NEWTON, Kansas (Mennonite Mission Network and Mosaic Conference) — Pandemic realities are shifting how Mennonite Mission Network is partnering with others. This shift includes sharing $15,000 with Mosaic Mennonite Conference to support its youth and young adult leadership development.
Mosaic Conference is using the support — the majority of a $20,000 grant Mission Network received to help form young leaders — for funding the new ministry of conference Youth Coordinator Michelle Ramirez. She is overseeing the conference's new initiative, Forming Youth Leaders program for Florida congregations. Eight congregations in Florida joined Mosaic Conference during the November 2020 assembly.
Ramirez — who grew up in the Florida faith community, where she held other leadership positions prior to this new appointment — is now helping young people to develop their gifts in their local context. She is a member of the Luz y Vida (Light and Life) congregation in Orlando.
"I love to hear each person's unique story and work together to expand the Kingdom of God," she said in a conference communication's interview. "I hope to help them see that if we work for God with all our hearts, God is with us every step of the way, no matter how hard things may seem!"
The partnership between Mission Network and Mosaic Conference evolved when pandemic realities shifted how the grant could best be used, said Susan Nisly, an original drafter of the grant proposal. She, with Lyz Weaver, Mission Network's senior executive for human resources, submitted the proposal to Forum for Theological Exploration.
Periodically, Mission Network's Christian Service department applies for the grant, and it received $20,000 for 2020. Mission Network has kept $5,000 for further engagement with the conference, through shared training opportunities, and for future travel costs incurred in that process, Nisly said in a recent interview. She is a Mission Network church relations representative to the conference along with Marisa Smucker, Mission Network's Director of Mennonite Voluntary Service.
"As we met with leaders in Florida, we realized our plan for the grant monies did not meet the needs of their community, so [we] made shifts to meet their goals and objectives," Nisly said.
Smucker said Ramirez and Marco Güete, leadership minister for the conference and director of Hispanic Ministries for Mennonite Education Agency, were key in expediting the shift. Knowing the Florida congregations well, they were poised to reshape the grant resources to better target the needs of the local congregations.
Other conference leaders, including Stephen Kriss, executive conference minister, felt the Spirit moving in this fine-tuning and reshaping.
"I'm so grateful for the initiative of Mennonite Mission Network to partner to explore new and more focused ways of service and leadership development with our Florida congregations," Kriss shared in a recent email to Nisly. "While this has been a challenge to launch amid a global pandemic, I appreciate Mission Network's flexibility and responsiveness to the context and possibilities. Michelle … brings care, passion and strong relational connections to help shape next-generation leaders for the sake of the church and the world, in the way of Christ's peace."