My experience at Celebration 2010

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What do the men and women who attended the events that comprised Celebration 2010 have to say about their experience. Read their post-event reflections here.

 

God Was Glorified

By Kimberlee Jost, Hillsboro, Kan. 

Entering Celebration 2010 that Wednesday night, a breath of peace swept over my heart. I walked down the dimly lit aisle in the auditorium and sensed that I was embarking on a different kind of evening than I expected. I knew we were there to celebrate the Mennonite Brethren, but the desire to celebrate Jesus was stronger. I could feel the persons with familiar last names sitting on all sides desiring the same thing. This was going to be a night to celebrate God's grace, his power and his intense, undeniable presence in MB history.

We were lead in worship through several hymns and worship songs before the band broke into an instrumental version of the Doxology. With my eyes closed, I imagined God's throne room. In my heart, I hoped that he was embracing our worship as a thank you. I felt that he was.

A timeline of defining moments in the MB world was presented by a trio of speakers. They spoke individually and in unison. It had sort of a rhythmic "Carol of the Bells" feeling that we hear at Christmastime even though they weren't singing. The three highlighted times of struggle, determination and faith, while a slide show displayed pictures of old. There was no denying God's presence during 150 years.

The stories of his presence were not just about the past but about our present. I was reminded that he is a creative God who blesses his children with creative ideas. Bodies of believers who were once frustrated have become alive as they have shown love to those most desperate. Churches are taking risks to serve others by meeting physical and emotional needs that bring about natural conversations that lead to Christ.

There is no doubt; God was glorified in British Columbia. In him, there was and is much to celebrate. I'm believing him for more.

 

Family Reunion

by Amy Sterk, Goessel, Kan.

This past year, my husband's family had a reunion in Washington state. Althoughour family wasnot able to attend, we have heard many reports from those who did go. We heard who was there, including cousins who are missionaries in Thailand. We heard how "the kids" (whowereanywhere frombabies to young adults!) got along so well together, how extended family like aunts and uncles are doing, and the joy our grandparent's generation got from seeing everyone together.

The Sterks ate together, sang together and remembered together. They met new family members andpicked up where they had left off with family they hadn't seen since the last reunion. Stories were told about memories from the past and plans for the future. They played together and prayed together. There were tears of sadness, tears of joy and plenty of laughter.

Celebration 2010 was also a family reunion. The Mennonite Brethren celebrated 150 years of being a family. The reunion started with familymembers flying or driving infrom all over Canada and the United States and we even had some family members make the sacrifice to travel from India, the Congo, Ethiopiaand Paraguay.

There were a lot of stories told over the four days that I attended Celebration 2010. Stories of the struggles our family has in India and the pain our cousins in the Congo experience. Hearing how faith often means the difference between life and death for them brought tears of sadness.Then again,hearing about new family members from churches all over the U.S. and Canada and their stories of coming to know the Lord brought tears of joy.

We had time to discuss our past history as a family, the struggles that were met along the way and the condition we find ourselves in today. We also looked at plans for our future, how many church plants are just in the infancy stage this year. We hope tohear how they have grown at our next family reunion.

We ate a picnic lunch together and enjoyed the perfect weather God blessed us with.

We talked and talked and talked, renewing old friendships and building new ones. Finding common ground and learning from each other. Being energized by the younger generationand stabilized by the older generation.

As the weekend came to an end and we began to look forward to coming back home, many of us felt blessed to have met our extended family. We will bepraying foreach otherover the next years until we can meet again at our next reunion!

Amy Sterk is the U.S. representative for Kindred Productions, the North American MB publishing ministry. This was Amy's first opportunity to attend a national MB convention and she was lucky enough that it was also a huge 150th birthday bash! 

 

Tim Hortons and Family

by Myra Holmes, Denver, Colo., CL assistant editor

I’ve just returned from beautiful Vancouver, B.C., where Mennonite Brethren from across the U.S. and Canada celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Mennonite Brethren July 12-18. Because I was there as part of the reporting team, I expected my time in Vancouver would be “business” not “pleasure,” and told the nice customs officer so. Although my time north of the border was pretty much spoken for, I was nonetheless hoping to experience something uniquely Canadian while there.

A simple solution presented itself on the shuttle ride from the airport to the hotel. Maybe the Canadians on board the bus took it for granted that there was Tim Hortons on every corner, but those of us from south of the border took note. The Canadians quickly informed us that, yes, Tim Hortons is both ubiquitous and uniquely Canadian.

Tim Horton, I’ve since learned, was a popular professional hockey player who started a chain of coffee-and-donut shops. By the time he was killed in an auto accident in 1974, there were 40 Tim Hortons stores. Today, the chain is the largest quick service restaurant chain in Canada, according to their Web site, with more than 3,000 stores. While a few of those can be found in the northern and eastern U.S., it’s clearly a Canadian phenomenon.

Since there were not one but two stores within a five-minute walk of the hotel, I determined that at the very least, I could experience this much of Canadian culture. So my first morning in Vancouver, I enjoyed a coffee-and-pastry breakfast, Tim Horton’s style. It was good.

But even better, within the short span of my little Tim Hortons adventure, I had greeted an Oklahoma pastor who, along with his wife, has become a friend over the years, and I had shared a hug with an outgoing U.S. Conference Leadership Board member who has become dear as she faithfully served. By the time I got back to the hotel, I knew this would be more than a business trip.

Over the next few days, I reconnected with friends from across the U.S., caught up with folks who have shaped me over the years, shook hands with people I’d previously met only through phone calls and e-mails, made new friends from north of the border, shared conversation with a brother from the other side of the world and heard story after story after story of God at work in and through Mennonite Brethren.

In the end, my visit to Canada ended up being more “pleasure” than “business.” Not because I experienced Tim Hortons or any other Vancouver attraction. But because, although we gathered to attend to business, we gathered as family—a family I happen to love.

 

Tears

by Ed Boschman, Bakersfield, Calif., USC executive director

Some things burn into my heart easily, like they were meant to be there all along.

When Phone Keo told  about the “cry in his heart” for “his” Laotian people, it landed in me. And when he went on to say how the fact that there are hundreds of his people now giving their lives to follow Jesus made “his tears come out”, those two lines became unforgettable. Would that more of us would have that kind of burden and passion and experience that kind of tears.

When Vaughn Jost explained to us at Conection 2010 that his and Taryn’s church planting adventure is, in their view, all about Kingdom mission, I was all ears. “I see myself as a missionary to the United States and a lead missionary in a community of missionaries-the church,” is how he put it. Later when I spotted Vaughn and Taryn and went by to say hi and affirm their vision, my tears came out…rather unexpectedly. But there they were. My heart beats for our nation,and for the Jerusalems we are missionaries in.

We listened to one story after another on that opening night of our USMB gathering. All of them told of lives being transformed. That was good fuel for a guy who strongly believes that our reason to be as a national family is to partner as one family with one Lord on one mission, for the transformation of individuals, families and communities. We really are partnering with Jesus in his mission. Let’s never forget that.

The final “global” celebration on the last Friday evening, we remembered again the Lord’s death…the price paid so we can be forgiven and set free and launched into mission. We sang together, in a beautiful newer version the old truth that “nothing but the blood of Jesus” can wash away our sins. For me, unforgettable. Our global family was born of renewal and mission. My prayer is for that zeal to be recaptured for Jesus' kingdom sake.

 

Transformed!

by Harold Ens, Fresno, Calif.

There were actually four events in BC from July 12-17 that made up Celebration 2010. The first was a consultation hosted by the Historical Commission on MB Identity and Mission, held at the campus of Trinity Western University in Langley. Highlights were the presentations by Alfred Neufeld of Paraguay, Nzuzi Mukawa of Congo and John Shankar Rao of India.

The second event was the global celebration of our 150 years which included 10 international guests from other ICOMB conferences. Two evening sessions were open to the MB public from the lower mainland of BC. Highlights for me include:

  •  A message by Nzuzi Mukawa, who leads the mission arm of the Congo MB Church. He spoke of the suffering church in Congo. Unemployment in Kinshasa is 60% or more but the church is growing. There are now 54 MB churches in the capital city of 10 million people.
  • Reports by MBMS International on Thursday included many stories of transformation. The work of Team 2000 in Thailand, all of whom were present, was celebrated as they have planted three churches, and all will return to Thailand with new assignments. New efforts include teams in China, Mongolia, Turkey, North India, and France.
  • A powerful report of MBMSI’s outreach to M** background people in North Africa and the Middle East. We heard many stories of transformed lives. Much of the effort involves satellite TV and the internet. Over 75,000 people have responded to the TV and radio broadcasts already this year. We also heard a stirring challenge on Friday night from someone who leads this effort.

The third event we attended was the biennial US MB convention, called Conection 2010. It was held at a church in South Surrey BC on Thursday evening and Friday. A major focus was hearing stories of transformed lives through church planting in Utah, Kansas City, Colorado, and Clovis. The church planting project in Salt Lake now includes 4 locations and has seen 600 new believers baptized over the past ten years.

The final event of Celebration 2010 was a BC Conference sponsored bus tour of MB church planting in downtown Vancouver. We visited several sites in the Urban center where congregations are now meeting in theaters, community centers and schools. One has grown to some 700 people in five years –HE

 

Denomination Transformation

by Jeremiah Betron, Yale, SD

I haven?t always been interested in being a part of a denomination. I wanted to be the pastor of an independent, non-denominational church. So, when I came across an advertisement for a position at Bethel MB Church in Yale, South Dakota, I had some
thinking to do. I had no idea what a Mennonite Brethren was, but I was willing to explore and give them a chance.

At my interview, I remember one question that was asked. Jean asked, “As a pastor, will you support our denomination?” I said, “Yes,” and it was an honest answer, though I still didn?t totally know what I was getting into. During my first year at Bethel, we hosted the Central District Convention, I attended the annual Central District Pastors? retreat, the USMB New Pastors Orientation, and just recently, the bi-national convention in Vancouver, B. C. Through these experiences, my heart has been transformed toward denominational involvement.

One recent message I gave at Bethel focused on life lessons I learned over this past year. One that was really important for me to learn was that “denominational connection provides a bigger picture.” I can now see how (and am excited to see that) being
connected to a denomination like the MBs reminds me as a pastor that it?s not all about one church. We are part of something bigger. Each church in our denomination is connected to one another. Each church, while having a different function, or location, is part of the body of Christ. We are not in competition with one another, but serving the Lord together. Each church belongs to the body of Christ.

I am proud to affirm the USMB mission statement which states, “We partner as one family to serve one Lord on one mission, for the transformation of individuals, families and communities.” We are one family. We do serve one Lord. And, we are on one
mission! We are on mission together to introduce people to the love of Jesus Christ.

The Renewing Identity & Mission symposium of Celebration 2010 opened with a plenary session by Alfred Neufeld. His presentation was phenomenal, but I was especially pleased to hear him say one thing in particular. In his closing challenge to the U. S. and Canadian conferences of Mennonite Brethren he affirmed, “Denominations are not abominations.” Mr. Neufeld, you are absolutely right! I am proud to part of the USMB denomination. It is a privilege to belong to a network of churches united in serving one Lord on one mission.

 

Finding My Identity

by Michelle Ferguson, Fresno, Calif.

Nine years ago I discovered The Anabaptist Vision in a theology class at Fresno Pacific University and since have longed to root myself in a community of faith that seeks to live from that vision. Via FPU and good Mennonite Brethren friends, I found my way into the MB community. For the last 5 years I have been in membership, asking, “Who are we as MBs and how do I embody that identity?”

It was my pleasure to attend the Renewing Identity & Mission pre-conference of Celebration 2010 in Langely, BC, where I was crowded into a room with 300 plus other people asking that same question. Not being ethnically tied to the denomination, I often wonder whether or not I have a place in the identity conversation. Plenary sessions and workshops, mealtime conversations and foyer greetings helped me feel more a part of this community. The emphasis on a global MB identity that revolves around an evangelical Anabaptist reading of the biblical story provides space for me to belong. The Anabaptist-Mennonite-Mennonite Brethren history provides me with a case study of particular disciples living out the Anabaptist vision. In much the same way that I can enter into the story of the Israelites, taking it on as my own, I can engage MB history as my family story even though my father is a Ferguson and my mother is a Perez.

 

Fire Hydrants and Themes

By Barrie McMaster, MB Herald BC Regional Reporter

The 150th Anniversary “Celebration 2010” for Canadian and American Mennonite Brethren was a rich, inspiring and utterly exhausting week. So much was said, discussed, seen and heard that one can identify with the apostle John, in the concluding sentence of his gospel on Jesus’ ministry. It felt like, “I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” I had more than one conversation with pastors who would moan, “I don’t even know how to start on reporting to my congregation.” I felt just the same as a reporter. It was a very rich, very wonderful week. But it was like trying to drink from a fire hydrant.

So, what are the themes that stay with one, afterward?

  • Concern to reach the unreached. Mennonite Brethren, as Canadian Conference Executive Director David Wiebe noted, really do seem to have, “strong within us”, an imperative to reach others with the gospel. Wiebe said, “Our DNA is evangelistic and missional. It is a gift to the world and Mennonite community.” It is awesome that the first and third mission fields visited by the early MB missionaries (India and now-DR Congo) between them have about 300,000 MB members, compared with North America’s 70,000, plus or minus. While our European ethnic roots as a movement help define us, we are even more defined by our multi-cultural, multi-racial, multi-linguistic makeup as a community of believers. MBBS professor Tim Geddert mused on the 1860 meeting of the 18 dissenters who started the Mennonite Brethren movement: “ I wonder whether those 18 ever dreamed it would come to this?”
  • Concern for the holistic gospel. In our heritage and in our walk with Christ, there is a strong imperative to address the needs of the whole person. Some streams of Christian believers concern themselves only with the soul, but our stream opts to address life circumstances and minister Christ, giving the soul a dominant place but not ignoring nutrional, medical, educative and material needs that can get in the way of of the Spirit’s work on an unbeliever’s heart. Celebration attenders heard how MBMSI, our“mission” arm and Mennonite Central Committee, our “relief” arm, are moving intentionally to complement each others work, to “come from the same place”. MCC has adopted a statement of faith (“Shared Convictions”) that dovetails with the MB statement.
  • Our deep, broad heritage of leaders. A commonly-heard phrase during the whole week sums it up best. Referring to God’s rich provision of strong MB theologians, missionaries and preachers, it was repeatedly said that, at 150 years old, Mennonite Brethren have an amazing foundation for what we do today. The phrase is, “We stand on the shoulders of giants.”
  • We are “People of the Book.” Scripture formed the basis for how we began And it still forms the basis for our Christian walk as MBs. It is our reference, our vision, our hope. (It is a paradox that one speaker talked of turning on his computer for his devotions to read the Word electronically. Another speaker said Canadian and American believers don’t carry the Book at all times – but we should do so because it identifies us. Yet another said where he lives, believers are not allowed to carry the Bible in public. While life conditions differ, the Book remains. We are global. Christ, and the Book, constitute a basis for unity.)
  • We are unique as a family of God. We are strongly Anabaptist, but not completely. We are strongly Envangelical, and we are Pietistic, but not completely. We are in fact an amalgam, a mix. We adhere strongly to the believer’s need to have a relationship with God through the Holy Spirit. But we also carry the conviction that we are more than a group of individuals: God speaks to us corporately, uses gifts that he gives for the benefit of the whole church, and intends that we be a spiritual family. We are evangelical believe and life theimportance of reaching the lost. We try to demonstrate obedience to Matthew 28 and Matthew 25.

– We are effective missionaries. We are seen as the church planting experts.

– We are blessed by conferences oriented to serve churches and church leaders, not vice versa.

– We have a strong understanding of who we are (“although some doubted”) and seek to be true to our heritage.

– We do reach – and preach. We preach Christ, and him crucified.

No one is quite like us. While we have had our ups and downs, made painful mistakes and seen inspiring victories, our uniqueness is still something to celebrate, 150 years in.

  • Plays well with others. Mennonite Brethren workers and leadership don’t like theological silos. We believe exclusivism or arrogance have no place in kingdom work. We work together and help where we can – helping others, and receiving help, too. We are all parts of a much larger Body.

  • We are a global community. We need to recognize that significant change, and we are doing that! The International Community of Mennonite Brethren (ICOMB), like our national and provincial conferences, seeks to serve a global family and draw on the mutual strengths we can all provide each other. That includes learning, teaching, mentoring, sending, encouraging, provisioning and talking and hearing – our Lord, and each other. It seems a little abstract to some, but to me, it’s exciting.

Yeah, I guess I don’t know what to say, either…….

CL Archives
This article is part of the CL Archives. Articles published between August 2017 and July 2008 were posted on a previous website and are archived here for your convenience. We have also posted occasional articles published prior to 2008 as part of the archive. To report a problem with the archived article, please contact the CL editor at editor@usmb.org.

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