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Holy Spirit makes IMPaCT in Alberta


IMPaCT hosts and guests, standing (l-r): Donita Wiebe-Neufeld, co-pastor at First Mennonite Church (Edmonton) hosting Gladys Siemens (team pastor with husband Peter atVila Guaira church, Curitiba); Werner de Jong, pastor at Holyrood Mennonite Church (Edmonton) hosting Gui-Shik Nam (pastor at Grace and Peace Mennonite Church, Seoul); Sang-Yeull Oh (pastor at Yo-Ul church in Seoul), hosted by Elwin Garland, pastor at Bergthal Mennonite Church, Didsbury); Ruth Preston Schilk (pastor at Lethbridge Mennonite Church, Lethbridge), hosting Mariela Enriquez, (deacon at Prince of Peace Mennonite Church, Santa Cruz); Doug Klassen, pastor at Foothills Mennonite Church, crouches with an arm around his invisible guest. Klassen was to host Vicente Neto Vieira, pastor of an emerging church in Palmas, Brazil. The Canadian embassy in Sao Paulo turned down his Canadian visitor visa at 5 pm on the same day he was to depart, citing ‘insufficient means to guarantee return.’

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June 8, 2007 - Dan Dyck

WATER VALLEY, Alta. — Mennonite Church Alberta got an unexpectedly enthusiastic response from people wanting to participate in IMPaCT this year.

IMPaCT – International Mennonite Pastors Coming Together – was held in conjunction with Mennonite Church Alberta’s Theology Study week. Enrolment had to be restricted due to logistical and accommodation limitations. IMPaCT 2007 was sponsored by Mennonite Church Canada in collaboration with Mennonite Church Alberta.

Two South Korean and two Latin American church leaders/pastors lent new insights, experiences, and an international flavour to the annual event, now in its second year. The guests were recommended by their corresponding national church bodies in each country.

Pastor Sang-Yeull Oh introduced foot volleyball to the Alberta pastors. Oh and Pastor Gui-Shik Nam, both from South Korea, also proved to be formidable ping-pong players – though not unchallenged by their Alberta hosts. In between recreational opportunities, the group together explored the theme of “The Holy Spirit in the Life of the Church.”

Gladys Siemens, is a Paraguayan citizen living in and ministering in Vila Guaíra, a Russian-German Mennonite congregation in Curitiba, Brazil. Mariela Enriquez is Argentinian born of Bolivian descent, and serves as a deacon at Prince of Peace Mennonite Church in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Both are actively involved in the Latin America Woman’s Theologian group of Anabaptist women in Central and South America who engage in study, sharing and mutual encouragement. The two women brought a uniquely Spirit-filled Latin American approach to the topic of the Holy Spirit and gifts of the Spirit.

Each guest and host pastor shared stories of their personal faith journeys – a highlight for all involved. Nam was profoundly shaped by the death of a brother. Oh, formerly working as a denominational administrator in social services for the Presbyterian church, was introduced to peace theology when he met Mennonites during a trip to Iraq. The church leaders from Brazil described the challenges of crime, accepted cultural norms, and influence of spiritism in their ministry. Each guest pastor also noted a strong interest in Anabaptist theology and growth in their home congregations.

Having grown up in a culture of militarism and after a long faith journey that began in his college years, Pastor Gui-Shik Nam has firmly parked his soul in the Mennonite spiritual camp – primarily because of its peace theology. In January, 2007, he started the Grace and Peace Mennonite Church – the first congregation in South Korea to officially call itself “Mennonite.” Nam was introduced to Anabaptist theology through the Jesus Village Church (JVC) in Chun Chon, South Korea, when former mission workers Chris and Laura Mullet Koop (Vineland) served there. Nam was able to reconnect with Erv and Marian Wiens, more recent former MC CanadaWitness workers at JVC. Erv Wiens is currently the pastor at Trinity Mennonite Church in Calgary.

Nam was encouraged toward further study by Yoon-Shik Lee, founder of the Anabaptist community Abba Shalom Koinonia north of Seoul. In 2005, Nam graduated from Associated Mennonite Biblical seminary and then sought and received a blessing for his South Korea church planting vision from supporting partner, Yellow Creek Mennonite Church in Goshen, Ind. Grace and Peace Mennonite Church currently has about fourteen adults and four children participating, while they reach out to their networks and extended communities in Seoul.

Newer to the Anabaptist faith community is Pastor Sang-Yeull Oh. His participation in IMPaCT is part of a six month self directed sabbatical exploring Anabaptist theology. In addition to IMPaCT, he will spend a month living on a Hutterite Colony in Alberta, will live briefly with an Amish family in Southern Ontario, and explore the academic side of Mennonite theology at Conrad Grebel University College.

Pastor Oh, who has resigned his job with the Presbyterian church, hopes these experiences will enrich his ministry as an unpaid co-pastor at the Yo-Ul church in Seoul, the church where MC Canada Witness worker Cheryl Woelk is a member. Yo-Ul church, begun in January, 2005 uses the themes of life, peace, community and sharing as its core values. The church now consists of 30 adults, 10 children, and 7 teenagers. Members include teachers, doctors, farmers, and small business owners who are seeking church renewal.

Mariela Enriquez’s Prince of Peace Church began new ministries after its pastor, Leónidas Saucedo, brought back a message from the Mennonite World Conference Assembly 2003 in Zimbabwe on the theme of “sharing gifts.”

“We began a Center for Studies and Sharing in our Church, [so that we can share] the gifts that the Lord has given us with our sister churches in rural areas,” said Enriquez. “Our desire is to bring a holistic gospel to our brothers and sisters and that they in turn replicate what they have learned in their communities,” she wrote in her profile.

Gladys Siemens carried the most familiarity with her. Having married a Brazilian Mennonite pastor of Russian-German descent, she came most equipped to bridge the culture gap between her Mennonite congregation in Brazil and her Mennonite experience in Canada.

Through the sharing of faith stories, each guest and host pastor made themselves vulnerable in their own way. Many had hands laid on them and prayers said for them and their ministry.

Jim Shantz, Alberta Area Church Minister and one of the local planners, observed, “The planning process broke down silos. We were just the church working together. This experience ranks in the top of the best times I have ever had with pastors. We can’t ever be the same again.”

In 2006, Mennonite Church Manitoba hosted a Spanish speaking IMPaCT with four Latin American and one European pastor, and five Manitoba pastors. Mennonite Church Eastern Canada will host the 2008 IMPaCT.

Sidebar: Quotes and insights

Pastor Oh/Werner de Jong: The Holy Spirit is already present everywhere. We sometimes talk about needing to liberate the Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit is already free. There is nothing we can do to liberate the Holy Spirit. We need to give the Holy Spirit room in our lives. The Bible talks about not grieving the Holy Spirit – we need to be free, humble, to empty ourselves of pride, to exercise our faith.

Pastor Gui-Shik Nam/Hugo Neufeld/Donita Wiebe-Neufeld: Christians always need to see the Holy Spirit in their particular situation and in every part of our lives – not only in those profound, prophetic, or emotional moments.

Pastor Gui-Shik Nam was told by a retired professor from the Golden Gate Baptist Seminary (San Francisco), “In the world, the Mennonites are very sincere creatures. When Mennonite people go to heaven, they say, “You are the only one.” The comment drew chuckles from Canadian participants.

Pastor Gui-Shik Nam: “God has called me to be a peace church planter.”

Pastor Gui-Shik Nam: “We kept the name ‘Mennonite’ in Grace and Peace Mennonite Church, even though Mennonites are considered heretics in Korea.”

Gladys Siemens: “To talk about the Holy Spirit and live a life according to the Holy Spirit are two different things.

Gladys Siemens: “One of the things that our conversations here has demonstrated is that you still talk a lot about peace and justice and talk to others about this. That is surprising to me.”

Pastor Elwin Garland: “This has been one of those serendipitous moments in life when we are allowed to experience a moment of holiness with other brothers and sisters.”

Area Church Minister Jim Shantz: “I must say IMPaCT lives up to its name… Its great to see the fruition of a dream you guys had in [Mennonite Church] Canada.

Pastor Ruth Preston Schilk: “The whole Impact Tour was what it was, not so much because the Holy Spirit was talked about and taught about, although this was very valuable, but because the Holy Spirit was experienced by the entire group, beginning at Camp, and was made manifest in our midst in other Tour settings.”

Marv Thiessen: “We as Mennonites have allowed ourselves to be swayed by theological streams that are not our own… but I believe that the [Holy] Spirit comes with power, that the Spirit gives gifts that are incomprehensible at times…”

Mariela Enriquez , after her return home: “This Sunday, I will be giving a report from the trip to our church along with all the greetings laden with love, sent from all of you, our Canadian brothers and sisters. A thousand thanks for all your work put into IMPaCT. The moments lived in Canada will remain in our hearts for the rest of our lives!”

Read about IMPaCT 2006 here: June 2006, Release 7 (