Tag Archives: Perkiomenville Mennonite Church

The God of Many Chances

by Mike Spinelli, Perkiomenville congregation

Mike & Cheryl Spinelli

You might think I am crazy because I sat in the snow to pray or because I claim to hear from God.  On the first count, you probably have a point.  On the second, I will simply say it is never crazy to say someone can hear God speaking.

In March 1982, I was a high school senior preparing to choose a college.  I sat on a big rock outside my cabin at winter camp.  There was snow all around and it was cold, but it didn’t matter.  God and I were meeting.  I thought about going into education, but another vocation was pulling at me.  As I sat, I simply spoke into the air, “God, do you want me to be a pastor?”

And as clearly as I could hear the creek below me and the wind in the trees, the answer came back inside my gut, “Yes.”

That moment set the direction of my life.  Rather than pursue teaching, I enrolled at Fresno Pacific College (now University) and almost immediately declared a Contemporary Ministries major.

I want to say that God made it clear how the way forward would proceed, but he didn’t.  Part of that is simply due to my youthful over-confidence.  I was called to ministry and I knew how that would play out.  If I had taken a meeting with God about the plan while I was on that rock, maybe he would have been clearer about what I faced.

As it was, there was much work the Lord wanted—and needed—to do to grow maturity and humility in me.  When I graduated from college, I entered a Mennonite Brethren service program that placed Christian workers in churches that could not afford them.  In that two-year stint as a youth pastor, I failed spectacularly.  I was more of a program person than a pastor.  I worked at technique more than relationships.  I thought the kids would flock to my program if it was good.  I missed what it took to build community.  And I did not take seriously that I was still learning to be pastor.  I thought I had the answers.

Fortunately, we serve a God of second—and third—chances.  Through the help of friends and the work of God’s Holy Spirit in me, I stopped trying to prove my competence and learned to love people and help them engage with Jesus more deeply.  I learned my worth is not in my title, but in being a child of God.  I have made it my mission to love, serve, and lead like Jesus and help others to do the same.

The road from being that overconfident young grad to today has never really become straight.  There have been victories that confirm what I heard on that rock and challenges that left me questioning if it was a limited time offer.  But I have seen the Lord confirm time and again where he wants me to be.  I also continue to learn what it means to hear his voice and follow his lead.

Our most recent move is one of those confirmation stories.  In 2016, I was at a crossroads, forced to decide about future employment.  As my wife Cheryl and I looked, it just so happened that a church in rural Pennsylvania was looking for a pastor.  Other doors closed, yet this one somehow stayed open.  Now we call this place home and I serve Perkiomenville congregation as lead pastor. 

I believe in praying in the snow and listening for the God who speaks.  I thank God for his great patience with me as I stumbled into this call to pastoral ministry.  I feel assured that there is more happening around me than I know and that God will continue to use me for his purposes as I follow his lead.

Called Outside of “Church”

by Mike Spinelli, Perkiomenville congregation

It is not often that you get to bless someone as they enter a new ministry while knowing that they are staying around as part of your church family.  At Perkiomenville Mennonite Church (Perk for short), we were able to do this as we blessed Scott and Heather Roth for a new ministry with Young Life in the Upper Perkiomen Valley.

Scott Roth shares at Fall Assembly 2018.

Scott’s ministry in the Upper Perk Valley has taken many forms, from teen center and bike shop manager to thrift store director.  He has also been the associate pastor for Perk for the last five years.  Through it all, Scott’s heart for Upper Perk is well known, in the Valley as well as the church. 

As a church, Perk has benefited from Scott’s unconventional approach to ministry.  While we have some of the typical church programs for youth, Scott has also used his connections in Upper Perk to create on-going service projects.  He also used an online platform to connect kids in deeper exploration of faith themes.  But Scott felt there was a work he was called to outside of the “traditional church.”

Scott began to sense that God might be opening a new avenue of ministry; that avenue presented itself as Young Life.  Young Life is a national ministry aimed at engaging teenagers with the good news of Jesus through weekly club meetings, Bible studies and camp.  Young Life leaders first engage students in their own spaces—like clubs and sports—and invite them to join the weekly meetings when they are ready.

Scott worked with a group of volunteers to start the club portion of the program in the fall of 2017, but he began to feel he could be doing more.  Through a season of prayer and discernment with family, friends, and other associates, Scott pursued becoming a full-time missionary with Young Life.  His status with Young Life was confirmed in October of 2018.

Scott and Heather Roth are blessed by Perkiomenville leadership and Franconia Conference Leadership Minister Noel Santiago.

On December 16, 2018, Perk Church used part of the morning worship service to affirm and bless Scott and Heather for their past ministry and the new venture.  Different people of various ages spoke of Scott’s unique way of pushing their boundaries.  Scott shared how much Perk Church has blessed his family and how they are glad to remain as part of the congregation.  Together we celebrated Scott’s testing of our comfort zones and blessed them as a couple who were now stretching their own comfort with this new venture.

While Scott’s role at Perk has concluded, the Roths (including children Rowan and Ashlyn) will still call Perk their church home.  Scott noted that he will soon be a youth parent as Rowan will transition into the youth group after this school year.  The church is also part of his financial support team.  Knowing Scott, the partnership of Young Life and Perk Church will soon extend to helping new students and families engage and enter God’s kingdom and find new life in Christ.

Hot, Humid and Hope Building

Despite temperatures in the high 90’s and extreme humidity volunteers from the Eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey MDS Unit began a Partnership Housing Project (PHP) on June 30 and continued working on the home through one of the hottest weeks of the year.  Read the full article printed on the MDS website HERE

Digging Deep in Faith

By Paula Marolewski, Perkiomenville Mennonite Church

“As we got ready to drill the well, people just shook their heads. ‘There’s no water there; you’re wasting your time,’ they said. They didn’t even stay to watch us drill. But I thought to myself, many people are praying back home. We will find water.”

Gwab Mpofu has been shining that light of faith in the Perkiomenville Mennonite Church family ever since he first came to the United States in 2000 from the village of Bulawayo in Zimbabwe. Like many immigrants, Gwab maintains close ties with his family overseas. He has a deep understanding of the needs the village faces, and a clear vision of how to meet those needs. Over the years, he has communicated that understanding and vision to the congregation at Perkiomenville. So, when he decided to send a container the size of a semi-trailer to Zimbabwe, the church was behind him 100%. Gwab raised money and sent a much-needed tractor, truck, and plow to his village, along with clothing and other supplies. Church members not only helped with funds and donations, but also worked with Gwab to pack the huge container to be shipped overseas.

Three years later, Gwab did it a second time – this time, with a backhoe and other farm equipment filling the container.

In 2016, Gwab voiced a plan for his most audacious goal yet: to drill a well for the village. “The villagers have to walk three to five kilometers each day to get water,” Gwab explained. “A few years ago, my mother’s health was endangered when she became seriously dehydrated. So I thought, why can’t we drill a well?”

For many people, the obstacles would be overwhelming. Drilling a well requires paperwork, time, equipment, workers, and – of course – money. But Gwab had already raised thousands of dollars to send the two containers to Zimbabwe. He had gone over both times to shepherd the containers through customs, past countless officials and red tape. He knew the ropes.

Perkiomenville was again ready to stand with him. Members donated money and encouraged Gwab when the going got tough. Most important of all, they prayed. “Without my church family’s emotional support, friendship, and prayer, I could not have done any of this,” said Gwab.

In all, Gwab raised over $15,000 from the church, his workplace, and the community. He went back to his village this summer to drill. “The people did not believe we would find water,” he noted. “They had drilled a well several years ago, going down 80 meters and finding nothing. They pointed to that dry well and told us we were wasting our time.”

Gwab didn’t have the money for an official site survey, but he knew that his church family in the U.S. was praying. “I believed that God would guide us to the place to drill,” he affirmed.

At 70 meters down, Gwab’s drill team hit water. “Suddenly, the villagers took notice. They were thrilled. It was amazing – they were literally coming with buckets while we were still drilling!”

Gwab’s team went down a full 90 meters to ensure a reliable supply of water. A solar pump was put in place to draw the water up and deliver it to a 1300 gallon holding tank.

The well has been transformative to the lives of the villagers. But it has also been transformative to the lives of the people at Perkiomenville. “Gwab has expanded our understanding of conditions in Africa and the plight of our brothers and sisters there,” said Charlie Ness, pastor at Perkiomenville. “Previously, we had no connections in Africa – now, we do. His bishop came and preached here a few years ago, and we hosted several pastors here for a Mennonite conference. We continue to have ongoing relationships with them.”

Paula Marolewski, a member of Perkiomenville, affirmed, “Gwab’s faith and generosity and perseverance have been a model and an inspiration for me. When I think ‘I can’t do this,’ I remember what he has done. He doesn’t know the word ‘quit’ because he truly understands how powerful and faithful God is.”

Taking the Light Out of the Building

As the world we live in continues to change within our congregations, we still seem to expect people to come to us. As a city on a hill, the light of the world (Matt. 5:14-16), it seems we are content to stay on our hill tops, but what if we take the lamp into the streets?

The Inquirer (Philadelphia) recently highlighted congregations doing just that in their article “From bike shop to drive-thru prayer, churches try thinking outside the pew.” Featured in the article is Franconia Conference’s very own Scott Roth and Perkiomenville Mennonite Church with their ministry Bike and Sol.

As quoted in the article, Scott says, “I don’t think that we, as believers, should be sitting in our churches on Sunday morning waiting for people to come into our buildings for us to tell them about Jesus and show them a better way of life.”

Read how Scott and others are getting out of their comfortable buildings and doing the ministry of Jesus as Jesus did it, in the streets: http://www.philly.com/philly/news/pennsylvania/from-bike-shop-to-drive-thru-prayer-churches-try-thinking-outside-the-pew-20170705.html.

Board Welcomes Paula Marolewski

By Barbie Fischer

paula-photo-3The Franconia Conference board will welcome Paula Marolewski as a new board member at their September 19 meeting. Paula has been a member of Perkiomenville Mennonite Church (Pennsylvania) for sixteen years.

As a member of Perkiomenville, Paula has served in many roles, including adult Sunday School teacher, Minister of Education, and member of the Ministry Council. She was also brought onto the Elder Team in 2013, providing her with the opportunity to contribute to the spiritual leadership and direction of the congregation.

Paula hails from the state of New York, having moved to Pennsylvania in 1995. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Creative Writing, graduating in 1993 as salutatorian from Houghton College (Houghton, NY). While very involved in her home congregation, Perkiomenville, Paula also runs her own business as a copywriter, developing marketing materials for companies to promote their products and services.

paula-photo-2In speaking of her congregation, Paula stated that she loves the people: “I have no immediate family in this area, and the people at Perk have truly stepped in and filled that role. The friendships I have developed are deep and abiding, and give me fellowship and support as we share the victories and challenges of life.”

Paula brings many gifts and talents with her to this new role as Franconia Conference board member, including her professional experience in communications. “As part of the Conference board, I hope to help lead the conference into the unity that we desire in a manner that is true to the Word of God and that honors Jesus whom we serve,” Paula said.

“Paula’s leadership skills which have been developed as an active leader at the Perkiomenville Mennonite Church as well as her communication skills will add important value to the conference board.” Stated John Goshow, conference moderator.

Paula (right) with her sister Ariane (left) in Glacier National Park.
Paula (right) with her sister Ariane (left) in Glacier National Park.

While her hobbies frequently change (she has enjoyed sculpting, ballroom dancing, and stained glass over the years, among other activities), she does enjoy a few constants, including traveling with her sister, taking photos, and tending to her garden.

Paula affirmed, “My whole desire and God’s calling on my life is summed up in II Peter 3:18: to help others ‘grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.’ As a result, my Christian walk has been characterized by a deep love for the Word of God, a hunger to learn more about God, an appreciation for theology, and a commitment to teach and disciple others.”

Paula invites those interested in knowing more about her to explore her Christian writings on www.sinkyourroots.com and her counsel on anxiety at www.thrivenowseminars.com.

 

In the Eye of the Storm

Over the first week of August, a tropical storm (and at a time, Hurricane Earl) wreaked havoc across Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Central America, and Mexico, deeply impacting the Mexican state of Pueblo where Monte Maria Church has several church plants.

In 1988, Franconia Conference sent Pastor Bob Stevenson to Mexico for church planting and evangelism. Bob became connected with Monte Maria Church in Mexico City and currently is the second pastor of the congregation since its formation in 1979. The Conference continues to hold Bob’s credentials and his ministry and Monte Maria Church continue to connect with various conference congregations. Perkiomenville Mennonite Church has maintained a partner in mission relationship with the Monte Maria Church through mission trips and teaching in the School of Ministry.  Last fall Perkiomenville pastor, Charlie Ness, spoke at the Monte Maria leaders’ conference and made connections with the pastors.

Five of Monte Maria’s church plants were severely damaged by tropical storm Earl in the villages of Ahuacatlan, Huauchinango, Xaltepec and Chicahuxtla. The congregation in Xaltepex experiencing the worst. The pastor of the congregation, Pastor Ramiro and his wife Lucy, along with several church members lost their homes and all of their belongings due to the landslides and flooding caused by Earl.  Among the many who lost their lives due to the storm, six children are nieces and nephews of Pastor Ramiro.

In a letter received from Bob last week, he writes “We have sent teams and basic supplies. However, the need is enormous. Therefore, I am asking for special offerings to rebuild, bedding, towels and clothing and if possible, workers. There are still persons unaccounted for and risks of more damage. Please pray the mercy of God over these villages.”

The need is far beyond what Perkiomenville Mennonite Church is able to meet and is appealing to others to help bear the burden of our brothers and sisters in Mexico. They are currently in conversation with Mennonite Disaster Services and are appealing for financial contributions to buy building materials to rebuild the pastor and congregation members’ homes and also to help assist in purchasing a vehicle for the pastor, as his only means of transportation was washed away by the storm.

Financial contributions can be sent to Franconia Conference (1000 Forty Foot Rd, Lansdale, PA 19446) marked for Monte Maria Rebuilding Efforts.

If you or your congregation are interested in sending workers, please contact Charlie Ness as he will be coordinating work teams over the next several months. He can be reached at Charlie@perkmc.com.

Cross Cultural Minister at Perkiomenville Mennonite

TonyReyesPerkiomenville Mennonite Church has shared a partnership with Pastor Bob Stevenson and the Monte Maria Church in Mexico City for years. The congregation has enjoyed yearly trips where they are able to experience cross cultural missions that are personally enriching and expands the vision of ministry in the Perkiomenville community. In the summer or 2015 for the first time someone from Monte Maria was coming to Perkiomenville. Tony Reyes is a young man from Monte Maria Church is a gifted pianist, songwriter, music producer, and ministry leader. Franconia Conference’s Missional Operations Grant provided for Tony’s expenses as he lived and worked with Perkiomenville Mennonite Church, Project Haven, and Urban Expressions. During his time here, Tony was able to learn leadership skills, improve his English speaking abilities, and equip him for ministry.

Read more about how Tony’s ministry with Perkiomenville here.

Bike and Sol

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Perkiomenville Mennonite Church has been partnering with Project Haven and their new project Bike and Sol, “providing an environment for students and individuals to learn and experience cycling, skating, biking and other wheeled activities in a student managed business setting, modeled through Christian principles.”

It is a Teens Teaching Teens program utilizing volunteer students who are mentored and: 11181710_1490602524567520_2419440798036187107_n

  • learn the bicycle shop trade,
  • develop skills in management and
  • work ethics through Christian principles.

Bike and Sol recycles bicycles and then sells them as well as services bicycles in the community through its service center. You can visit the bike shop which is located behind the Upper Perk Community Life Center.

The Missional Operations Grant provided by Franconia Conference assisted with start up costs, funding a bike shop manager and the start up costs of parts and marketing. Perkiomenville Mennonite members donate to the bike shop and to have their own bikes repaired.

Global Missional Blessings

by Charles A. Ness

The email read, “There is a young man from our church who would like to live in the United States for several months to sharpen his English. He is also a good piano player and willing to assist in ministry. His father is an elder in our church. Would Perk be interested in hosting him?” The email was from Bob Stevenson who is credentialed through Franconia Conference, and is pastor of the Monte Maria Church in Mexico City with whom Perkiomenville Mennonite Church has had a long relationship.

We were excited about the possibility of having a young adult from the Monte Maria church be part of our worship ministry and so, after discussion with the elder team, we gave an enthusiastic “Yes!”

There were various logistics that needed to be worked out, such as housing and finances, but we were confident that they could be addressed. Initially, a local business offered full-time employment, but because the young man did not have a work visa, we had to look for other means of support.

TonyReyesTony Reyes arrived from Mexico City at the end of May in 2015 and we quickly learned to appreciate his musical talents and passion for the Lord. He plays keyboard and writes music for several groups in Mexico, so we planned a fundraising concert. Tony enlisted the help of his friends, the Linker Sanchez family (who are church planters in Maryland from Monte Maria Church). We had a great night of Spanish and English praise and worship with a combined worship team made up of Tony, plus members of Perkiomenville and the Sanchez family. The funds raised helped support Tony during his stay in the United States.

Our LEAD Minister, Noel Santiago, also suggested applying for a Franconia Conference Mission Operational Grant, and we are thankful it was approved.  The partnership of the conference in this way was a very important contribution to Tony’s support.

Tony lived with Charlie Ness, pastor at Perkiomenville, and his wife Janet while searching for long-term housing arrangements. Tony’s housing need was met when Pastor Scott Roth of Perkiomenville Mennonite Church began a discipleship house in Pennsburg and had a room available. Scott was able to benefit from Tony’s assistance with the discipleship house known as The Gathering Place, a ministry to youth in the Perkiomenville area.

From June to November, Tony lived in Pennsburg assisting the community-based ministry there and playing regularly on the Perkiomenville worship team. His presence brought a spiritual and cultural diversity that was a blessing.

This unique, enriching ministry was made possible because of the global relationship we have with the church in Mexico. For years, members of Perkiomenville have gone to the Monte Maria Church for teaching and construction-related ministry opportunities. This was the first time someone from Monte Maria came here for an extended time of ministry. It is a great example of the value of cross-cultural partnering in mission relationships. These relationships are encouraging to all who are involved.

In reflecting on his experience Tony wrote the following: My name is Tony Reyes. There are no words to describe how thankful I am with the Lord, with Pastor Charlie Ness, with his beautiful church, and with all of you at the Franconia Conference. You all have given me a lot of support and you have been a blessing in my life.

 There are many things that I would like to share with you about the wonderful experience that the Lord gave me with all of these amazing people in the Perkiomenville Church, but I will share them with you in the next few sentences.

First of all, I did not know what to expect when I first arrived to Perkiomenville, but I was trusting the Lord and the purpose for which He was sending me to that unknown place. He took me little by little, and showed me many things as the time went by. From the time I integrated to the worship team and played the piano, to time I spent working with Pastor Scott Roth in the different activities in the church and in the community of Perkiomenville, and to the time I spent remodeling the house I was staying at, I could only see God’s love and grace pour out in life. I learned many things from my brothers and sisters, and from Pastor Charlie and all the people I met, who allowed me to become a part of their life. I keep everyone in my heart and prayers, and I hope in the Lord I will see you soon. 

May the Lord bless you in every area of your life. 

Kind regards,
Tony Reyes

Additional partner-in-mission relationships are possible with the Monte Maria Church. Contact Pastor Charlie Ness at charlie@perkmc.com for more information.