Barbie Fischer has joined Franconia Mennonite Conference staff as communication manager and administration coordinator. Departures by Emily Ralph, associate director of communication, and Gay Brunt Miller, director of administration, paved the way for the new position.
Barbie brings extensive experience in connecting churches to mission and ministries in their communities and globally. She first began working in mission when she was 17, on issues related to child soldiers in Uganda. She continued that work for five years, developing reintegration programs for girl child soldiers, who’d experiences the same training and fighting as the boys, but also had to deal with trafficking and sexual abuse. In that capacity, she connected the nonprofit she helped form with churches in the United States for funding and volunteer support.
She later worked with the Africa Faith and Justice Network in Washington, D.C., a group of Catholic organizations that advocates for policies that will benefit brothers and sisters in Sub-Saharan Africa. While Barbie lived in the D.C. area, she also helped do outreach for an arts-based faith community known as Convergence, running a gallery that was a part of the church building. Part of her role was to find artists whose work, whether explicitly religious or not—provoked conversations about faith and theology. She planned various community events, talkbacks with artists, and documentary screenings.
Barbie was born in Illinois and has lived “a little bit of everywhere” but considers Michigan to be most home; both her parents were raised in Sturgis, Michigan.
Barbie was raised in the Church of Christ, and first recalls encountering Mennonites through trips to Das Essenhaus in Shipshewana, Indiana. She later encountered them again when she was searching for a master’s program in conflict transformation. She found the program at Eastern Mennonite University, which drew her in for its teachings of healing and restoration that she valued from her faith, and a holistic approach she hadn’t found in other contexts.
For Barbie, many aspects of faith she found among Mennonites resonate: she places high value on adult baptism, and the belief that faith is a choice to be made voluntarily. And one of the things she has most valued about her faith journey is community.
“When I read the book of Acts, it wasn’t just a service, it was a community that took care of one another, kind of like a large extended family,” she says.
For several years, while she was in college and living in Lansing, Michigan, she was a part of a house church that for her, embodied that community. She appreciated the way the congregation reached out to the community, partnered with other churches, and the intentionality with which they planned gatherings and worship services.
She also valued being able to wrestle with her own sense of being called to ministry, after growing up in churches that didn’t allow women to lead.
In her work with the Conference, Barbie is looking forward to working with churches to fulfill the mission and vision that Christ has for them. She is most excited, she says, “about helping churches be the best they can be.”
In her free time, Barbie likes to paint and be outside. She is also passionate about issues of prison reform and incarceration, and facilitates victim-offender dialogues for the Pennsylvania Office of Victim Advocates.
She lives in Northwest Philadelphia and has been connecting with Ambler Mennonite Church.