Lancaster, Pennsylvania, USA – Habecker Mennonite Church never anticipated a call to refugee resettlement. But the will of God became apparent, slowly at first, and then with increasing demand. The refugees from Burma/ Myanmar all need transportation, jobs, social services and help learning the English language. All seek friendship and relationships.
Habecker has developed a habit of hospitality that embraces the change and commotion. A quiet man listened to one woman’s longing for traditional Karen vegetables and responded by starting an Asian garden, now flourishing in its fourth year. Those created with brown skin wash the feet of those created with white skin as both sit on the floor, Karen-style. A Karen choir of teenagers opens the service each Sunday with enthusiastic Burmese songs. Spontaneous songs in several languages burst out in vanloads and church services.
This growing intercultural, multi-voiced community prays together, helps each other, trusts God and seeks to follow Jesus each day. We asked ourselves: Wouldn’t it be wonderful to join the Mennonite World Conference Assembly, just fifty miles away in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in 2015? The cost seemed unreachable. Pastor Karen Sensenig applied to the Lily Endowment Fund for a grant for pastoral renewal, which includes enough extra to send several Karen young people to PA 2015. Attending Assembly with others from Mennonite World Conference will offer these young people the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the larger story of Mennonites from around the world.
We hope that the Karen presence at PA 2015 may encourage other young Mennonites to join voices with oppressed groups. Together, they will become leaders in a church that is increasingly intercultural and multi-voiced: a church where all voices are heard, leadership is shared, differences are celebrated, and community is valued.
By Karen Sensenig