The MDS mission statement identifies our organization as “Anabaptist.” In using that word, at least three broad categories of meaning are present.
The first is historic. Anabaptism traces its origins to the 16th Century reformation, when a group of believers decided to become re-baptized as a sign of their desire to follow Jesus.
The second category of meaning is its theological framework. To be an Anabaptist is to believe certain things.
The third thing some take away from it is that only people who are members of Anabaptist/Mennonite churches can serve with MDS. Not true! But some interpret it that way.
But there is fourth way of understanding what Anabaptism means for MDS. It’s a way that has nothing to do with history, theology or church membership: Values.
He describes Anabaptism this way:
2. Community is the center of our lives.
3. Reconciliation is the center of our work.
Why do I mention this? I saw Becker’s ideas in action when I attended a house dedication in Triton, Newfoundland in October.
When I looked around at the group of local volunteers who built a new house for Diane and Reginald Rice, I could be pretty sure nobody there could say much about historic Anabaptism, or articulate Anabaptist theology.
As for membership in an Anabaptist/Mennonite church, there were only two of us present, and we were both “from away”—myself and Benny Penner of the MDS Atlantic Unit.
And yet, Anabaptist values were there in abundance!
It started with Rodney Gray, the MDS Atlantic Canada Unit member who led the project. A member of an Apostolic church, he has no Mennonite or Anabaptist background. He doesn’t know the history of Anabaptism or its theology.
But if there was ever anyone who expressed the Anabaptist values that Becker described, it is him. You don’t need to spend very long with Rodney to see how important Jesus is to him, and his goal of serving God and being a witness to his faith.
As for community, Rodney understands that, too. With his help, over 60 people in Triton were mobilized as volunteers to rebuild the Rice’s house, which was lost to a fire.
None of these volunteers had any previous MDS experience or had even ever heard of MDS before.
The manner in which Rodney led that project highlighted the work of reconciliation. From the leadership he tapped, to the relationships he nurtured, and to the reconciling of a retired couple to their new home, reconciliation was at the center of that project.
In other words, you don’t need to know about historic Anabaptism, understand Anabaptist theology or belong to an Anabaptist/Mennonite church to be an MDS volunteer. All you need is a commitment to Anabaptist values and a willingness to pick up a hammer—just like the new MDS volunteers in Triton.