Tag Archives: Finland Mennonite Church

Pressing On – Congregational Profile: Mennonite Bible Fellowship

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.

Prayer requests:

  • that they would see and respond to the opportunities God provides to connect with and serve people in the community in ways that bring glory to God and draw people to Jesus
  • that they would be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit each day.

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


Congregational Profile: Finland Mennonite Church

by Andrés Castillo, communication intern

For Finland congregation in Pennsburg, PA, a growing emphasis on “nurturing faith at home” and developing relationships among generations has become a hallmark of their lives together.

In January 2019, Finland collaborated with Spruce Lake Retreat to host the CrossGen conference at Spruce Lake, which included attendees from various Mennonite churches such as Rocky Ridge and Perkiomenville and a couple families who attended Spruce Lake’s family weeks in the past. CrossGen used the space to hold a Q&A panel and other activities that allowed different generations to mingle. The main stage speaker, Sean McDowell, a published apologist and professor at Biola University, shared messages and engaged youth, and many left the conference feeling that allowed them to connect across generations.

The turnout was great, but the lessons Finland learned from the experience were even greater. People were open to mixing intergenerationally, and some even looked forward to it. Through CrossGen, Finland was able to see not only where people stood in their ideas and theology, but that those ideas and theologies are not generation-specific. Another lesson they felt was worth repeating: when communicating faith in Christ, Christians should be humble, loving the person(s) and not merely getting their own arguments across.

Youth Band Leads Worship at CrossGen 2019. (Photo courtesy of Colin Ingram)

Finland sees value in uniting generations, and have made it a common theme in their ministries. They hope to make CrossGen an annual event, but the congregation’s “Gen2Gen nights” have been going strong since before the conference, launching in September 2017.  During these once-a-month church gatherings on Wednesday nights, congregants take time to worship and often participate in humanitarian relief activities, such as preparing supply bags for Ripple in Allentown or Rise Against Hunger. The point of these events is to strengthen family and generational bonds.

Finland also wants its members to nurture faith at home. “We believe God’s intent is not for us to just go to church,” Finland ministry assistant Colin Ingram states. “Deuteronomy 6:5-7 applies to a lot of what we are trying to do here, as it commands us to not only obey, but love God at home and on the go, as well as teach his ways through the generations.”  This happens by equipping parents to pass on the faith to their children, intergenerational and family-oriented programs, and a “prayer partner” program in which youths are assigned a mentor when they reach 6th grade to pray, check in, and walk with them in their faith through high school.

Two congregants serve together at a Gen2Gen night; the congregation is helping prepare a building for a community activities program. (Photo courtesy of Colin Ingram)

Finland has also been holding Finland Faith Week, a week-long version of Vacation Bible School (VBS) held on weeknights for families, couples, and singles, that involves parents as much as it does children and youth. Ingram describes the program as “a combination of VBS, an overall movement of intergenerationality, and the idea of encouraging parents in practicing faith at home.” Finland Faith Week is not just “a day thing for children,” but a time for children and parents to strengthen their faith together, in the context of the whole faith family gathering to grow in Christ.

 Through these different activities, Finland had been reinforcing the idea of not just attending church on Sunday. Their hope to keep CrossGen going year round seems to be realized, and they will be hosting the CrossGen conference again on January 10-12, 2020 at Spruce Lake, featuring Forge America national director Ryan Hairston as the speaker.  As they move forward, they will keep experimenting with and learning about intergenerationality and ways that families can practice loving God at home.

Please pray for Finland …

  • that God would continue to open doors for the gospel to be preached with clarity as we gather and as we go (Colossians 4:2-4)
  • that we would know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge (Ephesians 4: 14-19)

Beyond Our Comfort Zones

by Andrés Castillo, communication intern

Finland congregation’s CrossGen conference at Spruce Lake Retreat, with speaker Sean McDowell. The conference focused on intergenerational unity, with panels representing different generations asking questions of each other.

Every year, Franconia Conference gives Missional Operational Grants to congregations to help them think and dream about mission.  Noel Santiago, Franconia’s leadership minister for missional transformation, described his initial vision for the 2018 MOGs as providing “resources to help congregations reach out and get out of their comfort zone.”

Both executive minister Steve Kriss and Santiago have emphasized that the grants are for starting new initiatives, not sustaining them forever. By overcoming the obstacle of money, churches can begin to experiment; leaders and congregations are encouraged to be more creative. The ultimate hope is that, after the grant period ends, the new conversations and ideas started by it will continue to live on and evolve.

Last year’s MOG recipients have done a good job at what Kriss calls “honoring the legacy of Franconia’s mission to spread Christ’s peace throughout the world.” Here’s a look into what some of them did in 2018:

Indonesian Light Church (ILC) in South Philadelphia has hosted a monthly “food bazaar” to reach out to their community. “We learned that every seed planted needs nurturing and time to grow until it can grow strong roots and bear fruit,” ILC’s report reads. “Without time, love, and commitment to sowing and nurturing, there will be no significant result.” ILC plans to continue experimenting with ways to connect with the Indonesian community in south Philadelphia.

Nations Worship Center (Philadelphia) conducted a Vacation Bible School (VBS) with students from Dock Mennonite Academy (9-12) that received positive feedback and results, including new families faithfully attending church after the VBS was over. They also received help from the city of Philadelphia, Philadelphia Praise Center, and ACME. Nations Worship acknowledges that many of the children who attended their VBS come from struggling families and, “If we lose them, we lose our future.”

A Karen member of Whitehall congregation leads in prayer.

Philadelphia Praise Center (PPC) further developed the Taproot Gap Year program, an initiative for college students that involves sending them to live in Philadelphia and Indonesia. PPC maintains an office and staff in Indonesia for this purpose, which PPC pastor Aldo Siahaan says is not easy. “Thank God we have support from the conference,” he says. “Creating a program like this is not new to the conference, but it is for us.”

Whitehall (PA) congregation used their MOG for increasing leadership development among its Karen (Burmese) members. Pastors Rose Bender and Danilo Sanchez have been creatively finding new ways to integrate the various ethnicities within the church. “It isn’t as much about ‘let’s help these poor people’ as it used to be,” Bender says.  As this long process unfolds, the congregation “understands more and more how much everyone needs each other.”

Vietnamese Gospel (Allentown, PA) invited people in its surrounding community to have a large fellowship gathering, with speakers giving testimonies. The event was meant to empower their members and share the word of God with people outside of their church. Vietnamese Gospel hopes to make this an annual event to build relationships with its community.

Pastor Bruce Eglinton-Woods of Salem congregation has been working closely with the Quakertown (PA) Community Center (The Drop), an after-school and weekend program for at-risk children and teens created in response to the opioid crisis. The ministry helps attendees figure out the next steps of their lives in a judgment-free zone. Eglinton-Woods has learned how hard it is hard to gain the trust of teenagers and children and hopes to eventually grow the program to five days a week.

Ripple congregation (Allentown, PA) was able to provide training for two of their pastors, Charlene Smalls and Marilyn Bender, at the International Institute for Restorative Practices. The Ripple pastors have been using restorative practices to better meet their congregation and community’s needs.

Salem congregation has been partnering with Quakertown’s “The Drop” community center for at-risk children and youth.

Other congregations who received MOGs were Plains congregation (Hatfield, PA) for an unconventional July 4th picnic, Souderton (PA) and Doylestown (PA) congregations for the Vocation as Mission Summer Internship Program, International Worship Center (San Gabriel, CA) for technological equipment, Finland congregation (Pennsburg, PA) for their CrossGen conference, and Perkiomenville congregation for its GraceNow conference.

Every congregation has a unique, beautiful story that honors God’s mission to unite the world as one under Him. What is God doing in your congregation and community?  Share your stories by emailing communication@franconiaconference.org or check in with your congregation’s leadership minister about ways that your congregation might use an MOG to develop your missional imagination and neighborhood connections.

“You Are Loved:” Reflections on Faith & Life

by KrisAnne Swartley, Pastor of Formation & Mission at Doylestown congregation

1 Corinthians 13:1-13 may be one of the most well-known passages of the Bible, but how often do we consider what it may be saying to us as leaders? At the most recent Faith and Life Gathering, we were invited to do just that.

As we sat around tables at Finland Mennonite Church, we shared the words and phrases that jumped out at us as we read. “Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not boast; it is not proud…. Love is not easily angered…. Love rejoices with the truth.” Many of us admitted our human struggle to lead from a place of love instead of leading from the desire to perform well, experience success, or receive the praise of people.

The morning’s presenter, Leonard Dow, explored the theme of love and leadership as he spoke to us from the stories of Jesus’ baptism (Matthew 3:13-17) and his transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-13). He reminded all of us that Jesus was loved by God before he accomplished or achieved anything; he was loved simply because he was God’s Son. What a powerful reminder to those of us who serve in ministry week in and week out: What we accomplish or fail to accomplish does not change our identity as the beloved of God.

In table groups, we discussed questions about leading from love: When have we sensed God’s unconditional love? How did we respond to it? When have we been motivated by something other than love? What challenges do leaders who desire to lead from love face? There was a level of vulnerability to our conversation that felt healing. As we prayed for each other, God’s overwhelming love surrounded and held us.

Leonard told a story of a preacher who welcomed his congregation by saying, “I want you to know I love you and there’s nothing you can do about it.” I left that morning hearing God say to my heart, “KrisAnne, I want you to know that I love you and there’s nothing you can do about it.” If I hit a sour note in a song, preach a lousy sermon, and fail to respond well to someone—or if I play perfectly, preach an inspiring sermon, and say exactly the right thing at the right time—I am still loved as I have always been loved.  This may become my new mantra.

You are loved.

I sense that if this one truth sinks into my soul this coming year, it could have a powerful impact on my ministry, my relationships at home, and in my community. I am loved. You are loved. We are all loved. God empowers us to live and to lead from love.

Leonard Dow is the former pastor of Oxford Circle congregation in Philadelphia and now works for Everence.  Watch Leonard’s full presentation here.  Faith and Life gatherings are held quarterly so that Franconia Conference credentialed leaders can pray and study Scripture together.  The 2019 dates will be February 6 & 7, May 8 & 9, and August 7 & 8.

Board Welcomes Kris Wint

By Colin Ingram, communication intern

KrisWint1The Franconia Conference board affirmed Kris Wint as a new member at their January meeting following his nomination by several conference delegates. He is currently lead pastor at Finland Mennonite Church in Pennsburg, PA where he has been attending since 2001 and a member since 2003.

Kris was licensed toward ordination with Franconia Conference in 2012 while still a student at Biblical Theological Seminary in Hatfield, PA. He became connected to the conference through one of his professors, Steve Kriss, conference director of leadership cultivation and congregational resourcing.  After processing theologies from across the globe through course work and travel to Asia and Israel, he graduated with a Master of Divinity in 2014.

Last year Kris’s ordination was affirmed by the conference ministerial committee.  Kris also served this past year on the board appointed church together statements committee that worked to discern with pastors, and conference board and staff which of the Church Together Statements would be brought before the delegate assembly last fall.

KrisWint3Kris was raised with a blend of Methodist and Baptist perspectives, yet found himself drawn to Anabaptism when introduced to it by his then girlfriend, now wife, Ginger as a senior in high school. After living a lifestyle of what Kris calls “practical atheism,” believing in God but acting as if God didn’t exist, Kris reports being transformed by God’s love in an Anabaptist context.

“God was leading me through a life of religion to a place of really following Jesus,” Kris says.

KrisWint2After high school, He went on to obtain a degree in Business Management with a focus in Human Resources from Pennsylvania State University and began working as a training manager for Haines & Kibblehouse. Kris stated during this time God led him to Seminary and so he began course work at Biblical Theological Seminary.

Working in Human Resources groomed Kris for communicating and “making things practical and relatable in the business world.”

As he begins his first term with the conference board, Kris says this is “another piece of the journey following where Jesus led.”

His strengths include turning vision into practical expressions and equipping others. He looks forward to assisting the board in equipping conference congregations to attain the vision the delegates have set for the conference.

KrisWint4Kris is a husband, father and pastor seeking to lead people to Jesus. His wife Ginger has strong family ties to Franconia Conference and they enjoy being near family as they are raising their four children: Chloe, age 7, Logan, age 6, Paige, age 3, and Jace, age 1.

What most energizes Kris is “hearing how lives are impacted by Jesus, stories of change, seeing God at work.” He also enjoys enjoy spending time with his wife Ginger, playing with their “kiddos,” tending to their chickens and goat, being outside, playing sports, and listening to music.

Read about Kris’s Ordination here: http://mennoniteconferencex.org/finland-congregation-celebrates-ordination-of-kris-wint/

Finland Congregation Celebrates Ordination of Kris Wint

by Colin Ingram

Kris Wint ordination webAccording to Marvin Reinford, it was only the second ordination worship in recent history at the Finland congregation and the first in its new meetinghouse facilities on Ziegler Road.  After three years of licensed ministry, Finland’s lead pastor Kris Wint was ordained on June 28.    Wint has moved into the lead pastor role following John Ehst, who is now serving as the congregation’s associate pastor until a new pastor might be called.

“We just give thanks to God for His grace and His leading in the way we here at Finland sense God building his church,” Ehst said.

In the ordination sermon, Derek Cooper of Biblical Theological Seminary affirmed Wint’s gifting as a prophet amongst the spiritual gifts of Ephesians 4:11.  After highlighting the ministry of Kris to his family and congregation, Cooper said, “I specifically believe that one of the primary callings that God has on Kris, is that he is a prophet.” Wint has a love for the truth because of his given spiritual gift of prophecy and must continue to speak God’s Word to people content with the “status quo” even as a “lone voice in the wilderness” according to Cooper.

Finland’s LEADership Minister Noel Santiago led the ordination.  “On behalf of these your brothers and sisters here at Finland, on behalf of Franconia Conference, we ordain you as a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and commit this congregation to your spiritual care,” Santiago said.

Stephen Kriss, Director of Leadership Cultivation and Congregational Resourcing, presented gifts of a fraktur and oil lamp from the Conference.

At the end of the ordination service, Pastor Sandy Drescher-Lehman of Souderton Mennonite Church, presented her father John Drescher’s last Bible to Wint in a stirring and teary moment. Drescher was a significant influence on Wint, Ehst, and the people of Finland.   Drescher died last summer.   Wint is married to Drescher’s granddaughter Ginger and they have four children.