Tag Archives: Partner in mission

Franconia Conference empowers young adult leaders through summer ministry initiatives

Benjamin Sutter, Franconia Conference Communication Intern, benjamins5@goshen.edu

Franconia Conference’s vision is to equip leaders to empower others to embrace God’s mission. This summer ten young adults, pastors and congregations embodied the Franconia Conference vision of equipping leaders to empower others to embrace God’s mission as part of the conference’s ongoing leadership cultivation initiatives. This summer partnerships extended with partners in mission, Philadelphia congregations, Mennonite Central Committee, Eastern Mennonite University and Goshen College—all for the sake of carrying the good news through a new generation and context.

Photo by Aldo Siahaan
Adrian Suryajaya rediscovered patience as he worked with children this summer. Photo by Aldo Siahaan

Adrian Suryajaya served through Mennonite Central Committee’s summer service worker program. He worked with his home congregation Philadelphia Praise Center and plans to attend Eastern University as a first year student this fall.

“I enjoyed working with the children and my pastor (Aldo Siahaan) during the summer,” said Suryajaya. “I rediscovered the value of patience, flexibility, and humility . . . to seek God’s counsel when I’m in tough situations.”

Suryajaya organized various church events including a free music concert, a block party, and a summer peace program for children.

The hardest thing I had to do during the summer was to come up with the Peace Program planning,” Suryajaya said. “Once the blueprint was set, it was easy to do the program.”

For now, Suryajaya will continue his education at Eastern and work towards becoming a physician. “The things that I’ve learned during my internship definitely will help me get through the process of becoming a medical doctor,” he said. “For instance, I have to be patient about how long it will take to get my degree and I know that God will always be on my side in any situation.”

Brendon Derstine

Brendon Derstine wanted a taste of every part of ministry while working with his home congregation, Franconia Mennonite Church, in Telford, Pa, this summer.

I have been joining in a variety of ministries including worship leading, preaching twice this summer, teaching Sunday Schools, . . . visitation, going to church meetings, delegating at Pittsburgh, and helping out in other ministries as well,” said Derstine, who will be a senior at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU), Harrisonburg, Va. this fall. “My focus has been intentionally broad so that I could get a big picture of the life of the congregation.”

Over the summer, Derstine connected with the role model of Moses as a leader.

I liken the pastoral vocation to the character of Moses leading the Israelites throughout the desert wilderness in the Exodus story,” he said. “Like Moses, pastors lead us throughout our lives—we call on them in times of need and harp on them when things don’t go our way. They walk with congregants in the best of times and the worst of times and they are expected to be everything to everyone.”

Moses understood that even though he was a leader, he was human, Derstine said. “High standards are good, but we must remember that pastors are only human, too,” he added. “They lead us toward the Promised Land, but ultimately, they don’t go make that decision for us to follow God—we make it. They remain on the east side of the Jordan.”

For Derstine, serving in his home congregation has been a blessing. “One of the greatest rewards of my time here at Franconia has been reconnecting with my home congregation after being away at school for 3 years. Ministry is a lot about relationships and connecting people to the ways God is already working in their lives.”

Ministry is a constant up and down, according to Derstine, “An ever-changing mix of emotions. It can be messy, but let’s face it, life is messy. And yet in its messiness, God is ever present.”

Derstine will finish his studies to be a sixth to twelfth grade teacher next spring. “I don’t see education and church ministry as that different from each other,” he said. “Whether I teach in a school, or follow God’s call in another direction, I believe that this internship has allowed me to practice teaching and caring for people in a variety of ways—two important components in both church ministry and education.”

Erica Grasse speaks at Blooming Glen congregation on a Sunday morning. Photo by Kreg Ulery

Erica Grasse, a junior at Goshen College, Goshen, Ind., also worked with her home congregation, Blooming Glen (Pa.) Mennonite Church, this summer.

Grasse echoed Derstine’s joys of rediscovering relationships, saying that what she enjoyed most about working at Blooming Glen was returning to her home congregation and reestablishing relationships and coming to appreciate her roots.

I have been getting opportunities to teach and work with the youth,” she said. “To sit in on various leadership meetings, to see perspectives of layperson ministry; and to look at strengthening the young adult program to better match the needs and resources of the church and community.”

While she enjoyed her summer, she said she recognized the needs of pastors to enjoy themselves as they work. “Pastors are out to have a good time, too,” she said. “The work of ministry is a tiring and daunting task, but sharing humor and food are two ways to keep sane.”

At Blooming Glen, Grasse says she comes away from the program with less certainty about a future occupation. “This internship has confused me even more,” she said. “As someone who is studying biology, environmental science, policy and economics, I have been challenged to see the pursuit of ministry work as a complementary component to my vocational interests. Yet, I have come to realize that my future may consist of things I cannot currently imagine myself doing.”

Grace Parker and Monica Solis interned at New Hope Fellowship in Alexandria, Va. Photo by Grace Parker

Seven other interns also spent their summer working through Franconia Conference contexts:

  • Monica Solis, a student at Northern Virginia Community College, served at New Hope Fellowship in Alexandria, Va. with Grace Parker, a junior at Goshen College.
  • Patrick Ressler, from Goshen, served at Germantown Mennonite Church, Philadelphia, through a partnership for supervision from Franconia Conference.
  • Jamie Hiner, senior, and Bianca Lani Prunes, sophomore, from EMU served with the Oxford Circle Christian Community Development Association in Philadelphia.
  • Ben Sutter, a junior from Goshen, served with Steve Kriss on the communication team of Franconia Conference.
  • Joanne Gallardo, EMU Associate Campus Pastor, spent her summer doing a residency at Deep Run Mennonite Church East in Perkasie, Pa.

Partners in mission: Gloria a Dios! Praying & praising from the mountaintop

Sandy Landes, Doylestown

The title of this article reflected the words of our hearts, “Glory to God,” as a group returned from a journey to Mexico last fall. We truly experienced the glory of God in the worship, the teaching, the prayer times and the fellowship with Partner in Mission congregation, Iglesia de la Tierra Prometida (or informally Monte Maria) in Mexico City.

On September 9-13, 2010, a group from Franconia Conference traveled to Monte Maria, the church in Mexico City where Bob and Bonnie Stevenson serve. The group’s members, Don Brunk (Souderton Mennonite), Rick Kratz and Noel Santiago (Blooming Glen Mennonite), Jeanette Phillips (Hopewell Fellowship-Telford) and Steve and Sandy Landes (Doylestown Mennonite) traveled to Monte Maria to participate in the School of Ministry discipleship training held regularly for members of this large and growing congregation. This training is intense, held over a day or two, and involves worship, preaching and teaching on various topics related to living the Christian life: biblical studies and topical studies such as the life of Jesus, redemption and prayer. It was encouraging to see how engaged the students were with the classes as they listened attentively, took notes and shared their thoughts in discussions. Don Brunk and Noel Santiago taught two classes each and were warmly welcomed by the brothers and sisters of Monte Maria.

The focus of these classes is to build up the body of Christ to become strong in their faith and to grow in maturity. In addition to teaching, considerable time was spent each day in worship, seeking to know God through adoration and praise. One day at the end of worship the visiting pastor invited those to come forward who wanted to receive a touch from the Lord—as the woman who touched Jesus’ cloak and her bleeding stopped. As a visiting prayer team, we were invited to minister alongside of our brothers and sisters to persons who came forward, and we sensed God’s presence ministering through us and to us. Even though not all of us on the team spoke Spanish fluently, God helped us to transcend the language barrier through the bond of the Spirit and the willing translators in prayer and worship.

Other opportunities for service included Don Brunk preaching at an outdoor evangelistic service held on Sunday afternoon and a married couples’ Sunday school class that my husband and I led. Noel and Jeanette met with the leaders of their prayer teams for encouragement.

Hospitality and serving the Lord with gladness are two characteristics of the believers at Monte Maria. Every person is expected to serve in some kind of ministry capacity, whether it is as an usher, a member of the worship team, helping to maintain the facilities through cleaning or serving on their food-service team. We noticed and felt the joy that came through their service as we spent most of our time at the church and witnessed so many different gifts being used with gladness. It reminds me of Psalm 100:2, “Serve the Lord with glad-ness.”(NKJV). Julio, a young man of 16 years of age, was an example of the graciousness with which we were served. His attentiveness and ready smile were part of what made our daily meal at the church so enjoyable. We believe God will continue to use him for the kingdom because of his servant attitude. We were privileged to be blessed by their obvious joy in serving Jesus through simple acts of cleaning, cooking, worshiping, and teaching.
While we were there to minister and pray for the ministry of Monte Maria, we also enjoyed the time spent fellowshipping and sharing with Bob and Bonnie Stevenson. Their lives are full with the responsibilities of pastoring a large congregation, family life and nurturing their own walk with the Lord. Continue to uphold them in your prayers as God brings Bob and Bonnie and their children, Roberto and Rebecca, to your mind. The kingdom of God continues to flourish around the world, and we were so blessed as we witnessed the growth and joy in the church at Monte Maria.

New book discusses the ‘bare essentials’ of a radical faith

9517.jpgby John Longhurst

What does a naked Anabaptist look like? That’s what Stuart Murray wanted to know.

“Anabaptism has been around for almost 500 years, and for much of that time it has been clothed in Mennonite, Hutterite and Amish traditions and culture,” says Murray, who helps direct the Anabaptist Network in Great Britain and Ireland.

“But what does Anabaptism look like without that clothing? And do people have to become Mennonite to be an Anabaptist?”

His quest for answers to those and other questions led him to write The Naked Anabaptist: The Bare Essentials of a Radical Faith (Herald Press).

“More and more people in Great Britain are seeing Anabaptism as an exciting way to live out their faith,” he says. “They want to know: ‘Where did Anabaptism come from? What are its core convictions?’ And, ‘Do I have to give up my own church tradition to become one?’ The Naked Anabaptist is my effort to provide some answers.”

For Murray, there are seven bare essentials, or core convictions, that make up Anabaptism.

“The first and foremost conviction is about following Jesus,” he says. “He is our example, teacher, friend, redeemer and Lord.”

Other core convictions include seeing Jesus as the focal point of God’s revelation; belief in the separation of church and state; being committed to finding ways to be “good news to the poor, powerless and persecuted”; a commitment to discipleship and mission; and seeking to live more simply.

Seeing peace as central to the gospel is also a bare essential, he says, but it is not “the center of the gospel—Jesus is the center. As followers of Jesus, we are committed to finding nonviolent alternatives to violence in our world.”

Although the book was written for people in Great Britain who are interested in Anabaptism, Murray hopes it will inspire people in North America, too—including Mennonites.

“It seems to be those of us who didn’t grow up as Mennonites who are far more excited about the Anabaptist tradition than traditional Mennonites,” he observes, noting that he has been “amazed by the lack of interest in Anabaptism that I find among many North American Mennonites today. Maybe this book can help change that a bit.”

In the end, though, his goal is not to “promote Anabaptism for its own sake. My interest is in promoting a way of living that helps people to become more faithful followers of Jesus . . . I am interested in the Anabaptist tradition only as a means to an end, and that end is to point us to Jesus as the one we are to follow and worship.”

Reflections from Mexico City: CIEAMM celebrates fifty years

J. Mark and Emma Frederick

dscn1963-copy.jpgFrom Emma . . .On a November Sunday morning, J. Mark and I sat in an auditorium in the center of Mexico City surrounded by brothers and sisters, many of whom we hadn’t seen for a long time. It is seven years since we left Mexico. We’ve been back a few times and have been in contact with many of them now and then. But in this setting whole families gathered together and it felt like a family reunion. The children I taught in Sunday School are teenagers and I had to concentrate on their faces to recognize them. The teenagers are now adults and leaders in the church. Young couples have reached middle age, and some gray hairs have snuck in among the black ones. A few more wrinkles tell me that years have passed.

Mexicans are very relational people and I saw the same warmth I always remembered as we greeted one another and rejoiced in God’s goodness to us. The worship of God together was energetic to say the least. Booming voices now and then behind us shouted out ”Gloria a Dios!” or “Aleluya!” There was no doubting that these people were there to celebrate. As they called out the names of churches and their people stood up, everyone cheered. We felt at home!

The day before, we joined pastors and lay leaders as we spent a day reflecting on the struggles of the past, identifying where they are now and looking toward the future. Many questions were asked about what it means in their present reality to be Anabaptist Mennonites in Mexico. Young pastors and leaders, who had been teenagers when we left, now led out with vision and energy with a new wave of enthusiasm demonstrating their hope for the future.

dscn1959-copy.jpgWe rejoiced as they glorified Jesus and spoke of new initiatives to reach out to youth and families. There is no doubt that they have encountered Jesus in new ways and God’s Spirit has been working among them. The seeds that had been planted 50 years ago in such an imperfect way were bearing fruit, and God is building the church. All along the way and throughout the years God’s Spirit has been there and Jesus has walked with them to create a new sense of community in that huge metropolitan reality. Much diversity among them and the many difficult realities of the city, such as the distances between the churches, all add to the challenges that face them. We were impressed, however, with the maturity of leadership that is in place to face these challenges and experience the growth of the Kingdom of God in the metropolitan area of Mexico City and Puebla.

From J. Mark . . .We want to thank Swamp Mennonite Church and Franconia Conference for making it possible to attend the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Conferencia de Iglesias Evangélicas Anabautistas Menonitas de México (CIEAMM). We were also pleased to represent both Franconia Conference as well as Mennonite Mission Network in gatherings that took place.

We come back with the certainty that God’s kingdom purposes are being worked out in the Mennonite congreagtions of CIEAMM because of the faithfulness of our brothers and sisters. To God be the glory!