NEW YORK CITY — “As a group, we are looking to the future. Our desire is to mobilize leaders to new areas in Honduras to plant new communities of Anabaptist faith, and to cross borders and continents.” That’s how Omar Guzman, the founder of Mennonite Garifuna Mission, described the Garifuna Mennonite Church’s mission vision in a nutshell. And the church is well on its way to fulfilling those missional dreams.
The Garifuna Mennonite Church is turning its attention overseas after focusing its energy on planting Garifuna Mennonite churches in the U.S. After Guzman founded Mennonite Garifuna Mission, it went on to plant eight churches across the U.S. in the last 10 years, in cities including Miami, New Orleans, and New York City.
As a first step in the large-scale plan to take the gospel to Garifuna people all over the world, Mennonite Garifuna Mission has planned a series of mission trainings in Honduras, partially funded by Eastern Mennonite Missions (EMM). The first training took place in February 2018, when a group of 16 young Garifuna Mennonites between the ages of 16 and 25 gathered in Honduras. They spent four days learning and practicing mission in the town of Triunfo de la Cruz, a large Garifuna community on the north coast of Honduras.
Guzman, who coordinated the training, said, “We have a good group of young people in Honduras. They can be prepared little by little, until they can understand the vision of church planting and mission.” Guzman speaks from extensive experience in church planting. He currently serves as a New York City pastor, a bishop, and as Lancaster Mennonite Conference’s church multiplication coordinator.
The next step in Mennonite Garifuna Mission’s plan to reach the nations will be the completion of a Garifuna Mennonite mission center, which is currently being constructed in Triunfo de la Cruz to train and send Garifuna missionaries throughout the world.
The Garifuna people are the descendants of intended African slaves who escaped or were shipwrecked on the journey to the U.S. and settled in Central America. The largest Garifuna community is in Honduras, but Garifuna people also live throughout Central America, the U.S., and European locations including Spain and France.
Mennonite Garifuna Mission plans to send missionaries to the Garifuna communities of Spain and France. Guzman says they also plan to take the gospel to the regions of Africa where their ancestors came from. The February training, he said, “was the first of several workshops that we are planning for the next two years until we can send people internationally.”
The first Garifuna Mennonite church was planted through the ministries of EMM workers James and Beatrice Hess, who served in Honduras from 1951–1970.
Steve Shank, who currently serves as EMM’s strategic coach after serving among the Garifuna in Belize from 1979–1982, said, “The Garifuna Mennonite Church is filled with people of action. When God gives them a calling, they don’t wait — they make it happen! This will be a powerful church multiplication movement.”