July 10, 2020

The heartbeat of EMM

Written by  Andrew Mashas
Emerging visions for the church’s future were shared and encouraged at an EMM-hosted retreat for the new bishops and their wives on April 25–28, 2017 in Arusha, Tanzania. Front row, left  to right: Bestina Sigira, Sharon Mkisi, Rachel Kisare, Phanuel Mesha, Jewel Showalter, Takasa Wambura, Gloria Bontrager, Jessica Wadugu, Agnes Matuntera, Debbi DiGennaro, Winnie Mutorela. Back row, left to right: Kennedy Sigira, Albert Randa, Nelson Kisare, Gerry Keener, Noah Kaye, Richard Showalter, John Wambura, Joe Bontrager, Enosh Wadugu, Emmanuel Mwita Matuntera, Rwanga Chris Kateti, Joseph Muterola. Emerging visions for the church’s future were shared and encouraged at an EMM-hosted retreat for the new bishops and their wives on April 25–28, 2017 in Arusha, Tanzania. Front row, left to right: Bestina Sigira, Sharon Mkisi, Rachel Kisare, Phanuel Mesha, Jewel Showalter, Takasa Wambura, Gloria Bontrager, Jessica Wadugu, Agnes Matuntera, Debbi DiGennaro, Winnie Mutorela. Back row, left to right: Kennedy Sigira, Albert Randa, Nelson Kisare, Gerry Keener, Noah Kaye, Richard Showalter, John Wambura, Joe Bontrager, Enosh Wadugu, Emmanuel Mwita Matuntera, Rwanga Chris Kateti, Joseph Muterola.

Multiplication is the heartbeat of EMM. When my parents were church planters with Eastern Board (now EMM) and Lancaster Conference (now LMC) in northeast Pennsylvania, they were part of a group of church plants that multiplied from Wilkes-Barre Christian Fellowship (out of the Weaverland district of Lancaster Conference.) Edward Mashas and Vivian Lambert served in Home Ministries from 1986–1992. Small house fellowships were popping up all over the area — multiplying — and many started meeting in permanent buildings. Nanticoke Christian Fellowship, the church where my father was the pastor, was part of that move of the Spirit. My mother, who did not grow up in a Christian home, decided to follow Jesus after local EMM missionaries shared the gospel with her. There was a lot of fruit-reaping in those days! Three decades later, that same Spirit is moving within the Weaverland district, and churches like Bethlehem Community Fellowship and Nanticoke Christian Fellowship are in the midst of planting churches in other parts of their regions. I can’t wait to see how the Spirit multiplies these disciples to make more disciples in their neighborhoods.

Eastern Mennonite Missions has a 100-year history of establishing churches in many parts of the world, who are now planting communities and fellowships of believers in their own contexts and cultures. The kingdom of righteousness and praise is springing up all over the globe. God continues to move. 

Multiplication has looked different in various countries around the world. Sometimes it’s the expansion of ministries that serve the needs of communities into new areas. Sometimes it’s forming new churches in unreached places. And sometimes it’s a new disciple carrying the gospel to their friends and family to make more disciples. 

Tanzania

The Tanzania Mennonite Church (Kanisa la Mennonite Tanzania or KMT) was the first church established overseas by Eastern Board missionaries, starting in 1934. Today, it is one of the largest Anabaptist church bodies on the continent of Africa. KMT has an ambitious goal of reaching 1 million people with the gospel by the year 2034, marking the 100th anniversary of the church’s founding. The passion and fire for this goal was caught at an EMM-hosted retreat back in 2017 when KMT introduced new bishops in various dioceses. Such an initiative could result in numerous church planting clusters and dioceses of the Tanzania Mennonite Church. Since then, EMM sponsored Palmer Becker, an author and consulting minister, to resource Tanzanian leaders on the essentials of Anabaptism as a way to solidify the foundations of their faith convictions and how those play out in the 2034 vision.

Philippines

At the heart of PeaceBuilders Community, Inc. (PBCI), in Manila, Philippines, is Vision 2025. PCBI is part of the Integrated Mennonite Church of the Philippines, an Anabaptist network of churches started by EMM missionaries James and Rachel Metzler, and is supported by Mennonite Central Committee. The Metzlers (who served 1971–77 in the Philippines) and many other EMM missionaries aided the church in evangelism, church planting, agricultural development ministries, and peace-building initiatives over several decades. The Vision 2025 initiative is to see “Peace and Reconciliation Communities” (PAR) in every province of the Philippines by 2025. These ambassadors of peace, based on their particular context, would serve as radical transformation agents in their families, churches, neighborhoods, and cities. As of August 2018, they have planted seeds for potential PAR communities in 33 of the 81 provinces. 

Belize

The Belize Evangelical Mennonite Church was started by EMM missionaries Chester and Vivian Denlinger after they entered the country in 1960 by establishing the Mennonite Center, a ministry of MCC in Belize City to the Old Colony Mennonites. (The Denlingers served in Belize from 1960–62.) Today the church is made up of nine churches with 325 members; EMM continues to support a distance-learning program for pastors and leaders to be more effective in ministry. In 2020, EMM is supporting several leaders of the Belize church to receive training from SEMILLA, the Latin American Anabaptist Seminary in Guatemala City. The seminary was started by EMM missionaries along with Central American church leaders in 1984; their desire was to teach Anabaptist theology as a practical and empowering approach to peace, justice, and a vision for living the reign of God at a time of violent oppression and civil wars throughout the region. Semilla was formed from various bible institutes started in Central American countries and combined to serve all Spanish speaking countries. Semilla sends teachers on location in Belize to teach courses which allows bi-vocational pastors to receive training which is often scheduled around “down times” in the farming cycle. Through this leadership training, hopefully pastors and leaders will multiply ministry efforts in their churches. 

Herein lies the beauty of EMM’s work. Although EMM doesn’t have large teams of missionaries in Tanzania, the Philippines, or Belize as was the case years ago, the prayer is that multiplication continues to grow into those places. The hope is that where pioneering missionaries were sent and seeds were planted — that churches will spring up from current efforts and multiply tenfold like a garden in spring! Your support has always been a crucial part of this multiplication!

This article appears in the Jul/Aug 2020 issue of Missionary MessengerSign up to receive more inspiring stories like this one in our magazine.