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Global gift sharing links Honduras and Canada


(l-r) Javier Soler, President of Amor Viviente, Robert J. Suderman, General Secretary of Mennonite Church Canada, Javier Marin, Director of his congregation’s broadcast ministry, and Carlos Marin (father of Javier), Pastor of Amor Viviente church in La Ceiba, Honduras.

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Mennonite World Conference/Mennonite Church Canada JOINT RELEASE
September 20, 2007
- by Ferne Burkhardt

STRASBOURG, France – Anabaptists in Honduras are looking for new ways to build relationships with fellow Anabaptists in North America as a result of an August visit to Honduras by Robert J. Suderman, Mennonite Church Canada general secretary.

Javier Soler, president of Amor Viviente (AV) in Honduras. and Juan Jose Chinchilla, then president of the Evangelical Mennonite Church of Honduras (IEMH), heard about Mennonite World Conference's Global Gift Sharing initiative at MWC meetings in Pasadena, California (USA) in March 2006.  The two Latin American church leaders decided to work with their churches to invite Suderman to conduct a teaching and preaching mission in their country as a global gift sharing event.

The invitation resonates with Mennonite Church Canada’s decision to “…be very intentional about sharing its gifts with the global church through MWC,” added Suderman.

“Our motivation was to relate and get to know one another and to know more intimately how we do the Lord's work,” said Soler.”We received much more than we hoped for.”

From August 9 – 25, Suderman and his wife Irene, from Winnipeg, Manitoba (Canada) visited 17 of 32 churches in Honduras, where Suderman conducted workshops on the nature and role of the church in society. Some 2,800 people attended the series of workshops. He also preached in three churches, and the couple met formally and informally with church leaders and with people in host homes.

Suderman's presentations focused on the understanding and meaning of “gospel,” the understanding and essence of “church” and how both gospel and church need to address context. He used biblical texts, experiences and interactive exercises to help participants reflect on the themes and how they intersect.

A significant majority of persons attending the workshops were under 30 years of age, Suderman reported. “AV has captured the imagination of the youth and young adults in unprecedented ways,” he said. Young people are involved in leading community programs, the 7-year discipleship curriculum that each member is encouraged to go through and ‘growth groups.' Some large AV congregations have more than 100 growth groups which meet weekly in homes for sharing, prayer and friendship, to gather tithes and offerings and to welcome newcomers.

“We believe that our way of working, the strategies we use to preach the gospel within urban and rural contexts and the materials that God has allowed us to develop are gifts that can serve others around the world,” said Soler. “We do not have a defined plan for how to share the gifts God has given us with our North American brothers and sisters, however we hope to do so in the future.

“Each of us has something to give and to receive,” he said. “When we relate to one another without preconceived notions, we can know each other better and we can give from what God has given us and receive what God has given to others.”

Soler noted that it was his impression that many North Americans have accepted that their destiny is to give and many Latin Americans have accepted that their destiny is to receive. “Both sides [have] erroneous attitudes that we must try to correct and it seems that if we are able to give priority to relationships, these will help us in the process.”

While Amor Viviente pastors and people were most deeply involved in the workshops, it was the Evangelical Church of Honduras executive that asked whether MC Canada would be interested in developing a church-to-church relationship with them and how that might be done. They expressed interest in relationships, not program or financial support.

Both Suderman and the Honduran leaders rated the experience, supported by MWC and MC Canada, as “very good.”

“Gifts were indeed shared. Teaching and learning occurred in significant ways. Relationships were built. There was genuine appreciation in knowing that they (Hondurans) were part of a bigger Anabaptist family all around the world,” concluded Suderman.