Tag Archives: Conference Assembly 2014

Waiting and hoping on the One who is faithful

by Marta Castillo, assistant moderator (Nueva Vida Norristown New Life)

Marta CastilloI have been delighted to read the previous blogs in this series, “Esperando: Waiting and Hoping.” When the leadership group chose this theme of waiting and hoping, we imagined that it would take some explaining and enlarging. There was the potential for delegates expressing concern, believing that now is the time to act and respond rather than wait and hope. After all, isn’t waiting and hoping like delaying and wishing? Isn’t waiting and hoping what one does when one is unsure how to proceed?

In this series, the writers have created a wonderful way for all of us to consider the breadth, depth, and potential of waiting on God in hope. If you have not read this blogs series and plan to attend the joint conference assembly with Eastern District Conference, I encourage you to read them in preparation for our time together.

John Stoltzfus wrote about waiting in the cold in community and noticing signs of hope. Michael Meneses focused on waiting in the pain, noting that “even as we hurt and carry what seems to be unbearable pain in our lives, we remain steadfast with great expectancy.”

Beny Krisbianto told a story about how Indonesian Christians were waiting for the impossible, encouraging us to “continue our prayer and hope in God until those impossible prayers are answered.”

Krista Showalter Ehst reflected on waiting when it’s hard to explain why and her hope for the church. “Because it is only in experiencing small-yet-profound tastes of a kin-dom where God’s love abounds and all find wholeness that we can muster the patience to wait for that kin-dom to be realized in full.”

Danilo Sanchez reminds us that waiting is often accompanied by doubt but even when we doubt, God is faithful to fulfill His promises.

We are esperando: waiting and hoping on GOD. It is not like waiting in the doctor’s office, alone and unsure. When we wait on God, God is present with us. It is not like waiting with anxiety for the other shoe to drop. When we wait on the Lord, we can expect to be led in the right direction and God’s will to be done. It is not like waiting to see what other people will do so we can follow them. When we wait on the Lord, God’s Spirit can do a transforming work in us.

Waiting on God is expectant and hopeful. Waiting on God is active. We pray, read our Bibles, and listen for God’s voice. Waiting on God is believing in the assurance of things hoped for, with a conviction of things not seen. Waiting on God helps us go deeper into God’s reality and gives the permission to let go of our anxiety and choose God’s peace. Waiting on God is an act of surrendering to God’s will.

You may know that Nueva Vida Norristown New Life bought a building in 2008 in faith that we were acting in obedience to God’s call and vision. For five years, we waited on the Lord. The tenants that we had moved out, the economy went downhill, and our church ran out of money. As we waited, God did sustain us with hope and manna provision, unexpected gifts here and there from churches and individuals. We prayed. The situation became progressively worse. In December 2013, our buildings were up for sheriff’s sale. We still waited. We wondered. We did everything that we could think of doing. We surrendered. We hoped, believing that God is faithful.

In the winter of 2013, God’s Spirit moved hearts and minds of church leaders, business persons, and other people and miraculously our wait was over. The night of the sheriff’s sale, we held a service of thanksgiving. Our minds were blown by the way that God answered our prayers and had honored our waiting on Him.

In our conferences, we are not sitting around delaying and wishing that things will all work out. People are praying. Churches are actively moving forward with the mission and vision for what God is calling them to do and to be. The conference is moving forward by supporting congregations in ministry through missional operational grants, church transitions, credentialing new persons, supporting current pastors, and connecting congregations with common callings.

We are hopefully waiting for God to work all things out according to God’s will and purposes. When we meet together, let’s remember to celebrate what God is doing and let us wait on God together in the cold and the pain, for the impossible, even if we aren’t quite sure why and have doubts. Hebrews reminds us to hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.

Our theme for this year’s joint Conference Assembly with Eastern District Conference is “Esperando: Waiting & Hoping.”  Conference Assembly will be held November 14-15 at Penn View Christian School in Souderton, Pa.  

Even when we doubt, God fulfills promises

by Danilo Sanchez, Whitehall

Danilo Sanchez with his wife, Mary, and daughter Emilia.
Danilo Sanchez with his wife, Mary, and daughter Emilia.

In my experience, waiting and doubting have a direct correlation. As the length of time that we have to wait increases, so does our doubt. Over time, we begin to ask ourselves, “Is God really listening?” “Does God really care?” “Can this really happen?” “How long do I have to wait?”

So many times, we get tired of waiting for God so we begin to doubt and consider taking things into our own hands. The story of Abraham and Sarah comes to mind as an example: Yahweh promised Abraham descendants as numerous as the stars, but too many years had passed and doubt began to set in. In Genesis 16, the “waiting and doubting” couple decides to take control. Sarah convinces Abraham to have a son through the servant Hagar.

I find it a little strange that the Lord doesn’t intervene at this point to remind Abraham of his promise, but lets their actions unfold. Ishmael is born and blessed, and the “waiting and doubting” couple assumes this is the son that was promised. Yahweh continues to tell Abraham that Sarah will give birth to a son in her old age, however. Both Abraham and Sarah laugh at this idea as the possibility of having their own child seems impossible. Nevertheless, Isaac is born to Sarah and the now trusting couple goes on to have many descendants.

What I learn from this story is that even though Abraham and Sarah doubted God’s promise and took their own action, the Lord still blessed them and fulfilled his promise.

In Acts 1 we see a similar story of waiting, doubting, and taking action. Jesus has promised the Holy Spirit to the disciples and instructs them to wait in Jerusalem. The 11 disciples, Jesus’ mother Mary, and other women and followers gather together in a room to pray. After nothing has happened for weeks, the gathered group gets tired of waiting and praying. So Peter, who’s used to taking action, gets the idea that maybe if there were 12 disciples like when Jesus was around, the Holy Spirit would come. The group casts lots and by chance Matthias gets chosen.

The fact that Matthias is never mentioned again in Scripture makes me wonder why this story was included. What I think this story is trying to teach us, though, is that while Peter had good intentions for his actions, his solution to speed up the process of receiving the Spirit had little result. The disciples still had to wait for the Father’s timing to send the Holy Spirit.

So just as in the Genesis story, we learn that despite the actions of the “waiting and doubting,” God still fulfilled his promise.

What if, instead of being quick to take action, Peter had just waited and continued to pray with the disciples? What if in our “waiting and doubting,” God is calling us to more prayer? Perhaps that is a lesson the church needs to learn in our context today.

These stories give me hope that even when we push ahead with our own agenda or ideas, God can still work through us and accomplish his will. I know there have been times after waiting on God’s answer in my life, ministry, and call that I began to doubt and decided take my own action. It was just too hard to wait. But even if I didn’t make the right choice, God was still faithful to me. As I look to the future, I must continue to learn to wait for God. And as we are forced to wait, we must learn to commit ourselves to prayer. For it is in waiting and praying that we discern the voice of God and the activity of the Spirit.

As we go about our lives and ministries, we will have times where we are called to wait, and this waiting can be anywhere from a few days to several years. The longer we have to wait, the easier it will be to doubt and lose hope. When we find ourselves in times of “waiting and doubting,” however, we must not forget that God is still with us on the journey and is faithful to complete his promises.

Our theme for this year’s joint Conference Assembly with Eastern District Conference is “Esperando: Waiting & Hoping.”  Conference Assembly will be held November 14-15 at Penn View Christian School in Souderton, Pa.  

United in worship at conference assembly

by Sharon Williams, ’14 Conference Assembly Coordinator

On Friday, November 14, worshipers from all Eastern District and Franconia Conference congregations and conference-related ministries are invited to gather in Penn View’s auditorium at 7 p.m. to honor our Lord and reflect together on the theme Esperando: Waiting and Hoping.”

The worship time will kick off United Conference Assembly, which will take place November 14-15 at Penn View Christian School in Souderton, Pennsylvania.

Samantha and candle
Samantha Lioi, minister of peace and justice for Franconia Conference, at last year’s assembly.  Photo by Bam Tribuwono.

The theme for the evening is based on the Spanish word esperando, which translates to a hope that is active and expectant. As we read God’s Word and turn our hearts toward God’s ways, what do we long for? What promises of Jesus are yet to be fulfilled in our lives, our congregations, our communities, and our world? What turns hope into reality?

Longtime Franconia Conference missionary Bob Stevenson will preach at the Friday evening worship service. Franconia Conference credentialed Bob in 1988 for service among our churches in Mexico, where he and his wife Bonnie have faithfully served several congregations. Warren Tyson, executive minister for Eastern District Conference, says, “Bob is a passionate speaker and an effective, respected leader.” Bob is currently the senior pastor of Iglesia de la Tierra Prometida Monte Maria, located just outside Mexico City. We look forward to Bob’s ministry among us.

A gifted team of worship leaders from both conferences is preparing to lead us in an intercultural worship experience. The service will be translated into English, Indonesian, Spanish, and Vietnamese.

The worship team includes: Bambang Tribuwono (Philadelphia Praise Center); Bob

delegates praying 2013
Franconia Conference delegates confer and pray together at the 2013 assembly. Photo by Bam Tribuwono.

Halverson (Salem); Dede Andri (Philadelphia Praise Center); Larry Diener (Franconia); Lynne Rush (West Swamp); Oliver Cabrera (Nueva Vida Norristown New Life); Rodger Schmell (Deep Run West); Samantha Lioi (Whitehall); and Stevanie Theresia (Philadelphia Praise Center).

Everyone is welcome. Childcare is available for ages 2–10 (Please pre-register here). The worship will be live-streamed for those unable to attend. The conferences’ board members will host an ice cream social following the worship.

Waiting when it’s hard to explain why

by Krista Showalter Ehst, Alpha

Krista Showalter EhstI recently attended my first high school reunion as a Mennonite pastor. I am a relatively young pastor, and I think for some of my fellow alumni it was a bit strange to hear about my current career path. I was chatting with two folks (not even discussing church or pastoring at the moment) when one suddenly turned to the other and said, “Are you religious?” They proceeded into a lengthy conversation about the various reasons for—but mostly against—attending church or embracing Christianity. I sat there quietly, absorbing it all and finding myself wondering, “How is it that I ended up on such a different path? Why am I not only in a church but leading one when so many of my peers have given up on church?”

In many ways, it’s easy to imagine myself in the shoes of one of those peers, to come up with a list of reasons for not being part of the church. Many churches are dwindling, and it’s sometimes hard to tell how a church serves people any better than a social club or community center. Even where churches are thriving, they have this persnickety way of wounding people rather than extending a healing touch. Churches have messed up many times and in many ways throughout the years, and it is understandable that some people need to simply walk away.

But I find myself firmly rooted in the church, even choosing a vocation of church leadership, and I wonder just what it is that has brought me to this place. I have certainly not been blind to the ways that church has wounded people, the ways that it is been complicit in injustice. I’ve seen up close and from afar the brokenness and failings of churches.

And yet right alongside the failures and brokenness are these persistent moments of grace and transformation. I’m only six months into my first pastoral experience, and yet I’ve already been privileged to witness many small-but-amazing moments when churchgoers—who in any other setting would likely not be a part of the same social group—extend abundant care to one another or share vulnerably with each other. I’ve seen the ways our small congregation works to give generously to folks in need even while feeling the pressures of a limited budget. I’ve seen high schoolers greeting and hugging an 80-plus-year-old member, and young children running up to ask one of the middle aged members to play with them. These kinds of interactions, these forms of care and intergenerational relationships, they’re kind of rare. They’re certainly not commonplace in our culture. These are the kinds of moments I wanted to tell my fellow alumni about as they speculated about the pros and cons of “being religious.”

And yet at the end of the day it doesn’t come down to looking at a list of pros and cons and deciding which outweighs the other. The failures persist even while grace abounds. Transformation occurs even while brokenness persists. It is one of the most wonderful and most irritating parts of our faith journey. We experience true tastes of God’s love and grace, and yet we continue to experience and confront the places where God’s kin-dom has not yet become reality.

It is, in fact, both the places of “now” and “not yet” that keep me in the church. The “nows,” the times when I see someone receiving healing through their church family or when I myself experience transformation through the community of faith, inspire and energize me. And the “not yets,” the painful moments of witnessing exclusion or becoming entrenched in church conflict—these moments push me to keep struggling, to keep praying, and to keep working on behalf of God’s kin-dom.

I’m not sure if any of this would make sense to my high school classmates. “Why bother wasting all that energy?” they might ask. “Why wait around if the church is still bogged down by all that negative stuff?”

“Well,” I might say, “Come and see.” Because it is only in experiencing small-yet-profound tastes of a kin-dom where God’s love abounds and all find wholeness that we can muster the patience to wait for that kin-dom to be realized in full.

Our theme for this year’s joint Conference Assembly with Eastern District Conference is “Esperando: Waiting & Hoping.”  Conference Assembly will be held November 14-15 at Penn View Christian School in Souderton, Pa.