HEREDIA, Costa Rica – Five Central American church leaders, along with three EMM workers and the founders of the Costa Rican VidaNet discipleship network, met on March 10–11, 2016, to develop plans for an Anabaptist mission and discipleship training center that will serve all of Central America.
At the July 2015 Mennonite World Conference, Samuel Martinez, president of the El Salvador Mennonite Conference; Carlos Espana, president of the Spanish Mennonite Conference in Guatemala; and Manuel Flores, leader of training for the Honduras Mennonite Church, approached Steve Shank, EMM pioneering coach, about their desire to create an Anabaptist program to train and equip young people for missions.
In November 2015, while Shank was in Berne, Indiana, for a speaking engagement at First Mennonite Church, the church learned of the desire to form a Central American training center and offered to give financially toward the costs of a development meeting, including travel costs. This allowed Shank and the other church and ministry leaders to assemble in Heredia, Costa Rica, in March 2016.
Besides Martinez, Espana, Flores, and Shank, other attendees at the development meeting included Adalid Romero, president of the Honduras Mennonite Conference; Fernando Blanco, president of the Belize Mennonite Conference; Galen and Phyllis Groff, EMM regional representatives for Central America; and DeLynn and Gloria Hoover, founders of the VidaNet discipleship network in Costa Rica.
There the leaders discussed their dreams for the training center. Their goal was to find a way to train and mobilize young people from all around Central America in ways that could be practically applied. They wanted training that could be applied in multiple categories of missions and discipleship: long-term cross-cultural missions, pastoral or ministry work within congregations, and discipleship training for the Christian walk outside of formal ministry work.
Through the two-day development meeting, the Central American church leaders decided to structure a 10-month mission and discipleship training program for Central American youth, to begin in October 2017. Details are still being decided, but the training center will most likely be based in Guatemala. In preparation for the center’s opening, the leaders plan to convene a two-week youth rally in Honduras towards the end of 2016, which will include youth from around Central America.
The church leaders also hope to introduce leadership representation from K’ekchi’ and Garifuna Mennonite churches, as well as Amor Viviente in Honduras. Ideally, when the training center opens in October 2017, it will represent approximately 40,000 believers from hundreds of Central American churches.
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