Sixty-six nations gathering in the same place to celebrate their unity and diversity excites me! (66 is how many were there in 2003.) Does that excited you? Between July 19th – 26th the Mennonite World Conference (MWC) will gather in Pennsylvania to learn, worship and serve together. This happens every six years and I’m pumped up to be a part of it this time.
The Mennonite world conference is a group of Christian denominations who come from the peace church tradition also known as the Anabaptist movement. The group includes the Mennonites, Mennonite Brethren, Brethren in Christ, Amish, Hutterites and lots more…
What is an Anabaptist Christian? Dr. Palmer Becker adapted The Anabaptist Vision by H.S. Bender (Download it here) with a summary of anabaptist core values saying, “Jesus is the center of our faith, community is the center of our life and reconciliation is the center of our work.” At the MWC we’ll gather to celebrate these three values and explore how each nation expresses them distinctly. No wonder I’m excited?!
Three things excite me the most about the MWC:
1. The multinational worship is evidence that that God’s spirit touching the entire globe.
2. The Anabaptist understanding of Gods mission is relevant and hopeful in the violent world we live.
3. Mennonite hospitality will fuel many new and old relationships though face to face time of food, drinks and fun.
I love to worship, sing and read scripture with people from other cultures. Nothing is more excite than feeling the Creator’s presence in unity with almost every nation under the sun!
Then I saw another angel flying high over head with eternal good news to proclaim to the ones who live on earth, and to every nation, tribe, language, and people. He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, for the hour of his judgement will come. Worship the one who made the heaven and the earth, the sea and the spring of water.” (Rev. 14:6-7)
I graduated from high school 13 years ago. Three weeks after graduation I traveled with a team to Thailand and visited Youth With A Mission (YWAM) missionaries where I learned ran a kids day camp for the missionaries kids while the parents had workshops.
During one evening worship service I was amazed when I realized that:
1. All of the missionaries had given themselves to cross-cultural service away from friends and family.
2. The missionaries chose to act on their faith in a radical way and left their old lives fro cross-cultural obedience! (Like Abraham, Joseph, Daniel, Jesus…sense a pattern here?)
My Thailand trip shaped my next few years of travel in Jamaica, Haiti, Cuba and after we were married a trip to Iceland. It also shaped my college education. I studied Anthropology and Theology at Columbia Bible College and today, I’m in a Masters of Collaborative Development and Peacebuilding at Canadian Mennonite University.
The curiosity and excitement that comes with learning from people of other cultures was born in me on that first trip and I’m looking forward to more of it next week.
Global Jesus Centered Christianity
Second, There are people discovering the Anabaptist movement all over the world. They want to know more about our history of persecution, theology and identity. (Read the Naked Anabaptist for more about that)
For example in my Philippines context. In the Philippines Christianity has been a source of blessing and oppression through Spanish colonization. The first missionaries came to share the gospel, but also took land and forced people into churches with violence. Injustice has been a significant part of the Christian message to that beautiful archipelago for a long time.
Mixing state [violence] and church is like mixing manure and ice cream. The manure isn’t really effected but the taste of the ice cream sure is… (Tony Campolo)
As the church continues to mature in the Philippines she’s realizing that state power is not the way to bring about God’s Kingdom and lasting transformation in the nations. God’s power is not in societies places of power. “All authority on heaven and earth have been given to me”Jesus said (Matt 28:18). Worshiping, obeying and serving Him is where lasting power of God is… God’s power is in the foolishness of Jesus on the cross. It’s in our willingness to serve others, willingness to suffer and willingness to love people who say they are our enemies.
A practical example of this is that the church of the Philippines is realizing that God is calling us to become friends with the Muslims who Christian’s once feared and hated. The church has become friends with the indigenous people Christian’s once feared when we didn’t understand their spirituality. Now the church is seeing that Jesus goes into every relationship with open arms saying, “I am doing a new thing in the world, come and see!” We Anabaptist’s have understood our bible this way for a long time and I’m thankful that our influence in history is serving to transform the church all over the world in positive ways.
Friends and Food!
Finally, over the last 6 years I’ve connected with Mennonite leaders in theology, missions, church growth. Next week I’m looking forward to finally meeting people I’ve only known online face to face! I’ll connect with people from the #Mennonerds Network, the Anabaptist Network in South Africa, the Global Fellowship of Anabaptist Networks and leaders from Mennonite Disaster Service.
We’re gonna drink a lot of Fair Trade coffee, eat some of our international Mennonite food (can you say taco’s and Roll Kuchen?) and bond with the friendship that only happens when people are physically together. Imagine! Ethiopian Christians traveling around the world to eat with Filipinos and Columbians talking soccer with Koreans! What a beautiful example of the church demonstrating her global character by coming together to reflect and listen to one another. Being together as a global family of faith is my third and most valued highlight!
Our global unity shows the world that our diversity is a strength and I pray that the MWC will continue to diversify and in that diversity find our strength as one family.