Global North mission agency learns from Global South partners

Yemiru Tilahun, director of missions and evangelism for Meserete Kristos Church of Ethiopia; Nelson Okanya, president of Eastern Mennonite Missions in the U.S.; and Amos Stoltzfus, partnership coach for EMM, huddle for prayer and conversation at the IMA meetings in Singapore. Photo by Javier Soler
Release date: 
Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Changi Cove, Singapore -- President Nelson Okanya and others from Eastern Mennonite Missions (EMM) found themselves celebrating the growth of and learning from Global South mission partners at the annual meeting of the International Missions Association (IMA), a group of 22 Anabaptist mission groups, held 26 August to 2 September in Singapore.

Asia Pacific Mission (APM), based in Singapore, hosted this year’s week-long IMA gathering. “APM’s level of sacrificial commitment to spread the gospel was inspiring,” said Antonio Ulloa, EMM’s church revitalization coach. “Dr. Tan Kok Beng [chief executive officer of APM and chair of Mennonite Church Singapore] has a single-minded focus to provide missionaries for the 10/40 window [a geographical area extending from West Africa to East Asia, between 10 and 40 degrees north of the Equator].”

“He teaches that the Great Commission doesn’t end with conversion. It includes discipling people to be actual followers of Christ who observe everything He taught, including making more disciples.”

EMM Human Resources Director Darrel Hostetter interviewed 12 partners from the IMA during the week about how they care for the missionaries they send out. “Some partners have incorporated member care deep into their DNA. They have been good at connecting workers with the local churches,” Hostetter said. “Amor Viviente [of Honduras], for example, requires that a member from the sending church visit the worker on the field during their first term.”

“I felt very encouraged by some groups’ willingness to do things differently than we do,” Hostetter said. “There is less emphasis on money and more of a focus on what God is asking them to do. If God asks them, they’re going to do it! It was a deep joy to learn from those who came to faith through EMM’s work in the past.”

Highlights shared by Global South IMA members included Amor Viviente reporting that they have three missionaries working alongside EMM workers in Asia and have started five churches in Costa Rica and Spain, with plans to enter Italy. They also plan to send a worker to Kenya in collaboration with EMM.

One of the Mennonite groups from Indonesia shared about their growing vision to engage their Muslim neighbors. Last year a new believer in their circle of churches was killed for his faith. Since then, many young people are praying and following Jesus more seriously.

Henry Mulandi of African Christian Mission International in Kenya reported that a member of his Kenyan network planted a church in Reading, England.

The EMM ministry in Phnom Penh, Cambodia provides dormitories as a place of Christian witness for rural students studying in the city.  Sokly Chin, a new believer at the dormitory who is studying fish farming, plans to return to his home in the countryside when he finishes his studies. Since there is no church in Chin’s village, Stoltzfus plans to connect him with Steve Hyde of Asia for Jesus, whom Stoltzfus met at the IMA meeting.

“Hyde has trained hundreds of disciple makers and has a holistic and integrated model of ministry,” Stoltzfus said. “We plan to connect with him and learn from him. Synergy is created when we work together. Instead of me alone, you alone, we partner and are stronger for it.”

“We rejoice that God includes all of us in His work to cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations,” said Okanya. “Working together in mission is a foretaste of feasting together in God’s new creation.”

The IMA was founded by EMM, Amor Viviente of Honduras, Meserete Kristos Church of Ethiopia, and PIPKA of Indonesia in 1997. Members partner through prayer, mutual support, and international mission teams.

Of the 22 mission groups now part of IMA, seven are from Africa, six from Asia, five from North America and four from Latin America. Some are from member-churches of Mennonite World Conference. Others are not.

Eastern Mennonite Mission release by Linda Moffett