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Seek ye first the kingdom of God, not the Amish romance

By on May 22, 2018 in The World Together | 1 comment

About every two to three months, I get messages from a young woman or two wanting to become Mennonite or Amish. They’ve done no research and are looking for dress patterns or, as they call it, “Kapp” patterns.

Each time I’m a bit grieved because I know, in reality, nothing on the outside matters if the inside isn’t changed. I labor over how to answer them, knowing I was once in a similar position but with a lot more research under my belt.

A “plain” church or fellowship can be of no use if you aren’t fully informed about the culture that goes with it. There is more than putting on a long dress and white head covering — it’s about a daily walk with the Lord as well as an understanding of the people you walk alongside.

The new wears off, and it does become hard eventually. You’ll want a solid foundation with Jesus Christ.

This is a list of questions that pertain to the kingdom of God as well as entering a culture that I’ll be giving to my Amish-romance-novel-collecting friends to think on in the future.

  • Do you use foul language?
  • What type of books and movies do you watch?
  • What is your relationship with your family like?
  • Have you attended a plain fellowship? For how long?
  • Have you been 100 percent open and honest with them about your walk with Christ?
  • Do you have unconfessed sins?
  • Are you nonresistant? Do you know what that means?
  • Do you have a mentor?
  • Are you ready to die?
  • What does following Jesus look like to you?
  • Have you developed relationships inside of the community that you are trying to fellowship with?
  • Do you know what it means if I say there are two kingdoms and I am a citizen of one of them?
  • Have you read a lot of Amish romance books and just like this lifestyle?
  • Do you currently dress modestly to the best of your ability?
  • What is your view on divorce and remarriage?
  • What about same-sex romantic partnerships?
  • Do you hate anyone?

These are questions to ask yourself — not to answer to impress me, but to determine if you are ready to truly go in this direction. I can help you to find the answers and to guide you in a real relationship as a follower of Jesus Christ and to help connect you to a community when you are truly and sincerely ready. Until then, pray and keep seeking the Lord.

Nicci Price is a member of the Covington, Ohio, district of the Old German Baptist Brethren Church, New Conference. She blogs at Pilgrim Nicci Journeying On, where this post first appeared.

God as Father

By on May 21, 2018 in The World Together | 6 comments

I’ve noticed more often lately that some of our Mennonite preachers and writers avoid calling God “Father.” Is this theologically correct? Is it wise? Do we want our children and newcomers to the church to lose the sense of God as Father? Do we really want to remove “Father” from our hymns, songs and creeds?

Recently, our choir sang a song called “The Lord’s Prayer,” which begins, “Our God in heaven…” It was beautiful and uplifting! But was it really necessary to change the words?

The argument goes that since God is neither male nor female, and that as the writers of the Bible were influenced by a patriarchal society, in our modern society we should remove all gender descriptions referring to God. In many ways, this makes sense. However, is it appropriate for us to change words given by Jesus? Unless we discredit the writing of the gospels as being completely unreliable, Jesus referred to or directly addressed God as Father 65 times in the Synoptic Gospels and more than 100 times in John. It would behoove us to hesitate before changing the words of Jesus.

The word Father is a basic tenet of the Trinity. If we describe the Trinity as God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, then the belief in God as three in one is no longer tenable. It reduces the status of Jesus and the Holy Spirit to be separate from God. Without “Father,” our faith becomes not much different from other monotheistic faiths. If we neglect or distort God’s nature as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we risk slipping into the void of universalism. If my children and grandchildren are raised singing hymns and songs that no longer include references to God as Father, will they have an incomplete understanding of God? Will something really crucial be missing? Will this only further water down the uniqueness of Christianity and erode the truth of our faith in Jesus who knew God as Father?

Knowing God as Father teaches an intimacy with God that was modeled for us by Jesus, who referred to God as Father and taught us to do the same. If we take “Father” out of our Christian hymns and even alter Scripture, it imprints an impersonal and distant deity upon our consciousness not dissimilar to gods in other religions.

Replacing God with “Parent” or “Creator” doesn’t foster a strong sense of intimacy and trust. I recognize, however, that this is personal and likely different for others, especially for those who have lived through abuse or neglect from their earthly fathers or for those who have not known an earthly father. But, rather than removing anything that could cause offense, can we embrace the opportunity to discover what our heavenly Father is like? Is taking the struggle away the right solution?

Removing the word “Father,” no matter what we replace it with, means that we assume intellectual superiority to the writers of the Bible. We have rendered judgment that God is no longer Father. We have decided for ourselves what the nature of God is like — creating a god that is to our liking, rather than accepting God as revealed to us in Scripture. If we acknowledge that God is beyond our understanding, then how can we limit God to what we understand? Leaving the names and descriptions as they are in God’s Word acknowledges that God is mysterious, higher than ourselves, and that any description of God will always be inadequate.

Let’s remember that “Our Father, who is in heaven” is followed by “hallowed be your name.” This requires us to show honor and respect in how we address God. Praying as Jesus taught us to pray shows our reverence for God in that we will not assume that we have God figured out. It affirms that God is not created by the creature, but has made us and is omnipotent. In our worship, let’s respect the holiness and omniscience of God without requiring that God fit within our human constraint.

Yes, we continue to seek to know and understand God. We teach, preach, write and walk with others in understanding the God of the Bible. We can affirm God’s mothering qualities with many scriptural references and affirm that God is neither male or female while still praying, “Our Father.” We wrestle through this mystery and walk with others doing the same. But, let’s not delete a way of addressing our mysterious God as revealed in Scripture.

Tim Bentch is lead pastor of Souderton (Pa.) Mennonite Church.

Longhurst: Will truth be told?

By on May 21, 2018 in Columns, Latest Issue, Longhurst: North of the 49th | 1 comment

Since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established in 2008, Canada has been wrestling with the legacy of its residential school system for indigenous children. The topic has fueled discussion in the media and in faith groups, especially in churches that ran schools.

John Longhurst

Longhurst

Some say things aren’t moving fast enough, but there’s no escaping how this has become a topic of national conversation. All this attention in Canada is quite unlike what’s happening in the U.S., which had a similar system.

In fact, the Canadian residential school system was modeled on it. In 1879 the Canadian government sent an official to study U.S. boarding schools for indigenous children.

More than 500 U.S. schools were attended by more than 250,000 children. Some were sent forcibly. The goal was to “kill the Indian and save the man,” in the words of Capt. Richard Pratt, who helped create what was called the U.S. Indian boarding school system.

Many of these schools were run by churches — Presbyterians, Catholics, Quakers, Episcopalians and, in at least three cases, by Mennonites, in Cantonment and Darlington, Okla., and Halstead, Kan. (Mennonites in Canada operated one school.)

Like in Canada, the schools left a legacy of suffering, loss of language, family breakdown and alcohol and drug abuse. Unlike in Canada, little attention is being paid in the U.S. today.

One person trying to change that is Denise Lagimodiere, an associate professor in the school of education at North Dakota State University in Fargo and an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Pembina Chippewa.

She is president of the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition, a nonprofit organization building a database of survivor accounts.

She became interested in the issue after learning that family members, including her own father, were boarding school survivors.

“I never knew these stories existed because my family members had all maintained silence on their experiences until I began asking questions,” she said.

Her goal is to see something like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission occur in the U.S. But first, she says, Americans have to come to terms with what they did to Native American children.

America has “not even begun the truth-telling part, much less get to reconciliation,” she said.

But with no media interest or attention in Congress, she believes it is up to the churches to put it on the national agenda.

“We need them to research their schools, where they were, when they were established, how many students there were,” she said. “It would be a recognition of what was done to us.”

She would also like to see more of them issue apologies, as the United, Anglican and Presbyterian churches have done in Canada. “Many survivors need that as part of their healing,” she said.

Her interviews with former boarding school students reveal “wrenching, heartbreaking and traumatic” stories of physical and sexual abuse, malnutrition, forced labor, religious and cultural suppression, inadequate medical care, deaths and suicides in the schools.

“The majority had never spoken a word of their experiences to their children or grandchildren,” she added.

Healing for many indigenous Americans will only be fostered and encouraged if the U.S. comes to terms with the way it wronged them through boarding schools. Lagimodiere hopes American churches will lead the way.

John Longhurst, of Winnipeg, Man., is director of resources and public engagement at Canadian Foodgrains Bank.

Book review: ‘Harold and Arlene: Ministers to Many’

By on May 21, 2018 in Book Review, Columns, Latest Issue | 1 comment

A new and inspiring biography tells the story of a pastoral couple with a deep love for God and the Mennonite Church. With lives spanning most of the 20th century, Harold and Arlene Eshleman navigated a time of cultural change and adjusted their ministry approaches in each successive era.

"Harold and Arlene: Ministers to Many"

“Harold and Arlene: Ministers to Many”

Harold Eshleman (1911-1998) supported his family as a public schoolteacher for 43 years, served as a Mennonite pastor and overseer for close to four decades and had a heart for missions. His wife, Arlene, (1911-2008) was a skilled typist, supportive church worker and godly homemaker.

Using interviews and well-documented records, Kenneth L. Eshleman’s biography of his parents reveals that Harold was an innovator, perceived to be on the progressive side of issues. In the early 1970s, while pastoring at Park View Mennonite Church in Harrisonburg, Va., he gave up the plain coat and became an overseer in the Harrisonburg District of Virginia Mennonite Conference. He helped start Mount Vernon Mennonite Church, Grottoes, Va., and dealt gently with Mennonites who changed dress patterns and lifestyles — such as wearing wedding rings, women cutting their hair, and new business involvements — during the 1960s and 1970s.

When Harold was ordained by the lot in 1945, he began as pastor at Chicago Avenue Mennonite Church in Harrisonburg. Early on he had tension with his bishop, who wanted to put Har­old on a calendar system and have him rotate to a different church each Sunday. Harold insisted on settling down in one church, Chicago Avenue. Harold won out, and that began a process in Virginia Conference of ministers being located in one congregation.

This biography reveals the tension Harold experienced between teaching in the public school system and serving full time in Christian ministry. When asked to be the pastor at Chicago Avenue, he decided it was best to keep teaching, which he did for more than 40 years. He earned his living by teaching school. During the 1950s and ’60s he was missed at home and school when he went away for weekend revival meetings in distant states or when he had to leave the classroom for a funeral.

Arlene Heatwole met Har­old Eshleman while they were high school students at Eastern Mennonite School during the 1920s. Arlene learned bookkeeping and typing, which enabled her to work in the business world. She supported Har­old’s church work with the production of bulletins and news­letters and keeping church rec­ords.

Married during the early years of the Great Depression, Harold and Arlene lived frugally and saved money. A formative event in their marriage occurred when Harold was teaching school in Elkton, some miles from their home in Harrisonburg, at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Harold asked his mountain host family where he could borrow money to make a down payment on a house in Harrisonburg. Banks were reluctant to make loans. His hostesss, Etta Meadows, asked how much he needed. Harold said $500 would probably be enough. She reached into her apron pocket, counted out the cash and lent it to him. In later years, the Eshlemans lent money to others because of the generosity their hostess showed to them in 1933.

The Eshlemans were committed to missions. Harold served for 27 years on Virginia Mennonite Board of Missions. Their work with Laotians at Harrisonburg Mennonite Church exemplifies how they were ministers to many. In retirement, they began to teach, support and help a growing cluster of Laotians in Harrisonburg. The group grew, and the Eshlemans became a favorite and trusted couple among the Laotians.

In the early 1990s, I taught Phoune Liambounheuang at Eastern Mennonite School. The Eshlemans had supported and helped her to attend EMHS. When I recently asked a ninth-grade student of Laotian descent about the Eshlemans, she had heard of the couple, 20 years after Harold’s death.

The first four chapters can be omitted if the reader wants to get directly to the story of this dynamic couple. And if one wants to read of the Eshlemans’ mission activities, turn to chapter 14.

The late Lee Eshleman, Ted Swartz’s partner in the well-known Ted and Lee acting duo, was Harold and Arlene’s grandson.

Libraries and churches should include this inspiring and well-researched 230-page biography in their collections. For a copy, contact the author at 909 Haw­thorne Ave., Mechanicsburg, PA 17055, or by email at keshlem@ comcast.net.

Elwood Yoder is a writer and teacher from Harrisonburg, Va.

Translators’ goal: a Bible, then a church

By and on May 21, 2018 in Feature, Featured, Latest Issue | 0 comments

All-Nations Bible Translation is 8 years old, but in a sense it’s just getting started. That’s because a Bible translation and church-planting project can take 15 to 20 years to complete.

ABT founder Joel Martin of State College, Pa., became interested in Bible translation while he was a student at Faith Build­ers Training Institute, a school offering postsecondary education for conservative Anabaptists in Guys Mills, Pa.

Joel Martin, founder of All-Nations Bible Translation, speaks to attendees of the Explore ABT informational event in May 2016 in State College, Pa. — All-Nations Bible Translation

Joel Martin, founder of All-Nations Bible Translation, speaks to attendees of the Explore ABT informational event in May 2016 in State College, Pa. — All-Nations Bible Translation

He wrote a paper on the history of the English Bible.

“I started to wonder if maybe my heart for unreached people groups and love for God’s Word might converge into one long-term vocation for Bible translation and church planting,” he said.

While at Lancaster (Pa.) Bible College, Martin met friends who began praying with him over the project. The group founded ABT in 2010 and began offering training in 2013.

Because workers must spend four to five years learning biblical languages, and the language in which they want to produce the Bible, the actual translation work is in its very beginning stage in ABT’s furthest-along team.

ABT doesn’t publicize the specific languages or nations its team members are working with due to sensitivity, but their focus is on languages that don’t have any of the Bible available. Their teams are working in four nations across the globe and are hoping to enter two more later this year.

“Our focus would be, as Paul said, ‘where Christ has not been named,’ ” Martin said, paraphrasing Rom. 15:20.

While the focus is on translation, the end goal is to see an indigenous-led church.

“[We don’t want] just to dedicate the New Testament and move on, but to disciple believers,” Martin said. “We don’t envision missionaries becoming the sage or patriarch of the church in a way that creates dependencies.”

Story of salvation

While it’s expected to take about 10 years to translate the New Testament and at least five years after that to have an independent congregation, Martin said there are several indigenous people being discipled long before the New Testament is finished. Many of these are “language helpers,” whom the translators hire to teach them the language.

The ideal team ABT wants to put together consists of three parties: one person or married couple working on the Old Testament, one on the New Testament and a third focusing on community development, which can involve a variety of logistical and humanitarian work. Some of these positions have yet to be filled by ABT’s members in training.

The goal for the Old Testament translators is to translate enough to teach the story of salvation from creation to Christ. Once enough text is ready, that teaching can take about three to six months.

“[By that point], you’re hopefully working with a team of converted mother-tongue translators,” Martin said.

ABT wants to uphold the relationship between its members and their home churches. Martin said the members of each team should be from the same church affiliation, if not the same congregation.

There are almost 15 conservative Mennonite or Brethren churches supporting ABT members or members in training.

“We work with churches and their members,” said ABT communications director Bryant Martin of State College. “We don’t take members away from churches. When someone wants to become a Bible translator, that conversation starts with the home church. We are a servant to the church, a parachurch organization.”

Every year, ABT offers an event at its base in State College called Explore ABT for people interested in learning more. While registration for this year’s event is closed, people may preregister for the event in May 2019. More information is available at allnationsbibletranslation.org/explore-abt.

“We definitely face our share of challenges,” Joel Martin said. “I think the most challenging times are probably still ahead. Someone said anyone can send missionaries, but the challenge is being able to keep them on the field in a healthy, thriving team dynamic. It feels like God has really been merciful to us and blessed us.”

Bible: Conflict over the Law’s meaning

By on May 21, 2018 in Bible, Columns, Latest Issue | 1 comment

This quarter we look at the justice of God, primarily in the message of Jesus with a bit of Paul.

Ted Grimsrud

Grimsrud

The Gospel of Matthew, more than the other three Gopels, tells us about conflicts Jesus faced with religious leaders, especially the Pharisees. What was at stake in those two-sided conflicts with their mutual antipathy? One issue was that each side understood the Law in different ways. This is illustrated by the story in Matt. 12:1-14.

Jesus and his closest disciples lived hand-to-mouth. They depended upon others’ generosity and the occasional opportunity to find nourishment in the land. This day, a Saturday, they found some grain and stopped to enjoy a snack. We aren’t told what kind of grain could be eaten raw in the field — possibly sweet corn?

Some Pharisees observed this and confronted Jesus. In their view, the disciples violated the Sabbath by working when they should be taking a day of rest. The Pharisees were not simply nitpicking. They raised a crucial philosophical issue — the meaning of the Law, of justice.

What matters most — a public witness of loyalty to Sabbath observance, or priority on finding nourishment for hungry people?

We tend too quickly to dismiss the Pharisees as narrow-minded legalists. They had a deep concern for sustaining the identity of God’s people in the face of the Roman Empire’s occupation of the Jewish homeland, an occupation that threatened the viability of the Jewish people. Faithfulness to the Law seemed to them the best way to resist.

Jesus shared many of these concerns. But his understanding of public witness placed the highest priority on caring for human needs. Hungry people need to be fed. In the next incident, he showed that “doing good” (in this case, healing a man with a withered hand) is also an important Sabbath day activity. Rules should never take priority over meeting human needs.

The Law, the meaning of justice, for Jesus may be summarized by two statements: “I desire mercy and not sacrifice” (12:7) and “How much more valuable is a human being than a sheep!” (12:12).

Matthew 13 records some enigmatic parables. The three in verses 24-33 — the weeds among the wheat, the mustard seed and the yeast — have to do with growing things, illustrating the way God works in the world.

Jesus, in this section of Matthew’s Gospel, is at work making present the kingdom of God. He enlists a group of followers to join him in this task. This is serious work.

We who read the stories know that Jesus is training people to carry on after his shockingly immanent death. What lessons might be learned from these particular parables for the sustenance of his followers’ calling?

The beauty of Jesus’ parables is that they yield their fruit only after some struggle to discern their meanings. The meanings are not always clear and straightforward. Let us reason together!

I can suggest a couple of things. The growth of the kingdom of heaven is complicated, subtle and surprising. The parable of the weeds among the wheat warns us not to be preoccupied with purity and certainty, but, we could say, to trust in the process. What matters most is helping the “wheat” to grow, even if that means being patient with the presence of “weeds” along the way.

Mysterious as the processes of growth might be (as with mustard shrubs and leavened bread), growth there will be — perhaps beyond all expectations.

Linking these two passages together, let me suggest one lesson for the dynamics of growth: What matters most is mercy, treating humans as unsurpassingly important and worthy of high regard. Learning this lesson will lead to growth toward genuine justice, the only growth that matters.

Ted Grimsrud is senior professor of peace theology at Eastern Mennonite University in Harris­onburg, Va.

U.K. Anabaptists celebrate mission worker’s legacy

By and on May 21, 2018 in Feature, Latest Issue | 0 comments

BROMSGROVE, England — Participants at the Anabaptist Theology Forum applauded when Eleanor Kreider walked into the room. Some considered her a spiritual mentor or close friend. Others had never met her but had been influenced by the work she and her husband, Alan, did in the United Kingdom.

The forum organized by the Anabaptist Network U.K. April 11-12 brought together nearly three dozen Anabaptist-minded people from across England and Scotland, including American Mennonite expatriates living in the U.K.

At the U.K. Anabaptist Theology Forum honoring the late Mennonite Mission Network worker Alan Kreider, Eastern Mennonite Missions worker Carol Wert, left, presents her paper to participants, including, from left, Lloyd Pietersen, Eleanor Kreider, Sian Murray Williams, Fran Porter, Linda Wilson and Ian Wilson. — Alan Wert

At the U.K. Anabaptist Theology Forum honoring the late Mennonite Mission Network worker Alan Kreider, Eastern Mennonite Missions worker Carol Wert, left, presents her paper to participants, including, from left, Lloyd Pietersen, Eleanor Kreider, Sian Murray Williams, Fran Porter, Linda Wilson and Ian Wilson. — Alan Wert

The theme, “Exploring the Legacy of Alan Kreider,” honored the former Mennonite Mission Network worker who died in May 2017, leaving a spiritually rich mark on the U.K. — including fellowship groups, the London Mennonite Centre, Wood Green Mennonite Church, the Anabaptist Network and the development of the theology forum and subsequent Centre for Anabaptist Studies, based at Bristol Baptist College.

The Kreiders first moved to London in 1965 for academic research and began their mission work, giving leadership to LMC together in 1974. After more than a quarter of a century introducing many people in the U.K. to the values of Anabaptism through teaching, relationships and advocacy, they returned to the U.S. in 2000.

The forum was a mixture of theological papers, sharing of stories, an occasional hymn and table conversations. Eleanor — affectionately called Ellie by many participants — who often spoke publicly alongside Alan, shared candidly about the Kreider technique of co-speaking.

“We were a hermeneutical community of two,” she said. “And we never planned the ending.”

Centre for Anabaptist Studies director Stuart Murray Williams, who commenced the forum by sharing reflections on how Alan Kreider made a distinctive contribution to the Christian community in the U.K., noted his ability to connect with people from various backgrounds.

“One of the outcomes of that is that the Anabaptist Network is remarkably ecumenical,” he said.

Like Pilgram Marpeck

Such diversity was represented in papers presented by Christopher Rowland, Church of England vicar and professor at University of Oxford; Lloyd Pieter­sen, New Testament scholar and lecturer on the Anabaptist master of arts modules at Bristol Baptist College; Brian Haymes, Baptist theologian and former president of the Baptist Union of Great Britain; and Carol Wert, Eastern Mennonite Missions worker.

A student at the Centre for Anabaptist Studies, Wert presented a paper written to fulfill requirements for her master of arts program, which outlined the 16th-century Anabaptist leader Pilgram Marpeck’s views on leadership and limitations he placed on leaders.

Asked to present the paper by her course lecturers, Wert said it was the only paper not explicitly linked to the Kreiders’ legacy.

“I quickly realized while listening to Stuart’s overview of the Kreiders’ U.K. ministry and Ellie’s own stories about her life and ministry partnership with Alan that he exemplified the same qualities I’d found in Marpeck: a pastoral heart, humility, patience, visible fruit and open-mindedness,” she said.

The Centre for Anabaptist Studies, launched in 2014, offers modules on Anabaptism, supervision for postgraduate research on Anabaptist-related themes and annual lectures and web­inars. The master’s degree course is offered online.

Wert heard about the center while attending an EMM missionary retreat in Quarryville, Pa., and coming across an article in Mennonite World Review. She became the center’s first master’s degree student and attended her first Anabaptist Theology Forum in 2015. Originally from Lititz, Pa., she has lived in Wales for nearly 20 years and is part of an intentional missional community in Cardiff.

“It’s been very healing to be here among people of the same values and perspectives,” said Veronica Zundel, a former member of Wood Green, which closed in 2016.

Members of the forum are considering reviving the defunct journal Anabaptism Today.

Kriss: Millennials’ invitation to lead and learn

By on May 21, 2018 in Columns, Kriss: On the Way, Latest Issue | 0 comments

At Casa de Esperanza, an Anabaptist/Mennonite community in Oaxaca City, Mexico, Pastor Luis Rey Matias-Cruz invited a 20-something member of his congregation to assist in setting up tables for a midweek meal. “Come, my young brother, join in the struggle with me.”

Stephen Kriss

Kriss

This new congregation in a colorful city is made up of many younger people — millennials, born between the early 1980s and mid-1990s.

The group has outgrown the house where it began and meets in the pastor’s driveway. They’re looking for a new facility and a place they can assist Central American migrants.

The congregation is full of energy and possibility. After just a day together, I wanted to join in their shared struggle too.

Later in my visit, I spent time with the young man Luis invited into the struggle, Chi, and his brother Gama. I was impressed by their authenticity and conversations about music. I was impressed by how they spoke of their new worshiping community, where they said life was real and Scriptures came alive in new ways and the pastor lived the things he taught.

As a Generation Xer, I recognize my place in between the baby boomers and the millennials. I remember wanting many of the things millennials desire from a worshiping community — meaning, relevance, community, a place to contribute, a place to belong, a place to express doubts, questions, gifts.

These same hopes and dreams have been the quest of many baby boomers as well. Each generation frames these questions differently, but we have sought much of the same in grappling with faith, hope, love and trying to understand God, ourselves and our world.

I saw a hopeful reminder in Oaxaca in that gentle invitation to join the struggle. This was about more than setting up tables for a meal. The invitation had depth echoing the possibility of joining alongside the struggle of seeking justice, loving mercy and walking humbly with God.

This was not an invitation to join a committee. Nor was it a theological statement or an invitation toward a belief. It was an invitation to do something practical and to do it together.

In working and walking with millennials, I have been humbled and challenged. Humbled by the trust and care I’ve experienced. I continue to be challenged by the invitation to keep leading and seeking and speaking while living authentically even in the midst of unending questions.

Millennials keep me learning — when I’m open to asking questions and moving toward places and spaces that are at times unfamiliar and uncomfortable.

Still, as a midrange Generation Xer, I am too often one of the younger people in church meetings. This is a grave challenge to our church. We need the voices, energy and questions of new generations to keep us moving humbly and boldly.

At the same time, current leaders must find ways to step out of the way and mentor in the midst of feeling overwhelmed ourselves.

The invitation I heard from Luis is one I want to be able to extend — with a commitment to keep working and walking alongside — at times to lead and at times to learn. I find much hope in working alongside young leaders. Our world needs their bright and sometimes difficult challenges.

Stephen Kriss is a teacher, writer, pastor and follower of Jesus living in Philadelphia.

Devotion in action

By on May 21, 2018 in Editorial, Latest Issue | 0 comments

“I participated . . . and it made me think,” says Minyoung Jung of South Korea, writing of her work with a food-distribution program in Kenya by a Mennonite Central Committee partner. Her article on page 6 shows the impact of personal involvement in caring for others’ needs. “When I return to South Korea, I want to discuss the poverty I saw in Kenya with my friends and talk about what we should do about this,” she writes.

That’s the MCC way. See for yourself, do it yourself. Grow in faith while helping others.

Jung saw hunger in Kenya firsthand thanks to MCC and Mennonite World Conference. Her testimony affirms the vital place these organizations hold in our global Anabaptist fellowship.

MCC and MWC remove barriers. Within the church, they cross the divisions that separate us from fellow believers. Beyond the church walls, they tear down the obstacles of wealth and privilege that insulate us from the world’s needs.

To get and to share these benefits, we have to participate. For Jung, participation meant going to Kenya through the Young Anabaptist Mennonite Exchange Network. For most of us, it means joining the opportunities close to home. MCC meets us right where we are, providing ways to extend a helping hand far beyond our individual reach.

On May 3 in Leamington, Ont., MCC’s mobile meat canner completed its annual journey to 34 locations across the United States and Canada. If the 2017-18 canning season matched previous ones, more than 30,000 people volunteered to fill, weigh, wash and label the cans. Last year MCC shipped 774,067 pounds of canned meat to people in need around the world, including North Korea, Haiti, Ukraine and Zambia.

If canning isn’t one’s calling, MCC supporters have plenty of other options: packing school kits, knotting comforters, volunteering at a thrift shop, bidding on a quilt at a relief sale. There’s so much more to do than write a check. Packing a notebook or sealing a can, belief becomes action. Isaiah 58:6-7 says God wants active devotion: “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: . . . to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter?”

The command to shelter the wanderer resonates with urgency today. Globally, more than 65 million people are displaced from their homes, the most ever. A story on page 11 tells how MCC supports uprooted people, from Bangladesh to the U.S.-Mexico border.

While the ranks of the displaced grow larger, there’s good news on other fronts, including hunger and poverty, two of MCC’s signature causes. In 2015, the United Nations reported global malnutrition had declined to the lowest level in history. Since 1990, the percentage of the world’s population living in poverty has fallen from one-third to 10 percent. Also since 1990, the number of children who die before the age of 5 has been cut in half. MCC has played its part in these positive trends. Many of us have too, spurred by MCC’s culture of participation.

Find MCC stories in the May 21, 2018 print or digital edition of Mennonite World Review.

Dark deception

By on May 21, 2018 in Latest Issue, Letters | 4 comments

The leaders and educators of Mennonite Church USA and other church communities are increasingly adopting worldly views of compassion, love, peace and power. The powers of darkness are attempting to merge deceptive world views into those of the Bible and the true church. The God of Scripture alone rules his church, not mankind. Without spiritual intervention, the power of the church will continue to diminish. Soul-searching prayer and Scripture reading is the only answer. Church leaders and educators seem to be disinviting God’s participation in decision-making by a lack of scheduled, dedicated prayer gatherings among themselves.

David Bontrager
Mission, Kan.