February 27, 2019

2018 annual report

This is the March/April 2019 issue of Missionary Messenger; sign up to read more articles.

Mennonite Children’s Chamber Choir member Rosie Westgate makes a new friend during the group’s GO! assignment and concert tour in Indonesia. Photo by Randy Westgate.

A year in review

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). 

Justice. Did you know it was voted the 2018 word of the year? According to Merriam-Webster, justice was looked up 74% more often than it was in 2017. The company explained their choice: “The concept of justice was at the center of many of our national debates in the past year ...”

Like the year before, 2018 certainly had its time of hardships and sorrows. Justice seemed elusive. Wars and rumors of wars. Floods, earthquakes, famines. Political, racial, and economic divides. A list could likely fill up all 16 pages of this annual report.

And yet, North and South Korea vowed to formally end the Korean War and Mexico is selling its presidential plane to use funds for poor communities. Twelve boys were rescued from a cave in Thailand. Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, has ended the war with Eritrea, ordered the release of thousands of prisoners, and invited dissidents to return home. The U.S. unemployment rate is the lowest since 1969. The Philadelphia Eagles finally won a Super Bowl.

The world still spins on its axis and we know our Lord God is just, merciful, and wise; He is in control. 

2018 brought a number of “firsts” for EMM. We had our first international board meeting, with 100 percent participation, in East Africa. It seemed to be an almost sacred occasion — going to a place where some of our first pioneering work occurred. A majority of the trip was spent in Kenya, with side trips to locations in Tanzania including one location where sensitive and new work is happening among Muslims.

Long-term work is being established in Spain with three new workers serving among Muslims and in peace work. We are investing in 92 EMM kids overseas through a new Third Culture Kid (missionary children) mentor, Hannah Zimmerman — coached by EMM’s TCK Coach Jeanette Hunt.

A Global Delegate Network is being implemented with LMC in response to requests by national churches overseas (planted by EMM) to connect with local churches in the U.S.

The Mennonite Children’s Choir of Lancaster’s Chamber Choir served through GO! ministering throughout Indonesia. Discipleship in Central America is growing by leaps and bounds at VidaNet with increasing numbers of attendees. The 40th anniversary of the truly remarkable book, A Christian and Muslim in Dialogue by David Shenk and Badru Kateregga, was celebrated in Uganda. People I’ve been in contact with are amazed that two people who don’t agree on some very fundamental issues are good friends. Learning to live in this tension, this ambiguous space, is a lesson we can all learn.

Kingdom Teams (K-Teams) are continuing to serve in Lancaster City, Pa., with refugee and immigrant populations. This is a thriving program with more requests to serve than our capacity to offer! In response, we have hired a year-round K-Team director. Also in Lancaster City, we continued to push forward on our building project by forming four groups of volunteers to work on vision and practical details for a future EMM home and ministry center at 450 North Prince Street.

A somber event has been the closure of Nelson Okanya’s leadership at EMM. I, along with staff, both here and abroad, have been saddened over Nelson’s departure. I am very grateful for all he gifted me with personally and to EMM over his seven years of leadership. We will carry on with the vision he implanted in us.

Last year, there were 113 workers sharing the message of hope and justice that can be found in Jesus in 35 countries around the world. Also in 2018, there were seven new long-term appointees, and 26 reappointing long-term workers (along with 17 children), and three new, and one reappointing, mission interns. Over three dozen full- and part-time staff faithfully served behind the scenes at the Central Administrative Office in Salunga, Pa.

From newly-baptized believers in Thailand to a women-only coffee shop ministry in the Balkans to being the hands and feet of Christ in a maternity ward of a small African hospital, God is at work! We continue to do God’s work through the mission of EMM. Read this annual report, see where God is working, and give Him praise!

“Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!” (Isaiah 30:18)

 Gerry Keener serves as president of EMM.

This annual report is an overview of EMM’s work in 2018. It provides glimpses of the major events that happened in each of the 12 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
11 long-term workers; 5 mission interns served in 4 countries

Ethiopia | Kenya | South Sudan | Tanzania

North Africa
1 long-term worker served in 1 country*

West Africa
8 long-term workers; 1 mission intern served in 5 countries

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

*Indicates information withheld for sensitivity reasons.

During EMM’s first overseas Board meeting in East Africa, local ministry worker Ruth Njagi (right) shares
about her ministry for people in Nairobi who struggle with sex addiction. EMM Finance Director Steve Martin,
Board member Kent Hartzler, and Stephanie Hartzler listen. Photo by Darlene Sommers.

EMM's first overseas Board meeting

EMM made new strides in engaging the world with its first-ever overseas Board meeting in East Africa from April 18–25, 2018.

During the week, Board members observed both established and new EMM work in Kenya and Tanzania, connected with mission workers from EMM and other organizations, and became listeners and learners as they caught a glimpse of life and faith in East Africa.

The full EMM Board of Directors was in attendance, including Lawrence Brenneman, Lyn Carlson, Laurie Gingrich, Stanley Green, Akeia Haddox-Rossiter, Kent Hartzler, Brian Martin, Tuyen Nguyen, Cedric Roth, Kenneth Sensenig, Keith Weaver, and Janet Weber. Also present were EMM staff members: President Nelson Okanya, Finance Director Steve Martin, Executive Vice President Gerry Keener, and Executive Assistant to the President Darlene Sommers.

The meeting began with a trip to Nairobi, Kenya, where EMM’s past and present work includes international school Rosslyn Academy, a community and interfaith dialogue space called Eastleigh Fellowship Center, and Amani Gardens Inn, formerly known as the Mennonite Guesthouse. EMM worker Aram DiGennaro and Joe Bontrager, a non-resident volunteer EMM worker, met the Board in Nairobi to guide them through EMM’s mission initiatives in Kenya and Tanzania.

Also in 2018 ...

  • A hospital in Sierra Leone, where EMM workers Jon and Heleen Yoder serve, celebrated the opening of a new X-ray department in January 2018.
  • An EMM doctor, Ines*, and EMM nurse, Camille*, continue to minister in a busy maternity ward in a sensitive region of East Africa.
  • Non-resident volunteer workers to West Africa, Mike and Karen Baker, returned to Guinea-Bissau in March with a team of 17 people to minister there.

Latin America

Central America
15 long-term workers; 3 mission interns served in 4 countries

Belize | Costa Rica | Guatemala | Honduras

South America
long-term workers served in 2 countries

Chile | Peru

EMM’s mission is to cross cultures, engage the world, and make disciples of Jesus. And for Ted and Julie Smoker,
helping K’ekchi’ people cultivate coffee — and faith — is the answer. Photo provided by the Smokers.

Is coffee the key to a better life?

EMM workers Ted and Julie Smoker moved to Guatemala in 2015. They advocate for coffee farmers by helping them broaden their education and business networks.

The Smokers have helped K’ekchi’ communities partner with organizations that help with connections and training opportunities. K’ekchi’ coffee farmers are now establishing cooperatives to better control their selling prices. They’re taking out small loans to invest in better equipment. And little by little, they’re gaining their fair share of the coffee export market.

As the Smokers broaden their networks across K’ekchi’ villages, this opens the door to encouraging believers and sharing the gospel. There are about 130 K’ekchi’ Mennonite congregations in remote villages, and rare visits by believers from the outside always encourage the church members. One K’ekchi’ believer was even inspired to plant a church in his village after a visit from Ted and local church leaders.

“It is exciting to see hope restored to K’ekchi’ coffee farmers in rural villages as they realize they have the power to improve their lives,” said Ted.

Also in 2018 ...

  • Daryl and Jen Hoover, serving in Costa Rica, work to support the discipleship ministry of Vida220.
  • Release of book Surviving, Thriving, and Multiplying, written by former EMM missionaries James and Rhoda Sauder with George and Lois Zimmerman, focuses on the first 30 years (1950–1980) of Mennonite church growth in Honduras.
  • Monthly training began for PROSIM (a traveling health ministry of the Mennonite Church of Peru) representatives. A lot of work went into encouraging pastors to send a representative from their communities.

North America

13 long-term workers; 1 mission intern; 4 GO! Summer participants; 60 Kingdom team participants served in the U.S. and globally

Donna Becker (left) facilitated a summer reading program for children at Habecker Mennonite Church.
Photo by Jonathan Charles.

Language is not the most important thing

“As the Karen choir sang, I marveled at the strength of these men and women,” EMM mission intern Donna Becker recalled from her experience in a Sunday worship service. “They have come to a foreign country, leaving behind their families and friends, and many horrible experiences in Burma and Thailand. But they seem so resilient and confident … so joyous.”

As a graduate student at Eastern Mennonite Seminary, Donna needed a cross-cultural experience to graduate. Having explored a variety of international options, she was encouraged to look at some local options. Sherrie Ober, EMM personnel placement coach, was able to connect Becker with Habecker Mennonite Church. Becker served this congregation as a refugee ministry intern with EMM.

The congregation traces its roots to 1724. Fast forward to 2008, when the church decided to support a Karen refugee family. The warm and welcoming hospitality of those church members brought more Karen families to the church. Ten years later, Karen people make up three-quarters of Habecker Mennonite Church’s membership.

As a result of persecution in Burma (also known as Myanmar), ethnic groups like the Karen were forced to flee the country, many traveling to refugee camps in Thailand.

Unable to speak the Karen language, Becker was uncertain about how she could make a difference or learn anything from this internship. However, when she concluded her internship, she realized, “Language is not the most important thing in a relationship if God is part of that relationship.” The people of Habecker Mennonite Church were like “the face of God” to Becker.

Also in 2018 ...

  • Mennonite Garifuna Mission in New York City has planned a series of mission trainings in Honduras, partially funded by Eastern Mennonite Missions (EMM). The first training took place in February 2018.
  • EMM Kingdom Teams and three Lancaster organizations are continuing a partnership to help refugee and immigrant students gain language skills during the summer.
  • Antonio Ulloa, EMM church revitalization coach, resourced 25 churches (Natural Church Development consultation, preaching, renewal meetings, etc.) for a total of 189 meetings.


Central and South Asia
7 long-term workers served in 2 countries*

East Asia
8 long-term workers served in 3 countries*

*Indicates information withheld for sensitivity reasons.

Emma and Ethan enjoy fellowship around their table in Asia. Photo provided by Emma and Ethan.

A season of persecution

EMM workers Emma and Ethan*, along with their young family, lived and served in an extremely sensitive location. They report that 2018 was a season of persecution. In some cities, church buildings have been torn down; groups told to disperse; believers have been questioned. Some of the elderly have been told to renounce their faith or forfeit their “social security.” And yet, other churches have come to agreement with the local government stating their political support but with the permission to live out their evangelistic faith. Ethan says international families and workers are needing to be more cautious and wise in who they connect with and relate to.

And yet, Emma and Ethan have been hopeful that local fellowships will rise to the occasion to send and share in the midst of this season. They continue to pray “that regardless of all our inadequacies, Jesus’s love and light will be the brightest things that those around us see.”

*Names changed for sensitivity reasons.

Also in 2018 ... 

  • A worker in South Asia received “Four fields training” — giving her tools to share testimonies and the gospel in simple ways — and VBS training to Christian women in a northern province.
  • A five-day prayer trip was taken to three sensitive cities with religious strongholds of Buddhism, Islam, or Hinduism as the dominant religion. Each team member co-led a day, praying blessing over each city.
  • Preparation has begun for partners to start a coffee roasting business in a sensitive location. 

Southeast Asia
20 long-term workers; 2 mission interns and 39 GO! Summer participants served in 5 countries*

Cambodia | Indonesia | Thailand | Vietnam

*Indicates information withheld for sensitivity reasons.

From left to right: Sheryl Martin, Josh Blessing, Becca Sauder, and Kira Denlinger from the
GO! Summer Indonesia team greet students and staff at an Islamic boarding school in Banyotowo.
Photo by Camelie Vazquez.

Ministry through music

A GO! Summer mission team, composed of 29 students from the Chamber Choir of the Mennonite Children’s Choir of Lancaster (MCCL), ministered through music and friendship June 26 to July 14 in Indonesia.

The concert tour provided unique opportunities for Christian-Muslim dialogue. The choir was able to sing in a mosque with no restrictions on references to Jesus. “Music can have that kind of impact,” said Josh Blessing, trip chaperone and husband of the choir’s artistic director, indicating that the choir was able to use music as a vehicle for mission.

The choir, directed by Rosemary Blessing, sang in four airports, multiple museums, several Mennonite churches, two cultural festivals also featuring Muslim and Buddhist performances, a rice field, the tip of a volcano, two Islamic boarding schools, a palace, and a mosque.

These interfaith experiences were organized by the director of the Indonesian Mennonite Diakonal Service, Paulus Hartono, who has worked with peacemaking and Christian-Muslim relations in his city of Solo and throughout the country for the past 20 years.

Choir members used the entire year to prepare for their third international trip, going through an application process as well as discipleship, culture, and language training in preparation for ministry.

Also in 2018 ...

  • Workers at a water filter factory in a sensitive location establish a “blessing fund” to help their co-workers in times of need.
  • Successful medical outreaches, hosted by the Life Enrichment Church in Thailand, brings a renewed interest in the gospel with nine people baptized on Easter.
  • The children’s character program in Cambodia experiences exponential growth.

Europe and the Middle East

East and Central Europe
5 long-term workers served in 2 countries

Albania | Czech Republic

Middle East
5 long-term workers; 1 mission intern served in 3 countries*

*Indicates information withheld for sensitivity reasons.

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

West Europe
16 long-term workers; 3 mission interns served in 4 countries

Germany | Netherlands | Spain | Wales, U.K.

EMM workers Andrea and Rolando (center), with their two sons Wilmer (left), and Daniel (right).
Photo provided by Andrea and Rolando.

A new partnership in Spain!

EMM workers Andrea and Rolando*, along with their teenage sons Wilmer and Daniel, arrived in southern Spain in January 2018. The family also serves with Rosedale Mennonite Missions. In this new location, the family is “working on building authentic relationships that best communicate the ‘good news’ of the gospel in order to see true Christ followers emerge from the post-modern culture in Spain.”

Every Tuesday and Friday afternoon, Rolando heads to the prison to disciple men living in different modules of the prison. He is part of a soccer outreach on Thursday nights when a big group of adolescents from the community show up to play and learn about the gospel. He continues to work at evangelism with his Spanish missionary friend Pedro, who reaches out to Muslims in practical ways (such as food and clothing distributions) while sharing Christ with them. Rolando goes about once a week with a brother from church to share Christ with people on the streets as well. Andrea is finishing Hispanic Studies in school and their sons are involved in school and church activities as well as playing soccer.

Bianca Neff joined EMM in May and continues her ministry as a peacemaker and leadership trainer with Petra Peacebuilders, an organization she founded. Bianca serves in Malaga, Spain.

*Last names omitted for sensitivity reasons.

Also in 2018 ...

  • Tyndale professor and EMM worker Dr. Phil Gottschalk invited four speakers to participate in an event highlighting healthy interaction between Muslim and Christian scholars at Tyndale Theological Seminary in the Netherlands. EMM worker Christian-Muslim relations consultant Jonathan Bornman was one of the speakers.
  • Workers report tremendous church growth, mainly from new immigrants, in a city in Germany.
  • In Wales, one way the Wert family is reaching out is through their church’s futbol (soccer) ministry. Alan is involved in coaching and planning soccer schools, and Brenin plays on a team.

EMM had 172 workers in 35 countries in 2018

113 Long-term workers
59 Short-term workers
564 Missionary Support Team members on 73 teams
35 Staff (24 full-time and 11 part-time)
13 Board members (who served at any point in 2018)


We are grateful for the generous giving from congregations and individuals during 2018. This unaudited information is a snapshot of EMM’s operating fund financial position at the end of 2018. 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. If you would like a copy, contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 717 898-2251.

In 2018, we sold a property that we owned in Hong Kong for $1,008,958. This income has not been included in the “income by source” or “income by type” diagrams because it is restricted. The fees related to the sale of the property incurred greater expenses than budgeted, which are reflected in the “expenses by function” diagram.

As we move into 2019, 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.

2018 operating fund balance sheet
Cash and cash equivalents $158,737
Short-term investments $2,505,875
Receivables $6,310,123
Prepaid expenses $88,557
Interest in MASP reserve $431,099
Pension assets $36,167
Property and equipment, net of accumulated depreciation $1,409,311
Total assets  $10,939,869
Liabilities and net assets  
Deferred revenue $0 
Payables $315,807 
Funds in custody $2,057,528 
Designated net assets $3,998,719 
Undesignated net assets $4,567,814 
Total liabilities and net assets $10,939,869 

This is an unaudited balance sheet as of December 31, 2018.
Due to rounding, figures may not equal the totals shown.

Total 2018 expenses by function: $6,784,693
55% Long-term ministry
25% Supporting activities
11% Other programs
8% Short-term ministry
1% Relief ministry 

Expenses are higher than budgeted because of fees related to the sale of a property in Hong Kong.

Total 2018 income by source: $6,566,489*
39% LMC — A Fellowship of
Anabaptist Churches
23% Other Anabaptists
14% Other income
14% Other supporters
10% Estates and trusts


Total 2017 income by type: $6,566,489*
49% Personnel and projects (restricted)
25% Impact Fund
14% Investments
10% Estates
2% Other
*Does not include restricted income of $1,008,958 related to the sale of a property in Hong Kong. 
Published in Articles

Eastern Mennonite Missions

mail: PO Box 8617, Lancaster, PA 17604-8617 US
location: 450 N Prince St, Lancaster, PA 17603-3010 US
toll-free: +1 (844) 891-3939
phone: (717) 898-2251
fax: (717) 898-8092
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