SBC graduates 44 in 2017

– Jillian Klassen

STEINBACH, Man.—Steinbach Bible College celebrated as 44 students graduated over the weekend of April 21-22. SBC’s theme for 2016-2017 was “Trust,” based on Psalm 37:3-7, which our graduates were encouraged to remember as they began a journey beyond the halls of SBC.

Our Spring Concert began the weekend on Friday by showcasing the student drama troupe New Creation, the worship band Free Servant, and features by two Conservatory students. Eight Activate and eight Certificate of Biblical Studies graduates were presented during the program.

Formal graduation exercises followed on Saturday at Steinbach EMC and saw 28 graduates presented with their degrees. Four received a BA in Ministry Leadership, 19 earned a BA in Christian Studies, and five received their Associate of Arts in Bible-Theology.

We were pleased to have Elton DaSilva, executive director for the Mennonite Brethren Church of Manitoba, present the commencement address.

Valedictorian Ashley Penner (EFC Steinbach) shared, “SBC has provided us with incredible opportunities to learn and grow, helping us to build a foundation for the future.”

That is what we hope for: that SBC has been a place to help equip and empower these students for wherever God has called them to serve and that they would trust in His plans.

Graduation weekend ends SBC’s celebration of our 80th anniversary as a Bible college empowering servant leaders to follow Jesus, serve the church, and engage the world.

(Back): Helena Dyck, Adam Schmidt, Karissa Kruse, Melissa Moman, Mark Wiewel, Aganetha (Nancy) Reimer (Front): Kaitlyn Evans, Gillian Plett, Ashley Penner, Alyx Peckinpaugh

Letters May 2017

Poorly expressed, well expressed

Frequently articles in The Messenger refer to the Second World War. Blaming is the easiest part of military history. So often I glance at a headline and the assumptions jump out at me. There is a tragic inter-war history at play here, mostly forgotten.

It’s easiest to say, “The Nazis did it.” The least fair is to say, “The Germans did it.” Do you know any Nazis?

Nothing, not even really unusual behaviour, comes from nowhere. There is always a reason for things. It may be a crazy reason, but it’s still a reason, maybe part of a more complicated reason. In any case, we sometimes take the easy way out. God forgive us.

But I wanted to thank The Messenger for its work on Franz Jägerstätter and the Worship Committee for its attention to “Dissecting ‘catholic’ in the Apostles’ Creed” [each March 2017]. Both well expressed.

– W. Kruse, Rosenort, Man.

Editor’s note: Walter Kruse, the writer of this letter, passed away recently. As an educator of varied gifts, including artistic handwriting, he was once slated to serve here as Executive Secretary/Editor. He will be missed. Our sympathies are extended to the wider Kruse family.

Mexico: Missions Trip to San Pablito

by Marcus Loewen

PORTAGE LA PRAIRIE, Man.—There were fifteen of us, including adults, that went for a missions trip from March 22-25 with Braveheart Ministries to San Pablito, Mexico. Six were from our church. We took vehicles from Mexico City, making a four-hour drive out to mountainous San Pablito, Four hours from Mexico City.

We lived among the people, observing the artisans and ministering to the youth through a worship night and a soccer game in the mountains.

There were a couple God experiences that I had. One was the worship night and, even though we spoke two different languages, it felt like the Holy Spirit was there and stirring in my heart.

Another was when we boys were walking back to the house; we spent the walk back praying for the town and for the light of Jesus to shine. On previous nights there would be wild dogs barking at us as we walked, but this night, as we prayed, it felt like they were backing off. It was almost like a physical display of what was happening in the spiritual realm.

Something else that I won’t ever forget was the enormous amount of hospitality that they showed. One family gave up their home and slept in one bed to let some of the group stay at their place. It blew me away to see what little they did have they willingly shared with joy.

Terry Smith: Don’t Care About Theology?

by Terry M. Smith

Don’t enjoy theology? Don’t care about theology? Yet theology appears in most materials here:

Local, national, international, and wider news (Do beliefs come across in event descriptions, bits of messages and presentations, reporters’ comments?)

  • Lead articles, regular columns, editorials, cartoons (Lots of theology here.)
  • Weddings and births (Are marriages and children noteworthy?)
  • Obituaries (Will loved ones be seen again?)
  • Study tours, prayer teams, short-term mission trips (Are these events good stewardship?)

No one agrees with everything printed. And some materials are refused publication. Every editor makes decisions.

Teaching articles—editorials, lead articles, and regular columns—are in a different category than mission reports, news items, and obituaries.

No editor should control or correct all theology within this magazine (for example, in letters). Such control would interfere with the priesthood of all believers and our community hermeneutic. The magazine is the community’s. Members are to speak and the community must discern in response (1 Cor. 14:26-38).

Where, though, is the line between the conference’s positions being upheld and discussion being allowed? It’s an old question.

Terry M. Smith

Early in this magazine’s history, minister and pioneer editor Dave K. Schellenberg was asked to correct a letter that appeared in print. He did not. Later, when he himself suggested that only materials upholding a conference position be published, someone objected (Rev. Ben D. Reimer, I suspect), saying this would limit change within the EMC. Schellenberg learned from this, I suspect.

At the same time, Schellenberg had lines that he would not cross. I do.

Discuss we will. Evaluate we must (1 Thess. 5:19-22; 2 Tim. 2:15, 3:16-17).

Jocelyn R. Plett: From Here to Far Away

by Jocelyn R. Plett

Less than a week remains (as of May 7) until we embark on our last journey off this great island (Madagascar). The emotions and stress of saying goodbye to friends, places, things, and experiences we most likely will never see again is overwhelming. The whole experience brings death to my mind more often than not.

As we mourn this life we’ve known for so many years, as we enjoy every “last” as fully as we are able, I ponder the bittersweet fact that life in Madagascar will go on after we leave, just as it has for centuries. Our friends will continue on with life without us, our staff will move on to new jobs with new employers. We will be remembered, surely, especially—I hope—by the things we have invested in.

But it is a harsh and glorious truth that it has not been us who has provided blessings to those around us so much as the Almighty God, who used us to bless them. I need not fear for them. The Lord remains here to continue to bless and provide for those who remain in this place.

Just as He is already in the new life awaiting us in the country we will move to. Preparing a place for us with good purpose and as great provision as He has given us in this life. Greater, even.

Beth Moore, in a Bible study video I watched long ago, spoke on the passing from this life to life after death. As she walked across the stage, she shed a big overcoat, exemplifying the act of shedding our physical body, yet continuing on with a new body. The old life, the overcoat, was left on an untidy heap in the middle of the stage while she continued her trajectory.

It was a vivid visual aid of the truth that life does not stop when we move from one life to another. Transitioning is understandably filled with turmoil. Our emotions and our bodies roil with love, sadness, stress, pain, perhaps, and fear of the unknown. It seems to me that human nature invariably clings to what we know and are comfortable with, even if the unknown is foretold to be infinitely better.

Jocelyn R. Plett

In these days of our own trans-continental transition I cling to the hope that the same God who has provided for us, loved us, blessed us, comforted us in this life, is there not only on “the other side,” but will hold us in His hand as we make that step over the threshold. I choose to believe that the life waiting for us has even greater joys and gifts than this one has—and we have had many!

In our time of turmoil I must make the daily and conscious decision to trust that God is with us and that life on the other side of the ocean will be as blessed as this one has been. To the praise of His glorious grace.

Rolf and Angela Kruse are PUC’s 2017 Alumni of the Year

by PUC

OTTERBURNE, Man.—Two EMCers, Rolf and Angela Kruse, have been chosen as 2017 Alumni of the Year and were honoured on April 23 during Providence University College’s graduation ceremony.

Rolf and Angela Kruse have spent nearly 20 years ministering among refugees and tribal peoples in East Africa. They have taught English, operated mother-tongue literacy classes, set up wells and a grinding mill, and regularly used their Landcruiser as an ambulance.

After growing up in Rosenort, Man., and completing high school in 1993, Angela enrolled at Providence. Her older brother had attended the school and she’d enjoyed the Providence choir’s performance at her local church. She also wanted to play on the volleyball team.

Two years later, and equipped with a TESOL Certificate, she arrived in Ethiopia to train Sudanese refugee teachers.

“More than 5,000 school-aged children needed an education, and so we trained several hundred young men and women as informal education teachers,” she says. “I found that my TESOL education gave me valuable tools to learn languages and train teachers in how to run English and mother-tongue literacy classes.”

After returning to Manitoba she met Rolf, who had come to Providence from nearby Kola and also pursued a TESOL Certificate. Both would also go on to graduate with Bachelor of Arts in Intercultural Studies degrees—Angela in 1998 and Rolf in 2001. They were married in 2000.

In 2002 they and their growing family moved to Ethiopia and the Sherkole Refugee Camp, where they would serve for eight years. They trained short-term volunteers, and Rolf started a three-year “grassroots English Bible school” for young men. Angela, meanwhile, taught the Scriptures to women in Arabic and other local languages.

In 2011, after a two-year study sabbatical in Rosenort, the Kruses returned to Ethiopia, with their five children, as church planters among the Gumuz people near the Sudanese border. They mentored young people in cross-cultural ministry and Rolf helped young Gumuz elders learn to teach from newly-translated Scriptures.

“During our years of ministry our desire has always been to fill people with hope within their present circumstances, exemplify the compassion of Jesus, share with them the eternal hope found in Jesus Christ and disciple men and women into Christian leadership,” says Angela. “We are seeking direction for our future but believe cross-cultural ministry and discipling young people into missions will continue to be a vital part of our future ministry.”

Rolf and Angela Kruse (Kola/Rosenort Fellowship) are workers under the EMC Board of Missions.

Dr. Hanspeter Jecker: Transformed by the Word

The Protestant (Radical) Reformation Through 2017

by Dr. Hanspeter Jecker

Renewal 2027 is a 10-year series of events launched by Mennonite World Conference (MWC) to mark the 500th anniversary of the beginnings of the Anabaptist movement.

“Transformed by the Word: Reading Scripture in Anabaptist Perspectives” (the inaugural event in Augsburg, Germany, Feb. 12, 2017) fit well within the mandate of the MWC Faith and Life Commission to help member churches “understand and describe Anabaptist-Mennonite faith and practice.”

In the midst of the many Reformation commemoration celebrations, especially in Europe, it’s important to remember that the Anabaptists also emerged within the context of the Reformation and were decisively shaped by its rediscovery of the Bible as an authority for Christian faith and life.

Shortly before the first adult baptisms in January 1525, a member of the Bible study group that formed the core of the emerging Anabaptist movement illustrated this clearly:

“However, after we too had taken up the Bible and studied all the possible points, we have been better informed.”

The letter went on to describe how they came to a deeper understanding of Scripture. Five central themes—visible in the quote above—distinguished their shift from walking alongside the Reformers to a posture of opposition:

  • Scripture is the key point of departure for the renewal brought about by the Reformation.
  • It is crucial to learn not only second-hand, but to read Scripture for yourself.
  • The Bible study group read with an expectant attitude. They “studied all the possible points,” posed questions about the text, and received answers.
  • They reoriented themselves around these new insights.

In this way, they were “better informed” in regard to the teachings of the Catholic Church, but also in regards to Zwingli and the other Reformers.

To be “better informed.” At first glance, that statement sounds very positive. But it also carries some pain. It suggests that one has indeed been mistaken; it includes a readiness to let go of older, cherished understandings. This is often not easy.

The key question at stake here is: do we allow the biblical word (and the God who desires to speak to us) to scrutinize our convictions so that we allow ourselves “to be better informed”? Or does the admonition to “test all things and hold on to what is good” (1 Thess. 5:21) only apply to other people?

Up to this point, all the themes could be regarded as Protestant principles. But the fifth point is the most distinct Anabaptist principle:

  • The “we” in the quote is crucial: not only does Bible study happen in community; but new understandings of Scripture are also reached collectively.

No one is forced to be part of an Anabaptist congregation—faith and membership are always voluntary. No single person has all the understanding or all of the gifts, but everyone has something.

Therefore, it is crucial that we create frameworks for Bible study in which everyone can contribute to a better understanding of the biblical text: old and young, men and women, academics and labourers. Precisely for this reason the “we” in our text is so important!

But several dangers are already evident in this same quote.

To allow ourselves to be “better informed” sounds nice, but who can protect us from endless efforts to prove the superiority of one understanding or from the notorious church divisions that have occurred so frequently in Anabaptist history? How can we ensure that space remains for the recognition that all of our knowledge is partial and in need of additional insights? And how do we ensure that the “struggle for the truth” does not come at the cost of a “struggle for unity”?

Dr. Hanspeter Jecker

If “renewal of faith and life” and “transformation through the Word” are going to happen within the context of Mennonite World Conference, then it will be essential for it to happen in the form of members from north and south, east and west, walking together alongside each other as “we.”

Dr. Hanspeter Jecker is a member of the Mennonite World Conference’s Faith & Life Commission and a professor of historical theology and ethics at Theological Seminary Bienenberg in Switzerland. He holds an MA in Theology (AMBS) and a DPhil (Basel).