by Christina Litwiller, Pastor at Salina Mennonite Church, Salina, KS
As I searched the enormous room looking for the circle of chairs labeled H373, I wondered what my assigned friendship group would be like. Upon arrival at my destination, I was greeted by Raja, a pastor from India, and Benjamin, a young adult from Germany who spoke at least four languages. We were soon joined by Ali and Bill from Pennsylvania and Jorge and Anna from Mexico. Next to arrive was Virgo from Indonesia who is currently pastoring in California. Dave, Marlin, and Sara lived nearby and were there just for Tuesday. Louise, Paul, and Dave joined us only on Saturday.
As our time together began, Bill moved to sit next to Jorge so he could translate our conversation into Spanish. Benjamin took the lead, guiding our discussion on walking with God in doubt and conviction, the theme of the day. Subsequent discussions were about walking with God in conflict and reconciliation, in autonomy and community, and in receiving and giving. We told personal stories, talked about our home congregations, stated our opinions, struggled to understand each other, laughed together, and shared prayer requests. We ended each session by joining hands and praying the Lord’s Prayer together, each of us in our own language.
These group discussions, along with conversations at mealtime and during shuttle rides between my hotel and the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center, represent the heart of my experience at Mennonite World Conference (MWC) in Harrisburg last week. I connected with old friends from childhood, college, teaching, working at Provident Bookstore, seminary, pastoring in Kansas, and traveling to Europe and Israel/Palestine. New acquaintances from Canada asked me about the decisions made by Mennonite Church USA in Kansas City. A woman from a German colony in Paraguay marveled that I, a woman, could pastor a church. She talked about the changes in their congregation as they now worshiped one Sunday a month in Spanish instead of German. Our shared convictions of giving glory to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; reading the Bible together; pursuing shalom; worshiping and celebrating together; and being a worldwide family tied us together even as we were aware of differences among us.
My MWC experience also included vibrant worship and singing in many languages, challenging sermons, informative workshops, awe-inspiring art exhibits, a service project of cutting comforter squares, volunteering in the bookstore, and a day trip to Manhattan (the one in New York). You can experience Mennonite World Conference by visiting http://pa2015.mwc-cmm.org. I encourage you to spend an hour or two or twenty viewing pictures, watching videos of the worship services, and reading blogs and articles. This might motivate you to begin planning to attend Mennonite World Conference in Indonesia in 2021. I hope to see you there.