12. Thank God for mentors

Ted Grimsrud—Purpose vol. 44, no. 8 (August 2011), p. 28.

A crucial time in my life came back now about thirty years ago when my wife Kathleen and I decided to throw our lot in with the Mennonites.

We returned home from a wonderful year in Elkhart, Indiana, attending Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary. Our AMBS time confirmed and deepened several of our important convictions. We knew we wanted to devote our lives to peace work, and we needed a supportive faith community for this work. We knew we wanted the message of Jesus to be the center of this work.

What we didn’t know was how we would actually be able to practice our convictions. We didn’t know many Mennonites. We did have one Mennonite friend back home—Harold Hochstetler, pastor of the small congregation in our hometown. We had only visited the congregation before attending AMBS, but knew we wanted to plug in when we got back.

Harold right away introduced us to a second person who would also become a close friend, Lois Kenagy, chair of the Pacific Coast Conference Peace and Justice Committee.

These two friends became our mentors.

Harold answered our oh so numerous questions about Mennonite history, Anabaptist theology, the Mennonite peace position, the dynamics of Pacific Northwest Mennonites, and so on. He modeled a gentle piety, deep-seated convictions about the gospel embodied in generosity, challenges to injustice, and hospitality.

Lois also answered similar questions. Even more she took us on the road—to congregations, peace rallies, small group conversations. We thought together how the church might best witness to the peace of Christ in a warring world.

All these years later, I can’t imagine a better avenue into what has become my life’s vocation as a Mennonite pastor/scholar/peace activist.

What kinds of mentors were Harold and Lois? Most of all, they showed us respect. They listened to our questions, never making us feel like we were too stupid or too inquisitive. They were honest and self-revelatory. Both of them combined deep commitments to the church with even deeper commitments to the gospel of peace. So they could indeed be critical of the church (this was, and remains, crucial for me as part of authentic faith)—but always from the inside, with concern not to overthrow but to reform.

The best kind of mentors show love—love certainly for the one being mentored, but also love for the tradition and ideals of the path they walk with their mentees.

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