Pandemic realities are shifting how Mennonite Mission Network is partnering with others. This shift includes sharing $15,000 with Mosaic Mennonite Conference of Mennonite Church USA to support its youth and young adult leadership development.
Mosaic Conference is using the support — the majority of a $20,000 grant MMN received to help form young leaders — to fund the new ministry of Mosaic youth coordinator Michelle Ramirez. She is overseeing Mosaic’s new Forming Youth Leaders program for Florida congregations, eight of which joined Mosaic during its November assembly.
Ramirez — who grew up in the Florida faith community, where she held other leadership positions prior to this new appointment — is now helping young people develop their gifts in their local context. She is a member of the Luz y Vida (Light and Life) congregation in Orlando.
“I love to hear each person’s unique story and work together to expand the kingdom of God,” she said. “I hope to help them see that if we work for God with all our hearts, God is with us every step of the way, no matter how hard things may seem.”
MMN church relations representative Susan Nisly, who submitted the grant proposal to Forum for Theological Exploration with MMN senior executive for human resources Lyz Weaver, said the partnership evolved when COVID-19 shifted how the grant could best be used.
MMN’s Christian Service department applies for the grant periodically, and it received $20,000 for 2020. MMN has kept $5,000 for further engagement with the conference through shared training opportunities and future travel costs.
“As we met with leaders in Florida, we realized our plan for the grant monies did not meet the needs of their community, so [we] made shifts to meet their goals and objectives,” Nisly said.
Ramirez and Marco Güete, a Mosaic leadership minister and director of Hispanic Ministries for Mennonite Education Agency, were key in expediting the shift. Knowing the Florida congregations well, they were poised to reshape the grant resources to better target congregations’ needs.
Other conference leaders, including executive conference minister Stephen Kriss, felt the Spirit moving in this fine-tuning and reshaping.
“I’m so grateful for the initiative of Mennonite Mission Network to partner to explore new and more focused ways of service and leadership development with our Florida congregations,” he wrote in an email to Nisly. “While this has been a challenge to launch amid a global pandemic, I appreciate Mission Network’s flexibility and responsiveness to the context and possibilities. Michelle . . . brings care, passion and strong relational connections to help shape next-generation leaders for the sake of the church and the world, in the way of Christ’s peace.”