It was mid-morning when I found Mamadou Traoré at his restaurant, a six-foot-square plywood kiosk painted baby blue, its shutters propped open with sticks, bar stools lined up at the window. His eyelids were drooping, and he was falling off his chair. He had worked all night selling omelettes and glasses of sticky-sweet Nescafé. In West Africa during the month of Ramadan, when Muslims abstain from food and drink all day, nights are good for business.
We hadn’t seen each other in four years.
I sat on a bar stool while he stirred sweetened condensed milk into a glass of coffee for me. He set a square plywood coaster over the mouth to keep out the flies and took out his cellphone to snap a photo. “Now all my customers will believe me when I tell them I have a white friend.” Continue reading The Way We Give→
A dozen children pressed their noses against the screen of our porch staring into the white people’s house. “Look”, one of them said, “They have five kerosene lamps burning!” Yiin–Lampa mɔ́n kwɛŋl! At their homes a family had only one lamp burning. These white foreigners were very wealthy indeed! Our kitchen stove, kerosene refrigerator, library of schoolbooks and our pickup truck set us apart from our neighbors in the village.
The result of our lifestyle also meant that we often had excess material belongings that we wanted to get rid of. Usually, it was when we were preparing to go back to Canada for a furlough that we sorted our stuff and came up with bags or boxes of household goods we wanted to clean up.
We had lived and worked in a particular country for several years and had learned and adjusted to much of the culture. Most days we loved being there, sharing our lives and the gospel. But there were also occasions of difficulty. Some of our new friends seemed to often need financial help along the way. We wanted our friendships to be genuine and free from the complications of lending and borrowing money. So, we decided right from the start of our ministry that we would not give out loans. After all that would put our friends under the burden of debt and paying us back. Continue reading Misunderstandings of Patron/Client Relationships→
My wife, Teresa Enns Zehr, has proven herself to be a great pastor. She was called into pastoral ministry by the Holy Spirit from a very young age. This calling was confirmed by our congregation (Aberdeen EMC) and they continue to fully affirm her four years into her time as our pastor. However, she continues to be told by the Conference that she is not fully capable as a pastor because she is a woman. She is not allowed to be ordained or have her vote count at Ministerial meetings. Continue reading Letters August 2021→
Recently, I was surprised by the story of Cornelius in Acts 10. The angel appeared to him in a vision and said, “Your prayers and charitable gifts have ascended as a memorial offering before God” (Acts 10:4 NASB).
The imagery reminded me of when God gave instructions about the tabernacle to the Israelites in the wilderness. “And when Aaron sets up the lamps at twilight, he shall burn incense. There shall be perpetual incense before the Lord throughout your generations” (Exodus 30:8 NASB). Then, in Revelation, “the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people” (5:8; also see 8:3–4). Continue reading Beautiful, Perpetual Incense→
Our pain cannot fit in the heart of the sea. The ocean is too small to embrace our heartache!
By Pamir Ministries
We cannot believe it. Afghanistan is collapsing. Nothing has stopped the Taliban momentum and they have now entered Kabul. Will it be a transitional government or a total Taliban takeover? Afghans are deeply fearful. Panic, dismay and confusion are everywhere. Foreigners are leaving. What about the believers? Borders are closed. Continue reading Afghanistan – Any Hope Left?→
STEINBACH, Man.—Steinbach Bible College celebrated the graduating class of 2021 with a livestreamed celebration over April 23–24. In total, 38 graduates were recognized with seven Certificate of Biblical studies, nine Associate of Arts, and 22 Bachelor of Arts degrees.
With a third wave of COVID-19 looming in Manitoba ahead of the official graduation date, provincial restrictions in place with more likely to come, SBC was tasked with celebrating graduates while maintaining safety and adhering to public health guidelines. Continue reading SBC Celebrates Graduates of 2021→
There is an old story about a king, watching his blind servants gathering around an elephant trying to figure out what this object is. Each blind servant gets hold of one part of the elephant. One grabs the tail and thinks the elephant is a ropey thing. Another grabs the leg and claims he’s found a tree trunk. Another touches the side of the elephant and declares it’s a flat wall.
This story has become a modern-day legend often used to show how all of us only have a part of the truth. All religions are like these blind servants, we are told, holding their elephant-y body part, loudly proclaiming their view as the whole truth. The lesson we are taught is that what we think true is only a body part—a tail, but certainly not an elephant. Continue reading Jesus Is the Elephant and King!→
Editor’s Note: This article is the fourth of a six-part series on God’s call and discernment. The first three articles were published in the January, March and May 2021 issues. The first article by Nancy Friesen (January 2021) was not labelled as part of the series.
PARAGUAY – As a missionary kid (MK) growing up in the jungles of East Paraguay, life was filled with danger and excitement. In 1965, Dad and others started to dream of using radio to bring the gospel to the indigenous people of Paraguay. The Lord heard their prayers and, ten years later, Radio ZP-30 began.
When I was five and felt scared and unprepared to die, Mom helped me receive Jesus into my heart. From a young age, I felt God wanted me to be a missionary—even though I was shy and did not like big groups or a lot of attention. The only gift I could offer was my desire to serve him.
As a young teen, Dad allowed me to work as a disc jockey at Radio ZP-30. Later, I moved to East Paraguay and learned responsibility at my first real job. I loved soccer, youth and my new dirt bike. I soon noticed the Friesen twins; my heart pounded when I was around one of them. Their brothers shared my interests and we became good friends. I was delighted to help transport the girls to community events with my dirt bike.
Eventually I got up the courage to ask Revita out. We studied the Bible and prayed together. She made me a card with Proverbs 16:9 on it, which has become the motto of our lives: “In their hearts human beings plan their lives. But the Lord decides where their steps will take them” (NIRV). We dreamed of a future together, but I had to know: if the Lord called me to be a missionary far or near, could she see herself accompanying this call? She said, “Yes, where you go, I’ll go.”
We married in 1987 and moved to Rosenort, Man., to work and serve in Rosenort EMC. After completing studies at Steinbach Bible College in 1990, we prayed and applied to the EMC Board of Missions. We were open to wherever the Lord would direct.
A short-term schoolteacher was needed for MKs in Caaguazú, Paraguay; in 1991, we left for Paraguay with our infant son. Teaching seven kids in five different grades was difficult, but with Revita’s support and p ayer, I made it through. We joined Ken and Val Zacharias in a church plant, discipling new believers as we were being discipled.
In time, the Lord led us back to Tres Palmas into full-time radio ministry for 12 years. Revita started counselling and mentoring Paraguayan women, and we noticed the need for a Spanish church in Tres Palmas. As we helped plant this church, the Lord gave us a passion to help marriages and families.
After terminating our ministry at Radio Mensajero and taking a leave of absence, we joined the church plant in Minga Guazú in 2012. The Lord has directed our steps to prepare ourselves better to care for people’s hearts, providing counselling and hope for marriages and relationships. “Caring for the Heart – Paraguay” is now our main ministry.
Chris and Revita Kroeker (Rosenort EMC) have served with EMC Missions in East Paraguay since 1991.
I (Jennifer Kornelsen) visited with Elvira Cote one rainy day this spring. Elvira is from Cote First Nation in Saskatchewan and she lives in Winnipeg. Elvira serves God with Healing Hearts Ministries, and has been an Evangelical Mennonite Conference missionary for 25 years. Her home church is Braeside EMC. Elvira and I are sharing our conversation with you so that you can hear my questions (I’m a white settler), and Elvira’s wisdom (Elvira is Saulteaux).
A note about terminology: language is always evolving, and the names used for ethnic categories can be delicate. The Messenger uses Indigenous Peoples to refer to the original inhabitants of Canada; First Nations is also common in usage. Elvira has a personal preference for the term Native, and she uses this term most of the time.
Jennifer Kornelsen (JK): The EMC has traditionally been made up mostly of people with European ethnic backgrounds. You are First Nations. Describe what your experience has been.
Elvira Cote (EC): Well first of all, I have belonged to a mostly white EMC church and many of my friends are white Mennonites. We are life-long friends. Throughout my years raising my salary as a missionary, non-Native people have been very generous. The majority of my financial support has come from my white Menn onite friends and connections.
Whenever I visit other EMC churches to speak I receive an abundance of warm welcomes and hugs and I am assured that lots of people are praying for me. I really feel the Holy Spirit through the genuine care and love that I receive from EMCers.
Like other Native people, I have had my share of negative experiences in the church, including in our denomination. Most often this has happened when non-Native people have asked me questions that are ignorant. When I’m asked ignorant questions I feel that I’m being looked down on and that non-Native people have not made the effort to learn about me and my people. This makes me feel that we are not valuable and that we are being overlooked.
In general, Mennonite people are such hard workers. They will work the land till they can work no more! Perhaps if they didn’t work quite as hard they might look up and look around and notice their Native neighbours more. But I have had good relationships with people who took the time to get to know me and just be my friend.
JK:What would you like EMC people to know about First Nations people in Canada?
EC: Non-Native people (like long-time EMC missionaries Frank and Mary Braun) were the first to share Jesus among Natives, but a lot of Native people have come to Christ and have taken up the task of spreading the gospel. My niece Venus Cote and myself became believers through the witness of Frank and Mary and we both now serve as Native missionaries. In this way I have seen how God has multiplied the good news. Native people are still coming to Christ!
Native people in Canada are your neighbour. God calls us to love our neighbours. The EMC has invested a lot in overseas missions over the years, and this is great. But the EMC needs to keep looking in its own back yard and invest in Canadian Native people. One thing that would really help would be to support Native missionaries financially.
JK:How could non-Indigenous people become better at developing friendships with Indigenous People?
EC: Mennonites are naturally quite passive and they often stay in their little groups and comfortable settings. Its important to be willing to leave your setting to get to know your Native neighbours. The most important thing non-Native people can do is learn directly from Native people themselves, through relationships. It isn’t okay to just learn about Native people by reading about them in the news or learning from white experts and academics. Instead, take the time to be a friend to one Native person. This includes listening well, visiting, having tea and laughing together.
Don’t think of your Native friend as a project, and never be forceful with sharing the gospel. Instead, come alongside your Native friend. Invest your life by being a true friend to that one person. It doesn’t sound like much, but it would make a big difference. Friendship is the most important thing, not charity. In fact, charity is more often hurtful than it is helpful, if there is no genuine friendship.
JK: How do you suggest a white person could become friends with an Indigenous person? Give us some advice!
EC: Always say “hi.” Smile and connect casually with a Native person that you see on the street.
Remember that person, and recognize them when you see them more than once.
Ask a simple, friendly question like, “hey, you must live around here, I’ve seen you before.” Start some small talk and offer your name.
If you’ve begun to have some small talk, take the time to ask the Native person where they are from. Ask which reserve they are connected to. Native people appreciate being known in relation to their home communities.
Don’t be fearful. Native people are very perceptive and they won’t find it easy to relate to you if they feel you are afraid of them.
Follow up, and mean what you say.
Superficial relationships are a good start. Superficial relationships can deepen, especially if you learn where the other person lives.
Find ways to share. Native people appreciate giving and receiving gifts. I’ve had really good experiences sharing cartons of eggs with a woman I happened to meet, and a box of chocolates with a frazzled young mother. These were opportunities to build further connection.
JK: What are some of the gifts that Indigenous people have for the church, the natural strengths in First Nations cultures?
EC: There are so many natural strengths in Native people. These are of course generalizations, but Native people are very genuine. They are humble, putting others first and not needing to be in the spotlight. Many Native people have great discernment. They love to laugh and they have a great sense of humour. This includes being silly and teasing, but isn’t usually hurtful teasing because Native people don’t take things very personally.
The way they look at things is unique. They have a great gift for story telling. Jesus’ life demonstrates that story-telling can be a very good way of gently teaching truth and Native people are good at this.
And of course, just like other cultural groups, Native people love their traditional foods, like bannock, and they love to share food.
JK:What is God doing among First Nations people and how can the EMC support this and pray?
EC: There have been many great Christian Native leaders, but these are getting older and we need to raise up a younger generation of leaders and missionaries who are Native. We need to invest in the youth and help them to grow by supporting them to attend Bible school and especially to be taught by older Native Christians. Northern Canada Evangelical Mission (NCEM) is training Native missionaries and we need to support this. There should be a Bible school especially for Native people.
Inviting Native people to be speakers in EMC churches would really open eyes and would help non-Natives to learn about what God is doing among Native people.
It would be great it the EMC could maintain a faithful presence in the Native communities where there was ministry in the past, places like Sioux Valley, Manitoba and Kamsack, Saskatchewan.
I find it a privilege to serve in missions under the EMC. EMC has encouraged me from the beginning and has walked with me consistently. Please continue to support me and pray for me!
A publication of the Evangelical Mennonite Conference