Tag Archives: Rocky Ridge

Congregational Profile: Rocky Ridge Mennonite Church

by Franco Salvatori, Rocky Ridge congregation

“It was the literal fulfillment of scripture that caused me to join Rocky Ridge Mission. As I saw these faithful Christians coming eight or more miles from their homes and gathering up in their cars Italians, Poles, Dutch, American Negroes, and Germans, to take them to the house of the Lord, I was made to feel that here is a group of Christians who are really making their religion practical.”1 

James & Rowena Lark. Photo: GAMEO

That was Rowena Lark’s description of Rocky Ridge congregation at its inception in the early 1930s.  Rowena’s husband James would later become the first African American minister ordained by the Mennonite Church in 1944. 

As a Mission Outreach, the pioneering families of the church not only drove 8 miles to invest in the “Paletown” community that had grown up around the Rockhill quarry a few miles south of Quakertown, PA, but they relocated their families there to begin the church, a school (Quakertown Christian School), and a number of businesses.  They wanted to make a difference in the lives of the people who were living in the area between Paletown and Three Mile Roads, Old Bethlehem and Doylestown (SR.313) pikes.  And the difference was noticed, as heard in Rowena Lark’s words.

Consistent with its origin, the church continues to represent a unique diversity in its body.   Current members and attenders include people who have immigrated from North & South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and China.  The church has also recently begun to share building space with the Evangelical Blessing Church, consisting of people from Central and Southern African countries. 

Bishop Antonio Alfredo Barros (Evangelical Lutheran Church of Angola), Pastor Franco Salvatori, & Tarun Guardia (Bible Translator and Indian Missionary).

Rocky Ridge maintains a strong missionary “sending” ethos.  Early workers from the Rocky Ridge mission went on to later serve in other mission ministries in Minnesota, Vermont, Montana, Chicago, and Canada.  Currently, the church supports missionaries in Pakistan, India, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, all who had formational faith experiences at Rocky Ridge.  Joel Nsongo, Executive Director of Congolese Community Development Network (CCDN), says, “This community has been instrumental in so many seasons of my own life.  From their investment in me as a young man with the IVEP program, through raising my own family and later, the foundation of CCDN, Rocky Ridge has helped shape the work and vision God has given for my life and family.”     

Currently, the church describes itself as “a community of people, bonded by faith in Jesus Christ, committed to being Shaped by God’s Word, to Sharing life as God’s Family, and to Sacrificing for God’s Mission.”  That’s modern language for the same impulse that started the church in the late 1920s.  As we look towards the future, Rocky Ridge is prayerfully committed to re-imagining what it means to live out the same intercultural, gospel-centered move toward the community that has always been at the center of its reason for being. 

Prayer Requests:
* that they would courageously follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in their lives and organizationally
* that they would creatively engage their neighbors with the Good News of Jesus
* that they would consistently surrender their will, aspirations, and desires to will of the Father

Christ-centered organization works to develop, empower in the Congo

by Lora Steiner, managing editor

For much of its existence, the small village school in Ndalu had no windows or doors—or even benches for its students. In the evening, goats and pigs took shelter in the building. The elementary and middle school-aged children who studied there during the day used bricks as chairs. They got sick often, and no one knew why. Some blamed witchcraft.

Ndalu is a rural community about 100 miles from the Atlantic coast in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Like many African communities, it doesn’t have much money, but it is rich with other resources—in this case, skilled craftsman and thick trees.  A small organization known as the Congolese Christian Development Network (CCDN) bought a bench in Kinshasa that was a combo desk and chair, able to fit two students. They met with village elders, got community members to contribute trees from their back yards, and had local carpenters give an estimate for additional benches. After some bartering—nearly everyone is related to a child in the school in one way or another—they settled on the cost and found a donor in Maryland who paid for 100 benches.

After a 2011 talk on poultry, some of those in attendance began raising chickens in their backyards. Here, they sell eggs at very affordable prices at the 2014 forum in Kinshasa.

A little bit of money, and empowering local leadership: It’s a model that Joel Nsongo, member of Rocky Ridge congregation and co-founder of CCDN, hopes to replicate across the Congo.

Nsongo was raised in a small village not far from Ndalu. He came to the United States in the late ’80s,  at the age of 27, as a part of the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) visitor exchange program; before that, he had worked as a purchaser for MCC’s Congo office, procuring tools that development workers needed in the field, such as machetes and other basic supplies. While in the States, he did maintenance at Rockhill congregation (Telford, Pa.).

Nsongo returned home, where he worked for a number of years as a computer network technician for Chevron. But a rebellion and regime change in 1997 had created turmoil in the country, and it seemed like a good time to leave, politically and economically. Nsongo brought his wife and two girls—who later attended Christopher Dock Mennonite High School (Lansdale, Pa.) and Eastern Mennonite University (Harrisonburg, Va.)—to the United States. He chose to relocate his family to an area he already knew.

CCDN is partnering with this suburban Christian congregation and Congolese expats to build walls and floor for the roof-only church building.
CCDN is partnering with this suburban Christian congregation and Congolese expats to build walls and floor for the roof-only church building.

In the U.S., Nsongo continued to work in computers, but returned home frequently. He kept seeing things that he knew could be improved, but not much changed. He thought, though, that he had to try.

Nsongo entered Eastern University’s graduate program in international development. When he finished his degree, he went home again—to the Congo—got together with friends, and created the CCDN.

Nsongo says that CCDN is about  more than formal schooling or tangible projects like desks, windows, and doors for schools.  Instead, they promote “mass education,” which includes informal talks on health, nutrition, sexuality, and renewable energy. The talks, held in the capital city of Kinshasa, have drawn around 100 people to each event, allowing attendees to hear from experts they otherwise wouldn’t have access to.  After one speaker came to talk about raising poultry several years ago, local residents started a movement equally popular on this side of the Atlantic:  raising chickens in the backyard.

“We realized that education is a base for any kind of development,” says Nsongo. “When people are educated, they are more likely to move forward.”

CCDN describes itself as a “Christ-centered community development and networking effort to … motivate and empower men and women with entrepreneurial drive to fight poverty through job training and creation, by providing individuals with business links, appropriate technology development and guidance to achieve innovation with sound management.” Or, simply put, a platform to launch activities for development.

What is most important to Nsongo is that leadership come from within: “True development for the Congo is going to come from the bottom up,” he says.

Staff at a clinic that partnered with CCDN in 2013 to set up at two-day health fair. CCDN has collected rubber gloves and over-the-counter medicine for the clinic, a luxury in many developing countries.
Staff at a clinic that partnered with CCDN in 2013 to set up at two-day health fair. CCDN has collected rubber gloves and over-the-counter medicine for the clinic, a luxury in many developing countries.

The challenge? CCDN has no regular funding. It collaborates with churches in the Congo, and with funders in the United States, as well as Congolese expats living here. When funding comes in for a particular project, says Nsongo, they tackle that project. For the other projects on the table, they pray.

For a two-day health clinic, CCDN recruited doctors who volunteered their time to screen for diabetes and dispensed medical advice and medications to newly-diagnosed diabetics and others. There’s a scholarship fund for 20 children, and projects involving two orphanages in Kinshasa. CCDN hopes to increase the “mass education” talks in Kinshasa to four to six events per year, including Christian topics that will anchor people in their faith.

As for the village school in Ndalu, it now has benches for the students, as well as doors and windows. CCDN is fundraising to build a well for water, and to lay a cement floor in the building.

You can contact Joel Nsongo at jnsongo@juno.com.

New IVEP participants join Conference communities

IVEP Participants 2014
IVEP participants pose for a photo during last week’s orientation. Front: Kim Dyer (MCC East Coast IVEP Coordinator), Solger Kim (Korea), Linlin Wang (China), Crecensia Wasama Mwita (Tanzania), Rubina Budha (Nepal), Sambath Nget (Cambodia).  Back: Luis Torres Diaz (Colombia), Elisante Lulu (Tanzania), Binod Gaire (Nepal), XiaoHua Wen (China), Martha Masilo (Lesotho), Gavi Luna Barguan (Colombia), Musa Manbefor Koreri Wambrauw (Indonesia)

This fall, four young adults from around the globe will use their gifts and time to support various Franconia Conference-related ministries. All four are participants in Mennonite Central Committee’s International Volunteer Exchange Program (IVEP), a year-long exchange that brings Christian young adults to the United States and Canada. Participants live with host families and volunteer with MCC partner agencies.

This year, local IVEPers include:

Binod Gaire, from Nepal. He will serve at Quakertown Christian School and his host family attends Rocky Ridge Mennonite Church.

Rubina Budha, from Nepal. She will work at the retirement community Living Branches. Her host family for the first part of the year attends Souderton Mennonite Church, and her host family for the second half attends Zion Mennonite.

Ntsena Martha Masilo, from Lesotho. She will be working at Ten Thousand Villages. Her host families attend Plains Mennonite and Zion Mennonite.

Solger Kim, from Korea. She will serve at Lutheran Children & Family Service in Allentown, and will connect with Whitehall Mennonite Church and Ripple Allentown

MCC encourages church members to reach out to IVEP participants and welcome them into the community, and pray for them, that their time in service with MCC proves fruitful and life-giving, as they work and serve in the name of Christ.

Reading God’s word after 25 years

Tarun with his wife Suniti and daughter Tripti.
Tarun with his wife Suniti and daughter Tripti.

by Rebecca Hendricks and Karen Moyer, Rocky Ridge

January 19, 2013 was a day of celebration for a lifetime of work when a new translation of the New Testament in a people’s heart language was dedicated in Korba, India.  The story of the connection between the translator, Tarun Gardia, and families and churches in Franconia Conference is a divine drama of God’s amazing leading to accomplish his purposes.

It began when Tarun Gardia came to the USA in 1987 to live with Wilbur and Becki Hendricks as participants in the Mennonite International Visitor Exchange Program (IVEP) which sought to promote international understanding (he was assigned as a classroom aide to Quakertown Christian School.)

While Tarun was here, Hendricks encouraged him to participate in a Bible memory program, which opened Tarun’s eyes to see that a real relationship with the God of creation involved his heart.  He acknowledged the impact of this exercise, saying, “The Christian love there touched my heart and I gave my life to our Lord.  They sent me to [a missions conference where] I heard a Wycliffe Bible Translator speak….  Later they took me to North Carolina to the JAARS Center (a partner in Bible translation).  Visiting the Museum of Alphabets at JAARS was the key factor that finally led me to translation as God’s plan for my life.  While visiting the museum, I went to the Indian language section where I saw a hand-written verse in my own Chhattisgarhi language pasted on the wall.  I was told that the Bible needs to be translated in that language.”

Following his one-year IVEP assignment, Indian and American Christian friends found the necessary support for Tarun to attend seminary in South India and then linguistic study at the Wycliffe center in Singapore.  Tarun then returned to the JAARS center in North Carolina, where he received computer training, a skill which would greatly reduce translation time.  It was during this time that Rocky Ridge Mennonite Church (Quakertown, Pa.) commissioned him to do this translation and took on his full financial support.  Following a language survey, he began actual translation work in 1996.

NTs being distributed at dedication
The Chhattisgarhi New Testaments are distributed.

We marvel at the journey God planned for Tarun, a boy from a small village in India who trained to be a teacher.  God took this village school teacher out of his comfort zone to a foreign country where he lived with a family who loved God and then loved Tarun into God’s kingdom.  Those years convinced Tarun that not only he, but millions of others, needed God’s Word in their language so that they could become children of God and share this exciting life of purpose and value.

In January, a delegation of four individuals from Rocky Ridge congregation journeyed to India to participate in the ceremony celebrating the completion of Tarun’s New Testament translation.  The team flew to Raipur, a city of 1.3 million, where Tarun, his wife Suniti and daughter Tripti (18) live and worked on the translation.  The Chhattisgarhi language in this region is the purest spoken form; there are 15 million Chhattisgarhi speakers in the whole state.

On Friday, January 18, the team and the Gardias traveled four hours by train to the town of Korba where the dedication was held with three hundred people in attendance.  Entering the courtyard gates, we were overcome with emotion as we noticed the stacks of Bibles ready for blessing and distribution.

The program began with praise music and scripture songs in the Chhattisgarhi language led by several congregations’ worship choirs.  Representatives from Wycliffe Bible Translation India and the team from Rocky Ridge honored Tarun and Todd Hendricks brought greetings from his parents, Wilbur and Becki.

Following the program, people flocked to the front to purchase copies of the New Testament.  When Karen asked one young man why he was buying two Bibles, he replied, “I got one for myself and one for my older brother.  All these years I have been reading the Bible in Hindi, but I want to tell others about God in a language they can comprehend.  This will bring them strength.”

Pastor Ravi Baksh and Karen Moyer talk with a young man who purchased two New Testaments--one for himself and one for his brother.
John Kurian (Director-India, The Wycliffe Seed Company) and Karen Moyer talk with young man who purchased two New Testaments–one for himself and one for his brother.

That evening several of us sat with Tarun and asked questions about his journey to completing the New Testament. Tarun reflected, “ Sometimes I was discouraged as I was the only one working on the translation, but two of my uncles would encourage me quite often to keep on going.”

We were awed to experience God’s working in one man and his family’s life and their dedication to answer God’s call.  Even when he was discouraged, he was committed to finishing the task, he said, because of his desire “for my people to be saved and have God’s word in their own language, to speak to their own heart.”

Rocky Ridge congregation invites your continued prayer for Tarun and his family in the next phase of their ministry as they seek ways of incorporating this “heart-language” translation into the daily lives of the Chhattisgarhi speakers. Check out Rocky Ridge’s Facebook photo album.

Introducing Rocky Ridge Mennonite Church

This summer’s baptisms at Rocky Ridge.

Rocky Ridge is located about 2 miles southeast of Quakertown, PA. In the early1900’s the area around Rocky Ridge was known as the “woods over the ridge.”  Families living in the area were of many nationalities and most had little income.  In 1931, the first “cottage” meeting and Sunday School were held.  By 1949, a number of charter families had moved into the area and a new church building at 114 Rocky Ridge Road was built.

We have been an ethnically diverse congregation from the beginning, and have always had at the forefront a support of missions, missionaries, and short term mission experiences.

As we look towards the future, Rocky Ridge is currently trying to re-imagine what shape their missional DNA will take in the 21st century.

Vision Statement:  We are a community of people, bonded by faith in Jesus Christ, committed to being Shaped by God’s word, to Sharing our life with others, and to Sacrificing for God’s mission.

Franco Salvatori is the current Lead Pastor.  The church structure consists of Elders giving spiritual direction and a Leadership Council governance to church matters.

Quakertown Christian School was started in the basement of the church in September 1951.   (www.rockyridgechurch.org)

Update from the Ministerial Committee (April 2012)

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

Connie's ordination
Connie Detwiler was ordained at Lakeview Mennonite Church on May 6.

On April 4 the Ministerial Committee approved Connie Detwiler for ordination as co-pastor at Lakeview Mennonite Church. Her ordination was on May 6.

Rose Bender was approved for ordination on April 4 as the pastor of Whitehall Mennonite Church. Her ordination is being planned for May 27.

Franco Salvatori has been called by the Rocky Ridge Mennonite Church as their permanent pastor. He was installed on March 25.

Joyce Hunsberger was granted a license for Christian education and children’s ministries at Salford on April 29.

New Life Fellowship in Northern PA has closed. Phil Maenza who pastored the congregation for more than ten years works in the community. Since he is no longer the pastor of the congregation, his specific ministerial license will cease.

Called, affirmed, recognized: On believing and living accordingly

Franco Salvatori, Rocky Ridge fsalvatori@gmail.com

When I was just a young kid my older brother and I shared a room. One night he asked me that great Campus Crusade question. “If you died tonight, would you go to heaven?” I shared with him my best understanding of God at the time—that he was like a big computer up in heaven, calculating everything I did. I almost pictured God weighing my life on a balance scale of good versus bad. If the good things I had done outweighed the bad then I had earned heaven. If the bad things came in heavy… well, you know the story. My brother took the time to explain that I could know where I would spend eternity, that all I had to do was accept Christ’s gift for me. Together, we traveled downstairs to my parent’s bedroom and I remember kneeling to pray and ask Jesus into my heart. This was only a few years after Christ had entered our family and made radical changes. My parents weren’t your average Christian family when I was born, my father was an alcoholic and my mom was just holding the family together. I was only four but I remember when life started changing in our home. One day after dad had taken a short “vacation”, he returned different. He was still a steel mill worker, but something was different. He smiled. That next year when it came time for me to start in school, my brother and I both went to a new school. My parents chose to send us to a Christian school to make sure that we grew up with a strong biblical foundation.

Life continued this way for about 3 years after my own personal experience with Christ, when another big change happened in our family. My parents sat us down to say that we were going to be moving because my 39year-old father was going to college. He felt called into ministry. It was this event in my family that displayed faith better than anything I had ever experienced. We packed up and moved, trusting God. Little did we know before the end of dad’s second semester, it wasn’t college he would be in, it was the hospital. Dad was diagnosed with a large tumor in his colon.

Besides my salvation experience, this event had the most profound effect on my spiritual journey. It was at this time in my life, when I could no longer walk in the shadow of the faith of my parents, that I had to determine whether or not I believed in a God who would “call” my parents to leave everything and then abandon them there. It was truly not a long journey, because of God’s people, and because of the truth of 2 Corinthians.

When we suffer, it gives us an opportunity to experience comfort from the God of all comfort. I quickly felt the care of many people that God brought around us, and the comfort of the God who brought us there. It was during this time that I felt the presence of God carrying not only me, but also my family, through this entire event. God eventually healed my father through surgeons and time, but without this suffering I have no idea what my spiritual life would look like today. I can truly say this journey was a start of a lifelong faith journey following the example I saw in my parents . . . believe and live your life accordingly.

During my high school years, there was little differentiation between my call to a fully surrendered lifestyle and to going into full-time ministry. As you have heard, I was privileged to be a part of a family where total abandon was modeled. When I continued to surrender more of myself to God’s will, God revealed in me a passion for serving and different gifts for ministry. As I began to think about career, God pursued me to pursue ministry. When I went to college, I entered full-time ministry to high school students, and I pursued this passion for the next eight years of my life.

From there, we followed God to Eastern Pennsylvania so that I could attend Biblical Seminary’s LEAD program. Through it all, God continues to be faithful to me, my family of origin, and the wonderful family with which God has blessed me along the way. God continues to use our family in ministry as we continually walk each leg of our journey being faithful to “believe and live accordingly.”