US. Mennonite Brethren were well represented when the International Community of Mennonite Brethren (ICOMB) gathered for the annual ICOMB summit May 29 to June 2, 2019, at the Matthew Training Center in Guadalajara, Mexico. In addition to representatives from each of the 21 national conferences, a handful of ICOMB staff and MB agency representatives were present as well as another two dozen guests who sat in the gallery.
At this year’s summit, Ed Boschman, retired USMB executive director and the official U.S. Conference (USMB) representative to ICOMB, was joined by guests Don Morris, USMB national director, Dina Gonzalez Pina, U.S. Mennonite Central Committee national staff, and Xavier Pina, Pacific District Conference (PDC) Hispanic Council chair, and Gary Wall, PDC minister.
“As first-time attendees, the ICOMB experience was so enriching,” Dina Gonzalez Pina says in an email. “Meeting the global MB conference leaders was transformational. The reports and the stories of what the Lord is doing was edifying. I think it is important for the USMB conference to better understand what the Lord is doing in our global MB family and understand how the Lord is using folks who are walking worthy of the calling they have received. It challenges our USMB family to broaden its western perspective of community into a global perspective.”
While Boschman will continue to be the official USMB representative to ICOMB, Morris says he hopes to attend future summits as a guest.
“The ICOMB Summit was a very positive event and served to unite, connect and inspire national conference leaders for kingdom work,” says Morris, who was also a first-time attendee. “It was a small glimpse of the scene pictured in Revelation 7:9, “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.”
Delegates affirm new leaders
During the summit, delegates affirmed Wall as the ICOMB U.S. national director, a role he will assume Jan. 1, 2020. As the first U.S. national director, Wall will work to inform and strengthen the partnership between ICOMB and USMB, help to raise much needed funds and travel among USMB congregations, cultivating “good will and making USMB and ICOMB close allies,” says Boschman.
In other leadership decisions, Dario Rameriz, the Spanish conference representative from Paraguay, was elected to the executive committee and Boschman was elected to another two-year term as the ICOMB treasurer. They join executive committee members Emerson Cardoso, Brazil, who was elected last year as the ICOMB chair, and Andreas Isaak, Germany, who is the secretary. Executive secretary Rudi Plett, Paraguay, and Victor Wiens, Canada, the ICOMB equipping coordinator, also serve on the executive committee.
Given that both Plett and Cardoso are new to their respective positions, Boschman says it is “natural” that they would review ICOMB’s mission and lead summit participants in a discussion about the future of ICOMB. Plett’s and Cardoso’s leadership is a “bit more relaxed and informal,” says Boschman, “but it was visionary and purposeful.”
The summit agenda included one session each of three mornings for the “road ahead” discussion. Questions raised included: What is ICOMB’s contribution to God’s kingdom? Is the annual ICOMB gathering a good use of resources? What are ICOMB’s core commitments?
The representatives affirmed that ICOMB is not a missionary-sending agency or a church planting agency, says Boschman, and they concluded that there is “value in our familial connection.”
Boschman says, “We are an Anabaptist global family of faith—and that is worth a lot. It’s good to gather to nurture and celebrate that reality. A core agreement is that there is value in a global Mennonite Brethren Anabaptist family that is part of the mission of God. We’re sticking together.”
Robust discussions a highlight
Boschman reports that the delegates had a “robust” discussion about financial realities. ICOMB requests that each national conference donates 2 percent of its overall income, which USMB does. According to Morris, the U.S. Conference contributes $16,100, plus covering travel expenses for USMB ICOMB representatives.
Delegates also heard from Vic Wiens, a former missionary and now a Multiply staff member who has been seconded to ICOMB to serve as consultant with emerging MB conferences, Doug Heidebrecht, who works with leadership training and education, and Randy Friesen, president of Multiply.
A highlight for Boschman was the sense of ownership and commitment the ICOMB delegates demonstrated, especially during the delegate-only session. “Something pretty special happened when it was just the delegates. We had energetic discussions and broad participation,” he says. “People were leaning in.”
The summit agenda also included time for each delegate to give an update on the representative’s national conference.
“Delegates reported about both challenges and positive things that are happening within their national conferences,” Morris says. “It was obvious that God is moving among us as the number of overall baptisms numbered in the hundreds.” Morris says growth was reported in Malawi, Bavaria, Germany and among the Khmu in southeast Asia.
“Although much of the reporting was about the many good things taking place in many of the conferences, some delegates asked for prayer for difficulties being experienced,” Morris says. “In some countries there is simply not enough financial resources to do all the things pastors and leaders would like to incorporate in order to reach more people.”
The summit concluded Saturday evening with a foot washing, communion and a time of prayer.
People from the MB churches in Guadalajara joined the delegates Sunday morning at the Matthew Training Center for a joint worship service, that Boschman says was a highlight of the week. Boschman estimates the group numbered over 200 and notes the diversity of ages represented. “It was a vibrant gathering,” he says. “There were lots of kids and teenagers.”
Boschman commends Trevor and Joan Goddard, long-term MB missionaries who direct the Matthew Training Center, for hosting the summit. The center provided an informal, outdoor setting for the summit, and the students and staff prepared and served the meals. Delegates stayed on the campus and in a nearby hotel.