The image of Dirk Willems reaching back to rescue his pursuer from the ice is iconic for Anabaptists. But just as powerful are more recent – and more diverse – stories of Anabaptists who live out peace and reconciliation in ordinary but sacrificial ways as they follow Jesus today.
Through worship resource packages, Courier magazine, and the website, MWC Communications shares these stories of these Anabaptists.
Examples include Congolese Mennonite Brethren pastor Safari Mutabesha in Malawi who lives out reconciliation in a refugee camp; members of the oldest Mennonite church in Jepara, Indonesia, who extend hospitality in interfaith dialogue with local Muslims; and the members of the Mennonite church in Enkenbach-Alsenborn who host an “encounter café” to build friendships with newcomers to Germany.
These stories formed part of the reading list for “Your story, my story, our story: following the trail of Anabaptist Identity in the world,” a course at Seminario Bíblico Menonita de Colombia. The seminary is a ministry of MWC member church Iglesia Cristiana Menonita de Colombia
“People may think a course on the history of Anabaptism would mainly be built around a study of 16th-century reformers; however, Anabaptism has taken on many forms around the world,” says Eric Martin who taught the course from 2017–2019 as a service worker in Colombia with Mennonite Mission Network (MMN).
“Stories like these help to show students that not only do we have a rich history of faithfully following Jesus’ teachings, but we also have a rich and diverse family of Anabaptist brothers and sisters from around the world, here and now,” says Kelly Martin Frey, co-teacher.
“Reading these real-life stories of our brothers and sisters in other places encourages me and makes me believe that the things we go through in our communities can be overcome. They can even be prototypes for building peace, reconciliation, love and respect towards others and my community,” says student Lilibeth Guzmán Macea.
For her, the stories highlight the diversity of Mennonites even within her region, “because we live and talk the same language of Jesus, of peace, reconciliation, concern for others whose rights are being violated within and beyond our community.”
The course is part of a modular online diploma (“Leadership Diploma for Anabaptist Youth in the Latin American context”).
Professors aim to equip leaders for the church who can articulate their faith with confidence and understanding. These stories from MWC Communications help the students see their faith development in a wider arc of Anabaptist identity.
“We ask the participants to grow in their knowledge of history, theology and the Bible by studying, but also by participating and reflecting on what God is doing in their life, so they can see the subject as applicable to their own context,” says Eric Martin.
"I think of Colombia and how prevalent the violence in every aspect of daily life, and how in need we are of reconciliation," say Lilibeth Guzmán Macea. The stories help her see how God’s love helps us to love our enemies, and to “understand the meaning of forgiveness and love for all who are following the example of Christ since it is he who supports us and helps to heal our hearts.”
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—Mennonite World Conference release