Tag Archives: intercultural

Let’s Worship Together!

by Marta Castillo, Leadership Minister of Intercultural Formation

All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, Lord; they will bring glory to your name.   Psalm 86:9

Friday Night worship – Conference Assembly 2019. Photo by Javier Marquez

At our annual assembly we worshipped the Lord in song in several different languages and styles.  I wonder if anyone whispered to the person beside them like someone whispered behind me many years ago, “Why do we have to sing in these different languages?  Why can’t we just sing in English?”  I wonder if those at the assembly worship felt comfortable and engaged in the worship songs.  Were they able to enter into the intercultural space of worshipping God in ways and styles and languages that were not their own?  Did it fill them with joy to worship the Lord and bring glory to God’s name with other nations that God has made, even if it was different than what they were used to? 

In an intercultural community, all are transformed because everyone learns from one another and grows together.  In intercultural worship, we learn to choose to continue to worship God in the styles and languages of others.  For me, what began as a discipline and continues to be a choice is now also a joy as I have incorporated intercultural worship as part of who I am with the help of the Holy Spirit. John 4:23 –  Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.

Several weeks ago, I attended a service at Nations Worship Center where we sang songs that had repeating lines.  I appreciated the repetition while singing in a language in which I am not fluent.  The repetition helped me to better understand the song and enter deeply into the spirit of worship.  However, I must admit that I have not always appreciated songs with a lot of repetition.  What I have learned to do is to go with the repetition rather than fight it. I can worship God in song as I repeat the same phrase over and over and meditate on the truth, just like I can pray or meditate on a phrase of Scripture. 

Lynne Rush (West Swamp congregation) leads a hymn at Conference Assembly 2019. Photo by Javier Marquez

Last weekend I attended a women’s retreat where we had a hymn sing.  We sang hymn after hymn in a group of talented and passionate singers.  It was beautiful.  I was struck by the multitude of beautiful thoughts and word pictures that hymns contain and express in worship to God.  But I had to choose to engage my mind and process the thoughts in worship to God as I sang complex music.  I enjoyed the repetition of the choruses.

Matthew Westerholm, on the Desiring God website, suggests that often “our discomfort also comes from where we live, if you live in the Western world. Western culture treasures the novelty of words. It might feel like singing many words per minute is a worldwide Christian preference. But it’s not. It’s a Western oddity. If you were to listen to indigenous music from almost anywhere else in the world, you might describe it as “rhythmic, danceable, and repetitive. It may feel strange to discover that our personal preferences are a cultural anomaly. It is humbling to discover that we have something to learn from others, but not surprising. And it is the sort of humbling that, if we are willing to accept it, will bless us greatly in worship.”

Let us worship the Lord in unity, seeking to honor the worship of the nations as our own!

Refleksi aktif / Reflection on Renewing Nations and Generations

(scroll for English)

Cerita hidup kita lebih dari sekedar cerita, ada sesuatu yang lebih dalam dari cerita kita. Cerita hidup kita membentuk identitas kita dan identitas kita menentukan misi kita dalam hidup. Kalau kita tidak memiliki cerita, kita tidak memiliki identitas yang solid. Banyak gereja imigran kehilangan fokus dan misi karena mereka tidak mengetahui cerita dan latar belakang mereka. Hal ini diutarakan oleh Sue Park-Hur dalam sesi equipping Renewing Nations and Generations ke dua di Norristown New Life.

Selama pengalaman saya menjadi pastor gereja imigran di Amerika, budaya imigran terutama dari Asia memiliki kultur rasa malu (shaming culture). Ada banyak luka, kekecewaan, dan kepahitan yang dipendam dan tidak mengalami kesembuhan. Dan hal ini menyebabkan banyak gereja mengalami stagnasi baik dalam segi spiritual maupun pelayanannya. Saya pribadi percaya bahwa di dalam keterbukaan ada sebuah pemulihan, tetapi problem kultur rasa malu inilah yang membuat seseorang sulit untuk menjadi terbuka. Sue juga mengatakan, “Luka yang tidak sembuh akan ditransfer kepada generasi berikutnya.”

Sebagai imigran ada sebuah trauma dan luka tersendiri yang kita alami ketika kita berpindah dari sebuah budaya atau lingkungan di mana kita dibesarkan ke sebuah budaya atau lingkungan yang berbeda. Hal ini terjadi dalam migrasi yang sukarela maupun karena terpaksa. Dimulai dari orang kulit putih, hitam, coklat, Hispanic/Latinos sampai Asia kita semua adalah imigran di tanah Amerika ini. Dan setiap budaya memiliki trauma tersendiri yang sangat unik sejak pertama kali menginjakkan kaki di tanah ini. Dan trauma-trauma ini akan ditransfer kepada generasi berikutnya jika tidak pulih.

Pertama kali saya datang ke Amerika, saya heran ternyata tension antara orang kulit putih dan hitam masih ada, dalam benak saya hal tersebut sudah hilang dan selesai ketika Martin Luther King Jr melakukan civil rights movement, atau bahkan ketika Obama menjadi presiden, ternyata trauma tersebut belum hilang, dan dampaknya masih ada sampai dengan sekarang. Juga bagaimana imigran Asia dan Hispanic pun memiliki permasalahan  tersendiri, racial slur antara imigran Asia dan Hispanic pun masih sering saya dengar. Ketakutan orang Asia dengan orang kulit hitam, semua memiliki cerita konflik tersendiri. Stereotype demi stereotype kian bermunculan. Dan terjadilah ajang saling menyakiti satu sama lain, dan setiap budaya membangun temboknya masing-masing untuk melindungi diri. Hurt people, hurt people.

Tetapi pada minggu lalu dalam acara Renewing Nations and Generations banyak pemimpin mayoritas global/Kulit berwarna Franconia Conference, diingatkan bahwa kita semua adalah produk dari masa lalu, produk dari sistem dunia yang korup dan tidak adil. Pada acara ini kami belajar bahwa kami semua mempunyai pilihan untuk berubah, sembuh, bertransformasi menjadi kita yang baru. Dan berita baiknya adalah darah Yesus sudah tercurah dan kasih karunia sudah cukup bagi kita semua bagi kita yang percaya dan mau berubah menjadi lebih baik. Tetapi kita pun tahu bahwa hal ini hanya bisa terjadi ketika kita mau saling jujur, terbuka dan percaya satu sama lain, membangun hubungan yang meruntuhkan semua tembok stereotype dan membiarkan Yesus memulihkan kedua ujung jembatan.

Ini adalah sebuah awal dari proses pemulihan dan transformasi kita, kita menyadari bahwa jalan masih Panjang, tetapi kita percaya dengan komitmen, tekad dan kerjasama kita semua bisa menghilangkan rasisme, dan menjadikan perbedaan sebagai sebuah kekayaan yang bisa gunakan bersama-sama untuk saling bertransformasi menjadi ciptaan baru dan saya percaya hal inilah yang menjadikan Kerajaan Surga turun diatas muka bumi ini. Saatnya berbagi cerita hidup bersama sama yang meruntuhkan tembok dan membangun jembatan.


The story of our lives is more than just a story – there is something deeper. Our life stories shape our identity and our identity determines our mission in life. If we don’t have a story, we don’t have a solid identity. Many immigrant churches lose their focus and mission because they do not know their story and background. This was stated by Sue Park-Hur in the second equipping Renewing Nations and Generations session at Norristown New Life on Friday, November 1.

During my experience as a pastor of immigrant churches in America, immigrant culture, especially from Asia, has a shaming culture. There are many wounds, disappointments, and bitterness that are buried and are not healing, and this has caused many churches to experience stagnation both in terms of spirituality and ministry. I personally believe that in openness there is recovery, but it is this shame culture problem that makes it difficult for someone to be open. Sue also said, “Wounds that don’t heal will be transferred to the next generation.”

As immigrants there is a trauma and injury that we experience when we move to a different culture or environment from where were raised. This occurs in voluntary and forced migration. From white, black, brown, Hispanic/Latinos to Asian people, most of us are immigrants in this American land. Every culture has its own trauma that is very unique since it first set foot on this land. These traumas will be transferred to the next generation if they do not recover.

The first time I came to America, I was surprised that the tension between white and black people was still there; in my mind, it was gone and finished when Martin Luther King Jr. conducted a civil rights movement, or even when Obama became president.  It turned out the trauma has not yet disappeared, and its effects are still present today. Asian and Hispanic immigrants also have their own problems; racial slurs between Asian and Hispanic immigrants are still often heard. Asian and black people all have their own conflict stories. Stereotypes are increasingly appearing. People from different cultures hurt each other, and each culture built its own wall as a defense mechanism. Hurt people, hurt people.

But last week on the day of Renewing Nations and Generations, many Franconia global majority/people of color leaders were all reminded that we are all products of the past, products of a corrupt and unjust world system. In this program we learned that we all have the choice to change, recover, and transform into us. The good news is that the blood of Jesus was shed, and grace is enough for all of us who believe and want to change for the better. But we also know that this can only happen when we want to be honest, open and trusting with one another, building relationships that break down all stereotypical walls and allow Jesus to restore both ends of the bridge.

This is the beginning of our recovery and transformation process – we realize that the road is still long, but we believe that our commitment, determination and cooperation can eliminate racism, and make diversity a treasure that can be used to transform each other into new creations. I believe this will allow the Kingdom of Heaven to descend upon this earth. It’s time to share stories of living together with those who tear down walls and build bridges.

Enjoy and Relax

by Aldo Siahaan, Leadership Minister

At the beginning of October, I returned to Jakarta, Indonesia with my wife Viviani and my son Eden. It had been almost three years since my last visit.  It was a short visit, but I knew I would love to see the location of my parents’ new grave. Originally, both my parents were buried in the Pondok Rangon Cemetery, but two years ago, their graves were moved to a new place called the San Diego Hill Cemetery. The distance to the San Diego Hill Cemetery was only 40 miles.

Aldo and family, visiting his parents’ gravesite

On the appointed day, Vivi, Eden, and I were joined by two of my nieces and three of my siblings; my sister Lita drove us. Before leaving, Lita had warned us: “Get ready—this will be a long journey. San Diego Hill Cemetery is in a suburb of Jakarta and we may get caught in traffic jams.”

On the way there, the journey to San Diego Hill Cemetery took only 90 minutes! Those who knew the traffic jams in Jakarta said, with joy, “Wow, our trip was very fast this morning!” After visiting my parents’ new grave, we returned to the car to go home.      

Coming out of the cemetery complex, we were immediately confronted with traffic.  When we checked the GPS, it said it would take 2.5 hours to get home. In the end, we had to travel 4 hours for the 40-mile distance.

What is interesting for me is how my sister Lita, the driver, stayed calm. No matter how many times other family members or I complained about the length of the trip or the traffic jams that didn’t move, Lita always said, “Just enjoy it” or “All passengers just relax!” How many times did Lita share stories or engage us in conversation so that we wouldn’t focus on the traffic? She made jokes or asked us to sing, reminding us to “just enjoy.”  There was nothing we could do to get out of the 4-hour traffic jam—it was a tough test for someone as impatient as me.

In today’s world, people want everything to be instant. The word patience is easy to speak but hard to live. Many people don’t want to be matured by God. What would have happened if Noah had been impatient or disobedient to what God had told him to do? What would have happened if Joseph had been impatient waiting for God’s promises through his dreams? Or Abraham, David, and others?

Maybe these heroes in the Bible said to themselves, “Just enjoy, just relax, engage in the process.” Yes, God wants me to learn to be patient, enjoy this life journey, and not run away from the process. I will say to myself, “Aldo, just enjoy the problem you have, relax, and engage in the process.”

“[It is] better to be patient than a warrior, and better to have self-control than to capture a city.” (Proverbs 16:32, CEB)

Learning to be a Peacemaker / Aprendiendo a ser un Pacificador

by Jennifer Svetlik, Salford congregation

Javier Márquez, IVEP’er serving with Franconia Conference

“One of my greatest dreams is to learn how I can be a peacemaker. But before I go to the peace academy, the best way for me to learn is from other communities. I want to learn about their pain, their happiness, dreams, frustrations, and concerns. So I want to learn about you,” says Javier Márquez, an intercultural communication associate with Franconia Conference this year. 

Javier is a member of Mennonite Central Committee’s International Volunteer Exchange Program (IVEP). His placement is to work with the Conference communication team and record immigrant stories. IVEP is a yearlong volunteer work and cultural exchange opportunity for young adults.  

“I have been considering this opportunity with IVEP for a long time. I am so excited to have this amazing work,” Javier shares. 

Celebrating his sister’s birthday with two of his four siblings and his parents at their apartment in Bogotá.

Javier grew up in his ancestral home of Suacha, a city in the center of Colombia. He now lives in Bogotá, the capital. He has four siblings and his family is large, “like most Latin families,” Javier says. He is part of Teusaquillo Mennonite Church in Bogotá, and he is proud of his community because they take very seriously the call to be peacemakers.

Javier has also taken this call seriously; he refused Colombia’s obligatory military conscription for young men, and in doing so entered a two year legal process. With the support of the Mennonite church in Colombia and the nonprofit organization Justapaz, Javier finally won his case as a conscientious objector. “I believe that the nonviolent path of Jesus goes beyond refusing to be a part of wars and violence but also to work for peace with passion and commitment,” Javier reflects. 

Four years ago with friends and the support of the Mennonite church and Justapaz, Javier began an activism project about becoming a conscientious objector. The group is now called CoNova and is comprised of many different kinds of young people: students, writers, nurses, DJs, lawyers, psychologists, and more. 

Javier dancing salsa with Evie, an IVEPer from Canada at Orientation in Akron.

“Colombia is the land of coffee, salsa and Vallenato music, orchids and emeralds, traditional dishes litke sancocho (soup), aguapanela (hot sugary drink), arepas (cheese and corn flour cake), ajiaco (chicken, potatoes, and corn on the cob) and bandeja paisa (fried pork belly, red beans, plantains, and more),” Javier says.  “And it is impossible not to mention that Colombia is the land of Love in the Time of Cholera (a classic novel by Gabriel García Márquez) and of Macondo (the fictional town in another famous work by García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude).”

Javier arrived in Pennsylvania in mid-August and is living in South Philadelphia. Each morning he drinks Colombian coffee and tries to read a poem in English to learn new words. He is still learning what a typical day will look like; so far he has tried to always listen with intense focus and open his eyes to everything around him so that he can understand the different ways of doing things here. 

“I have learned that the streets are too similar here; I say this jokingly because I have gotten lost twice. Never in my life have I learned so many new words, but at the same time, I’ve never been so quiet. I have learned a lot,” Javier shares. 

Javier has been visiting immigrant churches such as Centro de Alabanza, Philadelphia Praise Center, and Indonesian Light, to connect with people and write about their immigrant stories. He hopes to meet others who dance salsa, as he loves to do. When he returns to Colombia after his time with IVEP, Javier would like to work in community-oriented journalism. 


Javier Márquez, “IVEP’er” sirviendo en la Conferencia de Franconia

“Uno de mis sueños más grandes es aprender cómo puedo ser un pacificador. Pero antes de ir a la academia de paz, la mejor manera de aprender es de otras comunidades. Quiero aprender sobre su dolor, su felicidad, sueños, frustraciones y preocupaciones. Así que quiero aprender sobre ustedes”, dice Javier Márquez, un pasante de comunicaciones con la Conferencia de Franconia este año.

Javier es miembro del Programa Internacional de Intercambio de Voluntarios (IVEP) del Comité Central Menonita (MCC). Su colocación es trabajar con el equipo de comunicaciones de la Conferencia y grabar historias de los inmigrantes que son parte de la Conferencia. IVEP es una oportunidad de trabajo voluntario e intercambio cultural de un año para jóvenes adultos.

“He estado considerando esta oportunidad con IVEP por mucho tiempo. Estoy muy emocionado de tener este increíble trabajo ”, dice Javier.

Celebrando el cumpleaños de su hermana con dos de sus cuatro hermanos y sus padres en su departamento en Bogotá.

Javier creció en su hogar en el territorio ancestral de Suacha, una ciudad en el centro de Colombia. Ahora vive en Bogotá, la capital. Tiene cuatro hermanos y su familia es numerosa, “como la mayoría de las familias latinas”, dice Javier. Es parte de la Iglesia Menonita de Teusaquillo en Bogotá, y él está orgulloso de su comunidad porque se toman muy en serio el llamado a ser pacificadores.

Javier también se ha tomado muy en serio esta llamada; rechazó el reclutamiento militar obligatorio de Colombia para hombres jóvenes, y al hacerlo entró en un proceso legal de dos años. Con el apoyo de la iglesia menonita en Colombia y la organización menonita Justapaz, Javier finalmente ganó su caso como objetor de conciencia. “Creo que el camino no violento de Jesús va más allá de negarse a ser parte de guerras y violencia, sino también de trabajar por la paz con pasión y compromiso”, reflexiona Javier.

Hace cuatro años, con amigos y el apoyo de Justapaz y la iglesia menonita, Javier comenzó un proyecto de activismo para que se difundiera el conocimiento sobre el derecho a la objeción de conciencia. El grupo ahora se llama CoNova y está compuesto por muchos tipos diferentes de jóvenes: estudiantes, escritores, enfermeros, DJ, abogados/as, psicólogos/as y más.

Javier bailando salsa con Evie, un IVEPer de Canadá en Orientation en Akron.

Cuando se le preguntó qué deberíamos saber sobre su país, Javier compartió: “Colombia es la tierra del café, salsa y Vallenato, orquídeas y esmeraldas, sancocho, aguapanela, arepas, ajiaco y bandeja paisa. Y es imposible no mencionar que Colombia es la tierra de El amor en los tiempos del cólera (por Gabriel García Márquez) y de Macondo (la ciudad ficticia en otra obra famosa de García Márquez, Cien años de soledad)”.

Javier llegó a Pensilvania a mediados de agosto y vive en el sur de Filadelfia. Cada mañana toma café colombiano y trata de leer un poema en inglés para aprender nuevas palabras. Todavía está aprendiendo cómo será un día típico; hasta ahora ha tratado de escuchar siempre con un enfoque intenso y abrir los ojos a todo lo que lo rodea para poder comprender las diferentes formas de hacer las cosas aquí.

“He aprendido que las calles son muy similares aquí; Digo esto en broma porque me he perdido dos veces. Nunca en mi vida he aprendido tantas palabras nuevas, pero al mismo tiempo, nunca he estado tan callado. He aprendido mucho ”, comparte Javier.

Javier ha estado visitando iglesias de inmigrantes como el Centro de Alabanza, el Philadelphia Praise Center y Indonesian Light, para conectarse con personas y escribir sobre sus historias de inmigrantes. Espera conocer a otros que bailan salsa, como le encanta hacer. Cuando regrese a Colombia después de su tiempo con IVEP, a Javier le gustaría trabajar como periodista o comunicador social. 

Dios está presente: Presentando la Iglesia Menonita Ebenezer / God is Present: Introducing Ebenezer Mennonite Church

(scroll for English)

por Jennifer Svetlik, congregación de Salford

La Iglesia Menonita Ebenezer comenzó en junio de 1958 como parte del ministerio hispano de la Iglesia Menonita Grace en Lansdale. Se inició como una comunidad para puertorriqueños que vinieron al área a trabajar en la agricultura de verano. El Rev. Guillermo Chewing fue el primer pastor y el hermano Earl Stover también tuvo un papel vital en la obra. En 2005, la iglesia se independizó de Grace, se mudó a la Ruta 113 en Souderton con un nuevo pastor y cambió su nombre a Iglesia Menonita Ebenezer. En noviembre de 2009, la iglesia se mudó al edificio de la Iglesia Menonita de Zion donde continúan reuniéndose, con la Escuela Bíblica a las 11:00 am y adoración a al medio día los domingos.

“Dios en su misericordia ha estado presente en nuestra congregación, manifestándose con su poder y su soberanía, en medio de las pruebas en el proceso de cambios en nuestra iglesia” dice Hilda Vince’s, una líder de la iglesia, “ Hemos tenido hermanos enfermos en los cuales Dios ha manifestado su poder al darles sanación, y sentimos su Santo Espíritu en medio nuestro porque nos ha fortalecido en momentos de ver la partida de hermanos a la morada con Dios”.

Sumado, Hilda añade que gracias a la teología  “Ebenezer ha podido llegar a otras personas a nivel internacional. A pesar que la iglesia ha menguado en número de miembros por diferentes razones, el Señor ha traído nuevos miembros. Dios nos ha bendecido por estar firmes en nuestra fe en Cristo”, Hilda comparte.

La Iglesia Ebenezer había sido parte de la Conferencia del Distrito Este anteriormente, pero se fue cuando la iglesia se independizó. Ahora la iglesia desea unirse a la Conferencia de Franconia porque reconocen el valor de relacionarse y estar unidos con otras iglesias Menonitas locales.

“A través de la Conferencia podemos… adquirir recursos que nos ayudarán a crecer como iglesia y aprender de otros y sus ministerios, y aplicar estas ideas, guiadas por el Espíritu Santo, a nuestra propia iglesia”, agrega Hilda.

La Iglesia Ebenezer representa parte del trabajo ministerial inicial en la Conferencia del Distrito Este realizados con hispanohablantes. Nos complace darles la bienvenida como congregación de la Conferencia de Franconia al mismo tiempo que estamos en el proceso de reconciliación con el Distrito Este” reflexiona el ministro ejecutivo Strive Kriss y añade “Todo esto es trabajo de reconciliación, aprender de nuestra historia, honrar nuestra historia compartida y creer que Dios está llevando la congregación y las dos conferencias a realizar algo nuevo juntas haciendo algo nuevo con nosotros juntos .

“La comunidad Latinx continúa creciendo en los condados de Bucks y Montgomery, donde muchas de nuestras congregaciones han estado arraigadas por generaciones. Esperamos que con las hermanas y hermanos en Ebenezer seguiremos cultivando un vibrante testimonio anabautista y una vibrante comunidad juntos ”.


by Jennifer Svetlik, Salford congregation

Ebenezer Mennonite Church began in June 1958 as part of the Hispanic ministry of Grace Mennonite Church in Lansdale, PA. It started as a community for Puerto Ricans who came to the area to work in summer agriculture. Rev. Guillermo Chewing was the first pastor and Earl Stover also played a vital role in the church. In 2005, the church became independent from Grace, moved to Route 113 in Souderton with a new pastor, and changed its name to Ebenezer Mennonite Church. In November 2009 the church moved to the Zion Mennonite Church building in Souderton, PA, where they continue to meet, with Bible study at 11:00 am and worship at noon on Sundays. 

“God in his mercy has been present in our congregation, manifesting his power and sovereignty in the midst of trials, in the process of changes in our church,” says Hilda Vinces, a leader in the church.  “We have had sick members in which God has manifested his power by giving them healing, and we feel his Holy Spirit in our midst because he has strengthened us when church members have passed away.” 

In addition, Hilda shares, through technology, “Ebenezer has been able to reach other people internationally. Although the church has diminished in number of members for different reasons, the Lord has brought new members. God has blessed us for being firm in our faith in Christ.”

Iglesia Ebenezer had previously been a part of Eastern District but left when Grace congregation became independent. Now the church seeks to join Franconia Conference because they recognize the value of relating to and uniting with other local Mennonite Churches. 

“Through the Conference we can … acquire resources that will help us grow as a church and to learn from others and their ministries, and apply these ideas, led by the Holy Spirit, to our own church,” Hilda adds. 

Iglesia Ebenezer represents some of the initial work in Eastern District Conference ministering alongside Spanish speakers. We are glad to welcome Ebenezer as a congregation of Franconia Conference at the same time as we are in the process of reconciling with Eastern District,” Franconia’s Executive Minister Steve Kriss reflects. This is all reconciliation work, he points out—learning from shared history, honoring a shared story, and believing that God is bringing the congregation and the two conferences together to do a new thing.

The Latinx community continues to grow in Bucks and Montgomery counties where many of our congregations have been rooted for generations. We hope that with the sisters and brothers at Ebenezer, we will continue to cultivate a vibrant Anabaptist witness and community together.

God at Work on Our Vacation

by Berdine Leinbach, Souderton congregation

My husband and I bumped into God frequently as we traveled to Tanzania to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary.

His silky white beard was shaped like an Amishman’s. His skin was dark walnut. His eyes crinkled cautiously in greeting.  When the flight attendant was checking seatbelts, his body motions revealed limited neck mobility and vision issues, so I reached across and clicked in his seatbelt.

Later he struggled to put on a brand-new sneaker, which is really hard to do in an airplane seat. I unbuckled and dove under his window seat to loosen the laces and assist. Using my finger as a shoehorn felt oddly akin to foot washing.

Over the course of a long flight, multiple opportunities arose to serve him.  I felt like God had put me there on purpose. As we shared travel plans, I found he was retired professor from Bangladesh and a peace-loving Muslim. We shared our beliefs, respectfully and simply (I need more practice at that).

We prayed blessing on each other.  God was on our plane.

As we traveled along the rim of Ngorogoro Crater, the vehicle in front of us stopped. Our vehicle stopped. Just 20 feet away a huge elephant appeared out of the mist.  Our driver turned off the engine.

We watched, fascinated, as she looked at us, flapped her ears, and lifted her trunk in inquiry. A trumpet sounded from our left as another elephant appeared on that side of the road. The first one moved forward and, behind her, another younger elephant and a baby appeared, then another adult.

We were in awe of these amazing creatures, right there.  Soon the first elephant clambered down the road bank, crossed in front of our vehicle and climbed up the left side. The others soon followed.  Seconds later, nothing could be seen but mist and shrubs.

What a beautiful gift, a holy moment.  God was in creation.

Our tour company arranged for us to stop at Karatu Mennonite Church, a small outreach congregation started in 2010 by the Arusha (Mennonite) Diocese.  When we arrived, children greeted us.  We gave Pastor Peter Ojode a prayer shawl made by women from our home congregation. As I prayed aloud the prayer that goes with each shawl, I got all choked up. I sensed that this gift and prayer were aligning with something much bigger that God was already doing there.

Front row (left to right): Evangelist Nicodemus Malaki, Evangelist Meshack Shabani, Martina Victor (church treasurer), Tasiana Toway (church elder), Berdine and Steve Leinbach (Souderton congregation).  Back row (left to right): Pastor Peter Ojode (KMT Arusha), Sofia Mirobo (church elder KMT Arusha), Pastor Julius Churi (KMT Katesh), Pastor Emmanuel (General Secretary of KMT Arusha Diocese).

When the service began, my heart swelled with joy singing along to “Holy, Holy, Holy” and other songs. Thank goodness Swahili has phonetic spelling. 

When they had heard that we were coming, Pastor Emmanual Maro (general secretary of the entire diocese/conference of churches) and elder Sofia Mirobo traveled three hours on a bus from Arusha to come and translate for us, organize a brief meal, and welcome us. We are still processing the hospitality of this intercultural experience and wondering what God will do next.

Pastor Emmanuel emailed us after we returned home, “We thank God for a wonderful Sunday at KMT Karatu. We really appreciated the opportunity to exchange our views, and we do hope through our relationships with one another we are revealing the face of God to the world and advancing his kingdom in Jesus’ name.”

God is at work. May we all notice and join in.

Staying Connected as Partners in Ministry / Permaneciendo Unidos como Compañeros en Ministerio

(desplazarse por español)

by Andrés Castillo, communication intern

There is power in simply staying connected. The reborn Partners in Ministry emphasizes that.

The revival of what used to be “Partners in Mission,” according to Franconia Conference’s Leadership Minister for Missional Transformation Noel Santiago, are partnerships made between groups with similar values and visions and greatly emphasizes relationships. In the past, the relationships with Partners in Mission were mostly leader-to-leader; as a result, when leaders relocated or moved on, some of those relationships faded. In reviving Partners in Ministry, Santiago continues, the Conference is emphasizing a renewed commitment to engaging and experimenting with diverse communities, not just leaders.

Partners in Ministry with Franconia each have a staff person who can accompany them, if desired, as a coach or listening ear, to help connect them with equipping and resources, and to walk with the community during leadership transitions or times of conflict. Franconia also provides credentialing for the pastors of Partners in Ministry if they need it. Leaders from Partners in Ministry are welcome to attend equipping events, Faith & Life gatherings, and other events that may benefit them as growing Anabaptist groups.

Partners in Ministry relationships are different than Conference-Related Ministries, which include institutions such as Spruce Lake Retreat, Care & Share Thrift Shops, and Camp Men-O-Lan. A Partner in Ministry relationship is more of a connection with communities, who, many times, are on the margins (because of geography, social situation, or as a church plant) rather than established organizations.

New Hope youth and adults getting ready to go to Philadelphia to serve with Centro de Alabanza (courtesy of New Hope Fellowship Facebook page)

“Franconia Conference played an important role in the birth and continued growth of RIMI,” explains Kirk Hanger, pastor of New Hope Fellowship Church (Alexandria, VA).  “In 2003, after 11 years of church planting ministry in Mexico, they encouraged me to continue.”  Today, the RIMI Network includes around 80 churches, church plants, and ministries in 12 countries, with 28 churches and church plants in Mexico. The RIMI Network also includes a radio ministry, a short-term missions school and a leadership school affiliated with Global Disciples, a medical ministry, a prayer network, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center, and a microfinance ministry working with some 4000 people in economic development in Paraguay.

Oskar Dom (2nd from L.) and Carlos Martinez Garcia (2nd from R.) of CIEAMM with leaders from Centro de Alabanza in Philadelphia

Franconia has recently renewed relationship with the Conference of Evangelical Anabaptist Mennonite Churches of México (CIEAMM) through the Partner in Ministry program.  Carlos Martinez Garcia, CIEAMM moderator, believes that partnership is essential in order to fulfill Christ’s mission in the world: “We encourage each other, the Word says, to love and do good deeds (Hebrews 10:19-25),” he explains.  “The Christian church is diverse in ability, understanding, and vision. By sharing with one another, we can grow and learn to serve better. In the mission the Lord has given us, we must not isolate ourselves, but connect in order to embed ourselves in the world…. We must try to learn from the different understandings the Lord has given others of his word, as well as how they are fulfilling their mission.”

The relationship between Franconia Conference and CIEAMM has been mutually beneficial: while CIEAMM was birthed out of Franconia mission work 60 years ago, CIEAMM has also trained leaders from Franconia congregations, including Centro de Alabanza de Philadelphia, through the Community of Anabaptist Theological Institutions (CITA).  “The fact that we interact with other organizations makes us feel like more than part of a historic relationship,” says Oskar Dom, director of the Biblical Institute of CIEAMM. “It’s good to know that we are in a position to share what we have learned in these sixty years of existence.”

Partner in Ministry relationships are not highly structured, according to Franconia’s Executive Minister Steve Kriss; many communities may have just been introduced to Mennonite theology or practice. The Partner in Ministry relationship can provide space for these communities to learn what it means to live as Anabaptists in their complex contexts.  With supportive partners, anyone can thrive. It is Santiago and Kriss’ hope that Partners in Ministry will continue to be a space for communities to interact, experiment, and get to know one another.


Permaneciendo  Unidos como Compañeros en Ministerio

Hay poder simplemente en el permanecer unidos. El renacimiento de Compañeros en Ministerio (Partners in Ministry) enfatiza eso.

El resurgimiento de lo que ha sido llamado “Compañeros en Misión,” como dice Noel Santiago, el ministro de liderazgo de transformación misional de Franconia Conference, son relaciones hechas entre grupos con valores y visiones similares que enfatizan las relaciones. A menudo en el pasado, las relaciones con Compañeros en Misión eran entre líderes. Por eso, cuando los líderes se mudaban  o se reubicaban  algunas de las relaciones se terminaban. Por eso, resucitando Compañeros en Ministerio, Santiago continúa diciendo, la Conferencia enfatiza una nueva promesa de empeñarse y experimentar con comunidades diversas, no solamente líderes.

Cada Compañero en Ministerio con Franconia tiene un miembro del personal que puede acompañarlo si quiere para actuar como un consejero, conectarlo con recursos y caminar con la comunidad durante transiciones de liderazgo o tiempos de conflicto. Franconia también provee credenciales para los pastores de Compañeros en Ministerio si lo necesitan. Los líderes de Compañeros en Ministerio son invitados para asistir a eventos para equipar, las reuniones de “Fe y Vida” (“Faith and Life”), y otras actividades que pueden beneficiar a grupos Anabautistas que están creciendo.

Las relaciones de Compañeros en Ministerio son diferentes que los Ministerios Relacionado con la Conferencia que incluyen el retiro Spruce Lake, la tienda de segunda mano Care and Share y el campamento Men-O-Lan. Un Compañero en Ministerio es más como una conexión con comunidades que a menudo son más marginados (por su localización geográfica, situación social o porque son “iglesias plantadas”) que las organizaciones establecidas .

Jóvenes y adultos de Nueva Esperanza se preparan para ir a Filadelfia para servir en el Centro de Alabanza (cortesía de la beca de Facebook de Iglesia Nueva Esperanza)

“Franconia Conference fue una parte importante en el nacimiento y progreso de RIMI,” dice Kirk Hanger que es el pastor de la Iglesia Nueva Esperanza (Alexandria, Virginia, Los Estados Unidos). “En 2003, después de 11 años de ministerio de plantar iglesias, ellos me motivaron a continuar.” Hoy, el sistema RIMI incluye aproximadamente 80 iglesias con 28 en México, iglesias plantadas  y ministerios en 12 países. El sistema RIMI también tiene un ministerio de radio, una escuela de misiones de corto plazo que es asociada a Global Disciples (Discípulos Globales), un ministerio médico, un sistema de oración, un centro de recuperación para drogas y alcohol y un ministerio de microfinanzas que trabaja con aproximadamente 4000 personas para desarrollo económico en Paraguay.

Oskar Dom (segundo desde la izquierda) y Carlos Martínez García (segundo desde la derecha) del CIEAMM con líderes del Centro de Alabanza de Filadelfia

Últimamente, Franconia ha renovado su relación con la Conferencia de Iglesias Evangélicas Anabautistas Menonitas de México (CIEAMM) a través del programa Compañeros en Ministerio. Carlos Martinez Garcia que es moderador de CIEAMM cree que la colaboración es esencial para realizar la misión de Jesús en el mundo: “Nos estimulamos unos a otros, como dice la palabra, a las buenas obras. (Hebreos 10:19-25),” el dice. “La iglesia cristiana es diversa en habilidad, entendimiento, y visión. Compartiendo unos con otros, podemos crecer y ser de más utilidad y servicio. Según la misión que el Señor nos ha dado, no debemos aislarnos. Debemos buscar la comunión para incrustarnos en el mundo que nos ha puesto… por eso es importante escuchar a otros y a otras del entendimiento que el Señor les ha dado de su palabra y como están cumpliendo la misión.

La relación entre Franconia y CIEAMM ha sido beneficiosa mutuamente: aunque CIEAMM había nacido por un trabajo misional de Franconia hace 60 años, CIEAMM también ha entrenado algunos líderes de congregaciones de Franconia, tales como Centro de Alabanza de Philadelphia, a través de Comunidad de Instituciones Teológicas Anabautistas (CITA). “El hecho de que nuestra conferencia tenga interacción con otras conferencias nos hace sentir cada vez más que parte  de una relación histórica,” dice Oskar Dom, director del instituto bíblico de CIEAMM. “Es bueno saber que nuestra conferencia ya esta en posicion de compartir lo que nosotros hemos aprendido en estos 60 años de existencia.”

En palabras del ministro executivo Steve Kriss, las relaciones de Compañeros en Ministerio no son muy definidas. Muchas comunidades puede que apenas están siendo introducidas a la teología y prácticas menonitas. La relación con Compañeros en Ministerio puede proveer oportunidades para que estas comunidades pueden aprender qué significa vivir como Anabautistas en sus contextos. Con compañeros comprensivos, cualquiera puede prosperar. Kriss y Santiago esperan que Compañeros en Ministerio  continue de ser un sitio donde comunidades pueden tener interacciòn, experimentar y llegar a conocerse.

The Details of Building Community

by Jennifer Svetlik, Salford congregation

“It is rewarding to see pastors and leaders come together to enjoy one another’s company, to network and build bridges,” Brooke Martin shares about her work as the Youth and Community Formation Coordinator with Franconia Conference. 

The community formation aspect of her job involves planning the conference’s major formation meetings and events. These events include the annual Credentialed Leaders Appreciation gathering, the Conference Related Ministry equipping meals, and leading the team that plans Fall Assembly. Brooke is also an at-large member of the Intercultural Team to keep an intercultural lens at the center of event planning. 

Brooke sees her job as playing a vital role in building community. “Noticing the details and seeing what needs to be done, then taking care of it, is energizing for me,” Brooke says. 

Brooke is also part of Youth Formation Team. In this role she is responsible for connecting with Youth Pastors in the Lansdale area, and helping to plan events that resource and equip all of Franconia’s youth leaders and youth pastors.

Prior to working for Franconia Conference, Brooke was the Interim Youth Ministry Leader for four years at Franconia Church. Brooke was thankful to have the opportunity to stay at home when her second child was born, but when it came time to start looking for work again, she was also grateful to work part-time while continuing to have time with her two children. 

“The opportunity to support the work of the Conference, utilize my gifts in administrative organization and building community, and share my passion for youth ministry while having a schedule that aligns with the needs of my children, has been a gift,” Brooke reflects.  

Brooke’s passion for youth ministry started as a teenager, when Melanie Nofziger was her high school youth pastor. Working at Camp Luz in Ohio with camp director Deb Horst was also a formative time for her, and these experiences led her to an associate degree at Hesston College in youth ministry, studying under Michele Hershberger. 

“Hearing the journeys of other women in ministry, learning from their strengths and how they face challenges in ministry, has been formational for me,” Brooke shares. 

Brooke encourages congregations to provide opportunities for young people to cultivate and meaningfully use their gifts: “Youth are the church now, not the church of the future. We need to give them the opportunity to serve now.” Part of that work is in helping youth identify their gifts and inviting them into leadership roles in the congregation, such as teaching Sunday School, serving on the sound team, as an usher, or in the nursery. 

“I’m excited to be able to meet more with youth ministers and hear their stories, their questions, and their challenges. It is an honor to be a part of empowering people in ministry and of what God is doing in the churches of our conference,” Brooke says. 

Brooke’s faith journey started young; when she was eight, she lost her brother Shaun in a car accident. “God became my sounding board because God was the one who could understand and connect with my young grief,” she remembers.  

Originally from “the cornfields of Ohio,” Brooke felt intimidated when she moved to the suburbs of Pennsylvania because she was unsure of how to build community in her new homeplace. “It’s been beautiful to learn that there is community here, even though it looks different,” she says. 

Outside of work, Brooke finds joy in dance and in parenting. Dance has been an important part of her life since she was three years old and she sees it as a way to worship God. Being a parent has allowed her to “see the world through children’s eyes and witness their pure reliance on God; it is the holiest ground I have been on,” Brooke says.

At Home, Far from Home

By Jennifer Svetlik, Salford congregation

“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 in one of his favorite places: the desert!

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. 

Hendy, Levi, Marina and Judah on a winter road trip to New Hampshire

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! 

 

A Catalyst for Transformation

By Jennifer Svetlik, Salford congregation

Chantelle Todman Moore loves it when individuals or congregations are getting curious and imaginative about what the church can look like.  She sees this work as integral to discipleship, “when people begin to think really deeply about their own identities like they’ve never had to before; this is the first step to transformation.” 

Chantelle Todman Moore is the Intercutural Leadership Coach for Franconia Conference. Over the past year and a half of her time on staff, Chantelle’s work has focused on organizing spaces and conversations for pastoral and lay leaders in the conference who are part of the “global majority,”* though not part of the majority culture of Franconia Conference. 

These conversations are opportunities to pray together, fellowship, share dreams, and express laments. A primary example is the annual Nations and Generations gathering that Chantelle is helping to organize this fall. The gathering is a time of prayer, worship, visioning, and connecting a diverse group of ministers. This year’s gathering will take place on November 1 just before Conference Assembly.

Chantelle is one of the staff leaders of the conference’s Intercultural Team, which seeks to identify what the needs and skills are in the conference for intercultural capacity, and how the conference can more effectively invest in global majority leaders. 

The work that excites Chantelle most is coaching congregations seeking to grow in intercultural capacity and become anti-racist.  Recently, the elders from Plains congregation asked the Intercultural Team to help them think through their next steps in their ongoing movement toward intercultural competency.  “I enjoy working with congregations that are ‘doing the work’ and when I can help them be a catalyst for deepening those efforts,” Chantelle shared. 

Chantelle grew up in south Florida in an Assemblies of God church and received an undergraduate degree in International Community Development and an MBA in International Economic Development. It was in graduate school at Eastern University that she encountered Anabaptism through books by Eloise Meneses as well as the work of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). She began attending Oxford Circle Mennonite with Sam, whom she later married. Chantelle was drawn to the centrality of social justice as a sign of faithfulness within Anabaptism. 

Chantelle quickly began to take leadership roles in Mennonite institutions: working as the Philadelphia Program Coordinator for MCC, serving on the board of Eastern Mennonite Missions (EMM) and getting involved with the Women in Leadership steering committee of MC USA to co-plan  the Women Doing Theology conferences, helping to organize the Future Church Summit at MCUSA Convention 2017, and speaking at the Hope for the Future conferences. 

Entering into the wider Mennonite Church after her experience in the intercultural reality of Anabaptism in Philadelphia was a bit of cultural whiplash, Chantelle reflected.  This is what makes her work so important.  “Jesus modeled crossing the bounds of what the world labeled as ‘other’ and we should be doing the same. Those who encountered Jesus in the scriptures were transformed but Jesus was also transformed as he crossed boundaries,” she continued. “So yes, it’s about justice and doing what’s right but, most of all, it’s about following Jesus and allowing our whole being and worldview to be transformed.” 

In addition to her work with Franconia Conference, Chantelle is the co-founder of Unlock Ngenuity, a consulting, coaching and therapy business. 

Chantelle and Sam have three daughters. When she’s not coaching and supporting individuals and communities in developing intercultural understanding, she loves to grow food through gardening and dabbling in aquaponics. 

*The term global majority seeks to recognize that the vast majority of the people in the world consider themselves non-white.