Tag Archives: Souderton

Make It Rain!

Make It Rain grew out of Souderton Mennonite Church‘s young adult ministry. Julie & Austin Landes, youth group advisors, found one of the best ways to engage young adults was to build community while serving the needs of people locally and globally. Individuals from Souderton Mennonite Church and numerous others have participated in Make It Rain service projects.

With the help of Franconia Mennonite Conference’s Missional Operations Grant, Make It Rain was able to successfully accomplish thier fourth and largest trip to Haiti with 25 volunteers spending two weeks in-country. This trip was a Make It Rain-initiated collaboration with Water For Life and CitiHope International with big plans to impact a school and multiple communities. The “rain made” was a downpour!

  • Medicine was needed for mobile medical clinics spear-headed by Water For Life was spear-heading. Make It Rain initiated a partnership between Water For Life and CitiHope International, a non-profit dedicated to medical distribution. CitiHope was able to procure and fly in over $3 million dollars’ worth of medicines and volunteers on this trip, including a pharmacist, were able to assist in the preparation and ground work of one of these mobile medical clinics in Roche-a-Bateau.


  • The team returned to Water For Life’s “Help From Above School” in Passe Bois  d’Orme where they had built classroom desks last year. This year they built several DSC_3952large cabinets from scratch to add to the classrooms. They also were able to unload the large playground set, donated by Ridgeline Community Church in Souderton, they had packed and shipped in the month leading up to the trip. It was an incredible sight to see the little ones move, explore, and get their energy out as they played on a jungle gym even kids in America would love the opportunity to go crazy on!


  • Over 400 toothbrushes and toothpaste tubes were handed out to the children during a dental hygiene education class also at “Help From Above School” in Passe Bois d’Orme.


  • A majority of the health problems in Haiti are caused by the lack of clean water and malnutrition. Less than half of the Haitian population has access to clean water,
    Solar panel installation for the well pump.
    Solar panel installation for the well pump.

    according to a 2004 study by the Pan American Health Organization. After months of stateside preparation, Make It Rain’s skilled volunteers were able to put their trades to use installing a solar well pump in the woods in Cotes-de-Fer. This particular well was strategically placed at a higher elevation to not only provide clean drinking water, but also irrigation for the local farmers; combatting two of the most prominent issues inhibiting good health. In addition to the local community, approximately 30 farmers will greatly benefit from this water source.


  • The Make It Rain skilled volunteers were also put to work at Water For Life’s campus in Les Cayes on various projects such as local road grading, security lighting, carpentry, siding, HVAC, electrical, plumbing, even a hand welded railing for the guest house staircase. This was a huge blessing for Water For Life’s staff as they are constantly meeting the needs of others and putting their own needs second.


“We were honored to have Franconia Mennonite Conference’s support this year for our recent community projects in Haiti. Make It Rain was able to once again bless many individuals in various Haitian communities by matching people’s gifting with the great needs in-country.”    – Austin Landes, Founder/President

“The most impactful moment of the trip for me was flipping the switch to the freshly installed solar well pump. It was a beautiful site as 30 Haitians gathered around to see it instantly start pumping out 12 gallons of water a minute to revolutionize the way the community lived, all thanks to free energy from the sun!” – Eric Sirianni, Project Manager

“Over nine churches were represented in our group – it was such a blessing to work alongside a broad community of believers.” – Julie Landes, Co-Founder

Delegates commit to waiting, hoping, discerning at Assembly

Bob & Bonnie Stevenson
Charlie Ness (Perkiomenville) and Bonnie Stevenson pray for Bob Stevenson before he brings the message during Friday night worship. Photo by Emily Ralph

by Emily Ralph, associate director of communication

“Waiting on God is expectant and hopeful,” declared Marta Castillo, Franconia Conference’s outgoing assistant moderator, at the opening of the United Franconia and Eastern District Conferences’ 2014 Assembly.  The theme of this year’s gathering, held November 14-15 at Penn View Christian School in Souderton, Pa., was “Esperando: Waiting & Hoping.”

“We’re not waiting for something, we’re waiting for somebody,” added Bob Stevenson during Friday evening worship.  “Waiting is not just a passive sitting back.  And so the word I have is that we wait ‘until’ [we receive the power of the Spirit] and then we get up and go!”

Stevenson and his wife Bonnie were called and commissioned as missionaries to Mexico at a Franconia Conference Assembly 26 years before.  They were celebrated Friday night as they reached a milestone in their ministry: the transition from raising missionary support from the States to full funding through their congregation.  “I thank the Lord for allowing us to be a part of this conference,” Bonnie responded after she and Bob were presented with a Spanish fraktur created by Salford congregation member Roma Ruth.  “There are many times on Friday morning when we have our prayer together … that we pray for each one of your congregations by name.”

praying for Danilo Sanchez
Conference leaders pray for Danilo Sanchez, Whitehall, one of this year’s newly credentialed leaders. Photo by Bam Tribuwono.

The theme of leaders raised up and called from within the Conference continued on Saturday during the joint delegate session, when the gathering recognized a number of newly credentialed leaders who were licensed out of Franconia congregations.  “Where do our pastors come from?” asked Steve Kriss, Franconia Conference director of leadership cultivation.  “They come because you invite them.”

This year also saw the credentialing of leaders from other conferences and denominational backgrounds, adding to Franconia’s increasing diversity.  “Diversity is a catalyst for growth,” reflected Jessica Hedrick, Souderton congregation, during table feedback.  Her table encouraged conference delegates to prioritize prayer and, as corporate discernment continued, to recognize “the opportunity to learn from each other instead of necessarily trying to get everyone to agree.”

KrisAnne Swartley praying
KrisAnne Swartley, Doylestown, joins in prayer for the other congregations at her table. Photo by Bam Tribuwono.

The theme of listening well and together wove through many of the stories and hopes shared throughout the weekend.  Danilo Sanchez, Whitehall congregation, named three areas that it seemed the majority of delegates were wrestling with: “Listening to the Spirit, how to sit with our differences, and how to love like Christ.”

The Franconia Conference Board asked delegates to consider what kind of conversations needed to be planned leading up to the Mennonite Church USA convention in Kansas City next summer, knowing the likelihood that Convention will include decisions about denominational structure and human sexuality.  Many delegates agreed that the questions of structure and sexuality only skimmed the surface; perhaps there were other questions that should be asked instead.

delegates conferring
Delegates discussed difficult issues around tables with grace and laughter. Photo by Bam Tribuwono.

Josh Meyer, Franconia congregation, wondered how the upcoming dialogue could form those participating into the image of Christ.  “How we have this conversation is just as important as any decisions that we make,” he said.  “It doesn’t matter what we decide in Kansas City; if we don’t treat each other as sisters and brothers in Christ, then we’ve missed the point.”

Throughout the weekend, conference leadership encouraged delegates to actively wait on the Spirit, to take time for stillness and listening, and to collaborate in acts of justice and mercy.  “We must not become paralyzed by the issues of the day,” encouraged Eastern District moderator Brenda Oelschlager, “but move forward in love … as God leads us along new paths.”

Several new paths highlighted included a new Lehigh Valley collaboration in hiring Sanchez as youth minister, welcoming two new Philadelphia congregations (Centro de Alabanza and Indonesian Light Church) into an exploration of membership in Franconia Conference, and the move of the Mennonite Conference Center to the campus of Christopher Dock Mennonite High School in Lansdale (Pa.).

Aldo Siahaan introduces new congregations
LEADership Minister Aldo Siahaan introduces two new congregations exploring membership in Franconia Conference: Centro de Alabanza and Indonesian Light Church. Photo by Bam Tribuwono.

Although 2014 saw the beginnings of new ministries and the licensing of many new pastors, it also brought the deaths of three influential church leaders: Paul Lederach, John Drescher, and Israel Bolaños.  In reflecting on their legacies, Kriss encouraged delegates to remember them by carrying on their work of teaching, writing, and mission.

“The gospel isn’t good news until someone takes it and goes with it,” Bob Stevenson agreed.  The power which sends the church is not political or force, but “a power that is a ‘preach the gospel to the poor’ power, it’s a ‘healing the broken heart’ power….  What will change this world is us, God’s people.”

Christian educators gather for resourcing event

by Lora Steiner, managing editor

One participant makes a creation scene out of homemade scented play dough.
One participant makes a creation scene out of homemade scented play dough.

About 50 Sunday school teachers from Franconia and Eastern District conference churches gathered on August 12 in preparation for the new school year.

Teachers met with other teachers of the same age levels and were led through a sample lesson in the new Shine curriculum, which is co-published by Brethren Press and MennoMedia.

Among the group was one person teaching for the first time, and two people who had taught for over 50 years.

The resourcing event was organized by the Franconia and Eastern District Conferences School for Leadership Formation. Perkiomenville (Pa.) congregation hosted the event and arranged logistics. Feedback from the day was very positive, and Christian educators in both conferences are looking forward to meeting again.

Jessica Hedrick, director of children’s ministry at Souderton (Pa.) congregation, offered a prayer at the event. It is printed here with permission, for all children as they begin a new year.

God, you took the children on your knee and blessed them when everyone else pushed them aside; help us to be fully present with the children in our homes, our churches, and our communities.

As we walk with the children on this journey of faith we know that you will give us everything we need.

Help us to see them with your eyes, so that we are not blind to their strengths or oblivious to their gifts.

Help us to love them with your heart, so that they may trust you more deeply and know you more fully.

Help us to listen to them with your ears, so that we may understand the significance of their thoughts and the value of their voices.

We are weak and imperfect, and we realize sometimes we may feel like we have failed.

Help us remember that you are a God who brings glory from the mess.

Help us to embrace the mess of our ministry.

When we do not have the answers, may the children be inspired by our faith.

When we make mistakes, may they see God’s grace at work in our lives.

When we feel too lost to lead, may they see our trust in your leading.

As we go into the rest or our evening, and then return home to our ministries, fill us with your Holy Spirit and renew our passion for your kingdom.

Surround us with your peace, love, and light so that we may shine brightly igniting the fire of your love in the hearts of the children.

May they see you in us and may we see you in them. 

Introducing Souderton Mennonite Church

SoudertonAs a visible expression of Jesus Christ’s body, Souderton Mennonite Church has been meeting at the corner of Chestnut Street and Wile Avenue for more than 133 years.

Our mission is to develop a thriving network of ministries that multiply Christ’s love. We do this by drawing persons to Christ, helping them to grow as followers of Jesus, and sending them to follow their calling across the Indian Valley and around the world.

We are a Jesus-centered, caring community of people who are excited about sharing the love, hope, and joy we have found in a relationship with God. Our prayer is that we continue to be a church that follows Jesus’ example of providing a safe space for all who experience challenges and struggles in life. We want to offer grace and healing through Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord to all children, women, and men.

Souderton’s Chestnut St Playground to be done by summer

Souderton playground
Pastor Gerry Clemmer of Souderton Mennonite Church, right, talks about a walkway that will wind through the revamped playground planned for Chestnut Street and Wile Avenue in Souderton. At left is Jen Ruggiero, who works with Clemmer on the playground plans as part the Chesnut Street Playground Community CARES project she set up with neighbor Tara Cupitt.

by Bob Keeler, The Reporter Online (reposted by permission)

Can you tell they’re excited?

“We have a builder!!! We have a builder!!! Yahooooo,” Chestnut Street Playground Community Cares Facebooked Jan. 7. “Groundbreaking info coming ASAP!!!”

The night before, Souderton Borough Council had approved the winning bid of $267,200.05 from Puhl’s Landscape Co., West Conshohocken, to do the planned renovations at the longtime playground at Wile Avenue and Chestnut Street.

The work will replace and upgrade aging playground equipment, as well as add features for special needs children and interactive pieces to stimulate children’s senses and learning. Community fundraising is helping pay for the project.

In September, the borough rejected all the bids received for the project after the bids came in at much more than had been expected.

Changes were then made to the plans, including dropping, at least for the time being, the installation of public restrooms at the playground. New bids were then sought.

“We attracted far more bidders the second time,” Borough Manager Mike Coll said.

The prices were also better.

“The borough engineer’s estimate was $301,000, so it’s well below the engineer’s estimates,” Coll said of the winning bid.

The cost of the work will be covered by a $195,000 Community Development Block Grant and $80,000 that came from community fundraising, he said.

“We’d like to start the project as soon as possible, with completion by June,” Coll said.

When the initial bids were sought, it was for a specific type of equipment and supplier, which probably hiked prices, officials said when those bids were rejected.

To make the new bids more competitive, bidders were given a few more options of suppliers and equipment that would be acceptable, but that apparently won’t change the end result.

“I believe under Puhl’s proposal, they are actually providing a lot of the equipment we had originally specified,” Coll said.

In another matter at the Jan. 6 council meeting, police Chief James Leary said several people and organizations, including the Souderton-Telford Rotary Club, Souderton police and borough, Generations of Indian Valley and Souderton Mennonite Church, contributed to a holiday giving campaign for local families in need.

Seven families received “an entire Christmas,” he said, with others who needed some assistance but whose needs were less also assisted.

“I don’t know how many families benefitted, but it certainly was a lot,” Leary said.

The Rotary set up a successful Toys for Tots type collection, Godshall and Hatfield Meats each contributed hams and Generations volunteers shopped for gift items, then declined part or all reimbursement for the purchases, he said.

“We ended up with so many lists and we actually had the resources to fill the lists,” Leary said.

The contributions also included home heating oil for two families, he said.

MCC International Volunteers: Impacting the World

Kaputa_Madalitsoby Millie Penner, Mennonite Central Committee East Coast

“We eat together, sing together in both English and Chichewa, go on our nightly walks together, and laugh together like a family of hyenas,” says Eric Bishop of his family’s relationship with Madalitso Kaputa. Eric and Linda Bishop, Souderton congregation, have opened their home to Madalitso, a participant in the International Volunteer Exchange Program (IVEP). IVEP is a program of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) that brings young adults from other countries to live and work in Canada and the United States for a year. Madalitso is far from his home in Malawi, Africa this year, yet clearly he also has found a family with the Bishops.

During the day Madalitso volunteers at the Dock Woods and Dock Meadows campuses (Lansdale, Pa.) of the Living Branches retirement community. It is clear to his host family and both his supervisors that this work is far more than a short term volunteer assignment. For Madalitso, this work is a part of the calling God has on his life, a calling he works to fulfill with joy and passion. He says, “When I first arrived in the United States, the food, the time change and the people were all new to my life, and I wondered if I would be able to hold on to my sense of mission. But after a month, I feel like I’m at home as my wonderful host family has helped me to remember my mission goal. Through my work at Dock Woods and Dock Meadows, I have come to understand the great call that the church has in taking care of people, especially the elderly. Indeed, this is now the time that the church should be inviting and welcoming all the elderly into her caring and protective service as the salt and light of the world.”

Gerry Moore, who supervises Madalitso at Dock Meadows, agrees that he is focused and effective. “He is eager to visit with each resident and learn their stories. He wants them to know they have a life time of experience to share, a wealth of wisdom and much he can learn from them.”

Dock Meadows and Dock Woods have hosted IVEPers for several years and have seen good fruit from the cross-cultural exchanges that happen through this program. Eileen Burks of Dock Woods says, “A resident just received an email from one of our past IVEPers from Indonesia. They have been in contact for over seven years, and this clearly is one of many great bonds that were formed through this program. Another way that we are enriched is when the IVEPer brings the world to our residents through a cultural class, sharing about their country … family, faith, foods and languages.”

Madalitso will take many gifts with him when he leaves the IVEP program, not the least of which is a better sense of the world community. Linda Bishop, his host mother, says that he already refers to the world as his home, not just Malawi, since he is willing to go wherever God sends him.

And Madalitso will leave just as many gifts with those whose lives he touches here in Pennsylvania. Living Branches residents, his supervisors and his host family will have formed many good memories, relationships and connections that will last a lifetime.

Franconia Conference gathers to celebrate, pray, confer, listen

Garden Chapel Children's Choir
Garden Chapel’s children’s choir led a rousing rendition of “Our God” at Conference Assembly 2013. Photo by Bam Tribuwono.

Franconia Conference delegates and leaders gathered November 2 at Penn View Christian School in Souderton, Pa. to celebrate God still at work.   With a packed auditorium for a third united assembly with Eastern District Conference, representatives gathered to listen and pray, to celebrate newly credentialed and ordained pastoral leaders, and to work alongside one another after an over 150-year rift created two separate Mennonite entities.  The theme “God still @ work” was an extension of the 2012 theme, “God @ work.”

With singing in Indonesian, Spanish, and English led by Samantha Lioi (Peace and Justice Minister for both conferences) and Bobby Wibowo (Philadelphia Praise Center) and translation into Franconia Conference’s worshipping languages, delegates and representatives from nearly all of the Conference’s congregations from Georgia to Vermont gathered to confer around a board-crafted statement on the Conference’s increasing diversity in ethnicity, experiences, faith practice, and expression.   The gathering was punctuated with points of celebration including testimony from Peaceful Living led by Joe Landis and Louis Cowell from Salford congregation, a youth choir from the revitalizing Garden Chapel in Victory Gardens, NJ, and a moment to mark the upcoming November retirement of Franconia Conference Pastor of Ministerial Leadership Noah Kolb after 45 years of ministry, which was met with rousing applause and a standing ovation.

Noah blessing 2013
Noah Kolb was recognized and blessed for 45 years of ministry. He will retire in November. Photo by Bam Tribuwono.

In a shortened one-day event, delegates spent the morning together around tables with Eastern District Conference to continue to deepen relationships across conference lines.  Business sessions were separate, and Franconia’s included a significant amount of time in conversations among table groups, conferring over the board statement and then reporting on those conversations to the whole body.  Delegates and representatives were encouraged to mix across congregational lines to better hear and experience the diversity of conference relationships.

For many, including Tami Good, Souderton (Pa.) congregation’s Pastor of Music & Worship, who was attending Conference Assembly for the first time, the table conversations were holy spaces.  Each person at her table was from a different congregation.   “I saw God at work in the gracious listening, especially in the time when we talked about the conferring statement,” Good reflected. “There were disagreements, but everyone was graciously listening and hearing.  Everyone actually wanted to hear each other.  It was a beautiful time.”

The conferring time, along with an afternoon workshop led by the Franconia Conference board, focused on prayer and visioning for the Conference into the future.   Conference board members Jim Longacre (Bally congregation), Rina Rampogu (Plains congregation), Jim Laverty (Souderton congregation), and Klaudia Smucker (Bally congregation) served as a listening committee for the daylong event.  They reported seven themes of consistent and continued conversation: engagement, diversity, shared convictions, authority, polity, the role of conference, and the reality of changing relationships and engagement.  Board members noted that there is much response work to do to continue the conversation and discernment process.

Bruce Eglinton-Woods, pastor of Salem congregation (Quakertown, Pa.), said, “The challenge is speaking clearly on what we believe and where we are at, which is often a challenge for Mennonite leaders. My hope and prayer is that we can trust God and release the idea of keeping it all together. We need to let God do the holding together.”

Franconia Conference delegates spent time conferring and praying together.  Photo by Bam Tribuwono.
Franconia Conference delegates spent time conferring and praying together. Photo by Bam Tribuwono.

According to Rampogu, one of the longest standing Conference board members, “the hardest part about this kind of meeting is that there isn’t enough time. We want to share and to talk together,” she said.  “That is a positive sign.  People want to connect.  My hope and prayer is that we keep our goal in mind, keeping our mission focused on equipping leaders to empower others to embrace God’s mission, with Christ in the center and churches focused on missional activity.”

In business sessions, delegates selected a number of positions by 97% affirmation including a 2nd term for conference moderator John Goshow (Blooming Glen congregation) along with board member Beny Krisbianto (Nations Worship Center), as well as ministerial and credentialing committee members Rose Bender (Whitehall congregation), Ken Burkholder (Deep Run East congregation), Mike Clemmer (Towamencin congregation) and Chris Nickels (Spring Mount congregation).   Randy Nyce (Salford congregation) who is completing a term as finance committee chair and board member reported on Conference finances, noting an 11% decrease in financial contributions from congregations.

“I was surprised and pleased that the attendance at Assembly 2013 was so strong; seeing the room filled to capacity was an affirmation of how much the delegates and guests in attendance care for our conference,” Goshow noted.  “Franconia Conference is all of us who are members of our 42 churches and our Conference Related Ministries.  It is my hope and prayer that together we chart a course that will advance God’s Kingdom in exciting and wonderful ways.”

Listen to the podcast.

Conference Assembly 2013 Highlight Video from Franconia Conference on Vimeo.

Responding to my call … for my daughter

Tami Goodby Tami Good, Souderton

I have always had a sense of what it means to be called into service.  My parents and grandparents modeled for me the importance of living out our faith through seeking God’s purpose for our lives.  As my grandfather always said, “You don’t come to church to warm the benches.”  Through his example and others I came to understand that walking with Christ is lived out daily as one shares her gifts with those around her.  We are all ministers of the gospel as we build relationships and reach out as Christ’s hands and feet.

About three years ago God gave me the word “prepare.”  At first I did not understand what that meant, but as my husband and I began to pray about it, I realized that part of my “preparing” would involve going back to school.  Through my studies at Biblical Seminary and the counseling and affirmation of others, I felt led to step out of the educational field and pursue a call in ministry.

As I grew into the idea, it was my daughter who compelled me to move forward in my calling.  Looking at her, I realized I wanted her to grow up knowing that God could ask her to do anything.   I firmly believe God calls both women and men into pastoral roles.  It is important to hear the many voices God has placed within our churches and conference settings.  Our young adults need to know that they can be used in whatever situation God calls them, regardless of their gender or ethnicity.  Including all our brothers and sisters in leadership roles allows all of us to fully use the gifts God has placed in each of our lives.

Ministerial report (September 2013)

The Ministerial Committee met on September 4:

  • We took action to grant a specific license to Tim Hart to serve as pastor of revitalization for Garden Chapel.
  • We approved ordination for Emily Ralph from the Salford congregation who has been called to an associate pastor position at Sunnyside in Lancaster.
  • We granted a license toward ordination to Tami Good who is serving as minister of worship and music at Souderton.
  • Arnold Derstine and Mike Ford have resigned from the pastoral team at Franconia.
  • Blooming Glen has hired Mike Ford as youth pastor.
  • Frederick and Lakeview are seeking interim pastoral leadership.
  • Perkiomenville is seeking an associate pastor and Alpha and Taftsville congregations are looking for pastoral leadership.

What’s in a Vacation?

MCC East Coast bike ride
Front row – Ruth Walter (Souderton), Sandy and John Drescher-Lehman (Souderton) Vernon Martin (Salford) Daryl Derstine (Blooming Glenn). Back Row – Len Walter (Souderton) Gene Kropf (Salford) and Steve Histand (Blooming Glenn)

by Sandy Drescher-Lehman, Souderton

Why would these 8 people from three different churches in our conference choose to spend 5 of their lazy days of summer vacation together, being NOT-lazy?

  1. They enjoy making the wheels on a bike go round and round.
  2. They wanted to help raise money to support Mennonite Central Committee’s project of planting trees in Haiti.
  3. Biking is their favorite way to stay in shape.
  4. They enjoy meeting other people from across North America who are making the same vacation choice!.
  5. They’re WILLING to sleep in tents for a week.
  6. They like to eat good food at the beginning and end and in-betweens of a good, hard day of biking.
  7. They know what an incredible gift it is to experience the beauty of God’s world, intersecting with healthy bodies and wholesome fellowship, all wrapped up in a good cause.

When I say that “All of the above” are the true answers, you’re likely asking, “Who WOULDN’T want to use their vacation to do that and how can I join this great endeavor?” Well, know that you, too, are welcome to join this ride the next time around!  Read on to learn some of the possible benefits.

Every year for the past 20, Mennonite Central Committee has sponsored a bicycle trip as one of its fund-raisers, alternating routes on the east and west coast.  Michigan and Ohio have also run similar trips of their own. This year, during the first week of August, the East Coast MCC ride was in the beautiful hills, under the voluptuously clouded skies, surrounding three of the Finger Lakes in northern New York. The group of 50-some bikers, including members of Souderton, Salford, and Blooming Glen congregations, plus another dozen staff who took care of the trip details of eating, sleeping and getting from place to place, raised over $60,000.00 – an exciting new record!  Thank you to each of you who sponsored one of us and to everyone who shares our passion for spreading God’s love throughout the world through the ministries of MCC.

I loved that bikers from 16 to 81 years of age, at all skill levels, could enjoy the same roads, worship in all of our different ways of noticing God’s presence, sing and pray together, and find out about each other’s families and the ministries we were returning to at the end of the week. Uniting around the things we had in common was energizing.  Sharing the tasks of camping was fun. Hearing new ways, from each other, of being God’s messengers in the world was inspiring.  And pedaling 300+ miles of roads that were hardly ever flat, was downright exciting, often exhausting and occasionally exhilarating!