Tag Archives: J. Eric Bishop

MCC International Volunteers: Impacting the World

Kaputa_Madalitsoby Millie Penner, Mennonite Central Committee East Coast

“We eat together, sing together in both English and Chichewa, go on our nightly walks together, and laugh together like a family of hyenas,” says Eric Bishop of his family’s relationship with Madalitso Kaputa. Eric and Linda Bishop, Souderton congregation, have opened their home to Madalitso, a participant in the International Volunteer Exchange Program (IVEP). IVEP is a program of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) that brings young adults from other countries to live and work in Canada and the United States for a year. Madalitso is far from his home in Malawi, Africa this year, yet clearly he also has found a family with the Bishops.

During the day Madalitso volunteers at the Dock Woods and Dock Meadows campuses (Lansdale, Pa.) of the Living Branches retirement community. It is clear to his host family and both his supervisors that this work is far more than a short term volunteer assignment. For Madalitso, this work is a part of the calling God has on his life, a calling he works to fulfill with joy and passion. He says, “When I first arrived in the United States, the food, the time change and the people were all new to my life, and I wondered if I would be able to hold on to my sense of mission. But after a month, I feel like I’m at home as my wonderful host family has helped me to remember my mission goal. Through my work at Dock Woods and Dock Meadows, I have come to understand the great call that the church has in taking care of people, especially the elderly. Indeed, this is now the time that the church should be inviting and welcoming all the elderly into her caring and protective service as the salt and light of the world.”

Gerry Moore, who supervises Madalitso at Dock Meadows, agrees that he is focused and effective. “He is eager to visit with each resident and learn their stories. He wants them to know they have a life time of experience to share, a wealth of wisdom and much he can learn from them.”

Dock Meadows and Dock Woods have hosted IVEPers for several years and have seen good fruit from the cross-cultural exchanges that happen through this program. Eileen Burks of Dock Woods says, “A resident just received an email from one of our past IVEPers from Indonesia. They have been in contact for over seven years, and this clearly is one of many great bonds that were formed through this program. Another way that we are enriched is when the IVEPer brings the world to our residents through a cultural class, sharing about their country … family, faith, foods and languages.”

Madalitso will take many gifts with him when he leaves the IVEP program, not the least of which is a better sense of the world community. Linda Bishop, his host mother, says that he already refers to the world as his home, not just Malawi, since he is willing to go wherever God sends him.

And Madalitso will leave just as many gifts with those whose lives he touches here in Pennsylvania. Living Branches residents, his supervisors and his host family will have formed many good memories, relationships and connections that will last a lifetime.

So, how does Ervin do that?

by J. Eric Bishop, Souderton

Ervin StutzmanErvin Stutzman, Executive Director for Mennonite Church USA, will be the guest speaker at this year’s assembly: God@Work, November 10 at Penn View Christian School in Souderton, Pa.  Recently, Eric Bishop, a member of Souderton congregation and teacher at Christopher Dock Mennonite High School, sat down with his friend Merrill Moyer, who has worked with Ervin for a number of years on the Mennonite Church USA Executive Board, to learn more about Ervin’s life and ministry.

Executive Board Member, Merrill Moyer, says, “Ervin has an energy level that I’ve rarely seen. There are seldom two consecutive minutes in a day when he isn’t doing something productive.” Moyer notes that even though there are twenty-one conferences in Mennonite Church USA, with a total of 900 congregations, Ervin “will know what’s going on in every conference and in many congregations as well.”

The biographical summary posted on the MennoMedia website is extensive in recounting Ervin’s many accomplishments:

Ervin R. Stutzman is Executive Director for Mennonite Church USA. Before taking on this role in January 2010, he served for nearly 12 years as Dean and Professor of Church Ministries at Eastern Mennonite Seminary, Harrisonburg, VA. He has also served the Mennonite Church in the roles of pastor, district overseer, missions administrator, conference moderator and, from 2001 to 2003, as moderator for Mennonite Church USA.

Ervin graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Cincinnati (Ohio) Christian University. He holds master’s degrees from the University of Cincinnati and Eastern Mennonite Seminary. He received his Ph.D. from Temple University. His master’s thesis at Eastern Mennonite Seminary was “Biblical Interpretation in the Free Church: Appropriating Scriptural Truth Through Communal Discernment.” For his doctoral dissertation he wrote “From Nonresistance to Peace and Justice: Mennonite Peace Rhetoric, 1951-1991.”

Ervin was born a twin into an Amish home in Kalona, Iowa. After his father’s death a few years later, his mother moved the family to her home community near Hutchinson, Kan. Ervin was baptized in the Center Amish Mennonite Church near Partridge. Later, he joined the Yoder Mennonite Church.

Ervin married Bonita Haldeman of Manheim, Pa. Together they served for five years with Rosedale Mennonite Missions in Cincinnati, part of that time in voluntary service. Ervin was ordained to serve as co-pastor of Mennonite Christian Assembly. From there, the Stutzmans moved to Pennsylvania, where they were members of the Mount Joy Mennonite Church. They currently live in Harrisonburg, Va.

Ervin is a preacher, teacher and writer. His Herald Press publications include Being God’s People, a study for new believers, Creating Communities of the Kingdom (co-authored with David Shenk), Welcome!, a book encouraging the church to welcome new members, Tobias of the Amish, a story of his father’s life and community, and Emma, A Widow Among the Amish, the story of his mother. Ervin enjoys doing woodworking projects in partnership with Bonita. They have three adult children, Emma, Daniel and Benjamin.

Part of Ervin’s Life Purpose Statement reads: In response to God’s love expressed in Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, I purpose to follow after God with all my heart so that God may be glorified in my life at all times and in every way.

Stutzman’s approach to leadership reflects his desire to get to know the people he serves. An entrepreneur himself, Stutzman has a special respect for business leaders who are known for their organizational dynamics and their ability to provide direction for those they are charged with leading. While on his many road trips as Executive Director, he makes special efforts to meet with area business people for them to share their view of the church, and teach him about effective leadership and management.

Moyer calls Stutzman a “visionary thinker,” one who is also able to “translate that vision into something that people can understand.” Though he has offices in Elkhart, IN and in Newton, KS, Stutzman chooses to keep his residence and home office in Harrisonburg, VA, a choice that Moyer suggests helps the Executive Director to resist the “beltway mentality” that can easily form inside those two centers of Mennonite Church administration.

Having hosted Ervin in his Souderton, PA home during some of those church-business related road trips, Moyer says that Stutzman is “a humble guy who fits in well in varied surroundings,” and that he can “sit down at the table and talk all evening about his passion for Jesus and his vision for the church.”