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Sharing stories of healing, seminars of hopehttps://www.pjsn.org/blog/Sharing-stories-of-healing,-seminars-of-hopeSharing stories of healing, seminars of hopeBy Laurie Oswald Robinson <p>​<strong style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"><em>Editor's Note:</em> <a href="https://convention.mennoniteusa.org/the-experience/worship-equipping-seminars/">Here</a> <strong>is a roster of times and places where you will find the in-person and virtual seminars listed below. </strong></strong></p><p>The first chapter of the Gospel of John warms our hearts with the reality of God's incarnational embodiment in our world: "And the Word became flesh and lived among us" John 1:14 (NRSV). God didn't write "I love you" in the lofty blue sky with cursive white clouds. Instead, God spelled "I love you" through a baby, born in a cow's stall, whose life would end with nail holes in his hands. Ours is a gritty — albeit grand — faith that brought God down to dust so that we could be raised up to our destiny as God's children. </p><p>Jesus, human and divine, modeled what it means to follow in his footsteps on paths, often muddy, on paths often steep, on paths often leading to seemingly dead ends. But the paths always lead us further on in faith, from death into life. </p><p>MennoCon21 planners are following these challenging pathways in creating a churchwide gathering, including virtual and in-person elements. Mennonite Church USA Executive Board staff members have trod many uphill pathways on the way to Cincinnati, Ohio, and out of the pandemic shutdown. </p><p>Mennonite Mission Network is joining the Executive Board's hybrid vision by providing both virtual and in-person seminars that reflect how the agency shares in God's global mission. Below are 10 expressions of the embodiment of the healing and hope of Jesus.  </p><p><br></p><p><strong>Note: <em>Seminars</em></strong><strong><em> labeled as "adult seminar" are open to everyone. They are geared towards adults, but youth are welcome to participate.</em> </strong></p><ul><li><strong>Adult, in-person seminar</strong></li></ul><p><strong>"Future Driven Partnership; Pursuing God's call at Mennonite Mission Network,"</strong><strong><em> </em></strong>by Mike Sherrill, executive director, Mission Network. <br></p><p>Sherrill says, "Mission Network is responding to the present and innovating for the future. We exist to equip and empower the church to be a holistic witness to Jesus Christ, across the street and around the world. 'For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline' (2 Timothy 1:7 NIV). This truth draws us toward inclusion and partnership, as we put God's love into action for people of all cultures. We are all pilgrims on a sacred journey. Together, let's discover God's urgent call on each of us and our church." <br></p><ul><li><strong>Adult, in-person seminar </strong><br><strong>"Move Toward Peace Through Nonviolent Direct Action," </strong>hosted by Sharon Norton, Mission Network's co-director for Africa and Europe, with Jonathan (organizer and advocate) and Sarah Nahar (scholar and spiritual activist). <br><br>Following Jesus means seeking God's kingdom and righteousness. It takes deep love, creativity and faithfulness to commit to seeking change nonviolently. Nonviolent direct action is a strategic response to violence, oppression and injustice that uses tactics that don't depend on the threat of violence to achieve justice. Seminar participants will get a taste for how to directly seek change in their communities, using tactics that carefully consider timing, context and public perception. Mennonite Mission Network will also premier the video curriculum created with the Nahars, called "Stir Up Peace: How Nonviolent Direct Action Creates Change."<br><br></li><li><strong>Adult, in-person seminar </strong></li></ul><p><strong>"Peacemaking in Africa with Muslims and Christians," </strong>by Christy Harrison, a nurse midwife and Mission Network worker in Muslim-Christian relations; Peter Sensenig, a teacher and  Mission Network worker in Muslim-Christian relations; Nehemiah Chigoji, pastor of Upland Peace Church in Upland, California, and director of the Nigeria Anabaptist Resource Center in Jos, Nigeria; and Sharon Norton, Mission Network's co-director for Africa and Europe. </p><p>Come to hear stories of peacemaking, through sports, midwifery and day-to-day interactions between Muslims and Christians in Africa. Sensenig taught in Zanzibar and Tanzania, where students of both faiths talked about peacemaking in their own lives. Harrison interacted with Muslim women and babies in the maternity ward and in her neighborhood. Chigoji, an immigrant to the U.S. from Nigeria, travels back and forth between the two countries. He uses his intercultural skills wherever he preaches and models the gospel of peace.  The seminar leaders want to challenge people to envision themselves as active participants in God's mission of peace in their context.<br></p><ul><li><strong>Adult, in-person seminar</strong></li></ul><p><strong>"Two-Way Mission,"</strong> by Jane and Jerrell Ross Richer, Mission Network workers <br></p><p>Many of us have had eye-opening experiences, through living in other countries or relating to people whose contexts are different from our own. How can we integrate what we have learned from one setting into another? Jane and Jerrell Ross Richer migrate between the global south and global north each year, being in the Ecuadorian rain forest with Indigenous people, as well as doing life in Goshen, Indiana. Learn how our diverse experiences in varied contexts can help us see, hear and live with authenticity wherever we may be.</p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">Jane Ross Richer shares her thoughts about the seminar: "Diverse experiences are the gifts we receive by stepping outside of what's comfortable. These gifts help us to see from another's point of view. … To be the gospel, we must go beyond thinking properly about Jesus to experiencing reality like Jesus. Jesus reveals humility, intimacy and union both in his relationship with the divine and in his relationships with people from all walks of life."</span></p><ul><li><strong>Adult, in-person seminar</strong></li></ul><p><strong>Adult, in-person seminar </strong></p><p><strong>"Becoming Carbon Positive," </strong>by Jerrell Ross Richer, professor of economics, Goshen (Indiana) College <br></p><p>We live in an interconnected world, one where the actions we take affect people all over the globe. How can those of us living in the industrialized nations of the global north become pro-active when it comes to climate change? Environmental economics students at Goshen (Indiana) College are developing mechanisms to do just this. Equip yourself to become carbon positive by learning how to offset greenhouse gas emissions and take better care of God's creation.<br></p><ul><li><strong>Youth, in-person seminar </strong></li></ul><p><strong>"Changing the Narrative: Climate What?" </strong>by Jane and Jerrell Ross Richer, Mission Network workers<br></p><p>"Fear not!" the angels still say. Come hear stories about Indigenous youth, who are leading the way with creative solutions in the Ecuadorian rain forest. The Cofán people in the village of Zábalo live off the land and take conservation into their own hands. Human impact on the climate has changed the current upon which the economy, human rights and the natural world rides, creating opportunities for collective action and community empowerment. Join a conversation with the Ross Richers, who serve in Ecuador, and hear how ordinary people like you are changing the world.<br></p><ul><li><strong>Youth, in-person seminar</strong><br><strong>"I Fight Authority, Authority Always Wins," </strong>by Eric Frey Martin, recruiter and Church Relations staff member, Mission Network<br><br>Many authority figures that we were brought up to respect — police, pastors, political leaders — sometimes turn out to be untrustworthy. Furthermore, as we dig into history, our economic systems, the lands that we live on, even the laws we must obey are fraught with injustices and often based on systems of white supremacy, classism and nationalism. What do we do with all of that? How do people of faith interact with the authorities in our lives, especially the ones that seem to be carrying out injustice? When we look at how Jesus approached power, authority and injustice in his own life, we can find hope and guidance.<br><br></li><li><strong>Youth in-person seminar</strong><br><strong>"What You Do Next Matters," </strong>by Eric Frey Martin and representatives from Mennonite colleges <br><br>This seminar will be for high schoolers contemplating what comes next, after graduation. We will talk about the different options youth have to connect their faith and vocation. For example, what are the advantages of a "gap year" and what could you do during that year? Our aim is to set up an inviting space where youth can hear about the many possibilities available to them through Mennonite programs and schools after high school.<br><br></li><li><strong>Youth in-person and virtual seminar</strong><br><strong>"Shaping our Stories: Sharing Our Stories," </strong>by Eric Frey Martin <br><br>During this seminar, we will look at how we tell stories — not just the verbal ones that we tell our friends — but the narratives we shape around who we are and how we  project ourselves to others. We will look at how these stories we tell and project shape who we are and how our stories can impact others. We will look at sharing our stories as a way of sharing God with others.<br><br></li><li><strong>Adult, virtual seminar</strong><br><strong>"Breaking a Mission Mold in Africa," </strong>by Joe Sawatzky, Church Relations representative for Mission Network, and panel <br><br>Listen in as Sawatzky interviews James Krabill, Jonathan Larson and Thomas Oduro, editors of a new book of testimonies on the more than 60-year relationship between North American Mennonites and African Initiated Churches (AICs). Learn firsthand from participants in this fascinating and path-breaking chapter in the story of Christian cross-cultural engagement.</li></ul><p> <br>Sawatzky says he hopes this seminar will help people see that "the Jesus-way of mission has always involved mutuality, the giving and receiving of gifts, the creation of a new humanity of justice, joy and peace in the Holy Spirit. There have been faithful approximations of this vision throughout time, of which the Mennonite/AIC history is one example. I hope that people will feel Christ's call to know and make him known, even to the ends of the earth."</p><p>Sawatzky notes that we live in a time in which more than two-thirdsof the Christian population lives outside of Europe and North America. "This dramatic growth in the so-called 'global south' occurred as people began to receive Christ in their own languages and cultures, and critique their cultures through the mind of Christ," he said. "Learning about this mission dynamic at work in other societies can help the church in North America to distinguish elements, in its own context, which lead toward Christ from those which deny Christ."<br></p>
A dad gives and receiveshttps://www.pjsn.org/blog/A-dad-gives-and-receivesA dad gives and receivesBy Ken Regier <p><em><strong>​Editor's Note:</strong> Ken Regier, director of Program Human Resources for Mennonite Mission Network, was invited to write this personal reflection on Father's Day. </em></p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"><br></span></p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">I began working for Mennonite Mission Network as a personnel counselor in 2002. In my role, I encouraged hundreds of young adults to consider taking time from their normal routines to serve others. Often, that meant that they would leave home for a year or more, sometimes to places outside of the U.S. We felt excitement, thinking and talking together about the possibilities for exploration and growth.</span></p><p>Fast-forward nine years. That's when I found myself on the other side of the equation, as my oldest child applied for Service Adventure. At that point, all my "protective dad" questions emerged. For example: </p><p> "She's not used to riding her bike at home in the countryside, let alone in a big city. How do we know she'll be safe?" </p><p>"She's from a small Kansas town — how will she navigate a big-city bus system and not get lost?" </p><p>Those and many other thoughts ran through my mind. I didn't verbalize them much, but they felt dissonant with the way I had talked about the same types of service with the many other young adults I had counseled in my role at Mission Network. </p><p>I learned a lot that year. I learned that I could drive away from a scared, but excited, 18-year-old, and we could both survive. I learned to trust that others would watch out for my child, including the two guys from the shelter for houseless people, who helped fix her bike one day and the guys from the shelter who looked out for her and cheered her on when she jogged downtown. </p><p>These positive experiences helped me learn that the things I promised other young adults rang true for my own young adult. </p><p>That year provided my family with so many blessings we didn't expect, including my daughter's experience with another example — beyond her childhood church — of how a faithful congregation looks and acts. She learned first-hand about education and discovered that she loved social work (she's now an elementary school social worker). </p><p>Fast-forward two more years, when we sent another child off, this time to South America. The curve ball, for me, emerged early on, when we were video-chatting, and my son introduced me to his "mom and dad." My immediate thought was, "Hey — wait just a second — I'm the only one who can be your dad!" </p><p>What I didn't realize was that my kids expanded my world as they built relationships. Our whole family visited my son and his host family. As we became acquainted, I began to understand the amazing gift we had been given. This family had taken my child in, cared for him, loved him and protected him. Our family tree had grown to include a branch we just hadn't met yet. </p><p>New understanding and accepting the exploration my young adult children desired didn't come easy. Saying goodbye was hard. I learned that I had to trust that God would equip us to deal with whatever happened and that it was pivotal to pray fervently. Our kids came back changed, and we watched as they struggled to adapt to being back in the culture where they grew up. We saw their discontentment with the way things had always been done, because their experience and insights changed them. But that discomfort is something that God calls us into. </p><p>In both of my kids' experiences in service, Jesus' words from Mark 10 have rung true — that leaving home and family to serve others meant that they received gifts they didn't expect — many times over. And the surprising thing was that it extended to us, as a family, and to me, as a father. I have realized that the growth and exploration I promised to other young adults in Mission Network service assignments is what I also received.<br></p>
From Missionary Baptist to missional Anabaptisthttps://www.pjsn.org/blog/From-Missionary-Baptist-to-missional-AnabaptistFrom Missionary Baptist to missional AnabaptistBy Lynda Hollinger-Janzen<p><em>John Powell, who was introduced to the way of peace by Martin Luther King Jr., didn't give up on the Mennonite church, despite enduring its racism. This story has been adapted from a version that first appeared in </em>The Mennonite, <em>now </em><a href="https://anabaptistworld.org/missionary-baptist-missional-anabaptist/">Anabaptist World<em>, on Nov. 1, 2011</em></a>. <strong><em>This article includes an example of the racist language Powell encountered. </em></strong><strong> </strong></p><p>GOSHEN, Indiana (Mennonite Mission Network) — John Powell, who has a long history with Mennonite Mission Network and its predecessor agencies, has been "sequestered" for the past 12 months in Ypsilanti, Michigan, with Shirley, his wife of 56 years. </p><p>Although the Powells observe the restrictions that have been imposed to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, they remain active participants at a Mennonite and Church of the Brethren congregation, <a href="https://shalomcc.org/">Shalom Community Church in Ann Arbor</a>, Michigan. John Powell, a Mennonite Church USA ordained pastor, is also helping to write MennoMedia's adult Bible study curriculum. </p><p>Powell brings courage, passion, love for Jesus, and 70-times-seven forgiveness to every aspect of his ministry. He inherited some of these qualities; the rest, he said, are a gift of God's grace.<br></p><p><br></p><p><strong>KKK violence</strong></p><p>John Powell walks in ways of peace, though his road has not always been peaceful. Powell remembers his father taking on the Ku Klux Klan — and winning. He also remembers intense anger against the racist structures in the Mennonite church, which he left in 1974, vowing never to return.</p><p>Powell spoke of his father's dignity and daring, as he recounted events that took place in 1948. The senior Powell, John Sidney, sold some lumber, cut on his farm near Hissop, Alabama, to a Klan member who paid with a check calculated to bounce. John Sidney Powell refused to keep quiet about this injustice. When he learned that a pickup of armed Klansmen was headed toward his home to silence him, John Sidney Powell sent his seven-year-old son, John, to the safety of a neighbor's house and laid his plans to welcome the KKK delegation.</p><p>Although young John Powell didn't witness the events, they have become part of his family's history. As the pickup pulled up in front of the Powell home, the fraudulent check-writer yelled an obscenity-studded command for John Sidney Powell to present himself. John Sidney Powell did. He stepped out of the door with composure — and two firearms.</p><p>One of the Klansmen barked a command to drop the guns, to which John Sidney Powell replied, "You better look around before you go any farther."</p><p>The noisy bravado of the men in the pickup died into silence as they became aware of their precarious situation. Willie Mae Powell, John Sidney's wife, stood at a window with her rifle trained on one of the Klansmen. Sons and relatives with guns were poised at each window, on the roof and behind trees.</p><p>The hush was broken as the pickup sputtered to life and backed off the Powell property. Soon, there was only a cloud of exhaust left to indicate that the Klan had been there. A few days later, John Sidney Powell received full payment for the lumber, in cash.<br></p><p><br></p><p><strong>Martin Luther King Jr. introduces Powell to nonviolent conflict resolution</strong></p><p>"I didn't grow up with a pacifist heritage," John Powell said. "It was a slow conversion from violence to nonviolence as I was around people who were practicing peace. I saw a change in people and the mood of the nation when protests were nonviolent."</p><p>Powell was in high school when he first spoke with Martin Luther King Jr. Over the next four years with King's mentoring, he became a conscientious objector.</p><p>"That was one of the things Martin taught, that you could be affirming of those who are your enemies," Powell said. "He also said if we were COs [conscientious objectors], we needed to connect ourselves to a historic peace church."</p><p>Of the peace church options, Powell chose the Mennonite church because of the voluntary service workers he'd worked alongside in three Michigan locations. One of these workers, Shirley Hochstedler of Kokomo, Indiana, later became Powell's wife and partner in ministry.</p><p>"I was attracted to her because of her mind," Powell said. "She and I got into this heated debate about politics!"</p><p>Powell expressed appreciation for Shirley's constant support throughout his various ministries, especially when she was obliged to assume financial support of the family. One of these times was when Powell was fired from an administrative position at the University of Michigan. His offense? Spearheading a prayer vigil in front of the university president's home the night before the regents were to vote on ending their investments in corporations doing business in South Africa.</p><p>In addition to partnering with her husband, Shirley Powell advocated against hunger-related injustice. She was the national chairperson of the Nestlé boycott that unveiled the suffering and death resulting from the company's promotion of breast milk substitutes. She participated in the 1981 Geneva summit, where the United Nations and the World Health Organization began to issue and enforce more responsible guidelines in the sale of infant formula. Before her retirement, she was also the executive director for the Hunger Action Coalition of Michigan. </p><p><br></p><p><strong>Church: Haven and hell</strong></p><p>John Powell was born into a church that has been both a haven and a place of wounding for him. As a child in Alabama, he loved "third Sunday worship," which lasted from 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. (His congregation met only once each month because it shared a pastor with three other congregations.) The members of his Missionary Baptist congregation may have been feeling tired from 12-hour days of sharecropping and working in the kitchens of White families. And yet, they were always singing God's praises, Powell said.</p><p>"When I attended the churches of my White friends, they would be singing some of the same good songs my church sang," Powell said. "But when we left, it was a totally different story —we were separated. The same people that were proclaiming God were also cracking heads of Black folks. I'm saying, 'Is this a God of justice?'"</p><p>In 1968, Powell moved into leadership in the Mennonite church when he left a good-paying job as a union organizer in the Detroit area to accept a pastorate in Kansas. Powell's salary as a pastor was less than half of what he had been earning. The conference to which the congregation belonged showed how little they valued Powell's leadership when they suggested that Shirley Powell, who had recently given birth to their first child, get a job so the conference could be spared the expense of the pastor's meager salary.</p><p>"Granted, I was a little radical. I did not wear a suit and tie. I wore my <em>dashikis</em> [West African traditional garb]. I had the pulpit on the level of the congregation and rearranged the rows of pews so they were facing each other. I also organized a reconciliation center on the site where the Wichita riots had just happened," Powell says.</p><p>Powell converted a vacated laundromat into The Brothers' House, a community center where religious leaders could dialogue about race issues.</p><p>Powell's ministry in Wichita lasted one year before he was invited to become executive secretary of the Minority Ministries Council in Elkhart, Indiana. In this capacity, he worked on a document that suggested concrete ways of empowering Mennonite congregations in African American, Hispanic and Native American communities. In 1969, Powell presented his proposals at a meeting in Turner, Oregon.</p><p>"If I thought I had hell before, I had more," Powell said. "A brother got up in the meeting and said, 'If we do what John Powell says to do, the next thing they'll have me out of my pulpit and a nigger in there.'"</p><p>After five years of trying to work within the racist structures of the Mennonite church, Powell was angry and discouraged.</p><p>"I left the Mennonite church, declaring clearly that I would never ever return," Powell said.<br></p><p><br></p><p><strong>Evangelized back into the Mennonite church</strong></p><p>However, over the next two decades, as Powell ministered in several denominations throughout the United States and internationally, he made his way, step-by-step, back to the Mennonite church. </p><p>"I was evangelized back into the Mennonite church," Powell said. "It was brothers and sisters who loved me to death. They invited me to meetings. They listened to me. They became increasingly involved in the struggle for civil rights."</p><p>In 1997, Powell accepted a half-time position as the director of evangelism and church development with Mennonite Board of Missions, while he continued to teach and provide administration for a ministry training program at Houghton College, a Wesleyan Church institution in western New York. For 16 years, Powell served in various directorships and in other capacities with the mission agency that became Mennonite Mission Network in 2002. </p><p>Beginning in 2013, John Powell served Mennonite congregations as regional pastor for the northern region of Mennonite Church USA's Indiana-Michigan Conference until his retirement four years later. </p><p>Throughout his life, Powell has practiced the ministry of reconciliation that he preaches — even to the extent of accepting his Oregon-conference adversary as a brother. In Kenya, during a conference that Powell organized to encourage dialogue between African and African American theologians, he was christened <em>Sebsebe Samantar </em>— the Gatherer and Peacemaker, a name that describes his God-given vocation.<br></p>
The audacity of a radical love evokes change and reconciliationhttps://www.pjsn.org/blog/The-audacity-of-a-radical-love-evokes-change-and-reconciliationThe audacity of a radical love evokes change and reconciliationBy Melody Pannell <p>​<span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">This year's theme for Black History Month, chosen by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, is "Black Family: Representation, Identity and Diversity." As I reflect on this theme, the words of Audre Lorde, Harlem-born poet and civil rights activist, ring true in my soul: "If I didn't define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people's fantasies for me and eaten alive."</span></p><p>How I represent myself, identify as a member of the Black Family, and authentically celebrate diversity has been deeply shaped by a three-pronged formation: my understanding of Black history, the history of my home church, and the spiritual calling of my parents to be a "catalyst for change." Within my own identity, I hold the tension of the historical trauma of the racist divide between Blacks and Whites and the audacious, radical love that embodies a catalyst for change and reconciliation. </p><p>I was born on December 29, 1969, to a White mother and Black father, and raised in the heart of Harlem, New York City, between the heat of the Civil Rights Movement and the rise of the Black Power Movement. Culturally, I self-identify as a Black woman. </p><p>I was three years old when the first Black woman, Shirley Chisholm, ran for president of the United States, in 1972. Representing New York, Chisholm became the first Black congresswoman, in 1969. She was also a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus. In her memoirs, <em>Unbought and Unbossed</em>, published in 1970, Chisholm wrote, "Racism is so universal in this country, so widespread, and deep-seated, that it is invisible because it is so normal." </p><p>Indeed, racism was normalized and so was the belief that races should not mix, especially Black people and White people. That was the worldview that my parents were taught to believe yet had the audacity to change.</p><p>James Farmer founded the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), in 1946. That same year, the U.S. Supreme Court banned segregation in interstate bus travel. In 1947, CORE led a movement called a "Journey of Reconciliation," in which Black people and White people rode together on a bus through the South. CORE sought to end discrimination and improve race relations through direct action.  </p><p>In May 1961, CORE led a "Freedom Ride" on two buses from Washington, D.C., to New Orleans , Louisiana, with Black and White activists. The freedom riders were attacked twice by angry segregationists in Alabama — once outside of Anniston, and again in Montgomery. </p><p>Meanwhile, the Mennonite church in New York City was also responding to race relations. The church created a new space of radical love and beloved community in Harlem. Harlem Mennonite Church, now Seventh Avenue Mennonite Church, was established January 17, 1954, under the leadership of John Kraybill. The congregation was part of a missionary outreach of Lancaster Mennonite Conference, in partnership with Eastern Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities. Soon, Black and White Mennonites from Pennsylvania and Black Harlemites fellowshipped and worshipped together, in love and unity, counter to the social and cultural norms of the day.</p><p>My parents felt called by God to serve the community and the Mennonite church in Harlem. My father, Dr. Richard W. Pannell, came to Harlem from Coatesville, Pennsylvania, in 1961. My mother, the late Ethel M. Zeager Pannell, of Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, arrived in Harlem a year later. Amid the resistance to racial integration and reconciliation, they married in 1964. In their own way, they were part of the movement that brought about change and reconciliation to the local community and broader Mennonite church.</p><p>This is my family history and the fabric that forged my identity. These are the seeds of change that have been planted in my heart. This is, as the late Rev. Dr. Katie Cannon stated, "the work my soul must have." Admittedly, the work of social justice, racial reconciliation and radical love for all humanity is a difficult journey and a daunting mission. Like many of those before me, I have experienced false hopes, unrealistic endeavors, ultimate failures and a sense of hopelessness. It takes tremendous faith, courage and resiliency to attempt to dismantle the more than 400 years of systemic racism and structured discrimination within our nation, and even within our own Mennonite churches and institutions. It takes the audacity of a radical love ethic that refuses to quit.<br></p><p><img src="https://assets.mennonites.org/PublishingImages/2021/FamilyTree.jpg?RenditionID=7" alt="" style="margin:5px;" /><br></p><h4>This collage represents part of Melody Pannell's family tree. Top left is her maternal grandmother, the late Anna E. Landis Zeager, of Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania. Bottom left is her mother, the late Ethel. M. Zeager Pannell. Top right is her paternal grandmother, the late Ruth F. Carter Pannell Watkins of Coatesville, Pennsylvania. Bottom left is her father, Dr. Richard W. Pannell. <br><br></h4><p>Two events have encouraged my soul to persevere. In summer 2020, after the horrendous public displays of racial terror and violence throughout the United States, I was invited to co-lead a year-long (September 2020-May 2021) Sunday-school class at Immanuel Mennonite Church (IMC) in Harrisonburg, Virginia. The title is, "A Journey: Jesus, White supremacy, the church, and the work of transformation."<br></p><p>IMC is located in the historically Black northeast community of Harrisonburg and articulates this vision: "to bring together our diverse cultures and expressions in a way that reveals Christ's Kingdom of hope and wholeness in our lives and in our worship." IMC's motto is "Real people following Jesus' radical call to love and service." I have enjoyed engaging with this group of Christians committed to learning together and being transformed by God's love and grace, concerning racial reconciliation. </p><p>Wednesday, January 20, I witnessed the inauguration of the first bi-racial, Black and Indian-American woman, Senator Kamala Harris, being sworn in as the vice-president of the United States. I felt deep joy in that sacred moment, knowing how far we have come as a nation and experiencing renewed hope for the healing journey ahead.</p><p>All this is a result of many risks taken, and changes made: the Freedom Riders' actions; the courage of Shirley Chisholm to serve as a catalyst for change; the racial barriers that my parents crossed in ministry and marriage; the manifestation of the seeds of hope for racial reconciliation that were planted at Seventh Avenue Mennonite Church; and my belief, as a biracial woman, in the power of radical love to change the world. </p><p>This is my destiny. <br></p>
My neighbor and our flourishing lifehttps://www.pjsn.org/blog/My-neighbor-and-our-flourishing-LifeMy neighbor and our flourishing lifeBy Faith Bell <p>​<span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">"Peace is not merely the absence of some negative force — war, tensions, confusion, but it is the presence of some positive force — justice, goodwill, the power of the kingdom of God."</span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">  </span><em style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;">— </em><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"><strong>Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,</strong></span><em style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;"><strong> "</strong></em><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"><strong>When Peace Becomes Obnoxious"</strong></span></p><p>                                                                                                    </p><p>I am reflecting on these words from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. this month. January commemorates his birthday, as well as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Recently, anti-Semitism has been on display within the United States, on a grand scale. And much has already been said of the attack on the U.S. Capitol earlier this month. Mennonite Church USA Executive Director Glen Guyton wrote this <a href="https://www.mennoniteusa.org/glens-blog/attack-on-capitol/">response</a> to the attack. As I think on these events, I reflect on the question asked of Jesus, "Who is my neighbor?" (Luke 10:29). Secondly, I wonder what I can do to see the goodwill of the kingdom of God present here, on earth. </p><p>Snow falling peacefully on both Christmas lights and the Hanukkah menorah is the image that returns me to the question, "Who is my neighbor?"</p><p>I grew up in Northeast Ohio. I went to high school in a diverse area, where a large Jewish community resides. The shopping centers are decorated with Hanukkah decorations. My high school calendar had vacation days in commemoration of Christian holidays, as well as Jewish and Muslim holidays. My neighbors were people of different religious and ethnic backgrounds. Though I have moved away and no longer live in that neighborhood, my neighbor remains all people, as all are made in the image of God.</p><p>To imagine the flourishing life of my neighbor, I think of the example of peace represented in the friendship between Dr. King and Rabbi Abraham Heschel. Dr. King and Rabbi Heschel were both speakers at the National Conference on Religion and Race in 1963, where Heschel said, "The prophet is a person who is not tolerant of wrongs done to others, who resents other people's injuries." Dr. King and Rabbi Heschel marched together on the journey from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. They advocated for changes that would bring about a world in which people could live the abundant life God granted them.</p><p>Jesus spoke of bringing life and life more abundantly in the Gospel of John (see John 10:10). When I hear calls for destruction, I focus more and more on a world I would like to see come to fruition. I dream of a world of less dehumanization, where we walk more hand-in-hand. I dream that we remember we are tied together as one community. In the times when we think of the deaths of those gone past, may we, next, think of how to make way for life — abundant life — for all of those around us. I pray that I will be in step with God and my neighbors, to act toward the kind of wellness that heals division, through seeing my neighbor as an image-bearer of God and walking with them toward a peace where we may live.<br></p>
Witnessing the church in “real life:” what we learned from Martin Luther King, Jr. and MVShttps://www.pjsn.org/blog/Witnessing-the-church-in-real-life-what-we-learned-from-Martin-Luther-King-Jr-and-MVSWitnessing the church in “real life:” what we learned from Martin Luther King, Jr. and MVSBy Edith and Neill von Gunten <p><em></em><em></em><em>Originally published on January 22, 2020, this blog by Edith and Neill von Gunten reflects a reality in 1966 that is still prevalent today and has become more apparent during the ensuing months of 2020. As Martin Luther King, Jr. day approaches, read this blog and reflect on Dr. King's legacy as he said, "<em>Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'"</em></em><br></p><p>Even before our wedding in 1965, we had decided to spend the first years of our marriage in Mennonite Voluntary Service (MVS). Several units were suggested to us; we chose to go to the inner-city unit at the Woodlawn Mennonite Church in southside Chicago. It was a decision that completely changed the course of our lives. </p><p>The Woodlawn congregation felt strongly that it was their role to speak out on justice issues and to get involved. Opportunities for involvement were often shared before the Sunday morning service ended. </p><p><img src="https://assets.mennonites.org/PublishingImages/2021/122_122.JPG" alt="" style="margin:5px;" /><br></p><h4> </h4><h4>Woodlawn Mennonite Church pastor Delton and Marian Franz can be seen in the center of this picture of the Chicago march. Photo by Neill von Gunten.<br></h4><h4><br></h4><p>As we began to really listen to the people we lived and worked with, we started to understand how pervasive racism was. As we heard the stories and experiences of people in the community, we came to know more about their reality and ongoing issues. </p><p>These were the years of the civil rights movement in the United States. Soon after we joined MVS, Martin Luther King, Jr. was invited to come to Chicago to bring the racism and prejudice of the north to light. Both of us, along with other VSers, Woodlawn church members, and thousands of others joined together in marches through downtown Chicago (often from Buckingham Fountain to City Hall) and in rallies. </p><p>Most of the marches were peaceful, but once the marches spread beyond downtown and the Black neighborhoods, it was a different story. Here is one example that Neill experienced while protesting the housing discrimination in some neighborhoods in the city. </p><p>Dr. King's entourage sent two couples into the Chicago Lawn - Gage Park area, a lower middle-class neighborhood in the city's southwest side, on the pretext of renting an apartment. The area's population was largely made up of working-class eastern Europeans who lived in bungalows and for generations were predominately Irish Catholic. One couple sent there was Caucasian with little education, and the other was a well-educated African-American couple. The Caucasian couple was given several choices to rent; the African-American couple was given no options. </p><p>As a result, Dr. King and his delegation organized a march through Gage Park on Aug. 5, 1966, to highlight this disparity. Dr. King had orders for the assembled crowd before the march began. We were to look forward at all times. We were never to look into someone's eyes during the march because we could set them off on a tirade. We could not chew gum. Women were to be put in the middle, with men on the outside. If we could not refrain from violence when confronted by people watching, we were to leave and not participate. He did not want us there if we could not follow these orders. <br></p><p>Dr. King was struck by a rock thrown by a taunting mob as he was leaving his car — a sign of the violence that would happen that afternoon. Thankfully, he was not hurt too badly and, after being cared for, came to the front of the line to finish leading the march, with police right by his side. He was understandably shaken and told newsmen that he had never been met with "such hostility, such hate, anywhere in my life." </p><p>The night-stick wielding police estimated that there were approximately 7,000 of us there to march that day. We were ridiculed, sworn at, called all kinds of names, and spat on. Children spewed the same hate as the parent next to them as we walked past their house. Some carried Confederate flags. Signs were common: "N***** Go Home," "Wallace for President," "KKK Forever," "White Power," "Wallace in '68," "Washington D.C. is a Jungle — Save What is Left of Chicago." </p><p>We were told that when the march ended at Marquette Park, there were about 3,000 police officers to watch us. As the Caucasian crowd of men, women and children grew and tried to confront us physically, the police surrounded us marchers to protect us from what had become a mob throwing cherry bombs (exploding firecrackers), stones and bricks — in addition to their slurs and insults. I was ashamed to be Caucasian! </p><p> As this chaos swirled around us, we waited for the rented buses to pick us up and take us all back home. When the buses finally arrived, the bus drivers needed full police protection to get through to us. For a moment, I felt safe on the bus, but I was wrong! We had to stop at a red light before leaving that neighborhood and a group of about 50 youth and men rocked our bus and tried to get at us inside. Someone threw a brick through the bus window and hit a man in the seat in front of me in the head, giving him a large gash. The rest of us yelled at the bus driver to go through the red light to get us out of there. It was not until we got into the African-American area that we felt safe.</p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">After the march, we regrouped, and Dr. King spoke to the gathered crowd. He had been hit with a brick on the back of his head during the march. I remember him saying then — as well as many other times — that we must forgive our Caucasian brothers and sisters because they do not know what they are doing. They were taught that hatred, and now we needed to show them forgiveness and not fight back, he said. That is the only thing that can make them stop and think.</span><br></p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"><img src="https://assets.mennonites.org/PublishingImages/2021/123_123.JPG" alt="" style="margin:5px;" /><br></span></p><div><table class="ms-formtable" border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" width="100%" style="margin-top:8px;"><tbody><tr><td valign="top" class="ms-formbody" width="350px"><h4>Another photo of the civil rights march in Chicago, 1966. Photo by Neill von Gunten.<br><br></h4></td></tr></tbody></table></div><p>Those two years with MVS in Chicago made us question the role of the church in “real life:” We witnessed the unfairness of the political process in the United States in regard to its neediest residents. </p><p> The desire to learn more about how we as Christians could affect change and work with people in marginal situations influenced our education after MVS, as well as our decision to live alongside indigenous communities bordering Lake Winnipeg. We served there in a pastoral and community development role for 36 years before becoming the co-directors of the Native Ministry program for Mennonite Church Canada. </p><p> As you can probably imagine, we have many stories of our MVS time in Chicago that made an impact on our life  —<a name="_GoBack"></a> way too many to include in this reflection!<br></p>