It was already dark when we turned off the main road onto a bumpy track through the forest.
A delegation of the Mennonite World Conference Deacons Commission was visiting brothers and sisters in Ghana in 2010. Our plan was to visit a little congregation in Pimpimsu in the morning. However, due to unforeseen circumstances, we were only able to reach it late in the day.
After a 10-minute ride, we arrived at the church. A small group of people was waiting for us at the humble building. We heard that they had been waiting all day. Many others had gone home. Yet, they welcomed us with singing, drumming, and praying.
There was no electricity. The only light came from a few flashlights.
The arrival of each member
From where I was sitting next to the wall, I could just see into the pitch-black forest. To my surprise, I saw dancing lights approaching. At first, I did not have a clue as to what this was, but as they came nearer, I understood. These were the other church members. They came back when they heard that we had arrived.
Slowly, one by one, they entered the building, each with his or her own little flashlight. With the arrival of each member, there was a little more light. Finally, the church was full and there was enough light to celebrate.
For me, this experience is a wonderful image of what it means to be an Anabaptist church, where the congregation of believers is a focal point. People who have committed themselves to Jesus through their baptism come together in the congregation to learn, worship, serve, witness, and experience a glimpse of the kingdom of God in being together in peace.
Every member brings a little bit more light in the church when he or she is there. And when you are not there, the church is a little bit darker. Therefore, each and every one is needed for the church to be fully lit. Each one is equally important because each one carries a light.
Fuel for your light
Maybe in certain times your own light is not very strong. You may go through difficulties in life and start to doubt or even feel you are losing your faith. Then the light of others can help you go on and find new fuel for your light.
Conversely, when everything is going well, and you think you don’t need others, your light is still necessary to shine on others. We share with those who are in need.
That is what being a congregation is about on a local level; that is what Mennonite World Conference is about on a global level.
During the times of persecution and migration in Anabaptist history, but also very much today, we need each other to keep the light shining.
In a sense, the Deacons Commission brings light to churches in need. In times of celebration, the Deacons may also receive the light to share with the global family of faith.
In this way, the Deacons Commission shares the stories of the different Anabaptist churches, so that despite being spread out across the world through migration and mission, and despite our sometimes very different expressions of faith, we can be one in the Spirit as the body of Christ.