In former decades, Mennonites in the global North focused their prayers on the missionaries from their own congregations sent to develop new initiatives and churches in the global South. Today, prayers and counsel flow in both directions, and most initiatives begin in the South.
For example, during the mission leaders gathering, participants pleaded that God provide mercy and grace for congregations and families in the United States. People at large round tables grasped the black, brown or white hands of their table mates, or covered their faces with their hands. Quiet utterings circled the room as some people raised their hands and others wept.
They petitioned for spiritual protection, healing and renewal. They asked God to help North Americans to veer away from materialism, to better nurture their youth in the faith, and to biblically discern matters of sexuality.
They prayed that their North American brothers and sisters return to the fervency that birthed the very churches that they were now a part of in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Some participants, including John S. Fumana, a participant at the gathering from Democratic Republic of Congo, shared out loud their concerns for North America.
“I pray that the churches in North America will depend on God,” he said. “They have all the resources of wealth and many spiritual blessings, but they still need to keep being dependent on the Lord.”
These exhortations resonated with Mennonite Mission Network leaders Stanley W. Green, executive director, and James R. Krabill, senior executive for Global Ministries. They were two of the several Mission Network representatives who joined 100 of their mission cohorts from around the world at the gathering.
“Part of the global church’s challenge to the North American church is that it is too self-sufficient,” Green said. “Relative to the rest of the church, we have abundant resources and sometimes don’t feel the need for the Holy Spirit’s empowering, because we think we can do it.”
Krabill said he learned a lot from the analysis conducted by the regional caucus groups.
“The very strengths in some regions are the greatest weaknesses in others, and vice versa,” he said. “We keep finding ways of sharing our gifts. … Africa is full of vibrant young Christians, but they don’t have much training. But in the West, we have all these training institutions with tons of money for libraries and resources, and young people aren’t coming to church.”
When the global church gathers, it is the wealthy portion of the North American church mostly on display. We often forget that within our own family of churches, there are many disparities and deficiencies.
“The purpose of GMF from the very beginning was learning how to shift from the perspective of doing mission from the ‘West to the rest.’ We are a global family, and we need to find ways of doing mission together, with each bringing their strengths and weaknesses together to get the job done.”
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