Our church has gone to convention three times and each of those times, we have grown more connected, more excited, and more involved in convention.
When we went to San Jose, we had very little to expect. The only conventions and retreats our church was exposed to were retreats that were organized by our family church and two or three other churches that were near us. So, the first thing that impacted us was to see the vast size of Mennonite’s convention. In terms of attendance size, size of the sanctuaries, and the size of the convention center, it was nothing like we had seen. We kept asking each other, “This ENTIRE convention hall is for the Mennonite convention?” We did not know where to begin or how to fit in. Fortunately, even at our first convention, we had two musicians from our church play and be part of the adult worship team. This gave us a connection and pride that our church was able to contribute a small part to convention.
The second time around, in Columbus, we had a better idea of what to expect and flew even more youth and adults to attend. We were excited about the messages, we were excited about sight-seeing, but we were most excited about seeing people that we had met and interacted with at the last convention. This time around, we had even more people participate. Our youth pastor Rebekka Stutzman gave a seminar, we had three of our church members wearing those great denim vests as volunteers, and some of our youth participated in the service projects. The warmth and interesting views other Mennonite attendees gave us were lessons and messages that taught us a lot in our walk with Christ, and gave us excitement to share our stories.
Pittsburgh provided another level of our involvement with convention. We had the bass player from our youth worship band get to play during a youth service, our whole youth team played during coffeehouse and a special dinner, and more of our youth were interested in helping and interacting with people wherever we went. One of my favorite memories at Pittsburgh was a time when we played in the hotel hallway with other youths from all over the country. It was late night and we were playing music that we liked and everyone was welcome to clap, play, sing, and laugh. Even though this was the first time really meeting each other, convention and Mennonite stories gave us a connection that we could all relate to.
At convention, some things stay the same: the fellowship, the hymnals, Dutch Blitz, the awesome convention hall, and staying up late with old
friends. It is also great that every convention adds a new layer to experience.
But just like our past conventions, we hope that Phoenix brings us new excitement and new energy. We pray for a united heart in learning about God’s kingdom and to explore and grow our faith. We hope that all convention goers can be impacted in the messages, music, and every function convention gives.
For Maranatha, convention will always be a time to grow, reminisce, and unite. We can’t wait.
Eric Rasyidi currently attends Maranatha Christian Fellowship in Northridge, CA. He serves in the church music ministry and is a part of the Pacific Southwest Mennonite Conference Board.