p a nor a m a Celebrating with the people and congregations of Pacific Southwest Mennonite Conference
s p r i n g 2014
Taking a leaf from Peter Discovering our Identity Celebrating Community Doing Mission Together
ore strikingly than most area conferences, the character of Pacific Southwest Mennonite Conference can be summed up in the word “diversity.” How can such a wide variety of languages, cultures and theological perspectives come together as one in worship, service and community? Folks attending the February assembly of PSMC in Upland, Calif., were invited to grapple with that question under the theme: “Gods People: Discovering our Identity, Celebrating Community and Doing Mission Together.” It began with scripture, as delegates, gathering in small groups, delved into passages from Acts 10 and 11 in which Peter has a vision declaring “unclean” foods clean, and then accepts the Gentile Cornelius’ vision-bidden request to come to his home, where he powerfully experiences the Holy Spirit’s presence in a place he least expected. Cornelius is transformed by the experience, but Peter even more so. Tina Schlabach, leading the session, invited participants to consider what kind of identity shifts happen in this remarkable story, what clues we might find in it to our own identity as a diverse people in the Pacific Southwest, and later: how does the Holy Spirit lower walls of division in this story –– and in our times? Participants noted that the story reflects a step-by-step process as Peter discovers God’s intention to remove the dividing line between Jews and Gentiles. The story also suggests that “nations, languages, tribes –– all those differences are covered up by God’s love”; and that we need to be wary of drawing lines, or at least, as one delegate put it: “Have an eraser close at hand, because God’s Spirit might be saying, ‘erase it.’” Continued next page
3 Churches launch new cross-cultural experiments
Bearing good fruit Meet David Gray, PSMC’s new mission minister
avid Gray is sitting with assorted fruits in front of him as he leads a workshop in church planting at the February assembly of PSMC. They’re a snack, but also a metaphor. The berries –– whose seeds are often spread by birds –– represent the “parachute” church planter. The apple decomposes as it releases its seed, providing nutrients – like the older church that lends its strength to a new church plant. The ginger root reproduces when a bit of itself safely breaks off, like an Continued page 4
Gallery: Fun photos PSMC at work: new Living missionally: News you can use: from our congregations youth opportunities, peacemaking, caring resources for pastors, resources for the poor & creation church and family
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Panorama is a publication of Pacific Southwest Mennonite Conference.
Please help us share what’s going on in your congregation and community. Contributions of news, faith stories and photos are always welcome. Got a Facebook page or digital newsletter? Let us know! Write to the editor, Doreen Martens, at: panorama@ pacificsouthwest.org 905-829-9640
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Participants reflect on scripture together in small groups at the February assembly, held at what is now Upland Peace Church.
Gambo Dakwakas and Camille Quotskuyva, a member of the Hopi nation, were at opposite ends of a wide spectrum as delegates lined up in order of their family’s arrival. The game helped explore our identity as a body of faith, old and emerging. Continued from page 1 The story reveals the two-way conversion and mutual risk that missional activity involves, participants noted, as well as a radical vision of hospitality. Have we been converted sufficiently to receive the stranger’s hospitality, and to welcome the stranger into our midst? None of this was easy for Peter, nor was it part of a “program.” Peter was afraid of being contaminated, but when the Spirit nudged him, he was prepared to follow. And out of that came a radical shift in the believers’ understanding of identity, community and mission. Major shifts are happening in our own faith community, it was noted. “In this conference we have Mennonites who have been in the community a long time and new Mennonites (particularly immigrants from many cultures) coming together in the fold. So that raises questions for us: How do we understand our new identity, what God is doing, and how do we make the appropriate shift?” A delightful exercise led by Sue Park-Hur illustrated this point about identity, as delegates were asked to line up (in a circle around the sanctuary) in order of their family’s arrival in the United States. Ranging from Gambo Dakwakas, who’d been in the U.S. just seven weeks, to Camille Quotskuyva, whose Hopi ancestors were among the Southwest’s original inhabitants, the circle drew a living picture of the rich heritage of our family of faith. Are we really so different? Speaker Matthew Krabill offered some reflections drawn from his historical research on immigrants, suggesting that perhaps the differences between us are not so stark at all. In fact, in a series of interesting anecdotes he illustrated the remarkable parallels between the experiences of the groups he has been studying –– the “Russian” Mennonites who came in the 1870s and 1920s, and recent African immigrants: • A painful separation from the homeland, and finding oneself an alien in a strange land. • A sense of being in a spiritual wilderness, sometimes accompanied by a fear of deportation • Often, a need to start over in a new profession or, for church leaders, a need to be bivocational • Debt and financial struggles that place a special burden on the
church • Churches struggling to help their members navigate all the struggles of adaptation, documentation, medical needs, joblessness, translation, family separation • Children progressing faster than their parents in adapting to a new language and culture; and sometimes being called upon to help support the family, perhaps in domestic or precarious work • A strong affinity for the people left behind, and concern for the family of faith spread around the world, which often keeps pastors juggling a lot of balls at once and preoccupies the church’s prayer and financial life • As the community is established, an urge to build institutions: a local church, then agencies, schools and the like. “The interesting thing for me is that in Southern California, we are in a time in some ways very similar to 100 years ago,” Krabill said. “It’s a situation that Mennonites in California and other places have faced: They were searching for a common identity, they were scattered. As time went by, they began to build and create institutions that served their identity. ... It begs the question: Are there things God is calling us to that are unique to PSMC that will serve the diverse immigrant community we have here?” Personal stories of immigration shed more light on the similarities of experience: from Henny van der Zwaag, who immigrated to the U.S. as a bride, to Rina Kusuma, whose family left Indonesia amid the anti-Christian violence of the 1990s, to Sue Park-Hur, who spoke about the unique challenges and opportunities of being part of the “1.5 generation” –– not entirely American, but not entirely Korean, either. Conference Minister Dick Davis –– standing in 110year-old First Mennonite Church of Upland, now undergoing a remarkable shift toward being a multicultural congregation –– reflected on the importance of recognizing and honoring our history but also realizing that it is a foundation on which God can build a new identity if we are open to God’s nudges. “These are shifts that are happening throughout our conference in various ways, some more subtle, or more dramatic. As we go through this shift, we’re going to meet resistance. But airplanes need resistance to stay airborne; we need to recognize the good in that. ... I have a sense that what we’re doing in PSMC and our member churches is experimenting, toying with this truth that God has laid before us. To me, these are exciting times.”
Being the church across cultures
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M o u n t a i n V i e w Mountain View members and guests, many of them Korean-American, gather at the March 30 installation service for the Hurs.
hen Hyun Hur and wife Sue left the Korean-language house church they founded, Church for Others, in the hands of a new pastor (Pablo Kim), it was with the intention of devoting their attentions to their fledgling peace ministry, ReconciliAsian, and to someday launching a companion church for Koreans in the L.A. area. So they were unprepared for an invitation that came from Mountain View, a traditional, aging Mennonite congregation in Upland, whose longtime pastor, Roger Richer, retired. Would they consider a pastorate there? At first they said no, thinking it wasn’t a good match. But “when the community asked us a second time, we decided we needed to take it seriously ... because sometimes God speaks to us through the community,” Hyun says. When they brought it to the ReconciliAsian board, chair Al Dueck suggested thinking outside the box, Sue recalls: “Instead of working there part-time as they’re asking, ask them for a full-time position and include church planting as part of the job description.” To their surprise, the church responded positively, saying they’d been reluctant to ask for more than half time, knowing the Hurs had other obligations. Thus was born a unique partnership: a long-rooted church prepared to support the Hurs’ work to plant a new Korean fellowship based in their own building, while giving them time for their peacebuilding work as well. The Hurs have found there’s a fairly substantial Korean community in the Upland area, so there are strong possibilities for local outreach.
For the Hurs, the call to co-pastor at Mountain View, where they began work in January, has parallels to Paul’s experience, who wondered why the Spirit kept hindering him from going to Asia, but understood why when he received a call from the Macedonians. “For me (the church’s enthusiasm) was kind of a confirmation,” Sue says. The seeds for this partnership were unknowingly planted early on; in 2009, the church offered its space for the first international Korean Anabaptist Fellowship meeting. A gift from a Korean pastor –– a little paper lamp –– has perched on the church’s piano ever since. Pastoring cross-culturally, especially in what for Hyun is a second language, can be a challenge, but “people here have been so encouraging,” says Sue, who largely grew up in the U.S. “Hyun and I always say, you know, we’d have a harder time in a Korean-American church because they’d be more critical of his English, but in an Anglo church you can’t be critical of someone’s accent –– at least not to your face,” she says, laughing. A friend recently reminded them that those called to be missionaries must learn the culture and language “and really dig in.” Hyun says that, as a convinced Anabaptist in a culture suspicious of Mennonites, he’d thought of himself as “a missionary to the Koreans, in a way.” The invitation to minister at Mountain View is giving him the opportunity to approach language the way any cross-cultural missionary would do it. “We feel like it’s a blessing that he has an opportunity to hone his English,” says Sue, “and to realize that we are missionaries in America not only to Koreans, but to Americans.”
rafting is the process of joining new branches to old rootstock in the hopes of making a strong and unified hybrid. It’s work, but the abundant fruit that can result from a successful graft makes the effort worthwhile. Grafting an immigrant congregation onto a deeply rooted (since 1903) Mennonite community in Upland is even harder work, but Pastor Nehemiah Chigoji –– who grew up in Nigeria –– is hopeful that the merger of First Mennonite Upland with Gereja Kristus Injili Upland into a whole new entity, Upland Peace Church, will prove similarly fruitful. The two congregations had been meeting together for major celebrations for years. When GKI moved in a few years back, the original plan was to worship in separate rooms. But somehow that didn’t feel right, since they were already in a “courtship,” says Chigoji. So they experimented, first with simultaneous interpretation into Indonesian and then, for the sake of the younger generation, English-only. GKI knew “they were losing their children to American churches because they didn’t want to associate themselves with the Indonesian culture for worship; the experience was not the same for them. Coming here, they found this to be a home they can connect
U p l a n d P e a c e
Pastor ‘Nemi’ Chigoji plays guitar at the February assembly, left; Indonesian members of his church play hymns on the angklung, a traditional Indonesian bamboo instrument.
C h u r c h
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Bearing good fruit: David Gray
Continued from page 1 older church birthing a daughter congregation. And the seedless grapes don’t reproduce naturally –– an outside agent facilitates their cultivation. In the church’s case, that agent may be an outside organization. For Gray, who had just been confirmed as PSMC’s new minister of mission, the last example is especially familiar. He’s a member of First Mennonite San Francisco, a church born out of a Mennonite Voluntary Service unit. VS workers who fell in love with the city and stayed met together and formed a lively, urban, service-oriented congregation. Gray’s journey to San Francisco was a bit different, though Christian service has been a huge part of his life. He holds an M.Div. degree and has served as a conflict mediator, pastoral intern and boys and girls’ club director in Fresno, as a youth pastor in British Columbia, and as assistant director of Trek, a youth discipleship program. He has training in restorative justice and peacemaking, experience with gang violence and mar-
Being the church across cultures Continued from page 3 to. The kids can remain in the Mennonite church, and the catch will be that the service will be in English,” Chigoji explained. Established by Mennonites of European origin, the church is now a grand melting pot that includes people of Indonesian, Chinese, Mexican, Nigerian, Dutch and Polish heritage. In 2013, the congregations agreed to an official merger, and also to a name change to ensure everyone felt they fully belonged. Starting with more than 60 suggestions, they whittled the choice down to Upland Peace Church and began working on a new constitution and bylaws, which were finalized in February –– marking the birth of a new church with a long history. Chigoji is the sole paid pastor, with GKI leaders Yusak and Rina Kusuma, Mathilda Koeshadi and Slamet Mustangin rounding out the pastoral team. Chigoji believes several factors make it easier for him to negotiate the cultural and communication challenges: one is that his own family is cross-cultural (wife Agnes is Polish and a linguistics expert); he also comes from a developing country; and, through an accident of history, he can even understand a bit of Indonesian. His home language, Hausa, like Indonesian, has some words of Arabic origin. He and his family made an extended visit to Indonesia last year, which “was a huge help” in terms of understanding those he ministers to, he says. One tradition the Indonesian group brought to the blend is the habit of eating together after worship, with a rotation of cooks to prepare the food. The menu varies, but one thing doesn’t change. “Everywhere the Indonesians go, they take rice with them,” Chigoji jokes. Older members of the congregation may not be as comfortable with the weekly prepared lunch, “but everybody from the community, the Hispanics, young people, Indonesian people – they’re always downstairs. I think that’s where the real fellowship happens for a lot of people. There’s just something about sitting down and eating together that solidifies a sense of relationship between people.” Chigoji admits the merger has not come without discomfort, and even the loss of a few longtime members. He’d love to see members of neighbouring churches step up for a few months to help the congregation get on its feet, for instance by bolstering the music ministry. The future path isn’t entirely clear, but “reproducing” –– reaching out to the community and forming the faith of the next generation –– will be a priority. Chigoji feels a sense that in this experiment, there’s “something unique that we’re doing. I feel if it succeeds, we’ll probably have a model that we can pass on.”
ginalization, and a passion for working in cross-cultural contexts. He and wife Heidi, a school therapist and mom to their 5-year-old son, also served as church planters in Montreal, which proved as much a cross-cultural experience as any foreign mission work. “The culture there is very unique,” he recalls. Until the 1960s, Quebec was a place where about 98 percent of the population went to church on Sunday, where schools were divided into Protestant and Catholic systems, and the tithe was almost a tax bill. An anti-clerical rebellion called the Quiet Revolution abruptly changed all that. Today, only about 3 percent of Quebecers attend church, making it a truly “post-Christendom” culture –– and a lesson in finding new ways to “do church” when being a Christian becomes truly counter-cultural. Small Anabaptist congregations there are struggling, he says, in a culture that sees religion as “almost a plague on society.” “After about six months we said: We need to figure out a way of living out the Gospel, living out what it means to be Jesus-followers in a way people would understand.” So they started a Ten Thousand Villages store, which drew community volunteers; they led simple-living groups; had movie nights where they’d show peace and justice films followed by discussion. Little by little, these efforts began to show fruit. Gray vividly recalls one volunteer at an orientation session, where he’d explained Villages was founded by Christians who wanted to live out Jesus’s teaching in tangible ways. “She looked at me and said: I went to a Protestant school, I had religious instruction all through my education, and I knew there had to be something good in religion, but I never heard that; I only heard the bad. When I see what you guys are doing here, I see there is something good in Christianity.” U.S. society is changing too, Gray says. “The way church has been done in the past will no longer work in the future. I think postChristendom in the U.S. is going to look really different than it does in Canada. But the multicultural element that PSMC is working at and struggling with is at the forefront of where I think the church is going. “Resourcing that is going to be hard work, but it’s already been started, and I feel that PSMC has positioned itself really well in recognizing these things. We have so many churches that are modelling that,” he says, naming Reedley (Spanish/English) Mennonite Community in Fresno (English/Hmong), Mountain View (English/Korean); and Upland Peace (English/Indonesian). At the same time, he’s aware of being privileged as a white, middleclass, educated male. Working in this new milieu, “It’s going to be a lot of learning, walking slowly, humbly, asking lots of questions. But my passion has always been about cross-cultural interactions.” The experience of sitting through many meetings conducted in French, realizing that with his limited language skills he could only share so much of himself and his gifts, “allowed me to recognize that what people see is not always all that’s there. And I want to be aware of that and be sensitive to language issues, to give people time to understand things, maybe to say things more than once until they’re understood.” A few years ago, he found himself carpooling for about six hours a week with a Spanish-speaking Catholic youth pastor, with whom he talked about Hispanic culture non-stop. It was a humbling experience. “That allowed me to realize that I had no understanding of Hispanic culture,” he says with a laugh. “And I grew up in Reedley.” Developing leaders in their own communities will be a key part of his work, and one of the things Gray sees himself doing in his new role is helping people identify their internal passions as they explore ministry. Does he see a lot of missional potential in the Pacific Southwest? “To be honest, it almost feels like there’s too much potential. There are a lot of seedlings coming up. I think PSMC has done a great job of recognizing that they need to allow those seed funds they have to be spread out a lot. We can come alongside, we can offer emotional, spiritual, some financial resources, hopefully coaching,” but not everything will work. “We’ll have to see what emerges, what survives.”
Gallery: Snapshots from PSMC congregations
First Mennonite Paso Robles shared Easter joy with the community by putting their newly “flowered” cross outside for all to enjoy, above. The church also held an Easter egg hunt for the kids, left. Maundy Thursday at Mountain View included hand-washing, right. There’s always something interesting going on at Maranatha in Northridge. Gotta love their use of restaurantstyle menu boards to advertise coming events, left.
Above: Maranatha Christian Fellowship kids perform for Easter. Right: Who needs fuddy-duddy name tags when your greeters have awesome T-shirts? The “here-to-help” shirts say “Host” on the other side.
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If Lent is a time for solemnity, Easter is a time for smiles and joy. Mennonite Community Church in Fresno took that a step further by marking Holy Humor Sunday on April 27, the first Sunday after Easter, as a time to “celebrate the gifts of joy and laughter, to extend the merriment of Easter for at least another week.” Participants were invited to share their favorite jokes, and most of all, to celebrate the Resurrection, when “God had the last laugh” over the powers of death. Above, Pastor Gordon Smith delivers a few knock-knock jokes as well as a sermon in a setting decorated for fun.
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Welcoming new churches
men Ministries International Church in Las Vegas, Nev., has begun a discernment process to determine whether the congregation might join PSMC. The congregation, led by pastors Joseph and Caroline Adeosun, were introduced at the 2012 summer assembly in San Francisco. Pastor Joseph described his congregation to Conference Minister Dick Davis as a “joyful church that is full of the Holy Ghost and happy people. It is a mission based multinational church.” Conference Minister Dick Davis with Joseph and Caroline Adeosun, above. PSMC youth minister John Murray, below.
Below: Eight women were among the participants in the Frenchlanguage theological education consultation in Kinshasa, Congo, including PSMC church congregant Martine Akwa Mfwilwakanda, fifth from left.
SMC’s new mission grant program –– which will draw on conference reserves to provide seed money for worthy mission efforts by member congregations –– disbursed its first grant in February, even though parameters for the fund were still in the works. On request from Mennonite Mission Network and Mennonite Central Committee, the conference helped sponsor travel costs for a PSMC rep to attend the firstever international consultation on theological education among French-speaking Mennonites, in Kinshasa, Congo, Feb. 26-28. Among the 45 participants from nine countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Canada, Chad, Congo, France, Ivory Coast, Switzerland and the U.S.) was Martine Akwa Mfwilwakanda, from the French-speaking Wholicare Community Mission Church, a PSMC member congregation in Pasadena. Mfwilwakanda is a deaconess and active in women’s ministry at Wholicare, which was founded by Mfwilwakanda’s father in 1994, after his studies at Fuller Seminary. “The conference was truly a blessing to me, a double blessing since it was held in Congo,” said Mfwilwakanda, who lived there until she was 18. “It was a great experience for me to join many humble servants of God and to hear about their work, their backgrounds, their challenges, and their plans for the future of their institutions.” The consultation grew out of a need identified by the Francophone Mennonite Network, launched in 1999 under the auspices of Mennonite World Conference. This loosely organized body of Anabaptist theologians and church leaders attempts to foster global relationships and encourage Anabaptist understanding among Frenchspeaking Mennonites. Informal conversations within the Francophone Network have often focused on the importance of theological education in relation to Mennonite identity. There are some
French-language Bible institutes, but none offering a seminary degree. So, many French-speaking Mennonite church leaders are trained in interdenominational institutions. Aside from Democratic Republic of Congo’s large Mennonite population (235,000), French-speaking Mennonites are usually small minorities in their countries. Through the efforts of the Network, French-speaking Mennonites are beginning to develop cooperative relationships. The importance of theological education in a Mennonite perspective was strongly affirmed, for the good of the church and its mission. Non-Mennonite schools invited to participate expressed interest in having a greater Anabaptist perspective in their curriculum, particularly in nations where there are compelling reasons to focus on a theology of peace, reconciliation and forgiveness. Mfwilwakanda said she was grateful to learn about French-language theological institutions around the world and that there is Mennonite literature available in French also. “The services we had every morning [at the Kinshasa conference] and every message that was preached touched my heart in a very special way,” she said. “It made me want to go into ministry full-time.” Mfwilwakanda believes that although there are few Mennonites in the United States who minister in French, they can support each other by being connected and sharing news and information about what is happening in their church contexts. “French-speaking Mennonites can bring more members to the worldwide church by winning more souls for Jesus,” she said. See http://bit.ly/1noeg3X for more on the consutation. – adapted from an MMN news release
Serving kids & youth
SMC Youth Minister John Murray is reminding parents about some great activities this summer for kids and youth. 1. June 9-12 is Tonto Rim Children’s Camp, in Payson, Ariz, a shorter camp for kids in the 3rd-8th grade. This year's theme is “Stories of our Faith,” where kids will hear stories of our Anabaptist roots and be challenged to make the story their own. 2. The June 20-21 PSMC Summer Assembly, hosted by Trinity Mennonite in Glendale, Ariz., will include special youth activities Friday and Saturday, including a service/learning project and a fun social event. Congregations are invited to bring their youth groups along that weekend for a great time together. 3. Camp Keola’s camps for junior high (July 13-19) and senior high youth (July 20-26) will focus on the theme of the Upside Down Kingdom. Students from across PSMC will spend a week enjoying the spectacular Sierra lakeside setting with all the great camp activities, as well as delving into scripture and getting to know other kids from across our diverse conference. Keola is also a great bargain this year: It’s offering 50% off to first-time campers, and $75 off for each new camper they bring.
Conference at work Developing leaders
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ne of PSMC’s ongoing services to member congregations is a series of short courses offered for pastors, leaders and potential leaders of congregations, typically completed in two or three sessions. These small-group courses, required to move toward ordination in PSMC –– but open to anyone interested –– offer the basics of Anabaptist history and theology, biblical interpretation, pastoral ethics and leadership from a Mennonite perspective. Given the diversity of PSMC member congregations, they can also be specially adapted for specific settings and languages. In March, a Pastoral Ethics class was taught in English and Korean in Temple City. In May, the class Leadership & Authority from an Anabaptist Perspective, taught by Dr. Stan Friesen, was offered at Mountain View church in Upland, and again at Mennonite Community in Fresno, where it was uniquely targeted to Hmong church leaders. For more information, visit pacificsouthwest.org/ resources/pastors/pli-classes . The current plan is to present these courses in evennumbered years, while a series of “table talk” meetings on issues of current relevance to member churches will be offered in odd-numbered years.
hat better time to celebrate our unity in Christ across lines of culture and language than while celebrating the Resurrection? Three Pasadenaarea congregations put their cross-cultural passions into practice on the first Sunday after Easter, by coming together for a joint, multicultural worship service, including Church for Others (Korean); Jemaat Kristen Indonesia Anugerah (mainly Indonesian), Pasadena Mennonite Church (predominantly Anglo). The event, hosted by JKI Anugerah in Sierra Madre, was “a wonderful time together,” reports PMC member Rob Muthiah. The Indonesian church band led singing at the beginning and pastor Virgo Handojo led in prayer. A choir from Church for Others sang and pastor Pablo Kim preached a sermon in which he made connections to our common Mennonite tradition and suffering as part of the way of following Jesus. A PMC group then led in the Lord’s supper. Wholicare Community Mission Church, a mainly French-speaking Congolese congregation in Pasadena, brought greetings. After the service, the Indonesian church provided a bountiful dinner of chicken, potatoes, salad and watermelon. “I found it delightful to worship with brothers and sisters from all over the world brought together by our common faith in Christ and our Anabaptist tradition!” Muthiah writes. Evidently others did, too; participants expressed hope that the joint service can become a regular tradition.
eAngela Williams Gorrell (above, with leadership chair Thea DeGroot, Conference Minister Dick Davis and moderator Femi Fatunmbi) was ordained in a joyful May 4 service at Pasadena Mennonite Church, where she has served for several years as the congregation’s minister to children and youth. “The service was a wonderful mix of my favorite hymns and a joyful blend of two extraordinary sermons,” wrote Conference Minister Dick Davis, reflecting on the event. “Two very talented high school seniors were the co-speakers who preached two of the best sermons I have listened to in a long time. It was a lovely mix of old and new and it made my spirit jump. With such voices I think the Church is in good hands.” eKent Beck (right) was ordained to the Gospel Ministry on March 2. The church where he has been serving for some time, Koinonia Mennonite Church in Chandler, Ariz., planned a lovely service of ordination followed by a potluck lunch enjoyed outdoors. “It was a blessed day,” Davis reflected. eOn March 30, Mountain View Mennonite Church celebrated (right) the ordination of Hyun Hur, licensing of Sue Park Hur and installation of both as co-pastors of the congregation in Upland, Calif. Members of Church for Others, which the Hurs founded in Temple City, Calif., were on hand to sing an opening song in the celebration, which also included representatives from Mennonite Mission Network as well as nearby congregations Upland Peace Church and Peace Mennonite Fellowship.
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We’re on YouTube! Would your congregation like to share something about your church and ministries with other congregations around the Pacific Southwest? Do you have a program you would like to highlight? PSMC has a YouTube channel that we’d like to use to publicize what you’re up to and help PSMC churches get to know one another better. If you’d like to share a short video clip with the rest of us, please email it to agneschigoji@ pacificsouthwest.org .
We’re on Facebook! Add Pacific Southwest Mennonite Conference to your newsfeed and invite others to join, too. PSMC has an open group, so you can contribute your own thoughts and church news.
If your church were a cookie, what kind would it be? Several churches answered that question with homemade treats at the February PSMC assembly. Sunnyslope, in Phoenix, brought four kinds, one of them gluten-free to represent their willingness to accommodate and welcome everyone.
As the Spirit leads How PSMC folk are living out their faith in the Southwest
want to be part of this." Despite skepticism about Mennonites and peace theology among the broader Korean Christian community, ReconciliAsian's work is gradually gaining traction. New N Joy, an online Korean Christian newspaper, publicized the South Bay program. n intergenerational group from Trinity Mennonite A Church in Glendale, Ariz., headed to Rocky Point (Puerto Peñasco), Mexico, in February for the church’s
econciliAsian, the Southern Californiabased Mennonite peace ministry led by Hyun and Sue Park Hur, began an intensive five-week peace and justice discipleship school in the South Bay area on April 28, focused on Korean-speaking Christians. The Journey Towards Reconciliation 2 curriculum, featuring a variety of speakers, explores the centrality of the gospel of peace and reconciliation, delving into topics such as restorative justice, living together in solidarity with the poor, peace spirituality, restorative humanity, peace in the Korean Peninsula, housing justice, interpersonal conflict transformation, and restorative education. Through the previous Journey Towards Reconciliation program, Hyun and Sue got to know an educator named Clara who has a rich cross-cultural background and who, through many difficult experiences as an Asian woman, has come to see the importance of learning conflict transformation skills. “For Clara, however, the most difficult conflict to reconcile has been her fear of North Korea, the country where her parents were born,” writes Sue in the ReconciliAsian.com blog. “JTR1 has helped her in her journey to reconcile with North Korea. She realized that her hope and prayer for a unified Korea is real. ‘I have crossed the line [from fear to reconciliation]. I had never imagined ever visiting North Korea, but I now think I can take steps to do this. This is huge for me!’” Her own transformation compelled Clara to become part of the planning team for JRT2: “I’ve decided to commit to ReconciliAsian because I see that what this organization does is very important. I’m not going to sacrifice my time if I don’t see the value in it. I see the staff working with a genuine heart to follow the way of Jesus, and I
third annual house building trip with i6eight Ministries. Each year, the church carves out a weekend to go together as a community, built a home for a family and build and strengthen relationships with people in the community there. Each member of the group, which has ranged from toddlers to retirees, plays a role –– whether it’s to swing a hammer, cut wood, paint or simply spend intentional time in community with the people they meet. i6eight Ministries (based on Isaiah 6: 8) is dedicated to transforming lives in Mexico through Christ, by serving the poor, particularly building sturdy houses for people living in makeshift slum dwellings. Trinity volunteers work with local people to build a cement base, gather to reflect camp-style, and celebrate the completion of new houses.
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ircles of Support and Accountability in Fresno, a Mennonite-created program in Fresno that uses small groups of volunteers to help sex offenders (known as “core members”) stay on the right path after release from prison, is in a time of stabilizing and rebuilding, reports director Clare Ann Ruth Heffelbower. There are currently 14 Circles in the Fresno program, with four core members on state parole, two who have chosen to continue in a circle after completing parole, three on federal probation, one who remained after completing federal probation because he felt he needed ongoing support and accountability, and four who were released from state hospitals. Here is a shortened testimonial from Frank, a core member of one circle as well as a volunteer in another. A fuller version of his story can be read at peace.fresno.edu/cosa/stories/Frank's_story.pdf
n amazing piece of street theatre, capped by the towering figure of Lady Wisdom, highA lighted this year’s Palm Sunday Peace Parade in Pasadena, an event founded by Pasadena Mennonite Church at the dawn of the Iraq War, which now draws other churches and has inspired similar parades in other cities. PMC artists Gloria Newton and Karen Newe were the masterminds behind this year’s larger-than-life figures and props. On the theme of “Love, Not Mammon,” the event included a parade to the Paseo Colorado, a downtown mall in the city’s political/commercial heart, accompanied by palm branches, donkeys (ridden by children), giant doves and other figures, singing and prayer. Lady Wisdom is drawn from Proverbs 8: “Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice? On the heights, beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand; beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries out: “To you, O people, I call, and my cry is to all that live. O simple ones, learn prudence; acquire intelligence, you who lack it. Hear, for I will speak noble things, and from my lips will come what is right; for my mouth will utter truth’ ...” In the lively scene acted out on the street, when Mammon and his minions attack, Lady Wisdom rushes to the rescue. In her speech capping the street theatre, echoing Proverbs and other scripture, she speaks of remembering the wisdom God has planted deep in us, calling for repentance for our violence and greed, our willingness to destroy the earth to enrich ourselves, while the poor, the oppressed, and Creation itself suffers: “I am the knowledge within you that you cannot live at another’s expense; you cannot thrive by destroying the earth; that you cannot enjoy abundance that is fueled by poverty.” You can watch a YouTube video of the street theatre presentation at http://bit.ly/1tTVpxi hurch for Others, the Korean-language PSMC member congregation based in Temple C City, Calif., is urging prayers and letters of encouragement for Sang-Min Lee, the first Mennonite in South Korea to declare himself a conscientious objector and refuse his mandatory two years of military service. South Korea does not recognize CO status, has no options for alternative service, and typically jails military refusers for 18 months, as well as slapping them with a criminal record that may affect their life and career choices for many years to come. Watch a video interview with this courageous young man at http://bit.ly/1m5k3aT. You can sign up to write a letter in his support at the Bearing Witness Project (which enables Anabaptist communities worldwide to share their stories of costly discipleship) at http://www.martyrstories.org/co-letter-campaign/
n April 14, 1997, my world changed; I went to state prison. 15 years and four days later, on April 18, 2012, I left Coalinga State Hospital to start my new life. Prison taught life and death lessons. The hospital taught me how to communicate and to understand why I chose to hurt others. On April 18, 2012, I arrived in Fresno. My COSA group taught me to stay accountable and adjust to my new environment. I know I made terrible mistakes. Some people believe I do not deserve to be in the community; that I am not fit for society. Some are afraid to give any support because they believe they are protecting everyone by hating and alienating me. This attitude does not benefit any community. Instead, this causes an offender to remain imprisoned by the hatred. If a community hates and alienate me, they are hurting themselves. This is why COSA is the answer for the community and for me. The community learns acceptance and forgiveness. l learn I cannot change my past, I can only change my future. I believe COSA and Clare Ann are a Godsend. COSA gives me the chance to redefine my life. COSA keeps me aware of how valuable I am. COSA proves that hating is wrong by using restorative justice to rebuild the community and an offender and to help me see I have the power to change my future. COSA shares a love and compassion that moves me and humbles me to recognize divine forgiveness. COSA is the best thing that ever happened to me.
COSA has taken on Monica Heredia, who is studying to become a family therapist, in the role of Circle Coordinator. Heredia is also facilitating a new program: a support group for spouses of people who have committed sexual offenses. COSA has also renewed a strong working relationship with California State Parole, and has received more requests and referrals. More Circles are being developed and will need volunteers. If you’re interested in being trained for this difficult but important work, contact email@example.com.
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Did you know? On the Way/En el Camino is the theme for Mennonite Church USA’s next convention, June 30-July 5, 2015. The message: Developing a firm faith foundation doesn't happen overnight. "Christ is our focus, and our lifelong journey is to follow him," said Glen Guyton, director of Convention Planning. "We want to acknowledge that and spend some focusing on what it means to be on a journey with Jesus and how that changes our daily encounters with people." The theme scripture is Luke 24. On the new Kansas City 2015 website, you can watch a video about the youth convention and download the latest edition of the convention newsletter online. Visit convention.mennoniteusa.org.
What’s the scoop? People and events
he Southern California Festival and Sale for World Relief, May 16 & 17, brought together volunteers from a wide range of Anabaptist congregations, including many PSMCers, to raise more than $83,000 for Mennonite Central Committee. The festival featured traditional quilt and collectibles auctions, a family area with bounce houses, face painting and storytelling, and food booths that showcased the cultural diversity of Southern California Anabaptists, from funnel cakes to African suyah chicken. Among the unusual items auctioned off were two free tickets donated by Southwest Airlines. The sale, held on the grounds of the Pacific Christian Center in Upland, also featured a plant sale, baked goods, homemade ice cream and a kids’ auction. The West Coast Mennonite Relief Sale, a Fresnoarea tradition for decades, raised about $200,000 with a similar mix of live and silent auctions and food sales in April. Traditional Russian Mennonite foods are especially popular at the sale, including vereniki (cottage cheese dumplings), zwiebach (fresh buns) and raisin fritters. More than $76,000 of the total raised came in through the ever-popular quilt sale, which featured about 250 quilts this year, some selling for $2,000 or more. There are about 45 Mennonite “relief sales” held around the continent each year, run entirely by volunteers with donated goods so that every penny raised goes to support the relief, development and peace work of Mennonite Central Committee.
rinity Mennonite Church in Glendale, Ariz., held a “Curry Bash Fundraiser” on April 11 in support of Menno-Clinic India. A celebration featuring Indian food was followed by a report from John Murray (PSMC’s youth minister) sharing pictures and stories from his trip to India, where he accompanied a group of Hesston College nursing students in his capacity as a member of the board of the Menno-Clinic. A vision of Dr. Subbarao and Olga Yarlagadda and the Emma Mennonite Church in Indiana, the organization provides affordable medical, dental & eye clinics to Chiluvuru, India, “expressing Christ's love to all through presence, service, and proclamation.” ennonite Church USA’s “On theWay” M blog, calling for congregational action, recently featured Church for Others, based in
Church for Others is a house church serving Korean immigrants. It’s led by Pablo Kim.
Temple City, Calif., as a model for engaging in mutual aid to offer resources to immigrants regardless of their status. “Our congregation does not have a program to help with immigration reform or to find ways to help immigrant people, since we ourselves are an immigrant community and every day we seek to survive. There are lots of challenges, but at the same time, there is joy in our journey! Being a Korean-Mennonite church, we try to be an alternative church community and a model for many Korean Christians who are deeply disappointed with typical Korean churches.”
Top: the food area at the Southern California sale. Above: A timeless tradition at the Fresno sale: auctioning handmade quilts to raise money for MCC. The Corinthian Plan, the Everence health insurance program for Mennonite Church USA church staff, is doing well, according to outgoing director Keith Harder and incoming director Duncan Smith. About 400 congregations are participating in the plan, which is –– unlike most health insurance –– based on hours of paid work/ministry, not on income. The plan has been important to PSMC congregations in particular because of the number of bivocational leaders in our conference, who until the advent of the Affordable Care Act might not have been eligible for other plans. “Our numbers indicate that the risk we have right now is manageable and sustainable, and the board is watching that carefully," Harder said, while adding that the board will continue to review the impact of the Affordable Care Act and monitor denominational participation. halom Mennonite Fellowship in Tucson sent a letS ter signed by Pastor Bryce Miller and 20 members to Gov. Jan Brewer in February asking her to veto Arizona’s so-called religious freedom bill, targeted at LGBT people, which would have allowed businesses to refuse service to anyone on religious grounds, even if doing so violated the state’s public accommodation law. The letter pointed out that the broader church has too often been on the wrong side of history in matters such as slavery, and has “expected religious privilege to hold society hostage to the worst of our fears, prejudices, and alltoo-human inclinations.” In this legislation, the letter said, “some are asking government to shelter those who mistrust and fear under the guise of religious freedom.”
“I have seen firsthand the pain that our laws meant to address invented problems create, receiving much anger and grief as my denomination processed removing our convention from Phoenix as a consequence of SB1070 [the state’s draconian anti-migrant bill],” Miller wrote. The religious freedom bill would “further entrench us as a place which is not loving, not accepting, and unsafe to be if you do not fit the mainstream,” he said, asking Brewer to veto it for the sake of “the best of Judeo Christian values.” Brewer did in fact veto the bill on Feb. 26. os Angeles Faith Chapel is facing foreclosure on the L congregation’s property in Inglewood, Calif., after falling too far behind in payments on a debt of more than $600,000. The church’s initial loan came from MC USA’s Church Extension Services (now part of Everence) in 2002. It took a second loan in 2005 to buy a building it hoped to use as a homeless shelter, but after the city refused permission for a shelter, the church was forced to sell the new building at a loss. With the size of the debt remaining, the payments became too much to handle, and the church filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy this spring. There is disagreement between the church’s leaders and Everence as to whether there were good-faith efforts on the opposite side to avoid a foreclosure. According to a statement released by Everence in May, president Larry Miller sent a letter to the church’s lawyer in June 2013 saying that, after extensive review, “it remains clear that both Church Extension Services and Everence have acted ethically, morally, legally and even generously in their dealings with Los Angeles Faith Chapel.” It said Everence can’t comment further because the situation is in legal process. In a May 6 open letter, pastors at L.A. Faith –– founders Chuwang and Grace Pam, Effiem Obasi Otah, Isaac Godfrey and Douglas Yoder –– asked Mennonite Church USA to mediate. Pastor Chuwang Pam expressed hope that if the larger church weighs in, the issue could still be resolved. Moderator Femi Fantunmbi says that, in addition to several efforts to mediate, he helped the church draft steps to pay the debt. “I think we did our best. But it didn’t work out,” he told Mennonite World Review. “Please give L.A. Faith another chance for the sake of stewardship and the mission,” Fatunmbi said, appealing to Everence. “These immigrant churches today that are not doing well, they will become like the Anglo churches tomorrow. So it’s good to treat those that are your mission churches very well.” Conference Minister Dick Davis said in an update to church leaders that the area conference became involved in the situation about one and a half years ago, and “worked hard to broker a satisfactory agreement between the two parties, but without success. ... At this late date, I remain hopeful that a third option may emerge. Please keep LAFC and Everence in your prayers.”
entry after her return from Afghanistan. She is one of four finalists and two winners of the MLK contest from the small Mennonite middle/secondary school – the other being her older sister, Madeleine – in the past three years. Audrey has put her peaceful faith into action in many ways: by serving meals at the Union Station homeless program, writing her congresswoman, helping to organize a blanket and canned food drive, and taking part in the World Vision 30-hour fast. She cites PAJA as an important influence on her: “Everything we do is through the lens of peace and justice,” she explained. “We begin each day with a quote by an activist or a ‘call-to-action’ video. We also learn about media literacy, how to use media to spread ideas.”
June 9-12 Tonto Rim Children’s Camp Payson, Ariz, July 13-19; July 20-26 Camp Keola camps for junior high and senior high youth
June 20 (9a.m.-noon) Conference Mission Team meeting Trinity Mennonite Glendale, Ariz.
Audrey Cameron with PAJA staff Erin Conley, Kimberly Medendorp and Randy Christopher. hat do you do when 22 members of your congregaW tion plan to run the L.A. marathon or halfmarathon –– on a Sunday morning? Instead of lamenting their absence, you join them, of course. That’s what Pasadena Mennonite Church did March 9, forgoing the normal service to carpool to the transition zone near Dodger Stadium to cheer the church’s runners, and gather again at the end at Santa Monica Pier hours later. But there was a missional purpose to it all: Participants were committed to raising money for World Vision’s work to provide clean drinking water in Africa, while another group of congregants was finishing the World Vision 30hour Fast. Spectators from the congregation carried posters that advertised the team’s purpose and encouraged individual runners.
June 20 (1-5pm) PSMC Board Meeting, Menno Guest House/SOOP, Glendale, Ariz. June 20-21 PSMC Summer Assembly Trinity Mennonite Church, Glendale, Ariz. June 21 PSMC Summer Assembly Arizona June 30-July 5, 2015 Mennonite Church USA biennial convention Kansas City
July 21-26, 2015 Mennonite World Conference global assembly Harrisburg, Pa.
udrey Cameron, a student at the Peace & Justice A Academy who attends Pasadena Mennonite Church, did the school proud twice this year, first by winning the citywide annual Martin Luther King Jr. Essay Contest, and secondly by being recognized as a “powerful voice” by YES! Magazine for her empathetic series of letters to an imaginary soldier struggling with re-
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Some of the runners from Pasadena who raised money for World Vision water projects.
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PSMC contacts Moderator Femi Fatunmbi moderator@ pacificsouthwest.org 323-759-6608
Conference Minister Dick Davis dickdavis@ pacificsouthwest.org 214-608-6334
Minister of Mission David Gray
510-775-4231 davidgray@ pacificsouthwest.org Youth Ministry Liaison John Murray johnmurray@ pacificsouthwest.org
Menno Media Resource Advocate Barbara Ewy firstname.lastname@example.org
Conference Office 379 N. Campus Ave. Upland, CA 91786 agneschigoji@ pacificsouthwest.org 909-243-5003
Panorama panorama@ pacificsouthwest.org 905-829-9640
PSMC Website: www. pacificsouthwest.org Facebook: https://facebook.com/ PacificSouthwest MennoniteConference
News you can use:
Resources for congregations
ooking for fresh, fun, compelling ways to get kids reading and absorbing the Bible? Mennonite Church USA has assembled a whack of links to resources for kids, parents and teachers as part of its ongoing Year of the Bible program. Visit yearofthebiblenetwork.org/children2.html xplore God’s love with E the new Shine Sunday school curriculum! Engaging stories and activities will help children find meaning in the biblical stories, understand that they are known and loved by God, and learn what it means to follow Jesus. The Biblebased materials invite everyone to shine God's light in the world! Bible-based session plans, imaginative activities, and an emphasis on spiritual practice and peacemaking! Shine: Living in God’s Light offers everything you need to plan a dynamic Sunday school program that nurtures children in the way of Jesus. To learn more about the Shine curriculum, see faithandliferesources.org. ach story in Shine On: A Story Bible is beautifully E crafted, maintaining the spirit and poetry of the biblical text in language that is fresh and engaging for children. The 320-page hardcover is filled with lively illustrations that help children of all ages connect to the stories. As a bonus, sidebars with thought-provoking questions, interesting facts, and simple activities invite families and congregations to take each story a few steps further. Shine On: A Story Bible is an excellent resource for connecting church and home and an ideal choice for a presentation Bible. It may be used on its own or in tandem with the Shine Sunday school curriculum. n Subversive Wisdom: Sociopolitical Dimensions of IMennonite John’s Gospel, Bert Newton, a member of Pasadena Church, “makes the case that in the Gospel of John, Jesus walks and talks like Lady Wisdom of the
Hebrew Scriptures. In John, Jesus is Wisdom incarnate, speaking and demonstrating the subversive wisdom of the way of the cross; he is a sort of trickster, confusing and frustrating his enemies, acting in ways counter to convention, and driving out the ‘ruler of this world’ through the upside-down logic that comes ‘from above.’ Subversive Wisdom explores literary themes in the Gospel of John such as Jesus as Torah, the “heavenly” perspective of the narrator and Jesus, political terminology used throughout the Gospel, and the New Exodus. “Subversive Wisdom provides a deeply biblical rationale for hope and courage to live Jesus' radical message, even when it seems all hope is lost,” writes reviewer Jill Shook. “I recommend that every pastor and leader not only read this book but also teach it and allow it to transform their understanding of John’s Gospel.” The book is available at http://bit.ly/1kB3zYi . n updated version of God’s A Story, Our Story: Exploring Christian Faith and Life by Michele Hershberger was recently released. The book serves as an introduction to Christian faith from an Anabaptist perspective, especially for those considering baptism or church membership. It focuses on the Bible’s story of God’s working throughout history, with Jesus as the center of the story, and readers are invited to enter that story. Nine chapters explore key aspects of the Christian story through the Bible; the new edition also includes key discussion questions pulled out into the margins of the text; spiritual disciplines for each chapter; a topical at-a-glance outline for each chapter; and historical art that illustrates various stories. For more, see mennomedia.org . $13.99, with a 25 percent discount for five or more copies. verence has developed End-of-Life cirriculum that E can help people think and talk about important endof-life issues. This free downloadable package of resources includes a leaders guide with participant handouts, as well as video introductions to each of the six sessions. The curriculum is ideal for leading small groups. To download an introductory video on the curriculum or the curriculum itself, visit everence.com/stewardship-education.
Support for PSMC Pacific Southwest Mennonite Conference gathers California, Arizona and Nevada churches in partnership for leadership, mission and congregational relationships. Giving by congregations and individuals ensures that conference ministers are funded, mission activities flourish, and resources are available for church nurture. Donations may be made via PayPal at www.pacificsouthwest.org/donate, or mail to: PO Box 39038, Phoenix, AZ 85069