BONN, Germany — The International Missions Association has no members from Europe, but that was no obstacle to Germany hosting the organization’s annual gathering and outreach efforts.
“In addition to sensing a burden for the churches of Europe, we wanted to learn from and support the work among the 2 million refugees from Africa and the Middle East that have flooded into Europe in the last two years,” said IMA coordinator Tilahun Beyene, a pastor and part-time staff member of Eastern Mennonite Missions.
Coming from 20 nations, IMA representatives gathered Nov. 8-15 around the theme, “One Spirit, One Body, One Mission.”
Filled with inspirational messages, testimonies, workshops and hours of fasting and prayer, the conference also included a weekend of outreach.
Henry Mulandi, a mission leader from Kenya, said German missionaries first brought the gospel to his country.
“We wanted to come and bless those who have blessed us,” said Mulandi, IMA vice president.
When Jagannath Banerjee, a mission leader from Siliguri, India, came to pray over a map of Germany during the gathering’s day of fasting and prayer, he remembered writing letters to a German sponsor from his Kolkata orphanage 20 years earlier.
After numerous phone calls and emails as well as help from his host family, Banerjee was able to locate his sponsor, 99-year-old pastor Gerhard Gläser, and pay him a visit to express his gratitude. Gläser had been praying for Banerjee for 20 years, but never dreamed he’d meet him.
Richard Rancap, a pastor and mission leader from the Philippines who also is a marathoner, was in awe that he was assigned to a German sports ministry for his weekend outreach.
He was able to join a half-marathon race and, though he nearly froze in the chilly weather, ran his best time ever. Those who assigned his outreach did not know he was a marathoner.
Sheryl Martin, a member of EMM’s Christian Muslim Relations Team, attended the IMA meetings and helped lead a workshop. Martin was pleased to learn that her host family was giving foster care to unaccompanied minors from Afghanistan.
“Afghanistan is very close to my heart,” she said. “I had served there as a nurse for 16 years.” She was able to speak Dari with the children and join a “Good News Club” led by her German hosts.
While attending a workshop on common Muslim objections to Christian faith, a German physical therapist commented that she was interacting with a Muslim imam from Morocco. Andres Prins, another member of the Christian Muslim Relations Team, noted that he had lived in North Africa and spoke Moroccan Arabic. Before the week was over Prins met with the Muslim leader, who has lived in Germany for 20 years yet feels very isolated. He thanked Prins for the visit and looks forward to ongoing connections with the church.
Participants heard from Jane Kiguru, a mission leader from Kenya who has lived in England for 20 years. Kiguru came to England for a youth missions conference in 1994 and was eager to return to the vibrant young Kenyan church that had birthed her. She was distressed to hear God call her to stay in England and lend support to “the little dying church” she had visited.
Through her behind-the-scenes prayer and outreach efforts the church has grown from 50 to 1,600 members and serves English, Polish, Japanese, Filipino and Chinese worshipers in seven services. Kiguru’s work with African immigrants even earned her an audience with the queen. She also serves members of parliament as a consultant on immigrant issues.
For three evenings German and international guests addressed public rallies.
Johannes Reimer, a German mission leader and newly appointed director of the Peace and Reconciliation Network of the World Evangelical Alliance, invited the IMA to become a member of the network.
“The IMA is a network of mission-minded people,” he said. “We’re creating a global network of peace trainers and theologians who are truly Christ-centered.”
At the invitation of EMM, the next annual IMA assembly will celebrate its 20th anniversary Sept. 19-26 in Salunga, Pa.