This article was originally published by The Mennonite

From South Africa to North America: Former mission worker continues ministry

Joe Sawatzky teaches and Mavis Tshandu translates at Bethany Bible School in Mthatha, South Africa.

Photo: Joe Sawatzky teaches as Mavis Tshandu translates at Bethany Bible School in Mthatha, South Africa. (Photo by Ryan Miller)

According to Joe Sawatzky, former Mennonite Mission Network international worker in South Africa, and new Mission Network Church Relations associate, “Jesus is the means and the end. He is the destination and the way and the one making it happen in us.”

Sawatzky explained that in relation to his work, he often reflects on Philippians 2:5-11 and Ephesians 2.

In Philippians 2:5-11, or the “Christ hymn,” Paul wrote about modeling for the church the kind of attitude that followers are meant to have, which is the same mind of Christ. This is the means.

The end, then, is laid out in Ephesians 2, as the one new humanity where people who are from different backgrounds or are even hostile toward one another can come together through Christ.

“It is the humility of Jesus that leads to the cross,” said Sawatzky. “And that same posture taken on by his followers brings them toward one another.”

Sawatzky speaks passionately about Scripture. “I get my energy and conviction to go out and do what I do through the study of the Bible, because Jesus is the fulfillment of the story. It is a story that challenges us to relate to people in a healthy way for the purpose of proclaiming and living that good message.”

After serving in South Africa for eight years, ending in 2014, Sawatzky now begins with Mission Network as a Church Relations associate covering 14 states and five conferences.

In South Africa, Joe served with his wife, Anna, and their four sons, Isaac, Moses, Levi and Jesse. Sawatzky describes his work there as being “a Bible teacher and friend to pastors.” A significant part of their time involved the Bethany Bible School, a leadership training ministry for African Initiated Churches.

“Stepping into the church relations role is a way of continuing my missionary identity,” said Sawatzky. In this new role, Sawatzky will have more opportunities to encourage churches and to teach from the pulpit, as well as other settings.

Additionally, Sawatzky is finishing a dissertation through the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, the theme of which is the relationship between Mennonite and Pentecostal theologies, related to his time serving in South Africa.

In the moments he isn’t devoting time to church relations or his dissertation, he is with family. “Weekly extended family dinners are a part of our lives,” said Sawatzky. He is a mandolin-playing, amateur portrait artist who just so happens to also be a big fan of the Kansas City Royals and Jayhawks, a passion he shares with his boys.

Sawatzky and his family currently live in Goshen, Indiana, and participate at Berkey Avenue Mennonite Fellowship.

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