By Ann Leaman
Ohio Conference Editor

On March 3 and 4, Howard and Cathy Wagler of Hutchinson, Kansas, were presenters for a missional conference at Zion Mennonite Church in Archbold, focusing on the theme “Befriending the Neighborhood: Am I a Good Neighbor?” Sixty people from around the Ohio Conference participated in this conference. I was one of those 60 people.

During the two days of the missional conference, Howard and Cathy shared many stories of interacting with their neighbors. They focused on the importance of keeping Jesus as Lord, and on discipleship and disciple-making. They also encouraged participants to “pay attention to the people who are where you are.” They gave ample time for participants to share in small-group discussion about these topics.

As I reflect on the missional conference, two words stick in my mind: barnacles and brownies. The Waglers used the visual image of barnacles on a large ship during their discussion, noting, “Spiritual barnacles affect our faith as ocean barnacles impact a ship. They create drag…weigh us down.” As we were invited to name the spiritual barnacles in our lives, I had to acknowledge that one of the barnacles dragging me down is definitely fear. If I were less fearful, I would be reaching out and knowing my neighbors much more.

As part of a challenge to participants, the Waglers passed out boxes of brownie mix to each person and encouraged all of us to bake brownies and share them with our neighbors. They shared “brownie stories” from their experience and the experiences of others. What will happen if all of us who were there follow through and accept this challenge?

Note: Even if you weren’t at the missional conference, you can still learn from Howard and Cathy Wagler. Video recordings of the missional conference are available on the Ohio Conference website:

Ramon Lianez discusses his experience of sharing brownies with a neighbor.