JANUARY 2021 MBHERALD.COM
VOLU M E 60, NO. 1 2 0 2 1 W E E K O F P R AY E R
Sixty years of sharing the life & story of the Mennonite Brethren in Canada
Q: How do you speak well about marriage with your neighbours, knowing that marriage can be difficult? A: Check out the Faith and Life online pamphlets about marriage and family. www.mennonitebrethren.ca/ nflt-resources
Mennonite Brethren Herald Digest is digitally published monthly by the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches, primarily for the use of its members, to build a Canadian MB community of faith. We seek to 1) share the life and story of the church by nurturing relationships among members and engaging in dialogue and reflection; 2) teach and equip for ministry by reflecting MB theology, values, and heritage, and by sharing the good news; 3) enable communication by serving conference ministries and informing our members about the church and the world. However, the opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of the church as a whole.
Digest JANUARY 2021 | VOLUME 60, NO. 1 EDITORIAL OFFICE 1310 Taylor Avenue Winnipeg, Manitoba R3M 3Z6 Phone: 204-669-6575 Toll-free in Canada: 888-669-6575 MBHERALD@MBCHURCHES.CA W W W. M B H ER ALD.CO M
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LIFE, DEATH AND SUFFERING FROM AN MB PERSPECTIVE
LIFE UNDER THE SUN
Rev. Philip A. Gunther
2021 WEEK OF PRAYER
THE BACK STORY: THE QUEST FOR A FREE CREATURE
NOVEMBER 2020 FINANCIAL DASHBOARD
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After several years in process, the transition of the long-standing â€œdeposit programâ€? of MB Stewardship Ministries from the Meet CCMBC Investments Ltd. This new Canadian Conference of MB Churches to the new organization continues the long-standing investment program of CCMBC Investments Ltd. Stewardship Ministries of the Canadian (a wholly owned subsidiary of CCMBC Legacy MB Conference. Fund Inc.) is anticipated to be finalized on Sept. 1, 2019. Current investors have been CCMBC Investments is open to accepting advised of the changes. new funds from existing or new investors
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From the editor I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS ately, I've been having trouble falling asleep at night. I seem to have no problem drifting off in the middle of the afternoon or during the occasional Zoom meeting, but nighttime has been more challenging. I (like 3.5 million other Canadians) have an anxiety disorder. I've had anxiety for a long time; I didn't know it until the circumstances around the COVID-19 pandemic brought it to my full attention. Through therapy, medication, meditation and prayer, I manage my anxiety reasonably well these days. Still, some nights I wrestle with my pillow and my thoughts before sleep. My mind demands that the day's ups and downs be reckoned with before shutting down for the night. Today we put one year to bed and awaken to a new one. The sun has set on a difficult 2020, and we look to the sunrise of 2021 with hope and longing for something better. For many of you, the wounds sustained over the previous twelve months will take many years to heal. For others, you've begun to bounce back already. But whatever our circumstances, most of us are happy to have 2020 behind us. We would be naive to think that the calendar turning means that the hard realities of December 31 have disappeared. On the contrary. We continue to social distance and live in isolation; we feel the aftershocks of wildfires and storms. The grinding sound of political tensions and racial injustice still rings in our ears and hearts. So much still left unreckoned. Where is our sanctuary? Where is our peace? We cry out to the Lord, awaiting his response, his reminder that he is with us always and until the end of ages (Matthew 28:20). Emmanuel God With Us is a promise not just at Christmas or in times of joy and peace but also in seasons of strife and sadness.
I'm reminded again of my grandmother, whose nighttime hymn-singing would comfort me in ways I cannot rightly explain. Her soft voice gently carrying through the house: “And the God on the mountain Is still God in the valley When things go wrong He'll make them right And the God in the good times Is still God in the bad times The God of day Is still God of the night.”1 As I struggle to put my anxious mind at rest in the wee hours, I recall those words, and I remember that God is the same today as he was yesterday. I remember Jesus' plea that I remain in him as he promises to remain in me (John 15:4). And I find rest. My prayer for you in 2021 is that you, too, find rest in the steady hands of Jesus Christ. My thanks to this month's contributors. Especially to the NFLT for organizing the 2021 Week of Prayer and our provincial leaders and partners who provided the readings starting on page nine. If you would like to join our daily prayer gatherings on January 17-23, you can register on our website. I hope to see you there. Wishing you a happy and healthy new year,
1 God on the Mountain by Tracy Dartt © 1976 Manna Music, Inc.
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Family news Orest Pelech joined CCMBC Legacy Fund, Inc. as Accounting Services Supervisor on January 4, 2021. Orest will work with the Accounting Services team to serve our MB churches and organizations. He brings extensive relevant work experience in accounting and providing bookkeeping/accounting services to external clients. Orest has a heart for missions and has spent several years in the mission field overseas. Welcome to the team, Orest!
Pastors Credentialing Orientation (PCO) will be delivered in two campuses in 2021: PCO West in British Columbia on May 26-28, and PCO East in Ontario on June 1-3. #CCMBCPCO
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T H E S O N G S T H AT SHAPED US We want to share your favourite songs with our MB Herald Digest readers. Please send us the song titles and the artists that most inspired you in your discipleship walk, and share a few words about why and how the music is meaningful in your life. Click here to mail us
ow would you respond if someone you know was considering ending their life through medical assistance in dying (MAiD)? You might be surprised to learn that a recent poll suggested that 80 percent of Canadians believe it should be easier to make their own end-of-life decisions. The poll also reported that 33 percent describe themselves as “enthusiastic supporters,” while another 48 percent “cautiously support” the idea of ending life through medical assistance (Angus Reid Institute, findings here). These findings alert us to the reality that MAiD is being viewed in increasingly more positive ways. It is impacting people we know in our workplaces, neighbourhoods, and even our churches, and better preparation is needed for conversations with those exploring its possibilities.
As Mennonite Brethren, we affirm that all life is a gift from God and belongs to God (as expressed in Article 14 of the MB Confession of Faith). So how can we uphold our theological position of “no” while engaging within a culture of people who are saying “yes”? MB Seminary recently hosted a conversation to discuss this very question. During a live event featuring three faculty presentations and a panel discussion, Dr. Doug Heidebrecht and Dr. Brian Cooper offered thoughts on the biblical and theological implications of life, death, and suffering from an MB perspective. This foundation was followed by Dr. Gloria Woodland’s presentation which bridged the gap between our theological conclusions and the reality of walking alongside those impacted by MAiD. These presentations, along with questions submitted by online participants, began a rich conversation of faith and life within our MB community. The recordings from this event are available on the MB Seminary website. In addition, for those wishing to engage with this topic more deeply, Dr. Woodland will be teaching an online course on the scope of perspectives and ministry in MAiD that will span eight weeks beginning January 4, 2021. This course is not only available as a 3-credit graduate course, but has also been specifically designed for small group study. For more details about how your small group can take part, please visit the MB Seminary course page here.
LIFE, DEATH AND SUFFERING FROM AN MB PERSPECTIVE
Brian Cooper – exploring the theological and ethical dimensions of MAiD.
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Life under the sun The place of prayer in 2021
ordered self-isolation meaning an in-person family o argument. 2020 was one for the books; 365 Christmas could not take place. In the background days that most just want to forget. Good ridwas the potential for the pathology report to reveal dance! It is telling that the most notable quotes of 2020 were: “Wear a mask,” “Flatten the if the removed growth from my colon was cancercurve,” “Maintain physical distancing,” and “Wash ous. When I submitted this writing, I was still waiting your hands.” for my surgeon’s prognosis. Friends, in a nutshell, my 2020 was a tale of trouble. My own sojourn through 2020 began with a heart-breaking closure of a church under my overI feel I have good grounds to claim that 2020 was sight followed by months of exasperating exchanges cursed. I postulate that the Apostle Paul would be in agreement since he wrote: “...all creation [is] subwith former adherents. Then March arrived with COVID health and safety measures ending in-perjected to God’s curse” (Romans 8:20). This is simply son church gatherings. My youngest son then life under the sun. Trouble is a part of every year contracted COVID in April and and our sovereign Creator allows was incredibly ill for six weeks it. Job said, “Shall we accept good (and is still living with side-effrom God, and not trouble?” WE ARE PROBLEM SOULS fects today). Supporting churches (2:10). Even Jesus counseled, “In IN A TROUBLED WORLD, and pastors in their transition to this world you will have trouble” FA L L E N C R E AT U R E S N E E D I N G online worship services brought (John 16:33b). I recall a wise S U P E R N AT U R A L R E D E M P T I O N B Y a significant level of stress to my mentor advising me that life is O U R C R E AT O R . O U R S U R E H O P E life during spring and summer. fundamentally a sojourn of trouCOMES FROM ANOTHER RE ALM , When the opportunity for ble and trial into which God A K I N G D O M FA R B E YO N D T H I S rest came, our summer family pours grace, hope, love and joy. VA S T S P I N N I N G S P H E R E . I N D E E D, vacation was cancelled due to Based on this maxim, life under OUR EARTHEN ARK SAILS ABOUT COVID travel restrictions. Hopethe sun in 2020 will continue in A GLORIOUS SUN , A CELESTIAL ful, Janine and I looked forward 2021 and each year after that LUMINARY IN WHOSE LIGHT WE until the end of days. The to a mini vacation in September P R AY, “ O U R FAT H E R W H I C H only to arrive in Kelowna during preacher of Ecclesiastes seems to A R T I N H E AV E N .” a time when the California fires concur: “History merely repeats pushed choking smoke into this itself. It has been done before. PILGRIMAGE JOURNALS1 normally sunny and scenic Nothing under the sun is truly Okanagan setting. As we moved new” (1:9). The preacher paints into fall, COVID restrictions prelife under the sun as a protracted vented us from attending our middle son’s police and perplexing crisis of faith in an enigmatic God. Life is the futility of human effort – a chasing after college graduation. My year ended with a hemicolthe wind – where meaning and purpose are as eluectomy. This surgery removed a section of my colon that harboured a large growth. Unfortunately, a sive as shifting shadows. A cycle of vanities that complication developed and with it, significant anxultimately culminates in death. iety. Six weeks of recovery followed. My physician In stark contrast, the Gospel informs us that
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although all of creation lives under the sun, disciples doctor came in with a treatment plan that brought of Christ experience that reality only in part. As Spirhim hope, relieving him of his stress and worry. it-filled followers of Jesus, a new pilgrimage “under When the doctor left, I pulled back the screen sepathe Son” begins. We are now the beloved of a Heavrating our beds and said, “God heard us, Lenny.” enly Father – forgiven, redeemed, possessing purpose Lenny’s face beamed the biggest smile since we met and meaning – on a sojourn of hope that ultimately four days earlier. God touched Lenny’s spirit and culminates into eternal life in heaven. The Apostle gave him a glimpse of life under the Son. Paul pens, “For he has rescued us from the dominAs Canadian Mennonite Brethren, we are being ion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of called to prayer this January. My sojourn as a discithe Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the ple of Jesus from 2020 into 2021 has impressed upon forgiveness of sins.... This is the gospel that you heard me that prayer is the primary means by which we “set our sights” and “think about” life under the Son. and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven...” (Colossians 1:13-14,23b). This is affirmed by Paul: “Since you have been raised While I was in hospital in the fall of 2020, I expeto new life with Christ, set your sights on the realirienced firsthand the contrast between “life under ties of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor the sun” and “life under the Son.” Like me, my hosat God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, pital ward roommate (let’s call him Lenny) had a not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossurgery on his colon. Lenny was a retired senior in poor health and by all accounts and sians 3:1-3). Prayer corrects human conversations, without hope in God. myopia transporting one in spirit to a He had no love for ‘religious’ church reality we understand as the Kingdom “MORE THINGS ARE people. He was living life solely under of God. This kingdom is ruled by the W R O U G H T B Y P R AY E R One in whom “we live and move and the sun. Post-surgery, both Lenny and T H A N T H I S W O R L D have our being” (Acts 17:28). We pray I experienced exactly the same serious D R E A M S O F. ” complication. We both had to work in faith as Mennonite Brethren believthrough incredibly anxious periods as ing that our words supernaturally ALFRED TENNYSON, we waited for relief. Throughout this reach the Son who exists beyond life IDYLLS OF THE KING time, I heard Lenny repeatedly use under the sun. On this matter, Julian God’s name in vain and in harsh senof Norwich claimed, “Prayer unites timents express his great frustration the soul to God.” More than that, with hospital staff. To be fair, he was prayer changes things under the sun. God ordains prayer not only as a means to relationhurting, and it was out of that pain he lashed out. He was living his trouble completely under the sun. ship, but as a vehicle for personal transformation Although I too suffered with anxiety and worry into Christlikeness. Even more, prayer impacts our about my physical complication, as God’s beloved I circle of influence for good, and enables us to bear up well under our hardships; hence Scripture’s passought to rest these with Him. I recognized that ultimately my life was under the Son, not under the sun. sionate call to this spiritual discipline (Romans 12:12; While Lenny used God’s name in vain, I appealed to Philippians 4:6; Colossians 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:17). God for help. While Lenny became agitated with This January, as you heed the call to prayer for the life and work of the Mennonite Brethren, do so hospital staff, I sought to encourage them. The staff knowing that no matter what trouble 2021 brings – began to ask why I had such peace with my circumstances and why I had margin in my trouble to and it will come – Jesus promised, “In this world you encourage them. I was able to hear the life stories of will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!” (John 16:33). Indeed, grace, hope, peace several nurses. The Holy Spirit then moved me to a greater compassion for Lenny. In obedience, I went and joy are our traveling companions as we traverse to Lenny’s bed, told him I was a pastor and that I 2021 under the sun. knew his anxiety. I asked if he would allow me to pray for Him. I literally saw his countenance brighten R E V. P H I L I P A . G U N T H E R and lighten. As I placed my hand on his shoulder, is director of ministry for the Saskatchewan Conference of MB Churches his frail frame relaxed. I prayed for him, at one point saying, “Father, I ask that you work good news in this circumstance.” When I returned to my bed, his 1 Pilgrimage Journals is the unpublished work of Philip Gunther.
God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”
Because Jesus is THE I AM, revealed to Moses in the burning bush. (Exodus 3:14) I AM THAT I AM! This "I AM" LORD OF LORDS, KING OF KINGS surpasses all the powers of this world and whom reason cannot understand. Jesus repeats these same words in John 8:58 in response to the religious leaders who accused him of having a demon: Truly, I assure you, before Abraham came into existence, I AM! In this pandemic, there is much uncertainty about the future and many changes in how the Church does business. The knowledge that we have that God—and through his only and true Son—is I AM, allows us to ask ourselves the question: what does it imply to believe in the one who is above all? I read in John 3, verses 15 to 36, thinking about what it means to believe. We know so much about the verse John 3:16 that we read it (I read it) too often superficially. In the French Louis Segond version: For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him (I AM) should not perish but have eternal life. In the French version of the Semeur: Yes, God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever trusts in him (I AM) should not perish but have eternal life. Believing can seem very cerebral or intellectual. But I find that placing his trust challenges me on a practical level daily. When we place our trust in something, we act accordingly. I can believe that my car works, but when I decided to drive around the United States, for example, I put my trust in the mechanics of the car and especially in the protection of the Lord (I AM) all along the road. In so few verses, the Lord repeats four times to put our trust in Him. see eternal life (15) ˚ to to escape perdition (16) ˚ so as not to be condemned (18) ˚ to possess eternal life (36) ˚ I tell myself if the Lord repeats it so much, it must be important.
What and who do I trust primarily in my life? Remember how your trust in I AM has been confirmed so many times in the past. What does it mean to trust primarily in the Lord (I AM) in this present and post-pandemic time?
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P R AY 1. That you may put your hand in the hand of the great I AM. 2. That your trust in Jesus would be noticed by children and youth around you. 3. The MB churches in Quebec and the Maritimes may be strengthened and guided in their quite different situations. 4. For your pastors and for those of all churches who are tired and doubting. 5. That more authorities will turn to listen to the Lord in the confusion of our times. SUBMITTED BY A E F M Q + AT L A N T I C C A N A D A M B C H U R C H E S
John 6: 33, 48-50
“For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world...I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
The words of Jesus in John 6 At first blush, these words from Jesus appear confusing. “Excuse me Jesus, but what do you really mean? You are the bread of life?” Digging into the context we discover that his words appear immediately after two miraculous events: the feeding of the 5,000 and his walking on water. While the crowd was still digesting what they had tasted and seen, Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. I am the manna from heaven, God’s provision for humankind – living bread.” The people responded with questions, concerns and doubt. “Who can accept these words?” (6:60). It was a pivotal moment. Many turned back and stopped following Jesus (6:66). Their reaction prompted Jesus to probe deeper with the twelve, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Peter, courageous Peter, declared “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” (6:69). As we enter 2021, filled with uncertainty, fear and apprehension, we are reminded that Jesus is the bread of life. He has been sent by His Father to give us life. Like the folks who were discovering Jesus for the first time we have a choice. Each day we can chose to lean towards Jesus. To receive the bread of life. To follow and emulate our master who sacrificed everything that we might have life. That we might have life everlasting.
When you think of Jesus as the Bread of Life, do you incline towards doubt and limited faith or towards courage and hope emulated by Peter? We find ourselves in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic. How does the truth that Jesus is the bread of life speak to this moment? How does it offer hope? How might you be able to share the Bread of Life with someone today?
P R AY 1. That your faith in Jesus, the bread of life, would grow in deep and personal ways. 2. That your church community will passionately and creatively offer the bread of life to your community in the midst of the pandemic. 3. That our vision to reach Canada with the life of Jesus would grow this year. 4. For the plans underway in Ontario for their 90th anniversary convention which will be held virtually February 19 & 20. Boards and staff as they develop and implement new structures and systems SUBMITTED BY ONMB
2 0 2 1 W E E K O F P R AY E R
John 10: 13-16 (CEB)
“I am the good shepherd. I know my own sheep and they know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. I give up my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that don’t belong to this sheep pen. I must lead them too. They will listen to my voice and there will be one flock, with one shepherd.”
REFLECT “There will be one flock.” As I read these few verses from John’s Gospel, this phrase hits me with some force. “There will be one flock.” How often has the church looked like one flock? Denominations all over the place. One could argue that denominationalism is just the many facets of that one flock. Ok, maybe. What about our conference of churches? How often do we struggle to be one flock? I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise that we find it difficult to be one flock. It’s tough enough to keep our families in a state of togetherness! And we’ve tried right? We say things like “unity isn’t uniformity,” we get together to work on our distinctives and we put on a brave face. We work hard to become one flock. Here’s the thing. We know our mistake. It’s right there. “They will listen to my voice.” The Good Shepherd didn’t say to become one flock, he said “They will listen to my voice.” It’s not lost on us that the answer is right in front of us. And yet we find so many distracting differences to avoid the one thing that will lead us to becoming one flock. The author of Hebrews once wrote that we should “look(ing) unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.” Jesus, our Good Shepherd is the One who makes us one flock. (Hebrews 12:2, NKJV)
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CONSIDER What gets in the way of listening to the voice of your Good Shepherd? How might one remove or mitigate those barriers? What do you long to hear from our Good Shepherd?
P R AY 1. Is the Spirit stirring anything in you? Repentance? Longing? Hope? 2. That we would be followers of Jesus who hear the voice of our shepherd. 3. For a renewed sense of togetherness under the watchful eyes of Jesus. 4. Sustainability and resilience of MBCM leaders. 5. For our younger churches in Manitoba, that they would experience health and growth. SUBMITTED BY MBCM
John 1:4 (NLT)
The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.
John 11:25-26 (NTE)
‘I am the resurrection and the life,’ replied Jesus. ‘Anyone who believes in me will live, even if they die. And anyone who lives and believes in me will never, ever die. Do you believe this?’
For me, cleaning up after Christmas always brings a bit of a letdown as things get back to normal, whatever normal means in a time of upheaval. But then, Jesus and his folks would be in the midst of upheaval as well - a nighttime journey from Bethlehem - making their way with a little one to Egypt, fleeing a ruler who wanted to execute the child - and then resettlement back to Galilee within a couple of years. They were refugees needing encouragement, shelter and care. In our upheaval, a global pandemic, we are reminded of how little control we have. In John 11, Mary and Martha face a situation they could not control but thought Jesus could and would control it. They are devastated when Jesus seems to have let them down. Yet Jesus knew the whole time that Lazarus would rise again. But that didn’t stop him from weeping with those who weep, identifying with those who bore the sting of death. Our society seeks to control its own destiny and has even applied that to the time and manner of our dying. “Medical assistance in dying” is an attempt to regain control in a situation of extreme suffering. As followers of Jesus, we should seek to remedy the triggers to this response by promoting and supporting quality palliative care, which should be available to all. There aren’t enough hospices or hospice-without-walls programs in our country to meet the needs of all who are suffering. We can do something practical in our community by ensuring access to palliative care. At the very least, we can offer those dying and in distress the encouragement, shelter and care that Jesus and his family needed in their time of upheaval.
What could my church do to promote and support access to palliative care in my community? How might I respond with encouragement, shelter and care to those in my circle who have a terminal diagnosis or are grieving?
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P R AY 1. For the grace, personally and corporately, to believe that the resurrected Jesus has things under control and that we can trust him with our futures. 2. For hope in those you know who are grieving or walking with someone given a terminal diagnosis. 3. For the church’s witness in our communities and our society, promoting life and wellbeing (spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional), sharing encouragement, shelter and care with those around us. 4. For the courage to share the gospel with someone who is dying without hope for a life beyond this one. 5. Pray that all of us would experience God’s care amid the upheaval of our day. SUBMITTED BY SKMB
John 14: 6
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
O PE N YO U R E Y E S
In what way do you long to have your eyes opened to see more about Jesus than you see now? In what way do you need to know the Father in a fresh way?
I remember the first time I saw Star Wars as a kid and was introduced to an amazing new universe. Not only were the individual characters fascinating, but they were also part of something so much bigger than what I could imagine! In many ways, we experience the same sense of amazement when we read the Gospel of John. There is so much more to Jesus than what we see with our physical eyes only. Thomas’s apparent frustration hinted at this in John 14 when he said, “We know there is more, Jesus, but we don’t know what’s going on. So how can we follow you?” As the story marches toward the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus, we see that Jesus wanted to open the eyes of the disciples, to show them more, to reveal to them who he really is, and to connect their ministry to a relationship with him and his Father. The reality that Jesus reveals is that he and the Father are one, and that Jesus is everything. There is no way without Jesus, there is no truth without Jesus, and there is no life without Jesus.
P R AY Thank Jesus that he made a Way; ask the Spirit to show you the Truth in a situation of need; invite the Father to infuse his Life into your own. Specifically, pray: 1. That the Spirit will open your eyes to see more than you see now. 2. For a fresh revelation of the unity between Father and Son. 3. For courage to proclaim the uniqueness and exclusivity of Jesus. 4. For confident trust in your eternal destiny, in the midst of an uncertain world. SUBMITTED BY ABMB + MB SEMINARY
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“You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
REFLECT It is human nature to think in terms of hierarchies. All of us instinctively assess the people we meet, and we make decisions about their relative importance to us without even being aware of what we are doing. Pilate’s questions seek to discover if Jesus is a threat to Roman authority and power. Jesus is a threat to all human power and authority but not in the way that people assume. He comes to bring truth and break the power of lies that Satan uses to deceive us and draw us away from the covenant love that God has for each one of us. Jesus kingship will be expressed in 2021 through the hope-filled lives of His people, the church. His kingship over the nations is a “work in progress” that will be fully revealed upon his return in glory. We are living in days of much social upheaval where the power and authority of government over our day to day lives is growing significantly. It is increasingly important in such times for us to discern and live under the kingship of Jesus. This means, among other things, treating others according to His kingdom and practicing generosity and justice according to his kingdom.
CONSIDER Where could I and my family reflect the Kingship of Jesus in our relationship? Where could I and my family reflect the Kingship of Jesus in our world?
P R AY 1. Invite Jesus to reveal himself as King in your life. 2. Take time to express to him in writing and prayer what it means to you to know that he is King both now and in the future. 3. Pray for our BC Churches that we would have courage and clarity to express the kingdom of Jesus in a time when the government is restricting our ability to meet. 4. Pray for MB church plant initiatives in Vancouver (Midtown). Penticton (Winepress) and Kelowna (Praxis) 5. Pray for wisdom for those in government and medicine who struggle to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. 6. Pray for families who are struggling with grief and loss during this time. Pray that they experience a deep awareness of Jesus’ Kingship in their lives. SUBMITTED BY BCMB
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And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
REFLECT We anticipate the fulfillment of this prophetic promise that one day everything will be made new! No more tears, death, mourning, crying or pain. This is good news, especially after a year in which we’ve all been touched by death and mourning at new levels. The promise begins with a call: “Look! God’s dwelling is now among the people.” It was to shepherds in Bethlehem that an angel announced, “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). God’s dwelling among his people began at Bethlehem and continues to this day. This new beginning occurs when anyone receives Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and becomes born again into God’s family. We see this miracle of new birth occurring all over the world today as people experience salvation. While we still live in a world where the “old order” of sin and death are present, our faith in Jesus allows us to become the “first fruits” of God’s recreation (James 1:18), or as Paul puts it: “having believed, [we] were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 1:13). We anticipate a day when “the Lord will wipe away every tear,” even while we live through a season when we are unable to comfort those in critical care or mourn together in person. This is good news around the world where exploitation, abuse and poverty have caused so much pain. It was into this world of pain that Jesus came with a promise that he was making all things new. Our invitation is to be witnesses of the new life we have found in Jesus, witnesses of his hope in the midst of despair, witnesses of his comfort and presence in the midst of isolation and loneliness, witnesses that there is a Savior who is returning as King to make all things new. 2 0 2 1 W E E K O F P R AY E R
What disappointments, loss or pain is Jesus inviting us to offer to him? Where have we seen salvation give new hope to someone? Who are we invited to witness to our new life in Christ?
P R AY 1. Offer to Jesus your pain, disappointments and loss. Ask him to fill you with his Spirit, comfort, and hope. 2. Pray for Jesus to renew your local church with his presence and new life. 3. Pray for Multiply missionaries and global workers who you know are witnesses of the good news of Jesus in challenging places. 4. Pray for Canada to find hope in Jesus, not just a vaccine. S U B M I T T E D B Y M U LT I P LY
Advent poems written by Rev. Philip A. Gunther. #cdnmbpray
THE THIRD IN A SERIES OF FOUR ARTICLES BY PIERRE GILBERT. BASED ON GOD NEVER MEANT FOR US TO DIE: THE EMERGENCE OF EVIL IN THE LIGHT OF THE CREATION ACCOUNT (EUGENE, OR: WIPF & STOCK , 2020).
hristians have traditionally linked the emergence of evil to the exercise of free will. This may seem reasonable and plausible, but as I will demonstrate, it is not quite as simple as it sounds. In order to account for the presence of evil in the world, we must begin with the right question: what was God’s original intention for humanity? To attempt to make sense of our existence by looking at the world in its present condition is as futile as attempting to figure out the design of a cannibalized car abandoned in a field. No amount of philosophical speculation could ever account for the apparent incompetence of the engineers who designed a contraption that has no wheels, no engine, and no transmission. Most philosophers and theologians tend to approach the problem of evil from this side of history. Like those who might follow a trail of breadcrumbs to find their way back home, they are convinced they can arrive at an explanation for what is wrong with the world by deductively working backwards from our present situation. This is, however, a strategy that will always prove to be inadequate, for there is critical information that is not directly accessible to us. The painful discrepancy we feel between what is and what ought to be is not simply the result of our overactive imagination. Unless we resign ourselves to believing in a world that accidentally emerged out of some mindless chaos, we are compelled to peer into the fantastic chasm that separates what is from what should be, and despair. If, as Christians claim, the world was created by an intelligent, loving, and all-powerful designer, there must be an explanation that accounts for the suffering, so much of it gratuitous, that men and women experience or inflict on others. I contend that there exists such an explanation. The first step consists in discovering God’s original plan for humanity. To get an adequate picture of what that intent might be, let us turn to Genesis 1:27: “So God created mankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”1
1 Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New International Version © 2011.
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The reference to the image of God implies a special status for humanity. Human beings are not simply given the mandate to rule, but to rule like God would, showing love, concern, fairness, and justice. Only a special kind of creature can follow through on such a mandate. If the creature is to have the capacity to love others, show kindness to all of creation, and be loyal to the divine king, it needs to be endowed with free will. For without this attribute, impulses like love and loyalty are impossible to express. That God wished to create a creature that would be most fundamentally defined by its ability to act freely is confirmed throughout Scripture. The Torah contains repeated exhortations to choose God and to reject idols.2 The prophets call on the Israelites to abandon idolatry and to turn to Yahweh. 3 The wisdom writers invite an audience that is convinced meaning and truth can be found outside of biblical faith to consider trusting in God.4 The gospels present Christ to men and women who are expected to decide whether to follow him or not. The epistles contain countless exhortations for Christians to remain faithful to God. 2 Cf. Exod 20:2–5; Lev 26:1–46; Num 14:9–10; Deut 4:1–40; 5:1–11; 6:1–25; 7:11; 27:15–26; 28:1–68; etc. 3 See, for example, Is 1:18-20; Jer 4:1-2; Hos 14:1-9; Am 4:1-13; etc. 4 See for instance Prov 1:1–33; Eccl 12:1.
What most clearly emerges from these texts is the implicit recognition of a creature that has the ability to embrace or reject God. They also describe a God who will go to extraordinary lengths to persuade men and women to turn to him without ever going over the line where persuasion becomes coercion, a point where free will would effectively be annihilated. God intended to create a creature that would be like him in the most critical way possible: the creature would be endowed with free will. The creation narrative zooms in to the very origin of this project. To resort to free will to explain the presence of evil in the world is a commonly accepted axiom. There is, however, another issue that needs to be addressed and which, I believe, is at the very core of the presence of evil in the world. The real question is not whether Adam and Eve were free. We also need to move one step back and inquire about the process required to produce such a creature. This query is not as trivial as it first appears. In fact, that may be where most of the work done by philosophers and theologians shipwreck. When it comes to the creation of a creature that would be endowed with free will, most people assume that God could generate such a creature by fiat. The underlying assumption is that the creation of a being endowed with free will was, as with the rest of creation, simply a matter of God saying so. Not quite. God could create a creature that would in every respect be complete and whole, and have the ability to make moral choices. But the one thing God could not, by definition, do was to endow the creature with a full articulation of free will with respect to himself. The reason is simple: to be free with respect to God, the creature would require, in addition to an innate ability to make moral choices, at least one critical opportunity to choose between God and some other alternative. Without such an opportunity, free will, as it relates to God, could only and forever remain an inscrutable shibboleth. That an additional step was necessary to produce the kind of creature God had in mind is confirmed by the creation story itself. For instance, the narrative frames humanity’s creation differently from the rest of the created order. When it comes to the “heavens and the earth,” the vegetation, and the animals, the description is succinct and to the point: it all comes into existence as a result of God speaking. When it comes to human beings, the situation is different. While the summary statement in 1:27–30 describes humanity’s creation, the more detailed description of Adam and Eve’s emergence in chapters 2 and 3 goes beyond the simple fact of their creation; something else is involved. While the creation of man is first portrayed as a simple act of creation by fiat, the transformation of this creature into one that would be capable of relating to God as a free agent required an additional step whose outcome would not be determined by God but would be contingent on a decision originating from the creature itself. In their original state, the first two humans did not possess a full understanding of what it meant to be free with respect to God. To borrow a metaphor from computer science, it is as if the man and the woman had received the appropriate hardware and most of the software required to be human except for a critical add-on that needed to be “downloaded” at a later time and at their initiative. Adam and Eve had to participate in an exercise that would
enable them to “download” a secondary program that would complete their understanding of what it meant to be free in regard to their creator. Let us call this additional program “Free Will 2.0.” Because of the inherently complex nature of the outcome, an explicit decision originating from the man and the woman was required to bring about the completion of the process. Based on the evidence offered in Genesis 2 and 3 and the actual description of the temptation account in chapter 3, it appears that a test, a primordial choice of infinite significance, was needed to activate the final stage of the implementation of the free will “program.” This test is described in Genesis 2:16-17: “And the LORD God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden’; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” It was in the actual experience of this primordial and critical choice that the process of creating a free creature would be completed. The insight needed to execute the implementation of free will did not necessitate, as is commonly believed, eating the fruit as such. What was needed was the creation of an infinite point of critical choice where the creature would intentionally decide to obey or disobey God. We know that Adam and Eve ended up disobeying God. But why did such a seemingly innocuous act as eating from a fruit tree have such dire and far-reaching consequences for Adam and Eve and the rest of humanity? Couldn’t God just forgive and forget? Why would God set up a test that most readers say Adam and Eve were condemned to fail? These questions will the subject of the next article. P I E R R E G I L B E R T, P H . D.
is associate professor of Biblical Studies and Theology at Canadian Mennonite University and MB Seminary. ›› P urchase God Never Meant for Us to Die at KindredProductions.com
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DISPLACED BY WAR, WORKING FOR PEACE R AISED IN THE MIDST OF VIOLENCE, MUL ANDA JIMMY JUMA H A S D E D I C AT E D H I S L I F E T O B U I L D I N G P E A C E . (ABRIDGED – FULL ARTICLE HERE)
Mennonite Central Committee n 1996, Mulanda “Jimmy” Juma knew that Laurent Kabila was mounting an armed rebellion against the president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo, then Zaire). Juma didn’t know that Kabila’s fighters were coming to Mboko village until they began shooting randomly in all directions. The 23-year-old university intern ran for Lake Tanganyika. He knew that dense trees and foliage along the lake offered hiding places because, when he was a child, his family would find safety along the lakeside when armed groups attacked. “I could see people falling down, people who I knew, as I was running away,” said Juma as he recounted his life story in 2020. Two of his uncles and their
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families were already at the lake, so he hid with them. “When I came out in the evening, the water in the lake was red. People who took boats to escape were shot in the water.” Under the cover of darkness, they boarded one uncle’s narrow fishing boat, about 15 feet long, and rowed south, away from the rebels. The waves were so big and the boat so full, it almost capsized even though they threw out everything they carried, even Juma’s prized textbooks. And so Juma’s journey as a refugee began – one of pain and suffering, but one that eventually, along with encounters with MCC staff, would lead him to years of studying, teaching and practicing peacebuilding. Today as representative for MCC in DR Congo, Juma’s own experience gives him empathy as he works with church partners to help people in need, including many
Mulanda “Jimmy” Juma is the MCC representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo) and Angola. Originally from DR Congo, he became a refugee in his 20s because of war in DR Congo, and ended up in South Africa. In Durban, he became connected to MCC and attended the Africa Peacebuilding Institute. Eventually he became an instructor there and MCC's southern Africa Peacebuilding coordinator. He was an initiator of community Peace Clubs for children and adults which eventually spread to schools throughout Africa, with the coordination of Issa Ebombolo and Kiota Mufuyabantu. MCC PHOTO/ M AT T H E W L E S T E R
displaced by violence throughout the country. In multiple locations, MCC supports food distributions, education and health care and provides opportunities for families to earn money until they can return home. While these interventions are essential to survival, Juma believes that the long-term solution to the suffering in DR Congo is to bring peace. With peace, he says, no one is forced from their home or separated from their family. With peace, people can use the rich resources of DR Congo to develop their lives and support themselves and others.
Growing up amid violence
Juma’s experience with violence as a young adult was far from his first. Before he was 10, his family lived in the bush along the lake, near the village of I’amba, an area that was frequently attacked by armed groups seeking supplies or exerting power. The area was so unstable that Juma’s parents designated a safe space for the family to meet if their village was attacked. The children knew not to use the same path twice because the soldiers or rebels might lay in wait.
“We were fleeing all the time when rebels came … to steal or to loot or whatever. We were used to it,” Juma said. Despite this environment, Juma said he felt secure in his parents’ love. From his dad, Juma Lubambo M'sambya III, who was the traditional chief in the area and a self-made businessman, Juma learned about ingenuity, persistence, integrity – and the importance of education and relationships. His mother, Mwangaza Lotombo Wa M'landa, a leader of women in the church, taught him the importance of faith and going to church, even though attending meant walking through dangerous territory. “The other thing I learned was service,” Juma said. “Whenever my father would catch fish, one of them (mom or dad) would come to me and send us into the community to share the fish, just to give. Go to this family; now go to a different family. They really were teaching us a heart of service.” ›› C lick here to read the full article and watch a video of Mulanda Jimmy Juma's story.
Follow Jesus. Serve the church. Engage the world. Dig deep into God’s Word and build a strong Biblical foundation in Christ-centred community. Biblical Studies Pre-University Ministry Leadership Marketplace Christian Leadership (Online) Pursuit
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Note: This report compares actual numbers to a forecast that has been approved by the Executive Board. References to forecast reflect 2020 projections prepared in June. Year-to-date forecasts for November reflects 11/12 of the 2020 forecast.
NOVEM B ER 2020 CCMBC FINANCIAL DASHBOARD
CCMBC FINANCIAL DASHBOARD 2500000
Y E A R -T O - D AT E I N C O M E
CCMBC is currently $80,001 under year-todate forecasted revenue of $1,320,321
Notes: 1. One-stream funding from provincial conferences is at 87% of the year-to-date forecast ($121,264 below forecast) 2. Other Revenue includes $137,181 received or expected Canada Government Funding for Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS).
Y E A R -T O - D AT E E X P E N S E S
CCMBC is currently $30,611 above yearto-date forecasted expenses. Cuts have been made to budgeted expenses for the balance of the year.
Notes: 1. Collaborative Model (National Director, National Faith and Life Team, National Ministry Team, National Assembly, National Assembly Executive, and the Centre for MB Studies) Staff costs, including travel have been reduced for the balance of the year but include contract staff hired to help rewrite the bylaws and some staff costs that were budgeted to Communications. 2. MB Church Planting: Expense is reported net of $158,285 of unbudgeted, designated donations. 3. MB Family Partner Suppot (ICOMB, MB Seminary, ETEQ, MB Historical Commission, and the Leadership Training Matching Grant): Reported net of $360,423 of flowthrough donations
2020 Monthly Expenses
200000 150000 100000 50000 0
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun
28% MB church plants
15% MB family partner support
Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov
35% Collaborative Model
8 8 8 . 6 69. 6 5 76 I I N F O @ M B C H U R C H E S .C A | M E N N O N I T E B R E T H R E N .C A | 1 3 1 0 TAY LO R AV E N U E , W I N N I P EG , M A N I TO B A R 3 M 3Z6
November 2020 Financial Update (June - Nov, 2020), Fiscal Year-to-date, 6 months, Unaudited
Net Results ($USD) Revenue: Expenses: Net:
Unspent donations for relationally funded projects (missionaries and ministry) have increased $254k this period. These restricted funds are held separately and not included in our net results.
$ 4,906,559 $ 4,468 ,630 $ 4 3 7, 929
Current Year Target
Mission Impact Working together in 2019, we sawâ€Ś
245 5646 86 97 15
SOAR - 440 10-day local program
Partnerships with National Leaders
ACTION - 100 4-6 week global program TREK - 21 6-9 month global program
Missionaries Serving Long Term Global Servants Sent
Short-Term Mission Participants from North America
North Americans Trained for Mission Engagement
2020 mission impact coming in the new year
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Donations by Churches/Individuals | June-Nov 2020 YTD
D o no r Typ e
($USD + $CDN mixed)
Compares annual donor engagement by only showing Missionary, Project and Undesignated donations Excludes North American Church Planting (C2C), Estate, STM participant or church trip donations
How Donations Were Used | June-Nov 2020 YTD Cross-Cultural Mission | 66% Southeast & East Asia | 20% Europe & Central Asia | 17% Latin America | 7% Middle East & North Africa | 3% South Asia | 4% Sub-Saharan Africa | 5% North America (Diaspora & First Nations) | 3% Worldwide Initiatives | 7%
Discipleship Ministries | 7% (Short-Term Mission, based in North America)
Partnership Services | 16% (Mobilization & Communication)
Missionary Care | 3% (Training & Team Health)
Administration | 8% (Finance, IT, Legal & Governance)
300 - 32040 Downes Road, Abbotsford, BC V4X 1X5 Canada 4867 E. Townsend Avenue, Fresno, CA 93727-5006 USA 1.866.964.7627 ďż˝ multiply.net
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M B H ER A L D R EC EN T LY S AT D OW N W I T H C É S A R G A R C Í A (CG) A N D G ER A L D H I L D EB R A N D (G H ) O F M EN N O N I T E WO R L D CO N F ER EN C E ( M WC) FO R A N EP I S O D E O F T H E M B H ER A L D P O D C A S T. T H I S I S A N A B R I D G ED V ER S I O N O F T H AT I N T ERV I E W – YO U C A N F I N D T H E F U L L AU D I O H E R E .
César García is General Secretary for Mennonite World Conference
Gerald Hildebrand is the Mennonite World Conference Regional Representative for North America
César, You've described MWC as the biggest Anabaptist local congregation in the world. Can you unpack that, please? CG: Yes, it has to do with our call. During the last 60 years, MWC has been speaking about this idea of being called to be a global-local congregation, which means we want to do and be everything that our local congregation is, but on a global scale. In Ephesians, Apostle Paul's vision of an international body (neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free), with Christ at the center, implies that a local congregation alone is not enough. That vision requires a global church, not just an institution, but an organic structure that facilitates relationships and community.
A local church for the world
How does MWC facilitate these relationships? CG: In a local context, when somebody is sick, then there is a group of people or at least a pastor that visits this person that accompanies this person in the process of healing. Similarly, MWC helps churches deal with suffering, persecution or violence in the country where they are. Or they may need MWC's support because they face a natural disaster. As a local congregation often does, MWC can also serve our society around us through social development, educational and health services programs. We also want to share and bear witness to Christ. MWC organizes programs or activities of evangelism and mission of service and programs for peacemaking and restorative justice. What are churches asking of MWC, particularly in this time of a pandemic? CG: Pandemics, like natural disasters, are overwhelming and bigger than your denomination's capacity to respond. Therefore, we need a joint response from all the different Anabaptist groups to make a better impact. A global pandemic requires a global response. Think of the kind of pandemic challenges faced in the global north. Now imagine those same challenges in places without adequate healthcare infrastructure or areas where there is no way of washing your hands because there is no water. In some countries, you cannot social distance or quarantine; you cannot work from home. We have been losing pastors, leaders of conferences to COVID-19. Some churches don't have the means to meet online because they are in rural areas without Internet access and cell phones. So, yeah, the needs are overwhelming. We need to respond as a global family of faith. And MWC is very thankful for how our churches globally have been responding along with our agencies. It is so inspiring to see all these agencies working together around the world. How can Canadian MBs help MWC? GH: There are a number of things that we can do, beginning with moving from a helping mindset to where we think more reciprocally about our relationship with those around the world. These are our peers that we are working with—It's not like we are helping them "out there." We need the assistance of our Colombian and Indian and Japanese and German sisters and brothers; we need their help. There is an incompleteness from a singular Canadian or a North American perspective, as it relates to understanding what it means to be
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a devoted follower of Jesus. When we begin to see our place together with our global sisters and brothers, it puts us in a different posture. And I think that's an essential starting point. In my pastoral career, I had the privilege of working with people who had extensive global experiences. They prompted me to think differently about prayer, particularly in our gatherings. Usually, our prayers would begin with praying for the worldâ€”our sisters and brothers worldwide. Then in terms of praying for the country in which we live. And then our local community. Lastly, we pray for the immediacy of some of the concerns within our congregation. We always began wide and then drew in. This became kind of a pattern for me in my personal prayers and continues to. In this way, we recognize that we are one in Christ and that we pray for one another and with one another and that we desperately need one another. This is how we in Canada can engage and work together with our friends around the world. MWC postponed their 2021 global assembly due to the coronavirus pandemic. What are your plans for rescheduling? GH: The global assembly will take place July 5-10, 2022, hosted by the three national conferences in Indonesia, in Semarang. The churches in Indonesia, initially started by missionaries from the Netherlands, are the oldest known western Anabaptist churches in the world. Indonesia has the largest global Muslim population. Assembly 2021 is a wonderful opportunity for us to celebrate in this historic country. Local churches can send as many people as they like to the assembly as guests. National conferences appoint official delegates to attend. As CCMBC is one of MWC's 107 congregations, we encourage local churches to send pastors, lay leaders and young people. Some events will be happening for people of all ages. More information is available on our website. Anabaptist World Fellowship Sunday is just around the corner. What can you tell us about this important date in the MWC calendar? GH: The first Anapabtist baptism took place in Zurich, Switzerland, on January 21, 1525. Each year on the Sunday closest to January 21, we invite churches from across the world to join us in celebrating Anabaptist World Fellowship Sunday. In 2021, that date would be January 24. Every year the Fellowship Sunday materials are prepared by different continental regions. In 2019 it was Latin America, 2020 North America, and this year our community in Asia prepared them. These materials, including stories, scriptures, sermons, sermon ideas, and children's materials, are available on our website. The theme for 2021 is We Follow Jesus Together Across Barriers. CG: I would add that for congregations that have the opportunity to celebrate Anabaptist World Fellowship Sunday, it is a blessing of increased awareness of belonging to something bigger than their local church. Being part of God's global plan is inspiring, hopeful, and purpose-giving for a congregation. GH: One of the things we encourage congregations to do is take up a onelunch offering on that Sunday. Think to yourself, "OK, what would it cost me to either go out for lunch or even make a lunch?" Make that contribution to your local church, and it gets forwarded to MWC. If everybody in the church does that, it helps MWC significantly as we resource the global community.
VISIT SOUNDCLOUD TO HEAR OUR 2019 INTERVIEW WITH CĂ‰SAR GARCIA
M B H E R A L D.C O M
Following Jesus together across barriers is the theme for the 2021 Anabaptist World Fellowship Sunday. Mennonite World Conference (MWC) churches around the world will recognize this event on January 24, 2021. MWC member churches are encouraged to participate in Anabaptist World Fellowship Sunday at any convenient date for their congregations. A worship resource package (testimonies, sermon notes, prayers, visuals) for celebrating Anabaptist World Fellowship Sunday is available on the MWC website along with more teaching materials and stories about Anabaptist churches around the world.
A moment in time
B R I T I S H C O L U M B I A , 1 9 74
Delegates and guests at a Canadian MB Conference convention paused for prayer.
Image courtesy of the Mennonite Archival Image Database
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S U B S C R I B E TO M B H E R A L D D I G E S T W W W. M B H E R A L D . C O M / S U B S C R I B E - V I A - E M A I L
The January issue includes the 8-page 2021 Week of Prayer insert.