November 12, 2014


 Zion Mennonite Church (Elbing, KS)—like many congregations—usually has a Harvest Mission Festival around this time of year. Traditionally we invited a missionary or service worker to preach and then speak for another session or two about their organization/work/region, ending with a festive meal. We decided to do something different this year.

Realizing we don’t recognize the folks in our congregation who already volunteer at one organization or another in our region, we developed a “home-grown” mission festival. During worship, we invited several to offer brief testimonies of why they had felt called to get involved wherever it is that they’re serving, how it’s changed them, brief stories of those they’ve encountered while serving.

Then we broke for a “mission fair.” We’d invited whoever wished to set up a card table/booth, put up posters, gather promotional literature, set out pictures or videos, dream up a brief activity or game, etc. We hoped 6 or 8 might do this. We ended up with 15 booths, all hosted by our own attendees! Some of these were from organizations already well-known to us (MMN, MDS, the local homeless shelter), but we learned new tidbits about them as well; others were organizations with which most of us were unfamiliar. Some had professional booth displays loaned from organizations; others had roughly drawn posters. Some hosts simply overviewed their work; others invited visitors to join them in their outreach (I’ve always found the best challenges come from our peers, rather than “outside speakers”…).

After an hour or so we regathered for closing worship, praying for each of the organizations we’d just encountered, celebrating the many ways we’re already joining God in mission right within our community… and contemplating how we might extend such efforts.

But that wasn’t all. Since we’re currently promoting the annual collection drive of one of our local food pantries, we decided to use our meal together as another teachable moment… preparing it from the ingredients usually included in a bag of groceries distributed by the food bank: spaghetti pasta and sauce, canned vegetables, instant pudding. If some thought it wasn’t quite as festive as usual, it was still nutritious… and reminded us how our donations place us in solidarity with our neighbors as well.

We won’t do this every year, but it was a good twist on a tradition.

     –submitted by Ray Reimer, Co-Pastor (rreimer76@gmail.com; 316-799-2071)

          Zion Mennonite Church, Elbing, KS

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