(Appeared first in Mennonite Mission Network’s Beyond Ourselves, February 2011. Shared with permission.)
By Ervin Stutzman
The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.
– Nelson Henderson
I’ve always liked the name of this mission journal, which reminds us of God’s call to reach “beyond ourselves.” In the same way, the foregoing quotation by Nelson Henderson captures the essence of the faithful church in mission. God calls us to think beyond our own life times in order to bring God’s healing and hope to others in the future.
Ever since the 2001 merger of two denominations into Mennonite Church USA, we have focused on ways to become one as a church. We have invested heavily in the transformation of structure and polity. Now is the time to focus on people beyond ourselves, concentrating on the mission to which God has called us. Therefore, we are initiating a prayerful planning process entitled Investing in Hope.
We chose this name because it speaks of a mature approach by which we choose to deliberately share our resources so that others may benefit in the long term. It takes an active, loving approach to a world often gripped by despair. It points toward the future.
In its simplest form, prayerful planning is the effort to supply the right resources to the right people to work on the right tasks in order to advance the purpose and priorities of God’s church. It is an effort to align our actions with our theological commitments. We live most faithfully when our daily practices reflect a consistency between Spirit-led purpose, philosophy, principles and priorities.
Investing in Hope is a call for every member of Mennonite Church USA to move beyond their own comfort zone to bring friendship and God’s hopeful presence to others. These may well be people from a different ethnic group, religious tradition, political viewpoint, or economic class.
Much of the effort we invest in the lives of others may not bring immediate fruit. Yet, God calls us to invest our time, talents and finances in the kingdom of God, trusting that others will reap the fruit of our labor. Let’s “plant trees” for the kingdom of God!