MWC celebrates ‘borderless faith’

Costa Ricans host annual Renewal 2027 event, highlighting global concern for migrants

Apr 22, 2019 by , and

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SAN RAFAEL DE HEREDIA, Costa Rica — Building on five centuries of Anabaptists being on the move for a variety of reasons, this year’s Mennonite World Conference Renewal 2027 event in Costa Rica focused on migration.

Rebecca Osiro of Kenya, with translator Sandra Baez, tells of Kenyan Mennonites’ work with refugees in a predominantly immigrant neighborhood of Nairobi. — Henk Stenvers/MWC

Rebecca Osiro of Kenya, with translator Sandra Baez, tells of Kenyan Mennonites’ work with refugees in a predominantly immigrant neighborhood of Nairobi. — Henk Stenvers/MWC

“We enthusiastically celebrate that we are a Christo-centric, borderless faith community,” said Maykol Luis García Morelli, president of the Association of Christian Mennonite Churches of Costa Rica.

“The Anabaptist tradition invites us to be faithful followers of Jesus and his gospel, especially in the midst of global crises such as wars, destruction, violence and injustice . . . where many people must leave their homes and migrate.”

“Justice on the Journey: Migration and the Anabaptist Story” took place April 6 at Iglesia Vida Abundante.

Renewal 2027 is a 10-year series of events commemorating the 500th anniversary of the beginnings of the Anabaptist movement. Each year, local churches host the event in a different region of the world. This was the third annual gathering.

A worship band from Costa Rica and traditional folk dance opened the day of singing and worshiping, attended by about 450 people.

Latin American contributors Belinda Rodriguez and Jamie Prieto addressed the theological and historical context of the event, with  Rodriguez telling of forced migration from Honduras.

“God requires love and obedience from his children. ‘When the foreigner lives among you in your land, country, city, etc., do not mistreat them,’ ” she said.

Jaime Adrián Prieto Valla­da­res, a historian from Costa Rica, asked how churches can offer a better future to migrants.

“The teachings of Jesus, our Anabaptist-Mennonite experience of migration and the songs of migrants, then, should lead us to take pastoral action,” he said.  “. . . Will it be possible for us to imitate and follow Jesus along the path of the migrants? Will we allow the Holy Spirit to move us so that we create and sing songs to migrant girls and boys that allow them to dream of peace?”

From each of MWC’s continental regions, speakers shared a testimony of challenge and hope.

“I learned that to belong is a two-way street,” said MWC chief international events officer Liesa Unger, who moved to Germany from Siberia as a child. “Whether I belong or not does not only depend on the others who need to accept me. It also depends on me — whether or not I accept the invitation.”

YABs (Young AnaBaptists) North American representative Larissa Swartz added that the story of migration is shared by Christians as brothers and sisters in an eternal kingdom.

“Our spiritual identity is that of foreigners in a foreign land on a pilgrimage to reach our true home,” she said.

Paul Phinehas of India focused on the story of Joseph in Genesis to emphasize the role of family in God’s restoring process.

“Our God is the God of res­toration,” he said.

Zaida López of Costa Rica offered a challenge: “When we meet a migrant in our country, do we think: How would I like to be treated if I were in their place? And rather than discriminate against them, we offer them a helping hand because they offer an opportunity to share the love of God.”

Participants gathered in groups to pray for Latin American countries with the greatest rate of forced migration.

On behalf of Samson Omondi, executive committee representative who was unable to attend, Rebecca Osiro shared examples of refugee response from Kenya Mennonite Church’s Eastleigh Fellowship Centre in Nairobi.

“Keep your eyes open for refu­gees, immigrants and migrants,” Omondi wrote. “Pray . . . [and] do not be surprised when God puts such opportunities in your path.”


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