August 19, 2004

Fifteen international mission groups confer at International Missions Association meeting in Honduras

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras – Representatives of 15 Anabaptist-Mennonite mission agencies in Africa, Asia, and North and South America gathered in Honduras, July 21-22, to confer and celebrate God’s work around the world.

While welcoming the group and noting its strategic importance as a mission-with-mission endeavor, Richard Showalter, president of the International Missions Association (IMA) and president of Eastern Mennonite Missions, gave a brief history.

Since organizing in 1997 in Calcutta, India, with charter members from PIPKA in Indonesia, Amor Viviente in Honduras, Meserete Kristos Church in Ethiopia, and EMM in the United States, the IMA has grown to include other member mission groups from the U.S., India, Honduras, Tanzania, the Philippines, and Kenya.

In the early 1980s our family went to Kenya to work with Henry Mulandi and the Regions Beyond Ministry (now Christian Church International),” Showalter said. “They might have thought I came to help them, but most importantly, I was discipled by them,” he said.

In the 21st century, the center of missions has shifted to the South – Africa, Asia, and Latin America,” Showalter continued. “We in the West are in great need of fellowship with the new centers for mission in the South. The IMA exists to serve as a global fellowship for centers of mission everywhere. For me to be a part of this international fellowship of missions is one of the most exciting things I can imagine. We’ve not experienced anything this global since Pentecost! We need each other’s fellowship and partnership. We are here as peers in mission – receivers and givers all.”

Over the next two days, the ten IMA member programs shared reports and prayer needs with the group.

Reporting for PIPKA in Indonesia, Yesaya Abdi told of their church’s outreach on five of Indonesia’s 13,000 islands. In addition they have sent workers internationally to the Himalayas, Mongolia, and Hong Kong.

Kenna Dula, an interim general secretary for Meserete Kristos in Ethiopia, was excited to attend his first IMA meeting. “This networking is wonderful,” he said. “I see in a new way that if Latins and Africans stand together, we can also reach out to Europe and America.” He reported that the MKC evangelism and mission department is committed to preaching and establishing indigenous churches among the remaining 55-60 unreached people groups in Ethiopia. They currently support 94 church planters among 14 of these groups. In addition they have sent workers internationally to Djibouti and Somaliland.

Reporting for Amor Viviente, Javier Soler spoke of their strong sense of call to missions in Europe, particularly Spain. They envision a missions training center in southern Spain from which they could begin reaching into Morocco. While continuing to expand within Honduras, Amor Viviente church planters have also begun work in Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Costa Rica.

In the Philippines we are building a church and mission center,” said Walfrido Libunao for the Integrated Mennonite Churches of the Philippines. As they continue church planting among the tribal peoples they also envision more urban church planting in Manila. While sending a Filipina missionary to Hong Kong, the IMC is working hard to develop more tent-making work for support of its pastors and missionaries.

Melvin Fernandez reported that the Honduran Mennonite Church has established its own three-member missions committee. There are at least 42 missionary efforts from their churches – including international work in the U.S. and Spain. They are giving training for work in the Muslim world and hope within the next year to send someone to Morocco.

Tilahun Beyene, IMA coordinator, reported for Chris Kateti of the Kanisa la Mennonite Tanzania (KMT) who was unable to be present because of visa problems. Church growth has been rapid in the Mwanza district – from 15 to 60 churches in the last two years. The Christian Church International of Kenya was able to send leadership trainers for 25 leaders in the Mwanza district. KMT has also moved across the border to plant the first Mennonite church of Uganda, which now has 160 members.

Samuel Lopez reported for Misiòn Red (Network), the mission agency of the Spanish Mennonite Council. Since its beginning in 1992 they have planted 26 churches in Mexico, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and the U.S. This year they are planting five new churches. They have a vision to reach the 42 million Hispanics in the U.S., a population growing at the rate of 2 million each year. And this doesn’t count 8-10 million undocumented Hispanics. Mision Red is also beginning immigration offices in Lancaster and Reading to assist new immigrants with legal issues.

Speaking for EMM, Mervin Charles mentioned several mission-with-mission initiatives. In the Middle East, EMM partnered with a training of Ethiopian and Eritrean evangelists. In Guatemala, K’ekchi’ Mennonites are reaching out cross-culturally to the neighboring Pocomchi’. The churches in El Salvador are entering into an exchange with a church in Virginia. A new church planting team is entering the Balkans. In the U.S., work among immigrant peoples is growing, and new work with Native Americans has begun. Beth Good serves as a resource to all regions for HIV/AIDS work. EMM has initiated short-term GO! teams to assist long-term missions. We want to work collaboratively with all other agencies – helping each new emerging mission agency to grow,” Charles said.

From the Kenya Mennonite Church, Philip Okeyo reported the development of a new seven-member missions committee. This year they have planted four new congregations and started a missions training program. They’ve sent a short-term church planting team to Uganda. They are giving special training for outreach to Muslims and training for ministry to HIV/AIDS victims. “The IMA has really helped to spark good and necessary changes in KMC,” Okeyo said. “Something happens when people get together!”

When P.C. Alexander from PTL India first met people from EMM three years ago and was invited to attend the IMA, he says he was feeling very dry and lonely. He has found the networking and friendships formed through the IMA to be energizing and life-giving. For the past eight years, their organization has sent church planters into some of the least evangelized areas of north India. They now have over 30 full-time workers and 80 church planting locations. They have witnessed much physical and spiritual transformation in the region. They continue to train workers in two mission training institutions, and operate three elementary schools in Hindu regions where other more open evangelism is not possible. They have strong intercession teams undergirding the work.

After an afternoon of brainstorming and dreaming together about future directions and goals, IMA members affirmed the planning of another conference on the Holy Spirit in Missions next year in Indonesia. The annual meeting of the IMA will also take place in conjunction with the conference and with the 40th anniversary of PIPKA. Proposed dates are May 11-22, 2005.