February 19, 2018

2017 annual report

This is the March/April 2018 issue of Missionary Messenger; sign up to read more articles.

Stacy Nofziger, EMM regional representative for East/Central Europe, shares a laugh with her church friend Jirí Unger on a Prague city street. Photo by Emily Jones.

A year of good news

“According to Stanley Hauerwas, the life of faith consists of patience and hope. When something comes along to test our relationship with God, we rely on these two virtues. I would paraphrase Hauerwas by saying the life of faith consists of living in the past and in the future. I live in the past in order to ground myself in what God has already done, as a way of gaining confidence in what God might do again.” — Philip Yancey, Grace Notes

The news I see each day can make my head spin and test my faith. From North Korea’s ongoing missile testing, to mass stateside shootings, to numerous leaders and celebrities toppled by sexual misconduct, to the tensions of our polarized nation — throughout 2017, these sad realities served as a daily reminder to the church: a Christ-centered witness tells a different story. A story of faith, hope, and a glorious future.   

While the news can overwhelm and discourage us, stories of God’s work are amazing and inspiring evidence of good news in our world! To Yancey’s quote, I might add that the life of faith consists not only of living in the past and future, but also in the present. We can gain confidence not only through what God has done but also by what He is doing, as shown by the EMM work in this annual report and countless other acts of grace.

In 2017, we celebrated the retirement of four faithful EMM missionaries with a combined 122 years of service. Throughout the year, 134 workers served in 35 countries around the globe. Last summer, I was deeply moved as 18 families with a total of 45 children were commissioned into long-term service, some preparing to go where the soil is ripe unto harvest, others to regions where the soil is hard and seeds difficult to plant. Herein lies a needed virtue of faith — patience.   

Hope, another virtue of faith, was also evident in EMM’s work in 2017. EMM’s tagline, everyone moving in mission, hints at a vision of new, untested, and perhaps unorthodox pathways into mission. Our God is creative, and mission is no exception to His creativity. For EMM, 2017 was a year of fresh and experimental ways of fulfilling Christ’s missional mandate, from new international partnerships to our first foray into adventure fundraising! Other highlights of hope included:

  • A prayer journey that took EMM workers to the four corners of one South Asian nation.
  • A unique invitation for the Christian-Muslim Relations Team to provide a Christian witness at the Islamic Society of North America’s annual convention, where 2,200 copies of
    A Muslim and a Christian in Dialogue by David Shenk were distributed.     
  • An exploratory team seeking “persons of peace” among the hardened soils of East/Central Europe.
  • K’ekchi’ farmers using new education opportunities to improve their crops and achieve their goals.
  • A faith movement in rural Guinea-Bissau that is leading to true worship as well as holistic community development.

Read this annual report and see for yourself what God is doing in our world! This work would not be possible without your prayers, generosity, and continued partnership in fulfilling the Great Commission. For this, we are ever grateful.

Brian E. Martin, EMM Board Chair

Thanks to Brian Martin for sharing these words while EMM President Nelson Okanya is on a four-month sabbatical. After six years of continuous employment, EMM employees are eligible for a time to stop, listen, reflect, and learn for the purpose of enhancing ministry, intimacy with God, and personal renewal. Nelson will return to the office on March 27, 2018.

This annual report is an overview of EMM’s work in 2017. It provides glimpses of the major events that happened in each of the 11 regions where EMM workers are serving, introduces you to the people working in each region, and shows how EMM funds were allocated throughout the year. For a more in-depth look at EMM’s vision for each region of the world and the work taking place there, visit emm.org/regions. Stay updated on EMM’s work through news releases, feature stories, podcasts, photo galleries, and more at emm.org/storiesThank you for taking the time to engage with EMM’s mission!

East Africa

13 long-term workers; 2 short-term workers served in 4 countries*

Kenya | South Sudan | Tanzania

*Indicates countries that cannot be named.

New KMT ministry couples stand with local and international resourcers at the bishops’ retreat in Arusha, Tanzania. Photo by Joni Kellar.

A new generation

Fresh vision for Kanisa la Mennonite Tanzania (KMT; Swahili for “Tanzania Mennonite Church”) was shared and encouraged at an EMM-hosted retreat for five new bishops and their wives on April 25–28 in Arusha, Tanzania. These newly elected ministry couples include Nelson and Rachel Kisare, Enosh and Jessica Wadugu, Emmanuel and Agnes Matuntera, Chris and Naomi Kateti, and Kennedy and Lake Sigira. Among other ambitious goals, the bishops, who oversee a combined 230 pastors, have a strategic plan to share the gospel with a million people by 2034.

The retreat was in line with EMM’s goal to support national leadership of East African Mennonite church bodies. KMT is now in its third generation of local leadership. The retreat focused on the fundamentals of relationship building, leadership, and Anabaptist theology. 

Regional Representative Debbi DiGennaro, who facilitated the retreat, noted that the inclusion of the bishops’ wives served as an encouragement for the couples to engage in ministry as a team. Although the role of a bishop’s wife is less formal than that of a bishop, she said, it’s crucial to the health of a diocese. Healthy partnership between couples in ministry will make KMT’s big dreams all the more likely to come true

2017 highlights

  • EMM workers served as a link to help six women from Tanzania and Kenya pursue education and make a difference in their churches and communities by applying for scholarships offered by Mennonite Women USA.
  • The Mennonite Theological College of Eastern Africa experienced a turnaround through the efforts of KMT, and the school went from three students in 2016 to a class of 90 by the end of 2017.
  • At the Conference on Human Migration and Mission held in South Korea, an EMM worker* serving in East Africa presented his research on Mennonite churches in Pennsylvania receiving Somali refugees.

West/North Africa

9 long-term workers served in 6 countries*

The Gambia | Ghana | Guinea-Bissau | Senegal | Sierra Leone

*Indicates countries that cannot be named.

In Catel, Guinea-Bissau, Karen Baker spends time with sisters Aminata (arms around Karen) and Mai (holding son Abram). Photo provided by the Bakers.

A radical movement

The village of Catel in Guinea-Bissau is experiencing a movement that local EMM workers embodies a radical faith reminiscent of early Anabaptist communities. In 2017, this faith led the local church to begin a building project to benefit the whole community.

The project, a new Mennonite meetinghouse, will include two rooms for the congregation’s preschool ministry in addition to a multipurpose sanctuary. Just 50 yards away from this new building, the recently-built Mennonite clinic is ministering to the health needs of people from this and other communities. This part of town is becoming a hub of Anabaptist witness through community development as well as worship.

Adramani D’jingle, a young church leader, said the construction project is a material example of what is happening spiritually in Catel: the church, built on a firm foundation, is growing. The building is the center of activity where everyone can see and participate in God’s reign in Catel. Adramani is especially pleased about the preschool, which will help children take the first steps in their education as well as introducing them to Jesus. Throughout the years of the church’s preschool ministry, Adramani has seen many students go on to find a place in the church community as they get older.

2017 highlights

  • EMM volunteer worker Beryl Forrester began teaching classes to develop ministry skills among people from Guinea-Bissau and The Gambia.
  • For the first time, the West Africa Mennonite church is partnering with Lancaster Mennonite Conference and EMM to credential four local church leaders, two from The Gambia and two from Guinea-Bissau.
  • Three regular church attendees accepted Christ after five years of attending the Mennonite church in Catel, Guinea-Bissau. One of them was the pastor’s mother.

North America

9 long-term workers; 5 short-term workers; 56 Kingdom team participants served in 3 states and globally

Florida | Pennsylvania | Texas

An EMM worker repairs a broken pot during a sensory gospel experience at the 2017 Launch Intensive. Photo by Joe Terranova.

EMM’s cross-cultural discipleship training looked new and different in 2017, with the new name “Launch” and the first cycle of a new three-phase training process: self-paced online modules, a two-week summer intensive, and continued connection with other learners through an online cohort. The revamped training process focuses on sharing the gospel in a globalized world, where nearly everyone has the opportunity to reach across cultural boundaries to share Jesus.

“EMM really ensured that they are getting us to understand these lessons around culture, around equipping us, and around faith and how to best serve those that we’re going to be interfacing with in Tanzania,” said Launch participant*, who has since left to serve in a sensitive location in Tanzania.

All new EMM workers go through Launch, but you don’t have to be an EMM worker to join! EMM Discipleship Coach Troy Landis hopes that Launch will draw greater numbers of participants who want to build cross-cultural bridges in their own communities. Whether that means practicing discipleship alongside immigrants in your city, helping to welcome local refugees, or learning how to build peace with a different faith group in your community, Launch can help build the needed skills.

*Indicates information withheld for sensitivity reasons.

2017 highlights

  • EMM’s Christian-Muslim Relations Team was invited to the Islamic Society of North America’s annual convention for the second year. This time, they gave out 2,200 free copies of A Christian and a Muslim in Dialogue.
  • Church Revitalization Coach Antonio Ulloa resourced 23 local churches through preaching, renewal meetings, and Natural Church Development consultation.
  • In November, EMM hosted Discipleship Conference 2017 for youth in partnership with Costa Rican discipleship network VidaNet.

Central America

15 long-term workers; 4 short-term workers served in 4 countries

Belize | Costa Rica | Guatemala | Honduras

Local women participate in a craft time at El Nido (“The Nest”), VidaNet’s crisis pregnancy center. Photo by Jen Hoover.

A new partner

2017 saw the beginning of a new partnership between EMM and VidaNet, a discipleship network based in Heredia, Costa Rica. Among other programs, VidaNet includes Vida Missions, a short-term discipleship training and outreach program; and Vida220, a 10-month international discipleship and mission school for young adults. EMM and VidaNet are partnering to offer a wider range of training and outreach opportunities to those who want to share Jesus across cultures.

The new partnership has led to both short- and long-term placements. Brock Rohrer, from Cochranville, Pa., joined the Vida220 discipleship school through a connection made by EMM. He wrote that the program has challenged him through “the struggle of learning and experiencing so much of God, community, and love all at one time.” He also said, “My time at Vida220 has been one of the hardest, most rewarding, most stretching, and best times in my life.”

Meanwhile, long-term EMM worker Jen Hoover is serving in VidaNet’s crisis pregnancy center, while her husband Daryl is supporting the organization by managing logistics, organizing finances, and serving as a discipleship trainer. “Our days are full of God moments!” wrote Jen. “We live and converse with young people whose hopes, dreams, and desires are to build God’s kingdom in mighty ways …. We worship bilingually and feel the Holy Spirit uniting our hearts.”

2017 highlights

  • K’ekchi’ farmers began to grow fungus-free coffee plants through farming education partnerships made by EMM worker Ted Smoker.
  • La Comisión de Discipulado y Mision, a new Anabaptist mission and discipleship training center led by Central American church leaders with input from EMM workers, test-ran its first training session for international youth.
  • EMM worker Melanie Nofziger ran small business trainings to empower Honduran women, some of whom have not received an education past sixth grade.

South America

long-term workers served in 2 countries

Chile | Peru

The 10 Peru trekkers and a guide are prepared for the weather in their colorful rain ponchos! Photo provided by Michelle Deller.

Adventure for a cause

During EMM’s first-ever adventure fundraiser, harsh weather and altitude effects didn’t stop the 10 hikers from finishing the 61-mile trek around the Ausangate Mountain — and raising $58,142 to benefit the PROMESA school in Cusco, Peru. As student enrollment approaches 300, PROMESA needs larger facilities to provide more students with a high-quality, discrimination-free, Christian education. The October 17–21 trek was a fundraiser to help PROMESA pay for a road and bridge leading to the site where it plans to construct a larger building.

Adventure fundraising company Steep Adventures facilitated the trek. Besides Steep Adventures founder Michelle Deller, the trekkers included Melissa Stehman, Jessica Ulrich, Lena Slusher, Melita Carnahan, mother and daughter Susan Hochstedler and Rachel Mast, Cristina Woodall, and couple Steve and Beth Gibbs.

For some trekkers, the best part of the trip came at the end, when they had the opportunity to visit the school they’d worked hard to support. “Visiting the PROMESA school was my favorite part of the trip,” said Melissa Stehman. “The hard days of the trek vanished as we saw so many children and adults with smiles on their faces and waving with happiness.”

2017 highlights

  • In Uruguay, Paraguay, and Colombia, Christian-Muslim Relations Team member Andres Prins took groups of Latin Americans pastors and church leaders on their first visits to local mosques.
  • In a Peruvian mountain village where growing vegetables is difficult, EMM workers Duane and Joanna Harrison helped start a new greenhouse project alongside the local health ministry PROSIM.
  • Construction on the new PROMESA school began — a new reservoir and a poured concrete foundation are well underway.

East Asia

11 long-term workers served in 3 countries*


*Indicates countries that cannot be named.

Baked goods on display in Ethan and Emma’s transformational business. Photo by Ethan.

Honest business

Tantalizing smells, beautiful baked goods, a welcoming staff. This small bakery is located in a closed country in Asia — and their bottom line isn’t just about profit. EMM workers Ethan and Emma*, who opened the bakery and partner with a local couple, plan to use the profits to fund pioneer witness along the Silk Road. And the bakery is a light to the local community, too.

Ethan reports that the bakery manager, Kwan*, was wrestling this past year with how to conduct business with integrity. Local authorities decided that the bakery, along with many other local businesses, didn’t have all the “technical authorizations” needed to do business. However, the authorities were willing to let the businesses off the hook — for a bribe!

Kwan began praying for the Father’s guidance and decided to visit the business authorization office himself. He shared about the bakery and asked how it might be registered. The authorities were honored that Kwan came to them. Because he reached out to them, he received full documentation without having to pay anything. This was a huge answer to prayer, and a helpful example to other businesses of operating faithfully under kingdom principles.

*Indicates information withheld for sensitivity reasons.

2017 highlights

  • Honduran partners serving in East Asia with EMM workers prepared for the next phase of ministry: launching a coffee roasting business in a remote region of East Asia.
  • Partners from Hong Kong moved forward with pioneering, including a young couple who feels called to share Jesus among Muslims in the Silk Road region and finished a three-month exploratory trip in Turkey, Egypt, Lebanon, and London.
  • Former EMM worker Marie* retired after teaching English for 19 years at an East Asian university, while William*, another EMM university teacher, received a prestigious award honoring foreign workers who have made significant contributions to the province.

Central/South Asia

8 long-term workers; 2 short-term workers served in 4 countries*


*Indicates countries that cannot be named.

An Asian farmer works in a rural mountain community. Photo provided by an EMM worker*.

Due to security concerns, this article can only be found in the print version of Missionary Messenger. Subscribe to the print version here.

2017 highlights

  • A new business for transformation initiative in Central Asia was launched to develop economic and spiritual opportunities in rural mountain communities.
  • More missionaries are joining the efforts in Central Asia, and new long-term EMM teammates brought renewed energy for mission in 2017.
  • Local partner Pocket Testament League India has completed a one-year prayer initiative covering 29 states and 11 megacities in India, to lay a foundation for their vision to plant churches in every state and all major cities by 2025.

*Indicates information withheld for sensitivity reasons.

Southeast Asia

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

Cambodia | Thailand | Vietnam

*Indicates countries that cannot be named.

A group of Cambodian youth ride their motorbikes in rural Cambodia. EMM workers John and Debbie Coats are seeing much openness to the gospel among young people in this region. Photo by Troy Landis.

Young believers

In rural Cambodia, EMM workers John and Debbie Coats are encouraged by the growth and hunger that many youth in their children’s program are experiencing in their relationships with the Lord. In September, 90 youth and children attended a three-day Christian conference in Phnom Penh. Then, in October, 35 youth attended a 10-day intensive discipleship training led by YWAM in another province. These opportunities to hear the Word of God, worship, and fellowship with other young people have proved to be strong supplements to what they have been learning from their teachers in the children’s program.

Following these opportunities for learning and spiritual growth, many youth expressed to the children’s program teachers that they desired to be baptized. John Coats and the teachers talked with local pastors, and the pastors organized a baptism opportunity for those interested. In November, 84 young people were baptized. While evangelism and discipleship work among adults in rural Cambodia proves to be quite challenging, God’s Spirit is doing exciting transformative work among the youth.

2017 highlights

  • Employees at a transformational business where EMM workers serve showed amazing generosity, including collecting an offering to pay for a 10-night hospital stay for a customer’s injured daughter.
  • In Thailand, EMM worker Lucille Zimmerman and local believer Ponwiboon Duchada advocated for two young girls who were sexually abused, including helping their families through the legal process and connecting them with counseling services.
  • EMM worker Owen* was invited to speak about cultural differences to over 100 students at a Muslim university. In response to a question about evil spirits, he said he does not fear them because he follows Jesus.

*Indicates information withheld for sensitivity reasons.

West Europe

16 long-term workers; 3 short-term workers served in 3 countries

Germany | The Netherlands | Wales

Members of the Ninian Community and other Welsh missional communities visit St. Illtyd’s Church, a deconsecrated church in Llanhilleth, Wales. Photo by Carol Wert.

Like family

After nearly 18 years of ministry in the Welsh village of Ynysybwl, in May 2017 Alan and Carol Wert responded to a call to uproot their lives and start something new: a missional community. The Werts, with their teenagers Dylan, Cerys, and Brenin, began a new life in capital city Cardiff, joining with three other local believers to form the Ninian Community, named after a Scottish saint.

The vision of the Ninian Community is to “reclaim a sense of family and belonging by providing a safe space for growth and becoming.” In a city filled with people who feel alone — young people starting out on their own, those from broken families, single parents, refugees — the community aims to be a place where people can build strong relationships with God and others.

“We read how the early Anabaptists attempted to cultivate a similar lifestyle, nurturing everyone’s gifts. That’s what we long for, rather than the individualism that our Western society has adopted as normal,” said Carol. And the vision is spreading — in September, another household joined the Ninian Community. As the community grows, the Werts echo the Prayer of St. Ninian: “Give us open eyes to see beyond what others say is possible.”

2017 highlights

  • Three young adults from the U.S. served as EMM mission interns among refugees in Germany.
  • Baptisms continued in Germany as refugees encountered Jesus.
  • EMM worker Phil Gottschalk spent two weeks serving refugees at Moria Detention Center in Greece. His trip was partly to do research for a book about the Christian response to refugees which he wrote and is in the process of publishing.

East/Central Europe

5 long-term workers served in 2 countries

Albania | Czech Republic

Local farmers Gazi and Dorentina Nurcellari host Sonya Harnish, Stacy Nofziger, Nelson Okanya, and Jimm Derksen on their front porch in Drithas, Albania. Photo by Emily Jones.

Finding open doors

From October 5–17, Regional Representative Stacy Nofziger led EMM staff on a trip throughout East/Central Europe to shed light on existing and potential mission opportunities in this richly historic region of the world. EMM President Nelson Okanya, Personnel Placement Coach Jimm Derksen, and writer/editor Emily Jones traveled with Stacy to Kosovo, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Czech Republic. Christians are a minority in each of these Muslim- or atheist-majority countries, with as few as 0.03 percent evangelical Christians in the Czech Republic. The group met many inspiring locals and missionaries who are sharing Jesus by planting churches, running transformational businesses, founding schools, and more.

As EMM’s representatives met with believers in this region, two themes emerged. First, Christians warned that ministry in East/Central Europe is arduous work. It often takes many years to see even a few accept Christ. But workers and local believers have great hope, as seen in the trip’s second theme: nearly everyone said that missionaries are most needed to work with youth. EMM is already offering mission opportunities in some of the trip locations, hoping that Jesus will become known again in this largely post-Christian region.

Regional update: Albael, the dairy processing plant run by EMM workers in Korçë, Albania, was closed at the end of January 2018. The decision to close was made partly because of the ongoing financial struggles the business faced. The EMM workers involved in the business will continue developing local relationships as they discern new paths in mission. Thank you for your support of Albael and for your continued prayers for these EMM workers as they transition to new mission endeavors.

2017 highlights

  • Regional Representative Stacy Nofziger was invited to be a part of the first-ever church-sponsored English camp in Belarus in June 2017.
  • EMM worker Ori Zguri connected with non-believing women through her local MOPS group for mothers of preschoolers in Korçë, Albania.
  • EMM worker Jan Heindel began to see the results of building relationships in the Czech Republic. Her friend Ivona and Ivona’s son both accepted Jesus.

*Indicates information withheld for sensitivity reasons.

The Middle East

2 long-term workers served in 1 country*


*Indicates a country that cannot be named.

Due to security concerns, this article can only be found in the print version of Missionary Messenger. Subscribe to the print version here.

EMM had 134 workers in 35 countries in 2017

134 serving

731 sending

117 long-term workers 525 Missionary Support Team members on 67 teams
17 short-term workers 155 Representative Council Members
  38 staff (25 full-time and 13 part-time)
  14 Board members (who served at any point in 2017)


We are grateful for the generous giving from congregations and individuals during 2017. Our total income exceeded expenses for 2017, but it is important to note that this surplus primarily reflects strong giving for restricted purposes, meaning workers and projects.

In addition to strong support for workers and projects, we also received $1,434,306.92 for the the Impact Fund. These unrestricted funds are essential to all areas of EMM’s mission.

While we did not meet the 2017 Impact Fund goal, we were able to end 2017 in an adequate financial situation. Anticipating a gap in funding early in 2017, we reduced expenses primarily through reducing staff size through attrition. Stronger than expected income from our investment and estate funds also helped to offset some of the gap in our Impact Fund. We ended 2017 with a slight reduction in our undesignated reserve funds.

As we move into 2018, we invite you to prayerfully consider how you and your congregation can continue to support the Impact Fund, joining in God’s work of causing “righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations” (Isaiah 61:11, NRSV). See emm.org/impactfund for more information. — EMM Leadership Team

2017 operating fund balance sheet
Cash and cash equivalents $554,934
Short-term investments $1,879,037
Receivables $5,269,715
Prepaid expenses $64,334
Interest in MASP reserve $379,478
Pension assets $146,171
Property and equipment, net of accumulated depreciation $1,528,061
Total assets  $9,821,729
Liabilities and net assets  
Deferred revenue $1,289 
Payables $268,450 
Funds in custody $2,184,841 
Designated net assets $2,685,929 
Undesignated net assets $4,681,221 
Total liabilities and net assets $9,821,729 
Due to rounding, figures may not equal the totals shown.
2017 expenses by ministry
19% Discipleship training
16.9% International partnerships
12.4% Leadership training
12.4% Muslim ministry
10.5% Health and community development
9.5% Business for transformation
8.2% Pioneer witness
6.3% Education
2.5% Relief
2% Children at risk
0.4% Persecuted church 

Total 2017 expenses by function: $6,441,194
60% Long-term ministry
23% Supporting activities
9% Other programs
6% Short-term ministry
2% Relief ministry 
Total 2017 income by source: $6,608,994
35% Lancaster Mennonite Conference
26% Other Anabaptists
15% Other income
14% Other supporters
10% Estates and trusts

Total 2017 income by type: $6,540,360
53.9% $3,559,141 Personnel and projects (restricted)
21.7% $1,434,307 Impact Fund
14.7% $973,723 Investments
9.7% $641,823 Estates

*now called the Impact Fund


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Eastern Mennonite Missions

mail: PO Box 8617, Lancaster, PA 17604-8617 US
location: 450 N Prince St, Lancaster, PA 17603-3010 US
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