Tag Archives: Bonnie Stevenson

Delegates commit to waiting, hoping, discerning at Assembly

Bob & Bonnie Stevenson
Charlie Ness (Perkiomenville) and Bonnie Stevenson pray for Bob Stevenson before he brings the message during Friday night worship. Photo by Emily Ralph

by Emily Ralph, associate director of communication

“Waiting on God is expectant and hopeful,” declared Marta Castillo, Franconia Conference’s outgoing assistant moderator, at the opening of the United Franconia and Eastern District Conferences’ 2014 Assembly.  The theme of this year’s gathering, held November 14-15 at Penn View Christian School in Souderton, Pa., was “Esperando: Waiting & Hoping.”

“We’re not waiting for something, we’re waiting for somebody,” added Bob Stevenson during Friday evening worship.  “Waiting is not just a passive sitting back.  And so the word I have is that we wait ‘until’ [we receive the power of the Spirit] and then we get up and go!”

Stevenson and his wife Bonnie were called and commissioned as missionaries to Mexico at a Franconia Conference Assembly 26 years before.  They were celebrated Friday night as they reached a milestone in their ministry: the transition from raising missionary support from the States to full funding through their congregation.  “I thank the Lord for allowing us to be a part of this conference,” Bonnie responded after she and Bob were presented with a Spanish fraktur created by Salford congregation member Roma Ruth.  “There are many times on Friday morning when we have our prayer together … that we pray for each one of your congregations by name.”

praying for Danilo Sanchez
Conference leaders pray for Danilo Sanchez, Whitehall, one of this year’s newly credentialed leaders. Photo by Bam Tribuwono.

The theme of leaders raised up and called from within the Conference continued on Saturday during the joint delegate session, when the gathering recognized a number of newly credentialed leaders who were licensed out of Franconia congregations.  “Where do our pastors come from?” asked Steve Kriss, Franconia Conference director of leadership cultivation.  “They come because you invite them.”

This year also saw the credentialing of leaders from other conferences and denominational backgrounds, adding to Franconia’s increasing diversity.  “Diversity is a catalyst for growth,” reflected Jessica Hedrick, Souderton congregation, during table feedback.  Her table encouraged conference delegates to prioritize prayer and, as corporate discernment continued, to recognize “the opportunity to learn from each other instead of necessarily trying to get everyone to agree.”

KrisAnne Swartley praying
KrisAnne Swartley, Doylestown, joins in prayer for the other congregations at her table. Photo by Bam Tribuwono.

The theme of listening well and together wove through many of the stories and hopes shared throughout the weekend.  Danilo Sanchez, Whitehall congregation, named three areas that it seemed the majority of delegates were wrestling with: “Listening to the Spirit, how to sit with our differences, and how to love like Christ.”

The Franconia Conference Board asked delegates to consider what kind of conversations needed to be planned leading up to the Mennonite Church USA convention in Kansas City next summer, knowing the likelihood that Convention will include decisions about denominational structure and human sexuality.  Many delegates agreed that the questions of structure and sexuality only skimmed the surface; perhaps there were other questions that should be asked instead.

delegates conferring
Delegates discussed difficult issues around tables with grace and laughter. Photo by Bam Tribuwono.

Josh Meyer, Franconia congregation, wondered how the upcoming dialogue could form those participating into the image of Christ.  “How we have this conversation is just as important as any decisions that we make,” he said.  “It doesn’t matter what we decide in Kansas City; if we don’t treat each other as sisters and brothers in Christ, then we’ve missed the point.”

Throughout the weekend, conference leadership encouraged delegates to actively wait on the Spirit, to take time for stillness and listening, and to collaborate in acts of justice and mercy.  “We must not become paralyzed by the issues of the day,” encouraged Eastern District moderator Brenda Oelschlager, “but move forward in love … as God leads us along new paths.”

Several new paths highlighted included a new Lehigh Valley collaboration in hiring Sanchez as youth minister, welcoming two new Philadelphia congregations (Centro de Alabanza and Indonesian Light Church) into an exploration of membership in Franconia Conference, and the move of the Mennonite Conference Center to the campus of Christopher Dock Mennonite High School in Lansdale (Pa.).

Aldo Siahaan introduces new congregations
LEADership Minister Aldo Siahaan introduces two new congregations exploring membership in Franconia Conference: Centro de Alabanza and Indonesian Light Church. Photo by Bam Tribuwono.

Although 2014 saw the beginnings of new ministries and the licensing of many new pastors, it also brought the deaths of three influential church leaders: Paul Lederach, John Drescher, and Israel Bolaños.  In reflecting on their legacies, Kriss encouraged delegates to remember them by carrying on their work of teaching, writing, and mission.

“The gospel isn’t good news until someone takes it and goes with it,” Bob Stevenson agreed.  The power which sends the church is not political or force, but “a power that is a ‘preach the gospel to the poor’ power, it’s a ‘healing the broken heart’ power….  What will change this world is us, God’s people.”

Women join together to ‘Come and be Filled’

Sandy Landes

celebrate-003.jpg“Come and be Filled,” was the theme of the recent “Celebrate, women joining together” event held at Franconia Mennonite Church on Saturday, April 17. An all-day event, it included worship, sharing from the Word by Bonnie Stevenson of Mexico City, pampering stations including neck and shoulder massage as well as being refreshed through fellowship and prayer. A group from Blooming Glen ministered through singing “At the Foot of the Cross,” an echo of the message for the day, laying down our burdens and picking up the joy. We were blessed by the testimony of Luz Maria Vargas, a church planter with her husband in Gaithersburg, MD.

266 women of the region and beyond attended from congregations and communities throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania, Philadelphia and Lancaster as well as from Northern PA and the Washington DC metro area. Planned by nine women from local congregations, the purpose of the day was to help women come to relax, refresh, renew and rejoice as we celebrated the love of Jesus.

The following response to the day by Connie Detwiler, co-pastor of Lakeview Mennonite Church, reviews some of the highlights:

“God’s presence was sensed in many ways. The day was beautifully planned and flowed along wonderfully well. From the moment our group walked into the church we were welcomed. The hospitality of the greeters was warm and helpful in every way. What a heartwarming site as more and more ladies came and to hear the different locations they came from! The ways God draws us to unity is precious!

Bonnie is an amazing speaker. Her spirit is ever so gentle and delightful and yet so strong in who she is and ‘whose’ she is. What a gift we had in her!

Kudos over and over to the worship team! How amazing it was to have a group of women from different churches leading the praise and worship time! The voices, the instruments, and the spirit in each of them was just lovely and inviting.

It was humbling and challenging to be asked to be part of the prayer team and as always, God showed up in amazing ways as we prayed. I really feel many were ministered to through prayers that only God knows the end results.

The prayer rooms offered places of quiet and reflection in many ways, from the visuals to the guided prayers. And, speaking of visuals, the front of the church was a beautiful reminder of “being filled”…many times, over and over.

The ladies giving the massages were ministering to many and the massages were just a special treat, a great way of pampering.

The lunch was delicious and just right for the setting we were in.

It was obvious that much time, many thoughts and fervent prayers went into this time of celebration preparation and many were blessed. I have heard only positive comments from our group that attended and I’m sure if distance weren’t a problem, I’d be hearing more.”

celebrate-007.jpgA few other comments captured in passing included the following thoughts gleaned from Bonnie’s teaching:

  • The Lord loves to hear my voice!
  • Keep looking up!
  • Be thirsty!
  • Maranatha – The Lord is coming!
  • Be faithful in the little things
  • Intercession – keep knocking
  • Lay my burden down and pick up joy
  • With forgiveness, comes healing
  • “The message about being wakened in the night and just enjoying the presence of God instead of stewing about not sleeping well, helped me on Saturday night.”

And Kristi Wile, Franconia Mennonite Church, writes, “I couldn’t wait to spend an entire day worshiping and fellowshipping with other women! I knew that God would do an amazing thing. With the worship time, the testimonies, and the speaker, God made His presence perfectly clear. At one point, I was standing down front amidst other women and I was so highly aware that the Holy Spirit was moving right around me and in me. It was awesome! I came away so full and overflowing that it was several days before I could read my Bible again!”

As a way to reach beyond us, the women in attendance were given an opportunity to knot two comforters for distribution in Haiti through Mennonite Central Committee. While “Celebrate” was free for those in attendance, an opportunity was given for donations towards the expenses of the day and any monies received in excess were promised to be forwarded on to Grace Assembly Network in Haiti, a Franconia Conference Partner in Mission. We are thankful to report that $417.00 will be sent to the church in Haiti.

celebrate-010.jpgFor those who would like to hear the worship and teaching, CD’s are available for purchase at Franconia Mennonite Church for $5. Call the church at 215-723-3220 to confirm availability.

You are invited to join in prayer as God’s leading is sought for any future “Celebrate” events. We look forward to being a part of God’s purposes fulfilled in the lives of women in this region.