News Briefs - March
News from the Mennonite worldby Compiled by Gordon Houser
Honduran Mennonite pastor murdered
WATERLOO, Ontario—On Jan. 22, Rafael Erasmo Arevalo, a Mennonite pastor in Honduras, was attacked and killed after leading an evening worship service. Arevalo, from Santa Rosa de Copán, drove about 20 kilometers north to Veracruz, where he had led worship services for the past 10 years. According to a report in a Honduran newspaper, La Prensa, Arevalo parked his car at the home of a Veracruz city councilor and then walked to the church. When he returned to his car after the worship service, he was attacked by “unknown persons.” His body was not discovered until the next morning, about five kilometers from the scene of the attack.
Arevalo’s funeral was held on Jan. 24 in his home community of Santa Rosa de Copán.
“We ask your prayers for his wife, children and church,” wrote Erlinda Robelo, executive director of MAMA (Mujeres Amigas/Women Friends Miles Apart), an education and service agency of the Iglesia Evangélica Menonita Hondureña (Evangelical Mennonite Church of Honduras). “The church laments his premature death.”
In a Jan. 24 e-mail, Robelo reported that the police still had no details of who was responsible for the murder. She indicated that Arevalo, affectionately called Mito, will be remembered for “his great spirit of service to the church and its neighbors.”
Iglesia Evangélica Menonita Hondureña is one of two Mennonite World Conference member churches in Honduras.—MWC
Iowa pastor, wife, killed in car accident
KALONA, Iowa—Mick Murray, one of two pastors at Kalona Mennonite Church, and Julie, his wife, were fatally injured in a car accident on Feb. 4. The Murrays were driving to their son’s wrestling tournament just after noon when their vehicle hit a patch of ice and spun out of control, hitting a culvert. Their daughter Nicole was in the car with them. She was treated for minor injuries and released from the hospital the same day. Mick died at the scene, but Julie was taken to the hospital, where she died later.
Mick, 47, and Julie, 46, are survived by four children, Brittany, 20; Nicole, 18; Chase, 16; and Jordan, 14. Julie’s sister and her husband, Beth and Bill Fiordelise, will take in the children.
Central Plains conference ministers David Boshart and Tim Detweiler led the worship service at Kalona Mennonite the next day. Using the order of service already printed in the bulletin, Tim led worship and David preached the sermon. Pastor Scott Swartzendruber shared a few words of encouragement as well. Mick and Scott have co-pastored Kalona Mennonite since February 1995. Mick and Julie were very active in ministry to youth in the church and the community. They volunteered regularly at Mid-Prairie High School and their home was always open to area youth.—Central Plains Mennonite Conference
Norma Wiens, missionary, peace advocate, dies
NEWTON, Kan.—Norma Wiens’ life took her from the plains of Kansas to the mountains of India and back again. Wiens, an eight-year mission worker to India with the Commission on Overseas Mission (a predecessor agency of Mennonite Mission Network), died Jan. 10, at Kidron Bethel Healthcare, after suffering from Alzheimer’s for nearly seven years. She was 78. Wiens was born June 7, 1933, to Otto and Ella (Sperling) Bachman. She met her husband, Dr. J. Wendell Wiens, while they were students at Bethel College in North Newton, Kan. They were married a week after graduation on May 31, 1955, and moved to Kansas City, Kan., where they helped plant Rainbow Avenue Mennonite Church.
After 10 years in Kansas City, Norma and Wendell headed to the rural outpost of Jagdeeshpur, where Wendell worked as a surgeon at Sewa Bhawan Hospital.
She later worked as a secretary for Western District Conference and served as secretary and a member of the General Conference Mennonite Church General Board three times between 1980 and 2001.
She was also active in peace advocacy. She helped found the Newton Area Peace Center (now Peace Connections) in 1982. She joined silent protests as the white trains carrying nuclear warheads passed through Kansas. She also was part of a group from Newton who helped Central American refugees find passage to Canada, sometimes housing them for months in her home.—Mennonite Mission Network
Barbara Reber, missionary, SOOP cofounder, dies
ELKHART, Ind.—Known for her wit, passion and dedication to mission, Barbara Katherine Reber, 86, Goshen, Ind., died at her home Jan. 31 after a long battle with failing health. Reber and Donald, her husband, served in Japan with Mennonite Board of Missions (a predecessor agency of Mennonite Mission Network) from 1952 to 1966. They returned for several shorter assignments after retiring. Barbara also cofounded and served several times with the SOOP program. Launched in 1990, SOOP was initially a volunteer program that focused on retirees who wanted to continue serving. The program now attracts people of all ages. During SOOP’s 20th anniversary commemoration in which Reber was honored, she told Mission Network that the way elders are treated in Japanese culture inspired her to find a way to help older generations do service.
Reber was born Nov. 13, 1925, in Milford, Neb., to the late David Elmer and Elizabeth Emma (Rediger) Bender. Reber attended both Hesston (Kan.) College and Goshen (Ind.) College. In addition to her mission service, she also worked as a bank executive in Lombard, Ill., and as executive secretary for the Women’s Missionary Service Commission for the Mennonite Church. She was a member of College Mennonite Church in Goshen.—Mennonite Mission Network
Cheryl Pauls named CMU president
WINNIPEG, Manitoba—Canadian Mennonite University has named Cheryl Pauls as the university’s second president. Pauls, a faculty member of CMU, assumes her new duties Nov. 1, succeeding Gerald Gerbrandt, who retires June 30. Pauls is a graduate of one of CMU’s predecessor colleges, Mennonite Brethren Bible College, and holds a doctorate in musical arts from the University of British Columbia.
A professor in piano and music theory, Pauls is a well-established solo and collaborative pianist, known particularly for performances of new music and for multimedia worship events. She has also undertaken research projects focused on the interface of studies in music theory and performance with those in memory, physiology, liturgy and cultural expression. From 2000 to 2007 she served as coordinator of the Music Department and played a key role in program development. Since 2008, she has been chair of the Shaftesbury campus and member of the President’s Council.—CMU
Everence announces staff transitions
GOSHEN, Ind.—Mel Claassen, chief financial officer of Everence, plans to retire in July. CEO Larry Miller appointed Jim Alvarez, senior vice president of corporate services, to take over as CFO when Claassen departs. Claassen has worked at Everence for 18 years, serving as CFO for the last 10 years. Coming from previous experience as an executive in business, Alvarez has served at Everence for six years. He is a graduate of Goshen College and has an MBA from Penn State University. Alvarez is a board member for Mennonite Health Services Alliance, Greencroft Goshen, Bethany Christian Schools and IU Health Goshen.—Everence
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