W W W. M B H E R A L D.CO M
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Volume 52, No. 12 Publications mail registration number: 09648; Agreement number: 40009297
Bow down or
Stand tall R U T H N AY L O R
A poet once imagined that the shepherds at Bethlehem undoubtedly taught the three Oriental kings how to kneel at the manger. I think not! Those kings were wise ones who surely would have known courtly ways and manners. I propose that the shepherds, surprised by angel song and curious beyond belief, sought out the manger where the babe was cradled – Mary and Joseph standing by. Instead of kneeling down, they probably asked to pick him up then held him to their hearts, caring not a whit in that smelly shed about their burlap shirts or the animals that milled about. The other seekers, royally robed, guided by prophecy and a star to places yet unknown, were eager to bow low and present the gifts they’d brought to the infant king. They knelt in the royal presence. The humble shepherds stood tall for they’d been favoured by angels. Ruth Naylor is a retired pastor, ordained in Mennonite Church USA, who works as a spiritual director. She has taught English and creative writing, and has published numerous poems and several articles. 2
FEATURES 10 Home for Christmas A meditation on loss and hope –Paul Robinson
11 A simple wish list …all the way from Africa –Brad Sumner
13 Waiting for Christmas –Wally Kroeker
14 Picking up the basin and the towel Does footwashing still have a place in the church? –Randy Friesen and Ray Harms-Wiebe
Time was set aside for prayer and celebration of the Lord’s Supper. “The cross is where we find forgiveness, renewal, healing, and identity.” —Willy Reimer.
CONFERENCE NEWS: STUDY CONFERENCE 2013
20 Church leaders welcome dialogue on sexuality 21 CCMBC’s annual general meeting heralds a new era in financial stewardship 22 Photo essay Artisan Vancouver pastor Nelson Boschman (l), and SunWest pastors (r) Neil Guiney and Matt Dyck, led worship through music.
COLUMNS 4 Editorial
CONNECT WITH US ONLINE
What a relief! –Karla Braun
8 Text Message John 4 Well haggled –Paul Cumin
On a journey toward Jesus –Willy Reimer
18 Viewpoint The hands and feet of Jesus: MCC leadership learning tour in Ethiopia and Uganda –Dan Unrau
35 Intersection of faith and life Have a theological Christmas –Phil Wagler
DIGITAL EDITION issuu.com
25 Transitions, births, weddings, anniversaries
30 Finish lines [Obituaries]
19 News in brief
24 News in story
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CORRECTION: Re “Healing Art.” The photo of Diana Hiebert was taken by Jessica Hurd. The photos of Diana’s artwork were taken by Hiebert herself. COVER PHOTO: Kate Cosgrove is a professional creative from Michigan. Cosgrove’s art has exhibited in galleries and online, with collectors across the globe. For more information, visit: www.katecosgrove.com. MENNONITE BRETHREN HERALD December 2013
Editorial What a relief! K ARL A BR AUN
hen Starbucks rolls out its red cups filled with eggnog or gingerbread lattes; when Walmart stocks Santa merchandise and red & green decorations before the ghosts and orange & black of Halloween are put away; when the Christmas parties and banquets begin to clutter your calendar, do you respond, as Phil Walger confesses to, with weariness (see “Have a theological Christmas,” pg. 35)? Does even the promise of feasting on goodies, giving and receiving gifts, a constant cacophony of carols, and twinkling outdoor lights dispelling winter’s growing gloom fail to balance the season’s burdens? I enjoin you to find relief in joy. Not the shiny, glib cheerfulness of the shopping malls, but a deep, abiding peace from the knowledge that good news has come. A joy that seeks to bring joy to others (see “A simple wish list” pg. 11). A joy that delights in the diversity and support of a spiritual family across the globe (see “The hands and feet of Jesus” pg. 18). A joy that can accommodate the profound and permanent sorrow of loss (see “Home for Christmas” pg. 10). A joy that stands hopefully with the oppressed because the liberator has come despite the dragon lady’s apparent domination (see “Waiting for Christmas” pg. 13). When Jesus shows up As pastor-in-residence at Canadian Mennonite University (Nov. 4–8, 2013), J Janzen observed in a chapel service that sometimes all it takes for a change to happen in our hearts is for Jesus to arrive. In Luke 19, J observed, Jesus doesn’t call Zacchaeus to repent for his wrongdoing nor does Jesus rebuke Zacchaeus for his sin. Jesus simply invites himself to Zacchaeus’s house – and the man falls over himself to atone for his transgressions. Turned 4
by the mere presence of the Holy One, Zaccheaus discovers joy in unburdening himself of ill-gotten gain. There’s something about Jesus that puts things to right in heaven and on earth, simply by his showing up. Just as he did at Christmas. Fear and joy Two reactions stand out in the stories around Jesus’ birth: fear and joy. When the characters are greeted with the news of Immanuel’s imminent intervention in human history, many respond with fear.
ushered in by a little child, they find relief in the promise to come. Unmuted, Zechariah explodes with blessing to God, trumpeting the knowledge of salvation that will come through Messiah’s messenger. Mary calmly accepts the angel’s in-conceivable annunciation of a child, later bursting into a magnificent song of praise to God that celebrates the upsidedown kingdom her son will bring. The shepherds follow the angels’ instructions to intrude on the Lamb – an encounter they just can’t stop talking about. And some, filled with the Holy Spirit,
There’s something about Jesus that puts things to right in heaven and on earth, simply by his showing up. Mary is “troubled” by the angel’s appearance. The shepherds are “filled with great fear” by the blazing angel who suddenly materializes in their night sky. And that “all Jerusalem” shares King Herod’s response to the magi’s news of a king probably says more about the violence and scope with which he expressed his frightened agitation than about the citizens’ sympathy for their ruler. Even the announcement of the coming of the messenger of Messiah arouses anxiety. Zechariah falls down before the angel who announces John the Baptist’s birth. His neighbours become fearful at the revelation that this baby John is something remarkable, someone holy. For many of these characters, the fear transforms as they press further into the awesome presence of God. Embracing the news of a new kingdom
skip straight to joy. Elizabeth exclaims with “a loud cry” as her unborn child leaps with joy. Cradling the child, old Simeon in the temple overflows with assurance and confidence in his Master’s plan. The shape of relief When Jesus is announced, how do you experience relief? If he came to your house, would you, like Zacchaeus, exchange your burdens for joy? Would you, like the shepherds, stand tall in the dignity of being his witness? Like Zechariah, would you – through hard obedience – have joy and gladness at the fulfillment of God’s promise? The wait is over: salvation has come. Find relief in the joy of Jesus’ birth.
LETTERS Feedback from study conference I attended the BFL study conference in October. The premise for the conference was to discuss the topic of human sexuality in light of Articles 13 and 14 of the MB Confession of Faith. I appreciated much of the conversation. However, I felt we didn’t adequately address how we, as a body of believers in the MB conference, oppose all actions and attitudes that devalue human life (such as sexual immorality), while offering hope, healing, support, and counsel in the context of Christian community. I pray that everyone who attended the conference will be convicted to turn from our own attitudes, acceptances, and actions, and become imitators of Christ every day. I pray my brothers and sisters will love me so much that they’re willing to hold me accountable to turn from my sinful actions, even when it hurts or takes years to resolve, to ensure I will be with God in eternity. DONNALEE LEE ABBOTSFORD, B.C.
A place for all to worship Re “Can I give you a hug? (Features, October). Kudos for focusing on people with disabilities – it’s exciting to see the ministry Willingdon and Northview are doing with kids. It would be interesting to know if any MB churches have a ministry for adults with disabilities. About 17 years ago, my wife Erika and I started a Sunday school class for people with disabilities at the now-defunct West Clearbrook Community Church. Parents with disabled children and adults from a group home for the disabled attended. But then something totally unexpected happened. People who felt too broken and embarrassed to go to a traditional class came as well. Many people with disabilities desire to be part of a church. When we make room for all, worship may not sound the way we expect, but to God, every song of praise is beautiful. BOB SUKKAU ABBOTSFORD, B.C.
Addressing the reality of singles Re “An orientation for single sexuality: The ‘do’s’ of purity” (Features, September). Karla Braun’s article is one of the best I’ve read on the
subject of godly human sexuality. I’m an older, long-married woman who has been somewhat discouraged by our overly sexualized society. The pressures our children and grandchildren face are much more difficult now than in past generations, and our churches need to address this reality in a positive way. There are so many singles in our world and in our churches – Braun’s article should be a topic of discussion in youth groups, singles’ groups, and Bible schools. PAT KLASSEN COQUITLAM, B.C.
Temptations we all face Re “Unfinished business with John Howard Yoder” (Intersection, September). I appreciated the inclusion of Sara Wenger Shenk’s piece and agree we need to invite accountability. Theologian and writer Henri Nouwen noted that Jesus sent his disciples out in twos. When on assignment, Nouwen found it helpful to always have a L’Arche member accompany him. When doing lone-ranger ministry, it’s easy to get so filled up with our ego we’re led astray. It’s not just John Howard Yoder’s kind of problem. We must all be aware of the baiting of the evil one. GEORGE H. EPP CHILLIWACK, B.C.
Friends make the difference Re “The hard work of gratitude” (Viewpoint, October). Shelaine Strom’s article reminded me of a message my pastor recently preached on gratitude, which deeply convicted me. “We don’t just absorb disappointment into our psyche and have it disappear into nowhere,” Strom writes. Far too often I find myself in that very situation, longing for the trials of life to simply vanish. I feel relieved to know I’m not alone in my plight of being truly thankful in the midst of anguish. God made each one of us different. Some people deal with strife remarkably well; others pine away, never quite figuring out how to handle life’s turns. I can make the choice between “grumbling and thankfulness” due to the help of my Christian friends – my prayer warriors – the people God has placed in my path. Thanks be to God! VICKIE STAM JARVIS, ONT.
DECEMBER 2013 Mennonite Brethren Herald is 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. Advertising and inserts should not be considered to carry editorial endorsement. Winner of Canadian Church Press and Evangelical Press Association awards for Writing, Design, and Illustration: 1996–2012. Editorial office 1310 Taylor Avenue Winnipeg, Manitoba R3M 3Z6 Phone: 204-669-6575 Fax: 204-654-1865 Toll-free in Canada: 888-669-6575 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.mbherald.com PUBLICATIONS MAIL AGREEMENT NUMBER: 4000929 RETURN UNDELIVERABLE CANADIAN ADDRESSES TO: CIRCULATION DEPT., MB HERALD 1310 TAYLOR AVENUE WINNIPEG MB R3M 3Z6 CMCA
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MENNONITE BRETHREN HERALD December 2013
Sharing the good news AT HOME AWAY FROM HOME Stories from MB Mission workers abroad “Expect to have hope rekindled, expect to have your prayers answered.” During my first Advent and Christmas in Peru, I was inspired by this challenge to enter the season with expectant hope, just as people thousands of years ago waited for their Saviour. Even so, I was amazed at how God answered prayer in his perfect time. The leadership team organized a special Christmas program for children with whom we minister, including a drama of the nativity story, songs, and hot chocolate and fruit cake. We wanted to give the children gifts too, but the budget had run dry. Just a few days before the event, one of my supporting churches emailed an offer to contribute to a Christmas program. We were blown away by God’s faithfulness – God showed up after we’d exhausted all our resources.—Heidi Schmidt, Peru Our Christmas experiences in Berlin have given us the opportunity to widen our family circle. During the past two Advent seasons in Germany, we’ve opened up our apartment to those who don’t have immediate family to celebrate Christmas with. Even though we’re newcomers in this city, there are many others who are looking for a place to belong, and we can offer that. The good news of Jesus coming into our world is for all people!—Ben & Melissa Froese, Germany
treasure in a basket “Mrs. Mime” cannot speak any English, but she does understand one of the 16 languages on a Jesus DVD she received from the Jesus Network, a Toronto MB church. The DVD was tucked into a Christmas basket (containing food, toys, and a New Testament) the Jesus Network delivered as part of a distribution blitz to Toronto neighbourhoods bustling with new Canadians. The Jesus Network makes many spiritual connections with newcomers 6
I’ve enjoyed the blessing of sharing the story of Jesus’ birth with my English students in Japan where most people don’t know the true meaning of Christmas. Some put up lights and Christmas trees but only know about Santa Claus. One of the churches where I teach presented me with a huge card they’d gotten all the students to sign. I was touched that one of my “sometimes difficult” students insisted on writing “Happy Birthday, Jesus” because I had told him Christmas was the birth day of Christ. —Wendy Eros, Japan Most grandparents spend Christmas surrounded by their grandchildren, and so do we in our new home in central Ukraine – except our “grandchildren” and “children” are orphans and their mentors. Last year, we were overjoyed at the more than 60 participants – group home parents and students, staff of the trade school, and their families – from the New Hope trade centre in Zaporozhye, and from Nikolai Pole, Ukraine, who crowded into a small room for a joint Christmas celebration Dec. 24. Under the guidance of mentors, the young people were involved in every aspect of the event from performance to preparing and serving food. The students not only celebrated Christmas and New Year but “victory over themselves,” said director Max Oliferovski. “They celebrate the change in their character and habits. This brings great joy to me.”—John & Ev Wiens, Ukraine
Christmas gift basket outreach bears fruit
through this Christmas outreach, but staff can’t know everyone who watches the DVD or reads the Bibles. Sometimes they find out in surprising ways. This March, an English-speaking girl grabbed Jesus Network staff Hayley (whom she recognized from the neighbourhood) and invited Hayley home to meet her mother, Mrs. Mime. Hayley learned Mrs. Mime had watched the Jesus DVD every day for three months! When her daughter
introduced Hayley, Mrs. Mime grabbed hold of Hayley, kissed her, and animatedly marked her palms, spread her arms wide, and mimed the cross. She then gave Hayley a huge smile and two thumbs up. This was the beginning of a great connection. Mrs. Mime now attends all Jesus Network services and hosts a small group Bible study in her apartment in her language. She boldly proclaims her love for Jesus.—Stacey Weeks, former Ontario correspondent
TOGETHER under one roof
Merry Christmas from the
Herald Family John 10:10b
Christmas Eve: shepherd-style Our city is full of people who have nowhere to go on Christmas. A few end up at our house where we have one rule: you have to participate. Every Christmas Eve, we hold a “shepherd’s meal.” Young and old alike – no exceptions – dress up as shepherds with dishtowels and pillowcases on heads, and belts or ropes to keep them there. We sit on the floor in the living room, and rip apart bread, cheese, and rotisserie chicken, talking about our sheep, and the hard day for us shepherds. We must remain in character! One year, an urban professional from China just couldn’t imagine she was a shepherd. Our children worked so hard to help her see the sheep, the mountainside, the grass, the campfire, and everything that was so clear in their imaginations. When the angels came, and everyone was “sore afraid,” Ernesto, our 65-year-old Guatemalan friend, was so into the story, he fell over backward laughing with the kids. Remaining in character, we rejoiced because Jesus has come! For most in the room, this was truly news.—Dennis and Mistin Wilkinson of Meta Communities in the West End of Vancouver
Dec. 1, Mennonite Brethren Church of Manitoba and MB Mission Central Canada moved back to share premises with the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches in Winnipeg. CCMBC also extends its accounting, IT, secretarial support, and HR resources. “This move allows for greater collaboration, eliminates redundancies, and reduces costs, giving us the ability to direct more funds toward education, leadership development, church planting, training and resource development,” says MBCM executive director Elton DaSilva. “This is one way to strengthen our connection with ICOMB, CCMBC, MBCM – and puts us only a few minutes’ drive away from three universities,” says MB Mission Central Canada mobilizer Lloyd Letkeman. “We look forward to the synergies that will develop as we give ourselves to Jesus’s mission among MB churches, universities, and colleges in local and global capacities.” CCMBC also shares office space with provincial partners in Abbotsford, B.C., and Calgary.
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coming events View events from churches, schools, and agencies at www.mbherald.com/calendar. MENNONITE BRETHREN HERALD December 2013
Text message Well haggled JOHN 4 PAU L C U M I N
he men stopped talking and stared at the distance; a few of them looked at the ground. She was alone, and her hair was long and untied. She walked fast, her face flushed in the midday heat and her eyes ablaze. A moment later, she had passed, and they were beyond earshot. “Reminds me of Pete’s wife,” said Matthew. They laughed while Matthew paused: “… the Thursday one.” Pete smiled. “You’re right, Matthew,” he said. “She did look like your mother.” Matthew was still learning his place. They arrived back at the well where their other friends were waiting, and Matthew handed out the food. “They must’ve baked this over camel dung,” said Phil. “These figs are like a wad of sandal leather,” said Andy. “Jesus, this is terrible,” said Tom. Jesus took the bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples. “Take, eat,” he said, “and quit complaining.” Bart noticed a bucket beside the well and drew some water. He drank and dipped his bread and poured the rest of the water over his back. “Good thing some ditz forgot this here,” he said. “She was no ditz,” said Jesus. His voice was stern, but his face softened at the sight of her in the distance. Pete stopped chewing and looked from Jesus’ face to Bart’s. “Lord,” – he
swallowed and turned back to Jesus – “you know her?” Then Jim and John arrived, sweating and with their mouths already full. “These Samaritans are as interested in the coming judgment as we are in Mount Gerizim,” said Jim. “And their heads are as hard as their bread,” said John. The two brothers followed Jesus’ eyes over their shoulders to the woman on the road. Smiles slid from their faces. “She seemed…nice,” said Jim. “She was,” said Jesus. They were surprised to find that Jesus had been talking with the woman but no one asked, “Why were you talking to her?” Instead, they asked each other about the price of fish in town, the cost of getting it so far inland, and how much tax they guessed went unreported in this part of Samaria. They finished their food, and Judas realized Jesus hadn’t eaten. “We just spent more than two hours getting this lunch,” he said, “not to mention the obscene prices.” John gathered the remaining scraps onto a burlap rag and brought them to Jesus. “Rabbi,” he said, “eat something.” “I have food to eat that you know nothing about,” said Jesus. “What!” Judas hadn’t wanted to stop here in the first place. He lowered his voice, “Why in Hades did we stop at this God-forsaken town,” he muttered, “if he’s been getting food delivered on the side?”
John 4:6–10 (LEB) And Jacob’s well was there, so Jesus, because he had become tired from the journey, simply sat down at the well. It was about the sixth hour. A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me water to drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the town so that they could buy food.) So the Samaritan woman said to him, “How do you, being a Jew, ask from me water to drink, since I am a Samaritan woman?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered and said to her, “If you had known the gift of God and who it is who says to you, ‘Give me water to drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 8
Jesus stood and set his face toward town. A cloud of dust, white and billowing, began to rise in the distance, and it spilled across the nearby fields. “Open your eyes,” he said. “The world is full of people, and the reaper is eager at work.” Pete rolled his eyes and sighed. He got to his feet and levelled his hand across his brow. He squinted at the dusty fields and finally saw the mob. His voice was urgent: “Judas, did you stiff that baker?” Judas leapt up. “I paid that dog twice what his bread was worth!” He looked ready to defend himself against a coming charge. Now all the disciples stood. “Maybe it’s just a bunch of farmers?” Tom was trying to remain calm, “…and their neighbours and their extended families…all simultaneously keen to start the harvest?” The horizon was full. The people went out from the town and were coming to him. “That’s a lot more than a bunch of farmers,” said Pete, “and it’s still four months until harvest.” He touched the hilt of the sword beneath his cloak. “Who knows what these Samaritans could be worked up about,” he slung his bag over his shoulder, “but let’s not wait around to find out.” The disciples stuffed their mouths with bits of lunch and their bags with whatever was left. Jesus finally put some bread in his mouth. He sat on the rim of the well, and his smile set his teeth bright against the wad of bread in his cheek. “I sent you to reap what you did not work for,” he said, “but where you 12 haggled for stale groceries, this woman has preached a revival. Now sit down. And get ready to reap the benefits of her labour.” Paul Cumin is pastor at Pemberton (B.C.) Christian Fellowship.
Outfront On a journey toward Jesus W I L LY R E I M E R
was raised in a Christian community during a time when boundaries of faith and community were very clear. In my world, drinking alcohol, dancing, smoking, gambling, or going to any kind of “bar” were definitely not within the boundaries of acceptable Christian behaviour. In fact, certain acts were not only clear violations of discipleship, they placed your soul at risk of eternal damnation. I remember being chastised one Sunday for not wearing “appropriate” attire – I had on a jacket and tie, but it wasn’t an official “suit.” Although I didn’t like being reprimanded, I realize people prioritized certain behaviours because they honestly desired to live a discipled life. Much has changed since that day 20 years ago. Both legalism and holiness have gone the way of the cassette player – a quaint memory of how things were “back in the day.” Christian and secular worlds have changed dramatically, and the church has struggled to reconcile Jesus’ call to radical discipleship with society’s pushback on behavioural limits. Conversations often polarize around “right living” vs. “right thinking,” juxtaposing the ethics of Jesus against the atoning work of Jesus, as if they were mutually exclusive. Some say if we love others with Christ’s love, we must behave accordingly – which, at times, seems to mean we avoid naming sin as sin, or articulating everyone’s need for Jesus’ redeeming work. Others pursue correct doctrine apart from the application of that doctrine. It’s unbiblical to pit grace against truth. The two go hand in hand. Perhaps it’s time to rethink our poles and consider which way we’re headed.
“If we treat Christianity as a bounded set, there will always be a disconnect between the gospel and discipleship. The gospel will be presented as something to get you ‘inside the circle.’ Once you’re inside, we don’t want to say you have to do anything to stay in (that would be salvation by works). But we don’t want to say you don’t have to do anything (the triumph of entropy, or, to use a biblical word, being lukewarm, or to use a theological word, antinomianism). So we don’t know what to say. “However, if we treat Christianity as a centred set, the relationship between the gospel and discipleship becomes much clearer. The gospel is the proclamation that life with and through Jesus is now available to ordinary people. It is a free gift of forgiveness and grace that cannot be earned. If I want it, the way that I enter into it is by becoming a follower of Jesus and orienting our lives with him at the centre.” So what – or who – is at the centre of our centred set? There can only be one centre, and it must be Jesus and his gospel. “The gospel is the central imperative for Christian mission,” write authors Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch in The Shaping of Things to Come. “Since the core of a centred set is Christ, a church should be concerned with fostering increasing closeness to Jesus in the lives of all involved. We believe that a centred-set church must have a very clear set of beliefs, rooted in Christ and his teaching. This belief system must be non-negotiable and strongly held by the community closest to its centre.”
Jesus’ invitation isn’t to neo-moralism or socialization into a new community. Rather, it’s an invitation to receive a new identity and allow God to radically transform us. It’s a call to transfer our identity from that of “sinner” (outside of Christ) to “saint” (identity in Christ) through Jesus’ exemplary life, substitutionary death, and life-giving resurrection. To offer anything less is to misrepresent Jesus and his good news. When we embrace this new identity and focus on moving closer to Jesus, the indwelling Holy Spirit will open our eyes and invite us to progressively align our lives with Jesus’ life and teachings. Although we have a new identity, it takes time to live into it. We do this through relationship. In Romans 12:2, Paul instructs us to put on the mind of Christ – to think like Jesus. We aren’t to mimic Jesus, but rather to develop a mind like his, which was formed through an intimate relationship with his Father. Jesus didn’t give us a list to follow; he gave us a relationship to emulate. As a centred-set people, we focus on the centre – Jesus and him crucified – and then let Jesus define the boundary markers. Jesus’ boundary markers were straightforward; for example, “If you love me, keep my commands” (John 14:15), and “Take up [your] cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). Jesus calls us to die to self, living in complete submission and allegiance to him in every area of our lives. Too much of Canadian Christianity is an exercise in self-validation that leaves us empty and disillusioned. We conform to Jesus rather than expecting Jesus to conform to us. As we follow Jesus, we find our identity in him, submit our lives to him, and increasingly conform our behaviour to reflect our new identity.
Encouraging Christ-centred stewardship of time, talent, and treasure.
(Psalm 24:1 NIV)
“The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”
Thinking beyond fences More than 25 years ago, Mennonite Brethren missiologist Paul G. Hiebert introduced a new way of thinking about ministry, discipleship, and the gospel. Pastor and author John Ortberg summarizes Hiebert’s teaching this way:
Walking toward Jesus As Christ followers, we point people to Jesus clearly, unashamedly, passionately, and authentically. As people move toward Jesus, they will be confronted with their sin and need for Jesus’ atoning work on the cross. They will discover new life in him.
Willy Reimer is CCMBC executive director and lives in Calgary with his family. MENNONITE BRETHREN HERALD December 2013
Home for Christmas A meditation on loss and hope PAU L R O B I N S O N
ight-and-a-half years ago, our family was dealt the heaviest of blows, one that still weighs on our hearts. Our beloved daughter Heather left this world along with her unborn daughter. A simple strep infection attacked her blood and took her life in the space of 12 hours. Since her death, our shredded and battered hearts have been in continuing pain. To those who expect us to have recovered from our loss by now, I freely confess that though we have learned to live with the pain – to “manage it” in some way – it has by no means gone away. As we know from others who walk this same sorrowful path, the pain will always be with us. The fact is that Heather’s death tore a gaping hole in our hearts. It was then and continues to be the most painful experience of our lives. “You recover from a broken leg,” Jerry Sittser writes in A Grace Disguised; “you don’t recover from an amputation.” As anyone who has suffered the death of a loved one – particularly a child – knows: this is an amputation! At times, for Heather’s mom and me, the pain has been almost 10
unbearable. Each day is hard, with anniversaries and other significant days among the hardest. Christmas Day continues to be one of those. (The last time we saw her was Christmas a few months before she was so suddenly snatched away from us.) And yet, ironically, it’s precisely because of Christmas that we’re able to bear the pain at all. We have hope and confidence in the midst of our unspeakable grief because of that pivotal event in history when Jesus, the Christ, the anointed Son of God, entered this broken, hurting world. His miraculous birth, his singularly remarkable life as he walked and taught and healed along the shores of Galilee, and his intentional death on a cross changed everything – including our family’s capacity to bear the deep grief and pain of our daughter’s death. Heather’s trust was in him, and so we know that she and our granddaughter are with Jesus; she and Emily Grace are truly “home for Christmas.” In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis’s fairy tale, we encounter a world that, like ours, is
under a curse of death. In Narnia, we’re told, it’s “always winter but never Christmas.” That is, until Aslan, the rightful ruler and creator of Narnia, shows up. “Aslan is on the move!” the animals whisper in excitement. The snow begins to melt, the streams begin to thaw, the birds begin to sing, and Father Christmas appears! I love the Narnia stories because they resonate with the truth of the greatest love story of all time: that Jesus Christ, the rightful ruler and creator of this world, God-in-theflesh, has burst on the scene, and broken the curse. And that is where I place my confidence again this Christmas and every day in between. There’s no denying it – Christmas will again be tough. But I wouldn’t want to face this world without it because his coming makes all the difference! And I know that one day the winter will be past and I too will be “home for Christmas.” Paul Robinson served as senior pastor at Port Rowan (Ont.) MB Church (2008–2013).
Sim ple wish list
… all the way from Africa BRAD SUMNER
hat do you want for Christmas? I hear this phrase a lot this time of year. People’s lists run the gamut from practical and altruistic to unrealistic and opulent. In our family, as we discuss the multitude of packages that might appear under the tree, we often think of the young boy on the other side of the world who has become a special part of our lives. His Christmas list puts ours into perspective. Adam Robert was born with a unique genetic condition known as albinism. Persons with albinism (PWAs) are born with a lack of pigmentation in their hair, skin, and eyes, making them vulnerable to sun exposure and bright light. In Canada, Adam’s life would be challenging enough due to low vision and social misunderstanding. But in East Africa, it can be deadly. I first met Adam last year in northwest Tanzania. (I was on a
service trip with Under the Same Sun, a Canadian Christian charity improving the lives of PWA). Adam told me he was savagely attacked in October 2011 by a man wielding a machete, simply because he was a person with albinism. Much of Tanzanian society believes that the body parts of people with albinism contain special powers and, therefore, they’re sought after for rituals. This leaves people like Adam living in a state of fear for their own safety. The attacker intended to hack off all Adam’s limbs to sell to a witchdoctor. Adam survived only because he fought so hard that the neighbours came running. In the end, he lost two fingers and a thumb. Sadly, Adam’s own father and stepmother were complicit in the attack. They watched the entire thing from just a few feet away and did nothing to stop it.
Hope and a future Unable to return to his home or family, Adam was approached by caring friends who asked: “What do you want?” The courage and simplicity of his response struck me immediately. All he wanted in life was to go to school. But because of the attack, he couldn’t write with either hand. To give Adam a full chance at a vibrant life, Under the Same Sun arranged for him to have a life-changing operation here in Vancouver. A team of surgeons donated their time to rebuild Adam’s right hand through a toe-to-thumb transplant. In Adam’s two brief medical visits to Canada, his hand has been restored. He’s learning English, and his emotional trauma is healing. In short, his entire life has changed! It’s intriguing to read through the Gospel accounts and note how often Jesus asks the question “What do you want?” (Matthew 20:32; John 1:38). Jesus doesn’t assume he knows what MENNONITE BRETHREN HERALD December 2013
What do you want for your family? Meeting Adam changed our lives. During his time in Vancouver, I was overjoyed to see how warmly our son and daughter responded to Adam. Our whole family took him to physiotherapy appointments, celebrated his birthday, and played with and prayed for him. We all care deeply for this young man who is inquisitive, smart, playful, kind, and courageous. As a pastor, I also want to provide opportunities for people in my church family to experience what God is doing in the world. Supporting Adam through his journey of healing was one way Jericho Ridge Community Church, Langley, B.C., could grapple with the struggle of life in Tanzania in a practical way. Our congregation made meals for Adam and invited him into their homes. The kids collected sunscreen and wide-brimmed hats to send to other children with albinism in Tanzania. A bigger step As our Jericho Ridge family got to know Adam, we decided to take the next step in our journey. Titus 3:14 reminds us that “people must learn to do good by meeting the urgent needs of others; then they will not be unproductive” (NLT). If people must learn to do good, we must not only teach them the biblical underpinnings of compassion and justice, we must also provide concrete and high-challenge opportunities to engage. Under The Same Sun cares for more than 300 students like Adam – kids who are bright and courageous, but who are innocent victims of discrimination and 12
attack. As we thought about what these kids might want, the idea of running a summer camp similar to what we do in Canada came to mind. So for two weeks this past July, my wife, children, and I led a team of 21 volunteers to Tanzania to bring joy, laughter, and fun to 150 kids with albinism. Through music, drama, art, English education, sports, and tangible expressions of how much God loves them, we were able to provide hope to these children – with a vision for their future. We worked in partnership with a local church in Mwanza to catalyze ongoing care and support for these orphans. We even introduced hockey to East Africa! As a dad and pastor, I want my family to experience the joy that comes from service. This is something that can’t be learned from a distance or in a classroom setting. It has to be modelled. It has to be experienced. And when it’s experienced, it spills over into everyday life. I see my kids growing in their capacity to search out those on the margins and working hard to understand those who are different from them. I hear them asking bigger questions about the character of God and what it means to live out his mission in the world. In many ways, these are the greatest gifts I could give them. But they first had to be invited into a place where they were willing to receive instruction as opposed to just information. What does God want for Christmas? For me, the hardest part of this journey has been the sometimes tepid response of others. When something touches your heart but those around you don’t resonate with it, there’s a profound sense of dissonance and internal angst you learn to live with. God has chosen to give our family a heart for people with albinism on the other side of the world. It’s a mission we don’t fully understand but are learning to appreciate in all its complexity. We pray daily for peace and security for our friends, and we regularly think about ways to advocate for them.
PHOTO: COURTESY BRAD SUMNER
the individuals need. He also doesn’t assume they rightly perceive their own needs. But it never stops him from asking the simple and striking question. Wisdom is going and doing likewise. I can’t rush in with prefabricated solutions or programmatic “fixes” to challenges in the lives of those around me, nor to the great needs that exist in our city or across the world. Asking “What do you want?” often leads me down a different path than I first imagine. The most readily apparent needs often aren’t the deepest.
Adam’s unfolding story reminds me that it doesn’t matter if I get what’s on my wish list this Christmas. The incarnation brings us back to things of ultimate and eternal importance – God’s wish list, in a manner of speaking: “This is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8, NLT). During the Advent season, we think of Jesus – a little boy – who came to change the world. In our family, we’re also thinking of another little boy who came into our lives and hearts, and who forever changed what we want for Christmas. Brad Sumner is a pigmented part of the pastoral personnel at Jericho Ridge Community Church, Langley, B.C., and a volunteer with UTSS. To learn more about ministry with persons with albinism, see www.UnderTheSameSun.com.
for Christmas W A L LY K R O E K E R
knew it was going to be a long day when I took my number from the dispenser. The immigration office was jammed with people holding little numbered slips, the kind you get at some meat markets. I remembered all the stories about being treated like a number. Mine was 52. They were serving number 24. There was no place to sit because there were too many other people who had business to do. Mexicans, Hmongs, Laotians, East Indians, Egyptians, Lebanese, and a few Americans. Mothers and fathers and uncles and grandmothers waited, clutching little numbers in one hand, and a swatch of documents in the other. Toddlers crawled on the gritty floor. Infants whimpered, old men coughed, noses dripped. Pores oozed sweat as the day wore on. We were here to do business in this place of power. This place of red tape, runarounds, and, as it turned out, rudeness. An Indian couple’s number was called. The clerk greeted them with curled lip. Apparently their rope of red tape was not quite long enough; they needed yet another document. “But this is all you gave us yesterday,” they tried to plead in mangled English. It didn’t matter; the machine would have to expectorate more tape. The clerk’s abusive words stabbed like icicles. She seemed to enjoy her power. These weren’t
people to her. They were, truly, just numbers. Their personal plights meant nothing to this soured worker, who had forgotten how to serve. The couple struggled to contain their rage, as did the rest of us who still had numbers in our fists, who still had to face the dragon lady. The couple left, humiliated and powerless against this hostile, immovable machine. Tomorrow, for the nth day in a row, they would traipse back, their gait a little slower, their heads and shoulders drooping a little lower. They would take another number, and then they would wait. Outside, jolly carols filled the streets. What a contrast! Or was it? Would Jesus have come to this hostile place? He had, in a manner of speaking, been here before. He came, after all, during a census. A bureaucracy had flexed its muscle and thrown all the world into turmoil. Joseph and Mary could tell us a few things about runarounds, about painful treks from inn to inn with birth pangs coming on. They may have resembled the Indian couple, their hopes shucked into disarray. They knew frustration, helplessness, alienation. They knew the slam of the door. “Not tonight. Come tomorrow, and bring more tape.” They would have recognized the dragon lady’s timeless snarl.
Such was the world that greeted Jesus, no less grimy and angry than the office where people take numbers and await abuse. He had come to this unfriendly place to rescue all these people – the stooped Mexican patriarch, the student from Iran, the bewildered Hmong couple, the Lebanese executive, the furtive refugee from Central America – all victims of spiritual as well as political indifference. These were the people with whom Jesus identified when he came among us to bring deliverance from the grip of bondage and oppression. He brought that to them. And he is bringing that to all of us. Even, I grudgingly conceded, to the dragon lady behind the counter. I fondled my little number 52. They were now up to 25. Christmas was coming to this dingy office. Wally Kroeker has worked in journalism since 1967, primarily in the areas of business and religion. He currently edits The Marketplace, a magazine for Christians in business, published by Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA). Originally published under the title “A parable of rude awakening” in God’s Week Has Seven Days by Wally Kroeker. Copyright 1998 by Herald Press, Scottdale, PA 15683. Used by permission. MENNONITE BRETHREN HERALD December 2013
“JESUS WASHING THE DISCIPLES’ FEET” BY LAURA JAMES (LAURAJAMESART.COM)
Does footwashing still have a place in the church? R A N DY F R I E S E N A N D R AY H A R M S - W I E B E
e switched taxis multiple times, just to lose anyone who might be following us, and finally arrived at an apartment where several house church leaders were waiting. In their North African country, converting from Islam to Christianity was a crime punishable by death. We were there to build relationships with these young men and learn about the challenges and opportunities they face as church planters in their region. Given the security concerns and cultural differences, our conversation began cautiously. I (Randy) prayed for God’s guidance and favour. As we talked, I clearly sensed the Spirit instructing me to wash the feet of these men. I initially dismissed the thought as impossible, especially in a cultural context where feet are considered unclean – showing the bottom of your feet to someone is the ultimate insult. I tried to set the thought aside, but the promptings grew stronger. As I listened to the brothers’ story, I argued with God that the logistics of washing feet seemed unworkable. Finally, I asked to be
excused to use the toilet. There, to my surprise, was a basin and towel sitting on the floor, as if prepared for me. I re-entered the room and asked if I could wash the men’s feet. The leaders were surprised but said yes. What followed can only be described as an outpouring of God’s love and presence. As we washed the feet of these young leaders and prayed for them, God melted away our cultural differences and fears. We became aware of our common need of God’s grace and love, as well as the presence of our leader, Jesus. Trust and friendship were established. Footwashing around the globe When Jesus gave his disciples the command in John 13:14–17 to wash each other’s feet and follow his example, he promised they would be blessed. In hundreds of footwashing settings over the past 30 years, I’ve experienced that blessing and have been reminded of Jesus’ words. Footwashing has been part of the commissioning service for
thousands of MB Mission shortterm mission participants over the past 25 years, as they leave their discipleship training orientations and depart for assignments with SOAR, ACTION, or TREK programs. Footwashing has also become a regular feature of our International Community of Mennonite Brethren global meetings each year, when some 20 MB conference leaders from the around the world gather for equipping, reporting, and renewal. At the February 2013 dedication of the new Hiebert Academic Center on the MB Centenary Bible College campus in Shamshabad, India, we learned that a statue of a person washing another’s feet would become the courtyard centrepiece of the redesigned common area. The MBCBC administration has adopted this symbol of servant leadership as their motto, along with the text, “not to be served, but to serve” (Mark 10:45). Several days prior to the building dedication, North American and Indian leaders fanned out into five different regions to hold equipping seminars for Indian pastors MENNONITE BRETHREN HERALD December 2013
and lay leaders. In one location, an Indian leader struggled to have his feet washed by a North American. Although he was a church planter in South India, his mother had served as a temple prostitute. Was he worthy of being served and honoured? Tears flowed as North Americans and Indians washed each other’s feet and embraced each other as one in Jesus. Back on North American soil While the practice of footwashing has been growing in our international mission contexts, is it relevant to the local church here in North America? What is the history of footwashing among our Mennonite Brethren family? Are there transferable principles from John 13 that can help us understand the value of footwashing for Christ’s disciples today? Of the major Reformation groups, Anabaptists were the only ones who picked up the footwashing practices of the early church. Early Mennonite Brethren leaders practised footwashing in their house church meetings as a reminder of the values of humility, equality, and servanthood taught by Jesus, and usually connected it to the communion service. In the 1874 MB Confession of Faith, footwashing was treated as a general ordinance of the church. MB congregations universally practised footwashing from the 1860s until the 1920s. When Mennonite Brethren immigrated to the United States, they brought the practice of footwashing with them. According to
the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online, until the 1950s, as many as 85–90 percent of U.S. MB congregations still practised it regularly. However, among the later Canadian MB immigrant churches formed in the 1920s, a minority practised footwashing. By the time the most recent MB Confession of Faith was drafted in 1999, the practice was so limited in MB churches that it wasn’t included in the Confession. (Although it is mentioned as a footnote to Article 6: Nature of the Church.) Jesus’ example at the Last Supper Perhaps a “rediscovery” of the value of footwashing in our current generation is occurring because it’s no longer a prescribed or routine practice of the church but a voluntary and thoughtful choice to apply Christ’s example at the Last Supper in contemporary ways. The Last Supper has been popularized by paintings that place Jesus in the middle of a long rectangular table. In reality, the meal was probably served on a three-sided Roman “triclinium” table, says J.R. Woodward in Creating A Missional Culture. If this is the context for John’s account of the footwashing, which occurred at some point during the Passover meal, people would have sat around the outside of the table, and the order of seating would have been very important. At the Roman triclinium table, the host usually sat second from the end, on the left side of the table, with his best friend to his right and the guest of honour to his left.
The rest of the guests then sat in descending order of importance, ending with the last guest seated across from the host. At the Last Supper, Jesus would have been the host, with John seated next to him as his closest friend. Beyond that, people speculate about which disciples sat where. We know the disciples often argued about who was the most important. When Jesus says his betrayer is at the table with them, Peter calls across the table to John and asks him to ask Jesus who the betrayer is. Perhaps Peter has taken the last place at the table because he remembers Christ’s statement, “The last shall be first.” Of course, he doesn’t feel he deserves to be seated last. The role of the last person is to wash the feet of others, and we know that hasn’t happened yet. So there is probably some tension in the air that evening. Jesus identifies his betrayer as the one who dips his bread into the dish with him. Only John, on one side, or Judas, on the other side, could reach the bowl. Judas is seated as the guest of honour, to Christ’s left. Interesting. At some point in the meal, Jesus gets up and begins washing his disciples’ feet. This task should have been done when the guests first arrived by the lowest of servants. However, this supper is in a donated room, apparently without servants to greet them. When Jesus comes to Peter, Peter refuses to have his feet washed by Jesus. Interesting. Perhaps Peter feels if he shouldn’t be washing feet, neither should Jesus.
1. John begins his account of that Last Supper by saying, “Having loved his own who were in the world, [Jesus] now showed them the full extent of his love” (John 13:1). Footwashing was one of the ways Jesus communicated his love to his disciples, and one of the ways we also communicate our love to one another. 2. John goes on to say, “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so…he wrapped a towel around his waist” (John 13:3, 4). Power in Christ’s kingdom is expressed in loving and serving others, even our enemies. Footwashing reminds us of that every time we do it. 3. When Jesus comes to wash Peter’s feet, Peter replies, “No, you shall never wash my feet” (John 13:8). Peter succinctly communicates the pride within all of us related to position, status, and honour. Footwashing exposes our pride and gives us an opportunity to receive and share the grace of God with each other.
PHOTO: COURTESY MB MISSION
Servant attitudes That night’s footwashing exposes a lot of positioning and thinking Jesus wants to confront. Here are three brief takeaways for us today.
As we washed the feet of these young leaders and prayed for them, God melted away our cultural differences and fears.
In a culture where most of us shower or bathe daily, footwashing lacks the essential function that it served in Christ’s day. Some have suggested we should be washing each other’s cars or mowing each other’s lawns instead. While that may be true, there is still something very personal and powerful when we simply follow Christ’s example of washing each other’s feet and praying for one another. This could be one of Jesus’ ways of renewing our love for each other today.
Randy Friesen serves as the general director of MB Mission, the global mission agency of the Mennonite Brethren churches of the United States and Canada. Ray HarmsWiebe is global program director for MB Mission. To learn more about footwashing in church history up to the current era, go to Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online (www.gameo.org).
Artwork: Laura James is an artist and illustrator from New York. You can view more of her work in the newly released children’s book, Anna Carries Water, or at laurajamesart.com.
MENNONITE BRETHREN HERALD December 2013
Viewpoint The hands and feet of Jesus
DANNY UNR AU
MCC leadership learning tour in Ethiopia and Uganda
PHOTO: DAN UNRAU
A Mennonite Central Committee learning tour group (comprised of board and staff members from across Canada and one from the U.S.) visited Ethiopia and Uganda Aug. 26– Sept. 10, 2013. The purpose was to experience MCC’s projects and partnerships and their effectiveness in the holy work of being the church – Jesus’ hands and feet – in places of need. Delegation member Dan Unrau describes some of what the group encountered.
h my God! Oh my God!” gushed Sister Sophia, meeting us as we disembarked the bus. The nun in her sky-blue habit wasn’t taking God’s name in vain; she was effusively thanking the Lord that the “good people” (her words) from MCC had come to bless her, pray with her, and encourage her anew. “Thank you! Thank you for enabling 30 girls to be students here, and for the science labs that you built and equipped for us some years ago. And, thank you, too, in advance, for what MCC can yet do to help us deliver the next two levels of high school education for our girls, so that they will be able to go to university,” she shouted after us as we boarded the bus renewed in our compassion and faith by this remarkable woman.
the tense confines of the stuffy meeting room. Someone had just said a kind word about the reconciliation work being done in the overcrowded family barracks of the Kampala Police Headquarters, and the response was spontaneous. The visiting MCC delegation, with members of ALARM (a ministry of reconciliation committed to bringing some peace in and around the life of a toooften-feared and sometimes disreputable police force), not only heard the good news of progress made in the barracks, but ALARM also received an invitation to “bring more of your peace” to other police precincts in the country.
their children to school (even college, in two cases); and, what was more, save – yes, save, “Praise the Lord!” – the equivalent of one dollar per month for future needs.
israk Addis Meserete Kristos Church began to fill a half hour before the first note of music sounded. The large crowd made up mostly of persons under 30 sat to pray privately and waited for the service to begin. When it did, we sang only one congregational song – for 45 minutes. Verse after verse interspersed with a repeated chorus: My purpose on earth is to worship You; if I don’t worship You, O Jesus, I have no place on this earth. We found we didn’t need a our women, enveloped in layers of travariety in songs, for the energy and intenditional Ethiopian dress, sat against the sity and emotion rose and fell between end wall of the room; our group had filled periods of lament and joy, tongues and the space around tables, cups of steaming tears, ululating and groans. At times, bodtea in our hands. The rain beating against “ ave there been any unexpected ies leapt toward heaven; other times faces results from the food security prothe tin roof tried to drown out the stories in bowed to the floor. gram [that MCC has partnered with] in the room. This was worship. This was devotion. the research and development wing of the The women seemed shy and humWe could not understand the words, Meserete Kristos Church here in Boricha, ble, self-conscious and uncomfortable – but what these worshippers were saying, Ethiopia?” someone asked Frew (fray-oh), until it came time for each of them to tell feeling, celebrating, and crying out for was the remarkably able, young administrator their personal stories. Then, “lit up” as if unmistakable. The chief end of all humans of the program. plugged into a higher power, each extolled – …to glorify God, and to enjoy him “Besides feeding people, empowering the blessings of the HIV/AIDS ministry of forever (Westminster people, educating people, and giving farm- which they had been recipients. One after Shorter Catechism) – ers and families new hope,” he smiled, “we the other, they poured out the good news was clearly evident. have planted 11 churches.” of how, with the administration of ARV drugs, they had been able to rise from Dan Unrau is a storyteller he shout “Asante sana!” (Thank their beds and work again. They spoke of you very much!) and accompanyreceiving nutrition counselling and small and a pastor. He lives in Richmond, B.C. ing rhythmic hand clapping exploded in loans to start their own businesses, send
N E W S in brief Give the gift of class
ETEM-IBVIE, a partnership between MB and Christian and Missionary Alliance colleges in Montreal, introduced a gift catalogue (www. catalogue.etem.ca), enabling supporters to honour a loved one by sponsoring a student, teacher, or piece of furniture. For example, $250 buys ETEM a chair engraved with the donor’s name of choice, $300 pays for 1 course for 1 student, $3,000 gives 1 student the opportunity to participate in a 1-month mission trip. ETEM-IBVIE has grown to a student enrolment of 54 individuals and 105 course registrations.—CCMBC release
MCC taps teachers’ memories
Until Dec. 31, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) is collecting the artifacts, letters, reports, and photos of Teachers Abroad Program (TAP) participants to create a public memory bank. From 1962 to the mid-1980s, more than 1,000 teachers worked in Bolivia, Jamaica, and 10 African countries. Canadians contact MCC’s Kaitlin Miller for guidelines.—MCC release
Candace Derksen verdict overturned
The Manitoba Court of Appeal overturned the February 2011 guilty verdict in the Candace Derksen murder case, ruling Mark Grant didn’t receive a fair trial. Derksen was abducted Nov. 30, 1984, tied up with twine, and left in a shed, where her body was found Jan. 17, 1985. DNA from the twine was a maternal match to Grant. The Appeal Court said Justice Glenn Joyal was wrong to exclude jurors from hearing testimony from a Winnipeg woman who recanted her 1985 report of being kidnapped in similar fashion when Grant was incarcerated on other charges. Derksen’s mother Wilma founded MCC Canada’s Victims’ Voice Program and Child Find Manitoba.—WinnipegFreePress.com
Reaching out to Yoder’s abuse survivors
Survivors of theologian John Howard Yoder’s sexual abuse renewed their call for Mennonite Church (MC) USA leaders and Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) to “revisit unfinished business with his legacy” says AMBS president Sara Wenger Shenk. Although the late AMBS professor and author of The Politics of Jesus submitted to a 4-year disciplinary process in 1992, survivors’ testimonies have never been publicly validated. MC Canada denominational minister Karen Martens Zimmerly invites Canadians who were harassed by Yoder to join in “this renewed opportunity for healing” by contacting her in confidence.— News.MennoniteChurch.ca
Tabor Village, Abbotsford, B.C., raised more than $25,000 toward a therapeutic garden at its second annual Family Council fundraising dinner Oct. 26. The garden, scheduled to open Father’s Day 2014, will offer seniors with cognitive impairments, their families, and caregivers a meaningful activity in a beautiful space.— TaborVillage.org
Mission sells Yonge Street property Citing needs for more space, a favourable market, and a buyer amenable to a slow transition, Toronto’s Yonge Street Mission (YSM) decided in October to sell its namesake property, with a closing date of September 2016. Just one of 6 YSM locations, 381 Yonge Street has served people in poverty since 1904. For 30 years, the site has hosted programs on educational completion, employment readiness, housing searches, and a medical
clinic. Funds from the sale will allow YSM to expand outreach to street-involved youth.— CanadianChristianNewsService.com
Thought for food
Worldwide, an estimated 870 million people were undernourished in 2010–12, reports The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2012, a publication that monitors progress toward the 1996 World Food Summit and Millennium Summit goals. If action is taken to reverse the slowdown in global initiatives since 2007–08, the Millennium Development Goal of halving the prevalence of undernourishment by 2015 is still within reach. In order for economic growth to nourish the neediest, efforts must include participation from the poor, social protection for the vulnerable, transparent governance, and agricultural growth that is nutrition-sensitive and smallholder focused. —fao.org
ABBOTSFO R D, B.C .
College navigates challenges of current realities Columbia Bible College AGM and fundraising banquet report
oday’s post-secondary world is very different from a generation ago. President Bryan Born of Columbia Bible College told delegates to CBC’s annual general meeting on Oct. 10 that today’s students face higher costs, course scheduling challenges, and a desire for career-oriented courses. Amid such challenges, Canada’s Christian colleges work to preserve the spiritual vision and purposes on which they were founded. College expands offerings CBC has responded with many initiatives and is doing further work on these issues. Born said CBC already has successful transfer programs and this year is actively adding more. It is also formulating a program minor in business and leadership basics to provide faith-based perspectives applicable to career choices.
Challenges compounding For years, Columbia has fostered communities of Christ followers, emphasizing residential living and spiritual mentoring. But today, less than half of CBC’s students can afford on-campus living: 65 percent of the 2013–14 student body now live off campus. Finances geared to realities CBC administrator Scott Henderson said it’s been a “trying” budgetary year, but Columbia emerged with a slight surplus – and with new priorities designed to increase income and adopt new efficiencies. One of the new initiatives to help students with tuition costs won ready response at the college’s annual banquet Oct. 26. The 275 guests contributed $117,500 to “help narrow the financial gap.”—Barrie McMaster, B.C. correspondent
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MENNONITE BRETHREN HERALD December 2013
Church leaders welcome dialogue on sexuality Study conference begins discussion about human sexuality, Oct. 16–18 EDMONTON
study conference on human sexuality revealed the tension between long-standing biblical understandings and shifting societal attitudes toward sexual practices. Human Sexuality: Honouring God with the Body was organized by the board of faith and life (BFL) of the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches (CCMBC). It brought together more than 300 people from across Canada. Participants included leaders and delegates from MB churches, students and faculty from Bible colleges, and others interested in the topic. Comments made during the discussion time indicated strong appreciation for the opportunity to engage in conversation and theological reflection on issues of sexuality that face the Christian church. “Today is not the end – it is merely the beginning,” said BFL chair Brian Cooper at the end of the three-day conference which took place Oct. 16–18 at River West Christian Church, Edmonton. Through teaching sessions, workshops, personal stories, and corporate worship, participants heard that the call to follow Jesus includes God-honouring sexual behaviour. They were also reminded of God’s love, grace, and desire for reconciliation in the midst of brokenness and sin. While acknowledging the need for guidance and resources to help church leaders and congregations deal with issues
such as pornography, sexual abuse, and pre-marital and post-marital sex, the event also provided a safe place to discuss issues surrounding same-gender marriages and sexual relations. The MB Confession of Faith states marriage is a covenant relationship intended to unite a woman and a man for life. God calls all people, single and married, to live sexually pure lives. This message of God’s plan for only heterosexual marriages and sexual purity for all was affirmed by plenary speaker Robert A.J. Gagnon, associate professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh (Pa.) Theological Seminary. Gagnon, author of The Bible and Homosexual Practice, described homosexual practices as sin. He encouraged churches to reach out in Read blog posts and engage in discussion: love to people involved studyconference.mennonitebrethren.ca in homosexual practices, listen to plenary sessions: but – as an act of love – www.worldplaylive.com/events/mb-studyconference-2013 (Username: conf2013 remain clear that God Password: mb13pass) does not condone this download AGM reports and financial statements: behaviour. studyconference.mennonitebrethren.ca “It is not my job to view, tag, and comment on photos: proclaim exemption on www.facebook.com/MBHerald what God condemns. www.facebook.com/mbconf
Plenary speaker John Neufeld
PHOTOS: ELLAINA BROWN
CCMBC’s annual general meeting heralds a new era in financial stewardship
A panel of Board of Faith and Life members
The loving approach is not to tolerate sinful behaviour. If it is too hard for the church to do that, then become something else – become a Rotary Club.” God wants transformed lives, and a person who continues in sinful behaviour is lost, Gagnon said. “What we wouldn’t want is a holier-than-thou attitude, but a desire for the person to inherit God’s kingdom – that is our sole interest.” Summarizing the religious history of Canada, historian and theologian John Stackhouse said the rubric of Christianity was used as a moral guide for social attitudes and values within wider Canadian society from 1850–1950. Although Canada is becoming increasingly secularized, the mentality of making decisions based on right or wrong remains. Just like there was no room for dissent when Christianity was the moral guide, today, as Canada is changing into a post-Christian society, there is no room for a dissenting Christian view. When there are dissenting views, Stackhouse warned against selfrighteousness. “Holding views firmly and contending for them is not self-
This year’s annual general meeting (during the study conference in Edmonton) began with an update on the Canadian conference’s national ministry review by executive director Willy Reimer, including a brief mention of the executive board’s “sandbox document” that will provide “common language and a common touchstone for our work across the country.” [See http://www.mennonitebrethren.ca/news/executive-board-findsa-sandbox-at-the-beach/] But the main event was the budget, presented by Manitoba moderator Harold Froese. “I’m pretty excited about the story behind the budget we’re about to present,” he said, alluding to the church planting C2C Network and the burgeoning ministry of the Resourcing Churches & Developing Leaders department. [http://www.mennonitebrethren. ca/news/changes-in-leadership-development-department/] Froese also said there was significant collaboration with provinces and other ministry partners in creating the overall budget. Ed Willms, Ontario executive director, spoke “a word of gratitude” from the floor for the financial support CCMBC is providing while the provincial conference goes through “a rebuilding phase.”
$ In response to the income reduction,
$ The board reduced the amount of
MBBS ($200,000) seemed disproportionately low to some delegates, Froese said the amount represents 25–26 percent of the seminary’s total annual budget. “Their needs may change in the future,” he added, “so it’s something to talk about.”—LK
deposit fund interest that will flow into the national operating budget (which was slowly creeping above 50 percent of the overall budget), lowering the amount to $2.1 million in 2014 from $3.4 million in 2013.
righteousness…. Refusing to listen and refusing to submit to reality (God, the Bible, good arguments, other’s well-being, the greater good) is self-righteousness,” he said. Retired pastor John Unger of Winnipeg suggested the tone of discussion on homosexuality will change when “the response is to a person, not an issue.” He will never forget the telephone call from his daughter asking him to bless her and her same-gender partner at their
ord’s and everything nd all who live in it.”
(Psalm 24:1 NIV)
CCMBC’s operating budget was reduced by $449,000, impacting agency/partnership support, the executive budget, and the communications budget.
$ The board forecasts a 5–6 percent
increase in church and individual support in the coming year. “It’s normal that donations lag in a time of transition,” said Froese, so the modest projection is an indication of hope for the future. “It’s the opposite of how we’ve been trending in past years.”
$ Froese reported that the steward-
ship review (done in conjunction with independent financial consultants) is progressing well. Froese said the board is now working with Canadian regulatory bodies on compliance issues. In order to meet the costs associated with these compliance activities, the conference has decided to sell several investment properties (worth approximately $9 million) in the coming year. Froese assured delegates that these compliance issues were “ordinary” and not an indication of any unethical activities – they’re simply a reflection of the fact that regulations have become more stringent in recent years.
$ Although conference support for
wedding. “She says, ‘Dad, I need your blessing.’” At the wedding, he described the blessing as a shade tree, a place of gathering. He also sees his family as a shade tree and finds ways to assure his daughter and her family there is room under the tree for them. “God blesses everyone and wants us to do the same,” he said. Unger affirmed the MB Confession of Faith on marriage; however, through these and other experiences, he is
MENNONITE BRETHREN HERALD December 2013
PHOTO: ELLAINA BROWN
Gladys Terichow is the staff writer for the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches.
Delegates interacted in the foyer between sessions. A large contingent of students from Bethany College, Hepburn, Sask., sparked many animated conversations.
A Bible study on 1 Corinthians 6:9–20 engaged all delegates, including students, pastors, and professors.
PHOTO: LAURA KALMAR
learning to respect God’s processes and timelines in people’s lives. “It’s like a flower – if you force the flower to open, it wrecks it,” he said. “It is God’s gentle spirit that opens them up.” John Neufeld, pastor of The Meeting Place, Winnipeg, reminded participants that MB churches have a rich history providing spiritual counsel through balancing grace and truth. Part of this history includes gradual theological shifts, which eventually released the church to offer compassionate support to families experiencing failed marriages, divorce, and remarriage. “Jesus forgave freely, even before repentance was evident,” Neufeld said. “Jesus reserved his harshest words for the pious.”
Delegates spent time studying Scripture, and had opportunity to share thoughts, questions, and responses during corporate processing sessions.
PHOTOS: ELLAINA BROWN
PHOTO: LESLIE PRECHT
Volunteers from host church River West provided delicious home-cooked food on short notice to sustain the delegates in their hard work of engagement.
MENNONITE BRETHREN HERALDâ€ƒ December 2013
News in S TO RY
Dairy farms and church plants:
t has been almost a century since the Russian revolution and civil war initiated a Mennonite diaspora, and nearly as long since Mennonite Central Committee organized to begin relief operations back to Russia. The setting of both much joy and great pain for Mennonites, the former Soviet Union has long been a destination for an intermediate generation of missionary: those who grew up with the stories of terror but who believe in the possibilities of the future. The call of the motherland is powerful, even for those happily settled in North America. John Wiens was pastoring at Gracepoint Church, Surrey, B.C., when he and his wife Evelyn, both in their sixth decade, decided to relocate their ministry to Zaporozhye, Ukraine. John was haunted by a chance meeting with an immigrant from Kiev; Evelyn was inspired by a mission trip to Mexico. Retirement diversion “We had never thought or planned on being missionaries,” says John. “It was not on our wish list at all.” Both had stable employment and were only a few years from retirement. Yet when John finally broached the subject of a potential mission placement with Evelyn in August 2006, she surprised him by agreeing immediately. By September 2007, they were on the ground in Zaporozhye, having agreed to a 10-year term with MB Mission. For Joh n, whose d i rec t ancestors arrived in Zaporozhye among the first wave of Mennonite settlers in 1789, it was almost a homecoming. He and Evelyn brought four objectives: to establish a church, recovery ministry, fundraising organization (in Canada), and private trade school for youth “aged out” of the many orphanages. 24
Today, more than six years into their commitment, John and Evelyn have accomplished several of their objectives, including establishment of what they believe to be Ukraine’s only private trade school. Last year, nine students – all orphans or wards of Evelyn Wiens with the Ukrainian dance group from the orphanage on the first day of school. the state – participated in the first nine-month program on a dairy and ask me to come to their house most don’t even know what Menfarm in the neighbouring village or their village and breed their cow nonites are, even though many for them,” he says. of Nikolay-Pole. distinctive Mennonite-built houses and barns are still standOrphan crisis The missionary farmer ing. Garry, whose Dutch ancestors Both couples stress the impor- “can probably take credit for startThe dairy is run by Garry Verhoog, a farmer from Steinbach, tance of the growing trade school ing the Mennonites on their way Man., who moved to Ukraine in in meeting the needs of Ukraine’s to the Ukraine,” says that Nikolay2008 with his wife Teresa who orphans, who often leave the state’s Pole (formerly Nikolaifeld) is one teaches English. Their ministry is orphanages with few skills and of the best-preserved Mennonite funded through the proceeds of little work experience. villages in the Ukraine – just “Statistics for orphans are without any Mennonites. their family-run 800-cow operation in Steinbach. Garry and Teresa met rea lly sad,” says John. “Ten Garry’s expanding trade school John and Evelyn almost a year into percent of orphans will commit has become “a bigger project than I the Verhoogs’ ministry, and both suicide within a year of leaving can do myself,” he says. “The couninstantly sensed an opportunity the orphanage because they’re just try is full of kids who are finished not connected to anyone: 60–70 for partnership. “I’m not a pastor or a preacher; percent of the boys will turn to with the orphanage system and all I know is farming,” says Garry, crime and end up in prison, and they’ve never learned how to work, whose work in teaching, training, 50–60 percent of the girls turn to have a family, or live in a family. and community development prostitution. We can’t change the This is just a great opportunity to belies his words. “[The Ukrainian] lives of every orphan, but we can do that, but we need some more funds to do it. Our first prayer dairy industry was really under- change the lives of some.” Garry sees his dairy school as request is that we find a way to developed…. So my idea was just to come; we’ll start a small farm, a way to defy the percentages. “I fund this whole project.” John, who has recently disand just demonstrate to the peo- want a program where the students ple around us better ways to take live in the village and work every covered further ancestral ties to day on the farm. [Where they] the region, sees an opportunity to care of cows.” Garry and Teresa currently make enough money on the farm create a new story with the help and operate a 40-cow farm, but they to support them while they’re going support of other believers. “I would have just purchased a Soviet-era to school, and receive really good just love to say to my brothers and collective farm and are in the practical experience on how to sisters: ‘Earlier, as Mennonites, process of renovating it. Eventu- work and live on a dairy farm. we left a legacy here of hard work, “The biggest challenge to good farming methods, and good ally, they’d like it to become a selfsustaining 200-cow farm that pays working with orphan kids is they factories. Help us leave another for the dairy portion of the trade don’t know how to work;…they’ve legacy – of changed lives among never experienced having to get to orphans and of church plants. We school program. Garry has also become an work on time every day.” need people to pray for us; we need indispensible part of the village people who will invest.’” community, helping residents Full circle Mennonite Their ministry also provides Paul Esau wrote this story as comnegotiate land rights, build and organize an irrigation pipeline, John and Evelyn opportunity to munications intern with CCMBC and providing micro-credit. educate their neighbours about and MB Herald. “Hardly a day goes by that some- Mennonites and their history in The Verhoog family blog: body doesn’t knock on my door Ukraine. According to Evelyn, www.moo-oosings.blogspot.ca.
PHOTO: JOHN WIENS
A new Mennonite legacy in Ukraine
Partnerships feature in long-awaited grad ceremony ETEM-IBVIE celebrates graduates and donors
n spite of the overcast skies, the mood was celebratory in Montreal as ETEM-IBVIE held its first graduation ceremony in four years on Nov. 4. During a period of what has proven to be successful rebuilding and restructuring, 17 students completed a variety of degrees and certificates, but time and other constraints led to the decision to hold off on official graduation exercises. Beyond the obvious transitions for the students themselves, the ceremony marked a number of steps in the school’s process. A history of working with friends In 2011, issues initially raised by the Université de Montréal teachers’ union forced the university to step away from its two-decade agreement with ETEM. Those
AGAR – to Mark & Amy (Wall) of Saskatoon, a son, Knox Mark, July 9, 2013. ALBERS – to Peter & Heidi of Rosemount, Minn., a daughter, Briella Marie, Mar. 31, 2013. BORN – to Brady & Hailey (Friesen) of Radisson, Sask., a daughter, Laela Hazel, Sept. 30, 2013. BRAUN – to Trevor & Sheila (Rempel) of Landmark, Man., a daughter, Cecilia Linnea, Sept. 22, 2013.
issues have now been resolved; however, Université Laval in Quebec City stepped in to provide the structure to allow ETEM-IBVIE to grant degrees recognized by the province’s ministry of education. The theology faculty deans represented both universities and spoke positively of the collaborative setting that continues to exist with ETEM-IBVIE. Sixteen of the students ETEMIBVIE honoured in November already participated in the official graduation ceremonies at the universities that granted their degrees – 10 at Université de Montréal and 6 at Université Laval. Four different degrees were included: bachelors of theology, diplomas or certificates in religious studies, and certificates in pastoral studies. Held on the ETEM-IBVIE campus in an unfinished space
KLASSEN – to Anthony & Janelle of Merville, B.C., a daughter, Rhea Lynn, Aug. 23, 2013. KOOP – to Stephen & Aymee of Winnipeg, a daughter, Vienna SarahPaige, Apr. 15, 2013. O’COIN – to Kevin & Breanne of Winnipeg, a son, Jacob Brian Robert, Sept. 21, 2013. OSIS – to Haroldo & Elsa of Mission, B.C., a daughter, Larissa, Sept. 3, 2013. RAHN – to Nathan & Kristen of Winnipeg, a son, Oliver James, Jan. 9, 2013.
HAMILTON – to Gerald & Marina of Mission, B.C., a daughter, Lilia Cheryl Anne, Sept. 19, 2013.
TOEWS – to Brad & Angel of Watrous, Sask., a daughter, Honey Haze, Aug. 22, 2013.
JOHNSON – to Joel & Michelle of Black Creek, B.C., a daughter, Janae Ann, June 6, 2013.
WAGAR – to Josh & Dyan Rodriguez of Bolivia, a daughter, Gabriela, May 20, 2013.
“entrepreneurialization” of the church’s mission – reducing it to business-style growth and success strategies. “It is in the routine of our regular daily lives that our commitment to God and our service is best expressed,” Théorêt urged the graduates, drawing from the life of Joseph and Mary who ETEM-IBVIE graduation fulfilled their central calling by repurposed for the day, this was being godly parents who did what the first convocation to include was necessary for the health, safety, graduates of the ETEM-IBVIE and growth of the child entrusted partnership. to them.—Joel Coppieters is a pastor and writer in Montreal. Service expressed in daily life Beyond recognition of the graduates, the valedictory address, and elements Geoff Unrau was commisstypical to a graduaioned as senior pastor of tion, there were sevBoissevain (Man.) MB Church, eral other highlights. Sept. 1, 2013, after serving as Two students reported interim pastor for 1.5 years. on their short-term The service was led by MBCM mission ex posu re conference pastor Keith Poysti. After studytrip to North Africa ing at Briercrest College, Caronport, Sask., during the summer. Geoff served as youth pastor at Boissevain Former ETEM for 14 years. He then spent 5 years doing cardirector Jeanpentry work. Geoff and Kelly have 2 children. Raymond Théorêt’s Geoff has also mentored Steven Buhler key note address from a youth group member to his current cautioned against service as youth pastor. Currently studying what he called the PHOTO: JOEL COPPIETERS
YAKYMCHUK – to Roman & Crystal Roberts of Portage la Prairie, Man., a daughter, Isabel Nadia, Feb. 27, 2013.
T im PETERS of Winkler, Man., & Jaymie BAUMANN of Drake, Sask., July 20, 2013.
aniel DONKERSGOED D & Garbriele WIELENGA, both of Coaldale, Alta., Oct. 12, 2013.
J ohn SIEMENS of Medstead, Sask., & Betty EPP of Belbutte, Sask., July 18, 2013.
aymond R FRIESEN & Melanie KEHLER, both of Winnipeg, Oct. 5, 2013.
endall WIENS of K Coaldale, Alta., & Jill WIKKERINK of Bow Island, Alta., June 15, 2013.
rad IRWIN & Erin B HALMA, both of Coaldale, Alta., Aug. 10, 2013. evin D LATURNUS of Coaldale, Alta., & Anamaria MURESAN of Victoria, July 7, 2013. dam A NEUFELDT of Coaldale, Alta., & Maleah GRAUER of Anchorage, Ala., Aug. 18, 2013.
S hane PIERSON & Tami ROBERTS, both of Portage la Prairie, Man., Oct. 12, 2013.
F ROESE – George & Kae (Voth) Froese of Port Rowan, Ont., celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary Oct. 18, 2013. They were married Oct. 18, 1963, in Virgil, Ont.
at Brandon University, Steven participated in Ministry Quest, and has experience in mission work and music ministry.
The MB Church of Manitoba said goodbye to 2 staff this fall. Roger Friesen served as conference administrator for the last 5 years. Dorothea Schalm worked for MBCM for the last 26 years in various administrative roles. BEACON COMMUNITIES CHURCH launched Oct. 6, 2013, at Victoria (B.C.) Edelweiss Club with 68 in attendance. The church is located in the diverse community of James Bay, adjacent to downtown Victoria. The Sunday meeting occurs at 6:30; some 30 people already participate in midweek intergenerational home community gatherings, and many neighbours participate in monthly village community potlucks. “The success of our launch celebration and multi-communities model continues to result in significant new inroads in our village toward the day when, God willing, every resident of James Bay will have a good friend or loved one who follows Jesus,” says pastor Joe Haynes, a graduate of ACTS-TWU, Langley, B.C. Winkler (Man.) MB Church cultivates a supporting relationship with Beacon Communities. Joe and Heather have 3 children. MENNONITE BRETHREN HERALD December 2013
Learn to See Differently
Katie Funk Wiebe 2014
RESEARCH GRANT The Historical Commission of the U.S. and Canadian Mennonite Brethren Churches announces an “Open Research Grant” of $1,500 to promote research and publication on the history and contributions of Mennonite Brethren women around the world. The Grant is made possible by generous support from the Katie Funk Wiebe Fund. Projects may include, but are not limited to, books, articles, lecture series, symposia, and multi-media presentations. To apply, send the following materials by April 4, 2014, to Jon Isaak (firstname.lastname@example.org), Executive Secretary, Historical Commission, 1310 Taylor Ave., Winnipeg, Manitoba R3M 3Z6: a two- or threepage summary of the project, stating its significance to the field of Mennonite Brethren women studies, a budget of anticipated expenses, a vitae, and one letter of recommendation.
Community cmu.ca CANADIAN MENNONITE UNIVERSITY
Recipients of the award will be announced on June 2, 2014, following the annual meeting of the Historical Commission. Disbursements will be made June 9, 2014. The Prize Selection Committee may choose not to award the grant, if none of the applications is deemed acceptable.
APRIL 4, 2014
FOR MORE INFORMATION SEE: www.mbhistory.org
ARCHIVAL INTERNSHIP The Historical Commission of the U.S. and Canadian Mennonite Brethren Churches announces one “Summer 2014 Archival Internship,” designed to give a college student practical archival experience at each of the four Mennonite Brethren archival institutions in North America. Spanning five weeks during May and June (exact dates to be determined), the intern will spend a week at each of the MB archives (Winnipeg, Hillsboro, Fresno, and Abbotsford). Each archival site will host the intern, providing orientation to the context and collection, and involve the intern in its ongoing projects. In addition to experiencing a functioning archive, the intern will gather stories, images, and video during the four weeks related to a particular theme in Mennonite Brethren church history, spending the fifth week producing a report that is compelling and image-rich—one that promotes the mission of church archives. Airline travel and accommodations will be provided by the Historical Commission. The internship comes with a stipend of $2,000. To apply, send the following materials by February 3, 2014, to Jon Isaak (email@example.com), Executive Secretary, Historical Commission, 1310 Taylor Ave., Winnipeg, Manitoba R3M 3Z6: a statement indicating why/how the internship would be helpful to you, a statement outlining your research interests in Mennonite Brethren church history, a vitae, and one letter of recommendation. The internship award will be announced March 3, 2014, allowing scheduling to be made in consultation with the intern. The Selection Committee may choose not to award the internship, if none of the applications is deemed acceptable.
FEBRUARY 3, 2014
FOR MORE INFORMATION SEE: www.mbhistory.org
Child Sponsorship in Ukraine
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MENNONITE BRETHREN HERALD December 2013
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Help us keep these families together through a gift of sponsorship. Family sponsorship begins at $29.00 per month. Help us bring hope, God’s love and a future to these needy people. For more information please call our toll free number or visit our website at www. mwbca.org, TODAY.
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Vauxhall (Alta.) MB Church is prayerfully seeking a lead pastor who loves the Lord, his Word, and his people. Vauxhall MB is a congregation of about 150 people in a town of 1,000. We are a rural community church that serves a radius of approximately 50 km. We desire a pastor with strong expository preaching skills. We are also looking for someone who is able to work with a team; we have a full-time associate pastor and a parttime office administrator. Visit www.vauxhallmbchurch.com to learn more about us. Send resumes via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bethel Mennonite Church, Winnipeg, invites applications for a full-time lead pastor to commence in summer 2014. We are seeking a person with a strong Anabaptist theology as well as ability to engage the congregation through worship and preaching. This person will have strong administrative skills and be able to work with and lead a multi-member pastoral team. Our desire is that the successful candidate, along with the pastoral team, can enable and nurture the gifts of the congregation in order to enhance the overall mission of the church. Pastoral experience along with a master of divinity or equivalent is preferred. Please send resumes to jbpeters@shaw. ca or contact Jake Peters at 204-889-5094 for information. For more about Bethel Mennonite Church, see bethelmennonite.ca.
Children’s Ministries Pastor
Kelowna Gospel Fellowship Church is receiving applications for the position of full-time children’s ministries pastor. KGF is a growing congregation of 1,000-plus people, with over 700 people attending any given Sunday in two services and a third service on the horizon in 2014. Our congregation is truly multi-generational, but we are seeing a great surge in young families, with over 125 children from birth to Grade 6. This key member of our pastoral team will help advance the overall mission/vision/values of our church, specifically as it relates to children. A full job description is available on our website, www.kgfchurch.com. Applications will be received until the position is filled.
Ottawa Mennonite Church is seeking a lead minister for our congregation of approximately 225 people. We are diverse in culture, education, age, marital status, and faith traditions. Mennonites by choice, we love to worship, sing, and serve Jesus in our community. We are searching for a person of deep faith, schooled in the Anabaptist tradition, who is able to communicate and connect with people of all ages. Through well-planned and thoughtful worship services and a strong preaching and teaching ministry, the applicant will equip us to live as loving, faithful, and joyful
Helping you find your way home... in Winnipeg
DAVID UNRUH 204-453-7653
Highland MB Church, Calgary, has come through a time of transitional ministry and is now looking for a lead pastor-teacher who will be a discipler-equipper in order that the congregation will be built up. We desire to grow in every way more and more like Christ Jesus our Lord. We desire that every congregant be equipped to do the work for which God has gifted them as we all accomplish God’s mission for us, so that the whole body will increasingly become healthy, growing, and full of love. See our website for more details: www.hmbc.ca/ employment.
FOR YOUR NEXT MOVE Re/Max
North Kildonan MB Church in Winnipeg (660+ members) is looking to fill two half-time positions: high school ministries pastor/director and communications & technical ministries director (responsible for AV, video production, graphic design, etc.). For the appropriately gifted applicant, NKMB would consider combining these half-time ministries into one full-time position. Visit NKMB.org to learn more. Closing date for applications is Dec. 31, 2013.
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The Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches is seeking a
Chief Financial Officer JOB DESCRIPTION REPORTS TO: Executive director, CCMBC LOCATION: Winnipeg, Manitoba DURATION: Permanent full-time position TRAVEL: Limited travel AREAS OF FOCUS:
The Chief Financial Officer has overall responsibility for matters related to the financial health of the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches. The individual is expected to maintain financial information and report issues of concern to the CEO. Similarly, as the senior financial person on staff, the individual is expected to act as a resource on financially related issues to our churches, agencies, and provincial conferences as required. Please submit your resume to Norbert Bargen, Director of Human Resources Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: (204) 478-2698
MENNONITE BRETHREN HERALD December 2013
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.—2 Timothy 4:7
Heinrich (Henry) Pauls Aug. 10, 1926–Jan. 15, 2013
BIRTHPLACE: Kronsthal, Ukraine PARENTS: Heinrich & Luise Pauls MARRIAGE: Justa Friesen, July 24, 1949 CHURCH: North Kildonan MB, Winnipeg FAMILY: Justa; children Reinhold, Kaethe (Hardy) Rahn, Johnny (Norma); 5 grandchildren; 1 greatgrandson; 3 siblings
Henry’s father was taken by the GPU (soviet secret service) in 1937 and never seen again. Henry’s mother depended on him as one of her eldest sons. Henry received help from refugee camps in Germany, and in 1947, immigrated to Paraguay, where he was baptized and met Justa. He worked as a shoemaker out of their home. Henry and Justa immigrated to Winnipeg in 1953. He owned and operated Pauls NK Grocery and was involved in the construction industry. Henry’s childhood shaped him into a hardworking, honest, determined, respected, and caring husband and father. His children and grandchildren were his joy. Henry enjoyed stamp and coin collecting, hunting, woodworking, and gardening. He served faithfully on various committees at North Kildonan MB Church. Despite health issues during his last 11 years, Henry always looked forward and sought God in every experience. His life was filled with faith, generosity, and simple joy.
Justa Pauls Dec. 16, 1923–Feb. 16, 2013
BIRTHPLACE: Petershagen, Ukraine PARENTS: Johann & Justine Friesen MARRIAGE: Heinrich (Henry) Pauls, July 24, 1949 [deceased Jan. 15, 2013] BAPTISM: June 1943 CHURCH: North Kildonan MB, Winnipeg FAMILY: children Reinhold, Kaethe (Hardy) Rahn, Johnny (Norma); 5 grandchildren; 1 greatgrandson; 6 sisters
In Ukraine in the late 1930s, Justa sacrificed to help her family survive, labouring on a collective farm. The men aged 16–65 in her community were forcibly taken to labour camps, and as the oldest child, Justa carried a lot of responsibility. Food was rationed, but the family sang together and relied on God. Justa, her mother, and sisters escaped to Germany. She claimed Jesus as Saviour and was baptized. In 1948, Justa and her family immigrated
to Paraguay. Here, she met and married Henry. In 1953, they immigrated to Winnipeg, where Justa worked full-time in a sewing factory and helped Henry start Pauls NK Grocery until their 3 children arrived. No job was more important to Justa than making a home. Justa served North Kildonan MB Church ladies’ group and committees. She loved sewing, quilting, crocheting, reading, and doing word search puzzles. She delighted in hosting family and friends at her home and cottage. She was proud of her grandchildren and was eagerly awaiting her second great-grandchild’s arrival. Her greatest loss was Henry’s death 1 month before her own. Justa’s smile could light up a room.
rollercoasters, airplanes, and motorcycles, but, more than anything, he loved God, Lisa, and being a daddy to his girls.
David Mirams Harrison
Senon lost his father at age 6, his home was burned to the ground, and he was forced to work on farms as a slave labourer. His mother spent nearly 3 years in a Russian concentration camp, and Senon was only able to attend school for 4 grades. At 16, he immigrated to Canada, where he provided for his mother, sister, and grandma, working in a lumber camp; at Banff Springs Hotel, Alta., crafting stonework; and for 13 years at a battery factory in Calgary. Senon struggled to reconcile a loving God with the trauma of war. After responding to an altar call, he gave up bad habits and dedicated his life to service. His favorite Bible verse was 2 Corinthians 5:17. Senon met Hulda at her sisters’ double wedding. At her encouragement, he returned to school and graduated from SAIT in Calgary with a sheet metal diploma. He ran his own heating and air conditioning business in Calgary, 1974–1994. Senon enjoyed fishing, cooking, camping, and raising canaries, horses, dogs, cats, and mason bees. Over his 30 years at Highland MB Church, Calgary, Senon served the MCC and Sunday school committees, taught Sunday school and boys’ clubs, and sang in choirs. Shaped by his own immigration experience, Senon reached out to Cambodian newcomers with compassion.
Sept. 14, 1931–May 16, 2013 BIRTHPLACE: Bexhill-on-the-Sea, England PARENTS: Clifford Harris & Mary Allen Winfred MARRIAGE: Jean Shirley Webb CHURCH: Clearbrook MB, Abbotsford, B.C. FAMILY: Jean; children John, Wendy, Bradley (Janie), Pam (Dana), Robert (Kristen); 12 grandchildren; 2 great-greatgrandchildren; 2 siblings
David immigrated to Canada at 5. He spent 33 years in Canada’s navy, travelling the world.
Ronald Alan Fogarty Aug. 14, 1965–June 15, 2013
BIRTHPLACE: Scarborough, Ont. PARENTS: Jim & Ruth Fogarty MARRIAGE: Lisa Klassen, July 22, 1989 BAPTISM: Northview, Abbotsford, B.C., 1990s CHURCH: Pemberton (B.C.) FAMILY: Lisa; daughters Tatiana, Arabella; his parents Jim (Ruby) Fogarty & Ruth Fogarty; parents-in-law John & Sarah Klassen
Ron accepted Jesus as Saviour at 5. He graduated from People’s Christian Academy, studied at Briercrest Bible College, Caronport, Sask., and earned his certificate in turf grass management. Ron worked with his father at Jim Fogarty Music after grad, but his passion for golf led him to golf course management. This career move took Ron and Lisa from Ontario to Whistler, B.C., and ultimately to Pemberton, B.C., where Ron also organized ski/golf tours and ran his own irrigation, landscaping, and snowplow business. In 2011, Ron was diagnosed with metastatic melanoma. He fought bravely, knowing the Great Physician was in control. Ron loved playing and watching sports, reading, travelling, music,
Senon Sauder June 12, 1933–July 14, 2013
BIRTHPLACE: Schladow, Poland PARENTS: Georg & Amanda Sauder MARRIAGE: Hulda Prochnau, June 4, 1964 CHURCH: Highland MB, Calgary FAMILY: Hulda; children Jerry, Doris
Elizabeth (Betty) Neufeld Sept. 18, 1925–July 21, 2013
BIRTHPLACE: Killarney, Man. PARENTS: Johann & Sarah (Hiebert) Tschetter MARRIAGE: Frank Neufeld, July 11, 1951 [deceased] CHURCH: Lakeview, Killarney FAMILY: children Jane, Marilyn (Harvey), Leonard (Penny); 8 grandchildren; 14 great-grandchildren
Betty helped Frank on the farm, raking hay, milking cows, and processing eggs for shipping. She harvested 2 gardens, sewed clothes
for her children, and stocked the freezer with pies. She worked part-time at Lakeview Gardens for 17 years. Betty was an extrovert with a fun-loving spirit and a smile for everyone she met. Her laughter could fill a room. Betty’s favourite things were her dog Sparky, visits from her children, and coffee with friends.
Helen Peters July 6, 1927–July 28, 2013
BIRTHPLACE: Gnadenheim, Ukraine PARENTS: Isaak & Agnes (Unger) Thiessen MARRIAGE: Frank Peters, June 26, 1955 [deceased Oct. 29, 2007] BAPTISM: Gem (Alta.) MB, Sept. 10, 1950 CHURCH: Culloden MB, Vancouver; King Road MB, Abbotsford, B.C. FAMILY: children Martha (Ken) Stewart, Lydia (Valter) Warkentim, Louise (Heinz) Duck, David (Laura), Daniel (Cindy Sue), Esther (Stan) Gubiotti; 18 grandchildren; 6 great-grandchildren; 4 siblings
December 1937, Stalin’s regime took Helen’s father. As the oldest of 6, Helen helped with the children. After WWII, when Helen was alone in Germany, she sought God and was baptized in the Roman Catholic Church. When she came to Gem., Alta., in 1949, she struggled with the personal faith of those around her. She prayed, “If you show me which is the right way, I will become a missionary.” In 1950, during John A. Toews’s evangelistic service, she was confronted with 1 Kings 18:21, and decided to follow God into missions. Helen met Frank at MB Bible College, Winnipeg, and their commitment to Christ and each other lasted 52 years. They served 34 years in Uruguay and Brazil, and 12 in Manitoba and B.C. Helen’s primary ministry was women and their children. After Frank’s death in 2007, she was grateful to be included in retired pastor and missionary gatherings. Having been separated from her mother and siblings from 1945–1975, Helen’s family was always important to her.
and Winnipeg, where she studied at U of W and MB Bible College. Paul proposed to Pamela with a guitar serenade on a ladder outside her window. They served together as Sunday school teachers, premarital counsellors, small group leaders, and preaching team members. Pamela organized a support group for mothers of preschoolers. She loved playing piano and singing at worship services and special events, especially alongside Paul and their daughters. She directed many church musicals. She earned her brown belt in Shotokan karate. With a master of marriage and family therapy, Pamela’s career included EAP and shared-care counselling in Winnipeg. A self-described change-agent, Pamela believed, given the tools, people could always become better. Pamela and Paul backpacked 8 European countries for their 25th anniversary. She died of a ruptured brain aneurism. Pamela was always looking for God to reveal himself through nature, circumstances, and other people.
Nellie Bergmann Sept. 7, 1939–July 29, 2013
BIRTHPLACE: Waldheim, Ukraine PARENTS: Peter & Agnes Klassen MARRIAGE: Ron Bergmann, Jan. 5, 1957 CHURCH: Yarrow (B.C.) MB FAMILY: Ron; children Dan (Heather), Rick (Edi), Cheryl (Dan) Gossen; 10 grandchildren; 2 greatgrandchildren
After immigrating to Canada, Nellie met and married Ron. They raised 3 children on farms around the Fraser Valley, B.C. Nellie volunteered at MCC, libraries, and sewing groups, sharing her love, faith, and generous spirit with those around her. Nellie “will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:6).
local crops. After graduating from Prairie Bible Institute, Three Hills, Alta., Katie completed 4 years of high school in 1. She attended normal school, and taught in Vanderhoof, B.C., for 1 year. Gospel Missionary Union called Katie to teach missionary children in Ecuador. After 11 years in South America, she taught 16 years in Kelowna, B.C. In retirement, Katie enjoyed gardening. She looked after her mother for 3 years. At Clearbrook MB Church, Abbotsford, B.C., Katie sang in choirs, helped in the library, and served as funeral treasurer. Despite poor health in her final years, she lived independently and delivered weekly meals to her wheelchair-bound neighbour.
Jacob Toews Feb. 24, 1919–Aug. 2, 2013
BIRTHPLACE: Lichtenau, Ukraine PARENTS: Henry & Katherine (Thiessen) Toews MARRIAGE: Anna Neufeld, 1942 [deceased] BAPTISM: Arnaud (Man.) MB, 1928 CHURCH: Bakerview MB, Abbotsford, B.C. FAMILY: children Herb (Carol), Grant, Walter (Sandra), Mark, Kathryn, Karen (Dana) Carstensen; 8 grandchildren; 4 great-grandchildren
Jacob’s family immigrated to Canada in 1924, settling on a farm in Arnaud, Man. Jacob began his teaching career in 1935. During WWII, Jacob was a CO teacher on United Church mission stations on Lake Winnipeg. After the war, he taught at MB Collegiate Institute, Winnipeg. In 1955, Jacob was called to Mennonite Educational Institute, Abbotsford, B.C., where he taught English and directed plays. After his 1979 retirement, he continued in his love by teaching English to new Canadians, helping many get their driver’s licence. He joined the Golden Strings and played in retirement homes. Jacob was also a member of the Fraser Valley Symphony for 16 years.
Oct. 16, 1921–Aug. 1, 2013
Clifford Henry Nickel Pamela Kutcher Aug. 18, 1965–July 20, 2013
BIRTHPLACE: St. Catharines, Ont. PARENTS: Jay & Kay Neufeld MARRIAGE: Paul Kutcher, July 18, 1987 CHURCH: Crosspoint, Riverwood Church Community, Winnipeg FAMILY: Paul; daughters Jessica (Cody) Forsman, Casey (friend Riley Marsh); parents; 4 siblings; mother-in-law Jennie Kutcher
Oct. 31, 1930–Aug. 9, 2013 BIRTHPLACE: Samara, Russia PARENTS: Jacob & Anna (Duerksen) Martens BAPTISM: South Abbotsford (B.C.) MB, July 3, 1938 CHURCH: Clearbrook MB, Abbotsford FAMILY: sisters Maria, Agnes (Harold) May; 3 nieces
Katie’s family immigrated to Canada in 1926, arriving in Greenland, Man., and settling in Agassiz, B.C., in 1928. In 1934, they moved to Abbotsford, B.C., where her father built a cabin out of railroad ties a logging company left behind. The exertion of carrying water over the hill from the neighbour’s farm prevented An MB pastor’s daughter, Pamela grew up in St. Katie from appreciating the view. Schooling was Catharines, Ont.; Garden City, Kan.; Dinuba, Calif.; regularly interrupted by the need to help harvest
BIRTHPLACE: Borden, Sask. PARENTS: Jacob & Helen (Froese) Nickel MARRIAGE: Leila Fischer, Aug. 25, 1954 CHURCH: Faith River Christian Fellowship, Saskatoon FAMILY: sons Rodney (Darlene), Darrell (Shelley), Wayne, Brian (Paolo), Russell (Lorelei); 5 grandchildren; 4 siblings
Cliff’s love of music came naturally because his family loved to sing together. Cliff accepted the Lord at a young age and was baptized as a teen. During his years at Bethany, he met pianist Leila Fischer. Cliff and Leila loved being with their children and grandchildren. MENNONITE BRETHREN HERALD December 2013
Give gifts of love and compassion
This Christmas, choose a gift that is a personal and meaningful expression of God’s love. Give a teacher the gift of education, your favorite chef a gift of food or your grandparents gifts of health and hope.
Browse and purchase gifts at mcc.org/christmas or call toll free 888.563.4676 to request a printed booklet.
JANUARY 6 - 10, 2014 Dr. Tim Geddert Gospel of Mark
James Penner Youth Culture
Stephen Siemens Restorative Justice
Karen Gibson Adolescent Development
For more than 35 years, ETEM has prepared women and men to spread the word of our Lord across the whole of Québec from our post-secondary institute in Montréal, and we are proud to introduce our new donation catalogue at www.etem.ca/catalogue Making an offering this holiday season on behalf of a family member, friend, or organization has never been easier and more suited to you, the donor! You can select how you would like your donation targeted, whether sponsoring our students on an international mission or providing them with a metro pass for a year!
Mennonite Brethren Herald
9/6/13 12:14 PM
currents CURRENT books The Intolerance of Tolerance D.A. CARSON Eerdmans he last thing any good Canadian wants to be accused of is intolerance. However, regardless of how winsome and gracious our tone may be, articulating an exclusive truth claim with conviction may lead to accusations of intolerance because tolerance is currently defined as accepting and agreeing with differing views. D.A. Carson, in The Intolerance of Tolerance, argues this current definition of tolerance attacks and silences bold articulation of the most inclusively-exclusive truth claim: the gospel of Jesus Christ. Therefore, Christians must be ready to critique this “tolerance,” and point back to its older meaning, so the gospel can be heard for the good news it truly is.—Greg Harris, Northview Community Church, Abbotsford, B.C.
The Unkingdom of God: Embracing the Subversive Power of Repentance MARK VAN STEENWYK InterVarsity Press s it possible the Jesus we follow more clearly reflects North American ideals of security, prosperity, power, and control than the priorities of the Jesus of the New Testament? Mark Van Steenwyk thinks so, and calls the North American church to repentance. The Unkingdom of God is not a feel-good book, nor an easy read. However, it highlights some important ideas. Van Steenwyk calls us to look carefully at the person and ethic of Jesus in the New Testament, identify and release the “baggage” we carry, and discover a radical, new outworking of the gospel. Throughout this gritty critique of the North American church, there are smatterings of hope and joy, attentiveness to the Holy Spirit, and a deep love and commitment to Jesus.—John Best, MB Mission
BOOK note Thanking God with Integrity: Table Graces & Scripture for a World of Need WILLARD METZGER World Vision hen natural disasters strike; when we think about those who don’t have enough to eat; when we consider the condition of creation; how do we pray? World Vision offers a small volume of short table graces “for a world of need.” Organized into sections on hunger, emergency relief, and creation care, each prayer is accompanied by a short Bible verse. The book is filled with colourful images of farm, food, and family.—KB
Read these full-length reviews online under Arts & Culture at www.mbherald.com
COMING EVENTS Pastors Credentialing Orientation June 9–11, 2014 ACTS (located on the campus of Trinity Western University), Langley, B.C.
Gathering 2014 June 11–13, 2014 Vancouver, B.C.
MENNONITE BRETHREN HERALD December 2013
BOOK notes Hope for the Hopeless: The Charles Mulli Mission PAUL H. BOGE ope for the Hopeless, by Paul Boge of North Kildonan MB, is filled with success stories from the 6 Mully Children’s Family homes across Kenya, a mission with 7,000 graduates and some 2,800 children in care. A follow-up to Boge’s award-winning biography of Mulli, Father to the Fatherless, Hope for the Hopeless is the story of a man’s trust in God through health issues, violence, and food shortages; it’s the story of orphaned, abused, and displaced children who’ve finally found a home. Hope won the Word Guild’s 2013 Word award for Culture.—AS
The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From The Tree & Other Mennonite Tales of Our Ancestors CHARIS ROMILLY TURNER urner’s family history, going back to the 1500s, is based on the stories of
her ancestors, including maternal greatgrandfather Knals Plett and great-greatuncle Abraham Toews. While the lineage is sometimes difficult to trace (ancestors of 200 years past are introduced as “our” greatuncle or grandpa), the stories preserved are unique and personal. From a Swiss leader captured for defending his church’s poor fund to a grandfather’s embarrassment over the straw (in place of stocking) spilling from his broken boots at his Grade 6 graduation, this book is filled with personal details of Mennonite life in the Netherlands, Ukraine, Siberia, and Kazakhstan.—AS
How I was Razed: A Journey from Cultism to Christianity BRUCE ATCHISON tchison shares his 15-year ordeal in a toxic house church, where he was pressured into speaking in tongues and condemned for not receiving healing for his visual impairment. Through Christian rock, Hank Hanegraaff’s teachings, and a pastor with a different vision of God’s plan for disabilities, God led Atchison back
to himself. While some readers may not agree with all of Atchison’s views (e.g., that The Message is misleading and evolution is diabolical), Atchison’s experiences serve as a living example of the importance of being grounded in Scripture.—AS
Osée, c’est osé! Le prophète de l’amour de Dieu MARC PARE f your French is up to snuff, dig into this commentary on the prophet Hosea from ETEM professor Marc Paré. “In true evangelical Anabaptist tradition, Paré proposes a reading of Hosea that rigorously explores the book’s historical and religious context and its spiritual and ethical implications for a contemporary audience,” says Pierre Gilbert, associate professor of Bible and theology, CMU, Winnipeg. Available through Éditions Mennonites, the publishing arm of Mennonites in France, Hosea… it’s risqué! The Prophet of God’s Love includes illustrations by cartoonist SPLATT, discussion questions at the end of each chapter, and appendices on Old Testament prophets and the historical context of Hosea.—KB
Dead to sin, alive with C hrist We celebrate with churches who welcomed the following new members by baptism: LA GLACE (Alta.) BIBLE FELLOWSHIP, June 9, 2013: Will Bidne, Tracy Bidne, Cole Bidne, Maddie Bidne. STEINBACH (Man.), June 23, 2013: Aaron Fehr, Madeleine Hiebert, Tyson Kehler, Lolita Winkler. WESTSIDE, Morden, Man., Aug. 18, 2013: Andy Keen, Terry Keen, Nicole Penner, Kenton Hoeppner, Daniel Loewen. CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP CHAPEL, Orillia, Ont., Aug. 25, 2013: Hannah Goddard, Owen Nancekievill, Tom Tomkins. Find great gifts for the bookworms on your list on Kindred Productions’ new website: kindredproductions.com 34
NORTH PEACE, Fort St. John, B.C., Aug. 25, 2013: Julia Klassen, Angela Klassen, Stacey Hansen.
of faith & life
Have a theological Christmas PHIL WAG LER
’m tired of Christmas, and it’s not even here yet. I’m tired of the buying binges and belligerent advertising. The Halloween candy hasn’t been shifted to the discount aisle, and already Santa is peddling stuff we either can’t afford or don’t need. My son’s paper route included Christmasspecific advertising in late September. It’s no wonder people are Christmased out before Christmas ever arrives. It seems Christians fall into two camps when it comes to Christmas: those who seek a synthesis of the cultural and religious celebrations (they have the kneeling Santa ornament) and those who seek to reclaim Christmas from the culture (see www.adventconspiracy.org, for example). These camps tend to have a fairly thin line of tinsel between them, and people jump back and forth merrily. Creative religious synthesis On one hand, we recognize that Christmas as a Christian celebration was initially a co-opting of a pagan Roman festival. It always has been a religious synthesis, and a creative one at that. Earlier Christians were reframing their culture through the lens of the Lordship of Christ. Over time, of course, that morphed into various forms of exclusion and embrace, from outright hostile rejection, to the Dickens Christmas Carol wake-up call, to the pastoral snow-covered-field versions, to the overhyped and staggeringly cheap type of holiday “joy” dangled before us today. Christians have always been baffled by Christmas. We shouldn’t be surprised that once again here we are, trying to figure out what to do with something that is like coffee – both wonderful and horrible all at the same time. We may seek the happy synthesis and mix some Bing Crosby in with our kneeling Santa after we sing carols at church but end up feeling a little dirty when it’s all said and done. We’ll thank God for the blessings but have some pillow talk about
how next year needs to be different, kick ourselves for recycling too many of those charity gift booklets that got lost in the seasonal torrent of mail, and map out a strategy to convince the grandparents to step away from the mall. Giving reorientation On the other hand, we may embrace the healthy reorienting of what Advent Conspiracy calls us to. We’ll find the simplicity of this kingdom-of-God perspective refreshing. Our credit cards will get less worn, or we’ll fill them in order to
employ my theological responsibility to know who God is. Ultimately, that is the rub. The coming of Jesus Christ into this world is not a holiday event but a cosmic one. The incarnation is a theological declaration that redefines every day and helps us know who God is. Jesus, “being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (Philippians 2:6–7).
The incarnation is a theological declaration that redefines every day and helps us know who God is. send hampers to the “needy,” but we’ll still inevitably battle the voices within and without that beckon us in myriad directions. Embracing the conspiracy doesn’t necessarily change the debate – in fact, it may just make us smug on our newfound moral high ground. Tinsel-free becomes the new Pharisaism that separates the godly from those other people. What in the name of Christmas are we to do? I can’t help but find myself in both camps – unable to fully avoid the cultural Christmas, but as a disciple of Jesus, unable to avoid the growing chorus that rightly reorients to the beauty of a different way.
It seems to me that in our Christmas camps we’re still just grasping after something for us (either to be “happy” with what we’ve got or “happy” that we’re not like that anymore) when what we really need is to have this same attitude demonstrated by our Lord, where nothing – not even Christmas – is done out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. This, after all, from a theological perspective, is the only thing that made Christmas possible in the first place. So, lavish a meaningful gift on those you love – and perhaps an enemy. Be generous with your time and resources. But first of all, have a theological Christmas. It may just add meaning to the rest of your year.
Moving beyond happiness And this leads to a much deeper consideration as a Christian at Christmas: I have a missional responsibility to engage my culture and a discipleship responsibility to heed the voice of the Lord over all others – but none of this will actually be worth the card it’s written on if I don’t
Phil Wagler is lead pastor of Gracepoint Community Church, Surrey B.C. He is author of Kingdom Culture: Growing the Missional Church, and – believe it or not – is no bah-humbug. MENNONITE BRETHREN HERALD December 2013
“When the shepherds had seen him, they spread the word... and all who heard it were amazed.” Luke 2:17-18