ICOMB holds summit in Malawi

Delegates affirm new five-fold vision presented by new global director

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The 2024 ICOMB Summit was held June 4-9 in Malawi.

This year’s summit of the International Community of Mennonite Brethren (ICOMB) took place June 4-9 at Linde Resort in Lilongwe, Malawi. The summit was hosted by the vibrant young conference that began in the Dzaleka refugee camp some 15 years ago. Delegates from 22 different countries, with divergent cultures and various languages, had one thing in common: They were family.

That sense of familial affection was everywhere—from the effusive Latino embraces to the cheeky, ubiquitous headlocks of a certain Multiply global worker; from the vulnerable spontaneity of Thai prayer to the uproarious German mealtime pranks; from the shared grief over absent Ukrainian brothers to the joyous celebration of three new MB conferences (Thailand, Uganda and the Philippines) being officially welcomed into membership; from the exuberant, rhythmic worship of local church members to the stiff-but-well-intentioned flexing of Western limbs in some semblance of dance. In a country known as the Warm Heart of Africa, the delegates experienced the joy of long-lost brothers and sisters being reunited.

Connect, strengthen and expand

ICOMB serves to connect established and emergent global MB conferences, strengthen their local ministries and witness and expand the reach of the gospel all over the world. One of the ways in which this is achieved is through regular global summits, where national leaders and their associates can learn about and be inspired by what God is doing in and through MB churches all over the world. Even more, these gatherings are a chance for those who might otherwise feel isolated in ministry to experience the life-giving support of family.

Biannual summits offer an opportunity for global conference leaders to report on the churches in their region, share their unique challenges, learn from and be encouraged by one another and pray together. Delegates also hear various plenary speakers and are equipped through diverse workshops that offer opportunities to examine MB history, distinctives and theology, hear practical teaching on church growth and health, engage in current issues facing the global church and strategize together as to how best to address these issues in their different cultural contexts.

A five-fold vision

High on this year’s the agenda was the clarification of ICOMB’s mission and the proposed launch of a new, five-fold vision.

“There is a need for ICOMB to be more than what it has been,” said new Global Director Elton DaSilva. “The next generation both wants and needs ICOMB to take a significant step forward, with a collective mission that reflects the reality of being a cohesive family of faith.”

Forging a family identity, DaSilva continued, requires that vision be corporately discerned and owned, building both mutual trust as well as a mechanism for accountability. “It is not about the West imposing it’s views on everyone else,” he said. “It is about a mission and vision that emanate from all of us, to all of us.”

Over the five days of meetings, delegates had an opportunity to speak into that vision—discussing, modifying, praying and voting to affirm several newly articulated tenets that related to strengthening family dynamics, resourcing leadership development, facilitating holistic mission, sharing foundational theological convictions and nurturing global church and conference health.

There was unanimous enthusiasm on the issue of forging and strengthening family dynamics. Delegates embraced the proposed alternating of global gatherings with regional summits, with inter-conference relationships to be additionally strengthened through web-based gatherings for prayer and teaching and promoting peer-to-peer conference partnerships.

“Each conference has something unique to offer,” explained DaSilva. “Our goal is to identify and make those resources accessible for all conferences.”

Missional Leadership Training (MLT) was one resource highlighted as an effective leadership development tool, while recognizing the need to supplement academic training with intentional mentorship, opportunities for short-term mission experiences and internships. There was near-unanimous voicing of the urgency to focus on the younger generation of emerging leaders. In some regions, such as sub-Saharan Africa, this can mean teenagers—or even younger—given the low life expectancy and the median age of the population.

There was widespread agreement that a holistic presentation of the gospel, ministering in both Word and deed, is more crucial than ever. In this, as with missional reach, partnership is key. Where there is critical need for systems and structures to support both human and economic development, church planting may also mean garden planting.

ICOMB remains committed to resourcing global churches toward vocational self-sustainability, helping to support both pastors and their communities. Ministering in “deed” is opening even more hearts to the ministry of the Word and, in this, there was strong consensus that teaching must align clearly with the ICOMB Confession of Faith (COF). Ongoing translation and promotion of the COF has led to plans for a theological council to be established which will also oversee teaching workshops at the biannual summits and address various contemporary issues as they arise.

As delegates discussed and voted on the facets of this five-fold vision, there was a disarming frankness in tackling tricky topics with controversial perspectives. Despite strong opinions expressed–even disagreements—no one left the table. It was, in fact, exactly what one would expect at a family gathering.

This sense of solidarity experienced by delegates was also reflected in DaSilva’s newly forged leadership team. As this team expands, he said, it will reflect ICOMB’s value of diversity, including plural and multi-generational leadership.

ICOMB’s global ministry team includes DaSilva as well as Paul Duck, Doug Heidebrecht, Johann Matties, Vic Wiens and Bob Davis, who is the USMB representative.

 

Story of two crows: Forging a family identity

The African crow was clearly trapped. Beating his enormous wings, he flew in circles around the dining hall’s high ceiling, veering away from the floor-to-ceiling windows and occasionally landing on an unoccupied table to peck at the remains of someone’s lunch. He seemed fine. He was not. He was alone.

Suddenly another crow—likewise huge and resplendent in his tuxedo black-and-white plumage—landed near a window outside the dining hall and began to squawk. Seeing him, the solitary crow trapped within flew over to perch on a table on the other side of the glass, and there began a conversation about which one could only speculate.

“Caw! Caw! Come out!” Outside Crow seemed to insist.

Inside Crow looked perplexed. “What do you mean?” he seemed to ask, cocking his head. “What is ‘out’”?

No one is meant to be alone; we need family. That is what ICOMB is all about.

Back in the dining hall, Outside Crow’s persuasion eventually bore fruit. Inside Crow seemed to realize that he was on the wrong side of the window, and somehow found his way to a nearby door. A few short hops, and he was outside at last. As the two birds finally flew off together, nearby summit attendees were moved to tears, identifying with this small drama on a deep level.

No one should feel alone in the body of Christ. In June of 2024 in Malawi, no one did.

1 COMMENT

  1. Praise God may Almighty God keep this spiritual fire burning for God’s GLORY. keep it up. I am Encouraged. let us keep embracing the teamwork spirit. God bless you all. together we will make it. I love you all and I am praying for you all. My prayer is that one Day God Willing we will have the same conference here in Nakuru, Kenya, East Africa. You are a blessing to many.

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