Bethel Mennonite Church is an Inman, Kan., congregation of nearly 400 members. We are comprised of farmers, ranchers, professionals, and students. Our mission statement reads, “Bethel Mennonite Church is called to demonstrate God’s love to all generations through a clear message of salvation in Jesus Christ; Christ-Centered Worship; and preparing God’s people for Service and Ministry.” This statement reflects our beliefs, our practice, and our mission.
It is our mission that has challenged our congregation to reach beyond the open prairies of Kansas, and develop relationships with people in other places and cultures.
George and Margaret Ediger are two members of Bethel Church who sensed God’s missional call upon their lives. In 1988, they left the rural neighborhoods of central Kansas for Dallas, Texas. Their purpose was to serve the Spanish-speaking immigrants in the area who were coming mainly from Mexico and South America.
Their church began as many church plants do, in the living room of their home. They would share Bible lessons and prayer times, as well as take time for fellowship with their new friends. The work being done in these early years was so important, but finances were slim. So Bethel Church, in cooperation with Western District Conference, helped to support the Ediger’s new ministry.
By the summer of 1992, the group had outgrown the living room, so they began renting different facilities and established a name, Comunidad de Esperanza (Community of Hope). They were never able to stay in the same place for very long, so this made for much added work in the preparations for services.
Finally a suitable building came available in April 1998. It was a former doctor’s office. The size was good, but it needed some remodeling to accommodate the room needed for sanctuary and classrooms. Several individuals went down from our church to help in the remodeling project including Adolf and Wanda Neufeld, George’s brothers Sol and Johnny Ediger and their wives LaVina and Shirley, and George’s nephew Kenny assisted with the electrical wiring. Adolf Neufeld reports that the people he met were so warm and friendly and many of them still exchange hugs when they get an opportunity to see each other.
In March 1999, George and Margaret Ediger left the church they had planted in search of a new mission. Comunidad de Esperanza remains a spirited congregation with Spanish worship, and English Sunday School. Their pastor for the past 10 years, Damian Rodriguez, leads a vibrant group of about 70 believers, approximately 40 of whom have been baptized into the body.
Our members have been personally touched by the relationship that they have built with the people from Comunidad de Esperanza. Beyond George and Margaret Ediger, other members of the congregations have also made trips to visit. An elderly couple in the church has made as many as 14 trips to Dallas in half a year. A youth from Bethel served the church through an independent mission trip over a summer.
We at Bethel Church have been incredibly blessed to have the opportunity to serve with a people many miles from us, and a world away culturally. We have been able to witness God breaking through all kinds of barriers for the growth of the kingdom. We are very excited for the congregation of Comunidad de Esperanza as they intend to become financially self-sufficient later this year.
If your church is not currently supporting urban mission work, I urge you to pray over it and see if God has plans to help you stretch and reach out in the name of Christ.
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field." Matthew 9:36-38 (New International Version)