MB Mission mobilization team encourages vision for mission


Five-member team working to fan fire ignited in Midwest

By Myra Holmes

Like the old campfire song says, “It only takes a spark to get a fire going.” A new passion for mission is igniting in the Midwestern United States, and a new team of mobilizers for MB Mission wants to resource churches and people to be part of it.

In recent years, representatives of MB Mission, the global mission agency of North American Mennonite Brethren, began to notice sparks of something new east of the Rockies—an area which includes the Southern, Central, Latin American and North Carolina District Conferences.

When Joanna Chapa, who had been serving as MB Mission’s short-term mission coordinator in the Midwest, left for an overseas assignment, the agency saw an opportunity to not only fill a staffing gap but also to explore these sparks.

Through prayer and discernment, a vision began to take shape; they call it the 2020 Movement. As outlined on the MB Mission website, the team envisions launching 20 missional leaders into local, national and global mission by the year 2020, another 30 by 2030, another 40 by 2040 and another 50 by 2050.

These aren’t only mission workers, but missional leaders who will lead the charge for others and start new missional fires. Stephen Humber, new regional mobilizer and team leader for MB Mission in the Midwest, calls it “a good kind of viral multiplication.”


Taking a team approach

A vision this big needs the attention of more than one person. So in August 2015, a new team of mission mobilizers was put in place to tend the fire.

Humber, based in Denver, Colo., serves as team leader. He brings pastoral experience in both the SDC and CDC and has served on the MB Mission board. He says that having experienced mission from several different angles brings perspective beyond organizational loyalty.

“I’m not a salesperson for MB Mission,” he says. “I get to be a kingdom representative for one of the things that God is doing.” Humber is married to Mary K, and they have two grown children.

Bob and Kelly Pankratz are originally from Kansas and served in pastoral roles at USMB congregations in Kansas and Colorado, with MB Mission in Mexico and with inner-city youth in California before returning to Kansas to establish The Oasis, a ranch and retreat center in Plevna, Kan. The couple has four children: two in college and two in high school.

Danae Schmidt and her husband, Kyle, grew up in Corn, Okla., and attended Tabor College. A short-term experience with MB Mission’s TREK program was such a turning point in Schmidt’s relationship with Christ that she joined the MB Mission Midwest team in order to share that passion with others. She lives and works in Hillsboro, Kan.

Aaron Myers brings experience working with unreached people groups in Turkey. He also serves part-time with Crescent Project, which aims to equip churches to reach Muslims with the gospel. He and his wife, Consuelo, met at Tabor College and currently live in southeast South Dakota. They have two young children.  


Mission is everywhere

While MB Mission’s focus in the past has been primarily overseas, this team wants to focus on touching least reached people groups wherever they may be. It’s a vision that’s local, national and global.

The team defines unreached peoples as people groups in which less than 2 percent of the population is evangelized. While the vast majority of these peoples are in countries overseas, many are now coming to the U.S.

“It’s not just global missions,” says Myers. “That just doesn’t exist anymore. The nations are moving around like never before.”

Because the nations are everywhere, the team envisions sparks taking hold in multiple places. For example, a congregation might support missionaries reaching a certain people group overseas, send a short-term team to support and learn from those workers, then begin an outreach to immigrants in their own city. Maybe that congregation could even send workers to another U.S. city that has a pocket of immigrants from that people group.

“The mission is everywhere,” says Schmidt.

The Midwest team believes this movement will quickly jump across denominational lines. Bob Pankratz says, “First and foremost, it’s about Jesus and bringing Jesus to unreached peoples.” When that becomes the focus, denominational boundaries come down pretty quickly, he says. “God’s kingdom is bigger than that.”

So the Pankratzes are working with students not only at Tabor College, the USMB school owned by the Midwest districts, but also with students at other area Christian colleges. Myers uses his cross-cultural experience to equip churches, regardless of their denominational affiliation. And when young leaders who attended a Vision Summit held last fall felt called to mission not only through MB Mission and USMB churches but also through their schools and other mission organizations, the team affirmed and encouraged that.

Kelly Pankratz says it’s all about seeing people surrender their lives to Jesus and to mission. “It doesn’t get any better than that,” she says.


Outsourcing vs. resourcing

Too often, the church has “outsourced” mission to the agencies, as Myers puts it. This team wants to resource local congregations to take hold of mission in new ways, both locally and globally. 

That might mean giving missionaries opportunities to share their expertise. For example, a worker who has experience sharing the gospel among women in prisons in Thailand might inspire and equip a local church to reach out to the incarcerated in their community.

Or it might mean providing training on how to reach a particular people group. For example, Myers recently shared his knowledge of Muslim culture with youth from Hillsboro, Kan., and introduced them to opportunities to reach out to Muslims in their own area. 

Prayer has been a big part of igniting this movement and will continue to play a key role. Kelly, who is leading the charge in this area, says, “No great revival happens without prayer.” She is working with First MB Church, Wichita, Kan., to plan a prayer conference, and she hopes to offer several similar events in the Midwest in the coming year.

Other ways the team could stoke the fire could include another Vision Summit in fall and new short-term mission opportunities.

Humber observes that local churches represent a spectrum of mission involvement, from those already deeply involved in local outreach and sending workers overseas to those with little or no mission focus. Wherever congregations find themselves, this team wants to help them take the next step.

“If you think we can help, we would love to try to help,” Humber says.


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