James Krabill '71 leads a panel discussion about mission and service with fellow alumni (from left) Peter Sensenig '05, Ericka Gingerich '02 and Marvin Lorenzana '10, MDiv '05 during the Oct. 18 undergraduate chapel service. (Photos by Andrew Strack)

From Ecuador to Los Angeles: Centennial Augsburger Lecture Series features alumni with diverse missions experience

When James Krabill thinks about how his many years of global ministry work began, he thinks of “Rebirth,” a group of student-singers from Eastern Mennonite College who went on two national tours in 1970 and 1971.

“We were on tour every night from Boston to the Jesus People in Los Angeles,” he said. “We were a Christian rock band sharing our faith in as diverse a context as you can imagine. You couldn’t just pull some kind of gospel message out of your back pocket. You had to contextualize it, whether you’re in the First Presbyterian Church of Lubbock Texas, or the fire escape on the strip in L.A.”

James Krabill facilitated  panel discussions with EMU alumni who have served in Christian evangelism and mission initiatives in various cultural settings as part of the Oct. 17-18 Augsburger Lecture Series.

Krabill shared this story during a chapel service on Mission and Service Day as part of the 2017 Augsburger Lecture Series. While past lectures have featured one speaker, the Centennial series of Oct. 17-18 called upon several Eastern Mennonite University and Seminary alumni of many generations and diverse ministries to reflect upon their work in evangelism, arts, dialogue, church planting and accompaniment ministries with other churches.

Krabill, senior mission advocate with Mennonite Mission Network (MMN), provided facilitation for three panel discussions and one colloquium lecture over the two-day span. He attended EMC from 1969-71. 

Since 1976, he was worked with MMN as a Bible and church history teacher with African-initiated churches and as global ministries administrator. He is a widely published author and an adjunct professor at both Eastern Mennonite Seminary and Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary.

The annual Augsburger Lectureship was originally funded by President Emeritus Myron S. Augsburger and his wife, Esther, to address “topics in the area of Christian evangelism and mission for the stimulation and development of a vision for evangelism and missions for the EMU community.”

‘Sensitive culture-caring’

During a Tuesday seminary worship service, the first event in the series, Krabill summarized the tension of the church as “living between the reality of the Word and the world.”

“Mission doesn’t always have the best reputation,” he said. “If you ask lots of people, their reputation would be of missionaries or people who ruin culture, and there has been enough in our history as a Christian church to justify those accusations, but there has also been a long history of sensitive culture-caring in the mission movement and some of that would be based on 1 Corinthians 9, where Paul explains his life motto of what it means to him to be communicating the Good News of the Gospel.”

Krabill’s colloquium lecture on Wednesday was titled, “Music is NOT a universal language! Re-tuning our ears to new ‘Mennonite’ sounds,” based on his experience of working with West African communities to collect and compile indigenous hymns that then became helpful literacy materials.

The breadth of knowledge among alumni participants brought several opportunities for engagement with students and the university community, including visits by Peter Sensenig to missiology and formation in ministry classes, and by Leonard Dow to a youth ministry class.

A rotating cast was also featured in two worship services, discussions and lunch talkbacks – one for the seminary community and a second during Mission and Service Day for undergraduates.

From left: Marvin Lorenzana ’10, Ericka Gingerich ’02, Peter Sensenig ’05 and James Krabill ’71 after their Oct. 18 chapel discussion on Mission and Service Day.

All participants joined Krabill for a Tuesday evening panel discussion on the ten characteristics of Anabaptist witness, open to the public.

Alumni speakers

Esther Augsburger ’72 was EMU’s first art graduate and developed the university’s art program at Eastern Mennonite School and Eastern Mennonite University. She has a lifelong commitment of honoring God through her gift of artistry. In 1980-81, she and her husband planted the Washington Community Fellowship in downtown Washington D.C. Read a profile here and about the recent “Guns Into Plowshares” sculpture dedication on campus here.

Leonard Dow ’87, a pastor and businessman, is EMU’s 2017 Distinguished Service Award honoree. He spent 19 years in pastoral leadership with Philadelphia’s Oxford Circle Mennonite Church and 10 years as board chair of its nonprofit offshoot. Dow now works for Everence.

Ericka Gingerich ’02, who earned teaching licensure and a minor in Spanish at EMU, spent two years in Ecuador with her husband David, also a 2002 graduate, on assignment with MMN. They lived one year with an indigenous Quechua community and a second year in the capital of Quito.

Marvin Lorenzana ’10, who also studied at the seminary and is a native of Honduras, has served as a youth pastor, associate pastor, senior pastor and church planter in assignments in Louisiana, Texas, Florida and more recently in Harrisonburg, Virginia. He is director for discipleship initiatives with Mennonite Mission Network, and director of the Mennonite Hispanic Initiative for Virginia Mennonite Missions, working with Hispanic leaders to plan new missional communities.

Peter Sensenig ’05 is a regional interfaith consultant for Mennonite Board East Africa, based in Zanzibar, Tanzania. He teaches and collaborates with citizens of many faith groups in Ethiopia and Somalia as well. He has a Master of Divinity degree at Palmer Theological Seminary at Eastern University and a doctorate from Fuller Theological Seminary.

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