Category Archives: Intersections

Our paper and digital newsletter with photos and highlights from the previous month’s stories.

Enough to leaven the loaf: Gospel hope rises in Allentown

Samantha Lioi, Whitehall
samanthalioi@gmail.com

One story below our living room window, cars swish by on Hamilton Street, spraying the brown slush which fell as snow and sleet on the main drag into downtown Allentown. There old churches, old shops, more recent Egyptian bagel-makers and the new coffee and sandwich place stand side by side amidst economic depression, trying, like the rest of us, to keep in enough heat and enough joy to carry through a long winter. Most days the living room is filled with sunlight—the warmest room in the house—and knowing that I can accept this day that feels more like the gray northern Indiana winters I left to move here just three months ago.

Downstairs on the kitchen counter, sourdough starter is bubbling. Since taking up residence at Zumé (ZOO-may) House in November, I have started baking bread again. Zumé is the Greek word for “yeast” or “leaven” in the New Testament, and the verse for which our house is named is found in Luke 13:21: “[The kingdom of God . . .] is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.” As a household, we are hoping to be leaven in our neighborhood, our relationships, our city. With that in mind we have claimed three words to describe the house: faith, community, and transformation. We’re still fixing up the place, still imagining and asking God what and who we are becoming, so I will describe what has emerged so far as we continue our sometimes impatient waiting for the community dough to rise.

We are people of Christian faith.
We are followers of Jesus, disciples (students) expecting that learning to follow requires practice and ongoing learning, and apostles (those who are sent), just as we understand each of our sisters and brothers to be sent by Christ to partner with God in reconciliation. Our faith is shaped by
Mennonite Anabaptist understandings of the Gospel including simple living, peacemaking, and knowing and living the Scriptures as we discern together how that is enfleshed in our time and place.

We are a community.
Like many in the U.S. who share this vision, we are still learning what this means. We are keenly aware how deeply individualism is engraved in the grooves of our brains, the felt needs of our hearts and the raised silver numbers of our credit cards. Much of U.S. American culture thrives on our wanting and spending and self-isolating. As we learn to commit to one another in a common life, a foundation of our faithfulness to Jesus is to live in a way that counters
this individualism and carves new grooves in us, day by day. We have spoken about our desire to “submit to allowing ourselves to be challenged about how we spend our time and our money and being willing to make different choices based on encounters in community life. We know we are better disciples together, and we expect to be changed.

Transformation is the result.
Of course, this is only possible by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit of Christ, who is the original leaven. We are committed to encourage one another to expect that God’s Spirit is constantly working through the whole loaf—to continue in hope that God is making all things new—us, our neighborhood, our city, indeed all of creation.

In a way, we know exactly what this means. Like every other follower of Jesus, we are called to rely on God and expect our Creator to act in our daily lives and in the lives of our neighbors. We are to love these neighbors, pray for them, invite them into our home and visit them in theirs, share food, celebrate and grieve with them, invite them deeper into the self-giving love of God and into allegiance to Christ by the empowering of the Holy Spirit. It is also true that we have very little idea what this means. How and when do we do these things? How much time do we devote to prayer as a household? Whom do we invite to join us in prayer? What exactly do we offer our neighborhood (English classes, tutoring, Spanish classes, GED prep)? How do we choose among the many good possibilities and dreams for participating in God’s mission? What is the particular gift or charism of our house? When will we know this? For now, it’s just two of us, and thecharacter and gift of the community could bloom in any number of colors depending on who comes to join us. It’s energizing and hopeful to imagine this, and while we are inviting and waiting for others to come, it’s stretching and overwhelming to choose and focus right now, in the present, precisely what we’re committing to given who we are and what we bring.

Paul told the Ephesian church it was normal not to be able to put their finger on what and who they were becoming, for “your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Turns out, not knowing can nourish trust, and the Gospel’s full of small, ordinary, dark, daily goodness—the seed in the earth, the salt that brings flavor, the yeast invisibly working through the dough. Author Kathleen Norris in The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy, and “Women’s Work” invites more respect for “dailiness”—for necessary daily tasks like cooking meals and doing laundry and doing the dishes—as the very place God meets us, day in, day out.* And what is Christian community if not sharing what is daily in our lives? It sounds like a simple idea, and at its root is deeply counter-cultural: “Give us today our bread for the day.” Give us enough for this day, and we will admit our utter impotence to ensure anything about tomorrow. Be with us today, and we will try to notice your presence in this day. We pour the flour, we knead the loaf, we let it be and let it rise. We discern our life together in daily glimpses, slowly. Trusting there’s enough for each day, God help us.

Zumé House is an initiative connected with Whitehall Mennonite Church where Samantha is associate pastor for worship and mission. The house represents a coming together of Franconia Conference-related ministries in Center City Allentown, building on generations of witness and mission in Pennsylvania’s third largest city.

The house is still under renovation and welcoming groups to help create a space that not only nourished the community of persons who lives there, but also the neighborhood. Contact Rose Bender at rosebender87@gmail.com.

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Connecting our past to our future: Growing faith and community alongside food

Sheldon C. Good, Salford
shelds3@gmail.com

jill-1.jpgIn 1999, Kenny Chesney sang about why “she thinks my tractor’s sexy.” During the past decade, we’ve expanded Chesney’s claim – because now, farming is sexy.

Country music aside, Facebook, the Obama family, and Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution all contribute to the recent popularity of farming. For many people, life doesn’t involve dirty fingernails, overalls, and an almanac. But for an increasing number, farming is cool again (though some have always thought so). Whether or not one actually digs in the dirt, something about rediscovering the spiritual value of God’s abundant earth stimulates heart, mind, body, and soul.

Years ago, people worked the fields from dusk till dawn. Now the closest many get to dirt is by playing Farmville on Facebook (long ago, we played SimFarm). But Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign is bringing healthy, local food back, with plans to eradicate childhood obesity. She recently described her “mission as first lady” as creating ways for families to make “manageable changes that fit with their schedules, their budgets, and their needs and tastes.”

Like Obama, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution TV series on ABC documents how a grassroots campaign to curb obesity starts with getting families excited about local farming. Though a classroom of first-graders can’t tell the difference between a tomato and a potato, they can all identify French fries. But days later, after a dose of the food revolution, the six-year olds can all identify an eggplant when they see one.

Part of the reason why our children can’t identify produce is because, over time, farming has become industrialized. As author Bill McKibben says, efficiency and growth have taken over our food system. “Our affluence isolates us ever more,” McKibben says in his book Deep Economy. “What ties are left to cut? We change religions, spouses, towns, professions with ease.” But at Living Hope Farm in Harleysville, Pa., my family is busy putting some of these ties back together.

I was recently led in an exercise to reclaim my personal heritage. I often think about my ancestral lineage in linear terms (birthdates, jobs, etc.) – data I basically memorized as an adolescent for my seemingly irrelevant school projects. However, I don’t usually consider how strands of my ancestral history are woven together, or how they intersect with other people’s strands. So as our country focuses on jobs, jobs, jobs – I too began reflecting on jobs, on the vocational history of my family.

From what I can gather, nearly all of my ancestors were farmers. Up until my grandparents, both sides of my family – whether living in Pennsylvania or Virginia – farmed small plots of land, which supplied them with much of their food and income. But then both of my grandfathers, Emory Good and Marvin Clemmer, traded in their tractors for automobiles and hit the road as businessmen. In 1947, Emory started a plumbing company. And after spending years selling produce and meat in Philadelphia, Marvin switched mid-course to join a direct-selling company. My extended family became successful entrepreneurs at the expense of being grounded in our backyards; we have benefited greatly.
So the generational story goes for many families living among the farmlands of Southeastern Pennsylvania and the Shenandoah Valley. As the “Greatest Generation” (my grandparents) left farming, “Baby Boomers” (my parents) were raised with new vocational possibilities, and Millenials (me) haven’t looked back. Over the years, many of us have enjoyed the benefits of grocery stores, agribusiness, and Sunday afternoon shopping.

Until now.

Farming activists come in all varieties: an ignoramus addict of Facebook’s Farmville game; a twinkle-eyed Obama supporter; a dedicated vegetarian; or something in between. No matter where one lives, this nation is noticeably rediscovering its farming roots. Because after 500 years of rushed technological innovation, people are noticing that we’re standing on what author Bill McKibben calls “the shard ridge between the human past and the posthuman future.” Living Hope Farm is here to help reverse this trend, by growing faith, food, and community.

farm-2.jpgOver the past few months at the farm, a greenhouse and hoop house have both been installed. Jill Landes, the lead farmer, is currently working alongside her full-time interns, planting for an 80-member CSA. In addition, they are also growing for two families in the Bridge of Hope Program and making connections with the Germantown area of Philadelphia. Several regular volunteers have even graciously contributed countless hours to this mission.

Though it certainly exists on Indian Creek Road in Harleysville, Living Hope Farm is more than an earthly phenomenon. The farm is an opportunity for people to put faith into action. Farming can be spiritual. It’s a chance to rediscover values of corporate faith, local food, and loving community. And for many of us, it’s an opportunity to realize what it means to be living testimonies to our ancestral heritage of farming and entrepreneurship.

Ultimately, the best farming (including at Living Hope Farm) shifts our economy – and our relationships – away from hyper-individuality and towards each other. McKibben says this way of living requires us to “reorient your personal compass” and “live with a stronger sense of community in mind.”

There’s interest in growing food, faith, and community, so let’s get involved. May we all consider what it means to reconnect with our food, our families, and our farms.

photos provided by Living Hope Farrn
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Climbing on: A farewell of gratitude and hope

Jessica Walter, Ambler
jessawalter@gmail.com

As I prepared to write this, my last editorial for Intersections, I decided I needed to look back at some of the writing I have done for Franconia Conference in my almost four years of work and ministry here.

I began the writing portion of my work with an article in the now retired MennoLife. I wrote about how my faith and calling journey had been like rock climbing. My journey was one of questions and confusion and while I would cry out for help on what my next move, or hold, should be I often wouldn’t listen to God’s answer. Taking the leap of faith to grab ahold of the opportunity to work at Franconia was a move toward listening for me, one I have been greatful for.

Since that first article and those first few months of work I have gained many valuable experiences and knowledge. Franconia Conference not only hired me to work with communication and leadership cultivation it also invested in my leadership. I could not have asked for a better place to explore my leadership gifts, develop useful skills and contribute to the equipping of other leaders both young and old. I have felt truly valued and respected despite my age.

And as I spent time here my journey, my rock climb, became less confusing and some questions were answered. I am leaving my post at Franconia Conference with a better sense of who God is calling me to be, answered questions or not.

It is fitting that this issue largely features stories of ministries that have begun to take root throughout the conference because though I am leaving my role at Franconia my roots in the larger conference community run deep.

So deep that I am about to begin work in two ministries connected to Franconia Conference. In June I will become both the manager of Care and Share Thrift Shoppes’ soon to be opened bookstore and an Outreach Minstry Enthusiast/Pastor of Ambler Mennontie Church.

Like the beginning harvest at Living Hope Farm I have been harvested from the soil here at Franconia Conference to be re-planted in the larger community.

Like Rose Bender, God has used many hands to help mold, shape and guide me over the last four years of my life. Interactions with pastoral leadership throughout the conference, visits to many congregations, representing conference and young adults to the larger Mennonite Church, and aid in exploring seminary education have all shaped the creativity, hospitality, and hope that informs my leadership.

Like Lorie Hershey couldn’t have imagined she would be an ordained minister ten years ago I couldn’t have imagined that I would become both a store manager and pastoral leader. And yet the opportunities I have gained from my term at conference have prepared me for these new roles.

During my time at Franconia Conference two passages in the New Testament have shaped my faith and calling journey. Matthew 22: 37-40 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

And Matthew 13: 31-32 Here is another illustration Jesus used: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed planted in a field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of garden plants; it grows into a tree, and birds come and make nests in its branches.

I leave Franconia Conference with the hope that we all will continue to invest in the leadership of young adults, to remember that its the small steps toward change and growth in our congregations that stick, to love God with all of ourselves and to let that love radiate out into love of ourselves and others and to plant the Kingdom of Heaven one mustard seed at a time.

Casting out all fear: In God’s hands

Rose Bender, Whitehall
rosebender87@gmail.com

I was seven and afraid of hell. On the last night of a Billy Graham sponsored revival, in the gym of the public high school, I went forward to receive Christ. There I stood—a little person among all the big people. When they asked us to pray, I obediently closed my eyes and repeated the words. I felt a hand on my shoulder, and snuck a peek to see who was there. Although there were many around me, there was no one with me. Even at my young age, I knew that it was God himself who had placed his hand on my shoulder, alleviating my fears. Years later, reflecting on that event, I recognized its significance. With my limited understanding, I had chosen to follow God. But more importantly, my gracious and loving God had chosen me.

Since that day, I have often felt God’s hand on my shoulder—welcoming, encouraging, prodding, protecting, and guiding. God has many hands. I recall my mother telling me, “Rose, God has something special for you to do.” I remember a teacher questioning my college plans, asking me why I hadn’t considered going into full-time pastoral ministry. When I took a job at a school in Trenton, NJ, and settled in Langhorne, PA, my pastor encouraged me to ‘test out’ my calling by participating as a lay minister at the church. A co-worker invited me to attend an open house at a local seminary. And when I began attending Bethel Seminary of the East in 2000, God confirmed my call through many other hands.

After seminary, I was still timid about pastoring. I felt God directing me toward the Service Adventure program. I became a unit leader in Johnstown, PA, the only site with eight supporting churches. In my two years there, I received many opportunities to exercise my gifts through preaching and teaching. I served as lay pastor at First Mennonite of Johnstown, the unit’s ‘home church.’ There I was able to see Jesus in new ways. God’s hand touched me through the prayers of Joanne, a woman paralyzed since childhood. God’s hands washed mine through Sandy, a woman who was mentally and socially challenged. God spoke to me daily as I lived in community with young adults who saw the world differently than I did. God has many hands. As I matured in my faith, I experienced Jesus taking my hand in His, allowing me to participate in the work of ministry with him.

When the call came to serve as interim pastor at Stahl Mennonite Church in Johnstown, I was ready. And I knew, though the calling and responsibility seemed overwhelming—the work was in God’s hand. I could look back over my journey and see how faithfully the God-Who-Goes-Before had led me. During my first months in that pastorate, I had an accident where I severely burned both my hands. I learned anew the importance of community. I learned for the first time, the humility that comes from being dependent upon the hands of others. In times of doubt, the hand of Jesus comforted me; in times of need, God’s hand provided for me; in times of joy, the hand of the Spirit invited me to dance.

When my time at Stahl was nearing its end, I became aware of Whitehall Mennonite Church, north of Allentown, PA. Their unique story and diversity intrigued me. I was impressed by the practicality and authenticity of their faith. But choosing to take a part-time pastorate seemed risky. Again, God’s hand was upon me and led me forward. I am excited to partner with the congregation at Whitehall—to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the Lehigh Valley.

I am forty-one, and still afraid of lots of things. But I am called and chosen by a God whose perfect love casts out all fear. God’s hand is upon me; my hand is in His; I am one of God’s many hands.

photos provided by Rose Bender

Participating in the movement of God’s spirit:Invited into the ‘dance of cooperation’

Ken Beidler, West Philadelphia
kenbeidler@yahoo.com

lori-ordination.jpgOn Sunday, March 14 amid joyful music and dancing, West Philadelphia Mennonite Fellowship (WPMF) celebrated the ordination of Lorie Hershey. The afternoon service welcomed participants from the many diverse communities that have shaped Hershey’s call to ministry, culminating in a litany of blessings and a liturgical dance that had everyone out of their seats and dancing in the sanctuary.

Focusing on Paul’s words in Galations 5:25 “since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit”, Leonard Dow, pastor of Oxford Circle Mennonite Church, invited Hershey and WPMF to the “dance of cooperation” in which pastor and congregation participate in the movement of God’s Spirit.
Tracing the theme of dancing through the Scriptures from the prophetess Miriam to King David and into the early church, Pastor Dow, exhorted the congregation to trust that God will help us learn the right steps to move into faithful service in the world.

Three years ago, WPMF, an urban Anabaptist congregation extended the call to Hershey to be their pastor. Hershey, a 2005 graduate of Eastern Mennonite Seminary M.Div, moved to Philadelphia with her husband, Brent and two children, Dillon and Eden.

Sylvia Horst, chair of the WPMF Human Resources Committee shared the affirmations of numerous leaders and others in the congregation. Addressing Lorie on behalf of the congregation, Horst said, “Lorie, you have indeed shown strong and clear gifts in working with WPMF. As a leader you are steady and reliable, exemplifying integrity and a Christ-like spirit. You coordinate well, with appropriate attention to detail. At the same time, you are able to let go of plans when necessary to allow the Holy Spirit to work. You listen with insight for what God might be saying to us.”

Invited guests representing the varied congregations and church institutions that have helped to shape Hershey’s call to ministry offered blessings as she enters a new chapter of ministry. After each blessing, a bright colored strand of cloth was woven into a tapestry which was given to Hershey. During the reception that followed the service, attenders were invited to write a personal message and include it in the tapestry.
Franconia Conference Representatives, Noah Kolb, Pastor of Ministerial Leadership and Marlene Frankenfield, Conference Youth Minister, offered prayers and words of challenge to Hershey as she stepped into ordained ministry.

Julie Prey-Harbaugh, the worship leader, led the congregation in responding with the words, “Together as one body, we pledge to you our support that you might freely exercise the ministries of leadership committed to you. Our material gifts, our prayers, our counsel, and our encouragement support you. We pray that you may be given a deep love for those whom you serve and that Christ might be expressed through you in word and deed.”

John Pritchard, pastor of Calvary United Methodist, which owns the building in which WPMF worships and Rabbi Lauren Herrmann of Kol Tzedek Synagogue, read Psalm 150 in English and Hebrew.

A deep sense of gratitude to God permeated the service of ordination, heard in the joyful music, strong drumming and WPMF’s intergenerational choir’s singing of the African-American spiritual, “Guide my feet.” From the opening song, which celebrated God’s presence “Here in this Place”, the congregation, which is celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary of ministry in Philadelphia, was led in a celebration of how God calls and raises up leaders to build up the church and extend God’s Kingdom.

In her response to the service, Hershey utilized the metaphor of the dance to describe her calling to WPMF. She said, “Ten years ago I couldn’t have imagined that I would be standing here being ordained. If I were to use one word for my journey to this point today it would be “movement”. Movement towards God, with God and movement in myself: towards wholeness in my understanding of God and myself. This congregation has been dancing for 25 years now. While some of the dance steps may have changed over the years, the DJ has remained the same.”

photos provided by WPMF

Peaceful Living’s fall conference: The divine power of friendship

Ella M. Roush
eroush@comcast.net

From September 24 to 26, Peaceful Living will hold its biennial conference on honoring a place for people with disabilities and their families in the faith community. This year’s theme is “The Divine Power of Friendship.” In addition to presentations by renowned experts in the disabilities field, representatives of seven congregations will share their journey over the past two years as part of a Congregational Coaching pilot project. They signed on at the conclusion of the 2008 “Honoring a Place” conference, agreeing to work together to foster inclusion within their congregations with assistance from Loretta Moyer, Peaceful Living’s Congregational Coach. Since then, these faith communities – including several Christian denominations, a Jewish synagogue, and a Hindu temple – have been confiding in one another on the successes and challenges of inclusion. On September 25, they will recount their valuable experiences and invite more faith communities to join them.

Internationally known ethicist Hans Reinders, Ph.D., will provide the keynote speeches on September 24 and 25 at Souderton Mennonite Church and a sermon on September 26 at Salford Mennonite. Dr. Reinders is the Willem van der Bergh Professor of Ethics and Mental Disability at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. He is the author of “Receiving the Gift of Friendship: Profound Disability, Theological Anthropology and Ethics,” published in 2008. Dr. Reinders is the parent of a child with a disability.

Friday’s schedule will target professionals involved in the delivery of care for people with disabilities. These professionals include CEOs, directors, direct care staff, state and county agency staff, and Individual Service Plan (ISP) teams. Dr. Reinders will discuss the application of ethics to workplace dilemmas. He will also explore the gift of friendship for people with disabilities. During the breakout session, attendees will discuss and begin to develop a practical implementation plan based upon Hans’ teaching. Alternatively ISP teams may apply learning directly to the creation of an ISP.

Saturday will be geared toward faith community staff and lay leadership as well as people with disabilities and their families. Keynote speeches and workshops will offer tips, tools, and wisdom on developing or continuing your congregation’s progress toward becoming a community that truly welcomes people with disabilities and taps into the unique gifts they bring. A distinct track, led by Dr. Ed Tick, author of “War and the Soul,” will offer guidance on developing a ministry to veterans. Twenty-four practical breakout sessions are available from which attendees may choose three to attend.

Saturday evening will feature a celebration of Peaceful Living’s 10th Anniversary to be held at the Franconia Heritage Restaurant. All are welcome to help us honor those who have made possible this decade of growth. An auction of artwork made in Peaceful Living’s Creative Gifts Program will take place at the dinner.

On Sunday Dr. Reinders will deliver the morning sermon and lead a discussion of it during the Christian Education Hour that follows the sermon.

All facilities used throughout the conference and accompanying activities are handicapped accessible.

Learn the full details of the conference by visiting www.peacefulliving.org. Check out the Peaceful Living Friendship Pilgrimage Blog on the website as well.

Junior High Lock-In: Be a follower!

The annual Jr. High Lock–In was held from 9pm on Friday, March 12, to 7am on Saturday, March 13 at Christopher Dock. This event is sponsored by Franconia Conference, Eastern District and Christopher Dock. Over 63 sponsors and 264 Jr. Highers representing 20 different congregations came out for a night of games, worship, movies and pizza.

This year’s theme was Be a Follower, 1 John 3:1 – See how very much our Father love us, for he calls us his children and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him. Stretch Dean, pastor to teens and their families at Immanuel Church of the Nazarene in Lansdale, was the speaker this year. Stretch kept their attention with his fun entergic personality, even though it was late. He challenged the kids to be a follower of Jesus compared to the many other choices and invitations to follow that they are faced with each day. Nate Stucky, youth ministry student at Princeton Theological Seminary, led us in meaningful time of worship through song.

Each year there is a game that kids have to work as a team to complete for a prize that will put them into a drawing for the grand prize. This year they had clues that led them on a path they needed to follow to get to the next clue. Youth leaders were stationed around to ask them questions when they arrived, sending them on the journey to the next clue. The grand prizes included copies of the book Jesus Freaks by dc Talk and Voice of the Martyrs and gift certificates to local restaurants!

Participants were asked to bring in school supplies to make school kits for the MAMA Project (www.mamaproject.org). The table overflowed onto the floor with school supplies that will be shipped to Honduras and handed out to the children in the villages.

The night was full of fun activities to choose from…soccer, basketball, dodge ball, human Dutch blitz, wallyball, karaoke, Rock Band, movies, and crafts.

Thanks to everyone that helped to plan and carry out all the activities and a special thanks to all the youth leaders that bring their youth group and commit to be here the entire night.

photos by Jessica Walter

Intersections Winter 2010

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After the earthquake: Working to bring healing and hope to Haiti

Jessica Walter, Ambler

some-of-orphans-at-orphanag-copy.jpgIn the weeks and months following the massive earthquake sustained by Haiti in January, Franconia Conference continues to collect funds to assist the Grace Assembly Network congregations in the rebuilding and reconstruction following the Haiti earthquake.

In the days following the earthquake, communication with key Grace Assembly Network leader, Pastor Lesly Bertrand, was limited, but phone calls and a visit form Mennonite Central Committee staff assured the conference of his and his family’s well-being.

Many also waited anxiously for word from the 27 member team from Souderton (Pa.) Mennonite Church who traveled to Haiti for a week long service trip with the Water for Life program located in Passe bois d’orme and the Tree of Life program in La Baleine, Haiti. The team was escorted to safety after the intial earthquake and, in the days that followed, was able to provide some medical relief in a small makeshift refugee village in Cote de Fer. The team returned to Pennsylvania safely on January 18, after an only a few days extension.

“I will never forget arriving in Port-au-Prince before the earthquake and going through the city,” reflected Christopher Dock Mennonite High School senior, Jordan Miller, during a sharing time at Souderton Mennonite. “When the earthquake struck on Tuesday, we had no idea of the magnitude of the situation. It never really hit me until we went back through Port-au-Prince and saw the same places. The destruction was terrible and it was hard to see the fairness of the earthquake happening to an already poor nation. Many of the Haitians in Passe bois d’orme were still praising God with the same vigor after the earthquake, which was really impacting. Their relationship with God was amazing and it gave me a new sense of how to worship. I like to think I have faith in God, but you never really know until it is put to the test, like it was for the Haitians who had lost family and friends, and had little reason to keep on praising God. They did anyway.”

Pastors Aaron Durso and Curt Malizzi from the Hopewell Network of Churches set out to Port-au-Prince on January 22 to learn more about the earthquake’s effects on Grace Assembly Network’s congregations and ministries. Franconia Conference sent a satellite phone with the pastors, to be delivered to Pastor Lesly to help establish more regular contact. The phone was intended to empower Pastor Lesly in his work and ministry by opening doors for conversation that would allow movement of goods and lifting of spirits as the recovery continues in Port-au-Prince.

section-of-security-wall-co-copy.jpgFrom Curt Malizzi . . . “On Saturday, January 23, we toured the site of the Grace Assembly Network orphanage and found the building to be perfectly preserved, but the perimeter security walls had two large sections fallen down and some additional walls leaning.”

To our surprise, as we arrived at the orphanage, a truck of donated food supplies arrived from the Mennonite congregations of the Dominican Republic coordinated through Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). There was much joy in the area and a first food distribution was held for the area people.”

The well at the orphanage keeps running every day to supply water to around 2,000 people. The orphanage is in the Bellanton area which is about 18km northeast of Port au Prince. In the Bellanton area I estimate that about 25% (1 of every 4) of the houses have been demolished or seriously damaged by the earthquake. The Bellanton church building and school suffered much damage, but the Christian believers showed they are staying strong in the Lord with a wonderful celebration of praise on Sunday morning attended by us and the MCC delegation. Thanks to Franconia Conference, a satellite phone was temporarily provided for Pastor Lesly to maintain outside the nation contacts until the cell phone towers began working again.”

The immediate needs are to help reconstruct the security walls and reoccupy the orphanage, then to reconstruct some of the church buildings and pastors’ houses. We appreciate and thoughts and prayers for the people of Haiti and especially the 1,500 people of the Grace Assemblies churches in Haiti.”

Mennonite Central Committee continues to partner with Grace Assembly to bring healing and hope to Haiti. Another shipment of canned meat was distributed by Grace Assembly Network through MCC in early February.

Congregations and individuals from across Franconia Conference continue to be involved in providing relief and support to Haiti.

Franconia Conference gathered funding to support Dr. James Conrad, of Blooming Glen Mennonite Church, in joining a medical team to Haiti coordinated by Virginia Mennonite Missions and MCC. The Souderton congregation has raised support for Haiti through collecting offerings, four person (or larger) tents, relief kits and bedding for MCC and holding a benefit concert on March 20th.

The earthquake halted the distribution of 3.1 million deworming pills delivered to Haiti by the Worm Project but the pills are now being administered again. During this time of limited clean water and food resources parasite removal is crucial. The Worm Project is now preparing to ship three million more pills to Haiti. For more information contact Claude Good at cgood@franconiaconference.org.

MCC continues to post regular updates on their relief efforts in Haiti, including their work with Grace Assembly Network. To get the most updated information visit www.mcc.org.

Franconia Conference continues to actively solicit contributions toward the ministry of Grace Assembly Network in this critical time for our brothers and sisters in Haiti.