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Mennonites rekindle faith of young man in England


Tim Lawrence (left) engages Vic Thiessen, Director of the London Mennonite Centre, in matters of faith.

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July 24, 2006
-by Dan Dyck and Vic Thiessen

London, U.K. — What Tim Lawrence knew about Christianity did not make sense to him.

Like countless young people growing up in the U.K., Lawrence was brought up in an Anglican family but knew almost nothing about Christianity – so he looked outside of the church for a spiritual community.

“I was convinced there was more to life than the individualistic career achiever view peddled at school,” Lawrence told Vic Thiessen, director of the London Mennonite Centre (LMC) and mission worker with Mennonite Church Canada Witness. “So I explored transcendental meditation, holistic spirituality and Buddhism. But I just got more and more confused.”

Lawrence’s search led him to Cambodia, where a short-term volunteer assignment left a profound mark on his life.

“I knew I wanted to give my life to help bring an end to the suffering, violence and poverty in Cambodia.” It was there Lawrence met a Mennonite Central Committee worker who “embodied the life I wanted to live and yet was a Christian.” Lawrence became a Christian, and on his return to England, immediately joined a charismatic church.

While the church helped him grow in various ways, Lawrence had difficulty with its understanding of power and its lack of support for his understanding of the Gospel as good news for the poor.

“Again, I became disillusioned with church, eventually becoming bitter and angry at not being able to resolve my differences with my congregation’s vision and structure. My compassion and faith were dying. I essentially got stuck… the LMC helped get me unstuck.”

Hearing Stuart Murray Williams (from the Anabaptist Network) speaking at a conference led to purchases from the Metanoia Book Service, and to a Bridge Builders mediation course. Both are ministries of LMC. During the course, Lawrence met and engaged Thiessen in conversation. More books and visits with Thiessen helped Lawrence understand his personal difficulties with church, and embrace a theology which finally made sense to him – one that was centered on justice and nonviolence.

“Through the LMC, my faith has been rekindled in many ways,” says Lawrence, “and if I had to put a label on my faith at this time, I would call it ‘Anabaptist’.” Lawrence and his wife have since returned to Cambodia to follow Tim’s calling to work with the rural poor of that country.

“Tim is by no means an extraordinary case,” says Thiessen. “I have spoken to many people in the UK whose faith has been rekindled through contact with the LMC. They frequently talk about it as ‘coming home’ to a faith they had always known, a faith with integrity. This is one of the ways the LMC is helping to revitalize the church in the UK.”

The London Mennonite Centre, opened in 1953 by Mennonite Board of Missions, a predecessor agency of Mennonite Mission Network. The centre is jointly supported by Mennonite Church Canada Witness and Mennonite Mission Network through staff and financial aid. Mennonite Central Committee provides a grant that helps fund Bridge Builders.