A way that I believe I experience the Mennonite church in a unique way is that as a person of color, I’m attracted to hearing about the lives of my European Mennonite brothers and sisters. Actually, they make up some of the best conversations and experiences I do have when I attend regional and now this national events. The many I’ve met love the church, love the values it stands for and are very interested in what I may bring to the table by hearing my story and what brings me here. In general, I feel unique in these moments of my experience in this church, and as a result, I’m motivated to serve and give all I can in order to see it grow and become the church that embodies the values of the kingdom.

So, with much anticipation, I attended the seminar Naming and Transforming the Victim Mentality Among European Heritage Mennonites as they shared their stories of struggle, migration, and settlement. It became clear to me how the oral and written history of Mennonites from the 16th century and beyond has and is embodied into the identity of the Mennonites sitting next to me in a very literal & real way. There’s a heavy weight they carry within themselves of the Martyr’s Mirror tradition. At the same time, there’s a silence in their stories because of the trauma and horror their family experienced. And there’s a shadow side as Mennonites were privileged with receiving lands in an unjust manner from indigenous people.

As a result, as I listened to my brothers and sisters of European descent, it was clear that these stories could be powerful enough in bringing in the necessary healing that has been unknown and unresolved. The healing could be the key to unifying them and the modern immigrants that are coming into the church today.

In the safety of a developing convention friendship, I was asked, “why are we talking about this immigration stuff so much… why is it an important issue here?”

Actually, my personal opinion is that until the silence ends and this deep shadow work is undertaken, the modern immigrant movement will continue to be distant to European mennonites. Imagine a whole population that has at a cellular level suppressed and remained innocent of the parts of their story that equally corresponds to the immigrant story of today. I look forward to hearing about more invitations for conversations of this sort so that my brothers and sisters can be healed and hope renewed of the change that is coming.

Janet Treviño-Elizarraraz
Mennocon Commentator