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Sawatzky is appointed as the international education liaison for the NetworkAMBS Mission partnership

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(l. to r.): Amos Sobambela; MN Madikane; ES Simanga; Olga NN Shoot; Joe Sawatzky; Ruben Mgodeli; Mavis Tshandu; Miriam Nompumelelo Dokolwana; and Anna Sawatzky sing and dance at the Bethany Bible School in Mthatha, South Africa, in May 2009. (Credit: Ryan Miller / MMN)

By Laurie Oswald Robinson

NEWTON, Kansas and ELKHART, Indiana (Mennonite Mission Network and Mennonite Anabaptist Bible Seminary) – Theologian Joe Sawatzky says that while serving in South Africa with Mennonite Mission Network, he often learned so much about God from his intercultural engagements as he did from textbooks.

It is the potential for gift-sharing across cultures that Sawatzky – a representative of Church Relations for the Mission Network – is most enthusiastic about in his new role as international education liaison for the Mission Network and Mennonite Anabaptist Bible Seminary (AMBS) Elkhart, Indiana.

In late August, the two organizations completed a relationship in which Sawatzky will serve a third of his time with the Mission Network together with AMBS as a consultant to help develop the AMBS Global Anabaptist Education Initiative (GAE). ). His efforts will be in collaboration with AMBS and Anabaptist-affiliated educational institutions worldwide as part of a recently established partnership between AMBS and Mennonite World Conference (MWC).

“It has been a dream of my heart for a long time to walk through a door like this,” Sawatzky said in a recent interview. “The new role promises to integrate my two biggest passions – mission and theological education. I am excited to join global Anabaptist organizations that want to partner together to further develop Anabaptist theological formation. “

Sawatzky – a doctoral student in theology at University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa – sees this development as opening up space for prophetic voices to be heard by communities around the world.

“We need to better hear their voices and understand their cultural perspectives. “I believe that this initiative will deepen teaching and learning in both directions,” he said.

The partnership is structured so that AMBS students in other countries can be part of the further development of educational opportunities in their home countries. Such a student is Enok Mekonin of Ethiopia, who is pursuing a Master of Arts: Theology and Peace Studies. McConnell lends cultural and technological expertise to AMBS professors and Ethiopian students enrolled in the AMBS Master of Arts degree: Theology and Global Anabaptism (MATGA), a fully online program.

“So many great leaders, pastors and evangelists are paying a high price for proclaiming the gospel on the first line of evangelism in Ethiopia,” McConnell wrote in a recent email. “They are already on the ground doing this wonderful job. Nothing empowers me and encourages me to do more for this initiative than to hear great stories and testimonies from these leaders and pastors about the impact the courses they have taken so far are making on their lives and their ministries. “

Shap AMBS Patrick Obonde, who graduated this year with a Master of Arts: Studies in Theology and Peace, says he found his Anabaptist education at AMBS strong in addressing racism, nobility, patriarchy, misogyny, injustice, violence, poverty and migration .

“Deeply rooted in the training of spiritual and technical skills, a contextualized Anabaptist education student would be equipped with the place to direct the necessary workload for missionary leadership in the East and Central Africa region,” he wrote in an e-mail. the last.

Sawatzky is prepared to help build relationships with partners such as McConnell and Obonde. Together with local leaders, he will help assess how leadership, technology infrastructure, academic resources, and financial structures in different countries can enable or hinder the sustainability of an AMBS partnership.

“Joe’s experience in providing theological education in an intercultural environment, together with his passion for the global church mission, makes him unique in advancing this partnership,” said the AMBS President David Boshart, Ph.D. “I was impressed with his ability to open exploratory conversations with other church leaders.”

Boshart said he is excited about the possibilities of the GAE initiative that the new collaboration between the Mission Network and AMBS will make possible.

“There is an extraordinary convergence here that feels like the guiding Spirit,” he said. “We are particularly grateful for the Mission Network’s generosity in making this partnership possible financially.”

Sawatzky, who earned a Master of Deity in Mission and Evangelism from AMBS in 2005, used his theological training during his service in South Africa. He served there from 2006 to 2014 with his wife, Anna, and their children. He was a missionary / teacher / administrator for the Bethany Bible School, based in the city of Mthatha. The traveling, nonresidential, biblical, and theological education program for African Churches Initiated in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa has been a partner of the Mission Network since 1982.

Through fraternal support, occasional workshops, and preaching, Sawatzky also interacted with other Anabaptist-affiliated bodies in the region, such as the Grace Community Church (a member of the MWC) and the Anabaptist Network in South Africa.

Mike Sherrill (MDiv 1997), the new CEO of Mission Network, said ministry and education can be great resources for each other. In his former role as director of Asia, Sherrill recalled seeing a “real thirst for Anabaptist theological studies” among the Mission Network partners.

“These days, people are looking for a new approach to putting God’s love into action in ways that truly reach the root of the intercultural and intergenerational issues and injustices that society is facing,” Sherrill said. “People want to see how the gospel can speak to those things, and this partnership can provide examples of this.”

Mission Network executives perceive Sawatzky’s consultancy for AMBS that serves a unity of purpose among organizations.

“This partnership gives Mission Network an opportunity to add our gifts – including Joe – to the gift-sharing effort,” he said. Sandy Miller (MDiv 2012), senior executive for the Mission Network Resource and Mobilization Division, where Sawatzky serves.

John Lapp (MATS 1988), senior executive of the International Partnership Engagement Mission Network division, said he believes the partnership with AMBS and MWC will better equip the Mission Network to go beyond “colonialist mission models for partnership in the Lord’s mission throughout the world. ”


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