This article was originally published by The Mennonite World Review

Hope Series expands to build community in an isolating time

To reduce isolation caused by physical distancing, Mennonite Mission Network expanded its Hope Series to launch two new programs in mid-April.

One of the programs, Hope Communities, consists of three virtual gathering spaces that help participants focus on a topic for individual growth and communal support. The groups provide resources and sharing on these themes:

— Parenting as a single mother.

— Developing a better sense of vocation.

— Meeting the challenges of Latino leaders during this time of crisis.

​Marvin Lorenzana, one of the Hope Series presenters, listens to participants at Mennonite Mission Network’s Sent Conference in 2018. — David Fast/MMN
​Marvin Lorenzana, one of the Hope Series presenters, listens to participants at Mennonite Mission Network’s Sent Conference in 2018. — David Fast/MMN

The other program provides a Spanish-language Bible study and prayer time led by Mauricio Chenlo, MMN’s minister of church planting. It is titled “When You Can’t Stop Suffering: Biblical Reflections on the Time of the Babylonian Captivity of Israel Based on the Historical Books of the Psalms and Jeremiah.”

MMN’s Church Relations department launched the Hope Series in March. It has included a daily prayer time, a weekly Bible study on Jesus as healer and a weekly global report.

The hope is that the additional programming will help open the shuttered windows of canceled church services, family gatherings and work events to let in the light of social connection, said Jason Boone, church relations team member and coordinating minister of MMN’s Peace and Justice Support Network.

“We want to give isolated people the chance to build community by supporting each other and offering each other hope that they will get through this,” Boone said.

Church Relations team leader Sandy Miller, senior executive for MMN’s Resourcing and Mobilization, is grateful for how the team is continuing to tap into Spirit-led inspiration.

“They are creating fresh conduits to show our congregations and constituents that we deeply care about them in this crisis,” she said.

The fresh conduits include these cohort communities and additional Spanish-language resources:

— “Community of Hope: Single Moms.” Presenter Haiam Gendi, ministry support team coach at MMN, provides faith-based resources for helping participants cope with the challenges of a stay-at-home COVID-19 world.

“This community is geared for single moms who feel the burden of caring for their children but who feel they have no one to care for them,” Gendi said. “I, too, am a single mother who is feeling a deeper need for conversation and community during this isolating time.”

She invites participants to bring their coffee or tea and join in the conversation, laughter, prayers and more.

— “Community of Hope: Vocational Discernment for All Ages and Stages.” Presenter Carmen Hoober, a personnel counselor at MMN, is focusing her cohort on the book Consider Your Calling: Six Questions for Discerning Vocation, written by Gordon T. Smith. She helps participants explore their vocation and develop it through MMN service opportunities and mission resources. Hoober is creator of the blog Career and Calling.

— “Community of Hope: Comunidad de Esperanza: caminando juntos en medio de la adversidad.” Presenter Marvin Lorenzana, MMN’s Discipleship Initiative director, leads this community for Latino pastors and leaders. He addresses those on the front lines of ministry who want to study Scripture together.

“I believe it is important to provide words of encourage-ment from our Christian Scriptures for those providing pastoral care to Hispanic churches throughout the country,“ Lorenzana said.

— Spanish-language resources: Mauricio Chenlo, MMN’s minister of church planting, provides a Spanish-language Bible study and prayer time, which began at 3 p.m. April 14 on MMN’s Facebook page.

Links to the Hope Series online community groups can be found at mennonitemission.net/resources/the-hope-series.

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