Tag Archives: Service

MCC U.S. Summer Service Program going strong

Summer Service worker Mya Ray demonstrates to Joanne Dietzel, conference coordinator for Lancaster (Pa.) Mennonite Conference of Mennonite Church USA, a way of weaving as done by Burmese women. Ray, who immigrated to the U.S. from Thailand after fleeing Myanmar, the southeast Asian nation also known as Burma, served with her home congregation, Habecker Mennonite Church in Lancaster, in 2011 and 2012. (MCC photo/Kim Dyer)
Summer Service worker Mya Ray demonstrates to Joanne Dietzel, conference coordinator for Lancaster (Pa.) Mennonite Conference, a way of weaving as done by Burmese women. Ray, who immigrated to the U.S. from Thailand after fleeing Myanmar, the southeast Asian nation also known as Burma, served with her home congregation, Habecker Mennonite Church in Lancaster, in 2011 and 2012. (MCC photo/Kim Dyer)

by Ed Nyce, Mennonite Central Committee

AKRON, Pa. – For years Keshia Kay Littlebear of Billings, Mont., was certain where her path would take her when she was older and the summers rolled around. She was going to be an MCC U.S. Summer Service worker.

From 2002 to 2005 she was just that – spending 10 weeks of her summers serving at White River Cheyenne Mennonite Church in Busby, Mont. She worked with recreational activities and as youth ministry coordinator.

Eventually she supervised the church’s Summer Service program while honing leadership skills that, she said, she uses to this day as a board member of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Central States and other service in her church and denomination.

The Summer Service program is a short-term MCC U.S. initiative that supports young people of color in their development of leadership skills through working with their local churches or communities. The program partners with churches that are members of MCC U.S.’ supporting denominations and related organizations. Since the program’s 1982 inception, 1,387 people have participated.  (Franconia Conference’s Philadelphia Praise Center has been a participating congregation on more than one occasion.)

A 2013 review of the Summer Service program led by MCC U.S. Anti-oppression Coordinator Ewuare Osayande elicited feedback from participant churches, former and current Summer Service workers, and MCC staff and board members.

Danilo Sanchez
Danilo Sanchez, seen here leading worship at Franconia’s 2008 Conference Assembly, will begin work as the MCC Summer Service national coordinator in late February.

Survey participants consistently affirmed the program for providing service and leadership development opportunities for youth of color. As a result, the U.S. board increased funding for the program and expanded the position of national coordinator to half time. Danilo Sanchez, Whitehall congregation, will start in that position in late February.

Sarah Thompson was a Summer Service worker for nearly three months in 2004 at Prairie Street Mennonite Church, Elkhart, Ind., where she is a member. She worked with children’s programs and as a community organizer.

“I had just taken a community organizing course at Spelman College,” said Thompson. “Meanwhile, MCC Summer Service was about developing leadership in home communities. So it was a perfect fit.

“Prairie Street created my Summer Service position because of a pressing need in the community to organize to resist city hall’s decision to destroy a local school building rather than renovate it,” said Thompson. Since the decision was made without the input of local residents, Thompson’s job empowered her to canvass the neighborhood and discover what the community wanted. At the end of the summer the community reported the findings to city hall, which “initially halted the wrecking ball,” she said.

The work catalyzed the next few years of community organizing that made it possible for the building to be saved; it is now on the state historical register. In addition, the project brought together members of the community from diverse backgrounds to work collaboratively, she said. Today the building serves as housing and an active community center.

As a college student, working with her home church and community in the summer helped her to stay grounded even during the school year, she said. That connection continues today for Thompson, who has stayed involved with MCC in numerous ways since Summer Service and was recently appointed executive director of Christian Peacemaker Teams. She lives in Chicago.

Last year, Hannah Nursalim, of Los Angeles, served with her church, Maranatha Christian Fellowship, in Northridge, Calif., and with Christian Legal Aid of Los Angeles (CLA-LA), based in Inglewood. At church, she performed support tasks related to worship and a fundraising event. Nursalim studies at University of Washington in Seattle.

Seeing CLA-LA colleagues assist people needing legal advice on immigration, crime-related matters and more “definitely made me want to pursue a career in helping people,” she said.

Lani Prunés was a Summer Service worker for three summers at Oxford Circle Christian Community Development Association (OCCCDA) in Philadelphia, a ministry of Oxford Circle Mennonite Church, her home congregation. Prunés is a senior at Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, Va.

Prunés was co-director in 2009 and 2010 and sole director in 2011 of OCCCDA’s Summer Art and Enrichment Program, a day camp for children. She supervised campers and counselors, assisted in hiring and facilitated conflict resolution among campers. In addition, she contacted parents when necessary, helped set curriculum and schedules and created pamphlets.

“I think being in Summer Service showed me ways to use the gifts God gave me – even before I realized I had them,” she said. Prunés added that she can see how God used her to do good, but also used others to provide spiritual guidance to her that set her along her current paths.

“Summer Service was … crucial to the summer camp’s development,” she said. “The camp really needed leaders who could put the time into all the work that it takes, and being a service worker meant being able to commit fully and entirely to projects and more importantly, to the campers.”

Churches too benefit from Summer Service, said Kim Dyer of MCC East Coast, former national coordinator of the program. “Through the grant support of MCC, churches are able to further their dreams for ministry and outreach by utilizing the skills and gifts of a young adult from their congregation.”

Prunés recommended the Summer Service program, with one helpful hint. “Absolutely,” said Prunés when asked, “but only to those who are willing to be vulnerable and commit themselves to the people they encounter and the mission they hope to fulfill.”

Nursalim agreed. “In the summer months, it’s easy to be home, hanging out with friends, but Summer Service allows you to do something meaningful with your time.”

Seeing God around every corner in South Philly

Ardi - 2013Summer Service Stories from Mennonite Central Committee

Last summer, Ardi Hermawan took MCC grocery bags, which are filled with non-perishable food and given to Anabaptist churches in Philadelphia to share in their communities, to the near-by Walgreen’s and handed them out to people who could use some food and appreciated talking to someone.  It went well and so over spring break this year, Hermawan arranged to do it again with a group of his fellow students from Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) who came to Philadelphia to spend their week. Hermawan is part of Philadelphia Praise Center (PPC), a multi-ethnic congregation whose members speak Indonesian, English, and Spanish.

Just a couple months ago, Hermawan returned home to Indonesia for a month-long visit. It was his first visit back since leaving for the U.S seven years ago when he was eighteen years old. Knowing there are many health needs in his home community, and that as a fourth year nursing student at EMU he has some knowledge about health issues, he set up a clinic in his house.  For four weeks, people lined up  in front of his family’s home at 6:30 in the morning to receive free screenings for things like high blood pressure and blood sugar levels. This was a service he could provide for those who didn’t have money to pay for these screenings elsewhere. In the evenings, he would give health lessons about diabetes, high blood pressure, and prenatal care.

Now, this summer Hermawan is a MCC Summer Service Worker with his church, Philadelphia Praise Center, and in his neighborhood.  You can just imagine all the different things that he is doing.  PPC recently finished their 3-week peace camp for 7-13 year-olds in the neighborhood.  Hermawan was right in the middle of it all, teaching and sharing his understanding of faith, love, and hope, in very practical terms. He is also accompanying his neighbors throughout the day and throughout the events of their lives, whether that is taking someone to the emergency room, teaching people newly arrived from Indonesian  how health insurance and hospital bills work in the U.S., or interpreting between a person and their doctor. Right now, he checks on a woman each day who recently had surgery and he is changing the bandages during this period of postoperative days.

Hermawan talks about how he is “so passionate” about connecting with other people; helping them, serving them, because he loves them. Simple as that. With a heart so wide open and a faith that follows where God leads, Hermawan is touching the lives of many people and is also being blessed by them. He watches and listens to his mentor, Pastor Aldo Siahaan of PPC, who, Hermawan shares, is so giving to the people around him, answering calls any time of day or night from people who are in need.  Siahaan teaches that “we are to be there for people 100%, not 75%, not 50%,” Hermawan says.

As Hermawan accompanies people and shares life with them, he sees how he has been accompanied by others who love and guide him.  He lost his father at an early age and years later came to the U.S. on his own.  All along the way, there have been male mentors who have fathered Hermawan, from his cousin to Pastor Siahaan to Steve Kriss, a member of the PPC community and a staff member of Franconia Mennonite Conference. He shares that God is always there when Hermawan takes a step out in faith.  This is what he is learning throughout his life and during this summer as he lives and works in his community as a MCC Summer Service Worker.

So, what is next? With four weeks left before Hermawan returns for his final year at EMU, he is helping PPC organize English classes for newly arrived refugee children in the neighborhood, making some space at PPC that is more kid-friendly, and interpreting between people and their doctors. Asked where he has seen God this summer, he replies, “Oh yes, God is around every corner.”

Paint a Piece of History!

by Liz Einsig Wise, Executive Director, Germantown Mennonite Historic Trust

Germantown Historic Meetinghouse
Volunteers from around Pennsylvania helped paint the historic Germantown meetinghouse in June. Photos courtesy of Germantown Mennonite Historic Trust.

The historic 1770 Germantown Mennonite Meetinghouse is a powerful symbol of the origins of the Mennonite experience in America and an important touchstone of the Anabaptist faith.  Now cared for by the nonprofit Germantown Mennonite Historic Trust (a Conference Related Ministry of Franconia Conference), the Meetinghouse hosts hundreds of visitors each year, from school groups learning about early Mennonite history to genealogy enthusiasts and others generally interested in American colonial life.  Others discover the Meetinghouse in the context of visiting Historic Germantown, learning for the first time of the Mennonites’ central role in early Pennsylvania  and  about the Mennonite influences contributing to America’s first written protest against slavery.

With a very small staff (less than one full time equivalent) and a modest budget, most of the grounds upkeep for this historic site is done by volunteers.  On June 9-12, GMHT’s Paint a Piece of History! Work Week hosted 50 volunteers from all over the region who donated over 237 hours of labor to spruce up the Meetinghouse and grounds.

Two primary tasks awaited:  repainting the 1908 Sunday School Room and the wrought iron fence that runs the length of the property.  With ready enthusiasm, volunteers from Souderton Mennonite Church, Boy Scout Troop 1719, Frazer Mennonite Church, Oxford Circle Mennonite Church, Germantown Mennonite Church, Circle of Hope Brethren in Christ Church (Broad & Washington and Frankford & Norris campuses), VolunteerMatch, and others all pitched in.  Skilled volunteers also began work on the exterior wood trim of the Meetinghouse.

Germantown 1Even with so many hands, work remained unfinished at the end of the official work week.  Fortunately, during the last week of the month, another group from Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ Church, in Philadelphia for a work week with Kingdom Builders Construction, helped finish the project (and even more grounds work!) with another 175 hours during one of the hottest weeks of the summer.

Before the paint was even dry, the Meetinghouse hosted a tour group, a jazz concert and a game night!  Coming up, the “Dog Days of Summer” on August 11 will feature GMHT’s 3rd Annual Rook Tournament & Barbecue sale, as well as live music and frozen treats on the lawn.  Later this year, their beloved Christmas Candlelight Service, featuring special ensembles from several congregations as well as a cappella congregational singing, will be held on Saturday, December 8.

Germantown Mennonite Historic Trust welcomes individuals and groups for tours by appointment, or during Historic Germantown’s “2nd Saturdays” on the second Saturday of every month from May through October from 12:00 – 4:00 p.m.  A special presentation customized for your group may also be arranged at your location.  For more information or to schedule a tour, please contact GMHT at (215) 843-0943 or gmht@meetinghouse.info.

Body, mind, heart … and feet (To Mennonite Blog #6)

by Maria Byler, Philadelphia Praise CenterMaria Byler

I choose to define Mennonite, the verb, with a ritual that is absent in my congregation. Therefore this post is also a call to re-examination, change, growth. To me, to Mennonite is to participate in foot washing.

I don’t pretend to have any scholarly knowledge on the John 13 story, but as a follower of Jesus, it moves me. Jesus knew he would soon be leaving the world. When he washed his disciples’ feet, he was at the point where he was giving conclusions, take-away messages. Something grand or violent might have been more memorable. But instead he did an everyday act of care, to demonstrate the completeness with which he loved his students – and to ask his students to love others as completely.

Now I don’t choose the theme of love for this moment as some wishy-washy, feel-good coating over everything Jesus did. I choose it because this complete love which induced Jesus to wash his disciples’ feet is really what his coming was about. God so loved the world that God sent God’s only begotten Son. That son had so much passion for the people he was saving and teaching that he lived his message even as his people tortured and killed him. But even that could not stop the love of God, which overcame death to reach out once again to humanity. And Jesus physically demonstrated what that love should look like by washing the feet of his disciples, in selflessness and humble concern.

As I said, we do not practice foot washing in my congregation. If I mentioned the practice, members would recognize it from the Bible stories. They would recall the time when Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, and may remember that it was a common practice in Jesus’ time. But foot washing is not a practice that many around me will instantly see as Mennoniting.

But while we don’t wash feet at my church, we do practice foot washing in other ways. This is one thing that makes us Mennonite.

That foot-washing love is demonstrated in my congregation through being willing to come over and talk whenever it’s needed or provide a ride on short notice. Members commit to talking about how we’re really doing, praying for one another, and following up with a phone call. And best of all, these things happen out of care for the other. They come out of selfless love and humble desire that our neighbor might enter into the joy we have found.

I used to attend a congregation that washed feet on Maundy Thursday but have not done so for years. Sometimes practices which we use less often simply fade into the past, but sometimes we feel an absence. This absence says that what we used to do was important. And that is what I have noticed with foot washing.

I am a firm believer in physical rituals to remind us of things that are important.  In taking off our socks, getting on the floor, and actually cleaning someone else’s feet or allowing ours to be cleaned, our body experiences what we train our minds and hearts for as Mennonites.

We can and do practice foot washing in our relationships and our attitudes. But I think Jesus told us to do the physical act for a reason.

Next week, Ron White, moderator of Eastern District Conference, will reflect on the spiritual vision of the verb Mennonite.  What are some of the ways foot washing happens in your congregation?  How do you “Mennonite”?  Join the conversation on Facebook & Twitter (#fmclife) or by email.

Who am I?  (To Mennonite Blog #1)
Serving Christ with our heads and hands (To Mennonite Blog #2)
Quiet rebellion against the status quo (To Mennonite Blog #3)
Mennoniting my way (To Mennonite Blog #4)
Generations Mennoniting together (To Mennonite Blog #5)
Body, mind, heart … and feet (To Mennonite Blog #6)
We have much more to offer (To Mennonite Blog #7)
Mennonite community … and community that Mennonites (To Mennonite Blog #8)

Young leaders build relationships with Mexico City churches

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

Rockhill Mennonite (Telford, Pa) youth pastor, Angela Moyer, had taken groups of high school youth to Mexico City to do mission work before, but this time was different. This time, Moyer wanted to bring young adults and focus on building relationships. This past July, she traveled with a Franconia Conference-sponsored team to do just that.

(from left to right) Benjamin Sutter, Rachel Spory, Janine Bergey, Oliver, Deanne Delp, Hezrael, and Angela Moyer.

Moyer was joined by Janine Bergey, also from Rockhill, Deanne Delp, from Laurel Street Mennonite in Lancaster, Pa., Rachel Spory, from First Mennonite in Johnstown, Pa., and Benjamin Sutter from Kern Road Mennonite in South Bend, Ind. Although most of the team spent their time at Iglesia Anabauptisa Menonita Fraternidad Christiana Prensa, Moyer and Spory also traveled to Iglesia Anabauptisa Menonita Fraternidad Christiana Espartaco for five days of the trip to assist with a shortened Bible School week there.

“Espartaco was a joyful and kind church,” said Moyer. They even moved the site of their Bible School to a location closer to a community with more children, she said.

While in Prensa, the group connected with Alicia Alvarez Uzcango and Ariel Avila Muñoz, a couple who serve on the Prensa leadership team. Alvarez and Avila, who also organized Bible School, emphasized lives of Christian service, along with the importance of Scripture.

“We understand that we need to have a balance of both the theology and living it out,” said Muñoz, through a translator.

“Service is something that has characterized this church,” Alvarez added through translation. “In spite of not having a lot of money resources, [in the past, the church was] able to hand out food, clothes, and help to refugees. … We’re in the process of helping others [in the church] to understand, to make it part of their lives.”

Hosting a week of Bible School during the summer is one way the church is reaching out to the surrounding neighborhood; only five of the forty kids who participated in Bible School attend the church regularly.

“Bible School is not just for the kids, it’s for the families of the kids,” said Alvarez.

Kids from the bible school color paper cakes to attach to paper aprons and chef hats.

One man who attends the church, Manwell, brought his sobrinos (nephews and nieces) to Bible School for the first time. He told Avila that they sang the Bible School songs at home all evening.

“I told him, ‘God is using you, because you are bringing your sobrinos [to church],’” Avila said. “’What would your life have been like if you would’ve known Jesus as a child? This is your responsibility, so that they won’t go through the same things.’ And he got it!”

Overall, the relationships left an impact on the Franconia Conference group.

“Each time I visit the churches in Mexico City, I’m overwhelmed by their generosity, hospitality, and love for the people in their communities,” Moyer said. “I’m encouraged by their passion for the Anabaptist and Mennonite witness in their communities and world.”

“[Prensa is] a small congregation with much potential for growth, impact and outreach in their community,” added Bergey.

The team, as well as leadership in both churches, is hopeful about future relationships between Franconia Conference and CIEAMM.

“Each conference has gifts that God has given to the people there,” said Delp.

“I’m encouraged that each conference, as a whole, is interested in a continuing relationship with the other,” Bergey added. “There is much to be learned from each other in areas of vision, mission, hospitality, outreach, and more. I’m eager to see what dreams may come from the interactions between the CIEAMM and Franconia Conference.”

Mi familia es tu familia,” said Avila. “We are all a part of the Body of Christ.”

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Youth in the city: Rooted in the future

Young leaders retreat into Philadelphia for a new kind of leadership formation

–Kayla Benner, Ambler Mennonite Church

“I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you. This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:5-7)On November 20, 2010, I attended the Youth Leadership Retreat along with youth from churches and ministries across Eastern District and Franconia Mennonite Conference. We were all chosen to attend this “retreat” because of leadership qualities that adults have already seen within us. As this busy and spiritually charged day went by I learned many things about my peers, myself, and most importantly the power of Christ and his people.

As the opening worship session began I was struck by the incredible amount of passion and joy that the people leading possessed. Their passion and excitement helped to wake me up and to get me ready to learn and grow throughout the rest of the day. After we were welcomed to Philadelphia Mennonite High School we were instructed to participate in the often awkward, and always dreaded “ice breaker.” This activity confirmed my worst fears that I had pushed myself too far past the boundaries of my comfort zone. After having short, one minute conversations with about five people the activity was over and I retreated back to the my familiar comfort zone. I was not able to remain there for long because we were then dismissed to our workshops which brought on even more chances to push myself.Out of the two short morning sessions the one that impacted me the most was the one titled, “Rooted in Diversity.” This workshop was entirely about the life and ministry of Philadelphia Praise Center (PPC). PPC is a new congregation that worships in a somewhat unorthodox way that requires intense perseverance and faith in the Lord. PPC is a congregation that serves to provide the needs of its surrounding community, primarily by providing worship services in three different languages: Indonesian, Spanish, and English. Many of the members of the church are undocumented immigrants who live in constant fear of being uprooted and deported from the United States. After the workshop I heard an incredible story from a girl how has had to live through things I couldn’t even imaging having to deal with and she’s exactly the same age as I am. As I was listening to her heartbreaking story I was struck by the incredible strength and faith she has. Though she has every right to give up she continues to have hope and faith in her Creator. As I became more familiar with her story I realized that not only her, but many other members of the congregation have to deal with the same problems.

Philadelphia Praise Center is a family to its members and they seem to have a bond that not many other Mennonite churches have. I think what draws people to church, especially a Mennonite church, is the sense of stability, which is something the members of PPC do not have. At any moment a family or a member of a family may be deported and the church must gather together and deal with that. I think in knowing that at any moment a church member may have to leave gives the congregation the ability to outwardly show their love more easily. They must give everything today because it could all be gone tomorrow. This is a valuable lesson we could all learn from the congregation of Philadelphia Praise Center.I spent a good part of my afternoon participating in a workshop called, “Rooted in Service”. I chose to participate in this particular workshop because I believe service is a fantastic way to spread the love of Christ. You can tell people about Christ and his teachings all you want, but they won’t believe you until you actually show them through your actions and the way you live your life. I was given the unique opportunity to spend this afternoon workshop talking with Dan Umstead. Dan uses his gifts to spread his ministry through Kingdom Builders Construction. As he was telling me a little about his ministry I was struck by the sacrifices he has made in order to live his faith outwardly. Through my afternoon of service I learned two major things. First I saw how little things can make a big difference and it is important that we do them. By taking the time to rake leaves in a few people’s yards our service group was able to make a handful of people happy. We provided them with the ability to have their yard clean again and hopefully they were able to see the light of Christ through our actions. The second thing I learned was through a conversation with Dan. He explained to me that giving and receiving requires a two-way relationship. If just one person is giving but not receiving, or vice versa, that relationship will not last. Only through the balance of give and take will a relationship be lasting.Before I knew it the day was being wrapped up in a closing worship service. We were all gathered together again to listen, sing, and praise God one last time that day. During the service I found myself reflecting on the impactful events of the day, the lessons I learned, and most of all the people I met.

I learned that leadership qualities can be found in anyone, It doesn’t take a specific type of person to emerge as a leader. I believe that introverts possess one of the most important qualities of a leader: the ability to lead by example. It is important to sacrifice ourselves for the benefit of others, to give and receive so that our relationships with others may stay alive. God may also throw things at us that we struggle with, but through the love and care of our brothers and sisters we can continue to have hope and faith.Together, as leaders, we crossed borders, we pushed ourselves, we inspired others, we grew, and we “fanned into flame the spiritual gifts God gave us. At the end of our event there was a table with many lit candles on it and one larger candle in the center. Marlene Frankenfield closed our event with the following words and as she spoke these words she raised up the largest candle into the air and blew it out. This was used as a symbol of our faith and how we should be as a flame by spreading our faith. May Marlene’s words be a challenge for all of us–“The light of God is not extinguished for it is in you.”Kayla Benner was part of the planning team for the special one-day youth retreat in Philadelphia, planned collaboratively by members a team of Philadelphia Anabaptist leaders along with Franconia Conference and Eastern District Conference including Barbara Moses (Philadelphia Mennonite High School), Dan Umstead (Kingdom Builders Construction), Joe Hackman (Salford Mennonite Church), Scott Benner (Eastern District Conference), Marlene Frankenfield (Franconia Conference), Andrew Huth (Ambler Mennonite Church), Maria Byler and Adrian Suryajaya (Philadelphia Praise Center). In the city, the youth worked with various churches and partnerships including Oxford Circle Mennonite Church, Philadelphia Mennonite High School, Germantown Mennonite Historic Trust.

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MCC grieves worker killed in Afghanistan

Cheryl Zehr Walker
August 8, 2010

AKRON, Pa. – A Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) worker in Afghanistan, Glen D. Lapp of Lancaster, Pa., was killed this week in a shooting incident in Afghanistan’s northeastern Badakhshan province.

Lapp was traveling with a medical team of four Afghans, six Americans, one Briton and one German. All, including Lapp, worked with MCC partner organization International Assistance Mission, a charity providing eye care and medical help in Afghanistan. Local police found 10 bodies on Friday next to abandoned vehicles. One Afghan team member traveled home via another route and is safe. Another Afghan survived the attack and is being questioned by the police.

On Sunday morning, Lapp’s family received confirmation of his death from the U.S. Embassy. After delays due to poor weather in the area of the attack, the bodies had been taken to the capital city of Kabul for official identification.

In media reports, IAM said this “eye camp” medical team had been testing and treating people with eye diseases in Nuristan province for about two weeks at the invitation of communities there. IAM lost touch with the team Thursday evening when members did not call in as agreed. Three vehicles fitting the description of the team’s vehicles were discovered a day later in Kuran Wa Munjan district of Badakhshan province, which borders Nuristan province.

Local police said robbery might have been the motive. The Taliban has said it is behind the attack.

IAM, which has worked in the country since 1966, regularly dispatched “eye camp” medical teams in Afghanistan and Lapp, 40, had also been part of previous teams. While Lapp was trained as a nurse, his work in Afghanistan was not as a medic. In his two years there, Lapp was executive assistant at IAM and manager of IAM’s provincial ophthalmic care program.

Afghanistan has suffered war, turmoil, poverty and instability for decades. It is one of the least-developed countries in the world, and the lives of ordinary Afghans continue to be threatened by an array of issues.

MCC’s work in Afghanistan includes education, peacebuilding and advocacy, food security and disaster relief.

Lapp was the son of Marvin and Mary Lapp, and a member of Community Mennonite Church of Lancaster, a Mennonite Church USA congregation. In previous service with MCC he helped with response to hurricanes Katrina and Rita. He also worked as a nurse in Lancaster, New York City and Supai, Ariz. He was a graduate of Johns Hopkins University and Eastern Mennonite University.

No information is available at this time regarding a memorial service.

Lapp was to complete his MCC term in October, and recently wrote about it in a report, “Where I was [Afghanistan], the main thing that expats can do is to be a presence in the country. Treating people with respect and with love and trying to be a little bit of Christ in this part of the world.”

Ron Flaming, MCC director of international programs, said that the people of MCC mourn with the Lapp family, the families of all who died in the incident, and the people of IAM. “IAM is a long-time and trusted partner of MCC work in Afghanistan,” Flaming said.

IAM executive director Dirk Frans spoke of the organization’s focus on security in media reports Saturday. “External experts say IAM’s security systems are among the best in the country… Secular consultants have been critical about our stated dependency on God for our security, wrongly assuming we left it all to prayer. When they checked our systems and way of working they have had next to no additional suggestions.”

In his report to MCC, Lapp concluded, “MCC is very much involved in Peacebuilding in Afghanistan and my hope is that MCC can continue along that vein and continue to help this country work towards peace on many different social, ethnic, and economic levels.”

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Redefining success at the ‘Top of the World’

Bethsaba & Dale Nafziger

bethsaba-sorting-green-coffee.JPGI grew up in Vincent Mennonite Church, Spring City, Pa. I first went to Nepal, the land of Mt. Everest, under Mennonite Central Committee in 1979. Bethsaba, a native of Darjeeling, and I were married there in 1994 – where we currently continue to serve under Mennonite Mission Network. Until 2003 we happily served in various capacities under the United Mission to Nepal. Around that time, however, UMN had a number of entrepreneurial projects that they were looking to “spin off” into small private enterprises. Bethsaba “latched onto” one of those as an opportunity for providing jobs and employment to women living in our village. The opportunity was that of making frozen french fries. Our new company’s name was, appropriately, “Top of the World.”

Reena was one of our first Top of the World employees. She entered this life with “three strikes” against her: first she was a girl, second she was low caste, and third she had a hearing defect. While she worked Reena simply observed us. Then she began to ask questions…questions not at all of the nature one would expect to hear from an “uneducated” village girl. To make a long story short: Reena is now one of the key members of our local congregation.

In 2007 we added frozen pizzas to our product line. During that same year we added on coffee and re-registered our small company under the name “Top of the World Coffee.” A busy year and a half passed between company restructuring and the time we first began selling coffee. This time was occupied learning the coffee business, acquiring the necessary equipment, sourcing coffee, etc. Nepal is a landlocked country so everything either needs to be imported via airfreight, at considerable cost, or via India, at considerable risk. On November 16, 2008 we finally roasted and sold our first bags of coffee. It was a joyous occasion!

dale-roasting-coffee.JPGFrank A. Clark once said, “If you find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere.” That statement nicely summarizes our experiences in practicing “business as mission” here over the past seven years. Nepal is a stunningly beautiful country – given that it contains the highest mountains on earth how could it possibly be otherwise? The people are friendly, the culture is exotic…and the church here is growing at an amazing pace. Economically, however, it is also one of the most rigorous business environments possibly found on the face of planet earth. In addition to the issues that arise from Nepal being land locked, we currently struggle making and selling frozen foods with 12 hours “loadshedding” (daily lack-of-electricity), political instability, and perpetual shortages of essential supplies.

If economic problems alone are not sufficient, however, possibly our greatest area of challenge is that of business ethics. Fortunately, we are not alone in confronting these issues. We are part of a supportive network of national and expatriate Christian business women and men who call ourselves “Great Commission Companies – Nepal.” We meet weekly for prayer and also have regular monthly meetings. Luci Swindoll stated, “In God’s economy you will be hard-pressed to find many examples of successful ‘Lone Rangers.’” Based upon our situation here in Nepal, I couldn’t agree more! One of the issues that we regularly deliberate here is, “How do we define ‘business success?’” If one narrowly defines it on the basis of the teaching found in a traditional MBA…one may as well pack up and go home…or never even come to Nepal in the first place. Looking at success from a Kingdom perspective, however, makes the whole effort worthwhile. Just look at Reena!

Friends and well-wishers occasionally ask how they can access our products – as a way of supporting our efforts. Regrettably, they are not available in the USA…nor will they realistically be available there in the foreseeable future. Something that everyone can do, however, is pray. Beyond that people are most welcome to contribute to our continuing lives and service here under Mennonite Mission Network. Giving fills a very real need. Finally, our Top of the World Coffee does have business goals that I be happy to communicate via personal e-mail correspondence.

We are grateful to you, the churches of the Franconia Mennonite Conference, for your faithfulness in helping us to redefine business success here at the top of the world!

MCC’s Haiti response continues with medical teams, engineers and food aid

haiti-medical.jpgby Marla Pierson Lester

Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) medical teams and structural engineers are providing immediate assistance in Haiti now, and distributions of food and relief supplies are ongoing even as MCC plans the next steps in its multiyear response to the Jan. 12 earthquake.

A five-person MCC medical team from Canada is serving in Port-au-Prince March 7 to 20. A three-person medical team from the United States will be in Haiti from March 21 to April 3.

Short-term teams of structural engineers that began arriving in January have examined more than 250 buildings, and MCC is seeking additional engineers who are interested in serving in Haiti this spring.

MCC continues to provide rations of rice, beans, cooking oil, canned meat and spaghetti to nine communities, reaching at least 6,000 people who have been forced from home by the earthquake. It is likely that food is also being given to additional relatives and friends, echoing the strong emphasis on sharing in Haitian culture.

MCC is also providing materials for bamboo and cement-base showers for people living in camps of displaced people. Those living in the camps had identified the need for a private space to wash, especially for women, said Betty Kasdorf, MCC’s Food, Disaster and Material Resources program manager.

MCC relief kits, tarps for shelter, comforters and flat sheets are being distributed as soon as they arrive in Haiti, and additional shipments are on their way to Haiti. Because of expected Haitian government changes that might slow items coming through customs after April, MCC is striving to ship all its initial emergency material aid in the next three to four weeks.

An MCC assessment team visited dozens of people, including MCC partners and government officials, from Feb. 21 to March 6 – hearing from each the enormity of the tasks before them.

MCC’s response will not only address the needs of people within Port-au-Prince, said Ron Flaming, MCC’s director of international programs, but will also include significant efforts to improve the livelihoods and prospects of people who have moved to rural areas.

The assessment team recommends that MCC can meet significant needs in areas including shelter and housing, economic development, food security, education, peace-building and advocacy, health and trauma healing.

“What struck me most is the complexity of the situation,” stressed Kasdorf, who recently visited Haiti as part of the assessment team. “The whole country is affected by this.”

The assessment team found that while food was being distributed within Port-au-Prince, many rural areas had not yet received any assistance and were struggling to share limited food with new arrivals.

Kasdorf said the group heard from nonprofit organizations, from MCC partners and from government officials that what is needed now is for relief, government services, education and jobs to be made more widely available throughout the country.

The scope of this effort will be far greater than rebuilding in a single geographic location.

“It’s a massive, complex humanitarian disaster,” Flaming said. “Right now people are still focused on trying to clean up, on figuring out how to survive today, tomorrow and for the next few months.”

Even as MCC’s response in Haiti continues, planning for the next five years is also well underway, says Flaming. Longer-term planning includes determining which communities to focus on and top priorities. He noted that in MCC’s response to the 2004 Asian tsunami, some projects that had the most lasting impact were not planned until a full year after the tsunami hit.

Paramount in all MCC efforts will be listening to the voices of Haitian people and partners and providing tools to help Haitians recover from the quake and build up their own communities, said Kasdorf.

To learn more about MCC’s response to the Haiti earthquake, go to mcc.org/haitiearthquake.

Marla Pierson Lester is publications and website content editor for MCC.

A long distance out of the way: Decades of living life lead to a call to pastor

img_2102-copy.jpgDonna Merow, Ambler

Edward Albee wrote, “Sometimes it’s necessary to go a long distance out of the way in order to come back a short distance correctly.” This describes my journey to pastoral ministry.

In the seventh grade an aptitude test indicated “nun” as a suitable career choice. This is not what most adolescent girls dream of becoming, especially if they are Protestant. It took me decades to realize that there were few other options available in 1970 to young women with a decidedly religious bent and even longer to answer the call to pastor. I went to college, dropped out, got married, raised two daughters, finished my bachelor’s degree, was diagnosed with early stage cancer, began a teaching career, earned a graduate degree in education and became a grandmother.

All the while I was actively involved in churches—Methodist, Baptist, Mennonite (where I was rebaptized thirty years ago), Episcopalian, Presbyterian—and the communities they served. Many people along the way encouraged me to consider seminary (none more persistently than former Ambler pastor Mel Thomas), but I always had a ready excuse.

For twenty years I was a stay-at-home mom with an incomplete degree and lots of time to invest in the lives of young people through the scouting and Odyssey of the Mind programs. By the time I finished my undergraduate work, my firstborn was beginning her’s; her sister was four years behind. As a first generation college graduate, I wanted this to be the best possible experience for my girls.

Although I had been collecting catalogues from area seminaries, the timing did not seem right. After our youngest graduated, I was able to spend several months trying on a pastoral role when Sharon Wyse Miller was granted a sabbatical. I wanted to see what it was like to prepare and deliver a message each week before I could seriously entertain the idea of attending seminary full-time. It was a wonderfully rich summer for me as I applied many of the pedagogical techniques I had practiced in the classroom to Jesus’ teaching through parables. At its conclusion, I wrestled with God about seminary.

I learned two important lessons from my undergraduate experience that informed my decision. The first was that I could not study in isolation; I needed to have one foot in the “real” world. The other was my desire for face-to-face interaction. I am an introvert by nature, so while distance education was comfortable and rewarding, it did not afford the opportunities for growth that I needed.

I found a good fit with Biblical’s LEAD MDiv degree. An alternative program designed for working adults, this allowed me to continue teaching and to build relationships with the members of cohort 12 with whom I have all of my courses.

I am old enough to be my classmates’ parent, but we enjoy a symbiotic relationship. I have the life experience and they have the tech savvy. It has proved to be a winning combination. With only a year of seminary completed, I did not expect to be looking for a position in a church for several years, but God had other plans. Sharon announced her planned retirement at the end of August at our January congregational meeting. Her announcement prompted me to complete the necessary paperwork to be considered as a candidate.

A month later, I learned that I would not have a job come September. The economic downturn made it necessary to cut my position at school. Unemployment made it necessary for me to trust God’s providence and possible to see the search process through to completion. It also freed me to do many things grading papers never allowed time for—a week at camp with special needs adults, putting siding on a Habitat house, helping to build a playground.

On October 4, the congregation that I have called “home” for a decade called me as its next pastor. It has been a long and convoluted path to pastoral ministry, but my installation service on November 8 confirmed that this is where I belong. I am excited by the possibilities before us as we live out the Gospel and respond to Christ’s missional call here in Ambler and beyond. Thanks be to God!