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A Family Reunited

by Nelson Shenk, Boyertown congregation

Gaby & Kyle with their daughters

In 2005, Maria Gabriella (Gaby) left a dangerous living situation in Mexico and came to the United States to make a better and safer life for herself and her two-year-old daughter Citlalli.  In doing so, she and her daughter came as undocumented persons.  She eventually met and married Kyle Rhoads, who grew up at Boyertown Mennonite Church.  They had 2 daughters, Isabel and Kylene, and settled in Bechtelsville as a happy family unit.

They were attending our church for several months when Gaby and Citlalli decided to apply for their green cards so they could be here legally. That involved returning to Mexico and having an immigration interview at the U. S. Embassy.

In October 2017, she and her daughter returned to Mexico with trepidation.  Her daughter was approved and returned home to Bechtelsville in November, but Gaby was denied.  After the denial of her visa in the interview, she had to re-apply for a waiver.   In February 2018, her husband and 2 younger daughters visited her, and two-year-old Kylene stayed in Mexico with her mother.

Many phone calls were made to lawyers and politicians on her behalf.  Many people at Boyertown church wrote letters requesting her return so the family could be together.

Gaby reapplied and, after spending many months waiting, she went through the interview process again, including another medical exam and paying more money.  After 15 months away from her husband and daughter, her visa was finally approved in October 2018.  She and Kylene arrived home on January 24. 

On January 30th, a big celebration was held at church for her safe return.  Christopher Friesen, a member of the Germantown congregation, works for the law firm that processed Gaby’s paperwork.  He and Gaby finally met as we celebrated that day, which was another joyous occasion.

Gaby’s family is once again living as a family unit in Bechtelsville.  There are still some on-going complications with paper work, so please keep the family in prayer as life goes on and there are adjustments to be made. Our church family at Boyertown praises God for a good outcome for Gaby’s family.

 

 

Representing Conference in National Conversations

by Mary Nitzsche, Associate Executive Minister

Angela Moyer, assistant moderator, Danilo Sanchez, Youth Formation Pastor, and I represented Franconia Mennonite Conference at the biannual Constituency Leadership Council (CLC) February 28-March 2. Others attending from Franconia Conference included Joy Sutter, Moderator Elect of Mennonite Church USA, and Buddy Hannanto, representing the Indonesian Mennonite Association.

(L to R) Buddy Hannanto, Mary Nitzsche, Danilo Sanchez, Joy Sutter and Angela Moyer.

The CLC is comprised of representatives from each area conference, churchwide program agency, and constituent group. While not a decision-making body, CLC serves as a forum for discernment, conversation, and networking. This group of 50-60 persons function as denominational elders offering counsel to the Executive Board on issues of faith, life and churchwide statements. Glen Guyton, Executive Director of MC USA, emphasized CLC’s importance, acknowledging that our “concerns are heard and taken seriously.”

An emphasis of CLC is building relationships of trust among executive board representatives, conferences, racial/ethnic groups, and churchwide program agency leaders. Sitting around tables, sharing personal and ministry stories, worshipping and sharing communion, eating meals together, discussing important matters of our common life, and playing group games remind us of the covenant we hold—to be the presence of Christ and share in Christ’s reconciling mission with each other and in our communities and places of ministry.

Angela Moyer commented that, “attending CLC helped me learn to know our new denominational leaders. God has given us a gift in these leaders, who have passion for God and the church, and a vision for our denomination.”

Lively, yet respectful, conversations centered around two key issues: a review of the MC USA membership guidelines and an update of the potential merger of The Mennonite and Mennonite World Review (a decision delayed last fall to process the concerns raised by CLC).

Barth Hague, chair of The Mennonite’s board, gave a brief update to inform CLC of the recent decision to resume the merger process.

The membership guidelines, which were implemented in 2001 and reviewed in 2013 and 2015, are once again an issue for the MC USA delegate body to consider at MennoCon19 in Kansas City this summer. Eight recommendations for the Executive Board’s consideration were discerned around eight table groups utilizing the “Six Thinking Hats” approach to decision-making. This approach provided opportunity to depart from a predictable pattern of debate. Instead, the guidelines were processed from six different perspectives: neutral, optimistic, critical, emotional, innovative, and process oriented. I found this process helpful since everyone at the table was speaking from the same perspective for an allotted time, allowing us to shape a unified recommendation. In Danilo’s words, “Even though there were disagreements around the table, everyone was respected and valued.”

Angela, Danilo, and I were honored to serve as Franconia Conference representatives at CLC. Danilo summarized our shared experience and reflections well, “Throughout our meetings, it was evident that every pastor and leader who attended CLC loves the church and loves Jesus. Through CLC, I gained a trust and confidence in our denominational leadership. I believe their desire is for MC USA to be faithful followers of Jesus and to be an Anabaptist witness to the world.”

Called to Worship

by Larry Diener, Franconia congregation

Larry Diener leading worship at Conference Assembly

My sense of call has always been to the church, to the Body of Christ, and my primary area of ministry has been in music and worship.  When I was a youngster, someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I answered—a “working preacher”.  My dad was a bi-vocational pastor, and I guess I wanted to be like him.  He worked hard at carpentry, and was a pastor/preacher for many, many years.

As I grew older, the “work” part stuck with me, but the “preacher” part didn’t.  Even though I currently serve as a pastor at Franconia Mennonite Church, I have never felt called or gifted to be a preacher.  Serving in music and worship as well as pastoral care are the areas into which I have felt called and equipped. 

For much of my adult life, I was employed as a music teacher.  I taught both vocal and instrumental music in elementary, junior high, and senior high schools.  During that time, I was heavily involved in music and worship in various congregations.  Sometimes it was in the form of a part-time job, but often it was on a voluntary basis.  I have served in Brethren, Methodist, and American Baptist churches as well as several different Mennonite churches in different states.

So how did my sense of call to the church develop?  I have no clear or precise answer to that question.  I would simply say that as I matured in my faith during my teen years and early 20’s, I gradually developed a passion for music and worship in the congregational setting, and volunteered to serve in various capacities in whatever church I happened to be involved with.  While in college, I took a part-time job as minister of music in a local church, and found that I loved the work, loved the people, and felt a deep sense of meaning and fulfillment in leading people in worship. 

After I retired from teaching music, I was employed at Bahia Vista Mennonite Church in Sarasota, FL as the minister of music and worship.  My wife, Doris, and I moved to this area in the fall of 2014, and I am currently serving at Franconia Mennonite Church in music and worship, and pastoral care.  This call to church ministry has been very meaningful, humbling, and fulfilling.

Conference Begins Building Youth Formation Team

by Emily Ralph Servant, Interim Director of Communication

Franconia Conference has begun building an intercultural youth formation team to resource youth leaders and to connect youth across congregations, geographies, and cultures.

In February, the conference called Danilo Sanchez and Brooke Martin as the initial members of this team, implementing the recommendations of a two-year youth ministry study.  This study emphasized the need for providing more depth of resources to urban congregations (which make up a third of the conference) as well as to continue the good work of resourcing suburban and rural congregations, expanding these possibilities through the creation of a diverse team.

Danilo Sanchez, of Allentown, PA, will serve as a youth formation pastor for both congregations in the greater Lehigh Valley (PA) region (including New Jersey and New York) and congregations that have significant youth from Spanish-speaking households.

“Danilo is uniquely positioned in his experiences, gifts, and language abilities to serve our conference at this time,” reflects Steve Kriss, Franconia’s executive minister.  “Danilo has ministered in urban settings but also grew up in more suburban, rural parts of the conference, and his experience working with young adults as the director of Mennonite Central Committee’s Summer Service Program helped him to build connections with the Anabaptist community across the country.”

Sanchez also serves on the pastoral teams of Ripple and Whitehall congregations and as the Community Life Director for RCI Village.  He has a degree in youth ministry from Eastern University and a Master of Divinity from Eastern Mennonite Seminary.  In addition to resourcing youth pastors, Sanchez will serve as a liaison for youth ministry within Mennonite Church USA.

 “Danilo cares deeply for the church, young leaders, and youth, which is a perfect fit for this new Conference role,” says Pastor Angela Moyer of Ripple congregation, assistant moderator of the conference board.  “On our Ripple pastoral team, he is a thoughtful, passionate, and dedicated presence, which I have appreciated.”

Brooke Martin, of Telford, PA, will serve as Community Formation Coordinator, which includes providing administrative support for youth activities like the Jr High Blast, Mission Impossible, and other upcoming initiatives.  In addition to her work with the youth formation team, Martin will assist with planning and implementing conference events like equipping seminars, delegate trainings, and networking gatherings, with special attention given to Franconia’s annual Conference Assembly.

Martin is a member of Salford congregation and has extensive experience in administration and event planning as well as a degree in youth ministry from Hesston College.  Mary Nitzsche, Franconia’s associate executive minister, anticipates that Martin’s experience and love for planning, organizing, and coordinating events will be a good match for the conference during this time of expansion and community-building.  “Brooke is a person with contagious energy, confidence, and motivation to begin her new role as Community Formation Coordinator,” Nitzsche observes.

Before joining the conference staff, Martin served as the interim youth ministry leader at Franconia congregation, where Pastor Josh Meyer benefited greatly from her servant heart.  “Her commitment to the Church, her passion for Jesus, her effectiveness in ministry, her graciousness in difficult situations, her ability to meaningfully connect with both students and adults, and her humility of spirit coupled with quiet confidence were all incredible blessings to us,” Meyer reflects.  “I’m confident that our conference will benefit from the gifts Brooke brings and look forward to seeing how God continues using her calling for Kingdom good.”

Intersections (Winter 2019)

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Stories in this issue:

Mission Impossible

Franconia and Eastern District
Conference youth:  Your mission should you choose to accept it …
is on April 13, 2019!

 

  • Mission Team: Junior and Senior High Youth – 1 leader per 8 youth
  • Time: 7:00 – 9:30PM
  • Location: Camp Men-O-Lan Auditorium – 1415 Doerr Rd, Quakertown,  PA 18951
  • Gear: Dark clothes, close-toed shoes, flash lights (cellphones don’t count)
  • Questions: contact Mike Ford at Mike@bgmc.net

Sponsored by Mennonite Mission Network,
and hosted by Camp Men-O-Lan and Spruce Lake.

***Groups should register by Sunday, April 7, 2019! ***

REGISTER YOUR GROUP HERE:

Becoming an Authentic Pastor

by Ben Walter, Ripple

I grew up attending a Church of the Nazarene congregation every Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday evening, well into my teenage years. Our family was at church whenever the doors were open.  My parents often sang up front, Dad playing the guitar and Mom banging the tambourine against her leg.  They asked me to join, but I was too shy and self-conscious.

I can’t tell you when I became a Christian, or when I was “born again,” because as far as I can remember, I have always looked to Jesus as Lord, savior, teacher, and friend.  Despite my semi-forced dedication to the church, becoming a pastor was not on my to-do list; standing up front, talking, and inviting people to kneel at the altar to get saved for the tenth time wasn’t my idea of a fulfilling job.

As I entered my late teens and early twenties, I drifted away from the church.  I thought about God often, and prayed occasionally, but my faith wasn’t guiding my decisions. 

After spending 3 years in the military, I prepared to start college.  I was thinking about becoming a pastor, but I felt like, if that’s what God wanted for my life, I couldn’t be obedient to that call.  A nagging feeling of guilt began following me around.  So I went to talk to my pastor.

I remember my pastor said, “You will know.”

I didn’t really “know” at the time, so I ran.  I guess I assumed God would get the message to me if I needed to hear it.

During my final year of college, like the prodigal son, I returned.  I started attending church and met some good Christians friends who helped me stay on track.  The youth pastor at my home church asked me to help with the youth.  This turned into seven years of teaching, chaperoning, and mentoring.

Over time, particularly after the start of the Iraq War, I began thinking more deeply about Jesus’ teachings on peace, justice, oppression, and solidarity.  I didn’t have a label for it, but I was on my way to becoming an Anabaptist.

In 2008, I decided to pursue a Masters of Divinity degree from Biblical Theological Seminary. I wasn’t interested in pastoring, but wanted to dedicate a few years to serious study of scripture to help in the ministry I was already doing.  

During my studies, I learned about the Anabaptists and was told by one of my close friends that I was one.  This was news to me, but I embraced the label.  I also had the opportunity to be taught by a Mennonite adjunct professor, Steve Kriss. 

Steve was the teacher for my final class at Biblical Seminary.  As I walked out the door of my last session of that class, marking the end of my seminary education, Steve stopped me to ask a few questions.  He told me that there was a church in Allentown that might interest me and wondered if I’d like to meet Tom Albright, the pastor of Ripple.  I decided I would check it out.

Ben spending time with Ayanna and Angel in Ripple’s Community Garden. Photo credit: Angela Moyer

When I got to Ripple, I saw a church that was dedicated to being a safe, welcoming place of worship for people who have been pushed to the margins of society, those with whom Jesus calls us to solidarity.  A few weeks later, Ripple called me to be one of the pastors, and I “knew.”

I initially thought I couldn’t be obedient to God’s call to be a pastor because the pastors I had known seemed to be straight-laced and uptight.  There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s not me.  At times I still feel pressured to fit a certain pastoral mold, but for the most part, Ripple has allowed me to pastor from a place of authenticity and vulnerability.  I have learned that being a good pastor is simply about being the person God has created me to be.  I don’t have to pretend.

Thank God!

Embracing God’s Cakrawala

by Jeff Wright, leadership minister

In the last two years, Franconia Conference has welcomed new congregations from California.  Three predominantly Indonesian-speaking congregations and one predominantly Cantonese-speaking congregation have affiliated with the conference.  I’m privileged to work with these churches and I’m sure the future ahead—for both the conference and these congregations—will look very different because these churches are in our midst. 

Celebrating Chinese New Year with Jemaat Kristen Indonesia Anugerah (JKIA).

To be culturally Californian is to be optimistic in general, and to look toward the Pacific for imagination.  Our new California churches are from across the Pacific—young, entrepreneurial, and hard-working immigrants from many Indonesian cultures as well as well-established immigrant families with ties to the always growing, always reinventing city of Hong Kong.

As I work with these churches, they bring to mind five Indonesian words that tell a story of holy imagination: seeing God at work in our many and varied neighborhoods across the Los Angeles basin and the San Francisco Bay area.

The first of these Indonesian words, Cakrawala (cha-kra-waa-la), points to this imagination.  Cakrawala means “horizon.” But more than just a fixed point out there somewhere, Cakrawala also speaks of perspective and outlook.  It invites us into a story, not just an intersection of longitude and latitude. The new churches in California invite us to embrace God’s perspective and outlook – God’s Cakrawala – as we do God’s work together as Franconia Conference.

The second Indonesian word that comes to mind is, “Sahabat (sa-ha-baat).”  In relational cultures, everyone is a friend.  But to be a Sahabat is to take on a deeper level of friendship and relationship: a Sahabat is a best friend.  Jesus describes his followers this way in John 15:12-17.  No longer are disciples of Jesus servants—we now become Jesus’ best friends.  Our new churches in California live with the vital exuberance of people who have discovered a new best friend in Jesus Christ.

Celebrating Chinese New Year with Jemaat Kristen Indonesia Anugerah (JKIA).

Being best friends with Jesus means that, third, we become “Guyab (gu-ye-aab)” to one another.  Jesus’ friendly embrace makes us a people that are “in togetherness”—a people committed to carrying one another’s burdens. Paul’s call to the churches in Galatia (Galatians 6:1-5) embodies the principle of Guyab; a church “in togetherness” is a loving center of God’s mission of burden bearing, forgiving, restoring, and discerning.

Jesus’ befriending of us, and our willingness to be in togetherness has the effect of “Peremajaan (pee-re-maa-ja)” —literally, “Making young again.”  The promise of Revelation 21:5-7 is the promise of God making all things new (young).  The ugly wreckage of sin no longer holds sway.  God’s Cakrawala is to restore, renew, and refurbish that which is broken. God does not abandon us, but makes us Peremajaan—young again, full of life.

As we follow Jesus, our Sahabat, live out God’s missional call to Guyab, and wait for the great repair work of Peremajaan, we must become a Ragan (rah-gan) church – a diverse community of faithfulness.  In the Franconia churches in California, the people speak several Indonesian dialects, Cantonese, Mandarin, Spanish, Dutch, and English.  Most Franconia Conference members in California are bilingual, even trilingual.  They point the rest of us to the great event described in Revelation 7:9-12.  Our Franconia Conference churches in California know that the Church cannot be focused on its mission without being more and more an expert in diversity (Ragan).

God’s outlook for the church is not much different in Indonesian than it is in English: to follow Jesus who seeks to befriend us; to embrace one another in togetherness; to let God’s transforming work make us young again; and to be a church full of diversity.  May such a Cakrawala be shared and true in Souderton, Philadelphia, Southern California, San Francisco, and beyond.