Jesus calls us to follow the rules of the upside-down kingdom. That means we don't follow the colonial model of mission. We try not to impede God's work through local leaders. Instead, we work alongside them.
Why? Local leaders know the culture. They know the language. They know what their communities need. And most importantly, they also have the gifts of the Spirit.
Mission Network still trains peacemakers, disciples, and church planters around the world. We have 200 partners in 60 countries.
We partner with people like Oscar Siwali. Oscar has a vision for southern Africa. As a Christian, Oscar wants to follow Jesus' example. He wants to train "active peacemakers in an increasingly violent world." He quit his good-paying job and started SADRA Conflict Transformation.
Conflict mediation was nothing new to Oscar. He led peace trainings across Africa before SADRA. But a new organization takes people and funds to get it going.
Oscar Siwali gives input at an ANiSA conference.
One day, Oscar shared his vision with Steve Wiebe-Johnson. Steve is Mission Network's director for Africa. Steve loved the idea. So did some of Oscar's long-time friends. But it was Steve who trusted Oscar enough to act.
"My job is to listen to African partners and their visions," said Steve. "In those stories and visions I sense the leading of the Holy Spirit in their lives. I seek to find ways that Mennonite Mission Network can walk alongside of these partners to accomplish the vision that God has given them."
So Steve listened and trusted. He offered start-up funds and searched for mission workers.
In 2016, Daniel and Kathryn Smith Derksen answered the call. They moved to South Africa with their sons, Jacob and John-Clair. Kathryn's conflict resolution experience made them a perfect fit. Now, the couple trains students in peer mediation. "Shy girls found their voices," said Kathryn. Bossy students listen to other opinions. Former gang members mediate conflict among their peers. This lays the basis for a more peaceful South Africa.
It's not coincidence. It's God at work. Through Steve Wiebe-Johnson, who trusted the God-given vision of Oscar. Through Oscar's leadership gifts. Through Daniel and Kathryn's conflict mediation gifts. Through the daily interactions of young South Africans that attended the trainings.
Here's to the visionaries. Here's to the connectors. Here's to training the next generation of peacemakers. May we follow the way of Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela … and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Taking a break from a peace-making seminar are Lidia Matabaro (Burundi), Witness Zodwa Nxumalo (South Africa), Kathryn Smith Derksen (United States/South Africa), Keke Phooko (Lesotho), Mbambo Noame (Uganda), Amina Ahmed (Sudan) and (in front) Comfort Okom Tom (Nigeria).