Photo: In Spain, Communidad Anabautista Unida (United Anabaptist Community) reaches out to the refugees in their neighborhood and offers Spanish lessons, hospitality, and friendship. Connie Byler offers tea and friendship to refugees in her home in Burgos, Spain. Photo courtesy of Connie Byler.
This year’s meeting of the Council on International Anabaptist Mission (CIM) brought together lead administrators and staff representatives of nine different Anabaptist mission and service entities in an atmosphere of trust, collaboration, and mutual affirmation.
“Mission Network’s work with refugees is a significant part of its ministries in locations such as Western Europe, Turkey, and Southeast Asia,” said John F. Lapp, senior executive for Global Ministries for Mennonite Mission Network. “This year’s gathering highlighted the ways that Mennonite agencies respond to the millions of refugees in today’s world, and we considered anew the huge opportunities for relating to (intentional) migrants in our locations of ministry, wherever we find ourselves.”
Mennonite Brethren (MB) colleagues hosted the meetings this year at their office on the campus of Northview Community Church in Abbotsford, British Columbia. The first evening together, Randy Friesen, general director of MB Mission, invited all to prayer, where the tone for the next few days was set. They prayed for the movement of the Holy Spirit, admitting that they need the Lord to sustain their ministries.
Since its inception in 1958, CIM has been providing a face-to-face context for consulting together on issues relevant to international Anabaptist ministries and partnerships. Small groups shared reports with each other and discussed issues of common concern. Wednesday, everyone was together for worship and multiple presentations on refugee centered ministries. CIM offers the possibility of new partnerships and ministry responses and unity around the shared commitment to engage the world that God loves, in the name of Jesus Christ.
Wednesday’s full-day session was a multi-lensed look at what it is to offer a “holistic response” to refugees. Mennonite Central Committee staff provided an overview of the enormity of the challenge. Randy Friesen provided a theological overview for engaging the world in mission. Friesen offered words of challenge to North American leaders: “We are to be on mission as Jesus was on mission. Jesus moved among the people and offered the good news through his words and his deeds.”
Samir Youssef, a North Africa Mennonite Brethren team leader, shared stories of his work, which is increasingly focused on sharing the love of Jesus with Arabic-speaking refugees. A guest panel of people resettled from parts of Asia challenged listeners through testimonies to be alert to how God is revealed in the midst of the current global refugee crisis, and invited others to join the cause.
Virginia Mennonite Missions’ Lynn Suter, CIM chairperson for 2016-2017, offered a reminder in closing that this engagement in mission is ultimately intensely personal: “If we don’t treasure the prize we have in Christ, what good is our purpose in sharing it?”