It wasn’t until May of 2009 that we even started to think about what we wanted to do for our summer family vacation. We tossed around some different ideas, but attending a Mennonite Church USA convention wasn’t even on our radar (neither of us attended conventions in high school.)
But, then we came across an article about Jim Wallis speaking at Columbus 2009, and it got us to thinking about what a good experience it would be for all of us. We both had been around Mennonite circles for most of our lives: growing up in Mennonite churches, meeting each other at a Mennonite college, working at Camp Friedenswald (a Mennonite camp in Michigan), attending Mennonite churches in Baltimore, Maryland and Goshen, Indiana. We knew there would be people at convention from different parts of our lives and we looked forward to connecting with them.
We also felt strongly that we wanted our children to identify as a part of the larger Mennonite church; as an interethnic family, we definitely want our children to feel that the church extends beyond our small niche in this world. They already are aware of the Mennonite Church in Indonesia. This seemed like a good way to strengthen their connection with the wider Mennonite Church here in the U.S. So, at the last minute, we registered.
Columbus 2009 was a great experience! We love being in cities, and the setting for the conference was urban, yet felt very safe for our family with young children. We loved that there were always activities going on that we could participate in, but we also found downtime to just be together as a family. There were big sessions to attend, but also smaller groups to fellowship with (Susan attended a gathering of Mennonite Women; Ben attended a dinner hosted by Intercultural Relations; we both attended many smaller seminars.) The kids enjoyed the concerts at night (our oldest really liked Ted & Co) and really formed relationships with the adults and other kids in their activities. We didn’t worry about them at all.
We both like the atmosphere of seminars where you sit with others to learn and toss around ideas, and the convention closing speaker was really inspiring. It’s important to us to see what the Mennonite Church is doing in the world, and with all the programs you really get to see what’s going on in the Mennonite Church as a whole.
We already decided as a family that we are going to Pittsburgh 2011, and look forward to what the next convention has to offer.
Ben, Susan, Ethan, Sammy and Aviva Miller Setiawan — Middlebury, Indiana