“Beautiful friendships! and a better understanding of Anabaptism.” Lois Friesen from Towanda, Kansas, USA, has no doubt about what she receives through connection with the global family.
“As Anabaptists we believe in community. You need people to cheer you on, people who will undergird you; you have to have somebody’s shoulder to cry on,” she says. “If you’re not supported, community falls apart. We need to gather around as a whole.”
Web of relationships
Life experiences have shaped Lois Friesen into a gatherer and a giver, interconnected with the global family. From past Assemblies to service experiences and travel, her web of relationships connects Europe, South Asia – and even Canada – to her local congregation, Zion Mennonite Church in Elbing, Kansas, USA.
As a Goshen College graduate in the 1960s, she worked on restoring a war-damaged farmhouse in France that was to become an orphanage.
As an MCC service worker in Akron, Pennsylvania, USA, she and her new husband gathered family, friends and an overseas relative to attend the 1962 MWC Assembly in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada.
When Assembly was “in her backyard” in Wichita, Kansas, USA, in 1978, she helped with the artists’ reception and hosted relatives who camped on the property. Hosts and guests went in many different directions during the Assembly, “so we had a ‘conference’ after the conference to catch up,” she says.
For the Paraguay Assembly in 2009, she didn’t travel. Instead, under the leadership of then-Deacons Commission secretary Bert Lobe, she took part in a local committee that hosted Cynthia Peacock from India and other MWC leaders on a speaking tour in the USA.
“Cynthia Peacock really brought home for me the great responsibility of the MWC Global Deacons,” Lois Friesen says. “When I heard her talk about her duties and still maintaining a home… All I could say is there is no reason not to support MWC. Look at the outreach and the support the Deacons offer to keep us connected, to keep the centre of Anabaptism alive.”
Before the Harrisburg Assembly in 2015, she facilitated then-MWC chief development officer Arli Klassen’s trips in the Kansas region.
Part of being the church
For Lois Friesen, giving uses all her gifts – financial and relational. “I think of being willing to talk to people, willing to host people, travelling as necessary. People have all kinds of skills to give. Think about it and give what you are able.”
Watching her father give by tithing provided early lessons in generosity. “My dad didn’t talk about it very much, but we knew that was part of being the church.”
The church also encouraged the children to tend a plot for a mission project. “We were reminded of the need to give.”
Refugee stories also motivate Lois Friesen to give. The Scriptural calls to take care of orphans and widows has a personal connection. Her husband Joachim (Joe) came to the USA from Germany with his widowed mother, sisters and grandmother after six years of displacement during and after World War II. “You have a calling to offer comfort – physical and spiritual – to those in need.”
Supporting the MWC family, Lois Friesen is guided by Micah 6:8: What does the Lord require of you: do justice, love kindness and walk humbly.’ “Wherever” that takes you,” she says.
*Currently, Arli Klassen serves as regional representatives coordinator for MWC. Cynthia Peacock currently serves as the regional representative for South Asia.