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

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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.

 

New book tells insider story of Amish beard cutters

BreakawayAmish_CMYK July 6, 2016

New book tells insider story of Amish beard cutters
Power, isolation, and manipulation were tools of cult-like leader Sam Mullet

HARRISONBURG, Va., and KITCHENER, Ont.—The strange case of the Amish beard cutters five years ago thrust a normally quiet community into the national spotlight. The bizarre attacks seemed so out of character for a Christian community whose traditions emphasize nonviolence and forgiveness.

JohnnyMast

Johnny Mast

Now, as the fifth anniversary of those attacks approaches, a new book tells the inside story: Breakaway Amish: Growing Up with the Bergholz Beard Cutters by Johnny Mast (written with Shawn Smucker, Herald Press, $15.99 paper). Mast is the grandson of Bishop Sam Mullet, who led the attacks—and who pressured his grandson to participate by cutting his own father’s beard.

The Bergholz Amish community where Johnny Mast grew up in southern Ohio became increasingly isolated from other Amish people as his grandfather Sam Mullet exerted cult-like control, ordering abusive attacks of beard and hair cutting and other punishments, including forcing men to live in chicken coops. Some of the wives of those men moved in with Sam Mullet, who sexually abused them. “Somehow I’m getting a lot of power by committing these sins,” Mullet told Mast after Mast learned of his grandfather’s activities. “I know it’s wrong, but I’m getting a lot of power.”

Members became convinced that cutting their own hair was a sign of repentance and remorse—“a cleansing humiliation and a fresh start,” Mast says. But when that conviction drove them to forcibly cut off the beards of Amish people outside their community, it was more than a strange religious ritual. It was a crime.

Recalling the disturbing events, Mast writes: “I saw images I’d rather forget: Holding my own father’s hair in my hands and cutting off pieces with a scissors. Watching six or seven men wander down toward Sam’s barn, chunks of their hair shaved off, their beards cut straight across with sharp scissors. I remember seeing those disheveled men, skinny from not having eaten, their weird hair and their hats that no longer fit quite right, and thinking they looked like demons.”

The Bergholz community was founded by Sam Mullet and attracted families who preferred the strict Amish way of life practiced there—no indoor plumbing, no tractors, no cars, no radio or television, no cell phones. Life was peaceful until Mullet began using violence and intimidation, along with strange punishments, to control the community. A teenager at the time, Mast lived and worked on his grandfather’s farm. In hindsight, he writes, “What I didn’t realize was how Sam operated: he used knowledge and emotions and sometimes lies to drive a wedge between people. Isolated people, it turns out, are very easy to control.”

Mast asks, “Why would a bunch of grown men allow another man to treat them that way? I can’t say for sure, but I think that for most of us, Bergholz was all we had. Every friend we had in the world lived there, every family member. Sam held the key to all of that.”

He adds, “I think most people stayed in Bergholz because they honestly believed that if they left, they would go to hell when they died.”

Mast’s story is one of redemption and courage. At age 22, he testified against his grandfather and 15 other defendants, many of them his aunts and uncles. They were all found guilty and are serving sentences for their crimes of up to 15 years. Mast left the community—the only world he knew.

Mast reports that Bergholz is still controlled by Sam Mullet, from his prison cell. Mast’s parents remain there, even though Mast’s father was a beard-cutting victim. When Mast left the community, his mother begged him to stay and “try to do everything Sam tells you to do.” His parents have refused to meet his family, Clara and young daughter, Esther Jane. “It would be nice to see my dad again, to be able to have a regular conversation,” Mast says. “But what happened in Bergholz ruined that.”

It did not ruin Mast’s belief in God, however, though he lost interest in belonging to a church. But since the birth of his daughter, Mast is interested in seeking out a new church home at some point. “Everything that happened led me here: to Clara and Esther Jane and a new life,” he writes. “I don’t live with regret. Actually, I have a lot of hope these days. I think it’s going to be a good life.”

Donald B. Kraybill, author of Renegade Amish, writes in the foreword: “Breakaway Amish is a story of human tragedy. It chronicles what happens when men, in the name of God, abuse positions of power to exploit, harm, and denigrate others. It’s an important, cautionary tale, and the rest of us would do well to listen carefully.”

Tom Shachtman, author of Rumspringa: To Be or Not to Be Amish, says of the book, “Seldom do outsiders get such a revealing glimpse of what happens to an isolated group when, as Johnny Mast writes, ‘You learn to ignore the voices in your head that were telling you, This isn’t right. None of this is right.’ An eyewitness account of a leader’s twisted descent into mental hell and of the havoc it can cause among people who only seek to be devout and faithful.”

Mast, 26, works on a construction crew. He and Clara and their daughter live in Ohio.

ShawnSmucker2

Shawn Smucker

Shawn Smucker is the author or coauthor of seven books. He and his wife, Maile, and their children live in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Breakaway Amish is available for $15.99 from Herald Press at 800-245-7894 and www.MennoMedia.org, as well as other websites and local bookstores. The book is being published July 12, 2016.

View a video book trailer for Breakaway Amish.

Kelly Hughes, DeChant-Hughes & Associates Inc.

To set up interviews with the author contact: Kelly Hughes, 312-280-8126, or kelly@dechanthughes.com

High-resolution photos available.

For more information from Herald Press:
Melodie Davis
News manager
MennoMedia
540-574-4874
MelodieD@MennoMedia.org