19 Mar - MWC funds boost projects for member churches in global South

News Service
March 19, 2010

MWC funds boost projects for member churches in global South

Kitchener, Ontario - Fresh, clean water from a new well in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania is a source of joy and hope. The well is at the heart of the “Women & Water for Life” project of the Kanisa la Mennonite Tanzania (Tanzania Mennonite Church) in the Eastern Diocese of the national church. A $10,000 US gift from the Mennonite World Conference Global Church Sharing Fund (GCSF) early in 2010 is helping to make it happen. The church and local community raised $3,000.

The new water system with its 30,000-litre storage system will provide clean water to 1,000 people in 250 households, reducing water-borne diseases among children and freeing women from much labour related to a lack of easily accessible, safe water. Sale of water from the new system will also generate income to support social services including an orphanage.

Access to a better water supply will also allow a small dispensary to expand to become a more adequate Health Centre. Construction on the building began in February.

Other GCSF gifts have recently been approved or are in process. A $10,000 grant is helping to train pastors and church leaders in Honduras. The San Marcos de Ocotepeque Mennonite Church there has also developed a relationship with Mennonites from Millersburg, Ohio (USA) over the past five years. The Ohio group helped build the Koinonia Mennonite Center which is used for the training program. (See sidebar story)

The Bible Missionary Church in Myanmar began to construct a church building in January 2010. The building will also house the mission board head office. The church raised $12,500 which along with the $10,000 gift from MWC allowed the project to proceed.

In Jamaica, the Good Tidings Mennonite Church proposed expanding its building to accommodate enhanced community outreach and youth ministry as well as renovating its worship space. The church has raised $18,000 and still needs to raise $2,000 to add to the $10,000 GCSF gift to complete the project.

The Kabwe Brethren in Christ congregation in Zambia began in 1984 but died out in 1991. It has revived and now has 34 baptized members. Fifty-eight people regularly attended services. But there is no church building. A plot of land has been granted to them and the congregation has paid the required development fees, but building must proceed within a required time frame or the land will be reclaimed. A gift from MWC's GCSF will move the project forward. Members are prepared to do much of the hands-on work.

In the past 18 months MWC has sent Jubilee gifts of up to $10,000 US to churches in Vietnam, Congo, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, Honduras and Columbia totaling $94,600. In addition to the projects described above, funds have been used by MWC-related churches for translation of the MWC Shelf book, What We Believe Together (Vietnam), church construction
(Ghana), education seminar (Congo) and an assessment of the agricultural capacity of church lands (Zimbabwe).

Some churches in North America, like the James Street congregation in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, contribute to the GCSF as a tithe related to their own building or renovation projects. A church in Elkhart, Indiana is considering a gift of $10,000 designated for the approved church building project in Myanmar. The current balance in the GCSF account is $236,326 US. In the past 18 months three requests were turned down and three requests remain pending.

MWC established the GCSF in 1997 at Assembly 13 in India with individual donors, Mennonite Central Committee and Mennonite Mutual Aid making initial contributions totaling one million dollars (US). The funds were to be shared, in the spirit of biblical “Jubilee” (Leviticus 25) with Anabaptist-related churches in Africa, Asia and Latin America for ministries that advance the life and mission of their churches.

Why is MWC engaged in this exchange of gifts, primarily with churches? “The answer is simple,” says Bert Lobe, MWC North America representative. “If we believe that the church is a primary vehicle or instrument for the redemption of the human community, then churches need to be encouraged and empowered to do their kingdom building work in their particular settings. MWC’s unequivocal focus is the church; our primary function is to enable and encourage the work which churches do in their setting.”

In 2009, the GCSF was reconfigured to include two accounts: Deacon Account and Jubilee Account. Global Anabaptist Deacons, in consultation with the Deacon Commission and MWC staff, decide how funds from the Deacon Account are dispersed in response to needs they perceive. In the wake of natural disasters in the Caribbean and several Latin American countries in recent weeks, the Deacon Commission is contemplating how funds from this account would be most helpful to devastated MWC-related churches in these areas.

Jubilee funds are dispersed based on applications from member and associate member churches in the global South for defined projects to advance the fellowship, worship, witness and service of their church. Requests, normally not exceeding $10,000 US, must be approved by the official decision-making body of the church. Usually, some funds for the project are raised locally.

Applications to the GCSF must describe how funds will be used and progress reports on what was accomplished and how the project has had an impact on the life of the church are required. The office of the general secretary administers the GCSF and recommends applications for approval by the Executive Committee. In special circumstances, officers may make the decision.

Since the GCSF began, total revenue until Dec 31, 2009 has been $1,609,422 US. Expenses have been $1,343,566 US, including $998,000 directly distributed to churches as Jubilee gifts or to GCSF projects, some internal transfers and administration costs. Churches have used “Jubilee” gifts in a great many ways, including: scholarships; translating, publishing and purchasing church supplies; upgrading computer systems; community service projects like water systems; purchasing vehicles, including bicycles for evangelists and church leaders; purchasing land and constructing and repairing church buildings; pastors salaries and endowment funds for pastors' retirement.

The balance in the GCSF as of December 31, 2009 was US $ 265,856. Donations to the GCSF continue to be solicited to help the fund grow. Contributions, designated “Global Church Sharing Fund,” may be sent to Mennonite World Conference offices at 50 Kent Ave, Kitchener, Ontario N2G 3R1 and 8 rue Fossé des Treize, 67000 Strasbourg, France. Gifts can also be handled electronically. Go to the MWC website (www.mwc-cmm.org), drop down to the “participate” bar and click on “contribute.”

- Ferne Burkhardt
MWC News Editor

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SIDEBAR

Visits and funds build Ohio and Honduras relationships

Five years ago, a group from Millersburg Mennonite Church in Ohio (USA) went to Honduras to help construct a building which is used as a training centre for pastors and leaders and to begin to develop a relationship with the San Marcos de Ocotepeque Mennonite Church.

After that first 10-day visit, the Ohio church has sent a group to Honduras almost every year. Participants pay their own way and they also help fund scholarships and provide educational materials for schools and Mennonite literature for pastors and leaders. They have helped in various building projects for other Mennonite churches in the region.

Roy Miller, a medical doctor from the Ohio church who coordinates the groups, has shared the Honduras experience with other Mennonite churches in Ohio as well as others not related to the churches. During the past five years, about 60 Ohio people from Berlin, Kidron and Millersburg have participated in the Honduras program.

Groups do practical work in the churches and communities followed by reflective meetings. The exchange is a positive experience for both the Ohio and Honduras churches, say Ovidio and Jovita Flores, church leaders in Honduras. They believe such North/South exchanges are important.

“The North American groups always say they have received a lot from the local churches in Honduras and return home with a renewed faith and more consciousness that happiness doesn't come from material richness,” says Ovidio.

Training programs conducted at the Koinonia Mennonite Center, which the Ohio volunteers helped to build, have included two peace education seminars attended by 50 people, seminars for 12 pastors and church leaders and a youth conference attended by 60 people. Ten pastors and leaders are taking Mennonite Bible Institute courses. In January, Mennonite World Fellowship Sunday was promoted and more than 200 people marked the day.

Thus far the training centre has used about 60 percent of a $10,000 Global Church Sharing Fund grant from Mennonite World Conference for transportation, facilitators and supplies, according to Luis Alonso López, coordinator of the centre and an MWC General Council member. Local churches provide 50 percent of the required operating funds with the remainder coming from US churches in Pennsylvania and California.

- Ferne Burkhardt
MWC News Editor

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Mennonite World Conference is a communion (Koinonia) of Anabaptist-related churches linked to one another in a worldwide community of faith for fellowship, worship, service, and witness.