Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, USA – Mennonite World Conference is establishing a Prayer Network, recognizing the importance of prayer as preparations are made for PA 2015, the global Assembly being planned for July 21-26, 2015, in Harrisburg, PA.
“We are confident that the Assembly will be a wonderful time of worship, celebration, and engagement next summer,” Lynn Roth, MWC North America Representative, reflected recently. “The Program Committee is putting together a week of amazing music, meditations, worship, seminars and arts performances and events around the theme of ‘Walking with God.’”
“As with all of the Assemblies in recent years, we will face significant challenges that will allow us to experience God’s presence and answers to prayer,” said Roth. “The first worry on everyone’s mind is obtaining visas for registrants. Our main concern is for young people. But older persons from some of the countries where the largest Anabaptist churches are located – Ethiopia, Congo, and India, for example – may have trouble, too.
“We confess that the American government’s concern for security, now more than ever, means that many of our sisters and brothers will likely be denied the possibility of worshiping and fellowshipping in this grand reunion.
“When we invited the global church to come to the U.S. for the Assembly, we promised to do all in our power to work with U.S. government officials and embassies in those countries where this issue is especially difficult. We have a highly active and competent Visa Task Force and coordinators. We are leaving no stone unturned as we prepare, support, and walk with registrants as they go through the visa process.
“But we believe that prayer is essential to this whole effort. This is one way Americans can humbly bear some of the burdens of our country’s travel policies, while exercising faith at the same time.”
Learning to participate with the global church
“We have a second concern,” said Roth. “Can we North American Anabaptists see the Assembly as a not-to-be-missed opportunity to participate in an unusual global celebration?
“We’re endlessly busy. We’re quite independent. We have no extra margins of time in our days. Many of us will probably question whether we can set aside things in our daily lives long enough to travel to and attend the whole 5½ days of PA 2015.
“And so we want to pray for ourselves, that we will learn the gift of hospitality of the heart and be willing to be transformed by the experience of hosting the global church.”
“There will always be additional challenges like health concerns or international incidents that affect travel. We are organizing an event which will bring people together from all over the world. I believe it can happen only if it is bathed in prayer and is God’s doing.”
Inspired by the Zimbabweans
The idea for a Prayer Network for PA 2015 came from the Zimbabwean Brethren in Christ Church, who hosted the MWC Assembly in 2003. Within Zimbabwe, food and fuel were extremely scarce, the economy was weak and wobbly, and the government was unreliable. The Zimbabweans acknowledged all of this, and so they began stockpiling food and fuel for months in advance of the event. They also prayed.
Ethel Sibanda, a member of the Zimbabwean BIC, stepped up to lead a Prayer Network across the country. She also rallied persons who weren’t attending the Assembly, but who wanted to assure hospitality for their church’s guests.
“We have learned from the Zimbabweans,” says Prayer Network Coordinator, Joanne Dietzel of Strasburg, PA. “We invite everyone who believes in prayer and the global church to join the Prayer Network, even those who may not be planning to attend PA 2015. We will be sending e-blasts to all who sign up on the MWC website (www.mwc-cmm.org/pa2015prayernetwork), sharing specific needs and giving thanks for particular blessings.
“We believe this is an opportunity to transform our hearts and our behavior if we together ask for God’s grace and help with this gathering of the global church.”
MWC Prayer Walks forming
Jane Hoober Peifer, a member of the Prayer Network Planning Team, has launched a regularly scheduled MWC Prayer Walk in the city of Lancaster, PA. “’Walking with God’ is the theme for PA 2015, so walking while praying seems like an appropriate discipline to practice,” says Peifer. “Not only will our guests be on a pilgrimage. As hosts, we’ll be ‘traveling,’ too, as we open ourselves to welcome them into our hearts and homes.
“I hope that little groups of walkers will form in our communities across North America – and around the world – so that together we strengthen our faith in praying, and so that we all experience a renewed sense of God’s presence through PA 2015.”
Ideas for forming an MWC Prayer Walk Group will appear on MWC’s Prayer Network page, along with passages of Scripture and prayer requests from the planners of PA 2015.
“We will post the dates when individuals are scheduled for interviews with embassy staffs to secure their visas. We will ask for prayer for speakers and choirs. We will list requests for wisdom, courage, and imagination as uncertainties develop,” comments Dietzel. “We want to walk in prayer with all who are involved in PA 2015, rather than pray for them. So come walk with us!”
Article by Phyllis Pellman Good of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, a writer and editor for MWC.