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Three places, one message for mission

   
 


Tim Froese, Executive Director of International Ministries for Mennonite Church Canada Witness

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October 12, 2007
- by Dan Dyck

WINNIPEG, Man. — Despite his 13 years of international ministry experience, Tim Froese continues to search for one message that will reach everyone, regardless of where they are along life’s journey.

 “I have a theory,” says the soft spoken Executive Director of International Ministries for Mennonite Church Canada Witness.

“There are three places where mission is needed. First, the front door of the church, where we present the gospel and invite people in. Second, the pew, where followers of Christ are invited to live the gospel in community with one another. The third is the back door of the church, for those that have “been here, done that,” but have decided to leave.

 “We need to find one message that serves each of those places, because we never know the place where people are when we first meet them.”

The father of three children, Froese spent the first six years of life in Andhra Pradesh province of  India with his missionary parents, where his father served as a medical doctor with Mennonite Brethren Missions and Services for 13 years. This formative experience combined with life-long modeling by his parents, shaped Tim’s desire to serve. As an adult, he has lived in Canada, USA, Panama, Brazil, and South Korea. Out of these experiences grew a love of people from a variety of cultures. In South Korea he took a leadership role in founding the Korea Anabaptist Center, now a burgeoning concern for Anabaptist Christians in Korea.

Despite considerable achievements in South Korea, Froese acknowledges that his biggest limitation in that country was not being fully conscious of all the issues at work in a very deep and old culture. Mission workers often talk about having something to offer. “We go in weakness and yet God still works through us and that’s the amazing thing.”

The graduate of Briercrest Bible College in Saskatchewan (a strongly mission minded school where he made a “Triple A” commitment to service – Anytime, Anyhow, Anywhere), Recreation Studies (University of Manitoba), and M. Div. studies (Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary, Fresno) loves his multi-disciplinary work. This allows him to integrate the disciplines of business administrator, missionary, historian, theologian, network builder, and follower of Jesus.

His gift for learning languages has also been a boon: Froese speaks Portuguese, Spanish, and Korean, in addition to English. But it is clearly his passion for the church – God’s intended agent in the world – that permeates Froese’s being. “In seminary a professor said that next to the question of who God is the question of what the church is will have the biggest influence on one’s view of life and ministry. I cannot separate the gospel or the reconciliation from the formation of a new people, which we call the church.”

Froese finds his energy wherever he sees God working through the Bible to transform lives and bring people together in community. Witnessing radically changed lives “…is a challenge to love more faithfully, more simply, and more integrally,” he says.

Together with three home office staff, he administers 60 plus ministry workers in over 30 countries, “There is lots of history, and many people are at different points in their [faith] journey. It is my daily prayer for wisdom and strength to address issues appropriately and consistently.”

The work is not without rewards. “I am very fortunate to be a paid change agent where the rubber hits the road, where you can engage churches, people in the pews, pastors – those who are asking how to engage the world, the youth, the struggles in the world,” he says thoughtfully.
 
One big concern Froese has for the future of mission is the human ambivalence propagated by the information age. In our fast-paced Western society, the world’s most privileged people – a small proportion of the entire global population – are driven by 90 second sound bites and video clips on CNN and the internet. People are lulled into a false sense of knowledge about what life is really like for generations of people raised on poverty and violence.

“We think we know what it’s like because we’ve seen the pictures. But if we haven’t lived it, we have no idea,” says Froese.

November 11 is the day that Mission Sunday is officially acknowledged in Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church USA – and it’s also a day that special offerings are often dedicated to mission. Froese, however, insists that every day should be mission Sunday.

So what would he do if a million dollar donor walked in the door?

 “I’d ask if the donor can come along with the million dollars. I’m after people, not just their money. People make the difference. If I could get that donor to sponsor 100 of his family and friends to disperse into the world to learn and walk beside others, maybe that’s what I’d do with it.”

Froese sums up this idea with a quote from author, theologian, and educator, Tim Dearborn: “It is not the church of God that has a mission in the world, but the God of mission that has a church in the world.”*

In the end, the single message Froese might be looking is summed up in a single word: Love.

 “Our response to God’s overabundant love is shaped by obedience to the commandments lived and taught by Jesus – commandments which call us to respond in love. Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, i.e. discipleship, love your neighbour as yourself, which leads to peace, and love one another as I have loved you, by creating communities of Christ-like love.

“For those who do not know God, it is essential that they experience love, whether they believe in God or not, and come to know love’s source – God.”

Mennonite Church Canada Witness

  • Purpose is to lead, mobilize and resource the church to participate in holistic witness to Jesus Christ in a broken world, thus aligning the being and the doing of the church with God’s work.
  • Witness’ ministry is integral to the mission ministry of Mennonite Church Canada at all levels.
  • Together with numerous global partners, Mennonite Church Canada Witness supports over 60 international workers in more than 30 countries.
  • Witness also administers national “at home” ministries through its Native Ministries and Multi-cultural Ministries offices.
  • Mennonite Church Canada Witness has an annual budget of approximately $1.9 million CDN which is about 49% of the total denominational budget of $3.9 million.
*Tim Dearborn, Beyond Duty: a passion for Christ, a heart for mission, MARC, 1998 as cited in Mission-Shaped Church: Church Planting and Fresh Expressions of Church in a Changing Context, page 85.