Tag Archives: Finland

Congregational Profile: Finland Mennonite Church

by Andrés Castillo, communication intern

For Finland congregation in Pennsburg, PA, a growing emphasis on “nurturing faith at home” and developing relationships among generations has become a hallmark of their lives together.

In January 2019, Finland collaborated with Spruce Lake Retreat to host the CrossGen conference at Spruce Lake, which included attendees from various Mennonite churches such as Rocky Ridge and Perkiomenville and a couple families who attended Spruce Lake’s family weeks in the past. CrossGen used the space to hold a Q&A panel and other activities that allowed different generations to mingle. The main stage speaker, Sean McDowell, a published apologist and professor at Biola University, shared messages and engaged youth, and many left the conference feeling that allowed them to connect across generations.

The turnout was great, but the lessons Finland learned from the experience were even greater. People were open to mixing intergenerationally, and some even looked forward to it. Through CrossGen, Finland was able to see not only where people stood in their ideas and theology, but that those ideas and theologies are not generation-specific. Another lesson they felt was worth repeating: when communicating faith in Christ, Christians should be humble, loving the person(s) and not merely getting their own arguments across.

Youth Band Leads Worship at CrossGen 2019. (Photo courtesy of Colin Ingram)

Finland sees value in uniting generations, and have made it a common theme in their ministries. They hope to make CrossGen an annual event, but the congregation’s “Gen2Gen nights” have been going strong since before the conference, launching in September 2017.  During these once-a-month church gatherings on Wednesday nights, congregants take time to worship and often participate in humanitarian relief activities, such as preparing supply bags for Ripple in Allentown or Rise Against Hunger. The point of these events is to strengthen family and generational bonds.

Finland also wants its members to nurture faith at home. “We believe God’s intent is not for us to just go to church,” Finland ministry assistant Colin Ingram states. “Deuteronomy 6:5-7 applies to a lot of what we are trying to do here, as it commands us to not only obey, but love God at home and on the go, as well as teach his ways through the generations.”  This happens by equipping parents to pass on the faith to their children, intergenerational and family-oriented programs, and a “prayer partner” program in which youths are assigned a mentor when they reach 6th grade to pray, check in, and walk with them in their faith through high school.

Two congregants serve together at a Gen2Gen night; the congregation is helping prepare a building for a community activities program. (Photo courtesy of Colin Ingram)

Finland has also been holding Finland Faith Week, a week-long version of Vacation Bible School (VBS) held on weeknights for families, couples, and singles, that involves parents as much as it does children and youth. Ingram describes the program as “a combination of VBS, an overall movement of intergenerationality, and the idea of encouraging parents in practicing faith at home.” Finland Faith Week is not just “a day thing for children,” but a time for children and parents to strengthen their faith together, in the context of the whole faith family gathering to grow in Christ.

 Through these different activities, Finland had been reinforcing the idea of not just attending church on Sunday. Their hope to keep CrossGen going year round seems to be realized, and they will be hosting the CrossGen conference again on January 10-12, 2020 at Spruce Lake, featuring Forge America national director Ryan Hairston as the speaker.  As they move forward, they will keep experimenting with and learning about intergenerationality and ways that families can practice loving God at home.

Please pray for Finland …

  • that God would continue to open doors for the gospel to be preached with clarity as we gather and as we go (Colossians 4:2-4)
  • that we would know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge (Ephesians 4: 14-19)

Franconia congregations partner to fight human trafficking

Franconia pastor Josh Meyer sparked conversation at the February 8 delegate gathering when he asked delegates to partner in issues of justice.  Photo by Emily Ralph.
Franconia pastor Josh Meyer sparked conversation at the February 8 delegate gathering when he asked delegates to partner in issues of justice. Photo by Emily Ralph.

by Sheldon C. Good, for Franconia Conference

As debate around human sexuality continues to leave many church leaders wondering what binds together people with diverse beliefs, at least four Franconia Conference congregations are partnering to advocate for basic human rights, declaring that human beings shouldn’t be abused, raped, and sold.

The four Pennsylvania congregations – Doylestown, Finland, Franconia, and Philadelphia Praise Center – independently of each other became aware of the issue of human trafficking, commonly defined as the illegal movement of people, often for the purposes of forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation.

These congregations are each comprised of members with diverse theological perspectives, racial makeup, and socio-economic status, making their shared interest in addressing human trafficking unique and important at a time when conversations around homosexuality have polarized many churches.

Each congregation has taken its own steps toward becoming informed about the impact of human trafficking internationally, nationally, and locally, and toward advocating for victims of human trafficking everywhere.  It wasn’t until recently, however, that leaders from the four churches realized their shared conviction at a seemingly surprising location: a delegate meeting.

In February, as Franconia Conference leaders conducted business and wrestled with questions related to homosexuality, Josh Meyer, associate pastor of Franconia congregation, stood up and appealed to church leaders, “What are the more important matters of justice, mercy and faithfulness that we can gather around?”  For example, Meyer suggested, despite differing opinions about homosexuality, doesn’t everyone agree that human beings shouldn’t be abused, raped, and sold into slavery?

IMG_3560“That was the appeal that sparked a quick, on-the-spot poll of pastors and leaders present to ask, ‘which congregations want to be in conversation on this, want to get together to work on this?’” said Samantha Lioi, Franconia Conference minister of peace and justice.

After the delegate meeting, leaders from the four congregations, plus Lioi, formed an informal task force “to explore what it would look like to work together and make responding to human trafficking a priority in our Conference,” Meyer said. The task force organized a resourcing breakfast focused on human trafficking, held in September, and organized an anti-trafficking workshop to be held during Conference Assembly on November 15. The task force is planning a day of public witness, where people will be invited to gather and pray outside popular trafficking spots in southeastern Pennsylvania.

“Moving forward, we’re excited about making more congregations aware of the issue, and providing practical, tangible ways for churches to respond together,” Meyer said.

The Finland congregation has been addressing human trafficking for several years, hosting local speakers including Debbie Wright, an activist who is producing a documentary about sex trafficking in southeastern Pennsylvania. Pastor Kris Wint first encountered trafficking while in Cambodia. “To do nothing is to keep people enslaved and live contrary to the One we claim to follow,” Wint said.

Franconia congregation has focused a Sunday morning service on trafficking, hosted an awareness night, heard from guest speakers, and provided resources on how to get involved in combatting trafficking.  “My sense is many congregations don’t even realize the extent to which human trafficking is a reality in our world,” Meyer said. “There are more slaves in the world today than at any other time in human history.  Churches need to know about this … My other sense is that many churches are aware of the situation but don’t know what to do in response. It seems like such a big issue; it’s hard to know how to engage. If we can find ways to help churches act in practical, tangible ways, that would be a great thing.”

About three years ago, Doylestown staff members KrisAnne Swartley and Sandy Landes began prayer walking around Hilltown. As they walked, they became aware of area businesses that profit from the sex trade: adult bookstores, strip bars, massage parlors.

“It deeply troubled us, but we weren’t sure what we could do about it, other than continue to pray,” said Swartley, Doylestown’s minister for the missional journey.

Eventually, the Doylestown congregation connected with local advocates: Worthwhile Wear and The Well. With this kind of partnering, Swartley sees advocating for an end to human trafficking as missional.

“Individually, we can do very little to end modern day slavery,” she said. “As we partner together, we can accomplish so much more – each person and congregation offering different gifts as we have them, for this ministry.”

Adrian Suryajaya agrees. Some members of his congregation, Philadelphia Praise Center, have been victims of forced labor and wage theft.

“It is important that we work together on this issue because it is such a big, overwhelming issue to tackle alone,” he said. “We need a lot of resources and teamwork.”

The diversity of the Franconia Conference congregations partnering to end modern day slavery shows this teamwork is already happening. Lioi hopes more join in, and hopes the upcoming conference assembly will provide ample opportunity to do so.

“I don’t know why, but it seems this injustice, this oppression in particular, has drawn a more diverse group of leaders together than any other I have seen,” she said. “I believe we can be publicly present in standing against traffickers and standing with survivors, especially since we have information about places close to our congregations that have been centers for trafficking.”

John M. Drescher, a saint for all seasons

John Drescherby Harvey Yoder

John M. Drescher, 85, passed away on Thursday, July 10 in his home. John was a well-known author, teacher, and pastor in the Mennonite community. He wrote 37 books, pastored a number of Mennonite churches, and served as editor of a church magazine and as a counselor at Quakertown Christian School. John was married to Betty and a member of Finland Mennonite Church.

I just received word Friday that my friend and mentor John Drescher had died early the previous morning.

John would strongly object to my use of the word “saint” in connection with his life. “That word doesn’t even appear in the Bible,” he always insisted, “It’s always ‘saints,’ in the plural. No one can be a saint by himself.”

But John, with his good wife Betty, came close, and yes, always as a part of a committed congregation. I grew to deeply appreciate him during the several years he was a member of the Zion Mennonite Church (in Broadway, Virginia) where I served as pastor for two decades. And Betty was her own special kind of woman—warm, hospitable and never complaining. She did a lot of the typing and proofreading of John’s manuscripts, and he clearly could never have accomplished what he did without her.

With John being the gifted and acclaimed preacher, writer, and editor that he was, I could easily have found it intimidating having him and Betty in the congregation. He was both older and far more experienced that I, having served as a pastor in three congregations, bishop or overseer in three conferences, a one-term moderator of the Mennonite Church in North America, the editor of Gospel Herald, and as a college pastor and seminary teacher at Eastern Mennonite University. But he was always a most loyal and supportive member of our congregation, frequently writing me an affirming note or otherwise taking the time to encourage me.

John was almost surely the most prolific and widely-read Mennonite author ever, having had 37 books and countless articles published, as well as serving as editor of the Gospel Herald (now The Mennonite) for twelve of its most successful years. One book, Seven Things Children Need, sold over 125,000 copies and was translated into over a dozen languages.

Spirit Fruit also went through several printings and was read by thousands, as was his book Why I am a Conscientious Objector. And in addition to all of his work as an author, Drescher wrote scores of articles published in over a hundred magazines, including Christianity Today, Reader’s Digest, and Catholic Digest, and I’m told these have been translated into in at least seventy languages. Can any other Mennonite writer seriously compete with that?

But I will always remember John not just for his greatness, but for his genuineness as a good man of God and a servant of the church. We owe him and his Lord a large debt of gratitude.

John M. Drescher was an ordained leader in Franconia Mennonite Conference. He was the loving husband of Betty Keener Drescher. He is survived by his wife and children, Ron (Inez) of Monterey, Tennessee; Sandy (John) Drescher-Lehman of Green Lane; Rose (Rich) Longacre of Quakertown; Joe (Janice) of Middletown, Connecticut; David (Rhonda) of Morrisville, North Carolina; 14 grandchildren,  nine great-grandchildren; his brother, Luke (June) of Harrisonburg, Virginia; and his sister, Ruth (James) Glick of Kidron, Ohio. John was a member of Finland Mennonite Church.

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, July 26 at 3:30 p.m. at Franconia Mennonite Church (Telford, Pennsylvania). Calling hours will be Friday, July 25 from 6-8 p.m. and Saturday from 1-3 p.m. Memorial contributions in John’s name may be sent to Quakertown Christian School, 50 E. Paletown Rd., Quakertown, PA 18951 or to Finland Mennonite Church, 1750 Ziegler Rd., Pennsburg, PA 18073.

Introducing Finland Mennonite Church

Finland Mennonite Church
Our logo is a representation of our desire to be a people that are looking up, (which is symbolized in the cross shaped leaf stem that is bent upwards), moving forward, and reaching out (which is symbolized in the water ripples being sent out from the cross).

Finland Mennonite Church is the body of 200+ believers that meet for worship together on Ziegler Road in Pennsburg, PA.  The church was established in 1931 as a church plant out of the Franconia Conference Home Missions Program in a building just down the road from our current location.  The church sits at the intersection of several regions and our congregation includes people from many different towns and students from more than four school districts.

The church is led spiritually by lead pastor John Ehst, associate pastor Kris Wint, and the elder team; ministry directors supervise many other aspects of the ministries we provide.  Our mission statement is “Looking Up, Moving Forward, Reaching Out:” looking up, we trust God for salvation, are passionate in our worship, and are confident in prayer; moving forward, we are expecting that our life together in Christ will change us into the character of Jesus and equip us for His service; reaching out, we are compelled by Jesus’ love to reach out to our neighbors and friends with the healing and hope of the Gospel of Christ.

We are dedicated to serving our community through ministries which include a free Coffee Drive-Thru, Laundromat Ministry, Prayer Shawl Ministry, and many others.  Finland is also a part of UPPEN (Upper Perk Prayer Evangelical Network), a group of churches across many denominational backgrounds joining together to reach the community for Christ; we participate in several UPPEN ministries including Adopt-a-Street and Freedom Festival.

Our body is made up of diverse people of all ages, many of whom do not come from a Mennonite background. We’re also dedicated to growing together in community and have active groups that meet for Bible study and fellowship including Moms of Preschoolers Group, Senior Citizens, and many in between.  We have been brought together in this community because the Gospel of Jesus Christ is central to our lives.  It’s the effect of the Gospel that draws us together for energetic worship and authentic fellowship!

Finland invites community to drive-thru

by Rose Longacre, Finland

coffee drive thruIt was a cold morning this week when four members of our church, Finland Mennonite, gathered to set up a table making a free “drive-thru” coffee stand.  As usual, we looked forward to seeing our “regulars” and we prayed for new cars to stop by.  Our normal conversations about sugar or creamer were replaced this particular Wednesday by something much deeper as a woman from the community pulled in, not for coffee or donuts, but asking if we could pray with her.  She had been to our drive-thru in months past but today she was in search of something more.  We prayed for her and cried with her and marveled at how Jesus is able to work through us to bring comfort to others, even through donuts and coffee.

About 3 years ago, when the economy was tough, some of our members at Finland began pondering how our church could reach out to the community and let them know we cared.  On Fachtsnachts Day, while I was on the phone with a friend, she drove by a church where they were handing out doughnuts at the red light. That event sparked a new idea: we could give out free cups of coffee!!!

In April 2010 we began our once-a-month drive thru coffee ministry.  On the Sunday before, we put out a sign saying that there will be a free coffee drive thru from 6:30-8:00 am on the following Wednesday.  Each month since that April, year round, on the third Wednesday of every month, we are outside with free coffee and donuts for all who drive thru during that time.

We have a list of our “regulars” who we know by name and how they take their coffee.  One regular stops by just for a donut, while some bring their own cups to be filled. We have a team of four regular helpers to fill cups, add the cream/sugar, load up the bags and add the donut. Juice boxes are given to families with children.

Helpers are busy behind the scenes as well. The Boys & Girls Club have begun to decorate the bags, which often say, “Have a good day!” or “Smile, God loves you!” Some months we allow our guests to choose from homemade baked items made by congregational members.

In addition, businesses from the community have joined us in our outreach effort. A neighbor who made donuts for Yum Yum’s in Colmar for 40 years began donating two dozen donuts each month—he would come off of his night shift and deliver them to us for our event.  After he became ill and passed away, Yum Yums honored his commitment to serving by continuing to donate 2 dozen donuts each month. One Village Coffee found out about our ministry and has also given us free coffee from time to time.

We average right around 20 individuals each month and almost always have a new one who has seen the sign but never stopped before. We look forward to seeing our regulars each month and catching up on their lives, their grandchildren, their vacations.

It has been a fun way to see who drives by our church and an opportunity to share the love of Christ with our community, invite people to events at our church, and help our neighbors to begin their day with a smile and a warm cup of free coffee.

Thank God for curiosity

Kris Wintby Kris Wint, Finland

I had never fasted before. I had heard about it and even read about it, but, truthfully, I rather enjoy eating and so fasting was not a high priority. My curiosity was triggered, however, when I downloaded a new album from Flame and song eleven, appropriately titled “Daniel 10” opened with a pastor talking about the need for men and women to fast. As I listened to the album more and more, my curiosity grew more and more and my desire to fast grew more and more. But I did nothing.

Several months later our church had a guest speaker and wouldn’t you know it—one of the main messages in his sermon was how fasting had such an amazing impact on his life. This got my attention. Of course, my attention span is not what it should be and so, as the days passed, fasting once again returned to the back burner. About this time, my pastor asked if I would meet him for lunch. We set a date to meet but something came up and we had to cancel.  Back burner again.

Around this time, I was given an iPad for work. So I did what all people do when they first get an iPad: go to the app store and get as many apps as I think I would use. One of these apps was a Bible app. This was great! It had all kinds of Bible translations, reading plans, and other sorts of fancy add-ons. As I was looking through this app, there it was: a 21-day fasting devotion. That was all I needed to see. The next day I started my fast and rescheduled lunch with my pastor.

That night I began the fasting devotion.  It started by having me write down my reason for fasting. My work environment was deteriorating daily and so my main objective in fasting was to know where God wanted me. Each day I worked through the devotion. On the sixth day, I had lunch with my pastor.

He looked right at me and said, “Kris, I feel the Lord has placed it on my heart to encourage you to go to seminary. Have you ever thought about becoming a pastor?”

Wow! Six days into seeking God for direction and he answered!

I called my wife, Ginger, after lunch and told her what happened. We agreed we would look into this and prayerfully consider it. I worked late that night and when I got home, Ginger had a note on my pillow:

Kris, I woke up to pray for you this morning. I was going to ask God to use you where you’re at, but felt he was keeping me from that prayer. Instead, he led me to pray, “God, reveal to Kris today where you want to use him.”

I sat there with tear-filled eyes, overwhelmed. Ok, God. You have my attention. I will follow you down this path. Use me and my family as you will.

And so we did. I entered seminary. In July of 2012 I was called into the pastoral ministry at Finland. What began as curiosity changed the direction of my life—thank God for curiosity. In six days God created the world and in six days he completely recreated mine.

August Ministerial update

Josh Meyer
Josh Meyer

Update from Noah Kolb, Pastor of Ministerial Leadership, on behalf of the Ministerial Committee.

Just two quick updates this month:

  • Kristopher Wint has been called by the Finland congregation to serve as an associate pastor alongside of John Ehst.  He begins full-time in August.
  • Josh Meyer has been called by the Franconia congregation to serve on the pastoral team as pastor of preaching and teaching. He begins full-time in September.

Simple obedience (To Mennonite Blog #10)

John Ruthby John Ruth, Salford

I was baptized after an emotional week of revival meetings with a tearful preacher in an old store-building at the young Finland Mennonite mission in the hills above “The Ridge” nine miles from the Lower Salford farm of my birth.  I was all of eight years old, and in third grade.  Other boys from Salford Mennonite families made fun of me, calling me, “Chun the Baptist.”

When Bishop Arthur Ruth of Line Lexington arrived at Finland for the service, and asked me some introductory questions, I felt I was flunking.  I knew from Sunday School and family worship that we were saved because “Jesus died on the cross,” but I couldn’t answer the bishop’s follow-up question, “How do we know that?”  The bishop helped me out: “The Bible tells us.”

Well, I had known that too.  I had memorized a lot of Bible verses.  And with all my immaturity I now found the church commending me on the solemn “step” I had taken.

This was only one of some questionable actions I would observe my church taking.  So why did I continue to respect it and grow to love it?

I did not rebel when my extra-conscientious parents sent me fifty-five miles west to a two-year-old Mennonite High School at Lancaster (there was no Christopher Dock High School for another decade).  I enjoyed my new Lancaster friends, visited their homes, dated a girl, and even got a “plain coat” for my graduation, like my Lancaster buddies.

While working in 1948-9 to earn money for college, I was asked to teach Sunday school in Conshohocken,  at one of the many new “mission stations” then springing up in the Franconia Conference – many out of lay initiative.  I think my plain coat had caught the attention of the bishops, because they put me in the lot for minister even though I was between my freshman and sophomore years at “EMC.”

Then when the “lot was cast” between me and two other men, both at least twice my age, it fell on me, as it had on even younger fellows like Paul Lederach of Norristown and Al Detweiler of Rockhill.  Alas, I hadn’t yet really begun to think for myself.  But the church had chosen me, and I chose to be chosen ecause in the voice of the church I heard the voice of God.

Sixty-two years later, my respect for the Church of Christ is a key to my Mennonite loyalty.  In its fellowship I found a good wife, and was allowed both to finish college and a Ph.D. program in English at Harvard University, and teach literature for a dozen years at Eastern University.  After that, I had a “second ordination,” again under the leadership of a bishop, Richard Detweiler.  For thirty-five years I have been making films and videos, writing history books, and leading Anabaptist heritage tours in Europe, while serving as an associate pastor for twenty-two years in my beloved congregation at Salford.

I respect the Church because I believe, as Paul wrote in Ephesians 3, that it is the means by which God makes experiencable the mystery of salvation.  Being reconciled to God and each other is what salvation is about.  It is what our church is about. Our first confession of faith (Schleitheim, 1527) is about church, because the way we do church is the evidence of what we believe .  Not complicated doctrine but simple acceptance of this mystery and living by it is what church is about.  Not trying to be “realistic” about politics, war and economics, but simple obedience to the great Pioneer of our reconciliation, is what our church fellowship is, by birth and continuing discernment, about.

When I asked Indonesian members of the Praise Center this summer in Philadelphia why they would want to  be a part of our Conference, they said, “Because you know what it is to be marginal” (i.e., non-conformed to the world).  We don’t find that sense in other potential fellowships.”

“Well,” I said, “what about the fact that we’re pretty much part of the establishment now?”

“Yes,” they replied, “but at least you have the historical memory.”

I know what it feels like to be touched by that Mennonite  memory.  Seventy-four years after my immature baptism, though my church is still imperfect and tempted to imitate instead of obey, its noble birth-message of reconciliation makes it where I want to belong, be accountable, and share the mystery of salvation with a whole new set of neighbors.

Our summer blog series will soon be wrapping up.  Have there been any insights that have touched you, made you think, connected with your experience?  How do you “Mennonite”?  Join the conversation on Facebook & Twitter (#fmclife) or by email.

Who am I?  (To Mennonite Blog #1)
Serving Christ with our heads and hands (To Mennonite Blog #2)
Quiet rebellion against the status quo (To Mennonite Blog #3)
Mennoniting my way (To Mennonite Blog #4)
Generations Mennoniting together (To Mennonite Blog #5)
Body, mind, heart … and feet (To Mennonite Blog #6)
We have much more to offer (To Mennonite Blog #7)
Mennonite community … and community that Mennonites (To Mennonite Blog #8)
Observing together what God is saying and doing (To Mennonite Blog #9)