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AIMM moves administration to Africa

   
 


In conjunction with the Partnership Council meetings in Burkina Faso, Hippolyto Tshimanga, MC Canada’s Mission Partnerships Facilitator for Africa also spent time with Donna and Loren Entz, international ministry workers in Burkina Faso. Tshimanga joined the group as they prepared a series of Samogho language radio programs. Here, local believers from the Samoghohiri Mennonite Church choose music that will complement the biblical lessons for the next four week block of programs. l-r:  Kari Traore (Samogho Bible Translator), Donna Entz,  Abou Traore, Hippolyto Tshimanga, Loren Entz,  Omar Traore. The Entz’s are supported through Mennonite Church Canada Witness and Mennonite Mission Network. – Photo by Steve Wiebe-Johnson

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November 30, 2007
- by Lynda Hollinger-Janzen


ORODARA, Burkina Faso and KINSHASA, Dem. Rep. of Congo – Recent Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission Partnership Councils held in Burkina Faso and Democratic Republic of Congo were planned to empower African churches and promote mutuality in mission.

These annual gatherings brought together mission representatives from Canada, France and the United States and national church leaders from Burkina Faso in Orodara, Burkina Faso, Sept. 19-20. Many of the same mission personnel traveled to Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo for similar meetings with leaders of the three Congolese Mennonite denominations Sept. 28-29.

Benjamin Mubenga Wa Kabanga, president of Communauté Evangélique Mennonite (Evangelical Mennonite Church) believes that moving the decision-making process to their continent helps African leaders collaborate in formulating a clear vision of what their churches can become and to hold fast to that vision so that the churches can become authentic and autonomous.

Damien Pelende, president of Communauté Evangélique des Fréres Mennonites du Congo (the Mennonite Brethren church in Congo), sees that the benefits of a Partnership Council model extend beyond the African continent and help to knit Mennonites from the northern and southern hemispheres into a big and wonderful family.

“At each meeting we discover each other anew and deepen our fellowship, strengthening our widening community. We are looking for ways of transcending the socio-economic chasms that separate the churches of the different global regions,” Pelende said.

The three-year old Partnership Council structure has moved decision-making onto African soil. In Kinshasa, 30 Congolese church leaders participated in the administrative process rather than the token representative that may have been present if the meetings had been held in North America.

“What impresses me first is that the priorities for both the Burkina and Congolese Churches are the same. In both countries, leaders focus on evangelism and leadership training for their growing churches. They also look at ways of generating income for the administrative expenses of their churches,” said Hippolyto Tshimanga, Mission Partnership Facilitator for Mennonite Church Canada Witness.

Adolphe Komuesa Kalunga, president of the Communauté Mennoniye au Congo (Congo Mennonite Church), expressed appreciation for the first-time opportunity to hear the voices of women and youth during administrative meetings. Their attendance was made possible through Mennonite World Conference’s Congo Forum.

“The Partnership Council provides a framework for sharing our experiences, learning and discernment,” said Benjamin Mubenga Wa Kabanga, president of Communauté Evangélique Mennonite (Evangelical Mennonite Church). “The bit of time we had together helped us open up to each other and analyze our common problems, our fears and our gifts that we can put at each others’ service and, thereby, strengthen our relationships with each other.”

The Partnership Council model of administration grew out of an extensive program review that AIMM commissioned Rick Derksen to undertake in 2001. Derksen, an AIMM worker in Congo for 20 years, is now Mennonite Central Committee Anti-Racism Coordinator.

Dave Dyck, formerly from an AIMM partner organization – Mennonite Brethren Mission and Service International – gave leadership to drafting an administrative structure based, in part, on the findings of Derksen’s review whose proposals focused on giving a greater voice to AIMM’s African partners.

“Basically the goal was to formalize a system whereby decisions about mission in Africa would be made in Africa with Africans as central and equal participants in the decisions,” Dyck said.

Implementation of the new structure began in 2004.

Organized as the Congo Inland Mission in 1912, AIMM is currently supported by three North American Mennonite denominations who work with churches in four African countries. From its inception, AIMM ministry has been characterized by interchurch collaboration. The present vision statement expresses this commitment: “a common witness as a joint Mennonite team lends credibility to our claims to be one in Christ.”

Mennonite Mission Network, Mennonite Church Canada Witness, and Evangelical Mennonite Conference join AIMM in ministry with the Mennonite churches of Burkina Faso and Democratic Republic of Congo and with African-Initiated Churches in Botswana and South Africa.

The Comité de mission mennonite francais (French Mennonite Mission Committee) is an additional member of the Burkina Faso Partnership Council. Mennonite Central Committee is an associate member of all four Partnership Councils.

Participants with observer status at the Congo meetings included a dozen national lay leaders sent by Mennonite World Conference and representatives of the Reseau francophone, a loosely organized network of French-speaking Mennonites who help distribute Anabaptist literature and facilitate mission connections between the French-speaking countries of Africa and Europe and the Canadian province of Québec.

Each of the four African countries working within the AIMM structure organizes an annual Partnership Council. An International Central Council also meets once a year with representatives from the national councils. This umbrella organization serves as AIMM’s board of directors and as a resource for the autonomous national councils.

Siaka Traoré, president of the Eglise Evangélique Mennonite au Burkina Faso (Evangelical Mennonite Church of Burkina Faso), chairs the International Central Council. Rod Hollinger-Janzen coordinates AIMM’s North American office.