‘Listen and learn’ concept key to working togetherBy Sheldon C. Good Mennonite World Review
NEW ORLEANS — As Mennonite Disaster Service winds down its seven-year recovery effort here, it is connecting local Baptist pastors with regional and national Mennonite groups.
Alongside repairing and rebuilding homes, MDS workers and staff have built significant relationships with about a dozen pastors, many of whom participate in two local organizations: Faith Based Consortium and Churches Supporting Churches.
As a result of a retreat held by the Faith Based Consortium and Gulf States Mennonite Conference, the pastors of the consortium and Churches Supporting Churches are asking for a continuing relationship with Mennonites.
“These pastors, who have been through so much, are looking for people to walk alongside them, to support them, to listen to them, to learn from them,” said Leonard Penner, a former MDS community worker for New Orleans.
Penner served with MDS from 2007 to early 2012, living the first year in New Orleans with his wife, Lorena. The rest of the time he worked from his home in Millersburg, Ind., and traveled back and forth to New Orleans.
Penner led a tour May 15-16 to connect some of the local pastors — who shared parts of their faith stories — with representatives of Gulf States Conference, Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Mission Network.
All of the Mennonite groups expressed interest in exploring partnerships with the pastors and the two organizations with which they participate.
The Faith Based Consortium is composed of seven pastors who have connected with MDS for years now. MDS rebuilt homes for two of them. More recently, the pastors asked MDS for leadership training.
With the support of MC USA and Mission Network, Gulf States Conference is exploring how to respond to the consortium’s invitation. One idea is for Gulf States to hold a retreat next year for pastors from the conference and the consortium.
“I was very impressed with the energy and vision of the pastors from the consortium,” said Glenn Myers, chair of the Gulf States Conference Leadership Commission. “I think Gulf States pastors and pastors from the consortium could all learn a lot from each other by sharing their stories.”
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