Tag Archives: Missions

Burkina Faso: Tubabu Salesman

by Paul Thiessen

I roam through the bustling crowds of the Saturday market and listen for someone calling my name, “Bwallon Kén!”We exchange all the necessary greetings, then he says, “Ma tè” (What’s the news?) So I tell them that I’m selling Siamou calendars.

I pull out a blue calendar and explain the attractive features, especially the five days of the Siamou week, and show them how they can find which is today. They love it. This is, indeed, a Siamou calendar.

The men are making china green tea with their tiny enamel teapots and charcoal burner. The aroma of hot tea and glowing coals fills the air. They offer me some in the middle of my presentation. Very sweet. Very strong. Very delicious. 

I read them all the names of the months in Siamou: “Cold Weather Month, Hot Weather Month, Very Hot Weather Month, Pick up the Daba Month, Seeding Month….”

Next, I show them the Noah story. Each month has a short paragraph of this story. I begin to read the first two paragraphs in Siamou: Noah was a righteous man. He walked with God. But the people were evil and rebelled against God. So God told Noah to build a large boat.

By now a small crowd has gathered. Here is a Tubabu (white man) reading Siamou out loud. They have never seen such a thing before. I read extra loud to attract attention. More people are coming to listen. Siamou people are hearing a Bible story in their beloved language for the first time.

Then I tell the rest in Siamou, because reading it all would take too long there in the middle of the market. I emphasize that it rained 40 days, using the Siamou word for “forty” (kpélnkrô). This number impresses the listeners, because young people say “binani” (in Jula, the trade language) even when they are talking Siamou. Hearing the genuine Siamou word for the number 40 gets people excited. This story is being told in pure Siamou.

I tell the story pointing to the pictures on each page. Then I get to the end, where Noah is lifting up his hands toward God to thank Him for saving his family.

About halfway through the story, someone is digging in his pocket for change. He hands me 300 fcfa, and I give him a calendar. Someone else says, “The price is too high. Lower the price.” I answer: “We paid the printshop in Ouagadougou 500 fcfa for each of these. You are already getting a good deal.” Out comes 300 fcfa. They know this is a good deal.

They love hearing their language and they love the prestige it gives Siamou people and the Siamou language to hear a Tubabu reading it.

After selling a few calendars I go home and pray that God will use this story of Noah to lead people toward the Truth, toward God, and toward Eternal Life.

Paul Thiessen (Blumenort), currently living in Canada, has served in Burkina Faso, west Africa, for many years.

Window on Missions: What, a Changed Funding Model?

By Tim Dyck and Ken Zacharias

What? EMC Missions Wants to Change the Missionary Support Model?   

Yes, you read that correctly. The Board of Missions will be presenting a proposal to Conference Council in November for some missionaries. The proposal will be to move from 100% support of ministry to a blended model. The missionary family will raise 40% with the other 60% to come from the EMC General Budget. The change described here only applies to EMC-administered missionaries serving in Guadalajara (Mexico), Bolivia, and Paraguay at this time.

Note: EMC Missions also supports Associate Missionaries who serve with partner agencies. The number of Associate Missionaries has remained about the same since the 1980s and they already operate on a blended model, receiving a subsidy from the General Budget.

Why is the Change Necessary?

The current model has been in place since EMC Missions was founded as a Missions Committee in 1953. At that time, the suggested donation from every congregation was one cent per member per day. Amazingly, this was almost enough to pay the entire cost of the missionaries at that time!

Since then, the number of EMC-administered missionaries grew steadily, along with the finances needed to support them, reaching a high point in the 1980s. This was followed by a period of gradual decline in the numbers of missionaries serving directly under EMC administration. The amount of funding for EMC missions is also declining, especially in the past number of years, while inflation increases the costs of supporting missionaries.

The board recognizes that if the current trends continue, there will eventually be too few missionaries and too little funding available to continue to have a vibrant missions program. In keeping with our EMC Vision statement to be a movement of people advancing Christ’s Kingdom culture as we live, reach, gather and teach, the board wants to see growth in both numbers of missionaries and finances to support them.

How Will this Change Promote Growth?

The Missions sub-committee that developed this proposal researched the current trends and interacted with many other churches and agencies. They also sent out a survey to ask EMCers their opinions about the proposed change.

One of the trends that they observed is that while EMCers continue to be very generous towards missions, they also want to be able to direct their giving to specific projects. They want to have a strong connection to the ministries that they are giving towards. The blended support model promotes this strong connection and allows missionaries the opportunity to develop a larger network of friends, prayer and financial supporters.

To assist missionaries in raising support, the EMC Missions Administration will oversee the development of Home Teams to work alongside existing missions committees and to advocate for the missionaries. The Home Team will provide encouragement, prayer, logistical support, connections, and will generally assist the missionaries in connecting with supporters.

When Will the Changes Happen?

The Board is currently working out the details in the EMC Missions Handbook. The plan is to begin the transition to Home Teams in 2019, and then gradually phase in the blended support over the following three years. Current EMC missionaries are fully aware of the timeline and the changes.

Tim Prefered Cropped 2
Tim Dyck, Executive Director
Ken Zacharias
Ken Zacharias, Director of Global Outreach

How Can I Help?

We would love to have many people engaged with our EMC missionaries as part of Home Teams and as people who are interested, praying, and giving to these ministries. Please contact the EMC office (info@emconference.ca) and also speak to your local missions committee and/or your church delegates to share your thoughts. Thanks for your support of EMC missionaries!

Board of Missions Assignment: Angel and Blanca Infantes

The EMC Board of Missions is excited to announce that Angel and Blanca Infantes were assigned to serve in Guadalajara, Mexico, earlier this summer. They arrived in Mexico on July 4 and their four children (Saraí, Belén, Christopher, Carlos) started school in mid-August. They join Dallas and Tara Wiebe as part of our church planting team. Pray that God would give them peace as they settle into this city of seven million people as their children are finding it difficult to adjust, having grown up in Manitoba. To send them a note of encouragement, contact us for details.

Ministerial Looks at ‘The Mission of the Church’

by Terry M. Smith

LONDON, Ont.—The EMC’s ministerial on July 6, 2018, heard a devotional by Jacob Enns, learned of Layton Friesen’s first year as conference pastor, and considered The Mission of the Church.


Richard Klassen, Board of Leadership and Outreach chair, welcomed ministerial members, noting that he had previously spent nine years in the region. Pastor Jacob Enns (Leamington) provided the devotional, telling delegates that they must go beyond interpreting Anabaptist history as when the Church got it right and that Jesus is lucky to have us. Rather, despite obstacles the Church has succeeded miraculously well because the message of the cross was central. The story continues. Let’s continue as disciples, the ones who are fortunate.

First Year

Layton Friesen, conference pastor, began serving about a year ago with “ignorant bliss,” has encountered major challenges among churches, and looks forward to the future. He has learned of the “heroic ministry” that occurs across the EMC.

He had several observations. First, the EMC lives by friendships, not a bureaucracy. Second, there is a need to walk with churches that suffer and ex-pastors need care. Third, pastoring in the EMC is the art of achieving a “glorious, widespread” mediocrity—the ability to do many things adequately without being a genius in any. Fourth, he needs to better deal with stress. Fifth, there is a need to remain faithful to Scripture amid society—including “the Benedict Option” and to be more intentional about spiritual formation.

Relatedly, the EMC needs to re-examine how we make pastors, and the November meeting will explore a move from a “challenge the exam” model to a six- to eight-month program for ordinands, he said.

Missions and Church Planting

Much of the day was spent on The Mission of the Church—actually limited to foreign missions and Canadian church planting. Fred Buhler, Board of Missions chair, said its guiding principles include that we are more effective working together; he’s concerned by a lack of vision when a local church says it only has enough funds for local needs. Staff members want to be invited by local churches to assist people to be involved, and he assumes that BOM materials are distributed and used.

The BOM is evaluating the work in Guadalajara, dealing with changes in giving patterns, and is involved in missionary member care. Its role is to plant churches in other cultures and help them form local associations.

A Missionary’s Role

A cross-cultural worker, whose identity is hidden for security reasons, addressed the home church and the missionary. Local churches need more than to be directed or passive about missions. They need to teach missions, be aware of movements in the Global South and East, consider appointing a missions pastor, and seek how to identify people to serve despite our individualistic western culture. In the tensions between people and process, he warned against going it alone or affirming “lone ranger” outfits who “swoop in” for people and money.

The missionary needs to be involved in the local church, to esteem others, to guard against a sense of entitlement and being critical, to welcome accountability, communicate clearly, and report creatively. Donors are to be seen as partners, and the missions committee is to care for its members.

A Pastor’s Role

Ward Parkinson (Rosenort EMC) serves in a church involved in missions for generations. There is blessing in the involvement; the dangers are that the church will rest on its laurels, forget young people who grapple with a sense of call, and see missions as only far away.

A pastor’s role in supporting missions involves five opportunities and three tensions. Two opportunities are to regularly mention missions in preaching and to pray (bulletin notes, EMC Day of Prayer, prayer teams). Third, when inviting missionaries to your church, give them lots of time. Fourth, invest in young people and discipleship related to missions. Fifth, connect regularly with missionary (even by a video chat).

There are three tensions. First, how EMC Missions is to be promoted. Short-term trips are useful for a young person, but help them to understand how they might fit into EMC missions. Don’t assume; help them to make connections. Second, let people go, especially if they are “the best.” Rosenort has freed Scott and Debbie Dick to go to Ste. Agathe. This isn’t subtracting; it’s multiplying. Third, your support as a pastor is important. Make it personal.


Ken Zacharias, director of global missions, said that fully administered fields and associate missions are both arms of EMC Missions. He spoke on member care and the need to debrief missionaries. He referred to 16 questions from Dr. Laurie Gardner, Wycliffe member care, with two key questions being, “How are you doing?” and “What is hard right now?” It might be children, culture, immediate family, finances, languages, or physical health. National staff members are willing to assist local churches in debriefing, he said.

Advocacy Teams

Trisha Reimer, a BOM member, spoke of Missionary Advocacy Teams. There is a need to be more effective as people prepare to enter missions service, are on the field, and after. Missionaries look for team support. Within the local church’s support team, specialists are needed in encouragement, logistics, finances, prayer, communication, and re-entry support. There is a need for team building and training.

Discussion Time

A discussion time centred on a proposed change to missionary funding for fully-administered fields (Paraguay, Mexico, Bolivia) where, in future, missionaries might raise 40 percent of their support. Some people responded negatively to the proposal.

Fred Buhler replied that people give to a cause or a person they know, not a pool of funds. Phil Hamm, a BOM member, said that reduced giving is driving this agenda; the EMC can’t borrow money, doesn’t want to recall workers, and wants to send more workers.

People wondered if the amount to be raised could be reduced or if a root cause analysis of giving patterns had been done. Tim Dyck said the EMC is generous in its support, but needs to learn from what other denominations are experiencing.

Ken Zacharias said that workers are sent by all of the churches, yet a few workers aren’t getting support because the EMC can’t afford it. One pastor said that missionaries aren’t getting into our churches, and another said the EMC is grieving over changes.

Called to Church Planting

Charles Koop, director of church planting, said starting new congregations is stepping out, not knowing about resources. Several church planters then shared their stories.

Jacobs Enns

Jacob Enns (formerly New Life) described church planting as “glorious and messy.” He didn’t anticipate the opposition and attacks he would face. The highs were hope amid anticipating new life. The lows were when people came with wrong motives, seeking to run the church through the pastoral couple; or when people came with great promise and potential, but did not stay.

What would he do differently? He would try to display greater patience, be a better judge of people’s motives, work on being a team leader, better discern people’s abilities, and not be alarmed when people walk away.

Antonio Pitta

Antonio Pitta (Iglesia Emanuel) said one challenge is cultural because Latinos are passionate, quickly angered, and make it personal; they escalate beyond what is right and wrong. An episcopal system works in the southern hemisphere, and he wondered if the EMC should encourage some churches to be episcopal to fit within the culture.

Another challenge is economics. Immigrants often accept low-paying jobs because their credentials are not recognized, or they are to put family first rather than study. People find it hard to accept that a pastor has a salary or a sabbatical. Few families tithe and preaching on giving helps little, so it’s difficult for a church to be self-supporting.

People who work two or three jobs don’t have much time for church activities, so he is concerned how to make good use of the time. The second generation has education and money; the church does not want to lose them spiritually.

His joy is in the Church of Christ, being with other mature believers. What would he do differently? There is a need to plant a church as a team with other mature Christians, so work is more joyful.

Randy Fehr

Randy Fehr (Grace Community Church) said the past while has felt like “sucking slough water.” He was helped by seeing children serve communion, through community, and by remembering Hagar with her “wild child” who knew God as “the one who sees me.”

Challenges come through “dissidents” from other churches, and attitudes toward immigrants and people with mental illnesses. When the church outgrew its rental facility, it shifted its location and service time. Most people left, and the church returned to its former location with lower numbers.

What would he do differently? Some people might have stayed if a building program was started, but GCC values renting. He drew upon 1 Kings 13 for a “crazy story” of a prophet who searched for an easier message when he should have stayed the course.

Troy Selley

Troy Selley (Oak Bluff), chair of the Church Planting Task Force, said the most important activity to spur revival in a church is to plant a new church. Speak to an established church to send out good people and resources. Most churches have a solo pastor, an administrative assistant, a tight budget, a board, the need to balance local growth and international mission, and volunteers—yet revival stems from new churches.

Terry M. Smith

Leaders need to create a personal passion for church planting. Invest time in studying church planting, train church planters in your church, create real-life opportunities, and start with “Wow!” (Andy Stanley), not how. Don’t be a dream killer.

Discussion Time

Prayer was said for a church planter.

There is a need for flexible funding models. [There is flexibility.]

C2C Network is a good organization. God is at work in a broader context.

When a community becomes multi-cultural, use retired missionaries.

There is a need for teams in church planting.

“Domestic missions” is a good phrase.

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

by Caroline Krahn

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.

MacGregor: Adopting Missionaries Enhances Prayer

by Menno Hamm

MacGREGOR, Man.—Several years ago, in order to enhance the missions program in our church, we began the process of “adopting” several missionaries in various fields and forms of ministry. By means of reports, Skype, and occasional visits, our praying became more focused.

A few weeks ago we had to pleasure of welcoming Dory and Debbie Richards into our church on a Sunday morning. Dory has served in administration and programming at Inner City Youth Alive in Winnipeg since 2012. He reported that ICYA ministries, such as drop-ins and wilderness camping, bring hope and a future through Christ for youth and their families in the inner city. He requested prayer for healing, retention and hope for the youth, particularly for those involved with the use of crystal meth.

Debbie, who grew up in MacGregor, has been mentoring “teen moms,” a ministry of Youth for Christ in Winnipeg. “These young mothers don’t fit in with the normal youth groups,” Debbie said, “so I show them the love of Christ, helping them to feel loved and valuable.” She helps them grow into their roles of motherhood, caring for and loving their infants. Since she is now moving into a full-time staff position with YFC, she will appreciate prayer and financial support.

Following the morning service, an abundant potluck lunch provided additional opportunities to interact with Dory and Debbie and their daughter Paige. And then a few weeks later a group from the church travelled to Winnipeg to tour the facilities of Inner City Youth Alive and Union Gospel Mission. These personal connections enhance our participation in following the Lord’s exhortation to pray for workers in the spiritual harvest fields.

Ken Zacharias: Your Church is a Missionary Search Committee!

by Ken Zacharias, Foreign Secretary

Did you know that your local church is a Missionary Search Committee?

Pastoral search committee members often find the process to hire a pastor to be a difficult responsibility. It is a time of celebration when the local church has processed a candidate and has hired a pastor for their congregation.

EMC Missions does not form a search committee as we “search for and engage” missionaries. Yet, in a broader sense, we have sixty-four search committees, each one of the churches in our conference.

Churches are encouraged to actively search for potential missionaries in their congregation who have the spiritual character, witness, and preparation to serve cross-culturally.

But what might be improved is how intentionally some churches look for missionary candidates. Church mission committees should see that one of their primary responsibilities to be to look for missionary candidates within their congregation?

How does it work? Well, it works similarly to our Pastoral Search Committees. Each congregation looks for people who could effectively serve. The job description and position are advertised and the search committee begins to discern who is the right applicant for their local church.

Although churches may vary as to specific job descriptions, search committees are united in that the chosen candidate one who is strong in their spiritual character and Christian witness. This is the first requirement, stated or unstated, for all candidates. Standards are high! This requirement is the same for both pastor and missionary.

One mission agency says, “If you are not convinced that the (missionary) candidates exhibit the level of spiritual character that would qualify them to join your own church staff, then don’t recommend them for missions!”

EMC Missions is looking for gifted people with spiritual character to serve in one of more than twenty countries in which the EMC is ministering. The job descriptions vary, but include those who are qualified to serve in both ministerial and professional disciplines and who are gifted to serve, among others, in one of the following professions:

Church Planting
Radio/Media Business for Mission
Bible Translation
Community Outreach

In 2018 the EMC Board of Missions is praying and discerning for a new destination point for EMC missionaries to enter under its full administration. With an emphasis in church planting, a four- to six-person team is being recruited. We are inviting each one of the 64 church search committees to ask who in your congregation is gifted to be a part of this new team.

The EMC has been blessed as a conference. Within our churches we have ministerial, professionals, and blue collar workers who love the Lord and who are gifted to serve.

Ken Zacharias
Ken Zacharias

Although most positions require a Bible college background, there are positions where this is not a necessity. For some mission opportunities, the candidate will need to work cross-culturally in a language and setting unfamiliar to them.

Search committee work is hard work, but it is rewarding when the church selects and engages both pastoral staff and its missionaries. A Missionary Search Committee can help us do this well.