Evana convention attendance nearly doubles

Network's second assembly includes baptism of four young people

Jul 17, 2017 by and

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UPLAND, Ind. — Hailey Beisel and Brooke Yoder weren’t signed up to attend Evana Network’s ReGen 2017 convention. But when two others from the Kaufman Mennonite Church youth group in Davidsville, Pa., dropped out at the last moment, the two girls took those places.

Along with two other young people, they requested and received baptism during the event.

Theresa Wolf, youth leader at Kaufman Mennonite Church in Davids­ville, Pa., gives thanks to God after the baptism of Hailey Beisel, 12, and Brooke Yoder, 13. At left, Anya Schlabach, 14, awaits baptism with her father, Randall Schlabach, pastor of Thomas Mennonite Church in Holsopple, Pa. Four young people were baptized during the Evana Network convention. — Rachel Stella/MWR

Theresa Wolf, youth leader at Kaufman Mennonite Church in Davids­ville, Pa., gives thanks to God after the baptism of Hailey Beisel, 12, and Brooke Yoder, 13. At left, Anya Schlabach, 14, awaits baptism with her father, Randall Schlabach, pastor of Thomas Mennonite Church in Holsopple, Pa. Four young people were baptized during the Evana Network convention. — Rachel Stella/MWR

Such spontaneity characterized Evana’s second annual convention July 1-4 at Taylor University.

The mood flowed from the theme, “Start With Amen,” emphasizing surrender to the leading of the Holy Spirit. The theme is central to Evana’s identity as a growing, 2-year-old network of congregations that continues to define itself and resist being limited by labels.

“What is Evana? We’re ‘Start With Amen,’ ” said executive director John Troyer of Goshen, Ind.

The convention drew 485 people, close to double the previous year’s attendance. It featured a spirit of revival, exuberance and spontaneity, embracing Pentecostal and Pietist influences in addition to an Anabaptist heritage. Space was made for passionate worship, dancing, spontaneous prayer meetings for intercession and healing, and acknowledgement of conflict in the spiritual realm.

Opening worship speaker Myron Augsburger, a former president of Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va., outlined basic beliefs rooted in Anabaptism and Protestantism that are starting points for Evana.

“God is a God of reconciliation, and he wants to use us as his agents of reconciliation,” Augsburger said. “That’s costly. . . . You can’t be with someone [who is] suffering without real deep intimacy without suffering yourself.”

He characterized Evana as a church renewal movement.

“Mennonite Church USA ought to be enriched by programs like Evana,” he said. “We ought to care about seeing renewal move through the church.”

Confessing secrets

Other speakers told of how God had worked in their lives.

Nineteen-year-old Elijah Evans of Youngsville, La., shared his story as a survivor of child abuse, which led him at age 13 to begin a ministry for children in foster care, No Use For Abuse.

“[God] gave me this story to let people know about it and do something with it,” he said.

Surgeries left Evans in pain and unable to walk. After graduating from high school, he was able to walk again after another surgery.

He invited listeners to write their hurts on a dry-erase board and then erase them, writing instead what they would become.

“Forgive that person; forgive that object; forgive yourself,” he said. “Forgiveness is the biggest key in life.”

Troyer then invited all attendees to confess their own dark secrets to find spiritual freedom.

“The light that comes onto our secrets is something that Satan absolutely hates,” he said. “When we come forward in courage and we are willing to say, ‘I will now stand in a new place,’ it breaks the principalities and powers of the air. The power of Jesus Christ is there to transform.”

Attendees at the Evana Network convention worship on July 4 at Taylor University in Upland, Ind. — Rachel Stella/MWR

Attendees at the Evana Network convention worship on July 4 at Taylor University in Upland, Ind. — Rachel Stella/MWR

It was a powerful moment for many.

“I’m really grateful for the way a number of youth and adults found freedom on Monday night from secrets that they’d been living with,” Troyer said in a July 10 phone interview. “To see that experience also turn to joy for many of them was really the highlight of the gathering for me.”

Speaker and author Beth Guckenberger of Cincinnati shared stories of how God worked when she and her family followed God’s leading.

“We trust [the Holy Spirit] when he nudges and prompts and convicts us and encourages us and moves us in those ways, because he’s looking at an entire storyline,” she said. “He understands the assignments he has yet for us to do.”

Preventing abuse

A delegate session on abuse prevention introduced a representative of Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment, or GRACE.

“The safety of our children, our vulnerable members, is more important to us than the reputation of our churches and our ministers,” said Evana board chair Matthew Hamsher. “The church has sometimes tried to keep in darkness things that should have been brought into the light.”

Troyer suggested congregations partner with GRACE to make abuse prevention a priority.

The delegate session was a time of quiet discernment followed by sharing rather than voting. Delegates and others were asked to pray and listen for God’s voice regarding steps for abuse prevention, Evana’s future direction and an item clarifying automatic delegate status.

Most of the sharing time focused on future direction as God would lead.

“Evana is to be an equipping and sending network, not primarily a gathering network,” said Wes Furlong, Evana’s director of church development.

Jeff Ressler, pastor of Crossroads Christian Center in Mount Vernon, Ill., shared the image of a well-built spider’s web: “Making sure we don’t just gather in one place, we build webs and have a sense to venture out when there’s something we need to do,” he said. “Strong enough to maintain our web’s integrity no matter how big it gets.”

Some people focused on the foundation.

“It is a privilege to be part of Evana, built on the foundation of Jesus Christ,” said Ron Roth, pastor of Marion Christian Fellowship in Shipshewana, Ind.

Lynn Suter from Virginia Mennonite Missions said: “We go forth without fear because of our firm foundation. Pioneers want to go out; settlers want to stay in community and celebrate. To the settlers in the room: Don’t be afraid to go out.”

There are 34 congregations in Evana Network, whose name combines the words evangelical and Anabaptist. More than two-thirds were formerly affiliated with MC USA. The rest participate in Evana but retain membership with MC USA, or, in the case of one, Conservative Mennonite Conference.

Attendees represented 65 churches from 17 states.


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  • Conrad Ermle

    The Anabaptist movement was a Charismatic movement from the start and is reclaiming its roots. – Pastor Conrad Ermle

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