Tag Archives: Mennonite World Conference

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.         

 

Part-time Registration for Mennonite World Conference Now Open

by Phyllis Pellman Good

Mennonite World Conference (MWC) is now offering part-time registration for assembly, which will be held July 21-26 at the Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

The daily registration rate for adults is $120 per day, and part-time registrants may join friendship groups, attend afternoon workshops and the art exhibit, participate in the Global Church Village, and other activities. Parking or shuttle service is included in the fee.

Magali Moreno of Paraguay is managing registrations for the gathering.
Magali Moreno of Paraguay is managing registrations for the gathering.

Tours, service projects, the Anabaptist World Cup, and Assembly Scattered will only be open to those who register for the full assembly. Meals are not included in the adult daily rate, although food can be purchased at the Farm Show Complex.

Registrants who cannot participate in the entire assembly may also share a full-time registration with another person, an option that may appeal to Mennonite organizations or churches who are unable to close down for a full week. Congregations and small groups are encouraged to use this option for participants who wish to attend part of the event.

Registration manager Magali Moreno says there are some drawbacks to such arrangements: “We can offer only a single one-of-a-kind registration bag, outfitted with necktie handles, and filled with our brand new songbook, with each full-time ticket.”

As of mid-March, MWC had received registrations from 64 countries.

“Once you enter the Farm Show Complex, you will be in a global community,” says Moreno. “Your registration is like a passport to the global church!”

For full-time or part-time registration for Pennsylvania 2015, go to www.mwc-cmm.org/pa2015.

 

Franconia Conference and Mennonite World Conference: intersections of global proportions

by Sharon Williams

Mennonite World Conference (MWC) Assembly, Pennsylvania 2015, is coming to the Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, July 21­–26. Emily Ralph’s job is to make sure that everyone knows about it.

Emily RalphEmily is the associate director of communication for Franconia Conference and joined the Pennsylvania 2015 leadership team when MWC subcontracted its communications work to the conference. Emily is responsible for many aspects of communications before, during and after the assembly, and is helping to lead a team of 75 volunteers who will produce media coverage for attendees and everyone else around the world. They will provide videography, photography, and graphic design; livestream the worship services; record sessions; do reporting; handle oral interpretation and written translations; engage all manner of social media; and connect with the press.

This assembly’s theme is “Walking with God/Caminemos con Dios/En Marche avec Dieu.” The communication team’s goal is to help build the Anabaptist global community on location and around the world. Another goal is to lay the groundwork for Indonesia 2021, the next global assembly.

Franconia Conference’s commitment to intercultural ministry and relationships is a key component in MWC’s planning. The conference and MWC have cultivated a partnership that dates back at least to the late 1990s when conference leaders exchanged sabbaticals and visits with then MWC president Mesach Krisetya (1997–2003) of Indonesia. Franconia Conference has had strong representation at previous assemblies in Canada, India, Zimbabwe, and Paraguay; Pennsylvania 2015 is an opportunity for the conference to further this partnership of ministry and mission.

Franconia Conference members can be directly involved with hosting this summer’s assembly. Volunteer opportunities include working with Emily on the communication team, doing translation, joining a music ensemble or the intercessory prayer network. Some members will lead workshops and some conference congregations will host tour groups. More congregations are needed to welcome assembly participants for worship on Sunday, July 26, as the Farm Show Arena cannot accommodate the traditional influx of local congregations for the closing worship service.

Information about the assembly and registration is available online. Volunteers who can commit to serving four to six hours each day can request a reduced registration fee if needed. Click here for more information.

All are invited to join the rich diversity of Franconia Conference with global brothers and sisters in worship and fellowship, and recommit to “walking with God” together.

Sharon K. Williams is a musician, editor and congregational/non-profit consultant. She serves the Lord with the Nueva Vida Norristown New Life congregation as minister of worship.

Prayer ‘essential’ for MWC assembly

by Phyllis Pellman Good, Mennonite World Conference

Joanne Dietzel of Strasburg, Pa., coordinates the MWC Prayer Network. — Liesa Unger/MWC

Mennonite World Conference is establishing a Prayer Network, recognizing the importance of prayer in preparation for its global assembly July 21-26 in Harrisburg, Pa.

“We are organizing an event which will bring people together from all over the world,” said Lynn Roth, MWC North America representative. “I believe it can happen only if it is bathed in prayer and is God’s doing.”

The first worry on everyone’s mind is obtaining visas.

“Our main concern is for young people,” he said. “But older persons from some of the countries where the largest Anabaptist churches are located — Ethiopia, Congo and India, for example — may have trouble, too.

“The American government’s concern for security, now more than ever, means that many of our sisters and brothers will likely be denied the possibility of worshiping and fellowshiping in this grand reunion.”

A visa task force is prepared to support registrants going through the visa process.

“We promised to do all in our power to work with U.S. government officials and embassies in those countries where this issue is especially difficult,” he said. “We believe that prayer is essential.”

A second concern is getting North American Anabaptists to see the assembly as a not-to-be-missed opportunity.

“Many of us will probably question whether we can set aside things in our daily lives long enough to travel to and attend the whole five and a half days of PA 2015,” Roth said. “We want to pray for ourselves, that we will learn the gift of hospitality of the heart and be willing to be transformed by the experience of hosting the global church.”

Inspired by Zimbabwe

The idea for a Prayer Network came from the Zimbabwean Brethren in Christ Church, which hosted the MWC assembly in 2003. In Zimbabwe, food and fuel were scarce, the economy was weak and the government unreliable. The Zimbabweans acknowledged all of this, stockpiling food and fuel months in advance. They also prayed.

Zimbabwean BIC member Ethel Sibanda led a Prayer Network. She also rallied people who weren’t attending the assembly but wanted to assure hospitality.

“We have learned from the Zimbabweans,” said Prayer Network coordinator Joanne Dietz­el of Strasburg, Pa. “We invite everyone who believes in prayer and the global church to join the Prayer Network.”

All who sign up on the MWC website will receive emails sharing specific needs and giving thanks for blessings.

Jane Hoober Peifer, a member of the Prayer Network planning team, has launched an MWC Prayer Walk in Lancas­ter.

“ ‘Walking with God’ is the theme for PA 2015, so walking while praying seems like an appropriate discipline to practice,” Peifer said.

She hopes groups of walkers will form across North America and around the world. Ideas for forming an MWC Prayer Walk group will appear on MWC’s Prayer Network page, along with passages of Scripture and prayer requests.

Read your way to Pennsylvania 2015

by Phyllis Pellman Good, for Mennonite World Conference

Whether you’re planning to attend the next Mennonite World Conference assembly, or just want to learn more about Anabaptists around the world, Mennonite World Conference staff have book recommendations for you.

“We should be well-informed hosts,” says Richard Thomas, who chairs the advisory council for the assembly. “Most of us probably can’t become fluent in Indonesian or Amharic or French between now and next July. But we can certainly learn more about our sister churches around the world.”

Five-volume global history series available

Mennonite World Conference recently commissioned a five-volume global history series, with one volume for each continent where Anabaptists live. The books are written by people from those continents and reflect the perspectives and experiences of the local churches. The series includes:Testing Faith and Tradition (Europe volume), Mission and Migration (Latin America volume), Anabaptist Songs in African Hearts (Africa volume), Churches Engage Asian Traditions (Asia volume), and Seeking Places of Peace (North America volume).

MWC Histories“I’m reading these books as one way to get myself ready for Pennsylvania 2015. I want to have a deeper understanding of how my sisters and brothers have found and sustained their faith,” said Thomas. “Many of them have survived wars and hunger and immense political pressure. Many have Muslim neighbors. I have so much to learn from them–and the histories tell those stories.”

Book about shared convictions

Thomas said he is also reading What We Believe Together: Exploring the “Shared Convictions” of Anabaptist-Related Churches, by Alfred Neufeld. The book is based on the Mennonite World Conference statement “Shared Convictions of Global Anabaptists,” and includes stories from around the world and questions for discussion.

Book discussions planned

Books discussions are being held around Lancaster, Pennsylvania, that will run through June 2015.

Conference staff are encouraging those unable to attend a book discussion to organize their own gathering, and use the books as Sunday School resources.

The assembly will be held July 21-26, 2015 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Five ways you can help prepare for Pennsylvania 2015

 by Phyllis Pellman Good for Mennonite World Conference

Next July, Anabaptists from around the world will gather for worship and fellowship at Mennonite World Conference in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. More than 8000 participants are expected to attend, and conference staff and volunteers are making arrangements to feed and lodge attendees, as well as preparing worship services, workshops, music, and the Global Church Village, a large display area and meeting place.

Mennonite World Conference is inviting North American congregations to get involved now, and help begin welcoming brothers and sisters from across the globe.

Pennsylvania 2015 will include worship, singing, and time for reflection in small groups. Photo by Merle Good.
Pennsylvania 2015 will include worship, singing, and time for reflection in small groups. Photo by Merle Good.

Here are five ways you can support the gathering:

Join the prayer network. You’ll receive monthly emails about particular needs as conference staff prepare. Two big prayer requests: that attendees from the global south will be granted visas so they can attend, and that churches here will offer extravagant hospitality as they welcome participants from other parts of the world.

Learn more about your global family of faith. A good resource is What We Believe Together, by Alfred Neufeld. The book is based on the Mennonite World Conference statement “Shared Convictions of Global Anabaptists,” and includes questions for discussion, so it’s a great resource for Sunday School classes and small groups.

Want other resources for your congregation, Sunday School class or small group? Check out Mennonite World Conference’s resource page, which includes news, background information, and guides for congregations.

Volunteer. It takes a (global) village to welcome so many people, and volunteers are needed now, as well as during the assembly. Those who assist during the gathering receive a discounted registration rate. More information is available at www.mwc-cmm.org/pa2015volunteer.

Partner. MWC is encouraging congregations in the U.S. to partner with each other so that churches with fewer financial resources or with recent immigrants to the U.S. can attend the gathering. The registration cost is split three ways: MWC and both congregations contribute part of the fee.

Register! Plan to attend Harrisburg 2015, where you’ll build relationships and remember the gift of belonging to an international family of faith. Register at www.mwc-cmm.org/pa2015registration.

Partnership solution developed to make PA 2015 attendance possible

by Phyllis Pellman Good, Mennonite World Conference

MWC see youHarrisburg, PA – “What a sad irony it would be if we welcomed the world to PA 2015 but we failed to find a way for our U.S. and Canadian sisters and brothers who belong to immigrant congregations, and to congregations who need financial support, to attend MWC’s Assembly next summer,” reflects Lynn Roth, Mennonite World Conference’s lead North American staff person.

“We have a rich diversity of nationalities within our 1400-plus congregations in the U.S. We worship in at least 20 languages – Indonesian, Amharic, and Karen, to name just a few. Many of the members of these congregations are fairly recent immigrants. Many of them have limited incomes. They want very much to attend PA 2015. But many cannot afford the registration fee, nor can they afford to take time off from work to attend.

“Yet we believe it is essential for people from these congregations to experience the global church and to be strongly represented at the Assembly to be held July 21-26, 2015 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

“Their presence at PA 2015 will help all of us more fully grasp the wonderful variety within the North American church,” says Roth.  “And having had this experience, we won’t be content to live so separately in the future.”

A partnership solution

“We’ve put together a plan that shares responsibility for solving this dilemma,” explains Roth. “Regional and area conferences, together with local congregations and church organizations with resources to share, are invited to partner with Mennonite World Conference, and with these congregations with limited financial resources.” (See below for details.)

“We urge all congregations and area conferences across North America to join us in this effort – both those who need financial support and those who have funds to share. Please keep this opportunity to ‘care for those in our household of faith’ in mind as you plan your 2015 budget,” suggests Roth.

“Email registrations@mwc-cmm.org for instructions about how a conference or congregation can become a partner by sending funds to MWC for their portion of the registration, and how the persons receiving the subsidy should register.”

A gift that keeps on giving

“Think of this as an investment in our ongoing life together as a North American church,” says Roth. “PA 2015 gives us a rare chance to learn to know our neighbouring churches – our sisters and brothers from other cultures and language groups, and with different economic status – as partners.

“We want to continue our shared life together when the last guest has gone home from PA 2015,” reflects Roth. “As a North American church, we want to more fully experience being part of a global faith family as a result of preparing for and hosting the Assembly.”

Here’s how the partnership solution will work:

The registration fee for a North American adult for PA 2015 (including the full meal plan) is $575.

  • Mennonite World Conference will subsidize $150 of that cost.
  • MWC invites the congregation’s regional conference or a partnering congregation to donate $150.
  • The participating individual (or his/her congregation) pays the balance of $275.
  • In addition, these persons will be given priority to stay in private homes for $25 per night (totaling $125 to $150).
  • An additional cost for which creative funding must be found is transportation to and from PA 2015.

Celebrations kick off 2015 Mennonite World Conference assembly

by Phyllis Pellman Good, Mennonite World Conference

Mennonites and Brethren in Christ in eastern Pennsylvania enthusiastically welcomed Mennonite World Conference leaders on Sunday, July 20 at two kick-off celebrations, exactly one year in advance of the opening of the July 2015 Mennonite World Conference assembly. The 2015 assembly will be held in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

One of the kick-off events was held on the morning of July 20 at Harrisburg Brethren in Christ Church. The afternoon event, held on the same day, took place at Mount Joy Mennonite Church.

MWC leaders join in the kick-off celebration. Left to right: Vikal P. Rao of India, assembly program committee; Liesa Unger of Germany, MWC chief international events officer; and César García of Colombia, MWC general secretary. Photo by Merle Good
MWC leaders join in the kick-off celebration. Left to right: Vikal P. Rao of India, assembly program committee; Liesa Unger of Germany, MWC chief international events officer; and César García of Colombia, MWC general secretary. Photo by Merle Good.

At both events, MWC General Secretary César García introduced the assembly theme, “Walking with God.” He noted it is drawn from the story of the disciples walking the road to Emmaus, in Luke 24. The disciples seem to be in a contentious discussion, but they still walk side by side.

“Only when they were seated at the table, communing together, did they discover who Jesus was,” said García. “When we are together in communion, we see with different eyes. And we discover Jesus in a new way.”

Songwriters Frances Crowhill Miller and Daryl Snider and song leader Marcy Hostetler led the afternoon audience of some 300 in rousing international singing.

Vikal P. Rao of India, a member of the assembly program committee, gave the audience a glimpse of the Global Church Village. The village will be a performance area within the Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, where assembly will be held.

“Every afternoon during the assembly, our stage will be filled with storytelling, drama, and music. We will celebrate our diversity within the unity of MWC,” he told the crowd.

Joanne Dietzel introduced the prayer network.

“We face two pressing concerns as hosts of Pennsylvania 2015,” she said. “Will all of our sisters and brothers from the Global South who want to join the assembly be able to get visas to enter the U.S.? And will those of us who live in North America be willing to offer hospitality of the heart to our guests? Will we step out of our overly-busy lives and fully join the week of worship, fellowship, and service, from July 21-26 next year?”

For more information about the 2015 MWC Assembly, go to mwc-cmm.org/pa2015.  Franconia Conference provides communication support for Pennsylvania 2015.

Police attack Mennonite church gathering in Vietnam

by Luke Martin, Vietnamese Gospel Mennonite Church

In June, security police attacked a Mennonite church gathering in Vietnam, where pastors and theological students were gathered for a conference and graduation ceremony. The event took place north of Ho Chi Minh City, at the Evangelical Mennonite Church, a congregation not officially registered in Vietnam. This past week, members of that church arrived as refugees in Allentown.

Luke Martin (left) and Vietnamese Mennonite pastor Nguyen Quang Trung at the November 2012 celebration of the Vietnam Mennonite Church.
Luke Martin (left) and Vietnamese Mennonite Pastor Nguyen Quang Trung at the November 2012 celebration of the Vietnam Mennonite Church.

Police arrived at the church at 11 p.m. local time, after attendees were asleep on mats laid out on the floor. Police called for two people to open the door for an “administrative investigation,” and a few minutes later, they broke down the door, turned on the lights, and stormed the building, assaulting students and church leaders. Those attending—76 in total—were led to waiting trucks, taken to the local police station, and booked, though no arrest warrants were produced nor any reason given for the beatings and arrests.  Police searched the premises, destroying some property in the process, and there are reports that police incited onlookers to throw stones at the church, breaking windows and roof tiles. Church leaders estimated the size of the crowd was around 300 people.

All of those arrested were released by the next morning, but attacks on the building—throwing bricks, stones and rotten eggs—continued for several days, and those coming to the center were searched and had property confiscated.  Electricity and water were cut in the area, affecting other neighbors as well. One pastor was charged with resisting administrative investigation and local disorderly conduct.

Church leaders are petitioning authorities and have laid five charges against the local police.

Incidents like this were more common in Vietnam as recently as ten years ago, but Vietnam’s government, wanting better international relations, has improved its record on human rights and religious freedom. One of the two groups that make up Vietnam’s Mennonite community was granted official status in 2008; it became an official member of Mennonite World Conference in 2009. Both groups have around 5,000 members each and have adopted the Mennonite Confession of Faith.

Still, stories of arrests, beatings, destruction of property, and other violence against Mennonites have been common. In 2004, one pastor was arrested and convicted on charges of preventing a police office from carrying out activities, a common charge used against religious leaders. That pastor was sentenced to three years in prison bur released after 14 months after an international appeal for his release.

And receiving official status as a church in Vietnam isn’t easy: churches must have been in existence for 20 years before they can request legal status, meaning churches must function illegally for some time. New congregations can request permission from local authorities to meet; sometimes they get it, sometimes not. When local authorities aren’t pleased with leaders or the activities of churches—whether registered or unregistered—they often resort to harassment.

The family that came to Allentown has been recognized as refugees by the United Nations Commissioner for Refugees. Nhan Thanh Nguyen, his wife Ngoc Ha Than and their daughter, who celebrated her sixth birthday last week, are members of the Evangelical Mennonite Church, where Nhan Thanh Nguyen took courses on the Bible and theology, led the youth group, and preached. He was repeatedly arrested and harassed, and he and his family fled to Thailand in 2011 where they were granted refugee status, and where Nhan Thanh Nguyen  continued to minister and preach to Christian refugees in Bangkok.

Pastor Hien Truong, of Vietnamese Gospel Mennonite Church in Allentown, sponsored the family to come to the United States, through Lutheran Children & Family Services of Allentown.

Parts of this article were first published by Mennonite World Conference, and you can read the full article here. Reposted with permission. 

Local churches to offer hospitality for 2015 MWC Assembly

MWC Assembly ScatteredMennonite World Conference Staff

Gahira sat on the street, resting from her one-mile walk into the city.

Cheryl (United States) had met Gahira on the plane into Axum, Ethiopia.  After using gestures and drawings to get to know one another, Gahira made it clear that she wanted to serve Cheryl coffee, an Ethiopian act of hospitality.

When they had parted at the airport, Cheryl wasn’t sure if she would ever see the Ethiopian woman again.  But here Gahira was, a woven basket of injera and a carafe of coffee in hand.  Cheryl gathered coffee cups from the hotel and sat on the patio with Gahira and her son, an interpreter, and the other members of Cheryl’s touring party.

“Together we celebrated our presence in this place,” Cheryl reflected later. “This place made holy by the warm, loving gesture of Gahira.” (read the full story)

Cheryl and her companions were just some of the hundreds who participated in Assembly Scattered in 2003, where they encountered the people, ministries, and stories of Anabaptist churches in an urban area or community while traveling to or from the Mennonite World Conference Assembly Gathered in Zimbabwe.

In 2015, Assembly Scattered will take place in communities across North America immediately before and after the Assembly Gathered in Harrisburg, PA, USA on July 21-26, 2015. These visits provide opportunities for Anabaptist brothers and sisters from around the world to get a taste of the church in North America and for hosts to experience the wonderful diversity of the global family of faith.

“After 20-some hours on planes, with my body clock six hours off, I finally arrived in Harare, Zimbabwe, eager for rest and sleep,” remembers Daniel (United States).  It was dark when he arrived at his hosts’ home, but the evening meal was ready. “[Canaan and Listei] had me sit down in the living room in front of a coffee table arrayed with food.”

Listei washed his hands in a Zimbabwean gesture of welcome. “She apologized that she couldn’t kneel before me because her knees were stiff,” says Daniel. “We older people understand each other on a subject like this.” (read the full story)

The 2015 Assembly Scattered will open doors for building new relationships with Anabaptists from around the world.  Each location will include partnerships among local congregations and ministries to introduce participants to a specific context of Anabaptism in North America.  Although the participants are responsible for their own travel arrangements and paying for their own lodging and food for the 1-3 day trip, local communities are encouraged to offer hospitality.

“Despite the additional work involved, it was a great privilege to serve borscht [soup] to so many visitors,” says the main cook at the KM 81 Mennonite Leprosy Hospital in Paraguay, which hosted an Assembly Scattered group in 2009.  “I dare say that most enjoyed the food and showed their appreciation by singing beautiful hymns.” (read the full story)

Groups of North American churches are invited to submit applications to host an Assembly Scattered in their community.  Go online at www.mwc-cmm.org/pa2015 and click on “Assembly Scattered” for more information and registration forms.

“I’m looking forward to working with North American churches that are eager to extend hospitality to guests in their communities,” says Evanna Hess, the newly appointed Assembly Scattered coordinator from central Pennsylvania. “It will be exciting to see the friendships that develop as a result of their hospitality.”

The deadline for submitting proposals is June 1, 2014.