July 12, 2018

Food and friends from many lands: EMM’s 23rd annual Global Fair

Written by  Linda Moffett
Mustafa Nuur, representing his cultural exchange startup Bridge, sells Somalian food to Tim Charles at EMM’s 23rd annual Global Fair. Filsan Omar, also from Somalia, assists at the booth. Nuur came to the U.S. as a refugee from Somalia 3 ½ years ago. Photo by Jonathan Charles. Mustafa Nuur, representing his cultural exchange startup Bridge, sells Somalian food to Tim Charles at EMM’s 23rd annual Global Fair. Filsan Omar, also from Somalia, assists at the booth. Nuur came to the U.S. as a refugee from Somalia 3 ½ years ago. Photo by Jonathan Charles.

WILLOW STREET, Pa. — It’s all about the international food — at least according to Luke Charles, 35, of Millersville, Pa., who has not missed Eastern Mennonite Missions’ (EMM’s) Global Fair for 19 of the event’s 23 years.

This year’s Global Fair, which took place on July 7 at the Hans Herr House in Willow Street, Pa., had more than 12 food stands, ranging from Nepali dishes to Spanish empanadas to good old American frankfurters. Somali food is what tempted Charles this year, along with osh from Central Asia.

“The food is a big reason why I come. Also, I know a lot of the people who attend and have exhibits,” Charles said. Charles’ wife Sherelle and their three children, ages 3, 5, and 7, also attended, along with other family members.

“I was surprised that my 5-year-old remembered coming last year,” Charles said. “The alpacas and the Faith and Furrows exhibit (a Hans Herr House feature) were big hits with my kids.” All three children completed a flag scavenger hunt to win free ice cream.

Mustafa Nuur, founder of the cultural exchange startup Bridge, talked with fairgoers and sold food from his native Somalia. Nuur, who arrived in the U.S. 3 ½ years ago, said Global Fair was a great opportunity to be part of an international community.

“This is amazing,” Nuur said. “It was great seeing Americans and internationals meeting together in the same place.”

For the first time at Global Fair, fairgoers were treated to a demonstration of traditional Korean dance. Moon Jung Kang from Ilsan, South Korea, performed a royal court dance in a brightly colored hanbok (traditional dress). Kang, who graduated from Lancaster Mennonite School in 2017, is part of a group that raises awareness of Korean culture by performing traditional dances and drumming.

“Korean dance is very delicate,” Kang said. “It may seem like sometimes I’m not moving much, but the movements are very precise and beautiful.”

There were five free children’s activities hosted by EMM, although several EMM workers hosted their own children’s activities. Children could decorate Czech cookies at one stand, or taste dried bamboo worms at another! At Marty and Glenna Sollenberger’s table, children made a musical shaker while hearing a song sung in an Incan language.

The Sollenbergers from Dallas, Texas, are EMM workers who serve with Wycliffe Bible Translators. Glenna, an ethnomusicologist, asked children what Bible translation and music had in common. She then shared the story of Rómulo Sauñe Quicaña, who translated the Psalms for the Quechua people in Peru and put the verses to music. Glenna played a wooden recorder and sang Psalm 121 in the Quechua language for those who stopped by her booth.

“I feel like I’m smiling the whole time I’m at Global Fair,” said Nelson Okanya, EMM president. “Seeing our workers, partners, constituency, visitors, and immigrants from many countries all at one gathering, enjoying many different cultures and learning about where God is at work — what could be better?”

It is estimated that more than 1,500 visitors — many of them first-time attendees — came to the 2018 Global Fair. More than 20 countries were represented in five regions of the world.