The partnership Mennonite Mission Network shares with Mosaic Mennonite Conference demonstrates the agency's commitment to leading, mobilizing and equipping the church, both abroad and at home, to participate in holistic witness to Jesus Christ.
Mosaic, a large, multiracial and non-regional conference, is one of many area conferences to mutually benefit from a partnership with Mission Network that strives to share voices and perspectives across diverse cultures.
One example of how Mosaic — spanning such states as California, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont — promotes diversity is through printing its information and resources in Chinese, English, Haitian Creole, Indonesian, Spanish and Vietnamese.
Mission Network joins in Mosaic Sister Care ministry
Sister Care, which also promotes such diversity, is an early touchpoint of collaboration between Mosaic and Mission Network. According to the Mennonite Women USA website, the seminars "provide women with tools for ongoing personal healing, recognizing and celebrating God's grace in their lives, and responding more confidently and effectively to the needs of others in their families, congregations and communities."
Mosaic has hosted Sister Care seminars since 2012. After contacting Mennonite Women USA to see if a Sister Care seminar could be held in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, area, Anne Yoder became coordinator of the new local Sister Care committee, which served Eastern District Conference and Franconia Mennonite Conference — both predecessors of Mosaic Mennonite Conference, which grew out the two conferences in 2019.
The Sister Care gathering in 2015 was a fully bilingual event, with as many Spanish-speaking women as English-speaking. After a year of postponing events, due to COVID-19, Sister Care seminars are scheduled to resume in 2022.
"I couldn't have been happier," wrote Marta Castillo, leadership minister of Intercultural Formation at Mosaic. "I could see that God was doing a new thing, and I was honored to be a part of it."
Castillo expressed her excitement as she watched God respond to the need for childcare and space, as well as to provide translators for the 2015 event.
In 2017, Marisa Smucker, Mission Network's senior executive for Ventures, facilitated a Sister Care training seminar for Spanish-speaking women in the United States, so that the Sister Care seminars could be given in Spanish, rather than just being translated. Castillo was among the participants, along with Leticia Cortes Castro, pastor at Centro de Alabanza (Praise Center) in Philadelphia, a Mosaic member church.
"[Smucker] represented Mission Network in a relational way that I had not experienced before," wrote Castillo. Because Smucker speaks Spanish, Castillo said it was easy to include her in formal and informal gatherings and that through the three women's friendship, connections between Mosaic and Mission Network blossomed.
The future leaders of the church
Another touchstone of collaboration between Mosaic and Mission Network is the Florida Youth Initiative — a project run by the eight Florida churches that are part of Mosaic.
"[The initiative] was set up with the idea that, if we help these youth learn about and take leadership positions in the church, they could grow to be involved and be future leaders themselves," said Michelle Ramirez. Ramirez became the youth and community formation coordinator for Mosaic's congregations in Florida when she began coordinating the Florida Youth Initiative.
The initiative also strives to show Florida youth additional perspectives beyond their immediate surroundings and context.
Ramirez, along with Mosaic Conference executive minister Steve Kriss, youth formation pastor Danilo Sanchez and leadership minister Marco Guete, formed the initiative with assistance and other resources from Mission Network. Mission Network also helped secure a grant to help fund the initiative.
Recently, four youth from Mosaic and Ramirez herself participated in Mission Network's Youth Venture Civil Rights Learning Tour. They travelled throughout the American south, visiting places like Selma and Montgomery, Alabama, as well as locations in Georgia, Tennessee and Mississippi. The group participated in projects, toured historical landmarks, and engaged with community members and activists who wove hope into their stories of inequality and struggle.
"It is important for youth to have opportunities like the Youth Venture trip because ... the youth see and learn about things outside of their immediate bubble," Ramirez said. "Learning that there is a world outside of what they think and know helps them grow as humans and future spiritual leaders!"
An ever-growing partnership
The formation of the Spanish-speaking Sister Care group and the Florida Youth Initiative aren't the only ways that Mosaic and Mission Network have collaborated. Smucker has also helped facilitate a Healthy Boundaries training for Mosaic leaders in Florida. Healthy Boundaries trainings create awareness of the need for boundaries in our personal and professional relationships, as well as teaching participants to recognize unhealthy situations. Mosaic pastors and leaders have also been involved in the Mission Network's discipleship training program and Sent Network, the agency's church-planting initiative.
"Mosaic continues to seek to develop partnerships and resources for formation, mission and intercultural work," Castillo wrote in an email. "We look forward to continuing to work [with Mission Network]."
Conferences are invited to join with Mission Network and walk in that work, across the street and around the world. "There are a variety of ways that we can collaborate and work together to participate in God's mission around the world," Smucker said.