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Denominations, discarded wood, and discernment

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The MB Herald asked incoming national director Elton DaSilva to tell us a bit about himself, the new Collaborative Model, and his hopes for the future.

Where did you grow up?

I was born in Belem, in the state of Para in northern Brazil. I lived in that city on and off until I was 17, when my parents were sent as missionaries to a Portuguese-speaking church in Edmonton. I moved to Winnipeg in 1995.

What jobs have you had?

I’ve had an eclectic career, but most of my adult work was in management and business. I also spent five years as a financial advisor.

After planting and pastoring Christian Family Centre, an MB church in the Elmwood neighbourhood of Winnipeg, for 10 years, I became executive director of Mennonite Brethren Church of Manitoba in 2010.
My first job in Canada only lasted two days: making beef jerky. The repetitive nature of that work caused me to quit after my second full shift.

Tell us about your family.

I am married to Ana, and we just celebrated our 26th wedding anniversary. We are blessed by three children, Jessica (23), now married to Craig Venderbos; Jasmine (18); and Elisha (14). We are surrounded by a large extended family on both my side and Ana’s side, all living within 15 minutes from us.

Name a habit that gives us a glimpse into your personality.

I love to build furniture out of recycled wood. Pieces of discarded wood, often viewed as garbage, can be repurposed to become beautiful and functional pieces.

What motto do you live by?

“Do not throw your pearls before swine” (Matthew 7:6).
I need to be careful how I utilize the things that I find precious; others may not share in what I view as precious.
This also means that I must understand the context in which I use my words and my actions.

What is one lesson that has remained with you from a “failure” in ministry?

The church I planted in the year 2000 closed five years after I left. I realize now that creating leadership continuity is essential. And planning transitions need to be done both strategically and with a great amount of prayer.

How will the new conference structure better prepare Mennonite Brethren for the challenges of today and the future?

Our hope is that the new collaborative model will create greater opportunities for more voices to be involved in shaping the future of our denomination. This new structure calls not only for collaboration, but also a collective vision. The hope is that the Holy Spirit will work through us as we meet to pray and to discern. The Spirit will guide us to fulfill God’s perfect will for us.

The collaborative model talks about working more closely with our partners to avoid duplication. How do we define who is in the tent, and what is our responsibility to them?

Speaking pragmatically, our first level of partnership is with the organizations we built and have a certain level of ownership over. It is also true that we must partner beyond those that we immediately identify as MB organizations. Depending on the need at hand, we may choose to partner with like-minded Christian organizations and agencies that
are already involved in that area of ministry.

Why is there still a need for denomination? Why is it worth the cost and hassle of associating with each other?

Throughout the history of Christianity, churches of a certain region have tended to associate with each other. Their goal in doing so was to share resources, build up one another, and best achieve an evangelistic drive. The early church understood that the call to be one body meant more than just individuals meeting together: it meant churches connecting with other churches.

Today, even churches that consider themselves to be independent look for networks, which in my mind are pseudo-denominations. Human being create associations because we need one another.

What is the denomination’s responsibility toward its constituents? What is their responsibility toward it?

The key role of a denomination is to help resource the local church toward accomplishing the mission with which God has entrusted her. To that end, a denomination needs to think carefully about the kinds of resources it produces, since its existence is in support of the local church.

To be part of a denomination means a covenant has taken place between a group of churches. The responsibility of those in the denomination is to remain faithful to the covenant they have made, be it financial, missional, or theological.

What do you hope the Canadian conference looks like 10 years in the future?

My hope is that we will develop a stronger hunger for God. That we will be known as people who pray and who respond in obedience to what God is calling us to do. I also envision a denomination that invests in raising leaders for tomorrow who will engage in mission, both locally and abroad.


One of those days

My times are in your hands.—Psalm 31:15
There are moments that remind us God is taking care of us. Sept. 11, 2018, was one of those days for the DaSilva family.
Shortly after arriving at the office, Elton got the call from his wife, Ana: “You need to come home!”
A car had lost control and crashed into their gazebo and garage.
It was Ana’s birthday; this was not the surprise she had been hoping for. But the narrowly averted disaster turned what she’d expected to be a day of dread (facing unemployment at 50) into a day of thankfulness.
Ana watched out the window as her son and a neighbour headed to school before she went to the gazebo with a morning cup of tea. Before the boys left her sight, two cars collided in front of them and one vehicle accelerated through her backyard.
The boys were safe. The drivers were unharmed.
The chair Ana sits in every morning was crushed.
“The previous Sunday, our pastor had said, ‘Don’t discount God’s miracles for simple coincidences,’ says Elton. “We are glad that on Sept. 11, 2018, what our family experienced was a miracle from God.”



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