April 12, 2021

A conversation with EMM's new president

Written by  Micah Brickner

In early January 2021, outgoing president Gerry Keener sat down with Marvin Lorenzana to talk about this transition. Here’s a look at some of that conversation.

Gerry: What excites you about preparing to lead Eastern Mennonite Missions?

Marvin: I’m excited about the possibility of creating something or moving a vision forward. I’m passionate about developing, creating, and connecting people to projects and resources. The idea of working with a team, developing a project that would have a lasting impact for the kingdom of God — that really energizes me.

Gerry: How has your missiology been shaped by the experiences in your life?

Marvin: I’ve been a missionary for close to 30 years in the U.S. — mostly for Latino groups in different states. I began in Louisiana, then I moved to Texas, lived in Miami, Fla., for a number of years, and ended up living in Harrisonburg, Va., for the last several years. We had to leave everything behind in our home country, Honduras, to move to the U.S., and engage with such a variety of people — all kinds of people who speak Spanish. Yet, they have distinctive cultures, traditions, and even language isn’t exactly the same. The idea of coming to the U.S. to do missionary work, church planting, leading churches, and developing people has been very foundational for my understanding of what God’s mission is all about.

Gerry: Tell us about growing up in Honduras and moving to the U.S.

Marvin: I lived in Honduras until the age of 23, when I left to pursue language training and a degree in computer information technology in the U.S. I moved back to Honduras, married my wife, Mariana, and then we returned to the U.S. I love the land where I grew up — I wish I could be more connected with it. But I’m excited to interact with EMM work in Honduras and throughout Central America.

Gerry: Who were some key mentors and encouragers in your life?

Marvin: I met the Lord through the ministry of Ed King — who was sent by Eastern Mennonite Missions in the early 1970s. He was critical in helping me to understand the gospel. Pastor Rene Peñalba was instrumental in me coming to the United States as a missionary along with pastor Bob Zehr from Gulf States Mennonite Conference. Peñalba was definitely a mentor in my early ministry back in Honduras. Gilberto Flores encouraged me to go to seminary at Eastern Mennonite Seminary (EMS). At EMS, Ervin Stutzman became an academic adviser and an encourager. During my time at Mennonite Mission Network, both Del Hershberger and Sandy Miller were forces behind my work developing the Missional Discipleship Initiative (MDI), trusting wholeheartedly in my creative capacity. Also, James Kraybill was an important mentor to me, especially when I was working on my doctoral dissertation at Asbury Theological Seminary.

Gerry: What do you see as the most significant challenge and/or opportunity facing the global church and mission work?

Marvin: Knowing how to communicate God’s mission to the next generation seems to be the greatest challenge for the global church. Communicating the idea that the gospel is still the power of God for salvation, for anyone who is willing to believe. This idea that God is in the business of transforming people and that it is okay to believe that and to express it in clear ways. How to communicate that to younger generations who seem to think that the gospel has lost its power to really transform society. It will become an increasingly difficult thing for the church to overcome.

That’s why we need to come back to the basic idea that mission is about walking with people. I believe that every Christian needs to go back to the idea that he or she is an everyday missionary, asking always the important question, “What is my mission for today?”

Also, we need to take a posture of learning from everything that’s happening right now in the Global South — places where the gospel is exploding. We have to ask ourselves how we work with our international partners to learn from them and see how we can also resource them.

Gerry: How do you anticipate that missions will need to adapt in the coming years to stay relevant to a quickly changing world?

Marvin: Missions needs to be biblical — rooted in Scripture. That’s why we have the book of Acts to show us how mission is supposed to happen. It’s why we have the Gospels — because Jesus was modeling to his disciples, “This is how you do it.” It’s also important to make missions simple. Let’s not complicate missions so that we can make mission work transferable. We have to be able to share with someone else what we know.

Gerry: Tell us about your family.

Marvin: My son, Pablo, is married to Victoria Clymer, and they have a daughter named Sofia. My daughter, Alexa, is a sophomore at Eastern Mennonite University. Both of them have been the light of our eyes — we love them dearly.

Gerry: What do you enjoy doing for fun and recreation?

Marvin: I enjoy music — it’s my joy to go to live concerts: jazz, Cuban, Norteño. I’m a musician at heart and play a number of instruments: guitar, keyboard, bass, and drums. With Mariana, we have developed this love of soccer (football) and root for the Barcelona Football Club. One of our dreams is to go to the New Camp (Barcelona’s football stadium) and watch Lionel Messi play soccer. I also love walking and listening to music or audiobooks.

Gerry: What are you anticipating about living in Lancaster County?

Marvin: Mariana and I have passed through Lancaster City or visited for meetings but never learned to know the city. More recently, we’ve been to a number of restaurants owned by locals. It’s great food! I love that our offices at 450 North Prince Street are in the heart of downtown. The interesting thing about Lancaster is that you can be driving in the city, and then all of a sudden, you can also be in this beautiful farmland.

Gerry: How can the EMM community specifically be praying for you in this season?

Marvin: Transitions are not always easy — there are so many things we need to make sure are settled during a move. If the EMM community could pray for us to adapt in this new season, we would appreciate it. Pray for us as we’re in this transitional space — that we find a community in which we belong.

Gerry: What word of encouragement might you give to someone who is considering a cross-cultural mission assignment?

Marvin: I have found global mission work to be the greatest challenge in my own life — and the most rewarding. It hasn’t always been easy, and at some points in this journey, we’ve gone through some low valleys. If you feel called by the Lord, by all means, engage in missions and learn from it! Your experience as a missionary will change the rest of your life. 

This article appears in the Spring 2021 issue of Missionary MessengerSign up to receive more inspiring stories like this one in our magazine.

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Eastern Mennonite Missions

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