By Ken Peters, pastor of Saanich Community Church (M.B.), near Victoria BC; also on behalf of Gerald Hildebrand, Pastor of McIvor Avenue M.B. Church, Winnipeg, and David Esau, pastor of Eagle Ridge Bible Fellowship (MB) in Vancouver, BC
It is our last full day in Bogotá on the Colombia Learning Tour 2013; a country popularly described in Tom Clancy’s novel as a place of “Clear and Present Danger.”
A morning of debrief and strategic planning for our return to Canada will be followed by a few hours this afternoon in the City’s markets; a celebratory cap to an exhausting but exhilarating twelve days.
Twelve days is a fair amount of time to acquire a read on people and at this juncture of our journey, a fitting disclosure is appropriate. The disclosure pertains to our sisters and brothers working in the MCC Colombia office, the Mennonite World Conference office and the network agencies personnel.
I speak confidently on behalf of the nine-person Canadian delegation that “our” MCC personnel, to a person, exhibit an exemplary demonstration of faithfulness to Jesus Christ and the Gospel in their professional responsibilities as well as their personal spirituality that has been infused into everything we have done on this trip.
We heard Colombian Church leaders comment repeatedly of MCC’s integral role in their church-planting, community building and leadership development efforts.
Being an Anabaptist follower of Jesus takes on accent and inflection in this environment. I remember years ago living in Fresno for three years that that American experience heightened my awareness of what it meant to be Canadian.
For me this trip to Colombia has heightened my awareness of what it means to be an Anabaptist.
There are distinct characteristics of Anabaptism (I will not attempt to list them all here) that shine in this context. Namely, there have been two that have surfaced for me:
- a Christocentric orientation to life that refuses to separate theology/confession from one’s incarnational presence;
- and second, an obstinate refusal, an inability to distance the authority of the Word of God from everyday decision-making in the face of state-sanctioned or state-ignored violence.
In my years of pastoral ministry within the Canadian MB family, including my time serving on the Board of Faith and Life, I came across those who freely offered criticism of MCC, its programs and personnel. Accusations and complaints were volleyed at safe distance from real life interaction. MCC has consistently turned the cheek and engaged critique with an open heart to act in concert with MB concerns.
In our life and work we often search out and stumble upon people and organizations that inspire us – we are drawn to admire and even more to emulate them. In Colombia we found examples to model our own life after: to follow them as they follow Christ.
So I invite both MCC Canada and the Canadian Conference of MB Churches in Canada to consider an opportunity to pattern our institutional relationships after what we have observed in Colombia. Christ remains the centre around which all relationships flow. Let us move towards a level of cooperation and intimate synergy witnessed in Colombia.