Mennonite Brethren Missions/Services International (Mennonite Brethren Church)
History and Ownership
Mennonite Brethren Missions/Services International (MBMSI) over its 125-year history has developed through numerous designations and roles within the United States and Canadian Conferences of Mennonite Brethren (MB) Churches. Initially it was simply the "Committee for Gentile Missions" (1885), then the "Committee for Foreign Missions" (1896). The missional identity of the entire conference was evident when its first legal charter was named "The American Mennonite Brethren Mission Union" in 1900. In 1909, that constitution was revised to become the Conference of the Mennonite Brethren Church of North America, within which was the "Directorate of Foreign Missions." In 1936 the same became the "Board of Foreign Missions." In the same year the Board of General Welfare and Public Relations was created to oversee matters relating to relief, peace, and colonization. The Board of Foreign Missions dropped the designation "Foreign" in 1960, and in 1966 the Board of Missions and Services resulted from the merger of the Boards of Missions and General Welfare. The current name was adopted in 1998. Popularly this mission agency of the United States and Canadian MB Church conferences has been known as BOMAS, MBM/S, MBMSI and most recently as MB Mission.
The Krimmer MB Church (KMB), a separate conference which merged with the General Conference of MB Churches in 1960, had its own Foreign Missions Committee which in 1901 was chartered as the Missionary Board of the KMB. Upon the aforementioned merger, this committee ceased operations and the missionaries and fields came under the administration of the MB Board of Missions.
MBMSI was under the single governance of the General Conference of the Mennonite Brethren Churches of North America until divestiture of the same in 2004. From 2005 on it was a bi-national agency under the governance of the MBMSI Board, comprised of equal representation from the US and Canadian Conferences of MB Churches. MBMSI is a not-for-profit corporation registered in California, USA (2000) and in British Colombia, Canada (2010).
Services and Programs
The MB Church was born in mission. Since its formation in the Ukraine in 1860, it has been motivated by the Great Commission of Jesus recorded in Matthew 28 to make disciples of all people groups. The passion of MBMSI has been to respond to people’s needs, to preach the Good News, to see people baptized and to facilitate the formation of vibrant, multiplying churches and conferences.
Today it offers four primary services:
- Mobilization - responsible for engaging people, prayer and resources among MB churches in a transformational way to support long term holistic church planting.
- Training and Team Health - responsible for providing training as well as member care for the missionaries, staff and other members of the organization in support of holistic church planting.
- Church Planting - responsible for developing people and projects that accomplish holistic planting of churches for the purpose of transforming communities among the least reached.
- Mission Capacity Building - responsible for strengthening the mission sending capacity of global MB partner conferences as well as strengthening their holistic church planting and community development work both locally and nationally.
These services have been carried out through the following programs:
- Long-term Missionary – serving successive terms from three to over forty years.
- Christian Service/Global Volunteer/Global Servant – serving with professional skills, often in a supportive role alongside missionary teams, for one to two years.
- Good News Corp/Jornada – a three-year missionary internship for those interested in long-term missionary service.
- Youth Mission International/TREK/ACTION/SOAR – short-term internships for youth and young adults with terms from two weeks to ten months.
- Church Partnership Evangelism/Disciple Making International – two-three week trips of partnering with international believers for evangelistic visitation and discipleship.
Leaders and Locations
|MBMSI Board and Lead Team, 2009
In its lengthy and fruitful history, the many ministries of MBMSI have been serviced by missionaries, volunteers, executives, and statesmen too numerous to mention. Among those most influential in the overall direction of the entire program are the following, along with their terms of service:
- Abram Schellenberg (1896-1909), elder responsible for chairing the first committee and official Union.
- N. N. Hiebert (1898-1936), first missionary to India; first executive secretary for the Board from 1903 to 1936.
- H. W. Lohrenz (1936-1945), secretary responsible for leading new missions into Latin America.
- G. W. Peters (1936-1984), evangelist, educator, administrator, theologian, writer, statesman.
- A. E. Janzen (1945-1953), first general secretary to begin regular supervisory mission field visits.
- J. B. Toews (1953-1963), general secretary responsible for idealizing and implementing the shift of focus from saving souls to establishing national churches.
- Hans Kasdorf (1957-1993), missionary, educator, theologian, writer, board member.
- Victor Adrian (1983-1992), general secretary, responsible for initiating current trend toward internationalization.
- Harold Ens (1992-2004), general director, responsible for leading the transition from undesignated to relational funding of missionaries and projects.
- Randy Friesen (2004-present), executive director, responsible for integration of short-term workers and programs into the larger mission endeavor.
MBMSI missionaries have served in dozens of countries and in a multitude of ministries. At the center of missionary activity have always been ministries of evangelism, discipleship and church planting. These have resulted in national MB church conferences in India (entered 1898), D.R. Congo (adopted 1943), Colombia (1945), Brazil (1945), Peru (1946), Mexico (1950), Japan (1950), Germany (1950), Austria (1952), Paraguay (1955), Panama (1957), Uruguay (1957), Portugal (1984), and Thailand (1991). MBMSI has also played a role in establishing conferences and/or churches in Asia (China, Mongolia, Philippines, Southeast), Africa (Angola, Burkina Faso, Congo Republic, Namibia, South Africa, northern countries), Latin America (Venezuela), and Europe (Spain, Lithuania, Ukraine).
The international office for most of the MBMSI history was located in Hillsboro, Kansas, USA. The previous auxiliary office in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada became the international office in 1983. In 1991 the international office was moved to Fresno, California, even while regional offices were maintained in Hillsboro and Winnipeg. During the 1990s, regional offices were added in Abbotsford, British Columbia and Waterloo, Ontario. Currently (2010) the international office is in Abbotsford and regional offices are located in Winnipeg, Waterloo, Wichita (Kansas), and Fresno. Rationale for these relocations included changes of constituencies, proximity to other conference ministries, legal conveniences and potential of resource mobilization.
Publications and Communications
Early missionary reports and publicity for MBMSI were frequent items in the German periodicals Die Mennonitische Rundschau (1880-2007), Zionsbote (1884-1964) and the KMB Der Wahrheitsfreund (1915-1947). Around mid-century as English became more prominent the periodicals Christian Leader (1936-present), the KMB Christian Witness (1941-1960), and the Mennonite Observer/Mennonite Brethren Herald (1955-present) hosted much of MBMSI publicity. Increasingly in the second half of the century MBMSI took initiatives to publish bulletin inserts, missionary albums, prayer directories, brochures, maps and calendars. In 1985 a regular newsletter, Mennonite Brethren in World Mission, went directly to interested readers and supporters. In 1987 this newsletter developed into a bi-monthly mission’s magazine called Witness which is currently sent to every MB home.
Numerous book-length publications have also been sponsored by MBMSI. These are cited in this article’s bibliography.
Audio-visual communication has also been a frequently used tool of information for MBMSI. In addition to the much-utilized slide and tape presentations of earlier decades, more recently MBMSI has invested in films, shorter video-clips and online communications. Noteworthy is the film about mission to the Wounaan people entitled "People of the River" (1980). In 1995 MBMSI created its first website (www.mbmsi.org) later followed by a special photo site (www.mbmsiphoto.com) and another site housing numerous stories in video (www.mbmsivideo.org).
Developments and Roles
MBMSI played a foundational role in the development of the International Community of MB Churches (ICOMB) by sponsoring the first ever MB Global Consultation in mission in Brazil in 1988. ICOMB formed in 1990 and since this fledgling entity had no staff (or budget,) Harold Ens and MBMSI Staff were crucial in assisting the development (funding) and planning procedures of ICOMB. Today it is the vehicle whereby MB Church Conferences of the world express their partnership in mission and ministry and Randy Friesen sits on the Executive Committee representing MBMSI.
Over the last seven years MBMSI has been in a season of change and growth. The following is a highlight of a few of the transitions that have taken place: new international office in Abbotsford, new leadership team structure including a new General Director, new relational governance model, full implementation of the relational funding model and new incorporation in Canada, alongside a parallel incorporation in the USA.
MBMSI values dependency on Jesus, risk-taking obedience and holistic church planting that transforms community amongst the least reached. They are centered in Anabaptist theology and motivated by Jesus’ commission to make disciples of all nations.
Adrian, Victor, and Donald Loewen, eds. Committed to World Mission: A Focus on International Strategy. Winnipeg and Hillsboro: Kindred Press, 1990.
Burkholder, Byron, ed. They Saw His Glory: Stories of Conversion and Service. Winnipeg and Hillsboro: Kindred Press, 1984.
Esau, Anna Hiebert. The First Sixty Years of Mennonite Brethren Missions. Hillsboro, KS: Mennonite Brethren Board of Foreign Missions, 1954.
Klassen, A. J., ed. The Church in Mission. Fresno, CA: Mennonite Brethren Board of Christian Literature, 1967.
Martens, Phyllis. The Mustard Tree: The Story of Mennonite Brethren Missions. Fresno, CA: Mennonite Brethren Boards of Christian Education and Missions/Services, 1971.
Peters, G. W. Foundations of Mennonite Brethren Missions. Hillsboro and Winnipeg: Kindred Press, 1984.
Peters, G. W. The Growth of Foreign Missions in the Mennonite Brethren Church. Hillsboro, KS: Mennonite Brethren Board of Foreign Missions, 1952.
Plett, C. F. The Story of the Krimmer Mennonite Brethren Church. Hillsboro and Winnipeg: Kindred Press, 1985.
Thiessen, Brad, ed. True Life: First Hand Stories of Mission. Fresno, CA: MBMS International, 2000.
International Office / Western Canada
Address: 302-32025 George Ferguson Way, Abbotsford, BC V2T 2K7
Central Canada Office
Address: 83 Henderson Highway, Winnipeg, MB R2L 1L2
Eastern Canada Office
Address: 236 Victoria Street North, Unit 3B, Kitchener, ON N2H 5C8
Western United States Office
Address: 4867 E. Townsend Avenue, Fresno, CA 93727-5006
Mid-West United States Office
Address: 7348 W. 21 Street, Suite 116, Wichita, KS 67205
Website: MB Mission
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MLA style: Wiens, Victor. "Mennonite Brethren Missions/Services International (Mennonite Brethren Church)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. December 2010. Web. 19 June 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/mennonite_brethren_missions_services_international_mennonite_brethren_church.
APA style: Wiens, Victor. (December 2010). Mennonite Brethren Missions/Services International (Mennonite Brethren Church). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 19 June 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/mennonite_brethren_missions_services_international_mennonite_brethren_church.