Renewal 2027 testimony: Anabaptists today
Renewal 2027 is a 10-year series of events organized by Mennonite World Conference’s Faith and Life Commission to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the beginnings of the Anabaptist movement. This series highlights leaders in the movement from history to the present.
“God taught me that once I have committed my life to him, I should wait for his will,” says Esther S. Kunjam.
Now in her 70s, this Indian Mennonite church leader reflects on following Jesus throughout her life.
Growing up in a Christian mission orphanage without knowing her parents, “I was well taken care of and loved,” says Indian Mennonite leader Esther S. Kunjam. Initially intending to be a nurse, she changed her course to teacher after witnessing a gruesome train accident.
During the mid-term recess of her first year of studies at Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India, she attended a Holiness Convention at the seminary. “I often fell asleep and did not listen to the preaching, but when hymns and songs were sung I got very restless and realized that the Spirit of God was talking to me,” she says. “Is your all on the altar of sacrifice laid? Your heart does the Spirit control?” kept ringing in my ears until I surrendered my life to God.
“God was so faithful to me and helped me to come out of worldly attractions and temptations.”
After she completed a two-year certificate at the seminary, she looked for a partner, but always “felt God telling me this man was not his choice.”
Having heard of fighting among themselves in the Mennonite church, she didn’t want to marry a Mennonite, yet when she served as a song leader at a Mennonite youth retreat, “God spoke to me This will be your life-partner, and I gladly accepted.”
“Without seeing my would-be husband or knowing his consent, I resigned from my teaching post from a Christian school and bought an engagement ring and gifts just trusting God. Within 40 days we got married,” she says.
Today, “though physically getting weak, God’s grace is sufficient for me,” she says. Where Esther and her husband Shant, bishop of Mennonite Church India, currently live, very few people are Christians. She often has opportunity to respond to her neighbours’ questions about her faith. “When they share about their religious rituals and ceremonies, I do not become offensive or defensive, but listen to them. During Christmas time, we share cookies and sweets going door-to-door and wishing them ‘Merry Christmas.’” She says this is only the beginning of sharing her hope from following Jesus with her neighbours.
Esther and Shant have four daughters and sons in law who love Jesus and participate in the church, and seven grandchildren.
“Commit your life in the hands of the Lord and he will direct you. God always gives the best things to those who serve him faithfully.”
Several Mennonite national churches in India hold an annual joint women’s conference. At this year’s event, MWC executive assistant to the General Secretary Sandra Baez was the speaker for some 300 attendees in South India. Esther S. Kunjam attended the event.
—Mennonite World Conference release