A Guatemalan mountainside was exactly where I needed to beCASAS Internshiphttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4660/A-Guatemalan-mountainside-was-exactly-where-I-needed-to-beA Guatemalan mountainside was exactly where I needed to beBy Sara Kennel

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Mennonite women in Congo spread the gospel through literacyLiteracy in Congohttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4656/Mennonite-women-in-Congo-spread-the-gospel-through-literacyMennonite women in Congo spread the gospel through literacyBy Adolphine Tshiama
Service illuminates good in the worldService Adventurehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4655/Service-illuminates-good-in-the-worldService illuminates good in the worldBy Zaden Issah
Service is a new adventure at 61 degrees northService Adventurehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4654/Service-is-a-new-adventure-at-61-degrees-northService is a new adventure at 61 degrees northBy Sam Setiawan
Understanding the world through the lens of MississippiService Adventurehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4653/Understanding-the-world-through-the-lens-of-MississippiUnderstanding the world through the lens of MississippiBy Roger Neufeld Smith
A big tree has fallen in South Africa, nation mournsArchbishop Desmond Tutuhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4647/A-big-tree-has-fallen-in-South-Africa-nation-mournsA big tree has fallen in South Africa, nation mournsBy Reuben Mgodeli
The roots of colonization are buried deepSOUTH KOREAhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4648/The-roots-of-colonization-are-buried-deepThe roots of colonization are buried deepBy Karen Spicher

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Mission-wary to Missionary: Witness as with-nesshttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4639/Mission-wary-to-Missionary-Witness-as-with-nessMission-wary to Missionary: Witness as with-nessBy Travis Duerksen<p>NEWTON, Kansas (Mennonite Mission Network) — Even before becoming the executive director of Mennonite Mission Network, Mike Sherrill had plenty of practice explaining how the agency "does" mission.</p><p>Sherrill and his wife, Teresa, first became connected with Mennonite Board of Missions, a predecessor agency of Mission Network, in 2000 as mission workers in Japan. Sherrill continued as a mission worker in Japan until 2017, when he became the director of Asia and Middle East for Mission Network. In August 2020, he began his role as the executive director.</p><p>In this excerpt from the third episode of the podcast "MissionWary?," Sherrill explains that, for decades, Mission Network has understood witness to others to be manifested as "with-ness."<br></p><div class="ms-rtestate-read ms-rte-embedcode ms-rte-embedil ms-rtestate-notify"><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Ep_2BC4abvo?start=726" title="YouTube video player" frameborder="0"></iframe> </div><p>"Mission Network has really been in pursuit of a different approach to mission work," he said. "[It's] not so much that we bring something to offer that they need, rather, that we are pilgrims on a journey. And we're here to learn, also, and discover God's love together. [Asking,] 'What can we do together?' is a very different kind of approach that leads to mutual appreciation and mutual discovery of God's activity in the world."  <br></p><div class="ms-rtestate-read ms-rte-embedcode ms-rte-embedil ms-rtestate-notify"><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Ep_2BC4abvo?start=1065" title="YouTube video player" frameborder="0"></iframe> </div><p>"If anyone says, 'Oh, the era is mission is over,' don't believe them," he said. "It's just beginning. This is a very exciting time to be involved in international ministry, international mission work, and that includes being here, in North America, also, to serve our church. The purpose of the church is to bear witness to God's love for the world. And that's right at the center of why we exist. Mennonite Mission Network exists to empower and equip the church." </p><p>"MissionWary?" is available on <a href="https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/missionwary/id1554921309">Apple Podcasts</a>, <a href="https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly9taXNzaW9ud2FyeS5saWJzeW4uY29tL3Jzcw==">Google Podcasts</a>, <a href="https://open.spotify.com/show/7xEYJBwOWq1T78LHkstApt?si=x8rc2-c-RqieYESHO0INkA">Spotify</a>, <a href="https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PL93LFx-9e_yhfqhnAhYXjWjqZxyj6odRY">YouTube</a> and anywhere else you listen to podcasts. New episodes are now available! Learn about the complex bond between service and mission, where the call to mission comes from and how stories of mission become the history of mission. To view the complete episode list, <a href="/podcasts/missionwary/">click here.</a><br></p>
Unless a Grain of Wheat chronicles relationship-building in Africahttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4635/Unless-a-Grain-of-Wheat-chronicles-relationship-building-in-AfricaUnless a Grain of Wheat chronicles relationship-building in AfricaBy Ben Tapper<p>Whenever I hear that White missionaries have gone to Africa, I suspect less than healthy motives. Therefore, I was initially skeptical of the relationship between Mennonite Mission Network and the African Independent Churches (AICs) in western and southern Africa.<br></p><p>We cannot separate AICs from their colonial and Indigenous contexts. The AIC movement was birthed in the early 20<sup>th</sup> century, during the waning decades of the direct colonial rule over African peoples by European powers. Their rise represents a reclamation of sorts and a proclamation that Africans could determine what their spirituality and churches could look like. As independence movements swept across much of the African continent in the mid-20<sup>th</sup> century, AICs began to grow. Today, they represent more than 110 million Christians across the continent.</p><p>My initial skepticism shifted once I listened to <a href="/video/4551/Breaking-a-mission-mold-in-Africa">the conversation</a> between James Krabill, Jonathan Larson and Thomas Oduro, who edited the book <em>Unless a Grain of Wheat.</em> My perspective shifted. The earnest appreciation for this respect-based relationship was palpable. </p><p>For Western Christians, the work of Mission Network personnel offers a critique to the inherent colonial methods of mission work. The agency's approach is to build relationships, rather than evangelizing African peoples to transpose Western norms and practices.</p><p>Because of this way of relating mutually, AIC leaders experienced genuine care and relationship with Mennonite workers that ran counter to the norm. Oduro shared the narrative of Mennonite workers who joyfully gave their time and resources to help lay the foundation for Good News Seminary. Seeing their genuine delight in helping this building project created trust. It also gave Oduro a different view of what was possible from Western Christianity. </p><p>Stories like these fill the book <em>Unless a Grain of Wheat,</em> which is a collection of insights and personal narratives that are rooted in the relationship between Mennonite Mission workers and AICs across western and southern Africa. As you read, you'll encounter stories of transformation from both AIC members and Western workers that highlight the mutuality of these relationships.  </p><p>What intrigues me most are the lessons that we might transpose onto contexts in the United States. AIC members, Mennonite workers and Africans have built and maintained relationships with one another for more than 60 years, despite political transformation, epidemics, wars and natural disasters. So how does this model empower more healthy relationships between predominantly White congregations and congregations made up predominantly of people of color in the United States? </p><p>As Jonathan Larson reflected on what Mennonites have learned from their relationship with AICs, he noted, "The encounter with AICs reflected to us that we have become impoverished in our spirituality because of our culture." </p><p>I agree with him, and I would add that this impoverishment can be tied to the tolerance and embrace of White supremacy. Mennonites aren't endorsing the Proud Boys or the Ku Klux Klan, but there are subtle ways that we tolerate the normalization of White culture and participate in the systemic forces that continue to reshape our society in ways that harm communities of color. </p><p>I wonder: What could change if we adopted a posture of relationship-building and mutual learning with Black congregations that are fighting police brutality and mass incarceration? </p><p>What could we learn from Latino congregations that are combatting food deserts and unjust immigration policies? </p><p>How might we be challenged by African congregations on this side of the Atlantic Ocean that are concerned with slumlord apartment complexes and a lack of affordable housing? </p><p><em>Unless A Grain of Wheat</em> highlights the best of what is possible when White, Western Christians learn from past wrongs and step forward with intentionality and humility to imagine a new way of being in relationship. These lessons don't have to only pertain to work with AICs, and I'd love to see these lessons reimagined and applied to our local contexts. </p><p>If you want to read these stories for yourself and be inspired by what's possible, you can find <em>Unless A Grain of Wheat</em><em>: A Story of Friendship Between African Independent Churches and North American Mennonites</em> online at <a href="https://langhamliterature.org/books/unless-a-grain-of-wheat">Langham Publishing</a>, <a href="https://www.christianbook.com/friendship-african-independent-churches-american-mennonites/9781839732713/pd/732715?en=google&event=SHOP&kw=ingram-20-40%7c732715&p=1179710&utm_source=google&dv=c&gclid=CjwKCAiA1aiMBhAUEiwACw25MVJrucClKrtOabxh0Eus5BWxRdaKY67R_ndsdhryEkOEz_L0WkBf8BoCJKEQAvD_BwE">Christian Books</a>, as well as from other online retailers. <br></p>
Breaking borders to build God’s kingdomhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4633/Breaking-borders-to-build-Gods-kingdomBreaking borders to build God’s kingdomBy Laurie Oswald Robinson<p>At Mennonite Mission Network, I hear countless stories about people leaving their local congregations to serve in the United States and around the world. But it is rare for me to hear a story that describes how a vision caught in one part of God's kingdom and was released back home, where it stretched hearts and borders.   </p><p>This is one of those rare stories. </p><p>For six years, Jeanne and Mark Birky, farmers from Hopedale, Illinois, have traveled to San Antonio, Texas, to participate in Mission Network's <a href="/Serve/SOOP">SOOP (Service Opportunities with Our Partners)</a> program. As part of their service, they engaged with <em>La Casa de Maria y Marta</em><em> </em>(Mary and Martha's House), San Antonio Mennonite Church's (SAMC) hospitality ministry to asylum seekers from Central and South America.  </p><p>The ministry provides a safe place, basic necessities, medical care and intentional community for asylum seekers on their journeys. For families remaining in San Antonio for extended lengths of time, the hospitality ministry offers job training and other connections.</p><p>During a recent interview, Jeanne and Mark shared what happened when they brought immigration/border concerns back to Hopedale Mennonite Church, where they are two of the 75 members in a rural community of 900 people. </p><p>At one point during their time at SOOP with SAMC, Pastor John Garland asked if their congregation would consider sponsoring an asylum seeker. The Birkys were personally on board, but they also knew that they needed to convince others back home. Before Jeanne and Mark shared stories of their SOOP experience, much of the community's exposure to the topic of immigration had been through mainstream media, which tended to evoke fear of the "other." </p><p>"We enjoyed getting to know and learning more about the situation with people fleeing from persecution," Jeanne Birky said. "When we came back to Illinois from Texas each spring, we informed our congregation about what was actually going on.  </p><p>"We helped people understand that the nightly news images of people traveling in big caravans had a reason behind it. Groups keep people safe from the violent gangs threatening them during their journey to the U.S. border.  Education and showing both sides is important in dealing with a subject like this."</p><p>The truthful storytelling yielded good fruit. </p><p>When Garland called the Birkys, in January 2019, to ask if the congregation could provide asylum for Jennifer, a woman in her mid-30s, and Lucia, her 10-year-old daughter, a group of 15 couples agreed to support the ministry. One couple opened their home to Jennifer and Lucia for six weeks, before an apartment became available. The mother and daughter lived in Hopedale for two years, until Jennifer received her work permit and became a nanny for a family in nearby Peoria, Illinois. She and Lucia still live in Peoria, where Lucia attends Peoria Christian School and they await a permanent asylum hearing. </p><p>The community also provided assistance with medical services, English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, social engagements, transportation to required monthly check-ins in Chicago, Illinois, and other connections within the community. </p><p>The Birkys shared their story beyond Hopedale Mennonite, and as a result, two other congregations in Illinois — Lombard Mennonite Church in Chicago and Roanoke Mennonite Church in Eureka, Illinios — also provided safe communities for asylum seekers.  </p><p>"We found this to be a real bonding experience and a good way to bring people together," Mark Birky said. "Jennifer and Lucia were blessed by the church, and we were blessed by their presence, because they gave us such direct insight into the challenges and joys faced by immigrants." </p><p>As a result of those two years, the church stretched beyond its former language and cultural borders by entering into a more bilingual worship experience. "I know of at least one instance in which an individual, who was very much against accepting immigrants without legal status into our community, changed attitudes and became very good friends with Jennifer and Lucia," Mark Birky shared.<br></p>
Mission-wary to Missionary: Mistakes were madehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4629/Mission-wary-to-Missionary-Mistakes-were-madeMission-wary to Missionary: Mistakes were madeBy Travis Duerksen<p>NEWTON, Kansas (Mennonite Mission Network) — Do you remember the first time you heard about the <a href="https://dofdmenno.org/about/">Doctrine of Discovery</a>? </p><p>Lynda Hollinger-Janzen, co-host of 'MissionWary?,' a podcast series from Mennonite Mission Network, learned about the term through participating in the <a href="/gallery/3995/God-speaks-Potawatomi">Trail of Death pilgrimage</a> in 2019. Her co-host, Travis Duerksen, first heard the term during his orientation with Mission Network's <a href="/serve/Journey%20International">Journey International program</a> in 2014. </p><p>The Doctrine of Discovery itself, however, is quite old. The doctrine stems from religious documents created by popes in the 15<sup>th</sup> century. In these documents, European Christian rulers claimed the "divine right" to dispossess Indigenous peoples of their ancestral lands and human rights. International and domestic legal systems around the world were built upon this doctrine, and their effects continue to harm Indigenous communities today. </p><p>In the second episode of 'MissionWary?,' Duerksen and Hollinger-Janzen talk with Katerina Friesen, a pastor and educator who works to promote healing from structural trauma and violence, about the harm done to Indigenous peoples through the Doctrine of Discovery and its connection with mission, past and present. <br></p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">In this excerpt, Friesen described an image that has helped her understand what the Doctrine of Discovery means today.</span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">      </span></p><div class="ms-rtestate-read ms-rte-embedcode ms-rte-embedil ms-rtestate-notify" unselectable="on"><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/bOatVFC0hrU?start=429" title="YouTube video player" frameborder="0"></iframe> </div><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">Friesen: "So one way that I come at this, when I talk about [the Doctrine of Discovery] or write about it is really — the image of the cross comes up. And some of us may have seen paintings or images of Columbus planting the cross in the soil of a discovered land — what later became flag planting. So this cross, planted in the lands of what are now the Americas, or Turtle Island, as some Indigenous peoples call it, the cross of Christ was really distorted into the cross of conquest. And the Doctrine of Discovery is all about that transformation or that distortion, where the cross came to represent Christian empire and dominion, claiming Indigenous lands and bodies under European Christian rule. So, under the Doctrine of Discovery, this cross has crucified so many times,  through forced conversions of Indigenous peoples under the point of death [and] separat[ing]  children from their families, through Indian residential schools or boarding schools. It has justified slavery and genocide and turned land into profit, rather than land as something that's sacred."</span><br></p><p>The first step towards healing, Friesen suggested, is not reconciliation.  "With Indigenous peoples and settler peoples, I think we haven't reached that step," she said. "We haven't been 'conciled' yet. So, what does 'conciliation' mean? Lament and repentance are part of that process. Conciliation first comes from that heart change that results in tangible actions of repair and reparation."<br></p><p><span style="font-size:22.4px;">"MissionWary?" is available on </span><a href="https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/missionwary/id1554921309" style="color:inherit;border-bottom:1px solid #b4e7f8;box-shadow:#b4e7f8 0px -5px 0px inset;font-size:22.4px;">Apple Podcasts</a><span style="font-size:22.4px;">, </span><a href="https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly9taXNzaW9ud2FyeS5saWJzeW4uY29tL3Jzcw==" style="color:inherit;border-bottom:1px solid #b4e7f8;box-shadow:#b4e7f8 0px -5px 0px inset;font-size:22.4px;">Google Podcasts</a><span style="font-size:22.4px;">, </span><a href="https://open.spotify.com/show/7xEYJBwOWq1T78LHkstApt?si=x8rc2-c-RqieYESHO0INkA" style="color:inherit;border-bottom:1px solid #b4e7f8;box-shadow:#b4e7f8 0px -5px 0px inset;font-size:22.4px;">Spotify</a><span style="font-size:22.4px;">, </span><a href="https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PL93LFx-9e_yhfqhnAhYXjWjqZxyj6odRY" style="color:inherit;border-bottom:1px solid #b4e7f8;box-shadow:#b4e7f8 0px -5px 0px inset;font-size:22.4px;">YouTube</a><span style="font-size:22.4px;"> and anywhere else you listen to podcasts. New episodes are now available</span><span style="font-size:22.4px;">! </span><span aria-hidden="true" style="font-size:22.4px;"></span><span style="font-size:22.4px;">Learn about the complex bond between service and mission, where the call to mission comes from and how stories of mission become the history of mission. To view the complete episode list, </span><a href="/podcasts/missionwary/" style="color:inherit;border-bottom:1px solid #b4e7f8;box-shadow:#b4e7f8 0px -5px 0px inset;font-size:22.4px;">click here.</a><br></p>
Mission-wary to Missionary: Where do we start?https://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4627/Mission-wary-to-Missionary-Where-do-we-startMission-wary to Missionary: Where do we start?By Travis Duerksen<p>NEWTON, Kansas (Mennonite Mission Network) — In the Christian vernacular, there are few words as charged as "mission." </p><p>If you ask people what comes to mind when they think about "mission," some might say, "Mother Teresa" — the kindly, unassuming type of missionary that runs soup kitchens and builds hospitals, all while wearing worn out shoes. Others might say that "mission" makes them think of one of those TV ads that run on weekday afternoons, imploring you to donate just 5 cents per day, in order to send a starving child a Bible. Some people point to mission as something their great aunt or uncle did by packing up all their belongings and leaving on a steam ship to spread the gospel overseas. And for others, mission was when a foreign person came to their great grandparents' community, built a strange looking church and told everyone to start speaking English.  </p><p>Which of these examples adequately describes "mission?" </p><p>How do we, as followers of Christ, reconcile a calling that originates directly from Jesus with something that, over the course of 2000-plus years, has been laced with suffering, cultural erasure and genocide? How do we celebrate the genuine good that has come from mission, while also acknowledging the pain it has caused? </p><p>In the first episode of "MissionWary?,"  a podcast series from Mennonite Mission Network, two voices speak into how to approach these questions. Lynda Hollinger-Janzen and Joe Sawatzky, who have both been connected to the work of Mennonite Mission Network for decades, give their perspective on what "mission" means, and where it comes from. Below is an excerpt from the episode.<br></p><p>Lynda Hollinger-Janzen, writer for Mennonite Mission Network, shares how moving from being "mission-wary" to becoming a missionary has been her life's journey.</p><div class="ms-rtestate-read ms-rte-embedcode ms-rte-embedil ms-rtestate-notify" unselectable="on"><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/HrbYJAR8DFs?start=390" title="YouTube video player" frameborder="0"></iframe> </div><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">Hollinger-Janzen: "Going from mission-wary ... to missionary has been my life's journey, really. So, I went from this little kid who wanted to grow up to be a missionary, but in high school and college, started learning things. We didn't use the term '</span><a href="https://dofdmenno.org/" style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;font-style:inherit;">Doctrine of Discovery</a><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">' at that time, but realizing how much early mission walked hand in hand, and was responsible for genocide of Indigenous peoples, and how there were actually documents that state, 'Send missionaries to go along [with the explorers/conquistadors] so that the trail is blazed for commerce,' In quotes, 'Subdue the natives, so that our rubber plantations, our gold mines won't be disturbed by people who are against us.' I mean, all of that stuff that I was learning in high school and college really made me turn against missions as being colonialist, imperialistic — evangelism as being arrogance. That was my journey through high school, and by the time I graduated from college, I was very much entrenched in that way of thinking."</span><br></p><p>After college, however, Hollinger-Janzen traveled to Zaïre (now Congo) with a Christian relief and development agency. Not to be a missionary, she explained, but "because I wanted adventure, and I didn't have any money." When it came time to leave, however, Hollinger-Janzen experienced her very own <a href="https://biblia.com/bible/esv/acts/9/1-19">Damascus Road</a> experience.</p><p>"MissionWary?" is available on <a href="https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/missionwary/id1554921309">Apple Podcasts</a>, <a href="https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly9taXNzaW9ud2FyeS5saWJzeW4uY29tL3Jzcw==">Google Podcasts</a>, <a href="https://open.spotify.com/show/7xEYJBwOWq1T78LHkstApt?si=x8rc2-c-RqieYESHO0INkA">Spotify</a>, <a href="https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PL93LFx-9e_yhfqhnAhYXjWjqZxyj6odRY">YouTube</a> and anywhere else you listen to podcasts. New episodes are now available! Learn about the complex bond between service and mission, where the call to mission comes from and how stories of mission become the history of mission. To view the complete episode list, <a href="/podcasts/missionwary/">click here.</a><br></p>
Life-long mission journeys through mountaintop experiences and valleyshttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4625/Life-long-mission-journeys-through-mountaintop-experiences-and-valleysLife-long mission journeys through mountaintop experiences and valleysBy Wally Fahrer<p>The landscape of our ministry included valleys and mountaintops, open plains and obscure forests. Some views were terrifying, and some were beautiful. But, through it all, Jesus was faithful and gracious and surprised us with gifts of encouragement and miracles of healing.<br></p><p>Looking back on my 73 years of life, I am amazed that a young man from Kansas and a young woman from Chicago, Illinois, spent nearly half of their lives in the United Kingdom, representing an Anabaptist stream of the Christian faith. <br></p><p>Our ministry was divided into two parts — a church-based ministry and a counseling ministry, in which we worked with people who were struggling with trauma and abuse. I describe the first half of my ministry as a pastor who did counseling. While engaging with the second half of my ministry, I was a counselor who did pastoring. Sue and I learned profound lessons during our journey.<br></p><p>In 1982, we went to London, England, in response to a call from Mennonite Board of Missions, a predecessor agency of Mennonite Mission Network, to help establish a congregation with Alan and Eleanor Kreider. The Kreiders had gathered a group of young adults who were excited about Anabaptism and wanted to establish a faith community that did church differently. <br></p><p>For four years, we saw that community grow. When we returned to the United States for a year of reporting to supporting churches, study and renewal, the congregation decided that our presence was no longer needed. We were confused. It was hard to reconcile what we felt in our hearts about our calling with the congregation's message.<br></p><p>After nearly a year of ministry wilderness, during which I worked odd jobs in the United States, I begin a five-year term with the Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference as the minister of evangelism. This began a season of joy and fruitfulness, as I was working at recruiting church planters, beginning new congregations and encouraging congregational growth. We worked closely with the mission agency during that time and benefitted from the encouragement and training they provided. <br></p><p>A highlight of that time was when I recognized that Mennonites did not define themselves primarily by history or theology but by ecclesiology, the way they understood being church together. This led me to write <a href="https://www.christianbook.com/building-on-the-rock/walfred-fahrer/9781597520959/pd/520959"><em>Building on the Rock</em></a>. <br></p><p>Five years later, structural change meant that my role in the conference was phased out. During this time, a British congregation, near the Mennonite Centre in London, was looking for a pastor. They thought of Sue and me. We felt stirred that this was God's way of bringing us back to the United Kingdom and the calling that had never left us.<br></p><p>We returned to London as mission associates, and I became the first full-time elder of Cholmeley Evangelical Church. Again, this felt like a fulfilment of God's plan for us. Several years followed of exciting and fruitful ministry with a congregation that was interested in becoming a faith community, with sympathy towards the Anabaptist vision of church. <br></p><p>But in the fourth year of that ministry, things took a downturn. About a year later, I resigned from the leadership of that congregation. Once again, we struggled to understand what God wanted for us as a next step.<br></p><p>During this time, the open plains of ministry changed to obscure forests. I experienced burn-out and depression. Then, as Sue supported me in my recovery, she took a downhill turn herself. I recovered, but the next seven years for Sue were marked with three hospital­isations for suicidal depression and struggles with heavy medication. <br></p><p>I met a Christian therapist who asked me to work alongside him in his private practice, and I began the second half of my ministry. We moved to the market town of Horsham in Sussex, south of London. Here, God began to rebuild Sue and me, as I worked with others to establish Anchor Counselling. More healing came when Sue and I joined a small Baptist congregation and became part of the leadership team. <br></p><p>I continued to see clients until I retired, at 70 years old. Through two decades of counseling, I worked with some severely traumatised clients and rejoiced with them in their healing. I think I have ministered to more Christians more deeply as a counselor and therapist than I ever did as a pastor. And Sue and I have learned so much about the human spirit as we have walked this journey.<br></p><p>Out of the midst of that deep forest, God's light broke through. After about 10 years of depression, many psychiatrists and doctors, and many different medications, Sue experienced the miracle of healing. In her lowest place, where medication was not working and we did not see a way forward, the Lord visited Sue and told her, "Everything is going to be alright." Initially, things got worse. The medications designed to keep her from going into another depression prevented her from thinking clearly or functioning normally.  <br></p><p>Then, early one morning, we were awakened by our dogs barking. We got up to see what was happening, and I looked into Sue's eyes. I saw a joy and wholeness that I had not seen in years! When I commented on this, Sue told me that she had stopped taking all her medications several days before, and she was feeling better than she had in years. When she told me what she had done, I insisted we go to see our general practitioner. The doctor was sympathetic and did not ask her to go back on her medication. Instead, she monitored what became a full recovery! Sue has remained well since that time. She has not done much with her music in the last few years, due, in part, to tendonitis and arthritis in her hands. She was the lead violin in an amateur orchestra in Horsham until three years ago. <br></p><p>I have been reflecting on the different perspectives that I have gained through counseling and pastoral ministry. In trying to explain the Anabaptist vision of discipleship, I have used an expression: "True Christianity is not about an experience to sustain a commitment but about a commitment to sustain an experience." In the most difficult times, when the presence of God felt very far away, it was not the experience that sustained our faithfulness to Jesus. It was our commitment to being faithful that sustained our experience of his presence. In trying to explain to broken people who felt they had failed God and did not deserve God's love, I have coined another expression: "True Christianity is not about being good enough to be loved; it is about being loved enough to be good."<em> </em></p><p>We are now living in Liverpool, England, and enjoying retirement. I am reflecting and writing about what I have learned in life. We moved here to be closer to two of our three children. God has once more led us to a congregation touched by the Anabaptist vision. Its members have welcomed us with open arms. <br></p><p>What Jesus has in mind for his church in the United Kingdom and the Mennonite witness is still unclear to us. But we are full of gratitude for God's blessing and faithfulness.<br></p>

 

 

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