NEWTON, Kansas (Mennonite Mission Network) – Mennonite Mission Network will offer face-to-face connection with eight Mission Network service workers traveling from afar to interact with their U.S. brothers and sisters in Christ. Throughout the July 2-6 convention in Kansas City, workers from Ecuador, Colombia, Barcelona and Australia hope to connect with supporters and friends at the Mission Network booth. They will give equipping seminars and share their experiences at other events, including a delegate session. Here are some vignettes on the eight workers who will be at convention.
Eastern Rain Forest Region, Ecuador: Jane and Jerrell Ross Richer
Biography: Jane and Jerrell Ross Richer and their family began serving in Ecuador in 2015. They work half the year with indigenous church leaders in the Ecuadorian rain forest, and half the year as educators in the United States. They serve with Iglesia Cristiana Anabaustista Menonita de Ecuador (ICAME) and Consejo de Pueblo y Organizaciones Indigenas Evangelicas del Ecuador (FEINE) through the Ecuador Partnership.
Equipping seminars and other engagements:
Speaking to the Systems and Walking with Indigenous People: July 3, 9 a.m. Jane and Jerrell, with Sarah Augustine, will share stories about their work among the Cofán people of the Ecuadorian Amazon. They will also offer encouragement for actions North Americans can take to support the people and land upon which they, and we, depend.
Delegate sharing: July 4, 1:30 p.m. Jane was invited to share a 10-minute story about dreams, integrating her personal experiences, dreams of the Cofán people, and dreams from the Bible.
Doing Service at All Ages: July 5, 9 a.m. Jerrell is one of the presenters in a workshop organized by Everence. He will describe his call to do mission work in South America at the mid-point of his life, keeping one foot in North America (as a professor of economics at Goshen [Indiana] College half of each year) while placing the other into the jungles of Ecuador (serving with his wife and family as an international service worker for Mission Network). Their work includes pastoral accompaniment, youth and children empowerment, and support for a local eco-tourism development project.
Hopes for the upcoming gathering in Kansas City: "We are returning to the States several days before convention and will have fresh stories to tell about our time living among the Cofán people living in the Ecuadorian rain forest. We look forward to telling people about the insights we have gained in the Global South as well as broadening my awareness of and connections to the North American Mennonite Church in all its beauty and diversity. We have seen our prayers answered in unexpected ways and look forward to sharing more about this both at convention and while visiting supporting churches in the fall. We look forward to relating with people who are committed to offering the world an alternative, they by hearing how God's presence has been felt by others. We are looking forward to listening to people's stories, touching base with friends I haven't seen for a while, and meeting new people."
Bogotá, Colombia: Kelly and Eric Frey Martin
Biography: Kelly and Eric Frey Martin began serving in Bogotá in 2017. They work with young adult leaders of the Iglesia Cristian Menonita de Colombia (IMCOL) in helping to develop youth programs and to recognize and nurture the spiritual gifts of young people growing in their leadership potential.
Relationships that Empower: July 3, 9-10 a.m. and 2:45-3:45 p.m. This seminar is aimed at youth in order to help them navigate romantic relationships in their teen years. Through storytelling from our own experiences, and Scripture, we hope to talk about the themes of proper perspective toward relationships, identity, power and empowerment, and how we can use these themes to construct a healthier approach to dating and relationships.
A Different Kind of Leader: July 4, 9-10 a.m. and 2:45-3:45 p.m. This seminar comes from our work in leadership development with young people here in Colombia in which we have tried to highlight the practices that Jesus used in his ministry to show how we can be leaders in the style of Jesus. We will be joined by Oscar Suarez, a Colombian young person doing IVEP this year through MCC, who has helped us in the past with these themes. This will be a bilingual seminar.
Responsibility, Resilience, and Relationships: July 5, 9-10 a.m. and 2:45-3:45 p.m: We will join Tonia Martin from Mission Network to talk to youth about healthy boundaries, sexual harassment, and how we can prepare ourselves to understand these themes and respond accordingly. Kelly and Eric will share from an unfortunate experience they had with this subject, while Tonia will share from her years of experience in helping church leaders understand healthy boundaries.
Games that Matter: July 6, 9-10 a.m. Eric has worked with youth for the past 10 years and brings a wealth of experience from working at Camp Friedenswald, as a youth pastor, and as a current service worker engaging youth. Eric has witnessed how games highlight themes and bring communities closer together. Games can also exclude and detract from gatherings. In this seminar with youth leaders, we will play together as we think about these themes and how to enhance our youth meetings with games that matter and help to teach.
Hopes for the upcoming gathering in Kansas City: "We have always enjoyed Mennonite Church USA conventions as a way to reconnect with people throughout MC USA and to connect with new acquaintances. As part of Mennonite Mission Network, we look forward to hearing about the work that is going on around the world. We are currently working on many projects here in Colombia with the hope of bringing sustainability to youth ministry within the Mennonite Church here. We are excited to see what God is doing here, and the leaders that are being called forward to take up this work."
Barcelona: Alisha and Joshua Garber
Biography: Alisha and Joshua Garber, along with their son, Asher, serve in Barcelona, Catalonia, a region that strives to be recognized as a nation independent of Spain. Since 2017, they have worked with the leaders of Comunidad Evangélica Menonita in Barcelona, focusing on congregational mission and youth outreach to the local community.
Post-Modern Worship that Crosses Barriers: July 4, 1:30 p.m. An interactive mix of practical, technical and philosophical methods of approaching post-modern worship leading that will both encourage and challenge attendees. The focus will be primarily on musical worship, but will also touch on several other liturgical practices. The seminar is for all who are curious about what the future of modern worship may look like.
What to expect from the seminar: "We live in a very polarized, individual-focused society in which promises of 'absolute truth' and claims of orthodoxy tend to draw skepticism and create barriers. How can worship, whether it be musical or otherwise, connect folks with God when everyone has their 'own truth?'" The same way any message connects in post-modernism – with ample amounts of context and creativity." - Joshua Garber
South Bowenfels, Australia: Mark and Mary Hurst
Biography: Mark and Mary Hurst have served as resource people and pastors with the Anabaptist Association of Australia and New Zealand (AAANZ) since 1990. Through their nearly 30 years of service, Mark and Mary have worked to build Anabaptist networks, lead conflict transformation workshops, and cultivate community.
Anger and Forgiveness: Gifts to Share: July 4, 2:45 p.m.
Our Mennonite/Anabaptist peace tradition has something to offer people and congregations when they experience conflict. What are the skills we should be using in our congregations as well as sharing with others – particularly around the issues of anger and forgiveness? In this workshop we will explore several forgiveness "how-to's" so participants can begin their own forgiveness journey.
What to expect from our seminar: "The world is full of angry people. Understanding what underlies our anger and how we can go on to forgive people are skills we can learn. Jesus taught his followers to pray, 'Forgive us as we forgive others.' When we learn to do that, we have a gift to offer to those around us." - Mark Hurst
Klaipėda, Lithuania: Robin Gingerich
Biography: Robin is the chair of the English
program at LCC International University in Klaipėda, Lithuania, where
she has served for 20 years. Along with her administrative
responsibilities, she teaches TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) and writing courses.