Churches connect with Ghana, Honduras
Half of Allegheny Mennonite Conference churches are involved in mission trips.by Anna Groff
Global connections for Allegheny Mennonite Conference churches are new for some and old for others, but a priority for many. According to Kurt Horst, moderator of AMC, 20 congregations (69 percent) give to mission projects. Thirteen congregations—almost half of AMC congregations—are involved in mission trips.
Cathy Chapman, a nurse practitioner from Pinto (Md.) Mennonite Church, has been leading medical trips to Honduras for almost a decade.
Cathy Chapman (left) with her translator Laura Chakerian, a peace corps worker, treats a family. Photo by Amy Jo Thomas.
The most recent one, May 9-19, was by a team from three churches: Glade Mennonite, Accident, Md.; Springs (Pa.) Mennonite; and Pinto Mennonite. The nine-woman team traveled to Las Vegas, Honduras through the MAMA Project, Inc. The MAMA Project, Mujeres Amigas Miles Apart (Women Friends Miles Apart), is a Mennonite-based organization in Pennsburg, Pa.
This year’s team consisted of Chapman and a LPN providing primary care. “We work usually out of schools but have set up clinics in churches, under tents or trees,” she says.
The other six people on the team distribute vitamin A and deparisitizing medicine, as well as puppet shows for the children.
“Those of us who have gone to Honduras are changed by what we have seen and experienced and shared the pictures and stories with others,” Chapman says. “A picture truly speaks 1,000 words. There is no way you can see a picture of a 2-year-old child who weight eight pounds and not be moved.”
Laurie Scudder visits with a girl in Honduras. Photo provided.
This trip was Megan Breneman’s, of Glade Mennonite, sixth trip. Her first trip was as a senior in high school.
“We saw the hand of God through everything,” she said.
This year the group managed to take six extra suitcases with medicine with them and they purchased the school supplies for the children in Honduras, which allowed them to distribute more than past years.
Other AMC congregations with connections to Honduras through various organizations are: Blough Mennonite and Thomas Mennonite, both in Hollsopple, Pa.; Meadow Mountain Mennonite, Swanton, Md.; Pittsburgh Mennonite; and Cornerstone Fellowship of Mill Run, Altoona, Pa.
In early July, a team of eight from Pittsburgh Mennonite Church traveled to San Jose, Honduras, for one week. PMC has had continuous outreach in San Jose Del Negrito fro seven years through medical brigades, construction and nutrition projects. This team will visit schools, assist with painting and cleaning and build relationships.
This year, two congregations embarked for the first time on the journey to connect with Mennonites in Ghana. It all started when Mennonite Mission Network, the mission agency of Mennonite Church USA, brought two congregations together—University Mennonite Church (UMC) in State College, Pa., and Maple Grove Mennonite in Belleville, Pa.—alerting both of their shared goal to make global connections.
Team members from left David Miller, Liz Hunsberger, and Jim Rosenberger with Emelia Amexo Lorlornyo (in front), a seminary student sponsored by Mennonite Women USA. Photo provided.
In 2000, UMC had added a goal of global partnerships to their mission statement. Six years later a mission-partnership committee was formed. The chair, Liz Hunsberger, contacted Dean Heisey from Mennonite Mission Network who knew of Maple Grove’s similar goal.
Alan Kauffman, pastor of Maple Grove, said his congregation also hoped to establish a cross-cultural partnership five years ago—since he started there as pastor. He wanted Maple Grove members to have an opportunity to “see the world.”
“Given the fact that the African church is growing leaps and bounds,” he added. “We have a lot to learn from Christians in that area.”
Mennonite Mission Network gets the credit for making this connection, said Hunsberger. Only 25 miles apart, the churches still would not have found each other.
UMC had some connection to Ghana through a member’s father who had taught at the Good News Theological Seminary and members of their church who are Ghanian, Fran Osseo-Asare and Osseo-Asare.
In August 2006, committees from UMC and Maple Grove met together. One year later, both churches met together and Fran cooked a Ghanian meal for both congregations.
The group traveled to Ghana May 3-13 and stayed at the Good News Theological Seminary, which is affiliated with the African-indigenous church and connected to Mennonite Mission Network. Two of the four faculty are graduates are Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Elkhart, Ind.
The team met with students, sat in classes, worshipped with students and faculty, and visited Ghanain Mennonite and African indigenous churches.
One day they traveled to Cape Coast castle where many slaves were deported out of Africa. Hunsberger says standing at the entrance of the dungeons where the slaves were held and noticing the European church built above it was shocking.
During mission trips, day-trips to learn about the country are important, says Kauffman.
“Others might think it’s a waste of time,” he adds. “But it’s significant to learn about history and culture.”
They also met with the board of governors of the institution who shared their vision and asked advice for how to function with sustainability.
Hunsberger said they wanted to hear the institutions goal’s and relay the goals to their congregations in the United States.
“For us, it was clearly an exploratory trip,” Kauffman says. “We went there to discover whether a long-term partnership was even possible.”
The relationship is only at the beginning stage, and there are hopes for further exchange.
Reverend Thomas Oduro, director of the institution, plans to attend the AMC gathering in fall 2009.
Kauffman says they hope to have a joint worship service with Maple Grove and UMC during this time. The team also plans to formalize an agreement for a long-term partnership with the institution in Ghana.
University Mennonites would like to have teachers from Ghana visit and vice versa, according to Hunsberger.
Hunsberger says the team has considered making this connection with Ghana a conference-wide endeavor.
Kauffman says Maple Grove and UMC could be the primary partners for a long time, but also hopes the connection broadens to other AMC churches.
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