mengartikan bahwa setiap ada makanan pasti kita akan berkumpul.  Jemaat mula mula bertekun dan sehati makan bersama, dengan kita berbagi makanan bersama dengan orang berbeda dengan kita baik secara suku, agama, budaya, kita sedang saling meruntuhkan tembok dan membangun jembatan dimana Tuhan Yesus bisa melakukan mukjizatnya.



by Hendy Stevan Matehelemual, Indonesian Light Church

Food is an important element in Indonesian culture. There are more than 300 ethnic groups in Indonesia and each ethnic group has its own unique food. When we talk about Indonesian food, the variations will be plentiful.

Pastor Beny Krisbianto (Nations Worship Center) doing food delivery. Most pastors will also deliver food when there’s a food festival event.

The relationship between food and the community in Indonesia is also very close. It would not be over-the-top to say that the culture of the community in Indonesia is very concerned about the food served. In the Christian Batak tribe, for example, if you want to respect someone who has a higher status, you would serve pork at your meeting with them.  To serve anything else would be considered an insult.

Bethany Elevation Community Church (New York) doing Liwetan

It’s not just the type of food that matters, however, but also the variety of ways that it can be presented. In Javanese and Sundanese culture, food is very closely related to togetherness, so a tradition called liwetan arises. In liwetan, everyone sits around dishes placed on banana leaves and eats directly from them. The sense of togetherness that arises while eating this delicious food creates a warm and friendly atmosphere.

Food is also an essential way to reach out to people and establish relationships. Franconia Conference’s Indonesian congregations in South Philadelphia—Nations Worship Center, Philadelphia Praise Center, and Indonesian Light Church—hold Indonesian food festivals each year. This is done, not only as a fundraiser, but also to open the door of heartfelt hospitality and to share a sense of pride with others, especially those outside the church community.

Pempek from Palembang (savory fishcake with spicy vinegar sauce)

The menu offered is diverse, ranging from the typical Batak Saksang, the Palembang Pempek, the ethnic Chinese noodles, the Javanese Ketoprak, the Padang Rendang, and the Madura Sate, and many other foods and dessert.

Satay (grilled pork meat on stick with peanut spicy sauce)

There is a saying in Javanese culture: “mangan or mangan sing penting kumpul,” meaning, “Even though there’s no food, it’s important to gather.” This saying came from a tradition that believes that whenever there’s food, there must be a gathering of people. Therefore, it’s not an overstatement to say that food is always central in the Indonesian culture.

ILC invited their neighboring congregation, St John’s Baptist, to share a meal

I believe that food is the entrance to the heart and soul; when we share food, we bring a portion of our lives to share with others. Indonesian food is famous for its spices, spiciness, and flavor. Although we are a minority in this country, we Indonesians can contribute greatly to being salt and light in whatever part of the world God places us. We are here to become living bread, as a witness of Jesus to the nations and generations.

When we are sharing food together with other people, we are breaking down each other’s walls (ethnicity, religion, culture) and building bridges where the Holy Spirit can perform His miracles through us.

Meeting Neighbors Near and Far

by Kiron Mateti, Franconia Board Member (Plains congregation)

As a relatively new board member with below average Spanish skills, I was surprised, but honored, when Franconia’s Executive Minister Steve Kriss asked me to join him and a Pennsylvania contingent to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Anabaptist churches in Mexico City.

A portion of our Pennsylvania contingent: Mary & Danilo Sanchez, Steve Kriss, and Kiron Mateti (not pictured: David Yoder and Cathy Godshall).

I boarded the plane with the stress of work still looming over me, and the mixed feelings that come with leaving a pregnant wife and two girls at home in PA while going on an exciting trip to Mexico.  With strong encouragement from my lovely and thoughtful wife, however, we agreed that this trip would be an opportunity to meet the real people of Mexico, to put faces to the impersonal news stories I often hear, and to allow God to recalibrate my ideas of who His people are in the world.

Our gracious host Oscar drove Steve, Danilo & Mary Sanchez (Ripple congregation), and me around Mexico City in Carlos Martinez Garcia’s Toyota Avanza.  I had previously met Carlos, moderator of the Conferencia de Iglesias Evangélicas Anabautistas Menonitas de México (CIEAMM) at the “Renewing Nations & Generations” gathering before 2018 Fall Assembly.  I enjoyed getting to know Carlos more and meeting Oscar for the first time, and greatly appreciated their hospitality.

Oscar’s heart reminded me of my Uncle Ravi in India.  One day, as we were driving to someone’s house for lunch, I mentioned how fresh the fruit in the road-side stand looked.  After we arrived and greeted everyone, we didn’t notice Oscar slip out.  Then, suddenly, Oscar had come back with fresh papaya, and proceeded to cut it and personally serve me a bowl with Tajin and fresh squeezed lime.  Que bien!

My mom’s native tongue is an Indian language called Telugu.  It is one of my life’s regrets that I can’t speak Telugu. In my defense, some of my hesitation to even try stems from instances of uncontrollable laughter when attempting to speak Telugu with my mom.  I guess I have an American accent.

But with Spanish I determined it would be different.  Spanish was not new to me—I had taken four years in high school.  But that was almost two decades ago!  I decided that I would speak what little Spanish I knew, and I would welcome the laughter.

But the laughter never came.

Instead my new amigos y hermanos appreciated my feeble Spanish, and I was amazed and thankful for how many people were willing to teach me along the way. And also, thank God for Google Translate!

The celebration services at El Buen Pastor, Luz y Verdad, and Cristiana de Paz congregations were a wonderful glimpse into a thriving Anabaptist church presence in Mexico City.  I was thankful to worship with my fellow believers, my neighbors from afar, and thankful to build relationships with the churches there.

Members from Iglesia Menonita Ebenezer at the Fourth of July “You Are Welcome” event.

Back home, at our 2nd annual “You are Welcome” Fourth of July picnic, Plains Mennonite Church and the Evangelical Center for Revival joined with Iglesia Menonita Ebenezer to enjoy music, food, and games in the sun at Plains Park.  Following my trip to Mexico, I found newfound courage that day to interact with fellow believers across the language and cultural divide. God used this trip to teach me that I don’t need to travel far to meet my neighbors—I can build relationships with my neighbors right here at home.

Openness to Change

by Justin Burkholder, summer intern with South Philly’s Indonesian congregations

Justin (middle row, 2nd from left) with his new friends in South Philly

In the blink of an eye, camp has reached its endpoint.

Philadelphia Praise Center ran its annual summer Peace Camp during the month of June. I was responsible for part of its leadership by organizing the kids from the community and congregation, planning trips for the group, and managing the volunteers who dedicated their summer to the children. Our team served up to sixty energetic kids over the duration of four weeks. We had a blast doing so, but it did not come without expected difficulties.

Peace Camp activities

This was a stretching month for me.  I have been learning to be more flexible with the way I approach ideas and time. Through leading camp, there were days when weather, sickness, traffic, loud children, or other forces resulted in a shift of plans. I have always been the type of person to set a routine, attempt to execute it, and then repeat. I’ve learned this month that life can’t always be lived like this because God moves in ways we can’t predict; we can’t always control or change things with our own hands.

Processing everything that happened this summer has been difficult because of the speed at which everything has been moving.  When it seems like I am not hearing from God, I attempt to slow down and retreat to the avenues where I have experienced His presence in the past. Recently this has come in the form of worship music, quiet time, new relationships with believers in Philadelphia, and other hobbies I enjoy.  I’m looking forward to fellowship at the Mennonite Church USA Convention this week in Kansas City.

My time in Philadelphia is flying by, but the experiences are valuable and have pointed me to Christ. I don’t love learning to be more flexible, yet it is a characteristic that has shaped how I journey with God. For that I am grateful.

Building God’s Community Together

by Steve Kriss, executive minister

I’m writing on my last night in Mexico City after celebrating the 60th anniversary of Mennonite churches here.  Over the last months, we’ve been reacquainting ourselves with one another between conferences and reconnecting the strong cords that have, for years, tied our communities together across language, culture, and country.

60th anniversary United Worship of the congregations of CIEAMM at Iglesia Christianas de Paz. (Photo by Kiron Mateti)

It was humbling to stand in front of hundreds of Mexican Mennonites who had come to follow in the way of Christ through the hopeful actions of mission workers—men and women who had left the familiarity of Mennonite congregations in Pennsylvania to build community in the emerging neighborhoods of Mexico City.   As we gathered at Iglesia de Christianas de Paz, I offered a greeting from 1 Corinthians, a reminder that different people have different roles but God brings forth fruit. Together we are building God’s community.

El Buen Pastor – the first Mennonite congregation in Mexico City. (Photo by Kiron Mateti)

But in the midst of that gathering, I was struck most by how going across the boundary to Mexico had changed our conference.   Early stories suggest that Franconia Conference leaders had been waiting for an opening to send international workers.  With a letter of invitation from a woman in Mexico, and after some discernment between various Mennonite mission organizations, Franconia Conference took the lead in Mexico.

Photo by Kiron Mateti

I believe these actions 60 years ago enlarged our hearts and understandings of the world and our connections within it.  Young leaders left familiar community for impactful service and leadership; they learned new foods, spoke Spanish, and tried to understand what essentials should be shared in a new cultural context.  Our understanding of what it meant to be Mennonite had to change.

Celebrating the 60th anniversary of El Buen Pastor congregation, the first Mennonite congregation in Mexico City. (Photo by Kiron Mateti)

And the church in Mexico grew – and is still growing.  The CIEAMM network represents our historic connection, but new connections — the Red de Iglesias Missioneras International led by Kirk Hanger; Iglesia de la Tierra Prometida, where long-term mission workers Bob and Bonnie Stevenson remain; and Centro de Alabanza de Philadelphia, pastored by Fernando Loyola and Leticia Cortes from Iglesia de Christianas de Paz — are ongoing parts of our shared witness.  Along with the Bible translation work of Claude Good that ensured the availability of the Holy Text in the Triqui language, we have made significant contributions to the family of Christ’s followers in Mexico.  The community that makes up these various networks is likely similarly sized to our current Franconia Conference membership.

The view from the top. (Photo by Steve Kriss)

As part of our visit, we visited the Torre LatinoAmericana in central Mexico City.  I stared out from atop the 44-story building, built in the same era that our earliest mission workers arrived. I looked toward the Cathedral of our Lady of Guadeloupe, where the story of a visit from the Virgin Mary to a farm worker in the field would change the trajectory of faith toward Roman Catholicism.

This global city sprawls in every direction around the tower: Mexico City is the size of New York, with 20 million people in the metro area.  There are Starbucks and Walmarts, as well as lots of traffic, and omnipresent cell phones.

Closing prayer at Luz y Verdad congregation, the 2nd congregation begun 60 years ago in Mexico City. (Photo by Kiron Mateti)

I prayerfully wondered what the next years will hold for us together, recognizing each other as sibling communities, and honoring together the Good News of Christ’s peace as we celebrate the possibilities of a faith that crosses boundaries.  This faith changes us in our giving and receiving and, ultimately, changes the world in ways that are both big and small.

Plains and Curious

by Jim King, Plains congregation (Lansdale, PA)

Four-year-old Jaya Mateti was immediately aware that the music in the May 19th worship service was different.  It had a beat and it was LOUD!  As soon as she saw everyone standing for the music, she asked to be lifted up so she could see.  With her feet firmly planted on the back of the bench in front of her, she looked around at our guests from Evangelical Center for Revival and exclaimed, “There’s a lot of ‘Indians’ here today and they look like me!”

At the beginning of our worship service, our worship leader Rina Rampogu reminded us that our worship time could possibly have less structure and more spontaneity.  About halfway through the service, smells of Congolese food being heated in the kitchen downstairs wafted up.

How did we get to having a combined worship service with a Congolese congregation?  And what is the point of this interaction?

During the summer of 2017, when U.S. politics seemed to focus on borders, boundaries, and walls, a small group of people met during the Sunday School hour to discuss immigration issues.  We had heard from recent immigrants that Lansdale was an immigrant-friendly community, but we wanted to do more in making people feel welcome in our church.  We noticed that our playground had already become a welcoming place for children of various cultures to come and play together.

This immigration task force, led by Rachel and Kiron Mateti (conference board member), helped us focus on ways we could be more welcoming and culturally aware of our neighbors.  We decided that a July 4 celebration in our church park could help us develop friendships with those who have come to the U.S. more recently.  To ensure that this would truly be a cross-cultural event, we asked Evangelical Center for Revival to co-sponsor this event with us.

Penny Naugle shares a story with children from both congregations.

After this experience, some Plains members indicated that they were curious about how the Congolese congregation worships, so about twelve of us attended their worship service in Elkins Park.  As Pastor Maurice Baruti and I sat together at the fellowship meal, we observed how different groups from Plains ate with members from the Center congregation and we talked about the possibility of doing a joint worship service together at Plains.  At first he wasn’t so sure it would work; their worship service starts at 11:30, ours starts at 10:15.  We ended up with a compromise of 11:00.

Pastor Maurice Baruti (L) and his wife Berthe (R) with Jim King.

Prior to the service, Pastor Baruti asked how long he should speak.  When he was told that we expected about 20-25 minutes, he smiled and said he was comfortable with speaking for an hour.  During the worship he spoke in French and was translated to English by his wife Berthe.  Rampogu said that as she looked out over the audience, “there seemed to be an expression of anticipation and curiosity on the faces of the congregation.”  Several guests from the Center congregation shared that they had just come off working a night shift but that this was a service they didn’t want to miss.

As we at Plains look to fill an Associate Pastor position, this worship service reminded us that we could me be more flexible in how we do worship.  With friendship, food, and fellowship, we will work it out.  Our pastor, Mike Derstine says, “Anytime we worship with another congregation we are stretched by new patterns and ways of doing things, new songs and differences in worship style, and fresh testimonies during sharing time from people in different work and life situations.  Then there was the stretching experience of different foods and table fellowship after the worship service, all of which serves to remind us that our concept and understanding of God is always beyond us.”

We realize we need to continue to change to be more culturally welcoming.  The last verse of our 250th Anniversary song, written by Justin Yoder, says it well: “Teach us new songs, while we hold dear the strains of long ago.  When we sing, the Spirit is here: may it be ever so!”