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Congregational Profile: Indonesian Community Christian Fellowship

Indonesian Community Christian Church (ICCF) or Gereja Kristen Masyarakat Indonesia Immanuel (GKMI Imanuel) was founded on November 13, 1992 in San Bernardino, CA. It was started as a small prayer meeting. ICCF quickly grew into a big congregation because at that time, there were not many Indonesian churches in the area.  Most of the members come from Huria Kristen Batak Protestant (HKBP) church backgrounds, which is predominantly Indonesian-Batak ethnicity. Once there was a church split and from that split, ICCF birthed five HKBP churches in the area.

For almost 9 years Pastor Sam Setiawan led the church, before passing down his leadership to Pastor Henry Rumemper, who led the church for 2 years.  He was followed by Pastor Yohanes Ginting who remained for less than a year.  For some period after that, ICCF did not have a lead pastor, but was helped by one of the church leaders, Rina Kusuma, until June 2007, when Pastor Makmur Halim came to the United States from Indonesia and was trusted to lead the church as a pastor of ICCF.

Pastor Makmur Halim

When Pastor Makmur came to the church, he started to create the first ICCF bylaws and discipleship programs, that prepare the congregations to do missions in the world. While the community is at the very center of the church, raising leaders – especially from the next generation – is also a priority. Out of this discipleship program, ICCF has already birthed leaders that are sent outside the congregation to lead churches. ICCF officially joined Franconia Conference at the Fall Assembly 2016. Today the church is located in a large Indonesian population in Colton, CA.

The vision and mission of the congregation are to reach the Indonesians and prepare the church for mission through discipleship.  Sunday Service is held at 5:00 pm with a contemporary worship style.

Prayer request:

  • Please pray for them as they support the regeneration of leaders in the church, as well as for their vision and mission to reach more people to Christ, and to bear much fruit that blesses the nations and generations.

 

 

Congregational Profile: Lakeview Mennonite Church

by Dorrie Mininger

Lakeview Mennonite Church is one of the more remote outposts of Franconia Conference. It is located in the hills of rural northeastern PA and began in the 50’s when several young, adventurous Mennonite families moved up here to farm and plant a church.

Seven years ago, our most recent pastor and his wife were called to another church after 16 years at Lakeview. We were left pastor-less.

Through the ministry of an interim pastor we decided to be officially “Congregationally Led”. This is how it runs: We have a rotation of speakers which include a pastor from a Wesleyan church in the Binghamton, NY area, one of our own members and a Catholic nun! On months when there is a fifth Sunday, somebody from conference has been coming up to speak for the past year.

The New York pastor is available for counseling and another local pastor visits people in our community and congregation who are sick or struggling. Members of our worship committee rotate and take turns leading worship. Our music is varied, ranging from traditional a Capella hymns with 4-part harmony to contemporary praise and worship music. Our members are about 50% local people and about 50% people who travel at least a half an hour because they want to attend a Mennonite Church.

One of the concerns with our current arrangement is losing our Mennonite connections, so we are thankful for having a conference speaker every 3 months or so. Interestingly, the Catholic nun has been intrigued by the Anabaptist perspective and has often brought messages that focus on the teachings of Menno Simons and others.

We have many outreaches to our community. Sixty-some years ago, our church started out with a two-week Vacation Bible School (with help from “down state” Mennonites). Our Sunday School is small but mighty and we continue to have a not-very-big, but growing 1-week VBS each summer.

Because we don’t have the expense of a pastor’s salary, we do have funds to help people in the community in need. When our members learn of somebody in difficulties, they feel free to bring these situations to our council to see what we can do to help. Often the gift of money or purchasing basic necessities (for instance, heating fuel) is just the needed boost. We also do things like having wood cutting parties to help neighbors who can’t do it themselves.

A couple years ago, several of our members decided it would be good to start a Christ-centered 12 step program called Celebrate Recovery. Because of our small numbers we have joined with people from several other churches in the community to do this. We launched the program in September of 2018 and are praising God for lives being changed (including ours) in the town of Susquehanna.

A few months ago, Steve Kriss encouraged us to consider hiring a part-time pastor. As we discussed this, we were very reluctant to abandon the people that had helped us so much through the past 5 years by bringing good messages, visiting and counseling. We are discerning together what that might mean into the future.

Thank you for offering to pray for us! We think this is a critical time for us but also very exciting time. Is the Holy Spirit up to something? We think so! Your prayers are greatly appreciated.

Conflict resolution: We are all beloved by God

(originally printed by MennoniteUSA.org
 
 

Scott Roth is a credentialed leader in Franconia Mennonite Conference that is exploring and creating cultural masterpieces through Urban Expression North America and Young Life.  Some of his current projects are the reconciliation of Eastern District and Franconia Mennonite Conferences, directing Bike & Sol, a community non-profit bicycle shop, and establishing and growing the ministries of Young Life in the Upper Perkiomen School District. Roth frequently speaks and writes for organizations and publications on youth formation, community development and incarnational ministry.

This post is a reflection from the Conference Ministers’ Gathering, in Banff, Alberta, Canada, December 4-7, 2019.

I am a sinner. I attend a church full of sinners, and Jesus died for my sins. This is a common way of viewing our identity with Christ. I often have been taught and heard these phrases. Yet, I do not hear the fact that we are, first and foremost, beloved.  Beloved by our Creator, in whose image we are made. The one who lived and showed us a way to live that is epic compared to our own human condition. The one who died and rose from the grave to create a bridge for us through grace to be with him forever! Why? Because our Creator loves us.

This was the narrative from our time in Banff, Alberta, Canada. Conference ministers from Mennonite Church USA (MC USA) and Mennonite Church Canada retreated to the Canadian Rockies to reflect and engage with Betty Pries, CEO of Credence & Co., Kitchener, Ontario, and Sue Park-Hur, MC USA’s denomination minister for Transformative Peacemaking. They led sessions on dealing with conflict in a variety of ways and scenarios, showing how we can realize our own story and the story of others as they intertwine in conflict. I cannot do the teachings justice by trying to summarize every nuance, but I want to reflect on us, as a denomination, and on what it means to be a people that is beloved.

Conflict resolution starts at the core of recognizing that each person is beloved by God. At our essence, we are children of God – individually and wonderfully made. As we see this, it is our basis for handing any conflicts that arise between us. We start with that foundation and build from there with an attitude of curiosity. 

Think of a time in your life when you were at odds with someone. Was it your first instinct to understand and know where the other person was coming from? Or was it to try to defend and debate your side of the story? In other words, are we ok with trying to understand the other person with whom we are in conflict? Do we take the time to really dig deep with them and plunge the depths of their “why” regarding the conflict? It is through this curiosity of understanding that we can begin to build a bridge that leads to a restored relationship.

Many times, this is easier than healing “systems.” Systems get created over time and are reflective of those who have power and authority of the system. I am sure that if you take time, you can name many broken systems. Apply the same principle that those put in authority and power of these systems are beloved by God. In my heart of hearts, I don’t want to hear that about certain systems! I mean, come on, Jesus, can’t you just smite them off the earth, so we don’t have to deal with them?

As I continue to reflect on the Conference Ministers’ Gathering, I think of Jonah. Jonah had this attitude about Nineveh, the capital seat of the Assyrian Empire and a city that took three days to cross. This was a system. Jonah wanted God to smite the whole city. He was so entrenched in his thinking that he was willing to be thrown into the sea to avoid God’s plan. Wow, that is stubborn!

Even dealing in a system situation, we see that having a beloved attitude would have changed what Jonah was looking to do. His approach would have been different, because his heart would have viewed the people of Nineveh differently.

We need to be a people who know we are beloved and seek to show others they are beloved.  Over the years, I have watched many people leave faith communities without ever really recognizing that all involved are beloved. Can we start doing this more? Can we see the other person sitting across the table as beloved – no matter what they may think or do?  Can we plunge into the depths of their lives with curiosity to know them?

I leave you with this quote from Betty Pries:

“It is not magic that we are talking about here. It is not that we are lost one day and Christ-like the next. Or scoundrels today and saints tomorrow. But slowly, with each day that we awaken to Christ within us, and with each day that we open ourselves to the realization that we are deeply beloved of God, we are transformed into the likeness of the Christ. Slowly but surely, we become what we receive. We become transformed in our personhood. And, as we eat the bread and drink the cup, we find ourselves more able to join Jesus in pouring ourselves out for our loved ones, for our neighbor, for the world and for our enemies. We become the Body of Christ.”

The Steps Ahead

by Stephen Kriss, Executive Minister

It’s finally here.  After decades of separation and years of conversation, the work of reconciling our Conferences back into one witnessing and ministering community is upon us.  We’ve spent years listening, worshiping, and dreaming.  But now the implementation is beginning.

The new board is in place as of this month.  John Goshow and Beny Krisbianto finished their terms.  Jim Musselman, Janet Panning and Roger Schmell join other remaining Franconia Conference board members as were affirmed this fall.  Rina Rampogu of Plains congregation reminded us as part of the structure and identity task force that there will be times over the next years where the old and the not yet and the new are all intermingling.  We are indeed in that time.  The first board meeting will be later this month.  Ken Burkholder is now the Franconia Conference moderator and will be the moderator of Eastern District and Franconia Conference beginning on February 1.

On February 1, we will begin to operate as one organization, for now Eastern District and Franconia Mennonite Conference.  We will have a new temporary website in place as well:  www.MennoniteConferenceX.org (not yet active).  Focus groups are meeting this month to continue the further discernment of our new name.   Staff persons may still have Franconia Conference email addresses for awhile in this in between period.  The last issue of Intersections will likely arrive in your congregation sometime yet this month.

We will have one shared budget and one staff.  I’ll continue to serve as the Executive Minister for our new Conference, and Mary Nitzsche will continue as Associate Executive Minister.  Most existing Franconia Conference staff roles will remain the same.  We’ll continue adding staff in the first months of 2020, including a staff person to work with Conference Related Ministries and leadership ministers who will accompany Eastern District congregations.   We will likely begin advertising for new positions this month.   We will be a Conference of 55 congregations and almost 30 Conference related ministries.  We will produce publications in English, Spanish, Indonesian, Haitian Creole, Cantonese and Vietnamese to serve our congregations.

Sometime in 2020, we anticipate our new name will be approved by the Conference board and a new website and branding will become available.  New committees — nominating and intercultural, specifically — will begin to operate at some point this year.   The executive team of the board will also be reconfigured.

Throughout 2020 we will also be working closely with the approximately eight Florida congregations set to join our Conference at our first Assembly in November, 2020.  We will be working to build strong relational ties between us and transitioning credentials for leaders from Southeast Conference.   We continue to have inquiries of additional congregations who are interested in joining.  We will need to work to pace growth sustainably and carefully.

We have important shared work ahead this year as we seek to collaborate with the Spirit to create a flexible and sturdy Conference that will serve our congregations and communities into the next centuries.   There is a sense of excitement in all of this and a sense of much yet to be done.  I hope that the transitions will be as seamless as possible and that when they aren’t, that we can be patient with each other as we are transformed in this process of reconciliation and renewal.

Vaclav Havel wrote that transformation is not simply staring at the stairs ahead of us, but actually taking steps to ascend them.  This is where we are now, one step at a time.

We are trusting again in the ancient and always-new story of God’s love, of the possibilities of Christ’s peace and the ongoing empowerment of the Spirit within each of us and in us as we carry this work of grace together.

Congregational Profile/教會簡介: San Francisco Chinese Mennonite Church

欲參閱中文-粤語版, 請往下推

by Pastor Joshua So

My wife Anita and I came from Hong Kong; our church speaks Cantonese. Cantonese is one of the dialects in China and the official language in Hong Kong.

In the early 1980s, Pastor Lee Sze Fun traveled from Vancouver, Canada to San Francisco to share with me a vision from the Pacific Southwest Mennonite Conference which was to build a Chinese church in San Francisco area.  After two months of fervent prayers and digging deep into the fundamental faith of the Mennonites, I was happy to accept Pastor Lee’s invitation and started the San Francisco Chinese Mennonite Church at the same location it is now. 

Since then, a lot of preparation work has been carried out, finding a location, printing promotional materials and so on but we saw the hands of God’s through many prayers.  November 8, 1980 was our first Sunday worship service and we worshiped with a thankful heart.  On November 15, 1980, as the Conference planned to come to present our church with a certificate, I got an emergency call from my father in Hong Kong.  It was heartbreaking to hear that my beloved grandma was seriously ill.  My family earnestly urged me to go back.  I felt I should go back but what about the new church?  It was tough!  I called every day to check on grandma’s progress, only to find out that she was not getting better.  I cried out to God in my prayers, and brothers and sisters also walked with me in prayers until one day, I picked up the phone and told my father that I planned to stay because the church needed me.  Then my father responded with relief that grandma’s condition was no longer life-threatening!  Praise the Lord! He let me make the decision and he took care of my worries.

With God’s many blessings, we celebrated our 39th anniversary this November with Pastor Jeff Wright among us and also grateful to be part of the Franconia Mennonite Conference.  Our church has many ongoing programs like Sunday worship with Sunday School & morning prayer meeting, Tuesday bible study, Rejoice Together Fellowship, special outreach events, festival & holiday celebrations, a churchwide retreat, nursing home & hospital ministry and intergenerational church members care ministry to equip and nurture our congregation.  More than a dozen brothers and sisters join hand in hand, to serve the hospital ministry with joy.

Chinese Restaurant Workers Ministry

Lately, our church had a new vision, to be the salt and light for Jesus to a group of Chinese restaurant workers in the San Francisco area.  The Chinese Restaurant Workers Fellowship was born.  This ministry’s first meeting was on December 10 and followed by the Christmas celebration on December 24.   Unfortunately, there is no other church in the San Francisco area also serving this group of workers and that also reflected the significance and importance of this ministry.  Restaurant workers absolutely need the gospel due to their emptiness of mind, working hours and boring, long hours; many of them are addicted to bad habits.  Even though we acknowledge how hard it was to reach out for this group of people, we assured ourselves that their hearts need Jesus the most. 

Nursing Home Visitation

We believe God loves to save their souls and this ministry is in consensus with the vision and mission statement of the Mennonite belief.

Please pray with me for our financial needs and for more willingness of heart to share our vision down the road for this new workers’ ministry.  We appreciate all your support, care and prayers for the future of our church.

 


 

三藩市門諾會救恩堂簡介

我和師母都是在香港長大,移民來到三藩市這個地方。我們是說廣東話的中國教會。

在1980 年初,李世勲牧師從加拿大溫哥華來找我,他説太平洋西南門諾議會有異象在三藩市開始一個中國門諾教會。經過大約兩個月的時間禱告及了解門諾會的信仰,我便欣然答應了李世勲牧師。直到現在我們仍然在這堂址敬拜著。

自始便展開了很多籌備的工作,找地方,印製宣傳品,很多祈禱會等等。主的手沒離開過我們。教會終於在1980年11月8 日開始了第一個主日崇拜。區會計劃在11月15 日來给我証書,但就在那一星期,我父親從香港來急電説我至愛的祖母患重病入了醫院。他們都希望我回香港,我那時不知道如何是好,我應該回港,但新開始的教會怎樣?每日打電話回港,每次父親説祖母的病無變化。我不斷禱告,弟兄姊妹也為我禱告。最後,我告父親我決定留在美國,因為教會需要我。就在那時,父親告訴我祖母已經脫離危險時期。主是何等奇妙!主在等待我決定,除去我的憂慮!

在神的恩典裏,我們今年慶祝教會成立39週年,並很高興有議會的Pastor Jeff Wright 積非牧師在我們當中;更為著可以能成為法蘭崗尼亞門諾議會的一份子而非常感恩。現在教會有許多事工,我們有主日崇拜、主日學、查經班、小組團契、祈禱會、專題分享、節日慶祝、退修營、老人院及醫院關懷事工和會友關懷小組事工等等。現在有十多位弟兄姊妹願意參與我們這個醫院關懷團隊。

最近神給了我們教會一個新的異象,就是向餐館裏的工友傳福音,因此我們成立了一個餐館團契。這是一個很不容易的工作,三藩市就只有我們教會向這些餐館人事傳福音,可見這個事工的意義和重要性。餐館人士是多麼需要福音,他們心靈空虚、生活枯燥和長時間的工作, 更染上了不良嗜好。但卻沒有第二個教會有這工作。但是我們雖然知道很難,但是我們真知道他們需要福音,所以我們接受這個挑戰。因為我們相信神!我們也知道這是門諾會的異象和使命。

餐館團契

但請為我們祈禱🙏,因為你知道我們工作的人手有限,我們也沒有這個新事工的預算。我希望你們為我們代禱,在各方面支持我們。多謝你們的關心!

你的同工,
蘇棣初牧師!

What I Learned about the Incarnation from Navy SEALs

by Josh Meyer, Leadership Minister (Franconia congregation)

One of the earliest Christians, a man named Paul, writes about something called “the life that is truly life.”  That’s what God desires for us: full, abundant, thriving lives which are marked by things like hope, love, joy, and peace.  The problem is we live in a broken world and therefore fall short of God’s dream for our lives.  We aren’t living the life that is truly life because we’re held captive by other forces, other desires, other sinful patterns of behavior. 

Consider your own life this Advent.  Is there anything that’s holding you back?  Is there anything preventing you from living the life God desires for you?  Maybe it’s skepticism or anxiety or fear.  Maybe it’s insecurity or loneliness or jealousy.  Maybe it’s anger or bitterness or simply a gnawing sense that there’s got to be more to life than what you’re experiencing. 

Jesus comes to rescue us from sin and brokenness and anything that does not lead to life.  And the remarkable thing is how God initiates that divine rescue mission.

Incarnation.

Jesus comes, a newborn sent to a poor, oppressed, occupied people.  This is unexpected and seems unnecessary.  Couldn’t Jesus have rescued us and redeemed the world in a grander, nobler way?  Why this?  Why incarnation?   

A couple years ago I heard about a covert operation that took place in a dangerous part of the world.  A team of Navy SEALs was sent to rescue hostages who were being held captive.  They flew in by helicopter, made their way to the compound, and created a diversion which drew the guards away. 

The SEALs then stormed into the room where the hostages were being held.  These people had been captive for months, the room was dark and dirty, and they were all curled up in the corner, completely terrified.  The SEALs knew they only had a few moments before the guards returned, so they stood at the door, motioning to the prisoners: “Come on, let’s go, you’re free – hurry, hurry!” 

No matter how much they implored, however, the hostages didn’t follow.  They stayed huddled on the floor, cowering in fear, unable to even make eye contact.  They didn’t recognize that the SEALs were there to rescue them, not to harm them.  Perhaps this was an elaborate trick by their captors?    

The SEALs didn’t initially know how to respond.  There wasn’t enough time to individually carry each person out before the enemy returned, but no matter how much they reassured the hostages, the captives couldn’t follow. 

Finally, one of the SEALs got an idea.  He took off his helmet, laid aside his weapon, and stepped into the room.  He walked over to the frightened, dirty prisoners and laid down with them.  He curled up tightly next to them, getting so close that his body was touching some of theirs.  He softened his expression and put his arms around them.  He stayed there for a moment – with them, one of them – humbling himself in a way the prison guards never would have done. 

Finally, some of the prisoners managed to meet his eyes, and there, face-to-face, flesh-to-flesh, he whispered, “We’ve come to set you free.  Will you follow us?”  As he stood to his feet, one of the hostages did the same, and then another, and another, until eventually the entire room followed him to freedom. 

I don’t know what may be holding you back right now. 

I don’t know what’s preventing you from living the life that is truly life

But I do know that we have a Savior, a Rescuer, who doesn’t just call to us from afar to follow.  The incarnation is the provocative, compelling, subversive, beautiful insistence that Jesus meets us in the mess and the brokenness of our lives; he takes on flesh so we can know that he is with us and for us.  And the decision faced by those hostages huddled in the corner of that dirty room on the other side of the world is the same decision you and I face every day:  

Our rescuer is here, among us.  Will you allow yourself to be set free?