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January 1980 · Vol. 9 No. 1 · pp. 11–12 

My Experience as a Member of the Faith and Life Commission

Linda Gerbrandt

In October 1974 at the Southern Conference in Wichita, Kansas, I was voted a member of the Faith and Life Commission of the Southern District Mennonite Brethren Conference. 1 When the letter of nomination arrived earlier, I did not ask to be excused. I felt I had no legitimate excuse for not being willing to serve, for “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might” said the preacher in Ecclesiastes 9:10. I also entertained no expectation of being elected. I asked the Lord to direct. If I should not serve in the commission, he should determine the outcome through the election.

Assuming the task assigned me required a spirit of submission and obedience and a willingness to serve, I prayed that I might maintain a “submissive-role” stance while sitting with my brothers in “authoritative-role” chairs.

It was a unique experience to work together with the six brothers and the district minister. God has endowed these men with gifts of discernment and spiritual insight which has been developed during years of training and experience in the work of the church. I was allowed to think together with them, sharing burdens, problems, and decision-making.

The realization of the weight of responsibilities carried by the commission filled me with a sense of compulsion to dedicate myself to intercessory prayer. God gave me the time and the joy for this service. Every church and every pastor and wife in the Southern District became loving targets of prayer. Every problem and item on the agenda of our meetings became prayer concerns. All the individuals dealt with became personal brothers and sisters whom I could love, plead for, and present in Christ’s name to the Father. I believe that prayer was a vital part of God’s work for our commission. {12}

Often as I traveled alone along the highway to a meeting, God’s presence became peculiarly real. God, through his Spirit, spoke to me of cleansing, forgiveness, and the significance of his Word in his kingdom’s work.

All privileges have responsibilities attached. I had to be present at interviews, visit churches, answer conference questionnaires, and look for articles so that I could read on issues that were concerns in the churches. God gave grace for each task. The energy and the time required did not seem too much. It was a joy to do what I was asked to do, and I wanted to do it with all my might.

Because I was a woman I sometimes felt inhibited in the commission sessions. But there were times that I felt liberty to express what I thought was impressed on me by the Holy Spirit.

In part, this liberty was a precious result of the blessed relationship and the team spirit which God has given to my husband and me as we have worked together in church planting. Since my husband had served on the Faith and Life Commission previously, his support and prayer were a constant encouragement to me.

My brothers in the commission were in a predicament because they were aware of certain tensions in the brotherhood as a result of having a woman on this commission. I especially appreciated the graciousness of one brother who insisted that a woman, too, could be trusted with confidential matters.

In July 1976 my husband and I left for Guadalajara, Mexico, on a Christian Service assignment, which terminated my assignment in the commission. I believe God had a specific purpose for my being on Faith and Life at that time because of some situations to which I could bring empathy and insight. I trust that in the strength of the Lord I made some small contribution to his cause.

REFERENCE

  1. The Faith and Life Commission is the Southern District equivalent of the Boards of Reference and Counsel, which in Mennonite Brethren jurisdictions, are responsible for matters of doctrine and order when the conferences are not in session.
Linda and D. J. Gerbrandt have recently retired in Enid, Oklahoma, after years of pastorates and mission work in Indiahoma, Oklahoma, and in Mexico. In addition to their careers in education (she has taught high school German and Spanish), they have assisted in planting the three Mennonite Brethren churches around Oklahoma City.

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