Reaching Old Colony Mennonites in their Native Language : EMMC presents ‘Christianity Explored'
Evangelical Mennonite Mission Conference (EMMC) presents ‘Christianity Explored’ - a 7-episode evangelistic video series based on Mark's gospel - in Low German
It never ceases to amaze us how God brings people together for His purpose. The EMMC’s connection to the Wallenstein Bible Chapel and Christianity Explored Ministries (CEM) are some of those amazing connections. Wallenstein Bible Chapel (WBC), is located in Southern Ontario, and through a series of circumstances, this English-speaking congregation began a meaningful ministry to Low German speaking Colony Mennonites in the area. For several years, they had been using the Christianity Explored materials to share the gospel with their community in English. The vision to create a resource to reach people with the Gospel in the native language, Plautdietsch, began in 2018. Ron Seabrooke, the Outreach Pastor at WBC shared their experience:
“Over the past decade the Lord has enabled Wallenstein Bible Chapel (wbconline.ca) to have fruitful and significant ministry amongst the Old Colony (OC) Plautdietsch speaking people. Many have been very receptive to the gospel. In spite of an open door for reaching this community, language and literacy are a significant barrier to outreach and discipleship. Many of the adults have poor English skills and there is little material available in their mother tongue. The language is predominantly an aural language.
We tried ordering materials in Low German (Plautdietsch) and English from the Evangelical Mennonite Mission Conference (http://www.emmc.ca/) so that we could utilize the two languages, but we found that even the most literate and determined had to first teach themselves to read Plautdietsch. These materials from EMMC are excellent but in this case we need a tool that uses the language aurally to augment what we have in writing. We believe that a good video series such as “Christianity Explored” dubbed in Plautdietsch, will enhance the ministry immensely.”
When Ron reached out to Christianity Explored Ministries (CEM) in the UK he discovered that translation enquiries were managed by an individual living in Central London, who was also a Canadian and a Mennonite. Louanne Enns, International Operations Manager for CEM, was delighted to grant permissions for the translation and worked with Ron and the production team at Reach Beyond Canada (now ShareWorld Global) on the project.
“I love partnering with Christians all over the world who have a passion to use our CEM resources to share the gospel in their heart language. Every translation project is a joy, but there was always something special about this one. Being Canadian, it was wonderful to be involved in a project in my home country and coming from a Mennonite background made the connection even deeper - but I think the thing that made this project so special was working with Ron Seabrooke. His love for Jesus, his love for reaching his community and his desire to bless other churches was so evident and infectious!”
After the connection with Louanne, Ron reached out to the EMMC and spoke with Lyn Dyck, Executive Director of the EMMC. Lyn recalls:
“I remember the call from Ron. He was a passionate man, with a heart for Colony Low German speaking people. Even though he didn’t speak or understand a word of Low German, he shared of his vision to translate the Christianity Explored videos into Low German. He saw EMMC as a leader in Low German translation, and wondered if we would be interested in being involved, helping translate or lending voices to the project. I said we would absolutely be interested, just let us know how.”
Sadly, Ron passed away very suddenly in October 2019 before the final videos had been completed and with that, the communication with EMMC stopped. Ron is deeply missed by his community and the project was stalled for some time as the team at Wallenstein Bible Chapel grieved Ron's loss and navigated the Covid-19 pandemic. The passion for reaching their community with the gospel did not fade and in 2021 the translators and recording team came together to finish the final voice-overs and complete the Plautdietsch project and the communication with EMMC was re-established.
Beyond the community of Wallenstein, it is estimated that there are 40,000 Low German speaking people in South Central Ontario, more in Western Canada (85,000 in total in Canada) and many thousands in Mexico, Belize, Bolivia, Argentina, Paraguay, Peru, and Brazil (about 300,000 plus worldwide). In line with Ron's original vision for the project, Wallenstein Bible Chapel and CEM reached out to EMMC as they were looking for a ‘home’ for the Low German videos so that other churches and ministries across Canada, the US and Latin America could access the resource free of charge.
Lyn Dyck EMMC recalls:
“I received an email in September of 2021 from Pastor Andreas Dimond, Managing Pastor of WBC letting us know that WBC had finished the project, and now they wanted to find a home for it. Would we be interested in becoming the distributor and promotor of the project. They didn’t want the resource to be only for their church, they wanted it distributed widely! So, we began working together with WBC and CEM to make this happen.”
The Evangelical Mennonite Mission Conference has extensive ministry with Low German speakers in various parts of the world, and carries other Low German resources. The EMMC and CEM are thankful to have been connected through some unique circumstances brought on by a vision began by Ron Seabrooke, and completed by Wallenstein Bible Chapel. EMMC is excited to partner with Christianity Explored Ministries to share these videos with the wider Low German speaking communities across the globe.
This article was originally published in The Recorder Vol 60 No. 2