Standing in one of the regional offices of MWC member church Meserete Kristos Church (MKC), the church’s former president, Tewodros Beyene introduced several LMC leaders to the church’s administrative staff. He explained that the LMC delegation had come to listen to MKC.
Turning to the LMC leaders, tears began to well in Tewodros Beyene’s eyes. Usually when Europeans and North Americans come to Ethiopia, they come to tell them how to do something.
Tewodros Beyene told the LMC leaders how much it meant to him that they came just to listen and to learn from the church. “It felt like such a holy moment,” explained Bishop Rodney Martin.
Formerly known as Lancaster Mennonite Conference, LMC – a fellowship of Anabaptist churches and MWC member – embarked on a learning tour that included several of its leaders: global delegate Tom Eshleman, Bishop Glenn Kauffman, Bishop Rodney Martin, Bishop Alvin Motley, Bishop James Sutton, and moderator Keith Weaver.
LMC’s purpose for the 27 August–6 September 2019 trip was “to represent the sending church (LMC) that the Holy Spirit used to birth MKC and to establish a relationship in our generation that honours that legacy and to learn from MKC leaders what God will impart to the group for us to carry home to the U.S. and impart into LMC,” said Tom Eshleman.
In 2018, MKC Vice President Kelbessa Muleta and the chair of the Meserete Kristos College Board were in the U.S. on a fundraising and promotional tour. During this time, they also connected with several leaders from LMC.
Kelbessa Muleta said that LMC was like a parent to them and asked why LMC had forgotten about their child. This humbling reflection initiated the planning of a delegation of LMC leaders to travel to Ethiopia.
LMC wanted to learn how MKC cultivates “such a deep commitment to multiplication across their system and bring that back,” said Weaver.
Alvin Motley celebrated the unity that was exemplified in the church, “I saw the solidarity – the value of operating as one.... they weren't operating as different entities.” MKC has an adaptive administrative structure that spans regions and language groups throughout Ethiopia.
The structure changes to catch up to the growth they’re experiencing. Tewodros Beyene indicated that it’s really about the prayer.
“That doesn’t mean that they don’t organize,” said Glenn Kauffman. “They have more specific structures and goals and counting of result …than what we do, [but] they also have a lot more prayer than we do.”
James Sutton was particularly inspired by MKC’s commitment to making disciples of Jesus: “MKC has a passion for Christ and ... for seeking and saving the lost.”
“They were showing us what it means to be Anabaptist,” said Tom Eshleman. “They hold together some things – that in the West we tend to separate – like evangelism and peace and justice…. A priority for organization and procedure with a freedom of the Spirit.”
The LMC Executive Council appointed a task force to look at the governing structure of LMC. Keith Weaver believes that insights learned from their Ethiopia trip have influenced this conversation.
Integral to the fulfillment of this vision of LMC leaders learning from MKC was a generous grant from the First Mennonite Church of Berne, USA.
—a Mennonite World Conference release by Micah Brickner, Eastern Mennonite Missions