This article was originally published by The Mennonite

Missional church story: Berlin Mennonite Church

MyronWeaverMyron Weaver is senior pastor of Berlin (Ohio) Mennonite Church. Photo: Members of Berlin Mennonite Church pack relief kits for Mennonite Central Committee. Photo provided. 

Four years ago, I began my pastorate at Berlin Mennonite Church in Holmes County, Ohio. Unlike my previous pastorate, Berlin is nestled in a rural county of just under 40,000 people.

During my candidate process at Berlin, I was curious what being missional looked like for them. In one of the interviews I asked, “Since the church is located in the center of a community where over 75 percent of the population is either Amish or Mennonite, where do you find those missional opportunities at Berlin?”

The first thing the search committee talked about was the role the church played in the “Mongolian Mission Partnership.” This partnership has existed for over 25 years. The partnership consists of six churches from the area and Mennonite Mission Network. Together they have sponsored individuals and families who serve in Mongolia for extended periods of time.

Recently, I had the privilege of going to Mongolia to see and experience life in the Mongolian church. It was amazing to see firsthand the Spirit working in the church.

It is thought that in 1994 there were only four Christians in the entire country; Today, there are nearly 50,000 Christians and the Mongolian church is now sending Mongolian mission workers to China, Afghanistan, North Korea and to several unreached regions in Mongolia.

In spite of the fact that their culture and their way of doing church is different than my own, I found my interaction with them to be encouraging in my ministry.

While Berlin had a clear heritage of global missions, some understood that being missional needed to include a stronger focus on community engagement. With the close ties between the community and the church, there were times where the community’s blind spot became the church’s blind spot. This led to the church inadvertently overlook some of the needs within the community.

In many ways, being missional is being attentive to the Spirit’s movement in the community. As a result, we started to pay closer attention to the Spirit.

At our community’s ecumenical clergy gathering that I attended, all the pastors committed to introducing their congregations to the idea of having interested churches in the county join together to form a local chapter of “Love INC.” (Love in the Name of Christ). Love INC. has volunteers from local churches who walk alongside those who are in a crisis: for reasons of health, housing, medical bills, utility shutoffs, food shortages and other everyday situations. Love INC. also offers life coaches and financial coaches.

Each church in the county has taken on what is called a “gap ministry” through Love INC.  For instance, at Berlin Mennonite we have two gap ministries: a coat ministry and kitchen ministry. Each fall, families who are unable to provide coats for their growing children come to the church to pick out new and slightly used coats. This is a great opportunity for our staff to interact with these families and to get to know them. Our kitchen gap ministry provides kitchenware for people who are experiencing loss due to a fire or who are moving into the area without the necessities for a kitchen.

Having two sons of my own, one concern that has been at the forefront of my ministry is the need to pass on our 20160206-dji_0035jpg_24703479640_ofaith and our missional living to the next generation. One way we have chosen to do this involves both adults and children. Together, we have assembled Mennonite Central Committee relief kits. One of our congregation’s members owns a large wholesale business that has the buying power to purchase large quantities of items needed to make MCC Relief Kits at a reduced rate. Over the last three years, our congregation has gathered at his warehouse to put the kits together. Each year, we have put together over 1,000 kits. This past year we were privileged to have a young woman from Nicaragua among us on the day we were putting the kits together. She had received a kit as a child and she talked to us about what the kit meant to her family.

Missional living looks different in different contexts.  To be sure, by no way have we arrived to a complete understanding of what this means for our lives here at Berlin Mennonite. In fact, if we truly are paying attention to the Spirit, it may look completely different next year verses what it looks like today.

One thing I do know is if we open ourselves up to God’s Spirit amazing things can happen. For it truly is God, through the work of his Spirit in our lives, who has the ability to do far more than we could ever ask or imagine.

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