Tag Archives: Norristown New Life Nueva Vida

Cuidándonos entre Mujeres / Sister Care

por Marta Castillo

La experiencia de sentarse, aprender, reír, llorar y compartir en un grupo de 30 líderes y pastoras de habla hispana es una experiencia que no tiene comparación. El Espíritu del Dios viviente fluía libremente y poderosamente, las voces se elevaban en ánimo, las oraciones se hablaban y las experiencias de vida fueran compartidas en alegría a través del dolor. Tuve el privilegio de ser incluida en la invitación y estoy agradecida de que la Conferencia de Franconia me apoyara,  Pastora Marta Castillo (Nueva Vida Norristown Nueva Vida) y Pastora Leticia Cortes (Centro de Alabanza), en nuestro viaje a Oregón el mes pasado para participar en el taller Cuidándonos entre Mujeres  en español. El entrenamiento trajo sanación y el encuentro de líderes de mujeres hispanas fuertes de todo Estados Unidos, incluyendo Florida, Texas, California, Iowa y Pennsylvania fue una fuente de inspiración.

Como dice el sitio web de Menonite Women USA, “los talleres proveen a las mujeres con herramientas para la sanación personal continua, el reconocimiento y la celebración de la gracia de Dios en sus vidas, y respondiendo con más confianza y efectividad a las necesidades de otros en sus familias, congregaciones y comunidades”. Se ha sido utilizado en todo el mundo y se ha traducido en varios idiomas, pero esta es la primera vez que se imparte el curso en español con la esperanza de llevar los materiales y habilidades a nuestras conferencias y congregaciones.  La Pastora Leticia Cortes Castro y yo estamos comprometidas a compartir lo que hemos aprendido con otras mujeres en nuestras iglesias y en nuestra  conferencia.

La Pastora Leticia envió una nota a la Conferencia de Franconia para expresar su agradecimiento. Como miembros de la Conferencia de Franconia aquí están sus palabras para ustedes:

Para la Conferencia de Franconia:

Por este medio quiero agradecer todo el apoyo que se nos dio a Marta Castillo y su servidora, para viajar a Portland Oregon, y poder tomar el taller de “Cuidado de mujeres” que fue de gran bendición para nuestras vidas, en lo personal me siento fortalecida y animada para compartir con otras lo aprendido, los temas son de gran interés para nuestra comunidad Hispana, y pudimos identificar que muchos de los temas que se compartieron, son necesarios para ayudarnos entre nostras como mujeres, me toco la lectura bíblica de la samaritana, y algo paso en ese tiempo de compartir ese pasaje,  fue algo especial para mí, me sentí tan identificada con la mujer samaritana, de sentir el perdón y amada directamente por el Mesías, otra parte del taller fue maravilloso porque los temas fueron  en mi idioma, lo extraordinario fue que lo aprendido lo pude poner en práctica con una Hermana que se sentía mal espiritualmente, y pude compartir con ella y orar juntas, y sentimos como Dios uso ese momento para darle paz , y gozo en su vida, quedamos tan agradecidas con Dios, que vamos a continuar con nuestra hermandad y amistad a la distancia,

Gracias nuevamente, en Cristo
Pastora Letty Cortes Castro
Centro de Alabanza de Filadelfia

by Marta Castillo

Sitting, learning, laughing, crying, and sharing in a group of 30 Spanish-speaking women leaders and pastors is an experience that is unrivaled.  The Spirit of the living God flowed freely and powerfully, voices were raised in excitement, prayers were spoken, and life experiences shared in joy through the pain.  I was privileged (as a white Spanish-speaking woman) to be included in the invitation and I am thankful that Franconia Conference supported myself, Pastor Marta Castillo (Nueva Vida Norristown New Life), and Pastor Leticia Cortes (Centro de Alabanza), in our trip to Oregon last month to participate in the Sister Care Seminar in Spanish.  Going through the training was healing and meeting strong Hispanic women leaders from all over the United States, including Florida, Texas, California, Iowa, and Pennsylvania was inspirational.

As the Mennonite Women USA website says, “seminars provide women with tools for ongoing personal healing, recognizing and celebrating God’s grace in their lives, and responding more confidently and effectively to the needs of others in their families, congregations and communities.” It has been used all over the world and been translated in several languages, but this is the first time that the training was held in Spanish with the hope that we would take the materials and skills to our conferences and congregations.  Pastor Leticia Cortes Castro and I are committed to sharing what we have learned with other women in our churches and in our conference.

Pastor Leticia sent a note to Franconia Conference to express her appreciation. As members of Franconia Conference here are her words to you:

I want to thank all the support that was given to Marta Castillo and me, God’s servant, to travel to Portland, Oregon, and to be able to take the workshop “Sister Care” in Spanish. That was a great blessing for our lives.  Personally, I feel strengthened and encouraged to share with others what I learned.  The topics are of great interest to our Hispanic community and we were able to identify that many of the themes that were shared are necessary to help us as women.   I shared a monologue of the biblical reading of the Samaritan woman and it touched me deeply.  Something happened during that time that I shared that passage and it is very special for me.   I identified with the Samaritan woman, feeling forgiveness and loved directly by the Messiah.  Another part of the workshop that was wonderful was that the teaching was in my own Spanish language.  The extraordinary thing was that what I learned I could put into practice immediately with a sister in Christ who felt bad spiritually and I could share with her and pray together.  We felt like God used that moment to give her peace and joy in her life.  We are so grateful to God for all the wonderful women that we met and that we will continue our sisterhood and friendship at a distance.

Thank you again, in Christ
Pastor Letty Cortes Castro
Centro de Alabanza


What is the Significance of the Church Building?

By Marta Castillo, Franconia Conference LEADership Minister and Pastor at Nueva Vida Norristown New Life

Several years ago we almost lost our church building to a sheriff’s sale (a type of auction on properties that have either been repossessed by a lender or seized to satisfy judgment liens or tax liens). We said to ourselves, “the church is people; the church is not the building.”  Thankfully, by God’s grace and support from Franconia Conference, we did not lose our church building .  However, as I attended two building-centered events this past weekend, I was paying careful attention to the question, “If the church is people, what is the significance of the church building?”

For churches that have been in existence for 100 years or more, buildings may be a given and are rarely given a second thought, except for repairs and additions. For a congregation just starting out and growing, buildings are more than just a location; they are central to mission, identity, and community.

On Saturday evening, we celebrated with Centro de Alabanza (Center of Praise) in Philadelphia at the dedication of their building. A much-needed larger space in a Spanish neighborhood, this was made possible by Centro de Alabanza’s fundraising efforts include tamale sales and a car raffle, along with generous support from other Franconia Conference congregations. It was a joyful event of thanksgiving and praise, renewed covenant, and anointing before the Lord. Families brought forward wooden blocks inscribed with their family’s name to construct a building showing community, committing themselves to build on the foundation that “has already been laid, which is Jesus Christ” (I Corinthians 3:9-11).

Pastors Fernando Loyola and Letty Cortes said of their new building, “First of all, we feel honored and thankful for the mercy and backing of God in this Hispanic ministry and for us to have a building means to have a place to worship the Lord in freedom and in power concentrating on the mission work of extending the Kingdom of God.  It will help us be more responsible in stewardship, and the location is an area where there are many Latino groups. We believe that God has sent us here to be an example and to reach more souls for Christ.”

The following day, Sunday, January 29, members from Bethel Mennonite, Nueva Vida Norristown New Life and Christian Community Baptist came together for a time of celebration and remembrance. Over 29 years ago, Bethel Mennonite and Nueva Vida Norristown New Life joined together, selling the original Bethel building to Christian Community Baptist.  Members of all three congregations celebrated together in a time of remembrance and worship in the same building where former Bethel members had put down their spiritual roots.  Christian Community Baptist members thanked Nueva Vida Norristown New Life and Franconia Conference for sharing with them a well-cared-for building that was already filled with the Holy Spirit.

As the first church in Acts met in homes, today, we see that God’s provision of these physical spaces — church buildings — allow “the church” to worship, be together and do mission for God. They provide space where more of us are able to join in fellowship with one another, and often are used to bless our surrounding communities as our doors are open for other groups to utilize the space. We thank God for these physical spaces that allow us — “the church” — to worship and do the work of God’s Kingdom.

That’s What the Church is Supposed to Do

By Marta Castillo, Pastor at Nueva Vida Norristown New Life

“My mom just said that she can’t handle it!  She is not willing to take care of the kids. She is afraid that it is going to be too much for her. What am I going to do?  I have to go to rehab or I am going to lose my children.  This is my last chance.”

God’s Spirit nudged me so hard I almost fell out of the chair I was sitting in.  The words that came out of my mouth surprised me.  “We will do it.  We will form a team from people at the church and we will support your mother and take care of the children so you can go to get the care that you need.  Don’t worry.  That is what church is supposed to do.  We will work it out.”

helping-handsAnd amazingly, yes, we did.  I sat down with my sister in Christ, the social worker, the boyfriend, and the grandmother and we worked out a schedule of care that included having me sleeping on the living room floor several nights a week so the children could stay in their own home overnight.  The boyfriend covered the nights that he wasn’t working, and the grandmother covered afternoons and early evenings.  We signed the children up for half day summer camp at the program where I worked.  Church members planned special trips to the park, to their houses, and the zoo for the weekends and picked the children and their grandmother up for church on Sundays.  There were offers to help buy groceries, prepare meals, and provide transportation.  The whole team supported the core figure, the grandmother, as best as we could for three weeks.

Last Sunday, my sister in Christ told me that in June she will celebrate her one year anniversary of being drug-free.  She faithfully attends Narcotics Anonymous meetings, has a job and a car, and has no fear that her children will be taken away.  She is outspoken about the wonderful works God has done in her life and thankful to the team who made caring for herself possible.  Challenges remain, but she knows that she is not alone, her mother is not alone, her family is not alone.  She has company on the hard, long journey.

There are times when acts of hospitality make no logical sense in our culture and even in our church thinking.  Being hospitable is inconvenient and stretches us beyond our comfort zones.  We are not sure of the “how” but we are sure of the “why”.  We must be hospitable to represent the hospitality of our Lord who welcomes all in the name of Jesus.

Reflection on Hope for the Future

 Recently, three of our Franconia Conference members took part in Hope for the Future, an MCUSA gathering of leaders of color from across the church. These gatherings are designed to explore the ways that power, privilege, cultural bias and racism function in our denomination. As Franconia Conference continues to strive to be intercultural and give all people leadership opportunities, this event provides a way for our conference to speak into the denomination and also to gain resources to help equip our leaders.

Colleen Brockington, member of Norristown New Life Nueva Vida Mennonite Church attended the most recent Hope for the Future gathering. Read more about her experience at the event here: https://themennonite.org/questions-and-concerns-determination-and-confidence/

Celebrating 25 years of Unity In Christ

By Marta Castillo

Norristown12 Corinthians 1:20-22 says, “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God.  Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”

During the weekend of July 11, 2015, Nueva Vida Norristown New Life (NVNNL) celebrated 25 years of life together since integrating three Mennonite churches of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds in Norristown. We celebrated with a worship service by acclaimed pianist James Crumbly, a concert with Crumbly and Friends and a pig roast and fiesta.

Norristown2As the body of believers at Nueva Vida Norristown New Life, family, friends, and community celebrated 25 years of God’s faithfulness  and goodness to us and marveled again at the beauty of God’s promise to provide everything that we need to fulfill the calling that we have been given.  Our calling is to be a diverse body of believers who: Worship the Lord in unity; Experience the transforming power of the Holy Spirit; and Proclaim the gospel of reconciliation through Jesus Christ in word and deed.

Norristown3Together, we speak the “amen” to the promises that God has given us and the “yes” in Jesus.  We speak the “amen” when we serve and proclaim in our community.  We speak the “amen” when we pray and seek to do God’s will.  We speak the “amen” as we continue to love the Lord and allow God’s love to flow through us to others.  We speak the “amen” as we commit to speaking against injustice and racism and to be a witness to the power of God for unity and peace.  Amen, amen, and amen!

Norristown4Now, as Nueva Vida Norristown New Life moves beyond the 25 years, we look to God for new vision and strength.  We commit ourselves to living God’s promises together, anointed and sealed by the Holy Spirit until Jesus comes.



A special thank you to the NVNNL planning committee, to those who provided the funds and food to make this celebration possible, and to those who traveled from near and far to join us in the celebration.

Marta Castillo is one of three pastors as NVNNL.

Living God’s Promises Together: 25 Years and Beyond

By Sharon Williams

NVNNL photo 6-11-15 webNueva Vida Norristown New Life (NVNNL) is celebrating 25 years of unity in Christ! The congregation came together on July 1, 1990—a most unusual integration of three Mennonite churches of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds in Norristown.

Everyone in the Franconia Conference community, former members and attendees of the four congregations, and the Norristown community is invited to the Homecoming Fiesta and Concert, Saturday, July 11. A free pork roast dinner will be served outdoors at 5:30 p.m., followed by a concert with James Crumbly and Friends at 7 p.m. at the church. An offering will be received to support the congregation’s Enlarging Our Place in God’s World fund.

james crumbly 6-11-15James Crumbly of Tampa, Florida, is an accomplished pianist and composer  who led worship at the 2010 Franconia Conference Assembly, and has ministered several times with the NVNNL congregation. He taught Jazz Ensemble, Adult Voice Ensemble, and Songwriting at the Patel Conservatory of The Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. His strong background in classical, gospel, and jazz gives him a uniquely eclectic sound. Enjoy a sample of James’s piano artistry.

The worship celebration, Living God’s Promises Together, will be held Sunday, July 12, 10:30 a.m. James Crumbly will lead worship with the congregation’s bilingual worship team and pastors Ángel Tamayo, Marta Castillo, and Ertell Whigham.

The congregation is also hosting Mennonite World Conference guests for our outdoor worship service on Sunday, July 26, 10:30 a.m., followed by a fellowship meal. Everyone is welcome, and we especially hope to welcome persons en route to the Philadelphia airport following Mennonite World Conference in Harrisburg.

Sharon K. Williams is a musician, editor and congregational/non-profit consultant. She serves the Lord with the Nueva Vida Norristown New Life congregation as minister of worship.


SisterCare Offered Time to Encounter God in Each Other in Spanish & English

By Marta Castillo, associate pastor Nueva Vida Norristown New Life & Franconia Conference board member

Marta CastilloMirror, mirror, what do you see?
Women made in the image of Thee
Woman, woman, what do you see?
I see You in me.

Rarely do I get a chance to see God orchestrating events in such a way as for the Women’s Gathering this spring  “Shattering our Mirrors, Reclaiming Ourselves”.  I imagine that the Sister Care planning committee faithfully and purposefully chose the theme, the location, the date, and carefully planned for speakers and program.  At some point in the process, the Holy Spirit began nudging them towards attempting to be more inclusive and intercultural.  It all began by the simple decision to send out the event information in Spanish.

Intercultural efforts and events have a way of stripping away our illusions of control and allowing us to “let go and let God.”  When the flier went out in Spanish, God moved quickly in a new direction and from my viewpoint, the planning committee with some uncertainty yet graciously followed the Spirit’s lead as their well organized plans went sideways.  Very quickly over 20 Spanish-speaking women had eagerly signed up but many of them could not attend without the provision of childcare during the event.  The committee had decided not to provide childcare during past events or even this year but willingly obedient to the flow of the Spirit, they agreed to try to provide childcare.  God provided people who volunteered to help care for the children but now they realized the original space was too small for all the children and a meeting place for the women.  Very close to the date of the gathering, the committee had to consider an alternative space that could accommodate everyone.

Reflecting2aAfter a visit and several conversations with me, the Sister Care Committee settled into moving the whole event to Nueva Vida Norristown New Life.  I couldn’t have been happier.  I could see that God was doing a new thing and I was honored to be a part of it.  For several years, I had carried a desire in my heart to see a repeat of the original event, in which Spanish-speaking women participated and had thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  I wanted to see an event that I could invite all the sisters of color in my church to participate in.

The nudging of God’s Spirit continued.  Since there were as many Spanish-speaking women signed up as English-speaking women, why not make it a fully bilingual event?  With translated documents, side-by-side translation, and sharing from everyone in Spanish and in English.  Why would more than half of the women sit there with ear buds waiting for the Spanish to come through while the English speakers talked on and on without pause?  Kudos to the committee members, speakers, and presenters who said “Yes”, they would be willing to try a new method.  Thanks be to God who provided translators!  One of the comments on the evaluation sheets expresses the importance of making languages equal.  “I liked everything because there were no divisions of languages because we are equal before the eyes of God and thank you for the word.”

TestimonyaOn the day of the event, women came early, with eager hearts and a hunger for time spent in the company of sisters in Christ.  From the greeting, to the worship, the meditations, the sharing, and the final prayer of blessings, English and Spanish words flowed back and forth like a beautiful dialogue.  Sandy Drescher Lehman talked about her calling as a pastor, shared her story of her beautiful skirt made from her father’s ties, and encouraged us to go down deep but to emerge in a new place.  Table groups talked and shared about the things that hinder them from knowing themselves and God and things that help them draw closer to God and know themselves better.

After a shared meal of tostadas, Christine Waanders walked us through a process of better getting to know ourselves and our personalities.  The culminating event of washing each others’ hands brought tears, hugs, love, prayer, and laughter to many women as well as the bittersweet feeling that a day of blessing, healing, and sisterhood was about to end.

Afterward, I received a card signed by 20 of our sisters in Philadelphia, thanking the committee again for the invitation, the experience, and expressing thanks to God.  “The time we spent together was glorious.  Thank you.”  As tears of joy sprung again to my eyes, I am amazed how God orchestrated the events as my faithful sisters chose to follow the leading of God’s Spirit.

New Life internet café: a cup of java and so much more

 by Karlton Glick

Karlton Glick, director of the New Life Internet Café, instructs computer skills classes for school-age children.
Children from the Precious Life Learning Center, the church’s childcare program, use computers at the New Life Internet Café.

The internet café at Nueva Vida Norristown New Life Church (Norristown, Pennsylvania) is a place where people get to know each other and take steps to break down the social, educational, and economic barriers of computer technology. We, the church, have created a place that is one part computer center and one part wireless café. The participants are from the community, and are grateful for a low-pressure environment to learn, utilize the Internet, and yes, enjoy a good cup of coffee and a conversation about their relationship with God.

Since I began working with this outreach ministry, I have realized how not having Internet access is a barrier for even entry-level jobs. If you look for work in a fast-food store or grocery store these days, you will not receive a paper application. Instead you are told, “Go online.”

One of our participants was trying to get a job at Wal-Mart but the online application and lengthy screening questions kept her out of the process; she was discouraged. As I helped her navigate the online application, I realized that she knew the answers but just needed a little assistance with the technology. She was rather low-key about it, so I was surprised how excited and happy she became when “Your application has been accepted” flashed on the screen. It reminded me of the times I had been out of work and how much it means to become employed.

Karlton Glick, director of the New Life Internet Café, instructs computer skills classes for school-age children.

Many of our participants are senior citizens looking to learn very basic computer skills. We serve several Latino families and try to provide as much of a bilingual environment as possible. The café also serves children from Precious Life Learning Center who look forward to their computer class each week. Some participants are starting new businesses, and others are looking for jobs. Many are amazed at the free resources available to anyone with Internet access.

The internet café has four regular volunteers and a number of substitutes from Nueva Vida Norristown New Life who host, teach, and share the love of Jesus with our community. It is located in our Center 4 Youth, 21 West Marshall Street in Norristown, just one block from the church. We are open six days a week, and plan to expand our hours on each day.

 Karlton Glick is the director of Nueva Vida Norristown New Life’s internet café. 

Ministerial Update (April 2014)

Hadi Sunarto
Hadi Sunarto was licensed as a deacon at Philadelphia Praise Center in March.

Steve Kriss, Director of Leadership Cultivation, provided this update from the March & April meetings of the Credentials and Ministerial Committees:

Hadi Sunarto (East Rutherford, NJ) was approved for a license for specific the ministry of deacon at Philadelphia Praise Center.

Krista Showalter Ehst (Bally, PA) was approved with a license toward ordination to serve as pastor at Alpha (NJ) Mennonite Church.

Bill Martin was approved with a license toward ordination and to serve as associate pastor at Towamencin Mennonite Church.

Danilo Sanchez (Whitehall congregation) was approved to serve as Allentown area youth minister with a license toward ordination.

Donna Merow was approved for ordination and continues to serve as pastor at Ambler (Pa) Mennonite Church.

Several new members have been added to the Ministerial and Credentials committees.

Mike Clemmer (Towamencin) and Marlene Frankenfield (Salford) have been named to the Ministerial Committee.   Heidi Hochstetler (Bally) resigned her position from the committee earlier this year.   Continuing Ministerial Committtee members include:  Verle Brubaker (Swamp), Ken Burkholder (Deep Run East), Carolyn Egli (Whitehall), Janet Panning (Plains), Mary Nitzsche (Blooming Glen), Jim Williams (Nueva Vida Norristown New Life).

Aldo Siahaan (Philadelphia Praise) and Marta Castillo (Nueva Vida Norristown New Life) have been named to three year terms on the credentials committee.    Continuing committee members include:  Rose Bender (Whitehall), Verle Brubaker (Swamp) and Mike Clemmer (Towamencin).

Steve Kriss began serving as Conference staff liaison for both committees since the retirement of Noah Kolb late in 2013.

Enter into life with all your heart

by Emily Ralph, Swamp Mennonite

Luke and Dot Beidler were recognized for their lives of ministry, service, and stewardship at the joint Franconia and Eastern District Conference Assembly on November 11. Everence representative, Randy Nyce, presented Luke and Dot with the organization’s National Journey Award for excellent stewardship of time, money, and service.

“We’d like to return that honor and praise to God,” Luke responded. Dot agreed.  “My heart is really warmed by a God that provides paths for us to go on,” she shared. “And as we say yes to the opportunities we have in life, we find God is all-sufficient. . . . Even if what we have doesn’t seem like enough, God makes it enough.”

From a young age, Luke and Dot experienced the sufficiency of God. As children, they moved with their families to Haycock Township (Pa.) to join a mission effort that led to the planting of Franconia Conference congregations like Rocky Ridge, Salem, and Steel City.

High school sweethearts, Luke and Dot married after graduating from Eastern Mennonite College in 1965. They wanted to participate in mission and enthusiastically accepted an inivitation to serve as missionaries in Vietnam with Eastern Mennonite Missions.

In Vietnam, they saw the reality of war up close. Some friends and fellow missionaries didn’t make it home. Luke and Dot struggled with their need to depend on a government to airlift them out when the fighting intensified and their children’s lives became endangered. How should a pacifist respond?

Back in the states, Luke returned to school, this time at the University of Pittsburgh to study anthropology and international education. In that university environment, he and Dot discovered that their Vietnam experience made them particularly sensitive to the anti-war crowd. “We were as hippy as you could be,” Luke recently told a class of seminary students. Then he laughed. “On the inside.”

Luke and Dot Beidler with their son Ken and daughter Marta when they were serving in Indonesia.

But their heart was still for mission and in 1976 the Beidlers joined Mennonite Central Committee in a partnership with local missionaries in Indonesia. Their years on the island of Borneo shaped their identities as they learned about true simplicity: living without electricity, washing clothes and bathing in the river, and eating whatever food was available.

When their children reached high school age, Luke and Dot returned the family to Pennsylvania where the teens enrolled in Christopher Dock Mennonite High School. Luke served as the Missions Secretary for Franconia Conference while Dot taught at Penn View Christian School.

After ten years of serving in the conference, Luke and Dot were ready to move back to the fringe. Luke was invited to serve as an associate pastor of Nueva Vida Norristown New Life in 1995 and, one year later, he and Dot purchased a home next door to the church building. It had been converted into apartments by a former missionary to provide low-income housing. The Beidlers felt called to continue this mission.

For the last 15 years, they have lived alongside their residents and they have come to love their home as well as their neighbors. Luke tends the gardens around their building and the church property. “We feel safe in community with a household,” Dot believes. “Urban issues have taken on faces as we live in this place. We hope to grow old here. “

Dot has worked for 15 years in a before- and after-school program in Norristown.  Luke continued in his pastoral role at Nueva Vida until 2007 while also serving at Methacton beginning in 2003. Although he formally retired in March, he and Dot continue to worship at Methacton. Ministry, for them, is a life-long calling.

“Get involved in a local congregation, serve in every way you can, take opportunities to cross cultures and learn from others at home and abroad,” they encourage young leaders. “Enter into life and faith with all your hearts.”