by Javier Marquez, intercultural communication associate, with Emily Ralph Servant
On the night of October 18, 2019, a group of adults and children worked for several hours at the Material Resource Center, a part of Mennonite Central Committee’s ministry in Harleysville, PA. The objective of the project was to put together kits of basic supplies that will be delivered to migrants who crossed the border from Mexico. Members of Franconia Conference contributed the helping hands and gave resources to make the project a reality: 370 kits were packed that night, and the rest of the $20,000 donated by the conference (via churches, individuals and a matching grant) will be sent to MCC Central States to purchase additional supplies.
The kits consisted of a set of useful products such as towels, notebooks, pens, water, and other basic necessities for people who have recently been released from migrant detention camps. Although simple, these kits represent a direct and tangible way to contribute to the needs of immigrants who enter the United States looking for a new home.
The work on the 19th was an example of solidarity and mutual help. Thanks to 20 volunteers from three southeast Pennsylvania churches (Indonesian Light Church, and Philadelphia Praise Center, Plains Mennonite Church), the kits were efficiently packed in a large collection of green backpacks and were ready in time to be sent from Harleysville to be distributed through MCC Central States.
Each of these churches, in addition to belonging to Franconia Conference, is a community that includes many first- and second-generation immigrants. Although these immigrants come from different places on the map, such as Indonesia and Mexico, they each have left behind what is familiar to embark on a trip, marked by difficulties and uncertainty. In understanding and solidarity, they gathered to fill backpacks as people who are aware of the pain and joy of migration.
The children were encouraged to share which countries they were from and they diligently helped for the almost-two-hours that the work took. After the backpacks were filled, the workers gathered together to join in a prayer led by Pastor Hendy Stevan Matahelemual of Indonesian Light Center. They prayed specifically for those who would receive the kit and in general for each person who undertakes the trip and who seeks a place that guarantees their rights and, even, saves their lives.
“Even though I am far away from my home, I feel like I am home. I feel welcome and encouraged as I learn from the Franconia Conference culture and work with people from different backgrounds. We have a sense of unity and community here,” says Hendy Stevan Matahelemual, Franconia Conference’s Pastor of Formation and Communication.
Hendy was raised in Bandung, Indonesia, 100 miles south of the capital, Jakarta. He was educated in law and for nearly 10 years he worked in a law office as well as the music entertainment industry. After Hendy found Christ in his community, he was baptized again and made a commitment to dedicate his life to God. In 2008 he started volunteering in his church, Elshaddai Creative Community, in music ministry and leading a cell group. He got married to his wife Marina, got a promotion in his job, and felt ready to settle down.
“My hometown is a nice city up in the mountains with great weather. Ever since I was born I always expected to stay in Bandung,” Hendy describes.
But after the transformation in his spiritual life, Hendy felt that God wanted him to move from his city. He prayed to God to understand this feeling and had a sense that he might be called to move to Jakarta to plant a church with other members of his cell group.
While he was still praying about it, Marina came home one day after her work as a secretary in their church, where she learned from their pastor that an Indonesian pastor in New York City was seeking someone to help do ministry there. “Well let’s go then,” Hendy replied, mostly joking. But later their pastor invited Hendy to seriously consider the idea.
Hendy and Marina accepted this calling, and Hendy resigned from his job working in the entertainment business. But unexpectedly, for two years in a row, his visa to come to the U.S. was rejected. Patiently he worked as a pastor in their church in Bandung until his visa was finally approved.
For over two years Hendy was a pastor at Bethany Church in Queens, also providing counseling and community outreach. Hendy became acquainted with staff and pastors within Franconia Conference and began studies at Eastern Mennonite University toward an MA in Christian Leadership, which he received earlier this year. Hendy received a call to serve as the pastor of Indonesian Light Church in south Philadelphia. So Hendy, his wife Marina and their two children, Judah and Levi, moved once again.
Hendy has also served in his conference role since May and helps to plan worship services for conference-wide events, shares stories through articles and creating videos, and supports the Conference’s social media work. Hendy is part of the new Youth Formation Team, coordinating events that offer training and resources to youth leaders and youth ministers, and he’s also a member of the Faith and Life Committee, which gathers credentialed leaders together quarterly for theological reflection and dialogue.
Additionally, Hendy serves on the conference’s Intercultural Team which provides training and resources for intercultural formation. “Revelation 7:9 provides a vision of what God wants us to be as a church,” Hendy shares. The scripture says, “There was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” Hendy says that this and other scriptures provide encouragement and a biblical base for how the church can grow and learn from each other, as people of different cultures.
“This is complicated work; in a conference that is predominantly white, recognizing that every group has its own dominant culture at work, to redefine norms together so that every culture can have a voice, and that each church’s expression of loving God, loving people, and serving the community is lifted up,” Hendy says.
Hendy has found the mutual transformation of his intercultural work to be a rewarding part of his Conference ministry, as he and colleagues “work together as the family of Christ, even though we come from different backgrounds.”
Hendy is excited to continue to grow in his ministry with Franconia Conference. In his spare time, he enjoys sports, swimming, and going on road trips. Recently, his family drove to MC USA Convention in Kansas City from South Philly—a 17-hour drive!
oleh Hendy Stevan Matahelemual, Indonesian Light Gereja
Makanan adalah unsur penting dalam budaya Indonesia. Ada lebih dari 300 kelompok etnik di Indonesia dan setiap kelompok etnik memiliki makanan khasnya masing masing. Ketika kita berbicara makanan Indonesia maka variasinya sangat banyak sekali.
Hubungan makanan dengan komunitas sangat erat sekali. Dan tidak berlebihan jika budaya komunitas di Indonesia sangat memperhatikan makanan yang disajikan. Dalam Suku batak Kristen misalnya, jika ingin menghormati seorang yang memiliki sebuah kedudukkan yang lebih tinggi maka makanan yang disajikan dalam pertemuan tersebut adalah babi. Menyajikan makan tanpa babi akan dianggap tidak sopan.
Bukan Cuma jenis makanan saja tetapi cara penyajian juga beraneka ragam. Dalam budaya Jawa dan Sunda makanan sangat erat dengan kebersamaan, sehingga timbulah tradisi yang dinamakan liwetan. Di mana, dalam melakukan kegiatan ini, semua orang duduk melingkari sajian yang ditaruh di atas daun pisang dan menyantapnya. Rasa kebersamaan yang muncul sambil menyantap makanan lezat, semakin membuat suasana menjadi hangat
Berangkat dari tradisi dimana makanan menjadi bagian penting dalam budaya Indonesia, khususnya untuk menjangkau orang, dan menjalin hubungan. Gereja-gereja Indonesia di Franconia di Selatan Philadelphia setiap tahun mengadakan festival makanan Indonesia. Nations Worship Center, Philadelphia Praise Center dan Indonesian Light secara rutin mengadakan festival makanan Indonesia. Hal ini dilakukkan bukan saja untuk menggalang dana, tetapi juga untuk membuka pintu hati dalam menawarkan keramah-tamahan dan rasa kekeluargan kepada orang lain khususnya yang berada di luar komunitas gereja. Bukan saja kita membuka gereja kita untuk menjadi semacam rumah makan, tetapi kita juga menyediakan sarana delivery. Dimana biasanya yang mengirim makan adalah pastor2nya sendiri.
Menu menu yang ditawarkan beraneka ragam, mulai dari Saksang khas Suku Batak, Pempek dari Suku Palembang, Berbagai Mie Suku Tionghoa, Ketoprak dari Suku Jawa, Rendang dari Suku Padang, dan Sate dari Madura, dan banyak lagi makanan2 lainnya.
Saya percaya bahwa makanan adalah pintu masuk menuju kepada hati dan jiwa. Tidak hanya kepada komunitas Indonesia saja tetapi juga kepada orang orang dari suku bangsa lain dalam lingkungan sekitar dimana Tuhan tempatkan kami. Ketika kita bisa berbagi makanan khususnya makanan khas Indonesia, maka kita membawa sebagian dari kehidupan kita untuk dibagikan kepada orang lain yang memiliki budaya yang berbeda dengan kita. Dan juga tentunya membagi hidup kita menjadi saksi akan Kristus dengan makanan yang disajikan penuh kasih dan doa.
Makanan Indonesia terkenal dengan rempah rempah, kepedasan dan keasinannya. Dan saya percaya melalui kehidupan meski kami adalah minoritas di negara ini, melalui kuasa Roh kudus kami bisa garam dan terang, di negara ini. Kami ada disini untuk menjadi nasi hidup, sebagai saksi Yesus bagi bangsa bangsa dan bagi generasi. Ada istilah dalam Bahasa jawa “mangan ora mangan asal kumpul”, makan tidak makan asal kumpul. Saya mengartikan bahwa setiap ada makanan pasti kita akan berkumpul. Jemaat mula mula bertekun dan sehati makan bersama, dengan kita berbagi makanan bersama dengan orang berbeda dengan kita baik secara suku, agama, budaya, kita sedang saling meruntuhkan tembok dan membangun jembatan dimana Tuhan Yesus bisa melakukan mukjizatnya.
by Hendy Stevan Matehelemual, Indonesian Light Church
Food is an important element in Indonesian culture. There are more than 300 ethnic groups in Indonesia and each ethnic group has its own unique food. When we talk about Indonesian food, the variations will be plentiful.
The relationship between food and the community in Indonesia is also very close. It would not be over-the-top to say that the culture of the community in Indonesia is very concerned about the food served. In the Christian Batak tribe, for example, if you want to respect someone who has a higher status, you would serve pork at your meeting with them. To serve anything else would be considered an insult.
It’s not just the type of food that matters, however, but also the variety of ways that it can be presented. In Javanese and Sundanese culture, food is very closely related to togetherness, so a tradition called liwetan arises. In liwetan, everyone sits around dishes placed on banana leaves and eats directly from them. The sense of togetherness that arises while eating this delicious food creates a warm and friendly atmosphere.
Food is also an essential way to reach out to people and establish relationships. Franconia Conference’s Indonesian congregations in South Philadelphia—Nations Worship Center, Philadelphia Praise Center, and Indonesian Light Church—hold Indonesian food festivals each year. This is done, not only as a fundraiser, but also to open the door of heartfelt hospitality and to share a sense of pride with others, especially those outside the church community.
The menu offered is diverse, ranging from the typical Batak Saksang, the Palembang Pempek, the ethnic Chinese noodles, the Javanese Ketoprak, the Padang Rendang, and the Madura Sate, and many other foods and dessert.
There is a saying in Javanese culture: “mangan or mangan sing penting kumpul,” meaning, “Even though there’s no food, it’s important to gather.” This saying came from a tradition that believes that whenever there’s food, there must be a gathering of people. Therefore, it’s not an overstatement to say that food is always central in the Indonesian culture.
I believe that food is the entrance to the heart and soul; when we share food, we bring a portion of our lives to share with others. Indonesian food is famous for its spices, spiciness, and flavor. Although we are a minority in this country, we Indonesians can contribute greatly to being salt and light in whatever part of the world God places us. We are here to become living bread, as a witness of Jesus to the nations and generations.
When we are sharing food together with other people, we are breaking down each other’s walls (ethnicity, religion, culture) and building bridges where the Holy Spirit can perform His miracles through us.
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.”
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.
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 email@example.com 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.
by Aldo Siahaan, Leadership Minister, with Chantelle Todman Moore, Intercultural Coach
We walked silently through the streets of South Philadelphia.
Pastor Joshua and Anita So from San Francisco and I focused on praying for the people and for the city. No interruption of cell phones. No chatting. We built our relationship with one another through our prayer. It was a dream come true for me.
A couple of years ago, when I was representing Franconia Conference on the board of Mennonite Central Committee, we held a gathering where the people of color who served on the board could talk and share our thoughts.
After this wonderful experience, I dreamed that we could do something similar for leaders of color in Franconia Conference to strengthen our relationships with one another and think together about how we could participate and experience inclusion more in the life of the conference. On November 1, 2018, this dream became reality.
The Renewing Nations & Generations gathering met at Nations Worship Center (NWC) in Philadelphia for an afternoon and evening of prayer, worship, visioning, and connecting a diverse group of ministers, some of whom identify as Chinese, Indonesian, Mexican, Black, and persons of color within Franconia Conference. For the first time, ministers of color in Franconia Conference had a space to hear from each other as we listened to the Holy Spirit together.
Beny Krisbianto (NWC), Kiron Mateti (Plains Mennonite Church), Marina Stevan (Indonesian Light Church), and Emmanuel Villatoro (Philadelphia Praise Center) took turns leading worship in English, Indonesian, and Spanish. It was a taste of heaven as people from different nations sang together in different tongues.
We played together, laughing as we tried to draw portraits of one another. We connected over Indonesian and Mexican foods. Those of us who arrived feeling tentative or shy found courage as we made new friends and discovered that this was a safe space to be honest about our experiences in the past and our desires for the future.
We spent time in small groups, discussing our hopes, dreams, and fears. What makes us excited about the future of the Church and our conference? What are our dreams for our communities, our congregations, and our conference? What do we lament? How could our conference invest in young millennial leaders and credentialed ministers of color? Our conversations were only the beginning, but it was a good start for ministers of color to get to know each other and dream together.
We ended the day with a hope that this could become an annual event and a commitment to value one another across generational differences: seeing and honoring our elders as we love and respect emerging leaders, co-laboring together, with God, in the mission of the Church.
As we continue our ministry in Franconia Conference in the days and months to come, I hope that all of our brothers and sisters will see that the presence of ministers of color and ethnic churches are a gift from God. These gifts are deeply needed to complete the work that God is doing in our conference and in our world.