Eastern Mennonite Missions

Mustafa Nuur, representing his cultural exchange startup Bridge, sells Somalian food to Tim Charles at EMM’s 23​rd​ annual Global Fair. Filsan Omar, also from Somalia, assists at the booth. Nuur came to the U.S. as a refugee from Somalia four and a half years ago.


No passport?

No problem.

Eastern Mennonite Missions’ 24th annual Global Fair on Saturday at Hans Herr House promises to take attendees on a cultural journey without ever leaving Lancaster.

The event features performances and food from East and West Africa, Nepal, Latin America, Europe and more.

In addition to soaking up the sights, sounds and flavors, attendees also will have the opportunity to speak with Eastern Mennonite Missions workers to hear about their work aiding communities all over the world. Their efforts have included providing access to clean water, teaching English, building schools and more.

In previous years, Eastern Mennonite Missions organized the Global Fair by geographic regions. This year, however, the fair is organized into four areas: the Global Village, where Eastern Mennonite Missions workers and representatives from other community organizations will post up; the Adventure Zone, featuring a petting zoo and other children’s activities; the World Stage, offering culturally diverse entertainment; and the International Food Court, with more varied offerings than ever before.

Kaylene Derksen, development director at Eastern Mennonite Missions, says the new layout was inspired by the “melting pot” mentality of the modern world.

“The goal this year is not to make global fair neat and tidy and organized; the goal this year is to make global fair perhaps what the world looks like,” Derksen says. “So maybe it’s a little more chaos, maybe it’s a little bit louder, and a little bit more colorful, and it’s a whole lot more fun.”

Derksen says the food court has become one of the fair’s most popular features as the event has evolved.

Each year, she personally looks forward to osh, a meat, veggies and rice dish cooked in a wok over an open fire. The Kyrgyzstani dish is also known as paloo.

“This is a tradition that dates way, way back,” Derksen says. “This is ancient food, practically.”

The food court was started by mission workers who brought back recipes from their trips. As Lancaster County has grown more diverse, so have the food offerings.

Global Fair interaction

David and Grace Shenk, members of Eastern Mennonite Missions’ Christian-Muslim Relations Team, speak with Jim and Rosie Kreider of Quarryville at EMM’s 2018 Global Fair.


“Now that Lancaster has more and more ethnicities represented in the city and around the city, we started asking other people to augment that for us,” Derksen says. “So, this year, we have a complete international food court. It’s the biggest array of international foods I think in 24 years.”

In the family-friendly Adventure Zone, guests can visit with crowd-pleasing Eastland Alpacas. For the first time, Quarryville’s Black Rock Retreat will bring animals from its Nature Center for attendees to hold, including snakes, turtles, lizards, a rabbit and a bird.

The World Stage will feature performances from the Mennonite Children’s Choir of Lancaster, the Harrisburg STEP group, Korean artists, drumming and more.

There also will be a photo booth on site.

The Global Fair draws between 1,200 and 1,500 people annually. Derksen expects attendance this year to push 2,000.

She hopes the event allows for discovery for attendees of all ages, especially those who may not get the opportunity to experience other cultures through vacations.

“A lot of us do get to travel, and that is a privilege, but there are people who don’t get to travel,” Derksen says. “Learning about different cultures and crossing cultures, which is an EMM vision, it’s really important to us.”

Derksen would like to see attendees leave with renewed curiosity and a broader appreciation for diversity in the world.

“It’s not just us,” Derksen says. “It’s a lot of people, and it’s a lot of people doing a lot of different things. And everybody has value.”