April 12, 2021

For such a time as this

Written by  Brian Martin

“Who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:13, ESV)

This timeless petition arose during a most challenging moment to step up, lean in, and lead forward. Thankfully, Queen Esther received this appeal of Mordechai as from the Lord. Courageous faithfulness was weaved into the story of God and became Esther’s legacy.

In January 2019, Gerry Keener was invited to serve as EMM’s president. This was a most volatile moment of time for EMM. Little did anyone know that a global pandemic awaited and would turn all systems and norms upside-down. What a time to step up, lean in, and lead forward!

For such a time as this … enter Gerry Keener

Having worn a multitude of hats throughout his 35-year EMM tenure, as president, Gerry led EMM courageously and faithfully with a non-anxious presence in the most trying of times. My appreciation and respect for Gerry throughout this season reach beyond words. While much of the world shut down, Gerry’s pronounced strength as an administrator alongside his passioned tenacity to press forward into God’s mission was a refreshing gift of God’s grace among us.

Standing still — even through a pandemic — was not an option

Much should be celebrated the past two years: the creation of the role of Mission Team director and hiring of Lorri Bentch to fill it; the recruitment of Dave Houser as the discipleship coach; the recent launch of a new program called Advance; the Moving in Mission Capital Campaign which pressed on despite the challenges of COVID; and the move from Salunga to Lancaster City!

These are all to be celebrated, but I believe Gerry’s contribution and legacy will be his resolute commitment in carefully facilitating missional collaboration between EMM and LMC. As the moral owner of EMM, such work with LMC may be far less visible and exciting to most. However, the decadal impact and possibilities are profound, given the local and global missional footprint LMC has shared with EMM over these past 105 years. This is a most exciting time! It has been a privilege to join Gerry as he carefully led five focus teams with LMC and EMM to imagine together the mission heart of God … for such a time as this.

Gerry, on behalf of the Board, thank you for stepping up, leaning in, and leading forward as EMM’s president! Thank you for your courageous and faithful Spirit-filled leadership. We wish Donna and you the very best as you enter this next chapter in mission with God.

To God be the glory!

Brian Martin is the chair of the EMM Board of Directors. He also serves as a bishop for the Bowmansville-Reading and Weaverland-Northeast Pennsylvania Districts of LMC and as the lead pastor of Weaverland Anabaptist Faith Community.

Highlights from Gerry's tenure as president

January 2019 to February 2021

Appointment of Lorri Bentch as Mission Team director: Lorri focuses on EMM mission priorities, given the changing context of local congregations’ missions initiatives both locally and internationally.

Appointment of Dave Houser as discipleship coach: Dave works with youth leaders in constituent congregations as a support in their work of discipling youth and young adults.

The implementation of the EMM Board’s decision to move the office from Salunga to 450 North Prince Street, Lancaster, Pa., and to establish a hospitality center there as a ministry outreach to refugees and immigrants in Lancaster City. This required a first-ever Capital Campaign with a target of $4.2 million for renovating and equipping the facility. The groundbreaking ceremony in February began the extensive renovation project, which despite the interruptions of the pandemic COVID-19, were completed by the end of October 2020, and staff have now moved into the new office.

The establishment of the role of International Partner Delegates (IPD) in collaboration with the LMC Global Delegate. This is a relational framework between LMC and international churches that were planted by EMM missionaries.

Strengthening relationships with the EMM Board and constituent churches: There have been a series of conversations with the Board and with LMC leadership over the past year called LMC-EMM Collaboration Conversations.

Administrative analysis of fiscal alignment: Gerry worked diligently to streamline the budget and expenses with the goal of being balanced in 2021.

Call to service

Gerry’s future plans

Although Gerry is at the age when most men are enjoying retirement, he and his wife, Donna, have no such plans. They anticipate serving and teaching not only in Vietnam (where they served with EMM from 1997–2009) but to also serve in church administration and missional capacities stateside.

One project that is important to Gerry is a curriculum project on leadership development and theological training in Vietnam.

“With the large numbers of persons coming to Christian faith around the globe, there is an increasing need for shepherds of the flock such as church planters, workers, evangelists, and pastors,” Gerry said. “For most persons, there is not the time or resources for potential leaders to leave home and attend a campus training program for 1 to 4 years as has been done traditionally. Furthermore, for trainees coming from remote places, the attraction for them to return home to serve is often weak, causing a leadership drain in these places.”

Gerry said the vision for this project is to create a curriculum framework along with resource materials that can be used in local settings – villages, inner-cities, anywhere – in which a small group of students gathers together under the guidance of a teacher to engage the learning process.

Development of such a curriculum framework is no small task! It will involve gathering together an international team of Bible teachers and writers, and reviewing similar type curriculums already written (although none are from an Anabaptist orientation).

Gerry also plans to seek guidance and encouragement from the Council of International Anabaptist Ministries (CIM) and Mennonite World Conference, write and test the curriculum, then publish and introduce it. Godspeed, Gerry and Donna! 

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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