Angel Infantes: Christ of the Emigrants, Unveiling the Most Sacred Journey of All Time

by Angel Infantes

Immigration and the plight of the newcomer is a topic dear to the heart of Mennonites.

Human migration is an age-old phenomenon that stretches back to the earliest periods of human history. The United Nations defines an emigrant as “any person who has to change his or her place of usual residence.”

Modern Immigrants

In 2015 there were an estimated 244 million international migrants. Currently, Canada is the fourth most-desired destination for immigrants, according to the UN. Our country’s immigration policies are promoted in the Plan 2020 by the federal government.

Immigration has emerged in the past few years as a political challenge. The Church needs to assume a more active role in this. But first we must deepen our understanding of the immigration issue.

Ancient Immigrants

The very first human migrations can be found in biblical records. It’s a trend throughout the sacred narrative, which reveals God’s special treatment to immigrants: “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you” (Gen. 12:1).

The first five books of the Bible are the development of an emigrant’s relationship with God. The biblical migratory course is not a U-turn to the garden, but to the most valuable fruit, the “tree of life.”

The loss of permanent residence in the Garden of Eden places the first inhabitants in search of a place to live. Genesis 12:1 launches the story of the most popular international emigrant: Abram, a resident of Ur, renounces his permanent status. It’s pointed out that Abram becomes an emigrant, basing his life on something he could not see. He took a journey whose destination had not an exact destination. Abraham is our immigrant father in faith.

Next, his grandson Jacob replaces Abraham in the role, leaving home because of family issues. God cares for Jacob and blesses him with an abundance of goods and children. Same as Abraham, because of famine Jacob is forced to migrate to Egypt in search of food.

Jacob’s descendants suffer as poor emigrants by those ruling the land where they sought refuge. A divine intervention put the people on the move again. This time they migrate through the desert in search of the promised land. This journey helps them to complete the requirements they need to obtain permanent residence.

The requirements do not change, but the people do. Jews fail the terms of permanent residence. They were displaced to Babylon. There, as vulnerable poor refugees, they are exposed to a new culture, language, food, and religion (Dan. 1). 

Immigrants on a Mission

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19). Jesus’ disciples, like Abraham, were called to emigrate. There are certain similarities between Abraham and the disciples. While Abraham was promised the multiplication of his offspring, Jesus’ followers are asked to multiply more disciples. While Abraham is promised a specific land, the disciples are sent to all the earth. God made the request to Abraham the Father; God the Son made the request to the disciples.

While the book of Acts records the spreading of the gospel, it is also an account of the believers’ migrations. Persecution spurs emigration to distant countries such as Spain. The new believers perpetuate not only the old customs, but new ideas pertaining to a kingdom led by its most prominent resident, Jesus, who has his own story of immigration. 

The Immigrant Jesus

“You are from below. I am from above. You belong to this world. I do not” (John 8:23). Bethlehem, Jesus’ birthplace, is the first stop in his migratory journey. The child’s first visitors were strangers as Joseph and Mary were far from their permanent residence. Later, the three family members took refuge in Egypt. Jesus’ migration to Egypt evokes the migration of the patriarchs. These first migratory movements anticipate the ministry of Jesus.

Eventually the family returns to Nazareth. Jesus becomes a migrant once more. As his time of ministry begins, he spends forty days in the desert, a parallel to Israel’s wandering years. While Israel was told to go after the land, Jesus would go after the hearts of people.

The Gospels record Jesus’ travels around the provinces of the Palestine (Galilee, Samaria, Judea). He encounters many people along the way, relating well to the crowds on the move.

Jesus verbalizes his ideas like an immigrant, often talking about his favourite place, heaven. Even Jesus promises permanent residence to those that meet the requirements, the cultivation of certain virtues, to live in heaven.

Connecting Ancient and Modern

“You must not oppress emigrants … you yourselves were once emigrants” (Ex. 23:9). It was imperative for Israel to remember its immigrant background, so they incorporated in their liturgy a reminder recalling their ancestors as immigrants and how God cared for them (Deut. 26:1, 5-11).

It was like saying, if I ever forget that my ancestors were homeless refugees, I will have lost my connection with the God who was good to my ancestors and who has been good to me, states M. Soerens. The commemorative ceremonies reached their peak when Jesus intervened at the tabernacle feast, which commemorates God’s provision in the desert. As God provided them with water, Jesus offers them rivers of living water (John 8:39).

Mennonites have records of their own migration. They have experienced God’s care on many occasions. And they were able to overcome the obstacles in search of a land. For some, the journey is over; but for those seeking a “better place” the journey continues. It must be essential to remember our wandering story.

Currently 244 million people are migrating around the world, insists the UN Assembly’s president Miroslav Lajcak. Tragically, not all immigrants are welcome into our society. Many find themselves forced into a shadowy life.

Christian Compassion

Although immigrants may not appear to be a priority for the Church, they qualify for our Christian compassion. The Church needs to show the world that it is a place which gathers people from all backgrounds as one because Christ has made possible a way of life together unlike anything the world had seen, states Stanley Hauerwas.

Our country welcomes emigrants every day. Therefore, we will have always emigrants with us. Driven by our understanding of the sacred emigrant records and acknowledgement of our immigrant ancestors, the Mennonite community has the expertise to speak boldly about the immigration situation.

Immigration is part of God’s divine plan from which have emerged faithful people. Immigrants are near to us in schools and stores. Success in finding welcome in Christian community may be the beginning of a new journey.

The Safest Place

The safest place in town should be the church, a place for immigrants ready to start a new life and make new friends. Sunday morning is the perfect time to meet Jesus (the fellow immigrant) and us, Anabaptists, as the descendants of emigrants or emigrants ourselves.

Infantes,-Angel
Angel Infantes

Jesus is an immigrant based upon his claim that he is not from here. May He allow us to see Him while we welcome an emigrant! “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Matt. 25:35).

Angel Infantes, originally from Peru, is a graduate of RGBI and is a graduate student at CMU. His wife Blanca is from Mexico. Together they have served in Braeside EMC and Aberdeen EMC where they ministered to immigrants to Canada. Soon they will be part of the church-planting team in the city of Guadalajara, Jalisco state, Mexico. 

Pamela Miles: A New View of Nature

 By Pamela Miles

I am so glad that summer is on the horizon. Spending time outdoors was a huge part of my childhood. My family shared many weekends at a small one-room cabin on a river, fishing, swimming, canoeing and just enjoying the beauty around us. We would watch the beavers make their way up and down the river, hope to see a deer come out at dusk for a drink, and listen to the wolves howl at night.

Through those long summer days at the cabin, my parents passed on their values of living contently and taught us to steward nature and share it generously with others. We learned to appreciate what the Lord had given to us, including the abundance of natural beauty. I have always found that enjoying God’s creation refreshes my soul and helps me keep a healthy mind, body, and spirit. Recently, several scientific studies have confirmed that spending time in nature is good for your overall wellbeing and mental health.

A recent study[1] by Holli-Anne Passmore of the University of British Columbia examined the connection between personal wellbeing and taking a moment to look at something from the natural environment. Passmore was “overwhelmed” by the descriptions of emotions submitted by the study’s 395 participants– their happiness, sense of elevation and their level of connectedness to other people. Another study[2] by Dr. Andrea Mechelli of Kings College in London concluded that the positive effects of a single exposure to nature – for example, walking the dog, going for a run, or spending time in the garden – can last for seven hours after an individual has experienced it. The study also found that individuals at greater risk of developing mental health issues, including anxiety and depression, benefit even more from getting outdoors than others.

This research is compelling, but you don’t have to be a scientist to understand the power of spending time in nature. From the very beginning, people have delighted in God’s wondrous handiwork. Countless songs and stories throughout history describe the beauty of the natural world. In Psalm 19:1-3, David writes of how nature reveals God’s magnificent beauty and truth: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.  Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.”  

My father once told me of bringing my ailing grandfather to our cabin to enjoy the pristine wilderness setting he loved for the last time. As they sat on the bench outside, taking in the serenity, a black bear swam by just a few hundred feet away. My father says he knew that this rare event was a gift from God – a demonstration of His love and generous ways. Framing my own experiences of nature as an extravagant gift that God freely gives has inspired me to deeply appreciate these gifts and to respond by giving generously from the resources God has entrusted to me. Rather than just sharing a snapshot of a pretty view, I am inspired to share the blessings that allowed me to experience that snapshot.

Everyday, we’re surrounded by amazing displays of God’s creation: a sunset as we drive home from work, birds twittering in the neighbourhood trees, or a weekend hike in the woods. As the weather warms and we start to spend more time outdoors, I hope we all take more notice of these little gifts. Perhaps instead of just capturing a photo to share this summer, we’ll be inspired to respond with renewed gratitude and generosity.

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Pamela Miles

Pamela Miles is the Director of Gift Planning at Abundance Canada. For more than 40 years, Abundance Canada has effectively helped Canadians with their charitable giving in their lifetime and through their estate. To learn more, visit abundance.ca or call 1.800.772.3257 to arrange a no obligation free consultation.

 

 

[1] Holli-Anne Passmore & Mark D. Holder (2016) Noticing nature: Individual and social benefits of a two-week intervention, The Journal of Positive Psychology,12:6, 537-546, DOI: 10.1080/17439760.2016.1221126

[2] Bakolis, I., Hammoud, R., Smythe, M., Gibbons, J., Davidson, N., Tognin, S., & Mechelli, A. (2018). Urban Mind: Using Smartphone Technologies to Investigate the Impact of Nature on Mental Well-Being in Real Time. BIOSCIENCE68(2), 134-145. DOI: 10.1093/biosci/bix149

Pastor Ryan Rear: We Love Serving at Morris Fellowship Chapel!

by Ryan Rear

MORRIS, Man.—Ryan Rear was asked to tell us about his ministry as the senior pastor at Morris Fellowship Chapel.

1. Tell us about where you were raised, educated, and served prior to MFC.

I was born in Innisfail, Alberta. I went to Prairie Bible College for a few years, and then to the University of Alberta, where I got a BA in psychology. Years later, I got my Master of Theological Studies at Taylor Seminary in Edmonton. I served in a variety of churches: Baptist, Free Methodist, Independent, and FEBC. The FEBC was the first church I served in that had Mennonite roots. I am now serving at the Morris Fellowship Chapel, our EMC church here in Morris.

2. Tell us about your family. 

My wife Uma was born in Malaysia, and, for me, she has been God’s wonderful gift. We have two grown-up children. Cassandra is 22 years old, and after she finished her degree in sociology, she began working in a group home for level five teenage girls. Sam is 21 years old, and is busy working and making music.

3. What led you to serve here? 

We came to Morris to serve in an FEBC church, which had a great group of people. Unfortunately, by the time we got here, the church pretty much only had seniors. We were unable to attract the families we needed and after four and a half years the church shut its doors. Uma and I also worked at Youth for Christ here in Morris. I was between church jobs, and we started attending Morris Fellowship Chapel. I was asked to do some pulpit supply, then served as its interim pastor; and one thing led to another and here we are the pastoral couple.

4. To understand you as a pastoral couple, what do people need to know?

As a pastoral couple, we work closely together. We emphasize Bible study and discipling. We emphasize taking God at his word, and living obedient lives of faith through the power of the Holy Spirit. We especially love to work with the young people. They are the future of the church and need to be equipped with sound teaching and be discipled in the faith. Uma teaches the youth Sunday School class. I lead the College and Career Bible study with Uma’s help. We have temporarily split our C and C into male and female groups. Uma leads the young ladies. I lead the young men. We believe in equipping people of all age groups so they can live God-inspired lives.

5. What do you think of the EMC? 

There are two things I particularly like about the EMC. I like the Statement of Faith because it is simple and yet remains true to the foundational truths of the faith. I also like the EMC’s emphasis on supporting missions.

6. What else would you want to say? 

We love serving at Morris Fellowship Chapel. It is a privilege.

Jocelyn R. Plett: Breathing Room

by Jocelyn R. Plett

The other day on social media I posted in amazement at all the things I was able to accomplish in a day. Unsurprisingly, our friends in Madagascar responded, “Could not do all that in Tana. Traffic would have tripled the time.”

Indeed! Over the years living in Tana, the frustration of repeatedly failing to accomplish my “to do” list finally taught me to release it and focus on “merely” accomplishing one thing a day.

My blogging over the time we lived in Madagascar documents a trend in our observations of life in Canada during our furloughs: since life is much easier and “efficient,” people can do many things in a day and therefore they think they should do them. This creates a society of very busy people.

The unfortunate irony of these observations is that now that we live in Canada as “normal” people, not just visitors, we find ourselves in this same vise: the ability to do many things because our former inhibitors of traffic, cultural differences, language barriers, and infrastructure are no longer there. In Canada we are no longer forced to live a slow lifestyle. The relief in having this freedom is immense, but it comes at a price: being busier than we have ever been as a family.

Sandra Stanley’s study “Breathing Room” highlights areas of life where North Americans have shown they need to work hard at creating increased margin: time, finances, and relationships. (Andy Stanley’s series “Guardrails” is a similar study geared for men. Josh highly recommends it.) It was a well-timed reminder of common areas where we all need to practice discipline.

Sandra points out that 100 years ago “there were limited options for how people spent their time. Most days, they stayed within a one-mile radius of home. When it got dark, everyone went to bed. Instead of struggling to figure out how to limit what they did with their time, they struggled to figure out what to do with their time. Today we have endless options, which is simultaneously wonderful and terrible…It’s great having choices, but filling our days with all the things we can do crowds out time for the things we’re called to do” (53).

jrplett
Jocelyn R. Plett

Putting up guardrails for my time is proving to be hard work. I find that it requires some serious pride (and fear) slaying within my heart as I make tough decisions. I want to be sure my kids are getting all the chances other kids have to experience the things that are available for them. I want to be involved in my church, as well as connecting with friends, family, and networking for my business.

The bottom line, however, is “My time is limited, so I must limit what I do with my time.” How, exactly, do I do that? I’m realizing anew that it starts with being attentive to the Word and the Spirit within me, Who will guide and direct my path if I am willing to listen and obey.

Dr. Hendrik van der Breggen: The Christian Faith: It Adds Up! Part 2

This is the second part of a two part series. Part one can be found here.

by Hendrik van der Breggen

Contrary to atheist bus ads stating THERE’S PROBABLY NO GOD, we can set out a strong cumulative case for the Christian God based on science, history, and philosophy. Often these are intermingled. Earlier we made some preliminary clarifications: we know through intuition and reason. The evidence for our faith is strengthened by a collection of arguments. And we set out three arguments (the universe has an origin, is dependent, and reveals intelligent design). Let’s continue.

Success of Science

Intelligent design arguments can be strengthened by the success of science itself. The universe operates according to mathematical/rational principles. Our minds can understand many of these deep principles, a feat immensely beyond what’s needed for mere survival. These facts make good sense on the view that a rational Mind (Logos) created both the universe and us.

According to Einstein, “The only incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible.” Scientist-theologian John Polkinghorne adds: “Our ability to understand the physical world [e.g., the quantum realm] immensely exceeds anything that is required for the relatively banal purpose of survival.”

An objection might be that this can be explained by atheistic, unguided evolution. But this neglects the fact that unguided evolution merely secures mental capacities geared to foraging, fighting, fleeing, and reproduction, not discerning deep theoretical truths.

Objective Moral Values

Moral experience points to God. We know—intuit—real (objective) moral value. We know human beings have intrinsic value. Witness all the human rights declarations. We know sticking pins in babies’ eyes for fun is wrong. We know Joseph Fritzl was wrong. Fritzl locked his daughter in a basement bunker for 20 years, raped her repeatedly, bore children with her, and kept them in the bunker. This knowledge is well explained by the doctrine that people are made in God’s image, and evil well explained by the doctrine that people are prone to sin. This counts as evidence for God.

An objection is that this is mere subjective preference. In reply, we should ask firmly: Really? If so, then that you like chocolate and I like vanilla is equivalent to you like helping people and I like torturing them. Surely, this is false—and we know it.

Free Will and Consciousness

Our free will to make moral or immoral choices makes sense on the view that God gave us mental capacity to choose or reject the good. We are made in God’s image in the sense of being free and personal beings.

Objection: Freedom is an illusion. Reply: This just seems obviously false. Think about this the next time you decide to have dessert. We aren’t robots—we know this.

Also, consciousness is mysterious and difficult, if not impossible, to explain on a wholly physical account. But it makes sense if we’re creatures made in the likeness of a Conscious Being.

Evil

The existence of evil is often an objection to the Christian God. The idea is that evil logically precludes or renders improbable the existence of an all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-good God.

But this objection falters. First, it’s logically possible for God to create creatures with freedom to love God (the Good) or not. Second, while evil (suffering) is apparently pointless to us, we are not in a position to know God doesn’t have good reasons for it.

Moreover, evil actually confirms the existence of the biblical God. According to the Bible, there has been a Fall—humans have rejected God. Thus on the Christian God view, evil is expected or predicted and this prediction is confirmed in reality. Hence, evil counts in favour of the Christian God view.

Moreover, to judge that evil is real, as the critic does, makes good sense only if God—The Good—exists. Evil is parasitic on the notion of goodness. Evil is a corruption or absence of goodness. Evil is a violation of a design plan of what ought to be.

Miracle: Jesus’ Resurrection

Crucial evidence for the Christian God is Jesus’ bodily resurrection, which confirms His claims to be God. First, consider an important objection from philosopher David Hume.

Hume argues that miracle reports are never reasonable to believe. Why? Because miracles are highly improbable. Miracles allegedly violate a law of nature that dead men stay dead; the vast evidence of dead men staying dead counts against miracle reports to the contrary. Significantly, however, Hume begs the question: he assumes as established that which is at issue. The issue is this: Does a God who sometimes does miracles exist? Hume assumes the answer is no. But this is what only evidence can reveal. Miracles can’t be ruled out in advance.

Here is a “minimal facts” approach in which we look at some generally accepted historical evidence regarding Jesus’ resurrection. This comes in various forms from scholars Gary Habermas, Michael Licona, William Lane Craig, N. T. Wright, and popularized by Lee Strobel. The facts are:

  1. Jesus died by crucifixion.
  2. Shortly after Jesus’ death, the disciples had experiences that led them to believe and proclaim that Jesus had been resurrected.
  3. People were transformed into bold witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection in the face of social ostracism, extreme physical hardship, and death.
  4. James and Paul said Jesus appeared to them.
  5. Jesus’ tomb was found to be empty.

Because of what we know about dead bodies, a resurrection, if it happened, would be best explained as supernaturally caused. This means that Jesus’ resurrection shouldn’t be ruled out prior to historical investigation. The result: Jesus’ miraculous—God-caused—resurrection is strongly suggested by the historical facts. It makes good sense.

Also, non-resurrection explanations have problems. That Jesus appeared to die and later was resuscitated (the swoon theory) is ruled out by the evidence for his death. Hallucinations would be required at various places and with different groups and individuals; these facts throw wrenches into the hallucination theory. Objections tend to beg the question, not look at the historical evidence.

Significantly, former atheist Antony Flew wrote a book, There is a God: How the world’s most notorious atheist changed his mind. It ended with an essay by respected New Testament scholar N.T. Wright who argues for Jesus’ resurrection. Even Flew, a hard-headed former atheist, is impressed with the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection!

Subjective Experience

We can know that the Christian God exists apart from evidence. How? By direct revelation—personal, subjective knowing—through the witness of the Holy Spirit.

Objection: How do you know this burning in your heart isn’t just heartburn? In reply, it might be heartburn. But that it’s sometimes heartburn doesn’t mean it’s always heartburn. Sometimes deluded doesn’t mean always deluded. Also, a life of prayer and answers to prayer suggest too many coincidences.

God Exists—and Jesus is Lord

In sum, we have a strong cumulative case for believing the Christian God exists. The positive reasons are strong and the objections weak.

index
Dr. Hendrik van der Breggen

At this point, one might object: So what? In reply, we can say this: The case allows us to take seriously as true Jesus’ claims about Himself as God and His good news that He loves us and has taken the punishment for our sins on the cross. In other words, we have good reasons to put our faith in Jesus and follow Him. He is God—and He exists!

Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, is associate professor of philosophy at Providence University College, Otterburne, Manitoba.

Recommended readings
Paul Copan, Loving Wisdom
William Lane Craig, On Guard
William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith, 3rd ed.
Antony Flew, There is a God
Nabeel Qureshi, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus
J. Warner Wallace, Cold-Case Christianity

Terry Smith: The Frightening Task of Preaching

by Terry M. Smith

Preaching is a privilege, a frightening task. By frightening, trembling before God is meant, not a fear of speaking in public.

Jesus said we are judged by our words (Matt. 12:36-37). James said people should be wary of being a teacher because they will be judged more strictly (James 3:1). The Lord can, if he chooses, instantly cut me off from preaching, just as he silenced Zechariah (Luke 1:20).

What compels some people, then, to preach? A good reason, perhaps the best one, is the sense of being called. Preaching is a basic act of being a pastor.

About 40 years ago I skimmed a library book that said a sermon was 40-45 minutes, nearby someone had pencilled in 30-35, and by the time I saw the book sermons seemed shorter. Recently, though, I listened to a sermon about 43 minutes long. There seems to be a trend toward longer sermons in some EMC churches.

My wife Mary Ann, who has heard many preachers, says, “If you can’t say it in 20 minutes, stop trying.” When I mentioned that to a preacher, he responded by saying people’s attention to a TV program is often longer. Yes, but I gently suggest that the sermon isn’t the whole program. The service is.

Where is a sermon often placed within the order of service used within EMC churches? Near the end. Why is this? Donald P. Hustad, an evangelical worship leader, said it’s an inheritance from a revival format: the Word is preached and people are to respond. Some churches, including an EMC church or two, move the sermon toward the middle to enlarge the ways we can respond to the Word within a service. This makes sense to me.

By the way, how good is the preaching of your pastor or pastors? A survey found most pastors saw themselves as above-average preachers (Chris Puhach).

Another question: how does the context or setting affect how we receive preaching? Consider the sermon of Bishop Michael Curry during the wedding of HRH Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, now the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Harry is potentially the future King of England and, thereby, the head of the Church of England.

Bishop Curry is African American, and he, as others have said, preached amid the backdrop of England’s having been a colonial power that endorsed slavery. Harry and Meghan sat in the ornate St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, impressive for both its architecture and wealth at a time when the Church of England faces many challenges: a declining attendance, the stress of owning many underused buildings, and many social needs. Such displays of architecture and wealth within any part of the Christian Church both intrigue and disturb me.

Curry is the first African American to be the bishop of the Episcopal Church, the larger U.S. counterpart to the Anglican Church in Canada. Curry is well-educated, warm, articulate, and lively; it’s a wonder that nearby candles didn’t go out as he preached. He supports same-sex marriage and defends it despite the tensions it creates within the wider Anglican Communion. Must Curry and I agree on all points before we agree on any? No.

His 13-minute sermon saw various responses that partly reflected the backgrounds people brought to it. Likewise, from B.C. to southern Ontario, our backgrounds affect how we respond to sermons.

terry-smith
Terry M. Smith

When we hear a sermon, what do we consider? Content, style, passion, setting, context, length, culture, lifestyle, our reaction?

Reaction? The frightening task of preaching is to continue even where settings are difficult and reactions are mixed: “Go now to your people in exile and speak to them. Say to them, ‘This is what the sovereign Lord says,’ whether they listen or fail to listen” (Ezekiel 3:11 TNIV).

MacGregor: More Than 40 Explore How to Promote Wellness and Help Youth

EMC Mental Health Initiative Can Assist Your Church

MACGREGOR, Man.—Want to talk about mental health or how to help struggling young people? Then a workshop such as the one held on Sat., April 28, might interest your church.

On April 28 more than 40 people attended a Mental Health Workshop: Promoting Wellness and Helping Youth from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the MacGregor EMC. People came from area EMC churches and beyond EMC circles.

The morning sessions, to which everyone was welcome, focused on Mental Health For All Ages. Dan Dacombe spoke on Youth and Mental Health Issues. He said that rates of depression, self-harm, and suicide among youth motivated the EMC Mental Health Initiative (MHI) to begin.

Peter and Irene Ascough led on Soul Care and Your Mental Health. It focused on self-care toward the prevention of mental illness. The afternoon sessions, restricted to adults, focused on Mental Health and Youth. Heidi Dirks led a session on Non-Suicidal Self-Injury in Youth. In the final session, Strategies to Talk to Youth, small groups discussed various scenarios and their insights were tested against the larger body.

The MHI committee consists of Peter and Irene Ascough (Kleefeld), Irma Janzen (Fort Garry), Dan Dacombe (Heartland), and Heidi Dirks (Aberdeen). All are involved in counselling, pastoral, or nursing ministries. They bring a wealth of experience and training to the discussion.

The initiative is educating through a year-long series in The Messenger and workshops. It serves under the EMC Board of Church Ministries.

To explore holding such a workshop in your church or region, call a member of the MHI committee (check the EMC Yearbook) or contact the EMC national office. To find out Irene and Peter Ascough met, contact them. To learn about “Hilda the B U T ful,” contact MacGregor EMC.

EMC

Bolivia: May this book serve a valuable role in educating families and protecting at risk people!

by Caroline Krahn

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My Body is a Gift from God (Mien Kjarpa een Jeschenkj von Gott) Credit: Henry and Caroline Krahn

We are very excited about our new school at Haciende Verde. Even though enrolment is down a bit from last year, we love that we now have four students in grade nine.

In need of more teachers, we have hired two young adults from Hacienda to fill in for Kindergarten, Plautdietsch classes, and Bible classes, and they are doing excellent work. This gives them an income and helps the families to realize that there are other ways to make a living besides milking cows.

My passion is still books and our bookstore at the Casa and I’m not giving up even though we have had very minimal Mennonite customers. We are excited that we have found a store in Santa Cruz that is willing to sell newly printed Low German material.

This distributor is in an area of Santa Cruz called Seis Agosto where Mennonites from all colonies congregate and shop. Author Irene Marsch has written a book called My Body is a Gift from God (Mien Kjarpa een Jeschenkj von Gott) that is a great tool to educate parents on how to teach their children about God’s design and purpose for the human body. It is so well done and we wanted to supply it, but we were unsure of the best way to advertise it and get it into Mennonite peoples’ hands.

Slowly, word was getting out and our pastors were using it in their marriage classes. Then something happened that only God could do. I was going to a women’s retreat where the theme of the event was I’m a Worthwhile Rose (Ekj – Wietvolle Roos).

I had ordered more copies of this book from Canada, and, without knowing if they would arrive on time for the weekend, I asked the organizers if I could possibly advertise these books at the retreat and they agreed. I had only five books on hand that I brought with me.

Well, miracle of miracles, the guest speaker was nurse Carla Wiens from Paraguay, and she was speaking on exactly the theme of this book. I got goosebumps all over when I heard her topics.

Two boxes of books came at the end of the retreat. The retreaters, Mennonite women from many different colonies in Bolivia, wanted them so badly that they waited almost an hour for them to arrive, and all 88 copies were taken. One pastor’s wife even asked if she could order 50 more copies to distribute at their Bible studies.

We praise God for answered prayer. Our prayer is that this book will be an instrument to educate families and protect girls at risk persons in many of our colonies.

Caroline and Henry Krahn (Picture Butte) serve in ministries of hospitality and literature.

Obituary: Ben Eidse

1928-2018

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Ben Eidse

Ben Friesen Eidse was born on Oct. 12, 1928, to D.K and Elizabeth Eidse of Rosenort, Man., the twelfth of 20 children. He was the last surviving child and completed the circle in heaven on April 25, 2018, surrounded by family and friends on earth.

In 1949, Ben went to Pelly, Sask., under Western Gospel Mission, pedaling a bicycle to teach Bible classes in schools and adding cottage services.

He married Helen Reimer on March 30, 1952, after she completed nurse’s training. Their first of four daughters, Hope, arrived in 1953, the year they went to Congo as the first overseas missionaries of the EMC Board of Missions under (now) Africa Inter Mennonite Mission.

The Eidses built a medical-church-education centre in Kamayala, where they learned the heart language of the Lunda-Chokwe people.

Faith was born in 1955, the day Helen’s father, Peter D. Reimer, died in Canada. Six months later Faith was given up for dead. Ben begged God to bring her back and her eyes opened.

Charity arrived on Oct. 28, 1956, weighing nine pounds, and Helen’s kidneys shut down. While in hospice, Ben read her James 5:16, but realized that he was the one with sins to confess. He raced back to the men building the Kamayala church and apologized for getting angry. They said a white man had never admitted doing wrong and never apologized. When Ben returned, Helen’s kidneys were working again.

Eidse received a BA from Goshen College in 1959, followed by an MA from Wheaton. He returned to Congo alone in 1961, during tribal conflict, and delivered food and services. Over 600 came for counseling, including 31 chiefs.

Grace was born on Nov. 25, 1961, and the family returned to Congo in 1963, just before the 1964 Simba revolution. Ben sent his family ahead to Kinshasa and filled his van with students, driving through battle lines to safety.

After the conflict, Ben created a scripture memory program, changing the character of entire villages. During this term Ben sustained a progressively crippling, spinal cord/neck injury.

In 1969, Ben was selected by American Bible Societies to translate the Bible into modern Chokwe. Working with a pastor and a folklorist, they completed work in 1982. Native speakers loved the more dynamic expressions when praying or talking about God. The translation team also wrote a lesson book on the Christian disciple’s response to sorcery, which continues to change people’s worldview today.

After 30 years in Congo, Eidse was appointed president of Steinbach Bible College. He led its accreditation to a four-year college, a significant expansion, and a debt-free budget. In 1992, he was accepted to the University of Edinburgh, where he completed courses for a doctoral degree.

However, in 1995, Helen suffered a stroke and Ben cared for her in Steinbach for 16 years. During this time he became SBC’s first chancellor and counselled many people in a healing prayer ministry.

The Eidses received a Lifetime Service Award from the Association of Anabaptist-Mennonite Missiologists for leading Bible translation, planting 100 churches and establishing a mission centre in Congo. Their life stories were published in Light the World (Friesen Press, 2012). In 2015 Ben published his thesis research, The Disciple and Sorcery: The Lunda-Chokwe View (Cambridge Scholars Publishing).

Eidse returned to Congo for two months in 2010 to commemorate Helen’s life and encourage believers in prayers for healing and promoting women in church leadership.

Ben is survived by daughters Hope (Ben Wiebe), Faith (Philip Kuhns), Charity (John Schellenberg), and Grace Eidse, and their families. He was remembered in services at Rosenort EMC and Steinbach EMC on April 28 and 29 (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=SiQ_aYe6wbs), and laid to rest beside his wife in the Steinbach Heritage Cemetery. A mighty wind blew, assuring survivors of the Spirit’s continuing power in their lives.

His Family

 

 

 

With Cary in the Background, Leaders Share Views on Hearing From God

Discussion Was Peaceful, Valuable

by Terry M. Smith

MacGREGOR, Man.—Some ministers, leaders, and members from EMC churches in south-central and south-eastern Manitoba gathered at MacGregor EMC on May 26, 2018, to discuss how we hear from God.

Abe Bergen, EMC moderator and moderator of the event, welcomed those gathered. Russell Doerksen explained that the event was co-hosted by EMC churches in MacGregor and Blumenort to explore how we discern God’s will. It came in the aftermath of SBC’s decision to cancel the Leadership Conference where Dr. Phillip Cary was scheduled to speak. Discussion remained needed.

The afternoon was peaceful and a valuable sharing of opinions. Though Cary was rarely mentioned, his position formed a backdrop to the event.

A Cacophony of Voices

Jeff Thiessen, a former church moderator and a former pastor, and currently a deacon (MacGregor), spoke of how there is a need to discern together in light of Scripture to pick out the voices that are unbiblical and unfaithful. It’s wrong to say “the Lord told me” as though that ends the conversation. Relatives, co-workers, and friends influence us. Some voices oppose God while clothed as angels of light or quoting Scripture; others oppose God openly. Neither he nor Cary is cessasionist—a form of dispensational theology. They believe in the active work of the Spirit.

We do not move beyond the experience of Jesus who, after baptism, was in the wilderness 40 days where he heard a scripture-quoting voice who was not God. Post-Pentecost we need to be discerning as the Spirit’s still small voice exists among other voices. There is a constant cacophony of voices in the Church. Cancelling the Leadership Conference, an event of discussion, was wrong.

Scripture and God’s Initiative

Alain Reimer, a minister at Blumenort, drew upon 1 Tim. 6 to remind those gathered that God dwells in unapproachable light and we are to avoid irrelevant babble. God speaks through His Word, the biblical canon. There is concern when young people read Scripture and yet think they have not heard from God—a misconception. Scripture is the mode of communication that trumps all others.

God speaks through his people. Prophecy continues as the proclamation of God’s acts through speech to others. It did not end with the apostolic age or the closing of the canon. God speaks through dreams, visions, and internal promptings, though Scripture does not make this the usual way. In Acts 16 Paul received a vision of a call to Macedonia and, in decades of ministry, had God speak to him in a dream only four times. Paul did not wait for revelation before acting. Most times he chose a sensible route of missionary travel influenced by geography.

Dreams, visions, and internal promptings are based on God’s initiative and are clear. They come on God’s initiative, not sitting and waiting for God. We are to say, “Here am I” when God speaks, not speak to God and expect Him to reply.

Consider Broader Theology

Garry Koop, senior pastor at Steinbach EMC, distributed copies of the EMC Statement of Faith and a hand out with questions. He then was silent for 30 seconds before wondering what went on inside the heads of those gathered. Who’s talking? Does God have a voice? Does he speak outside of the Bible? What do we expect him to say? Is our internal life part of his domain? In Matthew 5-7 Jesus brings out that our internal life is at least as important as our external life.

Doctrine is needed before application. There is a need to consider our views of Scripture, Trinity, Christ, salvation, and the Spirit. Under what conditions is it possible for our doctrines and beliefs to change? In looking at EMC statements of faith from the 1950s until today, the doctrine of the Holy Spirit is fairly consistent. Yet we get stuck. How many sermons do we hear on the Holy Spirit in the EMC? There are lots of sermons on Jesus. There is fear of extremism, of Pentecostal stuff. The Holy Spirit gives strength, convicts, and illuminates. He speaks generally and to the children of God. Discerning the Spirit requires prayer and humility.

Summary

Moderator Abe Bergen summarized the three views as presented through “different lenses”: Jeff Thiessen focused on the need to discern in community, Alain Reimer concentrated on the biblical text, and Garry Koop emphasized theology. At CMU Bergen learned the skill of “listening for other languages.” He uses language as an Anabaptist-Mennonite Evangelical yet found other traditions say the same thing in different words. If we don’t listen beyond the words, we miss the meaning and people talk past each other rather than with each other.

Question and Answer Periods

After each presentation there was a time for questions and comments by listeners and presenters. After the coffee break, there was a general discussion. Here are some questions and comments:

  • How do discern together as a church? (Small groups are needed.)
  • How do we recognize whether people who say, “I have a calling” might be mentally deluded? (The community of faith is needed to discern.)
  • Can we diminish the Holy Spirit if we not prepared? How important is the posture? (Paul does not wait; he serves. God can break in for a specific direction.)
  • It is damaging to use listening prayer among people who are not mature in the faith; they might wrongly think others are better.
  • There is concern that personal preference can be confused with God’s will.
  • Get moving. God can close doors.
  • “The Lord told me” has been used to break up an “old boys club.” Discernment should not be used to squelch dissent.
  • Feeling an urge, applied to missions organizations and a northern school board which did not reply; when a door opened, walked through it.
  • In Acts 16, when Paul heard from the Lord, the church talked about it.
  • Didn’t have a problem with Carey’s article even after rereading it. Felt led to study at SBI; it resulted in a change of life that, 60 years later, isn’t regretted.
  • Language is an issue; vocabulary is an issue. Being filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom are not opposites. In John 14 the Holy Spirit highlights Jesus.
  • Grew up in a Pentecostal church where there was much taught on the Spirit, less on Christ. Has observed caution within the EMC about the Holy Spirit.
  • The Jerusalem council of Acts 15 used the language of “it seems good to the Holy Spirit and to us” that did not dictate certainty.

Closing Thoughts By Moderator

terry-smith
Terry M. Smith

Abe Bergen said the Church has grappled with how to discern hearing from God throughout history. We develop responses based on what happens to us. Don’t be afraid of someone saying, “God told me,” but discern what it means. Some people will hear from God more than he does. He’s okay with that. He does not want to diminish or quench the Holy Spirit in their lives. This has been a really good conversation with conflicting points of view, and more views will come out in Theodidaktos, “and that will be fantastic.” The moderator thanked Barry Plett and Russell Doerksen and all involved for this event.

Note: Some of Jeff Thiessen’s position is presented in Theodidaktos (June 2018), though the Journal’s contents and the MacGregor-Blumenort event were planned independently. The presentations by Jeff Thiessen, Alain Reimer, and Garry Koop will be available on the MacGregor EMC website.