Mennonite Men / Mennonite Mission Network
Mennonite Men JoinHands church grant to support Spanish congregation
Since 1999, the service component of Mennonite Men—JoinHands—has offered an annual tithe grant to Mennonite denominational mission boards in the U.S. and Canada. In November 2011, a JoinHands grant of $5,000 was given to Mennonite Mission Network to assist with the building project of Comunidades Anabautistas Unidas (United Anabaptist Communities), a Mennonite church in Burgos in northern Spain.
Comunidades Anabautistas Unidas is the congregation of Connie and Dennis Byler, who have worked in Burgos since 1981 with Mennonite Mission Network. Dennis Byler teaches at a Protestant seminary; edits El Mensajero, the monthly paper of the Anabaptist network of churches in Spain; and writes and translates books into Spanish for Spanish-speaking Anabaptist churches in Spain and elsewhere. Connie Byler is an elder on the congregation’s leadership team and provides spiritual companionship to many people, including some who are living with AIDS. Both Bylers have a pastoral role with existing and emerging Anabaptist and Mennonite congregations across Spain.
“This is the very first new Protestant building in our city of 200,000 people,” Connie Byler said. “I don’t know of even more than two or three that have been built to be churches in all our travels in Spain. Evangelical churches, as we are called, normally occupy a storefront, below apartment buildings, and can have problems because of the noise.”
Connie Byler said that the new building is coming about due to the merger of the two main Protestant congregations in Burgos, the Mennonite congregation and the San Francisco church, an unaffiliated Baptist congregation. The groups had met during the summers and then decided to merge two years ago. Byler said that because the new congregation did not have enough money to pay someone to finish the building, people from the church have been working every Saturday and holiday for a year on the inside of the building.
“They are really tired by now, because it’s been almost a year of hard work, but we see the results, the love, the fellowship! We are so proud of them,” she said.
Byler said that the new building will provide much-needed space for the growing congregation as well as access to parking spaces. She said the congregation is excited to have a more visible location in a newer part of the city; currently they have been meeting in a cul-de-sac.
“Most of our mission activities will be based here,” Byler continued. “Our youth are really fired up for mission in the city; we have two Africa ministries; the headquarters of the Association of the Evangelical Churches of our region; the Association of Mennonite and Anabaptist groups in Spain; and other ministries such as a prison ministry and ministry with Deaf people.
“Above all, we sense that God is opening the heavens over our city at this time and getting us ready to minister and receive people who will be seeking God and a healthy and true Christian lifestyle. These are times of blessing and faithfulness and provision.”
Byler said that the congregation hopes to move into the building before Christmas, though much work is still needed. An inauguration for the building is planned for Jan. 14–15, 2012.
Since its beginnings in 1985, JoinHands has granted $1.6 million to more than sixty congregations in North America and across the globe. Two churches are slated to receive grants in 2012: the Lao Community Church of Toronto and Tinsae Kristos Evangelical Church in Lancaster, Pa.
—Don Yoder, Mennonite Men; and Annette Brill Bergstresser, Mennonite Church USA
Dennis and Connie Byler, Mennonite Mission Network workers in Burgos, Spain. (Photo provided by Mennonite Mission Network)