Photo: John Paul Lederach receives the Niwano Peace Prize. Photo (c) Niwano Peace Foundation. Mennonite peacebuilder John Paul Lederach received the Niwano Peace Prize on […]
Global Anabaptism: Stories from the global Mennonite church
Eight years ago, when Jonathan Stucky and a small group of women from the Teusaquillo Mennonite congregation in Bogotá, Colombia, began bringing food every Sunday afternoon to the small neighborhood of San Nicolás at the edge of the city, their efforts seemed hopelessly insignificant.
Slowly the Sunday afternoon meal project evolved into the Comedor Pan y Vida (Bread and Life Cafeteria), a small community center that now provides regular meals, a bilingual afterschool program, workshops for adults and a safe refuge for abused women. Five years ago, a small congregation—La Iglesia Menonita de la Resurrección—emerged, and it has become a spiritual oasis in the San Nicolás community. The secret to the program’s success, says Adaía Bernal, an energetic leader in the congregation, is patience and love.
“In a setting where there is so much darkness,” she explained recently to a delegation of Mennonite World Conference (MWC) visitors, “we are lighting candles by letting the world see that we love each other.”
Our group of international visitors quickly experienced that love. As we crowded into a small room, our hosts—including many children and young people—opened our time together by raising their hands and offering us a blessing. In the hours that followed we were moved as together we worshiped and sang, heard testimonies of transformed lives and joined in prayer.
At the end of our visit, members of the congregation prepared a simple meal for us, sharing generously from their meager resources.
Next year at this time, thousands of Mennonite brothers and sisters from around the world—among them, several members of the Iglesia Menonita de la Resurrección in San Nicolás, Colombia—will travel to Harrisburg, Pa., to participate in the 16th Assembly of MWC.
At that gathering we will have a unique opportunity to host members of the global Anabaptist-Mennonite church. Even though the date seems far away, it’s not too early to think about your role as a host.
Here are a few suggestions that came to mind as I was visiting the Comedor Pan y Vida in San Nicolás:
Last month, the tiny congregation of Iglesia Menonita de la Resurrección served MWC representatives a meal. They have paid their “fair share.”
Let’s respond by doing the same.
John D. Roth is professor of history at Goshen (Ind.) College, director of the Institute for the Study of Global Anabaptism and editor of Mennonite Quarterly Review.
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