Tag Archives: Noel Santiago

Doing Kingdom Work

By Noel Santiago

Hope for the Future is a unique gathering in that it brings together leaders of color and white leaders who work and serve in MCUSA agencies, institutions and organizations, to intentionally focus the work of intercultural transformation in the church. While it’s primarily focused on the agencies, institutions and organizations of MCUSA, the hope is to eventually impact all parts of the church. This gathering grew out of needs being felt by people of color in church-wide leadership positions who continually encounter systemic racism in a multiplicity of ways.

Franconia Conference leaders of color attendees included Danilo Sanchez, Ertell Whigham, Colleen Whigham-Brockington and Noel Santiago

This year, the sixth Hope for the Future gathering took place February 2-5, 2017 in Hampton, Virginia. Approximately 75 persons gathered from across the United States. Persons of Native American, African American, Asian, Hispanic, and other backgrounds as well as Swiss, Germanic, Dutch, and other ethnicities were present.

The theme of this year’s gathering was “Doing Kingdom Work”. Carlos Romero, Executive Director of Mennonite Education Agency and member of the Hope for the Future planning committee, framed the work for the weekend stating, “We have come together for such a time as this,” speaking to today’s political climate.

These tensions felt today are not new. In the 1970’s, when there seemed to be momentum among people of color in leadership within the denomination, most of the positions of people of color were eliminated under what was called “restructuring.”  This led to a handful of leaders of color in the Mennonite Church feeling the need to meet for mutual support and counsel.  When other leaders of color became aware of this gathering, they voiced an interest in participating in such a forum/conversation.  Out of this grew Hope for the Future.

The purpose for these gatherings was formulated as follows:

  • To gather as a worshiping community of faith to discern what the Holy Spirit is saying to the church through the leaders of color within Mennonite Church USA system.
  • To provide a safe setting to assess the present reality and experiences for leaders of color within Mennonite Church USA system.
  • To put forth a plan/strategy/call for deepening awareness and ownership of the ongoing transformation of Mennonite Church USA.
  • To collect learnings from leaders of color to create a forum to bring about the next level of transformation for Mennonite Church USA.

To not have history repeat itself it is important for both people of color and the white culture, to be intentional about inviting and retaining people of color.  Hope for the Future allows space for discussion on how various things impact people in different ways.  This year, discussions focused on what it means to be a peace church in consideration of the lived reality of people of color in this country, how to monitor and change when policies are being implemented inconsistently, and visioning for Hope for the Future.

Because of the work being done through Hope for the Future since 2011, this year’s gathering also called for reporting by MCUSA agencies, institutions and organizations on their progress on policies and practices that address the hiring and retaining of persons of color within their respective organizations. While much progress has been made, there is still much to do.

Hope for the Future is not a one-time event, gathering, conference or what have you. It is about the lived experiential realities people of color encounter on a day to day basis in our church. Our hope is that the ‘kin-dom’ of God will come on earth, in our church, as it is in heaven. To this end, we hope for the future!

For more about the 2017 gathering, check out Hope for the Future: Together For a Time Such as This, in The Mennonite.

Visible and Invisible Realms

By Noel Santiago

Colossians 1:16 (NIV), “For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.”

noel-photoWhile Colossians 1:16 clearly states that God created the “visible and invisible,” could we say that we in the west rely more on what we see than what we don’t see? Is it fair to say that we don’t always believe nor live as if the spirit world is real? I wonder if this is because we have grown up under the influence of the enlightenment movement, that swept Europe around 300 year ago, claiming if you can’t prove it scientifically, it doesn’t exist.

I appreciate and value much of what science has helped bring forth. Indeed, many of the early scientist themselves where Christians. However, there seems to be many challenges for us in the west when it comes to believing and living as if the spirit is real.

First, the challenge with the scientific method is: how do you prove the existence of say, angels, demons or God for that matter — especially, when they don’t hang around long enough for us to conduct reproducible scientific experiments that yield the same results, which is one of the fundamental requirements of the scientific method.

Another challenge is that while we believe that the Bible is the Word of God, we forget that it is also a Middle Eastern book whose worldview is quite different than the western worldview. In this worldview, the spirit realm is very real and evident in our lives. So as westerners, with a culture where anything not scientifically proven is superstitious or folk tradition, we have a greater challenge to see the spirit realm.

There is also the notion of the “God gap” that exists within in our society. The God gap says that science will eventually be able to answer all questions we don’t have answers to now and consequently we won’t need God or the spirit world to help us understand and explain what we don’t know.

The Bible talks about binding and loosing (Mt 16:19); whatever you bind on earth is bound in heaven, etc. This is the interplay between these two realms, the realm of what you can see and touch and the realm of what you cannot see and touch.

The Colossian text tells us that the spirit world is real! It’s as real as the world in which we live, for out of it came all things that exist, into existence! Might we take some time to consider the possibility that the spirit world is just as real as the physical world? What, if any, difference might this make in our lives, our communities of faith and in the world?

Kingdom Transformation: Partnership between Church and Marketplace

By Noel Santiago

“Picture in your mind a world where: the transforming power of Jesus Christ is significantly impacting every individual family, church, workplace, school, government, city and nation. Imagine a Christian church where: every local congregation is acting in unity and partnership with other believers to see their city and nation transformed! Contemplate the future of society if: every Christian understood who they are in Christ and embraced their calling to be “salt and light” to a dark and hurting world?”

Dr. Gregory M. Pagh, Pastor at Christ Church, Elk River, Minnesota

Noel article photo 1 - 6-23-16Ed Silvoso, of the Transform Our World ministry, in his book Transformation, shares some perspectives and understandings to kingdom transformation that seeks to help churches partner with what he calls marketplace ministers. This approach has resulted in the kind of picture noted by Pastor Pagh. Here are some highlights about what is needed for kingdom transformation in terms of marketplace partnerships.

We begin with identifying some characteristics of the congregation: Matthew 16:18-19, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

When Jesus talked about “upon this rock I will build my church” he was referring to ‘ekklesia’ which is a Greek word meaning ‘ruling assembly.’ Understanding the authority and function of the assembly is fundamental to properly implement what Jesus initiated in Matthew 16:18. This assembly is not limited to a church building. It operates wherever two or three are gathered and it’s ruling foundation is love!

Imagine then a river with two banks. One bank is prayer evangelism having to do with transformed living; the other bank is comprised of five biblical paradigms having to do with transformed thinking. Let’s briefly outline what this could look like.

Prayer Evangelism: Transformed Living

Luke 10:5-9 state, “Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you.  Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you;  cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’

The first step in prayer evangelism is blessing! As seen in verse five, “When you enter a house, first say, `Peace to this house.'” Peace speaks of blessing. So you start by blessing people — people in businesses, government, education and neighborhoods. Keep in mind that we are blessing people who are all created in the image of God, not unwholesome activities or behaviors.

Step two is fellowship! “Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide” speaks in verse seven of fellowship. Fellowship with those who God brings through divine opportunities as you connect and relate to those around you.

Third step is to meet felt needs! We read in verse nine, “cure the sick” speaking to meeting felt needs. Minister God’s Love as you listen to others stories and pray with them allowing the love of Christ to touch their hearts as well as yours.

Finally we need to share the good news!  Verse nine instructs us to “say to them, ‘the kingdom of God has come near to you’,” we must proclaim the kingdom by sharing the good news of hope in Jesus Christ.

Five Biblical Paradigms: Transformed Thinking

  1. The great commission is about discipling nations (cities, towns, and neighborhoods), not just individuals. The expression ‘discipling nations’ is at first hard to grasp, but basically it means: “teaching a nation what Jesus taught us for the purpose of causing it to embrace the goodness of God and to reflect the character of Christ” (Transformation p. 123).
  2. The marketplace (the heart of the nation) has already been redeemed by Jesus and now must be tended to by God’s followers through the ministry of reconciliation. The marketplace is most concisely defined as encompassing business, education and government. However, it includes everywhere that you live, work and play.
  3. Every Christian is a minister, and labor is worship. In the beginning, God told Adam to ‘tend the garden’ (work). This would be a core activity that formed part of his relationship with God. The most dynamic word in the great commission is the word, “Go!” When many of us “go,” we “go to work.” The workplace is one of our primary circles of influence.
  4. Our primary call is to take the Kingdom of God to where the kingdom of darkness is entrenched in order for Jesus to build the Church. An expression from a pastor that seems to sum this up is: “What a relief when I finally understood that Jesus builds the church, not me.”
  5. The premier social indicator that transformation has taken place is the elimination of systemic poverty. “The WORD became flesh and moved into our neighborhood” (John 1:14 as stated in the Message).

Partnering for Transformation

The call is for Jesus’ disciples to look around our work places and neighborhoods and to pray blessing for those around us, allowing the Holy Spirit to transform our living; to be present in ways that allow the gospel message of Jesus to be shared personally with each and to make disciples of Jesus Christ.

Going to the Margins with a Missional Lens

noel article photoFrom February 25 to March 1, 2016, I had the privilege of visiting Mexico for the first time in four years. The occasion, the Annual Red de Iglesias Misioneras Internacionales (RIMI) Leaders Conference. Translated into English, RIMI means the International Network of Missionary Churches. This network was founded by Kirk and Marilyn Hanger, of New Hope Fellowship along with Ruben and Guadalupe Mercado, Mennonite Church leaders from Bolivia.

When asked about RIMI Kirk shared: “In 2003, after 11 years of church planting ministry in Mexico, Franconia Conference encouraged me to continue as a mentor to the churches that had emerged from our ministry with a vision of continued church multiplication. This is when RIMI was born. Counsel and encouragement from Franconia Conference, were critical in the birth and continued growth of RIMI. Over the years, I’ve made regular trips back to Mexico.

Today, RIMI is made up of 28 churches and church plants in Mexico from the states of Oaxaca to Jalisco. In addition to the churches, RIMI also includes a radio ministry, a Bible Institute, a short term mission’s school and a leadership school, both affiliated with Global Disciples, a medical ministry, a prayer network and two rehabilitation centers. RIMI uses the Mennonite Confession of Faith and has a vision of continued church multiplication, leadership development, and the sending of missionaries to the least reached parts of the world.

Every February, we have our RIMI Conference in Mexico. Pastors and leaders from Mexico and other countries will gather for a time of worship, teaching, fellowship and planning together. Last year, Pastor Charles Ness, from Perkiomenville Mennonite Church, was one of our conference speakers, along with Pastor Bob Stevenson, from Iglesia de la Tierra Prometida (also known as Monte Maria).”

Noel article verseThis is what I had the privilege of attending and sharing in, the RIMI’s leaders conference. Connecting and hearing the stories of God’s moving and transformation was powerful! Those marginalized because of addictions, abuses, crime, pain, trauma, but also those who lived religiously empty lives, living good but unsatisfied lives, living without purpose or meaning, having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof; then discovering through the Gospel message being shared with them that they can draw near to God through the good news of the transforming work of Jesus Christ.

Indeed, the call to go to the margins is a missional call; a call to not only share the transforming Gospel message of Jesus Christ, but to share an intimately lived experience of this relationship; a call to be transformed ourselves as we go to the least of these.

Franconia Conference has had a tremendous legacy of disciple making through church planting, evangelism, and missional engagement. In recent years it seems that Franconia Conference has necessarily tended to its internal life. As this internal tending has now brought clarity of direction, is it time to once again continue the legacy of disciple making through missions, evangelism, church planting and the sharing of the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

I came away with the deepened assurance and eye witness accounts of the transforming power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus came to save that which was lost; to live a life after the Kingdom of God that set’s the captives free, to die on the cross and shed his blood to forgive us of our sins, to be raised from the dead and seated at the right hand of God where we too are seated, so that we are once again restored to our relationship with our heavenly Father. Then we go to share this good news of restored relationship through Christ to a hurt and dying world.

Going to the margins with a missional lens isn’t just about the present but also the future. So the question I ask us all is: What legacy do we want to leave the next generation?

This past year we saw the credentialing of some of our youngest leaders, including the ordination of our first millennial, with these young leaders coming on board is it time for Franconia Conference, to once again put out a call to the next generation of young people to consider their call and purpose in life like these have? Is it time to identify the next generation of disciple makers to be raised up, equipped and sent on a mission to share the good news of Jesus Christ through starting new churches, evangelism and missional engagement?

Jesus said in John 20:21 (NIV) – “…Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” I believe it’s time. So if you are interested in learning more how you can engage in missions, if you feel a call to make disciples of all nations through evangelism, starting new churches or being engaged in missions, be in touch with your conference LEADership Minister or myself, so we can start a conversation and explore the possibilities of connecting.

Noel Santiago is a LEADership Minister for Franconia Conference.

 

More information from Kirk on RIMI: “Strategic relations have developed with churches in other countries as well. In addition to Mexico, RIMI now has churches in Guatemala, Cuba, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Paraguay, Chile and the United States. The vision is that networks of churches will develop in these countries as we support each other in our common vision. Two years ago, we started an international youth conference called “Generación Sana” (Healthy Generation). In 2014, the event was held in Bogota, Colombia with about 80 young people from several countries. In 2015, the event was held in Vina del Mar, Chile and in August 2016, it will be held in Quito, Ecuador.”

Taking LEAD to the next level: Conference ministry as discernment rooted in vision, mission, prayer

by Noel Santiago and Sharon Williams

Noel Santiago
Noel Santiago

Do you know what your congregation’s vision is? What does it mean? How do you pray for your congregation? How do we understand what God wants?

If you are a leader in your congregation, how does your congregation’s vision and mission impact how you lead? How do you pray for the other leaders?

Several years ago, Franconia Conference initiated a new phase of connectivity with congregations for the mentoring and resourcing of pastors. Our LEADership ministers, carefully chosen to offer a wide breadth of skills and expertise, are assigned to specific congregations, but  also available to any congregation needing specific assistance for a season. This model calls for a proactive posture of oversight that is vision-oriented.

Much has been learned from this fluid way of walking alongside of pastors. Noel Santiago is implementing an upgraded process he’s framed as LEAD 2.0.

The primary focus of LEAD 2.0 is preparing all leaders to define, embrace, and lead God’s vision and mission for their congregation.

LEAD 2.0 starts with a 24-hour retreat for pastors and elders. As they focus on the congregation’s vision and mission, they also give significant time to a ministry of prayer with each congregational leader. Particular attention is given to listening for what God is saying.

Noel, along with congregational pastors and elders each share about their experiences in the following Sunday’s worship. This helps to create a sense of ownership and accountability between the leaders and the congregation.

The new dimension of LEAD 2.0 is for the church council, worship leaders, Christian education leaders, youth leaders and others to experience a similar but shorter process. An elder, pastor and Noel facilitate a session with each group of leaders.

The congregation’s vision and mission is front and center. Each leader shares about how she or he understands it and carries out the vision in their respective ministry area. Leaders interact around these understandings. During a time of prayer, the group offers words of appreciation for each leader and asking in prayer what each leader needs to know.

“Watch, look, listen; when you see me working, join in” is an invitation from God that the Salem congregation has been attentive to for several years. LEAD 2.0 has given a new way to focus the congregation’s vision and mission with all the leaders. “It is waking us up to what God wants for us as part of God’s ‘church of Quakertown,’” says Bruce Eglinton-Woods, the congregation’s lead pastor. “This process has raised our awareness of the need to work together with other churches to share Jesus’ ministry of love and hope with our neighbors.”

Churches in the Quakertown area have organized a code blue homeless shelter, and are seeking ways to reach out to 50-60 homeless teenagers in their school district. Weed whacking in the town’s cemetery has become a way to build relationships with the community and with at-risk teens who join them to do required community service. They are looking for concrete ways to reach people struggling with related issues of addiction, human trafficking and poverty. The Salem congregation is an integral part of these ministries.

Salem is taking LEAD 2.0 one step further by offering a day for listening, discernment and prayer for everyone in the congregation. It will be a “review of the future,” not the past. As they pray and encourage each other, participants will watch, look, and listen for what God is doing and how they might be called to join in God’s work.

God is using LEAD 2.0 to stir a passion at Salem for people who do not know Jesus and need to be part of a faith community. “How can our hearts not be broken? Homeless kids should be able to turn to the church; they should know they can do that. We are also learning how to love one another and that we have love to share. It’s fun,” says Bruce.

LEAD 2.0 is still pretty new. But congregations are already experiencing positive interactions of encouragement, support, ownership and accountability happening between the various leadership groups. Lay leaders are more mindful of and empowered to speak into the vision. Together, they are  “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead . . . press[ing] on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14 NRSV).

Noel Santiago is Franconia’s LEAD Minister for Spiritual Transformation. Sharon K. Williams is a musician, editor and congregational/non-profit consultant. She serves the Lord with the Nueva Vida Norristown New Life congregation as minister of worship.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the road with LEADership ministers

by Sharon Williams

Aldo_CA2014What comes to mind when you imagine Franconia Conference LEADership ministers and the work they do? You may be surprised to know that the new conference office at Christopher Dock Mennonite High School is probably not the place to find them, although a phone call there will certainly get you connected.

Steve Kriss, Jenifer Eriksen Morales, Aldo Siahaan, John Bender, Noel Santiago, and Ertell Whigham are always on the go. Each one connects with anywhere from three to 12 congregations in Vermont, northern Pennsylvania, the Lehigh Valley, southeastern Pennsylvania, and Georgia. They give much time and energy to congregations in transition and emerging congregations. An estimated 50 percent of conference congregations are in the midst of transition and/or growth.

Pastoral leadership is a common transition. Some congregations choose to work with an intentional interim pastor who stands in the gap and prepares the congregation to receive a new pastor. The LEAD ministers provide guidance for both search processes, and support elders and lay leaders in managing the congregation’s current and future priorities.

Jenifer Eriksen Morales, minister of transitional ministries, also works with other Mennonite Church USA (MCUSA) conferences on the east coast to train intentional interim pastors, and serves on the MCUSA task force for interim pastoral ministries.

Emerging and growing congregations are another focus. These congregations are high maintenance, but in a very good way. LEAD ministers help to address staffing needs, work with pastors who are new to the Anabaptist faith, and build relationships—in essence, anything that propels the missional vision forward.

The work of the LEAD ministers sometimes crisscrosses when their congregations work together. The Lehigh Valley youth ministry partnership is shared by the Whitehall, Ripple and Vietnamese Gospel congregations and led by Danilo Sanchez. Vietnamese Gospel Church in Allentown and Philadelphia Praise Center are partnering in a joint worship and outreach ministry with the Vietnamese community in south Philly. The LEAD ministers must also nurture their relationships with each other so their collaborations are fluid and fruitful.

Last summer, Aldo Siahaan and Steve Kriss received a “Macedonia call” (Acts 16:9-10). Could they meet with a Mara (Burmese) church during their visit with Georgia Praise Center leaders? This congregation in Atlanta is part of a network of Mara churches in Indianapolis, Indiana, Baltimore, Maryland, and Charlotte, North Carolina. The network is reaching out to Mennonite conferences on the east coast for assistance in establishing pastoral leadership. The exploratory relationship has many possibilities.

“As an immigrant pastor myself, it’s exciting to walk with the Mara Christians, to see them reach their destiny as a people, a church in this country,” says Aldo. “If they choose to join Mennonite Church USA, how will we receive each other and grow in ministry together?”

Each LEAD minister offers her or his unique gifts to their congregations. Noel enjoys helping pastors, elders and lay leaders experience the values and practices of intercessory prayer. Jenifer weaves in a missional focus with unchurched neighbors, adapted from the Kairos in Chaos ministry she’s involved with in Souderton. Aldo enjoys a natural affinity with the Mara church through their similar languages of Indonesian and Malay. Steve and Ertell always bring best practices of intercultural competencies to the mix.

Looking for your congregation’s LEAD minister? She or he may be in a meeting, consulting with pastors or elders in a coffee shop, or in a car on the way to your church.

Sharon K. Williams is a musician, editor and congregational/non-profit consultant. She serves the Lord with the Nueva Vida Norristown New Life congregation as the minister of worship.

It starts in Heaven: a ministry of prayer

by Sharon Williams, Nueva Vida Norristown New Life

prayer
Noel Santiago (left) leads Franconia Conference’s prayer ministry.

What if we could focus our prayers to God by starting where God starts, with God’s good and perfect will? Like Jesus said, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10 NRSV). What does this mean, especially when we pray about earth’s troubling situations or illnesses that don’t exist in heaven?

Noel Santiago, Franconia Conference’s LEADership Minister of Spiritual Transformation, remembers his early years in the intercessory prayer ministry. A young girl was in an endless coma. Persons who felt drawn to intercessory prayer gathered at the conference center weekly. They wondered, what is God teaching us?

As they prayed, they began to hear the invitation to leave the situation at the altar, to praise God for what God was doing, and to find peace and rest in their spirits. They also realized that they were standing in the gap to pray for those who could not pray about this situation with a spirit of peace. Through grateful worship and silent listening, they noticed that Lordship of Jesus Christ over their lives, congregations, and communities was becoming a theme. They also sensed that God wanted the girl and her family to acknowledge Jesus’ lordship in their lives.

After three weeks of individual and corporate praying, the girl came out of the coma. At the end of six weeks, she and her family stood before their congregation to give thanks to God and to testify about what God had done in their lives. Then they sang a song that acknowledged the lordship of Jesus over their lives. God had used everyone’s prayers to bring about one of the key activities of heaven, echoed on earth.

Noel can recount many similar stories. One time, Claude Good of the Worm Project came to ask for prayer for one million deworming pills. Distribution of the pills had been tied up in red tape for three months. The intercessors sought God’s heart. A week later, the red tape was gone and the pills were released to their appointed place on earth, as it was the desire of heaven.

Why are we so amazed when we pray and God moves heaven and earth on our behalf?

An important lesson for the intercessors was to move forward by celebrating what God has done and is doing, rather than banging on heaven’s door with a report of what God has not done. We don’t need to beg God for what is needed. The purpose of prayer is to fervently align our hearts and purposes with God’s heart and purposes.

The intercessors—persons called within and beyond Franconia conference—learned by praying together and carefully observing what happened. When the intercessory prayer ministry started, some churches or Sunday school groups had functioning prayer chains for sharing prayer requests and praises. The intercessors encouraged congregations to form their own intercessory prayer teams and to create prayer rooms.

The intercessors stay connected by email for receiving and responding to prayer requests. Occasionally, they come together for special requests and events, such as the situation at Spruce Lake Retreat last fall and conference assemblies. They teach and equip intercessors for this ministry in Sunday school classes, Bible studies and conference meetings. Noel also incorporates intercessory prayer into his LEADership ministry with pastors and elders, teaching them to pray for each leader’s ministry and for the community. The team regularly intercedes for congregations, leaders, and anyone seeking God’s guidance.

The intercessors are eager to connect with others who are drawn to this ministry. To learn more, contact Noel (nsantiago@franconiaconference.org, 267-932-6050).

Sharon K. Williams is a musician, editor and congregational/non-profit consultant. She serves the Lord with the Nueva Vida Norristown New Life congregation as minister of worship.

Praying for Eric Frein at Spruce Lake Retreat

by Sharon K. Williams

Spruce Lake Retreat Center
Spruce Lake Retreat Center

On September 12, 2014, Eric Frein allegedly shot two police officers at the Pennsylvania State Police station in Blooming Grove. Bryon Dickson died and Alex Douglass was critically injured. Frein eluded a massive manhunt in the Poconos Mountains and a national media campaign for seven weeks.

The village of Canadensis, Pennsylvania became the focal point of the search, as Frein’s parents live nearby. Spruce Lake Retreat, a conference-related ministry, was four miles outside the 10-mile search area.

Outdoor education groups, a large part of Spruce Lake’s ministry in the fall, started to call. Was Spruce Lake employing security guards? How could reservations be canceled?

The Spruce Lake staff began to pray that Eric would be found quickly without further injury to anyone, and that Spruce Lake would be able to recover their guests. Christians in the area gathered daily for prayer at the local United Methodist church. They prayed for protection of the police and the local residents. When Spruce Lake’s executive director Mark Swartley and other staff openly prayed for Eric, they realized they were introducing a unique request.

Meanwhile, the search and the cancellations continued. Ertell Whigham, Franconia Mennonite Conference’s executive minister, consulted with Mark as to how the conference might be supportive. They decided to invite the intercessory prayer team to minister “on the ground.”

Four intercessors (Don Brunk, Souderton Mennonite; Sandy Landes, Doylestown Mennonite; Jeannette Phillips, Hopewell Christian Fellowship; and Noel Santiago, Franconia Conference’s minister of spiritual transformation) came forward.

“Our desire,” said Noel, “is to hear from God, believing that what emerges is from God.” As they prayed throughout the day, four directives came into focus:

  • An invitation for the Spruce Lake staff to take their eyes off “the man in the woods” (Eric) and to focus on “the man on the wood” (Jesus), the One who knows all things;
  • A petition for the people and the land—for healing, peace, and keen awareness of the presence of God;
  • Eric’s salvation—to know and accept God’s love and forgiveness;
  • Comfort and healing for the Dickson and Douglass families.

The next day, October 30, Mark excitedly phoned Noel. “Did you hear? Turn on the news! They found Eric—and no one was harmed!”

“The timing,” reported Jeannette, “was a God thing.” It had taken several days for the intercessors to make arrangements for the visit.

Spruce Lake lost $155,000 due to the cancellations of 35 outdoor school and weekend retreat groups. The retreat center did not hold deposits or force contracts. “While police assured us that we were not in the search area, we did not argue with people’s fear,” said Mark. “But we chose to honor God for what God has done and what God is doing. God is in this situation. We are in God’s care. What was out of our control was in God’s control.”

In November, Spruce Lake held a fundraising campaign to make up some of the lost income, and were able to raise $25,000 in a matching donation challenge.

“Our prayer commitment is not finished,” said Noel. “We continue to pray for Eric’s salvation, and for healing and reconciliation for all involved.”

Anointed for Business Prayer Teams

by Noel Santiago, LEADership Minister for Spiritual Transformation

“The boardroom should be to those anointed to serve
in the marketplace what the pulpit is to pastors.”

Noel SantiagoSuch is one of the many thought-provoking quotes found in the book Anointed For Business by Ed Silvoso. Intended to stimulate and perhaps shift our ways of thinking, Ed brings forth a wealth of experience grounded in the Biblical text.

And as this book has shifted our ways of thinking, the prayer ministry of Franconia Conference has partnered with other regional prayer groups to establish prayer teams that go into local businesses and organizations to offer prayers on behalf of their behalf.

The Anointed for Business Prayer Time is about blessing owners, employees, their families, work, relationships, and engagement as they go about their daily work as worship. We also seek to participate and bless the church, the body of Christ, in order to bring about reconciliation between the church and the marketplace. We seek the Lord and intercede on behalf of the business/organizations/churches so that the transformational values noted below are achieved and that their financial and/or organizational or ministry needs are surpassed to the point where they can give from a place of abundance, even as they continue their giving generously as a lifestyle.

Transformation Companies are ones which embrace and seek to live out the following values:

  1. Intentionally investing in the betterment of its workforce and its families;
  2. Actively pursuing the transformation of its sphere of influence and expertise in the marketplace;
  3. Investing generously and sacrificially in the broader community;
  4. Purposefully connecting with other companies, professions, and individuals to impact the world.

Transformation Churches are ones whose leaders embrace and seek to:

  1. Equip, commission, and release its members to reach the marketplace and intentionally pastor the city/region;
  2. Diligently pursue organic unity in the larger Body of Christ to energize the mission of the Church;
  3. Commit a growing percentage of its resources to Kingdom expansion by sacrificially investing beyond the local congregation to achieve transformation;
  4. Expect the Kingdom of God to be tangibly manifested in cities and nations.

So, here’s this word “transformation.” For us, this means the elimination of systemic poverty in four key areas: spiritually, relationally, motivationally, and materially.

Spiritual poverty afflicts those who don’t know that God is their father and are unable to pray, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:9b). They think of themselves as spiritual orphans. They believe that they are all alone, that God has judged or abandoned them, and that no one loves them. When trouble comes, they have no spiritual resources to draw on.

Relational poverty encompasses those whose focus is on themselves at the expense of the community of which they are a part. They may have great wealth but still suffer from a lack of close relationships with family, friends, and associates. They are lacking the “us” and the “our” of “Give us today our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11).

Motivational poverty is a state of hopelessness that engulfs those who have no adequate way, means, or confidence to tackle tomorrow’s challenges. “Daily bread” is exactly that–it’s an ongoing occurrence. When people come under the grip of poverty, even when there is bread today, they have no hope that they will be able to provide for their needs tomorrow. This leads to anxiety, fear, insecurity, and sometimes even greed.

Material poverty is the most obvious manifestation of poverty because it involves lacking the resources necessary to sustain life. In this context, “daily bread” may include food, water, clothing, housing, and other essential resources. Material poverty always compromises people’s ability to focus on a spiritual life, relationships, and motivation, because when you’re hungry, you can’t think of anything else.

One way our prayer teams work at this is through placing Prayer Request Boxes in local businesses and organizations to provide employees of the company or organization an opportunity to submit personal prayer requests. The vision is that if each person employed at a given company or organization is experiencing the power of God in answered prayers in their personal lives, this will then have a ripple effect on other areas of their lives including their workplace.

This is not to suggest that such experiences aren’t already occurring or that the church is not meeting these needs. Rather it is an attempt to work at having the primary location where this impact is most keenly felt be the marketplace, the location where we want to see the transformation occur.

Transformational Churches reach beyond their walls and partner with marketplace ministers to see their city and nation transformed by the message of Christ! Kingdom Companies and organizations apply biblical principles to their “marketplace” and partner with others to see their city and industry transformed. If you’d like to hear more stories, visit Ed’s website at: www.transformourworld.org. You’ll see this is about “ordinary people doing extraordinary things.”

Do you want to learn more about Anointed for Business Prayer Teams?  Noel would be glad to hear from you.

“Come and See”: Mennonite leaders visit Israel/Palestine

Participants in the Mennonite learning tour of Israel/Palestine visit the separation wall in the Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem. The wall cuts off the camp from an olive grove where residents used to work and play. (l. to r.) Isaac Villegas, Stanley Green, Ann Graber Hershberger, Mohammad Al-Azzah (Palestinian tour guide), Joy Sutter, Joanna Hiebert Bergen (MCC Jerusalem staff), Ron Byler, Tanya Ortman, Chad Horning, Ed Diller and Duane Oswald. (Photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler)
Participants in the Mennonite learning tour of Israel/Palestine visit the separation wall in the Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem. The wall cuts off the camp from an olive grove where residents used to work and play. (l. to r.) Isaac Villegas, Stanley Green, Ann Graber Hershberger, Mohammad Al-Azzah (Palestinian tour guide), Joy Sutter, Joanna Hiebert Bergen (MCC Jerusalem staff), Ron Byler, Tanya Ortman, Chad Horning, Ed Diller and Duane Oswald. (Photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler)

by Jenn Carreto for Mennonite Church USA

Fifteen board members and staff representing various Mennonite agencies and organizations traveled to Israel/Palestine Feb. 24–March 4 to take part in a “Come and See” learning tour; participants included Joy Sutter, a member of Mennonite Church USA’s Executive Board from Salford congregation, and Noel Santiago, a member of Mennonite Education Agency’s board and a staff member for Franconia Conference.The tour marked the beginning of a denominational initiative to send 100 Mennonite leaders to the region on similar tours over the next five years.

While Mennonites have been involved in relief work, service, witness and peacemaking in the region for more than 65 years, the tour was organized in response to a 2009 appeal from Palestinian Christians called  “Kairos Palestine:  A Moment of Truth” (www.kairospalestine.ps).

A coalition representing a range of Christians in Palestine—including Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant and Evangelical—issued the open letter to the global body of Christ as “a word of faith, hope and love from the heart of Palestinian suffering.” They invited Christian organizations and faith groups to “come and see, in order to understand our reality.”

“The memories of our experiences keep intruding on my everyday thoughts some two weeks after our return,” reflected Chad Horning of Goshen, Ind., Chief Investment Officer of Everence and a member of the learning tour. “I am inspired by the steadfastness of Palestinians and Israelis alike in working for peace in the face of many years of disappointments.”

The learning tour followed the path of Jesus’ life by traveling to Bethlehem, Nazareth, Galilee and finally, Jerusalem. Along the way, they visited Bethlehem Bible College, Nazareth Village, refugee camps, settlements and community organizations, meeting local activists and villagers in each setting and hearing their stories. In Jerusalem they spent time at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial, and attended a Jewish Sabbath service. The group also connected with people serving with Mennonite Central Committee, Mennonite Mission Network and Christian Peacemaker Teams.

Participants were left with much to contemplate and share with their faith communities. Horning said he gained a better understanding of the terms often used to describe life in the region.

“Words like security, wall, border, military, settler, outpost, tear gas, demolition, rubber-coated bullet, and confiscation have more meaning when I tell the stories of people we met and who live in the context of these sterile terms,” he said.

Participants brought with them a range of experience and familiarity with the region. Some had visited or served there, but most were witnessing the realities for the first time.

Madeline Maldonado, associate pastor of Iglesia Evangélica Menonita Arca de Salvación, Fort Myers, Fla., and board chair for Mennonite Mission Network, was a first-time visitor to the region. Before leaving, she shared, “I hope to experience the culture and the conflict. I hope to feel the pain and frustration that are felt there. I pray that I can see God in what seems impossible for my Western and Latina mind to comprehend. I pray that God opens my eyes.”

Isaac Villegas, pastor of Chapel Hill (N.C.) Mennonite Fellowship and Mennonite Church USA Executive Board member, shared reflections four days into the tour: “I’ve seen too much. Towering walls stretching for mile after mile, turning Palestinian cities into open-air prisons. Can I choose not to see … the used tear gas canisters I held in my hand—used against Palestinian youth, bought with my taxes, manufactured by a U.S. company in Pennsylvania?”

In addition to questions about the United States government’s involvement in the region, the group was encouraged the consider questions of faith in new light.

“Our experience gave us new insight into Jesus’ life and ministry, as well as the current situation,” said André Gingerich Stoner, director of holistic witness and interchurch relations for Mennonite Church USA. “We return better prepared to pray and work for God’s peace and blessing for everyone in this land.”

In 2011, Mennonite Church USA Executive Director Ervin Stutzman—in consultation with the Executive Board (EB)—responded to the writers of the Kairos Palestine letter, committing to expand opportunities for Mennonite leaders and members to visit Palestine and learn firsthand about the suffering there. Stutzman and the EB also wrote a letter to members of Mennonite Church USA, asking them to read and discuss the Kairos document, to study Scriptures together on the matter and to consider how their financial lives may be enmeshed in the occupation of Israel.

In 2013, the EB underscored its desire to help the church more fully understand both the Israeli and Palestinian experiences and the role of Christian Zionism in this conflict. A “Come and See” fund was established with initial contributions from Mennonite Central Committee U.S., Mennonite Mission Network and Everence to offer some scholarships for present and future learning tours. Individuals, agencies and local congregations covered the remainder, according to Stoner.

For more reflections from learning tour participants, see: www.mennoniteusa.org/2014/02/26/israel-palestine-learning-tour-travelogue

The next Israel/Palestine learning tour is scheduled for October 2014 and will include participants from Franconia Mennonite Conference, Eastern District Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference. There are limited spots available and some possible financial assistance is available as well.  Contact Steve Kriss, skriss@franconiaconference.org, to express interest and learn more.  To be considered as part of the delegation, you must contact Steve by April 7, 2014.  This trip is intended for persons who have not previously traveled to the region.