Associate Executive Minister Marta Castillo and I traveled to Puerto Rico in mid-March and participated in the Convencion de Iglesias Menonita Evangelicas de Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico Mennonite Conference) as part of a Mosaic Conference Partner in Ministry exploratory trip.
This Convencion has a long and treasured history arising from Mennonite work that continues to this day. Marta and I had the opportunity to lead workshops, preach, and share about the work of Mosaic Conference.
When we arrived in San Juan, we were greeted by Pastor Jose Luis and Sister Linette Vargas. Marta and I stayed in different hosts’ homes in La Plata, the hometown where both my father and my wife, Juanita, grew up.
Early the next morning we made our way along winding, curving, and sometimes horseshoe turning roads, as we drove up to the beautiful, sunny, and breezy town of Barranquitas. Here, the Palo Hincado Church hosted the assembly.
Delegates and visitors from the island gathered. COVID fist bumps, masked-covered smiles, and choruses of “Dios te bendiga, come estas, tanto tiempo” (God bless you, how are you, it’s been so long) filled the little church. Cars piled into the available parking spots and others had to find space where possible.
The sessions were called to order. The Assembly theme, “Haciendo Iglesia en Tiempos Difíciles,” (Doing Church in Difficult Times) was noted and the Exodus text read:
Éxodo 15:2 (NVI) – El SEÑOR es mi fuerza y mi cántico; él es mi salvación. Él es mi Dios, y lo alabaré; es el Dios de mi padre, y lo enalteceré. (Exodus 15:2 – The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him. ESV)
The worship was lively and uplifting; reports of 12 churches were read revealing active, community engaged churches seeking to grow through witness, service, and invitation. Quality, passionate leadership helped guide the work of the Convencion.
Challenging institutional realities were noted by their Conference Related Organizations and Institutions. The challenges at Academia Menonita Betania, a Mennonite K-12 school, are being navigated by competent, committed leaders who along with other organizations/institutions, support the work of the Convencion. Prayers for increased resources and teachers were lifted and continue to be welcomed.
The tasty and delicious Puerto Rican cuisine of arroz con gandules y pollo (yellow rice with peas and chicken) among other dishes, were graciously prepared and served by warm, friendly folks who expressed gratitude for the privilege of serving. As always, no puede faltar el cafecito (we can’t do without the coffee).
As Marta and I shared about Mosaic Conference, Convencion leaders received the affirmation of the assembly to explore the possibilities of a Partner in Ministry relationship between Mosaic and the Conference of Evangelical Mennonite Churches of Puerto Rico in the coming year. We look forward to what the Lord has in store for us as we walk together in this potential partnership.
The climax of the assembly was the Sunday closing worship service held at the Iglesia Menonita de Aibonito (Aibonito Mennonite Church) where Pastor Jose Luis Vargas was installed as the Executive Secretary of the Convencion.
As Mosaic Conference, we’ll keep exploring what partnership possibilities might look like this year and trust that God’s kind and gracious guidance will clarify future possibilities that will continue to bear fruit for advancing God’s mission in the world.
This post is also available in: Español (Spanish)