Tag Archives: Project Haven

Franconia Conference and Its Properties

by Conrad Martin, Director of Finance

Did you know that Franconia Mennonite Conference (FMC) owns a shopping center in Souderton and a farm in Harleysville?  Okay technically, FMC doesn’t own any property.  Property ownership belongs to Franconia Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities (FMBMC).  Yes, that organization founded in 1918 to buy church properties for planting churches and to send missionaries to foreign countries still exists.  Its mission has evolved over the years, and while it no longer sends missionaries, it still owns properties.  The missionary-sending component of FMBMC was incorporated into the mission of the conference and its member congregations in the 1990s and the FMBMC board was brought under the authority of the conference board, to function as a captive corporation of FMC.  The purpose of FMBMC these days is to manage real estate on behalf of the conference and support the conference financially, and therefore its “doing business as” name is “FMC Properties”.

FMBMC continues to hold the ownership of a couple of church properties, Whitehall Mennonite Church being one of those churches.  The other church property — the former Peace Mennonite Church in East Greenville, PA — is being used by Project Haven, a ministry from the partnership of a few FMC and Eastern District Conference churches.

FMBMC purchased the Indian Creek Road farm in 1954 and established the Mission of Mercy, a ministry of rehabilitation for alcoholic men.  This continued until 1967 when a mission to those with  intellectual and developmental disabilities was begun on the farm.  This ministry evolved into Indian Creek Haven, which then became Indian Creek Foundation (ICF).  ICF eventually outgrew the farm, and in 2003 it became the birthing grounds for MCC Material Resource Center of Harleysville (MRC).  When MRC outgrew the farm in 2010, the conference decided to make the property a permanent farm.  The development rights for the farm were sold in 2012 and a local Community-Supported Agriculture organization, called Living Hope Farm, was established and began to rent the farm and has continued to grow since then.  As a connection with the past, an ICF group home continues to operate on the farm.  In keeping with its farming heritage, the Indian Creek Road farm has provided a seed bed for the startup of several organizations over the many years of FMBMC ownership.

FMBMC purchased the Souderton Center from a partnership of four Mennonite businessmen.  This group had initially purchased the shopping center property in 1986 to both provide a home for the conference offices, and to support the conference financially.  They renovated the entire center and in 2001 sold the property to FMBMC.  While the conference offices have relocated elsewhere since 2001, the Souderton Center continues to provide financial support to the conference.  When you shop at any one of the businesses of the shopping center — Care & Share Shoppes, Weaver Reckner & Reinhart Dentistry, TriValley Primary Care, ParmaJohn’s, or Ten Thousand Villages — you support the ministries of the Franconia Mennonite Conference.

In 1996, the conference board developed a statement providing rationale for continuing to own property, concluding that “some property is necessary and even advantageous for carrying out the work of the church”.  The statement also ensures that “all decisions about property ownership and the management thereof should reflect the priorities of the church” and that property ownership and use of funds should “reflect the best interests of the congregations of the conference and their mission“.  Keeping property ownership with FMBMC frees the conference board and staff to focus their energies on the mission of the church, leaving property management decisions to the properties board, consisting of persons with experience in property management.

Cross Cultural Minister at Perkiomenville Mennonite

TonyReyesPerkiomenville Mennonite Church has shared a partnership with Pastor Bob Stevenson and the Monte Maria Church in Mexico City for years. The congregation has enjoyed yearly trips where they are able to experience cross cultural missions that are personally enriching and expands the vision of ministry in the Perkiomenville community. In the summer or 2015 for the first time someone from Monte Maria was coming to Perkiomenville. Tony Reyes is a young man from Monte Maria Church is a gifted pianist, songwriter, music producer, and ministry leader. Franconia Conference’s Missional Operations Grant provided for Tony’s expenses as he lived and worked with Perkiomenville Mennonite Church, Project Haven, and Urban Expressions. During his time here, Tony was able to learn leadership skills, improve his English speaking abilities, and equip him for ministry.

Read more about how Tony’s ministry with Perkiomenville here.

Bike and Sol

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Perkiomenville Mennonite Church has been partnering with Project Haven and their new project Bike and Sol, “providing an environment for students and individuals to learn and experience cycling, skating, biking and other wheeled activities in a student managed business setting, modeled through Christian principles.”

It is a Teens Teaching Teens program utilizing volunteer students who are mentored and: 11181710_1490602524567520_2419440798036187107_n

  • learn the bicycle shop trade,
  • develop skills in management and
  • work ethics through Christian principles.

Bike and Sol recycles bicycles and then sells them as well as services bicycles in the community through its service center. You can visit the bike shop which is located behind the Upper Perk Community Life Center.

The Missional Operations Grant provided by Franconia Conference assisted with start up costs, funding a bike shop manager and the start up costs of parts and marketing. Perkiomenville Mennonite members donate to the bike shop and to have their own bikes repaired.

Resurrected space brings new life in East Greenville

Project Haven
Scott Roth works on the East Greenville building with Tyler, Cory, and Darian, students from Upper Perk high school. Photo by Tyler Logan.

by Emily Ralph, eralph@franconiaconference.org

The moment that Scott Roth unlocked Peace Mennonite’s old building for the first time in September of 2012, he began to tear up.  One of the high school students with him asked why he was so emotional.  “I can’t believe this is actually happening,” he responded.

The journey to open what is now Project Haven, a community center in East Greenville (Pa.), had been long and circuitous.  Roth, youth pastor of Eastern District Conference’s New Eden Fellowship, had been a part of UPPEN (Upper Perk Prayer & Evangelism Network) and the regional ministerium for years.  In 2011, these groups faced a community crisis when a high school student committed suicide.  Leaders from the groups met with reprentatives from Upper Perkiomen School District to find out how they could help.

The school district wanted an organization that could be connected with all the major players in the community: school, police, faith communities.  And they needed this organization to provide an afterschool program, some sort of a community center that would not just entertain the students, but help to develop character and provide a calm in the storm of their lives.

Project Haven
Peace Mennonite’s old building in East Greenville, Pa., has been repurposed into a community center.

Meanwhile, Franconia Conference’s Peace congregation decided to close.  The members of the congregation, who had been active in their community, wanted the building to be used to continue God’s work in East Greenville.  Even as they grieved the end of their congregation, they believed that new life would result.  They chose to celebrate their last service together on Easter 2011, dreaming about what God would resurrect in their space.

Peace’s LEADership Minister, Jenifer Eriksen Morales, called a meeting of leaders from local congregations—some Mennonite and some from other denominations—to have a time of visioning together.  The leaders met, prayed together, looked at the building, and dreamed about what God might want to do in that place.  Seeds were planted and some of the pastors began to think about how their existing ministries might find a home in the old church building.

Even as the pastors were meeting and dreaming, Roth and team of leaders from New Eden were starting an afterschool program called Refuge at the Upper Perk high school.  The space was not entirely conducive to the type of activities Roth wanted to do with the students and he continued to look around for a new space.  After months of searching and uncertainty, Roth’s dream and the East Greenville building collided.

Project Haven
Photo by Tyler Logan.

As soon as plans were finalized, Roth began working with a team of student volunteers from the high school to renovate the building.  He formed an advisory team with leaders from his own church and Franconia Conference’s Finland and Perkiomenville congregations.  Soon other dreamers began to show up with ideas: the local senior center asked to move into the building and use it weekday mornings when the students were still in school; members of the former congregation joined Roth with ideas of ways to rejuvenate their existing clothing ministry; a member of Family Worship Center organized a bar alternative to utilize the space on Friday and Saturday nights.
“It’s like in Ephesians where it talks about the different parts of the body working together,” Roth said.  “If the body [of Christ] works together, we will achieve great things!”

In March—just in time for Easter—Project Haven will move into its new location: three blocks away from the local junior high school and five minutes from the senior high school.  While the project still needs supplies like tables and chairs, volunteers for continuing renovation, and financial donations for their ongoing work, Roth is amazed at how God has brought together people and resources so that this dream could come to life.

The dream has come a long way since pastors were praying together about possibilities, Eriksen Morales observed.  “I’m excited that the space is being repurposed,” she said with a big smile.  “From the beginning, God has been continually ‘bringing into being’—it’s exciting to see what God is bringing into being in East Greenville!”