“There are so many memories and landmarks for the entire GYS/Assembly period that if I were to mention them all it will need another 11 more days to explain it!” says Peleka Jonathan Mpemba, a Global Youth Summit (GYS) delegate for Kanisa la Mennonite Tanzania.
A year has passed since the global Anabaptist-Mennonite family gathered to Follow Jesus across barriers at Assembly 17: in person in Indonesia and online through livestreamed plenaries and Zoom workshops.
But “the memories are still fresh and it feels like yesterday,” says Reynaldo Mercado Jr., an attendee from the Philippines.
For Desalegn Abebe, “Worship led by the cultural dancing of the Indonesian choir and singing using different languages (my language included) are the fresh memories,” says Desalegn Abebe, General Council delegate for Meserete Kristos Church, Ethiopia.
The plenary livestreams and many of the workshops can be watched on MWC’s YouTube channel.
Big family of Christ
“I realized how big the family of Christ have all over the globe, how the Mennonite community are connected with each other through our Lord Jesus Christ,” says Reynaldo Mercado Jr.
“To become friends with Anabaptists folks on the other side of the world is not something I will soon forget,” says Jennifer McWilliams of Canada, volunteer coordinator of the children’s program.
“I became a part of the family that hosted, fed, and clothed me. It was wonderful, so much so that we maintain contact. Every time they write to me, they say how much they love me”, says Cindy Alpizar Alpizar, a plenary speaker, from Costa Rica.
The relationships extend beyond Assembly.
“We have also created a WhatsApp group with east African Mennonite church leaders to meet through zoom,” Desalegn Abebe.
“I made so many friends during assembly who are still in contact with me. We share our thoughts and updates from our countries. We share prayer requests so we can lift up each other in prayers,” says Deepson Masih, a GYS delegate for Bhartiya General Conference Mennonite Church, from India.
Many participants in Assembly were impressed by the Indonesian church’s example of peaceful relationships with their Muslim neighbours.
“The global assembly open my mind the importance of peace building, having harmony with the creation, the people, and also the Creator. It taught me to appreciate peace because our God is our example of peace,” says Reynaldo Mercado Jr.
“I'm particularly amazed about how the Anabaptist family open its doors to all manner of persons making sure that the world becomes a peaceful environment for everyone regardless of their religious affiliation,” says Clinton Kwasi Agbanu, a member of the international ensemble, from Ghana.
Garry Janzen, an attendee from Canada, accidentally attended a workshop where Christian and Muslim people from an Indonesian village explained how they share the use of their worship facilities as needed. “I learned later that this respectfulness was common in Indonesia. I was impressed.”
Ed Kaufman from the USA witnessed this interfaith harmony on a pre-Assembly tour to GKMI Winong-Pati. “It was an example of peacebuilding, friendship and cooperation that will remain with me for a long time,” he says. Christians, Muslims and government officials from the town spread carpets and blankets on the street between church and mosque to share a feast with music and speeches. “Our entire visit with the church in Pati was wonderful, but this topped it off,” he says.
The video workshops have continued to resource the Anabaptist-Mennonite family. Cindy Alpizar has shared them with MTAL events. Juan Garrido shared insights from Pablo’s Stucky’s workshop on resolving conflicts in light of the Bible.
Laurie Martin from the USA joined the STT students in a prayer and worship meeting further up the hill in a campus prayer building. “I have never heard something so beautiful – ever,” she says of the spontaneous worship session that broke out.
“Worshipping in peace without conflict made me understand the nature of God as the God of peace,” says Clinton. “Peace to everyone and see you all in Ethiopia.”