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
View or download full sized image.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.