It was 10 years ago this past January when Mennonite World Conference announced my appointment as Chief Operations Officer. I quickly received emails from several countries including Paraguay and Zimbabwe. People whom I had not yet met enthusiastically welcomed me as part of the MWC family.
Three years later, after sharing the news of my mother’s death, I again received messages from around the world; this time, of condolence and support.
Serving as accountant for the MWC family involves so much more than crunching numbers. Although it is my training, I have never considered myself a typical accountant and it quickly became clear to me that working as MWC’s COO is not a typical accounting role.
When I began my career, I had a vision of what it would mean to be an accountant, but I could never have imagined what it would be like to tend to the numbers for the global church.
The agenda at our annual meetings includes time to visit local congregation and meet the people who make up the church in the communities that host our meetings. We hear about how God is working through these congregations. Of course, there is time for discussing the finances of the organization, but that is only a small part of what we do.
As I look back over the time I have spent with MWC, I consider it a privilege to have met so many wonderful people and to worship our God together with them. I cherish many memories of meeting in Taiwan, Switzerland, Colombia, Indonesia, Germany, and Costa Rica, but one that sticks out for me is from our General Council meetings in Kenya in 2018.
On Sunday morning, we gathered with a small congregation near Kisumu, near Lake Victoria. Our group consisted of some 40 General Council delegates and MWC staff. At first, we outnumbered the local church members, but as the morning progressed, the small building filled. Some who arrived later ended up participating from outside.
We all sang together and listened to Scripture and vibrant preaching. There were introductions all around. We were a diverse mixture of culture and languages brought together by the Spirit of God.
I had the privilege of sharing a few words to the congregation. Reading a portion from Revelation 21, I reflected on how this mix of people, gathered under this tin roof in rural Kenya, was a foretaste of what was to come.
I never learned about this type of “business” meetings in my accounting training and I never dreamed this is where my career would lead me, but I thank God for carrying me on this incredible journey.
Now I am leaving my accounting role for a pastorate in a local congregation. This may seem like a dramatic change but it is the most natural next step. As I follow God’s leading, I am not leaving the global church: I will always carry with me the people and churches I have met along the way.
—Len Rempel served as Chief Operations Officer of Mennonite World Conference from January 2011 until April 2021.