This week’s blog is going to be an article in the Paraguay German Conference periodical.
What is God Doing?
I was hot and thirsty, and couldn’t catch my breath. I was climbing the Trail of Six Glaciers in the Canadian Rocky Mountains at the “back” of Lake Louise. Thunder rolled out of the clear blue sky as occasional blocks of ice broke off unseen glaciers. I was not in danger – unless I would try to catch up with the young person who ran past me up the steep incline. But it seemed I was getting nowhere. Then I paused and looked back, to see the Chateau Lake Louise now far below me. I had made progress!
In our spiritual lives, the disciplines of faithfulness sometimes don’t look like they are leading us anywhere. When we look back, however, we often see progress and patterns of how God works.
I feel that way now as I take up the mantle of leadership in ICOMB, our international community of Mennonite Brethren. It’s our global family of faith. Looking back, I see what God was doing.
I attended my first ICOMB meeting in Curitiba, Brazil in 2001, shortly after I took the position of Executive Director of the Canadian MB Conference.
God began to work on me. I was elected secretary at my first meeting! I took the minutes from 2002-2010 which helped me learn so much. Annual attendance sometimes created conflicts in my own schedule and priorities at home and in my work.
In 2003, Randy Friesen and I walked around the Trade Centre in Bulawayo – the site of the Mennonite World Conference Assembly. We envisioned a day when ICOMB would take on a bigger role in leading our global family.
A special moment occurred in 2004 – in Paraguay – when we accepted the International Confession of Faith. Then in 2005 we prayed over Victor Wall – commissioning our first Executive Director. These precious times embedded ICOMB deep into my heart – not as an organization but as a family of people seeking to follow Jesus all over the world.
In 2009 my own life took an unexpected turn. I engaged in a life-coaching process called Apex which helped me focus my central contribution as a mature minister. I wrote a summary: “I like to create safe places for the community of faith to listen to each other and God’s word to discern God’s direction for them. I use a combination of listening, reflection and prayer, writing and speaking, and finally building consensus.”
At first I worked to implement this in my role at the Canadian Conference. But late in the year God told me, “I’m calling you out of this position. You are free to go.” I officially resigned at our Executive Board meeting in January 2010, indicating I would stay through the year to fulfill responsibilities while the search committee began their work. I didn’t have any future work lined up.
At the 2010 ICOMB Summit, we expected to commission Victor Wall’s replacement. However, things did not work out as planned. Since I was free, they asked if I would serve temporarily. I began that service in January 2011 on a half time basis. After a more complete global search they asked me to serve full time in June 2012.
As I look back I see how God set up my life for this role. Moreover, the clarity I found in Apex helped me identify ICOMB as the kind of environment in which God could use me effectively.
My Philosophy and vision for ICOMB connect closely to my Apex statement:
Create a safe place. We shine as lights in darkness. Some of our family suffers persecution because of faith in Jesus Christ. (This summer, one of our Mennonite Brethren pastors was ambushed and martyred on his way to a ministry assignment). Others suffer poverty and lack food, shelter, safety or other essentials. (Consider the danger our family experiences in Eastern Congo). Others battle with excess and the cares of the world which threaten to choke the growth of faith. I hope ICOMB grows to be more and more a safe place to share our struggles and help each other overcome to victory.
Discern together. The Anabaptist approach combined several aspects of Revelation. The Word of God, plus the Way of Jesus, considered by People of the Word indwelt by the Holy Spirit are the ways that God speaks and directs. I hope ICOMB continues to be a place where we speak spiritually to one another to set the stage for discerning God’s direction for our movement.
Use of our gifts. I believe that everyone has something to contribute. Each one’s gifts help us toward our destination. “Small” gifts are important and “big” gifts must be used with humility. ICOMB’s mission statement is: “to facilitate relationships and ministries” among its members – the national conferences. Diversity presents many challenges, but it’s God’s design for his body. So we maintain unity through humility, gentleness, patience and mercy. The end result will be strength, witness and fruitfulness.
Some day in the future I hope to look back and see not only how God was at work in my life, but also that his purposes were achieved in our global family of faith.