How to dance in a mission marriage
Einer and Girlesa Zuluaga don’t speak fluent English and not many members of Forest Grove Community Church, Saskatoon, can get much farther than hola and gracias in Spanish. But that hasn’t stood in the way of an empowering partnership. A rich relationship has grown between this Mennonite Brethren missionary couple from Colombia to the jungles of Panama and this suburban church in a mid-sized Canadian city.
When a church responds to an international invitation for partnership, vision for mission is ignited. FGCC’s partnership in Panama fosters long-term relationships, renewal and releases resources for Kingdom purposes. Lead pastor Bruce Enns observes that as the Panama connection began to weave itself into the fabric of the church, financial giving and volunteer engagement increased across all the church’s activities.
Not only are group visits to Panama an integral part of Forest Grove’s mission activity for people of all ages in the church, but visits from the Zuluagas are also regular occasions on FGCC’s calendar. Forest Grove does more than pay lip service to the notion that we both give and receive as we participate on mission. And that hasn’t happened by accident.
Over 15 years of relating with the Zuluagas to spread the gospel and grow discipleship among the Wounaán and Emberra people in Panama, FGCC has learned about their own need to learn and to train their people to serve cross-culturally.
The Zuluagas and FGCC pastors Bruce Enns and Maryanne Berge shared their story of partnership and the lessons they’ve learned at a Partnership Ready Symposium MB Mission facilitated at the MB Ministry Centre in Winnipeg Oct. 3, 2015.
MB Mission asked church groups who attended to send a delegation that included at least one from each of the following categories: pastoral staff, mission committee and board. A church seeking global partnership will benefit from diverse leadership representation with a variety of perspectives. Living out partnership postures internally is good practice before seeking them externally.
So what did churches learn from the testimony of Einer, Girlesa, Bruce and Maryanne?
Relationship matters! Participants caught the importance of putting relationships first, before money or projects.
Establish a covenant. FGCC, the Zuluagas and the Wounaán people have been on a 15-year journey. Many attendees were impressed by the value of a mutually agreed-upon covenant and the time it takes to craft one.
“The necessity of clarity and of reciprocity” are the key lessons Kevin O’Coin took from the event. The pastor and mission team member at The Meeting Place, Winnipeg, recognized how important it is for both parties to be clear on their expectations of each other and to provide opportunity for all partners to both give and receive.
The posture of humility and willingness to learn stood out to Grace Klassen, co-chair of the mission mobilizer team at Crossroads MB Church, Winnipeg. “In Christ, with God’s love as motivator and sustainer, an unlikely partnership can become a partnership of equals, [where parties experience] mutual gratefulness, love and concern.”
Conversations between affinity groups continued over lunch after the formal sessions ended. Participants were grateful for the opportunity to share their best ideas and greatest struggles with those from other churches facing similar challenges in their roles.
Church groups left asking themselves what next steps they need to take to enter into a mission marriage that will ignite renewal in their own congregations and further the spread of the gospel in the world.
—Lloyd Letkeman is MB Mission mobilizer for Central Canada.
The MB Mission Partnership Ready Symposium is available on video. Contact MB Mission.
Ellen Livingood of Catalyst Services has a two-part series of practical articles on partnership readiness.
Nikki White, MBBS graduate in Intercultural Studies reflected on biblical humility and lessons from cross-cultural partnership with her church, North Langley (B.C.) Community Church.