While I have been giving presentations and workshops on Anabaptism I have started to realize how little I really knew growing up. People would always ask, "Who are the Mennonites?" Or "How are Mennonites any different from other Christian groups?" I wouldn't say much more than we are pacifists and we also do this thing called foot washing. That really didn't help explain much. People would usually just take the answer in stride… probably still wondering.
But as I have delved more into the nitty gritty of philosophies and doctrine, I have come up with some fascinating stories and information. I am much more in touch with what Anabaptism really means. I have defended and explained in detail many of these ideas and values. I have also tried to explain ideas surrounding pacifism and nationalism, in a context that is vastly different from a European or North American context. I have been blessed with numerous discussions contrasting and comparing indigenous ideas (that come from the historic Andean Cosmo-vision in many cases) to Anabaptist practices, customs and frameworks.
So far, the example of "Jesus Being the Center of our Faith" is the easiest point to get across and people tend to latch on to that idea and run with it. The concept of interpreting the scripture in community has also been embraced by many of the churches here. In the Latin American context, I have had to explain more about the idea of Jesus' authority in a context of government, but otherwise, people really love this basic value.
One example of how indigenous thought and way of living melds perfectly with Anabaptist values is when it comes to community. The second value that "Community is the Center of our Lives" lines up with these indigenous ways of life. The community concept is readily accepted by indigenous churches, but the mestizo and North American churches could take a lesson from the example of indigenous churches who have community and truly live in community.
The Quito Mennonite church has also been acting on the idea of organizing the church in small groups and have also taken this to heart by forming a pastoral team. They have not had a salaried pastor for a year, but rather are trusting the pastoral team and are setting up new commissions to support the team in leading the congregation.
The Indigenous and mainline Ecuadorian context, as far as the third value "Reconciliation is the Center of our Work" or pacifism goes, is a bit more complicated. Generally speaking, Ecuador has been a nation at peace, relatively, for many, many years, and the idea of pacifism, as a value, doesn't seem to resonate. But there is a nationalistic ideal (as I mentioned before), so people don't really see military service as a tool of war, but rather as a place where boys become men. This is similar to many other Latin American nations, with the exception of Colombia, which has experienced civil war for half a century. Indigenous culture doesn't seem to have much of an idea of pacifism either, unless you take into account being at peace with nature, which is extremely important for them.
The idea of reconciling brothers and sisters in the church is also very powerful and is important in the different Ecuadorian communities, especially since this hasn't been something very intentional in other Evangelical church settings here in general in Latin America.
Taking all this into account, people seem to be able to grab hold of the concept that we should be ambassadors of peace and that this should be our message to carry forward to all nations of the world, reconciling each other and reconciling new believers through Christ.
Read more from Peter and Delicia on their blog.