All posts by Barbie

When One Part Suffers, We All Suffer

By Barbie Fischer, Communication Manager

Photo Courtesy: New Sanctuary Movement

On Thursday, September 7, 2017, Pastor Aldo Siahaan of Philadelphia Praise Center gathered with hundreds of others in front of the Philadelphia Mayor’s office. They gathered for the New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia’s Fight Live Stop, Defend DACA event. Pastor Aldo stated, “It is important for me to be here as these issues affect my congregation and broader community.”

Live Stop is not something well known to the general public but all too familiar for undocumented and low income families in Philadelphia. Many, even though they are unable to obtain a driver’s license, must drive for work purposes, doctor’s appointments, or general

Photo Courtesy: New Sanctuary Movement

errands. Should they be stopped by police and found to not hold a driver’s license, or have the car properly registered, in addition to other reason, Live Stop instructs the police officer to immobilize the driver’s car, often  towing it immediately. In order to retrieve the vehicle a driver must show a license and registration to the Traffic Court and pay fees of $500-$2,000 all within 15 days. If not met within the 15 days the vehicle is sold at public auction. This law applies only in Philadelphia as other counties have not adopted it.

According to a study done by law students at Temple University’s Center for Social Justice, “The law instructs that cars should be towed for these violations only as a last resort if the cars pose a threat to public safety. Yet this is often not the case because the Philadelphia Police Department’s interpretation of the law goes beyond the state law’s requirements by towing first…this has had a disproportionate impact on undocumented immigrants in Philadelphia.”

Pastor Aldo was among a delegation that delivered over 3,200 signatures on a petition asking Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenny to allow 30 minutes for a person who is subject to Live Stop, to call and have a licensed driver retrieve the vehicle, thus avoiding the vehicle being towed and impounded. A small change that would have a huge impact on the undocumented and low income families in Philadelphia. They would still be subject to paying the violation ticket, but would not have the added cost of the towing and impoundment.

While the Fight Live Stop event had been planned for some time, it came the week that President Donald Trump revoked Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program implemented under the previous administration, allowing for undocumented people who were brought here as children to remain in the country as long as they were in school or working. It was thus, critical for New Sanctuary Movement and their supporters to not only speak out on Live Stop but to also Defend DACA, imploring the mayor to make a public statement in support of DACA.

Photo Courtesy: New Sanctuary Movement

The day began with Pastor Aldo leading an opening prayer, speakers spoke on how Live Stop affects them, and DACA recipients spoke of the blessing DACA is to them and the pain this reversal causes. There was drum music between the speeches to keep spirits up and much prayer by the clergy present.

10% of Franconia Conference is made up of immigrants, they are a part of the Body of Christ and as 1 Corinthians 12:26 says, “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it.” On Saturday, September 9th the Leadership of Franconia Conference released A Pastoral Response to DACA, stating in part, “The law of our land is subject to the rule of Christ in our faith communities.  We continue to hear and respond to the admonition of Christ our Lord who said what you do to the ‘least of these you also do to me.’ We commit to continuing to be communities of support, of love and solidarity with the most vulnerable among us.  We work and hope for the day when justice will fall down like rain and righteousness will flow like a mighty stream.” To read the whole statement click here.

When asked what people can do to support Pastor Aldo and those in the community directly impacted by these issues he said, “speak to your lawmakers, local and federal, use your voice to speak on our behalf.”

A pastoral response from Franconia Mennonite Conference leadership regarding DACA:


We are also dreamers.  Dozens of young men and women from Franconia Conference congregations who were brought to this country as minors feel a renewed sense of fear and frustration with the repealment of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) this week.  The law of our land is subject to the rule of Christ in our faith communities.  We continue to hear and respond to the admonition of Christ our Lord who said what you do to the “least of these you also do to me.”

We commit to continuing to be communities of support, of love and solidarity with the most vulnerable among us.  We work and hope for the day when justice will fall down like rain and righteousness will flow like a mighty stream.   In the meantime, we commit by the power of the Spirit, to offer pastoral care, accompaniment, and engagement as people who seek and pursue peace.  We dream that this land might be a place where all might live in liberty and justice as the children of God.

Live justly.  Love mercy.  Walk humbly with God.

John Goshow, Conference Moderator
Stephen Kriss, Executive Minister
Marta Castillo, LEADership Minister
Mike Clemmer, LEADership Minister
Barbie Fischer, Communication Manager
Randy Heacock, LEADership Minister
Conrad Martin, Director of Finance
Mary Nitzsche, Associate Executive Minister
Wayne Nitzsche, Interim LEADership Minister
Noel Santiago, LEADership Minister
Aldo Siahaan, LEADership Minister
Emily Ralph Servant, LEADership Minister
John Stoltzfus, Conference Youth Pastor


Tanggapan pastoral dari kepemimpinan Konferensi Mennonite Franconia mengenai DACA:

Kita semua adalah pemimpi. Lusinan anak muda (pria dan wanita ) dari gereja gereja Franconia Conference yang dibawa ke negara ini pada saat usia sangat muda, merasakan ketakutan dan rasa frustasi dari diberhentikannya program DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals ) minggu ini. Hukum yang ada di tanah ini didasari dari kebijakan Kristus di dalam iman kita sebagai komunitas. Kita terus mendengar dan meresponi apa yang dikatakan Tuhan Yesus dalam – sesungguhnya segala sesuatu yang engkau lakukan untuk salah seorang yang paling hina ini, kamu telah melakukannya untuk Aku’.

Kami berkomitmen untuk terus menjadi komunitas yang mendukung, dengan kasih dan solidaritas terhadap mereka yang paling lemah diantara kita sehingga kita bisa menggenapi apa yang dikatakan Firman Tuhan untuk menyambut pengungsi,orang asing dan imigrant. Kita akan bekerja dan berharap akan hari dimana keadilan akan datang seperti hujan dan kebenaran akan mengalir seperti arus air.

Sementara ini, kami berkomitmen dengan kekuatan Roh Kudus, untuk memberikan perhatian, mendampingi dan bekerjasama sebagai orang orang yang mencari dan menjalankan perdamaian. Kami mengundang semua gereja gereja untuk berdoa di saat saat ini sebagaimana kita mencari perdamaian di tanah ini dimana semua anak Tuhan bisa hidup sesuai mimpi mereka dalam kemakmuran, kebebasan dan keadilan.

Hiduplah dengan adil. Sayang sayang Berjalanlah dengan rendah hati dengan Tuhan.

John Goshow, Conference Moderator
Stephen Kriss, Executive Minister
Marta Castillo, LEADership Minister
Mike Clemmer, LEADership Minister
Barbie Fischer, Communication Manager
Randy Heacock, LEADership Minister
Conrad Martin, Director of Finance
Mary Nitzsche, Associate Executive Minister
Wayne Nitzsche, Interim LEADership Minister
Noel Santiago, LEADership Minister Aldo Siahaan, LEADership Minister
Emily Ralph Servant, LEADership Minister
John Stoltzfus, Conference Youth Pastor


Una respuesta pastoral del liderazgo de la Conferencia Menonita de Franconia con respecto al DACA:

También somos soñadores. Docenas de jóvenes de las congregaciones de la Conferencia de Franconia que fueron traídos a este país como menores  de edad sienten un renovado sentimiento de temor y frustración con el derogamiento de DACA (Acción Diferida por Llegadas de Niñez) esta semana. La ley de nuestra tierra está sujeta a la regla de Cristo en nuestras comunidades de fe. Seguimos escuchando y respondiendo a la amonestación de Cristo nuestro Señor que dijo “lo que haces al mas pequeño de estos también me haces a mi”.

Nos comprometemos a seguir siendo comunidades de apoyo, de amor y solidaridad con los más vulnerables entre nosotros cumpliendo lo mejor que podemos con el mandato bíblico de acoger a refugiados, extrangeros e inmigrantes. Trabajamos y esperamos el día en que la justicia caerá como la lluvia y la justicia fluirá como un poderoso arroyo. Mientras tanto, nos comprometemos por el poder del Espíritu, a ofrecer atención pastoral, acompañamiento y compromiso como personas que buscan y persiguen la paz. Invitamos a todas nuestras congregaciones a la oración en este tiempo mientras buscamos la paz de esta tierra para que todos los hijos de Dios puedan vivir el sueño de la prosperidad, la libertad y la justicia.

Vive con justicia. Amor misericordia Camina humildemente con Dios.

John Goshow, Conference Moderator
Stephen Kriss, Executive Minister
Marta Castillo, LEADership Minister
Mike Clemmer, LEADership Minister
Barbie Fischer, Communication Manager
Randy Heacock, LEADership Minister
Conrad Martin, Director of Finance
Mary Nitzsche, Associate Executive Minister
Wayne Nitzsche, Interim LEADership Minister
Noel Santiago, LEADership Minister Aldo Siahaan, LEADership Minister
Emily Ralph Servant, LEADership Minister
John Stoltzfus, Conference Youth Pastor



Dahlias, Hurricanes, and the Church

By Mike Clemmer, LEADership Minister and Pastor at Towamencin Mennonite Church

“What a great year for dahlias,” I said softly and proudly as I stood in the midst of my dahlia garden last week. The plants had grown to heights of 6 feet tall and each of them were filled with beautiful flowers and buds. I reflected on all of the hard work that I had put into them – digging up all the tubers (the thickened underground part of the stems) at the end of last year and storing them for the winter, preparing the soil for them to be planted, putting up stakes to support the main stalks as they were growing, tying up any new shoots that needed support, watching out for bugs or disease on the plants – and now, these beautiful dahlias are in full bloom! However, despite my enthusiasm, deep down inside, I knew that although my intentional care for the dahlias was important to their current condition, God’s provision of nearly perfect growing weather was the most important part of all.

Almost immediately, my thoughts went to the recent hurricanes that created great havoc and destruction both here in the United States as well as in many places around the world. Families have lost all of their physical belongings, homes are in need of repair, and personal businesses will need to be rebuilt without the support of a thriving economy around them. It didn’t seem fair that I was reveling in the beauty of my dahlias while these folks were struggling to survive –all because of the weather!

Members of the West Texas Unit in Seminole started replacing the Hurricane Harvey damaged roof of the Principe de Paz Mennonite Church in Corpus Cristi, Texas. (Photo Courtesy of MDC)

Certainly, in these times of disaster, we gain a new appreciation for the work of agencies such as Mennonite Disaster Service, who have the ability to bring direct and immediate help to these communities who are in desperate need of support and encouragement. Rebuilding these communities will take an intentional commitment of time and resources over a long period of time. The process itself can be both overwhelming and exhausting. But in the end, though the storms have torn down and broken much of what was in their path, the intentional effort to the rebuilding process often leads to a deeper ownership and togetherness of the community.

As I think about the opposite scenarios of my garden and the hurricanes, I cannot help but reflect on the church. Churches do not always exist in perfect climates – in fact, they are susceptible to all forms of weather. At times, gentle rains come and add the perfect amount of moisture for optimal growth to take place. In those conditions, the church produces beautiful flower bouquets of service and love that extend out to many in the community around them. Yet at other times, hurricane winds blow through our churches wreaking havoc in the form of disagreements, pride, and apathy. The strong winds rip apart places that we thought were secure and break down relationships that we were certain were firm and sure. In the aftermath of the storm, there often seems to be nothing left but rubble and hopelessness. However, despite the pain and struggle, when a congregation journeys through these times, it can also spur a renewed focus on vision and mission and draw the congregation closer to each other and to God.

We should not be surprised by weather changes. In fact, we all realize that at some time and some place in the church, we will experience some harsh weather. In the Mennonite Confession of Faith’s description of the church, we are reminded that no church is perfect, but we are still to be “committed followers of Jesus Christ and to be accountable to one another and to God” – no matter what the circumstance (Mennonite Confession of Faith, 35). Any type of storm damage repair requires the church to come together and look for ways to seek help from each other, mutual care from outside of the church, and to be intentional about rebuilding. In other words, rebuilding from a storm calls for us to confess our own imperfections as a church and be intentional about strengthening up the only firm foundation which is in Jesus Christ.

As I look around at our Conference churches today, we are all at different stages of growth or rebuilding and are experiencing a variety of weather. As a result, there are beautiful flowers and there are seedlings, there is evidence of drought in places and refreshing rain in others, there is both planting and harvesting taking place – and there are signs of sunshine as well as remnants left from hurricanes. The weather will come – and it will come in God’s perfect timing. “So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who makes things grow.” (I Corinthians 3:7)

For other ways to help with Hurricane Relief visit Houston Mennonite Church here.

God’s Faithfulness

By Mike Derstine, Pastor at Plains Mennonite Church

Congregants from NWC and Plains gathered for a joint worship services

With illustrations from barren trees in the wintertime and personal stories of frustration around his infant daughter’s eating habits, Pastor Beny Krisbianto reminded a joint gathering of Nations Worship Center and Plains Mennonite Church on Sunday, August 27, of God’s goodness that meets us again and again in times of struggle and adversity.  The joint worship service in the Plains Park pavilion was a clear example of God’s good and surprising work.

Plains members, Sharon and Conrad Swartzentruber, have been hosting several Dock Mennonite Academy high school students from Nations Worship Center at their home from Monday to Friday during the school year.  Last year, a small group from Nations Worship Center traveled to the Swartzentruber’s home for a picnic and afternoon games.  Might Plains Church host a joint worship service and picnic in our pavilion, Sharon wondered? Somewhere along the way, Steve Diehl, Director of Advancement for the Mennonite Heritage Center, received word of our planning, and organized a Perkiomen Bus to provide transportation for many more from Nations Worship Center to attend the joint worship service, potluck fellowship meal, and an afternoon visit at the Mennonite Heritage Center.  (Read Steve’s reflections on the visit to Mennonite Heritage Center here.)

Sharon and Dr. Conrad Swartzentruber (far left) in the joint worship service.

In the worship service, a generous offering was received that was divided in half to support the ministries of both congregations, including the renovations of the second floor of the Nations Worship Center building.Preaching from Romans 8:28-39 in his native language of Indonesian, and interpreted into English by Plains member, Dr. Conrad Swartzentruber. Beny spoke about a God who works beside us in every situation we face and who met the needs of Nations Worship Center throughout the long, trying process of buying and renovating their current church building and dealing with obstacles from the city, neighbors, and contractors.  But surprisingly, Beny shared, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenny recently attended a congregational service and wants to come back!

All total, by bus, a van, and several cars, 60-70 members from Nations Worship Center in South Philadelphia made the trip to Hatfield and Harleysville. It was noted in the worship service that the Plains congregation would look forward to another joint service with Nations Worship Center, only this time in South Philadelphia, and that many of the Plains members would also appreciate the convenience of bus transportation to ease the challenges of city driving, following directions, and parking.  God is good and faithful, a reality we often experience in new situations that stretch us and take us out of our familiar routines.


Nafzigers Visit Franconia Conference Area

Nafziger_Bethsaba_DaleDale and Bethsaba Nafziger (pictured left with daughters Shova and Sushma) are Mennonite Mission Network Missionaries in Nepal sent by Vincent Mennonite Church. They will be in the Franconia Conference/Pennsylvania area this fall. If you are interested in seeing the Nafzigers while they are here, feel free to join them at one of their engagements listed below:


Itinerary for Dale & Bethsaba Nafziger

  • October 9:
    • Arrival in Pennsylvania
  • October 16:
    • Providence Mennonite Church, Collegeville, PA
  • October 17:
    • Chapel @ Dock Mennonite Academy, 9 am
    • Dock Woods retirement community, 2 pm
  • October 23:
    • Andover Community Church, Andover, VT
  • October 29:
    • Meet & Greet @ Vincent Mennonite Church, Spring City, PA
  • October 30:
    • Vincent Mennonite Church, Spring City, PA
  • November 6:
    • Plains Mennonite Church, Hatfield, PA
  • November 13:
    • North Baltimore Mennonite Church, Baltimore, MD
  • November 20:
    • Doylestown Mennonite Church, Doylestown, PA
  • November 27:
    • Towamencin Mennonite Church, Kulpsville, PA
  • December 4:
    • Beech Mennonite Church, Louisville, OH
  • December 11:
    • Covenant United Methodist Church, Bath, PA

Read more about the Nafzigers and their ministry in Nepal: Dale and Bethsaba Nafziger.

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.

Anniversary Celebration

Norristown4What is now Nueva Vida Norristown New Life (NVNNL) formed from one of the first mission outreaches of Franconia Conference in 1919. The conference would see two initiatives in Bridgeport and in Conshohocken come and go. Then there was the development of First Mennonite, predominately of Anglo ethnicity; Bethel Mennonite under African-American leadership; and Iglesia Menonita Hispana Fuentes de Salvación.  These three congregations with a vision to be intercultural would join together in 1990 to become Nueva Vida Norristown New Life.

The Missional Operations Grant that was received by NVNNL was to show the continued support of the conference to the work of God in Norristown. The grant added in providing for the 25th Anniversary Community Fiesta and Concert in July 2015.

Norristown1With a tent perched in their parking lot, NVNNL hosted a couple hundred of present and former members, greatly enriched by their Norristown neighbors for gospel worship, led by acclaimed pianist James Crumbly, a concert with Crumbly and Friends and a pig roast and fiesta. The celebration was essentially an elaboration of what NVNNL does each month during the summer season, as Jim Williams, a long-time lay leader, “We canvass the neighborhood, hand out flyers inviting everyone to outdoor worship and a congregational meal.” As Marta Castillo, one of three pastors, remarked, “From the beginning it was in our DNA, first reaching out to Jewish, then African-American, then Spanish. And that day Pastor Beny from the Indonesian church in Philadelphia brought about two dozen folks, so it was more of a cultural mix than usual.”

Read more about the celebration here.

Listen here to John Ruth, historian, talking about the history of Nueva Vida Norristown New Life at the 2015 conference assembly.

Ministry to Veterans

Chris Nickels 5-21-15As more and more young men and women return home from war, the Mennonite church is faced with more of those people entering their congregations. As a peace church should we not be working toward helping all people find peace, including our veterans returning home from war?

Salford Mennonite Church and Spring Mount Mennonite Church partnered with Peaceful Living and Veterans Community Network to offer a training for those interested in learning more about the trauma veterans and their families face, the stages veterans move through as they prepare for deployment and return, and the spiritual impact of war. A Missional Operations Grant was given to aid in covering the cost of this training as the conference works to be a place of hope and healing.

Read a reflection on the training by Pastor Chris Nickels at Spring Mount Mennonite Church here.


As a peace church that speaks out against, acts against, and prays against violence,  But as the men and women who experience that violence return home, our mandate grows to include helping them find peace and healing.

Community Outreach through Cemetery Upkeep

SalemMOGSalem Mennonite Church says they were being challenged by God “to watch, look, and listen…” then join in! As they did this, Pastor Bruce at Salem was invited to organize the volunteers for the Union Cemetery project, a Quakertown private non-profit cemetery, that ended up in disarray. The project would be a cemetery clean-up, beautification, and weed whacking project. Salem Mennonite Church envisioned an opportunity to engage local youth to assist in the project. The Missional Operations Grant (MOG) that Salem received assisted in the purchase of necessary materials for the clean-up project and aided in providing space for youth to build relationships with church members.

Through this project, Pastor Bruce and Salem Mennonite Church have been able to build 12122868_1001542019909693_9124865221014430519_nrelationships with youth, local businesses, the community, and government leaders. It has lead to opportunities for the church to engage more deeply with their community.

For more information about the project and the other doors God is opening in Quakertown for Salem view the video below of Pastor Bruce sharing the cemetery upkeep testimony at the 2015 conference assembly:

One Stitch at a Time

A member at Methacton Mennonite Church, Tiana Martinez, was stirred to action by a sermon delivered by a guest speaker, Pastor Juan Marrero from Crossroads Community Center in Philadelphia, a ministry to those in recovery or recently released from prison who need a place to stay. Pastor Juan noted a need for blankets, and Tiana felt the Spirit’s nudge. She set a goal to donate 100 afghans to Crossroads by December 2015 thus launching, “One Stitch at a Time Ministry.” Tiana wondered is others across Franconia Conference would be interested in joining her in this endeavor. She contact her LEADership Minister, Jenifer Eriksen Morales, who helped Tiana connect with other congregations. So far, members of Methacton, Alpha, and Garden Chapel are working together to meet this goal. Participants were able to gather together to crochet and fellowship with each other, building relationships based in ministry between congregations.

The Missional Operations Grant helped to cover the cost of yarn and other necessary supplies to support One Stitch at a Time.