Tag Archives: John Drescher

Delegates commit to waiting, hoping, discerning at Assembly

Bob & Bonnie Stevenson
Charlie Ness (Perkiomenville) and Bonnie Stevenson pray for Bob Stevenson before he brings the message during Friday night worship. Photo by Emily Ralph

by Emily Ralph, associate director of communication

“Waiting on God is expectant and hopeful,” declared Marta Castillo, Franconia Conference’s outgoing assistant moderator, at the opening of the United Franconia and Eastern District Conferences’ 2014 Assembly.  The theme of this year’s gathering, held November 14-15 at Penn View Christian School in Souderton, Pa., was “Esperando: Waiting & Hoping.”

“We’re not waiting for something, we’re waiting for somebody,” added Bob Stevenson during Friday evening worship.  “Waiting is not just a passive sitting back.  And so the word I have is that we wait ‘until’ [we receive the power of the Spirit] and then we get up and go!”

Stevenson and his wife Bonnie were called and commissioned as missionaries to Mexico at a Franconia Conference Assembly 26 years before.  They were celebrated Friday night as they reached a milestone in their ministry: the transition from raising missionary support from the States to full funding through their congregation.  “I thank the Lord for allowing us to be a part of this conference,” Bonnie responded after she and Bob were presented with a Spanish fraktur created by Salford congregation member Roma Ruth.  “There are many times on Friday morning when we have our prayer together … that we pray for each one of your congregations by name.”

praying for Danilo Sanchez
Conference leaders pray for Danilo Sanchez, Whitehall, one of this year’s newly credentialed leaders. Photo by Bam Tribuwono.

The theme of leaders raised up and called from within the Conference continued on Saturday during the joint delegate session, when the gathering recognized a number of newly credentialed leaders who were licensed out of Franconia congregations.  “Where do our pastors come from?” asked Steve Kriss, Franconia Conference director of leadership cultivation.  “They come because you invite them.”

This year also saw the credentialing of leaders from other conferences and denominational backgrounds, adding to Franconia’s increasing diversity.  “Diversity is a catalyst for growth,” reflected Jessica Hedrick, Souderton congregation, during table feedback.  Her table encouraged conference delegates to prioritize prayer and, as corporate discernment continued, to recognize “the opportunity to learn from each other instead of necessarily trying to get everyone to agree.”

KrisAnne Swartley praying
KrisAnne Swartley, Doylestown, joins in prayer for the other congregations at her table. Photo by Bam Tribuwono.

The theme of listening well and together wove through many of the stories and hopes shared throughout the weekend.  Danilo Sanchez, Whitehall congregation, named three areas that it seemed the majority of delegates were wrestling with: “Listening to the Spirit, how to sit with our differences, and how to love like Christ.”

The Franconia Conference Board asked delegates to consider what kind of conversations needed to be planned leading up to the Mennonite Church USA convention in Kansas City next summer, knowing the likelihood that Convention will include decisions about denominational structure and human sexuality.  Many delegates agreed that the questions of structure and sexuality only skimmed the surface; perhaps there were other questions that should be asked instead.

delegates conferring
Delegates discussed difficult issues around tables with grace and laughter. Photo by Bam Tribuwono.

Josh Meyer, Franconia congregation, wondered how the upcoming dialogue could form those participating into the image of Christ.  “How we have this conversation is just as important as any decisions that we make,” he said.  “It doesn’t matter what we decide in Kansas City; if we don’t treat each other as sisters and brothers in Christ, then we’ve missed the point.”

Throughout the weekend, conference leadership encouraged delegates to actively wait on the Spirit, to take time for stillness and listening, and to collaborate in acts of justice and mercy.  “We must not become paralyzed by the issues of the day,” encouraged Eastern District moderator Brenda Oelschlager, “but move forward in love … as God leads us along new paths.”

Several new paths highlighted included a new Lehigh Valley collaboration in hiring Sanchez as youth minister, welcoming two new Philadelphia congregations (Centro de Alabanza and Indonesian Light Church) into an exploration of membership in Franconia Conference, and the move of the Mennonite Conference Center to the campus of Christopher Dock Mennonite High School in Lansdale (Pa.).

Aldo Siahaan introduces new congregations
LEADership Minister Aldo Siahaan introduces two new congregations exploring membership in Franconia Conference: Centro de Alabanza and Indonesian Light Church. Photo by Bam Tribuwono.

Although 2014 saw the beginnings of new ministries and the licensing of many new pastors, it also brought the deaths of three influential church leaders: Paul Lederach, John Drescher, and Israel Bolaños.  In reflecting on their legacies, Kriss encouraged delegates to remember them by carrying on their work of teaching, writing, and mission.

“The gospel isn’t good news until someone takes it and goes with it,” Bob Stevenson agreed.  The power which sends the church is not political or force, but “a power that is a ‘preach the gospel to the poor’ power, it’s a ‘healing the broken heart’ power….  What will change this world is us, God’s people.”

A daughter’s tribute to John M. Drescher

by Sandy Drescher-Lehman, Souderton congregation

John Drescher with family
John Drescher with the family that he loved, August 2013. Photo provided.

There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.

That’s one of the many quotes we received over these last two weeks from your hearts to ours. We’ve been overwhelmed and grateful for your love to us and for our parents. Many of you know that two of Dad’s greatest joys were writing and preaching. The man we knew best was the one who cried tears of overwhelming grief and unspeakable love and who surrounded us with his laughter, his creativity ,and his daily prayers for each of us by name.

When he couldn’t stand long enough to preach any more this past year and his hands were too shaky to write—when all that was over, the thing that kept him wanting to live was his family. He cried tears of unspeakable love as he told us that even though he was so eager to touch Jesus, he cried tears of overwhelming grief to know that he was leaving us.

Dad worked out his life with words, writing them and sharing them. He worked at how to do relationships with words. He admitted that our mother was the one in his life who inspired him to write about the fruit of the Spirit. He asked her out for a date when someone in college pointed to her and said, “That woman would do anything for anyone,” and he found out how true that would be.

Dad moved around a lot when he was a child and made a decision to not do that when he had a family. He did travel a lot for the work that he loved. When he came back, he always had something in his suitcase for each of us—usually a pack of life-savers—that was a splurge for him, to let us know he’d missed us. In the summers, he plowed up a plot for each of us in our big garden and taught us the value of honoring the land. I remember him bragging to anyone who would listen about the big cantaloupe I raised and sold at our roadside stand, to earn money for Christmas presents. He was my overt cheerleader in everything from my childhood creations to being a pastor when it wasn’t okay for women to do that.

His favorite sermon to preach—the one he told me a few months ago that he still wanted to preach again—was on encouragement. He was a cheerleader for the church of Jesus Christ, for each person who shared their stories with him and for each of us in his family.

We’ll miss our cheerleader.

Dad taught us by his example to never accept a job based on what it will pay, but how it resonates with God’s calling. He taught us to decide how much we need to live on and give the rest away; that giving away 10 percent of what we earn is only the place to start.

He showed us that miracles happen all around us, all the time, and that we just need to notice them. Before gas got expensive, he took us on Sunday aft drives to look at the “views.” It was always the same one, but it was always newly amazing to him. Nature was to be honored and enjoyed. Life itself was a miracle.

Each of us in the family have our own experiences of times that he and mother together prayed us through crises of health and faith and emotional upheaval in our lives. I’m sure our memories of his faith and the power of prayer will help us keep watching for and expecting miracles, but we’ll miss his prayers.

After Dad was gone, we found the poems he wrote for this day in a folder with his memorial service plans. So he finished his life with poems again. In his last weeks of life, he was reading the scriptures purely for himself. We’d over hear him repeating Psalm 90, the psalm that upheld his spirit at the end, the last one he’d memorized for such a time as this:

“Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting, you are God. You turn us back to dust, and say, Turn back, you mortals. For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past. You sweep them away and they are like a dream… Satisfy us in the morning, with your steadfast love so that we may rejoice and be glad all our days… Let your work be manifest to your servants, and your glorious power to their children. Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and prosper for us the work of our hands—O prosper the work of our hands!”

May it be so for each of us, as we choose to allow Dad’s prayers and his spirit to live on through us.

John M. Drescher passed away on July 10, 2014.  Excerpted from the eulogy given at John’s funeral by his daughter, Sandy. Posted with permission. 

John M. Drescher, a saint for all seasons

John Drescherby Harvey Yoder

John M. Drescher, 85, passed away on Thursday, July 10 in his home. John was a well-known author, teacher, and pastor in the Mennonite community. He wrote 37 books, pastored a number of Mennonite churches, and served as editor of a church magazine and as a counselor at Quakertown Christian School. John was married to Betty and a member of Finland Mennonite Church.

I just received word Friday that my friend and mentor John Drescher had died early the previous morning.

John would strongly object to my use of the word “saint” in connection with his life. “That word doesn’t even appear in the Bible,” he always insisted, “It’s always ‘saints,’ in the plural. No one can be a saint by himself.”

But John, with his good wife Betty, came close, and yes, always as a part of a committed congregation. I grew to deeply appreciate him during the several years he was a member of the Zion Mennonite Church (in Broadway, Virginia) where I served as pastor for two decades. And Betty was her own special kind of woman—warm, hospitable and never complaining. She did a lot of the typing and proofreading of John’s manuscripts, and he clearly could never have accomplished what he did without her.

With John being the gifted and acclaimed preacher, writer, and editor that he was, I could easily have found it intimidating having him and Betty in the congregation. He was both older and far more experienced that I, having served as a pastor in three congregations, bishop or overseer in three conferences, a one-term moderator of the Mennonite Church in North America, the editor of Gospel Herald, and as a college pastor and seminary teacher at Eastern Mennonite University. But he was always a most loyal and supportive member of our congregation, frequently writing me an affirming note or otherwise taking the time to encourage me.

John was almost surely the most prolific and widely-read Mennonite author ever, having had 37 books and countless articles published, as well as serving as editor of the Gospel Herald (now The Mennonite) for twelve of its most successful years. One book, Seven Things Children Need, sold over 125,000 copies and was translated into over a dozen languages.

Spirit Fruit also went through several printings and was read by thousands, as was his book Why I am a Conscientious Objector. And in addition to all of his work as an author, Drescher wrote scores of articles published in over a hundred magazines, including Christianity Today, Reader’s Digest, and Catholic Digest, and I’m told these have been translated into in at least seventy languages. Can any other Mennonite writer seriously compete with that?

But I will always remember John not just for his greatness, but for his genuineness as a good man of God and a servant of the church. We owe him and his Lord a large debt of gratitude.

John M. Drescher was an ordained leader in Franconia Mennonite Conference. He was the loving husband of Betty Keener Drescher. He is survived by his wife and children, Ron (Inez) of Monterey, Tennessee; Sandy (John) Drescher-Lehman of Green Lane; Rose (Rich) Longacre of Quakertown; Joe (Janice) of Middletown, Connecticut; David (Rhonda) of Morrisville, North Carolina; 14 grandchildren,  nine great-grandchildren; his brother, Luke (June) of Harrisonburg, Virginia; and his sister, Ruth (James) Glick of Kidron, Ohio. John was a member of Finland Mennonite Church.

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, July 26 at 3:30 p.m. at Franconia Mennonite Church (Telford, Pennsylvania). Calling hours will be Friday, July 25 from 6-8 p.m. and Saturday from 1-3 p.m. Memorial contributions in John’s name may be sent to Quakertown Christian School, 50 E. Paletown Rd., Quakertown, PA 18951 or to Finland Mennonite Church, 1750 Ziegler Rd., Pennsburg, PA 18073.