AMBS honors Kauffmann and Garber Kompaoré with Alumni Ministry and Service Recognition

Published: November 11, 2020

By Marlys Weaver-Stoesz for AMBS

Nancy Kauffmann, D.Min., and Anne Garber Kompaoré, Ph.D., are the 2020 recipients of AMBS’s Alumni Ministry and Service Recognition.
Nancy Kauffmann, D.Min., and Anne Garber Kompaoré, Ph.D., are the 2020 recipients of AMBS’s Alumni Ministry and Service Recognition. (Photos provided)

ELKHART, Indiana (Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary) — Nancy Kauffmann, D.Min., of Goshen, Indiana, and Anne Garber Kompaoré, Ph.D., of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, are the 2020 recipients of Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary’s (AMBS) Alumni Ministry and Service Recognition.

The annual award of the Elkhart, Indiana, seminary honors alumni with an outstanding record of faithful ministry and service. Kauffmann earned a Master of Divinity in Pastoral Counseling in 1982, and Garber Kompaoré earned a Master of Arts: Theological Studies with a concentration in Biblical Studies in 2004.

Alumni Director Janeen Bertsche Johnson (MDiv 1989) noted that Kauffmann is being recognized for her outstanding service as a pastor, conference minister and denominational minister, and Garber Kompaoré for her outstanding service as a Bible translation consultant, linguist, mission worker and teacher. Both recipients credit AMBS for building their theological understanding in ways that have continued to enrich their work and spiritual life.

Nancy Kauffmann

What began as a way to connect with others and enrich her role as a parent became an important step in Kauffmann’s nearly 40 years in ministry.

Kauffmann began her first course at AMBS in 1976 as a stay-at-home mom in Elkhart. She was hooked by that class — Children and the Christian Faith with Bertha Harder — and began taking other evening classes, eventually encouraged by her husband, Joel Kauffmann, to work toward earning a degree.

“The decision to do so touched me at the very core of my being, and while I had no idea what would be possible for me to do with it, it seemed so right to work for the goal of an M.Div. degree,” she said. “I truly believed that if I was following God’s leading in this, then God would make known what would be after graduation.”

Kauffmann said that when she completed her degree in the early 1980s, there were not many women in ministry or churches accepting of women as ministers. However, College Mennonite Church in Goshen called her to ministry, and she joined the pastoral team one year before she graduated. After pastoring at College Mennonite from 1981 to 2000, she served as a conference regional minister for Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference (2000–2009) and as a denominational minister for Mennonite Church USA (2009–2018).

In these roles, Kauffmann supported pastors, congregations and conference leaders, connecting them with each other and with resources across the denomination to help them grow in living out their mission, and walking with them through times of celebration, discernment, challenge and conflict. She accompanied congregations and conferences through leadership transitions — also overseeing the denomination’s pastoral calling system — all the while working diligently to build and strengthen relationships of mutual trust and respect across the church.

Kauffmann said she found growth and support at AMBS both during and after her formal education there.

“At AMBS, I developed a hunger to learn more about the Bible and about God,” she reflected. “AMBS expanded not only my knowledge but also my experience with God. Besides the theological, AMBS promoted hands-on experience within a congregational setting that was so valuable.”

She mentioned two former professors in particular as having made a lasting impression on her for their encouragement and support: Gertrude Roten and Millard Lind.

“I remember during the Hebrew final, Millard went to the back of the room and took a crying infant from a mother to hold so that she could finish the final,” she recalled. “The commitment that he and Gertrude had to future ministers spoke volumes.”

She also noted that AMBS’s annual Pastors and Leaders conference in addition to other events encouraged her in ministry over the years.

In addition to her degree from AMBS, Kauffmann earned a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education with a specialty in Kindergarten from Goshen College in 1973 and a Doctor of Ministry in Pastoral Counseling and Medical Ethics from the School of Theology in Claremont (California), now Claremont School of Theology, in 1996. She has taught courses at Goshen College and Eastern Mennonite Seminary in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

Kauffmann, who still calls College Mennonite her church home, currently serves as president of the board of Dove’s Nest, an Anabaptist nonprofit that works with faith communities to keep children and youth safe from abuse and neglect. She also co-leads boundary trainings for church leaders.

Anne Garber Kompaoré

Born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Garber Kompaoré was exposed to multiple languages at an early age — in particular languages of First Nations peoples — which she believes helped lead to her fascination with languages and other cultures. Serving as a volunteer teacher in Zaïre (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) in 1975–76 with Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission (AIMM) led her to study linguistics with a focus on African languages.

Garber Kompaoré earned a Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics from the University of Ottawa in Canada in 1978, a Master of Arts in Linguistics with a specialization in African linguistics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) in 1980, and a Ph.D. in Linguistics with a specialization in tonology and phonology, also from UIUC, in 1987.

She first attended AMBS in 1981–82 as a requirement before going to Burkina Faso (then known as Upper Volta) to serve with AIMM (via Mennonite Church Canada and the Commission on Overseas Mission). From 1982 to 2011, she served in multiple capacities in Burkina Faso: doing linguistic analysis; developing writing systems for languages; planting churches; and doing a variety of Bible translation work. She first ministered among the Sicite people and later in the broader Burkina Christian community and with Bible translation organizations.

“In addition to offering courses in Old Testament and New Testament, AMBS was a place where I was able to ground my theology as an Anabaptist, with courses on Anabaptist history and justice and peace,” she said. “It is the place where I was initiated to missiology, evangelism, anthropology, Islam and Eastern Christianity, which helped me broaden my view of the world.”

To develop her knowledge of Biblical Hebrew, Garber Kompaoré returned to AMBS in 2000–01 for classes. Willard Swartley, Ph.D., who was then academic dean, encouraged her to pursue a full degree. She completed much of her work at a distance in Burkina Faso and studied on campus again in 2004, earning her M.A.T.S. that year with a thesis on “Discourse Analysis of Directive Texts: The Case of Biblical Law.”

“My AMBS degree was the degree I needed to round out my qualifications as a Bible translation consultant,” she noted, adding that the knowledge she gained at AMBS has given her opportunities “to teach in biblical institutions and interact with fellow Christians, especially on the topic of what to do with enemies. Since Burkina has been grappling with terrorism since 2016, this topic is very relevant at both the family/community level and national level.”

Garber Kompaoré also named memories of learning from Roten, having Erland Waltner as her spiritual director and being part of community life with other students.

Since 2011, she has worked as a freelancer for Commission to Every Nation, serving as a Bible translation consultant, biblical studies instructor, resource developer, and translation trainer for several African countries, as well as India. The resources she has developed have been used by others throughout the Bible translation world. After stints in Côte d’Ivoire, Benin and Nigeria, she has continued to teach in biblical institutions in Burkina.

Garber Kompaoré continues to connect with her Canadian home congregation, Listowel (Ontario) Mennonite Church, which licensed her in 2001 under the auspices of Mennonite Church Eastern Canada as a minister in Bible teaching and translation. She attends and has preached regularly at Eglise de la Mission Apostolique Teedpaosgo-Bethel, the church her husband, Daniel Kompaoré, planted in Ouagadougou.

Sawatzky named as international education liaison for Mission Network–AMBS partnership

Published: October 15, 2020

By Laurie Oswald Robinson

l. to r.): Amos Sobambela; M.N. Madikane; E.S. Simanga; Olga N.N. Dubula; Joe Sawatzky; Reuben Mgodeli; Mavis Tshandu; Miriam Nompumelelo Dokolwana; and Anna Sawatzky sing and dance at Bethany Bible School in Mthatha, South Africa, in May 2009. (Credit: Ryan Miller/MMN)

NEWTON, Kansas, and ELKHART, Indiana (Mennonite Mission Network and Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary) — Theologian Joe Sawatzky says that while serving in South Africa with Mennonite Mission Network, he often learned as much about God from his cross-cultural engagements as he did from textbooks.

It’s the potential for gift sharing across cultures that Sawatzky — a Church Relations representative for Mission Network — is most excited about in his new role as international education liaison for both Mission Network and Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) in Elkhart, Indiana.

In late August 2020, the two organizations finalized a relationship in which Sawatzky will serve one-third of his time with Mission Network alongside AMBS as a consultant to help develop AMBS’s Global Anabaptist Education (GAE) initiative. His efforts will be in conjunction with AMBS and Anabaptist-related educational institutions around the world as part of a partnership recently forged between AMBS and Mennonite World Conference (MWC).

“It’s been a dream of my heart for a long time to walk through a door like this,” Sawatzky said in a recent interview. “The new role promises to integrate my two biggest passions — mission and theological education. I am excited to join with global Anabaptist organizations who want to partner together to further develop Anabaptist theological formation.”

Sawatzky — a doctoral student in theology at University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa — sees this development as opening spaces for prophetic voices to be heard from communities around the world.

“We need to better hear their voices and understand their cultural perspectives. I believe this initiative will deepen the teaching and learning in both directions,” he said.

The partnership is structured so that AMBS students in other countries can be part of the further development of educational opportunities in their lands. One such student is Henok Mekonin of Ethiopia, who is pursuing a Master of Arts: Theology and Peace Studies. Mekonin lends cultural and technological expertise to AMBS professors and Ethiopian students enrolled in AMBS’s Master of Arts: Theology and Global Anabaptism (MATGA) degree, a fully online program.

“So many great leaders, pastors and evangelists are paying a high price to proclaim the gospel on the front lines of evangelism in Ethiopia,” Mekonin wrote in a recent email. “They are already in the field doing this marvelous work. Nothing empowers and encourages me to do more for this initiative than hearing great stories and testimonies from these leaders and pastors about the impact the courses they have taken so far are making in their lives and ministries.”

AMBS alum Patrick Obonde, who graduated this year with a Master of Arts: Theology and Peace Studies, says he found his Anabaptist education at AMBS strong on addressing racism, tribalism, patriarchy, misogyny, injustice, violence, poverty and migration.

“Deeply rooted in spirituality and technical competence training, a student of contextualized Anabaptist education would be aptly equipped to lead the necessary charge for missional leadership in the East and Central Africa region,” he wrote in a recent e-mail.

Sawatzky is primed to help build relationships with partners such as Mekonin and Obonde. Together with local leaders, he will help assess how leadership, technological infrastructure, academic resources, and financial structures in various locations may enable or inhibit viability for an AMBS partnership.

“Joe’s experience in offering theological education in a cross-cultural setting, in tandem with his passion for global church mission, makes him uniquely situated to move this partnership forward,” said AMBS President David Boshart, Ph.D. “I’ve been impressed with his ability to open exploratory conversations with other church leaders.”

Boshart said he is excited about the opportunities of the GAE initiative that the new collaboration between Mission Network and AMBS will make possible.

“There is a tremendous convergence here that feels like the Spirit’s leading,” he said. “We’re especially grateful for Mission Network’s generosity in making this partnership possible financially.”

Sawatzky, who earned a Master of Divinity in Mission and Evangelism from AMBS in 2005, utilized his theological training during his service in South Africa. He served there from 2006 to 2014 with his spouse, Anna, and their children. He was a mission worker/teacher/administrator for Bethany Bible School, based in the city of Mthatha. The itinerant, nonresidential, biblical and theological education program geared toward African Initiated Churches in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa has been a partner of Mission Network since 1982. 

Through fraternal support, occasional workshops, and preaching, Sawatzky also interacted with other Anabaptist-related bodies in the region, such as Grace Community Church (a member of MWC) and the emerging Anabaptist Network in South Africa.

Mike Sherrill (MDiv 1997), Mission Network’s new executive director, said that ministry and education can be great resources to each other. In his former role as Asia director, Sherrill recalled witnessing “a real thirst for Anabaptist theological studies” among Mission Network partners.

“In these days, people are looking for a fresh approach to putting into action God’s love in ways that truly get to the root of the intercultural and interracial issues and injustice that society is facing,” Sherrill said. “People long to see how the gospel can speak to those things, and this partnership could provide examples of that.”

Mission Network leaders perceive Sawatzky’s consultancy for AMBS serving a unity of purpose between the organizations.

“This partnership gives Mission Network an opportunity to add our gifts — including Joe — to the gift-sharing effort,” said Sandy Miller (MDiv 2012), senior executive for Mission Network’s Resourcing and Mobilization division  where Sawatzky serves.

John Lapp (MATS 1988), senior executive for Mission Network’s division of International Partner Engagement, said he believes partnering with AMBS and MWC will better equip Mission Network to continue far beyond “colonialist mission models to partnership in God’s mission around the world.” 

October 2020