March 1, 2017

2016 annual report

This is the March/April 2017 issue of Missionary Messenger; sign up to read more articles.

Jan, Steve Horst, and Ja meet for house church in Thailand. Photo provided by Bethany Tobin.

A year in review

“There was a time when farmers on the Great Plains, at the first sign of a blizzard, would run a rope from the back door out to the barn. They all knew stories of people who had wandered off and been frozen to death, having lost sight of home in a whiteout while still in their own backyards. Today we live in a blizzard of another sort. It swirls around us as economic injustice, ecological ruin, physical and spiritual violence, and their inevitable outcome, war. It swirls within us as fear and frenzy, greed and deceit, and indifference to the suffering of others.” — Parker Palmer, A Hidden Wholeness

In many ways, 2016 was a blizzard of sorts. Internationally we experienced terror attacks in Baghdad, Berlin, Brussels, Cairo, Istanbul, Lahore, Nice, and Quetta, as well as in Orlando and Columbus. Earthquakes killed many in Ecuador and Italy; Hurricane Matthew brought death and destruction. North Korea tested its first nuclear warhead. The World Health Organization declared Zika a public health emergency.

In the U.S., we saw a presidential campaign play out in a way that was unprecedented in terms of vitriol and divisiveness. Relations between the police and the public were at an all-time low, resulting in numerous incidences of violence both by the police and against the police. Violence and racial strife were almost themes of the year. We lost a number of cultural icons, including Muhammad Ali, Arnold Palmer, Elie Wiesel, and Timothy LaHaye. We also lost former EMM workers James Sauder and Esther Becker.

But 2016 has brought us glimmers of hope. Boko Haram handed over 21 schoolgirls; the first refugee team competed in the Olympics; Harriet Tubman will be featured on our $20 bill; and, on a light note, the Chicago Cubs won their first World Series since 1908.

When I look back at the work of EMM during 2016, I am inspired and hopeful despite the challenges. Our Christian/Muslim Relations Team traveled globally, working to bring peace among Muslims and Christians. The Mennonite Church in Vietnam elected a new leader and certified a number of ministry workers. Scores of Muslim believers came to faith in Germany. Kingdom teams worked with young refugees in Lancaster, Pa., K’ekchi’ farmers fought against a destructive coffee fungus through farming education that EMM workers helped to provide, and plans continued for a youth missions training center in Central America. And all over the world, EMM workers — our brothers and sisters in Christ — continued to fulfill the Great Commission, often under difficult circumstances, loving others as themselves and showing the faithfulness and mercy of a great Lord.

Jesus walked the face of this earth over 2,000 years ago. He announced and embodied God’s good news to a broken world. That message remains the same. Jesus commissioned His disciples under His authority through the power of the Holy Spirit to go forth and make disciples of all peoples. EMM’s founders were inspired by the same mission, and today, “Christ’s transforming love compels us to cross cultures, engage the world, and make disciples of Jesus.”

I am thankful for the faithfulness of God during the past year and for His faithfulness in the year to come. I am thankful to you, our donors and partners, who believe that the mission of God through EMM is your mission, too.

Nelson Okanya serves as president of EMM.

The annual report provides a window into the work EMM is doing in 11 regions of the world. For a more in-depth look at our vision for each region and the work taking place there, visit You can also stay connected with our work through news releases, feature stories, podcasts, photo galleries, and more at Thank you for taking the time to engage with our mission!

East Africa

11 long-term workers; 7 short-term workers served in 3 countries*

Kenya • Tanzania

*Indicates countries that cannot be named.

Photo provided by the Bontragers.

From the heart

The Confession of Faith in the Mennonite Perspective articulates the highest values and core beliefs of Mennonites. It has been available since 1995 in English. But for East African church members, English is not their heart language.

Joe and Gloria Bontrager, who dedicated a four-year assignment to developing study materials for Swahili-speaking Anabaptists, made translating the Confession a priority. They were fluent in Swahili, the regional trade language, but there was still a problem. For a large group of Kenyan and Tanzanian church members, their heart language was Dholuo. So the Bontragers gathered with Dholuo-speaking church leaders (pictured above, from left: Barak Amolo, Malachi Oloo, Joe Bontrager, and Eliver Omondi) trained in Anabaptist theology. Word by word, they moved through the English version of the Confession, often pausing to deliberate the nuances, struggling to re-cast ideas into the constructs of this ancient African language.

As the translators worked through the document, Joe reports, the energy in the room began to shift. Their focus on the linguistic task faded to the background; they were reading for their own sake, not for the sake of Joe’s project. “We knew this stuff before ...” they said, but somehow it felt like they were seeing it for the first time. It was different — deeper — to be saying it in Dholuo. The good news of God’s movement among people slipped down from the brain toward the soul.

By EMM worker Debbi DiGennaro

Other 2016 highlights in East Africa:

  • Kenya Mennonite Church invites EMM workers to equip churches for Christian-Muslim relations.
  • New Bible courses are written for women in East Africa.
  • Two former YES participants, Eric Koigo and Naaman Agola, meet with Mennonite youth from seven different church clusters for discipleship training.

West Africa

6 long-term workers; 1 short-term worker served in 4 countries

Guinea-Bissau • The Gambia • Senegal • Ghana

Photo provided by Beryl Forrester.

Making disciples

As the West African church develops its own leadership, EMM is phasing out its pioneering and support programs. What role does EMM now play in the West African church? Discipleship!

Non-resident volunteer Beryl Forrester (pictured left, with translator, Salif Badjie) has ministered in Africa for many years, and now he is helping to make this important transition. EMM’s involvement in West Africa is gradually being phased out, as the church develops its own very capable local leaders. Beryl is currently teaching at several evangelical congregations in Senegal. These believers are seeking renewal and a broadened vision for their congregations.

Other 2016 highlights in West Africa:

  • The church in The Gambia is resourced.
  • EMM workers help build a new clinic in Guinea-Bissau.
  • Former YES teammates partner for evangelism in West Africa.

East/Central Europe

6 long-term workers; 1 short-term worker served in 3 countries

Albania • Bosnia-Herzegovina • The Czech Republic

Photo provided by Jan Heindel.

I spend Wednesday and Thursday mornings at Rybicky, my church’s family center, where mothers come with their children during their maternity leave (two to three years in the Czech Republic). The center offers exercises for the children, crafts, Bible study, and English lessons (pictured left). I have an English conversation class with the moms on Wednesday and teach English to the kids on Thursday.

“Missionary” doesn’t translate well here. What matters is that I’m loving people as God has enabled me to in this time and place. I teach English. I’m learning Czech. I help my church and work with youth. Throughout the week I meet with people: sometimes through an English lesson, sometimes for tea and conversation, sometimes in the context of a Bible study or life group. I carry the presence of Jesus in me, and I carry Him into every interaction I have with people throughout the week.

By EMM worker Jan Heindel

Other 2016 highlights in East/Central Europe:

  • Church-related outreaches continue in highly atheistic regions.
  • Transformational business continues at a milk processing plant in Korçë, Albania.
  • Workers teach English as a way to open doors.

West Europe

15 long-term workers; 1 short-term worker served in 4 countries*

Germany • The Netherlands • Wales

*Indicates countries that cannot be named.

2016 highlights in West Europe:

  • EMM workers visit Spain to promote Christian-Muslim friendships.
  • Twenty-three Muslim refugees are baptized in Germany.
  • Refugee crisis spurs EMM ministries and involvement.

The Middle East

4 long-term workers served in 3 countries*

*Indicates countries that cannot be named.

2016 highlights in the Middle East:

  • Pioneer witness takes place in the Holy Land.
  • English teachers serve at two major universities.
  • Workers reach out to Messianic Jews and Muslims.

North America

9 long-term workers; 4 short-term workers; 90 Kingdom team participants served in 4 states

Florida • Maryland • Pennsylvania • Texas

Photo by Emily Good.

Kingdom teams

“I was surprised we were still in Lancaster!” said 18-year-old Neal Flanagan of Marietta, Pa., after his EMM Kingdom team’s first afternoon with refugee students taking part in Leap into Language. The four-week program is open to students who have been in the U.S. three years or less, like Eritier Matabishi (pictured above). The students belonged to families that fled countries such as Afghanistan, Burma (now Myanmar), Congo, Nepal, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, and Syria. Flanagan and other K-team participants belonged to youth groups from Marion Mennonite Church in Chambersburg, Pa., Mount Joy (Pa.) Mennonite Church, and Petra Church in New Holland, Pa. The program was staffed through a first-ever partnership between EMM’s Kingdom teams (K-teams), the Refugee Center at Reynolds, and the School District of Lancaster.

By Nita Landis

Other 2016 highlights in North America:

  • In Chicago, the EMM Christian/Muslim Relations Team hosts the only Christian booth at the largest Islamic convention in North America.
  • The first Welcoming Refugees Youth Night takes place, co-sponsored by EMM and Church World Service Lancaster.
  • David Shenk is the keynote speaker at a national gathering of Christian medical professionals in Canada.

Christian/Muslim Relations Team serving globally in 2016
Jonathan Bornman, Sheryl Martin, Andres Prins, David and Grace Shenk

Central America

13 long-term workers; 5 short-term workers served in 4 countries

Belize • Costa Rica • Guatemala • Honduras 

Photo provided by the Groffs.

Serving youth

Plans for a new Anabaptist mission and discipleship training center to serve Central American youth continued to unfold right on track. Following a preliminary meeting in March, Anabaptist church leaders from Central America again met with representatives from VidaNet and Eastern Mennonite Missions to learn about VidaNet’s youth discipleship training program and to hear their proposal for pursuing the vision for the new mission training center. VidaNet is a discipleship network based in Costa Rica. Its training program, Vida220, separates a group of youth for intense discipleship experiences over the course of 10 months.

“There’s a lot of power in a group of united leaders to get a new program going,” said Galen Groff (pictured above with Geraldo Canal). “It’s exciting to see these leaders getting to know one another from their different churches. Different settings, different cultures, but the same purpose: training disciples.”

By EMM worker Tim Groff

Other 2016 highlights in Central America:

  • As K’ekchi’ farmers struggle with coffee fungus in Guatemala, EMM workers make partnerships for coffee-farming education and other solutions.
  • Discipleship training and education outreach occur in Honduras.
  • Deaf ministries continue strong in Belize.

South America

10 long-term workers; 4 short-term workers served in 2 countries

Chile • Peru

Photo provided by Chris and Rose Raber.

Children at risk

EMM has been involved in children at risk ministry in Chile with a program that aims at preventing the sexual abuse of children. In October, Eliana Medina and Ricardo Ibaceta brought their workshop for children and training for adults to Cusco, Peru, and the outlying areas. They did a “mini” version of their normal four workshops for over 250 children and distributed 200 books. But their most rewarding time was spent with the PROSIM leaders, who were in Cusco for their monthly meeting. Eliana and Ricardo were able to address the need for the prevention of sexual abuse of children. Through their teaching and equipping, the PROSIM team opened up and shared some of their concerns. The whole group then responded in counsel and prayer for one another. Eliana remarked how much she admires these long-term missionaries and committed church leaders who also work with PROSIM. She said she can see their fatigue and their valiant hearts. The message of prevention is multiplying throughout Chile and now Peru.

By EMM worker Nancy Hostetter

Other 2016 highlights in South America:

  • Noemi Teeter, evangelical religion teacher in Dalcahue, Chiloé, continues outreach to children.
  • PROMESA teachers impact students’ lives.
  • Workers with PROSIM, a healthcare cooperative started by EMM and the Peru Mennonite Church, make multiple visits to the mountain village of Chuyllullo to promote health and Bible literacy.

East Asia

12 long-term workers served in 3 countries*

*Indicates countries that cannot be named.

2016 highlights in East Asia:

  • Alpha course in a major city has over 100 attendees.
  • Fifteen believers from over six countries are baptized in an international church, and another nine from an international fellowship in another city.
  • EMM worker reports an increased interest among locals to share Jesus.

West/Central/South Asia

10 long-term workers; 6 short-term workers served in 5 countries*

*Indicates countries that cannot be named.

2016 highlights in West/Central/South Asia:

  • Computer/English center outreach and work continues.
  • DVDs are translated into the local language for women’s Bible study.
  • Workers serve with the emerging church among Farsi speakers.

Southeast Asia

23 long-term workers; 1 short-term worker served in 4 countries*

Cambodia • Thailand • Vietnam

*Indicates countries that cannot be named.

Photo by Troy Landis.

Joining Jesus

“I wanna join Jesus,” Yeh (Grandma) said. Sokha didn’t know what to say in response. She was so taken off guard that she just let out a surprised and delighted laugh. Sokha taught in EMM’s children’s character training program (students pictured above) in rural Cambodia. Yeh lived right next door to the property that Sokha came to often, the property that EMM workers John and Debbie Coats rented for the children’s program. Yeh was well known in the community for being a spirit medium. When local villagers were really sick, they would often take sacrifices to Yeh’s house and have her offer sacrifices to evil spirits who were expected to bring good luck and healing to the sick person. Yeh said that in attending the children’s program community Christmas and Easter events over the past few years, she had become very interested in knowing Jesus; she saw something different in Him. After further conversation, it was obvious that Yeh’s desire and decision were a genuine expression of wanting to give up her past and “join Jesus.” Several days later, some teachers helped Yeh burn her idols and amulets and commit her house to the Lord Jesus. We praise God for the way that He has revealed Himself to Yeh as the Good Spirit, the Spirit who is above all other spirits.

By EMM worker Ryan Umble

Other 2016 highlights in Southeast Asia

  • Thai Anabaptists hold third annual gathering for encouragement on the journey.
  • Isaan church hosts a multiple-couple wedding for unmarried couples in the church.
  • Vietnam Mennonite Church transitions leadership to a younger generation; Pastor Trung, the retiring leader, served the church for 51 years.

EMM had 146 workers in 36 countries in 2016


This unaudited information is a snapshot of EMM’s Operating Fund financial position at the end of 2016. We will be happy to supply you with a copy of the final audited report for the combined operating, trust, and loan funds when it becomes available in early March. Contact us at 717 898-2251 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you would like a copy.

As a member of EMM’s Leadership Team, I am grateful for the opportunity to partner with so many committed followers of Jesus. Indeed, Christ’s transforming love compels us to cross cultures, engage the world, and make disciples of Jesus.

I am also grateful for strong giving in 2016. All charitable gifts are used to support the growth of God’s kingdom. We always seek to conduct our programs and administration in ways that bring about EMM’s mission vision of transformation through Jesus Christ and result in everyone moving in mission. mm

Steven R. Martin serves as EMM’s Finance director.

2016 operating fund balance sheet
Cash and cash equivalents $1,139,540
Short-term investments $1,864,398
Receivables $4,728,229
Prepaid expenses $97,286
Interest in MASP reserve $303,008
Pension assets $153,630
Property and equipment, net of accumulated depreciation $1,873,303
Total assets  $10,159,394
Liabilities and net assets  
Dererred revenue $589 
Payables $334,464 
Funds in custody $2,023,968 
Designated net assets $2,276,324 
Undesignated net assets $5,524,049 
Total liabilities and net assets $10,159,394 
2016 expenses by ministry
19.1% Discipleship training
17.7% International partnerships
13.8% Leadership training
10.1% Muslim ministry
9.5% Business for transformation
7.8% Health and community development
7.5% Pioneer witness
6.7% Education
4.9% Children at risk
2.5% Relief
0.4% Persecuted church 

Total 2016 expenses by function: $6,998,771
57% Long-term ministry
25% Supporting activities
9% Other programs
8% Short-term ministry
1% Relief ministry 
Total 2016 income by source: $6,540,360
38% Lancaster Mennonite Conference
24% Other Anabaptists
15% Other income
13% Other supporters
10% Estates and trusts

Total 2016 income by type: $6,540,360
50% Restricted for personnel/projects
29% Unrestricted for General Fund*
16% Unrestricted other
5% Restricted by ministry

*now called the Impact Fund

This is the March/April 2017 issue of Missionary Messenger; sign up to read more articles.


Published in Articles, News stories

Eastern Mennonite Missions

PO Box 8617, Lancaster, PA 17604-8617 US
450 N Prince St, Lancaster, PA 17603-3010 US
toll-free: +1 (844) 891-3939
phone: (717) 898-2251
fax: (717) 898-8092
office hours: Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. EST

Email us