The Free Christian Churches of Lithuania, a small conference of seven church plants, will be welcomed into the International Community of Mennonite Brethren (ICOMB) in May.
The official welcome takes place at ICOMB summit in Luanda, Angola.
“They want to be part of the global MB family because they share the theological convictions in our confession of faith,” says ICOMB executive director David Wiebe.
“They absolutely want to be a peace church. The Anabaptist peace position is very important to them—it has been embedded in their faith from day one.”
As part of the two-year membership process, Wiebe visited the churches in April 2012 and November 2013 and the churches sent representatives to ICOMB annual meetings.
Wiebe says the 200 people in the Free Christian Church congregations are mainly young families who have a passion to live what they believe and share their faith with others.
After decades of living under communism and official atheism these congregations are among the many Lithuanians who are embracing new freedoms to start churches, worship together and become involved in outreach ministries.
Wiebe says he is inspired and encouraged by how Lithuanians live their Christian faith in a country known for its high rate of suicides, struggling economy, rising number of orphaned and abandoned children and growing problems related to alcohol abuse.
“These small churches of about 40 to 50 people are reaching out to the community through youth programs and summer camps,” says Wiebe. “One church has a daycare for at risk kids.”
“God’s spirit is always moving. It is young people who are finding direction in the middle of a chaotic life through Christ.”
Over the years, the churches have received spiritual development training and support from Mennonite families in Lithuania, MB Missions, Eastern Mennonite Missions, Mennonite churches in Germany and many individuals from Canada and the U.S.
A unifying influence has been LCC International University in the city of Klaipeda. The college was established in 1991 as the Lithuania Christian Fund College by Art DeFehr of River East MB Church in Winnipeg, Otonas Balciunas of Lithuania and Johannes Reimer of Germany.
According to the college’s website, it is the only Christian liberal arts university in the former Soviet Union. About 50 percent of the college’s 600 students are from Lithuania. One-third of faculty are Lithuanian while two-thirds are from Western Europe, Canada and the U.S.
Wiebe says friendships developed through the college created an interest for the Free Christian Churches of Lithuania to learn more about the Mennonite faith and join the MB global family.
“The university is a place where many have found faith in Christ and grown in their faith,” says Wiebe.
Gladys Terichow is the staff writer for the Canadian Conference of MB Churches