Tag Archives: Conference Related Ministries

Welcoming New Conference Related Ministries

by Sharon K. Williams, Nueva Vida Norristown New Life

What does Indonesia, India, Honduras, and Allentown have in common? See if you can figure it out!

At our upcoming Conference Assembly (November 1–2), Franconia Conference will welcome four exciting and unique organizations as Conference Related Ministries (CRMs).

Taproot Gap Year is a ministry with post high school young adults who are seeking a different way of living and exploring the world. Students can take a semester or a full year to live in Indonesia with homestay families, learn a new language, go to class, serve in internships, explore new places, and learn tools that help develop one’s faith and identity.

Taproot focuses on guiding students on their journey to understand who they want to be in this world, so what they do is fully professional, hands-on, and rooted in love and their calling. Taproot is a ministry of Philadelphia Praise Center, led by Pastor Aldo Siahaan, Lindy Backues, and staff of young adults who are passionate about supporting the witness of Christian young people in the world.

Peace Proclamation Ministries International (PPMI) is an evangelistic and church planting ministry with those living in India and in the USA. PPMI’s vision is to minister to and serve the unreached with God’s Word, which can lead into a personal encounter and relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. PPMI focuses on training pastors, pastors’ wives, and youth through annual conferences, retreats, and gospel meetings. PPMI also supports the ministry of congregations through eye clinics and borewells, and practical ministry tools such as megaphones, bicycles, and sewing machines.

PPMI is led by Paulus and Sumatha Thalathoti (Plains congregation) and a very enthusiastic board of directors.

Healthy Niños Honduras focuses on helping children and their families beat the ravishes of malnutrition and poverty. The child survival programs include a residential nutrition center, deworming, water filtration systems, medical and construction brigades, and preventive health education. Currently, Healthy Niños works in the San Francisco de Yojoa, Cortes, area of Honduras. 

Healthy Niños is one of the outgrowth ministries of the MAMA Project. Herman Sagastume serves as the executive director, with board members representing several Franconia Conference congregations.

Ripple Community Inc (RCI)  is guided by its vision of Allentown as a community where everyone has a role to play, a diverse network of social support, and a connection to the place they call home. Its programs serve over 150 Allentown residents. RCI’s Community Building Center is the only day center in Allentown that is open to the public. RCI Village is the first permanent, community-supported, affordable housing program in Allentown. RCI uses restorative practices to foster a safe, healthy, and supportive community among its participants.

RCI emerged from the work of Ripple Church, which ministers with people who are on the margins of society in Allentown to restore critical relationships, build community, and address material and relational needs. RCI was founded in 2015 to take the work of Ripple Church into the broader community. Sherri Brokopp Binder serves as executive director, along with staff and board members from Ripple Church and the Allentown community.

These four organizations are manifestations of the growth of God’s kingdom in our midst! Each ministry, in its own way, is sharing the gospel of Christ in an appointed area, as well as building relational bridges with our conference community. Join us at our Conference Assembly (worship on Friday, November 1, 7 p.m., and business sessions on Saturday, November 2, 9 a.m., Souderton Mennonite Church) to celebrate this movement of God among us!

Looking to the Future of Conference Related Ministries

by Margaret Zook, Living Branches, with Emily Ralph Servant

The Conference Related Ministries (CRMs) Task Force has been charged with proposing a plan for new and improved ways of relating to organizations associated with both Eastern District and Franconia Conferences after the two conferences form a new Conference next year.

Both conferences recognize the wealth of services provided by CRMs and the growth and potential of these ministries.    Now, moving toward reconciliation between these two historic Conferences, there is a recognition that now is time to talk about the future.   CRM leadership were invited to participate in three listening sessions, in which they talked with the task force committee and recommended revisions to what had been proposed by the Structure and Identity Task Force.

Anne Kaufman-Weaver leads a conversation on cultural humility at this summer’s Conference Related Ministries resourcing event. Photo by Emily Ralph Servant.

These gatherings provided space to discuss questions like: How has the relationship with the Conferences helped in nurturing established organizations and empowering new ministries in the past?  How can the relationship between Conference Related Ministries and the broader Conference be mutually beneficial?  What are ways to enhance communication, support leaders in the CRMs, and improve relationships between CRMs and the Conference structure?    

What may prove to be most important moving forward is communication.   There are some CRMs who have been ministering for 100 years and others that are just birthing; renewed communication between CRMs, the Conference, congregations, and the community is desired and needed for the future.   Support can better happen if lines of communication are open and encouraged.

The final proposal, which will be shared in Assembly Scattered gatherings in October, will include a new CRM committee with board representation.  This will allow CRM leadership new avenues for building connections within the conference structure and among conference congregations as well as creating a new space for CRMs to speak into our conference’s life together.

Representatives of diverse Conference Related Ministries share stories of where they see the Spirit working in the many cultures of their ministry contexts. Photo by Emily Ralph Servant.

Each CRM has a unique ministry, each has a community, each has responded to a need and has founders or a board of directors who believe in its mission, and each has developed a unique set of skills, professions, and responses.  Many CRMs offer resourcing, workshops, and services to the wider church community on topics such as aging, memory loss, music, mental health issues, welcoming those with disabilities, and parenting.  Others provide opportunities to serve our communities at home and internationally, spreading the Good News through medicine, dental care, humanitarian aid, peace and justice advocacy, evangelism, microloans, and disaster recovery.  Still others offer space for children (and adults) to meet God in classrooms, around campfires, and in stories from the past.

For the new Conference, this is a valued resource.   These organizations and leaders represent a rich variety of missions to share with the broader community, which provide unique opportunities for our Conference to engage in new and creative ways.    We as Anabaptists have been charged to “act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.”   Our CRMs have brought these words to life.  May it continue to be so.   


Letting Go Ethically

The Care and Share Shoppes in the Souderton Shopping Center are a part of the Mennonite Central Committee Thrift Shop Network.

If Marie Kondo has inspired you to tidy up this spring, consider these tips from Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), which runs a network of thrift shops across the United States and Canada, including the Care and Share Thrift Shoppes, a Franconia Conference Related Ministry.

  1. Do your research. Ask your local thrift shop what items they accept before donating them. Some thrift shops don’t have the resources to accept furniture or electronics. Others may have an “upcycling corner” where they’ll accept items that are broken or missing pieces (like a puzzle or board game).
  2. Clean your items before donating. Many thrift shops, especially those who depend on volunteers, don’t have the resources to clean or repair items. When your items are clean, they have a greater chance of being sold and avoiding the dumpster.
  3. Don’t donate broken items or old TVs. Unless a thrift shop tells you differently, assume they don’t have the resources to repair broken appliances or electronics—and it could cost them more money to responsibly dispose of them. Instead, look for recycling programs through your city, energy provider or local box stores.
  4. Be thoughtful. Would you give the item you want to donate to a friend or family member? If not, perhaps you need to think about a different way to reuse or recycle it.
  5. Buy second-hand items as much as possible. While thrift shops are grateful for your donations, repeatedly buying and donating new clothes (“fast fashion”) does more harm than good. Thrift shops are often overwhelmed by donations of women’s clothing but are more likely to need men’s and children’s clothing.
  6. Consider volunteering. MCC’s thrift shops are more likely to have the time and skills needed to ethically dispose of and recycle unsellable items if they have a strong volunteer base.
Volunteers receive donations at the Care and Shoppes.

MCC’s network of thrift stops are all working to handle donations responsibly, with concerted efforts to reduce waste and care for the environment. Most of the proceeds from the shops go to MCC’s “Most-Needed Fund,” which supports humanitarian efforts in local communities and around the globe, including relief and development, peacemaking, education, prison ministry and immigration advocacy. To see what’s happening at your local thrift shop, visit https://thrift.mcc.org/.

The Care and Share Shoppes are open for business, as well as for donating, Monday through Saturday — learn more at careandshareshoppes.org.  They also have a variety of volunteer opportunities.  Contact Suzanne Kratz (skratz@careandshareshoppes.org), Volunteer Manager, to learn more about becoming a part of the team!

Hot, Humid and Hope Building

Despite temperatures in the high 90’s and extreme humidity volunteers from the Eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey MDS Unit began a Partnership Housing Project (PHP) on June 30 and continued working on the home through one of the hottest weeks of the year.  Read the full article printed on the MDS website HERE

“Expect the Unexpected” was a Summer to Remember

Franconia Conference is blessed to have several amazing Conference Related Ministries (CRMs) that share the same mission and values in working for God’s Kingdom here on earth. One of those is Bethany Birches Camp in Plymouth, Vermont and in 2017 they had quite the memorable summer.  According to Program Director Dan “Chick” Laubach, this past summer was the most attended season in the history of Bethany Birches Camp.” Not only that, but one of their camp counselors, Liesl “Kiki” Graber,  who expected to find God in a Damascus Road type experience, actually found God while camp counseling — an experience, as she said, that went with the summer’s theme of “Expect the Unexpected.”  Read more from Liesl “Kiki” Graber, and Dan “Chick” Laubach on Bethany Birches’ Blog HERE.

A Synergy of Missional Engagement

by Mike Clemmer, LEADership Minister & Pastor at Towamencin Mennonite Church

Today’s Souderton Mennonite Homes (Living Branches) began as Eastern Mennonite Home of the Franconia District in 1917.

This past week, I had the wonderful opportunity of leading a litany of blessing and rededication for the Souderton Mennonite Homes’ Living Branches 100th Anniversary. This service was the final event of a year-long series of activities that gratefully acknowledged the past 100 years, while also casting a vision for serving the community in the years to come. Living Branches is the first and oldest established partnership in ministry with the Franconia Conference. Currently, there are 18 Conference Related Ministries (CRMs) that represent an array of extensions of the reign of God into local communities through nurture, witness, care and discipling. After my experience at this service, I wondered, how are we doing in supporting our CRMs?

At their core, Conference Related Ministries have a unique collaborative relationship with Franconia Conference and represent a fruit of faithfulness in the church’s history and future. CRMs have usually been born out of a deep desire to care for people in need, both in church communities as well as the physical community in which they reside. All the CRMs also have their own stories to tell. This is true of Souderton Mennonite Homes.

In the early 1900s there were no local retirement communities. Leaders in the Mennonite community wanted to find a way to care for the aging population in their congregations. They saw a need and collectively asked, how can we care for our community? Prior to this point, care for the aging happened within families. Although there was a heartfelt sense of love and responsibility for their older members, and care was provided for grandparents and parents by the younger generation –  this often meant that the sick or elderly lived out their days confined to a bed, without easy access to proper care.  At this time in our country, making ends meet was hard enough for many families and some simply could not provide adequate care. Much like in Acts 6, Franconia Conference leaders conferred about this great need and the seeds of the possibility of forming this “ministry” together were planted. On October 7, 1915, the Conference approved the project and appointed 12 trustees – all who understood that they would not be creating an institution, but rather, a “home,” embraced by the church. The Conference then looked to its congregations to help support the project financially, and the goal of $6,000 was surpassed as the trustees collected over $19,000. Shortly thereafter, the “Eastern Mennonite Home of the Franconia District” opened its doors in 1917 and the partnership with Franconia Conference has continued.

Stories like this one could be told by many other Conference Related Ministries. Indeed, the Conference has partnered with a variety of ministries in many areas of need including bringing help to disabled or special needs persons, collaborating in areas of aging and mental health, engaging together in camps and retreat centers, as well as working together in creating educational facilities and church plantings.  By ministering together, our churches are achieving a synergy of missional engagement in our communities. We are truly the church when many members are working together to form one body in Christ – a body that shares resources and invites collaboration with many gifted volunteers – as we together exercise mutual care and love in showing hospitality to all those in need. After all, the church exists to benefit others. How are we doing at supporting our Conference related ministries?