ICOMB representatives meet in Angola

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Lithuanian conference received as ICOMB member

By Karla Braun

A 30-hour detention didn’t keep international partners from attending the annual summit of the International Community of Mennonite Brethren (ICOMB) in Luanda, Angola, May 22–24. Representatives from Meserete Kristos Church (Mennonite) in Ethiopia held out against pressure to pay a bribe at customs and eventually arrived at the meeting.

Participants from Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas gave reports from their conferences, shared experiences of fostering engagement with the Confession of Faith and selected recipients for the Global Scholarship Fund.

The Free Christian Church in Lithuanian was officially accepted as an ICOMB member, “welcomed with prayer, encouraging words and hugs as a loved family member,” says Rudi Plett, ICOMB chair of Paraguay.

ICOMB members also continued to discern the role and authority of ICOMB. Ecclesial authority is “an important issue that led us to prayer,” says Plett. “We need to enter the spiritual battle with a clean heart.”

ICOMB executive secretary David Wiebe says, “We sought God’s presence for a solution” regarding the India conference’s struggles. Wiebe and MB Mission general director Randy Friesen washed the feet of India representative E.D. Solomon.

Delegates green-lighted plans to hold a consultation on mission and prayer in the next two or three years. “We want to learn from one another and especially from God,” says Plett. “We are convinced these two aspects have to be linked if we want to have a movement driven by the Holy Spirit.”

The Latin American conference representatives shared the benefits derived from their regional communication and sharing network. The European conferences plan to create a similar cohort.

Each conference report was followed by prayer. This was a highlight for Willy Reimer, executive director for the Canadian Conference of MB Churches (CCMBC), especially hearing from the Ethiopian brothers. “We were inspired by their attitude following detention,” he says. “They blessed us with their Holy Spirit-filled ministry.”

A new component to this year’s gathering was a multi-day training session May 16–17 and 19–21 for local church leaders facilitated by global Mennonite Brethren. Brazilian missionary Silvio de Campos taught pastors to care for their families and had participants laughing and engaging with the material, says Wiebe who presented a workshop on using the Confession of Faith.

The meetings wrapped up with a celebration service at Igreja Rocha Pinto in Luanda attended by some 500 people, including ICOMB representatives, local congregants and representatives of the Angola Council of Churches and the department of religious affairs. “It was truly a gala,” says Wiebe.

ICOMB chair Plett enjoyed the closing celebration. “The many choirs singing in a language I did not understand nevertheless led me to worship God and repent from prejudice I recognized in my heart,” says Plett. “I was blessed in this service.”

USMB executive director Ed Boschman, as well as representatives from DR Congo, were among the ICOMB representatives who were unable to attend because of difficulties in acquiring visas.

Karla Braun is the associate editor of the MB Herald, the English-language magazine of the Canadian Conference of MB Churches.

Photos provided by David Wiebe

Photo 1: Sunday morning worship gala.

Photo 2: MB Mission general director Randy Friesen was the Sunday morning worship speaker.

Photo 3: A variety of choirs perform at the Sunday morning celebration

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