ICOMB scholarship recipient gifted to serve

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Global friends help Portuguese pastor study theology

by Karla Braun

Moisés Mente, son of the founding pastor of Igreja Evangélica Irmãos Menonitas da Amadora (Amadora Evangelical MB Church) has been involved in this Portuguese congregation since it began, but he’s still learning.

“Bible school has offered me the basic tools to perform effective ministry, always grounded in Scripture,” says the young pastor. Mente is one of recipients of ICOMB’s Global Scholarship Fund (GSF), which disbursed $40,000 to 11 individuals and four schools for the 2013-2014 school year.

“It’s extremely important that the minister of God is thoroughly equipped to perform effectively in his ministry,” says Mente, a bachelor of arts student, He has taken the mantle of pastor in the Amadora church and is currently studying theology at Instituto Bíblico Português do Tojal (Tojal Bible Institute), a nondenominational Bible school near Lisbon.

The MB conference in Portugal (Associação dos Irmãos Menonitas de Portugal)—which sponsored Mente’s application—has five churches and a membership around 200. It was an easy decision to support Mente for the scholarship, says AIMP leader José Arrais.

“Talking about Moisés always brings a smile to my face,” says Arrais, noting how Mente shares his gifts in youth work, preaching and music. Mente plays several instruments and occasionally composes worship songs.

“He brings great authority when it’s time to develop new ministries in our conference,” says Arrais. “Our communities love (his preaching) because he explains in a very easy way what God is saying through his Word.”

The Amadora church serves mainly African immigrants—many of whom use the country as a stepping stone to finding employment in less economically depressed parts of Europe. Mente, whose father is originally from Portuguese-speaking Angola, therefore ministers to a changing congregation of high needs people in transition.

Training trainers

For most countries in the International Community of Mennonite Brethren (ICOMB), the grants and scholarships that help North Americans study at a higher level are not available, says MB Mission capacity builder Vic Wiens.

“The Global Scholarship Fund is a way of giving assistance (to those in the developing world) that isn’t available in those countries.”

The bursary is granted on an annual basis with the possibility of renewal (subject to review) for length of program.

“The scholarship is focused on key people who will exercise influence and leadership in the church,” says Wiens. Past recipients include César García, currently general secretary of Mennonite World Conference.

Recipients are nominated by a national church or church-sponsored institution and commit to serving the sending group for three years after graduation. The student is encouraged to provide progress reports to the sending group.

The ICOMB scholarship program gives preference to Anabaptist schools and values programs of study that can be completed in the applicant’s home geographic and cultural context. “Especially at the undergraduate level,” younger students are encouraged to “grow stronger bonds to their own conference and [culture] by staying in-country,” says Wiens.

The scholarship builds visionary leaders not only for the churches but also in fields like education, medicine and business. Current recipients from India and DR Congo are professors at MB Centenary Bible College, Shamshabad, and Christian University of Kinshasa (respectively), and the latter was also granted scholarship funds for the school of nursing.

Applications were due Jan. 31; a five-person committee awards scholarships – no more than two individuals from a single country until all conferences have been considered – at the ICOMB annual gathering in May.

In 2013, ICOMB set a goal of raising $1 million for the GSF in the next two years.

“We had to turn down a number of very fine applicants last year” due to lack of funds, says Wiens. “We’re looking for people who understand the high impact these global leaders can have in the church—­and beyond. It’s an investment.”

Portugal’s Mente is already paying back. When the elder Mente suddenly moved to France, AIMP asked Mente to take responsibility. “He was ready to do that,” says Arrais, “but at the same time he asked for our support. His humble character came up again. We thank God for the blessing of having Moisés and the gifts he has.”

Mente says, “I want to contribute maximum effort to applying the concepts I learned in Bible school to bless the church so God may be glorified and his kingdom expanded. I want to be available to serve wherever needed for God’s purposes.”

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

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