What does it mean to be God’s family? The Church of the Brethren has committed itself to being transformed completely—as individuals, as congregations, as a denomination—so that we continually grow into the vision of Revelation 7:9. We seek to be separate no more.
The purpose of the Revelations 7:9 Award is to recognize church members and congregations for their contributions to a vision of intercultural ministries in their communities, within the denomination, and in the world at large.
The annual Rev. 7:9 recognition from the Intercultural Ministry was awarded to René Calderon. Originally from Ecuador, he was a member of the denominational staff in former decades and worked on intercultural ministries including support for sanctuary churches and translation of resources into Spanish, among other efforts. Discipleship Ministries co-coordinator Stan Dueck noted that Calderon’s work was carried out during a time when it was politically difficult. He also worked in Puerto Rico for a time, and served as a co-pastor with his wife Karen. The Rev. 7:9 award recipient is selected by the Intercultural Ministries Advisory Committee. The award was given to Calderon in absentia and the unique pottery cup that symbolizes the honor will be sent to him.
“This year we recognize Don and Belita Mitchell. For many of us Don and Belita have been a discipling presence in our midst, from the congregational and district parts of our common life, and in denominational settings.
My own memory of Belita was as moderator, when she reminded us of how Brethren sent missionaries with the waving of white handkerchiefs. She then had scarves of every possible color handed out to the conference and asked them to wave them as a sending for the whole church. This was a clear call to become an intercultural church.
Both Don and Belita have been significant leaders in our midst. Belita has pastored the Imperial Heights congregation and is lead pastor of the Harrisburg First congregation. She has cultivated a leadership team of young and capable ministers. Don, ever the entrepreneur, has been a key leader in the church planting movement, taking part in the New Church Advisory Committee for the denomination, and serving as staff in the Atlantic Northeast district.
In all of their many leadership positions Don and Belita have challenged and called us to hold before ourselves the Revelation 7:9 vision of a church comprised of every nation, tribe, race, and language in the praise of God and Christ the lamb.”
Excerpt from recognition by Josh Brockway
Annual Conference 2017, Grand Rapids, Michigan
Originally from India where he worked with the church for 16 years at the Rural Service Center in Anklesvar, Shantilal P. Bhagat came to the United States to take a position in Elgin in 1968. He served with the General Board for over 30 years, in a variety of roles including Coordinator of Social Services for the Foreign Mission Commission, Community Development Consultant, Asia Representative, United Nations Representative, Global Justice Consultant, Education/Economic Justice Consultant, Staff and then Director of Eco-Justice and Rural/Small Church Concerns. From 1988 to 1997 Brother Shantilal wrote three books, many articles, and several education/resource packets. In 1995, he was presented with a black by the Black Church Committee in appreciation for his editing the resources: Racism and the Church, Overcoming the Idolatry, and Now is the Time to Heal Our Racial Brokenness.
Brother Shantilal currently lives at Hillcrest and continues to be active in the Pacific Southwest District, maintains an active ecumenical correspondence, and advocates for environmental justice and its cross-section with social justice for us all.
2013 – Intercultural Ministries Advisory Committee: Barbara Daté, Thomas Dowdy, Robert Jackson, Gilbert Romero, and Thomas Dowdy
2011 – Sonja Sherfy Griffith
Sonja Griffith, executive minister for Western Plains District, was one of those who helped found the Intercultural Consultation. She was host pastor of the first consultation, held in 1999.
2010 – Carol Yeazell
2009 – Guillermo Encarnación
2008 – Orlando Redekopp and Duane Grady