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Modeling and resourcing in Korea

   
 
Erwin and Marian Wiens
 

Quickfacts:

Erwin and Marian Wiens will be working with the Jesus Village Church in Chun Chon, Korea under the auspices of Mennonite Church Witness. It is the only Anabaptist church in Korea. The Wiens plan to keep in touch with friends, families and congregations back home on a regular basis. Erwin "is the email expert. He's on email twice daily," laughs Marian. Marilyn and Houser Hamm (executive director of congregational partnerships) and Steve Plenert (Constituency Connections Coordinator) will assist in coordinating communication between the Wiens and the wider church community.

Erwin:

  • Grew up in Alberta in a family of five boys, moved to Ontario at age 16
  • Studied education at Wilfred Laurier University in Waterloo
  • Twelve years of teaching high school: six years in Ontario and six years in Africa with MCC (Kenya and Zambia)
  • Called to pastoral ministry via shoulder-tapping in 1980
  • Served on the Leadership Commission of the former Conference of Mennonites in Canada (now Mennonite Church Canada).
  • Spent two years as interim director of MCC Ontario
  • Pastored at Breslau Mennonite Church near Kitchener-Waterloo, followed by Windsor Mennonite Church

Marian:

  • Born in Foam Lake, Saskatchewan, moved to Ontario at age 7
  • Grew up on a dairy farm near St. Catharines
  • Met Erwin at Bible school, pursued a career as wife and mother
  • Together with Erwin, raised six children: two bi-racial children from Kenya; gave birth to one child' adopted a child from Vietnam; adopted two aboriginal children.
  • Returned to school and graduated from Wilfred Laurier University with a degree in psychology, followed by Masters and clinical studies at an interfaith counseling centre
  • Became a family and marriage therapist and started Shalom Counseling Services in Leamington, Ontario, where Erwin became known as "Marian's husband"
  • Over nine years, Shalom Counseling Services grew to five therapists and three support staff.
  • Retired as director in 2002
   

Winnipeg, Man.—The most striking impression Erwin and Marian Wiens make is their deep commitment to Christ and to each other.

And while they acknowledge there are some significant hurdles to overcome, such as their Korean language training and adjusting to Korean culture for three years, it will be the strength of their relationship and ability to hold each other up that will sustain them in their work with the Jesus Village Church in Chun Chon, South Korea.

"The job description is diverse with a variety of activities, but it is people and congregationally based…" said Erwin. They anticipate much of the assignment will be a ministry of presence, modeling, and resourcing the congregation and the leadership team in what it means to be a Christian community. Their hands-on work will include teaching bible and church history in the Jesus Village school school, and leading English worship services.

"I also envision us listening for the first six months. It's going to be hard not to be doing stuff, but to be listening more (for) what fits for them, how the Anabaptist teaching fits for their culture… and (helping) them how to work it out rather than telling them how to work it out," adds Marian.

They also look forward to working with Mennonite Church Canada Witness workers Tim and Karen Froese at the Korea Anabaptist Centre in Seoul. The Froeses have been in Korea for four years. "What exactly our role in the Korea Anabaptist Centre will be, we really don't know yet, but if there are opportunities to work together, we'll certainly do that," said Erwin.

As the Wiens both face their sixtieth birthdays, they reflect on their upcoming assignment from the perspective of what it will mean for the friends and family they leave at home in this phase in their life.

"A lot of people have said to us, 'I wish we could do that', and we say, 'Well you can,'" laughs Marian. "I think it has people thinking that this is possible."

"At another level what we might be doing for the folks at home is to increase awareness of the universality of the church, and the desire on the part of people in Korea in this case, to learn more about what it means to be an Anabaptist church, and to recognize that we are not ethnic Mennonites from Southern Manitoba or Southern Ontario, but that the church really is universal, and to increase awareness of Mennonite world communion," reflects Erwin.

"Another piece I think is significant, because it's significant to us, is that we didn't just kind of choose this, we have a sense of God guiding us in this, and helping people to be more aware of what God is doing in their lives. Now that might not be to go abroad, but to be listening for what God is doing and guiding and directing them to do. To us that's an important piece, and going out as part of the congregation, that we've asked them to be our sending congregation, and that others can be sent in other ways to be doing other things. It's very much connected with God at work in our lives, and we happen to be going this way, and other people can go other ways," adds Marian.

And how does one hear God's calling? Marian says it's about paying attention. She was noticing more tiredness in her work, though she felt clearly called to Shalom Counseling Services during her nine years there. It's being in tune with her feelings, she says, that led her to ponder, pray, and be open to the possibilities of the future. And that process continues as they considered several opportunities that came their way.

"With this assignment it's very different," she says, remembering how she "followed" Erwin to Africa in their earlier assignments. "The really neat thing is that both of us were in on this one. When we went earlier with MCC, it was his (Erwin's) being led and my being followed," smiles Marian. "Both of us have as much enthusiasm together on this."

"We need to be attuned to where the Spirit is at, where the soul is at, to always be taking time for that, and to try to be directed by something that is deep within us which identifies the Spirit of God, and not to be directed by external circumstances only," said Erwin. "I guess I'm also a believer in (ending) things when things are going well. We both had good and productive ministries.

"I've had this desire, this longing to do more overseas work that goes back to our Africa days," said Erwin, now that the need for family time and stability for children still at home is not as important.

"It's actually quite amazing to me that I would be at this place, so I can only see it as God at work," adds Marian.

"Erv and I are good friends. I just see it really significant that our paths have continually grown this way, this way," she says, gesturing alternately with her hands. "We sometimes say one of us has grown, and then the other has. It's sort of challenging each other in our growth which has developed over thirty-eight years of marriage into a really solid sense of being together on most things. We're very different in character, we're very different in where we get our energies from, but we're very connected in commitment to each other and sense of support for each other. I just see that as really, really important in going into another culture, where there are lots of stresses and strains on us already… which is something we're very grateful for because not all marriages go this way," she says, as Erwin nods in agreement.

"We both feel that this is right, this is good, (and) this is what we want to be doing," said Marian.