August 27, 2013
by Owen Burkholder
Conference Minister (ending August 31, 2013)

“It didn’t feel like a gathering of older people...”

Reflections on Conference Assembly, July 25-27, 2013 at Eastern Mennonite School, Harrisonburg, Va.

Rebekka Stutzman, VMM / Mission Network worker in Germany, gave a moving testimony of God at work in their context, particularly with young people. Photo: Galen LehmanThat second-hand quote from a younger adult who attended VMC Assembly as a first-time delegate indicates that indeed, participation in God’s kingdom is timeless. The speakers, workshop leaders, and testifiers engaged us with the wonder that God has been, is, and will be at work through us.

Twenty-four congregations accepted the invitation to make sign-posters about how they point to Christ’s kingdom. And the hallways at Eastern Mennonite School were filled with display tables from many agencies doing the work of the church beyond the congregation.

(left) Lawrence Yoder led a workshop on “Jesus’ Healing Ministry and Ours,” a focus on healing prayer and action using Jesus’ example. Photo: Jon TrotterWe chose to illustrate the Mennonite Church USA Purposeful Plan “Holistic Christian Witness” priority with stories from congregations, testimonies from young adults, and workshops featuring ways we are attempting to be signs of the presence of Jesus in our world.

So, did participants “get it?” Here’s a note from Harold Miller, pastor, Trissels Mennonite Church:

“My wife and I had the privilege of serving as delegates to the Virginia Mennonite Assembly 2013. Both Virginia Mennonite Conference (VMC) and Virginia Mennonite Missions (VMM) sponsored the Assembly which means that our delegate sessions were permeated with the atmosphere of a missions festival!

Loren Horst, president, Virginia Mennonite Missions, brought the message Thursday. Photo: Galen LehmanInterspersed throughout our sessions devoted to the business of the church were testimonies of missions workers. One sensed a focus on God throughout the whole Assembly: God in the center; almost an awe at what “God is doing.”

Michael and Ruth, VMM/EMM workers in South Asia, gave a testimony of prayerful vision and God’s work among Muslim people. Photo: Jon Trotter I was particularly struck by the stories that young adults told of mission around the world (in Delhi, India; in Lezhe, Albania) as they listened to God’s dreams and then joined in, as they grew to know God more (not more about God) and had their mission activity flow out of a relationship. And I was struck by the young adults who told their story of mission across the street (at Early Church and Ridgeway Mennonite Church).

The Walking Roots Band led worship music both evenings. Photo: Galen LehmanThe evening worship services were glorious! Our song leaders were a group of amazingly-gifted young adults: The Walking Roots Band. Loren Horst preached on Thursday evening, noting that “when God gets excited about something, he always involves us.”

On Friday evening, God spoke a word to us through Nelson Okanya, someone born “in a good Mennonite family”—an African Mennonite family!

The worship service concluded with the dramatic picture of commissioned workers for VMM and VMC standing in our midst holding Nelson Okanya, president, Eastern Mennonite Missions, spoke Friday evening on “Participating in the vision of God.” Photo: Galen Lehmancandles and the congregation stretching out arms of blessing and prayer.The moment was capped with a spontaneous “Praise God from Whom!” Then God smiled and topped even that with a perfect summer evening on the front lawn of Eastern Mennonite School as we enjoyed a Taste of Missions, sampling foods from the countries where VMM workers are serving.

Both of the groups who sponsored the Assembly: our area conference and our missions organization, are very healthy. Not perfect! But nonetheless, Signs of Christ’s Kingdom Among Us.”

Outgoing Conference Minister Owen and his wife Ruth Ann Burkholder were recognized by the leadership of Conference. Serving in his role since 1996, Owen completed his service August 31. Photo: Jon TrotterTo Harold’s note, I add a word of gratitude: to Barbara Gautcher for the Finding Treasure art camp that captivated the interest of children; to Carmen Schrock-Hurst and Phil Kniss for their evocative Bible studies; to each of the workshop leaders for highlighting an aspect of how we may partner in God’s work; to everyone who contributed $4,668.50 in the offerings; and finally, to the VMC/VMM staff who made it work from the background.

-oeb

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Participants reach out in a prayer of blessing for those commissioned for service Friday evening. Photo: Jon Trotter

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A Daily Prayer for the Church

God, I pray that, according to the riches of your glory,
you may grant that the church be strengthened
in its inner being with power through your Spirit,
and that Christ may dwell in its heart through faith,
as it is being rooted and grounded in love.
I pray that the church may have the power to comprehend,
with all the saints,
what is the breadth and length and height and depth,
and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge,
so that it may be filled with all your
fullness, O God.
Amen.

From Ephesians 3:16-19, adapted by Phil Kniss

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