Ann Graham Price
Monday, March 6, 2006

ELKHART, Ind. (Mennonite Mission Network) – In a year marked by several major worldwide catastrophes and appeals from various quarters for disaster relief, Mennonite Mission Network posted its first slight increase in contributions since its inception in February 2002.

The organization’s stable financial outlook allows innovations in ministry to proceed, even as reductions are made in some other areas of support and ministry. Mission Network innovations and extensions of ministry include: reintroducing its popular mission banks, beginning a partnership with Hispanic churches for training church planters, extending its support of urban ministry and embarking on plans to extend its Mennonite Voluntary Service program overseas.

“There are very few years that can be compared with 2005 in terms of the scope and intensity of the local and global calamities,” said Stanley Green, executive director and CEO of the denomination’s mission agency. “The cost in human lives and destruction of property and infrastructure was enormous. So, too, was the outpouring of generosity from communities across North America, including Mennonites.”

Contributions to the Mission Network’s annual fund have been about $6.2 million in each of the last three years, according to Peter Graber, senior executive for advancement. In 2005, the Mission Network received about $6.5 million, an increase of 5 percent .*

“Mennonite Mission Network finished the year in good shape financially,” Graber said.

The favorable outcome seemed far from certain as recently as a few months ago, when contribution reports were less reassuring.

“For those not-for-profits not involved in direct relief efforts, there was great concern about the impact of the calamitous year on funding for ongoing commitments to partners,” Green said. “Would people still remember to support the efforts to bring healing and hope in circumstances of brokenness and despair that have plagued some communities for many generations?

“Indeed, there were points during the year that were anxiety-filled as the apparent trends seem to suggest significant shifts of funding to what seemed urgent,” Green said. “By the grace of God, however, members of our congregations expanded their generosity to respond not only to the urgent demands created by natural disasters, but also to commitments we have made to partners to support their vision of making a difference in their world.”

When the final reports were in, 196 contributing congregations (41 percent) out of 481 increased their giving, and 251 (52 percent) decreased it. In all, 45 percent of Mennonite Church USA congregations provided financial support to the Mission Network in 2005-2006. While the combined effect was a slight increase in overall contributions, the increase was offset by a 30-percent decline in estate gifts.

Taken on balance, the current giving levels are in line with revenue  projections and allow the Mission Network to keep pace with inflation.

While some ministries have grown, Mission Network is continuing a multi-year plan to reduce annual expenses to a level that can be supported with room for innovation and flexibility. Graber pointed out that salaries and their associated health care costs form the major part of Mission Network expenses and in order for the mission agency to be able to maintain programs at current levels, contributions will need to continue to increase each year by about 4 to 5 percent.

“This result is much better than we expected at the end of November, and we thank the members of Mennonite Church USA for their generous partnership with the Spirit in funding God’s mission through Mission Network,” Graber said. “We thank God for opening the hearts of Mennonite Church USA members so that their gifts can enable ministry to go forward across the street and around the world,” Graber said.

This spring the Mission Network plans to reintroduce its popular mission globe banks, first introduced in the 1950s as tin banks to help children learn the value of saving for mission. The newly incarnated banks are made of transparent plastic, so that children can see how their coins add up over time. The mission banks will be accompanied by teaching tools – packets of short exercises, information, stories and experiential lessons that can fit into any home, Sunday school, Bible school, children’s story or worship service.

Other signs of growth within the organization included the appointment of two new ministers to reflect the growing diversity of Mennonite Church USA.

Mauricio Chenlo was appointed as the new program director for the Hispanic mission training academy ministries in January. In this position created through a partnership between the Hispanic Mennonite Church and the Mission Network, he helps conferences, congregations and partnerships develop programs to build on their strengths.

Dick Davis is the new minister for urban ministry at Mennonite Mission Network. Demonstrating a major focus of the U.S. Ministries division on urban leadership and community development, Davis will help the church envision the future of ministry in urban areas.

The Mission Network is experiencing growth in other ways, as well. Plans are well under way to extend the Mennonite Voluntary Service program overseas. Two units will initiate MVS International: one in Bradford, England; the other in Portadown, Northern Ireland.

Mennonite Mission Network celebrated many other highlights during 2005-2006. These include:

  • Late in the year, Mennonite Media saw the completion and broadcast of Shadow Voices: finding Hope in Mental Illness, a documentary that aired at various times on the ABC network. The documentary was supplemented by an accompanying Web site.
  • Mennonite Mission Network sent out 36 workers into new international assignments ranging in length from one week to three years.
  • The RAD (Reaching and Discipling) training center decided to move its operations to Chicago so that it can share facilities with the DOOR program there.
  • More than 400 prayer partners lifted up mission workers around the world each day in prayer.
  • More than 230 congregations provided personal encouragement, prayer and financial sharing within the context of a direct relationship with mission workers.
  • A total of 3,467 people participated in volunteer service programs administered by Mennonite Mission Network. The totals for each program:
    DEO (Discipleship, Encounter, Outreach): 13
    o DOOR (Discovering Opportunities for Outreach and Reflection): 2,825
    o Dwell: 31
    o Group Venture: 76
    o Mennonite Voluntary Service: 142
    o RAD (Reaching and Discipling): 21
    Service Adventure: 73
    SOOP (Service Opportunities for Older People): 267
    Youth Venture: 19

In the face of what might have been a discouraging year for organizations that work primarily in long-term mission programs, Green expressed his gratitude for the faithfulness of those who remembered to support the work of ongoing ministries.

“We praise God for this outpouring of generosity and for the difference it will make for God’s purposes in the world,” Green said.

*Note: It is not always possible to demonstrate a direct year-by-year comparison. Last year’s reported figures included a partnership program that is not included in this year’s figures.

 

 

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