“What a joy it is for the brothers and sisters [of the Bateke Plateau] to feel themselves a part of the larger Mennonite family,” says Reverend Seraphin Kutumbana of Communauté Mennonite au Congo, a Mennonite World Conference (MWC) member church.
Comite National Inter Mennonite (CONIM) brought together MWC national member churches Communauté Mennonite au Congo, Communauté Evangélique Mennonite, and Communauté des Eglises de Frères Mennonites au Congo for an application to MWC’s COVID-19 task force, from which they received funding for multiple projects of food relief and education.
This aid reached the remote Bateke Plateau where Kutumbana serves six congregations. The COVID-19 funds supported a training on barrier measures, handwashing and distribution of protective equipment.
In May, MWC gathered a task force from Anabaptist mission and service agencies to review proposals for relief funds from MWC member churches in the Global South. Up to November, the MWC COVID-19 Fund has supported 45 humanitarian initiatives carried out by 53 national Anabaptist churches in 28 countries, with a total project value of C$535,021. Donations came from MWC member churches, Anabaptist agencies, the MWC Global Church Sharing Fund, individuals and congregations.
“In partnership with Anabaptist mission and service agencies, through the COVID-19 fund, MWC has not only extended humanitarian assistance, but has stood in prayerful solidarity and fellowship with Anabaptist churches ministering under exceedingly difficult circumstances in vulnerable communities across the Global South,” says task-force member Henk Stenvers.
The task force has supported projects that represented geographic diversity, Anabaptist diversity (Brethren in Christ and Mennonite Brethren), prioritized basic food and hygiene needs and demonstrated inter-Anabaptist collaboration (Mennonite Church Service Fellowship in India).
The task force itself was a support to its members who shared with one another and prayed about their own COVID-19 responses.
“We have been struck by the positive collaboration among Anabaptist churches as they have worked together and supported one another in their COVID-19 responses,” says task-force member Joji Pantoja, a Mennonite Church Canada Witness worker in the Philippines. “It is our ardent hope such collaboration continues.”
“Regardless of how the task force winds down, we would see value in convening regular meetings of Anabaptist mission service agencies for the duration of the pandemic to share how they are continuing to respond across the global Anabaptist church to the humanitarian needs stemming from this pandemic,” says task force member Alain Epp Weaver. These meetings could identify gaps in the global Anabaptist church’s response, strategize how to address them, and spur more inter-agency cooperation.
“We have kept in our prayers the myriad ways that Anabaptist churches globally, animated by God’s Spirit, have responded in faith amid the pandemic’s uncertainties and fear,” says task-force member Siaka Traoré. “Churches share God’s love by offering their resources with vulnerable members of their congregations and their communities. MWC has been privileged to accompany these churches in this outreach.”