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AIMM transformation takes hold: New Partnership Councils and International Central Council formed and operational
Mennonite Church Canada/Africa Inter-Mennonite
Ministries Joint Release
Africa — For the first time ever, Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission will have leadership based in Africa instead of North America.
From Sept 22 to Oct. 7, mission leaders from Africa and North America met with national and local church representatives in Orodara (Burkina Faso), Umtata, (South Africa), and Gaborone, (Botswana) to iron out structures, and appoint leaders to newly formed posts. AIMM has been a major channel of Mennonite ministries in Africa since 1912, pulling together partners from various Mennonite groups in North America to support ministry in Africa.
“The growth and maturation of the church in Africa has led to a keen desire to include African church leaders in the decision-making level for missions,” said Peter Rempel, Mennonite Church Canada Witness Mission Partnership facilitator for Africa and Europe and past chairperson of AIMM.
In the new AIMM, an International Central Council will under gird a set of new Partnership Councils (PCs) from an African home base. The PCs will relate to the various church bodies in the six African countries:
The ICC chose Siaka Traore of Burkina Faso as its first Chair, Komuesa Kalunga Adolphe of the Congo as Vice Chair, and Peter Rempel from (Mennonite Church Canada Witness) as Secretary. Its primary function will be networking and the provision of strategic resources to back up the PCs and the missionaries. It will normally meet once a year with the next meeting scheduled for November 2005 in Kinshasa.
The African Mennonite churches participating in the new AIMM are the Evangelical Mennonite Church of the Congo (CEM), the Mennonite Brethren Church of the Congo (CEFMC), the Mennonite Church of the Congo (CMCO), and the Evangelical Mennonite Church of Burkina Faso (EEMBF). The partners from North America in addition to Mennonite Church Canada Witness are the Evangelical Mennonite Conference Mission (EMC) and Mennonite Mission Network of Mennonite Church USA.
The AIMM mandate has specifically excluded the starting of Mennonite churches in southern Africa. Only two of the North American Mennonite groups, Mennonite Church Canada Witness and Mennonite Mission Network, have indicated a commitment to continuing the work with African Initiated Churches (AICs) in southern Africa.
At meetings in both Umtata and Gaborone the PCs strongly affirmed a slight shift in program to focus increasingly on the training of Bible teachers rather than to provide the actual Bible teaching, as well as continuing attention to HIV/AIDS.
Mma Botho, a local Bible teacher in Botswana affirms the shift toward Bible training. “From the Mennonites I learned that we must live what the Bible says, not only teach it. In the Bible classes with the Mennonites I met the truth of God. I found God’s way.”
Mennonite Church Canada Witness worker Susan Alison Jones ministers with her husband Glyn Jones in Botswana. In a recent ministry report, she wrote, “AIMM’s restructuring process had finally moved from the board rooms in North America to African soil!”
During the first Partnership Council meetings in Botswana, the Allison Jones’ brought together some of enthusiastic leaders for an evening of conversation, noting affirmation for the Bible study program. “People’s lives have been changed because they have encountered the risen Christ through these [Bible] studies. But they are also committed to passing on what they have learned to others. They have discovered something exciting and they want others to discover it too!” She adds that the poorer socio-economic AIC churches are especially challenged because they are not fully recognized by the government. “These are also people who have been influenced by our Mennonite theology of compassion, justice and community.”
In response to the restructured AIMM, Janet Plenert, executive director of international ministries of MC Canada writes in the quarterly WOW International Report that “We must let go of the assumption that we have something to teach others, and believe instead that we have much to learn from each other. This may mean that African missionaries or visiting pastors come to minister among our churches, calling us to repentance, to renewal. We must let go of our need to make decisions, and rather trust the collaborative wisdom of the new international, inter-Mennonite partnership councils.”
AIMM welcomes conversation with Anabaptist churches, conferences or mission agencies interested in strengthening this important work with African Indigenous Churches. More information on AIMM is available at http://www.aimmintl.org/. Mennonite Church Canada Witness workers currently serving with AIMM include Susan-Allison Jones (Breslau MC, Ont.) and Glyn Jones (Wilmot MC, Ont.) and Sandra and David Franklin (Pilgrims MC, Pa.) in Botswana, Brian Dyck and Lynell Bergen (Arnaud MC, Man.) in South Africa, Donna (Fiske MC, Sask.) and Loren Entz (Zion MC, Kan.), Anne Garber Koampaoré, (Listowel MC, Ont.) and Lillian Haas (Bluesky MC, Alb.) in Burkina Faso, and most recently mission intern Debbie Martens (Aberdeen MC, Sask.) in South Africa. Debbie is a student at Canadian Mennonite University.
New leaders of the now Africa-based AIMM asked solid questions and requested significant explanations regarding North American missionaries during meetings, said Peter Rempel, an indication of awareness among the new leaders of the responsibility they are assuming. “Finally Africans will share equitably in the decision-making about missions in Africa. This is a goal many have wanted for decades,” said Rempel. “It’s also important for us to put these new names and faces before the North American Mennonite churches so that we get to know them, pray for them, and support their ministry of leadership in a new paradigm.”
With questions answered and explanations in hand, one PC progressed to the point of re-affirming the appointments of all its current North American workers.
In addition to the EEMBF, the members of the council for Burkina Faso include the Evangelical Mennonite Conference, Mennonite Church Canada Witness and Mennonite Mission Network. Abdias Coulibaly (EEMBF) is the first chair of the PC, Len Barkman (EMC) serves as Vice-chair and Calixte Bananzaro from Burkina Faso serves as Secretary.
The members of the PC for Congo include the three Mennonite churches in Congo: CMC0, CEM and CEFMC, and Mennonite Mission Network and Mennonite Church Canada Witness. They chose Steve Wiebe-Johnson from Mennonite Mission Network to serve as Chair, Misakabu Nzala (CEM) as Vice Chair and Matungulu Givule (CEFMC) as Secretary.
Individuals or congregations wishing to support ministry in Africa have two ways to get involved: A Congregational Partnership through Mennonite Church Canada or involvement through an AIMM Partnership Council. Contact Peter Rempel at 1-866-888-6785 (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information.