Welcome Neighbor Sign Inspires Thousands

By Steve Carpenter

Have you seen the “Welcome Your Neighbor” sign with its three bright colors in three languages?

There are now more than 100,000 signs in yards and storefronts across the U.S. and Canada. Its message of welcome and hospitality, started by Mennonites in Harrisonburg, VA, has been inspiring thousands. It showed up on HuffPost, NPR, Relevant Magazine, and scores of local news outlets. There was even a news outlet in Spain reporting on the sign’s popularity.

 A United Church of Christ congregation in Lancaster, PA celebrated Pentecost by transformed the image of the signs into doves representing the Holy Spirit’s descent.

  When the Democratic and Republican primaries were just beginning in the summer of 2016, my small congregation, Immanuel Mennonite Church (IMC) in Harrisonburg, Virginia, decided to put up a sign proclaiming our shared value of welcoming foreigners. The wording for the sign came from our pastor Matthew Bucher and it was hand painted by another member of the congregation, Melissa Howard.

IMC’s neighbors speak many languages, but primarily English, Spanish and Arabic. Matthew said, “I hope that the sign is a marker to the community. And, I hope that folks leaving IMC after a service are reminded of who we are to be.”

Mennonites, as followers of Jesus, have traditionally refused to take up arms in self-defense or in national defense. Some have also chosen not to vote, deciding rather to remain separate from the political process. During the 2016 election Pastor Matthew Bucher at IMC, encouraged those in his faith community to put out a “We are glad you’re our neighbor” sign rather than a politically partisan sign. My wife and I put one in our front yard in August, 2016 and its still there.


While some in the U.S. government continue to press to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, fear of immigrants continues. Yet, others refuse to give in to fear but rather reach out in love. Matthew 25:35 reminds us that when we welcome others our heavenly Father will reward us. “I was a stranger and you welcomed me…Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

The sign is now available in 16 different language combinations. All are free to down-load and can be printed locally without infringing on any copyrights. You can also buy these signs and other “Welcome Your Neighbor” products online. Click here to link to the “Welcome Neighbors” site affiliated with Immanuel Mennonite Church, who originated this idea. 

If you have a sign in your yard and a story to tell post it here on the official “Welcome Neighbors Sign” FB page.

In January, 2018, we at MennoMedia will be publishing a Herald Press book on immigration titled Love Undocumented: Risking Trust in a Fearful World, by Sarah Quezada. We hope to encourage people to look beyond their fears and respond to immigrants, even undocumented ones, with love.

Blessings in your work, worship and witness,

Steve Carpenter
Director of Development and Church Relations

David Shenk’s book shared with Islamic leaders by Emily Jones, Eastern Mennonite Missions

Last year, an Eastern Mennonite Missions (EMM) team that works in Christian-Muslim relations was invited to hold the only booth representing a Jesus-following witness at America’s largest yearly gathering of Muslims.

And this year, EMM’s Christian/Muslim Relations Team (CMRT) was invited back to the Islamic Society of North America’s (ISNA’s) annual convention—this time with a special request.

Dr. Sayyid Syeed, the recently-retired national director of ISNA’s Office of Interfaith and Community Alliances, suggested that the team return with 3–4,000 free copies of A Muslim and a Christian in Dialogue, a book co-authored by CMRT founder David W. Shenk and his Muslim colleague Badru D. Kateregga in 1980.

David Shenk, Sayyid Syeed & Andres Prins

Syeed hoped the book could be given to a significant number of the projected 20,000 people who would attend the convention.

“​As Muslims, we believe what the Quran (3:113) teaches us about believing Christians and requires us to look for those Christians whose lives are true representatives of those values. I have known and respected Dr. Shenk and his team, who are wholeheartedly dedicated in building bridges of understanding between Muslims and Christians,” said Syeed. “This year I invited Dr. Shenk to bring his wonderful book and offer it as a gift to hundreds of participants at our 54th annual convention in Chicago.”

In response to Syeed’s request, the book’s publisher, Herald Press, offered a bulk order of the books at one-third of the original price.

“It’s great to work on a project like this where there is direct ministry impact,” said Joe Questel, director of Sales and Marketing at Herald Press. “The challenge for us was to be able to supply (the books) at a price that would allow (the team) to afford that many, and to do it in a very tight time frame. We had done this once before on a smaller buy, so we had a great working relationship in place to be able to scale up for this opportunity.”

“I was very impressed … with how quickly they raised the funds,” added Questel.

Community members gave toward the bulk purchase through an online fundraiser held by EMM.

The CMRT was able to arrive at the June 30–July 3 convention with 2,500 Christian-Muslim dialogue books in tow.

“It was really a step of faith to carry all those books in,” said the book’s co-author and CMRT member Shenk, who made his first appearance at the convention this year.

His teammate Andres Prins agreed. “We were in a sea of booths, and I had little faith that the 2,500 books would all be taken by people who happened to pass by our booth,” he said. The CMRT’s booth was one of over 400 stands representing various Muslim-oriented organizations.

To the team members’ delight, however, the book was specially promoted throughout the convention. Syeed, this year’s ISNA Community Service Recognition Award winner, even mentioned the book’s importance in his acceptance speech.

Throughout the convention, the CMRT distributed all but 300 copies of A Muslim and a Christian in Dialogue, each containing a welcoming and explanatory letter from authors Kateregga and Shenk.

Syeed said the book was a valued gift at the convention. “Our people appreciated this kind gesture and cherished (Shenk’s) book as a powerful tool for advancing better understanding and partnership between the two faith communities. We will continue to build solidarity against destructive hate and mutual demonization, and devote our resources to shaping a world of love and mutual respect,” he said.

One of Shenk’s favorite moments at the convention occurred when an attendee said his 12-year-old son had picked up a copy of the book the day before and read it for hours late into the night. “That showed that the book is written with the simplicity that allows a 12-year-old to find it interesting,” said Shenk.

The book has 12 chapters by Kateregga sharing a Muslim witness, followed by Shenk’s twelve chapters sharing a Christian witness. Shenk said his and Kateregga’s goal in writing the book was to represent each faith as accurately as possible.

“There are so many misunderstandings. This book has a commitment to faiths being communicated faithfully and understandably,” he said.

The CMRT felt that their book, and their presence, received a warm welcome at the convention.

“The hospitality was amazing! We felt so welcomed. People would ask what the books were about, and we had wonderful conversations,” said David Shenk’s wife Grace Shenk, another CMRT member.

One such conversation involved a sincere attempt to convert Grace Shenk to Islam. A visitor to the CMRT’s booth quoted numerous biblical proof-texts to convince her that Christianity didn’t make sense. She assured the man that her faith fully satisfied her.

Jonathan Bornman, another member of the CMRT, said the ISNA Convention makes space for difficult conversations like these. He’s observed that many Christians are very hesitant to have their faith challenged or to face difficult questions when interacting with Muslims.

Whether easy or challenging, Prins found each conversation he had at the convention to be enriching. “Attending events like this ISNA Convention, experiencing once again the generous reception of our Muslim hosts and their sincere questions regarding the gospel and concern for better relations, convinces me more than ever that these encounters are ones that all Christ-followers should be actively seeking out,” he said.

Spanish Adult Bible Study materials contextualized for Spanish congregations; Rafael Barahona inicia ciclo como editor de EBA

News release

rafaelbarahona

Rafael BarahonaNews release

September 21, 2016

Rafael Barahona begins as EBA editor
Spanish Adult Bible Study materials contextualized for Spanish congregations

HARRISONBURG, Va., and KITCHENER, Ont.—Rafael Barahona will serve as the editor of Estudios Bíblicos para Adultos (EBA) beginning with this winter’s quarter.

As editor, Barahona will contextualize Adult Bible Study (ABS), the adult Sunday school curriculum from MennoMedia, to make it more relevant for Spanish-speaking congregations.

Barahona has been involved with EBA since its beginning, when he helped to introduce it to Spanish-speaking pastors through his work with Mennonite Education Agency. He worked to promote it in other venues as well, as he worked with leaders throughout Mennonite Church USA.

“My prayer and desire has been to find a bilingual editor for EBA, someone who could help us contextualize ABS for our Spanish-speaking sisters and brothers,” said ABS editor Sharon Williams. “Rafael will help us move the Bible study curriculum to a new level of relevancy, connecting our Anabaptist theology to contemporary Hispanic ministry and mission.”

ABS is written by pastors, educators, and Bible teachers from across Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada. Ruhama Pedroza, a Mennonite leader in Mexico, translates ABS into Spanish. Peter Rempel Enns, a Mennonite mission worker in Mexico, distributes EBA to Mexican Mennonite congregations. Barahona will work with this translation to make it suitable for Spanish-speaking congregations in the United States and Canada.

EBA student and teacher’s guides are available as a downloadable curriculum for $17.15 per quarter. To request a free PDF sample in Spanish, call Lucia Martinez at 570-574-3934. To order, visit www.mennomedia.org or contact customer service at 1-800-245-7894.

MennoMedia Staff
High resolution photo available.

For more information on news release

Melodie Davis
News manager
MennoMedia
540-574-4874
MelodieD@mennomedia.org

Español

Comunicado de prensa
21 de septiembre de 2016

Rafael Barahona inicia ciclo como editor de EBA

Los materiales de la serie Estudios Bíblicos Para Adultos será contextualizado para el contexto de las iglesias hispanas

HARRISONBURG, Va., y KITCHENER, Ont. —Rafael Barahona será el editor de la serie Estudios Bíblicos para Adultos (EBA) iniciando el próximo trimestre de invierno.

Como editor, Barahona contextualizará la versión en inglés de Adult Bible Study (ABS), el programa de escuela dominical para adultos de MennoMedia, para hacerlo más relevante a los congregantes hispanos.

Basic CMYKBarahona ha estado involucrado con EBA desde su creación, cuando lo presentó a pastores hispanos cuando laboraba en la Agencia Menonita de Educación. También se esforzó para promoverlo en otros canales mientras trabajaba con líderes en la Iglesia Menonita de EEUU.

“Ha sido mi oración y deseo que pudiera encontrar un editor bilingüe para EBA, alguien que pudiera contextualizar ABS para nuestros hermanos y hermanas hispanohablantes,” dijo Sharon Williams, editora de ABS. “Rafael nos ayudará a potenciar el programa de estudios bíblicos y llevarlo a otro nivel de relevancia para conectar nuestra teología anabautista con la misión y ministerios hispanos contemporáneos”.

ABS fue escrita por pastores, educadores, y profesores de Biblia de la Iglesia Menonita de EEUU. y de la Iglesia Menonita de Canadá. Ruhama Pedroza, una líder de México, traduce ABS al castellano. Peter Rempel Enns, un misionero menonita en México, distribuye EBA a las iglesias menonitas mexicanas. Barahona usará la versión traducida para contextualizarla para las iglesias hispanohablantes de Estados Unidos y Canadá.

Las guías de estudio para instructores y alumnos están disponibles para su descarga por $17.15/trimestre.  Si desea solicitar una muestra en PDF en español, llame a Lucía Martínez al 570-574-3934. Para hacer su pedido visite www.mennomedia.org o llame a nuestra línea de servicio al cliente al 1-800-245-7894.

Personal de MennoMedia
Foto de alta resolución disponible.