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 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.
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.
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.
"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
“When I was 43, a farm wife, and a mother of three, I decided to go to college to get my teaching degree,” said Evelyn Hershey. “Back then, I had no idea that I would ever teach in Nairobi, Kenya!”
Following the death of her husband in 2013, Hershey served a yearlong term with EMM in Nairobi from 2015–2016. But although Hershey officially worked as a hostess at Amani Gardens Inn, her background in art education came into play in surprising ways.
SALUNGA, Pa. — “There would be many reasons for staying at home. We have already given our best 25 years to overseas work. We have built a house but have rarely lived in it. Our fruit trees invite us to remain and consume their bountiful harvest. Our parents have been in the hospital several times of late. We would enjoy keeping frequent contact with our growing children in the United States.”
Those were the words of missionary James Sauder (February 4, 1935 – July 22, 2016) after 25 years of evangelism, church planting, Bible teaching, and leadership development through Eastern Mennonite Missions (EMM) in Honduras and beyond. Yet Sauder and his wife Rhoda left home again to live and serve in the Dominican Republic, extending their missionary career to 30 years with EMM.
SALUNGA, Pa. — She wrote countless lesson plans, graded hundreds of compositions, welcomed students who needed a listening ear at all hours, and poured many, many cups of tea. She had a quiet but profound influence on early leaders of Meserete Kristos Church in Ethiopia, the largest Anabaptist conference in the world today.
LANCASTER, Pa. — Middle school students from refugee families resettled in Lancaster, Pa., expanded their language skills and cultural understanding during Leap into Language, a June-July program staffed through a first-ever partnership between Eastern Mennonite Missions’ Kingdom Teams (K-Teams), The Refugee Center at Reynolds, and the School District of Lancaster.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Forty leaders gathered to explore ways to combat anti-Muslim speech and behavior July 11-13, 2016, in Washington, D.C. Among the 40 academics, activists, Christians, Jews, journalists, Muslims, non-religious, and politicians present was Jonathan Bornman, global consultant serving with Eastern Mennonite Missions.
WILLOW STREET, Pa. — Thirty-two adults and children were commissioned as missionaries at EMM’s commissioning service on July 10, 2016, at Willow Street Mennonite Church. The workers, both new and reappointed, will be serving in 14 countries including the U.S.
WILLOW STREET, Pa. — More than 1,000 visitors enjoyed learning about the cultures, foods, and customs of countries around the world at Eastern Mennonite Missions’ Global Fair on Saturday, July 9, 2016. The grounds of the Hans Herr House and Museum were filled with exhibits hosted by EMM workers, staff, volunteers, and friends of more than 16 countries around the world. Visitors could purchase delicious food from places like Somalia, Puerto Rico, and Tajikistan. Children enjoyed creating free crafts, petting llamas, and playing a variety of international games.
MILTON, Pa. — Inviting a Muslim family to share a meal in your home: is this simple action key to helping Christians build bridges of friendship with their Muslim neighbors? After leading a group of Community Mennonite Fellowship congregants through sections of David W. Shenk’s “Approaches to Islam” video course, that’s just what Ron Geib did. And after a class filled with enthusiastic learning and discussion, about 20 other churchgoers are better prepared to take those simple, significant steps toward making Muslim friends.
For those of us whose life journey has included staying in a college or university campus dormitory, we may remember what it was like to set up “home” in a new and unfamiliar setting. For some, dorm life was lonely. For others, it was exciting and invigorating. For all of us, it was an opportunity to grow.