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Report to Mennonite Church Canada Congregations for 2004
January 4, 2005
Henry Krause (moderator) and Dan Nighswander (general secretary)
“We’re so overwhelmed with the needs that walk through our church doors, we don’t have time or energy to look beyond ourselves,” a pastor said recently.
Let us say in response, “We understand! That’s one of several reasons why it’s important to be organized as Mennonite Church Canada.”
And what are those reasons? It’s easy to lose sight of them when our days are consumed with the needs all around us. Here are a few to consider…
Should we come to the aid of persecuted Christians in other parts of the world? Mennonite Church Canada has been actively involved in just such a situation in Vietnam, by advocating on behalf of oppressed Christians with Vietnamese and Canadian government officials, in partnership with North American Vietnamese Mennonite Fellowship and the area conferences/congregations of MC Canada.
Should we stand in solidarity with fellow Christians facing death threats and armed invasions during worship services? For three months this year, MC Canada staffer Janet Plenert walked along side our Mennonite brothers and sisters in just such a situation in Colombia. Days before her return to Canada, she attended the funeral of the first Mennonite pastor to die in an act of political violence. He was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
New Christians in other countries are hungry for Anabaptist theology teaching and leadership training. Should our church answer their calls? Since 1998, MC Canada has been working with church leaders in Cuba to do just that. Cuba is only one example. The recent history of Mennonite international mission work is more than a century long. Currently, we have 90 mission workers in 39 countries around the world helping to form new disciples of Christ.
What about issues here at home in Canada? Through our membership in the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) and the Canadian Council of Churches (CCC), MC Canada has joined its voice to the voices of other Christian churches, speaking out in opposition to issues such as legalizing same sex unions and the patenting of life forms, and adding its voice to a vigorous discussion on bio-ethics. This year MC Canada has been strongly urging our federal government to reconsider the implications of participating in a Ballistic Missile Defence program. Moreover, MC Canada now adds its voice to the Micah Challenge, a project endorsed by both CCC and EFC to reduce world poverty (www.micahchallenge.org).
Sometimes the needs at our door overpower our ability to see how these ‘big’ issues might affect our lives. When we watch the evening news on TV, it’s hard to imagine being caught up in a natural disaster, a terrorist bombing, suffering persecution for our faith, or trying to imagine how science’s manipulation of human genes might affect us.
We work together because we are bound together by our common faith, one expression of which is the Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective – a document that has already been translated into 10 languages. A recent Canadian census reveals that Chinese is the No. 3 language in Canada. By the time you read this, a Chinese confession of faith translation will have been added.
How did this happen? Faith seekers around the world have discovered and resonated with our confession of faith through international workers, via the MC Canada web site, and through Canadians who have taken on international teaching assignments. This intersection with our faith has brought international students to Mennonite schools in Canada for education, faith formation and nurture. In other cases it has led to the sponsorship of thousands of refugees – some of whom, like Pat and Rad Houmphan serving in Thailand – have in turn become international mission workers.
These translations will become increasingly useful here at home in Canada, as more people from more countries around the world – especially Asia – immigrate to Canada.
Here in Canada you may have read about the North American Native Assembly in the Canadian Mennonite or viewed a photo journal on the event at www.mennonitechurch.ca. We are grateful for the way volunteers from the regional Native community and local congregations who collaborated in hosting an event that helped people share stories of faith with one another, worship, pray, and learn together.
In partnership with our area conferences, MC Canada extends the ministry of your congregation nationally and globally. Together we connect to broader issues at home and around the world. Offering resources through the MC Canada Resource Centre, (e.g., prayer week materials, advent and lent resources, videos and DVDs, etc.), Sunday school curriculum through our partners, Mennonite Publishing Network, education through our schools and seminary programs – all add to the abundance and substance of things God empowers us to do together.
What about the pastors and congregations who are overwhelmed by the needs coming through their doors? God has called all of us into congregations to minister to the people around and amongst us. A national church body alone cannot directly address local needs. And congregations alone cannot directly address regional, national and international needs. Only by working together and recognizing each other’s ministries can we fulfill the whole commission that God has given in sending us both “across the street” and “around the world.”
A Word about Finances:
We are very grateful for the financial support we continue to receive from our congregations and individual donors. Thank-you!
In 2004 our donation target was $3,914,000. In November/04, a series of seven cross-country meetings collected the council of congregational leaders to address a projected shortfall as well as issues of long term funding stability. In addition, a direct mail appeal was sent out to offer givers an opportunity to respond. By the time you read this, our books will be in the process of being closed for the year and we will have a better sense of how the final figures will move us forward in ministry. To help us plan for 2005, we are asking all congregations to inform our Resource Development office of your giving intentions for 2005. This information will help us plan for the future.
Stories of transformed lives are just one of many reasons to celebrate the generosity of MC Canada congregations and individual/corporate donors. Indeed, God’s love brings healing and hope.
Winkler 2004/Charlotte 2005
“Enough for All” was this year’s assembly theme, based on the story of Jesus’ feeding of the five thousand as described in John 6:1-14. It was a significant time of worship, prayer, celebration, and discussion. The comments and affirmations of Winkler 2004 suggest that this was one of our most meaningful and enjoyable assemblies ever. Thank-you to all who came, and especially to all our volunteers.
In 2005 we will celebrate our family of faith with brothers and sisters in Mennonite Church USA. Planners are expecting to host about 10,000 people at this event. We ask for your prayer support for the staff and volunteers as they participate in planning this significant event in our church life, for the delegates who will represent your congregation, and for the thousands of children and youth, many of whom will experience this event for the first time.
The road ahead is full of opportunities and challenges to share God’s love as shown to us through Christ. As we move ahead in our missional journey together, we offer you our prayers for wisdom and guidance as we collectively listen with our hearts and discern responses to that which lies ahead. May the Holy Spirit continue to guide our thoughts, form our words, and shape our deeds.