SALUNGA, Pa. — On a Sunday morning this past July, four children from the U.S. entered a church in Bumangi, Tanzania, over 7,600 miles away from their hometowns. They were welcomed as family, embraced, and given gifts of intricately woven East African cloth. Then they heard stories of their great-grandparents from those who still remembered.
Manuel* has received a large bag of spicy corn chips, called “churros” here, and he grins from ear to ear holding up his prize. I am sure he will end up sharing the treat with others, but for now the thought of having an entire bag of chips to himself fills his mind. The other boys his age are passing around his box of Legos; ready to play with them, but knowing they have to wait for Manuel to open them.
What happens when accepting Christian beliefs means disrupting an ancient cultural practice? Before the news of Jesus was brought to the village of Catel, each newborn baby was always dedicated to the ancestors. These traditional celebrations are called “coming-out” ceremonies, for in this culture the new baby and mother remain indoors for one week. When they leave the house, there is a naming celebration that includes a sacrificial ceremony to idols.
My name is Nathanael Thorne. I am 24 years old and a full-time student and employee. I served on a YES team for a nine-month assignment to Guinea Bissau, West Africa.
SALUNGA, Pa. — Assemblies of God churches in Bangladesh have a profound commitment to peacemaking. Five Bangladeshi church districts welcomed Eastern Mennonite Missions (EMM) Global Consultant David W. Shenk, a widely recognized interfaith specialist, to visit, teach, and encourage their congregations to become even more deeply rooted in Jesus’ way of peace. From Aug. 29–Sept. 10, 2016, Assemblies of God church members across Bangladesh were encouraged to continue breaking down barriers between people by building bridges of dialogue and friendship.
When a little old lady caught my eye, I didn’t think much of it. I was praying for a mentor, someone to walk with me through the seasons of life. The tiny woman wouldn’t have appeared intimidating under any circumstances, but it’s awkward, a tad scary, to ask someone to journey with you in life. I only knew her name. I assumed she was a Christian (she seemed to pray before her meals ... or maybe she dozed off, I didn’t actually know). I figured God had helped me to notice her. What would it hurt to ask her?
METAPAN, El Salvador — Plans for a new Anabaptist mission and discipleship training center to serve Central American youth continue to unfold right on track. Following a preliminary meeting in March, Anabaptist church leaders from Central America again met with representatives from VidaNet and Eastern Mennonite Missions (EMM) on Sept. 9, 2016. The purpose of the meeting was to learn about VidaNet’s youth discipleship training program and to hear their proposal for pursuing the vision for the new mission training center.
CHICAGO — At the largest annual Muslim gathering in North America, thousands of Muslims browsed a bustling bazaar showcasing products, businesses, and opportunities by and for Muslims. Of over 500 booths, only one represented a commitment to dialogue and friendship from the perspective of committed followers of Jesus the Messiah.
SALUNGA, Pa. — Nathanael Thorne and Joseph Manneh, friends from across the world, didn’t expect to meet again. For 10 months, their 2012–2013 Guinea-Bissau EMM YES team brought together nine missions-minded youth from West Africa and the U.S., including Thorne, from Washington, D.C., and Manneh, from The Gambia.
“I don’t know a lot of things, but I do know what community looks like,” I said emphatically while combing over the faces of local leaders in the room. They nodded softly with understanding smiles.
"The line between good and evil does not lie between 'us' and 'them,' between the West and the rest, between Left and Right, between rich and poor. That fateful line runs down the middle of each of us, every human society, every individual.” — N.T. Wright
I knew nothing about the Muslim people of the world before I entered into the YES program. I didn’t expect to end up in Mombasa, Kenya, a coastal city distinctive in its unique blend of Swahili and Arabic culture, and heavily populated by Muslims and Somali refugees.
My friend married at a young age, maybe just 16. Now a mother of two teenagers, she works as domestic help in four homes in addition to caring for her own. At times she exudes captivating joy. At other times, I see in her eyes the hardness of life. The weariness it brings. The longing for more.
The March 2016 attacks in Brussels hit close to home. It’s in the heart of our European continent, and we have stood exactly where the blast happened. I am horrified that this stuff continues in our world. But what really concerns me today is that isolated events like these will provide continued fuel to the fire of fear, mistrust, and hate of Muslims.