Pressing On

by Julia Heck, Mennonite Bible Fellowship

Morris Mennonite Bible Fellowship is a small congregation, located in Tioga County, PA.  It is in a valley, nestled between five gorgeous mountains.  Planted in 1953, this congregation was a mission outreach of Franconia Mennonite Conference.  Some of the original workers were Sam Landis, Clayton Godschall, Bob Felton, and Willard Bergey.  Bob Felton was the first pastor.  Later, Arthur Kolb was called to serve here.  Then, in 1969, Paul and Faith Benner were called to move to the Morris area.  So, they left Finland Mennonite Church with three small children and moved to Wellsboro.  Paul became pastor in 1970, and they have been faithful to this congregation and community ever since.  Since 2008, John Brodnicki, Paul’s son-in-law, has taken the place as senior pastor, with Paul filling in as needed.

The community in Morris consists mainly of life-long residential families.  In many cases, several generations have called Morris “home”.  To fit into the community, a person needs to commit to long-term presence here.  The saying goes that either you have to be born into it or bury someone here before you become a local.

The Benner family has lived in the area for around 50 years.  This has allowed us to live life as a part of the community.  We owned and ran the local general store for 13 of those years, allowing us to share common ground with many from the community.  Paul worked as a carpenter/contractor, while pastoring.  Others from the congregation have taken up occupations or started businesses in the area, so people can get to know them.  Rose and Nelson Yoder ran the Witt-Yoder Personal Care Home for several years.  John Brodnicki works in forestry, while pastoring.  Others have worked in garages, counseling, retail, medical and mental health, ski lodges, printing, restaurants, running people to healthcare visits, and cleaning and providing care in homes.

We have several people from the community who come to the church for special events.  When asked, they claim Mennonite Bible Fellowship as their church, even when they don’t attend Sunday services.  We are often asked to perform funerals and weddings for people in the community.  We are a small group, so we often work alongside other local congregations to provide holiday services and VBS.  This builds the Christian community around us and we all appreciate the feeling of inclusion.

Thursdays are special.  Several women from the congregation meet with community women to knot comforters and fellowship over the noon meal.  Sometimes they go on outings together, which promotes feelings of ownership and belonging.  Walking beside these women, through illness, death, abusive situations and times of joy, allows us to bond very closely with them.

Other ministries include prison ministry, visitation, senior banquets and working with local fire/ambulance fund-raisers to name a few.  Recently we participated in the local Trunk or Treat and Easter egg hunt.  Those of us who are employed minister through friendship ministry at work.

The needs are great in Tioga County.  Drugs and depression, both monetarily and emotionally, bind many souls.  Family division is devastating the vast majority.  Most churches are teetering to survive.  The “old faithfuls” come as much as they can, but many suffer illness.  Young families stop by, but when there are no other children there, they move on.

Many children have grown up at MBF and have spread out for various reasons.  Employment that sustains a young family is tough to find in the area.  The Christian community is suffering, so the hopes of finding a Christian spouse are low.  But God has called a few of us to return and carry on the work of the mission.

Despite all of this, we press on.  We want to remain faithful for those who do reach out for companionship, support, and prayer.  We feel that being present and available is our best witness.

If you feel called to a new adventure in ministry, please come by and check us out.  The people are warm and eager to greet anyone who stops by.  At Sunday services we offer worship, sharing and prayer time, sermons, monthly life stories, Sunday school and monthly fellowship meals.  Wednesdays, we have evening prayer gatherings.  Thursday the women’s group meets.  Support is offered any time needs arise.

Please pray for our congregation, and if you can, stop in for a visit.

For more information, contact Pastor John Brodnicki at 570-353-2407 or Pastor Paul Benner at 570-353-7866.