This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

EMM Global Fair serves up a feast of cultures

SALUNGA, Pa. — Nestled among the buildings of the oldest homestead in Lancaster County on July 12 were international flags, girls trying on chadars and the aroma of osh cooking over an open fire.

Brothers Sayban, left, and Vincynt Fellenger of Reading check out the scavenger hunt on their Eastern Mennonite Missions Global Fair maps July 12. — Sarah Gingrich/EMM
Brothers Sayban, left, and Vincynt Fellenger of Reading check out the scavenger hunt on their Eastern Mennonite Missions Global Fair maps July 12. — Sarah Gingrich/EMM

The occasion was Eastern Mennonite Missions’ annual Global Fair, held at the Hans Herr House and Museum in Willow Street.

Almost 2,000 visitors explored cultures from Germany, Chile and Cambodia, as well as those of local immigrants.

Karen refugees from Myanmar staffed an exhibit about North America. A number of Karen families attend Habecker Mennonite Church in Lancaster.

Artifacts on the Karen table included margaytha, a game similar to marbles, and a kwen (buffalo horn). Refugees Snow Paw, Paw Pah and Lwei Ray Moo greeted visitors, selling rice and chicken soup, egg rolls and klaw nya, a spicy beef topping for rice.

“A lot of the ingredients in the food were grown in their garden,” said Sean FitzGerald, an EMM worker who walks alongside the Karen at Habecker Mennonite. “Nelson Habecker has a farm next to the church, and the Karen plant a garden there every year. They grow potatoes, basil and other vegetables that they cannot buy in our area. Wilbur Nissley helps them buy seeds, often from overseas. Some plants thrive here, some do not.”

New to this year’s fair was a scavenger hunt for children.

“We are always looking for creative ways to nurture children’s interest in international cultures and ministry,” said EMM events coordinator Jessica Mueller. “Children earned ice cream as a reward for finding ministry icons on large buttons and learning what the icons stand for.”

Eight-year-old Abigail Epp of Harrisburg was the first to complete the scavenger hunt.

“The pineapple button was the hardest one to find,” she said. “I thought it would be by the juice stand, but it wasn’t. It was hard to find all the buttons, but I was happy to get the ice cream.”

Some scavenger hunt buttons were located on exhibit tables; others were worn by staff or volunteers. The pineapple icon represented hospitality ministry. Other icons included international partnerships, health and education. When a child colored in all 10 ministry icons on their map by finding the buttons and hearing a description of the ministries, they “earned” a free ice cream.

In an exhibit about Kenya, EMM worker Debbi DiGennaro answered people’s questions at a table of brightly colored woven baskets. She said the baskets, or kikapus, are made in Nairobi by Mama Sara, who sits along the side of the road weaving them out of sisal and yarn. In some, she replaces the yarn with discarded plastic bags.

“The sisal fibers are native to Kenya. Leaves are pounded to get the juice out, and fibers remain,” DiGennaro said. “It takes an entire day to weave one basket. I’ve had one of them for 17 years now. They are very strong and super flexible.”

For the second year in a row, EMM’s Christian/Muslim Relations Team had an exhibit. The booth included an oriental carpet under a large tent where visitors tried on traditional outfits from four Central Asian countries. Adults and children enjoyed dressing up in bright robes, flowing scarves and exotic hats.

“The children were enamored by the beautiful hats, especially the beaded ones,” said Grace Shenk, a member of the team. “Everyone had questions. Some asked what Muslim Ministry was. Others asked about what Muslims believe. We handed out a lot of brochures.”

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