KANSAS CITY (Mennonite Mission Network) – Eric and Kelly Frey Martin, serving with Mennonite Mission Network in Bogotá, Colombia, tackled topics at MennoCon19 that ranged from dismantling sexual harassment to developing games that matter for a youth group.
Though diverse, their equipping seminars shared a commonality: They evoked response. For example, in their July 4 seminar, "A different kind of leader," the audience turned reflective and prayerful. In their July 5 seminar, "Responsibility, resilience and relationships," co-presented with Tonia Martin, Mission Network's care coordinator, Program Human Resources, the audience grew quiet and tender. At the July 6 seminar, "Games that matter," the room became loud and energetic.
The couple was poised to interact with a variety of ages at convention because their work in Colombia constellates around people ranging in age from 12 to 30, they said. Among other initiatives in the past two and a half years, they have created annual national and regional gatherings for youth and young adults as well as online youth leadership development courses shaped through an Anabaptist lens.
They focused that Anabaptist lens on the material in all their seminars. And no matter what the topic, Frey Martins used a blend of spiritual depth and hopefulness to engage both youth and adults. This blend seemed especially needed during the July 5 seminar. That's when they explored what it means to set healthy boundaries in the face of sexual harassment.
Key in this discussion was unpacking the differences between perceived power and actual power. Kelly Frey Martin listed some power imbalances that can occur between people, including physical stature, age, gender, positions in a church or organization, and assigned cultural roles.
Tonia Martin said that power is always at the center of abuse. "Often, abusers want to have power over someone," she said. "But power does not have to be abusive. It can be neutral. Power is not bad. But it does matter what we do with it."
Also, many times women are not believed when they come forth with accounts of sexual harassment. "Some women have the advantage of going to people who believe them right away," Eric Frey Martin said. "But that is not the case for a lot of people."
Often in Mennonite circles, power is not even acknowledged, but it exists, especially in leadership, the co-presenters said. In their July 4 seminar, the Frey Martins explored with youth what shapes a leadership style modeled on Jesus.
To explore this theme biblically, the Frey Martins, with Oscar Suarez, a Colombian young person who has assisted them in their work in Colombia, distributed gospel passages to table groups. The groups then reflected on their Scripture to answer how Jesus' leadership and use of power is different from the world's methods.
"When people in the world are in power positions, they often have the attitude that they shouldn't be questioned, because they are automatically right because of their higher position," Eric Frey Martin said. "But Jesus starts out with building a relationship, and out of that relationship, the other parties are responsible for their response."
Other characteristics of leadership that model after Jesus' style shared by table group members included serving others, giving food to the hungry and drink to the thirsty, going the extra mile and turning the other cheek, reaching out to the marginalized, and empowering the oppressed.
"We can get caught up in being holy and serving God and doing all the right things," Eric Frey Martin said. "But Jesus told us that if you want to serve God, we need to serve others. We aren't to seek positions of power, but positions in which we can serve others."
Serving others as youth leaders is the ability to create games that build positivity among a diverse set of teens. That was the focus of Frey Martins' July 6 seminar. A mixed crowd of youth and adults participated in several games presented by the couple, including Zombie.
In this game, a person walking like a zombie strives to find an empty chair. All the other players attempt to keep the zombie from getting to that chair. After much hilarity, shouting and running, Eric Frey Martin asked the players to reflect on the game's dynamics.
"One of the purposes of this game is to think about how marginalized people are often left behind – they are the 'zombies' of our world," Eric Frey Martin said. "Also, I want you to think about how you would tailor this game to include differently-abled people in the mix. … Maybe you just don't play a game like this if you see it will exclude someone with mobility challenges, or maybe you give that person control."