By Andrew Clouse
ELKHART, Ind.—Mennonite Mission Network is using a Mennonite Men JoinHands grant to help three churches in Latin America make their dreams of owning their own building a reality.
- $2,000 went to help complete the roof at the Pan de Vida (Bread of Life) Church in the Nuevo Milenio neighborhood of Barranquilla, Colombia.
- $1,000 helped purchase a lot and cement for a new church building for Esperanza Viva (Living Hope) in the San Vicente neighborhood of Barranquilla.
- $2,000 is seed money for Quito (Ecuador) Mennonite Church’s plan for its own facility in the future.
Since 1999, the service component of Mennonite Men—JoinHands—has offered an annual tithe grant to Mennonite denominational mission boards in the United States and Canada. The portion that was donated to Mennonite Mission Network in 2011 has helped these three churches, as well as the new building for Comunidades Unidas Anabautistas (United Anabaptist Communities) in Burgos, Spain.
Colombian Mennonites have planted six churches on the country’s north coast in the last nine and a half years. The churches in Barranquilla that received the JoinHands grant are two of the newest. The grant money helps establish these dynamic congregations by providing their own space for worship.
Both of these congregations are in developing neighborhoods on the city’s outskirts, where people arrive seeking safety, better opportunities, and cheaper land. The pastoral couples, Eugenio Polo and Mabel Ruiz at Pan de Vida and Beatriz Miranda and Manuel Tuiran at Esperanza Viva, are new Mennonites, eagerly studying the courses brought to the coast by the Colombian Mennonite Seminary in Bogotá.
The JoinHands grant for the Pan de Vida church, which helped purchase iron, cement, brick, metallic structure and roofing material, came just in time, according to Linda Shelly, Mission Network’s director for Latin America. Within a few weeks of putting the roof in place, the rainy season started in full force.
The San Vicente church was worshiping in the streets because the growing congregation couldn’t fit in a single home. The JoinHands grant helped purchase an empty lot and cement for the foundation. After a sustained community effort, they were able to begin worshiping in the building in December.
The churches are already using their buildings to feed neighborhood children.
“Both churches are located in poor sectors of the region, and many of the children often go to school without eating,” said Gamaliel Falla, a Mission Network worker in Colombia. “For this reason, we are helping the churches organize their kitchens and start this project. Pray with us that the Lord will continue providing for this ministry.”
As a new church in an urban area, the Mennonite church in Quito faces a challenge in raising enough money to purchase its own building. The space they use works for now, but the rent is high, and the church anticipates their need for a permanent location in the future.
“This grant is to be considered seed money that provides encouragement in ongoing fundraising among partners,” Shelly said. “Urban Quito is a very expensive place to purchase property, yet this is the goal set by the people of the church, who see themselves serving long-term in this neighborhood.”
César Moya and Patricia Urueña, Mennonite Mission Network workers sent by the Iglesia Cristiana Menonita de Colombia, lead the church and also help prepare Ecuadorian leaders. The church has an active peace education program with children in the neighborhood of El Inca, near where the church first started. They also receive Colombian refugees and provide spiritual support and help in meeting their physical and emotional needs.
The average attendance is around 45-50, but the numbers vary depending on how many Colombian refugees are participating at any point in time. Many of them pass through Quito and don’t become permanent church members.
Since its beginnings in 1985, JoinHands has granted $1.6 million to more than 60 congregations in North America and across the globe. Two churches are scheduled to receive grants in 2012: the Lao Community Church of Toronto, and Tinsae Kristos Evangelical Church in Lancaster, Pa.
Mennonite Mission Network, the mission agency of Mennonite Church USA, leads, mobilizes and equips the church to participate in holistic witness to Jesus Christ in a broken world. Media may contact Andrew Clouse at email@example.com, 574-523-3024 or 866-866-2872, ext. 23024.
Eugenio Polo (upper left), pastor of the nearby Pan de Vida church, receives a bucket of cement from Gabriel, a member of Esperanza Viva, while finishing the construction of Esperanza Viva’s new building. The project was led by a local construction worker (upper right), and many other people volunteered their time, including William Valencia (lower right), who was serving as the Colombian Mennonite Church administrator at the time. (Photo by Linda Shelly)
Pan de Vida pastor Eugenio Polo (green shirt) looks on as William Valencia (foreground, left), Colombia Mennonite Church administrator, and Michael Danner, pastor at Metamora (Ill.) Mennonite Church (foreground, right), try out rhythm instruments in the congregation’s recently finished building. (Photo by Linda Shelly)
Children play on the church grounds of Quito Mennonite Church during the Peace Education Workshops. The congregation hopes to purchase its own church building in the near future. (Photo by Daniela Sanchez)