I love adventures.
In 2016, I went to Panama City as a guest at the annual ICOMB summit. After several days of meetings in a hotel, we stepped into an open boat and headed out into the open Pacific, then up a river to a remote Wounaan village to be guests of our brother and sisters in the jungle.
What an adventure!
“The Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field” (Matthew 13:44).
A worldwide family
But exotic experiences are not “treasures.”
In Panama, the treasure I found was a worldwide family I knew, until then mostly by an acronym – the International Community of Mennonite Brethren (ICOMB).
In 2017, I joined ICOMB in Thailand. This was a much larger gathering. Again, in meeting rooms and hallway conversations I began to catch glimmers of something very special: brothers and sisters from around the world joined by the bonds of peace and community.
But this year, at the ICOMB Summit in Guadalajara (May 28–June 3), I found the “treasure hidden in a field.”
What made up this treasure? It came in a series of contrasts.
First, distance and touch.
The most practical feature of this family is the physical distance between us. Joining hands in prayer with brothers and sisters from the ends of the earth is deeply moving. Modern families are familiar with the challenge of distance and longing for touch.
Second, diversity and unity.
The most visible ICOMB diversities are language and culture. Across these divides, we struggle to communicate simple thoughts. We rely on translators.
But ICOMB’s diversity runs beyond language and culture. Here, dogged fundamentalists and passionate liberals pray together. Mennonites who trace their lineages to the very beginning and Mennonites who only discovered Anabaptism recently sit and wrestle passionately with each other – in love.
Unity and love across great divides is a thing of deep beauty.
I had marvelled at that in Thailand.
But in Guadalajara, even beyond ICOMB’s beautiful diversity, it was in the confluence of joy and pain, of failures and victories that the gleam of the “treasure” shone from the earth. It was through heart-felt and heart-wrenching sharing of both joy and pain.
A costly treasure
Victories are easy to share, but honestly sharing failure and defeat takes love to another level.
Kingdom people “rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15). Actually doing that, however, is rare and precious.
Being a family that loves each other in joy and pain, across distance and diversity is profoundly costly. This is a treasure that exacts a price – a price that is no less than everything we have to give.
The treasure of the ICOMB family is there before us. It cries out for treasure hunters.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it” (Matthew 13:45–46).