MWC executive secretary preaches in Philadelphia

by Adrian Suryajaya,

“There is not one culture that fully knows who Jesus is. That is why we need another culture to complete the character of Jesus.” That is the heart of the message Mennonite World Conference’s new executive secretary Cesar Garcia gave the congregation at Philadelphia Praise Center (PPC).

On January 29, Garcia made his Franconia Conference debut at PPC–a growing multiethnic and multilingual congregation in South Philadelphia that worships in English, Indonesian and Spanish.   “I am amused to see the little print on the bulletin that says ‘Multiethnic Church’,” said Garcia. “By being a multicultural church, you can be an example to other churches in North America.”

His message, affirming the call of multiethnic congregations, became a form of confirmation for the congregation according to Aldo Siahaan, PPC’s lead pastor. “As a pastor of a multiethnic church, I felt that Pastor Garcia’s message was an affirmation of what the church has been doing and it will always be a vision of Philadelphia Praise Center,” he said. “It is not easy and each culture needs to learn from one another. However, this will not become a hindrance because we believe that this is God’s plan for the church.”

Garcia offered God’s vision in Revelation 7:16-17 about what could happen if the church heeds God’s calling and remains faithful. “We will find consolation and satisfaction in God,” he said. “There will be no more emptiness in our life as long as we are faithful to heed his calling.”

Lindy Backues, a member of the congregation’s elder team, also felt the resonance of God’s plan for Philadelphia Praise Center through Pastor Garcia’s message. “I am very, very, very enthusiastic about the message!” Backues said. “Cross-cultural congregations are very rare [and] relevant today because it forces us out of our comfort zone. . . . It is easy to love people from the same culture. However, if we can reach out and love our brothers and sisters from other cultures, then the love that Jesus speaks about is fulfilled.”

Garcia, born in Colombia, is the first executive secretary for Mennonite World Conference who is a native of the 2/3rds world.  He began this position this spring and recently completed graduate studies in California.  Garcia and his family, along with the main offices of Mennonite World Conference, are now relocating to Bogata.