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Mission seminar 2004 celebrates past, prepares for future


July 30, 2004
- by Dan Dyck


Julie Bender, (Hamilton MC) Mennonite Church Canada Witness worker to China, celebrates a correct answer during a game show event at Mission Seminar 2004. The contest was designed to inform and celebrate ministry and culture in East Asia.

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Mission Seminar 2004 participants joined together to sing African songs of worship and praise.

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A game of soccer pitted teams and fans, both real and imagined, against each other to demonstrate the passion elicited by the game in Argentina and Brazil. Understanding culture is key to ministry in another country.

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Syracuse, Indiana— When nearly 100 people gather representing Mennonite ministry in 23 countries around the world, one can expect to find the Holy Spirit’s presence also.

Mission Seminar 2004 hosted international mission workers of Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Mission Network for six days of worship, prayer, Bible study, fun, relaxation – and meetings and workshops to prepare outgoing workers and reintegrate workers returning to North America.

The presence of the Spirit could be seen and felt in many tangible ways. There was heartfelt sharing about the challenges facing parents of missionary kids who grew up overseas and now prepare to re-enter North American society – an essentially foreign society for most of these children. Workers in politically sensitive countries were able to speak openly about the obstacles they face: secret baptisms, the dangers of inappropriate language, and the ever present uncertainty of visa renewals. Perhaps more importantly though, they were able to openly worship God with unrestrained passion and gusto.

And worship they did – not just those in sensitive countries, but all who gathered. This group epitomized the familiar chorus, “worship and work must be one” as they integrated God’s mission in the world into every aspect of their time together.

Evenings focused on sharing about ministry in different regions of the world, extending the morning Bible study theme (Peace and Mission in Acts) into a fun-filled time of exploring cultures represented by the workers present. In popular game show formats on East Asia and Africa/Europe nights, randomly selected contestants were invited to compete by repeating phrases in another language or accepting dares to down delicacies from another country. (The canned silkworms proved an interesting flavour contrast to the chocolate covered crunchy dessert sticks.)

During Latin America, Middle East, and West Asia night, organizers provided a demonstration soccer game complete with passionate fans representing teams from Argentina and Brazil. Others dramatized situations and invited audience members to guess inappropriate cultural behaviours. Each night, workers in different countries were clothed in colourful apparel appropriate to their service setting.

Most importantly though, the interactive activities provided meaningful ways for workers from around the globe to relate to one another in a common understanding, to share concerns and celebrate joys, and to make new friends. All invited prayers as they prepare to confront the challenges of adjusting to a new culture and language, or re-enter North American society.