When Bob Davis visits congregations to advocate for the International Community of Mennonite Brethren (ICOMB), he poses a question.
“My go-to when I do these presentations is to start by asking how many people are members of ICOMB, and usually one or two percent raise their hand,” Davis says. “Then I explain that if you’re a member of an MB church, which is a member of USMB, which is a member of ICOMB, you are a member of ICOMB.”
In his new role as ICOMB U.S. advocate, Davis travels to churches and events to raise awareness of the global Mennonite Brethren family, increase engagement with ICOMB and facilitate global relationships.
A good fit
Davis’ experience as a pastor, missionary and church planter gives him a unique perspective for the role. He first connected with Mennonite Brethren in 2000 upon joining the staff of Birch Bay Bible Community Church (BBBCC) in Birch Bay, Wash., as associate pastor, following a 10-year stint doing church planting in England. He earned his master’s degree in Christian studies from MB Seminary in British Columbia.
Davis served with Multiply (then MB Mission) in Thailand from 2007 to 2015 and attended several ICOMB summits as a translator. After returning to the U.S., he served in other roles with Multiply, and since 2018 has served as Multiply regional leader for Southeast Asia. In 2020, Multiply added a regional leader for Myanmar and most of Thailand, lessening Davis’ responsibilities and causing him to consider retirement.
Around the same time, unbeknownst to Davis, Ed Boschman, USMB representative to ICOMB and treasurer on the ICOMB executive committee, assembled a task force which identified a need for an advocate to work on ICOMB’s behalf in the U.S.
As Davis conversed with Boschman—both attend BBBCC—the two explored what it might look like for Davis to step into the role. Because the position was compatible with Davis’ work with Multiply, he applied, and the USMB leadership board, ICOMB executive board and Multiply approved his hire.
“Even before we had asked, the Lord was ahead of us,” Boschman says. “It’s a really, really good fit. For him and for us.
“Bob is a gifted communicator. He speaks with passion because he has personal experience. … He just loves the global community, and that oozes out of him when he communicates,” Boschman says.
Fully relationally funded by donors, Davis will continue in part-time roles with Multiply as a regional leader and donor relationship coach. The nature of Davis’ work with ICOMB and Multiply naturally overlap, oftentimes allowing him to represent both when he travels.
“I’m a big fan of learning from one another in terms of the global church,” Davis says. “God put a desire in my heart to be an advocate—we chose the title advocate fairly deliberately because somebody needs to be advocating for relationships between everyone. … It starts with raising the awareness that something like ICOMB exists.”
Davis began with ICOMB on Oct. 1, 2021. He anticipates traveling from Birch Bay where he lives with his wife, Chris, two or three times a month to attend events, preach in churches and meet with people.
A U.S. ICOMB team will serve as an advisory group to aid Davis in meeting the partnership goals identified by the task force.
Team member Ruth Schale, also a task force member, says she has seen Davis make the most of opportunities to speak about ICOMB.
“Bob is passionate about Jesus Christ and the mission of sharing him with those who have never heard the good news,” Schale says. “Bob fully understands both the USMB churches and the global community of MB churches and is excited for the opportunity to raise awareness and facilitate connections between the two.”
In addition to Schale, who attends Heritage Bible Church in Bakersfield, Calif., team members are: Boschman, Samuel Hailemariam (Grace International Church, Indianapolis), Jana Hildebrandt (Ridgepoint Church, Wichita, Kan.), Fred Leonard (Mountain View Church, Fresno, Calif.), Rolando Mireles (Grace Point at Grulla, La Grulla, Texas) and Hermann Mputu (Christian Center the Hand of God, Hamilton, Ohio).
The team will meet with Davis every other month.
“We are a sounding board for him, review resource materials that he is developing, give him feedback on presentations and pray with and for him,” Schale says. “This is a great time to be a follower of Jesus and part of the MB family. I look forward to seeing how God will use the global MB family to more personally impact USMB churches.”
Davis envisions a world in which ICOMB helps facilitate relationships not only between church leaders but also between churches and church members.
In January, ICOMB began hosting prayer meetings on Zoom called “Nations praying for nations.” The ICOMB website lists prayer meetings and links to join.
“It’s not us praying for them that we’re after, it’s us praying with them,” Davis says.
Davis and the team will seek ways to facilitate relationship-based partnerships, moving away from a “transactional model.” While a partnership is task-oriented and short-term—digging a well in sub-Saharan Africa, for example—relationships are longer-lasting, Davis says.
“The partnership ends when the project is completed, but the relationship between the church that’s receiving it and the donors that have given it—can and should continue,” Davis says. “Relationships are deeper and longer and more substantial than just the accomplishment of a task.”
Relationships provide opportunities to learn from one another, Davis says, including re-evaluating which cultural values align with the kingdom of God.
“We’re very task-oriented in the west, so we want to get there, get the job done, take some pictures, come back home and mission accomplished,” Davis says. “But the rest of the world really sees the need for relationship. The thing we have to be careful of and avoid is offering people partnership when what they’re really looking for is relationship.”
Davis and Stephen Humber will explore the topic of formation of healthy partnerships in a workshop at USMB Gathering 2022 in later this month.
“There’s a lot more to it in most places than just getting something done,” Davis says. “Sitting on the floor and eating rice together sometimes is the most powerful thing you can do.”
As Davis travels to churches to speak about ICOMB, he says he has been encouraged by the interest level, while recognizing the challenge the scope provides for one person.
“I wish more people knew that they have tens of thousands of brothers and sisters and cousins and aunts and uncles and other people in other places,” he says. “Every little group of 30 or 50 or 100 people that I can enlighten on that fact, that’s a step in the right direction.”
At the end of Davis’ presentations, he revisits the question: How many people are members of ICOMB?
“Usually close to 100 percent (raise their hand),” he says. “I’ve just done my job.”
Davis is available to visit churches and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit www.icomb.org.
Janae Rempel is the Christian Leader associate editor. She joined the CL staff in September 2017 with six years of experience as a professional journalist. Rempel is an award-winning writer, having received three 2016 Kansas Press Association Awards of Excellence and an Evangelical Press Association Higher Goals award in 2022. Rempel graduated from Tabor College in 2010 with a bachelor of arts in Communications/Journalism and Biblical/Religious Studies. She attends Hillsboro MB Church.