As I acclimated to the sprawling Pennsylvania Farm Show complex in Harrisburg I ran into a parade of good memories of worldwide travel with the Mennonite Central Committee. I met Ron and Judy Zook with whom we traveled to Palestine. I saw Bonnie Klassen from Colombia who has impressed anyone who has met her since I did. A new Beachy Amish friend talked about visiting San Pedro Sula, in Honduras, like I had on my first learning tour with Ron Byler (and later I saw Steve Penner!). MCC has a big presence at the MWC /Mennonite World Conference, with which the Brethren in Christ are affiliated. I have been all over the world with our relief and advocacy mission, now I am experiencing the whole world coming to Harrisburg.
The first meeting started off with a dramatic parade. Native Americans representing those displaced by Mennonite immigrants in the 1700s came in to drums, singing and flutes. They reminded us of a recent ceremony of mutual understanding and forgiveness that took place. The ground was made clean for the meeting.
Then there “a parade of nations” reminiscent of the Olympics to begin the week. Brethren in Christ churches from Zambia and Zimbabwe were represented, banners and all.
There were a smattering of BIC people in the mix of the giant crowd (I think they expect 10,000 people). I counted five present and former bishops. More friends will probably show up as the week goes by. We ran in to dear people and had some stimulating conversation about the Brethren in Christ, who might have trouble generating a worldwide movement, since we do not seem to have a clear identity of who we are anymore. But we also talked about justice, grandchildren, marriage and dissertations. It is always great to feel relieved by a loving face in a daunting crowd.
I thank God for the excitement of singing together with people who have a common faith — many of whom have the passion that would get them on a plane to demonstrate their faith in a foreign country. The people in front of us were from Basel, Switzerland; we were in line with kids from Winnipeg, Danisa Ndlovu of Zimbabwe gave a speech. God is praised.
Here is a song we sang that will encourage you. Another gift of the conference is a whole book of music from sisters and brothers around the world!