Friday 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.
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.”
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:
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?
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.