Tag Archives: Mennonite Mission Network

Studying and Remembering Calling

(Estudiando y recordando llamada)

by Steve Kriss, Executive Minister

I’ve studied Spanish off and on for nearly 40 years. My initial introduction happened via Sesame Street on TV with some Spanish interspersed between Oscar the Grouch and Big Bird. I then learned some basics at West End Elementary School. Much of that remains readily in my brain — even the crayons that were adhered to the wall of my classroom at West End Elementary.

For two years in high school, I studied Spanish with Ruth Y. Hunsberger, who after her time serving at Academia Menonita Betania, added a PA Dutch and Boricua accent to my Spanish pronunciation. I picked up more Tejano Spanish in San Antonio after serving a summer with Mennonite Mission Network in San Antonio which catapulted me into a more advanced Spanish class than probably was appropriate at Eastern Mennonite University where I studied as an undergraduate. I never got my language construction quite right after that.

Since then, I’ve studied several other languages a bit. I grew up in a household where my Grandpa spoke Slovak and snippets of other European languages. I was raised with an understanding that knowing some of the language of the neighbors could be valuable. Today, my immediate next door neighbors speak Spanish.

Earlier this year, for three weeks, I took the time to re-immerse myself in Spanish.  I chose a school removed from familiar communities so that I’d have to be a student only.  Though I did some work from Mexico, my immediate environment was school and navigating through an attempted Spanish upgrade. It was both humbling and invigorating.

After three weeks, my comprehension has improved. My colleague Noel Santiago and I are able to have conversations we haven’t had before in Spanish. I’m trying to practice every day, which so far has more often seemed endearing than annoying to those who’ve had to endure my commitment to keep practicing, even if it’s only when I’m ordering enchiladas.

While studying, I was reminded of the beauty and brokenness of the world. As a student in a secular language school, I found many people seeking and searching. My co-learners came from all over the world to a small city in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula to learn, to relax, to find something. I was invigorated by learning alongside them in their search. Admittedly, more often than not, the church was far from conversation and their search. Some were curious about my work and spirituality. Others avoided the conversation even when it surfaced.

But in these three weeks, I was reminded of my own call to serve the church as a pastor. It was a reminder of the commitments that I made to search out ways that the Gospel might really mean hope, freedom, and redemption for persons who are seeking and stumbling, for those who need comfort as well as those who need to be discomforted. It was a reminder to pay attention to all that is beautiful and broken, to find times when I might also be able to say as Jesus did, “the reign of God is near.”

I’m back with better Spanish, but I’ll have to struggle every day to maintain it. Next month, Marta Castillo will head to Indonesia to get an upgrade on her Indonesian language skills, so that she’s better able to accompany our Indonesian speaking communities as well. As a Conference, we are committed to having a multilingual ministry team, not only because it’s chido (cool) but because it also represents the work of the Spirit at Pentecost to bring the Good News to all people.

It’s our ongoing commitment as disciples, as leaders, as pastors, to extend the Good News to all people, until God’s reign comes in it’s fullness.  We are in it together.  Bersama.  Juntos. cùng với nhau. The beautiful and broken world is waiting to hear us.

We’re All Out of Chicken!

By Joshua Jefferson, Youth Pastor at Souderton Mennonite Church

We were all drawn together on that cold, windy Monday evening, February 13, by the promise of fresh enchiladas and tostadas made by the members of Centro de Alabanza, along with some warm conversation with James Krabill of Mennonite Mission Network, to share stories about the church in mission.  The topic of the evening was “Celebration of Shalom: Stories of the Church in Mission”, and so, after we finished a few tasty treats, James spent time sharing about his readiness as a missionary for plans to be interrupted by God’s unexpected appointments.

The son of parents who met on a church-planting mission trip,  James grew up in a congregation in mission.  North Goshen (IN) Mennonite Church was a Goshen College student-planted church in what was called an “immigrant community”, serving largely unchurched factory workers who had migrated from Kentucky and Tennessee.  This early foundation prepared James for a lifetime of mission-oriented teaching, service and administration, including 20 years as a Bible teacher in Ivory Coast.  He is currently Senior Executive for Global Ministries at Mennonite Mission Network.

James KrabillThroughout the the evening, James shared Biblical principles about how the Cross brings reconciliation on a cosmic yet personal scale.  He then reminded us that the ministry of reconciliation is God’s highest priority in the cosmos.  At this point I leaned in, realizing how often this simple calling gets strangled by the tyranny of the urgent.

“Peace,” he continued, “is not the distinction of one tradition, but the very model and message of the church!”  He finished by telling us of a friend who was once at an airport, trying to find a quick dinner before his flight.  He stumbled up to the counter of a Popeye’s, and ordered a meal. “We’re all out of chicken,” the cashier replied.  “But chicken is who you are!” the man responded.  For Popeye’s, to be out of chicken is to be out of business.  For the Church, to be out of reconciliation, is to be out of mission.

James told us about the history of his home congregation — Prairie Street Mennonite Church.  Founded in 1871 as a presence in the city of Elkhart, Indiana, the congregation originally housed the Elkhart Institute (which later became Goshen College) and the Mennonite Publishing House in the late 1800s.

“People who have been connected with that congregation their whole lives think of this as the ‘golden days’,” James confessed. “They live in the past, rather than saying ‘What is God doing right now?  How can we be God’s people today in this time and place?’ The neighborhood has completely changed; our context has completely changed.  In 2017, we do not live anymore in 1871. We have people with doctoral degrees and some people who can’t read and write.  We have some fairly wealthy people, and virtually, some homeless people!  We have some English speakers, we have a growing number of Spanish speakers. We have cradle Mennonites, and other people who are just becoming acquainted. So how do we figure out how to be the church in 2017?”

Listen to James’ story of how an unfortunate misunderstanding has led Prairie Street to become a place of hope for their community:

Download the podcast

At this point, we changed tables to meet someone new and to share about our experiments and obstacles encountered in mission.  I had the privilege of sitting with Lynne Allebach, the lay pastor from Arise Community Outreach, and Fernando Loyola, pastor of Centro de Alabanza.  We reminisced about our own unexpected appointments, and commented on the unique shape of the ministry of reconciliation in our different settings.  At the end of the evening, James offered a few final remarks, namely that Christianity comprises about one third of our planet, and that Islam comprises about one fourth of our planet.  This is paramount to the ministry of reconciliation.  We must recognize the task before us now, for the life of the world!

(Hear the entire “Celebration of Shalom” podcast in our audio gallery.)


Standing with brothers and sisters in Nepal

by Barbie Fischer, communications manager & administration coordinator

Top of the World Coffee in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Top of the World Coffee in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Those living in Nepal still tremble following a magnitude 7.8 earthquake that hit on Saturday, April 25. It was centered less than 50 miles from Kathmandu.

Dale and Bethsaba Nafzinger, who have ties to Vincent Mennonite Church (Spring City, Pennsylvania), own and operate Top of the World Coffee,  a café in Kathmandu. The Nafzigers reported they are all well, with little to no damage to their home and shop. However, the region is severely devastated, including several buildings in their town that crumbled.

Since the initial earthquake, there have been several aftershocks that continue to rock the region, including a 6.7 magnitude quake.

Dale says that growing up towards the end of the Vietnam War, he occasionally heard the term “shell-shocked”; now, he is experiencing it firsthand. Every time a loud jet passes overhead, causing the building to shake, or loud thunder crashes in the distance, he and others find themselves scrambling for safety.

In the midst of this, the coffee shop re-opened on Wednesday, and so far, response has been far greater than anticipated. When the Nafzigers opened the coffee shop, one of their goals was to offer a space of refuge, with comfort food and a comfortable environment in the middle of a very intense city. They are grateful, they say, to see their vision coming to life in a way they’d never imagined.

As recovery continues, Dale and his family have extended an invitation to the shop staff welcoming them to “both ‘live with us’ and ‘eat with us’ until things reach a state of normality, albeit, a ‘new normal.’”

In other areas, aid workers have struggled to reach several communities, such as those in the district of Gorkha, where the earthquake was centered, due to the mountainous terrain and devastation from the quake. The death toll has now risen to over 5,000, with thousands more injured. There is still hope, though: Not only have the Nafzingers reopened Top of the Mountain Coffee, recently a young man was pulled from the rubble after spending over 80 hours buried under what had been the Kathmandu Hotel.

Many are wishing to offer aid and support to brothers and sisters in Nepal as they tremble in the aftermath of this tragedy. Recovery will be a long process, and as Dale notes, it will be important not only to give immediate humanitarian aid but also invest in long-term initiatives to rebuild communities in the region.

If you would like to support recovery and rebuilding efforts in Nepal you can do so through Mennonite Mission Network’s Earthquake Response in Nepal. If you want to follow the progress of Top of the World Coffee, you can do so on their Facebook page.

Conference young adults serving with Mennonite Missions

ELKHART, Ind. (Mennonite Mission Network) – Emma Nafziger, of Pottstown, Pa., began a one year service term with the Service Adventure program in August 2012. Nafziger will be living in community with other young adults in a unit house in Raleigh, NC.

A 2010 graduate of Christopher Dock Mennonite High School (Lansdale, Pa.), Nafziger is the daughter of Robin and Dean Nafziger and a member of Vincent Mennonite Church in Spring City, Pa..

In this program of Mennonite Mission Network, young adults, ages 17-20, live in a household community, with a leader, for 10 months in cities and towns across the United States. Since 1989, Service Adventure participants have served in medical clinics, tutored children, worked with senior citizens, assisted in building homes, and helped meet additional needs across North America. They’ve become part of new communities; experienced and learned from different people and cultures; and grown in their faith.

Joseph BatesJoe Bates, of Red Hill, Pa., began a one year service term with the Radical Journey program in August 2012. Bates will be serving with a team in England.

A 2011 graduate of Christopher Dock Mennonite High School, Bates is the son of Randee Bates and attends Perkiomenville (Pa.) Mennonite Church.

Radical Journey is a Mennonite Mission Network program for young adults that emphasizes faith formation, service and cross-cultural learning.  Participants spend 10 days in orientation, 10 months in an international service location and another month in re-orientation with their home congregations.

Mennonite Mission Network is the mission agency of Mennonite Church USA and exists to lead, mobilize and equip the church to participate in holistic witness to Jesus Christ in a broken world. Mission Network envisions every congregation and all parts of the world being fully engaged in mission.

Teens’ China service brings comfort with the unknown

by Wil LaVeist, Mennonite Mission Network

Radical Journey participants Laird Goertzen (left) Kate Swartz and Paul Dyck recently completed a 1-year service assignment in China. Photo provided by Mennonite Mission Network.

When many Radical Journey participants prepare for their first overseas mission assignment, they tend to use words such as “paralyzed” and “blurry” to describe their thoughts. A year later, they use words such as “maturation” and “new perspective” instead.

This is how participants Kate Swartz, Salford congregation, and Paul Dyck of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, described their experiences. Along with Laird Goertzen of Goessel, Kansas, they formed a three-member team that recently returned from a year-long stint in China as part of Radical Journey, a Mennonite Mission Network international learning and service program for young adults.

There, they taught English classes at North Sichuan Medical College and at Sea Turtle, a foreign-language training center for children. They learned Mandarin and connected with China’s culture and people as they explored God’s work in China and ways to join in.

Radical Journey participants are typically divided evenly among recent college graduates, college students, and recent high school graduates. In addition to China, two served in South Africa, five in Paraguay, and three in England.

Swartz, 19, said she was not ready to “jump right into college,” but knew that she wanted to explore mission work at some point in her life.

“I decided to just let them place me where they wanted to,” Swartz said. “I had preconceived notions about all of the places … I just allowed China to choose me.”

Dyck, 19, also found himself in the city of Nanchong in the province of Sichuan without a clear calling to serve in China.

“The only concrete ideas I carried with me were the same blurry and rather idealistic intentions that I had before I signed up for the program,” he said. “I was excited to behold the open canvas that this year could be, and start painting a picture, even if I didn’t know what colors were available.”

As Swartz and Dyck started their assignments, mingled with Chinese neighbors, and explored their surroundings, their minds began to transform.

“I learned that the majority of people are caring, complex, and are worth getting to know,” Swartz said. “The world is huge and infinitely more complex than I originally thought, and (the experience) expanded everything that I think about or perceive.”

Dyck cited an excursion he, Swartz, and Goertzen took during the winter break as one of their more enjoyable and bonding moments. They took the “scenic route” by train back from a conference in Hong Kong, and hiked with a Chinese group to the peak of the Tiger Leaping Gorge. They had to speak Mandarin with fellow hikers.

“China is actually a really diverse place, and it was amazing to see all the differences and awesomeness that is all a part of the culture in China,” said Dyck, adding that the trip was fun and educational. “Living off our wits and with our language skills for a month on the road gave our team lots of challenges and opportunities to bond and grow,” Dyck said.

They also benefited from frequent visits with mission workers Don and Marie Gaeddert of Larned, Kan., who are in the middle of a two-year assignment with Mission Network. Swartz said that spending time with the Gaedderts helped her to feel at home.

“They invited us over for a Western meal with regularity, and that was always really, really appreciated, as it would often be our only spaghetti or biscuits or whatever for the month or so … They were loving and welcoming, and it was wonderful to share portions of our time with them.”

The Gaedderts, who became mission workers after becoming empty nesters, said they were impressed that young people fresh out of high school would be willing to go across the world to serve.

Upon returning to America and Canada respectively, Swartz, whose home church is Salford Mennonite Church, and Dyck of Charleswood Mennonite Church, are still processing their experiences. Both said they’re more open to the unknown of where God is leading and that they’re ready for college. Swartz will attend Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va., and Dyck will attend University of Winnipeg this fall.

“Even taking spiritual and personal growth aside, this year was worth it just for the academic onslaught of insights on such an interesting culture,” Dyck said. “When you live abroad, one thing that is really clear is that everyone around the world is the same (sharing similar values such as family, community, and a need for love and affirmation). But the other thing that’s also clear is that everyone around the world is completely different (such as cultural perspectives and approaches to life). In China, everything seemed to have contrast, and it was a great space for us to look at the uniqueness of ourselves as we became more a part of these other people.”

“I’ve grown more confident, more at home with myself, and more at peace,” Swartz said. “I’ve also developed more tolerance and acceptance toward people who are different from me. The two are more likely than not directly correlated to each other. I want to connect more personally with others, as I’ve connected more personally with myself.”

This article was originally posted by Mennonite Mission Network and is reposted by permission.

Relationships percolate at Top of the World

By Wil LaVeist of Mennonite Mission Network

Coffee Shop - front profile
Top of the World Coffee Shop’s primary mission is to be “God-honoring in every aspect.” Photo provided.

Entering the front door of Top of the World Coffee in Nepal, the aroma of fresh roasted brew draws you toward the corner of the café.

Across the brick-colored floor and beyond the black metal chairs and tables, a smiling Dale Nafziger works behind the coffee roasting machine, the source of the aroma.

It’s not Starbucks but even better, particularly for the soul. This coffee shop is the vision of Dale and Bethsaba Nafziger, long-term Mennonite Mission Network workers.

“It’s very different. It’s homey and cozy,” says Bethsaba of Top of the World, which they opened Dec. 11, 2011. “We thought a coffee shop would be a wonderful place to be with the people.”

The Nafzigers are fishers of men and women, only their bait is a blend of steaming cups, caring conversation and business integrity. They share God’s love through their business ventures. From selling frozen French fries, pizza and fruit juice to roasting coffee beans and pulling shots of espresso, they model Anabaptist principles and business ethics as a way of bearing witness to God’s love and power.

The Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal is in South Asia between India and Tibet. Hindus make up more than 75 percent of the country’s population, while Christians are less than 2 percent. Economic life among Nepal’s 30 million citizens has been improving. While about 25 percent of the population lives on less than the international poverty level of $1.25 per day, or $1,000 annually, a decade ago the rate was 41 percent.

Dale with the Roaster
Dale Nafziger, a long-term mission worker in Nepal, with Top of the World’s coffee roaster. The coffee shop staff roasts all of the coffee the store sells. Photo provided.

Still, conducting business is tough in Nepal, the Nafzigers say. For many business owners—even Christians, unfortunately—paying bribes and avoiding taxes is believed to be as necessary as having customers. Taxes can be as high as paying a worker’s salary, Dale says.

The Nafzigers opened Top of the World (because they are in the Himalaya Mountains) just before Christmas in a residential neighborhood. Patrons have been steadily increasing, they say, but as with any business, it hasn’t all been a piece of coffeecake.

“We had an excellent first day, but after that we quickly confronted the reality of what it means to run a restaurant on a daily basis,” the Nafzigers write in their monthly newsletter update.

Two mission workers, Melissa & Jim*, arrived last September from Texas and from a different agency to join in the venture and handle day-to-day operations. Bethsaba is also a registered nurse and midwife, and both Bethsaba and Dale are leaders in church. Dale preaches and advises church leaders regularly.

Through the coffee shop and other business ventures, the Nafzigers aim to show that integrity is important, even if it costs more. As the deadline approached for completing Jim’s business visa, a bit of “speed money” would have expedited the process, Dale says. Jim and the Nafzigers declined to pay the bribe, and Jim’s visa was completed just 10 minutes before the deadline.

Consulting the staff
The Top of the World Coffee Shop staff is intentionally interfaith—Hindus, Muslims and Christians work side-by-side. Photo provided.

The Nafzigers are intentional about hiring people of different faiths and backgrounds. Three Hindus and three Christians make up the coffee shop’s six-member staff. “We meet the staff every day and pray with them,” says Bethsaba. “We never force them to pray with us, but we see them as being happy to come and pray in the morning.”

Bethsaba recalled an experience that illustrates the type of godly relationships they hope the coffee shop will foster. Before they met and eventually married, Reena and Prakash Thapa were working at the Nafzigers’ home. Particularly Reena witnessed the type of love that Dale and Bethsaba bestowed on their daughters, Shova, 14, and Sushma, 12. Reena Thapa felt devalued by her family, which is the case for many women in the culture.

The love she witnessed and received from the Nafzigers led her to accept Christ. Reena and Prakash, a carpenter, fell in love while meeting at the Nafzigers’ and now have a daughter. They now attend “Tejwasi” (Radiant) Church with the Nafzigers.


The Nafzigers are supported by Franconia Conference congregations including Vincent, Providence, Doylestown, Plains, and Towamencin. Vincent is Dale’s home congregation and he still has family that attend there.  He will be at the June Pastors and Leaders Breakfast talking about what he learned through his business at Top of the World.

*Names changed

Franconia Conference young adults serve with MMN

Snyder serves with Service Adventure

ELKHART, Ind. (Mennonite Mission Network) – Carl Snyder, of Danboro, Pa., began a one-year service term with the Service Adventure program in August 2011. Snyder is living in community with other young adults in a unit house in Anchorage, Alaska.

A 2010 graduate of Central Bucks East High School (Buckingham, Pa.), Snyder is the son of Karen and Phil Snyder and a member of Doylestown (Pa.) Mennonite Church.

Swartz serves in Radical Journey assignment

Kate Swartz, of Spring City, Pa., began a one-year service term with the Radical Journey program in August 2011. Swartz is serving with a team in China.

A 2011 graduate of Christopher Dock Mennonite High School (Lansdale, Pa.), Swartz is the daughter of Rachel and Timothy Swartz and is a member of Salford Mennonite Church in Harleysville, Pa.

Clemmer serves in MVS assignment

Aaron Clemmer of Harleysville, Pa., began a one-year term of Mennonite Voluntary Service August 2011 in San Francisco, Calif., as a volunteer and support coordinator with Mission Graduates.

A 2011 graduate of Eastern Mennonite University (Harrisonburg, Va.), Clemmer is the son of April and Michael Clemmer and is a member of Towamencin Mennonite Church in Kulpsville, Pa.


Through Service Adventure, young adults, ages 17-20, live in a household community, with a leader, for 10 months in cities and towns across the United States. Since 1989, Service Adventure participants have served in medical clinics, tutored children, worked with senior citizens, repaired old housing, and helped meet additional needs across North America. They’ve visited new cities; experienced different people, foods and cultures; climbed mountains and camped in deserts; attended concerts, lectures and college events.

Rooted in the Spirit of Jesus, MVS invites adults, age 20 and older, to join together in Christian ministry for one- or two-year terms in various locations in the United States. MVS gives young adults the opportunity to live out their faith and discern God’s call for them by assisting congregations in service ministry to their communities.

In the same Spirit, Radical Journey invites adults, ages 18 through 30, to join together in Christian ministry for one-year terms in various locations around the world. Through Radical Journey, young adults engage in an experience of cross-cultural learning, service and formation as followers of Jesus Christ.

Mennonite Mission Network is the mission agency of Mennonite Church USA and exists to lead, mobilize, and equip the church to participate in holistic witness to Jesus Christ in a broken world. Mission Network envisions every congregation and all parts of the world being fully engaged in mission.

More information about Service Adventure & MVS.

Newton offices to sell part of building, consolidate workspace

Mennonite Church USA
Sept. 17, 2010

NEWTON, Kan.—This week, Mennonite Church USA signed an agreement to sell three of the four connected storefront buildings of the Newton offices of Mennonite Church USA to RiverPoint Church, a local congregation. Plans are to reconfigure the space in the remaining building to accommodate the 34 staff members who work there.

The 722 Main Street location is one of two national offices of Mennonite Church USA and previously served as the binational headquarters for the former General Conference Mennonite Church. One of the buildings in the process of being sold used to house the Faith & Life Bookstore.

“This is an answer to prayer,” said Shelley Buller, executive assistant for Mennonite Church USA, noting the cost of maintaining the properties. She anticipates that the consolidation of space “will spark renewed energy among staff at the office.”

Currently, Newton staff members are employees of Mennonite Church USA (denominational staff), Mennonite Education Agency, Mennonite Mission Network, Mennonite Publishing Network, Church Extension Services, Mennonite Men, Mennonite Women USA and The Mennonite.

While an inspection of the building is pending, and the sale will not be final until the Nov. 10 closing date, members of the Mennonite Office Executive Group (MOEG)—which oversees the Newton buildings’ maintenance and staff needs—also expressed excitement about the projected move.

“This felt right from the beginning,” said Chris Graber, building manager.

Terry Graber, production director for Mennonite Publishing Network and a member of MOEG, said that when the group learned of Faith & Life Bookstore’s plans to move to a different address last year, they thought the church should sell the property rather than try to rent it.

The Mennonite Church USA Executive Board agreed, and Graber, who served as the contact person in negotiations regarding the property, sought a buyer, but none came forward.

Then in late July, members of RiverPoint Church, an Evangelical Free Church congregation, expressed interest. The growing congregation of about 450 participants is renting space elsewhere in Newton.

As the two sides talked, the RiverPoint representatives surprised MOEG members when they offered to purchase the two adjoining buildings as well as the former bookstore location. The MOEG members realized that one building would have enough space for the current staff and more, and agreed that it would be good stewardship to sell the two additional buildings and move the staff. Negotiations went smoothly, Graber said, and the two parties signed the contract Sept. 17 following approval by the Executive Board.

“I’ve never been in a business deal where both buyer and seller worked so well together,” Graber said, adding that both groups were looking forward to having each other as neighbors. He said that he had invited RiverPoint’s staff to join Newton office staff members in their weekly chapel service.

Brad Martin, RiverPoint’s pastor, said that he has been encouraged by Mennonite Church USA’s willingness to work with the congregation on the transaction.

“Throughout, there has been a kingdom-minded focus above everything else,” he said. “We’re excited to be doing ministry in this building that has had such a long history of service to God.”

Once the transaction is closed, Graber said, the plan is to have a staggered withdrawal from the buildings over a period of 30 to 90 days.

Some of the funds from the sale will be used to remodel the remaining building—including upgrading the entrance—and to reconfigure the existing space, which Graber said will require minimal structural changes. Buller said she sees this facelift as an opportunity “to use the space efficiently and wisely and increase the camaraderie among staff.”

A portion of the proceeds will likely go to Mennonite Church Canada because of an agreement made when the General Conference Mennonite Church (GC) merged with the Mennonite Church (MC) in 2002 to form Mennonite Church USA. A Joint Executive Council agreed on a distribution formula of “60/40 for GC assets and 90/10 for MC assets,” which reflected the proportion of U.S. to Canadian members in the two denominations at the time. Proceeds from the sale will not be used for construction of Mennonite Church USA’s new building in Elkhart, Ind.

Ervin Stutzman, executive director of Mennonite Church USA, said, “I’m grateful for the initiative the staff in Newton took to work this out. The sale and the move will save considerable maintenance costs, make more efficient use of the space and solidify the offices’ place on Main Street.” There are no plans to close the Newton office, he added.

—Mennonite Church USA staff

Redefining success at the ‘Top of the World’

Bethsaba & Dale Nafziger

bethsaba-sorting-green-coffee.JPGI grew up in Vincent Mennonite Church, Spring City, Pa. I first went to Nepal, the land of Mt. Everest, under Mennonite Central Committee in 1979. Bethsaba, a native of Darjeeling, and I were married there in 1994 – where we currently continue to serve under Mennonite Mission Network. Until 2003 we happily served in various capacities under the United Mission to Nepal. Around that time, however, UMN had a number of entrepreneurial projects that they were looking to “spin off” into small private enterprises. Bethsaba “latched onto” one of those as an opportunity for providing jobs and employment to women living in our village. The opportunity was that of making frozen french fries. Our new company’s name was, appropriately, “Top of the World.”

Reena was one of our first Top of the World employees. She entered this life with “three strikes” against her: first she was a girl, second she was low caste, and third she had a hearing defect. While she worked Reena simply observed us. Then she began to ask questions…questions not at all of the nature one would expect to hear from an “uneducated” village girl. To make a long story short: Reena is now one of the key members of our local congregation.

In 2007 we added frozen pizzas to our product line. During that same year we added on coffee and re-registered our small company under the name “Top of the World Coffee.” A busy year and a half passed between company restructuring and the time we first began selling coffee. This time was occupied learning the coffee business, acquiring the necessary equipment, sourcing coffee, etc. Nepal is a landlocked country so everything either needs to be imported via airfreight, at considerable cost, or via India, at considerable risk. On November 16, 2008 we finally roasted and sold our first bags of coffee. It was a joyous occasion!

dale-roasting-coffee.JPGFrank A. Clark once said, “If you find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere.” That statement nicely summarizes our experiences in practicing “business as mission” here over the past seven years. Nepal is a stunningly beautiful country – given that it contains the highest mountains on earth how could it possibly be otherwise? The people are friendly, the culture is exotic…and the church here is growing at an amazing pace. Economically, however, it is also one of the most rigorous business environments possibly found on the face of planet earth. In addition to the issues that arise from Nepal being land locked, we currently struggle making and selling frozen foods with 12 hours “loadshedding” (daily lack-of-electricity), political instability, and perpetual shortages of essential supplies.

If economic problems alone are not sufficient, however, possibly our greatest area of challenge is that of business ethics. Fortunately, we are not alone in confronting these issues. We are part of a supportive network of national and expatriate Christian business women and men who call ourselves “Great Commission Companies – Nepal.” We meet weekly for prayer and also have regular monthly meetings. Luci Swindoll stated, “In God’s economy you will be hard-pressed to find many examples of successful ‘Lone Rangers.’” Based upon our situation here in Nepal, I couldn’t agree more! One of the issues that we regularly deliberate here is, “How do we define ‘business success?’” If one narrowly defines it on the basis of the teaching found in a traditional MBA…one may as well pack up and go home…or never even come to Nepal in the first place. Looking at success from a Kingdom perspective, however, makes the whole effort worthwhile. Just look at Reena!

Friends and well-wishers occasionally ask how they can access our products – as a way of supporting our efforts. Regrettably, they are not available in the USA…nor will they realistically be available there in the foreseeable future. Something that everyone can do, however, is pray. Beyond that people are most welcome to contribute to our continuing lives and service here under Mennonite Mission Network. Giving fills a very real need. Finally, our Top of the World Coffee does have business goals that I be happy to communicate via personal e-mail correspondence.

We are grateful to you, the churches of the Franconia Mennonite Conference, for your faithfulness in helping us to redefine business success here at the top of the world!

Mennonite Church USA Executive Leadership welcomes news service coordinator

annette_brill_bergstresser.jpgOn April 21, Annette Brill Bergstresser will join the Executive Leadership Communications team in the position of News Service Coordinator.

In this role Bergstresser will be responsible for streamlined news gathering and reporting for Executive Leadership, Mennonite Education Agency, Mennonite Mission Network, MMA, Mennonite Publishing Network and constituency groups. She will collaborate with these groups through regular meetings and will serve as copyeditor for the news that is distributed.

Bergstresser said she was attracted to the position because “it involves communicating about what God is doing across Mennonite Church USA, building relationships with different parts of the church, and extending the church’s witness to the wider world.”

Bergstresser has a bachelor’s degree in magazine journalism from the University of Kansas in Lawrence. For the last seven years, she has served as communications coordinator for Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference in Goshen, Ind. In this role she has developed a deeper understanding of the congregations in the conference—their diverse histories, unique cultures, strengths and challenges. And during that time her connection to the wider church has grown, as she and her co-workers have sought to link the various parts of Mennonite Church USA to their constituents.

Bergstresser is a relatively new Mennonite who did not grow up attending church. Soon after choosing to make a public commitment to Jesus Christ in 1997, she discovered Peace Mennonite Church in Lawrence, Kan., where she was baptized on May 31, 1998. As she became more involved in her congregation, one of the ways she sought to deepen her understanding of the Mennonite Church was by reading denominational publications; she remembers this as a faith-forming experience.

Before joining Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference, she did service learning for half a year in the publishing division of the Latin American Anabaptist Seminary in Guatemala City, as well as a term of voluntary service in Chicago. Following those experiences she studied for a year at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS), Elkhart, Ind., where her sense of call to church communications work was strengthened.

Currently Bergstresser and her family live in Goshen and are part of Faith Mennonite Church. She also works part time as communications assistant for AMBS, and plans to continue in that role.