Mauricio Chenlo is denominational minister for church planting, a shared position of Mennonite Mission Network and Mennonite Church USA.
In October 2014, Pastor Hilaire Louis Jean of Church of God, Prince of Peace in Miami, and Andrew Bodden, East Coast Constituency Coordinator for Mennonite Central Committee and Mennonite Mission Network Board member, participated in a workshop on Entrepreneurial Social Initiatives and Church Planting at Jehovah Rohi Church in West Palm Beach, Florida. Afterward they approached me to have a conversation about how we could create a similar experience in a different context.
In early March 2015, I visited pastor Hilaire at Church of God, Prince of Peace and worshipped with his congregation. During lunch we resumed the conversation about a seminar that would center on the theme of initiating Missional Peace Communities in Southern Florida among the Haitian population.
After consulting again with, Andrew Bodden, we set a date for the seminar. It would take place May 15-17, 2015, in the North Miami area. Pastor Hilaire committed to finding a hotel to host the seminar and I committed to work on a content proposal and funding to subsidize the hotel and food costs.
Networking with new racial/ethnic missional groups is one of the strategic goals we have in our church planting work with Mennonite Mission Network and Mennonite Church USA.
Southern Florida is a rich and diverse region with countless ethnic groups all over the place. The Garifuna and the Haitian Mennonite churches are active members of the South East Mennonite Conference. Four of these churches have developed a consistent presence in North Miami and are known for their outreach and missional presence.
We named the seminar The Forgotten Ways (inspired by a well-known book by Alan Hirsch).
Nearly 50 Spirit-filled attendees arrived Friday night after a long week, with expectation and desire for a weekend of fellowship and learning.
Here are some of the weekend’s highlights.
- Worship and fellowship both Friday evening and Saturday.
- I gave a presentation on how Jesus connected with all kinds of people (Zacchaeus, the Samaritan woman, Nicodemus, and others).
- James Krabill gave a great presentation on his journey from an early Amish childhood and his call to serve in Africa. The group really connected with James and enjoyed his singing and dancing abilities.
- Rachel Davies from Raleigh, North Carolina, gave a presentation on how an intercultural group from Raleigh feeds the hungry with re-claimed food from Trader’s Joes. The group welcomed her ideas considering creative and needed ways to connect with hungry neighbors in North Miami.
- Andrew Bodden explained the foundations of his connections in the region and how values and character are key in witnessing the values of Jesus.
We closed our weekend on Sunday morning as we worshipped with the whole community. James preached in French and we danced again his African tune. Pastor Hilaire concluded saying that the event went beyond his expectations.
I praise God for opportunities to build relationships with people and communities that are on the fringes of our church.
They are filled with hope and with the Spirit to work hard at a consistent witness in Southern Florida.