Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada – When Toronto United Mennonite Church (TUMC) decided it was time to renovate and expand their building, the congregation wanted the project to reach beyond their usual sphere of influence. Located in Canada’s largest, multicultural city, TUMC has some 200 people from five continents speaking 10 mother tongues, with a particularly strong connection to Central America.
“We spoke with Arli Klassen about how to share our donation with Mennonite World Conference,” says building committee chair Richard Ratzlaff, and she directed them to the Global Church Sharing Fund Jubilee account. TUMC had done a similar “tithe” on expansion fundraising for a building project 20 years earlier.
“The GCSF is the MWC account to which member churches can apply for financial assistance on a building project,” says Klassen. Grant requests must be approved by the national church office and the recipient group must contribute to the cost of the project.
The Global Church Sharing Fund’s aim is to put into action the apostle Paul’s words on equality: “your surplus meets their need, but one day your need may be met from their surplus” (2 Corinthians 8:13–15).
Two-thirds of the 1.8 million Anabaptist believers reside in Africa, Asia and Latin America, but 95 percent of Anabaptist wealth resides in North America and Europe. The GCSF provides a means “to redistribute wealth in the biblical spirit of jubilee.”
TUMC designated 2 percent ($20,000) of their fundraising ($900,000) to MWC’s GCSF. Their project involved creative transformation of their existing building to make more space “to greet, meet and learn; offer hospitality and play,” and the addition of wheelchair accessible features and more office space for ministry partners.
There was no hesitation to share the funds with MWC, says Ratzlaff. “We’re a very wealthy church, and we know it. If anything, there was a perception we were spending too much on ourselves and not enough on our brothers and sisters elsewhere.”
Ironically, the percentage TUMC is donating to MWC may be capable of funding a larger portion of a building project elsewhere than the full amount does in Canada.
When TUMC dedicated their expanded and refreshed building Nov. 13, 2016, the celebration service invoked 2 Corinthians 8:15: “The one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little.”
FIEMN (Fraternidad de Iglesias Evangélicas Menonitas Nicaragua)
Office and Retreat Centre, in Nicaragua, applied for funds to assist their
comprehensive plan for land plot acquisition for 2 congregations,
national office renovations and retreat campground improvements.
(Fraternidad de Iglesias Evangélicas Menonitas Nicaragua).
“The actual GCSF target each year is $100,000, although the Deacon’s Commission can only spend based on what is actually received,” says Klassen. About half the monies are for building projects, the rest cover Deacon’s visits to member churches under duress.
In 2016, there were five requests of approximately $10,000 each for construction of church buildings, schools and office remodelling from Africa, Asia and – of particular interest to TUMC – Colombia and Nicaragua.
“Several families in the congregation have roots in Colombia,” says Ratzlaff, and the two partner congregations in the building are composed of and active in helping immigrants and refugees from Central America.
“We’re very happy to know that we can contribute to others in our global church,” says Ratzlaff.
—Mennonite World Conference release by Karla Braun