International Missions Association (IMA) Networks To Spread Transformation
Hosted by Rosedale Mennonite Missions (RMM) at their Rosedale International Center (RIC) in Columbus, Ohio, the IMA met July 28-August 2, 2015 for its almost-annual assembly, a practice which was birthed at the 1997 Mennonite World Conference (MWC) in Calcutta, India.
Following on the heels of Mennonite World Conference 2015 in Pennsylvania the previous week, the more than 50 mission leaders – some of whom had attended the earlier global gathering – loved the opportunity to connect more personally as they heard reports, challenges, testimonies and prayer requests from many of the 22 IMA member groups.
“We're an association, not an organization,” said IMA vice-president, Henry Mulandi, a bishop and mission leader from Christian Church International in Thika, Kenya. “As an association we are always asking God how he wants to work now. The IMA has really boosted me—helped me learn and grow in openness to the Holy Spirit.”
In the opening plenary of the Holy Spirit in Mission conference, Mulandi spoke powerfully from Romans 12. “Our minds will be transformed by the Holy Spirit as we ask him how he wants to work now.” Citing large revivals among the youth of Kenya in the 1970s, Mulandi said that many of Kenya's current church leaders came to Christ during those revivals. But times have changed. Crusade evangelism doesn't work in the same way it used to.
While attending the 2012 IMA meeting in Ethiopia, Mulandi said he realized his home church had not planted a new church in eight years. They'd become a comfortable megachurch, focusing on their nice cathedral with its stained glass windows. God stirred him up said Mulandi, and transformed his mind.
“If people come to my church, I'll send them out,” Mulandi said. He was happy to report that in the past three years they've planted five new churches. And they've begun moving out into the Kenyan high schools in youth ministry.
The following day, a day of prayer and fasting, the group gathered for five regional prayer clusters that focused on Africa, Asia/Pacific, Europe, Latin America, North America, then shifted to the campus of Rosedale Bible College (RBC) west of Columbus for a tour of the college and the adjoining headquarters of the Conservative Mennonite Conference.
During the meeting at RBC, two of the Kenyan IMA members, Henry Mulandi and Joseph Kamau spoke of how RBC had been their “burning bush.” As part of the youth revival that was sweeping Kenya in the 70s and 80s they spurned “seminaries” calling them “cemeteries.” They feared higher education would make them “lose their fire” for the gospel.
At RBC, they found teachers who were deeply committed to Christ and the Bible. At first their loud Kenyan prayers jolted the quiet Mennonite campus, but the youths found a sanctuary in the surrounding cornfields where they could happily pray at the top of their lungs as was their custom.
“They weren't charismatic like we were,” said Mulandi, “But they were 'flat out' for God.”
“The impartation I had from Rosedale has formed me,” said Kamau. “The investment they had in us has impacted the world. We pray that Rosedale will continue to teach the truth and serve as a base for training church and mission leaders.”
During his Thursday morning input Joe Showalter, president of RMM, and host of the IMA gathering, challenged the mission leaders to look at how people learn. Specifically, he said, practitioners and teachers learn far more than those who passively listen or read.
“I believe we have elevated the sermon in our churches to a place that it does not belong,” Showalter said. “A lot of what Jesus did was on the road, showing people things along the way. A pastor is called 'to equip the saints for the work of ministry...' “
Workshops, testimonies, and reports from a wide variety of mission groups punctuated the plenaries.
Showalter reported on the recent move of RMM headquarters to the RIC in north Columbus. “We had some of our staff working in Columbus,” he said. “We now enjoy all being together. It has helped us connect with an urbanizing world.”
Rich Mendola, a leader of International Friendships (IFI), highlighted the strategic importance of working with international students in the U.S. One of the IMA participants had also served as a staff member with IFI before returning to minister among the three million internally displaced persons in his homeland, Sudan.
During a closing time of communion and prayer, Adalid Romero, president of the Honduran Mennonite Church (HMC), broke into deep, gut-wrenching sobs.
“We've been around for 65 years,” Romero said. “Recently I toured the six regions of HMC and we talked about new outreach. But the brothers said, 'why should we start new work when we don't have any money?' But here at the IMA God has touched me very deeply. Please pray that I'll be able to share this vision with our church.”
Sunday, August 2, international teams of IMA members visited and ministered in ten Mennonite churches in Ohio, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.
IMA president Abdi commented in closing, “The success of IMA is not a smooth running program and good food, but is there a big impact in the places where we go? Will our IMA gathering give impact in our own lives and ministries? Will we be transformed? And will we bring transformation where we're going?”
One first time attender from Sudan said, “These meetings were a most interesting blend of testimony and teaching. I've never heard so many encouraging testimonies—and ones I could learn things from.”
IMA coordinator, Tilahun Beyene announced that Germany will be the location of the 2016 IMA meetings which are planned for the fall.