Mennonite Church USA (MC USA) honored seven community elders at its 10th Hope for the Future Conference, Feb. 3-5, 2023, in Atlanta, Georgia. Read more about the conference here. See the Hope for the Future photo album here.
Michelle Armster is the executive director of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Central States, as well as an adjunct professor at Bethel College, in North Newton, Kansas. In her work, Armster has focused on anti-racism, conflict transformation and restorative justice in communities and the church. Previously, she served as the director of MCC’s Mennonite Conciliation Service, co-director of MCC’s Office on Justice and Peacebuilding, the co-pastor of St. Andrew United Church of Christ in Lancaster and the associate pastor for community outreach at Blossom Hill Mennonite Church in Lancaster. Armster has served on the board of YWCA Lancaster (Pennsylvania), The SpiritHouse Project, Lancaster Mediation Center and the Lancaster branch of the NAACP. She holds a Master of Divinity from Lancaster Theological Seminary. In 2021, Armster received the MC USA #BringThePeace award. She was a contributing author of “Colorizing Restorative Justice” and a contributor to MC USA’s “Diversity: God’s Design” curriculum. She currently attends Lorraine Avenue Mennonite Church in Wichita, Kansas.
Wilma Bailey, Ph.D.
Wilma A. Bailey, Ph.D., is a retired pastor and professor. She was the first Black woman to be licensed for ministry by Indiana-Michigan Conference and served as the assistant pastor of Grace Chapel Mennonite Church in Saginaw, Michigan; the summer pastor at Lee Heights Community Church in Cleveland, Ohio; and the assistant director of the Black and Urban Leadership Program at Goshen College. She taught at Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania; Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, Indiana; the University of Indianapolis; Franklin (Indiana) College; and Christian Theological Seminary in Sri Lanka. She previously held positions on the board for MCC and MCC U.S. and the board of Eastern Mennonite College (now Eastern Mennonite University), in addition to being a member of the Mennonite Board of Education (now Mennonite Education Agency) and participating as part of the Ministry Credentialing Team of the Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference. Dr. Bailey earned a Bachelor of Science from Hunter and Lehman Colleges in New York City, a Master of Divinity from Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana, and both a Master of Arts and Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. She wrote “The Book of Lamentations” for the Believers Church Bible Commentary, a number of adult Bible study guides published by Herald Press and MennoMedia, and many articles and essays on various topic related to the Hebrew Bible. She attends Shalom Mennonite Church in Indianapolis, Indiana, where she is involved in their anti-racism initiative.
Kim Vu Friesen
Kim Vu Friesen is the president and interim director of Connexions International, a Christian organization that works with international students, scholars and their families to increase their English-language proficiency and help acclimate them to their new culture. Friesen uses her experiences as an immigrant from Vietnam and her language proficiency to help others smoothly transition into life in the U.S. She previously served as a missionary in Taiwan, a mental health therapist at the University of Minnesota, an adjunct professor at Bethel University and North Central University, and a counselor with Minneapolis Public Schools. Friesen has served on the MCC U.S. board, the MCC Central States board, the MCC binational board, the MC USA Executive Board and the MC USA Leadership Discernment Committee. She has a degree in English and library science, as well as a Master of Arts in Counseling. She attends Emmanuel Mennonite Church in Lauderdale, Minnesota.
Marco Güete is the leadership minister of Mosaic Mennonite Conference and the director of Hispanic Ministries for Mennonite Education Agency (MEA). He has spent 40 years working in pastoral ministry and community service, with a focus on leading churches and Hispanic ministries. He has served as the pastor at Community of Faith Mennonite Church in Chicago, the Hispanic ministries program director of the General Conference Mennonite Church, a missionary to his home country of Colombia, director of the Colombia Mennonite Seminary, the associate conference minister of Western District Conference and South Central Mennonite Conference, and the conference minister of South East Mennonite Conference. While serving as the Hispanic ministries program director of the General Conference Mennonite Church, Güete established the Instituto Bíblico Anabautista (IBA, or Anabaptist Biblical Institute). He earned a certificate in Hispanic ministries from Goshen College, a Bachelor of Science in human resource management from Friends University in Wichita, Kansas, and a Master of Arts in Theological Studies in pastoral care and counseling from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, Illinois. Güete coordinates MenoTicias, the Spanish-language digital newsletter of MC USA and Hispanic Ministries of MEA.
Susan Hart is the pastor of Koinonia Indian Mennonite Church, in Clinton, Oklahoma, which is the oldest Indigenous church in the United States and is made up of Cheyenne and Arapaho people. In this position, Hart places a special focus on youth outreach and preserving the generational legacy of the congregation. She is a current member of the MC USA Executive Board. Hart received a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of Oklahoma, in Norman, Oklahoma.
Iris de León-Hartshorn
Iris de León-Hartshorn is the associate executive director of Operations and the director of Human Resources for MC USA. She has spent her career promoting anti-racism and intercultural competency within the church. In her current position, she represents MC USA staff on the denomination’s Leadership Discernment Committee, provides leadership for the Racial Ethnic Council and helps organize the Hope for the Future conference. Prior to her current role, de León-Hartshorn served as the MC USA director of transformative peacemaking, the MC USA director of intercultural ministries, the conference minister of Pacific Northwest Mennonite Conference, the MCC director of peace and justice and as a member of the Mennonite World Conference (MWC) executive committee. She has traveled the world, representing MC USA, MCC and MWC on every inhabited continent, including a trip to Rome to meet with the Pope on behalf of MWC. De León-Hartshorn holds a Master of Arts in conflict transformation and peacebuilding from Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. In 2015, she received the Race, Church and Change award from Luther Seminary, in St. Paul, Minnesota, for her ministry of racial justice and reconciliation, and in 2001, she served as a panelist in the World Council of Churches for the United Nations World Conference Against Racism. She co-wrote “Set Free: A Journey Toward Solidarity Against Racism,” and was a contributing writer to “Buffalo Shout, Salmon Cry: Conversations on Creation, Land Justice, and Life Together” and the “Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery Bible Reflections.” De León-Hartshorn is a member of Portland (Oregon) Mennonite Church.
John Powell is a retired pastor, who led Mennonite and United Church of Christ congregations in Detroit, Michigan; Wichita, Kansas; and Buffalo, New York. He also served as an administrator for Mennonite Board of Missions (a predecessor agency of Mennonite Mission Network), a regional pastor for Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference and an associate professor and director of the pastoral and church ministries program at Houghton College, in Buffalo, New York. Powell has been active in civil rights work for more than 50 years. In 1969, he was appointed as the executive secretary for Minority Ministries Council, which made him the first person of color to serve as an administrator at the national level in the Mennonite Church, where he implemented the first organized anti-racism work in 1970. He also coordinated anti-racism activity at Mennonite Board of Missions. He earned a Bachelor of Science from Tuskegee (Alabama) University and a Master of Urban Planning from the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor. Powell wrote the column “A Voice from the Center” for Mennonite World Review (now Anabaptist World), which was a call for justice for marginalized people and communities. Powell and his wife, Shirley, attend Shalom Community Church, in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Written by Jessica Griggs for Mennonite Church USA.