Tag Archives: New Hope Fellowship

Going to the Margins with a Missional Lens

noel article photoFrom February 25 to March 1, 2016, I had the privilege of visiting Mexico for the first time in four years. The occasion, the Annual Red de Iglesias Misioneras Internacionales (RIMI) Leaders Conference. Translated into English, RIMI means the International Network of Missionary Churches. This network was founded by Kirk and Marilyn Hanger, of New Hope Fellowship along with Ruben and Guadalupe Mercado, Mennonite Church leaders from Bolivia.

When asked about RIMI Kirk shared: “In 2003, after 11 years of church planting ministry in Mexico, Franconia Conference encouraged me to continue as a mentor to the churches that had emerged from our ministry with a vision of continued church multiplication. This is when RIMI was born. Counsel and encouragement from Franconia Conference, were critical in the birth and continued growth of RIMI. Over the years, I’ve made regular trips back to Mexico.

Today, RIMI is made up of 28 churches and church plants in Mexico from the states of Oaxaca to Jalisco. In addition to the churches, RIMI also includes a radio ministry, a Bible Institute, a short term mission’s school and a leadership school, both affiliated with Global Disciples, a medical ministry, a prayer network and two rehabilitation centers. RIMI uses the Mennonite Confession of Faith and has a vision of continued church multiplication, leadership development, and the sending of missionaries to the least reached parts of the world.

Every February, we have our RIMI Conference in Mexico. Pastors and leaders from Mexico and other countries will gather for a time of worship, teaching, fellowship and planning together. Last year, Pastor Charles Ness, from Perkiomenville Mennonite Church, was one of our conference speakers, along with Pastor Bob Stevenson, from Iglesia de la Tierra Prometida (also known as Monte Maria).”

Noel article verseThis is what I had the privilege of attending and sharing in, the RIMI’s leaders conference. Connecting and hearing the stories of God’s moving and transformation was powerful! Those marginalized because of addictions, abuses, crime, pain, trauma, but also those who lived religiously empty lives, living good but unsatisfied lives, living without purpose or meaning, having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof; then discovering through the Gospel message being shared with them that they can draw near to God through the good news of the transforming work of Jesus Christ.

Indeed, the call to go to the margins is a missional call; a call to not only share the transforming Gospel message of Jesus Christ, but to share an intimately lived experience of this relationship; a call to be transformed ourselves as we go to the least of these.

Franconia Conference has had a tremendous legacy of disciple making through church planting, evangelism, and missional engagement. In recent years it seems that Franconia Conference has necessarily tended to its internal life. As this internal tending has now brought clarity of direction, is it time to once again continue the legacy of disciple making through missions, evangelism, church planting and the sharing of the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

I came away with the deepened assurance and eye witness accounts of the transforming power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus came to save that which was lost; to live a life after the Kingdom of God that set’s the captives free, to die on the cross and shed his blood to forgive us of our sins, to be raised from the dead and seated at the right hand of God where we too are seated, so that we are once again restored to our relationship with our heavenly Father. Then we go to share this good news of restored relationship through Christ to a hurt and dying world.

Going to the margins with a missional lens isn’t just about the present but also the future. So the question I ask us all is: What legacy do we want to leave the next generation?

This past year we saw the credentialing of some of our youngest leaders, including the ordination of our first millennial, with these young leaders coming on board is it time for Franconia Conference, to once again put out a call to the next generation of young people to consider their call and purpose in life like these have? Is it time to identify the next generation of disciple makers to be raised up, equipped and sent on a mission to share the good news of Jesus Christ through starting new churches, evangelism and missional engagement?

Jesus said in John 20:21 (NIV) – “…Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” I believe it’s time. So if you are interested in learning more how you can engage in missions, if you feel a call to make disciples of all nations through evangelism, starting new churches or being engaged in missions, be in touch with your conference LEADership Minister or myself, so we can start a conversation and explore the possibilities of connecting.

Noel Santiago is a LEADership Minister for Franconia Conference.


More information from Kirk on RIMI: “Strategic relations have developed with churches in other countries as well. In addition to Mexico, RIMI now has churches in Guatemala, Cuba, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Paraguay, Chile and the United States. The vision is that networks of churches will develop in these countries as we support each other in our common vision. Two years ago, we started an international youth conference called “Generación Sana” (Healthy Generation). In 2014, the event was held in Bogota, Colombia with about 80 young people from several countries. In 2015, the event was held in Vina del Mar, Chile and in August 2016, it will be held in Quito, Ecuador.”

New Hope Fellowship Utilizes Service Worker

Deborah Intern photoDeborah Nganga is looking to spice up her Spanish and step up her leadership through serving at New Hope Fellowship as a summer service worker through Mennonite Central Committee (MCC).

Eighteen-year-old Deborah has attended New Hope in Alexandria, VA for about seven years and is looking to learn leadership skills while serving at her church in the 10-week MCC Summer Service Program from June 8th to August 17th. She is working under the direction of New Hope’s pastor Kirk Hanger and his wife Marilyn. New Hope meets for Sunday worship at Bethany Lutheran Church.

As an MCC service worker, Deborah is helping New Hope in whatever way needed. Some of her staple work is helping the church secretary with office work. Another assignment is interviewing church members and writing articles on them. She also assisted with New Hope’s Vacation Bible Schools (VBS). In addition, Deborah will also be going on a service trip to Mexico for two weeks, as a part of her summer work.

“Overall, I think it’s an opportunity for her to be involved in her local church and to experience a variety of ministry opportunities,” Pastor Kirk said. “She’s helping us, but I think in the process she’s growing, stepping out of her comfort zone.”

For VBS, Deborah helped teach and supervise the kids. Her main responsibility was leading arts and crafts. Furthermore, she created a puppet show series to teach lessons about the Bible.

New Hope also ran a shorter VBS at one member’s apartment complex for the kids of the community. Deborah found it somewhat challenging, because most of the kids spoke Spanish. Deborah said although uncertain at first, she was glad to see the kids participate in singing.

“It was actually very good, the kids were actually very interested and asked a lot of questions,” Deborah said.

Just as she is teaching, she has also been learning some Spanish for the two-week Mexico trip. Part of her service program is equipping her by expanding her reach to people by learning Spanish. She has been required to complete online Spanish programs. The first week of her Mexico trip involves medical service. Her second week she will work at an orphanage.

In past summers Deborah worked at an animal clinic. In her free time, she likes to read, watch movies and go swimming. Deborah plans to study accounting at the University of Mary Washington as she starts her freshman year in August.

Partnership with MCC builds diverse leadership

by Lora Steiner, managing editor

Mikah Ochieng was a Summer Service Worker this year at Philadelphia Praise Center.

When people think “urban,” chances are pretty good that Doylestown, Pennsylvania is not a place that comes to mind. Thirty years ago, it was a traditional farming community; now, it’s a well-off, artsy, suburban Philadelphia town. And yet, one congregation, Doylestown Mennonite, is incorporating a program traditionally geared towards urban congregations—the Mennonite Central Committee Summer Service Worker Program—to also reach out to a radically-changed surrounding community.

For the Doylestown congregation, having an MCC summer service worker is one of a number of initiatives they’ve begun in order to meaningfully connect with people in the community, moves that have at times felt stretching, and even risky. Over the last several years, says Pastor Randy Heacock, the church has opened its doors to various local initiatives, including a community garden and a peace camp, taking place this month. Derrick Garrido, who attends Doylestown Mennonite and is a student at Cairn University, spent the summer connecting with artists in the community, working to create space for artistic expression within the community and connect with those who might not have a faith community.

MCC started the summer service program in the ’80s, with the same focus it has today: To work in urban areas and provide employment and leadership opportunities to people of color. The goal, says program coordinator Danilo Sanchez (Whitehall congregation), is to allow people opportunities to stay in their home communities and churches and make a difference where they’re living now. Participants must be a person of color between the ages of 18 and 30, preferably enrolled in a university or college, and be connected with a constituent church of MCC, such as Mennonite Church USA or Brethren in Christ members. Some participants come through Mennonite Mission Network and Mennonite colleges. Generally, a congregation submits a proposal first, and regional MCC coordinators review the application. If it is approved, applicants are then invited to apply to the MCC U.S. program. In the past, both Franconia and Lancaster Mennonite conferences have contributed financial support, and a number of congregations, such as Philadelphia Praise Center, have had someone in the program for the last several years.

This year, Mikah Ochieng worked at Philadelphia Praise Center, under the supervision of pastor Aldo Siahaan. Ochieng says he’s grateful for the opportunity to have been both a learner and a teacher in a community that has been so hospitable to him, and the one he calls home. When asked about challenges, Ochieng said that of course there had been obstacles, such as a small number of volunteers, but his experience has been that “what we lack in such resources we make up in our commitment to serve one another.”

“It’s a quality-over-quantity type of thing.”

Derrick Garrido kneels beside soccer camp participant Ben Swartley.

New Hope Fellowship, in Alexandria, Virginia, has also participated in MCC’s Summer Service Program for many years. This year, Alex Torres worked with the church’s kid’s club, helped a friend of the congregation with a hip hop school, and assisted the Spanish-speaking community in a variety of ways.

Torres says he’d known others from the congregation who had participated in the summer service worker program, and wanted to make an impact in his community. He says his favorite part was working with the kids, and that he wanted to show them a different, more positive route than the one that’s laid out for many children in his community.

“Where I come from, there’s always a lot of not-so-good things happening… I pay a lot of attention to the youth around here.”

Over the last seven years, summer service worker participants at New Hope have chosen different areas: One worked in a homeless shelter, in part because that’s where he lived. Others who are bilingual have helped people navigate the system.

For New Hope’s pastor, Kirk Hanger, the one of the many benefits of the program is that thepeace camp 2 young adults are from the congregation—they know the context, the congregation and the community, and when it’s done, they stay.

“We get to continue to walk with these young adults and mentor them… and experience more of the fruit of what they’ve learned and done.”

Heacock says that his congregation has worked hard to figure out what it means to be missional—both in the community with relationships that already exist, but also, as he puts it, “How do we not just preserve it for us, but also use our space to be an outpost for the kingdom?”

“If the goal is to learn what God has for us in the midst of it, I really think there’s very little failure.”

Conference Finance Update (February 2012)

the garden
Will, Kristin, and Maisley participate in an inter-generational activity at a Garden gathering, drawing a response to the question: Where do you find hope? The Garden received a Missional Operational Grant through Doylestown Mennonite Church. Photo by KrisAnne Swartley

The 2011-12 fiscal year is over and a new year has begun. 2011 was a difficult year for congregations, as evidenced by the decrease in giving to the conference—$80,000 below expectations. This is also reflected in the $75,000 decrease in forecasted giving from congregations for the new year. So, the conference budget continues to tighten its belt for the next year.

A sampling of the various activities of the conference during the months of December and January:

  •  $10,500 in Missional Operational Grants (MOG) was disbursed during this period to Providence, Rockhill, Doylestown, and New Hope Fellowship congregations. $513 in assistance was also granted to Nueva Vida Norristown New Life for the production of a video about the congregation and the financial need they are facing.
  • LEADership Minister Steve Kriss along with LEAD Advisor Donella Clemens led a congregational review of Whitehall in January, as part of the process for strengthening our congregations.
  • Conference Prayer Coordinator Sandy Landes met with prayer leaders and teams from three congregations and continues to lead a weekly prayer gathering at the conference center.
  • In December, the conference jointly hosted the annual pastor appreciation breakfast at West Swamp Mennonite Church along with Eastern District Conference.

Another tidbits:

The conference is in the middle of processing the sale of the development rights to Indian Creek Farm, the proceeds of which will be used to reduce the debt on the Souderton Shopping Center, which in turn will free up some additional funds for subsidizing conference ministries.

Operating Budget, Feb. 2011-Jan. 2012 (unaudited)

Actual Budget Last Year 2012-13
Revenue $791,116 $851,318 $894,712 $817,091
Expenses $841,272 $815,368 $902,030 $788,835
Line of Credit Payment $25,000 $25,000 $25,000 $25,000
Net ($75,156) $10,950 ($32,318) $3,256

Maná de Vida Eterna springs alive along the Hudson River

Charles A. Ness, Perkiomenville

The Hudson River Valley just north of New York City is a beautiful historic area that attracts both vacationers and residents. Towns with names like, Tarrytown, Ossining, Sleepy Hollow and Croton on the Hudson, have had an idyllic appeal for hundreds of years.Mana de Vida

It is also home to many Spanish-speaking persons from a variety of Central and South American countries, including Daniel and Jacky Lopez and their two sons who came to the United States 15 years ago from Chile. Daniel works as a maintenance supervisor at a children’s hospital and Jacky is employed in domestic services.

Years ago the Lord delivered Daniel and Jacky from a life of addiction and healed their marriage. This gave them a passion to share Christ’s love with others who need to know abundant life in Christ. For several years they have had a desire to be part of a church that could effectively reach the Spanish-speaking persons in Ossining. Daniel had led several persons to Christ who found it difficult to assimilate into their existing church. After prayer they decided to begin a new fellowship for these and other persons.

In February 2010 the group began a Friday evening meeting in the Lopez home attended by several persons from their home church and those who had recently professed Christ. It was very small at first but as persons came to faith in Christ they outgrew the Lopez living room. In December 2010 they began renting space in another church building. This new church, Maná de Vida Eterna, has adopted the Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective as their statement of faith.

This group got connected to Franconia Conference when Pastor Alfredo Navea from Viña del Mar, Chile, who had been friends with the Lopez family for many years, introduced them to Kirk Hanger, Pastor of New Hope Fellowship, Alexandria, VA, and Charles Ness, Pastor of Perkiomenville Mennonite Church. This began a relationship where Daniel and his family attended Perkiomenville’s annual church retreat in August and persons from Perkiomenville and Franconia Conference have gone to worship services in New York. With Kirk serving as LEAD Minister for Perkiomenville, he and Charlie came together to support Daniel and the Manna of Eternal Life Church.

In December representatives of Franconia Conference, Steve Kriss, and Noel Santiago, persons from Philadelphia Praise Center, along with Kirk, Charlie and several men from Perkiomenville, attended the dedication of their new worship space. It was an encouragement to this emerging church to have representatives from the broader church present to bless this new beginning. In February 2011, Kirk and Charlie assisted with the first baptism. It is anticipated that this summer both the New Hope and Perkiomenville congregations will assist Manna of Eternal Life with outreach efforts which will further enhance the relationship and be mutually beneficial to all the churches.

A Franconia Conference Missional Operations Grant has provided important seed money for rent and other start up costs for this emerging church. Additionally, Daniel is participating in Eastern Mennonite Seminary’s STEP program which provides training for people who are licensed for pastoral ministry or have been encouraged to consider pastoral ministry—who may not have college, Bible school, or seminary training. STEP combines spiritual and personal formation with content-based learning in Bible, theology, leadership, and ministry skills in a very practical way. Daniel attends a class in Philadelphia one Saturday a month. This is equipping him to be a leader and giving him an understanding of Anabaptist/Mennonite theology and practice.

This Partner in Mission relationship between Franconia Conference, New Hope Fellowship and Perkiomenville Mennonite Church and the Manna of Eternal Life Church is another example of how the Lord is working through relationships to connect congregations and conferences across what may have formerly been seen as boundaries that were not to be crossed. This new paradigm allows for authentic relationships that are both life giving and life sustaining and enables both congregations and the conference to participate in the fresh move of God. The Spirit is flowing from the Potomac River and Perkiomen Creek to the Hudson River to build the Kingdom of God.