ELKHART, Indiana (Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary) — Linda Shelly of Newton, Kansas, Latin America director for Mennonite Mission Network, has been named the recipient of Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary’s Alumni Ministry and Service Recognition for 2016.
The AMBS Alumni Council selected Shelly to receive the award, which recognizes a graduate who has given at least ten years of faithful service to God. Shelly graduated from AMBS in 1989 with a Master of Arts: Peace Studies.
“As we thought about people who have contributed, Linda came to mind as someone who has served long and well,” says Kay Bontrager-Singer of Goshen, Indiana, a member of the Alumni Council.
Shelly grew up in Newton and graduated from Bethel College in North Newton, Kansas, having majored in history, social sciences and liberal arts with an emphasis in Spanish. From 1981 to 1983, she worked with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) in Bolivia in rural education. She lived in Honduras from 1983 to 1987, serving as MCC country representative and in refugee camps, and from 1990 to 1992, working in justice and peace ministry and nurturing a new faith community with the Honduran Mennonite Church. She also worked for a total of 12 years in two different time periods at MCC headquarters in Akron, Pennsylvania, first as a voluntary service worker in Human Resources and then as director for Latin America and the Caribbean.
She moved back to Kansas in 2001 to support her parents during her father’s illness and death, and was called to become Mennonite Mission Network's regional director for Latin America in 2002. In addition to supporting mission workers in Latin America, coordinating programs, and connecting North American and Latin American congregations and conferences, she serves as an advisor to the Movement of Anabaptist Women Doing Theology in Latin America (MTAL) and has helped Mennonite Women USA bring Sister Care training to Latin America with MTAL.
Shelly has been a key person in helping initiate the Global Anabaptist Network of Women Doing Theology, which took root at the Mennonite World Conference assembly in Pennsylvania last year with the hope of strengthening and encouraging Anabaptist women around the world.
In addition to her role with Mission Network, Linda is vice president of the board of directors of Mennonite World Review. In 2002, she received the Journey Award from Everence for her stewardship of gifts and resources. She is a member of First Mennonite Church in Newton, where she has served on the Outreach Commission and in other roles. She also regularly attends Iglesia Menonita Casa Betania, which meets in the same building.
Shelly says she came to AMBS after her first term of service in Honduras, where she worked with the Mennonite Church with refugees from the wars in neighboring El Salvador and Nicaragua.
“Serving in Honduras was very challenging and also was a time of spiritual growth,” she says. “I felt I needed a place to process what I had experienced and do more biblical and theological work to reach clearer understandings and integrate my experiences in Latin America into my faith and life.”
She says she appreciated her professors’ openness in encouraging her to use experiences from Latin America as case studies and as a basis for some of her assignments.
“This helped with integration,” she reflects. “When I returned to Honduras, I took with me key questions from my hermeneutics class like: What did this passage mean to the people who first heard it? What does it mean for people here in this place? What does it call us to do?”
“I think it’s good that AMBS is a place where people can go who are serious about deepening their faith and biblical and theological understandings, even if they aren’t sure where their studies will lead,” she adds. “I would also encourage AMBS to actively work with students in discernment processes towards roles in mission, ministry and broader church service.”
Scott Litwiller, data services manager for the AMBS Development Team, was supervised by Shelly while doing mission work in Colombia from December 2011 through October 2013.
“She has a great passion for Latin America,” he says. “She is very knowledgeable and cares for her workers and the communities they are in.”
Shelly will visit AMBS on Thursday, Nov. 3, to accept the award and speak about her ministry at a lunchtime gathering at the Lambright Center Dining Hall (lunch begins at 11:40; the event runs from 12 to 12:50 p.m.). The public is invited; meals may be reserved by contacting the AMBS receptionist by noon on Tuesday, November 1. Participants may also bring their own lunch or attend without eating lunch.