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Meet the Hope for the Future 2023 honorees

The Mennonite Church USA (MC USA) honored seven community elders at its 10th Hope for the Future conference, February 3-5, 2023, in Atlanta, Georgia. Read more about the conference here.

Michael Armster

Michelle Armster is the executive director of the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Central States, as well as an adjunct professor at Bethel College, in North Newton, Kansas. In her work, Armster has focused on anti-racism, conflict transformation, and restorative justice in communities and the church. Previously, she was director of MCC’s Mennonite Conciliation Service, co-director of MCC’s Office on Justice and Peacebuilding, co-pastor of St. Andrew United Church of Christ in Lancaster, and associate pastor for community outreach at Blossom Hill Mennonite Church in Lancaster. Armster has served on the board of YWCA Lancaster (Pennsylvania), The SpiritHouse Project, Lancaster Mediation Center and the Lancaster branch of the NAACP. She holds a Master of Divinity from Lancaster Theological Seminary. In 2021, Armster received the MC USA #BringThePeace award. She was a contributing author on “Colorizing Restorative Justice” and a contributor to MC USA’s “Diversity: God’s Design” curriculum. She currently attends Lorraine Avenue Mennonite Church in Wichita, Kansas.

Wilma Bailey, Ph.D.

Wilma A. Bailey, Ph.D., is a retired pastor and professor. She was the first black woman licensed to minister by the Indiana-Michigan Conference and served as assistant pastor of Grace Chapel Mennonite Church in Saginaw, Michigan; she is the summer pastor of Lee Heights Community Church in Cleveland, Ohio; and the assistant director of the Black and Urban Leadership Program at Goshen College. You have taught at Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania; Christian Theological Seminary of Indianapolis, Indiana; the University of Indianapolis; Franklin College (Indiana); and the Christian Theological Seminary in Sri Lanka. He previously served on the board of directors of MCC and MCC US and on the board of trustees of Eastern Mennonite College (now Eastern Mennonite University), as well as being a member of the Mennonite Board of Education (now Mennonite Education Agency) and participating as part of the Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference Ministry Credentials Group. Dr. Bailey holds a Bachelor of Science from Hunter and Lehman Colleges in New York City, a Master of Divinity from Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana, and both a Master of Arts and Ph.D. of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. She has written “The Book of Lamentations” for Believers Church Bible Commentary, a series of Bible study guides for adults published by Herald Press and MennoMedia, and many articles and essays on various topics related to the Hebrew Bible. She attends Shalom Mennonite Church in Indianapolis, Indiana, where she is involved in their anti-racism initiative.

Kim Vu Friesen

Kim Vu Friesen is the president and acting director of Connexions International, a Christian organization that works with international students, scholars, and their families to improve their English language skills and help them acclimate to their new culture. Friesen uses her experiences as an immigrant from Vietnam and her knowledge of the language to help others make a smooth transition to life in the U.S. Previously served as a missionary in Taiwan, mental health therapist at the University of Minnesota, adjunct professor from Bethel University Central University and advisor to Minneapolis Public Schools. Friesen has served on the MCC USA Board of Directors, the MCC Central States Board of Directors, the MCC Binational Board, the MC USA Executive Committee, and the MC USA Leadership Discernment Committee. She has degrees in English and Library Science, as well as a Master of Arts in Counseling. He attends Emmanuel Mennonite Church in Lauderdale, Minnesota.

Marco Guete

Marco Güete is the Leadership Minister of the Mosaic Mennonite Conference and the Director of Hispanic Ministries for the Mennonite Education Agency (MEA). He has spent 40 years working in pastoral ministry and community service, with a focus on leading churches and Hispanic ministries. Served as pastor at Community of Faith Mennonite Church in Chicago, Hispanic Ministries program director at General Conference Mennonite Church, missionary in his home country of Colombia, director of Colombia Mennonite Seminary, associate conference minister of Western District Conference and South Central Mennonite Conference and the conference minister of the South East Mennonite Conference. While serving as director of the Mennonite Church’s Hispanic Ministries program at the General Conference, Güete founded the Instituto Bíblico Anabautista (IBA, or Anabaptist Biblical Institute). He holds a Certificate in Hispanic Ministries from Goshen College, a Bachelor of Science in Human Resource Management from Friends University in Wichita, Kansas, and a Master of Arts in Theological Studies in pastoral care and counseling from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, Illinois. Güete coordinates MenoTicias, the Spanish-language digital newsletter of MC USA and the Hispanic ministries of the MEA.

Susan Hart

Susan Hart is the pastor of Koinonia Indian Mennonite Church, in Clinton, Oklahoma, which is the oldest indigenous church in the United States and is made up of Cheyenne and Arapaho people. In this position, Hart places special emphasis on raising youth awareness and preserving the generational legacy of the congregation. She is currently a member of the executive committee of MC USA. Hart received a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma.

Iris de Leon-Hartshorn

Iris de León-Hartshorn is the associate executive director of operations and director of human resources for MC USA. She has spent her career promoting anti-racism and intercultural competence within the church. In her current position, she represents MC USA staff on the Denomination’s Leadership Discernment Committee, provides leadership for the Racial Ethnic Council, and helps organize the Hope for the Future conference. Prior to her current role, de León-Hartshorn served as MC USA’s Transformative Peace Director, MC USA’s Intercultural Ministries Director, Conference Minister of the Pacific Northwest Mennonite Conference, MCC Director for Peace and Justice, and as a member of the Executive Committee of the Mennonite World Conference (MWC). She has traveled the world, representing MC USA, MCC and MWC on every inhabited continent, including a trip to Rome to meet the Pope on behalf of MWC. De León-Hartshorn holds a Master of Arts in Conflict Transformation and Peacebuilding from Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. In 2015 she received the Race, Church and Change Award from Luther Seminary, in St. Paul, Minnesota, for her ministry of racial justice and reconciliation, and in 2001 she was a keynote speaker at the World Council of Churches for the United World Conference of Nations against racism. She co-wrote “Set Free: A Journey Toward Solidarity Against Racism” and was a writer on “Buffalo Shout, Salmon Cry: Conversations on Creation, Land Justice, and Life Together” and “Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery Bible Reflections.” De León-Hartshorn is a member of the Portland, Oregon Mennonite Church.

John Powell

John Powell is a retired pastor, who has led Mennonite and United Church of Christ congregations in Detroit, Michigan; Wichita, Kansas; and Buffalo, New York. He has also served as an administrator for the Mennonite Board of Missions (a predecessor agency of the Mennonite Mission Network), a regional pastor for the Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference, and an associate professor and director of pastoral care program and church ministries at Houghton College, Buffalo , New York. Powell has been active in civil rights work for over 50 years. In 1969 he was appointed executive secretary of the Board of Minority Ministries, making him the first black person to serve as a national-level administrator in the Mennonite Church, where he carried out the first organized anti-racism work in 1970. He also coordinated anti-racism activity at the Mennonite Board of Missions. He holds a Bachelor of Science from Tuskegee (Alabama) University and a Masters in Urban Planning from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Powell wrote the “A Voice from the Center” column for Mennonite World Review (now Anabaptist World), which was a call for justice for marginalized people and communities. Powell and his wife, Shirley, attend Shalom Community Church, in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Written by Jessica Griggs for Mennonite Church USA.

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