Friday – Anabaptist Heritage Association Banquet

Florida AHAbanquet 005Friday was a day of quiet anticipation until evening when the AHA Banquet featured “Common Threads: Anabaptist and Enslaved African Songs and Stories of Suffering and Hope” presented by Tony Brown’s voice in song and John Sharp’s voice in prose.  Both told stories of two suffering peoples who reached forward in hope toward victory.  Nine years ago John Sharp brought the lecture at the first banquet that launched the series that continues through the year round work of  those who shared the vision: Lowell and Miriam Nissley, Jewell Shenk, Richard MacMaster, Jean Pfeiffer, Susan Fatsie, and Sara Alice Zimmerly, Gene Yoder, Rhoda and me, and other loyal volunteers and doners who joined the team at times of need.

The AHA Banquet

The AHA Banquet

Rachel and I arrived early at the Bahia Vista Mennonite Fellowship Hall.  I roamed through the crowd as it gathered to greet those whose faces stirred memories. All seats were reserved, but a few people who reserved seats elected to go to one of the competing events that begged for attention that evening. I asked to be seated with Ambrosio and Jenny Encarnacion.  They were the first Hispanic couple to provide a continuing link to the Anglo community.  I recalled a time when the leadership committee struggled over whether to give credentials to a  questionable candidate that Ambrosio declared, “If the Devil repented I’d ordain him.”

Seated:  Ambrosio and Jennie Encarnacion

Seated: Ambrosio and Jennie Encarnacion

Having just visited the far reaches of the Southeast Mennonite Conference, I was stirred by the hope that the mission and vision of AHA could reach each of the thirty congregations of the conference.    I was asked to invite those present to give and pledge in the offering.  I spoke from this script:

A table at the banquet

A table at the banquet

I am told that we are being asked: since the books are written and published, why does AHA need more money? True, the books are here and I am here to sign them.  So why is more money needed?

I offer you several reasons to give to this offering:
1. Do you know that  The AHA is paying for the storage of records.  Money for the payment of this obligation comes from this offering.
2 Do you know that The 2nd Volume of history of our churches came to a sliding stop in 1992.  That is more than 20 years ago.  Twenty years of history has not been recorded.
3.  Did you know that the Berea Mennonite Church has established the Oakleaf Mennonite Farm in the heart of Atlanta, Georgia?
4.   Did you know that the Emmanuel Mennonite Church in Gainesville, Florida is in continuing dialogue with people who are of the Muslim faith?
5.  Did you know the Iglesia Cristiana Ebenezer in Apopka has brought together a church is composed of 8 Spanish nationalities?
6.  Did you know that College Hill Mennonite Church in Tampa sponsors a food bank for its community?
7.  Did you know that the Arca de Salvacion in Fort Myers is building a meeting place that will likely be valued at about 3 million dollars and is preparing undocumented workers to return as church planters in Guatemala?
8.  Did you know that the Homestead Mennonite Church, after being refined by an arsonist’s fire and wind of Hurricane Andrew, is building a congregation from its community that is composed of persons with all shades of color.
9.  Do you know that the Southeast Mennonite Conference is the only conference of MC-USA that is served by a non-white conference minister.
In the past two weeks Rachel and I have visited these churches and interviewed Marco Guete. We witnessed the evidence of their faithfulness, vision and strength.  There are other churches in Dade County, Cape Coral, Sarasota, St. Petersburg, Lakeland and Americus whose histories must be also be  written and published.  Take this as an opportunity to  give forward to the future, for book that is yet to be written.
Write your checks to the Southeast Mennonite Conference with Anabaptist Heritage Association on the memo line. You may do this while Larry Diener plays the piano.  Thank you.

After the offering I asked to be allowed to say:   In case anyone is wondering, I am not the author of the third book.  That person must be prayed out.  The author may be retired and can volunteer time and talent,  or it may be a younger person who may be commissioned to do the research and writing.

About Martin Lehman

I was born 92 years ago, the son of a Mennonite pastor and organic gardener in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. At age 10 I was baptized as a member of the Marion Mennonite Church. I own the "Old Fool" moniker because I want to walk the Jesus Way even though the world and much of the church takes me as a fool for doing so. In my life I have moved from being a young conservative to an elderly radical. I tell that story in My Faith Journey posted on my website.
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