YABs in MWC’s General Council

Decision making in a large group can feel like a game of misunderstood messages, says Matthias Claassen, General Council delegate for Konferenz der Mennonitengemeinden in Uruguay. It’s important to have leaders in the room representing a variety of ages and experience in addition to the various national churches that make up MWC.

Claassen was one of two under-30 delegates at the equipping and decision making meetings of the General Council in Limuru, Kenya, 21–24 April 2018.

Mana Terasawa of Japan

Only 1.6 percent of the population of Japan identify as Christians, with Anabaptists comprising a tiny fraction. Twenty-six-year-old Mana Terasawa is one of these believers. She is a member of one of the seven Brethren in Christ congregations in Japan.

Almost half the young people raised in Japanese congregations leave the church. As a minority in a collectivist culture, Christians in Japan may be shamed for being different.

Nevertheless, Terasawa stayed in the church. Attending a Christian summer youth camp encouraged her to commit to grow her faith. She studied youth ministry at Tokyo Christian University. Now she is on staff at her church, in charge of children’s ministry.

The small BIC church in Japan seeks those who have the energy, time and resources to serve as a delegate to General Council meetings. Terasawa fit the requirements and was delighted to represent her national church.

Throughout the meetings, Terasawa relied on the help of another Japanese General Council member to interpret the proceedings into Japanese. For the minister, it was different to be the recipient of help instead of the helper.

“I deeply appreciated the relationships built with people,” Terasawa said through her interpreter. “I especially loved singing with the global spiritual family, especially when the whole group sang a Japanese song.” She was touched that although only three of nearly 200 people present were from Japan, the whole congregation joined together to sing in her heart language.

Mathias Claassen of Uruguay

Among the nearly 60 percent of Christians in Uruguay, the Konferenz der Mennonitengemeinden in Uruguay (KMGU) is made up of mostly German-background Mennonite congregations. Many of these Mennonite communities were started by people who left Germany after the Second World War. They own family and community-run businesses.

The mindset of Mennonites in Uruguay has changed over the years from one of survival to one of outreach now that life is more stable. More than one-third of people in the church are aged 12–30. Young people are very involved in the church.

KMGU elects the GC delegate for MWC every three years and every church has the opportunity to propose someone to send on behalf of the conference as a whole.

Twenty-five year-old Claassen gained the nomination this year: he speaks three languages fluently (German, English, and Spanish) along with some French, and he has global service experience (six months in Burkina Faso in 2017).

“There are times when I think there should be a pastor or leader [at these meetings],” said Claassen who has a degree in computer engineering. However, he sees the advantage of investing in future generations. The difference of opinion between the younger generation and older generation was noticeable, he says, but it provided opportunity to listen and learn about following God together.

Young Anabaptists and the global church

Says Terasawa: “I was happy and encouraged to see young Anabaptists (YABs) my age working and volunteering in the church.”

How does your national church make opportunities for young adults to become involved in leadership to learn and contribute?

—a Mennonite World Conference release by Larissa Swartz, chair and North America representative of the YABs (Young AnaBaptists) Committee