An unforgettable gathering of the nations
After two years of virtual meetings, ICOMB hosted a face-to-face summit in May 2022, inviting close to 100 global Mennonite Brethren delegates from more than 20 countries – leaders of both established conferences and representatives of emerging conferences – to participate, along with Multiply staff and global workers, in an unforgettable gathering of the nations.
In addition to the ICOMB Assembly, where key delegates were involved with presenting their regional reports and leaning into challenging decisions facing their conferences and churches, presentations refreshed our understanding of the spiritual, theological and organizational foundations of our shared MB history, and strengthened our sense of kinship.
Rudi Plett (Paraguay; ICOMB Executive Director) gave an overview of the MB story and values, as well as clarifying the overall missional goals of ICOMB to facilitate relationships and ministries that enhance the witness and discipleship of its member national churches – connecting, strengthening and expanding.
Plenary talks exposed us to Anabaptist and MB history and implications for the equipping of emerging church networks (Vic Wiens), the complexities and benefits of multi-ethnic churches and church conferences (Elton da Silva of the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches, Don Morris of U.S. Mennonite Brethren Conference, and lead pastor Ray Harms Wiebe of Willingdon Church, B.C., Canada), theology and leadership development (Mark Wessner of MB Biblical Seminary, and Hartmut August, director of Faculdade Fidelis, an inter-Mennonite Christian college in Brazil), and multiple pragmatic workshops that addressed strategies for mission mobilization (Emerson Cardoso of Brazil, Safari Bahati Mutabesha of Malawi, Ravi Sankara Rao and G. Ross of India, José Prada of Colombia, Johann Matthies and Heinrich Rempel of Germany, and other Multiply representatives such as Doug Hiebert, Nasser al’Qahtani, and Bob Davis). All workshops were well attended and peppered with lively discussion in multiple languages.
Of special mutual blessing was the presence of Multiply board chair Wendi Thiessen, four other board members, and new general director Bruce Enns. A better venue in which for them to experience the diversity and heart of MB global mission could not be imagined.
The summit was followed by a conference called Despertar (Awakening) 22, aimed at awakening of our love for God, for his church and for the lost. ICOMB itself was conceived at a Despertar conference in this same location in 1988, where first was envisioned a body that would develop the global MB identity, connect national church leaders through an annual assembly of leaders and strengthen national churches by coaching leaders through challenges they face in their global context.
Despertar 22 included a refreshing of this vision through worship, testimonies, plenary sessions and workshops. Each session brought fresh opportunities for small group prayer, discussion, convivial mealtimes, worship, celebration and corporate grieving over our missing delegates from Ukraine.
At the end of this conference, despite many having succumbed to mild COVID-19 infections, spirits were high. Those who could then launched into preplanned excursions, some of which were primarily touristic and recreational and others, such as the trip to the Amazon, facilitating ongoing outreach among indigenous people groups in Brazil.
—Nikki White, Multiply writer, Canada