How do our churches and service agencies work together? How does the gospel illuminate our witness in our context? How do we make explicit the invitation to follow Jesus as part of our social and mission work? How do we bring our justice witness to government agencies and policies?
These questions of identity and practice are shared by members of the Global Anabaptist Service Agency (GASN) and the Global Mission Fellowship (GMF). At the triennial meetings in Kenya in 2018, leaders of GASN and GMF organizations realized a need to stimulate exchange and communion among themselves within the regions.
From 6–8 September 2019, 23 members of GASN and GMF organizations in 12 Latin American countries met in Cachipay, Colombia to strengthen fellowship and unite under their shared vision of service and mission as extensions of Anabaptist churches. This followed the model of Asia regional meetings in Yangon, Myanmar (Burma) 14–17 February 2019 with 22 participants from India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Nepal, Myanmar, and MWC Mission Commission chair Stanley Green (USA).
“Presence, mission and work for peace in these challenging times” was the theme of the meetings on the gospel of peace and witness of the church in the current Latin American context.
Participants shared stories from their experiences, dialogued in directed small group discussions, and worshipped together in song and through devotional teaching.
Agency leaders said that learning what others are doing challenged them to do more with the resources they already have.
Recognizing the need for resources of teaching materials for children/youth and church members, leaders dreamed of creating a platform to collect and share these Latin-America-contextualized, Anabaptist resources.
GASN and GMF leaders reflected on “the urgent need to be ambassadors of peace” and discussed how to encourage greater integration with churches.
“New ideas have arisen to help local congregations to include both mission and service works as valuable aspects of their ministry. And this gives us hope,” says Daniel Soto, Argentina representative of Mennonite Mission Network.
“The fact that members of GASN and GMF were in the same groups, sharing, helped to establish bonds of connection and links between their visions,” says MWC regional representative and GASN member agency leader Pablo Stucky (Coordinación Eclesial para la Acción Psicosocial).
Participants represented “different dimensions of faith” and different perspectives, but “there was respect and harmony.”
“The gathering was made possible because of the very existence of MWC and its mission to foster communication and communion among the various Anabaptist churches and their organizations,” says Adriana Belinda Rodríguez.
José Arrais, network coordinator, explained of the mission and function of the networks, the Mission Commission and MWC.
At the Asia meeting participants shared “a wealth of stories and perspectives” from their contexts. “Even though it is not easy, we see how God's hands always helps God’s church to continue to exist in carrying out God's royal mission,” says Agus Mayanto, MWC regional representative for Southeast Asia.
Discussions are underway to organize a regional meeting of GASN and GMF agencies in Africa in 2020.
A grant from the Council of International Anabaptist Ministries, intended to facilitate mission in the Global South, provided US$14,000 each for these gathering in Africa, Asia and Latin American.
—Mennonite World Conference release