Mennonite Values

Community

CommunityMennonites hold many common core beliefs and value our history as a people of God. Our beliefs in God and Jesus Christ link us with other Christian denominations. However, Mennonites try to live out God’s call in some ways that are distinct. Worshipping as a community of believers and studying the Bible to listen to what God is saying to the church today are very important to Mennonites. We also believe that the church is called by God to share the good news of Jesus in word and deed, showing others a glimpse of what life is like under God’s rule.

Ephesians 4:13,15; Mark 3:33-35

Story from Russian heritage

In Russia in the 1870s, a threat to a long-standing exemption from military service caused Mennonites to look for a new place to live. Both the United States and Canada were eager to have hardworking, knowledgeable farmers settle some of their western lands. Many Ontario Mennonites took immigrants into their homes for awhile, helped them learn how to get around in a new country, and provided food and clothing. Jacob Y. Shantz, a Berlin (Ontario) Mennonite business entrepreneur, rallied church members to put up their own homes as backing for a government loan of almost $100,000 to assist these immigrants in moving farther west to settle in Manitoba.

Adult Baptism

adult baptismMennonites practice adult (or believer’s) baptism. Baptism symbolizes God’s grace washing people clean of sin through Jesus’ death on the cross. At baptism, people make a public commitment to identify with and follow Jesus.

Romans 6:1-4; Matthew 3:13-17

Story from East Africa to Seattle

Sisay Desalegn grew up in Ethiopia at a time when religion and baptism were outlawed. One day, Sisay was leading a Bible study when officials took him away, interrogated him for six hours, then took him to prison and told him that unless he renounced his faith, he would not leave alive. After numerous beatings, they finally released him. Later he brought good news to East Africans in Seattle, Wash., supported by Seattle Mennonite Church.

Peace and Love

peace & loveMennonites believe that Jesus, when he lived on earth, revealed a way for people to live peacefully and nonviolently. Mennonites believe in giving ultimate loyalty to God rather than to nations or to the military.

Luke 4:18-19; Isaiah 9:1-7; Matthew 6:14-15

Story from military reservist

Tom Oliver grew up fascinated with the military. “I wanted to be like James Bond, a killing machine who could make a bomb out of a toothpick.” But after being in the military reserves for a number of years, he became disillusioned. Meanwhile, he married and with his wife began to study the Bible seriously. They came to realize they were pacifists. After visiting several Mennonite churches, Tom decided to leave the military. Today Tom is a screenwriter in Los Angeles where he and his wife have been members of Peace Mennonite Church.

Helping Others

helpingMennonites aspire to follow the example and words of Jesus Christ in everyday life, including service to people in need.

John 13:8,14-15; Matthew 20:20-28

Story of Edna Ruth Byler, early forerunner of Ten Thousand Villages

In 1946, Edna Ruth Byler visited Mennonite volunteers in Puerto Rico who were teaching embroidery to students living in poverty. Byler brought home several embroidery pieces to sell to friends and neighbors. By the early ’70s, the flourishing handicraft project moved out of Byler’s basement and today has become Ten Thousand Villages, a nonprofit alternative trading organization that provides fair income to people in developing countries by selling their handicrafts in stores all over North America. Today, more than 300 stores in the United States and Canada sell these crafts, made by an estimated artisans you can meet here, from numerous countries.

Mennonite Mission Network, the main mission and service agency of the Mennonite churches in the U.S., offers myriad opportunities for service and witness in North America and all around the world.

Open to All

openFrom the beginning, Mennonites have shared their faith and passion for Jesus with others. Mennonite churches are open to anyone who confesses Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and wants to live as Jesus taught.

Acts 1:8; Matthew 28:19-20

Story from Taiwan to Silicon Valley

When Pastor Adam Liu left Taiwan for California, he brought with him a strong conviction to start new churches. Adam now pastors a church in the Silicon Valley and brings messages of renewal around the world. Mennonites in North America have begun new churches in urban communities from British Columbia to Florida, many of which use languages other than English, including Spanish, Indonesian, Lao, Chinese, Ethiopian, Hmong, Taiwanese, Vietnamese, Cambodian, French, German, and Japanese.

Stewardship

Stewardship touches on simplicity, service, and helping others. Mennonites place high value on Godly stewardship. Everything we have belongs to God, who calls us to live as faithful stewards of all that’s been entrusted to us. Therefore we pay attention to giving not only monetary gifts, but our gifts of time and talents in the service of God.P1080103

1 Corinthians 4: 2; 1 Peter 4:10

Everence is a faith-based, member-owned, financial services organization which offers stewardship education and training, as well as assisting individuals and congregations being faithful stewards of God’s gifts.

Mary Oyer dedicated her musical gifts and interest in music in various cultures around the world, to serving God and the church. You can see part of her story and witness in a video at the Everence website.

Community Outreach

Abundant Life nursery
Children and a teacher play in the nursery at Abundant Life Church in Sarasota, Florida. Abundant Life is in the middle of a construction project to build a new children’s building.

Helping a church be family-friendly

Many Mennonite churches are seen as family-friendly places. An overflowing children and youth building led to a new construction project at Abundant Life in Sarasota, Florida, that will give the church’s children and youth more space to learn and play in.

The new building – projected to be ready in spring 2017 – will have a central lobby, classrooms and an auditorium and recreation room for games and worship. Of course, the children’s favorite feature will likely be the slide for a quicker, more fun descent from the second floor to the first.

Senior Pastor Vernon Zook noticed the congregation had outgrown the modular building where children, youths and young adults meet. Although this is a great problem for a church to have, the congregation didn’t want new families to think that they weren’t welcome or that there wasn’t any space for them.

Zook approached Bill Warrell, Everence Business Development Officer, who handles church loans for Everence. “Everence understands the structure and mission of the church – and even how the finances of a church work,” said Zook.

In addition to the bigger space – and fun slide – the new building has a single main entrance, making it more secure and welcoming for families. Helping lower the cost of the build, local construction companies have donated labor and materials.

Abundant Life, a member of Conservative Mennonite Conference, started in June 1999 and met in a variety of facilities, including the gym of Sarasota Christian School. In 2006, it bought its current facility, a former church building. About 600 people regularly attend Abundant Life services, and the congregation has seen new growth in its children and youth programs.

Everence Church Loans can help congregations grow their ministries and expand their church facilities.  Visit everence.com/church-loans or call for more info at (877) 295-2664.

 

Giving love

Marvin and Sara Slabaugh

A couple brought together by their shared generosity

By Sara Alvarez

It didn’t take long for Marvin and Sarah Slabaugh to notice their shared values when they started dating.

One evening in September 2009, about a month into their relationship, Sarah helped Marvin with a fundraising event he organized for CrossRoads (Valley Brethren-Mennonite Heritage Center), Harrisonburg, Virginia. The event’s goal was to help CrossRoads purchase additional land adjacent to the property, to further the nonprofit’s mission is to tell the story of Brethren and Mennonites in the Shenandoah Valley.

Marvin hosted the fundraiser because he is on the board of directors for the organization. And Sarah went above and beyond for the man she had just started to date, helping bring food and volunteering at the event. After it ended, they went to Marvin’s house to count the money, which totaled $55,000.

“I told Sarah I wanted to thank God for the money and preferred to pray on my knees,” said Marvin. “She didn’t skip a beat and kneeled down with me. And the thought crossed my mind that maybe we could make it together.”

By December, they were married. This was a second marriage for both of them – Sarah’s first husband, Bob Histand, passed away of a heart attack and Marvin’s first wife, Carolyn Slabaugh, died after a three-and-a-half-year battle with cancer.

 “Once we began seeing each other, our spirits bonded together because of our similar biblical views, mission interests and stewardship giving practices,” said Marvin.

Before the couple even met, Marvin and Sarah’s shared interests helped fund complementary projects through Virginia Mennonite Missions.

After her first husband died, Sarah wanted to complete one of Bob’s life dreams of starting a service program similar to Pax, a program organized by Mennonite Central Committee in post-World War II Europe as a voluntary service option for the draft. Originally, volunteer service workers in Pax built housing for refugees, and the program eventually expanded to help with development projects around the world. As a 19-year-old, Bob’s life was changed when he moved away from his hometown and served in Austria and Germany.

“Bob was thrust into another culture and put to work immediately upon arrival in Austria,” said Sarah, who said that before Pax, Bob had never been out of his hometown in Pennsylvania, except for a trip to New York and vacations to New Jersey. “The responsibility placed on his youthful shoulders turned him into a mature young man at an early age.”

Bob stayed in Germany for two-and-a-half years. And by the end, he was director of the program.

“Bob felt that others should have this opportunity and was disappointed when the Pax program closed after the mandatory draft ended,” said Sarah.

After Bob’s death, Sarah gave their large Pennsylvania farm to create a charitable remainder unitrust through Mennonite Foundation (an affiliate of Everence). Using income from the trust, Sarah helped start tranSend, a one-year Virginia Mennonite Missions program that gives young adults a taste of mission work through service projects around the world. Sarah’s trust continues to support half the cost of each person in the program.

One of the location choices for tranSend participants is the Lezha Academic Center in Lezha, Albania, which Marvin helped develop. Opened in 2011, the school is run by an Albanian couple that felt called to establish a Christian school and worked together with Virginia Mennonite Missions, Eastern Mennonite Missions and Mennonite Education Agency to make their dream come true.

Marvin joined the committee to start the school in 2008 because of his previous development work experience in Albania. Later, Sarah became involved in the project, and the couple traveled to Albania with another couple to help select a site for the school. Today, Sarah serves on the school’s board of directors and Marvin sits on the Lezha Academic Center Foundation’s board of directors.

“Both Sarah and I feel a kindred spirit with VMM,” said Marvin.

In addition to valuing mission work, Marvin and Sarah share similar stewardship practices that enable them to give freely, thanks to the way they’ve handled their family businesses and finances.

Throughout his 40s and 50s, Marvin started and ran a small agricultural feed mill in the Harrisonburg region. Likewise, Sarah and Bob built a successful wholesale landscape supply store. “Bob and I lived frugally, which made it possible to give to others,” said Sarah. “He was generous in making donations to MCC, local fire companies, police organizations, church and Christopher Dock Mennonite School. Through Bob’s example, I learned and experienced stewardship.” Marvin also freely gave of his resources, and believes in practicing faithful stewardship of all of our God-given resources.

“In Psalms 50:10b, God says, ‘the cattle on a thousand hills are mine,’” said Marvin. “Everything belongs to God, and we are just stewards of what he has given us. I am a strong believer that God wants good things to happen in the lives of his children.”

Several times a year, Marvin and Sarah send money to local organizations that support families in need, including their church, Weavers Mennonite Church. They also give larger gifts to organizations they participate in, such as Virginia Mennonite Missions, Lezha Academic Center and CrossRoads.

As Marvin described it, the couple has a purpose: “Serve together in God’s kingdom as long as we are able, until God calls us to our heavenly home.” Sarah agreed; “I feel we were made for each other.”

By Sara Alvarez, Marketing Manager at Everence and editor of Everyday Stewardship

 

Rewriting our script

Vanessa Caruso doing some budgeting. All photos by Jenna Stamm

Discovering abundance in our story

By Vanessa Caruso

I first recognized my complicated feelings about money several years ago during a monthly Cell Leader Training at my church, Circle of Hope, a Mennonite-affiliated congregation in Philadelphia. The pastors asked us to write our total consumer and school loan debt. I don’t know what I thought would happen next, but when they asked us to pass our papers down the row, I froze. The idea of five people in my row seeing my total debt made me want to disappear. I concluded that I had to make the paper disappear somehow – to “drop” it or eat it. Fortunately, the person beside me handed me their paper face down (why didn’t I think of that?), so I did the same. My reaction came from a combination of feeling exposed, isolated and stuck. I remember wondering if that was shame.

My husband, Steven, and I have been freelancers throughout our 11 years of marriage. Steven is an actor and works part time in the service industry so he can spend time on song and screen writing. I have mostly modeled for work, but recently completed a master’s degree and certification program in spiritual direction. For a long time, we craved a bigger plan that could buoy up our irregular schedule and fluctuating income, and help focus our spending. But I secretly wondered if “struggling artist” types are not able to have stability or do long-term financial planning unless one of us agreed to a nine-to-five job.

I finally realized how our schedules and lack of financial consistency took a toll on the quality – and integrity – of our lives when our son was born and I took five months off from work. So I chose to be more selective about modeling jobs, which gave me a more consistent schedule, and Steven and I resolved to get some financial planning guidance.

We didn’t know who to call, but I remembered an amazing seminar that Randy Nyce, Stewardship Consultant at Everence, a faith-based financial services organization, led at my church a few years ago. Inspired by Walter Brueggemann’s book, Journey to the Common Good, Randy compared the Bible’s message that God is enough with the myth perpetuated by our culture that we never have enough. He revealed how credit card debt produces dependency and poverty, and asserted that the church’s vocation is to help people realize the kingdom of abundance proclaimed by Jesus.

Even though the seminar focused on money, I remember feeling so inspired and hopeful – a markedly different feeling than my experience in the same room years ago. I didn’t feel so alone after hearing about how predatory the debt industry is and how pervasive the human tendency for a scarcity mindset is, even throughout the Bible. Also, by that point, I had been well-steeped in what Brueggemann suggests is the antidote to the scarcity mindset: neighborhood. One of Circle of Hope’s greatest gifts to the world is how we believe neighborhood and neighborliness are fundamental to a life of genuine, transformative faith. So before any formal financial planning, I already began to shape an alternative narrative for our lives.

Over the course of three meetings with an Everence financial advisor, we were both surprised by how freeing it felt to face our financial reality. In fact, I left those meetings feeling the way I do when I leave spiritual direction each month. I felt a quiet exhilaration because I was reminded that the script of my life was still unfinished, and not doomed. I felt hopeful.

We experienced healing and felt recreated after setting aside time to talk honestly about our past and current finances in a safe place. Our advisor’s nonjudgmental demeanor helped us open up. We discovered a more nuanced version of our financial history, with its two-steps-forward and- one-step-back pacing, rather than the all-bad, black hole we had expected to peer into. It also surprised us that the experience unlocked some of our deeply held longings and sparked conversations about who we are, what we want, and how we can keep learning to trust in God as we rewrite our story into one about abundance.

Importantly, we emerged from our meetings with a working budget for the first time in our marriage. At our advisor’s suggestion, we designated part of the big white board in our kitchen to our food and household budget, and put the starting amount in the top right corner. Every time one of us spends money on groceries or other household needs, we deduct it from the amount at the top so that we keep track of how much money remains for the month.

I actually felt a little giddy the first time I went grocery shopping, knowing that I would have to write the total spent on that white board. I used to connect “budget” with “limitation,” but once we created the budget, I quickly realized that not having a budget had been overwhelming. The boundaries of the budget freed me to think about what our family liked and needed.

Since our meetings with Everence, we have found space to address things that kept getting pushed to the bottom of our to-do lists. We changed health insurance providers, got rid of our second car, remodeled our shower, significantly de-cluttered our house, and found time for exercise. I even went to a friend’s house to learn how to make a few of our food staples from scratch. And Steven has tackled some home improvement projects in his free time.

Vanessa and her husband learned to see their financial story differently – as a story of abundance.

There are still aspects of our finances that need work. But a year after our first meeting with our Everence advisor, I am amazed at how far we’ve come just by taking one step at a time.

And that reminds me of my favorite part of Randy’s seminar a couple years ago. He reassured us that the journey to shift our mindsets from scarcity to abundance isn’t a one-way journey; we must travel the road again and again. “Our walk is always more complicated than our talk,” he acknowledged. “But keep talking! It influences the walk. And keep walking.”

We have a lot more work to do, but we are at least talking and walking with a more hopeful script in hand. And with a white board budget, which has come to symbolize – to our surprise – possibility rather than failure!

Vanessa, Steve, and their son, Leo, live in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia and are part of Circle of Hope.

Shared by permission of Everence.

 

 

 

***

Donate a skating rink?

Everence Representative Neal Brubaker enjoys a spin through a donated skating rink. (Everence photo.)

Diverse properties turn into charitable gifts

When most of us think of practicing stewardship, we think of giving our money or time. In giving more tangible items, we might think of donating a farm, a home, or perhaps a car.

What about an old skating rink?

Everence receives many different kinds of properties, commodities, investments and other unique items that donors want to use in their stewardship of what they’ve accumulated in their lives.

Late last year, a donor in Kansas gave away a roller skating rink through Everence. The rink was built in 1937 and recently celebrated its 80th year. While it hasn’t been in continual operation, the rink served as a fond recreational outlet for generations of people in the region.

As with any gift of real estate, an Everence representative performs an inspection of the property. When Stewardship Consultant Mitch Stutzman and Everence Representative Neal Brubaker (in photo) arrived at the rink, the donor invited them to slip on some skates and go for a spin around the rink to get the full experience.

The Bible says the Lord loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:11). Neal looks pretty cheerful here!  Everence representatives enjoy helping individuals, congregations and organizations with a range of charitable services.

***

Featured Products

A new Spanish translation of The Forgotten Ways by Alan Hirsch. Powerfully transforming for the church and individuals!

What do you do to keep your Christian life flourishing, no matter the season?