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Anabaptist interest knows no borders in Africa

   

October 5, 2004
-by Dan Dyck, from reports

 


Bruce Yoder, mission worker supported by Mennonite Church Canada Witness and Mennonite Mission Network, led 27 leaders of the Ghana Mennonite Church in a study of Anabaptist history last February.

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When Bruce Yoder, mission worker supported by Mennonite Church Canada Witness and Mennonite Mission Network, arrived at the classroom of a Mennonite Church Nigeria leadership training initiative, sessions were already in progress. Yoder arrived late due to “travel adventures”. Here Pastor Victor UmohAbasi leads a seminar.

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Winnipeg, Man. — While many mission workers are already away from their homes in North America, they frequently are also away from their homes in their respective international ministry locations.

One such example is Bruce Yoder, whose home ministry base is in Benin. Yoder and wife Nancy Frey (St. Jacobs MC) work under a Mennonite Church Canada Witness and Mennonite Mission Network partnership. Yoder’s ministry frequently takes him away, proving that the interest and growth of the church does not know borders, geographic or otherwise. Frey provides leadership at the Benin Bible Institute.

This past year has taken Yoder to Ghana, Togo, and Nigeria to teach. In Ghana, Yoder met for three days with Ghana Mennonite Church leaders from six districts teaching Anabaptist history using the Arnold Snyder book From Anabaptist Seed. In a report, Yoder wrote, “We looked at what some 15th century Anabaptist leaders said about topics like: discerning God’s will, salvation, baptism, church discipline, the Lord’s supper, foot washing, truth telling, economic sharing, and pacifism.”

Yoder says that discussion on each topic eventually got around to the practice and teaching of the church in the different congregations that were represented. One of the mostly lively interchanges centered on church discipline, and specifically who decides who should be disciplined and what it should entail. One example that drew a lot of response was a case of polygamy. Yoder says that “While polygamy may not be a hot topic in Mennonite congregations in North America, the issues around church discipline, what deserves discipline, how it should be implemented and who makes those decisions are just as alive today among Western Mennonites as they are in Africa.”

Yoder’s itinerary for Nigeria involved leadership training and connecting with Mennonite Central Committee workers involved in educational and peacemaking activities. Travel in West Africa is “often an adventure”, reported Yoder, explaining how a car breakdown led to another delay.

“The following morning we started off early, only to run into a student riot. At one point the ‘students’ (not all of them were students!) wanted to get into the vehicle and suggested we should let them use it. Matthew Tangbuin (an MCC worker) finally arranged with one of the students to join us in the vehicle and he negotiated us through the roadblocks that his fellow demonstrators had established. Once we got safely through, we sent the student on his way with a small gift as a token of our gratitude.”

The trip to Nigeria also included meetings with the church leadership, youth and others, and several visits to churches.

A common theme in Yoder’s experience is gratitude and the impact of prayer; he often highlights the eagerness of participants to learn. “Please pray for us and the different [Mennonite] ministries across West Africa. We are encouraged by what we see God doing here and believe that your prayers are a part of the mix that makes it all possible,” he says. Each of these teaching events will be followed up with subsequent opportunities to connect with local church leaders and students.