Memories of Mennonite World Conference

May 15, 2014 by

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On Jan. 18 2014 our sister Leonor Méndez rested in the peace of the Lord. This Latin American leader of Guatemala served on the Mennonite World Conference Executive Committee during the 1990s. In the following piece she left us some experiences of her time with Mennonite World Conference. It is our prayer that God will continue raising Latin American women to serve our global community following in her legacy. – César García, general secretary of MWC

 “There is where you will preach,” said the lady who had come to pick up Mario and me at the airport. She pointed out the Winnipeg Stadium.

de Méndez


When I got the invitation to preach at the Mennonite World Conference Assembly in 1990, I had no idea of the magnitude of the event. I thought of about 300 people. My pastoral experience had not prepared me for an audience of 10,000 people. But it made me feel completely confident to think that these people, even though from different cultures, races and languages, were united with us by our faith and love for Jesus.

Linda Shelly did a fantastic job in translating my sermon from Spanish into English. I do not know how I did. But what I know is that I not only preached but also shared about my life. I felt the need to give myself to all those people for whom I had prayed without even knowing them. It was the first encounter with the global Mennonite church, a large crowd with which we shared fellowship in Christ. And they were listening intently.

I also carry in my memory and prayers Jack and Irene Suderman, who hosted us in their Steinbach home and shared their warm Mennonite love with us. To all of them I extend my eternal love and encouragement.

“I’ll see you again in India” was a refrain I heard frequently.

Assembly 12 in 1990 concluded with the Lord’s Supper. There was a time during that service in which I felt the Holy Spirit was moving to make us more entirely one in our diversity. My second conviction was that our Mennonite community in Guatemala was not alone in our work for God. We were part of something and of Someone; and that sense of belonging is still in us.

An Assembly is a big meeting after which we all return to our homes to continue with our mission, but we always hope that we will meet again to renew the vision and fellowship.

Leonor de Méndez talks with Milka Rindzinski Gulla. Méndez used to say that Milka was her voice and ears at MWC meetings. She did not speak or understand English, so they always sat side by side.

Leonor de Méndez talks with Milka Rindzinski Gulla. Méndez used to say that Milka was her voice and ears at MWC meetings. She did not speak or understand English, so they always sat side by side.

My next experience was in Puerto Rico, where I felt honored to be elected to the Executive Committee of Mennonite World Conference. This appointment was important for Central American women. It was the first time a Central American woman would represent Latin America in the MWC Executive Committee. Could we consider my participation in Assembly 12 as a sign that ministerial and pastoral areas were opening for females?

Painful contrasts

Before Assembly 13 in India, the agenda included a preparatory trip to Africa with stops in the U.S., Europe and Brazil. During that time, while touring a European city, I was face to face with the great economic contrasts between European cities and the city of Calcutta and some of our Central American cities. I still do not understand the mystery of human suffering. Why is it that all human beings cannot live under the same conditions of dignity?

One thing is certain. Those who live in abundance, as well as those living in adversity, are called by the Holy Spirit to follow Jesus faithfully and carry out in extraordinary ways our vocation as Jesus Christ’s church.

When I left Guatemala to go to Canada, Europe, Africa and India, I set out with a mental image of my small Mennonite community and my own ministerial role. The church of our Lord goes beyond what our eyes can see and our hands touch. It transcends barriers of race, language and culture. God is building the body of Christ in all nations and we are part of the divine plan.

Leonor de Méndez is from Guatemala. This originally appeared on Kristina Toews’ blog for Mennonite World Conference.

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